NOAA press release: November 30, 2012
In compliance with a federal court ordered deadline, and consistent with existing international protections, NOAA Fisheries announced today that it is proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings for 66 coral species, including 59 in the Pacific and seven in the Caribbean. This science-based proposal is more limited than the 2009 original petition that led to a settlement agreement and the court order. In order to ensure robust input, NOAA has been engaging the public since the process began three years ago. Before this proposed listing is finalized in late 2013, there will be a 90-day public comment period during which NOAA will hold 18 public meetings.
Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with today’s proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means, including avoidance of unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities, and the private sector of promoting compliance with the ESA. As this process moves forward, NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors.
Elkhorn coral is an icon of the Florida Keys, but was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. (Credit: NOAA.)
“Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Yet, scientific research indicates that climate change and other activities are putting these corals at risk. This is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future.”
NOAA is proposing seven species as endangered and 52 as threatened in the Pacific, and five as endangered and two as threatened in the Caribbean. In addition, the agency is proposing that two Caribbean species already listed under the Act be reclassified from threatened to endangered. NOAA is seeking public comment on the proposed listing before making a final listing decision by December 2013.
Corals have measurable economic value for communities around the world. One independent study reported that coral reefs provide approximate $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economy from tourism and recreation activities and a combined annual net benefit from all goods and services of about $1.1 billion. NOAA also estimates the annual commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs to be more than $100 million; reef-based recreational fisheries generate an additional $100 million annually.
Listing species as endangered does not prohibit activities like fishing or diving, but prohibits the specific “take” of those species, including harming, wounding, killing, or collecting the species. It also prohibits imports, exports, and commercial activities dealing in the species. These protections are not automatic for species listed as threatened, but can be established for them as well. Furthermore, if species are eventually listed, NOAA will consult with other federal agencies that permit projects that may harm corals to help avoid further damage. The consultation process allows NOAA to work with federal agencies and project proponents to develop ways for projects to proceed, but in a way that protects the long-term health of these important species.
NOAA has identified 19 threats to the survival of coral, including rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and coral disease. As carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, the oceans warm beyond what corals can withstand, leading to bleaching, and the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks increase, causing die-offs.
This proposed listing is in response to a 2009 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list 83 coral species as threatened or endangered under the ESA. In 2011, NOAA and the CBD entered into a stipulated settlement agreement requiring NOAA to submit for publication a proposal as to 82 of the 83 coral species by April 15, 2012. In March 2012, the District Court for the Northern District of California approved an amended settlement agreement ordering NOAA to submit a proposal regarding the 82 coral species on or before December 1, 2012. All of these coral species being proposed for listing are already protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
NOAA used the best available scientific information to assess the status of the species and decide if the species met the ESA’s definitions of endangered or threatened. Earlier this year, after publication of a peer-reviewed status review report and a draft management report, NOAA took an additional step of seeking public comment prior to proposing the listing. NOAA received approximately 42,000 comments and collected 400 relevant scientific articles, reports, or presentations, which were all considered when making the proposed determination.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.
For more information, background documents, and instructions on submitting comments, go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/11/82corals.html
From: Editor, Center for Biological Diversity
Published December 14, 2012 08:52 AM
Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Export-Import Bank's nearly $3 billion in financing for a massive Australian fossil fuel facility in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Construction and operation of the liquefied natural gas facility will threaten sea turtles, dugongs and many other protected marine species, as well as the Great Barrier Reef itself.
"Dirty fossil fuel facilities don't belong in a world-famous marine sanctuary like the Great Barrier Reef," said Sarah Uhlemann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "This liquefied natural gas project doesn't meet U.S. standards, and we shouldn't be subsidizing the world's fossil fuel dependence or the destruction of a natural wonder like the Great Barrier Reef."
The Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that funds international projects to promote U.S. exports, provided a $3 billion loan in May 2012 for the project, which will be located in Queensland, northeast Australia. The Australia Pacific LNG project will include drilling 10,000 coal-seam gas wells in interior Queensland using controversial "fracking" techniques, digging nearly 300 miles of gas pipelines and constructing a massive natural-gas processing facility and export terminal. To provide access to the new terminal, the project requires dredging the adjacent harbor and its seagrass beds. Increased tanker traffic will eventually ship the fuel across the Great Barrier Reef to ports in Asia and around the world
Read more at http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/45345
Dec. 10, 2012 — Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today's electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.
A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, the scientists found.
"These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive," said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly."
From: Olivier De Schutter, Ecologist, www.enn.com
Published November 15, 2012 08:43 AM
All over the world, food systems and the ecosystems they rely on are coming under pressure from the over-exploitation of natural resources. But nowhere are these impacts occurring as rapidly and dramatically as in the world’s oceans.
Between 1970 and 1990, buoyed by generous fuel and boat-building subsidies, the harvesting capacity of the worlds combined fisheries grew eight times faster than the rate of growth in landings. This led to a situation where the capacity of the global aggregate fishing fleet is at least double what is needed to exploit the oceans sustainably.
A vicious cycle has ensued whereby fishing vessels have gone further and deeper in their hunt for fish, degrading marine environments and depleting stocks ever further. Fishing methods such as industrial bottom trawling – the equivalent of deforestation in deep waters — have proved particularly destructive and wasteful, while climate change, ocean acidification and pollution have further destabilized marine environments. Read the full article
By Tife Owolabi. Reuters
IBENO, Nigeria | Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:51am EST
(Reuters) – An oil spill at an ExxonMobil facility offshore from the Niger Delta has spread at least 20 miles from its source, coating waters used by fishermen in a film of sludge.
A Reuters reporter visiting several parts of Akwa Ibom state saw a rainbow-tinted oil slick stretching for 20 miles from a pipeline that Exxon had shut down because of a leak a week ago. Locals scooped it into jerry cans.
Mark Ward, the managing director of ExxonMobil’s local unit, said a clean up had been mobilized, and he apologized to affected communities for the spill.
Exxon said last Sunday it had shut a pipeline off the coast of Akwa Ibom state after an oil leak whose cause was unknown. Read the full article
Our national #makeBPpay Twitter Day of Action is finally here! All day long, we’re asking people to send tweets to @BP_America demanding they pay the maximum fines for which they are liable for the 2010 gulf oil spill.
Despite BP’s advertising campaigns to the contrary, the gulf is still suffering from the spill. Last week, it was announced that 565,000 pounds of oil had washed ashore during Hurricane Isaac. And earlier this month, a three-mile long sheen of oil appeared in the gulf near the Macondo well. And some reports are suggesting that BP is negotiating a settlement offer that is significantly less than half of what they would face at trial. We can’t let that happen.
Join us in sending a strong message to BP that it’s time they pay the maximum fines for the oil spill. Simply visit our blog post and click on one of the sample tweets to get started. There are many messages to choose from so please feel free to send out multiple tweets throughout the day. And you can follow the conversation all day long by following the hashtag #makeBPpay on Twitter. Thanks for your support – now let’s #makeBPpay!
Restoration and Water Resources Associate
National Wildlife Federation
More than 120 Florida officials and scientists sent a letter to the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney last week, urging the candidates to address sea-level rise in their final debate and during tours of the state.
The action comes at a time when four counties in southeast Florida are weighing passage of a regional climate plan, completed this month, that sets broad goals on how to alter Florida infrastructure for rising seas and warming temperatures. Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, is set to consider the plan as early as this month, as well as incorporate some of its recommendations by early January in the county’s comprehensive plan, which governs long-term land use.
In the letter, which was delivered to both the state and national campaign headquarters of the Romney and Obama campaigns, the officials and scientists note that tide gauges in Florida documented an 8-inch rise in sea level in the 20th century. Read more
Norway is to double carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry and set up a £1bn fund to help combat the damaging impacts of climate change in the developing world.
In one of the most radical climate programmes yet by an oil-producing nation, the Norwegian government has proposed increasing its carbon tax on offshore oil companies by £21 to £45 (Nkr410) per tonne of CO2 and a £5.50 (Nkr50) per tonne CO2 tax on its fishing industry.
Norway will also plough an extra £1bn (Nkr10bn) into its funds for climate change mitigation, renewable energy, food security in developing countries and conversion to low-carbon energy sources, Environmental Finance reported.
It will step up spending on new projects to combat deforestation in developing countries to £44m, taking up its spending overall on forestry programmes to £327m. Previous forestry projects have involved Brazil, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The Oslo government is also to spend £69m on buying carbon credits in 2013, to help offset its emissions, force through new building regulations to make all new homes carbon-neutral by 2015 and increase efforts to heavily cut emissions from cars, switching to electric vehicles.
The scale of these initiatives will pose a significant political challenge to other oil-producing nations, who are also investing in low-carbon technologies and cutting their own emissions, but not yet investing heavily in tackling the impacts of climate change on developing countries.
The UK and Scottish governments estimate there are up to 24bn barrels of oil left to be exploited over the next 40 years from the UK’s oil and gas fields in the North Sea, west of Shetland and smaller sites off western England.
But that would lead to total CO2 emissions of an extra 10bn tonnes – dwarfing the UK’s annual 500m tonnes of CO2 emissions, at a time when many climate scientists urge cutbacks in oil, gas and coal use to avoid significant global warming and to meet climate targets.
Neither the UK or Scottish government has supported a carbon tax on the oil and gas industry.
The Scottish government, which often looks to Norway as a model for its independence plans, has greatly increased its funding and support for renewable energy investment. It announced a £103m investment fund for marine renewables and community power schemes on Wednesday and has a £4m “climate justice fund” to help developing countries.
But fields in Scottish waters account for about 80% of the UK’s North Sea oil and gas fields, which produced 1m barrels of oil a day in August.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, said on Wednesday that oil economies have a “moral obligation” to increase low-carbon energy and tackle climate change, but says there is no contradiction in maximising oil, gas and coal production.
He told a conference on low-carbon investment: “As countries such as Denmark show, there’s no contradiction between making use of substantial in their case gas reserves which will be needed by the rest of the world in the coming decades by the rest of the world, while leading the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
After speaking at the same conference on Thursday, Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate secretary, told the Guardian he believed the UK’s actions on climate change and green energy were also world-leading. The UK government was putting £3bn into the new green investment bank, and aims to cut CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020, he said.
Asked about Norway’s new programme, Davey said: “I would say that the UK government has very ambitious climate change targets and carbon emission reduction targets.
“We were one of the first countries in the world to pass legally binding targets on ourselves, with the Climate Change Act 2008 which had cross party support. And the government has introduced on the back of that, the fourth carbon budget and the whole electricity market reform, the green deal, the green investment bank.
“These are all our tools to deliver on those targets; these are incredibly ambitious and maybe some countries are catching us up.”
Ranking third among the world’s oil exporters, with production peaking at 3m barrels of oil a day, Norway has 51 active oil and gas fields in the North Sea, and believes it has more than 7bn barrels of undiscovered reserves. Its oil and gas sector is the world’s richest: its employees earn $180,000 on average a year.
With a population of 5 million – the same as Scotland – it is the third wealthiest country per capita in the world thanks to its oil and gas exports. Norway’s plans to offset the impacts of its oil exports on the world’s climate come as it also proposes to expand oil exploration into the Barents Sea to the far north.
Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “Norway is showing how you can use oil income to fund the transition out of oil, we should be doing the same with UK oil revenues. The Scottish National Party have always been keen on the Norwegian oil fund, and now it is setting an example really worth following.”
A recent report on coral loss from the Great Barrier Reef has pointed the finger at cyclones and Crown of Thorns starfish. The real culprit is human activity, and until we reduce port activity and pollution, coral will be unable to bounce back.
Last year, another report claimed the declines were more modest and the result of a natural cycle. But the latest report, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, confirms earlier studies – the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble.
Corals are the backbone of the reef, providing habitat for many other species. Measuring coral cover on a reef is the simplest way to monitor its condition. But other metrics – like counts of sharks, dugongs and turtles – also show alarming downward trajectories. The decline in coral cover highlights UNESCO’s concerns about the dwindling Universal Heritage Values of the Barrier Reef. Read more
By Juliet Eilperin, Published: September 30, 2012
This town in southwestern Alaska dubs itself the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. But worries about the changing chemical balance of the ocean and its impact on the fish has made an arcane scientific buzzword common parlance here, along with the phrase “corrosive waters.”
In the past five years, the fact that human-generated carbon emissions are making the ocean more acidic has become an urgent cause of concern to the fishing industry and scientists.
The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we put in the air through fossil fuel burning, and this triggers a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen, thereby lowering the water’s pH. Read more