Thursday, April 30, 2009

Update on swine flu

From the blog of Akumal Direct Reservation:

In light of recent health concerns related to travel to Mexico, Akumal Direct remains focused on what is - and always has been - of primary importance to us: the safety, comfort and security of our guests, staff and the residents of Akumal.

Clients arriving prior to May 15, 2009 have been given the option to reschedule their reservation without penalty.

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in Mexico that most cases of influenza are not “swine flu”; any specific questions or concerns about flu or other illnesses should be directed to a medical professional. At this time the Mexican Secretariat of Health urges people to avoid large crowds, shaking hands, kissing people as a greeting, or using the subway. Maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other persons may decrease the risk of exposure. In addition, the following prevention tips are from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website:

1. Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

As of today [April 29] (according to Yucatan government officials) there have been zero cases of swine flu in Yucatan state.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SEE Turtle volunteer vacations

An article by Brad Nahil, Director, SEE Turtles, published in the newsletter of The International Ecotourism Association (TIES):

Imagine a close-up and personal encounter with one of the world's most mystical and prehistoric creatures. That is what engagement with sea turtles is all about. Communities around the world will celebrate World Ocean Day on June 8, and the occasion presents many opportunities to see these endangered gentle giants in person and participate in conservation efforts that are underway to protect them. SEE Turtles is offering a free volunteer placement service that matches interested volunteers with sea turtle conservation projects in Mexico, Costa Rica, Tobago, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

The SEE Turtles volunteer program creates opportunities for people to engage with sea turtles and participate in turtle conservation efforts right alongside expert biologists and sea turtle researchers. Volunteering on a sea turtle conservation project generally involves tracking and tagging turtles, night patrols of the nesting beaches, and helping researchers collect data. Many projects also include shifts in the egg hatcheries where the eggs are protected from poachers and animals. In addition to meaningful project work, volunteers will have time to explore the rainforest, visit local towns, or simply enjoy a refreshing ocean swim and relaxation on the beach.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Just One Light Can Kill Thousands'

Whether Florida or any other nesting area of the world, this excerpt from an article on Underwater Times apllies:

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Sea turtle nesting season has begun on Florida’s beaches, which means beach residents and visitors need to follow a few precautions to ensure a successful season.

Lights along the beach should be managed to prevent disorienting a female that comes ashore at night, according to biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). To do this, lights that are needed for human safety should be shielded so they are not visible from the beach or turned off when not needed. The instincts of the ancient sea creature tell her to proceed toward the brighter horizon over the ocean. Bright lights on the landward side of the beach can confuse the nesting sea turtle and the hatchlings that emerge from the nest. Lights on the beach can lead them away from the ocean.

“Just one light can kill thousands of turtles over several years,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, a biologist with the FWC. “Many lights burn all night without contributing to human safety.”


Monday, April 27, 2009

New protections for coral reefs and dwindling fish species in Belize

From an article by Jeremy Hance posted on

Coral reefs in Belize, considered to be some of the most pristine in the west, have secured additional protections. Rene Montero, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, signed a set of new laws this month to protect Belize’s coral reefs and the fish that inhabit them. The additional laws protect increasingly overfished species, ban spearfishing in marine reserves, and create no-take zones, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

“We applaud the Government of Belize for these progressive new laws that will ensure a future for coral reefs in the region,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of WCS. “Belize has set a new standard for coral reef and fisheries protection in the Caribbean.”

Algae-eating fish have gained special protection under the new law, such as parrotfish, doctor fish, and surgeon fish. Each of these herbivores has been shown to keep algae growth in-check, allowing for new corals to grow which otherwise would have been stymied by algae. Belize fishermen used to ignore parrotfish and other grazers, instead focusing on snappers and groupers. However subsequent declines in snappers and groupers due to overfishing led caused Belize fishermen to seek the next-best-fish namely parrotfish, a change that has threatened reef growth.

The new laws also protect the Nassau grouper, which is currently listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List due to overfishing throughout the Caribbean.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Mexican billionaire ordered to pay almost US$800K for reef damage

From an article in The San Pedro Sun (Belize):

Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego has been ordered to pay a huge price after his luxury mega yacht anchored on the reef on April seventh. The Department of Environment has concluded their assessment of the damages caused by the luxurious mega yacht, Azteca on the reef near San Pedro Town.

According to the experts in the Department of Environment, the affected area measured an estimated 393 square meters (4,230 sq. feet) of coral reef. The estimated cost of the damage is calculated at US $787,000 which Salinas Pliego committed to pay on Holy Thursday before he sailed away. In the absence of the Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, who is currently on vacation, Environmentalist in the Department of Environment Jevon Hulse told The San Pedro Sun that Salinas Pliego was expected to settle the matter before leaving the country. “It was my understanding that he (Ricardo Salinas Pliego) was expected to make arrangement for payment before sailing out of Belize,” explained Hulse.

Hulse could not confirm if the payment was indeed made but said that it was a matter that included the Ministry of Finance. DOE determined the amount of the fine based on the damaged area of the coral reef including the types of corals. Salinas Pliego was supplied with that information, accepted liability and agreed to make payment.

Our colleagues at El Diario de Quintana Roo Newspaper based out of Chetumal, Mexico confirmed that the mega yacht, “Azteca” docked at port on the island of Cozumel on Good Friday. This would mean that the cost of damaged had to be settled before the vessel left Belizean waters, however no one could confirm to The Sun whether or not those monies are in the Government’s coffers.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cayman to assist in studying non-human reef damage

From an article by Tad Stoner on Cayman Net News:

Next week, Washington’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will start work on a Little Cayman-based reef monitoring project, seeking to distinguish between natural and human-caused changes in the ocean environment.

The project, called the Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON), will monitor a range of variables including air and sea temperatures, radiation, wind speed and direction and salinity in an effort to understand coral bleaching and other events that may affect the health of reefs.

The monitor will be built in the Bloody Bay Marine Park, where a yellow pole, approximately 30 feet high, will be anchored on the seafloor. Equipped with a variety of sensors, the data-collection system will transmit information to a satellite that will transmit to a NOAA site in Virginia for processing.

“They look for patterns in the data, and why bleaching might be occurring,” said Education and Programme Officer at Little Cayman’s Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) Sally Coppage. “Because Little Cayman has a very low human impact, it gives [NOAA] an accurate view of what is going on naturally, rather than what is due to human activity.”

Describing the choice of Little Cayman for the project, a NOAA news release said Little Cayman’s coral reefs were “arguably the best in the Caribbean for research due to the fact that they are isolated from continental and anthropogenic influences, and support some of the most biologically diverse reef systems in the Caribbean.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shoot, Show and Share Your Earth Day

From the Marine Photobank:

We live in all corners of the globe and we all show our dedication to the environment in different ways. SeaWeb wants to see and share how you are making a difference in your community.

The Marine Photobank would like to encourage you to take photos of the various things you are doing in your communities to improve the health of the ocean environment on the 40th Annual Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

With your photos, we will create a new gallery dedicated to the positive impacts that we have the potential to make.

To contribute photos: If you already have a membership but are not a contributor, simply login to the Marine Photobank. Once you have logged in, click "My Member Status" to the left of the page and add "Contributor" to your membership. Once your membership status has been accepted and updated, you can upload your Earth Day photos.

If you are already a contributing member, simply login, return to the Marine Photobank home page and click Contribute Photos.


A familial fight to save oceans

From a story by Bob Woodruff and Jenna Mucha on ABC News:

For a certain generation, the name Cousteau conjures up the mystery and majesty of the deep sea. From the late 1960s through the mid-'70s, millions of Americans tuned in every Sunday night to watch "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau."

More PhotosHe was the original undersea explorer, the fearless adventurer who virtually created scuba diving by inventing the aqualung. He was the first to take cameras leagues beneath the sea and among the first to sound alarms about the deterioration he was witnessing firsthand undersea.

But a new Cousteau has taken the mantle, Jacques' 29-year-old grandson, Philippe, is now leading the charge to save our oceans.

"My grandfather, just in 30 to 40 years, saw such changes in the world that so alarmed him and yet the world was slow to catch up. I think we finally are," he said. "The good news is that we're having this discussion right now."

Philippe has dedicated his life to making the Cousteau mission of education and conservation irresistible for the newest generation. . . .

The difference of the Cousteau message today is the urgency required to save some of the ocean's most vital ecosystems. Coral reefs, home to one-fourth of all marine life, a major source of food for the planet and a natural barrier that protects coastline from hurricanes, are virtually disappearing from the map. Scientists predict they may be extinct by 2050.

The Florida Keys is the third largest barrier reef in the entire world, spanning 200 miles, and it is believed 80 percent has been destroyed.

"The Florida Keys is classified as a dead zone by the United Nations environmental program and it's just in our own backyard," Cousteau said.

To an untrained eye, the reefs are obviously brown and dead in spots, but still appear majestic with schools of yellowtail, parrotfish and barracuda swimming through them. When looking at video footage of the reef compared to that shot in the late 1980s, the devastation revealed is shocking.

"You kind of go down there, you see some fish and you think maybe it's not so bad. But then I look at this footage where there are huge schools of fish and healthy coral everywhere," he said.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dive Festival added to Akumal 50th Anniversary Celebration

Divers plunge into the festivities on May 30th as part of a three-day celebration to commemorate 50 years since Pablo Bush Romero first arrived in Akumal, Mexico, on an expedition to the Matanceros shipwreck.

Divers on Akumal’s reefs find schools of fish like they have never seen before!

Among those reefs and fish, divers can search for treasures during the Pablo Bush Romero Dive Festival! The Akumal Dive Shop has already donated a Technisub compact pro mask ($175.00 value), Aqua lung new sling shot fins ($225.00) and Aqua lung titan regulator ($500.00), as well as a complimentary hat and t-shirt for every participating diver. Those are treasurers worth the hunt! And we'll be getting more prizes before the divers hit the water.

For a deco stop, a featured speaker will share diving trips that most divers can only hope to experience.

In the evening, divers and friends will gather at the Lol Ha beach bar to claim their treasurers, carry their buddy for 100 feet for more treasures, show their C-cards to find the oldest among them, and engage in other antics.

This will be a dive festival like Akumal has never seen before! Book your flight, and reserve your dive times with the host dive shops -- Akumal Dive Center and Akumal Dive Shop.

Check the dive festival details! And be sure to get to Akumal on May 30th!


Details of the First Pablo Bush Dive Festival

The treasure hunt. “Treasurers” will be dropped at various dive sites, and divers will search for them. Divers must register for a fee of $20, which includes a t-shirt and free drink at the Lol Ha Beach Bar (on the beach of Akumal Bay). The Akumal Dive Center is the host dive shop for the treasure hunt. To reserve dive times or get more information about diving in Akumal, visit the Akumal Dive Center ( or Akumal Dive Shop ( The treasure hunt registration fee does not cover any dive costs. Register for the treasure hunt at the Akumal Dive Center or Akumal Dive Shop.

At the “Matanceros Expedition“ celebration (5:30 – 11:00 p.m., also at the Beach Bar) the names of the divers with the treasurers will be drawn from a hat and the diver will choose a real treasure (BC, mask, fins, and other prizes for example) as the diver’s name is chosen.

Fish identification class. Free at the CEA Center. Open to anyone who wants to sharpen their ability to identify fish in Akumal Bay and nearby reefs.

Dive buddy dash. Rule #1 in diving: Take care of your buddy. In this dry land event, divers will carry their buddies 50 feet. The winning diver and buddy win free drinks. Only diver (with a C card) can carry a buddy, who doesn’t have to be a diver – we suggest a lightweight lady.

Who’s the oldest diver? Youngest? Et cetera. Any diver can bring a C card to prove that they’re the oldest diver at the Matanceros Expedition celebration. We’ll find the youngest diver, too. Bring along the oldest piece of dive equipment and win a prize. Divers making their first open water dive during the festival get a prize.

9:00 am - Registration
12:00 pm - Fish ID presentation
1:00 pm - Diver treasure hunt
3:00 pm - Diver treasure hunt
5:30 pm - Matanceros Expedition celebration
6:00 pm - Diver dash
7:00 pm - Diver awards/drawings


Thank the celebration sponsors and contributors

Hotel Caribe Akumal
Lol-Ha Restaurant and Beach Bar
Akumal Dive Center
Akumal Dive Shop
Centro Ecológico Akumal
Travel Services of Akumal

Akumal business contributors:
La Buena Vida / Vista del Mar
La Cueva del Pescador
Que Onda
La Lunita Restaurant
Condominios Playa Caribe
Akumal Real Estate
Super El Pueblito
Turtle Bay Bakery
Ixchel Boutique
La Galeria
La Calaca
Akumal Villas
Akumal Direct
Akumal Rentals
Galeria La Manai
Lucy’s kitchen
Imelda’s good food
Mexico Maya
Bill in Tulsa
Caribbean Fantasy
Hertz Car Rental
Las Casitas Akumal
Las Villas AKumal
Hacienda de la Tortuga


Friday, April 17, 2009

Yucatán coral fossils show catastrophic sea-level rise?

From an article by Brian Handwerk for National Geographic News:

Fossil coral reefs at a Mexican theme park "confirm" that sea levels rose rapidly about 121,000 years ago, according to a controversial new study.

Previous research on fossil reefs had shown that sea levels surged by 13 to 19 feet (4 to 6 meters) near the end of the last time period between ice ages, known as an interglacial period. But researchers have been unsure whether this sea-level rise happened quickly or gradually.

By mapping the ages and locations of ancient corals at Xcaret, an eco-park in the Yucatán Peninsula, Paul Blanchon of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and colleagues, were able to chart when the reefs died and were replaced by others on higher ground.

Their data suggest that sea levels rose by about 10 feet (3 meters) in 50 years—much faster than the current annual rate of 0.08 to 0.1 inch (2 to 3 millimeters).

Because this event happened during an interglacial period—similar to the one we're in currently—the find boosts the chances that today's melting ice sheets could trigger rapid sea-level rise, the study authors say.

But not all experts on corals and climate are convinced by the new study.

Tad Pfeffer, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, noted that Blanchon's team couldn't directly measure the rate of sea level change around the Mexican corals, because the age estimates aren't accurate enough.

Instead the study authors compared changes seen in Xcaret to those seen in reefs with well-established ages in the Bahamas.

"It's an interesting idea, but one that for me is only suggestive and not compelling," Pfeffer said.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The importance of seagrass

From an article posted on the site of the Reef Systems Unit in Puerto Morelos:

Common in reef lagoons and sandy bays of the Caribbean, seagrass communities play an important role in maintaining the equilibrium of tropical coastal ecosystems. As primary producers, seagrasses help form the foundation of the food chain and provide sustenance for a great many reef organisms. In addition to food, seagrasses also provide several other important services to the reef community: they are the main spawning and nursery area for local populations of fish, lobster and other reef creatures, and they trap and bind sediment providing both a reservoir for beach replenishment and a barrier against shifting sand for immobile reef creatures such as corals. The scientific study of seagrasses is therefore critical in understanding how to prevent beach erosion, maintain viable fisheries, and protect and replenish the coral-reef community.

The seagrass community consists of one or more seagrass species as well as rhizophytic calcareous and fleshy macro-algae. The dominant members of the community are the seagrasses, which are similar in structure to many terrestrial plants having leaves, roots, and rhizomes (horizontal and vertical branches growing beneath the sediment). In the Caribbean there are 8 species of seagrasses, but the most common are turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), and shoal grass (Halodule wrightii).

We study the processes which control and influence the seagrass community at both population and community levels. Our close proximity to seagrass meadows in the shallow reef lagoon of Puerto Morelos allows us to undertake regular monitoring and in situ experiments using scuba.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Turn the Tide for Turtles

From the Ocean Project's Seas the Day campaign:

With spring coming (at least in the northern hemisphere), you can begin to think of new ways to transport yourself that will also help our ocean planet . . . by rethinking your commute: Many of us are addicted to our cars, but there are many easy ways to use the car less, with the added benefits of saving money and getting healthy exercise. If you can, walk and bike more often; take public transportation regularly; actively seek carpooling partners; suggest carless days in your work place; or work from home sometimes. If you drive, park a mile from your place of work and walk the rest of the way. Do the same in parking lots: park as soon as possible and stretch those legs. Consider this for added incentive: The approximate amount of fuel wasted in traffic congestion each year is equivalent to nine billion gallons, or 800 times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez!

Fewer cars on the roads means less of the greenhouse gas emissions wreaking havoc on coral reefs around the world, better air for us all to breathe, and less water pollution from runoff from leaking oil and toxic car liquids.

By the way, if you fly a lot for work, try cutting back on air travel, a significant but often ignored contributor to climate change pollution. Before booking your next plane flight, check whether there are any good train or bus options are available; this great resource on getting around the world by train might come in handy, too. If you do fly, eliminate your CO2 baggage with contributions to carbon offset companies that invest in renewable energy to take up or save an equal amount of CO2.

Turn the Tide for Turtles by slowing down but not being idle: Remember the Aesop fable of the turtle and the hare? When driving, it’s best to become a "slow and steady" driver, with fewer fast starts and stops. It may take a new mindset, but try to accelerate more gradually and slow down on the roads. Simply driving at or slightly below the speed limit will make a huge difference.

The fuel efficiency of an average car improves significantly on highways if you don’t speed; for instance, driving at 75 mph (120km/h) rather than 65 mph (105 km/h) increases gasoline use by 25 percent. Fuel efficiency improves even further if you slow down from 65 mph to 55 mph (90km/h)! And remember, one of the easiest ways to help our planet, save money, and reduce wear and tear is by turning off your engine if parked in one place for more than 30 seconds.
Get other tips on commuting to save the seas.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Regional governments urged to adopt climate change policies

From an article on Caribbean Net News:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: St Lucia Prime Minister, Stephenson King is urging Caribbean governments to develop, strengthen and apply national and regional adaptation policies that will address Climate Change concerns within the Region.

He also called on the governments to pursue vigorously mitigation, adaptation and resource mobilisation strategies to combat Climate Change.

The Prime Minister pointed out that his country had already set the example in developing adaptation strategies and policies to reduce its vulnerabilities to the impact of Climate Change. He also urged other Caribbean governments to incorporate Climate Change considerations into their budgetary exercises and to ensure that their country’s projects and programmes were “climate friendly.”

King who has lead responsibility for Sustainable Development, including Disaster Management and Water in the quasi Cabinet of CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government was delivering the keynote address at the official opening ceremony of the Second Caribbean Community Climate Change Conference held in Castries Saint Lucia at the Garden Bay Hotel on 23-24 March.

Noting that Climate Change affected every aspect of human existence and development, the Prime Minister warned the conference: “do not sit and wait for the rising seas to engulf us but, work actively to explore ways that we can respond to Climate Change while pursuing a broader development agenda.”

He pointed to several other critical actions that the Region must adopt in order to meet its sustainable development objectives: exploring renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro-electric power as a mitigation strategy to counter both the effects of climate change and the global economic crisis; adopting a ‘no regrets” approach to adaptation which include improving water management and health systems; prudent management of rain forests; increased public awareness and empowering relevant regional institutions such as the CCCCC and our tertiary education institutions to support the Climate Change agenda.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The “Great Turtle Race” is back!

From Conservation International:

In three days, Conservation International and National Geographic’s “Great Turtle Race” hits the open ocean. This year, eleven leatherback sea turtles will be racing from Canada’s Atlantic coast to the beaches of the Caribbean.

Don't miss out on the action.

Sign up for daily race reports.

Here are a few exciting details about the upcoming race:

+ All eleven turtles are tagged with a satellite-tracking device that will allow you to follow them from Canada to the Caribbean.

+ U.S. Olympic swimmers Amanda Beard, Janet Evans, Jason Lezak, and Eric Shanteau will “coach” our competitors and post notes of encouragement to the turtles throughout the race.

+ Rock bands REM and Pearl Jam have jumped on the turtle bandwagon. Both bands have picked their early favorites.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Luxury yacht drops anchor on Barrier Reef; captain detained

From an article from The San Pedro Sun (Ambergris Caye, Belize):

On Tuesday, April 7th, a three story, luxury yacht flying a Bermudan flag from the Caribbean was impounded and its captain detained after it anchored on the reef directly east of San Pedro Town. According to reports the vessel, named Azteca, dropped anchor within meters of the reef early Tuesday morning in a depth of about 35 feet of water. Tour operators immediately notified Hol Chan Marine Reserve who in turn contacted the relevant authorities. Law enforcement officers including members from the Department of Environment (DOE), San Pedro Police, Immigration, Customs and The Belize Coast Guard were dispatched to the area where the captain, 49-year-old Mexican, Salvador Villeras Eckart who resides in Cancun, Mexico was detained.

Eckart told authorities that he was heading into Belizean waters a few miles off the reef when ropes got caught up in the propellers of the vessel. According to Eckart the engine on the vessel automatically shut down and the vessel took a turn for the reef. To avoid a direct impact on the reef, Eckart stated that they decided to use the anchors to bring the vessel to a stop. The anchors ripped through a large area of the reef before coming to a stand still, however a constant northeasterly wind kept moving the vessel moving in different locations causing further damage.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Book review -- Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis

From an article by Monique Beaudin in the Ottawa Citizen:

Even if you think you understand what humanity faces in the enormous challenge that is climate change, reading Alanna Mitchell's new book Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis [ by Alanna Mitchell] will make you realize how little humans understand about our impact on the planet.

Large swaths of the planet's population now accept -- after years of warning by scientists -- that the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal is pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and slowly raising the Earth's temperature. On land, we are already feeling the impacts of global warming: rising sea levels, melting glaciers and disappearing species.

That's nothing compared to what's going on in the water.

The ocean, which covers three quarters of the planet, is sick. And it's not just a head cold, Mitchell suggests.

The ocean absorbs one-third of the extra carbon we're putting into the atmosphere, and that's changing the water's pH level, making it more acidic. Water temperature is rising. Increasing amounts of fresh water -- from melting glaciers -- are affecting the ocean's salinity.

All bad news when you think of the importance of the ocean and marine life on Earth.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Americas on alert for sea level rise

From a story by James Painter on

Climate change experts in North and South America are increasingly worried by the potentially devastating implications of higher estimates for possible sea level rises.

The Americas have until now been seen as less vulnerable than other parts of the world like low-lying Pacific islands, Vietnam or Bangladesh.

But the increase in the ranges for anticipated sea level rises presented at a meeting of scientists in Copenhagen in March has alarmed observers in the region.

Parts of the Caribbean, Mexico and Ecuador are seen as most at risk. New York City and southern parts of Florida are also thought to be particularly vulnerable.

The 2007 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report suggested that sea levels would rise by between 19cm (7.5 inches) and 59cm by the end of this century.

But several scientists at the Copenhagen meeting spoke of a rise of a metre or more, even if the world's greenhouse gas emissions were kept at a low level.

Melting of the polar ice sheets is one of the main drivers behind the new estimates.

"A rise of one metre will irreversibly change the geography of coastal areas in Latin America," Walter Vergara, the World Bank's lead engineer on climate change in the region, told the BBC.

"For example, a one-metre rise would flood an area in coastal Guyana where 70% of the population and 40% of agricultural land is located. That would imply a major reorganisation of the country's economy."

Mr Vergara and other experts are also concerned about the effect on the large coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rising sea levels coupled with severe storms could be devastating
"These new data on sea level rises are alarming," says Arnoldo Matus Kramer, a researcher on climate change adaptation at Oxford University.

"When combined with the exponential growth of urbanisation and tourism along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican Caribbean, it is extremely worrying."


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Turneffe Atoll Biodiversity Initiative

From an initiative of the Ocean Society:

Turneffe Atoll is the largest and most biologically diverse coral atoll in the Western Hempisphere. Located 25 miles east of Belize City and isurrounded by deep oceanic waters, Turneffe is approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.

The islands, some larger than 5,000 acres, are covered by at least 77 different vegetation types. Mangrove forests are interspersed with brackish lagoons, covering most of the low-lying areas. A reef crest and magnificent shallow coral buttresses is followed by reef rim on the outer reef drop-off.

Biological Significance
Turneffe's healthy reefs support diverse species including the endemic white spotted toadfish and white lined toadfish. The abundant sponges offer rich feeding grounds for the endangered hawksbill sea turtle and atoll beaches serve as nesting sites for loggerhead and green sea turtles. Historically, Blackbird Caye South was known to have the largest sea turtle nesting site on the Atoll, and in recent years, loggerhead turtles have successfully nested at the Blackbird Oceanic Field Station beaches. . . .

Until 2000, commercial development at Turneffe consisted of small-scale dive resorts and a fishing resort. However in recent years, transfer of land from public to private ownership has escalated deforestation of prime natural habitats. Lack of protection for the largely in-tact natural forest and clearing for developments presents the greatest threat to the survival of all terrestrial wildlife on Turneffe.

Rainbow parrotfish the largest herbivorous fish in the Atlantic Ocean are totally dependent on mangrove nursery areas and are becoming locally extinct in some locations due to mangrove clearance, which also threaterns reef health through algal overgrowth.

Illegal fishing is a growing problem, exacerbated by the lack of any enforcement presence on the atoll. In particular, it involves the harvesting of undersized and out of season marine species. Illegal fishing gear can harm nontarget species such as manatees and sea turtles.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Even "beach tourism" depends on nature

From an article titled "Can Ecotourism Be More Than an Illusion?" by Stephen Leahy on Tierramérica:

Tourism has a paradox at its core: it has revealed natural wonders that humanity realizes it cannot allow to disappear, but at the same time humanity has put those very natural wonders in danger, say experts.

QUEBEC CITY, Mar 23 (Tierramérica).- But others wonder if tourism can be truly sustainable when it involves flying thousands of kilometers to reach some "carbon-neutral" eco-lodge in the jungle.

Climate change is a major concern and air transport makes a significant contribution, sustainable tourism expert Costas Christ, told more than 500 attendees of the International Symposium on Sustainable Tourism Development, Mar. 16-19.

However, Christ said, it is also important to tell the public that international tourism has played a major role in preserving biodiversity and in conservation in general.

"Without tourism, the Pantanal (in South America), the world's largest wetland, would have just turned into a major cattle feed-lot for McDonald's," said Christ, a former board chair of The International Ecotourism Society.

If it weren't for tourism, Africa would not have its game parks and nature preserves, and the Coral Triangle (which encompasses the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) would have been devastated by overfishing, he continued.

"Tourism is not the problem; the challenge is how to do tourism right," Christ told Tierramérica in an interview.

As an industry, tourism has made many mistakes over the years, but has come to realize that with climate change and other environmental concerns there is no future for tourism without becoming more sustainable, he believes.

Indeed, the very essence of tourism is selling culture and nature, and those must be protected or there will be no industry -- "Business and political leaders have to understand this," he said.

Even mass-market tourism - sometimes called beach tourism - depends on nature, although he believes people are moving away from that type of vacation in general.


Friday, April 3, 2009

South Florida scientist works to save damaged coral reefs

An anchor from a large ship damaged this coral reef. (c) Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank

From an article by Susan Cocking in The Miami Herald:

Biscayne National Park's veteran chief scientist bends over a tile saw in the hot sun, cutting what looks like a piece of rock in half. Out pop three wriggling orange worms.

''We're making them very unhappy,'' Richard Curry chuckles.

Nearby, a half-dozen helpers are forming what appear to be popsicles, gluing the cut rock fragments onto PVC dowels. Each is numbered, measured, weighed and photographed. The worms go into a vial of water where they commence spewing ink on each other.

Curry and his band of volunteers are not working with rocks, but with live coral fragments beaten and cut by boat groundings, hurricanes and underwater construction. Nursed back to health at a nondescript triage facility on Virginia Key, they are destined for one of four underwater nurseries in the park where they will remain for more than a decade until they grow large enough to be replanted to create new reefs.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Turtle vs. plastic bag

From EcoOcean:


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Whale Shark Festival set for July 1-5

From a post on BYM Marine Environment News:

This summer, thousands of visitors to Isla Mujeres, Mexico will celebrate the beauty and culture of this fishing community while championing the need to preserve a fragile marine ecosystem at the Whale Shark Festival, a five-day extravaganza that showcases the achievements, the traditions and the environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres.

Announced today, Project Domino, an initiative sponsored by the Mexican government helping scientists study whale sharks, has joined the Festival as a partner. Project Domino is dedicated to the study, preservation and tracking of whale sharks in the waters surrounding the Yucatan. Their local Photo Identification library is shared with the Global Tracking Library.

Project Domino joins Festival sponsors Ceviche Tours, an ecotourism company, and the Department of Tourism for Isla Mujeres. Nonprofit partners include environmental leaders ECOCEAN, a renowned marine conservation organization; and Amigos de Isla Contoy A.C., which promotes the conservation of Isla Contoy, nature areas and regional projects of the Yucatan peninsula.

The Festival will be held July 1-5, 2009 in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

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