The Beacon

Cleared for Take-off

This bottlenose dolphin was snapped mid-flight by a 16-year-old boy who was standing on the back of his family's boat in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland as a pod of 20 or so frolicked in the boat's wake.

Bottlenose dolphins are found in all oceans except the colder waters of the Arctic and Antarctic. On average they measure between 6 and 13 feet in length and can weigh up to 1,430 pounds.

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The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

That's what one elephant seal must have been thinking when it opted to cross California's Pacific Coast Highway after deserting the beach.

Authorities said they wouldn't attempt to move the (generally) ocean-going mammal and are instead keeping a sharp eye out and hoping it'll make its way back to its natural habitat.

For now the seal is reportedly resting comfortably as a pig in mud, in a puddle of mud, on a grass patch.

Elephant seals can reach lengths of up to 18 feet and weigh as much as 5,000 pounds. They spend 80 percent of their lives in the water and can hold their breath more than 80 minutes at a time, longer than any other non-cetacean mammal.

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Text SOS Underwater

Here's something divers can appreciate: A device that enables the user to text message others while underwater.

Now I know what you're thinking, and that was my first reaction too. Why in the world would anyone need to send a text message while exploring a coral reef?

But this sort of technology does have its perks. For instance, say a diver miscalculates and suddenly finds himself running low of air.

Not only does the underwater digital interface allow a diver to call for help, it also has the capacity to link up to 56 divers to units on boats or land.

Not such a wacky idea after all. Plus you could text your sustainable fish inquiries without ever having to leave the water.

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The Earth Vents Too

About a mile and a half below the water's surface, where the pressure equates to the weight of 50 jumbo jets and the temperature rests just above freezing, scientists are discovering a menagerie of new species living among the smoky billows of hydrothermal vents.

Water spewing from the vents is heated by magma in the Earth's interior, reaching temperatures as great as 760 degrees Fahrenheit. See the video.

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Polar Bears in Limbo

Not sure is U.S. officials are waiting for hell to freeze over or for the Arctic to melt entirely, but nevertheless the Department of the Interior has postponed making its decision as to whether or not they should list polar bears as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

A series of reports from USGS suggest that two thirds of the world's polar bear population could be gone within 50 years. As the sea ice continues to recede with warming temperatures the polar bears will find it increasingly difficult to hunt. Some commentators have suggested that this report is conservative and that Arctic sea ice could be a thing of the past by 2030, suggesting that polar bear losses could happen much earlier than 2050. You can read the press release from USGS here.

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Turn the Tide for Ocean Conservation

The New Year is a week underway, so what kind of resolutions did you make this year? At Oceana our goal is simple: Keep on keepin' on. Seek to protect more habitat and wildlife, work to enlighten the masses. Save sharks. Save sea turtles. Save corals. Save ... the oceans.

Okay, so we've got our work cut out for us for sure, but if Oceana campaigners post the kind of numbers like they did in 2007, I suspect 2008 will become another dynamite year for ocean conservation. In case you're just joining the fight, let me tell you what Oceana's been up to in the past year:

    *Oceana Wavemakers convince to stop selling shark fin soup in January 2007.

    *North Pacific Fishery Management Council adopts the "Oceana Approach" to protect some 180,000 square miles of ocean floor in June 2006.

    *Mercury campaigners help convince the fifth of nine chlorine producing plants in the U.S. to stop using mercury-polluting technology in August 2007.

These are just a few of the victories that come to me off the top of my head. Even still, Oceana has been breaking ground over at the World Trade Organization in regards to fishing subsidies, and we've also made strides in overfishing and bycatch policies.

With the new year comes new opportunities to turn the tide for ocean conservation. If you'd like to stay informed or get involved, now's as good a time as any. Resolve to make a difference in '08.

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World Peace and Coral Reefs

The answer to world peace lies in within the reef, or so this story claims. Sounds about right to me.

It doesn't happen often, but for the sake of restoring tattered natural reefs in the northern portion of the Red Sea, Israelis and Jordanians are joining forces to create a string of artificial reefs.

I can see it now: It'll start with these two Middle Eastern countries bonding together over their reef, and the next thing you know other countries will begin to follow suit. We'll have more reefs AND world peace.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but it is nice to see people working toward a common goal like this, right?

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Like Whaley ... Are They That Hard to See?

The blue whale is the largest known creature on the planet. It can grow to a length of about 110 feet and weigh as much as 200 tons.

It seems to me an animal of such size wouldn't be too difficult to spot at sea. So why is it then that three of these behemoths have been struck by ocean liners in a little over two weeks?

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To Russia, With Love

Russians allege that rock samples taken from the Lomonosov Ridge last month prove the section of seabed rich in oil is in fact an underwater extension of the Russian region of Siberia.

The brash claim has prompted the U.S. Senate to reassess the United Nations' Law of the Sea Treaty this week in Congress, an accord the United States had not previously signed on to because of claims the treaty would be unfavorable to America's economy and security.

It's a sound move on the U.S.'s part if you ask me. I mean, everyone knows paper beats rock, right? Score another for the Yanks!

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