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Greenpeace Warns Africa of Overfishing Dangers

Greenpeace is urging west African countries to protect fish stocks by fighting illegal fishing and overfishing.

The conservation group said in a report called “How Africa feeds Europe” that huge European fishing vessels are quickly depleting west African fish stocks after overfishing their own waters.

“We must tirelessly engage with authorities to ensure that the problems of illegal fishing and over-fishing in west Africa are effectively dealt with,” Oumy Sene Diouf, Greenpeace Africa oceans campaigner, said in the statement at the World Social Forum in Senegal, according to AFP.

“The people of Senegal have long shown interest in defending their ocean and preserving their marine resources. The time has come for them to take the next step and stand up against malpractices in the oceans,” said Diouf.

According to the report, 75 percent of all fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted.

African nations should also concentrate on a shift to alternative energy, Greenpeace said at the annual meeting of anti-globalization activists.

“Africa is the continent with the greatest potential and resources to build an economy solely reliant on renewable energy, and especially solar. This is the only way the continent will free itself from the tyranny of fossil fuels, and other dirty energy sources,” said Christian Gyr of Greenpeace Swiss Energy solutions project, as quoted by AFP.

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“Aflockalypse” Mapped on Google

The recent string of mass animal deaths that the Washington Post and some bloggers have taken to calling “the aflockalypse” can now be monitored on Google Maps.

The regularly updated resource pinpoints mass animal kills all over the world with blue arrows, tracking the die-offs from Dec. 2010 to the present.

All the fuss began last week when 5,000 red-winged blackbirds mysteriously dropped dead in the small town of Beebe, Ark. When more birds rained down on a Louisiana stretch of highway and thousands of drum fish washed up along the Arkansas River, people began to connect the dots.

Since then, as Google’s tool confirms, a slew of significant die-offs have cropped up all over the world–from crabs to penguins to manatees.

While many express religious or environmental concerns over the cause of the kills, the scientific community remains firm in saying these events are unrelated and not all that uncommon.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says these incidents normally pass under the radar, and that advances in technology are to blame for a perceived connection.

“This instant and global communication, it’s just a human instinct to read mystery and portents of dangers and wondrous things in events that are unusual,” Wilson told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Not to worry, these are not portents that the world is about to come to an end.”

Posted in Animals, Birds, Ecosystems, Fish, Mammals0 Comments

2 Million Fish Dead in Chesapeake Bay

Millions of dead fish littered the shores of the Chesapeake Bay this week, the Maryland Department of the Environment said.

Officials are still investigating the incident but have pointed to lower-than-average water temperatures as a likely cause of death from cold stress.

“Our theory is that it was a very rapid temperature drop,” MDE spokeswoman Dawn Stoltzfus said, according to msnbc.com. “Obviously, these are fish that are susceptible to very cold temperatures.”

An estimated 2 million fish reportedly washed ashore beginning last week in Calvert County and Kent Island. The fish were chiefly juvenile spot fish, which are about 3 to 6 inches in length.

Stoltzfus said the MDE is assessing water quality in the area.

“So far, there don’t appear to be any water quality or pollution issues that have contributed to this fish kill,” Stoltzfus said.

The bay has not seen a fish die-off this significant since 1976, when 15 million dead fish washed ashore, msnbc.com reported Thursday.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Fish, Global Warming, Oceans & Coastlines0 Comments

Up to 100,000 Dead Fish Wash Up Along Arkansas River

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is faced with finding an explanation for the 80,000 to 100,000 fish that washed up dead on the shores of the Arkansas River last week.

Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens told msnbc.com it would likely take about a month to determine the cause of the large-scale fish death.

The fish were discovered Thursday by a tugboat operator in a 20-mile segment of the river near the city of Ozark.

One day later, as many as 5,000 birds dropped dead in Beebe, Arkansas, about 125 miles away from Ozark. Scientists are pointing to a possible lightning storm or high-altitude hail as the source of that mystery.

Nearly all of the dead fish – about 95 percent – were identified as drum fish, leading experts to believe the mass kill was caused by a species-specific disease.

“If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish,” Stephens said.

Drum fish are bottom feeders and are not desirable to fishermen. Stephens said the commission is not planning a cleanup but will allow birds and raccoons to take care of the mess.

“So far, the evidence does not suggest that pollution contributed to either the bird or fish kill,” said David Lyons, the head of a local chapter of the Sierra Club, according to msnbc.com. “If the test results indicate that contaminants were responsible, then local environmental groups will likely have several questions and concerns about the two events.”

Posted in Aquatic Life, Fish, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands0 Comments

Group Suggests More Salmon-Eating Sea Lions Be Killed

A task force is urging the federal fisheries service to allow more sea lions near Bonneville Dam to be killed or trapped.

The group of fishermen, tribes, state agencies and others issued a report to the National Marine Fisheries Service last week stating that the sea lion policies currently in place haven’t been effective at bolstering endangered fish populations.

The sea lions prey on salmon and steelhead that gather at the base of the Bonneville Dam near Portland, Ore.

A 2008 federal ruling stated that Oregon, Washington, and Idaho could kill up to 85 sea lions a year until 2012. The states have euthanized 27 sea lions to date and relocated 10 more to zoos and aquariums.

But the Humane Society of the United States called the program into question this year, and in November a federal appeals court ruled that state wildlife officials should not be allowed to kill sea lions when humans are responsible for comparable or larger catches of salmon and steelhead.

The agency has until early January to decide whether to appeal the decision, AP reported Tuesday.

In its three-year review of the original policy, the panel said that more animals need to be trapped and shot from land or boats in order for the program to be effective.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Dams & Infrastructure, Fish, Mammals, Oceans & Coastlines0 Comments

Congress Passes Shark Conservation Act to Ban Gruesome Finning Practices

Congress last week passed the Shark Conservation Act, which bans shark finning in U.S. waters.

The measure that cleared the Senate Tuesday will outlaw the common practice in which fishermen cut off the fins of a live shark and then dump it back into the water to die a slow death by asphyxiation, ENN reports. The fins are then frozen or dried and shipped to Asia, where they are in high demand for use in shark-fin soup, which is considered a delicacy.

The Shark Conservation Act was introduced by Reps. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, Eni Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass and will require all sharks caught in U.S. waters to be landed with their fins still attached. Regulations previously prohibited finning practices in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and now also apply to the Pacific.

Environmental advocates hope that the new legislation will extend to international regulators.

“We’ve finally realized that sharks are worth more alive than dead,” Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, a marine scientist with at the conservation group Oceana, told AP. “While shark fins and other shark products are valuable, the role sharks play in the marine ecosystem is priceless.”

Posted in Fish, Oceans & Coastlines, Policies0 Comments

Navy Testing May Hurt Whales along Pacific Coastline

New U.S. Navy testing off the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts will pose a danger for orca whales, environmentalists say.

The Obama administration recently approved a plan to expand sailor training, weapons testing, and underwater training minefield for submarines in the 122,400 nautical square miles off the West Coast.

The Navy has been training in that range since  World War II, but environmentalists worry that new missile and sonar testing along with the dumping of depleted uranium could harm the population of 150 orcas known to live along the Pacific coast.

Howard Garrett, the president of the Washington-based nonprofit Orca Network, claims the hazardous materials could pose a serious risk for vulnerable orcas.

“They’re all very susceptible,” Garrett told AP. “The Navy is single-minded and they’re focused, and the whales are very much a secondary concern to them.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council also expressed concern over the new program, saying it “would pose a significant risk to whales, fish and other wildlife,” by releasing “thousands of rounds of spent ammunition and unexploded ordnance containing chromium, chromium compounds, depleted uranium,” and other hazardous materials, AP reported Saturday.

The Navy’s mid-frequency sonar testing could damage the orca navigation and communication skills and could even cause brain damage and affect reproductive rates, the NRDC said.

But Navy officials maintain that the expanded practices will have no effect on marine life.

“We are not even permitted to kill even one marine mammal. … What people don’t seem to understand is we share the environment with everybody,” Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray said, according to AP. “It’s our environment, too. Of course we want to take care of it. The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the marine environment.”

Garrett remains skeptical. “I’m not convinced by the assurances that the Navy gives that there will be no effect,” Garrett said. “I can’t imagine there won’t be mortalities.”

Posted in Aquatic Life, Conservation, Ecosystems, Fish, Mammals, Noise Pollution, Oceans & Coastlines, Toxic Substances, Water Pollution0 Comments

Oil Spill: U.S. Sues BP and Others for Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The Department of Justice is suing BP and eight other companies over the catastrophic oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico region last April.

The United States filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans Wednesday, alleging that federal safety violations contributed to the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

“We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference, according to the New York Times.

On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing the eleven workers onboard and leaving millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the well it was drilling. The leak was not sealed until July.

The 27-page complaint requests that the companies be held liable for removal costs and damages. While it does not mention a specific amount, the suit could cost BP and the other companies tens of billions of dollars, The New York Times reports.

“This is welcome and long overdue news to the fishermen and others who depend upon the Gulf of Mexico for their lives and livelihoods,” Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental organization, said in a statement, according to UPI.

Aside from BP, the lawsuit also involves: Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and QBE Underwriting Ltd.-Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.

Posted in Drilling for Oil, Ecosystems, Fish, Oceans & Coastlines, Oil & Petroleum, Water Pollution, Well Drilling0 Comments

Man, Nature Affecting Fish in Rivers

TEMPE, Ariz., Oct. 14 (UPI) — Human and natural impacts on the world’s rivers are affecting their central role in supporting global fish species, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at Arizona State University say rivers and streams around the world are being affected by human use, or drying up due to climate change, altering the natural variability of river flows, ScienceDaily.com reported.

Some rivers have dried completely and no longer run, while others are experiencing extreme variability of flows due to storm floods.

The two forces are conspiring to shorten food chains, especially by eliminating top predators like large-bodied fish, one researcher says.

“Floods and droughts shorten the food chain but they accomplish this in different ways,” John Sabo, an ASU associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, says. “High flows take out the middle men in the food web making fish (the top predator) feed lower in the food chain; droughts completely knock out the top predator.

“The end result in either case is a simpler food web, but the effects we see for low flows are more catastrophic for fish, and much more long lasting,” Sabo says.

Sabo and his fellow researches urge the fate of large bodied fishes be more carefully factored into water management decisions, especially as growing human populations and climate change continue to affect water availability.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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U.S. Getting Unlabeled Chinese Fish Oil

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Oct. 10 (UPI) — Chinese imports account for a fifth of the U.S. fish oil market, but consumers wouldn’t know it, a newspaper’s investigation found.

An investigation by The Kansas City Star found that importers evade labeling rules, and U.S. authorities let them.

One in five American adults now takes fish oil. It is the No. 3 dietary supplement and a nearly $1 billion annual business.

Chinese fish oil has not been implicated in major recalls or health scandals, and a spokesman for Beijing said it is of good quality, the newspaper reported

But Leo Hepner, an international consultant on food and dietary supplement ingredients, told the Star that if he knew some fish oil capsules were manufactured in China, “I would prefer to buy something else.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules say supplement labels should include “a truthful representation of geographical origin.”

But enforcement of import labeling is up to U.S. Customs and Border Control, which has been letting the importers get around the law. Importers assert that just bottling the capsules in the United States “transforms” them into a U.S. product, so they don’t have to be labeled as imports, the newspaper reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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