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
ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2012) — Over dinner on R.V. Calypso while anchored on the lee side of Glover’s Reef in Belize, Jacques Cousteau told Phil Dustan that he suspected humans were having a negative impact on coral reefs. Dustan — a young ocean ecologist who had worked in the lush coral reefs of the Caribbean and Sinai Peninsula — found this difficult to believe. It was December 1974.
But Cousteau was right. During the following three-plus decades, Dustan, an ocean ecologist and biology professor at the University of Charleston in South Carolina, has witnessed widespread coral reef degradation and bleaching from up close. In the late 1970s Dustan helped build a handheld spectrometer, a tool to measure light given off by the coral. Using his spectrometer, Dustan could look at light reflected and made by the different organisms that comprised the living reefs. Since then, he has watched reefs deteriorate at an alarming rate. Recently he has found that Landsat offers a way to evaluate these changes globally. Using an innovative way to map how coral reefs are changing over time, Dustan now can find ‘hotspots’ where conservation efforts should be focused to protect these delicate communities.
A Role for Remote Sensing
Situated in shallow clear water, most coral reefs are visible to satellites that use passive remote sensing to observe Earth’s surface. But coral reefs are complex ecosystems with coincident coral species, sand, and water all reflecting light. Dustan found that currently orbiting satellites do not offer the spatial or spectral resolution needed to distinguish between them and specifically classify coral reef composition. So instead of attempting to classify the inherently complex coral ecosystem to monitor their health, Dustan has instead started to look for change — how overall reflectance for a geographic location varies over time.
Dustan uses a time series of Landsat data to calculate something called temporal texture¬ — basically a map showing where change has occurred based on statistical analysis of reflectance information. While Dustan cannot diagnosis the type of change with temporal texture he can establish where serious changes have occurred. Coral communities have seasonal rhythms and periodicities, but larger, significant changes show up as statistical outliers in temporal texture maps and often correlate with reef decline.
A Case Study
Carysfort reef — named for the HMS Carysfort, an eighteenth century British warship that ran aground on the reef in 1770 — is considered the most ecologically diverse on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s northern seaward edge, but today it is in a state of ecological collapse.
Dustan and colleagues conducted the first quantitative field study of coral health at Carysfort in 1974. After a quarter century their studies showed that coral had declined 92 percent. The coral had succumbed to an array of stressors culminating with deadly diseases.
Using the well-characterized Carysfort reef as his control, Dustan calculated the temporal texture for the reef using a series of 20 Landsat images collected between 1982 and 1996. The resulting temporal texture maps correlated with the known areas of significant coral loss (where coral communities have turned into algal-dominated substrates) and they correctly showed that the seaward shallow regions have had the most detrimental change.
This novel approach to change detection is only possible because the long-term calibration of Landsat data assures that data from year-to-year is consistent. Dustin needs at least 6 to 8 Landsat images to create a reliable temporal texture map, but the more data that is available, the finer the results.
Dustan tested this work in the U.S. because he had a robust study site and because prior to 1999 coverage of reefs outside of the U.S. was spotty. With the Landsat 7 launch in 1999 a new global data acquisition strategy was established and for the first time the planet’s coral reefs were systematically and regularly imaged, greatly increasing our knowledge of reefs. The Landsat archive enabled the completing of the first exhaustive global survey of reefs (Millennium Global Coral Reef Mapping Project, http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/news/news-archive/news_0031.html). Efforts are currently underway to receive and ingest Landsat data collected and housed by international ground-receiving stations. International partners often downlink Landsat scenes of their countries that the U.S. does not, so it is very likely that historic reef images will be added the U.S. Landsat archive during this process.
Carrying on Outside of Carysfort
Temporal texture gives scientists an entirely new way to look at coral reefs. A worldwide study could help managers locate change ‘hotspots’ and could better inform conservation efforts.
Ideally, after more testing, Dustan would like to see an automatic change detection system implemented to follow major worldwide reef systems. “There is no reason that a form of temporal texture monitoring could not be implemented with current satellites in orbit,” Dustan says.
Because reefs are underwater it is difficult to grasp the extensive devastation being exacted upon them. Global temporal texture mapping could bring the ravages into focus.
The Landsat Program is a series of Earth observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes for the benefit of all.
Yoga in the Park: Reef Relief
Saturday, Feb 11, 2012 – 9:00AM to 10:15AM
Because of weather this event will be held at the
MADEIRA BAY RESORT, 13235 GULF BLVD, MADEIRA BEACH
We have brought back our Yoga in the Park for Charity. Our theme will be “Yoga in the Park: Salutations to the Sea”. We will not be spending the donation dollars on big posters, t-shirts, advertisements, etc. So, please spread the word on FB, E-mail, Twitter, any social network as well as our favorite “word of mouth”
Every month a 100% of the proceeds from this event will benefit our oceans and sea life. Our events have been a great success and we look forward to you helping us keep these going. We will be holding “Yoga in the Park: Salutations to the Sea” the second Saturday of every month (except Summer). See below for a list of the charities we have sponsored.
Join us for a donation only yoga class in the park at the Madeira Bay Resort, 13235 Gulf Blvd, Madeira Beach
This month we are donating to the Reef Relief here in Florida.
North America’s only barrier reef lies approximately six miles seaward of the Florida Keys in waters that are typically fifteen to thirty feet deep. The reef tract starts near Miami and extends southwest to the Dry Tortugas, about sixty-seven miles west of Key West. Patch reefs continue up through the Palm Beaches.
Reef Relief mission is to preserve and protect our oral reef ecosystems. Your donation will be used to directly support Reef Relief programs such as the Discover Coral Reef School Program, Coral Camp for Kids, our Clean Water Campaign, and the Reef Relief Environmental Education Center. Donations allow Reef Relief to continue to work for our coral reefs.
Florida’s reef contains over fifty species of corals comprising over eighty percent of all the coral reef species in the Tropical Western Atlantic. Help us preserve our fragile and beautiful Coral Reefs.
While enjoying a yoga class, you will be part of a community-oriented spirit as well as spreading Karma by participating in this event for the benefit of our Oceans, the environment and the living creatures of our waterways. Our oceans give us calm and so does yoga – a perfect pairing.
Help by joining us. Suggested donation is $8.00-$15.00. 100% of donations go the charity.
We hope to see you there, and don’t forget to invite all your friends!
Bring the kids. There will be two 40 minute classes just for them. Bring your whole family, your friends. Help us help the planet.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2012) — Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and Florida International University (FIU) researchers have drafted a plan to best prepare South Florida for an oil spill off the coast of Cuba.
The proximity of intended Cuban oil drilling and production puts the U.S. coastal zone at risk from Florida to the Carolinas and northward. Oil from a spill would quickly enter the Gulf Stream and reach Florida’s shores in hours or days with potentially devastating effects on the densely populated South Florida coastline and its coastal ecosystems. South Florida’s accounts for 3.4 million jobs and 45 percent of the $587 billion contribution to Florida’s GDP generated by coastal and ocean economic activity.
In 1996, as a volunteer certified diver, I went down to the Florida Keys to assist in mapping out the reef at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I was one of more than 100 volunteer divers for this project. In three weeks we mapped out the entire reef for the state of Florida. This reef was to be preserved as a state park.
I have just learned that the bottom of this reef is currently full of garbage — not being preserved — and I am very perturbed that this could have happened. I find out that people are still hand-feeding dolphins, which is a federal offense, and they are dumping trash, which sinks to the bottom and has settled on the reef.
Garbage being on the bottom of the reef greatly threatens the wildlife that depends on the reef for housing and survival. Dolphins use the reef to hunt for the fish, as do crabs and other varieties. Bonefish, bonita, blue marlin, dolphins and all other species depend on the reef for their existence.I don’t understand why people don’t respect this.
I reside in the mountains of South Carolina, where I am retired. I would appeal to those who live in Monroe County to take up the cause and take care of your underwater wildlife at the John Pennekamp reef.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not have the funding and people resources to patrol these waters effectively. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the people residing in Monroe County to organize teams of volunteers to care for the waters in this area. Small teams of volunteers could be organized to start this process.
Perhaps someone reading this is an organizer. It only takes one dog in the pack to lead others. Of course, effective change starts with just one person and grows from there.
If you love your waters — those beautiful clear blue waters that many of us don’t have the access to — you’ll rise up and begin to save the gorgeous Pennekamp reef.
West Union, S.C.
Associated Press. January 30, 20
MIAMI — The U.S. is not ready to handle an oil spill if drilling off the Cuban coast goes awry but can be better prepared with monitoring systems and other basic steps, experts told government officials Monday.
The comments at a congressional subcommittee hearing in the Miami Beach suburb of Sunny Isles come more than a week after a huge oil rig arrived in Cuban waters to begin drilling a deepwater exploratory well.
Similar development is expected off the Bahamas next year, but decades of tense relations between the U.S. and Cuba makes cooperation in protecting the Florida Straits particularly tricky. With memories of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico still fresh, state and federal officials fear even the perception of oil flowing toward Florida beaches could devastate an economy that claims about $57 million from tourism.
Sunday 29 January 2012. Herald Scotland.
By Rob Edwards Environment Editor
Scottish fishing boats are under fire for trawling seas far from home for catches of tuna, shark, swordfish, mackerel and sardines.
The Sunday Herald can reveal that at least five vessels registered in Scotland have been licensed to fish in the Indian Ocean and off the northwest African coast.
Along with boats from elsewhere in Europe, they are facing criticisms that they are plundering foreign seas, damaging local fishing industries and threatening fish stocks.
As fish stocks in European waters have declined, big fishing businesses have increasingly searched further afield for more lucrative and less depleted waters. Scottish fishermen, already in straitened circumstances, are also keen to exploit foreign waters to keep operating.
According to a study for conservation group WWF, one-third of the world’s oceans are heavily fished, 10 times more than in the 1950s.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2012) — Scientists at USC have uncovered evidence that even when hydrothermal sea vents go dormant and their blistering warmth turns to frigid cold, life goes on.
Or rather, it is replaced.
A team led by USC microbiologist Katrina Edwards found that the microbes that thrive on hot fluid methane and sulfur spewed by active hydrothermal vents are supplanted, once the vents go cold, by microbes that feed on the solid iron and sulfur that make up the vents themselves.