Palau to ban commercial fishing, promote tourism
By AP News Feb 05, 2014
The president of Palau declared Tuesday that his Pacific island nation will ban commercial fishing and become a marine sanctuary.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said in a keynote address to a U.N. meeting on “Healthy Oceans and Seas” that once current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan and some private companies expire only fishing by island residents and tourists will be allowed in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
Remengesau said establishing “a 100 percent marine sanctuary” will enable Palau to preserve “a pristine environment” and promote snorkeling, scuba diving and ecotourism as an alternative way to grow its economy.
“It will make a difference if it’s just a matter of feeding ourselves and feeding the tourists,” he told a news conference. “As it is right now, we’re feeding the tourist and ourselves plus millions of people outside the territory.”
Palau’s population of about 20,000 people is spread across 250 islands. It shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Micronesia.
The country announced in 2009 it was creating the world’s first shark sanctuary by banning all commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters. It has also adopted the most restrictive law against bottom trawling. In 2012, its Rock Islands Southern Lagoon was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Remengesau, a fisherman, said he has seen fish stocks dwindle and the size of fish grow smaller around his island nation.
With a marine sanctuary, he said, “we will do our part of making sure that there’s a healthy stock of fish in Palau that then can migrate to other places.”
Remengesau said snorkelers and scuba divers come to Palau to see sharks, which can live up to 100 years.
According to a study, he said a live shark is worth $1.9 million as a tourist attraction compared to a dead shark which is worth several hundred dollars for its fins for shark fin soup, which is an Asian delicacy.
To enforce the ban on commercial fishing, Remengesau said Palau is working with potential partners to obtain radar equipment and drones to monitor its waters.
Remengesau said climate change and global warming have been having a serious impact.
“For us in Palau and the Pacific islands, there’s been a tremendous amount of what we call unpredictable weather patterns that brings typhoons and storms and all kinds of destructive forces to the islands,” he said. “We have other problems of sea level rises.”
Palau is also urging the United Nations to adopt a new goal to clean up the world’s oceans, restore fish stocks and bring some equity to resources being taken by others.
Remengesau said “the fishing revenue has been breadcrumbs — it’s been nothing compared to, or in fairness to the billion dollar industry that this whole fishing industry is.”
Photo source

Palau to ban commercial fishing, promote tourism

By AP News Feb 05, 2014

The president of Palau declared Tuesday that his Pacific island nation will ban commercial fishing and become a marine sanctuary.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said in a keynote address to a U.N. meeting on “Healthy Oceans and Seas” that once current fishing contracts with Japan, Taiwan and some private companies expire only fishing by island residents and tourists will be allowed in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Remengesau said establishing “a 100 percent marine sanctuary” will enable Palau to preserve “a pristine environment” and promote snorkeling, scuba diving and ecotourism as an alternative way to grow its economy.

“It will make a difference if it’s just a matter of feeding ourselves and feeding the tourists,” he told a news conference. “As it is right now, we’re feeding the tourist and ourselves plus millions of people outside the territory.”

Palau’s population of about 20,000 people is spread across 250 islands. It shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Micronesia.

The country announced in 2009 it was creating the world’s first shark sanctuary by banning all commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters. It has also adopted the most restrictive law against bottom trawling. In 2012, its Rock Islands Southern Lagoon was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Remengesau, a fisherman, said he has seen fish stocks dwindle and the size of fish grow smaller around his island nation.

With a marine sanctuary, he said, “we will do our part of making sure that there’s a healthy stock of fish in Palau that then can migrate to other places.”

Remengesau said snorkelers and scuba divers come to Palau to see sharks, which can live up to 100 years.

According to a study, he said a live shark is worth $1.9 million as a tourist attraction compared to a dead shark which is worth several hundred dollars for its fins for shark fin soup, which is an Asian delicacy.

To enforce the ban on commercial fishing, Remengesau said Palau is working with potential partners to obtain radar equipment and drones to monitor its waters.

Remengesau said climate change and global warming have been having a serious impact.

“For us in Palau and the Pacific islands, there’s been a tremendous amount of what we call unpredictable weather patterns that brings typhoons and storms and all kinds of destructive forces to the islands,” he said. “We have other problems of sea level rises.”

Palau is also urging the United Nations to adopt a new goal to clean up the world’s oceans, restore fish stocks and bring some equity to resources being taken by others.

Remengesau said “the fishing revenue has been breadcrumbs — it’s been nothing compared to, or in fairness to the billion dollar industry that this whole fishing industry is.”

Photo source

18-Foot Oarfish Found off Southern California
This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute taken on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013, shows the crew of sailing school vessel Tole Mour and Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish that was found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif. A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish.
Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied. The obscure fish apparently died of natural causes. Tissue samples and video footage were sent to be studied by biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is a deep-water pelagic fish - the longest bony fish in the world, according to CIMI.
They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.
Read more
AP PHOTO/CATALINA ISLAND MARINE INSTITUTE

18-Foot Oarfish Found off Southern California

This photo released courtesy of the Catalina Island Marine Institute taken on Sunday Oct. 13, 2013, shows the crew of sailing school vessel Tole Mour and Catalina Island Marine Institute instructors holding an 18-foot-long oarfish that was found in the waters of Toyon Bay on Santa Catalina Island, Calif. A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted the silvery carcass of the 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish.

Because oarfish dive more than 3,000 feet deep, sightings of the creatures are rare and they are largely unstudied. The obscure fish apparently died of natural causes. Tissue samples and video footage were sent to be studied by biologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The oarfish, which can grow to more than 50 feet, is a deep-water pelagic fish - the longest bony fish in the world, according to CIMI.

They are likely responsible for sea serpent legends throughout history.

Read more

AP PHOTO/CATALINA ISLAND MARINE INSTITUTE

Whale shark mapping: scientists uncover global distribution for the largest fish in the world

By:Shreya Dasgupta
August 27, 2013

Polka-dotted and striped. Massive but docile. That’s the whale shark for you - the largest fish and shark in the world. But despite being major tourist attractions, the lives of these awe-inspiring creatures of the ocean remain far from being demystified.

However, a team of researchers from Australia may now have some answers to where these whale sharks (Rhinocodon typus) occur. They have, for the first time, predicted the current global distribution of these sharks across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, and have also predicted where they could occur in the future.

In the new study published in Global Change Biology, the team collected 4,336 records of shark sightings from fisheries records over several years - 31 years for the Atlantic Ocean, 17 years for the Indian Ocean and 11 years for western Pacific Ocean.

The team then put together environmental variables (such as distance to shore, mean depth, and sea surface temperature), which they believe affect the shark’s distribution. Using these variables and the shark sightings, they developed models to predict where the sharks could currently occur. They also used climate projections for 2070, when climate change is expected to raise water temperatures by an average 2°C, to see if climate change will affect their distributions in the future.

Their results show that currently areas with highest suitability occur in the Atlantic Ocean, followed by the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.

The populations of whale sharks might also be globally connected, the authors write. For example, their predictions show that the sharks might be able to cross over from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, south of South Africa. The models also indicate the presence of a ‘corridor’ of suitable habitat that links the eastern and western Pacific.


Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0827-dasgupta-whale-shark-mapping.html#1jX7KoAQ06UxhkLz.99

earthhour
earthhour:

Another reminder that environmental issues are being felt in the daily lives of everyday people on our planet. This image was taken nearby the #EarthHour Global HQ by our team member Joy as #Singapore’s #PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) hit a record 401, an all-time record for air #pollution in the city-state. The haze has forced people to remain indoors or wear face masks when commuting to and from work. Earlier today we posted a NASA satellite image on our Facebook page of smoke billowing from wildfires in peat swamp forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, causing the haze in the region. #SGHaze

I have friends that haven’t been outside in days, shops have run out of masks, people and animals alike are having respiratory problems. The source of the haze is slash-and-burn agriculture techniques for palm oil in Sumatra. Every year there is some level of haze, however the severity of this haze, which is double the previous record in 1997/1998 has led officials to investigate the likelihood of commercial scale forest clearance. 
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response shows the haze on June 19 from Sumatra’s wildfires
The haze could last for weeks as the fires burn on. Singapore is … well pretty peeved. The government has promised to take action if any Singapore-linked companies are behind the burning. 
Agung Laksono, the minister who is coordinating Indonesia’s response to the haze crisis, accused Singapore of “behaving like a child and making all this noise”. 
A political border is not an impermeable wall. Nature doesn’t care about what country you call yourself. The sooner we elect governments that have a higher global environmental responsibility mind-set, the better. Or better yet, run yourself. Don’t wait for the ‘adults’ to change their bad habits. 
Breath safe Singapore, Malaysia, and everyone affected. 

earthhour:

Another reminder that environmental issues are being felt in the daily lives of everyday people on our planet. This image was taken nearby the #EarthHour Global HQ by our team member Joy as #Singapore’s #PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) hit a record 401, an all-time record for air #pollution in the city-state. The haze has forced people to remain indoors or wear face masks when commuting to and from work. Earlier today we posted a NASA satellite image on our Facebook page of smoke billowing from wildfires in peat swamp forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, causing the haze in the region. #SGHaze

I have friends that haven’t been outside in days, shops have run out of masks, people and animals alike are having respiratory problems. The source of the haze is slash-and-burn agriculture techniques for palm oil in Sumatra. Every year there is some level of haze, however the severity of this haze, which is double the previous record in 1997/1998 has led officials to investigate the likelihood of commercial scale forest clearance. 

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response shows the haze on June 19 from Sumatra's wildfiresNASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response shows the haze on June 19 from Sumatra’s wildfires

The haze could last for weeks as the fires burn on. Singapore is … well pretty peeved. The government has promised to take action if any Singapore-linked companies are behind the burning. 

Agung Laksono, the minister who is coordinating Indonesia’s response to the haze crisis, accused Singapore of “behaving like a child and making all this noise”. 

A political border is not an impermeable wall. Nature doesn’t care about what country you call yourself. The sooner we elect governments that have a higher global environmental responsibility mind-set, the better. Or better yet, run yourself. Don’t wait for the ‘adults’ to change their bad habits. 

Breath safe Singapore, Malaysia, and everyone affected. 

Turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval found murdered on Playa Moín in Costa Rica

At around 6 a.m. on Friday, the body of 26-year-old Jairo Mora Sandoval, a young Costa Rican conservationist who monitored and protected turtle nests, was found on Moín Beach, on the northern Caribbean coast.
According to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), Mora had been badly beaten and shot in the head, and his hands were tied behind his back. The OIJ released conflicting statements saying that Mora’s body was found both next to and inside the Jeep he used to monitor the beach.
Mora had worked as a beach monitor for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) at Moín, said WIDECAST’s Costa Rica Coordinator Didiher Chacón. The program has seen an increase in poachers, Chacón said, and a recent story in a national daily quoted Mora linking the poaching to drug traffickers.
…
WIDECAST has closed the program following the incident, and has said that they will no longer send staff or volunteers to monitor the beach.
“We can’t risk human lives for this project,” Chacón said. “But this is probably the exact result that the killers were hoping for.”
Read more
My thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues. I hope that they will continue to fight and his death will not be in vain.

Turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval found murdered on Playa Moín in Costa Rica

At around 6 a.m. on Friday, the body of 26-year-old Jairo Mora Sandoval, a young Costa Rican conservationist who monitored and protected turtle nests, was found on Moín Beach, on the northern Caribbean coast.

According to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), Mora had been badly beaten and shot in the head, and his hands were tied behind his back. The OIJ released conflicting statements saying that Mora’s body was found both next to and inside the Jeep he used to monitor the beach.

Mora had worked as a beach monitor for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) at Moín, said WIDECAST’s Costa Rica Coordinator Didiher Chacón. The program has seen an increase in poachers, Chacón said, and a recent story in a national daily quoted Mora linking the poaching to drug traffickers.

WIDECAST has closed the program following the incident, and has said that they will no longer send staff or volunteers to monitor the beach.

“We can’t risk human lives for this project,” Chacón said. “But this is probably the exact result that the killers were hoping for.”

Read more

My thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues. I hope that they will continue to fight and his death will not be in vain.

Deepest Ocean Teems With Microbes

by Rebecca Morelle

BBC World Science.

[Image Source]

The deepest place in the ocean is teeming with microscopic life, a study suggests.

An international team of scientists found that the very bottom of the Mariana Trench, which lies almost 11km (7 miles) down in the Pacific Ocean, had high levels of microbial activity.

The research is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The underwater canyon was once thought to be too hostile an environment for life to exist.

But this study adds to a growing body of evidence that a range of creatures can cope with the near-freezing temperatures, immense pressures and complete darkness.

Dr Robert Turnewitsch, one of the authors of the paper from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, said: “The deepest parts of the deep sea are certainly not dead zones.”

[Image Source]

Carbon sink

In 2010, the scientists sent an unmanned submersible down into the vast underwater canyon, where it collected samples of the murky sediment that cakes the sea floor.

An analysis of the levels of oxygen in the sample revealed the presence of a large number of microbes.

Dr Turnewitsch explained: “These microbes, they respire as we do. And this oxygen consumption is an indirect measurement of the activity of the community.”

Surprisingly, these primitive, single-celled organisms were twice as active at the bottom of the trench than they were at a nearby 6km-deep (four miles) site.

They were feasting on a plentiful supply of dead plants and creatures that had drifted down from the sea surface, the decomposing matter becoming trapped within the steep walls of the trench.

"The amount of food down there and also the relative freshness of the material is surprisingly high - it seems to be surprisingly nutritious," said Dr Turnewitsch.

The level of material found at the bottom of the trench was so high that it suggests the Mariana Trench - which is in an area of the ocean known as the Hadal zone - could play a key part in the carbon cycle and therefore in regulating the planet’s climate.

Dr Richard Turnewitsch said: “The fact that large amounts of organic matter that contain the carbon accumulate and are focused in these trenches also means they play an important role in the removal of carbon from the ocean and the overlying atmosphere.

"The Hadal trenches may play a more important role in the global marine carbon cycle than was previously thought."

— You know, we forget. This life is all about the microbes. Always. 

Elasmobranch Ecstasy at CITES! 

What a day for Sharks and Manta Rays…all four proposals for Elasmobranch species at CITES were passed today. All elasmobranch species up for debate were voted YES for listing under Appendix II. 

The final result will come on Thursday with the final plenary, so the fight isn’t over yet, but a positive result is thought to be very likely. 

This will mean that fisheries for these species will be regulated to sustainable trade (not a ban on trade) only. 

In 40 years of protecting endangered species trade through CITES, marine species have never had a day like today.This result is unprecedented as elasmobranchs have been shamefully overlooked for decades.

The following species got majority votes for their listing, with Mantas winning across board with a whopping 80%! 

Keep your fins crossed for Thursday, but celebrate this significant step forward on this manic elasmobranch Monday for:

  • Porbeagle sharks
  • Three Hammerhead species
  • Oceanic White Tip sharks
  • Manta rays
  • Sawfish (upgrade to Appendix I - no trade!)

 A massive congratulations to all those whose research and hard work went into these proposals (Huzzah for Science!) and to those countries that voted YES! 

Read more: BBC | Al Jazeera | 

A Shocking Report on your Seafood: Oceana CEO
Andy Sharpless
Do you know what you are serving your family tonight? If it’s fish there’s a good chance that you don’t.
Today Oceana unveiled its landmark national seafood fraud report, one of the largest of its kind and one that should make consumers sit up and demand change.
Over the past several years Oceana tested 1,215 fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states. DNA testing confirmed that fully one-third of this seafood was mislabeled—that is, what we ordered wasn’t what we got.
No matter where you live, seafood fraud is likely to be an issue. But if you live in Austin, Houston or Boston, it is especially widespread. According to our investigation, almost half of the fish tested in these cities was mislabeled.  In Southern California the problem was even worse, with mislabeled fish accounting for more than half (52%) of the seafood we tested! Elsewhere, rates of mislabeling were found to be 39 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida, 36 percent in Denver, 35 percent in Kansas City, 32 percent in Chicago, 26 percent in Washington, D.C., 21 percent in Portland and 18 percent in Seattle. Nationwide, sushi restaurants mislabeled their fish 74 percent of the time.
As one of our scientists told me, these findings are disturbing—and they’re disturbing for a few reasons. Not only can seafood fraud rip you off by making you pay more for less expensive fish but it can actually be bad for your health. Our scientists found that some fish that had landed a spot on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of its high mercury content was nonetheless being substituted for safer fish. In New York this meant tilefish disguised as red snapper and halibut, while in South Florida king mackerel became grouper. Elsewhere escolar, an oily fish that is known for its purgative effects in some consumers, was substituted 84% of the time for white tuna
If that wasn’t bad enough, mislabeling can be harmful to the oceans as well. By disguising one species as another, it can be nearly impossible for consumers to make responsible decisions to avoid eating overfished species.
So what can you do about it? Right now the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of that seafood specifically for fraud. Obviously this needs to change and we need to call upon our lawmakers to ensure full traceability for all seafood sold in the country. Oceana is hard at work behind the scenes to make this happen. In the meantime, if you don’t want to be duped by seafood fraud you can start by asking where and how your seafood was caught, be wary of fish that seems cheaper than it should and, when possible, buy fish whole.
Seafood is one of the healthiest sources of protein on the planet and should be a part of any healthy diet, but we need to know that what we’re buying is what the label says it is—for the good of our health, our wallets and our oceans.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana

A Shocking Report on your Seafood: Oceana CEO

Andy Sharpless

Do you know what you are serving your family tonight? If it’s fish there’s a good chance that you don’t.

Today Oceana unveiled its landmark national seafood fraud report, one of the largest of its kind and one that should make consumers sit up and demand change.

Over the past several years Oceana tested 1,215 fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states. DNA testing confirmed that fully one-third of this seafood was mislabeled—that is, what we ordered wasn’t what we got.

No matter where you live, seafood fraud is likely to be an issue. But if you live in Austin, Houston or Boston, it is especially widespread. According to our investigation, almost half of the fish tested in these cities was mislabeled.  In Southern California the problem was even worse, with mislabeled fish accounting for more than half (52%) of the seafood we tested! Elsewhere, rates of mislabeling were found to be 39 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida, 36 percent in Denver, 35 percent in Kansas City, 32 percent in Chicago, 26 percent in Washington, D.C., 21 percent in Portland and 18 percent in Seattle. Nationwide, sushi restaurants mislabeled their fish 74 percent of the time.

As one of our scientists told me, these findings are disturbing—and they’re disturbing for a few reasons. Not only can seafood fraud rip you off by making you pay more for less expensive fish but it can actually be bad for your health. Our scientists found that some fish that had landed a spot on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of its high mercury content was nonetheless being substituted for safer fish. In New York this meant tilefish disguised as red snapper and halibut, while in South Florida king mackerel became grouper. Elsewhere escolar, an oily fish that is known for its purgative effects in some consumers, was substituted 84% of the time for white tuna

If that wasn’t bad enough, mislabeling can be harmful to the oceans as well. By disguising one species as another, it can be nearly impossible for consumers to make responsible decisions to avoid eating overfished species.

So what can you do about it? Right now the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of that seafood specifically for fraud. Obviously this needs to change and we need to call upon our lawmakers to ensure full traceability for all seafood sold in the country. Oceana is hard at work behind the scenes to make this happen. In the meantime, if you don’t want to be duped by seafood fraud you can start by asking where and how your seafood was caught, be wary of fish that seems cheaper than it should and, when possible, buy fish whole.

Seafood is one of the healthiest sources of protein on the planet and should be a part of any healthy diet, but we need to know that what we’re buying is what the label says it is—for the good of our health, our wallets and our oceans.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana