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.

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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.

Documentary review: ‘Into Eternity’

24 Nov

review by NoFishLeft

From the 17e till 27e of November 2010 the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival) is held in Amsterdam. Last night I went to ‘into eternity’ a beautiful aesthetic, surreal, somewhat disturbing documentary about the legacy of nuclear waste.

In a desolated landscape in finland, the government is working on a 3 billion euro costing hiding place for nuclear waste. A place to protect our future generations from the toxic we produce. This immense tomb called ‘Onkalo’ (hiding place) will be build out of solid rock 500 meters under the ground, a place that supposedly should be save from any possible threats like earthquakes, volcanoes, wars or human economic instability. This mind-blowing project takes more than 100 years to build and will be finished in the 22th century.

Madsen the director of the film examines the possible implications and questions that rise when building a colossus tomb like this. He focus on how to build, protect and secure a structure that has to remains for at least 100.000 years. Is it even possible to build a structure that remains for more than 100.000 years? Is humanity capable to make this and how to warn future generations for this deathly tomb?

This intriguing documentary examines a very width range of questions about possible human evolutions. All breaks at the point that 100.000 years is far beyond imaging even for our brightest minds. In the end we can only assume what will happen in the future. Civilizations will fall, new ones will rise maybe on total different key pillars than our civilization now. How to warn these new possible human civilization in the far future? with language, symbols or maybe something as the painting the scream? How to warn them instead of creating curiosity of any future visitors that might seen it as a religious tomb. The engineers confess that the biggest threat will possibly lie in what they call ‘human intrusion.’

Where will the human race be in a 100, 1000 or even 10.000 years from now? The simple questions asked in this film and the honest answers by lawmakers, theologians, engineers makes this film powerful yet very disturbing. One of the serious options proposed is to try to forget this place, erase it from our human history, but than you have to be sure the structure and  roaming earth has no flaws for the coming 100.000 years

Through focusing on this immense project this documentary really shows us the bigger picture of the unsolved problem we have with nuclear waste, a growing and inevitable problem. Our nuclear reactors maybe safer than ever, but the problem of nuclear waste grows. ‘Onkalo’ at this moment is the most high tech, safest way to store the toxic waste. But it will only store 1% of the current nuclear waste there is.

With the coming prognoses of more countries embracing nuclear power again it rise some very important unanswered questions. Politicians, policy makers and lobbyists who running a successful campaign for nuclear energy keeping the waste problem out of the debate. The world looks mostly focused on the safety of it nuclear reactors instead of focusing and bringing real solution on the inevitable toxic waste that comes along with it.

Madsen didn’t made this film as an activist, he isn’t, and that’s what makes the documentary even more powerful. His background as a conceptual artist makes this documentary a stunning aesthetic film. The visual shots fits perfect with the unreal upsetting reality of the film. In a poetic style he’s telling our far future generations about this ‘Onkalo’.

This documentary is a must see for everybody who thinks about nuclear energy as a real solution for our coming energy crisis. We can not make proper decisions with out asking ourselves some serious and needed questions about the waste it brings. You can’t talk about nuclear power, without talking about the big problem that nuclear waste brings for future generations.

Production year: 2010
Runtime: 75 mins
Directors: Michael Madsen

Dianna Cohen: Tough truths about plastic pollution

1 Nov

 

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives — and some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre.

Dianna Cohen is the co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a group that addresses the pervasive problem of plastic pollution. She was inspired to co-found the group by her work as an artist — because her chosen material is the ubiquitous plastic bag. She writes: “Having worked with the plastic bag as my primary material for the past fifteen years, all of the obvious references to recycling, first-world culture, class, high and low art give way to an almost formal process which reflects the unique flexibility of the medium.”

With the Plastic Pollution Coalition, she helps to raise awareness of ocean waste — the majority of which is nondegradable plastic — and everyday strategies to cut down the amount of plastic we use and throw away.

World’s largest marine reserve comes into being

1 Nov

October 31 2010 Charles Clover (original at Fish2fork)

Image HolderChagos marine life to be protected

Commercial fishing around the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean ends today making it the largest “no-take” marine reserve in the world.

The remaining fishing licenses will expire at midnight, following the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) decision to create the reserve in April.

The coalition government decided to proceed with the reserve, despite its austerity budget, after £3.5 million in private funding was offered by the Bertarelli Foundation, in a deal organized by the British-based Blue Marine Foundation, a charity spawned by the documentary film, The End of the Line.

The creation of the new sanctuary around the British Indian Ocean Territory, where commercial fishing will be banned, serves to highlight the slowness with which the international community has moved towards reaching a goal set almost a decade ago to protect marine life.

In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development made a commitment to protect 10 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2012.

With only 15 months to go, it is estimated that just 1.17 per cent of the world’s oceans are under some form of protection, and a mere 0.08 per cent classified as “no-take” zones.

Early on Saturday morning, government representatives at a UN conference on biodiversity held in Nagoya, Japan, put the 2012 deadline back to 2020.

Marine experts warned that it is scandalous that the original deadline will not be met, and said the 10 per cent target falls far short of what is needed. A third of ocean waters need protection to give marine species a fighting chance of survival, they said.

The shortfall between target and achievement was described as “massive” by Dr Heather Koldewey, manager of the Zoological Society of London’s international marine and freshwater conservation programme.

The failure to get anywhere near the original goal would result in “a massive loss of marine resources and, with that, an associated loss of people’s livelihoods”, she warned.

“In terms of maintaining marine environments in some kind of operational form, science believes that actual protection should be in the region of 30 to 40 per cent.”

Professor Charles Sheppard, from the University of Warwick also says more no-take marine reserves are vital to maintain sufficient life in our oceans.

He said: “Governments need to stand up to the fishing industry lobby before it is too late. We cannot afford to have any more delay by governments in honouring their commitments to protect areas of ocean.”

Alistair Gammell, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Chagos campaign, said: “It is scandalous that governments are nowhere near the targets agreed to in 2002. The consequence of that failure is that fish and other species are declining in nearly every place you look.”

The Chagos reserve covers an area of 544,000 square kilometres – twice the size of Britain. Its waters are home to the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, as well as green sea turtles, dolphins and one of the world’s largest coral reefs – a habitat for more than 1,200 species of coral and fish. It also has nearly 100 seamounts and underwater features thought to harbour undiscovered forms of life.

Marine life in the waters of the Chagos Archipelago has been hit hard by overfishing. The Zoological Society of London estimates that, over the past five years, around 60,000 sharks, an equivalent number of rays and many other species have been caught there as “by-catch” when fishing for tuna.

In an attempt to prevent the reserve becoming little more than a park on paper, a fisheries patrol vessel, paid for by private donation, will police the waters to ensure the fishing ban is not breached.

In a statement last night a UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Government believes that a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the right way ahead for furthering the environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

“As the world’s largest MPA, the UK’s example is encouraging others to do the same in other important and vulnerable areas.”

BP and Halliburton knew of Gulf oil well cement flaws

29 Oct

article from Guardian.co.uk

Fire burning at  Deepwater Horizon oil rig
Fire burns on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April. Investigators say cement used on the well did not meet industry standards. Photograph: US coastguard/EPA
BP and Halliburton were aware of flaws in the cement used to seal the doomed well in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the lead investigator for the presidential commission on the oil spill.

In a letter to the commission, the investigator, Fred Bartlit, said the cement mixture used on the well did not meet industry standards, and failed three out of four laboratory tests before the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April.

Halliburton, which was hired by BP to cement the well, learned of those failures in February, and informed BP on 8 March. But both firms chose to go ahead with the nitrogen foam cement mixture, which was supposed to secure the bottom of the well.

“Halliburton (and perhaps BP) should have considered redesigning the foam slurry,” the letter said.

However, Halliburton said it did not believe that the foam cement design used on the well caused the incident. “Halliburton believes that significant differences between its internal cement tests and the commission’s test results may be due to differences in the cement materials tested,” the company said in a statement issued in response to the letter. “The commission tested off-the-shelf cement and additives, whereas Halliburton tested the unique blend of cement and additives that existed on the rig at the time Halliburton’s tests were conducted.”

The company added: “Halliburton believes that had BP conducted a cement bond log test, or had BP and others properly interpreted a negative pressure test, these tests would have revealed any problems with Halliburton’s cement.”

A fourth test, performed in April, did indicate the cement would hold. But Bartlit said BP did not have the results of that test before 19 April, when it ordered work crews to begin pumping cement into the well.

The finding offers some good news for BP, whose own investigative report on the spill last month zeroed in on problems in the cement seal performed by Halliburton.

Like BP’s investigators, the commission conducted its own tests on the cement design used by Halliburton – although they had an exact recipe. The mixture failed all nine stability tests.

The companies involved in the catastrophic spill – BP, Transocean, which owned the rig, Halliburton, and others – are engaged in a high stakes fight to shift blame, and millions of dollars in liability, for the explosion and spill.

Bartlit cautioned that the failure of the cement seal alone was not the sole cause for the oil disaster.

“The story of the blowout does not turn solely on the quality of the Macondo cement job. Cementing wells is a complex endeavour and industry figures inform us that cementing failures are not uncommon in the best of circumstances,” he wrote.

The oil industry had developed other common tests to ensure against cement failures, he said. “BP and/or Transocean personnel misinterpreted or chose not to conduct such tests at the Macondo well.”

Suzanne Goldenberg and Julia Kollewe