Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kemp's ridley does well in Texas

From an article on the Web the Sea Turtle Restoraton Project:

The nesting season for the endangered Kemp's ridley is over. A remarkable total of 192 nests were found along the Texas coast compared to 128 in 2007. This is the fifth consecutive year for nesting increases. Nests were found from Boca Chica Beach near the Mexican border to Bolivar Peninsula and beaches in between. The first leatherback nest in 30 years was found as well as a loggerhead nest on the Padre Island National Seashore where 91 of the 192 ridley nests were documented. Three green turtle nests were also found this year. . . .

The Kemp's ridleys, near extinction in 1985, have been the focus of a 30 year international conservation program with the Republic of Mexico and the United States involved. From 1978 to 1988, eggs from the primary Mexican nesting site were incubated at the Padre Island National Seashore with hatchlings transferred to the National Marine Fisheries Service facility at Galveston. They were raised for almost a year until 1993 and then released. Although Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) to allow sea turtles to escape drowning in shrimp trawls were not mandatory until 1990 in U.S. waters, many of the "head started) turtles survived and are nesting on both U.S. and Mexican beaches.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Satellite transmitter will be attached to loggerhead in Web broadcast, July 31

From the Caribbean Conservation Corporation:

On Thursday, July 31, Caribbean Conservation Corporation and MeGotta, Inc. will host a live webcast from the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida as scientists attach a satellite transmitter on Belle o' Brevard, a lucky loggerhead that will participate in the first annual Tour de Turtles marathon.

CCC would like to invite sea turtle enthusiasts to log on to at 8:00 a.m. (Eastern time in the US)on Thursday to get a rare, behind-the-scenes look at our scientists in action.

Not only will audiences be able to watch the attachment process, but everyone will have the opportunity to ask our researchers questions via a webcast chat feature.

For more information, please visit


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coastal management cooperation, enforcement key to avoid pending crisis for millions, UN experts report

From an article on Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2008) — Current coastal management practices are ineffective and their continuation endangers ecosystems that support the economies on which over half the world's population depend, United Nations University experts warn in a new report offering a major prescription for sweeping change.

In a blunt assessment, to be presented Weds. June 4 at UN Headquarters, New York, UNU's Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health warns of a looming, potentially "terminal" disaster in several coastal areas "unless we introduce much more effective management immediately."

Coastal marine ecosystems have declined progressively in recent decades due to the growth of human populations and their demands on the marine environment and resources, according to the report.

Bays and estuaries, sea grasses, and mangroves and wetlands have suffered dramatically in the past 50 years. Shorelines have hardened, channels and harbors have been dredged, soil dumped, submerged and emergent land moved, and patterns of water flow modified. And today climate change is starting to add further stress, leading some scientists to predict the total disappearance of coral reefs in some parts of the world.

It is a recipe for disaster for the 40% of all people today who live within 50 km of fast-growing coastal areas . . .


Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuba tourism could shake up Mexico and Caribbean

From the Oppenheimer Report by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald:

For years, I have thought that Mexico and most Caribbean countries want Cuba to remain a dictatorship subject to U.S. travel sanctions for as long as possible, because an eventual opening of U.S. travel to Cuba would badly hurt their own tourism industries.

But now, I'm beginning to wonder whether that's true for all of Cuba's competitors.

After reading a new study by the International Monetary Fund, I can't help but conclude that Mexico would stand a lot to lose by an opening of U.S. tourism to Cuba, but many Caribbean islands would not suffer at all. On the contrary, the study says overall tourism to the Caribbean would increase by up to 11 percent.

The study, ''Vacation Over: Implications for the Caribbean of Opening U.S. Cuban Tourism,'' was published by the IMF as a ''working paper'' by its economist, Rafael Romeu.

It comes at a time when an opening of U.S. travel to Cuba looks increasingly plausible in the near future. Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is vowing to relax U.S. travel restrictions on Cuban Americans if he is elected. And, independently of U.S. policy, Cuba's ruling gerontocracy is not likely to be able to maintain the status quo for many years -- if anything else because President Raúl Castro is 76, and his No. 2, José Ramón Machado Ventura, is 77.

According to the IMF study, ''an opening of Cuba to U.S. tourism would represent a seismic shift in the Caribbean's tourism industry,'' and would ``increase overall arrivals to the Caribbean.''

This is because there would be a massive surge in U.S. tourism to Cuba, which would overwhelm Cuba's hotel room capacity and drive Canadian and European tourism currently vacationing in Cuba to be redirected to neighboring countries.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Mexico's loss of mangroves threatens fishing

Though the article by Eliza Barclay on National Geographic News highligts threats on the Gulf of California, mangrove destruction occurs on the Mexican Caribbean coast:

The loss of Mexico's coastal mangrove forests to development is threatening the country's multimillion-dollar fishing industry, according to a new study.

Around Mexico's Gulf of California—between Baja California peninsula and the west coast of the mainland—mangroves are being destroyed to make way for high-end tourism resorts, marinas, and controversial industrial shrimp farms.

The government has overvalued such development and grossly undervalued the vital role mangroves play in supporting the region's U.S. $19-million-dollar fishing industry, the report said.

The Gulf of California harbors more than a hundred fish species, 30 percent of which depend on mangroves for survival.

In particular, the roots of the saltwater forests serve as sanctuaries and nurseries for commercial fish species such as snapper, snook, and mullet.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Serious beach erosion

Photos posted on Webshots by Rafal K. Komierowski show the dramatic beach erosion.

As Scubagal said in a post on

Got that way because the natural beach and the mangroves were altered for the ideal resort development. With no natural defenses, the 2005 hurricanes and seasonal weather took their toll.... Mother Nature's revenge.

The Geotubes cause a whole other set of issues for the reef.

Non-sustainable building is just a no win situation. The resort developers may have years of success but eventually it catches up with them.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Lionfish decimating tropical fish populations, threatening reefs

From an article posted on Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (July 21, 2008) — The invasion of predatory lionfish in the Caribbean region poses yet another major threat there to coral reef ecosystems -- a new study has found that within a short period after the entry of lionfish into an area, the survival of other reef fishes is slashed by about 80 percent.

Aside from the rapid and immediate mortality of marine life, the loss of herbivorous fish also sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, according to scientists from Oregon State University.

Following on the heels of overfishing, sediment depositions, nitrate pollution in some areas, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and increasing ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions, the lionfish invasion is a serious concern, said Mark Hixon, an OSU professor of zoology and expert on coral reef ecology.

Photo by Chip Baumberger Marine Photobank


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Video appeal for marine protected status for Akumal Bay

A commentary and link to Akumal . . . In Decline on the Web site of the Coral Reef Alliance:

Located on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Akumal, or "place of the turtles," is a getaway for travelers who venture beyond the high-rise hotels of bustling Cancun. Home to Green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill sea turtles, Akumal is a popular destination for organized snorkeling tours. However, with no marine protection in place, the reefs of Akumal are suffering.

By contrast, coral reefs in Cozumel, a CORAL field site with marine protected status and active management by CORAL and its partners, is thriving. CORAL builds grassroots partnerships among the local community members, government leaders, marine recreation operators, and other organizations to raise awareness about environmental concerns and educate tourists and locals alike in reef stewardship and effective management of the marine protected area. The differences between the well-managed marine protected area in Cozumel and the unmanaged reef in Akumal are clear indications that the efforts of CORAL and its partners are working.

Yet, while our Coral Reef Sustainable Destination (CRSD) sites show real improvements, there are many reefs, like Akumal, in serious decline. By supporting CORAL's five-year plan to expand from seven CRSD sites to seventeen, you can help us save more coral reefs worldwide for future generations.

Akumal…in Decline by Drew Wohl and Sandrah Gurash of Congers, New York, recently won first place in the conservation category of the Underwater Images 2008 Video Competition.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tainted African dust clouds harm U.S., Caribbean reefs

From an article by Brian Handwerk on the Web site of National Geographic:

Coral reefs in the United States and the Caribbean may be under siege—from a surprising source half a world away.

Scientists say tons of dust from Africa's arid Sahara and Sahel regions could be polluting oceans in the Caribbean and southeastern U.S.

The dusty clouds carry contaminants like metals, pesticides and microorganisms—potentially disastrous news for coral reefs and other marine animals already stressed by warming waters.

"We're trying to actually look at what is in these African dust air masses when the get over to the Caribbean," said Virginia "Ginger" Garrison, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Florida, who studies how the dust travels.

"We're at the baby-step stages of trying to see how this dust and this stew of things may be affecting organisms—including humans—in downwind areas."

Something in the Air

Air-quality data from a network of sampling sites have revealed intriguing results, Garrison and colleagues said recently at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For instance, Caribbean air samples during African dust events may hold two to three times as many microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, as samples taken from the same spot during other periods.

In Florida the Africa-influenced air conditions sometimes deteriorate below U.S. air-quality standards.

Air-quality testing in Mali, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago has also revealed traces of pesticides, including DDE—a breakdown product of DDT, which is still used as an insecticide in some African countries.

Pesticides are of particular concern to coral reefs because they can interfere with the tiny animals' reproduction, fertilization, or immune function. . . .

Winds of Change

Atmospheric systems such as the Africa-Americas pathway have functioned for thousands of years.

A similar system delivers Asian dust to the western United States, where it accounts for up to an estimated 40 percent of local air particles.

In recent times, however, humans have caused some significant changes.

Desertification and changing land-use patterns can put more dust into the air. Industrialization, pesticide use, waste burning, and other practices have produced air pollutants that ride with that dust to far-flung locales.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Caribbean coral reefs only 25 percent healthy: report

From an article from Agence France-Presse:

MIAMI (AFP) — Global warming and pollution are decimating coral reefs around the world, with only 25 percent in good health in the Caribbean Sea, US experts warned Tuesday.

In other areas of the world such as the Pacific basin, nearly 70 percent of the coral reefs are either thriving or in good condition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a report.

NOAA told the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that nearly half of coral reef ecosystems in the United States are in poor or barely passable condition.

"This is absolutely a call to action," said NOAA Coral Program director Kacky Andrews.

To reverse the deterioration and lessen the threat to coral reefs, she strongly suggested curbing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and the use of fertilizer, prevent damage from anchors and stop the sale of coral for jewelry.

"In the Caribbean, parts of Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Mexico that have been strongly impacted by hurricanes in the past few years, large communities of coral have been lost," Diego Lirman, a University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science expert, told AFP.

He said the Caribbean region, which sustains only 60 or 70 species of coral compared to more than 500 in the Pacific, "has lost a large part of its most ancient corals, which ... can be more than 500 years old and make up the reef's basic structure."

While reports indicate a worldwide reduction in coral reef covering, in the Caribbean the problem is compounded by the reefs' increasingly slow rate of recovery, Lirman said.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Lessons learned in coral reef management

From a report on the Lessons Learned Projct of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), posted on the Web site of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN):

This brief presents a review of lessons learned and best practices in the management of coral reefs based on the analysis of 30 projects funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) related to coral reefs and associated tropical marine ecosystems and 26 non-GEF funded projects. . . .

[The United Nations Environmental Programme] (2004) provided an overview of successes and challenges in management of Coral Reef Marine Protected Areas and the executive summary of lessons learned from a range of projects, including some covered in this report, reflect the general context of needs for effective coral reef management:

1. Greater community empowerment and involvement;
2. Sustained and extensive consultation between stakeholders;
3. Proactive and innovative education and public awareness campaigns;
4. Improved communication and transparency between all involved members;
5. Strong management partnerships to secure longterm financial stability;
6. Development of management plans based on ecological as well as socio-economic data and linked to regular monitoring programs;
7. Implementation of clearly defined zoning regulations to reduce conflicts between stakeholders; and
8. Enhanced enforcement efforts.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Corals join frogs and toads as world's most endangered

From an article by Catherine Brahic in the New Scientist:

Within one generation, diving on coral reefs could be a very rare holiday opportunity. The first comprehensive review of tropical coral species reveals that over one-quarter reef-building coral species already face extinction.

This means corals join frogs and toads as the most threatened group of animal species on the planet.

There are 845 known species of corals that build reefs and live in symbiosis with algae. Not enough is known about 141 of these to determine how threatened they are. But of the 704 remaining species, scientists say 32.8% are at risk of extinction.

The team, which was led by Kent Carpenter of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and gathered experts from around the world, used the IUCN Red List criteria to assess the 845 species.

Sewage and climate

Two hundred and thirty one species (27%) were found to be threatened with extinction. A further 176 (21%) were deemed "near-threatened".

"It was a huge surprise because there is only one other group of animals that has been assessed that exceed that level of threat," says Alex Rogers of the Zoological Society of London, who participated in the survey, "and that's the amphibians."

Humans directly threaten corals by dumping fertilisers and sewage into the oceans and by overfishing with destructive methods.

All this encourages the growth of larger algae, which smother corals. "Outside of the US and Europe, 80% of human sewage is released into the oceans without treatment," says Rogers.

Global warming increases sea temperatures which causes "bleaching" events, where the reefs expel the tiny algae upon which they depend. Warming has also been associated with an increased incidence of coral diseases.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Marathon support for CEA weather station!

From an article in the Sac-Be newsletter:

Gerardo Dominguez, CEA Friend and Akumalian, originally from Argentina, will be running the Buenos Aires Marathon this October, and has generously offered to use this event to fundraise for CEA. He proposes to help raise money to buy a weather station for our lab. The goal is to raise $2000 USD for the weather station equipment and computer.
Contribute here.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Golden Ray photos of amazing mass migration

From an article by in the Nick Allenin the Telegraph:

Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico.

The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.

Gliding silently beneath the waves they turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks.

She said: "It was an unreal image, very difficult to describe. The surface of the water was covered by warm and different shades of gold and looked like a bed of autumn leaves gently moved by the wind.

"It's hard to say exactly how many there were but in the range of a few thousand.

"We were surrounded by them without seeing the edge of the school and we could see many under the water surface too.

"I feel very fortunate I was there in the right place at the right time to experienced nature at his best."

Measuring up to 7ft (2.1 metres) from wing-tip to wing-tip, Golden rays are also more prosaically known as cow nose rays.

They have long, pointed pectoral fins that separate into two lobes in front of their high-domed heads and give them a cow-like appearance.

Despite having poisonous stingers they are known to be shy and non-threatening when in large schools.

The population in the Gulf of Mexico migrates, in schools of as many as 10,000, clockwise from western Florida to the Yucatan.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Caribbean Monk Seal Declared Extinct

From a media release issued by Ocean Conservancy:

Washington, DC - Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service declared the Caribbean monk seal to be officially extinct. Once hunted as food and for their oil, the loss of this species is a reminder of the stress that humans put on fragile ocean animal populations. Also vulnerable to extinction are two remaining monk seal species; the Hawaiian monk seal and Mediterranean monk seal. Challenges from climate change and marine debris -- floating trash and discarded or lost fishing nets and lines threaten the survival of ocean animals worldwide, including monk seals.


Monday, July 7, 2008

CEA works to create sea turtle refuge in Akumal

A report from Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA):

Threats to the local populations of endangered sea turtles are increasing as tourism development grows in the Riviera Maya. Akumal is characterized by its marine and coastal environments, representing a favorite habitat for sea turtle populations [Caretta Caretta(Loggerhead), Chelonia mydas (Green) and Eretmochelys imbricada (Hawksbill)]. They use the beaches, grasslands and reefs as nesting sites, feeding, breeding and growing areas. Akumalgets its name from these phenomena – “The Place of Turtles" in Maya.

Sustainable use of our natural resources is one of our main challenges in Akumal. We are working to increase environmental awareness in the community, of the importance of habitat and species protection, and wise use. Our main goal is the conservation of the coastal marine ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, especially the sea turtles.

Therefore, it is necessary to establish official protection on Akumal’s marine environment. Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), with the Akumal Development Council, local hotels and businesses and marine tourism operators, the National Protected Areas Commission (CONANP) and the Port Captain, along with the support of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), has worked over the past several years to develop a local management program for the bays, and has recently initiated a process with the Wildlife Agency of the Ministry of the Environment to establish a Sea Turtle Refuge in Akumal, co-managed with the community, through its local environmental organization - Centro Ecológico Akumal. . . .

Sea Turtle Refuge and Community based Marine Management Program
In response to these threats, and in demonstration of the commitment of the local business and tourism community to protect their natural resources, a program was developed, with three broad objectives:
1) Control and manage the use of Akumal’s natural resources;
2) Rescue, preserve and learn about marine ecosystems in the bays of Akumal;
3) Protect the sea turtle population.
The Refuge initiative proposes the creation of refuge area for the sea turtles, from Aventuras Akumal in the south, all the way to Yal Ku Lagoon in the north, encompassing all of what is known as Akumal. This proposal would allow each bay to be managed by a local committee, in coordination with CEA, responding to each bay’s unique characteristics.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ocean in Focus: Conservation Photography Contest

Photo contest from the Marine PhotoBank:

SeaWeb's Marine Photobank and Project AWARE Foundation invite you to submit your compelling ocean-themed photos to the Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest, which opens on World Ocean Day, June 8th, 2008, and runs through September 30, 2008.

We challenge you to enter your most engaging environmental photos that illustrate the pressing marine issues and the solutions that aim to reverse the rapid decline of our ocean’s health. Beautiful wildlife imagery is abundant and often implies that our oceans are healthy. This contest is a unique opportunity for you to illuminate the challenges our ocean faces. Photo entries may depict environmental issues including, but not limited to: unsustainable fishing practices, pollution and debris, ocean dumping, oil spills, global warming and climate change, the effects of sea level rise, coastal development, endangered and threatened ecosystems.

Grand Prize!
-Seven nights accomodations at the Plaza Resort Bonaire with six days of unlimited shore diving for two, with Tuesday night beach BBQ and round-trip airport transfers — a total package worth approximately US $1,700.
- A $250 Gift Certificate to Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo.
- A signed copy of "Wild Ocean" by authors Dr. Sylvia Earle and Wolcott Henry.
- Carbon Offsets through NativeEnergy from your home and car for one year plus carbon offset for one round-trip air flight valued at US $192.


The Atlantic Ocean’s largest coral reef

The WWF, formerly World Wildlife Fund, launched a new site on the Mesoamerican Reef:

The Mesoamerican Reef is unique in the Western Hemisphere not only for its size, but also because of its array of reef types and luxuriance of corals. It hosts more than 65 species of stony coral and more than 500 species of fish, including the mammoth whale shark—the largest fish in the world. An ancient natural system dating back 225 million years, the reefs function as a natural barrier to storms and hurricanes and are critical to the survival of plant and animal species. Compared with many other parts of the Caribbean, the reefs here are in relatively good condition.

The reef -- that stretches nearly 700 miles from the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands in northern Hondurasis -- is part of a larger interconnected system of currents and habitats that stretch throughout the Caribbean Basin and beyond and is one of the region's greatest natural assets. Its massive structure provides an important defense against storms and coastal erosion, while the living reef and associated ecosystems support recreation and commercial fishing.

WWF has placed a high priority on protecting the Mesoamerican Reef. For the past two decades, World Wildlife Fund has been on the ground and in the waters of the Mesoamerican Reef ecoregion to ensure this Caribbean treasure is preserved for future generations.

WWF's vision: Enhance the health of the Mesoamerican Reef’s diverse ecosystems and provide sustainable livelihoods for local people.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Submit photos for 2009 sea turtle calendar

From the Caribbean Conservation Corporation and Sea Turtle Survival League (CCC):

CCC is looking for talented photographers for the first Sea Turtle Calendar Contest. Last year, CCC's calendar was a big success. We want to do it all over again, but we need your help!

Contributing your pictures is a great way to give back to conservation. The sea turtle calendar helps remind people, all through the year, about the importance of these unique animals to ocean and coastal ecosystems. It also includes pertinent sea turtle dates, like nesting seasons and World Sea Turtle Day.

To participate, please submit any of your sea turtle images to by October 1, 2008, following the criteria below:

- The image must be submitted by the photographer or include written permission for submission from the photographer;
- Submit only images that follow turtle-friendly guidelines (i.e. no flash images of nesting sea turtles, no images of humans touching sea turtles, etc.);
- Images must be high resolution (300 dpi or more);
- Include a brief description of the image, location, date it was taken and the photographer's name.
There may be up to 13 winners, including the coveted cover image. Photos will be judged by CCC staff, and winners will be announced on October 31, 2008. By submitting your image to before October 1, 2008, you are granting CCC rights to use your photography for the 2009 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar only. CCC will not use your image for any other purposed without your written permission.

Winners will receive a CCC Logo Tote back and recognition in Sea Turtle Scenes. So remember, keep your eyes and camera ready to capture sea turtles in action this summer!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Food for life (eat well and do good at the same time)

From The Ocean Project:

Where our food comes from and how it is grown or caught does affect the health of our world’s ocean. Each of us can use our power as a consumer to become part of an “ocean-friendly” solution.

Most commercially valuable ocean species are overfished, and many types of ocean fish farming are highly damaging to coastal environments. Additionally, some of the most serious threats to our ocean come from land-based sources, including industrial agriculture operations. Whether or not you eat seafood, you can do our ocean a big favor by eating organic, local and less-processed foods.
Get the details on how to eat sustainably.

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