22 July 2005

Coral Queen under refit

Coral Queen in happier times before the sinkingCoral Queen, the popular Red Sea diving liveaboard sunk in early July, has been refloated and has returned to port for repairs.

Pumped out and sealed, the 24m vessel was able to make her own way to Safaga, Egypt, where she is now in dry dock. Repairs will begin after an assessment has been completed of the damage done to the hull and interior, flooded when the boat hit a reef at the Sha'ab Sataya dive site at Fury Shoals.

Oonasdivers, the boat's British charter agent, has opened a fund for donations to the crew of about ten Egyptians who have temporarily lost their jobs while the boat sits high and dry. Contributors should contact Alison Rider, Oonasdivers' MD, at alison@oonasdivers.com

Source: www.divernet.com
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Coral Queen under refit

Scuba instructor and tourist diver drown diving in Saipan

Police believe that the diving student who drowned at the Grotto, a popular cavern dive site on Saturday 16th got low on air while she was several meters underwater, causing her to panic and to attempt ascending fast to the surface.

Divers who assisted police in searching for 25-year-old Megumi Morita found her underwater without her scuba tank regulator in her mouth. She was motionless when the divers found her, police said.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Eric David said Mayumi Fukuda, a 25-year-old dive instructor for the Past Time dive shop, ascended with Morita after being informed that the student was panicking.

Police said other divers who witnessed the incident believed that an emergency situation was happening, saying that Morita and Fukuda were ascending very fast. Fukuda's body was found after a search the following day.

Citing findings of a police investigation, the DPS spokesman said that Fukuda and six female student divers, including Morita, went to the Grotto at about 3pm Saturday. Within 10 minutes underwater, the group was about 25 meters deep.

At that time, David said Fukuda was conducting advance course lessons for two students, Morita and Naomi Tsumura. The group then proceeded outside the Grotto about 20 meters deep.

Police said Tsumura noticed Morita panicking and notified the instructor about it. The group stayed at that level as Fukuda and Morita ascended.

Another group of divers approached the female group and asked the latter how much air was left in their scuba tanks. Sensing that the female group was low on air, a Japanese diving instructor signaled the woman to follow him and his group to the cavern and safely back up on the rock.

Several dive groups who were at the Grotto Saturday assisted in searching for Fukuda and Morita. Police could not say whether the water was rough on that day. Saipan was experiencing bad weather that day due to the passage of supertyphoon Haitang near the Marianas.

While volunteer divers found Morita underwater on the same day, they did not find Fukuda. Police dispatched a boat and searched for Fukuda, but failed to find the dive instructor on that day.

Police was about to resume search operations the next day when volunteers aboard the boat Zero found Fukuda and brought her to the Smiling Cove Marina. Both Fukuda and Morita were declared dead due to drowning.

Source: www.asiadivesite.com
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Scuba instructor and tourist diver drown diving in Saipan

DEMA drops Houston

DEMA – the American trade show for the diving industry – has announced that for the next six years it will be alternating its venue between Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida.

A spokesman said it will be dropping Houston in Texas – the venue of last year's show. The organisers also said that after this year the four-day show will be at the end of October or the beginning of November.

This year’s show will be held in Las Vegas from 4-7 October.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk
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DEMA drops Houston

Maldivian divers concerned about extinction of sharks in maldives’ over-fished waters

Diving instructors are complaining that the over-fishing of sharks has led to a serious reduction in their numbers, which is having a detrimental impact on tourism.

Speaking to Minivan Radio earlier in the week, a professional dive instructor – who has worked in Maldives for over seven years – said: "five years back, shark sightings were frequent and the tourists loved it. But it has come to a point now where there are fewer and fewer sightings and the tourists who come to snorkel and dive are starting to complain about it."

Divers and others in the tourism industry also complain of a "lack of interest" from the government over their concerns.

"I have personally told the Minister of Tourism about this problem several times now. And each time he tells me they [the government] are trying to find a solution. But I have still seen no results. I don’t think they are doing enough" the diver said.

According to sources, 10-12 boats fish for sharks everyday and 20 to 25 sharks get caught each day – a number divers say is devastating shark stocks in Maldives' waters.

"The government should ban fishing for sharks at least for a couple of months. I believe this would increase the shark population. The government should also ban the import of plastic bags as well, because it is the main source of destruction for the corals" The diver went on to say.

Tourism accounts for some 40% of Maldives' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is believed to generate 70% of Maldives' foreign exchange reserves.

Source: www.minivannews.com
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Maldivian divers concerned about extinction of sharks in maldives’ over-fished waters

Plankton can run, but can't hide from Basking Sharks

It was thought basking sharks followed a rigid pattern. Image courtesy of David Sims/MBABasking sharks are much more canny predators than previously thought, ecologists have discovered.

According to new research published online by the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology, basking sharks are able to reverse their normal pattern of diving at dawn and surfacing at dusk in order to foil the attempts of zooplankton trying to evade capture. As well as shedding new light on basking behaviour, the results have important implications for the conservation of shark species.

Dr David Sims of the Marine Biological Association and colleagues examined diving behaviour of four basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) - two in the shallow sea off Plymouth and two in the deep water off the shelf-edge southwest of Ireland and in northern Clyde Sea in Scotland - using pop-up tags that measure swimming depth, water temperature and light levels.

The tags were programmed to detach themselves from the sharks at a set time, float to the surface and then drift with the currents like a "electronic messages in bottles", before being washed up on beaches and found by the public.

Plankton can run, but can't hide from Basking SharksSims found that while the sharks in deep waters exhibited normal diving behaviour, tracking the zooplankton Calanus up to the surface at dusk and then downward at dawn, sharks in the western English Channel did the reverse. This is the first time this behaviour has been observed among plankton-eating sharks, the authors say, and shows that shark diving behaviour differs predictably between deep waters and in shallow seas close to plankton-rich boundaries in water temperature.

Although the mechanisms underlying this behaviour are unclear, the results indicate that the sharks are responding to changes in vertical migration by the zooplankton. Zooplankton have evolved a range of behaviours to try and avoid being eaten, sometimes staying at greater depths during the day and then feeding near the surface at night but at other times reversing this behaviour in an attempt to throw some of their predators (eg fish larvae and predatory invertebrates such as arrow worms) off their trail. However, this study shows that basking sharks seem to have rumbled them.

As well as shedding new light on behavioural strategies of plankton-feeding sharks and whales, the results have important implications for methods used to monitor populations of basking sharks and other species.

"There is concern that the world's two largest fish species, the whale shark Rhincodon typus and the basking shark, have low population levels as a result of human exploitation. Data on population sizes for these species are lacking, and diving behaviour is one factor contributing to surveying bias," the authors say.

Unless adjusted to account for these differences in diving patterns, current surveys could be over- or underestimating basking shark abundance by at least 10-fold.

Up to 10 metres long and weighing up to 7 tons - about the size of double-decker bus - the basking shark is the world's second largest fish and feeds by filtering plankton from sea water through its enormous mouth.

It is able to filter up to 2,000 tons of water per hour - the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It is harmless to humans, but has been netted and harpooned for its oil which was burned in lamps and more recently for its fins.

Source: SharkTrust and news.bbc.co.uk
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Plankton can run, but can't hide from Basking Sharks

Lemon sharks swarm Florida "Lovers Lane"

Samuel "Doc" Gruber, a marine biologist at the University of Miami, has studied juvenile lemon sharks in the Bahamas for three decades. His research, conducted largely in a Bimini Islands lagoon nursery, has produced one of the world's most comprehensive shark studies.

 Scientists say they still know little about the behavior of adult lemon sharks.It has also spotlighted how little we know about species.

"We've been looking at [lemon sharks] for maybe 30 years, and as a result we know a tremendous amount about their early life—but nothing whatsoever about the adult stages," the scientist said. "That's why I'm so excited about [my current] work."

Gruber's current work involves the dramatic aggregations of several hundred adult lemon sharks off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, each year. The mass gatherings, which offer scientists a unique opportunity to meet adults face-to-face, are believed to be part of the animal's reproductive cycle.

Surprisingly, scientists have never observed lemon sharks mating.

Pre-Mating Ritual?
Like salmon and certain other marine species, lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) return to their natal grounds to give birth.

"If you were mating with your sister or your mother, you might have some inbreeding problems," Gruber said. "If a whole population was less than 100 or 200 animals, you might expect to see sharks with twelve fins." Yet lemon sharks appear nomal. "This perplexed us."

To avoid inbreeding problems within their relatively small populations, the sharks appear to have developed a mating strategy as yet unobserved in other shark species: Though female lemon sharks return to their natal grounds each year, males remain nomadic.

The strategy ensures genetic diversity among different lemon shark populations. It may also have spawned the phenomenon of large lemon shark gatherings, like the ones found near Jupiter, Florida. Such gatherings guarantee that the two sexes get together.

"We believe that a bunch of females go to a certain place where there's a current and put out pheromones to attract males," Gruber said. "When they have attracted a great enough number—a critical mass—they begin to mate."

"I suspect that quite a few [shark] species could do this," he added. "But nobody knows."

Human-Shark Encounters
Reports from local divers near Jupiter Inlet gave Gruber and his team a chance to find and dive on the enormous shark gatherings earlier this year.

"We have lots of ideas and experiments, but the only way we can do them is to actually get hold of the animals," the marine biologist said. "Our goal was to see if we could catch and sample lemon sharks in this aggregation."

Specialized, quiet diving equipment allowed researchers to observe the sharks at close range. But the team had only limited success in capturing the animals with conventional hook-and-line fishing.

Enter dive expert Randy Jordan, owner of a Jupiter dive shop. Jordan tried an unnerving technique—hand-feeding baited hooks to selected sharks.

"It was a little bit exciting, but it worked," Jordan said. "When I went down with the baited hook, my main concern was not to get entangled in the hook or line and become part of the catch. I could just picture a full-grown lemon dragging me around the reef."

"The plan seemed simple, until I fed the first one," Jordan continued. "I approached a large female and dropped the baited hook directly in front of her mouth."

"She grabbed it like the free lunch it was. When she took off, I released the line and stood back. Six other sharks charged me to get their share," he added. "I punched one with the end of my gun and headed up a few feet to gain a vantage point."

"After a couple of minutes of negotiation, they realized I was empty and left."

Despite a few harrowing moments, the technique proved that the team could reliably catch, sample, and tag adult lemon sharks in the swarm. It even enabled scientists to target specific sizes of male and female sharks.

"The shark's well-being takes a very close second place behind personal safety on these projects," said Grant Johnson, a manager of Gruber's Bimini Biological Field Station and part of the Jupiter research team. "Just as much is done to release the animals unharmed as is done to make sure the people working are unharmed."

The tagging effort was only a test run for more extensive sampling that the researchers plan for early next year. Gruber hopes to use satellite tracking to chart the movement of both lemon sharks and their seasonal swarm.

"Once the aggregation breaks up, where do males and females go?" Gruber said. "Do males come from all over and females have a specific pattern? At this point nobody has any idea where they go."

Gruber's satellite tags can function for some six months and take a data reading every hour. Measurements of depth, water temperature, and light levels would allow the scientists to accurately map individual sharks' migration patterns.

"The adult stage of the lemon shark is one of the few remaining mysteries of this species," Johnson said. "If we can find out where these sharks came from, what they are doing, and where they go afterwards, we can essentially map out the entire life history of this animal, from birth to the large adult. That is something that has never been done."

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
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Lemon sharks swarm Florida "Lovers Lane"

Whale collisions spur call for speed limits at sea

Alarmed by the deaths of eight North Atlantic right whales in the past 16 months, some scientists are calling for immediate protections. Listed as endangered by the U.S. government, the whales are now believed to total about 300.

 A North Atlantic right whale breaches. Scientists believe that 300 of the whales remain in the seasFour of the right whales were killed by human activities—three by ship collisions and one by fishing gear. A fifth whale was probably also killed in a ship collision.

The deaths were particularly worrying to conservationists, because six of the whales were adult females, three carrying near-term fetuses.

"This loss is a dramatic increase over recent years," said Scott Kraus, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts. "The right whale is now in an extremely precarious position, as it appears that deaths are exceeding births."

Kraus is the lead author of "Right Whales in Crisis," a report that will be published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.

Whale advocates say that emergency measures should be introduced immediately to reduce the risk of ship collisions.

Among those measures could be speed limits for ships traveling through in right whale areas—a move supported by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service but resisted by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Running the Gauntlet
Right whales got their name from whalers who considered them the "right" whales to kill because of their large size, coastal distribution, and slow swimming speed. And unlike other whale species, these stocky creatures also float after death, making them relatively easy to retrieve.

North Atlantic right whales, which are closely related to North Pacific and South Atlantic right whales, were almost hunted to extinction in the mid-1700s. A hunting ban was eventually introduced in 1935.

Today the biggest threat facing right whales is collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.

Right whales inhabit the coastal waters of eastern North America, from Florida to Canada's Bay of Fundy—regions that are heavily used by the shipping and fishing industries.

"Mothers of this population tend to go to the southeastern United States to give birth," Kraus said. "They basically run the gauntlet of all the shipping channels that come out of the East Coast of the United States."

Last year 28 North Atlantic right whale calves were born, up from an average of 23 calves for each of the last five years.

The death rate, however, may be significantly higher, though it can be tough to track.

The detection rate for mortality is only 17 percent, meaning most dead right whales are never found. "When you see 8 animals dead on the beach, does that mean as many as 47 animals actually died last year?" Kraus said.

Entanglement deaths are particularly difficult to identify, Kraus says, because whales entangled in fishing gear tend to stop eating and lose a lot of weight, which makes their corpses less buoyant.

"When they die they tend to sink, so we don't see many [whales killed by] entanglements on the beach," he said. "The ship kills are usually fat and healthy animals, so they float and we end up with them on the beach."

Coast Guard
Some whale-reporting systems have been implemented in an effort to reduce the number of ship strikes. For example, when large ships enter two key right whale habitats off the U.S. East Coast, they are required to report to a shore-based marine station for information about recent whale sightings.

In the Bay of Fundy the International Maritime Association moved an outbound shipping lane that overlapped with right whale distribution, reducing by 95 percent the probability of a ship encountering a right whale.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (also known as NOAA Fisheries) recently updated its formal plan to promote the recovery of the right whale through a series of management and research efforts.

In May the service asked the U.S. Coast Guard to collaborate on an effort to encourage a speed limit of 12 knots (about 14 miles an hour) in areas used by right whales. The Coast Guard rejected the offer in June, saying that, among other things, limits could hamper international trade and military rescue operations.

"The Coast Guard is concerned from an international law and policy standpoint with the imposition of new restrictions on vessels engaged in international navigation, such as speed and routing restrictions," Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Carter, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., told National Geographic News this week.

"The imposition of such restrictions must account for the potential for other nations to impose operational restrictions for other purposes on U.S. vessels, citing U.S. restrictions as precedent," Commander Carter said.

Greg Silber, coordinator of recovery activities for large whale species at NOAA Fisheries in Silver Spring, Maryland, says the dialogue with the Coast Guard will continue over ways to reduce whale mortality rates.

"This doesn't mean that we're not going to keep on trying," Silber said. "I view [the speed limit request] as a relatively small step in a much bigger structure we're putting together. It's not an easy process."

Kraus, the New England Aquarium scientist, says immediate action is necessary.

"We need to turn around the human causes of mortality in this population if it is going to survive," he said.

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
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Whale collisions spur call for speed limits at sea

21 July 2005

Raising the Dead: The incredible story behind David Shaw's last dive

ALIEN WORLD: Australian cave diver Dave Shaw exploring South Africa's Bushman's Hole, October 2004 (Alex Tehrani)At the bottom of the biggest underwater cave in the world, diving deeper than almost anyone had ever gone, Dave Shaw found the body of a young man who had disappeared ten years earlier. What happened after Shaw promised to go back is nearly unbelievable—unless you believe in ghosts.

This is an incedible article written by Tim Zimmerman. It is too long to post in our blog, please visit Outside Online to read the full article.

Washington, D.C.-based correspondent TIM ZIMMERMANN is the author of The Race: The First Nonstop, Round-the-World, No-Holds-Barred Sailing Competition

Source: outside.away.com
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Raising the Dead: The incredible story behind David Shaw's last dive

Shark shields: Electrical and chemical repellents show promise

Scientists are experimenting with electronic shields and chemicals to keep sharks, such as this great white chasing prey in South Africa, away from humans. Photograph courtesy Chris FallowsRecent shark attacks in Florida have sparked the now customary feeding frenzy in the media. Before Florida it was South Africa, where last month a medical student was eaten by a 16-foot (5-meter) great white near Cape Town.

Shark-conservation groups point out that you're more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than a shark. Nevertheless, coconuts don't have multiple rows of big, razor-sharp teeth, nor can they swallow you whole.

If our fear of sharks doesn't reflect the actual chances of being attacked, how do we put our minds at ease? When will it seem safe to go back in the water?

Scientists are developing coastal shark deterrents aimed at reducing both the risk of attacks and the perceived risk of attacks. The new tools include electronic beach shields and chemical repellents. Ironically, such deterrents could also help save sharks from even deadlier killers—humans.

Researchers are working on an electronic beach defense system aimed at preventing potential man-eaters from approaching people sporting in the surf. A prototype of this technology was used to safeguard triathletes competing in Sydney Harbour during the 2000 Olympics.

The electronic-shield project is a joint effort of the Natal Sharks Board in South Africa and SeaChange Technology.

SeaChange Technology, an Australian company, has already developed a range of personal shark-deterrent devices for professional divers and others. The equipment has proved effective against great white sharks, according to Natal Sharks Board biologist Sheldon Dudley.

The devices tap into the heightened sensitivity that sharks have to electrical fields. Dudley says humans and other marine creatures aren't bothered by low-level underwater electric signals, but sharks are.

"Our goal is to develop a beach barrier using similar technology," the biologist added.

Shark Shields
Some have criticized the proposed shark shields. For instance, Andy Cobb, of the Germany-based conservation group Sharkproject, described them as "unacceptable," saying they would cause unnecessary harassment of sharks.

But Dudley argues that electronic barriers are preferable to shark nets, which currently guard South Africa's more vulnerable beaches. He says these nets catch both sharks and marine animals that pose no threat to humans.

"The beach barriers would eliminate the capture of marine organisms," he said.

U.S. scientists are developing an alternative coastal deterrent, based on chemical signals.

The idea of using chemicals to ward off sharks is not new.

During World War II many U.S. servicemen were killed by sharks in the Pacific. The most infamous incident came in July, 1945, when the U.S.S. Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese. Up to 80 deaths were attributed to sharks, which for five days picked off survivors as they floated on the ocean. In response, the U.S. Navy developed a life jacket which gave off a dye and chemicals that were supposed to repel and confuse feeding sharks. The jackets weren't a success.

Researchers are more hopeful for a repellent based on chemicals extracted and purified from dead sharks. The technique builds on those early, wartime experiments, says shark expert Sonny Gruber, a marine biologist at Florida's University of Miami.

He says substances extracted from shark carcasses can clear an area of sharks for up to 15 minutes with one small dose.

"One drop per minute will protect a tasty bait from actively feeding sharks," Gruber said. "When the drops stop, the bait is immediately taken."

The repellent is thought to act as a fright substance that warns other sharks to stay away.

Minnow Studies
In the 1940s Austrian biologist Carl von Frisch found that minnows contain a chemical in their skin which is released when a predator kills it. "This causes the school to break up," Gruber said. "This is the basic framework I am using."

The team is working on a device that would allow lifeguards to release the repellent rapidly in coastal waters if potentially dangerous sharks get too near a beach.

"We plan for our device to be used when a sighting occurs and/or when an attack is imminent or occurring, allowing a rescue to take place sooner—or to devoid the area of the sharks if required," said Eric Stroud, cofounder of the Oak Ridge Shark Lab in New Jersey.

"The requirement is that our device is deployable from shore," he added. The equipment is scheduled to be on the market in the spring of next year.

The repellent will also be marketed as a conservation tool, helping to cut the annual death toll of millions of sharks caught accidentally by commercial fishing vessels. The repellent would be applied to baits intended for tuna, swordfish, and other fish.

Stroud says tests with yellowfin tuna suggest they are not affected by the substance.

"The concept is that the fish do not detect the repellent and get caught, but the sharks are not [caught], because they are repelled," he said. "It's a careful balance of time-release and overpowering the bait odor to an approaching shark, while using as little chemical as possible."

There are also plans to develop surfboards equipped to carry shark repellent.

"I think this type of device would be a little farther out on the time line," Stroud said. "Extensive great white shark testing would need to be performed. …"

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
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Shark shields: Electrical and chemical repellents show promise

UNESCO adds new Marine Heritage Sites

The World Heritage Committee chaired by Themba Wakashe, South Africa's Deputy Director-General for Heritage and National Archives, inscribed seven natural sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

The Committee also decided to extend two natural sites already on the List. The one is extended in size while the extension of the other makes it both a natural and cultural site.

With these inscriptions, UNESCO World Heritage List numbers 160 natural sites and 24 mixed sites (i.e. both natural and cultural) of outstanding universal value around the world. Marine heritage sites named include:

Shiretoko Peninsula located in the northeast of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. The site includes the land from the central part of the Peninsula to its tip (Shiretoko Cape) and the surrounding marine area. It provides an outstanding example of the interaction of marine and terrestrial ecosystems as well as extraordinary ecosystem productivity largely influenced by the formation of seasonal sea ice at the lowest latitude in the northern hemisphere.

It has particular importance for a number of marine and terrestrial species, some of them endangered and endemic, such as the Blackiston's Fish owl and the Viola kitamiana plant. The site is globally important for threatened sea birds and migratory birds, a number of salmonid species, and for a number of marine mammals, including the Steller’s sea lion, and some cetacean species.

In Norway – West Norwegian Fjords Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord were named. Situated in southwestern Norway, northeast of Bergen, Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, set 120km from one another, are part of the west Norwegian fjord landscape, which stretches from Stavanger in the south to Andalsnes, 500km to the northeast. The two fjords, among the world's longest and deepest, are considered as archetypical fjord landscapes and among the most scenically outstanding anywhere.

Their exceptional natural beauty is derived from their narrow and steep-sided crystalline rock walls that rise up to 1,400m from the Norwegian Sea and extend 500m below sea level. The sheer walls of the fjords have numerous waterfalls while free flowing rivers cross their deciduous and coniferous forests to glacial lakes, glaciers and rugged mountains. The landscape features a range of supporting natural phenomena, both terrestrial and marine such as submarine moraines and marine mammals.

Mexico - Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California were added. The site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas that are located in the Gulf of California in northeastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation.

Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet's oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters.

The site is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, ninety of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world's total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world's marine cetacean species.

Panama - Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection Coiba National Park, off the southwest coast of Panama, protects Coiba Island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and effects of El Niño, Coiba's Pacific tropical moist forest maintains exceptionally high levels of endemism of mammals, birds and plants due to the ongoing evolution of new species. It is also the last refuge for a number of threatened animals such as the crested eagle. The property is an outstanding natural laboratory for scientific research and provides a key ecological link to the Tropical Eastern Pacific for the transit and survival of pelagic fish and marine mammals.

The 29th session of the 21-member World Heritage Committee will continue until July 17 with the inscription of cultural sites on the World Heritage List. The Committee, which is in charge of implementing the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, will also consider the need to place certain World Heritage sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger so as to help overcome obstacles to their conservation.

On Wednesday the Committee removed three sites from the List of World Heritage in Danger List, recognizing progress in their conservation: Sangay National Park (Ecuador), Timbuktu (Mali), Butrint (Albania). To learn more visit: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Source: www.divenews.com
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UNESCO adds new Marine Heritage Sites

Old vessel launches new career in coral seas

The White Holly, which served in World War II as a Navy yard freighter on San Francisco Bay, is beginning a new life -- as an oceanographic research vessel for a scientific expedition that seeks to discover how and why so many of the Earth's coral reefs are dying.

The White Holly, which served in World War II as a Navy yard freighter on San Francisco Bay, is beginning a new life -- as an oceanographic research vessel for a scientific expedition that seeks to discover how and why so many of the Earth's coral reefs are dying.The ship is scheduled to embark tonight from Oakland on an extraordinary voyage: a 7,000-mile roundtrip cruise to explore the mysteries of the world's most pristine coral reefs, and at least one uncharted atoll, halfway across the Pacific.

"This is research that can affect mankind," said Capt. Vincent Backen, the White Holly's skipper, who has piloted deep sea oil tankers into San Francisco Bay as well as foreign ports from Saipan to Aruba, Guam and Papua New Guinea. "That's the main reason I took the project on."

The 10-week voyage, led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, will take the 133-foot White Holly to the Line Islands archipelago in the central Pacific, about 1,300 miles south of Honolulu, and explore some of the least-disturbed coral reefs in the world.

Expedition leader Enric Sala, a Scripps marine ecologist and conservation biologist, calls these reefs "the marine equivalent of the Serengeti," referring to the national park in Tanzania that is one of the planet's oldest ecosystems.

Nineteen of the world's leading coral reef researchers plan to survey the reefs at five remote islands that have histories of varying degrees of human influence. With that data, they intend to establish a "baseline" of a healthy reef ecosystem -- to compare with degraded coral reefs elsewhere.

"It's like taking a time machine back to see what coral reefs used to look like and how they function," said Scripps expedition coordinator Stuart Sandin, a mathematical ecologist and fish biologist. "What's lacking in our science is how reefs looked before humans came along, before we depleted most of the big fish and sharks, before fertilizers and sewage caused algae to overgrow the coral."

Coral reefs are generally found in warm seas. Historically, these reefs were such colorful, complex havens of the marine food web that scientists likened them to tropical rain forests. But in recent decades, overfishing, pollution and global warming have been blamed for causing the catastrophic destruction of reefs.

Some scientists estimate that up to 25 percent of the world's coral reefs, located in tropical zones, have been lost. And two-thirds of what remains are at risk.

"Most every reef suffers impacts, often extreme impacts, from people," Sandin said. "Well below 10 percent of remaining reefs are in a pristine state, with a lot of fish and bigger fish, more corals and less algae, and more larger animals including sea turtles and marine mammals."

Conservationists say that marine reserves and anti-pollution laws are needed to protect coral reefs, restore their productivity and help replenish fish stocks.

The researchers say that it is vital to study the diversity, distribution and interaction of species in healthy reefs, and to test their hypotheses of how humans have impacted these ecosystems, to establish specific conservation goals.

Aided by underwater cameras, the scientists will count the reef fish species, including sharks and large snapper. They will investigate the algae, coral and invertebrates on the ocean floor, and use microbial sampling techniques to collect bacteria and viruses that live on the surfaces of coral and algae.

Their goal is to conduct the surveys without disturbing the reefs. No anchors are to be dropped on coral, and no sewage or wash water will be discharged. "They want to have zero impact on the reef," Backen said.

The White Holly was built in Napa in 1944 and was christened on D-Day. Its first mission: loading ammunition onto naval warships in San Francisco Bay. In 1947, the ship was outfitted as a buoy tender for the Coast Guard and served for decades in Alaska and Louisiana.

Backen purchased the vessel in 2002 and formed the nonprofit Seamen's Training Center. The White Holly has been used as a live-aboard training ship and also for salvage operations and bay cruises for marine biology students. The Sausalito-based ship was refitted this year for oceanographic research. Backen's philosophy: to make his ship available at low cost to worthy causes.

Oceanographers compete not only for funds, but also deep-water research vessels. In the past, flamboyant tycoons have loaned their megayachts to the world's leading marine scientists, including the late Jacques Cousteau. But those sources have all but dried up.

"You couldn't afford to build a vessel like this for research. She's way overbuilt," said Backen, noting that the White Holly's steel hull is 1/2-inch thick at the waterline. "There's no ship of this size and caliber that they can find on the world market. ... Every research boat is busy."

The Scripps expedition is being financed in part with a research grant by the San Francisco-based Moore Family Foundation, which was created by Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon E. Moore to support conservation biology.

Earlier this week, the crew stowed the science team's equipment on the ship, including a 5-ton research vessel, three Boston Whaler skiffs, computers with satellite uplinks, air compressors for scuba diving, and a sub-zero freezer for storing laboratory samples.

At a cruising speed of 8.5 knots, the ship's passage to Honolulu will take about 11 days, giving the crew additional time to prepare for the scientists to board there.

Backen's crew of four has multiple skills. For example, navigation officer Matthew Guanci is also a dive master; ordinary seaman Dave Murphy is a master carpenter.

The ship's creature comforts include air conditioning and good eats. Cody Reynolds, the ship's chef, was trained at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach.

"It'll be a combination of institutional food and gourmet," said Reynolds, whose menus include pecan pancakes, fish tacos and grilled pork tenderloin. "We'll have dinner parties on deck and create a comfortable scene."

The plan is to motor through the sweltering tropics to the Republic of Kiribati, an island nation of 33 scattered coral atolls that straddle the equator. The team intends to survey coral reefs at five nearby islands: Kiritimati (pop. 10,000), Tabuaeran (pop. 1,500), Teraina (pop. 950), Palmyra (pop. 0), and Kingman (pop. 0).

Palmyra atoll and Kingman Reef (both U.S. protectorates) have healthy coral reefs with little or no fishing since World War II. Palmyra, occupied by the United States during the war, is owned by the Nature Conservancy. The tiny island of Kingman Reef has never been charted or inhabited.

The five islands, all within an 800-mile radius, were created at the same time -- leading scientists to believe that they can measure and compare the impacts of varying degrees of human disturbance.

They will spend several days on each atoll, counting fish and collecting water, tissue, sediment and coral samples. They plan to use remote-controlled video cameras on the reefs in daylight, and to film sharks and other reef fish at night.

All told, 24 scientists will analyze the data, testing hypotheses such as whether changes induced by humans on reefs can lead to food webs ruled by invertebrates and microbes, rather than by fish.

David Obura, a coral taxonomist and ecologist based in Kenya, plans to study invertebrates, such as crabs, on the island reefs. Farooq Azam, a microbiologist, will study how bacteria and viruses can kill coral and interact with algae and fish in the reef system.

A major cause of reef destruction is coral disease linked to humans. One riddle scientists hope to solve is whether microbes causing coral disease are absent on untouched reefs. If the disease-causing microbes are found on pristine reefs, they say, humans may be disrupting the interactions between coral and microorganisms.

"We're very excited," Scripps' coordinator Sandin said. "We're developing some new science."

White Holly - Oceanographic research vessel

Length: 133 feet

Beam: 33 feet

Draft: max. 8 feet

Gross tonnage: 141 tons

Fuel for expedition: 10,000 gallons

Potable water: 11,000 gallons of potable water plus a water maker that filters 400 gallons of seawater into drinking water each day.

Food: About 2.5 tons, or enough to serve an estimated 3,225 meals during the expedition.

Accommodations: Two staterooms, plus semiprivate bunks for total capacity of 25.

Pilothouse: Navigation and communications gear includes Sperry gyro, single sideband radio, satellite phone, Automatic Identification System, marine weather fax.

Engine room: Two, 1,000-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engines, plus auxillary engines to run the ship's electrical system and hydraulics for its 10-ton crane.

Machine shop: Full complement of tools including air compressors, welding and cutting gear, and pipe threading set.

Scientific equipment: Subzero freezer, 25-foot research vessel, scuba diving gear, three small motorboats, computers, video gear and laboratory sampling containers.

Safety gear: (partial list) one 25-person life raft, 25 survival suits, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon).

Source: Seamen's Training Center

Expedition to the Pacific

The research vessel will visit the Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The scientists will survey reefs on five islands, including three in the Republic of Kiribati, an island nation of 33 coral atolls. Palmyra atoll and Kingman Reef are U.S. protectorates.


Today: Departure from Oakland.

July 25: Arrive at Honolulu (for refueling, picking up scientific personnel).

Aug. 2: Arrive on island of Kiritimati (for refueling).

Aug. 3-5: Field testing and developing sampling protocols on Kiritimati.

Aug. 6-9: Data collection on Kiritimati reefs.

Aug. 9-10: Travel to island of Tabuaeran.

Aug. 11: Begin data collection on Tabuaeran reefs.

Aug. 14-15: Travel to Palmyra atoll.

Aug. 16: Data collection on Palmyra reefs.

Aug. 24: Travel to Kingman Reef and begin data collection.

Aug. 27-28: Travel to island of Teraina.

Aug. 29: Data collection on Teraina reefs.

Sept. 1-2: Travel to Palmyra atoll.

Sept. 3-5: Finish data collection on Palmyra.

Sept. 6: Scientists take flight to Honolulu.

Sept. 11: Ship arrives at Honolulu (for refueling).

Sept. 16: Ship departs Honolulu.

Sept. 27: Ship arrives at Sausalito.

Sources: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Seamen's Training Center

Source: www.sfgate.com
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Old vessel launches new career in coral seas

Cousteau : Japan lying about whaling

Oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late diving pioneer Jacques Cousteau, has accused Japan of lying, using scientific whaling as a cover for commercial takes of the marine mammals.

He also believes Blue Whale, the largest species on earth listed as endangered by Australia, is being sold in Japanese fish markets.

"I am angry because they (the Japanese) are lying," Cousteau said from his US base today.

"If they were telling the truth, we could have a conversation, but because they are lying and hiding what they are really doing it is very frustrating."

Japan is already taking around 400 minke whales annually under its scientific whaling program and this year has announced it will more than double that figure and include around 50 humpback and fin whales, which has angered many countries, including Australia.

"They are killing these whales for so-called scientific reasons, which is a pure bias," Cousteau, who is president and chairman of the Oceans Futures Society, said.

"If you go to the fish market of Tokyo and you take samples of the whale meat, you will find out that some of it is even blue whale.

"The Japanese are slaughtering those whales and making little cube pieces which they very sneakily distribute in the kindergarten schools at lunchtime for little kids to get used to eating whale meat for what they say is cultural reasons."

Australia has declared a whale sanctuary within its Antarctic territorial waters but most countries do not recognise this claim.

Much of the whaling activities take place in Antarctic waters.

The Japanese have been lobbying for a return to commercial whaling under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission and are also seeking IWC endorsement for its scientific whaling program.

Japan failed in both of those objectives at the IWC meeting in Korea earlier this month.

The latest news to emerge about the meeting was the accusation that Japan had paid fees and fisheries costs for years in exchange for small island nations' votes for a return to commercial whaling.

"It is very hypocritical what they are doing and it is unacceptable," Cousteau, 67, said.

That said, Cousteau is not completely against whaling.

"If we are good managers, good business people, to allow our resources to go extinct is like allowing your business to go bankrupt – and that is exactly what we are doing with our planet," he said.

"As long as you manage things in a sustainable way, then it is okay, but we are not doing that."

Source: www.asiadivesite.com
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Cousteau : Japan lying about whaling

'Farmed' sea creatures to boost Asia's wild stocks

Seahorses are among the species identified for stock enhancementFisheries specialists representing seven South-East Asian nations agreed last week to intensify and better coordinate efforts to enhance stocks of rare marine life by releasing animals reared in captivity into the sea.

The scientists and senior officials from government fisheries departments issued a resolution outlining their consensus on 15 July at a meeting in Iloilo City, the Philippines.

The resolution said marine animals should be reared until they are juveniles and released into suitable habitats to strengthen existing stocks "as part of an integrated management strategy for sustainable use and conservation of aquatic resources".

The animals will be reared in land-based hatcheries similar to those used to supply juveniles to fish and shrimp farms.

The resolution added that the approach should only be used after others, such as protecting habitats and limiting fishing, have failed.

"We have decided to use stock enhancement of 'species under international concern' to address the depletion of aquatic life across South-East Asia," said Jurgenne Primavera, a senior scientist with the intergovernmental South-East Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) who is based in the Philippines.

Endangered: sea turtle in Malaysia<br />Credit:ReefBase / Yusri YusufPrimavera was referring to hundreds of species — including giant clams, seahorses, turtles, corals and fish — that are threatened by unsustainable practices such as trawling and fishing with cyanide poison or explosives. The animals include economically, ecologically and culturally important species.

"In South-East Asia, overfishing coupled with conflicts of various users' interests on the limited and degraded fisheries call for urgent actions to rectify fisheries' practices," said Suriyan Vichitlekarn, policy and programme coordinator at the SEAFDEC secretariat in Indonesia.

The problems are not confined to marine species. Hanh Choundara of landlocked Laos's Department of Livestock and Fisheries said unsustainable fishing, pollution and sedimentation had contributed to declining stocks of fish and other species in lake and rivers.

The resolution said research into the potential risks and benefits of stock enhancement should be done before and after animals are released, and that countries should use only native species in these projects.

It also noted the need for improved technologies for breeding and assessing the genetic makeup and health of juveniles that are to be released.

Some Asian countries already release juvenile fish reared in hatcheries, although they do this primarily to boost stocks of food species rather than to conserve threatened species.

Restoring marine biodiversity through stock enhancement and other techniques will take a long time, said Wilfredo Yap, chief of SEAFDEC's research division.

"We have just started," he told SciDev.Net. "It will not take place in our lifetime but maybe in our children's children's."

The 15 July resolution was drawn up at a meeting held in Iloilo City to assess the region's capacity for using the approach.

It marked the start of a five-year stock enhancement programme being undertaken by SEAFDEC and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and funded by Japan.

Nearly 60 fisheries specialists from ASEAN members Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and from Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan, attended the meeting.

Representatives of the three other ASEAN countries — Brunei, Cambodia and Singapore — could not attend.

Source: www.scidev.net
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'Farmed' sea creatures to boost Asia's wild stocks

Clinton warns of global warming

In Johannesburg, South Africa, former South African President Nelson Mandela listens to former President Clinton during a lecture in honor of Mandela, who turned 87 Monday. (Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press )Former President Clinton sounded a warning Tuesday against the dangers of climate change as he met with young South Africans and had lunch with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

Clinton was mobbed at a youth event hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. Young volunteers and their suited sponsors crowded around Clinton and took photographs and asked for autographs.

"Not very far from you in the South Pole in the last 10 years, 12 chunks of ice the size of Rhode Island have broken off," Clinton told the volunteers with City Year South Africa, a youth service organization he helped inspire.

"If this continues for another couple of decades, part of South Africa will be under water, and we will lose 50 feet of Manhattan Island in New York."

Clinton's comments contrast with the position of his successor, President Bush, who has questioned the existence of global warming. Bush rejects U.S. participation in the Kyoto protocol negotiated by Clinton's administration, arguing its caps on greenhouse gas emissions would damage the U.S. economy.

Clinton is on a six-nation Africa tour to check on projects funded by his foundation in the battle against AIDS. He arrived in South Africa late Monday after stops in Lesotho and Mozambique, two nations hard hit by the pandemic ravaging the continent.

Clinton urged the young to set aside differences and remember their "common humanity."

"Most of the headlines today are full of sad stories - September 11, 2001, the horrible day in London a couple of days ago, when people die of suicide attacks in the Middle East," Clinton said. "In every case where there is a human-caused tragedy, it is because the people involved thought their differences were more important than their common humanity."

Clinton had lunch with Mandela and was later scheduled to attend an annual lecture in honor of the icon's 87th birthday. The lecture will be delivered by Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. Also attending this year's event will be former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who like Clinton delivered a previous lecture.

Source: www.sltrib.com
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Clinton warns of global warming

World Aquarium scientists accelerate coral growth

St. Louis sits hundreds of miles from the nearest natural coral, and it's on the other side of the world from the most famous coral reef. Yet the key to saving this crucial oceanic organism just might have sprung from the muddy banks of the Mississippi.

By exposing embryonic coral cells to concentrated salt water, researchers at St. Louis' World Aquarium have been able to accelerate coral's growth, which is notoriously sluggish.

"With this rate of growth, we think coral reef growth can be dramatically altered across the planet," said Leonard Sonnenschein, president of and a researcher at the World Aquarium. He first successfully applied this technique to clams, clown fish and shrimp.

Philippe Cousteau, president of the environmental advocacy group EarthEcho International, said growing coral in captivity is "very cutting-edge stuff . . . there are only a few people doing it."

Coral reefs, including Australia's noted Great Barrier Reef, sustain much of the world's tropical-sea ecology. Reefs not only house a third of all marine species, but also anchor soil to prevent underwater erosion and produce algae that form the base of oceanic food pyramids. Coastal development, increased pollution in rivers that empty into oceans and commercial activities such as fishing and snorkeling have endangered more than three-fourths of the world's coral reefs, ecologists estimate. This has spurred worldwide efforts to preserve them.

Or better, regrow them, which is where Sonnenschein's patented process steps in. First, he submerges coral stem cells in a plastic bag with concentrated salt water, which he compares to a slap in the cellular face. The salinity is not much greater than that of seawater -- about the amount of salt added to a margarita. But to cells, this extra pinch is a nasty shock.

To counteract it, they go into overdrive. It's similar to blood rushing to someone's face after the unpleasant stimulus of a slap.

The innovation is what happens next. When the coral cells are placed in a tank of normal seawater, instead of relaxing, they retain high metabolic activity as they mature. Sonnenschein compares this to a series of light pats on the cheek, to keep the color up.

Research intern Elizabeth Smith pointed out that the treated coral, underneath the hermit crabs and snails that scour and clean them, burgeon and bloom more fully than untreated counterparts.

Ideally, scientists will nurse the coral -- which comes in three styles: hard, soft and "leather"- in the lab before transferring them to existing reefs. David Vaughan, executive director of coral reef research for Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, said any rehabilitation projects would occur in three steps.

First, scientists must form a "gene bank" for endangered coral. "It's like how a zoo is a bank for threatened species," he said.

Next, scientists would propagate the coral in the lab. Some species of coral grow only a millimeter per year, and even quick sprouters add less than an inch. Vaughan said it's like a forest growing in slow motion. Sonnenschein's process could facilitate this phase.

The third step, transferring the coral to living reefs, is the trickiest, Vaughan said. He noted that corals are sensitive to light conditions and water temperature, and that even in perfect environments corals compete with each other.

"Even if a process works in the tank . . . when that coral is out there in the field, there might be other components such as the toxins" that prevent the coral from succeeding in the wild, he said. Corals can poison related species the same way that pine trees kill off plants unlucky enough to sprout beneath them.

Cousteau echoed Vaughan's caveats. Although "very excited" about the results, "it is still to be proven on a mass scale." Before any potential field work begins, the World Aquarium researchers must finish analyzing current data and then optimize the technique for different species.

Sonnenschein pointed out a natural experiment that parallels his work, indicating that he may be on the right track. The Great Salt Lake in Utah, once part of a primeval ocean and now marooned inland, evaporates a little every year. As this happens, it grows saltier and saltier.

Yet brine shrimp, for instance, "not only survive, they thrive" in this hypersaline environment, he said.

Sonnenschein started a company, GroFish LLC, to help introduce his big, bulky crustaceans and fish into commercial fisheries. In addition, he and Vaughan have grown aqua fauna for commercial aquariums. He seems most excited, though, about coral.

Interestingly, the growth induced by simple saltwater mimics that of externally applied hormones. Hormones can cause defects in developing organisms, such as tadpoles.

"Can you tell the difference between a hormonal and a nonhormonal animal? The answer to that question is no," Sonnenschein said.

"We don't believe in hormonal treatments," he said. Sodium chloride suffices.

Source: Environmental News Network
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World Aquarium scientists accelerate coral growth

Greenpeace in court bid to protect dolphins from nets

Environment pressure group Greenpeace is today launching a legal challenge in a bid to save dolphins from being drowned in large fishing nets.

The group is seeking court orders forcing the Government to completely ban "pair trawling" for sea bass within 200 miles of the UK.

The controversial fishing method, which traps dolphins, involves two boats dragging a net between them.

Greenpeace says Government observers witnessed just one pair of UK trawlers killing more than 150 dolphins last year.

The group reports UK and French fleets are estimated to drown more than 2000 common dolphins a year.

Greenpeace lawyers will argue before Mr Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting at the High Court in London, that the Government is obliged to take swift and effective action to protect the dolphin population under the EU Habitats Directive.

Source: news.scotsman.com
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Greenpeace in court bid to protect dolphins from nets

Is the shark finning loophole closed? - IUCN declares tying shark fins to bodies permits shark finning

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) on July 12, 2005 made a public clarification regarding shark finning. The clarification is related to the IUCN official recommendation against shark finning passed in November 2004.

The IUCN, made up of 82 States, 111 government agencies, more than 800 non-governmental organizations, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries, passed the recommendation at its World Conservation Congress in Bangkok, Thailand calling on all States and the United Nations to prohibit shark finning.

The recommendation specifically calls for sharks to be landed with their fins attached to the bodies.

The clarification happens to be relevant to Costa Rica at the moment, given that the new Costa Rican Fishery Law also requires sharks to be landed with their respective fins attached.

However, currently the Costa Rican government is interpreting "attached" to mean tied on or taped on; that is to say, not attached in natural form.

The July 12th IUCN declaration states that tying or taping fins to bodies implicitly permits shark finning and runs counter to the IUCN recommendation.

"There are a lot of reasons why it's important for fins to be attached in natural form," states Noah Anderson of PRETOMA. "Allowing fins to be tied on creates complications and loopholes. First, extra fins can easily be tied onto each body, thus permitting shark finning. Inspectors have to tediously count every fin at landing inspections. Inspections at sea become impossible when fins are separated from bodies. And accurate species identification, necessary for effective shark management, becomes impossible."

"The Costa Rican government has stated publicly that the Regulation of the new Fishery Law will require fins to be attached in natural form," states Randall Arauz, President of PRETOMA. "However, it could be months before that Regulation is published. If tying fins on permits shark finning, you have to ask, why wait for months to fix the situation? What's causing the Costa Rican government to postpone requiring fins to be attached in natural form?"

Click here for the declaration by the IUCN (note: the document is in Spanish)

PRETOMA (Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas) is a Costa Rican non-profit, non-governmental, marine conservation organization that works to promote responsible fisheries and protect sea turtles, sharks and marine biodiversity. PRETOMA is a member of the IUCN. Contact info@tortugamarina.org / www.tortugamarina.org.

Source: www.sharktrust.org
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Is the shark finning loophole closed? - IUCN declares tying shark fins to bodies permits shark finning

Microchip saves rare turtle

They're calling him "the lucky royal turtle" a rare and endangered reptile that was saved from a likely fate in a Chinese soup pot by keen-eyed wildlife officers and a tiny microchip.

Poachers snatched the animal, a species called "Royal Turtle" in Cambodia because its eggs were once fed to kings, from a Cambodian river two months ago and toted it across the Vietnamese border on a motorbike along with a stash of other, more common, turtles.

Conservationists said that at 15kg, the animal was sure to have fetched a good price when it reached the smuggler's destination food markets in China, where turtle meat is a delicacy often made into soup.

But a raid on the smuggler's house in southern Vietnam's Tay Ninh province was the turtle's first stroke of good luck.

About 30 turtles were confiscated and transported to a local wildlife inspection centre, where workers noticed there was something different about this one.

"My staff said they had never seen a turtle that big," said Ta Van Dao, head of the forest control bureau in Tay Ninh. "Its head and eyes were also different from the regular turtles."

'I was very surprised...'
The Vietnamese wildlife officials consulted an endangered species book, then called Doug Hendrie, an Asian turtle specialist in Hanoi for the New York-based World Conservation Society, and told him they thought they had a Batagur baska, or Asian river terrapin.

At first, Hendrie thought the wildlife officers must be joking.

"I was very surprised when I heard they had a Batagur baska down there," said Hendrie, who also works for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. "Initially I said, 'What else do they have? A lion? A zebra?"'

But a photo soon confirmed it was a Batagur baska, a species thought to have disappeared in Cambodia until it was rediscovered in 2001. Conservationists later began tagging the animals with tracking devices and monitoring their nests, and King Norodom Sihamoni personally ordered their protection.

That led to the captured terrapin's next good fortune. When officials inspected it in Ho Chi Minh City, they found a microchip implanted under its wrinkly skin, pinpointing its exact home on the Sre Ambel River in southern Cambodia.

Hendrie said there are only about two to eight females remaining there, making this adult male turtle's return even more vital. It was tagged for research two years ago and had not been seen until its discovery in Vietnam.

Vietnamese and Cambodians officials worked together to repatriate the turtle. He was shipped back to Cambodia last week and is undergoing health checks before being released back into the wild.

Source: www.news24.com
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Microchip saves rare turtle

20 July 2005

Pemba Island, Zanzibar: Missing divers' life jackets found

Rescue workers searched by air and water yesterday for four Danish divers and their British-Canadian instructor who disappeared off Zanzibar.

A Danish woman and her two sons, another Dane and their instructor failed to surface at a designated spot while diving off Pemba, an island in the Indian Ocean archipelago, said Denmark's ambassador, Carsten Nilaus Pedersen.

"It seems there was an unexpected strong current - that is the hypothesis," Pedersen said.

On Sunday rescuers found a life jacket on a sand dune that appears during low tide, and aircraft spotted two other life jackets in the sea before calling off the search at dusk yesterday.

"We have not given up hope yet that all of them have managed to get ashore," Nilaus Pedersen said.

A Danish diplomat was sent to Pemba's main town of Chake Chake, he said.

Source: www.themercury.co.za
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Pemba Island, Zanzibar: Missing divers' life jackets found

Arctic and Chinese ocean expeditions: 600 Years apart but connected

Two ocean expeditions, one in 1405 and another in 2005, are 600 years and oceans apart but are now connected by the voice of a Chinese scientist on the Internet.

NOAA image of ice diver studying the density of creatures living on the underside of ice floesA series of four daily messages, which began July 10, were recorded in Chinese by Cai Minghong at sea on a NOAA-funded mission in the Arctic Ocean, and posted on the NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site with English text.

Cai's messages were played on a daily basis for visitors at NOAA's exhibit space in Shanghai at the Zheng He Ocean Voyages Exhibition & International Marine Expo. (Click NOAA image for larger view of ice diver studying the density of creatures living on the underside of ice floes. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit "NOAA.")

In late June, scientist Cai traveled from his job as a chemical oceanographer at the Polar Research Institute of China in Shanghai to sail with an international team of 46 scientists on "The Hidden Ocean, Arctic 2005," a month-long NOAA-sponsored expedition to the frigid depths of the Canada Basin—located in the deepest part of the Arctic Ocean in an area that is hidden by sea ice for most of the year and difficult to reach.

A week later, NOAA employees headed to the Shanghai exhibition to participate in a series of ocean policy meetings and to exhibit materials around the theme of "Building a Global Observing System." The exhibition in Shanghai is named for famed Chinese navigator Zheng He, and comes on the 600th anniversary of the first of his seven epic ocean voyages from China to the South Pacific, Indian Ocean, Taiwan, Persian Gulf and Africa.

NOAA's exhibit was seen by senior Chinese political leaders, representatives from all national government marine resource organizations and ocean science institutions, and large numbers of the general public estimated to be up to 30,000 visitors a day.

Cai joined the "Hidden Ocean" team to help measure the diversity of life so as to build a baseline of data against which change may be measured in an area of warming and ice melt over the last four decades.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Ocean Explorer

The Hidden Ocean, Arctic 2005

Audio Updates from Cai Minghong

Media Contact:
Fred Gorell, NOAA Oceans and Coasts Service, (301) 713-9444 ext. 181

Source: www.noaanews.noaa.gov
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Arctic and Chinese ocean expeditions: 600 Years apart but connected

Bull Shark threat: They swim where we swim

Bull sharks are chewing up the headlines this summer. The predators have been linked to two highly publicized attacks that left one teen dead and another seriously injured in the Florida Panhandle last month.

A bull shark swims in shallow water near the Bimini Islands in the Bahamas. Photograph copyright Stephen Frink/CorbisThough over 375 shark species have been identified by science, just three species are responsible for most attacks on humans: the great white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).

Bull sharks are the least known of the three. But experts note that the species's preference for coastal waters less than a hundred feet (30 meters) deep makes bulls potentially the most dangerous sharks of all.

"Bull sharks inhabit quite shallow waters, which means that they do have a great opportunity to interact with humans, because the two species tend to share the same areas," said George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

Bull sharks are among the most common sharks in Florida waters and are often encountered by divers.

Shark Attacks
The sharks are especially at home in areas with lots of freshwater inflow, such as brackish river mouths. The abundance of such habitat along the coasts of the northern Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River makes this area especially suited to the sharks.

Bull sharks happily tolerate the murky water found in estuaries and bays. Such conditions can sometimes play a role in spurring shark attacks on humans.

"Visibility is a huge factor in shark attacks," Burgess said. "That's one of the reasons we suggest that people avoid murky water situations when they go into the water."

For the most part, bull sharks dine on bony fishes or smaller sharks—but they sometimes aggressively tackle much larger prey.

"They are one of the few warm-water, coastal sharks that will attack big prey," said Mike Heithaus, a shark expert at Florida International University in Biscayne Bay. "In addition to small fish, they might attack a sea turtle, another shark, or the occasional dolphin."

"They are one of the few sharks that will tangle with prey that's the same size or even bigger than them," the marine biologist added. "Most sharks only go after prey that's substantially smaller than they are."

Bull sharks generally grow to about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) long and weigh up to 285 pounds (130 kilograms).

Despite their healthy appetite and aggressive reputation, the animals can be rather docile in some environments. In the clear waters of the Bahamas, for example, divers regularly interact with crowds of bull sharks.

Though the predators may come in close proximity to humans, statistics suggest that swimmers, surfers, and divers have little to fear from bull sharks.

The United States averages just 16 shark attacks each year and slightly fewer than one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, lightning kills more than 41 people each year in the coastal U.S. states alone.

Low-Salt Habitat
While bull sharks are commonly found along coastlines, bays, and harbors, they also frequent a most uncommon shark habitat—freshwater rivers.

The species has been spotted 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) up the Amazon River in South America and dwell in Lake Nicaragua, a freshwater lake in Central America. Bull sharks have traveled up the Mississippi River as far north as Illinois and are regularly spotted in India's Ganges.

Their ability to tolerate freshwater is rooted in salt retention.

Sharks must retain salt inside their bodies. Without it, their cells will rupture and cause bloating and death. Given this requirement, most sharks cannot enter fresh water, because their internal salt levels would become diluted.

But bull sharks have special physiological adaptations that enable them to live in fresh water. Their kidneys recycle the salt within their bodies and special glands, located near their tails, also aid in salt retention.

While scientists have learned how the animals survive in fresh water, it is less clear why bull sharks, almost exclusively, developed this amazing ability.

Heithaus, of Florida International University, speculates that "probably the biggest reason is that [freshwater tolerance] allows the juveniles, the little guys, to be in a place that's relatively safe from being eaten by other sharks."

Adult bull sharks likely gain their own competitive advantages from salt retention. However, scientists have yet to uncover precisely what those advantages may be.

Heithaus said a big question for him is what bull sharks gave up to acquire their unique ability to survive in fresh water. "If they were a master of all trades, in both fresh and saltwater, we should see bull sharks dominating coastal waters," the marine biologist said. "There must be some cost to having that amazing ability."

Freshwater tolerance could be rooted in competition for saltwater food resources, where perhaps bull sharks suffered and needed to develop an edge. The ability might also be tied to disease susceptibility or other unknown and unstudied issues.

What's certain is that much more research is needed to understand why these unique sharks turn up in such unlikely locales as the Land of Lincoln. "It's amazing how little we really know," Heithaus said.

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
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Bull Shark threat: They swim where we swim

Deep-sea fishing trawler seized for illegal snoek catch in hold

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) today seized the deep-sea trawler "Sandile", its gear, equipment, stores and cargo including the fish on board. The seizure was undertaken by Fisheries Compliance Officers of DEAT.

The Sandile, a 64,5 m deepsea trawler is owned by Ntlanzi Fishing Enterprises and is licensed to catch hake and horse mackerel on behalf of Bato Star Fishing Pty Ltd, Algoa Bay Sea Products and Fernpar Fishing Company.

The vessel will not be allowed to leave the harbour and will remain under arrest until proceedings against the owners of the Sandile and quota holders in whose name the quota is being fished, have been completed, or until payment of security for the release of the vessel has been secured.

The Department's investigation concerns the targeting of snoek as a by-catch when the vessel is licensed to catch hake and horse mackerel allocation for its rights holders. The department is concerned that steps have not been taken to prevent the harvesting of fish caught as a bycatch. The investigation is centered around allegations that the Sandile caught over 300 tons of snoek and only some 39 tons of hake during its last voyage.

Commenting on the arrest of the vessel Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, said: "Fish species like snoek are the bread and butter of our traditional line fishing communities. Our Department is particularly concerned that the actions of fishers whose permits are for other fish species should not threaten the livelihoods of these traditional line fishers, or the sustainability of the fish stocks. Some by-catch is unavoidable but this by-catch must never be intentionally targeted."

Snoek is an important species in the traditional Linefish sector. At this time of the year snoek is found further off-shore, where it spawns before it returns to the in-shore.

Commending the compliance and enforcement directorate the Minister said: "Our fisheries inspectors and compliance officials are too often seen by fishing communities as a source of frustration. Actions such as this one underscore the critical and professional role they play in protecting our valuable marine resources on behalf of all of these communities."

Source: http://www.deat.gov.za
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Deep-sea fishing trawler seized for illegal snoek catch in hold

Twelve dead dolphins found on Black Sea coast

Twelve dead dolphins have been found along Romania's Black Sea coast, authorities said on Tuesday.

The dolphins were found over the past few days on a beach near the village of Sfantu Gheorghe, some 250km north-east of Bucharest, said Paul Conorov, the governor of the Danube Delta.

The dolphins measured up to 1,2 metres, Conorov said.

Environmental authorities were investigating why the dolphins died, and said it was difficult to establish the cause of death because the bodies were in an advanced state of decay.

The head of the Romanian Institute for Marine Research in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Simion Nicolaev, said it was possible the dolphins had been caught in fishing nets out at sea and were carried to shore by the tide.

Two years ago, more than 30 dolphins were found dead on the Romanian Black Sea coast.

There are only 2 000 dolphins in the Black Sea, down from 1-million in the 1940s, according to international environment statistics.

Source: www.iol.co.za
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Twelve dead dolphins found on Black Sea coast

New artificial shark skin solution for ship hulls proposed

The growth of marine organisms such as barnacles on ship hulls is a major drag for the naval industry, since their presence is one cause of increased energy costs.

Researchers, led by Ralph Liedert at the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen, claim that they have solved this problem by using artificial shark skin, as its unique properties offer a structural design that prevents this so-called 'bio-fouling'.

Liedert claims that covering ship hulls with artificial shark skin could help ships sail more smoothly with greater efficiency.

Shark skin comprises scales that can flex individually from each other, making it extremely difficult for organisms to adhere themselves to sharks. Liedert has produced a synthetic shark skin of elastic silicone, complete with the same significantly decreased contact surface.

This reduced contact surface makes it harder for barnacles to attach, and reduces fouling by 67 percent. When applied to the ship hull, the artificial surface would enable ships to 'self-clean', and a speed of 4-5 knots would remove all organisms attached.

It has been known for some time that barnacles, mussels and algae cause up to a 15 percent increase in the drag resistance of ships, which drives up fuel bills and hampers a ship's performance.

Until recently, paints containing a highly toxic biocide component were used to prevent growth on submerged surfaces, but these were banned because of the damaging effect they had on marine life.

Shark skin provides a safe and effective anti-fouling strategy without the need for harmful chemicals, making Liedert's artificial shark skin research an area of great importance.

Liedert is presenting his work on the application of artificial shark skin at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Barcelona.

Source: SharksTrust
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New artificial shark skin solution for ship hulls proposed

Shock at 'slap on the wrist' for Korean skipper

Environmental NGOs WWF and BirdLife South Africa are outraged at the news that a Korean fishing boat skipper who broke "almost every rule in the book" was fined R50 000 and handed a suspended sentence in the Eastern Cape last week.

The conservationists are especially alarmed that the crew's misdemeanors included trying to buy off a fisheries observer, then threatening him. They're concerned too, that the suspended sentences and comparatively light fines for Hwan Lee-An, the master of the Dong Won 630 sends all the wrong signals to law-abiding, hard-pressed fishermen.

Dr Deon Nel, manager of the WWF Marine Programme puts it bluntly: "In this case the judiciary has failed us. What more must be done before a tough sentence is passed down? Do we have to wait for a fisheries observer to be thrown overboard?"

The South Korean fishing vessel Dong Won 630 had on board a Marine & Coastal Management MCM observer from Port Elizabeth, Raymond Manning, and was fishing along the South African coast. The initially friendly mood aboard the vessel changed when he was spotted videotaping illegal activities on board.

These included finning of sharks – cutting off their fins and tails and throwing the live sharks back into the sea.

Attempts were then made to bribe Manning, and once this failed he was threatened. The ship then fled and was apprehended following a dramatic overnight sea chase involving the Ruth Furst, one of new patrol ships.

The WWF and BirdLife South Africa say they're worried that the case illustrates that the courts don't comprehend the gravity of the skipper's actions.

Dr Nel says: "The fisheries observer put his life at risk to report these very serious infringements, and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) should be commended for the urgency they showed in sending out a patrol vessel at great cost to apprehend the vessel.

"Yet the legal system has allowed the transgressor to walk free with the majority of his sentence suspended. It is clear that the judiciary has no understanding of the gravity of these environmental crimes and their social and environmental consequences.

"Considering the gravity of the charges, which included threats against an official going about his work, plus the cost of mounting a sea chase to apprehend a fleeing vessel, the South Korean can consider himself lucky in getting off so lightly.

"At this sensitive time when long-term fishing rights are being allocated, we are extremely concerned about the message that this sends to those compliant South African fishing vessels that are diligently abiding by their permit conditions. The compliant fishermen must be wondering why they've bothered to abide by their permit conditions for so long, when a flagrant disregard of almost every permit condition is only punished with a slap on the wrist and a fine that is 'small change' for such a high value fishery."

He explains: "A single high quality tuna can sell for well over R100 000. With this is mind one, we can see that that the magistrate's sentence of R50 000 has the deterrent value of asking the skipper for one sub-standard tuna for his Saturday afternoon braai."

Samantha Petersen, manager of the BirdLife South Africa & WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme, said she was extremely concerned about reports that this vessel was setting its lines during the day and not using a mandatory bird-scaring line, as required by the permit conditions.

"Fishing under these conditions will result in thousands of highly endangered albatrosses being killed" said Petersen. Seabirds and especially the majestic albatrosses are drowned when they dive on baited longline hooks, are snagged and pulled under water to drown. This needless killing can be stopped by using a few simple mitigation measures.

"However, it seems that this is too much to ask from certain unscrupulous operators, even though around 300 000 of these birds are killed in this way each year. We hope that we can correct this in the future and in so doing honour the international commitments South Africa has made by recently becoming a founder member of the International Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)".

For further information, contact:
Dr Deon Nel
Programme Manager: Marine, WWF-SA
Tel: +27 21 888 2835
Email: dnel@wwfsa.org.za

Cathryn Treasure
Marketing Manager, WWF South Africa
Tel: +27 21 888 2855
Email: ctreasure@wwf.org.za

Prof Gerhard Verdoorn
Director, BirdLife South Africa
Tel: +27 11 789 1122
Email: director@birdlife.org.za

Issued by:
William Smook
Meropa Communications
Tel: +27 21 683-6464
Email: williams@meropa.co.za

Source: WWF South Africa
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Shock at 'slap on the wrist' for Korean skipper

Solomon Islands' denies Japan bought whaling vote

The Solomon Islands Government has denied allegations that Japan poured money into the country for support on whaling and cheap access to tuna.

The Government says money from other countries - not just Japan - has disappeared into the pockets of its fishing officials.

The Solomon Islands' permanent secretary for fisheries, Tione Bugotu, was interviewed by ABC TV's Four Corners program.

He told of how money paid into the Fisheries Department in licence fees had been diverted by some officials into their own pockets.

However, in a statement released by the Government in Honiara, Mr Bugotu says the money that disappeared came from all the foreign countries fishing for tuna in Solomon Islands waters.

He describes as absolutely false the claim that Japan paid for cheap access to tuna.

He says the question was: "For supporting Japan on whaling how much more did Japan get in terms of access to tuna?"

He says the answer is: "No more access than Taiwan."

Source: www.abc.net.au
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Solomon Islands' denies Japan bought whaling vote

Is South Africa experiencing hotter weather? Here's proof!

Yes, you're right ­this winter has been the warmest in decades and the Weather Service has the figures to prove it.

According to the service's Tracey Gill, the capital is experiencing its warmest mid-year spell in 30 years.

The city's daily average temperatures for June and July 2005 were on average 2 degrees higher than the average for the 30 years between 1975 and 2004.

Does this mean global warming is upon us?

"This is interesting, but not something we need to worry about yet," said Gill, assistant manager climate control at the SA Weather Service.

"If this happens again next year, then we can start panicking," she said.

Gill said the average maximum temperature for the first 15 days of July in Pretoria had been the hottest in the past 30 years.

The minimum temperatures are not showing as large a deviation, but they are still slightly warmer than normal.

"The reason for the continued warm temperatures in the city is that cold fronts move over the country during the winter months.

These cold fronts are usually followed by a high pressure system which `follows' the frontal system around the coast.

"When this happens, meteorologists refer to a `ridging anti-cyclone'," said Gill.

This winter, there has been a marked absence of strong ridging anti-cyclones and so the cold air is not being forced into the interior and the warm air has remained.

"Whether the inactivity of the ridging anti-cyclone is a function of global warming is difficult to say.

This said, it is no reason to become complacent about global warming issues, and every effort should be made to try to stem the rapid increase in global atmospheric temperatures. Adopting a `wait and see' attitude might not be the wisest course of action," said Gill.

What can we expect during the next three months?

Anything can happen.

It could even be bitterly cold in the next couple of days, and the red line of the graph could drop below the blue.

But broadly, according to Gill, we should prepare for above-normal temperatures in the northern and central parts of the country.

Peter Johnston, of the University of Cape Town, agrees that it will remain rather balmy in our neck of the woods: "The absence of cold fronts has blocked high-pressure systems and that is why the weather has remained milder than usual in the sub-continent."

The relatively warm temperatures have had an impact on the fashion world.

In some stores, winter garments have not sold as well as expected.

According to one clothing chain, some of its branches have experienced a dip in sales of winter clothes due to the warmer weather: Another clothing store in the city confirmed their winter merchandise sales had suffered a 10% decline, attributed to the mild winter.

But stores report that sales of heaters have been "about normal".

Source: www.pretorianews.co.za
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Is South Africa experiencing hotter weather? Here's proof!

Tropical algae leaves beach-goers gasping in Italy

More than 150 beach-goers required treatment in the north-western town of Genoa for high fever and breathing problems after inhaling a toxin produced by a tropical algae, officials said Tuesday.

Twelve people were admitted to hospital as a precaution while others were treated and released between Sunday evening and Monday, said Federico Grasso, a spokesman for a regional environment protection agency.

The tropical algae Ostreopsis ovata usually lives on the bottom of the sea but rises to the surface when blooming and releases a neurotoxin into the air, Grasso said.

An unusual concentration of the algae on a 5km stretch of shore near Genoa's harbour produced a large amount toxin, which affected swimmers and people on the beach.

Authorities have closed off the affected areas for the next three days and the algae are expected to disperse by then, Grasso said.

Warm weather favoured the unusually large blooming of the algae, which were also protected in the sheltered waters of the harbour.

Although of tropical origin, this species of algae lives throughout the Mediterranean and similar incidents have occurred in the past on other sections of the Italian coast, Grasso said.

Giacomo Zappa, a doctor at Genoa's Galliera hospital, said the symptoms of the poisoning would subside within a week.

He added that he was much more worried of people eating seafood or fish contaminated by the poison, as ingestion of the toxin can cause neurological and heart problems.

Source: www.iol.co.za
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Tropical algae leaves beach-goers gasping in Italy