NoFishLeft blog moved to www.bluebeat.org

24 Dec

Dear readers, it has been quiet on this blog for 2 weeks now and it will stay quiet here over time

I moved the blog to another place on the web under a different name www.bluebeat.org. NoFishLeft will come back as a campaign against overfishing of our oceans and will soon be announced on the site of BlueBeat.org

BlueBeat.org is our ocean education initiative, a first start of an organization about and around every threat the ocean and us people living on this fast blue planet facing. We decided to switch to another name and website so we can slowly creating a better and more advanced, broad website around ocean education. WordPress blogs unfortunately have there limited.

We hope to see you back at http://bluebeat.org

2011 will be the year of the ocean!! let’s put ocean conservation on the agenda worldwide

Save the whales

11 Dec

Commercial whaling nearly wiped out every species of large whales in the 20th century. International whaling regulations were ignored or ineffective. As a result, many species remain endangered today.

In 1986 the International Whaling Commission established a moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland, Norway, and Japan continue to defy the whaling ban. Since the moratorium began, these nations have killed over 25,000 more whales, including endangered species.

You can help to stop them. Save the Whales!

Is the End in Sight for The World’s Coral Reefs?

7 Dec

It is a difficult idea to fathom. But the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth’s coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children’s lifetimes.

by j.e.n. veron

Over the past decades, there have dozens of articles in the media describing dire futures for coral reefs. In the 1960s and ‘70s, we were informed that many reefs were being consumed by a voracious coral predator, the crown-of-thorns starfish. In the 1980s and ‘90s, although these starfish still reared their thorny heads from time to time, the principal threats had moved on — to sediment runoff, nutrients, overfishing, and general habitat destruction.

For me, an Australian marine scientist who has spent the past 40 years working on reefs the world over, these threats were of real concern, but their implications were limited in time or in space or both. Although crown-of-thorns starfish can certainly devastate reefs, the impacts of sediments, nutrients and habitat loss have usually been of greater concern, and I have been repeatedly shocked by the destruction I have witnessed. However, nothing comes close to the devastation waiting in the wings at the moment.

Great Barrier Reef

Photo courtesy of J.E.N. Veron
Ribbon reefs have formed the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef for millions of years.

You may well feel that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerations. You may think there may be something in it to worry about, but it won’t be as bad as doomsayers like me are predicting. This view is understandable given that only a few decades ago I, myself, would have thought it ridiculous to imagine that reefs might have a limited lifespan on Earth as a consequence of human actions. It would have seemed preposterous that, for example, the Great Barrier Reef — the biggest structure ever made by life on Earth — could be mortally threatened by any present or foreseeable environmental change.

Yet here I am today, humbled to have spent the most productive scientific years of my life around the rich wonders of the underwater world, and utterly convinced that they will not be there for our children’s children to enjoy unless we drastically change our priorities and the way we live.

A decade ago, my increasing concern for the plight of reefs in the face of global temperature changes led me to start researching the effects of climate change on reefs, drawing on my experience in reef science, evolution, biodiversity, genetics, and conservation, as well as my profound interests in geology, palaeontology, and oceanography, not to mention the challenging task of understanding the climate science, geochemical processes, and ocean chemistry.

When I started researching my book, A Reef in Time: The Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End (Harvard, 2008), I knew that climate change was likely to have serious consequences for coral reefs. But the big picture that gradually emerged from my integration of these disparate disciplines left me shocked to the core.

In a long period of deep personal anguish, I turned to specialists in many different fields of science to find anything that might suggest a fault in my own conclusions. But in this quest I was depressingly unsuccessful. The bottom line remains: Science argues that coral reefs can indeed be utterly trashed in the lifetime of today’s children. That certainty is what motivates me to spread this message as clearly, and accurately, as I can.

So what are the issues? Most readers will know that there have been several major episodes of mass bleaching on major reef areas worldwide over the past 20 years. In the late-1980s when the first mass bleaching occurred, there was a great deal of concern among reef scientists and conservation organizations, but the phenomenon had no clear explanation. Since then, the number and frequency of mass bleachings have increased and sparked widespread research efforts.

Corals have an intimate symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae, zooxanthellae, which live in their cells and provide the photosynthetic fuel for them to grow and reefs to form. The research showed that this

‘Ecosystems can recover from all sorts of abuse, and coral reefs are no exception.’

relationship can be surprisingly fragile if corals are exposed to high light conditions at the same time as above-normal water temperatures, because the algae produce toxic levels of oxygen, and excessive levels of oxygen are toxic to most animal life. Under these conditions, corals must expel the zooxanthellae, bleach, and probably die or succumb to the toxin and definitely die. A tough choice, one they have not had to make at any time in their long genetic history.

read more – whole article here

Trawling: human impacts on the deep seafloor

4 Dec

Scientists have for the first time estimated the physical footprint of human activities on the deep seafloor of the North East Atlantic. The findings published in the journal PLoS ONE reveal that the area disturbed by bottom trawling commercial fishing fleets exceeds the combined physical footprint of other major human activities considered.

The deep seafloor covers approximately 60% of Earth’s surface, but only a tiny fraction of it has been studied to date. Yet as technology advances and resources from relatively shallow marine environments are depleted, human impacts on the deep seafloor are likely to increase.

“Information on the location and spatial extent of human activities affecting the deep-sea environment is crucial for conservation of seafloor ecosystems and for governance and sustainable management of the world’s oceans,” said Angela Benn of the National Oceanography Centre, who led the new study.

The researchers focused on the OSPAR maritime area of the North East Atlantic, where human activities are particularly intense. The area covers over eleven million square kilometres, about 75 percent of which is deeper than 200 metres, and includes important fishing grounds such as those of Hatton and Rockall.

Using available data for the year 2005, they mapped and estimated the spatial extent of intentional human activities occurring directly on the seafloor as well as structures and artefacts present on the seafloor resulting from past activities.

They looked exclusively at the physical footprint rather than the consequential ecological effects of disturbance, contamination and pollution, which are harder to ascertain. One difficulty that they faced was that of accessing data on human activities that was accurate, up to date and comprehensive, and in a suitable format for analysis.

“Some governments, public organisations and private companies were far more forthcoming with information than others,” explained Benn. “Significant improvements are needed in data collection and availability, and this requirement needs to be built into international conventions and treaties with a legal framework in place to ensure informed environmental management.”

Despite difficulties and various uncertainties, the researchers’ assessment suggests that, although now banned, previously dumped radioactive waste, munitions and chemical weapons together have the lowest physical footprint of the human activities considered, although they do not consider potential dispersal after leakage.

Non-fisheries marine scientific research also has a relatively small footprint, whereas those of fisheries marine scientific research, telecommunication cables and the oil and gas industry are moderate. However, even on the lowest estimates, the spatial extent of bottom trawling is at least ten times that for the other activities assessed, with a physical footprint greater than that of all the others combined.

The study estimated the total area of physical imprint in 2005 to be around 28,000 km2. However many human activities in the deep sea are concentrated in certain areas, particularly in shallower depths between 200 m and 1500 m, and in particular habitats which become disproportionally impacted. The OSPAR area comprises many different habitats each with different and diverse ecosystems.  The percentage impact in each of these habitats would provide important information but unfortunately there is virtually no detailed seabed mapping to provide this information.

As demands drive human activities ever deeper the imprint will become more widespread.  “Consequently,” argues Benn, “there needs to be a much greater understanding of the relative impacts of human activities on the deep seafloor, and in particular how these activities affect seafloor ecosystems and biodiversity.”

original article @ national oceanography centre

Ocean Dead Zones Double Down: The Seas Are the Limit

4 Dec

The world’s first identified ocean “dead zone”—a watery region where a combo of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer runoff creates monstrous algae blooms that kill off everything in the water—was discovered more than 40 years ago at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. Today, more than 400 dead zones are growing around the globe; the number has doubled every decade.

dead_zone_size_big
No fish can live in the dead zones where fertilizer-polluted rivers dump into the sea. (Photo: Ho New/Reuters)

With that death-zone expansion in mind, new research conducted by the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland, Australia, has scientists extremely worried that the sea may face a mass extinction by the end of the century.

All of the oceans, say the study authors, have numerous dead zones, with particular hotspots in the tropical South Pacific, off southeastern Australia and China, in the Gulf of Mexico and off Namibia, in the Bay of Bengal, in the Baltic and Black seas and in the South Atlantic. Essentially, the problem exists everywhere rivers meet the sea.

Each spring and summer, the original dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico grows to roughly the size of New Jersey, spanning the ocean from Mississippi to Texas. Nothing in its reach can grow. Around the world, dead zones range in size from one square mile to 27,000 square miles. All told, dead zones now cover nearly 100,000 square miles of ocean, an area larger than the state of Oregon.

Why the boom? A familiar trio of problems: overfishing, nutrient runoff, and climate change. Too many people live and pollute too close to the sea and take its biggest resource (fish) without pondering the consequences.

According to the Australian report, now is not the first time the oceans have died off: “Declining oxygen concentrations have played a major role in at least four or five mass extinction events.” Those were due to meteor strikes or booms in erupting volcanoes, which killed off 90 percent of life in the ocean.

The authors of the new report believe that a similar loss of life could occur in the next 100 years.

“Climate change is driving changes to water circulation—so winds, strange weather patterns, have a consequence for how the ocean turns over and aerates and so on, and it’s the winds which are delivering a lot of organic compounds into the deep sea.

“At the same time, we are putting a lot of fertilizer off coastlines, those sorts of things are incubating these deep water anoxic zones.”

This would be the first time that the ocean died due to man’s influence; as the ocean warms due to a fast-changing climate these low oxygen zones will move closer to the surface and spread out along the continental shelves.

“Ocean ecosystems are in a lot of trouble and it all bears the hallmarks of human interference,” says the study. “We are changing the way the Earth’s oceans work, shifting them to entirely new states, which we have not seen before.”

“It’s mucking around with the heart and lungs of the planet—that’s essentially what the oceans are, a huge respiratory system. We damage them, the consequences could be very serious.”

Last season, during the BP spill, that very first dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico swelled to near-record size. With all that crude polluting the Gulf, could the dead zone get any deader?

The answer is no.

original article @ takepart.com

‘No Fish Left Behind’ Approach Leaves Earth With Nowhere Left to Fish, Study Finds

3 Dec

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2010) — Earth has run out of room to expand fisheries, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia researchers that charts the systematic expansion of industrialized fisheries.

In collaboration with the National Geographic Society and published in the online journal PLoS ONE, the study is the first to measure the spatial expansion of global fisheries. It reveals that fisheries expanded at a rate of one million sq. kilometres per year from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. The rate of expansion more than tripled in the 1980s and early 1990s — to roughly the size of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest every year.

Between 1950 and 2005, the spatial expansion of fisheries started from the coastal waters off the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific, reached into the high seas and southward into the Southern Hemisphere at a rate of almost one degree latitude per year. It was accompanied by a nearly five-fold increase in catch, from 19 million tonnes in 1950, to a peak of 90 million tonnes in the late 1980s, and dropping to 87 million tonnes in 2005, according to the study.

“The decline of spatial expansion since the mid-1990s is not a reflection of successful conservation efforts but rather an indication that we’ve simply run out of room to expand fisheries,” says Wilf Swartz, a PhD student at UBC Fisheries Centre and lead author of the study.

Meanwhile, less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s oceans are designated as marine reserves that are closed to fishing.

“If people in Japan, Europe, and North America find themselves wondering how the markets are still filled with seafood, it’s in part because spatial expansion and trade makes up for overfishing and ‘fishing down the food chain’ in local waters,” says Swartz.

“While many people still view fisheries as a romantic, localized activity pursued by rugged individuals, the reality is that for decades now, numerous fisheries are corporate operations that take a mostly no-fish-left-behind approach to our oceans until there’s nowhere left to go,” says Daniel Pauly, co-author and principal investigator of the Sea Around Us Project at UBC Fisheries Centre.

The researchers used a newly created measurement for the ecological footprint of fisheries that allows them to determine the combined impact of all marine fisheries and their rate of expansion. Known as SeafoodPrint, it quantifies the amount of “primary production” — the microscopic organisms and plants at the bottom of the marine food chain — required to produce any given amount of fish.

“This method allows us to truly gauge the impact of catching all types of fish, from large predators such as bluefin tuna to small fish such as sardines and anchovies,” says Pauly. “Because not all fish are created equal and neither is their impact on the sustainability of our ocean.”

“The era of great expansion has come to an end, and maintaining the current supply of wild fish sustainably is not possible,” says co-author and National Geographic Ocean Fellow Enric Sala. “The sooner we come to grips with it — similar to how society has recognized the effects of climate change — the sooner we can stop the downward spiral by creating stricter fisheries regulations and more marine reserves.”

The University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, in the College for Interdisciplinary Studies, undertakes research to restore fisheries, conserve aquatic life and rebuild ecosystems. It promotes multidisciplinary study of aquatic ecosystems and broad-based collaboration with maritime communities, government, NGOs and other partners. The UBC Fisheries Centre is recognized globally for its innovative and enterprising research, with its academics winning many accolades and awards. The Sea Around Us Project is funded in part by the Pew Environment Group. For more information, visit www.fisheries.ubc.ca and www.cfis.ubc.ca.

The National Geographic Society, the Waitt Foundation, the SEAlliance along with strategic government, private, academic and conservation partners including the TEDPrize, Google and IUCN, are beginning an action-oriented marine conservation initiative under the banner of “Mission Blue” that will increase global awareness of the urgent ocean crisis and help to reverse the decline in ocean health by inspiring people to care and act; reducing the impact of fishing; and promoting the creation of marine protected areas. For more information, go to www.iamtheocean.org.

original article @ sciencedaily.com

Scientists fear mass extinction as oceans choke

30 Nov

By Amy Simmons / ABC News

Australian scientists fear the planet is on the brink of another mass extinction as ocean dead zones continue to grow in size and number.

More than 400 ocean dead zones – areas so low in oxygen that sea life cannot survive – have been reported by oceanographers around the world between 2000 and 2008.

That is compared with 300 in the 1990s and 120 in the 1980s.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and from the University of Queensland, says there is growing evidence that declining oxygen levels in the ocean have played a major role in at least four of the planet’s five mass extinctions.

“Until recently the best hypothesis for them was a meteor strike,” he said.

“So 65 million years ago they’ve got very good evidence … all the dinosaurs died because of smoke and stuff in the atmosphere from a meteor strike.

“But with the four other mass extinction events, one of the best explanations now is that these periods were preceded by an increase of volcanic activity, and that volcanic activity caused a change in ocean circulation.

“Just as we are seeing at a smaller scale today, huge parts of the ocean became anoxic at depth.

“The consequence of that is that you had increased amounts of rotten egg gas, hydrogen sulfide, going up into the atmosphere, and that is thought to be what may have caused some of these other extinction events.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg says up to 90 per cent of life has perished in previous mass extinctions and that a similar loss of life could occur in the next 100 years.

“We’re already having another mass extinction due to humans wiping out life and so on, but it looks like it could get as high as those previous events,” he said.

“So it’s the combination of this alteration to coastlines, climate change and everything, that has a lot of us worried we are going to drive the sixth extinction event and it will happen over the next 100 years because we are interfering with the things that keep species alive.

“Ocean ecosystems are in a lot of trouble and it all bears the hallmarks of human interference.

“We are changing the way the Earth’s oceans work, shifting them to entirely new states, which we have not seen before.”

He says while it is impossible to predict the future, in a century from now the world will be vastly different.

“A world without the Great Barrier Reef, where you don’t have the pleasure of going to see wild places any more,” he said.

“We might be able to struggle on with much lower population densities, but ultimately it won’t be the world we have today.

“The idea of walking in the Daintree will be a forgotten concept because these changes have occurred.”

read more at ABC News

Bluefin tuna still largely unprotected as conservation conference ends

29 Nov

article Guardian.co.uk

Environmental groups criticize ‘measly’ 4% reduction in fishing quota, which they say will do little to protect declining stocks which are also under threat from illegal fishing

Fisherman land a bluefin tuna Conservation groups had hoped to see bluefin tuna fishing quotas slashed or suspended, but the quota was reduced by a mere 4%. Photograph: Jeffrey L Rotman/Corbis

An international conservation conference in Paris made progress this Saturday on protecting sharks but didn’t do anything to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has been severely overfished to feed the market for sushi in Japan, environmental groups said.

Delegates from 48 nations spent 11 days in Paris haggling over fishing quotas for the Atlantic and Mediterranean, poring over scientific data and pitting the demands of environmentalists against those of the fishing industry.

Conservation groups said delegates took steps in the right direction with moves to protect oceanic whitetip sharks and many hammerheads in the Atlantic, though they had hoped for more. Sharks were once an accidental catch for fishermen but have been increasingly targeted because of the growing market in Asia for their fins, an expensive delicacy used in soup.

WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Pew Environment Group all strongly criticised the 2011 bluefin quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, which manages tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as species that have traditionally been accidental catches for tuna fishermen.

Environmental groups had hoped to see bluefin fishing slashed or suspended, saying illegal fishing is rampant in the Mediterranean and that scientists don’t have good enough data to evaluate the problem.

The commission agreed to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from 13,500 to 12,900 metric tonnes annually about a 4% reduction. It also agreed on measures to try to improve enforcement of quotas on bluefin, prized for its tender red meat.

Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean’s fisheries program, attacked the “measly quota reduction.” Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, complained that “the word ‘conservation’ should be removed from ICCAT’s name.”

Russell F Smith, representing the US delegation, said: “I think we made some progress. I wish we’d made more.”

Meanwhile, the CNPMEM French fishing industry union praised the decision, saying “reason prevailed.”

The international commission’s committee of scientists had said keeping the status quo was acceptable, but environmentalists say there is so much unreported fishing that doing so is irresponsible.

read more

Barrier reef not looking so great

27 Nov

A RESEARCH team running the world’s first underwater laboratory on the Great Barrier Reef has confirmed the natural treasure is in great danger.

Carbon effect ... coral near the Keppel Islands.
Carbon effect … coral near the Keppel Islands.

Led by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, from the global change institute of the University of Queensland, the team has been studying how coral is affected by increasing acidity in sea water caused by carbon emissions.

They began the world-first experiment on a two-square-metre patch of the reef off Heron Island in May and found damage to the reef more serious than expected.

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They will soon remove the four experimental chambers – two simulating future carbon dioxide levels and two with control conditions. They are using more than 20 precision instruments to monitor the changing water chemistry. The experiment simulates the predicted levels of carbon emissions in 2050.

Team member David Kline said the group had noted that in only eight months the part of the reef with the higher CO2 levels already looked quite different. ”What is growing there has changed, the types of algae are different and, based on our research, we would expect that the growth rate of the coral would have slowed,” he said.

”If people’s CO2 emissions continue as they have, the future of the reef is very grim. I would suggest that coral reefs will be highly altered and perturbed ecosystems by 2050 if we do not make a massive effort to curb our emissions. The findings back up much of the previous research that finds ocean acidification will have serious impacts on reefs.”

The research is funded by an Australian Research Council program and the Pacific Blue Foundation, a Californian non-profit charitable trust. Dr Kline said the findings would be submitted to scientific publications including the American journal Science.

When the study was announced in May, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the project had been ”quite an engineering feat”. While similar studies have been done in aquariums this is the first on an ocean reef. Electronics and power sources are on a float, with mooring lines and anchors, and 100 metres of electronic cables needed to power the laboratory’s computer, which regulates how much carbon is being added to the reef.

The equipment is automated but researchers visit the float to check the gear every three days.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said scientists could use the data to predict at what point the reef would fade away. ”The corals are disappearing at a rate of 1 or 2 per cent a year … If you multiply that by 20 years, that’s 40 per cent.”

article: smh.com.au

Brazilian Divers Protest Against Shark Finning And Tuna Commission Inaction On Shark Massacres

27 Nov

from underwatertimes.com

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A thousand shark fins cut from black cardboard, representing just five minutes of the world´s shark fisheries, dotted the sands of Copacabana Beach this Saturday to protest the indiscriminate killing of sharks to feed the Asian shark fin trade.

Promoted by Divers for Sharks, a coalition of diving industry and recreational divers in 128 countries and based in Brazil, the protest is the first in a series of demonstrations and awareness activities scheduled to coincide with the meeting of ICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna. Environmentalists and the diving industry have accused ICCAT of being deaf to their requests for stricter regulations to prevent catching sharks in tuna long-lines and the practice of ‘shark finning’, where fins are removed from sharks and the body dumped overboard. Recently, fins from an estimated 280,000 sharks were confiscated by Brazilian authorities from a contraband shipment bound to China from the Northern State of Pará.

 

“Politicians and bureaucrats as those irresponsible ICCAT officers only listen to the fishing industry lobby, but there are thousands of jobs and millions of dollars generated by the non-consumptive diving industry that benefit coastal communities in developing countries that have to be taken into account. Sharks are a major diving attraction and are are fast disappearing from diving sites, endangering jobs for people who protect the marine environment while ICCAT and other international fora only protect the interests of the industrial fishing corporations”, said Paulo Guilherme Alves Cavalcanti, a Brazilian dive operator and co-founder of Divers for Sharks.

Sharks have become globally threatened by finning to supply Asian markets where affluent people pay astonishing prices for shark fin soup, a tasteless dish associated with wealth in some cultures. With many countries now taking measures to protect sharks in their waters, Brazil, with unregulated and barely enforced fisheries and border controls, has become a major target for the shark fin contraband mafias, and also supplies shark fins legally for export by the thousands.

Brazilian marine conservation activist and writer José Truda Palazzo, Jr., who co-founded Divers for Sharks with Paulo Cavalcanti, said that “it is shameful that ICCAT is presiding over the demise of the Atlantic sharks and that other regional fisheries agreements are doing the same the world over. Industrial fishing has become a criminal mining industry, and it´s time the people to learn about it and stop its abuses before it´s too late.”

ICCAT is meeting in France from the 17 to 27 of November, and is expected to give little attention to the plight of threatened or endangered species caught in the oceanic fisheries it manages.

Divers for Sharks has pledged to raise public awareness about the plight of sharks and their importance to the diving industry health worldwide. The protest in Rio should be a major eye-opener for lawmakers to watch the poor performance of international fisheries agreements and to take urgent action to save sharks and other marine species from extinction.

For more information please visit Divers for Sharks on Facebook.