Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pollution killing Mexico's coral reefs

From a Reuters story by Jason Lange:

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Dainty blue fish dart around coral shaped like moose antlers near the Mexican resort of Cancun, but sickly brown spots are appearing where pollution threatens one of the world's largest reefs.

Parts of the reef, nestled in turquoise waters, have died and algae -- which feed on sewage residues flowing out of the fast-growing resort city -- has taken over.

Coral reefs like Chitales, near the northern tip of a Caribbean reef chain stretching from Mexico to Honduras, are dying around the world as people and cities put more stress on the environment.

Climate change alone could trigger a global coral die-off by 2100 because carbon emissions warm oceans and make them more acidic, according to a study published in December.

But local environmental problems like sewage, farm runoff and overfishing could kill off much of the world's reefs decades before global warming does, said Roberto Iglesias, a biologist from UNAM university's marine sciences station near Cancun.

"The net effect of pollution is as bad or maybe worse than the effects of global warming," said Iglesias, a co-author of the study in the journal Science on how climate change affects reefs.

Human waste like that from Cancun's hotels and night spots aggravates threats to coral worldwide like overzealous fishing which hurts stocks of fish that eat reef-damaging algae.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

2009 NOAA International Coral Grant Program

From the United States National Oceanianic and Atmospheric Administration:

PROGRAM PRIORITIES: This Program solicits proposals under four funding categories: 1) Promote Watershed Management in the Wider Caribbean, Brazil, and Bermuda; 2) Planning for Effective Marine Protected Area Management; 3) Encourage the Development of National Networks of Marine Protected Areas in the Wider Caribbean, Bermuda, Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific; and 4) Promote Regional Socio-Economic Training and Monitoring in Coral Reef Management in the Wider Caribbean, Brazil, Bermuda, the Western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the South Pacific, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Pre-applications must be received by 5:00 p.m., U.S. Eastern Time, on Monday, November 3, 2008, preferably by email to coral.grants@noaa.gov. Final applications by invitation only must be received by 5:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time, on Friday, February. 13, 2009 through www.grants.gov.

Eligible applicants include institutions of higher education, U.S. and international non-profit organizations, and commercial organizations. U.S. federal agencies and individuals are not eligible. For specific country eligibility per category, please refer to individual category descriptions in Section I.B. of the full Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO). Eligible countries are defined in Section III.A. of the FFO. The proposed work must be conducted at a non-U.S. site.

Up to approximately $500,000 may be available in FY 2009 to support grants under this program. Each eligible applicant can apply for the following maximum amounts: 1) Watershed Management: $30,000-$50,000; 2) Planning for Effective Marine Protected Area Management: Single sites: up to $50,000; Multiple sites: up to $80,000; 3) MPA National Networks: $40,000-$50,000; 4) Regional Socio-Economic Monitoring projects: $15,000 - $30,000. Funding will be subject to the availability of Federal appropriations.

Coral conservation projects funded under this program require a 1:1 match. Matching funds must be from non-Federal sources and can include in-kind contributions and other non-cash support. Please refer to section III.B. Cost Sharing or Matching Requirement of the FFO for information on match waiver request requirements.

For all details on each priority category, please refer to the full Federal Funding Opportunity announcement found at http://www.grants.gov. Search for Funding Opportunity Number NOS-IPO-2009-2001458. Please be aware that the pre-application is NOT to be submitted through this web site.

FOR FURTHER QUESTIONS WRITE TO: International.coral.grants@noaa.gov.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Sign the Year of the Reef song on video and enter worldwide contest

From the Reef Check Video Contest:

During the 2008 International Year of the Reef (IYOR), help save reefs and share your creativity and culture with others by creating a video using the Year of the Reef Song. Reef Check Foundation (RCF) is running this contest with the goal of getting young people to learn more about the marine environment. In addition to having a lot of fun, you could win great prizes!

About This Contest: Three cash prizes will be awarded to the best group performances of the IYOR Song to help finance events or activities with an educational focus on the marine environment, such as a visit to a local aquarium, trip to the beach, acquisition of marine educational materials, etc.

This is an International Contest, free to enter, and groups from every part of the world are encouraged to participate. Participants must be part of a group (e.g. school, club, religious group, etc.). We will be looking for creative, original videos that reflect your culture and celebrate ocean conservation; technical video quality will not be judged. . . .

Increase your chances to winning by:

- Creating a version of the Year of the Reef Song using instruments and musical arrangements, e.g. reggae, rock, or local style
- Singing/filming at a place of meaning to your group, e.g. beach, temple, historical location
- Dressing in attire that celebrates local culture or that represents your music genre/style
- Singing in local language(s) or dialect(s) . . .

The goals of the contest are to celebrate the International Year of the Reef and engage as many young people as possible in learning about the marine environment.

First Place: One US $1000 cash prize

Second Place: One US $600 cash prize

Third Place: One US $400 cash prize


Thursday, September 25, 2008

A recent expedition by members of the Explorers Club will change the way coral reefs will be mapped throughout the world.

From an article by Joseph Frey in the Columbia Star (Columbia, South Carolina):

A recent expedition by members of the Explorers Club will change the way coral reefs will be mapped throughout the world.

It was serendipitous that the explorers were in the Bahamas where Christopher Columbus first discovered the Americas.

This event sparked Europe's exploration of our planet and initiated an era of modern cartography.

The expedition, entitled the "2008 International Coral Reef initiative: First Ever Precise Digital Coral Reef Mapping In The Bahamas and Wider Caribbean," will produce a unique, highly accurate biodiversity map of a coral reef, the first of its kind for the Caribbean region and possibly the first in the world.

The team worked around Tropical Storm Fay and raced to beat the storm cell over the mid- Atlantic Ocean that would develop into Hurricane Gustav. The August heat was intense as the team worked frantically gathering the vital pieces of information needed to complete the data- intensive map.

When completed in late October, the map will have integrated satellite and aerial photography with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies along with ground- truthing, which consists of collecting scientific data above and below the ocean's surface. These technologies have been used by civil engineers and land surveyors, but its use in conservation biology is new and very recent.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Photos of dog snapper eating trumpet fish!

You won't see this very often . . . maybe never! Posted on the Web site of REEF.org:

Photos taken 19 January 2007 on Snapper Ledge in Key Largo, Florida in the middle of the afternoon. I was teaching an open water class and had 2 students in the water who saw this on their very first ocean dive.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Raft of plastic junk sails across Pacific

From an article by Dan Estabrook on the Tonic News Network:

Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal, the two men whom I reported were sailing from Long Beach to Hawaii on a raft made from 15,000 plastic bottles, reached Hawaii yesterday. The goal of their trip was to raise awareness about plastic debris pollution in the Pacific.

Marcus reported on their arrival on the expedition’s blog. I could not say it any better:

"2,600 miles of open ocean crossed in 87 days. From our first week of sinking hopes on a sinking raft, through four hurricanes that swept under us, to the unbelievable chance meeting with Roz Savage in the middle of nowhere, we have had quite an adventure. We’ve collected 10 ocean surface samples using our marine debris trawl, managed to snatch a few large pieces of plastic debris that floated under us, and caught fish with stomachs filled with particles of plastic. Plastic is forever, and it’s everywhere."
It's everywhere, even the Caribbean!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conservation challenges in Akumal

As these questions from Akumal visitors and the answers by CEA's executive director clearly illustrate, coastal conservation presents tough challenges:

I was stopped by the demonstration last night and was told that CEA along with the Lol Ha were paying guards to stop locals and charge them $80 pesos to access the beach. Is this true? It's illegal for one thing but it is morally reprehensible for another. Certainly, if it is true, your supporters should know about it...if you have anything you would like to say I'd appreciate a response.
Jonna Harlan

CEA does not block access to locals to go to the beach and it does not charge them. The guard was placed at the entrance to the beach from the road to stop all COMMERCIAL activity going to the bay. As property owners, CEA may legally do this. Access is guaranteed by law to individuals, not businesses. Too many companies are bringing tours to Akumal bay to snorkel and they are damaging the area, harassing the turtles and do in no way benefit the local economy. Several local actors want to keep the heat going for their own political interests and therefore are making false claims against CEA. Our efforts are to protect the local environment and make sure that Akumalians can enjoy it, without destroying it. CEA does charge for parking and bathrooms because it costs quite a lot of money to keep the area clean and in service (water costs, property taxes are paid, etc.) and if there is no charge, people traditionally trash the place (we have experimented). We are now trying to work with the local people to first inform them well of the matters and second, to involve them in the solutions so that Akumal can remain the incredible place that it is. Thanks for your interest in the area.
Paul, Sanchez-Navarro, CEA director.

We have been visiting Akumal Bay for a few years now and love it. However, many tourists (including ourselves) have recently been very disappointed with how many boats and snorkel tours are in the bay. You can see at least 30-40 boats on any given day. This is both an eyesore and a huge danger to people snorkeling and swimming in the water. I know there are regulations in place to restrict the boats, but I firmly believe it's going to take a person's DEATH to really regulate what's going on in that bay.

Is there any way you all can take steps to make Akumal Bay a protected area with more boat regulations? I have read many messages on internet sites from people who will not return to Akumal Bay due to the boat overcrowding and dangers that come along with them.

Ultimately, without better regulations, the Akumal area is going to pay a high price, both in the deterioration of the reef and fewer tourist dollars to fund the local economy.

Thank you for reading this and considering these suggestions....
Mary Ford

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your message and concern. We are struggling to do exactly what you mention, create a protected area and regulate boat activities more.

We have presented a proposal to the Ministry of the Environment and have defined limits to the number of boats with the local Port Captain. Now it is a matter of implementing what we have agreed upon, within the current legal framework, until we do get some federal legal area protection defined.

This is not an easy process, as you expierenced, so many people want to make money on such a limited space, so balancing economics and environment is the challenge we face. Hopefully, we will have stronger protection measures in place soon as we will all be able to see positive changes in Akumal bay.

Again, thank you for letting us know your thoughts.

Kind regards,
These Q&As first appear in Sac-be's September newsletter. Thanks to Sac-be for allowing them to be posted here.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Humans pose biggest threat to marine life

From an article that originally appeared in The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne:

The biggest threat to marine life is not global warming but over- fishing and mankind's demand for water, scientists from the North will say today.

A study drawing on the expertise of more than 100 top aquatic ecologists looked at the world's water-based ecosystems, including lakes, rivers, tropical waters and Arctic seas.

The research, led by Professor Nicholas Polunin of Newcastle University, found man's serious impact on aquatic life will happen long before climate change takes full effect.

He said: "Across the 21 different ecosystems we have looked at, direct human actions have long been exceeding - and will long continue to exceed - the effects of climate change in almost every case. That is not to say that climate change isn't happening or is unimportant.

"Coral reefs are threatened by oceanic warming and the release of carbon frozen and buried in wetlands has major implications for the Earth.

"But the demise of fish stocks through fishing and decline of rivers through excessive off-take are just two dramatic examples of how people are directly changing aquatic ecosystems"


Friday, September 12, 2008

20 years on, memories of 'Wild Gilbert' still vivid

With Hurricane Ike still blowing in the Gul of Mexico, Patrick Foster recalls Hurricane Gilbert in an article in The Jamaica Observer:

Hurricane Gilbert devastated Jamaica on September 12, 1988, leaving 45 persons dead, losses estimated at over $22 billion, and an indelible mark on those who experienced its fury.

So destructive was Gilbert's impact that then Prime Minister Edward Seaga, on an aerial tour of the island, commented that the country resembled Hiroshima after the dropping of the atom bomb that ended World War II.

Placing in perspective the time that has elapsed, Jamaica's home-grown sprint phenomenon Usain Bolt was a mere two-years-old when Gilbert struck. Time, however, has not removed memories of the harrowing event etched on the minds of many.

In paying homage to the fury of Gilbert, which has been designated the second most intense hurricane of the century by meteorologists, the name has been retired and never will another hurricane be so named.

Gilbert attained category five rating after leaving Jamaica and at times packed winds of up to 180 miles per hour on its journey to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. . . .


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fuel emissions from marine vessels remain a global concern

From a story by Susan Gawlowicz posted on Innovation Report:

Marine vessels are no longer resting in a safe harbor.

The forecast for clear skies and smooth sailing for oceanic vessels has been impeded by worldwide concerns of their significant contributions to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that impact the Earth’s climate.

A new study by professors James Winebrake and James Corbett examines “Emission Tradeoffs among Alternative Marine Fuels: Total Fuel Cycle Analysis of Residual Oil, Marine Gas Oil, and Marine Diesel Oil,” in a recent issue of Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.

According to Winebrake, professor and chair of the Department of Science, Technology and Society/Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, and Corbett, associate professor in the College of Marine and Earth Studies at the University of Delaware, reducing fuel sulfur content is an essential component of any strategy aimed at reducing sulfur oxide emissions from marine vessels—especially since global concerns have caused policy makers to accelerate the introduction of emission control technologies and cleaner fuels into the international marine sector. These tactics aim to improve air quality and human health and mitigate climate change.

“Cleaner fuels are expected to reduce sulfur and particulate emissions, however, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may increase because of the additional refining energy required to produce these fuels—residual oil, marine gas oil and marine diesel oil,” Winebrake explains. “Our study provides a total fuel cycle emissions analysis to help quantify these emissions tradeoffs.”


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why are sea turtle important?

From a post on NOAA's Cturtle listserve:

I work in a TV news environment and during Tropical Storm Fay, I was dispatched to the beach (in Palm Beach, Fla. USA) to do a story about the beach erosion and sea turtle nest destruction. Sure enough, the beach was compromised and eggs were blowing all over the beach in the 40 kt winds.

I was covering this story with a reporter who is new to south Florida and not an "outdoors" person. While she was disturbed about the destroyed nests and broken eggs all over the beach, she asked me, "Why are sea turtles so important?" I was taken aback. I can speak volumes about why we need to protect them, but I couldn't answer her question other than to tell her that their abundance is relevant to the health of the sea.

We all love them and are passionate about protecting and conserving them, but seriously, how do you tell somebody (Joe Public) who is not interested why conservation is so important?

I do everything I can to talk to people on the beach and in the water while I'm conducting turtles surveys via snorkel. Seriously, though, how do to you convince a beach-goer to practice conservation if they aren't interested in being in the water?

Look forward to your thoughts.
Here's one response:
. . .maintaining biodiversity in the oceans is critical to maintaining the overall health of the oceans. If, over time, sea turtles go extinct, and then another species goes extinct and so on, then the oceans will end up hosting a monoculture of a certain species as that one species (presumably the dominant one) takes over. By protecting sea turtles we are maintaining the seas' biodiversity, and therefore its health.
And another:
. . . we all know so many reasons that you could point out that can justify the importance of sea turtles. But I think the question some times is not only the sea turtles, it's all environment in general with all it's fauna and flora. What gives us the right to think that our exsitence is more important than other species??
By asking the same question a New York Times columnist ignited a lively debate.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Gustav buries southwest Florida turtle nests

From an article by Zac Anderson in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

Hurricane Gustav's eye stayed far from Southwest Florida, but the storm's waves and surge dampened the region's best sea turtle nesting season in years.

From Anna Maria Island to Charlotte Harbor, turtle volunteers and scientists are reporting hundreds of swamped, buried and washed-out nests.

Many of the underlying eggs may have drowned or washed away, experts say, a tough setback for a turtle season that had seen nests leap to roughly 3,300 in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, compared with about 2,000 a year ago.

Despite the recent losses, experts say the 2008 turtle nesting season has been unexpectedly good.

"There was a strong trend down since 1998 so this summer was a wild card," said Wilma Katz, who helps coordinate turtle watch volunteers on Manasota Key in Englewood.

"Regardless of whether the storm takes some nests out, the fact that we had a lot of nests to begin with gives us a lot of reason to hope."

Manasota Key is the top nesting destination for sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. A strong increase in nests on the key is a positive indicator for the state, said Beth Brost, a sea turtle expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Sea Babes

A description of one of the many videos on the Ocean Channel:

A short documentary [five minutes] about some of the tiniest inhabitants of the reef. Featuring rare footage of hatching baby octopus and cuttlefish, nudibranch eggs, baby squid, anglerfish eggs, baby leafy seadragons, and other unusual fish from Australia and Tasmania.
Though not Caribbean creatures, the video is still fun to watch.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Healthy Reefs For Healthy People in the Mesoamerican Reef Ecosystem

From the Web site of Healthy Reefs for Healthy People:

The Mesoamerican Reef Ecosystem, considered one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, extends from the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula south through the barrier reef complex of Belize, the rich coastal waters of Guatemala, and on to the outer Bay Islands of Honduras. Here, more than many places, the health of our people, our communities and our economies, are intertwined and dependent on our ability to maintain healthy reef ecosystems.

It is that connection - between the rich coastal resources and the people - that is the focus of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative. Our goal is to track the health of the Mesoamerican reef, the human choices that shape it and our progress in ensuring the long-term well-being of both people and the environment. . . .

Through this website we seek to provide a common platform for people to join together to address the important linkages between the environment, community health, and local economic prosperity within the region. We hope it will serve as a catalyst to exchange ideas, information, and inspiration.

We invite you to join us in our efforts and welcome your suggestions.

Ultimately, we need healthy reefs for healthy people.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Workshop: Light and photosynthesis on coral reefs

From the Coral-List listserve of NOAA:

and the
are pleased to announce the course titled




REGISTRATION AND TUITION FEES: No fees are charged for this course.

Dr. Anastazia T. Banaszak (UNAM)
Dr. Susana Enréquez (UNAM)
Dr. Luisa Falcón (UNAM)
Dr. Ernesto Garc?a Mendoza (CICESE)
Dr. Roberto Iglesias Prieto (UNAM)
Dr. Helmut Maske (CICESE)
Dr. Mark Warner (University of Delaware)

DESCRIPTION: This is an intensive postgraduate course on coral reef photobiology and includes a strong theoretical background (75 hours) coupled with hands on experience in practical classes (75 hours). The course is limited to 16 students.

OBJECTIVES: A) to provide students with the physiological and biochemical bases of photosynthesis as well as the mechanisms that regulate photosynthesis in the aquatic environment with particular emphasis on coral reefs and coral reef dwelling organisms and B) to provide technical training in the methods commonly used to study photosynthesis. At the end of the course, it is expected that the students will have the capacity to incorporate this information into the general context of modern marine biology as well as to utilize this information in their future projects and research.

SCHOLARSHIPS: A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to students from developing countries to cover flight and accommodation costs.

APPLICATIONS: Graduate students who are interested in applying for the course should send a statement of interest (one page limit) in which they state their current study or employment situation, their background and the reason for their interest in this course as well as the benefits that such a course will have on their present and future studies, their curriculum vitae (one page limit) as well as a letter of recommendation from a current or past tutor or professor. Applications should be accompanied by a cover letter.

Students from developing countries who require financial assistance to attend the course should indicate their interest in applying for a scholarship in their statement of interest and cover letter. Completed applications should be sent to Dr. Anastazia Banaszak at banaszak@mar.icmyl.unam.mx

DEADLINE: The deadline for reception of applications is September 30, 2008. Incomplete applications will not be considered.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Swimming with dolphins may not have any health benefit

An article by David Thomas in the Telegraph:

Its therapeutic qualities have been linked with the treatment medical conditions ranging from depression to autism and dementia.

But swimming with dolphins, or dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) as it is scientifically known, may not actually have any mental or physical health benefits to human beings at all, according to new research.

In a scientific paper for the journal the Archives of Disease in Childhood, paediatricians Anna Baverstock and Fiona Finlay of the Community Child Health Department in Bath concluded that there is no reliable evidence that it actually works. And they say that it may even prevent patients from seeking more effective and traditional forms of treatment.

Baverstock and Finlay conducted the review because a mother was seeking medical support for her son and they needed to determine whether swimming with dolphins had any health benefits for children with cerebral palsy. They found that at best, it has the same likelihood of success - and failure - as having the patient interact with a small puppy.

The news will come as a blow to the multi-million pound dolphin-assisted therapy industry, which insists that playing with the intelligent marine mammals can help people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.

Various enterprises operate in resorts the world over promoting trips to swim with dolphins in the wild. Other schemes involve swimming with dolphins in tanks.

Previous studies have backed the use of swimming with dolphin to help people's recovery.

In 2005, a University of Leicester team tested the effect of regular swimming sessions with dolphins on 15 depressed people in a study carried out in Honduras and published in the British Medical Journal.

The team found that symptoms improved more among this group than among another 15 who swam in the same area but did not interact with dolphins.

Want to post?
Ed Blume, a volunteer for Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), moderates the blog. Anyone wishing to post can contact Ed at ed@ceakumal.org.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP