The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog
Some folks are quick to give sharks a bad rep without considering their importance as top feeders in the marine food web. But when we remove these so-called lions of the ocean from their habitat through shark-finning and bycatch, it doesn't take long for the rest of the food web to feel the effects. Chew on this:
In 2004, North Carolina's century-old bay scallop fishery effectively ended because too few scallops survived into the autumn to sustain fishing, according to a report published in Science last month.
The culprit? Rays. Vast increases in the numbers of rays, which eat scallops. The rays have been decimating the young scallops before they could grow to commercial size.
So where do the sharks come in?
Though eel populations have declined 99 percent since the 1970s, according to a spokesman for the European Union, an EU eel conservation plan three years in the making was nixed by the French, according to a story by Charles Clover.
Tom Friedman, in last Sunday's New
York Times Magazine, makes the point that green is the color that can unite the red and blue states.
At Oceana we have found that conservation issues can and do cross party lines. For example, the Bush administration (yes, the Bush administration!) recently -- after working closely with our organization and other groups -- submitted a proposal in the ongoing World Trade Organization talks that would significantly cut fisheries subsidies.
Captain Kirk would argue that space is the final frontier. But scientists studying marine life throughout a newly revealed portion of the Antarctic sea floor, which had been buried under solid ice for the last five millennia before global warming kicked in, beg to differ.
The collapse of two ice shelves on the eastern shore of Antarctica has exposed a Jamaica-sized section of sea floor teeming with thousands of species of marine life, including 30 believed to be completely new to science.
Fifty-two scientists representing 14 nations returned last month after cataloguing 1,000 species during a 10-week voyage covering 10,000 miles of ocean floor aboard the German icebreaker vessel Polarstar.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
"This is virgin geography," said Gauthier Chapelle, outreach officer for the expedition and biologist at the Brussels-based International Polar Foundation, in a statement. "If we don't find out what this area is like now following the collapse of the ice shelf, and what species are there, we won't have any basis to know in 20 years' time what has changed, and how global warming has altered the marine ecosystem."
And what global warming giveth, global warming will eventually taketh away. Scientists are surprised at the accelerated rate in which organisms flocked to the area, but gradually increasing water temperatures are already affecting algae populations - the foundation of the food chain.
Its eyes are the size of dinner plates; its tentacles, large enough to fashion tractor wheel-sized calamari rings. It stretches longer than a semi-truck, weighs more than a Harley, and glides effortlessly throughout the darkest depths of the Antarctic waters, using razor sharp hooks to gobble up the unlucky that fall into its path.
This is not the tale of a fabled sea monster or an excerpt from a Herman Melville classic. This is the true story of a colossal catch netted by New Zealand fishermen earlier this month. It took two hours to land what is presumably the largest and only mature male specimen of a colossal squid - a rare find indeed.
We've heard of whale beachings before, but it seems as though endangered sea turtles have recently followed suit. Hundreds of olive ridley turtles have been found dead along Bangladesh's coast in the past two weeks. Could it be something in the water? Yes. Most likely pollution and nets.
Now that cell phones are choking hazards and television is high def, it's hard to believe some chlorine plants are still using mercury-cell technology developed back in 1894. The good news is that in the last 48 hours, one of these technological dinosaurs has agreed to enter the 21st century. Each plant that uses this technology emits hundreds of pounds of mercury pollution to our environment every year. So, it is cause to celebrate when another one of these dinosaurs agrees to go mercury free.
The Pioneer chlorine plant in Louisiana will switch to mercury-free technology by the end of 2008 as part of an expansion. The plant, which reported emitting almost 800 pounds of mercury pollution in 2005, expects to increase its energy efficiency by nearly 30% as a result of its conversion, and will save about $31 million each year, making even more of a wonder that they are not all doing it.
We have been working to convince these plants to go mercury free since early 2005. Of the original nine chlorine plants using outdated technology when we started the campaign, Pioneer is the fourth to commit to eliminating its mercury emissions. Its conversion will reduce mercury emissions in Louisiana by almost 20%.
Bluefin tuna have a lot of admirers. Marine biologists are intrigued by their size and speed, they're a noteworthy source of revenue for many fishermen and many sushi lovers are willing to spend a little more for their favorite tuna roll. In fact, this fish is so important to so many, that it warrants a five day meeting of the world's five biggest tuna fisheries - accounting for 77 countries and regions.
The number one new year's resolution for Americans is to lose weight, which is no surprise considering that 60 million of us are obese. But sixteen days into this year, chances are, many of us have already traded in our granola for Krispy Kremes or asked for our movie popcorn with extra butter.
Such is not the case at Sea World where walruses, dogs, manatees and pigs are counting calories and doing crunches. See for yourself.
Of course, the best weight loss regimen would be living in the wild oceans. But, that might be difficult for the dogs and the pigs.
Happy New Year! As you may have heard, the Chinese have confirmed 2007 as the Year of the Pig and Newsweek has coined it the Year of the Widget. But my personal favorite designation comes from the United Nations, which has declared 2007 to be the Year of the Dolphin.
We've got our work cut out for us to do justice to this special year. In 2006, we stopped Congress from weakening the Marine Mammal Protection Act, thanks to a little help from our friends on the right. Some members of Congress tried to eliminate the "Dolphin Deadline," a key provision of the Act that sets the timeline to reduce the death and injury of marine mammals by commercial fishing operations to insignificant levels. Hopefully, this year we'll be able to do even more to protect the dolphins.