The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog
Scientists encountered what may be a new species of seed shrimp, a translucent crustacean that swims at a depth of 50 to 200 meters. On a seamount in the Northern Atlantic, remote operated vehicles shed light on what one researcher referred to as an underwater "continent."
Clutching to the rocky cliffs was a menagerie of corals and sponges, as well as brittle stars and starfish, sea cucumbers and worms. Some of the creatures are quite rare, not found anywhere else in the world - all the more reason to be mindful of the brilliant life thriving below the surface.
In the last few weeks, the U.S. has been kicking itself for not thinking to place a flag on the sea floor at the North Pole. But Russia is not the only country to have laid claim to the oil-rich area; other competitors include Canada, Denmark, and a pack of Siberian huskies that have been peeing there for ages.
However, all of them are certainly in for a disappointment, because on Friday the U.S. struck back, by sending out a team of scientists to map the area. Just as Lewis and Clark did before, the U.S. hopes to use the survey data as a foundation for political and economic expansion into the explored regions. Rock beats scissors, map beats flag.
Of course, the U.S. Senate has not ratified the UN Law of the Sea Convention treaty, which took force in 1994 (despite years of urging from Presidents Clinton and Bush). So technically the U.S. doesn't have a seat at the table as critical decisions are made on how to divvy up the ocean bottom.
As Grist reported, U.S. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey scoffed, "I'm not sure of whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag, or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim." Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay went on to add, "You can't go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere -- this isn't the 14th or 15th century."
No kidding. When was the last time that happened?
Humans kill something like 100 million sharks annually. More humans are killed annually by dogs and by falling coconuts than are killed by sharks. At such levels, humanity will certainly survive its encounter with dogs and coconuts. The same cannot be confidently said of sharks and people.
The U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act is, unfortunately, another law whose name overpromises. The law carries a loophole that makes enforcement difficult. Sharks are allowed to be landed after their fins have been cut off. It's time to shut down that loophole and require that fishing companies prove that they are only killing the legal number and types of sharks for their fins by landing the creatures fully intact.
Sharks help to maintain an essential balance beneath the water's surface. Removing them from the ocean creates booms in prey species further down the food chain which in turn can create terribly destructive cascading effects on countless ocean creatures.
Five down, four to go. ...
We told you a few months back about a meeting the Chlorine Institute held in which top-level executives discussed how best to deal with Oceana, since we'd been pressuring a number of chlorine-alkali plants to invest in mercury-free technology.
As it turns out, the best way to handle a tenacious conservation organization is to simply take their advice. Take ERCO Worldwide, for example, the most recent to announce it'll make the switch to mercury-free technology.
The largest mercury polluter in Wisconsin has agreed to convert to modern mercury-free technology, another big step in the effort to transition all chlorine-alkali factories to 21st century standards.
Here's a remarkable fact: Global fishery collapse is being financed with tax money.
You already know that many nations are failing to enforce the laws that are essential to keeping our oceans healthy and abundant forever. Instead, they are presiding over a global ocean collapse. According to a report in Science, 29 percent of the world's commercial fisheries have already collapsed.
This is terrible news for the billion people who turn to the ocean for protein, the hundreds of millions of people who need the sea for a livelihood and the countless extraordinary marine creatures that don't deserve to go the way of the buffalo.
What you will be surprised to learn is that massive over-capacity in the world's fishing fleet is being paid for by taxes. A study by the University of British Columbia recently revealed that $30 to $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies are paid to the commercial fishing industry worldwide - $20 billion of which directly promotes the increase of fishing capacity. And the value of the world's catch at dockside is only $80 to $90 billion.
Did you know you're more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark bite? It's true.
Sharks kill an average of five people, annually, which is unfortunate to say the least. But when you think about the tens of millions of sharks that are killed each year for their fins, meat, liver oil, and hides, it's easy to see people are a bigger threat to sharks than sharks are to people.
All this week the Discovery Channel will broadcast special programming about these misunderstood masters of the underwater universe. Some of the footage is extraordinarily compelling. Viewers should remember that sharks need more protection from humans than the reverse.
Hot off the presses are new findings that show it's actually cheaper for chlorine plants to make their product using mercury-free technology.
Oceana says so in the most extensive report to date focusing on the conversion of mercury-cell chlorine factories to more environmentally and economically sound mercury-free technology.
What's more, the findings have prompted Sen. Barack Obama (D - Ill.) to re-introduce legislation that requires chlorine and caustic soda manufacturing plants to switch to mercury-free technology by 2012.
It's good to see politicians recognizing the need for this type of legislation. Shifting not only benefits the environment and our health, it benefits to the company pocketbooks, too - and that's the bottom line.
Oceana divers documenting the state of ecolog
Endangered leatherback sea turtles migrating from an Indonesian beach to feed on jellyfish off the Pacific coast have one less obstacle to overcome.
NOAA has denied issuance of the special exempted fishing permit required for gillnet boats to operate in an area of coast stretching from Central California to Central Oregon, during the time critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are feeding there.
Just in time for the summer vacation season, the jellies are back, and their numbers are as big as ever.
Researchers aboard Oceana's Ranger have already spotted flocks of these slimy, easy going invertebrates drifting with the currents. A lack of coastal rain water running into the ocean has eliminated the usual buffer that keeps jellies away from swimming beaches.
- Reducing Bycatch Casualties, One Whale at a Time Posted Mon, April 14, 2014
- New York, the New Windy City? Posted Mon, April 14, 2014
- Drill, Spill, Repeat: Shining a Light on the BP Gulf Disaster 4 Years Later Posted Tue, April 15, 2014
- Ignoring Climate Change Puts Our Way of Life in Jeopardy Posted Wed, April 9, 2014
- Coast Guard Report Raises More Questions for Shell and Government Posted Wed, April 9, 2014