Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Drug used to treat skin conditions is a marine pollutant

From an article on Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2009) — Clotrimazole is a common ingredient in over-the-counter skin creams. Recent results from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, now show that it is associated with major environmental risks.

"The pharmaceuticals and chemicals in everyday use form a mixture in the ocean that has a direct impact on the growth and reproduction of organisms", says scientist Tobias Porsbring.

When Euorpean authorities assess environmental risks, they often do so for one chemical at a time. Recent research, however, shows that the hazardous chemicals that humans spread in the environment do not work alone. Chemicals, drugs and personal-care products that accompany wastewater often end up in the oceans, where they form a "cocktail" of chemicals. This "cocktail-effect" may be more harmful than the individual chemicals alone.

Environmental risks
Scientist Tobias Porsbring at the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg has studied natural communities of microalgae along the Swedish west coast. He presents results in his doctoral thesis that show how the use of a common agent against skin fungi, clotrimazole, is associated with major environmental risks.

"The levels of clotrimazole that are measured in the environment affect the synthesis of sterols in the algae, and these are important in several functions in the algal cells. The growth and reproduction of the algae are disturbed. Single-cell microalgae are the fundamental basis of the ocean food chain, and the use of clotrimazole thus may affect the complete ocean ecosystem", says Tobias Porsbring.

"Cocktail effect" on microalgae
Clotrimazole, however, does not act alone in the ocean ecosystem. Many other substances are often found in the oceans, including propranolol (a drug to lower blood pressure), triclosan (an anti-bacterial agent commonly found in soap and deodorants), fluoxetine (an anti-depressant pharmaceutical) and zinc pyrithione (found in anti-dandruff shampoos). The results that Tobias Porsbring presents show that a mixture of such compounds forms a "cocktail effect" that has a direct impact on the growth of the microalgal community.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Turks and Caicos seek to manage turtle fishing

From an article on Turks and Caicos Net News:

(TCI-GIS): The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) is urging the public to cooperate with a new project that aims to improve the management of the Turks and Caicos Islands marine turtle fishery.

The three-year Turks and Caicos Islands Turtle Project has been running since November 2008 and involves close collaboration between the DECR, the UK Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the University of Exeter’s Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG), Duke University in the USA, and The School for Field Studies (SFS) on South Caicos.

“This new project seeks to gather as much information as possible about our turtles here in TCI so we can develop a plan to manage them in a more sustainable manner. That way, future generations can enjoy our turtles too,” said DECR Director Wesley Clerveaux, adding: “We are asking folks who find a turtle nest, who land or buy a turtle to eat, or who see turtles in the sea to call us with their information.”

The TCI turtle fishery is regulated by the Fisheries Protection Ordinance 1998. The Ordinance protects nesting turtles and their eggs on TCI beaches, but permits the capture at sea of any turtle weighing over 20lbs, or measuring over 20inches shell length, at any time of year.

The new project came about in response to concerns regarding TCI’s own nesting turtle populations. Previous research by DECR, MCS and the MTRG indicated that TCI’s nesting populations of turtles have dramatically declined in recent decades, with nesting now rarely occurring on inhabited islands. . . .

“This project is not about banning the turtle fishery and the fishermen we have spoken to understand that,” said [Project Officer Amdeep] Sanghera, “But because most people don’t view the fishery as economically important, it has received little attention. As with any fishery, a degree of management is necessary in order to ensure sustainability.”


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fewer turtles turned into souvenirs in Dominican Republic

From an article on Caribbean Net News:

GLAND, Switzerland/WASHINGTON, USA: Critically endangered hawksbill turtles are no longer being sold as tourist souvenirs in the Dominican Republic after a powerful government campaign cracked down on shops illegally trading such items. More than 99 percent of these souvenirs have been withdrawn or confiscated the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC reports.

A 2006 survey carried out by TRAFFIC found more than 23,000 items made from hawksbill turtles for sale. A February revisit of the same locations revealed a dramatic reduction with only 135 shell items.

The success has been achieved thanks to a widespread government-led action launched in November 2008. The Dominican Republic has encouraged the trade of alternative products such as cow horn or bone to present an alternative to shops trading with these turtles.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

National Trust seeks protected areas for Cayman Islands

From an article on Cayman Net News:

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is a non-profit, statutory body with a mission: “To preserve natural environments and places of historic significance in the Cayman Islands for present and future generations.”

The Trust’s Environmental Programmes are founded on the concept that protection of native plants and animals is best achieved by protecting the natural areas upon which they depend. Similarly, maintaining natural processes such as groundwater, marine life and ecotourism attractions, require protection of large natural areas. For these reasons, the Trust’s first priority for the environment is the establishment of a system of protected areas.

The area of Trust-owned environmentally important lands has risen steadily, and now stands at 1,980 acres thanks to land purchase (possible through cash donations), gift or Crown transfer.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Homes in Akumal Pueblo not connected to sewage lines

From a report by Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA):

Over the last three years, CEA’s Water Quality Program carried out an evaluation of the sewage treatment in Akumal to understand the kind of treatment being used in the area, for both the coastal and town sections of Akumal. We found that 49% of the treatment being used in North Akumal is done using artificial wetlands, 27% with just septic tanks and 5% using treatment plants. We did not have access to the rest of the houses. In Akumal Pueblo, we found that in Phase 1, people have sewage [lines in front of their homes], but not all of the houses are connected to the system, and in Phase 2 the people do not have sewage lines. This year, we want to extend the area of research to South Akumal, and conduct a census from Akumal Beach Resort to Bahía Príncipe, to determine how wastewater is being treated.

With the results of the diagnosis we will be able to determine the activities that we need to promote with the community and the government in order to ensure that all of the sewage is being treated, thus not reaching the underground rivers and eventually the reef.
Pollution contributes to the slow death of the reefs.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fish numbers drop as reefs take a bashing

From a post on New Scientist:

The battering taken by Caribbean coral reefs is finally taking its toll on the fish that dwell in them, a large new study suggests.

"We are seeing striking declines that are amazingly consistent across a huge area and very different types of fish," says Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. "The losses affect both large fish that are hunted by fishers and small fish that aren't."

Paddack's team reanalysed 48 studies that had taken place in 318 reefs since 1955 and found that after decades of stability, fish numbers have started to go down. Starting from the mid 1990s, in all regions covered by the studies, fish numbers have fallen by between 2.7 and 6% per year.

Paddack suspects that as well as overfishing, coral demise from disease and bleaching is to blame, together with pollution from coastal development.

Collectively, these events create a "degradation debt", Paddack says. "Coral reefs have been breaking down since the early 70s. Once the damage is extensive enough, fish lose opportunities to find food and shelter."


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Safe travels in sensational Mexico

From a story by Maria Finn on ABC News:

Just in time for spring break, violence along the U.S.-Mexico border has brought a rash of bad press to the popular tourist destination.

Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula, such as Playa del Carmen [just south of Cancun], is Mexico's most popular travel destinations.

But for those still planning a trip to Mexico, the U.S. Consulate in Merida, Mexico, recently released a Web video on how to stay safe, have fun and avoid bringing trouble upon oneself.

"If you're not going to do it at home, think twice about doing it in Mexico," one consulate employee says in the video. "Always stick with a friend. Watch what people put into your drinks."

"It's not a theme park, it's a sovereign country with laws," another reminds travelers.

Likewise, State Department spokesman Robert Wood weighed in from the podium recently, when he declared his love for Mexico and for spring break.

"OK, I'm guilty," Wood conceded. "I have gone down at least once in my life for spring break."

"But look," Wood added. "Mexico is a wonderful place to go and vacation. People just need to, you know, take sensible precautions to protect themselves. I don't have anything more to say on it than that. I mean, it's just using common sense and taking necessary precautions."

President Obama announced this week that he will personally travel to Mexico in April to meet with President Felipe Calderon to discuss curbing the violence, among other issues.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Could the Riviera Maya ban plastic bags?

From an article by Nacha Cattan posted on The News:

Mexico City's Assembly on Tuesday passed a ban on all plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets.

The ban will go into effect in one year, giving the plastic industry time to adopt new technology - such as plastics made of corn that would disintegrate within weeks - the law's sponsors said.

"This is an environmental achievement without precedent in Mexico," said Leonardo Alvarez Romo, a Green Party lawmaker and sponsor of the bill. "This should serve as an example for other states as well as the federal government."

Modeled after bans in China and San Francisco, the restriction states: "No commercial establishment may give away a plastic bag for transporting, handling or packaging their products."

The strict law applies to all stores, including dry cleaners, which will no longer be able to return clothing in plastic covers, said Assemblyman Xiuh Tenorio, another sponsor of the bill. Store owners who give away plastic bags for free risk arrest of up to 36 hours or fines of as much as 1 million pesos. The only exceptions will be granted for sanitation purposes.

Currently, Mexico City and the metropolitan area use 20 million bags per day, each of which takes hundreds of years to decompose, Alvarez Romo said.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nuclear technology tracks Caribbean pollution

From an AFP article:

A UN agency is using nuclear material and technologies to study coastal pollution in a dozen Caribbean countries caused mainly by oil refineries, its officials said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is focusing on marine pollution in this project because the sea is vital to the region, accounting for up to 60 percent of the gross domestic products of some countries.

"We are using nuclear techniques to study and improve the environment," said Joan Albert Sanchez-Cabeza, who is responsible for radiometry at the IAEA's marine laboratories in Monaco.

Sanchez-Cabeza said the IAEA is gauging the presence in Caribbean waters of heavy metals like lead, zinc and nickel, as well as pesticides and plaguicides, and studying how it has evolved over time.

Radioactive isotopes like lead 210, cesium 137, or carbon 14 are used to trace those changes in a given place "to see what measures have been taken and what has or has not worked," the Spanish scientist said.

He said they examine sediments because "they are like a book."

"Everything that humans do leaves an impression somewhere -- in lake beds, in the rings of trees, the ice sheets, among others," he said.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The incredible shrinking
trophy fish

Trophy fish (at left) caught on Key West charter boats: a) 1957, b) early 1980s and c) 2007.

From a news release issued by Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

A unique study by a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has provided fresh evidence of fishing's impact on marine ecosystems. Scripps Oceanography graduate student researcher Loren McClenachan accessed archival photographs spanning more than five decades to analyze and calculate a drastic decline of so-called "trophy fish" caught around coral reefs surrounding Key West, Florida.

In a paper published online in January and printed in an upcoming issue of the journal Conservation Biology, McClenachan describes a stark 88 percent decline in the estimated weight of large predatory fish imaged in black-and-white 1950s sport fishing photos compared to the relatively diminutive catches photographed in modern pictures. In a companion paper being published in the Endangered Species Research journal, McClenachan employs similar methods to document the decline of the globally endangered goliath grouper fish.

"These results provide evidence of major changes over the last half century and a window into an earlier, less disturbed fish community..." McClenachan said in the Conservation Biology paper.

McClenachan's studies are part of an emerging field called historical marine ecology, in which scientists study photographs, archives, news accounts and other records to help understand changes in the ocean ecosystem over time and establish baselines for future ecosystem restoration.

McClenachan believes that historical ecology can not only help describe the structure of ecosystems that existed in the recent past, but can be used to establish goals for restoration of large predators, both on land and in the water.

While conducting research for her doctoral thesis on coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys, McClenachan came across what she describes as a gold mine of photographic data at the Monroe County Library in Key West. Hundreds of archived photographs, snapped by professional photographer Charles Anderson and others, depict sport fishing passengers posing next to a hanging board used to determine the largest "trophy fish" catches of the day. All of the photographs document sport fishing trips targeting coral reef fishes around the Florida Keys. McClenachan supplemented the study with her own photographs and observations on sport fishing trips in 2007.

In all, she measured and analyzed some 1,275 fish from photographs.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Caribbean states should look to alternative energy to protect climate and economies

From an article Caribbean Net News:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA): The growing concerns about climate change and its disastrous effects have dictated that small island developing states, such as the Caribbean quickly turn to alternative means of energy generation to satisfy growing demands for energy and to protect their fragile economies.

Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo who has been a strong advocate for avoided deforestation to mitigate climate change believes that the region will be hard pressed to find adaptation resources necessary to address adverse weather events.

In December 2008 the Head of State unveiled Guyana’s plan position on Avoided Deforestation as a plan to tackle climate change, a model that is gaining traction as more countries that are pursuing avoided deforestation are adopting it.

Given the vulnerability of the Caribbean to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, and the growing demand for energy it is imperative that means are employed to ensure that a significant portion of the energy requirements are derived from alternative energy.

To this end, Climate Change and Energy Access was the focus of an International parliamentary hearing for Caribbean legislators facilitated by e-Parliament which began on Saturday in Guyana.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, during opening remarks said that Guyana’s forests contribute significantly to the removal and storage of carbon dioxide being emitted into the world’s atmosphere as well as the maintenance of bio-diversity.


Monday, March 16, 2009

The Secret Lives of Seahorses Webcast, March 20

From Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Did you know that seahorses are the only family in the animal kingdom in which the male gets pregnant and gives birth?

Learn all about The Secret Lives of Seahorses and get a sneak peek at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new special exhibition during our online webcast next Friday, March 20 at noon Pacific time.

Our experts, Exhibit Developer Ava Ferguson and Associate Curator Jonelle Verdugo, will give you a special preview of the exhibit—one of the largest and most diverse displays of seahorses in the country—before it opens April 6.

You’ll learn about some of the 15 species of seahorses, sea dragons, pipehorses and pipefish included in the exhibit as well as how you can help protect the coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove forests that seahorses call home.

To get in on the conversation, just submit your questions at any time during the presentation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Register today for the webcast. If you have trouble accessing this link, cut and paste the following address into your browser:

Once you register, you'll receive a confirmation e-mail, with a link to the webcast. On Friday, March 20 at noon Pacific time, just click the link and watch the webcast directly from your computer. (And don't forget to turn on your volume.)

We look forward to your participation on Friday. If you have questions about the webcast, please contact Linda Castillo at lcastillo@mbayaq.org.

Ken Peterson, Communications Director


Friday, March 13, 2009

Ships use Caribbean Sea as dump for solid waste

From an Associated Press article published online in the International Herald Tribune:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico: Miles (kilometers) from shore in the open Caribbean Sea, cruise ships are dumping ground-up glass, rags and cardboard packaging. But vessels in other waters such as the Baltic and North seas are prohibited from throwing any solid waste overboard other than food scraps.

The difference? Many countries with coastlines on the world's most fragile seas abide by a United Nations dumping ban that requires them to treat ship-generated garbage on land. Caribbean islands, however, have yet to adopt the ban, saying they simply don't have the capacity to treat ship garbage on shore. They also fear the ban could push ships to dock in less-regulated ports of call.

"We don't have space to take nothing from nobody," said Travis Johnson, assistant harbor master in Saba, an island of 1,500 people that is building a new pier to accommodate larger cruise ships.

The U.N.'s International Maritime Organization outlawed dumping in 1993 for the Caribbean, a largely enclosed area where the string of islands blocks currents that would flush waste into the Atlantic Ocean. It will not take effect, however, until enough of the surrounding nations report their capacity for treating trash from cruise ships — information that the vast majority of nations so far have withheld.

The U.N. created the ban to protect areas that are vulnerable because of heavy ship traffic or sensitive ecology. It has already taken effect in the Antarctic, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the Persian Gulf and is due to come into force in the Mediterranean in May.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Charles Moore: Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

A common site along the Mexican Caribbean when snorkeling, diving, or just swimming on the surface. Photo by Gavin Parsons, Greenpeace, from the Marine Photobank.

Though Charles Moore's presentation focuses on the Pacific Ocean, plastic fouls the waters and beaches throughout the Caribbean.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Corals linked to local economy says Barbados coastal zone official

From an article posted on Caribbean Net News:

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS): “A Barbados with no coral reefs will result in no beaches, harsh wave environments, fewer fish, scant tourists, few jobs and a struggling economy.”

This observation was made by Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Dr Leo Brewster as he delivered a speech on the behalf of Minister of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage, Dr Denis Lowe, at the launch of the ‘Oistins Reef Ball Gardens Project: A Solution to Coral Depletion and Community Livelihoods in Oistins’.

Describing the island’s coral reefs as “spectacularly beautiful ecosystems” of “greatest structural significance to the foundation of this island,” Dr Brewster said they also offered a “plethora of other benefits”.

“In their primary function as natural barriers to waves, the value of reefs, with regard to natural shoreline protection, is equivalent to millions of dollars. As such, coral reefs form the basis of our tourism product,” he underlined.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coral reefs may dissolve from atmospheric CO2; 'Simple chemistry taught to freshman'

From an article on Underwater Times:

STANDFORD, California -- Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resulting effects on ocean water are making it increasingly difficult for coral reefs to grow, say scientists. A study to be published online March 13, 2009 in Geophysical Research Letters by researchers at the Carnegie Institution and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem warns that if carbon dioxide reaches double pre-industrial levels, coral reefs can be expected to not just stop growing, but also to begin dissolving all over the world.

The impact on reefs is a consequence of both ocean acidification caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide into seawater and rising water temperatures. Previous studies have shown that rising carbon dioxide will slow coral growth, but this is the first study to show that coral reefs can be expected to start dissolving just about everywhere in just a few decades, unless carbon dioxide emissions are cut deeply and soon.

"Globally, each second, we dump over 1000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and, each second, about 300 tons of that carbon dioxide is going into the oceans," said co-author Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, testifying to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife of the Committee on Natural Resources on February 25, 2009. "We can say with a high degree of certainty that all of this CO2 will make the oceans more acidic – that is simple chemistry taught to freshman college students."


Monday, March 2, 2009

Where, oh, where is Islote Bermeja? No one can find it!

From an article posted on Energy Daily:

Lawmakers in Mexico are trying to determine the whereabouts of island central to the country's oil claims, which appears literally to have dropped off the map about 10 years ago.

Bermeja island in the Gulf of Mexico [north of Yucatan and Campeche states] -- a strategic marker defining US and Mexican maritime and subsea rights -- has disappeared along with documents backing up a bilateral treaty on major oil reserves in the area, fueling rumors of a CIA plot.

"There are two stories about how it disappeared: one is that global warming raised the sea level and it is under water," said Mexican lawmaker Elias Cardenas, of the Convergence Party.

"The other is that ... it was blown up by the CIA so that the United States would get the upper hand in Hoyos de Dona" -- the oil reserves area.

Low-lying Bermeja, a smallish 80 km2 (31 sq miles), until 30 years ago was the official land point from which Mexico set its 200 nautical-mile economic zone.

The Alacranes islands now are being used as the marker, sharply reducing Mexico's economic zone.

In June 2000, Mexico and the United States signed a treaty putting a 10-year moratorium on their prospecting and pumping activities in the area. It is set to expire in 2011.

But "we do not have information about how this accord was signed," Cardenas said, while Bermeja north of Yucatan and Campeche states, had been mapped as far back as 1669.

Bermeja appears in a 1998 book of Mexican islands by the Interior Ministry, but in 1997 a Navy fishing expedition reported it could not locate the island, Cardenas said.
If found, please return Isole Bermeja to Mexico City lawmakers.

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

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