Saturday, 31 July 2010

Dead Penguins Wash Up on Brazil's Beaches - The Guardian

photo credit The Guardian via Reuters

Scientists are trying to figure out what's killed over 500 penguins that washed up on Brazilian coasts recently. The penguins are of mixed species, but most are Magellan penguins which migrate north from Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands this time of year to find food.

"Many are not finding it: autopsies done on several birds have revealed their stomachs were entirely empty – indicating they likely starved to death."

Overfishing and shifting currents due to climate change and are suspect.

Typically a few penguins a year get disoriented and lost on their migrations and end up on the shores of Brazil.

Says Thiago do Nascimento, a biologist at the Peruibe aquarum: "What worries us this year is the absurdly high number of penguins that have appeared dead in a short period of time."

Full article here (The Guardian)

Gulf Oil Spill: New Spill in Gulf Area after Barge Crashes into Abandoned Oil Well - LA Times

photo credit US Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Wayne Alleyene

If you're collecting oil spills this summer, you're in luck! Here's another to add to your collection!

Honestly, this is getting a little ridiculous. Has anyone else but me thought that perhaps this is just constantly occurring...Maybe we just have a heightened awareness now because of the BP spill? I wonder how many spills a year go unreported...

A barge crashed into an abandoned well head in Barataria Bay on Tuesday, spilling oil into the already suffering Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline is now spewing orange and brown oil 100ft into the air before it comes raining back down into the Gulf.


Full article here (LA Times)

Friday, 30 July 2010

Enbridge Spill yields Fresh Ammo for Oil Sands Critics - The Globe and Mail

photo credit John Grap & AP

Because we just still don't quite have enough of these. An Enbridge pipeline broke on Monday, spilling three million liters of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

Although the broken pipeline has been shut down, the leaked oil is flowing towards the Great Lakes:

"Enbridge doubled the number of staff working to contain the spill before it reaches Lake Michigan, and cleanup crews expressed optimism on Wednesday that oil would not reach the lake, which provides drinking water to millions of Americans living near its shores."

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is "confident that the EPA’s view will not prevail" when it comes to the Obama administration's decision to favor either big energy or environmental issues. TransCanada has said "It’s not ideal and it has heightened the level of awareness the public has." So, pretty much the oil giants are pissed that the public knows what's going on now. Boo-hoo.

Full article here (The Globe and Mail)

'Life's Not Fair' - Wail of Outgoing BP Boss Hayward - ThisIsMoney

photo credit ThisIsMoney

What a whiner, goddamn. Was he an only child?

Well, we can add something new to the list of dumb Hayward quotes. Actually, a few things:

"life isn't fair"

"Sometimes you step off the pavement and get hit by a bus."

"I became the public face [of the disaster] and was demonised and vilified."

Wah. He also said he was too "busy" to attend the US Congressional hearings over BP's possible connection to the Lockerbie bomber...which is a whole separate story I'm not even going to try to get into.

Job well done, Tony.

Full article here (ThisIsMoney)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

BP Petrol Station Protests - The Guardian

photo credit Felix Clay & Greenpeace

Did I say I didn't like it here? I changed my mind.

Oh, and did I say I didn't like Greenpeace? I changed my mind about that as well.

Tuesday in London, 30 BP petrol stations were shut down by Greenpeace activists protesting at the pumps. I wish I had known about this beforehand because I would have totally been there! Anyway, check out these sweet pics from the event.

Full article here (The Guardian)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Video Party!

I've been hanging out at National Geographic for a few days and I've found some really cool videos I'd like to share:

Gulf Turtle Eggs Relocated

Relocated Gulf Pelicans "Enjoying" Texas

Octopus vs. Sea Lion—First Ever Video

Tiny New Sea Species Discovered—First Ever Video

Yayyy fun update! :)

BP Buys up Gulf Scientists for Legal Defense, Roiling Academic Community - Alabama Local

Well that ain't good. It still bums me out that scientists go for this crap...I like to think we're better informed people, or more environmentally conscious people...but really we're just people.

"The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years."

This is actually a little scary. The scientists that BP hires cannot testify against them, no matter what their findings. By signing on they agree to silence their research and to take orders from BP's attorneys. The contract plainly states that BP is hiring scientists for the purpose of fighting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment being put forth by the US government in the wake of the spill. Unfortunately, as a result of the recession and major research funding cuts, many university scientists have jumped at the opportunity.

"More than one scientist interviewed by the Press-Register described being offered $250 an hour through BP lawyers. At eight hours a week, that amounts to $104,000 a year."

""It makes me feel like they were more interested in making sure we couldn't testify against them than in having us testify for them," said George Crozier, head of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, who was approached by BP."

The US government will draw heavily from the research being conducted at academic institutions along the Gulf, but if BP hires out most of the scientists we're gonna have a problem. Lawyers and university officials see issues with using publicly owned laboratories to conduct private and confidential research. Scientists who have already signed on with BP were told by federal officials that they could expect to lose their government funding for ongoing research projects.

"BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company's lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.
"We told them there was no way we would agree to any kind of restrictions on the data we collect,"
said Bob Shipp, head of marine sciences at the University of South Alabama. "It was pretty clear we wouldn't be hearing from them again after that.""

Full article here (Alabama Local)

WDCS Set to Challenge Government Decision at the Highest Possible Level - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society International (WDCS)

photo credit WDCS

The UK's kinda not doing it for me right now. I want to go home.

Government officials over here have given the go-ahead to two oil companies to begin seismic exploration in search of oil in the Moray Firth, Scotland. Oh, and that's a Special Area of Conservation.

Seismic exploration is disfavored by marine mammal groups as it interferes with cetaceans' hunting and communication. Another cause for concern is the potential long-term damage of the noise, such as hearing loss or causing the animals to leave the area permanently.

"One of the areas outlined encroaches within the boundary of the Special Area of Conservation, which was set up under European legislation to offer protection to what is one of just two resident, and internationally important populations of bottlenose dolphins in the UK...The government has a responsibility to consider the unknown, longer term behavioral impacts on this small population, which already faces the ongoing and cumulative effects of other threats such as; multiple harbour developments, increasing vessel traffic and noise from future pile driving for hundreds of wind turbines and oil and gas development."

As environmentalists in the UK warily watch the unfolding of the Gulf oil spill in the States, they can only wonder what the possible outcome could be if oil is discovered during these exercises.

Full article here (WDCS International)

Conservationists conflicted over Obama's National Ocean Policy - Examiner

Mixed feelings coming from the environmental community.

Ocean Champions believes the new policy is sound in and of itself. Members are supportive of the legislation that makes the policy the "operational mission of the 20 federal agencies that manage our oceans and coasts."

"The President made healthy oceans a national value, and laid out a vision of healthy, safe and productive coasts and oceans for ours and for future generations."

The Center for Biological Diversity, on the other hand, sees the policy as a step in the right direction, but far from complete.

"“The policy announced on this week is a good and necessary step toward coordinated planning and conservation, but we have yet to see if it will translate into good management,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of oceans.

The Center for Biological Diversity is concerned that Obama's new policy lacks guarantees for the protection of marine species, biodiversity and the prevention of climate change.

What do you think?

Full article here (Examiner)

Are Virtual Belugas the Key to Ending Whale and Dolphin Captivity? - TakePart

photo credit Heino Kalis & Reuters

Virtual whales? This is a weird one...

Aquariums have been coming under fire recently as awareness grows that maybe keeping highly intelligent marine mammals in the equivalent of concrete puddles isn't the best idea humanity's ever had.

Now, I've mentioned I have mixed feelings about this - and I still do. As an adult today, yes, of course I understand that keeping marine mammals in tanks and forcing them to perform for us is wrong. And I will never go to a dolphin show again, and as much as I desperately want to hug a beluga whale and have for as long as I can remember, I know it's wrong to support the "swim-with-dolphin" programs, so I won't do that either. But I might just head out to northern Russia and find one to hug in its natural habitat. Anyway, I understand now that these programs are wrong. But as a kid, they made an enormous impression on me. I got to see dolphins and whales. I got to watch them, hear them, get splashed by them. I even got to talk to them...sort of. (One time at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut I went up to the edge of the tank and squeaked my sneakers in the puddles left over from a show. The dolphins went nuts! They all came over to me and were mimicking my sneaker-squeaks! We "chatted" in this way for a while - I'll never forget it.) As a kid I enjoyed it and it really drove my passion to become a marine biologist even further. But I didn't think of what the animals were feeling stuck in those tanks every day. I didn't know any better. So, yes, dolphins and whales in captivity influenced me as a child - I can't deny that. But so did Barbie, and we know today that both these ideas are unrealistic.

So, submitted for your approval as a solution:

"Steve DiPaola, a professor of interactive arts at Simon Fraser University who has worked on interactive games such as "The Sims," has developed an early prototype of a pod of computer-generated beluga whales that he says could be a forerunner of virtual aquarium displays."

Erm...okay. Creative, definitely. The article doesn't go into how this would work, so I checked out, a website that has attempted to execute the idea of virtual "swim-with-dolphin" experiences.

"Scientific research has shown that doing something virtually creates similar physiological, psychological, and spiritual responses as doing the actual thing."

Hmm, good point. Let's read on...

"The way it works is as follows:
•A person's harmonic signature is obtained via the Aspire Spectral Essence™ program, a supercomputer controlled process that uses a person's breath to establish their harmonic body of resonant frequencies (their personal harmonic signature).
•This signature is fed into a system that increases the frequencies into the range of dolphin echolocation, and then fed back to them via a VibraSound® Liquid Crystal Mattress that allows them to feel it in every cell of their body just like being in the water with the actual dolphin. (This biofeedback procedure is optional and not mandatory for the typical user).
•At the same time, the client is visualizing a pod of friendly dolphins via a 3D virtual reality screen, while listening to music created to enhance the experience via stereo headphones, along with pre-recorded dolphin whistles and echolocations obtained with a state of the art recording method while they are in the midst of doing therapy.
•The experience ends with an eyes closed experience that can only be compared to lucid dreaming using a sophisticated light and sound device (the Sensorium™) and a patented circuit called MusicVision™ that synchronizes flashing lights with the music."


I dunno about you, but this is what I think of...

No wonder it didn't catch on. Better luck this time 'round, VR guys.

DiPaola points out that a lot of what happens at aquariums is "boring," mainly for the dolphins swimming around in never-ending circles. He says a virtual show could be both more entertaining and more educational by giving viewers a better understanding of the animals in their natural habitat. We'll be able to experience dolphins and whales without the trauma and stress that comes with keeping them in captivity. I'm not sure many people will be for passing up the "real" thing in favour of a computer generation, but it's worth a shot if it's done very well.

Full article here (TakePart)

Monday, 26 July 2010

New NASA Image reveals the Oceans' Dead Zones -

image credit NASA

"The so-called dead zones are caused by agricultural runoff, especially nitrogen-rich fertilizers, as well as the burning of fossil fuels. Pollutants from these sources cause marine eutrophication, whereby the ecosystem receives too many nutrients, triggering massive algae blooms, which eventually die and are broken down bacteria. In breaking down the algae blooms, the bacteria consume excessive amounts of oxygen, essentially starving the marine system."

It was just so nicely put that I figured I wouldn't try to re-word it. Check out the link for a larger version of the image!

Full article and image here (

Modern Cargo Ships Slow to the Speed of the Sailing Clippers - The Guardian

photo credit The Guardian via Reuters & Gonzalo Fuentes

Don't you love when big businesses do the right thing? Major shipping industry companies are reducing their speeds cross-ocean in order to lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Sure, it's to save a little money too, but in scenarios like this everybody wins.

"The world's largest cargo ships are travelling at lower speeds today than sailing clippers such as the Cutty Sark did more than 130 years ago. A combination of the recession and growing awareness in the shipping industry about climate change emissions encouraged many ship owners to adopt "slow steaming" to save fuel two years ago. This lowered speeds from the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, but many major companies have now taken this a stage further by adopting "super-slow steaming" at speeds of 12 knots (about 14mph)."

Maersk is again leading the way, and it's estimated they've already saved £65 million! The company has been getting some love from the marine environmental community recently - earlier this year the company refused to transport marine species at risk such as sharks, whales and certain commercial fish species.

Other companies, such as BP and the British Royal Navy, have been using alternative methods to cut CO2 emissions...which honestly I've never heard of, but sound awesome:

"Some ships have been fitted with kite-like "skysails", or systems that force compressed air out of hulls to allow them to "ride" on a cushion of bubbles. These measures can cut fuel consumption by up to 20%."

Slowing down would also lessen the occurrence of marine mammal ship strikes, which remains a problem. Researchers at the New England Aquarium have been working with shipping industries to re-route container ships in order to largely avoid pods of endangered right whales. For more on their work, click here.

Full article here (The Guardian)

Tony Hayward to Quit BP - The Guardian

photo credit The Guardian via Reuters & Suzanne Plunkett

I don't usually like to get into the politics of businesses, since it's not really related to the marine biology aspect I'm sticking to, but this is worth a blurb.

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward is being forced to step down after his poor handling of the Deepwater Horizon incident. Obviously he'll get a multi-million dollar/pound severance, which is disgusting by itself. Honestly, why do these people need these huge amounts of money? Not even Hayward specifically, just...why? What the fuck are you buying?

Anyway. BP sees this as the only option to restore their suffering reputation. Yeah, I agree, and until just now I was all for it. But then I realized...This isn't going to un-do the damage that's been done. This isn't going to give back people's livelihoods, bring back the dead animals, restore the disrupted ecosystems. This isn't going to fix anything - we're just out for blood. Yeah, Hayward has been kind of a douche, but basically we're just biting his head off at this point. It's sad. Furthermore, now we're just playing the blame game:

"[BP], which has been the subject of takeover and liquidation speculation, was hoping to keep Hayward for as long as possible in an attempt to ensure one man took all the flak should a spate of investigations into the accident find BP seriously to blame."

Alright, I don't like the guy, but that's kinda lame. Isn't the company at whole to blame?

"Hayward, who riled Barack Obama by saying the amount of crude tipped into the Gulf of Mexico since the 20 April explosion was relatively "tiny" and that he "wanted his life back", even though 11 people died in the explosion, will be replaced by Bob Dudley, a BP veteran who is currently overseeing the clean-up of the oil spill."

I have a little more faith in Bo. He seems a bit more honest and reliable. Maybe it's just because he's an American and this is largely an American issue...but who knows. Businessmen are sharks. And not in the good way.

Full article here (The Guardian)

Cold Comfort from Octopuses - The Age

photo credit The Age

Scientists in the Antarctic have been collecting octopus venom to study for potential new applications.

Apparently, they're looking at a range of things:

"[the venom] could open a new frontier in drug development and even washing detergents."

Washing detergents? Really? We're gonna bother Antarctic octopuses so our t-shirts will be cleaner?

I'm predicting a new career move for Paul the psychic octopus...

"Dr Fry [from Melbourne University, the Norwegian University of Technology and Science and the University of Hamburg], whose research last year revealed that all octopuses were venomous, said the next step was to compare the venom of tropical octopuses with their Antarctic counterparts to establish what makes the venoms different."

That's pretty cool, I'm interested in what they'll find. Paul? Any predictions?

Full article here (The Age)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

What BP Could Have Bought With All the Money They Lost - VisualEconomics

A cool almost-InfoGraphic-kind-of-thing. I'm not going to even bother to try to shrink this down and post a tiny version, because it's so long horizontally. It would never work. Nevertheless, check out this image from VisualEconomics listing a whole bunch of stuff BP could have bought with all the money they lost in stock as of June 2010. This doesn't even include the over $3.5 billion in recovery costs. could have done a whole lot of good. Who doesn't love an ice cream sandwich?

Image here (VisualEconomics)

China Oil Spill after Pipe Blast 'Worse than Thought' - BBC

photo credit BBC via AP

The effects of the Friday night spill in northeast China are greater than originally estimated.

"Officials say an area of ocean covering 430 sq km (165 sq miles) is now polluted."

Wind has been blowing the sheen back onto shores, and in some areas of the coast the oil stands 20cm thick.

"The air quality in where I am staying is not good; if you go nearer to where the accident happened, you smell something acid in the air, and within 2km of radius of the disaster, the smell of petrol is very strong," said Zhong Yu of Greenpeace China.

Full article here (BBC)
For photos, click here (BBC)

Saturday, 24 July 2010

BP has Stopped using Dispersants in the Gulf – For Now - Oceanwire

photo credit Oceanwire

According to the statements released by Unified Command, no further chemical oil dispersants have been used since the cap went on at the Deepwater Horizon site July 15th.

It has been suggested that oil dispersants are more toxic than the oil itself, so the news of their end of use falls happily on the ears of scientists.

Although use has been halted for now, BP has not said that this will be a permanent move.

Full article here (Oceanwire)

Shocking Moment Dolphin Desperate to Escape Captivity Leaps Out of its Own Tank during Marine Show - DailyMail & NowPublic

photo credit DailyMail

A false killer whale (one of the larger species of dolphins) leapt from its tank during a July 4th show at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan.

"Hideshi Teruya, who manages the dolphin section at the park, said that it suffered minor scratches and bruises on its head and fin."

The dolphin, called Kuru, was wrapped in mats and kept wet while it waited to be lifted back into the tank.

"Ric O'Barry, a former celebrity dolphin trainer and animal activist, says that the video is not just footage of a dolphin that accidentally left the tank, but is proof of Kuru's high stress levels. O'Barry likens the escape to a suicide attempt.
Said O'Barry: "The habitat of that false killer whale is so unnatural it leapt out in desperation. It wanted to end it. Why does a person jump out of a building?""

The saddest part is that the other dolphins in the tank hurry to crowd around their fallen friend on the other side of the glass, and seem to be calling to each other.

Full article here (DailyMail)
Video here (NowPublic)

A Shark Fin Promotion Backfires - New York Times

photo credit New York Times via European Press Agency

Citibank was offering a 15% discount on shark fin soup to card holders at Maxim's Chinese Cuisine restaurants. Was.

Conservationists in Hong Kong and across the globe have expressed outrage at the bank’s environmentally ignorant promotions, citing increased demand of shark fin soup linking to decreasing shark populations.

"Last week, Citibank Hong Kong withdrew the promotion, which was to have run until the end of the month, in response to feedback. ‘‘Citibank is committed to managing our business in a manner that benefits the society and the environment,’’ it said in a statement."

The Global Shark Initiative on Facebook, with over 14,000 fans, has helped raise awareness on this instance and other instances of shark fin soup and other shark products in the news. If you're on Facebook, check them out!

Full article here (New York Times)

Friday, 23 July 2010

BP Photoshops Images of Oil Spill Response, Receives Flak - International Business Times

image credit International Business Times

"I guess if you're doing fake crisis response, you might as well fake a photo of the crisis response center."
-John Aravosis,

BP has admitted to doctoring several photos on their website depicting responses to the oil spill. They have refused to say why, but I think it's pretty obvious as their public image is hurting right now. Unfortunately for them, the efforts seem to have backfired.

You know what else is funny? According to digital information embedded in the photo shown, it was taken in MARCH 2001! That's WAY BEFORE the oil spill ever happened. Ridiculous.

As can be expected, internet users had a little fun with this one, so I'll post a few links to more hilariously photoshopped images:
Gizmodo (check out the comments!)
Twitter: @stephenstockman
Twitter: @coreyspring
Of course, you can find all these on Twitter @BPGlobalPR

But my favourite? My absolute favourite?

image credit

Full article here (International Business Times)

Large China Oil Spill Threatens Sea Life, Water - Current

photo credit AP Photo, Jiang He, Greenpeace

Because we haven't had enough of these recently.

A pipeline along the Yellow Sea owned by China National Petroleum Corp. burst last Friday, spilling heavy crude into the surrounding area. Cleanup efforts have been small due to a lack of equipment, and one responder has already drowned in the oil. What a terrible way to go...seriously.

""We don't have proper oil cleanup materials, so our workers are wearing rubber gloves and using chopsticks," an official with the Jinshitan Golden Beach Administration Committee told the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper, in apparent exasperation."

Wait, really? Was he joking?

""The oil spill will pose a severe threat to marine animals, and water quality, and the sea birds," Huang Yong, deputy bureau chief for the city's Maritime Safety Administration, told Dragon TV."

Fishing has been banned in the affected area until the end of August.

Full article here (Current)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Obama Administration Officials Announce the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force - The White House

An executive order issued on Monday the 5th of July adopted the final recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force. This will create a National Ocean Council to "strengthen ocean governance and coordination" as well as work on new policy. The Task Force in coordination with the Council will "address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes."

"The National Policy includes a set of guiding principles for management decisions and actions toward stewardship that ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations. It prioritizes actions, including ecosystem-based management, regional ecosystem protection and restoration, and strengthened and integrated observing systems, that seek to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. These strategies and objectives provide a bridge between the National Policy and action on the ground."

Sounds great, let's see what they can do. The first meeting of the National Ocean Council will meet later this summer. But my favourite part? The National Policy will "Ensure science-based information is at the heart of decision-making." Yesssssss.

Holy crap, do I detect a job market opening up?!?!? *crosses fingers*

Full article here (The White House)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Oil Spill Condoms -

Want to fix one huge fuck with another? Well now you can, with "Drill without the Spill" condoms! Proceeds will go to the Gulf Coast Spill Fund to aid victims of the spill. Additionally, you'll be doing your part to prevent the births of potential future corporate assholes.

photo credit

Full article here (

Whale Lands on Yacht - Metro & Independent Online

photo credit Paloma Werner

Just off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa a sailing couple got more than they bargained for when getting a closer look at a southern right whale.

Witnesses claim that the couple's boat, Intrepid, had been harassing the young whale by speeding straight at it and ignoring the protective law that states boats must remain at least 300m away from whales and take evasive action to avoid them.

The whale, seemingly upset, leaped from the water and crashed down onto the couple's boat, destroying the mast and leaving hunks of blubber aboard. No one - neither humans nor whale - was seriously injured.

Meredith Thornton, scientist and manager of the Cape Town Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, says of the whale: "It's definitely very badly bruised, but probably did not break anything. It's definitely feeling it today."

Lesson: Don't piss off a 40-ton whale.

Full articles here (Metro & Independent Online)

Fossil Found in Kitchen Counter - National Geographic

Well gee, if I ever didn't want a marble countertop in my future home - now I do. Specifically, this one.

While stone cutters in Italy were slicing up a slab of Egyptian limestone, they noticed something peculiar.

"They had inadvertently created an almost perfect cross-section of an ancient whale. It lived in Egypt 40 million years ago...During the time of the dinosaurs, the area was covered by the ocean and is now filled with marine fossils."

Which makes you wonder why masons are hunting for kitchen counters in the area...but you know, whatever. National Geographic grantee Phillip Gingerich drove out to the mining site and determined that any potential whale bones would be buried deep within the limestone, "almost impossible to discover - except by chance," so I suppose it's for the better. One of those serendipitous moments. Exciting!

The discovery of the whale is in the beginning of the video, which then goes on to explain how the lands in the area have been changing over time and influencing the evolution of some of Africa's iconic animals. Obviously I like the beginning the best, but check out the whole thing if you're into that kind of stuff!

Video here (National Geographic)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Oil Spill: New Cap Stays Despite Bubbles - Fox News

So much happens when you look away for one minute!

Anyway, I'm glad it's good news. :)

So, the BP leak is FINALLY only long? Three months? Rising bubbles are causing a bit of concern, and Incident Commander Thad Allen has had to make a decision every day for the past five days on whether or not to leave the cap in place, but observations so far suggest a greater problem will not occur.

Yay! Good news, finally.

Full article here (Fox News)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gulf Oil Cleanup Crews Trample Nesting Birds - Discovery News

photo credit Discovery News via National Geographic and Chris Combs

"According to conservationists, some well-meaning cleanup crews who unknowingly walk into nesting habitat may be doing more harm than the oil itself, experts say."

It's always a little heartbreaking when people who mean well do more damage than good. But that is exactly what's happening in snowy plover and least tern habitat in Pensacola, Florida. 44,300 people are working on de-oiling the shores from the Deepwater Horizon spill, and with so many people about, adults are being frightened away from their nests and chicks are getting inadvertently trampled. Eggs that are abandoned will literally cook in the sun, and some birds aren't coming back at all.

Heavy machines scooping up large quantities of sand might further the problem. This method removes sand-dwelling animals such as tiny crabs and amphipods - species that the birds depend on for food.

So, in short, already endangered birds may be left with no chicks and no food...and that can't possibly be good.

Said Riley Hoggard, a resource-management specialist for Gulf Islands National Seashore:

"Our bigger responsibility is to the [wildlife], whether it's to a turtle nest or nesting shorebirds. If we have to get cleanup teams off the beach, we'll do that—and deal with the oil cleanup later."

Full article here (Discovery News)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Whales Scream Over Noise Pollution - Discovery News

photo credit Discovery News via NOAA

What is noise pollution? Some people find this a confusing concept. How can noise pollute? It's simple, really. Noise pollution is the excess of noise - and loud noise at that. Sounds that could be considered noise pollution are helicopters, highway traffic and your teenage neighbor's garage band. Under water, sounds that could be considered noise pollution are shipping traffic, heavy machinery used in tasks such as dredging or commercial fishing, and navy sonar exercises. Since water is a greater conductor of sound than air, the noises are louder for longer, and travel over greater distances.

Why does this matter? Why is this bad? Because whales and other marine mammals use sound as primary communication. In order to be heard over the noise, whales have been making louder calls to each other.

"One downside is that "shouting," as for humans and other animals, requires more energy expenditure and probable strain, so we are making life more difficult for these already at risk marine mammals. Since communication is tied to mating, feeding and more, these critical aspects of whale life may also be impacted."

The study took place under moderate noise pollution conditions, where ships were anywhere from 62 to over 621 miles away. But what happens if the noise is closer, and louder?

Susan Parks, research associate at Pennsylvania State University's Environmental Acoustics Program suggests "Whales may stop calling all together when the noise levels increase."

Then what?

Full article here (Discovery News)

BP Will Penalize Fishermen For Not Helping To Clean Up Their Toxic Mess. Unbelievable! - Crooks and Liars

"Kindra Arnesen is the wife of a Gulf fisherman and she's been kicking butt on exposing BP abuses. In this latest news, she's discovered that BP is claiming is that if fishermen choose not to take part in the oil spill cleanup, BP will consider that as potential income declined and deduct it from their claims. In other words, if you didn't want to risk your health and expose yourself to their toxic waste, you're going to suffer financially as a result."


"They're gonna pay for their own cleanup! We're not working off our own claim and paying for their cleanup on that," says Kindra.

And why should they? Why should the people whose lives have been ruined, who are out thousands of dollars from a loss of their vocation, be responsible for cleaning up a multi-billion dollar corporation's mess?

Video here (Crooks and Liars)

Reef Balls to Help Oyster Reproduction in Chesapeake Bay - WTKR-TV3

Reef balls are essentially half-circles of concrete, with holes in them. Like a big piece of circular, concrete Swiss cheese. Why are they so fantastic? Because they can provide shelter and habitat for a number of marine species.

photo credit Reef Ball Foundation

They're being used in about 60 countries on 4,000 different projects. One of those is the oyster restoration project in the Chesapeake Bay. Thousands of tiny oyster larvae are attached to each reef ball via their own natural cement. As these little babies grow, they will create a reef structure providing many homes to important bay species. What's more is that oysters are champions at filtering water - up to 50 gallons a day each - which will help restore the bay's natural environment after decades of overfishing and degradation.

""Each reef ball in itself is an oyster reef, each reef ball can probably have several thousand, tens of thousands oysters on it," said Tommy Leggett, Chesapeake Bay Foundation."

"They should form nice three deep reef with lots of surface area for other organisms by the end of the summer," said Scott Riley Chesapeake Bay Foundation."

You might have seen Mike Rowe making reef balls back in 2007 on an episode of Dirty Jobs. It's kind of a process, and even small balls can weigh about 50lbs, with the larger ones topping 6,000lbs. I remember having to move a truckload of these things for someone one summer and each weighed about 170lbs...which trust me is enough for a TRUCKLOAD in AUGUST.

But wait - there's more. Not only are reef balls an amazing tool you can use to help re-build reef systems, now you can actually become a part of them. Yep. A part of them.

Eternal Reefs will add your cremated remains into the cement that makes the reef balls - turning you into part of an everlasting reef, making you a home for dozens of marine species. You actually become a reef! In a sense, you live on, eternally surrounded by rich sea life in beautiful colours, forever resting in the peace beneath the sea. Personally, I can think of nothing better. The thought of being surrounded by a beautiful environment - and actually contributing to it - for eternity strikes a chord in me. Like the Eternal Reefs website says: "It seems more of a beginning than an ending." Each "Memorial Reef," as they are called, is given a plaque inscribed with the deceased’s name and dates, and placed in the area of his or her choosing.

Interesting, no? I don't know where I'd rather be...Offshore of my hometown beach, or sipping an eternal piña colada off some tropical island somewhere.

photo credit Reef Ball Foundation

Full article here (WTKR-TV3)

More info here (Reef Ball Foundation)

More info here (Eternal Reefs)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Super Squid Sex Organ Discovered - BBC

Sexy, sexy squid. You know, I had a stuffed toy squid when I was younger, and my mom always told me it was gross because it looked like a giant penis.


The penis of a male squid is just about as long as it's entire body. Schwingggg.

"Male O. ingens with erect penis and ejaculated spermatophores on table (penis is white tubular structure in lower half of the picture)"
photo credit BBC via A. Arkhipkin

Dr Alexander Arkhipkin of the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department, says:

"When the mantle of the squid was opened for maturity assessment, we witnessed an unusual event. The penis of the squid, which had extended only slightly over the mantle margin, suddenly started to erect, and elongated quickly to 67cm total length, almost the same length as the whole animal."

I guess he liked to be "explored," if you know what I mean. Oh god, I can't help myself with this entry. This is golden.

On a serious note, though, this...experience...shed light onto the mating habits of deep-sea squid, which were previously unknown. Cephalopods - the order which squid belong to, along with octopus and cuttlefish - are physically hindered by the design of their bodies when it comes to mating. Scientists have discovered that shallow-water cephalopods have evolved a special arm to aid them in the mating process, where a packet of sperm can be delivered into a receptive female.

"They have short penises which produce packets of sperm, called spermatophores, then one of their eight limbs is modified to transfer this sperm to special receptacles on the female."

But male deep-sea squid do not have this special arm. It was thought that sperm was directly injected into a female, but no one knew how.

""Obviously a strongly elongated penis is the solution," says Dr Arkhipkin."

Full article here (BBC)

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Smallest Whale Population Identified - MSNBC

photo credit MSNBC via Brenda Rone

"Only 30 eastern North Pacific right whales are left on the planet, making it the world’s smallest population of whales."

Numbers are still down due to 19th century whaling. This is one species that was never able to recover. To add insult to injury, recent illegal whaling by the USSR and Japan has furthered the decline.

"The whale’s precarious status today, according to the authors, “is a direct consequence of uncontrolled and illegal whaling, and highlights the past failure of international management to prevent such abuses.”"

Sadly, it is very unlikely that this population will ever rebound. Book your whale watching trips now, because the eastern North Pacific right whales are on their way out.

Full article here (MSNBC)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Gulf Oil Spill - How we can Help - NEAQ

For my 100th post, I'm going to write about something I've been meaning to for a while's only fair.

New England Aquarium (NEAQ) in Boston, Massachusetts. One of my all-time favourite places to check out what's going on in the sea. As a child, my family used to vacation to Boston every summer, and I remember DESPERATELY waiting for the day we'd visit the aquarium. I remember the central Giant Ocean Tank, and always trying to find my favourite fish - the "big nose fish" aka hogfish. I remember FREAKING out at the dolphin show (which the no longer have, thankfully...but what does a kid know?) and waving my stuffed sea lion, Guthry, in the air super-high so I would get picked to have the sea lion in the show give me a kiss. They never picked me, though. Regardless, I truly believe that NEAQ furthered my passion for following marine science. I even got to volunteer there after I graduated college, but that's another story. Anyway, now that I've given NEAQ a proper nod - the real story:

NEAQ is one of the relatively few (as far as I know) aquariums to be involved in lots of other areas outside their main look-at-fish scheme. One of those areas is responding to the Gulf oil spill. NEAQ rescue teams have brought in over 40 oiled sea turtles from contaminated waters for recuperation in rehabilitation facilities based in New Orleans. The turtles were collected by boat and brought back to local facilities at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to be cleaned and treated. To see all of the amazing hard work they've done (and photos of happy sea turtles, of course), check out their Marine Animal Rescue Team Blog (This is the first post of the series, for consecutive posts follow the "Oil Spill Posts" menu on the right)!

photo credit NOAA, Georgia DNR, NEAQ

But if that wasn't cool enough, NEAQ is building their own rescue and rehabilitation facility in Quincy, Massachusetts where turtles can come to be properly cared for after environmental disasters such as this spill. If you're feeling particularly generous, why not send a few dollars (pounds, euros, etc.) their way to help raise the $500,000 they need? Think of the happy turtles.

photo credit NEAQ

More information here (NEAQ)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Gulf Farmers Asked to Flood Fields for Migrating Birds - LA Times

This is a pretty cool idea. A federal conservation agency is offering to pay landowners in the Gulf states to flood their fields, in hopes that birds will choose to nest in these areas instead of those that are currently contaminated with oil.

"Landowners would be expected to flood fields and promote the growth of vegetation favored by migratory birds, or to enhance existing wetlands on their properties, for three to five years, said NRCS spokeswoman Chris Coulon. Rice fields and fish farms are particularly suited to the initiative."

Three to five years is a good start. At first I thought this was only for the current season, but obviously the effects of the oil spill will be felt for years to come. I imagine it will take longer to fully clean the area, but hopefully this initiative will be met with success and the program can grow.

"None of this is guaranteed to work," Butcher said. "We're expecting that this will work at least a little bit. We're hoping that it'll help a lot."

Full article here (LA Times)

Phytoplankton Bloom off Iceland - Earth Observatory

Check out this photo! Featuring one of my favourite types of all sea creatures...phytoplankton! Yes, I love my little algae.

Below the photo is a cool mini-article suggesting that perhaps the phytoplankton bloom begins in winter, as opposed to spring as most scientists have traditionally thought.

Full article/photo here (Earth Observatory)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Latest on the Oil Spill - NY Times

Oi. It's hard to play catch-up after a holiday, but in the interest of my mental health I choose to take full advantage of my time off and not worry about a thing, so forgive me if I've missed a few details in the posts that follow. Anyway, here we go.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the likelihood for oil to reach the Eastern coast of the United States is still small, using models based on historical wind and ocean current information. The Florida Keys, however, may not be so lucky. NOAA predicts a 61 - 80% chance that oil will reach the shores of the Keys, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Meanwhile in Texas, tar balls are being found on beaches on the Bolivar Peninsula and at Galveston Island.

Hurricane Alex has been hindering cleanup efforts, but several skimmers have been able to return to the area since Friday, although success results have been deemed inconclusive due to remaining foul weather.

BP is currently working with wildlife protection groups addressing a lawsuit alleging that sea turtles were being burned alive in controlled burn areas due to their inability to escape the slicks. A US Navy "airship" (read: blimp) is being sent out to the site to help monitor wildlife in the contaminated area and to track slick movement from air. This is actually pretty cool, despite how lame blimps are, because it can stay in the air for 12 hours - much longer than planes and helicopters.

BP's total cost spent on the response has officially surpasses $3 billion...and everyone's talking about how that's a big deal, but honestly I still think that's nothing compared to what it's going to cost the families and states affected - not to mention the toll on wildlife losses. This figure doesn't include the $20 billion fund set up for personal loss claims by citizens in the areas, however. But I don't know, I still thought it would have been more than that by now. BP has also begun to relax their control over what the media sees and does not see. Perhaps we'll be seeing more from the Southern shores? ...Or perhaps they're confident in their cover-up efforts.

Full articles here (NY Times)
NY Times is doing a day-by-day report; this is the most recent (day 76).