Anyone who thought the world had four oceans will now have to think again, after the National Geographic Society announced it would recognize a new Southern Ocean in Antarctica, bringing the global total to five.
The National Geographic, a non-profit scientific and educational organization whose mapping standards are referenced by many atlases and cartographers, said the Southern Ocean consists of the waters surrounding Antarctica, out to 60-degrees south latitude.
National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait said scientists have long known that the waters surrounding Antarctica form a “distinct ecological region defined, by ocean currents and temperatures”.
Tait told the Washington Post that the span of water is yet to be officially recognized as an ocean by the relevant international body: “But we thought it was important at this point to officially recognize it.”Advertisement
“People look to us for geographic fact: How many continents, how many countries, how many oceans? Up until now, we’ve said four oceans,” Tait said, referring to the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific.
The US Board of Geographic Names, a federal body created in 1890 to establish and maintain “uniform geographic name usage” through the federal government, already recognizes the Southern ocean as occupying the same territory, but this is the first time the National Geographic has done so.
Attempts to ratify the boundaries and name of the Southern Ocean internationally have been thwarted.
The concept was proposed to the International Hydrographic Organization, which works to ensure the world’s seas, oceans and navigable waters are surveyed and charted, in 2000, but some of the IHO’s 94 members dissented. Despite that, Tait said it was important that the National Geographic christen the water area.
“We think it’s really important from an educational standpoint, as well as from a map-labeling standpoint, to bring attention to the Southern Ocean as a fifth ocean,” Tait told the Post.
“So when students learn about parts of the ocean world, they learn it’s an interconnected ocean, and they learn there’s these regions called oceans that are really important, and there’s a distinct one in the icy waters around Antarctica.”
A quarter of all shark and related species are currently at risk of extinction. Alamy
Fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales remain on our planet; fins from 73 million sharks are traded every year; warming waters render habitats increasingly unlivable for animals once at home there. Clearly, the status quo for the animals of our oceans urgently needs to change.
On World Oceans Day, we highlight some of the most urgent threats to marine life right now and what the Humane Society family of organizations is doing to address them.
Promising progress for sharks
Not only are sharks fascinating creatures, but they are also important indicators of the health of our oceans. Sadly, a quarter of all shark and related species are currently threatened with extinction, and current rates of fishing mortality are unsustainable for these slow-reproducing animals. In particular, every year, tens of millions of sharks worldwide are killed for their fins, most often for shark fin soup. The practice known as shark finning involves hacking the fins off sharks while they are still alive and then throwing them back into the sea; unable to move, they die of shock, blood loss or predation. Thankfully, shark finning is prohibited in U.S. waters, but our domestic trade in shark fins continues to fuel finning in other countries with no similar restrictions.
There is hope. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, introduced as S. 1106 by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., would remove the U.S. from the global shark fin trade. This legislation is currently moving through the U.S. Senate as part of a larger legislative package. We urge the Senate to move quickly and the House to take up the legislation which it previously passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.
If enacted, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would be a gamechanger for shark protection in the U.S., prohibiting the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins throughout the country. Already, 17 states and three U.S. territories have banned or limited the trade in shark fins. A federal law banning the shark fin trade would make the U.S. truly stand out as a leader in shark protection.
Helping marine mammals in U.S. waters and around the world
Each year in the U.S., thousands of sick and injured marine mammals receive care thanks to support from the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program. From its inception in 2000 through 2017, the Prescott Grant Program provided 739 grants to regional networks that collectively responded to an average of 5,167 sick and injured marine mammals each year. The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act (S. 1289, led by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and H.R. 2848, led by Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash.) would reauthorize the funding program. The Senate recently passed its bill unanimously through the Senate Commerce Committee.
There are also legislative efforts to address the adverse impacts of climate change on marine mammals including the Marine Mammal Climate Change Protection Act, introduced last week by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. and the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, championed by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., which is expected to be reintroduced this week.
Protecting the oceans requires international collaboration, which is why Humane Society International focuses on protecting marine wildlife globally, working to raise the profile of the world’s most threatened species and populations of whales, dolphins and porpoises and to ensure their future as healthy populations in clean seas. Also, the U.S. is a leading member nation of the International Whaling Commission, whose work in recent years has become increasingly crucial to conserving the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises. We expect the U.S. to continue its strong support of the IWC and to lend its leadership to helping address the threats to these animals, including incidental capture in fishing nets, pollution, climate change and commercial whaling.
The fight to save the last North Atlantic right whales
Just a few hundred North Atlantic right whales are left. These beautiful creatures are dying out because they become entangled in the heavy lines used in lobster and crab trap fisheries or get struck in vessel collisions.
All year round, advocates throughout the Humane Society family of organizations fight to protect marine animals and strengthen the health of our ocean ecosystems. Everyone can join in this movement: Take action for marine animals by urging your Representative to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, and help raise awareness about the threats to our oceans by spreading the word among your friends and family.
We share our planet and our ocean ecosystems with amazing creatures. It’s up to all of us ensure that these animals and their habitats prosper for generations to come.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
It was a seamless synthesis of science and art, expanding the frontiers of human knowledge while being eerily beautiful at the same time. That was the response when, in the 1960s, professor Henry Stommel, a pioneering oceanographer, introduced a model to his colleagues that explained the motions of ocean waters. Decades later, Dr. Michael E. Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, still marvels at what he describes as the “elegant” nature of Stommel’s model.
Thus, armed with a model so simple that it can be solved with algebra, scientists now understood the ocean currents in the Atlantic.
This is how scientists figured out what is called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or “AMOC” for short. When it comes to the motion of the ocean, AMOC is essentially a complex system of conveyor belts. The first belt contains warm water that flows north, where it cools, evaporates and increases the salinity of the ocean water. That water then cools, sinks and flows south, creating a second major belt. These currents are connected to each other by regions in the Nordic Sea, Labrador Sea and Southern Ocean, keeping sea levels down on the United States’ eastern seaboard and warming up the weather in Europe.
This current system connects many different pieces of life on Earth: tides, hurricanes, sea levels, ocean life, salinity, fisheries, water pollution, temperatures, weather — all are affected by this current system. A sudden shift in how the Atlantic current system works would drastically change life on Earth.Advertisement:
Yet the more we learn about ocean currents, the more we have cause for alarm. A February study published in the journal Nature Geoscience reconstructed the history of the current going back 1,600 years and found that circulation is weaker now than at any other point in that span. They identified the most likely culprit as global warming. With the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic ice melting as the planet heats up, and rain and snow levels increasing, the water flowing north loses much of its salinity and density. This causes the water to flow south more slowly and weakens AMOC overall.
More recently, another study in the journal Nature Geoscience that identified the important role played by winds in causing changes in ocean circulation. As lead author Dr. Yavor Kostov of the University of Exeter said in a press release, scientists have struggled to understand the variability in AMOC because there are so many variables that have an effect on it. He noted that after learning that winds influenced circulation in both sub-tropical and sub-polar locations, scientists concluded that “as the climate continues to change, more efforts should be concentrated on monitoring those winds — especially in key regions on continental boundaries and the eastern coast of Greenland — and understanding what drives changes in them.”Advertisement:https://41ec6cc7d108e5e26a65e7bc9cd265db.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The obvious question, then, is: what will happen if climate change continues to weaken AMOC?
“This won’t lead to another ice age (like ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ which is a caricature of the science), but it may well threaten fish populations and lead to accelerated sea level rise along the U.S. east coast,” Mann told Salon. “This is furthermore a reminder that there are surprises in the greenhouse, and often they are unwelcome ones. If we want to avoid more and more of these unwelcome surprises, we need to bring carbon emissions down dramatically in the years ahead.”
“AMOC acts as a relief valve for the Atlantic heat buildup in the tropics,” Trenberth explained. “In the Pacific there is no equivalent and the relief valve is ENSO,” which stands for “El Niño and the Southern Oscillation.”
Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, said that it is ultimately impossible to predict with certainty what will happen if AMOC slows down — but that it is very unlikely to be good.
“For me, it is not so much about the direct impacts of this particular change, which I think are highly uncertain, but rather if we are impacting major parts of planetary-scale processes and knocking them out of the range that they operated in (and we adapted to) over the entirety of human history, it is a pretty safe bet that we can anticipate some fairly nasty unknown unknowns,” Caldeira wrote to Salon. “That may be just indefensible bias that cannot be
Just 10 miles off the coast of Los Angeles lurks an environmental disaster over 70 years in the making, which few have ever heard about. That is, until now, thanks to the research of a University of California marine scientist named David Valentine.
Working with little more than rumors and a hunch, curiosity guided him 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. A few hours of research time and an autonomous robotic submersible unearthed what had been hidden since the 1940s: countless barrels of toxic waste, laced with DDT, littering the ocean floor in between Long Beach and Catalina Island.
After 70-plus years of inaction, Valentine’s research has finally helped initiate a huge research effort to reveal the extent of the contamination.
But this offshore dump site is only a part of the story of environmental damage from years of DDT discharge along the coast of Southern California — a story which likely won’t be closed for decades to come because of its ongoing impact, including a recently discovered alarming and unprecedented rate of cancer in the state’s sea lion population, with 1 in every 4 adult sea lions plagued with the disease.
The history of DDT dumping
The chemical DDT was invented in 1939 and used during World War II as a pesticide helping to protect troops from insect-borne diseases like Malaria. After the war, production of the chemical ramped up and it became routinely used in the spraying of crops, and even over crowded beaches, to eliminate pests like mosquitos.
But in the 1960s, DDT was discovered to be toxic. Over time, eating food laced with DDT builds up inside the tissues of animals and even humans, resulting in harmful side effects. The EPA now calls it a “probable human carcinogen.” In 1972, when the U.S. government started taking environmental pollution seriously with legislation like the Clean Air Act, DDT was banned in the United States.
The largest DDT manufacturer in the U.S., Montrose Chemical Corporation, was located along the Southern California coast in the city of Torrance. From 1947 through 1982, Montrose manufactured and distributed DDT worldwide. In doing so, a byproduct mix of toxic sludge made up of petrochemicals, DDT and PCBs was produced.
For decades, that hazardous waste was disposed of in two ways. Some of the toxic pollution was dumped into storm drains and the sewer system, which was then pumped out to sea through outflow pipes, 2 miles offshore of the city of Rancho Palos Verdes.
The rest of the waste was disposed of in barrels which were loaded onto barges and floated 10 to 15 miles offshore to waste dumping sites off Catalina Island and then jettisoned into the ocean.
While it may seem hard to believe, at least part of the dumping was legally permitted. Back then, Valentine says, the prevailing thought was the ocean’s were so huge that they could never be compromised. The mantra was “dilution is the solution to pollution” — in hindsight a naïve notion.
But while the designated dumping site was very deep — in 3,000 feet of water — Valentine says shortcuts were taken, with barrels being dumped much closer to shore. And, in an effort to get the barrels to sink, there is evidence that many were slashed, allowing poison to leak, as they were dropped into the ocean.
For decades, the existence of these toxic barrels was surmised only by a very small group of scientists and regulators. That’s despite a startling report produced in the 1980s by a California Regional Water Quality Control Board scientist named Allan Chartrand, which asserted there may be as many as 500,000 barrels laced with DDT sitting on the ocean floor.
The report was largely ignored. But after nearly 30 years, Valentine dusted it off as he began his quest to see if these barrels existed.
The inshore toxic waste site
Unlike the deep water dumping sites, the shallower toxic site — called the Palos Verdes Shelf — 2 miles off the beaches of Rancho Palos Verdes was well-known and documented. In 1996, this zone was declared a Superfund clean-up site by the EPA, now comprising a 34-square-mile area. Montrose was sued and after a protracted legal battle ending in late 2000 the companies involved, including Montrose, settled for $140 million.
Over the past two decades, most of the money has been used by a program called the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) to try to restore the contaminated sites. Half of the funds were allocated to the EPA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to rehabilitate ecosystems impacted by the poison.
DDT gets into the food chain when it is consumed from the contaminated ocean bottom by tiny marine creatures, which are then eaten by small fish, which are then consumed by larger fish and marine mammals, like sea lions. Over time DDT builds up in the tissues and blubber of marine animals, a process called bioaccumulation. To this day, signs all along the Southern California coast warn fishermen not to eat certain fish. Despite this, you cannot get DDT contamination from swimming in the water.
Scientists say the contamination at this shallower water site is the most likely food chain route which leads to DDT building up in sea lion blubber. That’s because there is a much greater amount of marine life living in shallower water. But that does not rule out contamination from the much deeper site as well.
The last project of the effort — just completed — was the commissioning of an artificial reef just off the beaches of Rancho Palos Verdes. To accomplish this, NOAA hired a team of scientists from the Southern California Marine Science Institute and Vantuna Research Group at Occidental College to design and deploy the reef.
The reef building effort was led by Jonathan Williams, a marine biologist from Occidental College. The project involved strategically placing more than 70,000 tons of quarry rock on the ocean bottom just off the beach. Williams says that the reef was an immediate success, with thousands of fish flocking to the rocks.
This reef site is much closer to shore than the contamination site, which is 2 miles from land. That’s by design. Williams says the idea is to construct new habitat for fish and kelp in uncontaminated areas to build up healthy populations of fish. This helps limit the amount of toxins, like DDT, which enters the food chain.
As predators at the top of the food chain, DDT in fish is also a danger to people. Williams says this is especially true of underserved communities who are mostly likely to subsistence fish, eating what they catch. In this way, NOAA’s project addresses environmental justice by attempting to make fish more safe to eat.
Two miles offshore, Williams says that after years of measuring high levels of DDT on the Palos Verdes Shelf, levels have started to drop precipitously, a sign that some of the DDT may finally be starting to break down.
In all, his time-limited work yielded visuals of 60 barrels. Besides bringing back video of the leaking barrels, his team was also able to collect samples from the ocean floor. One of them registered a contamination 40 times greater than the highest contamination at the Superfund site, indicating that the toxins down deep are still very concentrated.
But before his discovery in 2011, Valentine placed part of the blame for the lack of knowledge about the barrels on the lack of technology to find it. It’s only in the past couple of decades that the technology became available to make this deep water research feasible.
Coincidentally, on the very day CBS News went to visit Valentine in Southern California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography began a two-week mission to survey almost 50,000 feet of the deep ocean seafloor.
Employing a large research vessel called the Sally Ride, 31 scientists and crew members, and two high-tech autonomous robots they call Roombas, the team used sophisticated sonar to map the ocean bottom and assess how many barrels there are.
As of our last conversation with Eric Terrill, the team leader, the final number had still not been tallied. But even as early as a week into the research mission, Terrill described detecting tens of thousands of targets and said the number of barrels seemed “overwhelming.”
The two-week mission is now complete, but the team is still putting together the pieces. They expect to have a final report published at the end of April.
Sea lions in trouble
Located right near the Golden Gate Bridge, the mission of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California is to rescue marine mammals in distress. Since 1975, the organization says they have rescued 24,000.
In December, the team published a 30-year study on sea lions, finding an alarming statistic: 25% of adult sea lions have cancer.
CBS News interviewed the lead veterinarian Dr. Cara Field. She called the number of sea lions with cancer both “extremely alarming” and “unprecedented in wildlife.” Last year the Marine Mammal Center had to euthanize 29 sea lions because of cancer.
In the report, the research team pointed to a combination of herpesvirus and contaminants like DDT and PCBs as the cause of cancer. In all cases of cancer, sea lions had elevated levels of DDT and PCBs in their blubber. The theory goes that the contaminants weaken the body’s immune system, making the virus more effective.
Because sea lions travel up and down the California coast yearly, scientists believe they may pick up the contaminants when they are near their breeding site on the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.
And while it seems logical that the sea lion contamination is coming from polluted sites in shallow water, scientists do not yet know how much of the DDT from barrels in deeper water may be entering the food chain. This, they say, will require more research.
While there are still many unanswered questions, one lesson from this story of DDT contamination is clear: When humans callously pollute the environment it can have consequences for generations to come. One current example is human-caused climate change. The question is, how much of a burden will our children and grandchildren have to bear as result of our choices?
It’s Time to Make a Big Deal About Something And That Something is the Dying Ocean..
By Captain Paul Watson.
Predictably, the successful release of Seaspiracy on Netflix is receiving some criticism from the usual subjects. That was expected, but it really is not all that important. Many documentaries that I have been involved with over the years have been met with similar negativity and vitriol. I remember the criticisms of Rob Stewart and his wonderful film Sharkwater. And The Cove also was belittled by some although the criticisms did not prevent the film from winning the Academy Award for best documentary of the year. Sea of Shadows was also belittled as was even my own film WATSON by Leslie Chicott and I do remember Lesley’s earlier film Inconvenient Truth and all the climate change denialists with their hired “scientist” apologists lambasting the credibility of Al Gore. And don’t even get me started on all the “experts” denouncing Greta Thunberg for being too dramatic, too, young, and too naïve for their taste. Seaspiracy as a film is what it is, a message transmitted by a medium to provoke discussion and to expose and illustrate a global problem and as such it is both powerful and influential and most importantly thanks to Netflix it is reaching millions and trending phenomenally. It was never meant to be some academic scientific dissertation filled with footnotes and boring references to peer reviewed papers. It’s a film, not some doctoral thesis to be picked apart in search of validation to justify a particular bias.
If we were to produce a 90-minute film with a purely objective scientific fact confirmed narrative as suggested, it would most likely not appeal to the general public and nothing would change. The corporations and those who work for them already know the facts. They just don’t care because they are motivated by profit.Film making is story telling. It’s meant to be emotive. It’s designed to captivate viewers and to entice discussion and controversy. If people are talking about it that means it’s a success. If people are criticizing it, that means it is having an impact. If some people are condemning it, that means that some people are threatened by it.Personally, I don’t care if there are scientists and industry people who dislike the film. I don’t need biostitutes and P.R. firms to lecture me on something I have seen and witnessed with my own eyes over the last 60 years. There is no such thing as a sustainable fishery. That is my considered observation based on 60 years of experience. Phytoplankton populations in the sea have been reduced by 40% since 1950 and that is probably the most important validated scientific fact to be concerned about. (Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/phytoplankton…/
Life in the Ocean is being diminished and that diminishment is escalating. I’m not surprised that there are many who wish to deny this just as there have been many quick to deny climate change.Change comes about through stories and in today’s world, the most powerful communication medium is film. Lucy and Ali Tabrizi are telling an important story and it’s a great deal to tell in a mere 90 minutes. I would have liked to have seen more details, but more tends to be difficult when making a film because there always tends to be too much material and too little time. Seaspiracy is a hit and it is reaching millions and Ali and Lucy Tabrizi have done a wonderful job in a project that I have actively been involved with for the last few years and proud to be associated with as I’m sure Captain Peter Hammarstedt and Dr. Sylvia Earle are as well. Fisheries consultant Francisco Blaha amusingly generalized the filmmakers by stating that the film has a tendency to generalize. He tweeted, “I’m over the set up where the ‘bad guys’ are predominantly Asian, the ‘victims’ predominantly black/brown, and the ‘good guys’ talking about it and saving the ocean are predominantly white.”Blaha admits in a tweet that he actually did not see the entire film and his bias is apparent in his job title as “fisheries consultant” to industrialized fishing corporations. In the film the bad guys are not predominantly Asian. The film focus is on European as well as Asian fishermen and shows how artisanal fishing communities in Africa are being devastated by industrialized fishing. Industrialized fishing corporations are the bad guys. His assertion that those in the film are predominantly white males is also incorrect. The film was made by a man of Middle Eastern background and a woman – Lucy Tabrizi and features the voices of Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Hightower, Tamara Arenovich, Lori Marino and Lamya Essemlali amongst others. As for Sea Shepherd, we are working hand in hand with African and Latin American nations to oppose Asian AND European exploitation of the waters of these nations. We are in fact working with and for African and Central and South America nations. This means we are working in opposition to the industry that Blaha consults for. In 2019, Blaha was the winner of the 2019 World Seafood Champion Award which is all we need to know to understand his bias
This film by Ali and Lucy is their project, it is their voice and they have every right to tell their story the way they wish to tell their story. If the critics don’t like it they should take up the challenge and make their own film. In fact, that is the only valid response. All this chatter and pooh-poohing of a film they happen to not like is irrelevant and meaningless.If they want to make a film with what they consider to be “real” science they should do it. It’s easy to be a critic, easy to slam the work and creativity of others. If there is a film they would rather see produced, one that meets with their approval they should just shut up and make it.
Farley Mowat wrote and made a TV series Sea of Slaughter a few decades ago. Solid science it was indeed yet it was dismissed by industry and restricted to the limited audience of the CBC and he was also told that he was not delivering his message properly meaning he should be doing it by not offending anyone. He warned us years ago about what was happening yet nothing changed and things became much worse.
This film despite the naysayers and the critics is a critically acclaimed success and that is a fact. It is a weapon of revelation and it is influencing millions and it needs to be built upon and not dismissed or belittled, especially by people who profess to care about marine ecology. The Ocean does not have time for the justifiers, the appeasers and the complainers. Right now, the Ocean needs activists more than scientists.https://www.ecowatch.com/commercial-fishing-netflix…
Fishermen, swimmers and seafood enthusiasts may already know the dangers of “red tides,” but a recent study in Frontiers in Climate shows that climate change is increasing the frequency of one type of highly toxic algal bloom off the US west coast. These algae produce a neurotoxin—called domoic acid—that causes severe and potentially lethal digestive and neurological symptoms. This threat to marine wildlife and humans is restricting shellfish harvest in the region, but local bulletins are helping to forecast the blooms.
“This study shows that climate change can influence the occurrence and intensity of some harmful algal blooms (HABs) by creating new seed beds for their survival and distribution,” says lead author Dr. Vera L Trainer, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, Washington. “Coastal communities, including Native Tribes, will suffer from the effects of HABs more frequently in the future, illustrating the importance of early warning systems such as Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletins that are becoming operational in the US and other parts of the world.”
Starting in 1998, Trainer and her colleagues began monitoring domoic acid—which is produced by Pseudo-nitzschia algae—in shellfish samples and ocean water along the US west coast. In 2015, the severe heatwave in the northeast Pacific Ocean triggered a new record-breaking Pseudo-nitzschia bloom that closed shellfish harvest and caused widespread marine mammal mortalities. As a result, a region in northern California near the Oregon border has become a new toxic hotspot that has prevented shellfish harvest every year since that heatwave event.
A related finding used multi-model datasets to show that the 2013-2015 heatwave was five times more likely to have been caused by human, rather than natural, influences. Models also predict that extreme marine heatwaves are now 20 times more likely to occur than they would be without climate change. These models include several decade’s worth of data, including temperature, wind and ocean current measurements, which allow researchers to make a wide variety of climate predictions and risk assessments.
Due to the water currents and coastal topography, the region near the California/Oregon border provides favorable conditions for recurring algal blooms in the future—called retentive regions. At this site, and other retentive regions along the US west coast, Pseudo-nitzschia can remain dormant in sediments for years until ocean upwelling brings the algal cells to the surface and temperatures become warm enough for the algae to multiply.
In response to these now frequent blooms, a regional partnership between NOAA, the University of Washington, the Washington State Departments of Health and Fish and Wildlife and Native Tribes with support from the Northwest Association for Networked Observing Systems has created the Pacific Northwest Harmful Algal Bloom Bulletin to forecast these events and warn local communities of when and where it is safe to collect shellfish. Trainer’s team found that these Bulletins have become a cost-effective tool to help minimize the health and economic toll of the algal blooms.
“There is evidence that bacteria associated with seagrasses have algicidal properties, indicating that seagrass planting may be used to successfully control some HABs in Puget Sound,” says Trainer. “But for large-scale marine HABs, early warning is our best defense and these HAB Bulletins will help preserve a way of life that includes wild shellfish harvest, on which coastal people depend.”
The volunteers have ignored a government order to leave the clean-up operation to local officials, potentially risking a fine or other punishment. NGOs asked volunteers on Tuesday not to risk their health cleaning up the oil on the coast but to concentrate on boom-making instead.
High winds and waves are pounding the Japanese bulk carrier, which is showing signs of breaking up and dumping its remaining cargo into the waters surrounding the postcard-perfect island off the east coast of Africa.
Nearly 2,000 metric tons of oil, diesel and petroleum lubricants could inundate the lagoon if the Wakashio breaks apart, and experts believe it’s a matter of hours.
“The situation is very critical. Cracks have expanded over the course of the day,” said Dr. Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, the island’s premier oceanographer.
“The situation’s about to get 10 times worse. It’ll be a major catastrophe,” he said.
The oil is traveling up the coast, Kauppaymuthoo told NBC News, which could lead to huge stretches of lagoon being affected.
“It’ll take decades to rehabilitate the lagoon, and it’ll never be as it was before the spill. We have thousand-year-old coral here, protected species in our waters,” he added.
“I’m so sad, so angry. Larm koule,” he said in creole. The phrase means “tears run down my face.”
Tourism has long been at the heart of the country’s economy, with a string of luxury hotels punctuating every coastline.
The country had emerged from the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic two months ago relatively unscathed, with only 344 total cases and 10 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center. The government recently launched a fresh series of tourist campaigns in an effort to revive business.
But now schools in the region have been closed because of the overwhelming smell of petrol and dead fish that permeates the air.
There’s concern that residents near the coast where the ship is stranded, among several sites of great ecological importance, may have been exposed to hazardous substances washing ashore.
“I can’t smell it anymore,” said Sauvage, who has barely left the waterfront since the spill.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of emergency and appealed for international help. He said the spill “represents a danger” for the country of 1.3 million people.
Japan on Sunday said it would send a six-member team of experts to assist. French experts have arrived from the nearby island of Reunion.
But pressure is mounting on the government to explain why it did not act sooner to avert the environmental disaster.
The opposition and activists are calling for the resignation of the environment and fisheries ministers.
“We’ve seen the trailer but not the movie yet, of the crisis to come,” said Dr. Vikash Tatayah, director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
He’s been leading rescue efforts on Ile aux Aigrettes, an islet central to conservation efforts, evacuating species of plants and animals to safety.
The oil has encircled the islet like a noose.
“It’s a disaster,” Tatayah said.
“Never in my wildest nightmares would I have imagined something like this.”
Preliminary results of a necropsy show a boat strike likely killed the humpback whale whose body was found drifting down the St. Lawrence River near Varennes, Que., early Tuesday, say veterinarians who are examining the carcass where it was hoisted from the water, in Sainte-Anne-de-Sorel.
The whale, vigorous when she was first spotted near the Jacques Cartier Bridge on May 30, drew hundreds of people to the Old Port to catch a glimpse of the rare sight. The whale was last spotted alive Sunday near Pointe-aux-Trembles, at the northeastern end of the island of Montreal and was then seen, lifeless, near Île-Beauregard, six nautical miles away.
Université de Montréal Prof. Stéphane Lair, a veterinary pathologist leading the team conducting the necropsy, said the whale had suffered trauma under its skin and in its muscles. The accumulation of blood in the whale also suggests that a collision fatally wounded the animal, said Lair.
Lair confirmed the young humpback was a female, between two and three years of age.
He said his team will analyze samples from the necropsy in the lab before confirming the cause of death in a month or two.
If indeed a boat did strike and kill the whale, Laird said, the vessel would have had to have been very large.
WATCH: Veterinarian on what he found in whale necropsy:
Preliminary findings show whale was hit by boat
1 day ago
The team led by Université de Montréal veterinary Prof. Stéphane Lair says early findings from the necropsy suggest the humpback whale was struck by a boat. Lair says a final diagnosis could take as long as two months. 0:30
“If they hit the whale during the night, there’s a good chance they might not have noticed it,” Lair said.
The whale had some skin damage from the time it had spent in fresh water, Lair said, but it otherwise looked to be in good health.
Humpback whales can survive a journey through fresh water for at least three weeks and return safely to the ocean, said Robert Michaud, the co-ordinator of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network.
“We thought this animal could make it,” said Michaud, who is also the founder and scientific director of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, based in Tadoussac, Que.
Lair said he can’t yet confirm if the whale had been eating but said it is possible the whale, at least in the early part of her journey from salt water upstream to Montreal, could have been chasing schools of fish.
Michaud and his network had hoped they could help the whale return safely to her natural habitat, keeping close tabs on her until they lost track of the whale Sunday morning, he said.
The copper-rich blue blood of the horseshoe crab has long been used to detect contaminants in pharmaceuticals. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
Published onSat 30 May 2020 22.53 EDT
Horseshoe crabs’ icy-blue blood will remain the drug industry’s standard for safety tests after a powerful US group ditched a plan to give equal status to a synthetic substitute pushed by Swiss biotech Lonza and animal welfare groups.
The crabs’ copper-rich blood clots in the presence of bacterial endotoxins and has long been used in tests to detect contamination in shots and infusions.
More recently, man-made versions called recombinant Factor C (rFC) from Basel-based Lonza and others have emerged.
An industry battle has been brewing, as another testing giant, Lonza’s US-based rival Charles River Laboratories, has criticised the synthetic option on safety grounds.
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Maryland-based US Pharmacopeia (USP), whose influential publications guide the drug industry, had initially proposed adding rFC to the existing chapter governing international endotoxin testing standards.
USP has now abandoned that, it announced late on Friday, opting instead to put rFC in a new stand-alone chapter. This means drug companies seeking to use it must continue to do extra validation work, to guarantee their methods of using rFC tests match those of tests made from crab blood.
The decision gives the drug industry fewer incentives to end its reliance on animal-based tests, even as companies like Lonza and France’s bioMerieux promote man-made alternatives and wildlife advocates worry about crab bleeding’s effect on the coastal ecosystem.
USP told Reuters on Sunday its experts concluded there was too little practical experience with drug products tested with rFC to put the synthetic tests on equal footing with crab blood tests, which have been widely used for decades.
Horseshoe crabs being bled at Charles River Laboratory. Photograph: Timothy Fadek/Corbis via Getty Images
“Given the importance of endotoxin testing in protecting patients … the committee ultimately decided more real-world data [was needed],” USP said in a statement, adding this approach will give the US Food and Drug Administration flexibility to work with drugmakers on rFC validation requirements.
USP did say it supports efforts to shift to rFC tests, including for potential testing of Covid-19 medicines or vaccines, where it is offering technical assistance.
Endotoxin tests number 70 million annually and estimates put the relevant market at $1bn annually by 2024.
Eli Lilly, one drugmaker that has shifted to synthetic tests for drugs like its migraine treatment Emgality, has said rFC is safe and that the extra validation requirements have been a hurdle to adoption by more companies.
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Conservationists, including advocates for migratory birds that dine on horseshoe crab eggs on the US east coast, have also been pushing for rFC’s increased use to take pressure off crabs, some of which die after being returned to the Atlantic Ocean following bleeding.
Lonza did not immediately comment on USP’s move. Charles River also did not return a request for comment.
The New Jersey Audubon Society and Delaware-based Ecological Research & Development Group, a crab conservation group, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Researchers used radiocarbon dating of eye proteins to determine the ages of 28 Greenland sharks, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old. The former vertebrate record-holder was a bowhead whale estimated to be 211 years old.
As lead author Julius Nielsen, a marine biologist from the University of Copenhagen, put it: “We had our expectations that we were dealing with an unusual animal, but I think everyone doing this research was very surprised to learn the sharks were as old as they were.”
Greenland sharks are huge and can grow up to 5m in length. Yet, they grow at just 1cm a year. They can be found, swimming slowly, throughout the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic.
The team believes the animals only reach sexual maturity when they are 4m-long. And with this new, very lengthy age-range, it suggests this does not occur until the animals are about 150 years old.
The research was made possible, in part, by the atmospheric thermonuclear weapons tests conducted during the 1960s, which released massive amounts of radiocarbon that were then absorbed by organisms in ocean ecosystems. Sharks that showed evidence of elevated radiocarbon in the nucleus of their eye tissue were therefore born after the so-called “bomb pulse,” and were younger than 50 years old, while sharks with lower radiocarbon levels were born prior to that, and were at least 50 years old or older, the study authors wrote.
The scientists then calculated an age range for the older sharks based on their size, and on prior data about Greenland sharks’ size at birth and growth rates in fish.
According to the results of the analysis – which has a probability rate of about 95 percent – the sharks were at least 272 years old, and could be as much as 512 years old (!) with 390 years as the most likely average life span, according to Nielsen.
But why do Greenland sharks live so long? Their longevity is actually attributed to their very slow metabolism and the cold waters that they inhabit. They swim through the cold waters of the Arctic and the North Atlantic at such a sluggish pace that has earned them the nickname “sleeper sharks.” Seal parts have been found in their bellies, but the sharks move so slowly that experts have suggested that the seals must have been asleep or already dead when the sharks ate them.