Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The World's Oil Supply is Running Out........... Which is Great if You Are A Fish!!!

By George Monbiot - The Guardian
8th July 2008

All over the world, protesters are engaged in a heroic battle with reality. They block roads, picket fuel depots, throw missiles and turn over cars in an effort to hold it at bay. The oil is running out and governments, they insist, must do something about it. When they've sorted it out, what about the fact that the days are getting shorter? What do we pay our taxes for?

The latest people to join these surreal protests are the world's fishermen. They are on strike in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Japan, and demonstrating in scores of maritime countries. Last month in Brussels they threw rocks and flares at the police, who have been conspiring with the world's sedimentary basins to keep the price of oil high. The fishermen warn that if something isn't done to help them, thousands could be forced to scrap their boats and hang up their nets. It's an appalling prospect, which we should greet with heartfelt indifference.

Just as the oil price now seems to be all that stands between us and runaway climate change, it is also the only factor which offers a glimmer of hope to the world's marine ecosystems. No east Asian government was prepared to conserve the stocks of tuna; now one-third of the tuna boats in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea will stay in dock for the next few months because they can't afford to sail. The unsustainable quotas set on the US Pacific seaboard won't be met this year, because the price of oil is rising faster than the price of fish. The indefinite strike called by Spanish fishermen is the best news European fisheries have had for years. Beam trawlermen - who trash the seafloor and scoop up a massive bycatch of unwanted species - warn that their industry could collapse within a year. Hurray to that too.

It would, of course, be better for everyone if these unsustainable practices could be shut down gently without the need for a crisis or the loss of jobs, but this seems to be more than human nature can bear. The EU has a programme for taking fishing boats out of service - the tonnage of the European fleet has fallen by 5% since 1999 - but the decline in boats is too slow to overtake the decline in stocks. Every year the EU, like every other fishery authority, tries to accommodate its surplus boats by setting quotas higher than those proposed by its scientific advisers, and every year the population of several species is pressed a little closer to extinction.

The fishermen make two demands, which are taken up by politicians in coastal regions all over the world: they must be allowed to destroy their own livelihoods, and the rest of us should pay for it. Over seven years, European taxpayers will be giving this industry €3.8bn. Some of this money is used to take boats out of service and to find other jobs for fishermen; but the rest is used to equip boats with new engines and new gear, to keep them on the water, to modernise ports and landing sites; and to promote and market the catch. Except for the funds used to re-train fishermen or help them into early retirement, there is no justification for this spending. At least farmers can argue - often falsely - that they are the "stewards of the countryside". But what possible argument is there for keeping more fishermen afloat than the fish population can bear?

The EU says its spending will reduce fishing pressure and help fishermen adopt greener methods. In reality, it is delaying the decline of the industry and allowing it to defy ecological limits for as long as possible. If the member states want to protect the ecosystem, it's a good deal cheaper to legislate than to pay. Our fishing policies, like those of almost all maritime nations, are a perfect parable of commercial stupidity and short-termism, helping an industry to destroy its long-term prospects for the sake of immediate profit.

But the fishermen only demand more. The headline on this week's Fishing News is "Thanks for Nothing!", bemoaning the British government's refusal to follow France, Spain and Italy in handing out fuel subsidies. But why the heck should it? The Scottish fishing secretary, Richard Lochhead, demands that the government in Westminster "open the purse strings". He also insists that new money is "not tied to decommissioning": in other words no more boats should be taken off the water. Is this really a service to the industry, or only to its most short-sighted members?

I have a leaked copy of the draft proposal that European states will discuss on Thursday. It's a disaster. Some of the boats which, under existing agreements, will be scrapped and turned into artificial reefs, permanently reducing the size of the fleet, can now be replaced with smaller vessels. The EU will pay costs and salaries for crews stranded by the fuel crisis, so that they stay in business and can start fishing again when the price falls. Member states will be able to shell out more money (€100,000 instead of €30,000 per boat) without breaking state aid rules. They can hand out new grants for replacing old equipment with more fuel-efficient gear. The proposal seems to be aimed at ensuring that the industry collapses through lack of fish rather than lack of fuel. The fishermen won't go down without taking the ecosystem with them.

What makes the draft document so dumb is that in some regions, especially in British waters, the industry is just beginning to turn. While Spanish, French and Italian fishermen clamour for a resumption of bluefin tuna fishing - knowing that if they are allowed to fish now this will be the last season ever - around the UK it has begun to dawn on some fishermen that there might be an association between the survival of the fish and the survival of the fishing.

Prompted by Young's seafood and some of the supermarkets, who in turn have been harried by environmental groups, some of the biggest British fisheries have applied for eco-labels from the Marine Stewardship Council, which sets standards for how fish are caught. Fishermen around the UK also seem to be taking the law more seriously, and at last to be showing some interest in obscure issues such as spawning grounds and juvenile fish (which, believe it or not, turn out to have a connection to future fish stocks). By ensuring that far too many boats, and far too many desperate fishermen, stay on the water, and that the remaining quotas are stretched too thinly, the EU will slow down or even reverse the greening of the industry.

Why is this issue so hard to resolve? Why does every representative of a fishing region believe he must defend his constituents' right to ensure that their children have nothing to inherit? Why do the leaders of the fishermen's associations feel the need always to denounce the scientists who say that fish stocks decline if they are hit too hard? If this is a microcosm of how human beings engage with the environment, the prospect for humanity is not a happy one.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Deep-sea carbon storage must be tested, says leading scientist

"Scientists must start dumping carbon dioxide into the deep ocean to see whether it provides a safe way of tackling global warming", a leading expert on climate change has said.

An article in the Guardian today suggested that in order to test the theory that carbon dioxide stripped from the exhaust gases of power stations and dumped in deep water would stay there for hundreds of years, large quantities, a series of experiments of around 1 tonne each, of CO2 should simply be "dumped" in to the ocean.

Wallace Broecker, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at New York's Columbia University, says experiments must be carried out "promptly" and has called on environmental campaigners to drop their opposition to such schemes.

Writing for the Guardian, Broecker says: "While we know enough to say with confidence that deep ocean disposal of CO2 is certainly feasible, unless small-scale pilot experiments are conducted, information necessary to assess the impact [on sea life] will remain obscure. It is my view that a series of experiments involving one-tonne quantities of CO2 should be conducted."

He goes on to say "480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide could be safely dumped directly into the waters of the deep Pacific, equivalent to the carbon pollution from about 16 years of the world's current fossil fuel use".

Well to this statement all I can say is........ How do we know? Who says that it will stay there for hundreds of years and what happens when, at some point in the future the CO2 is re-released from the depths of the oceans into the atmosphere? If the situation in 300 years time is as critical as it is now.... and there is no reason to believe that politicians and world leaders will have been any more successful at combating climate change or curbing CO2 emissions then than they are now, the result of 480 billion Tonnes of CO2 being re-emitted into the atmosphere could be catastrophic.

Broecker then goes on to say "Worms and other organisms on the sea bed directly beneath the storage site would be killed" and says that the impact would be "trivial" compared to that of the fishing industry.

I am amazed at this cavalier attitude to the destruction of benthic life from someone of Broecker's standing and although I appreciate that research is vital to address the issues of climate change and CO2 emissions more research needs to be carried out on the long term effects of what amounts to the mass destruction of benthic communities and the effects of increased ocean acidity as a result.

Dumping CO2 into the oceans merely a stop-gap, a short term solution to a long term problem. If the general public believs that dumping excess CO2 into the oceans solves the problem, they will simply continue churning out CO2 in the belief that it can be just dumped and the problem will go away.

There has understandably been opposition to this proposal. Bill Hare of Greenpeace said: "The urgency of reducing emissions of CO2 has never been greater. But just as with an emergency in a heavy passenger jet, the crew should never rush in to hasty actions that will ultimately make a very bad situation a lot worse. Ocean disposal of CO2 is one such option. The position of Greenpeace and of other groups opposed to this option was based on research into the effects of ocean disposal of CO2."

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bacteria Threatens Oyster Farming in US Pacific.

In his years working in the oyster business, Mark Wiegardt had never seen anything like it.

"It scared the bejeezus out of us," he said, speaking from the Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Oregon.

The thing that so frightened Wiegardt is invisible to the human eye. But its presence in the waters of the US Pacific coast has oyster farmers and scientists baffled, and threatens a shortage of the delicacy in oyster bars and delicatessens from Mexico to Canada, from Portland to Miami.

Vibrio tubiashii is a bacterium that kills shellfish at the larval stage. While it has come and gone sporadically since the 1960s, it took up residence on the US Pacific shoreline two years ago and has not gone away. Its presence led to the temporary closure of Whiskey Creek, one of the largest oyster hatcheries in the US, and has placed in jeopardy the business of others involved in the $111m (£57m) industry.

Mark Camara is a geneticist who works for the US department of agriculture in Newport, Oregon. He, like many in the tightknit scientific community in the Pacific northwest, has worked with Wiegardt to resolve the problems facing the industry.

Thanks to their efforts, including the introduction of a $180,000 filtration system, Whiskey Creek is now at 30-50% of its normal annual production of around 10bn oyster larvae.

"But between August and October we virtually produced zero larvae," said Wiegardt. "There's definitely going to be a ripple effect with this thing. We've told our customers, if you can find it somewhere else, get it."

Robin Downey, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers' Association, said the industry was confident that it would find a solution.

"We don't have a broad geographical picture," she said. "We don't know if this is a blip or a trend. It may be something that happens every 100 years."

Claudia Hase, an assistant professor at Oregon State University's college of veterinary medicine, said the problem seemed to be affecting not just oysters but other shellfish, including clams, geoducks - popular in sushi - fin fish and possibly shrimp. And it is spreading, with instances noted in Florida.

"It seems like it could be a huge problem," she said.

As for the cause, Hase hints at something that few want to articulate. "No one wants to admit it," she said. "It's very political." The suggestion is that climate change is a factor in the enduring presence of the bacterium.

Whiskey Creek Hatchery hopes to be back close to normal by next spring, if it can extend its filtration system, and if the system continues to produce results. But Wiegardt is concerned that the problems are merely a symptom of a larger malaise.

"We're pretty concerned about what is going on with the dead zones," he said. "Is that a connection to global warming? That's the consensus."

Friday, 20 June 2008

Portion of Lyme Bay Closed to Scallop Dredgers and Bottom Trawlers

A ban on fishing in one of Britain's "richest" marine environments is to be implemented to protect its wildlife and seascape.

About 10% of Lyme Bay off Dorset and East Devon is to be permanently closed to scallop dredging and bottom trawling from July, Defra has announced.

The bay's reefs are home to an abundance of sea life including rare sponges, corals and starfish.

Conservation groups have welcomed the ban but some local fishermen are angry.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "Lyme Bay is one of Britain's richest environments, and the measures we have announced today will protect the reefs and the wildlife that depends on them from the most damaging fishing methods." It's catastrophic for inshore fishing, we feel let down, disappointed and disgusted
Nick Prust, South West Inshore Fishing Association

The fishing ban will cover 60 square nautical miles of Lyme Bay, from West Bay in Dorset to Beer Head in Devon.

The area will be off-limits to fishing boats which drag nets along the seabed. Wildlife groups had argued this was damaging the environment.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt of the Marine Conservation Society said: "In the end, most fishermen and conservationists want the same thing - sustainable fishing which has limited impact on the marine environment."

Fishing organisations said they were furious and felt betrayed that a gentleman's agreement to allow them to fish in certain parts of the bay and leave others alone had been rescinded by the Government.

Nick Prust from the South West Inshore Fishing Association said: "It's catastrophic for inshore fishing. We feel let down, disappointed and disgusted."

Jim Portus from the South West Fish Producer Organisation said: "I'm devastated, it will mean a £3m annual loss for the local economy. It's not a happy day for inshore fishing."

More marine reserves are likely to be announced in the forthcoming marine bill.

Friday, 6 June 2008

End Test

Well, yesterday I sat the last exam of my foundation degree (Fingers Crossed!) It was the culmination of two years hard work, two years of being poor and two years of travelling 100 miles a day just to get to Falmouth Marine School! It has also been two years of amazing fun during which I have made some wonderful friends and done things that I have wanted to do since I was a child. I wouldn't change a thing..... well actually, a bit more money would have been nice but I guess you can't have everything!

My final Coastal Zone Management lesson consisted of an end test encompassing all the topics that we had looked at over the last year.
Using The Devon Maritime Forum as an indication of best practice, we applied conflict resolution ideas to current Coastal Zone Conflicts such as dredging, mangrove destruction, sea defences and coastal erosion. I concentrated on fish farming and aquaculture as it is a subject that I am particularly interested in having researched it in my first year for an assignment.

My ambitions for the future..... assuming I pass my exams are pretty much the same as they were when I started this degree. I am hoping to continue into the third year either in Plymouth or Cambourne and after that I am considering studying for an extra year to complete a Masters Degree.

After that Iam hoping for a job in research. is an excellent website to search for jobs within the marine industry and recently there was ajob advertised for a Benthic Taxonomist which I would be very interrested in. was advertising a job for a zooplankton Analyst which I would also be interested in.

I guess you will have to watch this space.........

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Mangrove Destruction Leaves Burma At The Mercy Of The Cyclone

It was claimed in the BBC news today that the destruction of mangrove forests in Burma, which usually form a buffer between rising tides, ever inccreasing wave size and storms and the residential settlements, left coastal areas exposed to the devastating force of the weekends cyclone.
A study or the 2004 Asian Tsunami found that areas with healthy mangroves suffered less damage and fewer fatalities.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Scientists Claim "No Warming Within The Next Decade"

                                       Gulf Stream Image Courtesy of NASA

It was reported today that a group of German researchers have developed a new climate change model that suggests that, because the Earth is entering a natural cooling phase, which appears to happen roughly every 60-70 years, the temperatures will stay roughly the same as they are at the moment and counter the effects of greenhouse warming. Some scientists have welcomed this research claiming that it enables them to plan for a better future with a degree of accuracy however scientists also claim that by about 2020, the temperatures will once again be rising sharply. The Atlantic Multicedal Oscillation (AMO) or Gulf Stream as most people know it as appears to be the key to the new predictions.