The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

Economics 101: Don't kill whales

Two weeks ago, Iceland announced it would defy the 20-year old worldwide whaling ban and resume its commercial whale hunt. They sure didn't waste any time! Two whales have already been caught, leaving 37 more kills to go.

Iceland claims this decision is all about business, so let's take a look at the business side of what they actually are doing. For those of you who slept through this lesson in high school, I'd like to tell you about a little thing I like to call "economics."

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When bad reports happen to good causes

Conservation groups are fired up about "Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks," a new report released on Tuesday, by the Institute of Medicine. The report attempts to undermine government advice by downplaying the risks of mercury in seafood, especially with regard to children and America's number one most heavily consumed fish: tuna. On a completely unrelated note, the panel that wrote the report has multiple ties to the food industry, including the tuna industry ...

>>Read the report (if you don't mind paying $55)

>>Check out Oceana's response

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Take note Wes Craven: Fish are scary too

I've always been a fan of Halloween. Not so much for the costumes, but for the social acceptance of eating massive amounts of sugar for 24 hours and "fright night" marathons. In honor of this freaky holiday, the folks at my organization put together a freaky fish contest. Check it out.

One of my personal favorites is the fangtooth. Believe it or not, this fish is all bark and no bite. Despite its impressive set of choppers, the fangtooth is actually quite small and harmless to humans. But it sure isn't about to win any beauty contests ...

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A Whale of a Problem in Viking Country

The recent decision by Iceland to resume whaling and to blatantly ignore the nearly 2 decade old moratorium established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is infuriating and puzzling. Iceland's Ministry of Fishing justified its decision by arguing that the "catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development," but conveniently left out the fact that the fin whales that are now on their whaler's list are also on the International Conservation Union's "red list" of endangered species. Within hours of the decision, the first harpooners were off, on their mission of "sustainability" and the first 2 fin whales have already been caught. Iceland's actions make the next IWC meeting all the more important. In the meantime, let's tell Iceland to call the fleet back in.

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Bush does it again!

Last Tuesday, the White House issued a statement calling for a halt to destructive bottom trawling on the high seas and promised that the US would work with other nations and international groups to change fishing practices and create international fishery regulatory groups if needed.

On Oct. 4-5, the United Nations met in NY, to debate banning bottom fishing on the high seas, especially where it's unregulated. The US joined Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa in supporting the moratorium. The UN will likely reach a decision in November.

And the good news doesn't end there. President Bush also called on Congress to pass the Magnuson Stevens Act reauthorization (for you non-fishheads, this is the constitution of ocean conservation). Of course, he neglected to mention what the MSA should include (nobody's perfect).

Fortunately, Oceana is more than happy to fill in the blanks and we'll be working with Congress to make sure deep-sea corals and sponges are protected through the MSA reauthorization.

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Rockin' the boat (literally)

Katie Melua has two impressive credits in her CV. One: she's the biggest-selling female artist in Britain. Two: she performed the world's deepest underwater concert.

On Monday, Melua and her five-piece band played two gigs for workers on a gas rig nearly 1,000 feet below sea level, an event Melua called "surreal." The concert was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Statoil - a Norwegian petroleum company - and was filmed for broadcast on Norwegian TV. In addition to British pop singers, other recent deep-water discoveries include 10 new species of corals and a "treasure trove" of other new marine species.

The concert took place just hours before the re-release of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" - a popular film featuring marine life jamming on the ocean floor. Coincidence? I think so.

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Footage that can even turn Quentin's stomach

Last week, I told you about the annual dolphin hunt in Japan. It's now underway, which may explain why videos like this one, are getting hundreds of thousands of hits on youtube.

If you think you can handle it, take a look. Otherwise, trust me that it's some of the most disturbing footage you could ever see. Either way, please contact the Japanese Embassy and urge an end to the killing.

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Florida officials to corals: Our bad

Off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale lies a 36-acre pile of tires - two million of them to be exact. Could it be the final resting place of the infamous Firestone recall of 2000? Not exactly. The area is actually Osbourne Reef - a man made reef that's been around since the `70s. At first glance, it looks more like a sea of tires than a marine habitat. But upon closer inspection...yup, still a sea of tires.

As William Nuckols, project coordinator and military liaison for Coastal America, explained on NPR last week, the man-made reef is a total failure. Marine life often thrives in other ocean debris, like sunken ships and old military aircrafts, but this hasn't been the case with the tires. Instead, hurricanes sweep through the area, picking up the tires and crashing them back down, killing the same creatures they are suppose to support.

Now Florida officials are calling on Navy salvage divers to remove the tires, a process that will likely take several years. Hopefully, the next time we set out to mess with the oceans this gaffe will serve as a reminder that we're just not as smart as Mother Nature.

Listen to the full broadcast here.

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Four months ago, a fisherman found a baby bottlenose dolphin tangled in the buoy line of a crab trap near Cape Canaveral. "Winter" is just one of hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, marine mammals and seabirds that are caught accidentally by fishermen each year. The good news is, unlike most bycatch victims, instead of losing her life, Winter only lost her tail.

After being nursed back to health by more than 150 marine biologists and volunteers working around the clock, Winter has shown great improvement. She swims and plays at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. But Winter isn't out of the woods just yet, experts think she needs...a prosthetic tail.

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Aquatic canaries in the coal mine

Evil doers beware - a new soldier's been drafted into the war on terror. If our color coded charts and duct tape sent chills up your spine, wait until you get a load of our bluegills.

San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities are using bluegills -- aka sunfish or bream -- to safeguard their drinking water. These fish are highly attuned to chemical disturbances in their environment, and could be able to detect chemical warfare before traditional detection means. When the fish are exposed to toxins, they flex their gills in the same way a human would cough.

Sadly, there are plenty of toxins that could make these freshwater fish "flex their gills" and Osama didn't put them there.

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