Archive for February, 2012
Aboard Mission Blue, scientist Greg Stone tells the story of how he helped the Republic of Kiribati create an enormous protected area in the middle of the Pacific — protecting fish, sealife and the island nation itself.
We at the World Ocean Observatory use the belief “The Sea Connects All Things” as the basis for our work to inform citizens and unite to sustain the ocean through change of human behavior on land and sea. What does this sentence actually mean? In this episode of World Ocean Radio, host Peter Neill will deconstruct the meaning of this declaration and will argue that if we truly understood its meaning our values, actions, and behaviors would reflect a more practical, smart approach to our futures.
Listen to the broadcast at Ocean Radio 156: The Sea Connects All Things II
Peter Neill, Director of the W2O and host of World Ocean Radio, provides coverage of a broad spectrum of ocean issues from science and education to advocacy and exemplary projects. World Ocean Radio, a project of the World Ocean Observatory, is a weekly series of five-minute audio essays available for syndicated use at no cost by community radio stations worldwide.
The Beach Act of 2000 gave the EPA a chance to vastly improve protection of the nation’s swimmers and surfers from pathogen-caused illnesses — an opportunity that seems about to be wasted.
By Mark Gold. LA Times
February 7, 2012
When Congress approved the Beach Act in 2000, I was hopeful. The law required the Environmental Protection Agency to develop federal standards for water quality that would protect beach users from pathogen-caused illnesses, and it called for modernizing an outdated approach to measuring beach water quality. I believed it had the potential to make beaches far safer for the nation’s swimmers and surfers.
But since the act was passed, little has changed. Although the EPA did set aside some funding (about $10 million annually) for beach water monitoring programs, the agency dragged its feet on developing standards. It was only after the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the EPA (I served as an unpaid expert witness in that suit) that the agency agreed, in a consent decree, to complete epidemiological studies and to develop and analyze new, rapid methods for detecting fecal bacteria in recreational waters. The agency also agreed to set new beach water quality standards by the end of 2012.
Setting those standards presents a huge opportunity. But I fear it’s about to be wasted. In late December, the EPA released its draft standards, and they were not only a disappointment, they were weaker than the 1986 standards they will replace. Rather than providing strong guidelines that are consistent for all of the nation’s waters, the EPA has decided to allow states to set their own beach-specific criteria. Past experience with this approach suggests it’s highly unlikely that much will improve. Read the full article at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gold-beach-water-safety-20120207,0,3130743.story
by Underwatertimes.com News Service – February 2, 2012 17:41 EST
NEW YORK, New York — A recently published study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and others reveals that humpback whales on both sides of the southern Indian Ocean are singing different tunes, unusual since humpbacks in the same ocean basin usually all sing very similar songs.
The results of the study—conducted by researchers from WCS, Columbia University, and Australia —contradict previous humpback whale song comparisons. Generally, when song from populations in the same ocean basins are compared, researchers find that the songs contain similar parts or “themes.” The differences in song between the Indian Ocean humpback populations most likely indicate a limited exchange between the two regions and may shed new light on how whale culture spreads.
By RYAN McCARTHY. Keynoter
Wednesday, February 01, 2012 11:08 AM EST
Keys Energy Services is making the most of a state Clean Energy Grant it was awarded last summer. The most recent initiative — a pair of wind turbines — has been getting noticed a lot lately at the Lower Keys utility’s Cudjoe Key substation.
Keys Energy spokesman Julio Barroso said the utility plans to track how much energy the turbines produce and make the information available on its website. Barroso said the plan was to install one on Cudjoe Key and another on Stock Island, but instead both were put in the same location.
The smaller turbine is 35 feet tall, the maximum height allowed under county rules. Keys Energy got a waiver to install the other one at 52 feet.
“It’s always been said the Keys aren’t a good area for wind generation. Our thinking was to gain some information and see if height had something to do with it,” he said. “They’re definitely there for a year and we’ll see if we want to keep them both there or move another to perhaps the Stock Island substation. There’s no plans one way or the other.”
By KeysNet Staff
Posted – Wednesday, February 01, 2012 11:05 AM EST
The superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has been named the outstanding manager of his federal agency.
Sean Morton, who has overseen the 2,900-square-mile marine area since February 2009, was picked as manager of the year by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Keys sanctuary is one among 15.
Alliance of Small Island States’ Chairperson and Grenada’s Ambassador to the United Nations Dessima Williams in an exclusive interview with MediaGlobal’s Nosh Nalavala
MediaGlobal (MG): The most recent talks in Bonn showed that the 194 negotiating countries have failed to even define a common target or method for curbing greenhouse gases. Where do the negotiating countries go from here? Does Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) have a strategy for breaking this deadlock?
Dessima Williams (DM): Our strategy is to be prepared for progress and for lack of progress, in the sense that we are working for very ambitious, deliberate and timely outcomes. What we have done is to stress the situation of our islands and of the world. The whole world is suffering from a worsening situation in climate change. Island countries are on the forefront of global climate deterioration. Many economic and physical science studies suggest that we are in trouble. The earth is now hotter than it has ever been, and 93 percent of the warming over the past 50 years has gone into the oceans, which directly affects our coral levels, fish stock, sea-level rise and thus the security of islands. For those reasons, negotiations ought to be moving faster.
One of our main strategies is to resist a pullback based on the absence of US legislation. Many say that when “there is no US legislation, there is no commitment,” therefore they should not commit. But we got the Kyoto Protocol without the US, didn’t we?
MG: Ambassador, what are you asking for?
DM: AOSIS is asking for fair international climate policy measures that are protective and supportive of small islands. First, a legal commitment that the global average rise in temperature be limited to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Secondly, we are asking for a level of financing commensurate with the needs of adaptation and mitigation. We acknowledge the “fast start” financing and other bilateral efforts. Fast Start is a $30 billion fund — $10 billion a year for the next 3 years, starting this year—intended to support Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and others who have already sustained damage from climate change. Three years from now there will be the longer-term funding of $100 billion until 2020. Thirdly, we are negotiating for a legal institutional framework to bind all parties in such an agreement.
MG: And where will your strategy fit in this context?
DM: Everybody agrees that when we emerge from the economic downturn of 2008, we cannot use the same old pollutant technology. If we move toward a greener and climate-resilient paradigm, we will be able to resuscitate the global economy and protect the environment simultaneously.
The islands have positioned themselves in large measure as the bell weather of the global regime. Our small size highlights our vulnerability whether in climate change, global trade or the economic arena. We therefore have to make a strategic advantage out of that vulnerability. Thus linking climate change needs to our sustainable development needs is a strategic approach for SIDS, and for LDCs and Africa too.
MG: In a recent press conference, the UN Secretary General said he does not expect a resolution at the year-end Cancun Conference on Climate Change and therefore advocated taking small steps in small conferences. Are you hopeful there will be a meeting of the minds in Cancun?
DM: COP-16 is a big conference that requires big outcomes. So far, there is a little progress in the negotiations, including in forestry programs and technology transfer. But we are still far from the mandate of the 2007 Bali Action Plan and from definitive agreements that would reduce carbon emissions and support islands.
That, and the failure to have legislation in the US, have encouraged some to say ‘We cannot get anything definite. Therefore we should just ask or take a little bit here and a little bit there.’ This is not consistent with the AOSIS mandate, which is to stick to the Bali Action Plan that calls for definitive, comprehensive and ambitious legal outcomes. But, we have to be careful. We could be on a slippery slope where we just postpone outcomes every year while climate impacts worsen. We understand incrementalism in negotiations. But the talks must move forward more rapidly. AOSIS has built a coalition of 107 countries who support a comprehensive outcome with 1.5 as an upper allowable temperature target. Read the full interview at http://www.mediaglobal.org/2010/10/09/small-island-developing-states-seek-international-commitment/
January 31, 2012 by Robert Horton www.endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com
As previously blogged about here, on December 9, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (PDF) in the Federal Register that will, if adopted, change the Services’ standards for listing and delisting species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by re-interpreting the definitions of “threatened” and “endangered” species in the ESA.
In a letter to the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF) dated January 26, 2012, Congressman Markey, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Natural Resources, expresses his “concerns that this policy has the potential to undermine several key provisions of the ESA by setting the bar for listing declining species at much too high a threshold.” So high, he argues, that “the bald eagle never would have been listed as an endangered species in the lower 48 States” because healthy populations of the bald eagle lived in Alaska “[e]ven during the worst era of DDT pesticide usage . . . .”
Markey also criticized the draft policy for ignoring “Congress’ intent regarding the purpose of the ESA by refusing to consider the historic distribution of a species when making listing decisions about whether a species is in danger of extinction in a significant portion of its range.”
Had such a policy been in place in the 1970s, Markey claims, “Americans would have had to travel to the most remote parts of Alaska to view species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, or the gray wolf.” According to Markey, in passing the ESA, Congress did not sanction such a “living museum approach” to protect imperiled wildlife, but instead sought to protect ecosystems and restore species to their historic ranges.
The key provisions in the ESA provide that ”‘endangered species’ means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range . . . [,]” and “‘threatened species’ means any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”
But the ESA itself does not include a definition of “significant portion” of a plant or animal’s range.
Under the draft policy, when making listing decisions the Services would:
1. Deem a portion of a species’ range to be “significant” if its contribution to the viability of the species is so important that without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction;
2. Limit consideration of a species’ status to the range used by a species at the time the listing decision is being made; and
3. Extend a listing decision made on the basis of a threat to the species’ viability throughout only a ”significant portion of its range” to the entire species, throughout its entire range.
Read the full article at http://www.endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com/2012/01/articles/congress/congressman-markey-issues-sharp-criticisms-of-draft-interpretation-of-endangered-and-threatened-species/index.html