The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

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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Caudaplasty?

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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Diving Mecca discovered

Be careful when you remark, "yeah, when pigs fly!" because we just discovered a shark that can walk. In fact, we discovered two.



Researchers from Conservation International found 50 new species in the Bird's Head region in Papua. The new discoveries include 20 corals, 24 fish and eight mantis shrimp. But the one that's got everyone cocking their head to the side with a resounding, "huh!" is the two new species of epaulette sharks, which spend most of their time walking across the sea floor, swimming away when danger looms. See for yourself.


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Who Needs the Orkin Man?

Every year environmental and animal welfare groups join forces to boo and hiss at (and work to oppose) Japan during the International Whaling Commission meeting. In 1986 the IWC instituted a moratorium on commercial whaling, and ever since, Japan has been fighting to overturn it. This year, Japan and its allies came dangerously close to inhaling the sweet smell of success.


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A rose by any other name...

Juliet knew what she was talking about when she uttered the famous line, "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But the question remains "would it taste as good?"


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Let's talk about Intersex fish, baby

Scientists say abnormal "intersex" fish, with both male and female characteristics, have been discovered in the Potomac River and its tributaries across the Capitol Region.  Although scientists are not sure of the source of the problem, they suspect Felicity Huffman is to blame.


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