The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

A+ for "Altered Oceans"

It's hard enough to get reporters to write a story on the threats facing our oceans - but five? The LA Times did just that this week with its "Altered Oceans" series. And I'm not just talking about a couple hundred words buried on page 7, they brought out the big guns for this one. This series is a full multimedia package: videos, graphs and enough photos to fill the national gallery of art.

While the bells and whistles are top-notch, it's the content that makes this presentation blogworthy. I'd expect nothing less from Kenneth R. Weiss. He's long been one of the leading writers on ocean issues.

When Ken describes the threats facing our oceans, he does so without the sensationalist hype that plagues many reporters. Instead, his journalism is fact and science-based, hard hitting and yet you don't need a PhD in marine biology to get the point. In fact, it's right there in the title. Our oceans are altered, and we must act now to restore them.

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Where's the buzz?

Last week, USA Today's Nick Jans reported on the triple ocean victory in the last four months - three closures of federal waters totaling an area twice the size of Texas. Nick wonders how the largest act of conservation in our nation's history could have slipped below our collective radar screens. Don't blame us, Nick. We issued press releases, e-mailed our supporters and I even blogged about it. Twice.

Since other news agencies treated the victories as "snoozers," Nick took it upon himself to emphasize the importance of these closures, and the threats still facing our oceans in this succinct yet informative article. Thanks, Nick.

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The WTO Takes a Time-out

One of this week's dramas on the world stage was the news from Geneva that the World Trade Organization was forced to break off the trade negotiations known as the Doha Development Round. Key players had reached an impasse on ever-prickly agriculture tariffs and farm subsidies and it was clear a breakthrough was not in sight. So the Director-General of the WTO recommended the move, which he later likened to a "time out" at a sporting event.

We can only hope that this is merely a time out. That's because the Doha Round contains what is in our view the single biggest thing that could be done right now to save world fisheries from irreversible collapse: eliminating government subsidies that build overcapacity and drive overfishing around the globe.

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MIMBY - Mercury in My Backyard (and Yours!)

Conservation groups have spent the last few years fighting to make sure that FDA warnings about mercury are actually shared with consumers and we're starting to have some Continue reading...

Ouch! Jellyfish Invasion in the Mediterranean

If you've never felt the stinging sensation of a jellyfish, count yourself lucky. It's like lemon juice in a paper cut, but longer lasting. The only thing worse than a jellyfish sting, is hundreds of jellyfish stings.

Scientists recently announced a jellyfish bloom on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, and the crew onboard Oceana's Ranger is witnessing the invasion firsthand.

What's causing the massive increase? Glad you asked:

  • increase in "nutrients" (aka ocean pollution);
  • increase in water temperature (aka global warming); and
  • decrease in predators (aka overfishing)

For all of you right-brained people, get a sense of the situation through this new video.

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How to Get House Republicans To Flex Their...Environmental Muscle?

Yes folks it's true. On Monday, the House demonstrated that they can and will - on occasion - vote yes on conservation issues, when Rep. Richard Pombo put forward and the House passed a new version of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that left the Dolphin Deadline intact.

This was truly an amazing victory and I'm not just saying this because my organization - Oceana - led the work that pulled this off. We took on those who wanted to kill the deadline - the key timeline for government to ensure that commercial fishing operations minimize the catch of dolphins and other marine mammals in their activities -- and won. The amazing part is how we did it, by going to Republicans and proving that supporting legislation that "kills Flipper" is not good politics for Republicans or Democrats.

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French Driftnetters Beware

After more than two months at sea, our catamaran - the Ranger - has documented dozens of illegal Italian driftnetters...and we've got the footage to prove it! Watch the video.

We've worked closely with the Italian Coast Guard and - thanks to our tips - many of these vessels have been arrested.

But Italians aren't the only ones using these massive illegal nets to scoop up fish and other creatures, like dolphins and whales. Now we're headed out to catch French driftnetters in the act. Stand by for more excitement from the Mediterranean.

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Happy ending for courtroom drama

Following up on my previous blog, the legal battle between the Navy and the environmental community has come to a close (at least for now). Last Friday, a settlement was reached ensuring that measures will be taken to reduce the harm to whales, dolphins and other marine life caused by high-intensity, mid-frequency sonar. Great work by NRDC and others. Stay tuned for the next episode of this contentious issue...

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Hold the Anchovies

Ridiculously high quotas set by the French and Spanish governments have seriously depleted adult anchovy stocks. What would the world be like without anchovies? Fox's Futurama paints a stark portrait.

The minimum amount of anchovies for sustainable fishing is 28,000 tons, but anchovy stocks today hover around 19,000 tons. In response to the Association of Spanish Artisanal Fishermen and Oceana's pressure, the European Commission banned anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay until Dec. 31.

Futurama fans will appreciate the episode "A Fishful of Dollars." Fry finds himself a rich man, but blows all his money on the last known can of anchovies in existence. Skip ahead to seven and a half minutes to start the anchovy story line, and keep an eye out for a special appearance (sort of) by Oceana's board member Ted Danson.

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It's Not Easy Being a Coral Reef

Coral reefs just can't catch a break. It's not enough that deep sea corals are ripped from the ocean floor by destructive trawling -- now shallow water corals are contending with global warming.

High sea temperatures stress coral, making them susceptible to disease and premature death. Last year, up to 40 percent of coral died in abnormally warm seas around the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the stage is set for the same to happen this year. Two days ago, ENN reported that Caribbean Sea temperatures have reached their annual high two months ahead of schedule.

Then yesterday, the Washington Post highlighted a growing and lesser known problem facing all coral reefs: ocean acidification. The escalating level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making the world's oceans more acidic, which, by the end of the century, could literally dissolve coral reefs.

Have you ever tried putting a penny in a can of Coke for a couple of weeks? Think of coral reefs as the penny and the ocean as the can of Coke. Then put the can of Coke on top of your stove and run over it with a bulldozer ... you've just replicated the ocean environment coral reefs are experiencing.

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