Monday, March 29, 2010

US to ban wild-harvest shrimp imports from

Dead turtle ensnared in fishing net floating in sea.

From an Associated Press article on Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – The State Department says Mexico is losing its certification to export wild-harvest shrimp to the United States because its trawls lack required protections for endangered sea turtles.

The department says the certification was withdrawn after the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service determined that Mexico's turtle excluder devices no longer meet U.S. standards. U.S. rules require that exporters use excluders comparable to those used by American shrimpers.

Certification for Mexican shrimpers will be withdrawn on April 20.

The Endangered Species Act lists six of the seven sea turtle species as endangered or threatened. The State Department said proper exclusion devices can prevent turtle mortality in shrimp trawl nets up to 97 percent.

David Cayless/Marine Photobank


Monday, March 22, 2010

Lionfish plague threatens Bahamian economy

Lionfish continue to spread throughout the southern Atlantic and Caribbean. From an article by Gladstone Thurston on the

MARSH HARBOUR. Bahamas -- The explosion of lionfish population in Bahamian waters is “a plague of biblical proportions stalking the Bahamian economy,” the Reef Conservancy Society of Abaco is warning.

They are convinced that unless urgent action is taken it will wreck tourism, fishing and related industries.

It has now been confirmed that lionfish, known for their voracious appetite for Bahamian marine life, have been decimating fish that tend the coral reefs.

The loss of herbivorous fish sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, studies show.

Following on the heals of over fishing, sediment depositions, coral bleaching, and increasing ocean acidity, “this is of grave concern,” said renown zoologist/marine biologist, Dr Mark Hixon, a professor at Oregon State University.

Dr Hixon and his group work from the Perry Institute for Marine Science, Lee Stocking Island, Exuma. They have a three-year grant from the US National Science Foundation to study lionfish.

He warned that the rapid reproduction potential of lionfish must now be understood in context with their ability to seriously depopulate coral reef ecosystems of other fish.

It is well documented that over fishing parrotfishes and other herbivores contributes to the death of reef-building corals. Lionfish are “highly effective” at ‘over-fishing’, he warned.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Volunteer at Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)

From the newsletter of Centro Ecológico Akumal:

CEA is an organization that depends heavily on volunteers. If you have the willingness to have fun while you help to preserve the environment, come and be part of CEA! You can participate in different programs.

Our next Reef Monitoring phase begins this March 28, while our Sea Turtle Program will start May 10. Other programs are already running, but you may still apply. Don’t forget to send your application forms now!

For further information visit our Web site or send an e-mail to


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jamaica's beaches in danger, says UN expert

From an article in the Jamaica Observer by Kimmo Matthews:

A United Nations environmental expert is predicting that several beaches on the western end of Jamaica could be totally wiped out in the next five to 10 years if local authorities and citizens do not act now to protect the environment.

Pascal Peduzzi, head of the Early Warning Unit, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Division of Early Warning and Assessment/GRID-Europe, based his prediction on data coming out of a UNEP study on the role of the ecosystem in disaster risk reduction.

"Coming out of the study, data has been found that beaches in Negril are receding between 0.5 and one metre per year," Peduzzi told the Observer after the study was presented to the Government at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston recently.

According to the study, titled 'Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP) -- The Case of Jamaica', scientific evidence shows that over the past 40 years, Negril's beaches have been experiencing severe and irreversible shoreline erosion and retreat.

"Bloody Bay in the northern section of Negril has experienced lower erosion rates than Long Bay, with sections of Long Bay beach without coral reef cover showing higher rates of erosion," the study said. "The highest erosion rates have occurred after 1991, when beach recovery after storms has been slower, and these trends are likely to continue. It is expected that long-term sea level rise, changing patterns of tropical storms and cyclones in the region (in terms of both frequency and intensity), diminishing sand supplies due to coastal ecosystem degradation as well as coastal development will exert an even higher toll on Negril's beaches."

According to Peduzzi, not only were these findings a cause for concern, but there was a strong belief that other areas across the country could be experiencing the same problem.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shark conservation proposal defeated at UN meeting

From an Associated Press article by Michael Casey:

DOHA, Qatar — China, Japan and Russia helped defeat a U.S.-endorsed proposal at a U.N. wildlife trade meeting Tuesday that would have boosted conservation efforts for sharks, expressing concern it would hurt poor nations and should be the responsibility of regional fisheries bodies.

The opposition to the shark proposal came hours after the marine conservation group Oceana came out with a report showing that demand for shark fin soup in Asia is driving many species of these big fish to the brink of extinction.

The nonbinding measure, which called for increased transparency in the shark trade and more research into the threat posed to sharks by illegal fishing, had been expected to gain approval by a committee of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

But the United States, the European Union and other supporters were unable to muster the two-thirds majority needed after China, Russia, Japan and several developing countries argued that shark populations aren't suffering.

The decision could be a bad omen for a two-week meeting that will include much more controversial marine proposals, including banning the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is popular with sushi lovers, and tightening the trade on eight shark species.


Monday, March 15, 2010

All American oceanic birds threatened by climate change, research finds

From an article on NatGeo News:

All 67 oceanic bird species in the United States are imperiled by the changing climate, the authors of a comprehensive assessment said today.

Many land-based birds are also at risk as habitat and food sources change.

The findings are published in the State of the Birds 2010 report, a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations.

Partners include American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

State of the Birds 2010 is the first comprehensive vulnerability assessment of bird species to climate change across the United States. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the report's release at a press conference in Texas today, along with several environmental organizations that had collaborated on the publication.

"As climate change impacts are increasingly felt throughout the United States and beyond, conservation efforts affecting birds will take on a doubly important role in protecting not only birds that are already threatened, but also more common birds as well," said David Pashley, vice president of American Bird Conservancy, in a news release about the report. Pashley was one of the authors of the report.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

U.S. set to declare loggerhead turtles an endangered species

From an article on

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), the world's oldest sea turtle research and protection group, today applauded the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to designate Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles as an endangered species. Until 1998 Northwest Atlantic loggerheads were an Endangered Species Act success story. This proposed change in status from threatened to endangered recognizes the plight of rapidly declining Northwest Atlantic loggerheads, which nest on beaches from North Carolina to Texas.

Florida accounts for over 90% of loggerhead nesting in the United States. Protection provided by the Endangered Species Act and implementation of regulations requiring Turtle Excluder Devices in shrimp nets to prevent the drowning of entrapped turtles contributed to encouraging nesting increases from 1986 to 1998. Since that time, however, nesting throughout Florida has declined by nearly 50%. Nesting populations also are declining in the other states, for which long-term information is available. "This proposal is long overdue," said David Godfrey, CCC's Executive Director.

Loggerheads face numerous threats onshore where they nest and at sea, but accidental capture, injury and death in commercial fisheries is perhaps the greatest peril to their survival today.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Limbaugh wants to shine lights on sea turtles

From a story on WTVJ-TV (Miami) by Todd Wright:

If you have ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, it would come as no surprise that he doesn't like a lot of things.

But you'd have to be a pretty cold-blooded S.O.B. not to like sea turtles. Limbaugh says: guilty as charged.

The shock jock and political loud mouth is taking time away from his busy schedule bashing Democrats to lob bombs at endangered sea turtles that arrive on South Florida beaches near his Palm Beach home.

Limbaugh doesn't like that he has to cut his back porch lights off so the sea turtles can nest and the hatchlings can safely return to the ocean. So he is taking out full page ads in the Palm Beach Post and other local papers to express his displeasure.

As if a syndicated radio wasn't enough of an audience.

“Imagine if you were told all your street lights had to be off for 8 months to protect the mating habits of geckos and feral cats, or whatever animal,” Limbaugh reportedly wrote to Page 2 Live, a Palm Beach blog.

The Town of Palm Beach requires its residents to turn off their outdoor lights from March 1 to Oct. 31, which is the turtles' nesting season. Scientists believe the lights confuse the large sea reptiles because they mistake them for the moon, which the animal uses to find its way to the beach and back to the ocean.

Too bad, so sad, said Limbaugh, who lives on the beach.

“I love landscape lighting,” he said.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japan mayor protests dolphin hunt documentary Oscar

Though the horror occurs far from the Caribbean, The Cove, Oscar winner for Best Documentary, deserves recognition everywhere, even if the mayor doesn't like it. From a Reuters article posted at Broadcast Newsroom:

TOKYO (Reuters) - The mayor of a Japanese town which conducts an annual dolphin hunt protested on Monday against the Academy Award given to "The Cove," a documentary film about the grisly slaughter.

The film, which picked up an Oscar for best documentary feature in addition to a series of other awards, follows a group of activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

It features shocking footage of the slaughter.

"I think it is regrettable that the film presents as fact material that is not backed up by scientific proof," Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen said in a faxed statement. He emphasized that the hunt was legal in Japan and urged respect for the tradition.

"There are a variety of customs relating to food, within this country and abroad," he said.

"An attitude of mutual respect is necessary, based on understanding of the years-old traditions arising from these customs and the circumstances surrounding them."

The film, directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and featuring a former dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series, is little known in Japan, where the government says the hunting of dolphins and whales is an important cultural tradition.


Monday, March 8, 2010

As Florida Keys residents confront rising sea levels, what lessons?

From an article by Richard Luscombein the Christian Science Monitor:

Waters around the Florida Keys are nine inches higher than a century ago. Efforts to battle rising sea levels make the Keys 'a canary in the coal mine,' an indicator of what other areas might need to prepare for.

(Big Pine Key, FLA.) - On many mornings over the past 22 years, the Rev. Tony Mullane has pulled back his bedroom curtains and watched endangered Key deer roaming the grounds of St. Peter Catholic Church. He considers the free nature show one of the bonuses of his ministry in the Florida Keys.

On other days, however, there are no deer to be seen – only water from the Straits of Florida lapping perilously near to the church buildings.

"It does come close to the church in a high tide," says Father Tony, as he's known. "There's a gravel pit behind us that's supposed to be a natural buffer from the water of Coupon Bight, but it fills, and sometimes laps over into, the church grounds."

What is happening at St. Peter is being repeated across the length of the 125-mile, low-lying island chain off Florida's south coast. Average sea levels on the islands are already nine inches higher than a century ago, according to environmental studies. Flooding has become much more common, which has prompted local officials and others to explore remedies. But in some cases, just how the islanders should proceed is still being figured out. (Read here to learn how the Netherlands have fought rising sea levels.)

"High tides are higher today, reaching farther inland than they did in the past. And the frequency of tides high enough to flood streets and salt-sensitive natural areas is greater," says Chris Bergh, director of the Nature Conservancy's Florida Keys program, who cites both his own observations and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Some change is inevitable," adds Mr. Bergh, who lives on Big Pine Key with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Nate. "It's how we adapt to that change and manage it to our best advantage."

Of course, the Florida Keys aren't the only low-lying places in the United States. People in plenty of other coastal areas are keeping an eye on the sea level – and are concerned about the future.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Fishy Love

From an article by Anna DeLoach in the REEF newsletter:

The first time we ever saw Hamlets spawn, Ned and I were on a liveaboard REEF trip in Belize. We were just starting serious work on the behavior book at the time and still unaware of just how rewarding dusk dives can be for fish watchers. Trying to squeeze in a fourth dive before dark, our group dropped in just before sunset, agreeing to be back up in time for dinner.

These were the days when I could still add new fish to my life list on almost every dive trip and the charismatic Hamlets with their 11 distinct color morphs and various “hybrid” variations were especially prized sightings (we’ll save the species debate for another day). Hamlets are solitary hunters during the day. So when we saw two chasing each other about, we instinctively knew something out of the ordinary was happening. But, was it love or war?

The video is from FishWeSpeak on YouTube.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Huge garbage patch found in Atlantic too

From an article by Richard A. Lovett for National Geographic News:

Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

"Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

"But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic."

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia.

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years, posing health risks to fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that accidentally eat the litter.

Elusive Ocean Trash
To get a clear picture of the Atlantic garbage patch, Law drew on 22 years of data collected by students participating in her association's SEA Semester academic program.

As part of this program, more than 7,000 students have gone on research cruises, deploying thousands of fine-meshed plankton nets to meticulously catalog bits of plastic enmeshed with the drifting plants and animals.

Tiny pieces of trash, each less than a tenth the weight of a paper clip, make up most of the debris, Law said February 23 at the American Geophysical Union's 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon.

In some places the students found more than 200,000 bits of trash per square kilometer (520,000 bits per square mile). The vast majority of these fragments come from consumer products that were blown out of open landfills or were tossed out by litterbugs.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Falling harvest triggers Yucatán lobster fishing ban

From an article on Fish Information & Services (FIS):

The capture of marine lobster in the waters of the Yucatan state will be prohibited as from 1 March to 30 June 2010, indicated the Secretariat of Agricultural and Fisheries Development.

According to Delfin Quezada Dominguez, director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the measure taken aims to protect the reproductive phase of the species and assure the natural repopulation of the marine ecosystem.

"This fishery is considered important in our entity given the economic income that fish producers obtain through it, which is why it is considered a sustainable fishery. It is therefore necessary to respect it," affirmed the official.

In addition, he asked that lobster fishers respect the government measures and protect the juvenile population that comprises the reproductive stock.

The average catch of the crustacean in the Yucatan state was of 350 tonnes over the last 10 years, Quezada Dominguez noted.

However, catch has been falling over the years and last season was no exception. The goal set was not surpassed, [instead] oscillating between 100 and 120 tonnes, Diario de Yucatan reports.


Monday, March 1, 2010

What will you do?

What Will You Do? - In this specially made film for WCPA - Marine, world-renowned cinematographer Bob Talbot gives us his perspective on our one ocean and the trouble it's in. Together we can make a difference. What we do today, will determine the ocean our children inherit tomorrow. Learn more.

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

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