Thursday, January 31, 2008

CEA's Save Our Seas Festival

You Are Cordially Invited
to the Third Annual
CEA Festival
Save Our Seas
Gala Event

Thursday, February 21, 2008
7–8 p.m. Welcome
8–10 p.m. Dinner Show
with Live Auction
After-dinner Dancing

Cost $50 USD per person

Proceeds will benefit the 2008 programs of
Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA).

Gala Dinner catered by Turtle Bay Café.
Catering sponsored by Akumal Villas.

Please RSVP at the CEA Center
or online.

We look forward to seeing you throughout the two-day festival,
February 20 and 21.

Help celebrate CEA's 15 years
of research, education and advocacy
in Akumal.

Amounts over $20 per person are U.S. tax deductible, if charged online.


The State of World's Sea Turtles

According to its Web site, "SWOT—the State of the World’s Sea Turtles—is a partnership led by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG), but the lifeblood of the effort is the network of more than 400 conservationists that contribute data to the SWOT database—which to provides the only comprehensive, global perspective of sea turtles."

SWOT's latest newsletter is online at


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Swimmers' sunscreen killing off coral

From an article for National Geographic News by Ker Than:

The sunscreen that you dutifully slather on before a swim on the beach may be protecting your body—but a new study finds that the chemicals are also killing coral reefs worldwide.

Four commonly found sunscreen ingredients can awaken dormant viruses in the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that live inside reef-building coral species.

The chemicals cause the viruses to replicate until their algae hosts explode, spilling viruses into the surrounding seawater, where they can infect neighboring coral communities.

Zooxanthellae provide coral with food energy through photosynthesis and contribute to the organisms' vibrant color. Without them, the coral "bleaches"—turns white—and dies.

"The algae that live in the coral tissue and feed these animals explode or are just released by the tissue, thus leaving naked the skeleton of the coral," said study leader Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy.

The researchers estimate that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching.

The study appeared online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Caribbean coral reefs under increasing threat, warns UN agency

From an article posted on the UN News Centre:

Warming temperatures and increasing storms are posing serious threats to Caribbean coral reefs and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today.

During the last 50 years many Caribbean reefs lost up to 80 per cent of their coral cover, according to the Paris-based agency, which noted that 2005 was especially disastrous for Caribbean corals.

Worldwide, nearly 500 million people depend on healthy coral reefs for sustenance, coastal protection, renewable resources, and tourism, with an estimated 30 million of the world’s poorest people depending entirely on the reefs for food.

Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems and current estimates suggest that nearly two thirds of the world’s coral reefs are under severe threat from the effects of economic development and climate change, such as coral bleaching, a direct result of global warming.

The agency’s warning came ahead of next week’s launch of “The Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs after Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005,” by Clive Wilkinson, Director of UNESCO’s Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, a report assessing the damage caused to the reefs by high temperatures and numerous storms of three years ago in the wider Caribbean, home to over 10 per cent of world’s reefs.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Four organizations co-sponsor the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting: American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the American Geophysical Union, The Oceanography Society and the Estuarine Research Federation.

Titled From the Watershed to the Global Ocean the 2008 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be held March 2-7, 2008 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

The meeting Web site describes the event:

Water connects and binds us all. It moves from the top of the highest mountain to the depths of the deepest oceans. As limnologists, oceanographers, and educators, water is the lifeblood of our endeavors. Now, as never before, we recognize the interconnections between land and sea, and at the 2008bi-annual Ocean Sciences Meeting we are going to recognize the important nature of these connections.

Please join us March 2-7, 2008, in Orlando, Florida, for this event. We invite you to participate through submissions to oral or poster sessions. Following the trend at our recent meetings, increasing emphasis is being placed on poster sessions with the goal of not limiting the number of concurrent oral sessions and giving greater exposure to presenters at all sessions. We especially encourage the submission of poster presentations as a very effective means of facilitating discussion of research. Poster sessions will be scheduled at times when there are no conflicts from oral sessions or scheduled special workshops, field trips, or town meetings. The poster sessions include receptions to provide opportunities to make professional connections in a social setting.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Pristine Caribbean corals studied for reasons why

From an article posted on

Washington, D.C. (Jan 24, 2008 16:36 EST) A NOAA-sponsored expedition is investigating shallow and deep coral ecosystems off the Caribbean island of Bonaire, part of the Netherland Antilles. Multiple underwater robots and divers are surveying arguably the most pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean to learn why they remain relatively healthy while many in the Caribbean and around the world are threatened. The mission is one of the first in the International Year of the Reef 2008. . . .

In shallower waters, the team is measuring changes from limited surveys in the 80’s and 90’s. In deeper waters, three robots called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, will survey the “Twilight Zone,” 65 to 150 meters deep, where sunlight is scarce and little is known about reef systems.

“We believe this is the first science expedition using multiple AUVs to chart Bonaire’s reefs and likely the first to do so on coral reefs anywhere,” said expedition leader Dr. Mark Patterson of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary. “This is important because of scale, AUVs obtain wide-area data, allowing scientists to pinpoint further investigation.”


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Groups call for more protection of reefs during International Year of the Reef

From an article posted on

WASHINGTON — As 17 countries and 30 organizations launch the International Year of the Reef today, three major environmental groups - World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International - call on governments, businesses, scientists, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world to vastly increase actions to protect coral reefs. The International Year of the Reef 2008, designated by the International Coral Reef Initiative, is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value and importance of coral reefs and to motivate action to protect them.

In 2003, the World Parks Congress urged that at least 20 to 30 percent of each marine habitat should be protected by 2012. At current levels of effort, this goal will not be achieved for coral reefs. Given the importance of these systems for ocean life and human well-being, and the special stresses they face because of climate change, the need to act now is critical. WWF, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International specifically urge that:

-- The area of coral reefs under protection be increased globally from the current level of 15 percent to 30 percent;

-- That protected areas be carefully designed as systems that are able to resist or recover rapidly from the multiple stresses they face, including those caused by climate change;

-- That within these protected area systems there be significant areas where human uses are significantly limited so that already stressed marine species can recover; and

-- That governments and civil society work together to achieve the effective management of all coral reef protected areas.

Unless these actions are taken, there is little likelihood that the world's coral systems will be there to sustain and protect future generations.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cuba bans marine turtle hunt

From an article posted on Planet Ark:

HAVANA - Cuba has banned the hunting of marine turtles endangered in the Caribbean by the illegal trade in shells used to make combs, an official said on Tuesday.

The decision was applauded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a lifeline to all turtle species hatching on beaches throughout the Caribbean, but above all the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

The ban took effect this weekend, said the Cuban Fisheries Ministry's director of regulations, Elisa Garcia. She said it would remain in effect "until it is scientifically proven that the species is recovering."

"This far-sighted decision represents an outstanding outcome for Cuba, for the wider Caribbean and for conservation," said the WWF species program director, Dr. Susan Lieberman.

For many years, Cuba had a legal fishery quota of 500 hawksbills a year to keep up its export of turtle shells, but has finally acted on the pleas of conservationists.

Two fishing communities that still hunted turtles, Nuevitas in Camaguey province and Cocodrilo on the Isle of Youth, will get funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to find alternative sources of income and modernize their fishing fleets.

Fishermen will be retrained and engaged in the protection of turtles and their nests, the WWF said in a statement.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SWOT turtle newsletter online

According to its Web site:

SWOT—the State of the World’s Sea Turtles—is a partnership led by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG), but the lifeblood of the effort is the network of more than 400 conservationists that contribute data to the SWOT database—which to provides the only comprehensive, global perspective of sea turtles.
SWOT's latest newsletter is online at

The newsletter contains articles on the state of the world's sea turtles, turtle habitat, policy and economics, and awareness.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Contribute to the coral reef collection in Encyclopedia of Earth

From John Bruno via NOAA's Coral-List:

I am writing to invite you to contribute to the coral reef collection in the Encyclopedia of Earth ( EoE is a new electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society -- sort of Wikipedia for the environment. The EoE is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by experts who collaborate and review each other's work. The articles are written in non-technical language and will be useful to students, educators, scholars, and professionals, as well as to the general public. The EoE is just over a year old and already gets over 10,000 unique visits each day. Its use, content, and visibility are growing exponentially. For more info about the EoE, go to:

There has been a lot of chatter on the coral list about educating the public about reef ecosystems and the threats they face. I think this is a great way to do so. The advantages are that we can reach a very large number of people around the world, the entries can be updated easily and regularly to keep up with scientific advances, reef-related entries are essentially a collaborative project that all of us can contribute to (so the burden does not fall on just one person or group) and the entire endeavor is supported by the excellent EoE staff and the professional-looking interface.

Associated with the EoE is the Earth Portal where various environmental and economic issues are covered in greater detail. This week, coincident with the official launching of the Year of The Reef, the EP is featuring Coral Reefs and Climate Change:

Contributions can range from short entries of ~ 250 words to longer in depth articles of 5,000 words. If you are interested in contributing, go here: and contact me directly about possible topics (I can let you know of someone else is already writing a given entry). You can also edit and add to existing entries. For example, the zooxanthellae entry needs an image.

There are now over 100 coral reef related entries in EoE but we are missing even very basic topics like coral bleaching. Some examples of what we have posted so far include:

Our colleagues that have already contributed or agreed to write an entry include Joanie Kleypas, Peter Edmunds, Bill Precht, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, and Andrew Baker.

We can organize all the coral content as a collection ( or ebook
( like Bob Constanza is doing for Ecological Economics (
An_Introduction_to_Ecological_Economics_%28e-book%29). Some materials will come from organizations like the ISRS which just agreed to become an official content provider. You can basically post your content as is in the EoE, allowing a much greater number and range of users to access it. For example, we are in the process
of posting the ISRS position papers and the EoE also includes lots of useful documents like the IPCC reports.

Please contact Laura De Angelo at the EoE ( or me if you and/or your organization are interested in contributing and want more info on possible topics, how to do so, style and format, etc.

John Bruno, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Marine Science
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-330


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Plastic bags choke the ocean

From an article by Dixie Belcher posted on

Most of us are unaware that the health of the ocean underlies all life - even a cactus can't live without the ocean. And almost everyone is unaware that this basis of life on earth is dying. Many marine biologists now call their work "documenting the decline."

The ocean provides at least 70 percent of the world's oxygen. Sylvia Earle, a world-renowned oceanographer and director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for many years, puts this figure at 85 percent. Most nitrogen is also produced in the ocean - and air is about 80 percent nitrogen.

The ocean acts as a collection basin for carbon dioxide. It absorbs at least one third of the carbon dioxide created by gasoline engines. Carbon dioxide acidifies the ocean - it makes it sick - and dissolves the bodies and shells of the billions of tiny plants and animals that produce oxygen and nitrogen. One of the worst effects of global warming is happening in the ocean.

For centuries we have thought that the oceans were so big that it didn't matter how much garbage, sewage and toxins we threw at them - we believed humans were too small to affect something so big.

A primary cause of ocean pollution is plastic. The world uses one million plastic bags per minute. A plastic bag is used an average of 12 minutes and takes an estimated 1,000 years to decompose. Many sink - some parts of the deep ocean are so covered with plastic bags that scientists can't even find the bottom. Nothing lives under these bags. As for the plastics that remain on or near the top, the United Nations estimates there are 300,000 pieces of surface plastic per square ocean mile. In huge areas, there is now 30 times more plastic than plankton - in some places as much as 1,000 times. Every year, birds and animals eat plastic, mistaking it for food, and die. Their bodies decompose, but the plastic remains to be eaten again.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

To protect fragile coasts, Spain issues moratorium on building

Does Spain's development hold a lesson for the Riviera Maya? From an article Lisa Abend by in The Christian Science Monitor:

Madrid - Rampant development has turned much of Spain's Mediterranean coast into concrete jungles. Now, the country's environment ministry is determined to fight back, taking on the unchecked and frequently illegal construction that has threatened to overwhelm Spain's shores – causing erosion rates of up to 1 meter per year. Yet because development and the tourism it attracts have brought tremendous prosperity to Spain, the government's new plan represents a gauntlet thrown down for a brewing battle between environment and economy.

"If we want [the coast] to last, we have to change our paradigm," says José Fernández Pérez, the environment ministry's Director of Coastal Areas.

His ministry's "Strategy for Coastal Sustainability" is designed to do just that, calling for the national government to buy up unoccupied coastal lands, recategorize as protected areas already approved for construction, and demolish buildings and recreational ports that occupy public beaches. The plan also demands the enforcement of an existing law that requires the first 100 meters of shore be kept free of all construction. All in all, the proposal is expected to cost €5 billion ($7.4 billion) and to affect more than 400 miles of coastline.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Put an economic value on coastal ecosystems

From the World Resources Institute:

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is seeking a natural resource economist to join a team working on economic valuation of coastal ecosystem goods and services in the Caribbean. The effort currently focuses on the valuation of coral reefs and mangroves in the Dominican Republic (DR), Jamaica , Belize and the eastern Caribbean, but could expand to other countries. The economist would contribute to the refinement of an economic valuation methodology and tool to guide valuation of coral reef and mangrove-associated goods and services, and would guide its implementation. WRI seeks a highly organized, detail-oriented individual with good analytical skills. Experience in ecosystem valuation and competency in Spanish (oral and written) is essential.

For more information, please see:


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Seahorses really do exist!

Divemasters invariably chuckle whenever I say that I want to see a seahorse during a dive.

But seahorses do exit!

Laurie Cullenward, the daugher of a Madison friend, took the picture below during a dive in the Caymans.

Ed Blume
Madison, Wisconsin, USA


Hold a Reef Fest concert to celebrate IYOR

Reef Fest is an International Year of the Reef 2008 (IYOR) activity that supports coral reef conservation through organizing concerts and other music venues (much like "Live Aid" type concerts).

Donations derived from entertainment fees collected at concert venues are uploaded directly to a special 501(c)3 non-profit organization (the Reef Fest Fund). Those funds will (at the end of 2008) go to support various coral reef conservation efforts throughout the world. The plan is that significant funds derived from the events will go BACK to the country/region where the funds originated, or where stipulated in the donation upload.

Reef Fest concerts are easy to set up. Major Reef Fest concerts are now being organized for Saturday, March 22, at Tobacco Road, in Miami, Florida, and Saturday, July 5, in Davie, Florida, just before the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium . (If you are going to the Symposium, you may want to go early and catch some great music!) Other clubs local to the South Florida area have already been supporting weekly and monthly events.

Reef Fest is supported by NOAA, White Water to Blue Water, Guy Harvey, Inc., the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Coral Reef Institute, several local Florida clubs, and others.

To learn more about the Reef Fest experience, actually setting up a Reef Fest concert in your area, or helping out in this endeavor, please see the Reef Fest Web site, the musician and club MySpace site, or the Reef Fest Fund site.

For further information, please contact


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Groundbreaking agreement reached to protect Cozumel

From a press release issued by Conservation International and posted on

(Cozumel, Mexico) – January 15, 2008 – Conservation International (CI), Cozumel’s Department of Tourism and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association today witnessed the culmination of their 12-month partnership with the signing of a groundbreaking conservation agreement by cruise industry leaders representing government, private sector, civil society, and cruise lines as part of the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI). By facilitating this agreement the partners set into motion, for the first time ever, a major environmental initiative that will help preserve some of the most endangered biodiversity on the planet living in the world’s most visited cruise destination: Cozumel, Mexico.

“This is an exciting moment in time, bringing many different interests together to work on the common goal of protecting Cozumel’s natural heritage in order to strike the right balance between tourism and conserving the environment it depends on,” said Seleni Matus, MARTI Advisor for CI. “Maintaining the health of Cozumel’s natural assets is vital not only to global biodiversity but also to the island’s economic health and stability and the well-being of its inhabitants.”

The agreement provides a framework to facilitate the sustainability of cruise tourism in Cozumel through concerted action by government, private sector, civil society organizations and cruise lines that all have a stake in ensuring a healthy future of the island’s natural assets. Cozumel’s cruise industry leaders have agreed to work together to:

- Enhance environmental awareness and education of cruise ship passengers, tour operators, service providers and the local community

- Improve island management of tourism infrastructure, including improving island traffic and waste management

- Fostering increased protection for Cozumel’s reef system

- Promoting consistent application and enforcement of laws and regulation.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Group targets ailing reefs; first project in Bahamas

From an article by Michele Jarvie in the Calgary Herald:

With more than 700 islands and numerous reefs stretching across its vast 1,225 kilometres, the turquoise waters of the Bahamas are a diver's dream.

One of the islands, Andros, has the third-longest barrier reef in the world and there are abundant coral and fish all across these Caribbean islands.

Giant brain coral, grouper, spiny lobsters, sharks, rays, dolphins, lionfish and the weirdly shaped guitarfish are but a few of the priceless jewels beneath the waves.

But the abundance and variety of sea life may just be contributing to their demise.

Reef destruction, pollution, overfishing of grouper and conch, and climate change are all negative byproducts of tourism in the Bahamas.

On New Providence Island alone, dredging, landfill, sedimentation and the construction of a cruise ship port has led to the loss of 60 per cent of the coral reef habitat, according to Reefbase, an environmental watchgroup.

Worldwide researchers, including Stanford University marine scientists, estimate the loss of more than 60 per cent of coral reefs over the next 30 years.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Many things are being done on a number of fronts. Researchers formed the Bahamas Biocomplexity Project, a five-year collaborative study of Bahamas reef ecosystems, with an eye to developing marine policies for the area.

Earthwatch volunteers are monitoring coral bleaching, which occurs when sea temperatures rise above normal limits.

The Bahamas Department of Fisheries is creating a network of protected marine reserves and is working with the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, the Bahamas National Trust, the Nature Conservancy and, interestingly, has a major sponsor from the tourism industry.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hawksbill project coordinator


The Wildlife Conservation Society Sea Turtle Conservation Program in Nicaragua has been conducting a research and conservation project in the Pearl Cays since 1999. The Pearl Cays are a group of 18 offshore cays where approximately 200 hawksbill clutches are laid each year, the largest remaining hawksbill rookery in the west-central Caribbean. . . .

Work under supervision of WCS Nicaragua Sea Turtle Conservation project Co-Directors and in coordination with the local Field Supervisor. Assist in hawksbill project start-up activities. Coordinate and supervise daily activities of local staff conducting field work in the Pearl Cays, weekly team switches and assist with nocturnal beach work during peak nesting. Pay project staff and keep track of project expenses; maintain databases; summarize data; write project weekly radio reports, progress reports and proposals; and assist in boat and motor maintenance. Advise and supervise local university students in undergraduate thesis research. Assist with other sea turtle program activities, as time permits. If interested, the Coordinator may have the opportunity to conduct approved research. There is also potential for conducting future research or employment with the WCS Nicaragua Sea Turtle Conservation Program.

Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology/Conservation/Marine or related field preferred, minimum of one year experience working with nesting sea turtles (including tagging and collecting biometric data), good writing and communication skills, must be well-organized and good at multi-tasking, interested in working with local communities, and experienced in supervising. Fluency (written and spoken) in Spanish and English is required. Prefer individual with boating skills and international experience (if not Nicaraguan). Must be able to work under difficult field conditions and willing to work in excess of 40 hrs/wk, especially during peak nesting. Experience with Microsoft Office Programs, especially Access, Excel, and Word, required.

Salary: Dependent on experience.
Contact: Send C.V. (including 3 references) and letter of inquiry to Dr. Cathi Campbell, If attending the ISTS in Loreto, Mexico, please make contact with Dr. Campbell to set up an interview during the symposium.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Seasonal Job Openings at Gulf Islands National Seashore


Gulf Islands National Seashore is in the process of hiring for the spring and summer sea turtle and shore bird nesting seasons. The National Park has loggerhead and green sea turtle nesting, with occasional Kemp's ridley and leatherback nests. Snowy plovers and least terns also nest in the area. The SCA will be responsible for sea turtle nesting surveys on Pensacola Beach in addition to shore bird and turtle work within the park. Job listings for the positions will be posted on the following sites in the near future:

Student Conservation Ass Intern (through SCA, 39 weeks)--
Seasonal Biological Technician (GS-5, six months) --
Short-term Biological Technician (GS-7, six to seven months) --

Kirsten Dahlen
Biological Technician
Gulf Islands National Seashore


Friday, January 11, 2008

Barbados focuses on coral reefs this year

From an article posted on Net News:

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: The Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) in Barbados is on a mission to sensitise Barbadians of the value and benefit of coral reefs.

The International Coral Reef Initiative has designated 2008 as the International Year of the Reef and the CZMU will stage several activities to educate the public about and draw attention to coral reefs and the marine environment. . . .

Coral reefs are especially important to small island states like Barbados, whose economies are built on the strength of their marine and coastal ecosystems. However, over the past decade coral reef health has declined considerably here and globally.

In response to this dramatic decrease in the health of the reefs, the year has been designated with three primary goals. They are to strengthen awareness about the ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems; to improve understanding of the critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce them; and, to generate urgent action to develop and implement effective management strategies for conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

New coral Web site

The World Ocean Observatory launch a new coral Web site with "media-rich features videos and podcasts, reports and forums, educational materials and more to explain and highlight the state of the world’s coral reefs."

The introduction to the site says:

Coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the sea, though given their iconic status as the most colorful and diverse places on earth, it would be perhaps more apt to call rainforests the coral reefs of the land!

Reefs have been critically important in furthering our understanding of marine ecology and nature in general - the delicate balances between reef inhabitants have taught us much about how the world works and how human activity can upset the web of life. Tropical reefs have great value to humans, not just as treasures seascapes (that generate revenues for neighboring coastal communities all around the world), but also as sources of food, as providers of materials, as beach-forming agents and as natural buffers from storms and tsunamis, and as repositories of pharmaceutical compounds for treating human disease.

Yet despite this great value, coral reefs are rapidly becoming degraded. Over-fishing, pollution, fertilizers, and other anthropogenic sources, poorly planned or uncontrolled coastal development, and climate change effects like warming and ocean acidification are taking their toll on reefs. Some predict the disappearance of reefs as we know them in just a few short decades, unless action is taken to improve reef health today…


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

“Splash for Trash" in Xcalak, Mexico. Get free dives!

From the XTC Dive Center, Xcalak, Mexico:

The next Splash for Trash dates will be Jan 26 and 27. The biologists who manage and monitor the Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Xcalak are checking the dive sites and snorkeling sites to see which areas need cleaning efforts. We´ve decided that if the deeper reef areas are looking pretty clean, we´ll offer a new Splash for Trash incentive: Anyone willing to beach comb for trash for one hour will receive one free local dive with XTC Dive center, equipment included if needed. We'll supply collection bags and send the truck or boats around to pick up the bags so you don't have to carry a lot of heavy trash. The biologists will discuss removing bottles and cans or any other containers that might be harboring marine life in the shallow water at the edge of the beach. Bring your water shoes or sandals as there can be broken glass and/or sharp conk shells along the beach.

Same goes for snorkeling clean up. If you are a certified diver, but the main need is for shallow water clean up, we will give you one free local open water dive (equipment included if needed) if you participate in one hour of shallow water clean up, two dives for two hours of clean up, etc. If you are not a certified diver, we will offer you a free 2 hour pleasure snorkeling trip for every hour of trash pick up on the beach or in snorkeling depths. Due to the incredible response and our lack of available boats during high season, we are limiting this offer to the first 20 people who sign up for the January program. Please email so we can put you on the list. If we end up with more free boats than anticipated, we will take as many people as possible. This program is making a wonderful impact on the ecology of Xcalak and we want to do as much as we possibly can to help keep Xcalak clean and beautiful.

After that, Splash for Trash is normally the last weekend of each month. We will keep updates posted on the web boards and our web site.

Free lunch is included for all participants. We're also working on getting some t-shirts printed and the marine park gives out certificates of participation.


Pirate fishing puts fish on our tables

Thanks to Sea Turtle Lover on the Marine Bio blog for posting a link to a sickening video on You Tube about pirate fishing.

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) produced the film.

Photo courtesy of Eric Leong from Marine Photo Bank.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Humans have caused profound changes in Caribbean coral reefs

From a story by Camilo Mora posted on EurekAlet:

Coral reefs in the Caribbean have suffered significant changes due to the proximal effects of a growing human population, reports a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B.

“It is well acknowledged that coral reefs are declining worldwide but the driving forces remain hotly debated,” said author Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. “In the Caribbean alone, these losses are endangering a large number of species, from corals to sharks, and jeopardizing over 4 billion dollars in services worth from fisheries, tourism and coastal protection,” he added.

“The continuing degradation of coral reefs may be soon beyond repair, if threats are not identified and rapidly controlled,” Mora said. “This new study moves from the traditional localized study of threats to a region-wide scale, while simultaneously analyzing contrasting socioeconomic and environmental variables,” he added. . . .

The study also showed that the effective compliance of fishing regulations inside Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has been successful in protecting fish populations. But coral mortality and macroalgae abundance showed no response to the presence of MPAs. That was explained by the general failure of MPAs in the Caribbean to account for threats such as land runoffs and ocean warming. "Unfortunately, the degradation of the coral reef matrix inside MPAs may, in the long term, defeat their positive effect on fish populations,” Mora said. “This further highlights the need for a holistic control of human stressors,” he added.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Climate change, overfishing, not pollution, blamed for Caribbean coral demise

From an article by Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post as published on

Climate change and overfishing, rather than pollution, are primarily responsible for killing off coral reefs in the Caribbean, according to a new study.

The paper, by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Columbia University and the University of Maryland, examined the effects of two of the most common pollutants: phosphorus and nitrogen. They concluded that nitrogen is the more damaging of the two, but its effects are mostly felt after a reef is dead or dying, because it stimulates the growth of microscopic green algae that break down the calcium carbonate skeleton of the coral.

The team concluded that the massive die-offs of Caribbean corals in recent decades stemmed mostly from warming ocean temperatures and declines in fish and invertebrates that protect reefs by feeding on the algae.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Conserving Cuba, after the embargo

From an article by Cornelia Dean in The New York Times:

Cuba, by far the region’s largest island, sits at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Its mountains, forests, swamps, coasts and marine areas are rich in plants and animals, some seen nowhere else.

And since the imposition of the embargo in 1962, and especially with the collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union, its major economic patron, Cuba’s economy has stagnated.

Through accidents of geography and history, Cuba is a priceless ecological resource. That is why many scientists are so worried about what will become of it after Fidel Castro and his associates leave power and, as is widely anticipated, the American government relaxes or ends its trade embargo.

Cuba has not been free of development, including Soviet-style top-down agricultural and mining operations and, in recent years, an expansion of tourism. But it also has an abundance of landscapes that elsewhere in the region have been ripped up, paved over, poisoned or otherwise destroyed in the decades since the Cuban revolution, when development has been most intense. Once the embargo ends, the island could face a flood of investors from the United States and elsewhere, eager to exploit those landscapes.

Conservationists, environmental lawyers and other experts, from Cuba and elsewhere, met last month in Cancún, Mexico, to discuss the island’s resources and how to continue to protect them.

Cuba has done “what we should have done — identify your hot spots of biodiversity and set them aside,” said Oliver Houck, a professor of environmental law at Tulane University Law School who attended the conference.

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