Monday, November 30, 2009

WILD9 adjourns with call to protect half of the planet

From a post on the blog of The Wild Foundation:

The week-long WILD9 congress concluded with the launch of a vision that humanity should move immediately to protect a least half of planet — land and sea — in an interconnected manner.

“That is what the science says; this is what many aboriginal people say. It is time for us to state clearly the scale of conservation intervention needed to make the 21st century one of hope instead of despair,” said Harvey Locke, The Wild Foundation vice president of conservation strategy, in the closing plenary session.
The launch of this vision built on a host of resolutions, strategies, initiatives and united support for international wilderness protection as the essential foundation of a healthy planet by more than 1500 conservation leaders and delegates from 51 countries representing academia, government, the private sector, science, native peoples, the arts, media and social sciences.

During WILD9’s opening ceremony Nov. 6, Mexico President Felipe Calderon announced a ground-breaking trilateral agreement between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada to cooperate on wilderness protection– the first time countries have formally agreed to collaborate on continent-wide conservation measures to protect ecosystems, migratory wildlife, and natural resources that do not start and end with geographical boundaries.

Both President Calderon and Yucatan Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco committed to increase the amount of protected wild areas including fragile and critical mangrove habitat on the Yucatan peninsula, emphasizing the new concept in Latin America of “tierras silvestres.” President Calderon underscored Mexico’s commitment to wilderness by canceling the first issue of the country’s first series of postage stamps featuring wild areas during WILD9’s opening night events.

WILD9 chairman Exequiel Ezcurra and WILD9 executive committee embodied the mission and character of WILD9 in The Merida Message (Mensaje de Merida), released Nov.10, which calls for the protection of critical land and sea wilderness areas to mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity and healthy ecosystems that provide products and services vital to human well-being. Many of the world’s leading conservation organizations and hundreds of individuals have already signed The Merida Message, which will be presented at the Copenhagen UNFCC climate change talks next month.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Healthy reefs buoy Haitian hopes for tourism revival

From an article by Nathanial Gronewold in The New York Times:

ARCADINS COAST, Haiti -- There was a time when Haiti was known as the "Pearl of the Antilles," a Caribbean vacation destination as famous as Jamaica or Puerto Rico are today.

Haiti's sandy beaches and coral reefs lured tourists by the boatload. Its 1,100 miles of coast offered playgrounds for scuba divers, yachtsmen and cruise ships. And the tourism trade until the early 1990s provided solid incomes for Haitians.

"It was much easier because you had a lot of tourists," recalled Jose Roy, a Haitian dive master here. "You really didn't have to fight for survival."

The government and private entities want the good old days and the tourists to return. They are pouring money into schemes aimed at restoring and protecting marine areas, much of which are still pristine despite the devastation wrought on land by deforestation and dense development of wetlands and floodplains.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Investment in ecosystems will reap rewards: UNEP

From a Reuters article by Nina Chkestney:

LONDON (Reuters) - Nations that take into account natural resources in their investment strategies will have higher rates of return and stronger economies, a report backed by the United Nations' Environment Programme said on Friday.

With less than one month until a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, the report urges policymakers to reform their economic policies to stop the destruction of natural resources such as forests and oceans.

"Repairing the ecosystem by replanting forests, restoring mangroves along coastlines or rebuilding coral reefs are very smart ways of doing adaptation. People going into Copenhagen are not necessarily aware of these things," Pavan Sukhdev, the leader of the study prepared by UNEP's Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Initiative, told Reuters.

For example, planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs over $1 million but it saves over $7 million in dyke maintenance expenditure.

The report estimates that investment in mangrove and woodland restoration could achieve rates of return up to 40 percent, tropical forest investment up to 50 percent and grassland investment 79 percent.

"We studied the economics of using nature better -- through adaptation and restoration. In each case we found the benefits exceed the cost, typically between 3 and 75 times," Sukhdev said.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Oceana Adoption Center open for the holidays

An announcement from Oceana:

Have you ever tried to gift wrap a shark? Put a bow on a polar bear? Wrangle a penguin into a gift box? Thankfully, you don’t have to actually wrap up an animal to give an Oceana gift. I’m so excited to tell you that the Oceana Adoption Center is open for business!

All the familiar creatures are back this year - sharks, sea turtles, octopuses, polar bears, penguins, seals, dolphins and whales - and we've made a special addition too. We are now offering The Casey Kit, a deluxe limited-edition sea turtle adoption inspired by Casey Sokolovic, a young ocean hero who has been baking and selling cookies to support the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles.

Until wrapping paper comes in rolls large enough for a hammerhead, Oceana’s adoptions are the best way to give the ocean-lovers on your list the perfect holiday present. Make sure to order before December 15 to get free holiday shipping. Your tax-deductible donation is not only a thoughtful gift to a lucky friend or family member, but it helps us here at Oceana do our work – protecting the oceans all over the world.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Seafood Choices Alliance’s 2010 Seafood Summit

From an announcement made by SeaWeb:

Registration is now open for Seafood Choices Alliance’s 2010 Seafood Summit, "Challenging Assumptions in a Changing World." The Summit returns to Europe this year and will be held for the first time in Paris, France from January 31 to February 2, and is one of the world's largest conferences dedicated to sustainable seafood. The 2010 Seafood Summit will feature panels, workshops and presentations on current issues in aquaculture, developing world fisheries, sustainability in Asian markets, certification, climate change and more. The goal of Summit is to foster dialogue and partnerships that leads to a global seafood marketplace that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mexico's 'giant underwater museum'

From a story by Dhruti Shah on BBC News:

Visitors to a national park in Cancun could soon come face-to-face with life-sized sculptures in human form fixed in the seabed, as plans to create what could be the world's largest underwater museum start to become a reality.

On 19 November, four sculptures are due to be submerged in the Caribbean waters, off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico's south-eastern state of Quintana Roo.

They will be the first of many hundreds of figures, which will be dotted around an area of the region's national park.

The sculptures will be made of PH-neutral concrete, which, it is hoped, will attract algae and marine life and give the local ecosystem a boost.

According to the park's director Jaime Gonzalez, one of the aims is to reduce the pressure on the natural habitat in other areas of the park by luring tourists away from existing coral reef, which has suffered damage from hurricanes and human activity.

Some 750,000 people visit the park a year, said Mr Gonzalez, with about 450,000 of them visiting Punta Nizuc, an area of just four hectares.

Link to another post with more on the sculptures.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coastal habitats may sequester 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area

"I took a journalist interested in mangroves into a small lagoon where juvenile sharks could be found. Instead of finding sharks, we found a backhoe dredging a large sand spit across the lagoon. The work was being done without sediment traps and as we later found out, without permits. One mangrove shoot stood in the eventual path of the backhoe and I decided to get a shot of it standing tall - both condemned and yet defiant to the bitter end." Photo and explanation by Matthew D Potenski, MDP Photography/Marine Photobank.

From an article by Jeremy Hance on

Highly endangered coastal habitats are incredibly effective in sequestering carbon and locking it away in soil, according to a new paper in a report by the IUCN. The paper attests that coastal habitats—such as mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marhses—sequester as much as 50 times the amount of carbon in their soil per hectare as tropical forest.

"The key difference between these coastal habitats and forests is that mangroves, seagrasses and the plants in salt marshes are extremely efficient at burying carbon in the sediment below them where it can stay for centuries or even millennia. Tropical forests are not as effective at transferring carbon into the soil below them, instead storing most carbon in the living plants and litter," explains the paper's author and Conservation International’s Marine Climate Change Director, Dr. Emily Pidgeon. "But coastal ecosystems keep sequestering large amounts of carbon throughout their life cycle. Equally, the majority of carbon stays locked away in the soil rather than the plant, so only a relatively small amount is released when the plant dies."

This capacity for coastal environments to lock away carbon for thousands of years has largely been ignored in accounts of the global carbon cycle, according to the paper, even though the amount of carbon they are responsible for storing is very high.

Coastal habitats with vegetation "[contribute] about half of the total carbon sequestration in ocean sediments even though they account for less than 2 percent of the ocean surface,” Pidgeon writes, explaining that much of this is capacity is due to the fact that coastal vegetation usually spreads deeper below ground than it grows above with some plants going as deep as eight meters.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Caribbean, Gulf spared widespread coral damage

From an article by David McFadden of the Associated Press:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Lower-than-feared sea temperatures this summer gave a break to fragile coral reefs across the Caribbean and the central Gulf of Mexico that were damaged in recent years, scientists said Thursday [November 5, 2009].

Unusually warm water in recent years has caused the animals that make up coral to expel the colorful algae they live with, creating a bleached color. If the problem persists, the coral itself dies — killing the environment where many fish and other marine organisms live.

"We dodged a bullet this year. The good news is that temperatures didn't get quite warm enough for there to be a large-scale bleaching problem," said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch network. He was among scientists gathered in Puerto Rico's capital for a meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.

The worst coral bleaching in the region's recorded history occurred in 2005, when hot seas caused bleaching of as much as 90 percent of corals in the eastern Caribbean, with more than half of that dying.

In July, the Coral Reef Watch network warned that high temperatures this year might lead to severe coral problems because sea surface temperatures in parts of the Caribbean were unusually hot.

Eaken said the threat had passed for 2009, since temperatures are now cooling, but the problem could return.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Climate change killing sea turtles

From an article on

PLAYA GRANDE, Costa Rica, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Climate change threatens the extinction of leatherback sea turtles that have called the Pacific Ocean home for 150 million years, scientists said.

Warmer temperatures and rising seas are further reducing turtle populations already devastated by beach development, net fishing and restaurants that consider turtle eggs a delicacy.

Just 32 leatherbacks were seen digging nests last year on a beach at Leatherback Sea Turtle National Park, Playa Grande, Costa Rica, where the park's turtle museum was abandoned three years ago and now is surrounded by weeds.

"We do not promote this as a turtle tourism destination anymore because we realize there are far too few turtles to please," Alvaro Fonseca, a park ranger, told The New York Times in a story published Saturday.


Friday, November 13, 2009

We get to choose fate of the seas

From a post on the blog of The Ocean Project:

Sylvia Earle - also known as "Her Deepness" and featured earlier this year in this blog when she won a coveted TED Prize - has written a book, The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One, published earlier this year and in which she discusses the huge changes in the world's ocean she has witnessed over the decades and offers her hopeful thoughts on how we can restore the health of our shared world ocean.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Earle provides her wise take on the state of our world ocean and what can be done, summarized nicely here: “We get to choose. We either get to choose by conscious action or by default because we are complacent... thinking somebody else will look after this. But nobody else will take care of these issues.”

Read the interview with Sylvia Earle, watch her on Colbert Nation (after the :30 commercial, you'll get a 5:47 interview by Stephen Colbert with Sylvia Earle)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coral highlights complexity of climate change

From an article by Lucy-Claire Saunders on China View:

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- Eli Fuller traverses the waters of Antigua's south shore like it was his backyard pool. He cuts left and right on his 45-foot speedboat the Xtreme, confidently dodging crosscurrents and coral reefs, saltwater spraying behind his silhouette.

The third generation Antiguan has been exploring this area for over two decades. Fuller's grandfather, who came to Antigua in 1941 as a United States vice-consul and opened the country's first hotel, making Fuller take his guests on day tours.

Now Fuller runs an eco-tour business and charges per person.

As he pulls back on Xtreme's throttle, the boat glides to a standstill over Cades Reef, a two-mile long wall of coral. But most of the reef is now a white skeleton of its former glory.

"It happened so quickly that you went from having what looked like an underwater jungle, like something you'd see in the Amazon forest, to being complete wreckage, like what you'd see at Ground Zero in New York," he said. "Just carnage."

In 2005, as much as 90 percent of the coral reefs in the Eastern Caribbean were destroyed bringing the worst year of coral bleaching and disease in Caribbean history. The reason could be a mixture of factors like warming waters and pollution, but more scientists are looking at Africa. But that shall be explained later. . . .

John Maginley, the minister of tourism, is in charge of the primary source of income for Antigua and Barbuda. He told Xinhua that tourism generates around 200 to 300 million U.S. dollars a year, roughly 65 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).

With fewer reefs to protect Antigua's valuable beaches from powerful storms, Maginley worries about his country's main source of income.

"Our motto in tourism is, 'The beach is just the beginning,'" he said. "And if we have a situation where beaches are being eroded, and the shoreline will be affected, things we have to offer to our tourism visitors are affected."

On Antigua's southwest coast on Crabb Hill beach, for example, OJ's Beach Bar has been dubbed by locals as OJ's Rock Bar because they had to put rocks along the shoreline just to stop the bar from falling into the sea.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Help ocean giants

Goliath grouper, Naples, Florida, taken by Bryan Fluech/Marine Photobank

From NOAA's coral listserve:

Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) is one of the last representatives of the marine megafauna that were once abundant in tropical and subtropical latitudes of the world's oceans. Critically endangered throughout its distribution range, goliath grouper (previously known as jewfish), have been protected in U.S federal and state waters since 1990 through a total fishing ban. After reaching commercial extinction, the species is now in a path towards recovery. Florida is one of the few places in the world, where we can still dive with these giants.

Powerful lobbies are pressuring politicians to relax the protected status of goliath grouper to re-open the fishery at some point. This is against scientists recommendations. In a meeting early December, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will decide on whether to facilitate the process for a fishery re-opening or continue with the complete fishing ban and full protection.

The SCUBA diving community, conservationists and scientists are now lobbying so politicians will listen to the voice of reason. Please, consult the petition below, and consider adding your signature (you can also add your own comments). We hope to reach at least 1,000 signatures (more will even be better). -

Thank you for your time.You can find links to goliath grouper publications and a dedicated Endangered Species Research issue in my internet page. Also a short documentary film under "teaching."

Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

International League of Conservation Photographers

The International League of Conservation Photographers: Trailer
from The WILD Foundation on Vimeo.

The ILCP is a project-driven organization. Our mission is to translate conservation science into compelling visual messages targeted to specific audiences. We work with leading scientists, policy makers, government leaders and conservation groups to produce the highest-quality documentary images of both the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the challenges facing it.

The unique set of skills, talent and years of field experience spent documenting delicate and complex environmental subjects as well as a real commitment to conserve the landscapes, people and wildlife in the places where they work, is what sets the photographers of the ILCP apart. From poaching to global warming, from habitat loss to cultural erosion, from sustainability to biological corridors, the work of conservation photographers covers the entire range of threats to biodiversity and is indeed a critical component in the conservation toolbox.

Our mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.

We believe that awe-inspiring photography is a powerful force for the environment, especially when paired with the collaboration of committed scientists, politicians, religious leaders and policy makers. We plan to replace environmental indifference with a new culture of stewardship and passion for our beautiful planet.


Monday, November 9, 2009

NOAA launches new site for Coral Reef Conservation Program

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

The redesigned site is focused first and foremost on coral ecosystems..
You'll find greatly expanded content areas dedicated to bringing to life the value of coral ecosystems (and conserving them) to humans and the global environment. New resources and products (such as expanded information on coral biology, values, threats, and conservation techniques; a deep-sea coral section; more current news about coral conservation; and new resources for students and teachers) have been added to the site. . . .

The site will be updated often with fresh, multimedia-rich content and expanded information on existing topics. We also have plans in the short-term to add even more videos, additional photos and graphics, and social media.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Endangered species in the Yucatán

The BBC's site has stunning photos highlighting threatened wildlife in the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America.

(Sorry; copyright laws prohibit posting them here, but they're worth a click on the link above.)


Thursday, November 5, 2009

And the Freakiest Fish of 2009 is...

From Oceana:

The results are in and the freakiest fish is… the hairy angler! This deep-sea creature not only looks frightening, but has a scary big appetite. Due to its expandable stomach, it can eat prey as big, or even bigger, than itself. This certainly comes in handy in the food-scarce depths of the ocean.

Photo by Oceana


Mexico fifth on list of countries with most endangered species

From an article by Rhishja Larson on EcoWorldly:

The animals and plants that call this planet their home haven’t got a chance if humans keep it up. Wildlife destruction is happening faster than current conservation efforts can replenish - or even stabilize - most endangered species numbers.

Now, the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species figures are in - and the news isn’t good.

From lowest to highest, take a look at this list of 10 countries with the greatest number of endangered species, according the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

10. Philippines
◦Total 2009: 682
◦Total 2008: 641

9. India
◦Total 2009: 687
◦Total 2008: 659

8. Brazil
◦Total 2009: 769
◦Total 2008: 738

7. Australia
◦Total 2009: 804
◦Total 2008: 788

6. China
◦Total 2009: 841
◦Total 2008: 816

5. Mexico
◦Total 2009: 900
◦Total 2008: 897

4. Indonesia
◦Total 2009: 1126
◦Total 2008: 1087

3. Malaysia
◦Total 2009: 1166
◦Total 2008: 1141

2. United States
◦Total 2009: 1203
◦Total 2008: 1192

1. Ecuador
◦Total 2009: 2211
◦Total 2008: 2208

EcoWorldly also has a chart to show the breakdown of each of the 10 countries by mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, molluscs, other invertebrates, and plants.

See the complete list of endangered species on the IUCN Red List.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NOAA, The Nature Conservancy address coral reef threats

From a news release issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

NOAA and The Nature Conservancy have entered into an agreement to protect the health of the nation’s valuable but increasingly vulnerable coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean, Florida, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. The four-year agreement will dedicate $3.6 million in NOAA funding and $3.6 million in matching funds from The Nature Conservancy to address the top three threats facing coral reef ecosystems: climate change, overfishing, and land-based sources of pollution. The agreement is the result of a competitive request for proposals issued by NOAA in late 2008.

The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic, and ecological impacts on people and communities in the United States and around the world. As the ‘rain forests of the sea,’ coral reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion each year.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hundreds of children save sea turtles

From a post by Andy on PRETOMA:

Hundreds of children from several schools around San José are educating their families and community members about sea turtles, and at the same time raising money through the sale of turtle stickers to support projects that protect these animals. The children are part of the “Save the Marine Turtles” campaign sponsored by Mamá Activa – a group of mothers with children ages 0 to 12 – and the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (Pretoma). By selling stickers that cost five hundred colones, the little protagonists learn to protect these animals, while at the same time collecting funding to be invested in sea turtle conservation projects.

Mamá Activa approached Pretoma earlier this year with the idea to collaborate in an environmental education program for children. Members from both organizations held interactive workshops in schools, teaching children about the different types of marine turtles that nest on Costa Rica’s beaches, about the threats they face, and how the kids can help protect these animals. Students were then given stickers with a baby turtle on them and asked to talk to friends and family members about what they had learned. Moms and dads, neighbors, and many others then collaborated by donating five hundred colones to the program with each sticker they purchased from the children.

“We have problems with the turtles, there are bad people who steal the turtles, their eggs, and meat, and they eat it, and we should never eat it again,” said four year old Felipe Sánchez from the pre-kindergarten of the San Clare College in a YouTube Video. “We shouldn’t build houses or hotels, not even put lights because if we do, the turtles will loose their place to go back to the ocean”, added the little conservationist. Through this video, Felipe managed to sell 100 stickers.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Reefs for People - Helping communities protect their reefs

From an article posted on ReefBase:

The tool contains a series of models based on parameters for the Philippines and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, but can be adapted to use in other locations worldwide. It is the result of five years of work by the Modelling & Decision Support Group (MDSWG) of the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management (CRTR) Program. It is accessible via and a demonstration CD is now available.

MDSWG Chair Professor Roger Bradbury said the user-friendly tool will help planners, governments, property developers, managers of reefs, non-government organisations and reef scientists understand how models may be used to predict the impact of human activity, coastal development and climate change on their coral reefs. “This is a sophisticated tool which can be easily tailored for any of the world’s coral reefs and which allows users to take a strategic and long-term view of their coral reefs and explore a range of scenarios they might face at both the local and regional levels,” Prof Bradbury said. “For example, it will enable planners to predict economic and conservation consequences of coastal development, and ensure any development undertaken is sustainable. As well as demonstrating any negative consequences, it will open up a range of sustainable possibilities.

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