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Is the state serious about a Maui-Oahu
Maui Time Weekly, April 2, 2004
The waves are flat
and the beach is empty, except for one guy standing on some rocks at
Baldwin Beach in Paia, overlooking a crumbling army pillbox from World War
II. It had rained earlier in the day, and the air was still moist. The guy
is just a few feet from the old pillbox, yet he doesn't seem to see the
dilapidated structure. Instead, he's staring over it at the ocean beyond.
"That's where the main spar will jut in," the guy said, throwing
his right arm straight out. "She'll come straight in, then veer over there
towards the airport. The geography isn't perfect, but it's doable. No
question it's doable."
The guy is Jack Moffett, the president and
chief engineer of Moffett & Associates, a small engineering firm based
in La Jolla, California--not far from the University of California, San
Diego. But there's nothing small about Moffett's plans for Hawaii.
For the last few weeks, Moffett has been meeting quietly with
state and federal officials, mostly in Honolulu, but lately here on Maui
as well. Their subject matter: How to construct a road and rail line that
would link the four main islands of the Hawaiian chain.
past few decades, the only way to get from island to island has been by
air. There's talk today of an inter-island ferry service--the Spirit of
Ontario I, which is slightly smaller than the proposed "Superferry," even
docked in Kahului Harbor a few weeks ago to show off for invited guests.
But Moffett, who said he's been working on the plan for the last
four years, believes he has a better idea. He proposes to lay hundreds of
miles of tunnels in the water between the islands. Similar in design to
the "Chunnel" that crosses the English Channel, linking the United Kingdom
and France, Moffett's tunnels would consist of two fast rail lines and a
smaller service/escape tunnel in between. People would ride in passenger
trains or load their cars on flatbed train cars. The whole system could
even include inter-island oil, water and power lines.
the only way to get from Maui to Oahu is by airplane," said Moffett. "That
is absolutely ridiculous, considering that the distance from Maui to Oahu
is just 120 miles."
Just 120 miles. That's the distance from Los
Angeles to Santa Barbara. And that's just Maui-Oahu. Connecting Kauai and
the Big Island would add 240 additional miles to the network.
Never mind that the longest tunnel in the world is just a little
over 33 miles long. Or that a recently proposed tunnel running beneath the
Strait of Gibraltar that would connect the continents of Africa and Europe
would run less than 25 miles.
Yet Moffett's plan isn't as long as
a proposed 140 mile-long tunnel connecting the Japanese home islands with
the Korean peninsula. That tunnel would also involve a three-tube design.
And it isn't even close to a theoretic immersed, floating tunnel discussed
on a recent Discovery Channel program as well as CNN running the 3,000
miles between New York and London.
Nonetheless, the problems with
Moffett's proposal are almost too numerous to catalog. How do you keep an
underwater tunnel of that length sealed? How do you get travelers out
should something go wrong? How do you keep people driving that distance
not merely under ground but under the ocean from going crazy? How do you
build the thing without disrupting the delicate reef ecosystem? And, of
course, how do pay for the thing?
Moffett just smiled and shook
his head when confronted with the last question. "How the hell do I know?"
he said. "I'm just an engineer."
Then he took off his glasses and
gave a kind of half-wink. "I leave it to the smarter people to figure out
costs and such," he said. "Just as long as I get to build the world's
longest underwater tunnel system in the world--and make a healthy profit
along the way--I'll be happy."
If built, the Maui-Oahu tunnel
would be remarkably similar to other undersea or subterranean tunnels
around the world. Its three-tube design is pretty much an industry
standard these days, allowing for easy maintenance and escape. Moffett
said the trains would most likely be propelled magnetically through the
tube, which would allow fantastic speeds surpassing even 200 miles per
Every 50 miles or so, Moffett envisions rest stations with
restaurants, shops, movie theaters and fitness gyms. If the state adopts a
roadway option, the rest areas would include gas and service stations and
possibly hotels. From entrance to entrance, hundreds of people would live
Moffett even imagines stations or even tunnel stretches
being transparent and lit by seafloor-mounted lights.
imagine driving and looking up and seeing sharks swimming overhead?" he
said. "Or sitting back in a train observation car, just watching schools
To many people, few experiences would compare. For
others, especially those who have a hard enough time traveling through
completely rock-lined tunnels, nothing would be so terrifying.
reasons not entirely understood, sustained tunnel driving seems to affect
women and the elderly, wrote Dag Gotthard in the May, 2002 edition of the
engineering journal Shaft. In fact, the journey can be so frightening they
require special counseling.
Obviously, if driving through a tunnel
for a couple minutes causes problems, what will spending two to three
hours or longer under the ocean floor do? Gotthard's thesis was that
engineers could design "psychologically correct" tunnels using color,
plants and special lighting.
"Especially long tunnels should
include special widened tunnel sections about six kilometers [3.7 miles]
in length," wrote Gotthard. "These will provide turning areas, police
surveillance bays as well as architectural breathing spaces."
Gotthard suggested adding "illuminated lines of columns," which
would make the tunnel seem larger than it actually is. "It's a simple fact
that drivers feel safer in larger tunnels," he wrote. Gotthard added that
painting or illuminating tunnels so they're green actually helps drivers
Actual construction--at least as Moffett describes
it--should be easier than most people think. First dredging equipment
scrapes out a shallow trench in the ocean floor. Divers place temporary
foundation blocks in the trench, then huge platforms are moved in.
These massive structures would then lower prefabricated sections
of tunnel down into the trench. After sealing the sections, other
equipment fills in the trench with backfill, and the whole process would
begin again further down the line.
"You build a ramp at Kahului
near the airport, another one in Honolulu, and then you start digging,"
Moffett said. "Just like laying down track for your old HO-scale train
set, except you're using tunnel sections. Each side meets in the center,
seals it up and breaks open the Korbel."
Moffett is 41 years old.
He's about average height but thin--the sleeves of his green and white
aloha shirt hang an inch below his elbows. He has closely cropped brown
hair and bright blue eyes that seem to dance when talks to you.
his own admission, Moffett was a problem child growing up in Carbondale,
Illinois, a small town a lot closer to Kentucky--literally and
"Oh yeah," he said. "It was a tough
place, we were all tough. Even the faculty had chips on their shoulders. I
can remember chucking many a cantaloupe at teachers' houses."
Twice divorced--he joked that his exes are friendlier with each
other than they are with him--Moffett spends much of his intellectual life
hundreds of feet beneath the surface in the world of undersea tunneling.
There, buzzcut men such as himself trade PowerPoint Presentations
punctuated with weird engineering terms like "shotcrete," "shaft sinking"
and "gravity base structures."
It's a world Moffett seems
comfortable in. But that hasn't always been the case.
years during the 1980s, Moffett served in the U.S. Navy as a submariner.
Serving mostly on attack boats, Moffett became very familiar with the idea
of spending weeks or even months underwater.
"A boat is like any
other ship in the navy, except it doesn't have any windows," said Moffett.
"But unlike the other ships, submarines only have one enemy, and that's
the water that surrounds you. Every weapon you can think of--a missile,
torpedo or depth charge--only serves to break open your hull and let the
water come in. Every submarine that ever sunk was sunk by the ocean."
In the waning Cold War days of 1987, when U.S. and Soviet subs
still chased each other around the world's oceans, Moffett's boat ran into
trouble 250 feet down. Or rather, Moffett ran into trouble 250 feet down.
"You've seen, oh, what was that movie... Crimson Tide?" asked
Moffett. "Remember how narrow those gangways and hatches are? Well, we
were diving one day and I got to not looking where I was going and I
tripped and fell down a stairwell. It wasn't a particularly glamorous way
to end my career--I was going to be a 30-year man. But it did turn out to
be a blessing in disguise."
Moffett said the accident left him
with a crushed left arm--an injury so serious the Navy gave him a medical
discharge. "Sure, it hurt like hell," said Moffett. "At least it was my
left and not my right arm. Without my right arm, I wouldn't be able to...
um... is this on the record? Uh huh... Well, if I didn't have my right
arm, I wouldn't be able to play golf."
After his recuperation,
Moffett said he decided to finish college, majoring in civil engineering.
Moffett paints a very pretty picture of high-speed trains and cars
traveling hundreds of miles under the sea between the islands, but what
about the surrounding reef? Won't tunnel construction damage its delicate
"Hey, I love the reef," said Moffett. "There's nothing
I like better than going scuba diving. Okay, to be honest, there's at
least a dozen things I like better than scuba diving, but I do love scuba
diving. I consider myself pro-environment, pro-marine life, and it pains
me to say that dredging for the tunnel will tear merry hell out of that
reef. Just blast it to Kingdom Come. If I could do this without ripping
apart the reef I would, but I can't."
In fact, environmental
degradation might be the least of Moffett's problems. There's still the
little matter of political opposition to his proposal.
believe anyone is taking this guy seriously," said Sidney Finch, a
spokesperson for the Fresno-based National Airline Association (NAA), an
industry lobbying group. "His numbers don't even come close to adding up.
Do you have any idea what his tunnels will cost? Try $100 billion at
Moffett bristles at such talk.
that," he said. "No one knows yet what kind of federal transportation
grants this thing could qualify for. If the officials I've spoken with are
as serious about this as they seem to be, they will find a way to fund
No state or federal official contacted by Maui Time would
comment on the record concerning the status of Moffett's proposal. Moffett
himself wouldn't reveal which officials he's spoken with.
stage of the game, no one wants to go public with this, and I respect
that," he said. "But I can tell you that numerous people I've spoken with
are very, very interested in this."
One legislative aide, speaking
on condition of anonymity, did confirm that Moffett had met with "more
than one" state representative.
"Oh yeah, we're all very familiar
with this guy," said the aide. "He's a fascinating guy who, considering
the utter outlandishness of his idea, makes a pretty good case. Can he
make the numbers pencil out? That's the question. And can he at least hold
his ground against the airlines? If he can, I think you'll find a few
officials start to speak publicly on this. In just a few years, I think
this will all be a very big deal."
Fisheries rules eased.
rules will allow longline fishermen to catch swordfish and expand tuna
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 27, 2004
longline fishermen will be able to target swordfish for the first time in
three years, under new federal rules to be announced Tuesday.
National Marine Fisheries Service also plans to end its annual April-May
closure of a huge area of the Pacific to Hawaii-based tuna longlining,
fisheries officials said yesterday.
The changes were praised
yesterday by Hawaii longline fishermen eager to take advantage of expanded
They are opposed by environmental groups
that believe longline fishing remains a significant threat to endangered
A spokesman for the fisheries service, which regulates
commercial fishing and protection of marine endangered species, said the
new rules balance both concerns.
"We've worked hard over the last
five years to find ways to reduce interactions between fishers and sea
turtles," said Sam Pooley, acting director of the fisheries service's
Pacific Islands Region.
Fisheries service experiments in the
Atlantic Ocean showed that longline fishers using "circle" hooks and
mackerel-type bait were able to reduce the number of sea turtles they
The agency will closely monitor Pacific
results, Pooley said.
Fisheries service data estimate that between
1994 and 1999, before court-ordered bans on swordfish longlining by
- 112 leatherback turtles were caught in longline fishing gear and
- 418 loggerhead turtles were caught and 73 died.
Under rules to take effect Thursday:
- Hawaii-based longliners would be allowed a total of 2,120 swordfish
fishing days per year, half the amount allowed in 2000. The fishing time
is to be divided evenly among all qualified applicants.
- If a total of either 16 leatherback turtles or 17 loggerhead turtles
are hooked, even if the turtles survive, the swordfish fishery will be
closed for the remainder of the year. These limits will be enforced by
fisheries service observers on every swordfishing vessel.
- If turtle interaction limits aren't reached in a year's time, more
swordfishing could be allowed in future years. If the limits are reached
quickly, swordfishing will be reassessed.
Fisheries scientists have determined that longlining for swordfish
hooks more sea turtles than longlining for tuna because the hooks are
shallower in the water.
But the new rules don't satisfy
EarthJustice attorney Paul Achitoff.
"Our position and the position
of our clients for years has not changed: that the leatherback and
loggerhead turtles are in jeopardy of extinction and that any increase in
the number of turtles killed is unjustified both biologically and
legally," Achitoff said yesterday. "And that's exactly what's going to
happen with this reopening of the swordfish fishery."
California-based turtle island restoration network, one of earthjustice's
clients, is part of a coalition of conservation organizations and
scientists seeking a united nations international ban on longline
Fishermen yesterday at a meeting of the Hawaii Longline
Association said they don't expect all 154 Hawaii longline boats to apply
to the fisheries service for swordfish certificates.
continue tuna fishing, said Tom Hahn, president of the Hawaii Korean
Longline Boat Owners Association.
It would cost $15,000 to
re-outfit a boat now fishing for tuna to pursue swordfish, said Minh Dang,
secretary of the Vietnamese Longline Association. Dang said he would only
undertake that expense if certificates are good for at least 45 days,
Scott Barrows, director of the Hawaii Longline
Association, called the new fisheries service rules "good for the turtle
and good for the fisherman."
If they work for Hawaii's 3 percent
share of Pacific longlining, Barrows said, they will be a model for
international fleets that fish the same waters and hook the same
Pooley said observers on swordfish boats this year will
cost about $2 million and those on tuna boats will cost up to $3 million.
The agency also is spending $1.2 million for sea turtle
conservation projects at nesting beaches in Southeast Asia, Pacific
Islands, Mexico and Japan, he said.
Shearwaters finding refuge in Kihei park
Maui News, March 25, 2004
Wedge-tailed shearwaters, an
indigenous Hawaiian bird that has been killed by predators in some areas
of Maui, have found refuge in a sanctuary set up at Kamaole Point in
Kihei. Buck Joiner, a Kihei community activist, has established the
sanctuary, roping off about a quarter of an acre at the beachfront parcel
to protect the birds and their nesting area.
"I think it's really
great," state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall said about Joiner's
On Tuesday, Duvall reported he had recovered the carcasses
of 15 adult wedge-tailed shearwaters, or uau kani, killed Tuesday in their
nesting area near Spreckelsville. He said it was clearly a dog attack,
with the heads, wings and feet of the birds crushed or torn off.
It was only the most recent of a number of bird kills involving
the shearwater on Maui. Others have occurred at the Spreckelsville nesting
area, on a bluff near Hookipa Beach Park and at Pauwela Point. The worst
incident reported was in September 2002 when 93 mostly young birds were
killed by feral cats at Hookipa.
Duvall said it takes a minimum of
four to five years for a bird to reach sexual maturity, so losses of adult
birds as occurred in Spreckelsville are considered an especially tragic
loss to the population.
Joiner wants to avoid the same type of
tragedy in Kihei. His efforts to help the shearwaters started several
years ago when he began restoring the overgrown vegetation on the 2-acre
site situated between Kamaole Beach parks II and III.
led a fight against development plans for the area and pushed the county
to purchase the beachfront property. The county bought the land for $6.3
million in July 1998. Joiner pledged he would organize cleanups and
spearheaded the Kamaole Point Volunteers who turned the state beach
reserve into a groomed public park shortly thereafter.
cleanup efforts in 1999, Joiner came across a shearwater's nesting hole
and quickly consulted with a botanist who confirmed that the shearwaters
were in the area.
The birds feed at sea during the day, gliding on
sea breezes and air currents with wings that spread more than three feet
across, and then come into Kamaole Point sometime after sunset to 3- to
4-foot-deep nesting holes they dig out of the sand.
Duvall said he
found four burrows in 1999, and now estimates there are at least 17 active
"Each year more and more of them come back," Joiner
Duvall said the birds are attracted to the native vegetation
that the Kamaole Point Volunteers have planted in the sandy dune that
overlooks a rocky point between the two beach parks. The shearwaters'
tunnels are delicate, and both Duvall and Joiner fear that people walking
along the beachside may inadvertently step on a burrow and crush the
Joiner said he already has found one bird hole that was
filled with trash, apparently by someone thinking they were cleaning the
During the 2003 nesting season, Joiner put up a makeshift
fence with chicken wire. But a fence could pose a hazard to the birds
flying in after dark.
This year, he's set up low ropes along the
ground and put up signs with pictures of the birds and information about
them. The signs ask people to be cautious in the area and to put their
pets on leashes when visiting the site.
"It's still evolving,"
Joiner said about his sanctuary effort.
Duvall said Joiner's
efforts to protect the shearwaters has allowed his office to keep track of
the bird population in the area. Duvall was especially impressed with
Joiner's laminated signs and his efforts to disseminate accurate
information about the birds.
According to Joiner, the shearwaters
are named for the way they feed, skimming close to the surface of the
water as they hunt for fish, squid and other small marine
The birds are about 16 to 18 inches long; with a wingspan
that can run up to 41 inches across. Their average life span runs 10 to 11
years. Their nesting season runs from about March when they start building
their burrows until late July through early August when the chicks
After the chicks are hatched, the parents feed regurgitated
squid and stomach oil to their chicks. Feeding takes place every 24 hours
during brief visits in their first week of life.
The chicks fledge
in approximately 100 to 115 days, leaving the nest to take off on their
own usually in late October or November. The parents desert the nest,
forcing the fledged chick to leave the burrow and take flight - but while
the fledgling learns to take to the air is when it is most vulnerable to
Duvall said he's not discouraging people from trying to
observe the shearwaters, but he cautions those in the Kamaole Point area
to stand outside of the roped area.
The birds can be heard at night
making loud groans, moans and wails which gave then their Hawaiian name.
Uau is a name given to another indigenous seabird, the dark-rumped petrel.
Uau kani means "calling uau."
"It sounds like ghosts wailing. It's
really amazing," Duvall said.
Wedge-tail shearwaters feed during
the day, and fishermen have been known to look for bird flocks because
it's a good sign that a school of tuna is close by. Joiner asks that
visitors in the Kamaole Point area report any stray animals near the
nesting area by calling 874-BUCK
Near-shore fishing remains free-for-all as
Pacific Business News, March 22, 2004
Hawaiian waters continues to be a near free-for-all despite legislative
attempts to fix the problem.
Isle conservationists claim Hawaii's
near-shore waters are being overfished and stocks are dwindling. But
legislative bills this year and last offering to further regulate fishing
were defeated by a vocal group of commercial and recreational fishermen,
who insist their views are not being represented.
fishing regulations currently on the books are not adequately enforced
because there are only 100 conservation officers statewide to enforce
state fish and game laws. Those regulations limit the type, size and
number of fish that can be caught, depending on the
"There's a practical challenge -- our officers can't be
everywhere at once," said Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of
Land and Natural Resources, charged with enforcing fish and game
Critics of overfishing say lax enforcement is part of the
Marine Life Conservation Districts comprise less than 1
percent of all inshore waters in Hawaii, far below the 20 percent many
marine scientists view as the minimum amount of inshore waters that should
be highly protected.
Part of the problem is fishermen
misunderstanding what the laws are trying to accomplish, said Rep. Hermina
Fishermen view laws to regulate fishing as
a threat, said Morita, who introduced two bills in the past two
legislative sessions, both of which died. She maintains that current laws
regulating catch size aren't enough to rebuild Hawaii's depleted
The community must become involved for fisheries
management to succeed, she said.
"This is a community issue that
must be solved on that level, not from the top down," Morita
Legislators hoped educating fishermen and the community would
help, which was what the latest bill sought to do.
House bill was basically the same as last year's with the language toned
down, said Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-Aiea-Pearlridge, who helped introduce the
measure. But changing the language did little to assuage opponents, who
questioned whether there was true community involvement and felt
blindsided by last year's bill.
"They came out in full force to
oppose it," Oshiro said.
The state Department of Land and Natural
Resources has found that public meetings don't necessarily reflect the
whole community's views.
Young was assured fishermen supported a
similar bill last year, but was surprised when he went to a hearing filled
with fishermen complaining they weren't part of the process.
was clear to me we need better communication," he said.
new statewide law to manage declining nearshore fisheries may prove too
difficult because of conflicting views. Smaller, community-managed areas
may be the answer. They already have proved successful on the Big
The West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area was
created in 1998 and extends along 147 miles of shoreline there. The zone,
which designates no-fishing areas, was created at the community's urging
in response to the aquarium trade's adverse impact on the area's coral
It's proof fish in managed areas grow bigger and are more
productive and help populate adjoining areas, Morita said.
Hawaii's program is working, said Sarah Peck, University of Hawaii Sea
Grant extension agent for West Hawaii. People with diverse opinions and
levels of interest now advise the state's Division of Aquatic Resources on
managing the area, she said.
Getting the community involved was key
to making the process work.
"The igniting reason was, there grew to
be quite a bit of conflict along the whole West Hawaii shoreline," Peck
For 20 years it was viewed as a conflict between aquarium
fish collectors and the dive/snorkel industry.
"But then the
community as a whole became aware the fish were disappearing," Peck said,
adding that, for the first time, people who had not been involved directly
-- took action. "They banded together," she said. "They were the ones who
got the legislators to create this regional fishery management
Pacific Whale Foundation report on green sea
turtles published in Marine Turtle Newsletter
Results of a
study conducted by Dwayne Meadows, former Director of Research for PWF,
were published in the latest issue of the Marine Turtle Newsletter (No.
103, pgs. 1-5). The report is on the behavior of green sea turtles in the
presence and absence of recreational snorkellers, and was conducted with
the assistance of many Pacific Whale Foundation naturalists. Way to go,
The report can be downloaded from:
Honoring one dolphin's legacy
piece by Adam Pack regarding dolphin deaths at Kewalo]
Advertiser, March 10, 2004
Early in the morning of Feb. 24 Hiapo,
our male dolphin, passed away. His death was unexpected and the staff,
students and friends of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory are
deeply grieved and mourning the loss of their collaborator and
After the earlier passing of 27-year-old dolphins
Akeakamai and Phoenix from cancer (both had been with the lab for 25
years) the lab's plan was to find Hiapo a temporary home at another
facility. This plan would allow Hiapo to
have new dolphin companions
while the lab's nonprofit arm, the Dolphin Institute, created a new and
expanded habitat and research and education
Unfortunately, during this transition period the
University of Hawai'i administration decided to replace Hiapo's closest
human companions (our staff) and his familiar routines and tasks with
their own unfamiliar staff and training regimen. Having been associated
with the lab since 1983, I knew and worked with Hiapo for most of his
The university's actions distressed me and my staff, and I
can only imagine how it was for Hiapo. Although filled with grief and
working to move the lab forward, I am left to address the comments of
Cathy Goeggel in The Advertiser's Feb. 27 article "Lab under fire after
latest dolphin death." Goeggel, who is closely associated with those
individuals who, in 1977, stole our dolphins Puka and Kea and released
them into the wild where they met certain death, unjustly smears the
laboratory's name and record.
The truth is that the lab, under the
direction of Dr. Louis Herman, has an unparalleled record of
accomplishment in scientific studies of dolphin sensory perception,
cognition, and communication. The lab has produced over 80 journal
articles, books, book chapters, masters theses, and doctoral dissertations
on dolphins and another 60 scientific articles on humpback
This productivity has earned the laboratory a
world-renowned reputation of excellence in the scientific community. In
addition, scores of television documentaries by National Geographic, NOVA
and the BBC; articles in magazines such as National Wildlife and Time; and
two IMAX films have heightened the public's awareness, respect and
understanding of dolphins as well as the challenges dolphins face in the
wild at the hands of humans.
Finally, thousands of elementary and
high school students in Hawai'i have learned about and fallen in love with
dolphins and whales through the laboratory's marine mammal outreach
programs. In short, the lab has contributed a great deal to the
understanding of dolphins and has highlighted Hawai'i as a place of
excellence for the study of marine mammal science.
The passing of
Akeakamai, Phoenix and Hiapo is tragic and has affected thousands of
individuals locally, on the Mainland and abroad who came to the lab over
the years to work with these extraordinary dolphins. Hawai'i should be
proud of its laboratory and should honor the incredible legacy of
knowledge that Akeakamai, Phoenix and Hiapo have left the world community.
Let the record speak for itself.
Adam A. Pack, Ph.D.
director, Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory
Vice president, The
Fleet returns after killing 440
March 30, 2004, AFP
Japan's research whaling fleet
has returned to port after killing a self-imposed quota of 440 minke
whales in Antarctic waters, officials said.
Two vessels arrived at
Shimonoseki port, 800 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, while another ship
returned to a port in Innoshima, east of Shimonoseki, said an official at
the Fisheries Agency.
The factory ship, carrying most of the whale
carcasses on board, and another vessel are to arrive in Hakodate, 700
kilometres north of the capital, on Wednesday after five months in the
Antarctic Ocean, south-west of Australia.
"This mission was
designed to gather data such as eating habits of whale populations," the
agency official said, adding that the whalemeat would be sold in Japan "in
line with international rules".
No anti-whaling protests greeted
the boats at the two ports yesterday. A spokeswoman for environmental
group Greenpeace said that no rallies or statements were planned to oppose
Japan argues that the research backs up its claims
that whale populations are thriving, and provides data showing whales are
consuming valuable fish stocks. Opponents argue it is just commercial
whaling in disguise.
Japan stopped commercial whaling in 1988
after withdrawing its objection to the global moratorium on commercial
whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission.
Red tide suspected in Panhandle dolphin
Associated Press, Mar. 27, 2004
Red tide is
suspected in a Panhandle bottlenose dolphin die-off that has killed 97 of
the marine mammals.
Two more dolphins washed ashore Friday on
Rosemary Beach and in St. Joe Bay. All the dolphins have washed up between
Franklin and Santa Rosa counties.
Officials believe red tide or a
related biotoxin is to blame, although scientists have yet to make a final
Red tide is a toxic alga bloom known to kill sea
life. Test results returned recently from samples of fish carcasses in the
area also show evidence of red tide, officials said.
dolphin die-off between 1999 and 2000 also totaled about 100 and remains
under investigation. The National Marine Fisheries Service Web site
reports that a harmful algae bloom is suspected to be the cause of that
Entangled whale heads out to sea, thwarting
The Virginian-Pilot, March 27, 2004
Kingfisher , the young right whale entangled in commercial fishing
gear, outran would-be rescuers Thursday night, swimming quickly to the
Cape Hatteras area and out of range of their Wilmington, N.C. -based
As a result, plans were shelved to sedate the year-old
whale and remove thick ropes wrapped tightly around both fins.
Teri Rowles, lead veterinarian for NOAA Fisheries and head of the
nation’s program to rescue stranded and endangered marine mammals, has
said that the rapidly growing whale will die if the lines are not removed
before they begin cutting into his flesh.
“We are not giving up on
attempts to save this whale,” Rowles said in a NOAA news release, adding:
“As long as the tracking device stays on the whale and functions
correctly, we will continue to monitor his location and assess the
situation. As you can imagine, we are very disappointed.”
34-foot-long male whale, one of only about 300 of its species left in the
North Atlantic, was expected to swing out to sea as it passes the Outer
Banks, basically following the Gulf Stream.
That would leave it
too far from shore for rescuers, who had planned to use tranquilizers and
divers to remove the lines and buoys on the whale. It was named Kingfisher
after the Coast Guard cutter that first spotted it off St. Augustine,
Fla., last week.
The whale appears still to be feeding, said Kent
Laborde , a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman. The
scientists, who attached a satellite tracking device to the whale on March
17, expect it to come back to shore and be near enough for a rescue
attempt again somewhere around Cape Cod, he said.
were among the most heavily hunted species for more than eight centuries.
They swim slowly, live near the shore and float when dead, making them the
“right” whale for seafarers going after blubber and baleen.
whales are on the Endangered Species List and have been protected since
1949 . Up to one-third of their deaths each year are the result of ship
strikes or entanglement in fishing gear, NOAA said. They can live about 70
years, grow to 60 feet and weigh up to 80 tons.
Right whales have
no teeth, feeding on krill and other small shrimp like creatures, which
are trapped in the whale’s flexible baleen plates, which humans once used
for corsets and umbrella ribs.
Individual whales are identified by
patterns of thickened skin and whale lice that form white patches on their
heads, over their eyes and around their mouths.
Seal hunt closely monitored
2004, Green consumer guide
Commercial hunting for seal pups in
Eastern Canada, which began this week, is being monitored by the
International Fund for Animal Welfare for incidents of abuse.
hunting, which is subsidised by the Canadian government, lasts around
three weeks and is expected to bring in around 350,000 seals. IFAW
investigations into seal hunting in the region over the last five years
have recorded evidence of over 600 possible breaches of Canada’s marine
mammal legislation, yet the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has
failed to act on a single incident.
Code of conduct violations
such as skinning live seals, transporting live seals via hooks and
prolonged killings via shooting, along with a widely reported failure by
hunters to check if seals are dead, are among the abuses that take place
during the hunt.
Whales' sound fishing trick
Scientists believe they may have solved one of the mysteries of
how humpback whales successfully hunt - and their findings may help beat
cancer in human beings.
BBC News, March 25, 2004
It has long
been known that some species of whale hunt by creating a cylindrical
column of bubbles in which fish are corralled. But until now, no-one knew
why the fish had refused to swim out.
However, Professor Tim
Leighton, of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the
University of Southampton, UK, has said he believes the whales use sound
to scare the fish into staying put.
"If sound is propagating
through water, the most potent, naturally occurring entity it can meet is
a bubble," he told BBC World Service's Discovery programme.
bubbles slow sound down - a beam of sound aimed towards the bubbles will
be trapped, bouncing around within the column at a speed of 1km/s.
"If [the fish] ever try to leave the net, what they encounter is a
very loud wall of sound," Professor Leighton added.
When humpbacks hunt, up to 30 of them will circle in
the deep water, releasing bubbles. As these bubbles rise to the surface,
they create a column, inside which fish congregate. The humpback whales
will then swim up from beneath the cylinder and eat the fish.
know fish will swim through bubbly water quite happily," Professor
Leighton explained. "I think what is happening is that while the whales
are producing this net, they are making a very loud, scary noise. As these
sounds get trapped within the cylinder of bubbles, the fish stay within
the quiet region."
What is more, the startled fish form a tight
school, and so make a compact meal for the whales when they rise up from
beneath the trap with their mouths open.
There may now be many
potential uses for these findings.
Leighton said there were many opportunities for using the acoustic effects
of bubbles - especially in the arena of modern warfare.
oceans, it is becoming very important because our naval scenarios have
moved from being deepwater, where you're looking for nuclear subs
underneath the ice caps, to shallow waters like the Gulf," he said.
"[There] are many waves breaking, many bubbles, in which you can
hide objects like mines."
The research has potential benefits in
medicine, too. Bubbles can be collapsed while inside the body using
ultrasound. This makes them potentially very useful in seeking out and
destroying dangerous cells.
"We might conceive of one day taking
the bubbles and coating their outer surface, so that as they travel
through the body they can track down particular types of cells," Professor
"So we put these bubbles in, they spread
though the body, they attach to particular types of cells - perhaps cancer
cells - that you want to get rid of.
"Then if we hit these bubbles
with ultrasound, we can collapse them."
The bubbles would then act
like "little injectors", and whatever was contained within the bubbles
would be injected into the dangerous cells to kill them.
Study: Manatees hear, dodge boats
24, FLORIDA TODAY
Manatees are not stupid. When a boat is within
about 80 feet, the animals dart to deep water, according to a study by six
South Florida scientists.
The study suggests slow-speed boating
zones allow the animals the time they need to avoid oncoming boats.
"It wasn't surprising," said Randall Wells, director of Mote
Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. "We know that manatees are hit by boats,
but nobody had looked systematically at how the manatees react when the
boats approached them."
The two-year study focused on how 30
manatees reacted to 170 vessel passes in Sarasota Bay, just south of Mote
Marine. Most of the boats were 15- to 25-feet long.
researchers videotaped manatee reactions to approaching boats, using a
camera propped to a 29-foot-long blimp, tethered 200 feet above a small
"It did not matter whether the boat was moving slow or
fast," said Douglas Nowacek, assistant professor of oceanography at
Florida State University. "Fast is no better than slow, when it comes to
That conclusion contradicts research by Ed
Gerstein, a manatee biologist at Florida Atlantic University and Joe Blue,
a retired Navy acoustics researcher.
They say manatees can't hear
the low-frequency sounds most boats emit when going slow.
Underwater noise from dredges and barges, they say, can also mask
the sound of approaching vessels.
Gerstein said he doubts manatees
can hear boats from as far as 80 feet. "Many boats out there never reach
the threshold for the animal's hearing," he said.
He and Blue built
a device that sends a narrow underwater sound beam in front of boats to
alert manatees. They're seeking a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit to
test the device in Haulover Canal.
EU reveals new dolphin protection
March 2004, Green consumer guide
The European Union has unveiled
new measures to protect dolphins and porpoises from harmful fishing
practices in the region. The main regulatory changes are; driftnets will
be phased out in the Baltic Sea by 2008; the use of ‘pingers’ or acoustic
deterrent devices on fishing nets will become compulsory on vessels over
15m, and the monitoring of by-catches by an observer scheme.
of the changes were introduced following scientific recommendations on
cetacean protection, and will be implemented across member states
fisheries. The measures will be closely monitored in order to improve
"This decision will better protect dolphins and porpoises
against being accidentally trapped in fishing gear. Dolphins are not the
only ones to benefit. Biodiversity will be strengthened and reduced
by-catches of dolphins and porpoises will be positive for the image of the
fishing sector, as fishermen never want to catch them in the first place,”
said Franz Fischler, Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural
Affairs and Fisheries.
Ben Bradshaw, the UK Fisheries Minister
welcomed the decision, commenting; “Today's agreement is an important step
by the European Union as a whole to follow the UK's lead. The UK has been
seeking Community action to address this problem for some time.”
Officials ask Natives to call off beluga hunt
The Associated Press, March 22, 2004
Biologists say so many
beluga whales died last year in upper Cook Inlet that Alaska Natives
should forgo a subsistence hunt next summer.
But representatives of
two Cook Inlet Native whale-hunting organizations said they have
misgivings about suspending the small annual hunt only four years after it
Last year, scientists confirmed the deaths of 20 whales,
including five or six suspected to have died when 46 whales were stranded
in Turnagain Arm on Aug. 28.
Under previous agreements between
local Natives and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the harvest would
stop if more than 18 whales die in a season.
however, have not yet been published and made final, though they contain
the same trigger of 18 whale deaths. As a result, the agency has asked
Native groups to voluntarily suspend the hunt as part of a 2004
co-management agreement, said biologist Kaja Brix, chief of protected
resources in Alaska.
"The decision does not wholly rest in our
hands," Brix told the Anchorage Daily News. "We did some accounting, and
we sent out a letter that we hit the trigger in our agreement. ... We're
still trying to get some feedback from the
Representatives of two Native whale-hunting organizations
question whether the agency's biologists took into account a recent surge
in baby belugas.
More belugas swim in Cook Inlet than scientists
may realize, said Peter Merryman, head of the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal
Council and traditional chief of the Athabascan village of
"Every spring we see more calves," he said. "It's not our
fault that they died naturally (in 2003), and why should we
The depleted whales are thought to number 350 to 400 in
one of the smallest genetically isolated cetacean populations in the
world. Once thought to number 1,300, the belugas plunged to an estimated
347 by 1998 in a decline federal biologists blamed on overhunting by
Killer Whales Mimic Each Other
18, 2004, Discovery News
High-tech underwater equipment has enabled
researchers for the first time to ascribe sounds to individual killer
whales, and the recordings reveal that whale families like to mimic each
other when communicating.
Killer whale sounds have been captured
on tape before, but only in group recordings where scientists could not
identify the whales making sounds. The latest data suggests whales
communicate with each other in ways that are similar to humans, other
primates, dolphins and birds. The findings will be published in the
upcoming issue of the journal Animal Behavior.
Patrick Miller, lead author of the paper and a scientist at the NERC Sea
Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, he and
his colleagues followed distinctively marked killer whales using a small
boat that was towing a beam-forming hydrophone array. They used the beam
to calculate the angle of sounds, and to identify whales that produced
All captured sounds came from members of family groups.
That is because whales live in very close-knit units. Killer whale sons
and daughters generally do not leave their mothers until death.
The sounds were recorded when individuals were out of visual range
of their families by at least 20 degrees. The scientists were able to
identify individuals because of a publicly available photo identification
catalog of whales that was created by scientists John Ford, the late
Michael Bigg, Graeme Ellis and Ken Balcomb.
Analysis of the
recordings revealed that when one killer whale family member would call
out, another relative would mimic the sound. Random calling tests proved
that such mimicry was greater than chance, meaning that the whales must be
copying each other intentionally.
While Miller and his colleagues
are not entirely certain about the meaning of the calls, they believe that
the "conversations" help to preserve family togetherness.
told Discovery News, "Humans are well known to match word choice and
gestures of others in a form of social accommodation. The call type
matching of killer whales may similarly be a way for fish-eating killer
whales to show their willingness to act together with other group
Humans mimic each other for comparable reasons, as when
someone says, "Good morning," to a friend or family member, who replies
with, "Good morning." Prior research indicates that bottlenose dolphins
engage in similar vocal matching.
Volker Deecke, a postdoctoral
fellow at the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British
Columbia, and the Cetacean Research Lab at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine
Science Center in Canada, has been studying killer whale vocal
communication for over 10 years.
Deecke agrees that the vocal
mimicry probably maintains killer whale family cohesion, and thinks
Miller's paper "presents a powerful approach showing how scientists can
use technology to gain insights into the lives, behavior, and
communication of animals that live and function in an environment that is
otherwise inaccessible to humans."
Deecke added, "Being able to
consistently identify vocalizing individuals in the wild is a crucial
first step towards determining the behavioral context when killer whales
call, and ultimately determining the function of the calls themselves.
Obtaining recordings from known individuals can also identify individual
differences in the structure of calls and answer questions about how the
calls are transmitted from generation to generation."
Group petitions to protect coral, restrict
Seattle Times, March 25, 2004
Frustrated with what
it calls regional foot-dragging to protect newly discovered deep-sea coral
gardens, an international environmental group yesterday demanded strict
federal rules to limit bottom fishing in wide areas of the oceans,
including off Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The group Oceana has
requested that the Commerce Department bar bottom-trawling fisheries not
only in all areas where the ancient coral and sea sponges have been found
in abundance, but areas where they might possibly be discovered in the
Huge areas off the Alaskan coast and the Aleutian Islands
could be among those cited for restrictions, as well as the Olympic Coast
National Marine Sanctuary of Washington and areas off the Oregon and
But the bottom-fishing industry immediately
criticized Oceana, based in Washington, D.C., of end-running existing
regional negotiations and accused the group of inflating the abundance of
the coral beds and the damage the industry inflicts on the undersea
"It's very frustrating, because the fishing industry
has been working hard on these issues for a lot of years, and what Oceana
has done is completely circumvent the public process," said Ed Luttrell of
the Groundfish Forum, a Seattle trade group representing several local
Oceana's move is the latest escalation of a
fast-erupting environmental debate. The coral gardens, discovered in
Alaska only recently, have become a rallying symbol in the fight over
ocean-fishing practices, particularly bottom trawling, the dragging of
weighted nets across the ocean floor to scoop up rockfish, cod and
anything else in the way.
Scientists say the cold-water reefs are
vital undersea habitats that are perhaps thousands of years in the making,
akin to old-growth forests on shore. The scientists contend that trawling
is essentially clear-cutting an irreplaceable resource.
want to make the same mistakes with our ocean environment that we have
with our terrestrial environment," said Dave Allison, director of the
campaign against bottom trawling for Oceana.
Oceana's petition to
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans demands that the National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) search for areas with high concentrations of coral and
designate them as "habitat areas of particular concern," which would close
them to bottom trawling.
But the proposal, in an effort to protect
coral gardens that have not been found, recommends that the government
also close any parts of the oceans that haven't been dragged with bottom
trawlers in the past three years, which potentially amounts to an
expansive part of the oceans.
An NMFS spokeswoman yesterday
acknowledged that it had received the petition, but said it was too early
to say how it would be reviewed. Typically, the agency first reviews such
petitions to determine whether a broader study is merited.
Meantime, Oceana is also trying to gain support in Congress to
legislate coral-protection plans and won't rule out more lawsuits. It
contends the coral should be protected under a 1996 law that requires
protection of essential sea habitat.
Oceana already has been
working with regional advisory groups in several parts of the country,
including Alaska, after it won a lawsuit there to force stricter
provisions to protect the coral beds.
Luttrell contends that
Oceana's latest petition shows that it won't settle for compromise, and
that it won't accept regional efforts to find ways to protect the coral
beds without harming the fishing industry.
Contrary to Oceana's
portrayals, Luttrell said, the industry is also interested in conservation
and environmental protection.
In Alaska, Luttrell said, "we only
impact 1 percent of the fishable bottom, outside areas that are already
closed. We've been fishing that area for decades and decades, and the
Northern Pacific has the healthiest fishery in the world. But we're the
But Oceana's Allison said the regional councils have
so far been unwilling to do anything but promote the status quo by
imposing impossible requirements for setting aside areas from trawling.
"The fish-management agencies are not designed to protect the
ocean, they are designed to promote the fisheries," Allison said. "And
time is running out for the corals."
White House Slashes Endangered Species
Key Programs Face Cuts
National Wildlife Federation,
President Bush in his latest budget proposal is seeking
to cut funding for the endangered species program by $7.6 million, or more
than 5 percent. Of the four core endangered species programs, the species
recovery program was hit the hardest, with cuts of more then 14 percent.
Funding for candidate conservation, which is where species wait before
being officially listed and provided all the protections of the Endangered
Species Act (ESA), and species consultation also face big cuts. All told,
President Bush's $15.3 billion Department of Interior budget will allot
only $129 million for endangered wildlife protection.
Endangered Species Act is one of our landmark national environmental laws,
and it is being starved of money, and I think it is a conscious effort,"
says John Kostyack, senior counsel for NWF. "Considering the amount of
money in the federal budget, to dedicate so little to endangered species
suggests a real hostility toward protecting vanishing
The Bush cuts could affect hundreds of listed species on
the verge of extinction, many of which remain listed precisely because of
an historic lack of funds for protection, management and restoration.
Examples include Hawaii's poouli, which numbers only three individuals,
making it the world's rarest bird; the northern Rockies population of
woodland caribou, which numbers only 35 animals; and the Mississippi
gopher frog, limited to a single Mississippi pond. Wolf recovery in
Montana, Idaho and Wyoming is also part of the 14 percent cut in the
recovery program budget.
However, the administration has increased
funds for Section 6 ESA grants by $8.4 million. These grants, which
include traditional grants to states as well as Species Recovery Land
Acquisition grants, are aimed at helping private landowners protect
habitat for listed and unlisted species. They claim increasing these
grants helps endangered wildlife, and that is probably true, says
Kostyack. However, it is at the expense of the safety net for endangered
species provided by the ESA.
U.N. Warns About Ocean 'Dead
Mar. 29, 2004, Associated Press
zones," oxygen-starved areas of the world's oceans that are devoid of
fish, top the list of emerging environmental challenges, the United
Nations Environment Program warned Monday in its global
The spreading zones have doubled over the last decade and
pose as big a threat to fish stocks as overfishing, UNEP said its Global
Environment Outlook Year Book 2003, released at the opening of the
agency's 8th summit for the world's environment ministers.
findings tally nearly 150 dead zones around the globe, double the number
in 1990, with some stretching 27,000 square miles.
Dead zones have
long afflicted the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay, but are now
spreading to other bodies of water, such as the Baltic Sea, Black Sea,
Adriatic Sea, Gulf of Thailand and Yellow Sea, as other regions develop,
They are also appearing off South America, Japan,
Australia and New Zealand.
The main cause is excess nitrogen
run-off from farm fertilizers, sewage and industrial pollutants. The
nitrogen triggers blooms of microscopic algae known as phytoplankton. As
the algae die and rot, they consume oxygen, thereby suffocating everything
from clams and lobsters to oysters and fish.
"Human kind is engaged
in a gigantic, global, experiment as a result of inefficient and often
overuse of fertilizers, the discharge of untreated sewage and the ever
rising emissions from vehicles and factories," UNEP Executive Director
Klaus Toepfer said in a statement.
"Unless urgent action is taken
to tackle the sources of the problem, it is likely to escalate rapidly,"
UNEP urged nations to cooperate in reducing the
amount of nitrogen discharged into their coastal waters, in part by
cutting back on fertilizer use or planting more forests and grasslands
along feeder rivers to soak up the excess nitrogen.
announcement comes as environment ministers from more than 150 nations
gathered on the South Korean resort island of Jeju at UNEP's 8th Special
Session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment
Increasingly frequent dust and sand storms and impending
global water shortages will also headline the three-day
UNEP warns that without concerted effort to improve access
to safe drinking water, a third of the world's population is likely to
suffer chronic water shortages within a few decades. About 1.1 billion
people lacked access to safe drinking water in 2000, while another 2.4
billion lacked access to basic sanitation, UNEP said.
frequency of dust and sand storms is another concern, especially storms
caused by land degradation and desertification in Mongolia and northern
Scientists have recently linked similar storms, originating
in the Sahara, with damage to coral reefs in the Caribbean, UNEP
Discussions in Jeju will form a basis for deliberations at
the 12th meeting of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development to be
held in New York next month.
That meeting will assess progress
toward United Nations targets of halving the proportion of people with no
access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation by 2015.
Exxon Penalties Could Rise as Valdez Oil
Reuters, March 24, 2004
Fifteen years after the
Exxon Valdez supertanker split open on a submerged reef off Alaska,
stubborn pockets of crude oil persist on once-pristine beaches and
creatures ranging from sea otters to harlequin ducks and herring are still
But local residents and some government scientists are
at odds on whether Exxon Mobil Corp. should be forced to pay an additional
civil penalty for the spill.
The landmark $900 million civil
settlement Exxon signed in 1991 to resolve federal and state environmental
claims included a $100 million re-opener clause for damages that "could
not reasonably have been known" or anticipated. Under the settlement
terms, the re-opener may be asserted until 2006.
Doing so would be
a legal decision, not a scientific one, say those studying the spill.
"I think it's pretty clear that there were adverse effects that
were not anticipated. I think that's pretty well established. It doesn't
make a case for the re-opener," said Jeff Short, a National Marine
Fisheries Service scientist who studied the lingering oil spill's effects.
POISONING SEA LIFE
Experts assumed all the 11
million gallons (50 million liters) of crude from the March 24, 1989 spill
would be gone by 1995, Short said at a recent conference in Anchorage. But
600 tonnes of oil remained on beaches in 1995, much of it still liquid, he
Sea otters digging into relatively fresh oil are still
unleashing toxins, he said. And government studies indicate that oil
causes harm at much lower concentrations than originally believed and that
previously ignored chronic effects are long-lasting.
Even if those
findings are surprising, the settlement requires more than that to enact
the re-opener. It mandates specific restoration projects to address the
Identifying such projects could be
difficult, some scientists concede.
Ending all damages - such as
the swollen and pale livers in sea otters loyal to the spill-struck
beaches - could require a generational turnover, said Brenda Ballachey, an
expert with the U.S. Geological Survey. "It may be that if there's liver
damage, it's lifelong for animals," she said.
environmentalists fear that there will be no attempt by the Bush
administration or Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski to secure the additional
'COZY WITH THE OIL COMPANIES'
case deserves a re-opener, this one does," said Rick Steiner, a marine
biologist and environmental activist.
"I'm perfectly confident
that the entire $100 million can and should be obtained. The fact that
they haven't gone after it indicates that the two administrations are
simply too cozy with the oil companies," he said.
settlement is a separate case from the class-action lawsuit filed by
fishermen, Alaska Natives, property and business owners, and
In that case, a jury in 1994 ruled that Exxon's
actions leading to the spill were reckless and reprehensible, and the
panel awarded a $5 billion punitive fine to the plaintiffs. After various
appeals, a federal judge upheld a fine of $4.5 billion, plus interest.
"We have until 2006 to do this. We don't want to do it
prematurely, and we don't want to do it ineffectively," said Assistant
Alaska Attorney General Craig Tillery.
The re-opener was one of
the most difficult parts of the 1991 settlement, said former Alaska
Attorney General Charlie Cole, who represented the state in the settlement
"We negotiated on that clause for two or three days. Each
word was thoroughly discussed and carefully selected," he said. The
government insisted on the provision despite Exxon's opposition, said
Cole, who supports using the re-opener.
Exxon Mobil, the successor to Exxon Corp., argues that there is no
lingering harm from the 1989 spill.
"The environment in Prince
William Sound is healthy, robust and thriving. That's evident to anyone
who's been there, and it is also the conclusion of many scientists who
have done extensive studies of the Prince William Sound ecosystem," Exxon
Mobil said in a statement.
"What science has learned in Alaska and
elsewhere is that while oil spills can have acute short-term effects, the
environment has remarkable powers of recovery," it added.
Neff, a scientist who once worked for the company, said spilled oil takes
a long time to dissipate and questioned assertions of long-term damage.
"In many cases, the so-called long-term effects are really due to
natural changes in the environment," said Neff, a marine biologist and
ecologist with the Massachusetts-based Battelle Memorial Institute. Trying
to dig up the spilled oil would do more harm than good, he said.
"It would cause a lot of disturbances ... and set the recovery
back several years," he said. "My feeling is, if it's not doing any harm,
why not just leave it there?"
But scientists say the remaining oil
is slowly poisoned sea life.
Government recommends children, some women,
limit fish intake
Associated Press, Friday, March 19, 2004
Worried that mercury in fish poses a hazard to youngsters -- while
still trying to stress the health benefits of seafood -- the government
issued new guidelines Friday for eating fish.
Women who are
pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant, and young children should not
eat certain kinds of fish that tend to be high in mercury, said Lester
Crawford, deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
While mercury can affect almost any organ in the body, "the most
sensitive organ is the brain," said Crawford. "The concern is there could
be a mental effect on a young child."
At the same time, the new
guidelines emphasize that fish is a good source of protein and other
nutrients and "can be important parts of a healthy and balanced diet."
Dr. David Acheson, an FDA scientist, said that for people other
than pregnant women and young children, fish has many benefits and there
is no specific guideline on limiting it in the diet. In fact, he added,
eating fish has very important cardiovascular benefits.
said the way fish is prepared makes no difference as to the amount of
mercury included in a serving.
In recent years fish has become
increasingly popular because of the omega-3 compounds it contains that can
benefit the heart.
The American Heart Association recommends that
people eat a variety of fish at least twice a week, even more for those
diagnosed with heart disease.
The problem is that mercury
pollution from industry and other sources contaminates water. It pollutes
small fish, which are then eaten by larger fish, concentrating the mercury
which then may affect people who eat the fish.
So, questions have
arisen about how best to protect human health.
and other groups have been pressing the government to come up with a
consumer-friendly list of low-mercury fish, since not all fish are
The new guidelines, issued jointly with the
Environmental Protection Agency, do that.
They say the fish most
likely to contain mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and
tilefish. These fish should be avoided by women in the groups that may be
most affected, and also by small children, the guidelines say.
the other hand, the guidelines suggest eating up to two meals a week,
totaling 12 ounces, of fish known to be low in mercury such as shrimp,
canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.
Albacore tuna has
more mercury than light tuna, the agencies report, so it should be limited
to one meal a week.
The trade association the National Fisheries
Institute issued a statement stressing the health benefits of fish and
expressing concern that the guidelines might alarm consumers and cause
them to avoid fish.
But Crawford said that "by following these
guidelines, we're confident that women and young children can safely
include fish as an important part of a healthy diet."
New Investigation Finds Corps of Engineers
Wastes Billions and Harms Environment
Highlights Most Wasteful
Projects in the Nation
March 18, 2004
Defiant after four years
of scandals that rocked the agency, the Corps of Engineers (Corps) is
moving ahead with more than $12 billion in projects that harm the
environment and waste taxpayer dollars, according to a two-year
investigation that reveals a recipe of politics and pork that has led
Congress to turn a blind eye to legislative fixes that could stop many of
these projects in their tracks.
In conducting the investigative
report Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of Engineers and the Future of
America’s Water Resources, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and
Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) read through tens of thousands of pages
of Corps documents and conducted dozens of interviews to rank the most
environmentally and fiscally wasteful water projects in the nation. The
report provides an action agenda for Congress and the Bush Administration
to redirect the Corps toward more responsible, cost effective projects
that protect the environment and use tax dollars wisely.