Monday, October 23, 2006

Ocean Dead Zones Increased Dramatically in Last 2 Years

Discovery Channel, John Heilprin, AP reported on the UN report showing 200 ocean dead zones:

Gulf Dead Zone

Oct. 20, 2006 — Scientists have found 200 "dead zones" in the world's oceans — places where pollution threatens fish, other marine life and the people who depend on them.  The United Nations report Thursday showed a 34 percent jump in the number of such zones from just two years ago.  Pollution-fed algae, which deprives other living marine life of oxygen, is the cause of most of the world's dead zones that cover tens of thousands of square miles of waterways. Scientists chiefly blame fertilizer and other farm run-off, sewage and fossil-fuel burning.  Those contain an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphorous and nitrogen, that cause explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton. When they die, they sink to the bottom, where they are eaten by bacteria that use up the oxygen in the water.  "The low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds," U.N. officials said. "These areas are fast becoming major threats to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for food and livelihoods."  By 2030, the world's rivers will pump 14 percent more nitrogen into seas and oceans than that found in the mid-1990s, according to new U.N. research released at a meeting in Beijing.  Researchers led by Robert Diaz, a marine scientist at Virginia's College of William and Mary, said they found new dead zones at the Archipelago Sea in Finland; Fosu Lagoon in Ghana; Pearl River estuary and Changjiang River in China; and Mersey River estuary in Britain.  Other new zones found were at the Elefsis Bay and Aegean Sea in Greece; Paracas Bay in Peru; Mondego River in Portugal; Montevideo Bay in Uruguay; and in the western Indian Ocean.  The United Nations marine experts said the number and size of oxygen-deprived zones has grown each decade since the 1970s.  Not all the dead zones persist year-round; some return seasonally, depending on winds that bring nutrient-rich water to the surface.  "It seems like a big jump in two years," said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, who was not part of the U.N. research. She said an important factor has been the huge increase in pollution from fast-developing countries.  Rabalais, who has studied the Gulf of Mexico's massive dead zone that is now the size of New Jersey, said marine creatures that swim fast enough can usually escape.  "The things that are left behind are the ones that usually can't survive," she said. When you consider the size of some of these areas, it's removing what's considered the essential habitat for fishes and crustaceans."  Other U.N. scientific findings released Thursday, however, raised hopes for the recovery of damaged coral reefs, which serve as the ocean's nurseries. It found that reefs bleached in the late 1990s by high surface sea temperatures are affected by how polluted the waters are.  "Coral reefs recovering faster are generally those living in marine protected areas and coastal waters where the levels of pollution, dredging and other kinds of human-induced disturbance are considered low," the U.N. said.

UN reports prepared for the Beijing meeting on protection of the marine environment are available at UNEP support documents for Beijing meeting:

  1. Protecting coastal and marine environments from land-based activities: A guide for national action (PDF)
  2. The State of the Marine Environment: Trends and Processes (PDF)
  3. The State of the Marine Environment: Regional Assessments.  This document is available in five parts:  Part 1    Part 2     Part 3    Part 4   Part 5
  4. Implementation of the GPA at the regional level: The role of Regional Seas Conventions and their Protocols (PDF)
  5. Financing the implementation of regional seas conventions and action plans:  A guide for national action (PDF)
  6. Ecosystem-based management: Markers for assessing progress (PDF)

October 23, 2006 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

He ought to be ashamed of himself

Just in case you thought that the Bush administration might be interested in pursuing environmental policy based on sound science, just look at what the current EPA administrator has to say about climate change:

Link: Stephen L. Johnson hosts Ask the White House.

"President Bush understands that the world is going through a period of warming, however the science is still out as to how much it is affected by human activity."

HT Lauren Weldon, Harvard Law School '07

October 15, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The $ 20 Trillion Dollar a Year Cost of Inaction

Here's the link to the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute study on the economic cost of inaction on global warming. Link: GDAE

Scientific American: Climate change inaction will cost trillions: study

October 15, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

ABA SEER conference on ESA counterpart regulations

    American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources


Protecting Endangered Species; The Court Throws the ESA Counterpart Regulations Overboard

Thursday, October 19, 2006
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Eastern / 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Central
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Mountain / 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Pacific

Program Overview:
  In a decision closely watched by commercial agriculture and the environmental community, Judge John C. Coughenour ruled last month in Washington Toxics Coalition, et al. v. United States Department of Interior, et al., the so-called "counterpart regulations," jointly issued by EPA and NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Services) were invalid. Issued in 2004, the regulations were intended to enhance and streamline the Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation process, which requires consultations between EPA and the Services to minimize adverse impacts on endangered species resulting from pesticide applications. The ruling is expected to have significant implications for the grower community, and undoubtedly will make the consultation process among these agencies even more unclear. Participants will hear about the somewhat tortured history of the regulations, the strong views on the integrity of the consultation process envisioned under the now invalid regulations, and what the future holds for growers, regulators, and others in the agricultural community when it comes to pesticides and endangered species. (more)

      Lawrence E. Culleen, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC
      Janice H. Walton, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

      Mark Dyner, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC
      Patti Goldman, Earth Justice, Seattle, WA
      Ann R. Klee, Former General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC
      Steven P. Quarles, Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC

Click Here to Register

October 11, 2006 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Fish farms kill salmon: kill the lice, save the salmon

Science reported:

Salmon farming practices have come under fire for polluting oceans and damaging marine ecosystems. Now a new study heaps more criticism on the farms, suggesting that parasitic sea lice that flourish in salmon farms can kill as many as 95% of migrating wild Pacific salmon. The study, the first that attempts to quantify the effect of sea lice infection on wild Pacific salmon populations, further fuels an ongoing controversy over salmon farming practices in the United States and Canada.

Pacific salmon spawn in fresh waters, and the juveniles migrate seaward when they are still small and vulnerable to infection. Last year, John Volpe, a marine ecologist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and his colleagues showed that two common species of salmon--juvenile pink salmon and chum salmon--became heavily infected with the sea lice Leophtheirus salmonis when they passed a salmon farm off the coast of British Columbia Normally, sea lice thrive in the open sea because of many adult salmon there. But salmon farms, with thousands of salmon growing in net-enclosures, boast unnaturally high concentrations of sea lice. Studies have shown that young salmon that get infected can die when many lice feed off of them.

In the new study, Volpe and his colleagues set out to understand how these lice infections affect salmon populations, not just individual fish. He and his colleagues began by counting the lice on 14,255 salmon in various migratory routes that all run past salmon farms. After sampling, the fish were released back into the water. The numbers of lice, along with experimentally estimated mortality rates from lice infection, allowed Volpe's group to estimate mortality for the population sampled. Depending on environmental factors and the distance from the migratory route of the salmon to the fish farm, the lice could kill between 9% and 95% of the migrating salmon.

Until this study, "there was pretty compelling evidence that farms are the main source of lice, but there was no data on mortality," said Volpe at a press conference organized by a nonprofit organization called Pure Salmon, which lobbies for improving salmon farming practices.

October 11, 2006 in Biodiversity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)