Friday, July 31, 2009

Caribbean reefs face severe summer threat

From an article by Andrew C. Revkin on The New York Times' Dot Earth:

Coral reefs in a broad swath of the Caribbean face a substantial risk of severe bleaching and die-offs through October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Wednesday [July 22] in its latest Coral Reef Watch report.

Similar conditions may develop in the southern Gulf of Mexico and central Pacific, the agency said. But the report said the widest area of high risk was in the southern Caribbean, from Nicaragua’s east coast across the south coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and from Puerto Rico south along the Lesser Antilles. Rising ocean temperatures are contributing to the risk, the report said, noting that the National Climatic Data Center reported that in June the world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record.

From the report:
Scientists are concerned that bleaching may reach the same levels or exceed those recorded in 2005, the worst coral bleaching and disease year in Caribbean history. In parts of the eastern Caribbean, as much as 90 percent of corals bleached and over half of those died during that event.

See an ealier report here.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Algae has eyes!

From an article by Christine Dell'Amore on National Geographic News:

The single-celled algae that set up house inside hard corals and give reefs their vibrant colors may be able to see, a new study says.

The algae—called zooxanthellae—have mysterious crystal-like deposits, which were found to be made of uric acid, a common element in light-reflecting structures in insect and animal eyes.

The substance in the algae had been previously misidentified as calcium oxalate, which is often found in plants, the researchers say.

The algae's crystal clusters strongly reflected light in lab experiments, suggesting that "this is really a functional eye," study co-author Kazuhiko Koike, of Japan's Hiroshima University, said in an email.

Each of the single-celled orgamisms also contains a photoreceptor molecule, which creates an "eyespot."

Eyespots are light-sensitive patches that allow simple organisms, such as jellyfish and some other algae, to sense their environments.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekly Internet video broadcasts on ocean issues

From an e-mail sent by Ocean Champions:

. . . be sure to join us today [July 29, 2009] for Rob Moir's Environmental Dialogues as Ocean Champions' Mike Dunmyer will be discussing Toxic Tides and other priority ocean issues with Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA). Congressman Baird Chairs the Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, and is a knowledgeable leader on ocean issues in Congress.

Rob Moir's Environmental Dialogues air every Wednesday from noon to 1:00 PM EST (9:00 AM to 10:00 AM PST). These lively dialogues and revealing narratives inquire into how individuals are overcoming the obstacles of turning forlorn hope into effective actions for oceans, rivers, watersheds, wildlife and ecosystems. Today's show includes the Massachusetts Ocean Program and Seaweed Rebel David Helvarg (Blue Frontier).

In addition, at roughly 12:45 EST each week, Ocean Champions talks with Dr. Moir about breaking ocean news including happenings in Washington DC.

You can tune in via Internet radio at:


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Smaller, more concentrated 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico

From an article on Underwater Times News Service:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NOAA-supported scientists, led by Nancy Rabalais, Ph.D., from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), found the size of this year's Gulf of Mexico dead zone to be smaller than forecasted, measuring 3,000 square miles. However the dead zone, which is usually limited to water just above the sea floor, was severe where it did occur, extending closer to the water surface then in most years.

Earlier this summer, NOAA-sponsored forecast models developed by R. Eugene Turner, Ph. D. of Louisiana State University and Donald Scavia, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan, predicted a larger than normal dead zone area of between 7,450 – 8,456 square miles. The forecast was driven primarily by the high nitrate loads and high freshwater flows from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers in spring 2009 as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Rabalais believes the smaller than expected dead zone is due to unusual weather patterns that re-oxygenated the waters, among other factors.

"The winds and waves were high in the area to the west of the Atchafalaya River delta and likely mixed oxygen into these shallower waters prior to the cruise, thus reducing the area of the zone in that region," said Rabalais. "The variability we see within each summer highlights the continuing need for multiple surveys to measure the size of the dead zone in a more systematic fashion."

"The results of the 2009 cruise at first glance are hopeful, but the smaller than expected area of hypoxia appears to be related to short-term weather patterns before measurements were taken, not a reduction in the underlying cause, excessive nutrient runoff." said Robert Magnien, PhD., director of NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. "The smaller area measured by this one cruise, therefore, does not represent a trend and in no way diminishes the need for a harder look at efforts to reduce nutrient runoff."

Runoff also presents a problem along the Mexican coastline.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Oceans hold the solution to Earth's woes

From a commentary in the Miami Herald by Sam Waterston, actor and board member for global ocean conservation group Oceana:

They've been a highway for goods and people, connecting us to the world, and a barrier against foreign invasion, protecting us from the world; a source of food and wealth, going back to our earliest beginnings, when whale oil lit our houses and when cod were so plentiful in New England that huge specimens were commonly stacked like cordwood on New England docks and wharves and still there were so many that you could walk on their backs across some harbors.

Until the recent unrelenting hammering by our technologically impressive, very efficient, very destructive fishing fleets, the seas have been an inexhaustible cornucopia of sea life for our sustenance, delight and wonder. For just as long, they've been an uncomplaining dump. They've absorbed our waste -- trash, sewage and, from manufacturing and power generation, nuclear waste and oil spills.

For the last 250 years, oceans have also been a great sink, absorbing 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, moderating and masking its global impact. They take in 11 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Each year, the amount we release grows another 3 percent.

Early-warning system
And still the oceans serve us. In fact, they're performing double service. First, they are giving us early warning, telling us in plain language, the certain consequences of continuing to consume as we are. Second, they're offering us a solution to the problem that has brought us to this dangerous moment, namely humanity's vast appetite for energy. So what happens to the carbon dioxide absorbed by the seas? It combines with seawater to create carbonic acid, changing the acidity of that vast solution and reducing the amount of available carbonate. And that is serious mischief for all kinds of sea life, from corals and pteropods, continuing on through shellfish, clams, oysters, lobsters, mussels and so on, that need carbonate to make the structures that support them.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Study shows ocean health plays vital role in coral reef recovery

Jessica Carilli (left) collects a core sample using an air-powered drill system. Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

From a news release issued by Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

The new research study led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that by improving overall ocean health, corals are better able to recover from bleaching events, which occur when rising sea temperatures force corals to expel their symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that is expected to increase in frequency as global climate change increases ocean temperatures worldwide.

The new findings, published in the July 22 issue of the journal PLoS ONE, show that following a major bleaching event Mountainous star coral (Montastraea faveolata) on various reefs in Honduras and Belize was able to recover and grow normally within two to three years when the surrounding waters and reef were relatively healthy. In comparison, those corals living with excessive local impacts, such as pollution, were not able to fully recover after eight years.

"You can imagine that when you are recovering from a sickness, it will take a lot longer if you don't eat well or get enough rest," said Jessica Carilli, Scripps graduate student and lead author on the study. "Similarly, a coral organism that must be constantly trying to clean itself from excess sediment particles will have a more difficult time recovering after a stressful condition like bleaching."

Carilli and colleagues analyzed 92 coral cores collected from four reef sites off the coast of Honduras and Belize. The cores were collected from reefs with different degrees of local stress from pollution, overfishing and sediment and nutrient run off from land. By using x-rays, the researchers were able to examine the coral's annual growth rate records since 1950, including the time before and after a major bleaching event in 1998.

"It is clear that Mesoamerican corals really fell off a cliff in 1998 -- nearly everybody suffered mass bleaching," said Dick Norris, Scripps professor of paleooceanography and co-author of the study. "There are no pristine reefs in the region, but the ones in the best shape clearly are more resilient than those that are long-suffering. It shows that a little improvement in growing conditions goes a long way in recovering coral health."


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Turtle rescued after swallowing balloon; 'It's extremely common'

From an article on Underwater Times News Service:

SARASOTA, Florida -- An endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) has been brought to Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Hospital after it swallowed a balloon - an episode that we hope will remind residents and visitors to stow their trash carefully.

The 3.3-pound young turtle with a carapace 8.7 inches long washed up on a sandbar near the south end of Lido Key on Tuesday, July 14, with what appeared to be fishing line hanging from its mouth. Concerned swimmers called Mote biologists, who brought the Kemp's ridley to Mote's Sea Turtle Hospital.

Before removing the pink line, which had scraped skin from the turtle's face, Mote staff used radiographs to verify that the turtle had not swallowed a fishing hook. Instead, they found remnants of a black balloon.

"Balloons can look like jellyfish or squid - things sea turtles like to eat," said Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. "It's extremely common to find sea turtles that have swallowed balloons, fishing hooks, monofilament lines and other dangerous objects."


Monday, July 20, 2009

Sea turtle attacked by dogs goes home to Virgin Islands

From an Associated Press article posted by the Miami Herald:

MARATHON, Fla. -- A hawksbill sea turtle being treated at a hospital in the Florida Keys after being attacked by wild dogs in the Virgin Islands is ready to go home.

"Sandy," a mature nesting female, was flown from St. Croix to Miami for free on an American Airlines jet last November. Officials at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon say she's to return the same way Wednesday.

A hospital veterinarian amputated the reptile's front right flipper. Sandy was given antibiotics and tube fed. When she was strong enough, she underwent a physical therapy program that included learning how to swim and catch food with one flipper missing.


Friday, July 17, 2009

First Bahamas Lionfish Derby huge success: 1,408 lionfish in 1 day!

From an article by Lad Akins in REEF's July/August newsletter:

The first Bahamas Lionfish Derby, held on June 6 at the Green Turtle Club in Abaco, was a great success on many fronts. This test case for the Bahamas government was the first to allow (by special permit) the use of compressed air and spearing to remove lionfish in a derby type event. Organized by Abaco and Palm Beach resident Bobbie Lindsay and REEF, the one-day event drew 26 registered teams and brought in 1, 408 lionfish. Over $5,000 in prize money was awarded including $2,000 for the most fish by any team – 289 by team White Roach from Abaco. The largest fish award went to Team Panga with a 349mm fish and the smallest fish was brought in by Big T with a 57mm juvenile. Pre-event talks, including a school wide talk to the Amy Roberts elementary school, were well attended and generated significant awareness of the lionfish issue. Over 200 participants, residents and visitors attended the scoring and awards banquet and were treated to a lionfish tasting as well.

Lionfish are a problem. "The highly poisonous hunter-killer, which is normally found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, is the first non-native fish to establish itself in the Atlantic, where it is eating its way through other species faster than they can breed."


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Little boy could cause coral apocalypse

From an article by Jonathan Faull on Minivan News (Maldives):

The global scientific community is in broad agreement that weather patterns developing in the Eastern Pacific spell “El Nino” for the coming year.

Concurrently a meeting of prominent scientists in London has warned that the ongoing effects of carbon emissions, in conjunction with more frequent El Nino weather cycles, could wipe functional reef ecosystems from the face of the earth in the next 20 to 40 years.

The confluence of global warming and El Nino was highlighted this week by Environment Minister Aslam Mohamed, during a speech to a rock concert in Cornwall, England and in a subsequent interview with The Guardian newspaper.

"[Rising sea-levels and coral bleaching are] like a terminal disease for us," he told the Guardian. "It's in our people's minds all the time, but they also have to get on with their day-to-day lives. They also have to worry about reliable power, fresh water and sewage."

El Nino (meaning ‘little boy’ in Spanish) is not a new visitor to the Maldives. The phenomenon damaged more than 95 per cent of the Maldives’ reefs, with widespread “bleaching” of corals following three months of unusually high seawater temperatures between March and June 1998.

Thomas le Berre, managing director of environmental consultancy Seamarc Pvt, Ltd, said that a full-blown El Nino system “would be a disaster” for coral systems in the Maldives.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Protection of land crabs critical to the conservation of coastal tropical forests

From an article by Morgan ERickson-Davis and Jeremy Hance on

The impact of land crabs on the near-ocean forests in which they live has long been overlooked, with emphasis placed instead on water levels, salinity, and other abiotic influences. However, a new research synthesis published in Biological Reviews shows that land crab influence is among the most important factors affecting tropical forest growth along coasts, on islands, and in mangroves.

Land crabs come in a variety of species from the tiny Ecuadorian Hermit Crab, which weighs less than an ounce, to the Coconut Crab which, at 38lbs, is the world's largest terrestrial invertebrate. While many species are similar in appearance to their aquatic relatives, land crabs exhibit an array of unique adaptations, the most notable and universal being an inflatable organ covering their gills which acts as a lung. In addition to an ability to extract oxygen from the air, many species of land crabs can extract moisture from their surroundings (from the soil they burrow into or the food they eat, for example), necessitating their return to the sea only to reproduce.

Most species of land crabs are omnivorous and can have quite an impact on terrestrial vegetation, so much so that many populations have become pests to farmers who grow crops near tropical coasts. Even so, the crabs' role in the development of coastal ecosystems has only begun to be understood. "Land crabs are found in coastal forests which have been understudied due to inaccessibility in remote areas and habitat loss (deforestation) in developed areas." says Dr. Erin Lindquist, professor at Meredith College and coauthor of the recently published synthesis. "In addition there has been little groundwork on the natural history of land crabs."

However, recent research has begun to reveal the true nature of the crabs' impact on their environment.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Unstoppable devastation of Guatemalan mangroves

Fringing red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) are an essential nursery habitat for coral reef species. Uncontrolled coastal development in the Caribbean is threatening the survival of both mangrove and coral reef communities. The Dominican Republic today is one of the hot spots of major habitat destruction in the region, followed closely by the Mexican Caribbean. Photo by Dr. Sarah Frias-Torres/Marine Photobank

From an article by Danilo Valladares in Tierramérica:

GUATEMALA CITY, Jul 13 (Tierramérica).- "Before, this place was beautiful. It was truly a mangrove forest. When the shrimpers arrived, the logging meant that we lost 60 percent of it," said Francisco Vásquez, manager of a hotel on the Pacific coast, in the southeastern Guatemalan department of Jutiapa.

The deforestation led to sedimentation and has had a visible effect on the animals, because the mangrove forests serve as a sanctuary for the reproduction of many species, including fish, mammals and migratory birds," Vásquez told Tierramérica.

According to a study by the Savia School of Ecological Thought, in the past 50 years this country of 108,889 square kilometers lost two-thirds of its original forested area and the biodiversity that it held. The current rate of deforestation is 73,000 hectares per year.

The disappearance of forests has reduced the natural ability to regulate climate and increased the risk of landslides. Furthermore, entire ecosystems have been lost, with their flora and fauna, as well as the capacity to capture, filter and store water resources, warns the study.

The case of the mangroves is one of the most dramatic, according to ecologists. "Many mangroves are destroyed by agro-industrial activities, cotton, African palm, shrimp farms, and, more recently, the construction of tourism complexes," Carlos Salvatierra, an expert with the Savia School, told Tierramérica.

Mangrove forests, which grow in coastal zones of tropical countries, "constitue one of the planet's most productive ecosystems for the great quantity of animals it houses - birds, mammals, mollusks, crustaceans, which are important for the livelihood of local communities," he added.

The tangled form of the mangrove tree, or bush, acts as a natural barrier that filters out pollution, impedes salinization of the soil, prevents erosion and blocks strong winds.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Turneffe Atoll, Belize

A description of Turneffe Atoll from the Oceanic 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.

What makes Turneffe Atoll so important?
*It harbors the largest of the American saltwater crocodile population (approximately 200-300 individuals) and highest concentration of nesting activity in Belize.

*It is the only offshore range for the endangered Antillean manatee. Both single animals and cow-calf pairs have been observed.

*It's littoral forests and brackish lagoons support amphibians, such as the giant marine toad; reptiles, such as the green tree snake, a sub-species endemic to Turneffe that includes some individuals with a brilliant blue coloration.

*It is an important feeding and calving ground for bottlenose dolphins (approximately 150-200), which are common to the lagoon and shallow reefs.

*At least 60 species of birds are found at Turneffe during the height of the migratory season, including 18 species of nesting birds. Endangered and threatened nesting species include the Least Tern, Roseate Tern and the White Crowned Pigeon, which also feeds in the littoral forest.

*The large expanses of intact mangrove and seagrass habitat and shallows serve as a huge nursery area for a wide array of fish species, crocodiles, manatees, dolphins and invertebrates. In addition to rich nursery areas, Turneffe has at least three known important fish spawning aggregation sites.

Many of the species found on and around Turneffe are listed as endangered. Some are unique (endemic). The atolls ecosystems are largely intact, although pressure for development is escalating; overfishing has become a problem, and coral bleaching and diseases remain constant threats.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Sense of community below high tide

A sea ethic from Blue Ocean Institute:

In his classic 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold called for a “Land Ethic” – an extension of our sense of community beyond humanity to include the whole living landscape. Inclusion, compassion, and stewardship were implicit in his idea. For many nature lovers, the ocean seems distant, vague. It now seems desirable that we should extend our sense of community below high tide — complementing the Land Ethic with a “Sea Ethic” — including all life on Earth in our concept of community.

“The ocean displays to us a dismissive, inscrutable exterior, all motion and mood, all mask and disguise, seemingly rolling on as always, its face silent about substance, its countenance mute on content, the extent of its wrinkles never varying over time. But don't underestimate her. Ninety-nine percent of Life's habitable volume is in the seas, and planet Earth would likely bear abundant and complex life if no emergent land existed. But without an ocean, this planet would merely spin unnamed three orbits from a star, its browned-out face as its own sterile moonscape. How do we begin to acknowledge a debt of such magnitude?” – Carl Safina, “A Sea Ethic: Floating the Ark”


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sea Turtle Adventure, August 9 - 15, 2009, Akumal, Mexico

From an announcement on

Minnesota Zoo is working with Just Imagine Vacations, Inc to do a week-long Sea Turtle Camp in Akumal. The camp is for students in Grades 10 - 12.

The students will work nights with the Centro Ecologico Akumal's Turtle Protection Program's staff and volunteers. They will go out on watches and look for nesting mothers as well as nests that will be hatching.

In addition, they will be taking two small side trips to a Spider Monkey Preserve and to Xcaret to tour their Sea Turtle Hospital and enjoy the day at the park.

The camp will also include snorkeling in Akumal's wonderful bays. Please contact us if you would like more information on this trip.

More information: Julie Ketterling, Minnesota Zoo Naturalist, at 952.431.9227.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meet Utila's whalesharks

From the Web site of Deep Blue Utila:

Surprisingly not much is actually known about the world's largest fish. Whale sharks have recently become protected in Honduras and Utila is on their main migratory path. A scuba diving vacation with Deep Blue Utila will provide you with the opportunity of seeing and even snorkelling with these awesome creatures.

Our Utila Whale Shark Research Project over the next five years will provide new information to add to the slowly growing knowledge base. Photographs taken of the Utila whale sharks are being added to ECOCEAN, an international whale shark database. In 2007 a whale shark was tracked through three different countries, this is the first time this has happened anywhere in the world.

Meet the 84 identified Utila sharks here.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009


From the Web site of Rainforest2Reef:
Rainforest2Reef is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the biological corridor stretching from the rainforest of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to the Mesoamerican Reef.

Rainforest2Reef’s mission is to protect biodiversity, maintain ecosystem services, and slow climate change by safeguarding tropical forests, coral reefs and the corridors connecting these threatened habitats. We do this by working in partnership with local communities to protect ecologically important lands through innovative mechanisms, using sound scientific research to manage and monitor protected areas, and developing non-extractive economic activities that improve livelihoods of local people.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Florida reef protection law begins

From a story on WCTV, Tallahassee:

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is alerting boaters, divers and anglers that the Coral Reef Protection Act goes into effect on July 1, 2009. The law, the result of House Bill 1423 passed during the recent legislative session, will increase the protection of Florida’s endangered coral reefs by helping raise awareness of the damages associated with vessel groundings and anchoring on coral reefs off the coasts of Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties. The law also authorizes penalties for the destruction of reef resources and provides for efficient repair and mitigation of reef injuries.

“The Coral Reef Protection Act will allow us to work with local and state governments to increase public awareness about coral reef protection and the likelihood that responsible parties who damage reefs are held accountable for their actions,” said Lee Edmiston, Director of the Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “The new law will also allow us to bring together experts to address reef damage in the most appropriate way.”

Fishing, diving and other boating-related activities on Florida’s coral reefs generate approximately $6 billion dollars in sales and income for Florida’s citizens and sustain more than 60,000 jobs annually according to report conducted by Hazen and Sawyer in association with Florida State University and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. In the new law, the Florida Legislature identifies coral reefs as an extraordinary biological, geological and economic resource, and states that protecting coral reefs and enacting monetary damage restitution to the state are in Florida’s best interest.

The new law will allow DEP to restore coral reefs by ensuring that those responsible for damaging coral reefs can face fines and penalties to help restore the damage. The law also allows the state to issue “first time” warnings in lieu of a fine to recreational boaters in certain instances, and specifies higher penalties for repeat offenders and for injuries which occur within a state park or aquatic preserve.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Loss of world's seagrass beds seen accelerating

A turtle cruises over a seagrass feeding ground in Akumal Bay, Mexico.

From a Reuters article by Jim Loney:

MIAMI (Reuters) - The world's seagrass meadows, a critical habitat for marine life and profit-maker for the fishing industry, are in decline due to coastal development and the losses are accelerating, according to a new study.

Billed as the first comprehensive global assessment of seagrass losses, the study found 58 percent of seagrass meadows are declining and the rate of annual loss has accelerated from about 1 percent per year before 1940 to 7 percent per year since 1990.

Published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study, based on more than 200 surveys and 1,800 observations dating back to 1879, found that seagrasses are disappearing at rates similar to coral reefs and tropical rainforests.

"Seagrasses are disappearing because they live in the same kind of environments that attract people," James Fourqurean, a professor at Florida International University and a co-author of the study, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

"They live in shallow areas protected from large storm waves, and they are especially prevalent in bays and around river mouths."

Scientists say seagrass processes waste dumped into the sea, helps stabilize ocean-bottom sediments in coastal areas to reduce erosion, provide nurseries for fish and shellfish and feeding grounds for larger marine creatures, including those that live in coral reefs.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Florida Keys ill-prepared for rising sea

From an article by Cammy Clark in The Miami Herald:

BIG PINE KEY -- Treasure salvors searching for an 18th-century wreck in the Florida Straits a few years ago made a fascinating but little noticed discovery.

Not buried treasure. Buried land.

Some 35 miles west of Key West, in 45 feet of water under a five-foot layer of dense mud lay an 8,500-year-old shoreline not unlike today's coast of the Florida Keys. There were well-preserved mangroves, pine cones and pine tree pieces, some amazingly still fragrant when brought to the surface.

'Looking at it, I was thinking: `Wow, this could be the shoreline of Big Pine Key,' '' said Corey Malcom, director of archaeology for the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society.

The prehistoric past paints a sobering picture of what many experts see as an all-too-near future for the string of low-lying islands that make up the Florida Keys.

''South Florida is on the front line against sea-level rise in the United States, and the Florida Keys are ground zero,'' said Evan Flugman, who co-authored a Florida International University report on the importance of Monroe County tackling the issue now.

By 2100, under the best-case predictions of a seven-inch sea-level rise by an international climate panel, the Keys would lose about 59,000 acres of real estate worth $11 billion, according to the nonprofit Nature Conservancy.

Under the panel's worst-case projection of ocean waters rising 23.2 inches, about 75 percent of the Keys 154,000 acres and nearly 50 percent of its $43 billion property value could become submerged. Consequences also include the loss of habitat for many endangered plants and species, including Key deer.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Whale shark festival, Isla Mujeres, July 15-19

From a news release issued by Cevichetours:

ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO -- 06/29/09 -- Immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of Isla Mujeres, Mexico at the Second Annual Whale Shark Festival, as Ceviche Tours and the Department of Tourism of Isla Mujeres today announced the official Schedule of Events for this five-day celebration to be held July 15-19, 2009.

Sponsored by several environmental leaders, the Whale Shark Festival will showcase the achievements, traditions and environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres while championing the need to preserve a fragile marine ecosystem. Whale shark tours, swimming with whale sharks and other ecotourism adventures are some of the activities guests can enjoy.

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