Archive | Oceans & Coastlines

Chesapeake Bay to Go on Pollution Diet

The Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday unveiled a restoration plan for the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay.

EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin called the agreement with six states and the District of Columbia “the largest water pollution strategy plan in the nation” and possibly “number one or number two” in the world, the Washington Post reported.

The comprehensive plan applies to the following areas in the bay’s watershed: Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. All the states and the District submitted individual plans this fall addressing how they hoped to slash pollution runoff into the bay by 2025. EPA compiled these proposals in its plan.

Pollution from farm, urban, and suburban runoff have stifled oxygen levels in the 200-mile-long estuary and harmed fish and oyster populations.

Garvin said EPA may have to “place additional controls on permanent sources of pollution” to counterbalance three potentially problematic areas: New York wastewater treatment, West Virginia’s agricultural sector, and Pennsylvania’s stormwater treatment.

The plan aims to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment pollution by imposing total maximum daily load (TMDL) limits on areas in the estuary’s watershed.

Opponents of the new pollution measures say they will give farmers, developers, and local officials unneeded costs and difficulties. Environmentalists counter that the plan will bring economic benefits to the bay by boosting tourism and fishing.

“This is a very historic moment in the history, and the future, of the Chesapeake Bay,” Garvin told the press.

Posted in Aquatic Life, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Oceans & Coastlines, Policies, Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands, Water Pollution0 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

Manatees Seek Out Warmer Waters During Florida Cold Snap

Manatees, the herbivorous marine animals sometimes referred to as “sea cows,” are migrating out of cold Gulf of Mexico waters into more temperate Florida power plant discharge canals, AP reported Tuesday. 300 of the majestic creatures congregated in the waters near Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station on Tuesday, basking in the warmth of the plant’s outflow.

Cold weather poses a serious threat to manatees; chilly conditions can weaken their immune systems and eventually kill them.

“They’re not blubbery mammals. They’re very lean mammals,” Wendy Anastasiou, an environmental specialist at the power plant’s manatee viewing center, told AP. “They need the warmth. They need a warm place to go.”

This year has been especially brutal, with 246 manatees dying of “cold stress” between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17–up from 55 in 2009 and just 22 in 2008.

Wendy Quigley, a spokeswoman with the state-operated Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, says this year’s spike in cold-related manatee deaths is troubling.

“Obviously we’re very concerned as an agency about the unusually high number of manatee deaths this year,” Quigley told AP.

She added that the figures don’t even include the region’s most recent cold snap, which sent temperatures tumbling into the 30s in South Florida this week. Worse, scientists only counted deaths that were confirmed to be cold-related, but 699 manatees were found dead this year in total, and it’s likely that many of them died from cold stress.

Illegal poaching, frequent collisions with motorboats, and low reproductive rates previously drove the species to endangerment, but in April 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Florida’s manatee population had rebounded. The species now is now classified with a conservation status of “vulnerable” rather than “endangered.”

Posted in Aquatic Life, 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

Chevrolet Volt Makers Recycle Oil Spill Materials

The makers of the Chevrolet Volt electric car plan to take advantage of leftover cleanup materials from the BP oil spill.

General Motors announced last week that it intends to recycle 100 miles of boom, or plastic oil containment lines, for vehicle parts instead of going to landfills for materials.

More than 2,550 miles of boom were strung throughout the Gulf last April in an attempt to corral oil before it reached shore. According to AP, only one mile of the vinyl-coated polyester or nylon boom is in use today. Much of the rest was incinerated or sent to landfills.

“Creative recycling is one extension of GM’s overall strategy to reduce its environmental impact,” Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety policy, said in a statement. “We reuse and recycle material by-products at our 76 landfill-free facilities every day. This is a good example of using this expertise and applying it to a greater magnitude.”

GM will use the boom to make under-the-hood components of the current generation of Volts. The parts will deflect air around the vehicle’s radiator and will consist of 25 percent recycled boom plastic, 25 percent recycled tires, and 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastics.

The Chevrolet Volt can run about 35 miles on stored battery power before switching to a gasoline engine.

Posted in Cars, Energy, Oceans & Coastlines, Recycling, Reduce & Reuse0 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

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