Tuesday, 22 November 2011

What is going on in the Faroe Islands?

I was pleased to see recently that word is spreading about the grindadráp, or grind, ritual that occurs in the Faroe Islands every year. The grind drives occur mostly during the summer months, and nearly the entire population participates. They are similar to the dolphin drives of Taiji, Japan. Men will heard pods of whales and dolphins to strand themselves in shallow water and on beaches by throwing stones after them in the water. They then use ropes and enormous hooks to restrain and drag the whales onshore, often by hooking them in their sensitive blowholes. The panicked animals are then slaughtered on the beaches, turning the sand and water red with their blood. Meat is divided up amongst the entire island population, making everyone guilty of involvement.

photo credit Stop the Grind

Pilot whales are the most common target, as their ancient migration paths cross the island waters. Other species that are killed include harbor porpoises, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

The Faroese argue that their hunt is not commercial and that the animals are used for sustenance. Environmental and animal rights groups argue that in the modern Faroe Islands there is more than enough food to go around and the hunt is therefore unnecessary. Furthermore, the meat of the cetaceans has been proven to carry high levels of toxins such as PCBs and mercury and is dangerous for human consumption. Another Faroese argument is that the species are not endangered and the hunt does not pose a significant threat to the worldwide population. The official standing of both long-finned and short-finned pilot whales on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List of Threatened Species is "data deficient," and it means just that - we don't know. The hunts may be causing more damaging than we are realising, especially on localised populations.

The biggest argument is that the grind is a historic part of Faroese culture. To that I personally have just one response: Killing is not culture. Is that really an argument anyone would want to win?

photo credit Stop the Grind

The most recent slaughter on the Faroe beaches occurred on November 18th where 46 animals were killed, bringing the total number this season to 642. It is rare to hear a Faroese voice against the grind, but recently some have spoken out against it. On the Sea Shepherd's most recent campaign to the Faroe Islands, they even had two Faroese individuals aboard.

So what can you and I do about this? The main course of action is to sign petitions and write to representatives. This issue is still not very well known, so spreading the word is important. Most people have been horrified when they find out about the grind - even some of my friends who hate animals (Yes, they are crazy. Love you guys ♥). Since the main concern of the Faroese is protecting a cultural tradition, this is an uphill battle. The circumstances are very similar to those in the fight against the dolphin killing in Taiji seen in the film "The Cove." Click on over to Stop the Grind's Take Action page for some more suggestions.

There is another hunt going on as I type this. An additional 1,000 whales are being targeted.
Swim fast, swim far, swim deep.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

WhaleFest 2011

The first and largest event of its kind in Europe, WhaleFest ran the weekend of bonfire night this fall in Brighton, UK. A celebration for those who love whales and dolphins, WhaleFest - organised by Planet Whale (international search engine for whale watches) - attracted THOUSANDS of people and was a huge success! Great job guys!!

So what happened at Whale Fest? Well, let me tell you...'cuz I was lucky enough to attend!

All photos are mine; clickthrough for larger

Over 60 exhibitors set up tables on two floors, handing out information about environmental charities, whale watch programs and volunteer opportunities. Several retailers were selling beautiful books, jewelry, posters and paintings featuring whales and dolphins. In the main hall, life-sized models of whales filled the room along with a "virtual whale watch" and an exhibit that brought you inside the belly of a whale!

In the Workshop Room, mini-courses were held on how to get involved in a career with whales and dolphins, whale identification, photographing cetaceans and much more. In the Talk Talk Chamber, celebrities and experts in the field spoke about their films, books, research and experiences with whales and dolphins and included the likes of Stephen Marsh (of British Divers Marine Life Rescue), Philip Hoare (author of Leviathan, or The Whale), and Mark Carwardine (of BBC's Last chance to See).

If that wasn't enough, there were craft workshops for kids, film screenings (including Keiko: The Untold Story), raffles and a celebrity fundraising event that raised over £1,600 for several marine charities.


Here's a few quotes taken from Planet Whale's summary:

“It was a great pleasure to attend WhaleFest and be part of such a fun and important event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, met some very interesting people and thank you for all your generous hospitality.”
- Mark Brownlow, series producer BBC Ocean Giants, and Clash of the Titans speaker

“I just wanted to say a big thank you from myself and also from MARINElife for the very enjoyable first WhaleFest which we all found a superb event. It really gave us the opportunity to engage with our volunteers, supporters, other organisations and the public.”
- Adrian Shephard, MARINElife (charity)

Missed this year's WhaleFest? No worries - plans are already being made for next year's event, which is sure to be even bigger and better! Stay tuned to Planet Whale's website for future information and for all your whale watching needs!


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Brilliant Basking Sharks

photo credit Chris Gotschalk

Recently I was lucky enough to be able to attend a monthly meeting of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) UK South East branch in London. The speaker of the evening was Evan Landy, an M.Sc. researcher from the University of Exeter, and the topic was basking sharks.

I've long been fascinated by these huge, ancient-looking fish. They are the second largest fish alive (after the whale shark), reaching 30 - 40 feet and weighing on average just over 5 tons. Despite this, basking sharks feed on some of the tiniest creatures in the ocean, passively filter-feeding delicious copepods from the sea surface as they lazily swim by. Despite their somewhat scary appearance, they pose no threat to humans and are a popular dive attraction.

Aside from learning when and where to go visit these amazing sharks (and that they're so big you can actually see them from shore!), I learned that we actually have something in common - the sharks and I. Landy's research has been on mapping populations and distributions of basking sharks around the United Kingdom, and it turns out they just happen to like warm sunny beaches and nice weather. What a coincidence. We should hang out some time.

Landy mentioned spotting sharks the past few years has been a challenge possibly due to the less-than-fantastic summers in the British Isles recently. MCS is looking for the public to report their sightings of basking sharks (and other creatures) on their website to help map where the animals are spending their time. Future work with this species will be aimed at training fishermen to report their sightings while at sea, satellite tagging and genetics.

For more information on the work of MCS, visit their website. Meetings of the South East branch are held on the second Tuesday of each month from 8:00 - 10:00pm, in the function room at the Holland Club, Imperial College, Kensington, London, SW7.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

There are better ways to see whales and dolphins...

Don't buy a ticket to a marine park!
See these beautiful animals in their natural habitats instead.
To find a whale watching trip in your area, click here!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Britain's Special Guests

Two exciting sightings recently in UK waters:

Last month a slipper lobster was found sitting atop a commercial crab pot east of Falmouth. This warm water species has only been recorded in Britain a few times since records began over 250 years ago. The lobster, named Popeye, is just under 5 inches long, has orange eyes and special plates on it's head used for burrowing in search of food or shelter from predators. Personally, I think Popeye is adorable.

photo credit Blue Reef

This month, another warm water species not previously recorded in the UK has joined Popeye in Cornwall. A dwarf sperm whale was spotted on a beach, raising the number of cetacean species sighted in UK and Irish waters to 29. The small whale, which scientists know very little about, was rescued by a member of the public and seems to have swum happily away.

Dr Peter Evans, Director of Sea Watch, said "Pictures of the Penzance whale show it to be dwarf sperm whale, its fin being large and almost triangular. This species has been recorded on only a handful of occasions in Europe, including Spain and France, and never in Britain or Ireland. It is just one of the increasing number of records of warm water species to be turning up around the British Isles in recent years."

Thanks to the unnamed hero who refloated the whale!

photo credit Hannah Jones

Read more about the slipper lobster on BBC here.
Read more about the dwarf sperm whale on BBC here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Selfridges' Project Ocean

photo credit Stephanie Dickens

Earlier this summer, Selfridges & Co launched its Project Ocean campaign, focusing on the threats of overfishing and poor fishing practices in the UK and worldwide. Partnering with over 20 environmental groups, Selfridges put together talks, activities, learning opportunities, workshops, information and their famous store-front windows to help raise awareness about the threats the ocean is currently facing.

Here's some lovely numbers:
-Nearly 4 million people saw Project Ocean’s windows
-Over 8 million Britons saw the Project Ocean campaign advertising
-45,000 Selfridges Fish Guides were given away
-More than 17,500 customers took part in an Ultralounge talk or activity, with an average of 700 people each day
-550 people attended the 4 Ocean Talks
-Coley Fish and chips in HIX
[Selfridges' restaurant and champagne bar] became the number one selling dish on its menu

Selfridges has also raised over £120,200.00 for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to create marine reserves. One area has already been set aside in the Philippines for the protection of fish and other marine life. They're still accepting donations, so if you're feeling generous today and want to be part of a new marine protected area, click here (and after you've sent your donation, click here to see your name on a fish)!

Four talks were held on the subjects of sustainable fishing and marine conservation. The first was called "Fishing in Troubled Waters" and was chaired by End of The Line author Charles Clover, with guests Nigel Edwards of Seachill and Iceland Group, fashion designer Katherine Hamnett, Jeremy Percy of National Under Ten Metre Fisherman's Association (NUFTA) and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of Channel 4 and Hugh's Fish Fight.

Some highlights of this talk included Clover's statistics: 32% of the world's fish stocks are currently exploited, 85% are at or beyond their limits, and that the human population will rise 1/3 by 2050. It doesn't take a genius to put these pieces together. With a disproportionate amount of the human population relying on the sea for their main sources of food and protein, we are on a collision course with reality if we continue to fish the way we have been fishing.

One particular clip shown by Fearnley-Whittingstall illustrated the complications of fishing laws and waste catch. Fearnley-Whittingstall was filmed on a fishing boat when the haul was brought on board and sorted. Only a few individual fish were kept because they were the allowed and targeted species - the only species that by law the fishermen were allowed to keep. Twenty baskets of bycatch - more than the number of targeted species caught - had to be thrown overboard as waste. The fishermen had never seen it laid out before them like this and were visibly upset - one even lifting up a now-dead "waste" fish and saying that it was a beautiful specimen, one that would be hard to find nowadays, and it is being wasted for nothing. The bycatch caught on this one trip would have fed 2,000 people. It's not always the fishermen's fault that these species die and go to waste; sometimes the laws just aren't up to par.

There is hope, though. Sustainable fisheries and buying fish from healthy stocks is coming to the world's attention slowly but surely. Talks are being held in government buildings in many nations, but the truth is that there is still a long way to go.

But you can help. Change in a consumer market needs to come from the consumers.
◦There are many fish guide apps now available to help consumers be more informed on restaurant and shopping trips. Ask where and how your fish is caught (You'll likely be met with confused looks, but let your providers know you care! They will respond!).
◦Don't buy red-listed fish - if we only support fish from sustainable sources, the market will have to adjust to reap its profits.
Spread out your species - did you know that there are over 50 different species of tuna? Why not try skipjack instead of bluefin? Have you tried mackerel? Sprats?
◦Don't eat at restaurants that serve red-listed fish species, and let them know you're not impressed by their "fancy" selection.
◦Spread the word!

Stephanie at Global Ocean was lucky enough to attend all four of these talks. If you'd like their summary, please click through to her write-up!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

New Global Ocean Website and Ocean Awareness March

Well guys, it's here. Finally. See what I've been spending all my time doing recently and check out the new Global Ocean website! It's beautiful! (No, I didn't build or design it, just managed and wrote up a bunch of content. You can see all my blog posts here, and be sure to check out the Campaigns and Learning pages, 'cuz I worked on those too!)

And now that the website is live, I can link it up with a post I've been delaying until the launch. Earlier this summer I participated in an Ocean Awareness March through London organised by London Against Cetacean Slaughter. Check out my writeup below, or read it on the new Global Ocean site!

photo credit Maura Flynn; clickthrough for larger

On 31 July 2011 approximately 50 ocean activists from around the UK gathered in sunny London for the Ocean Awareness March, organised by London Against Cetacean Slaughter. The goal was simple: Raise awareness and call to the public about the plight of marine species worldwide.

The crowd had a positive mood and an important message – The seas must be saved if we are to save ourselves!

The parade marched across central London, through Trafalgar Square and past the Japanese and US embassies carrying signs with messages including "whaling is not culture," "save our seas" and "beep if you like dolphins."

Notable attendees included PADI EMEA vice president Mark Caney and whale activist, artist and Surfers for Cetaceans director Howie Cook. Several organisations also participated in the event including Global Ocean and Women for Whales as well as Sea Shepherd, who were raising money for their impounded flagship the Steve Irwin.

There was a good response from the people of London with many taking fliers and stopping to ask questions. We even had some folks waving, cheering and beeping their horns!

London Against Cetacean Slaughter is committed to putting an end to whaling and to dolphin drives like those in Taiji, Japan. For more information on London Against Cetacean Slaughter click here.

photo credit Maura Flynn

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Japan Dolphins Day 2011

photo credit Save Japan Dolphins

September 1st is the annual start of the dolphin drive in Taiji, Japan. If you've seen "The Cove" you know what this means. If not, let me (briefly) enlighten you.

Each year roughly 2,000 dolphins are frightened and chased by boats into two coves. One is the "capture" cove, the other is the "killing" cove. Of those 2,000 dolphins - which include the well-known and liked bottlenose dolphin, as well as striped dolphins, spotted dolphins, Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales and plenty of other dolphins, small whales and porpoises - a handful of the most attractive are selected to be sold into dolphinariums and marine parks like SeaWorld and Six Flags...the rest are slaughtered for their meat, and for "pest control" under the belief that the dolphins are eating too much fish (dolphins eating too much fish...can you believe this?).

So what else happens on September 1st?

September 1st is also Japan Dolphin Day, a day of celebration of the lives and beauty of dolphins unharmed, in the wild as they should be. Japan Dolphin Day is a positive event. As Ric O'Barry himself noted on the SaveJapanDolphins website:

"It may be more effective to get people to be FOR something than AGAINST something. Some NGO's will not participate in a protest. So, our plan is to organize an international day of celebration in several cities around the world. The goal is to make this the biggest global event celebrating Japan dolphins yet."

And so we did. People around the world came together and demonstrated their concern over the annual slaughter at over 40 Japanese embassies and consulates. Participating cities included Washington D.C., Berlin, Melbourne, Rome, Auckland, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Taiji, and of course...London! See below for some of our awesome photos (taken by yours truly; clickthrough for larger):

Well I had to include one of myself...I'm the dork with the "Beep if you like Dolphins" sign
photo credit Samuele Braccini

To see some of the other awesome photos from around the world, check out the Save Japan Dolphins Facebook album here.

The primary people working on the Save Japan Dolphin cause are Ric O'Barry, the Earth Island Institute and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Check out their lovely sites for more information, and don't forget to watch "The Cove"!

More photos here:
Japan Dolphin Day; London - Demotix
Protests against Japan's Annual Dolphin Hunt - Yahoo! News
Dolphin Lovers Unite on Dolphin Day - Global Animal
Japan Dolphin Day Events Worldwide - Save Japan Dolphin Facebook album

More information here:
Save Japan Dolphins
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Will this year's Whale Hunt go on?


So, I've been delaying my next update because I wanted to have it coincide with the launch of the new Global Ocean website, which I have been dedicating most of my time to recently. I've already written the entry there and it's beautiful and awesome, BUT...the site still isn't up. It was supposed to be up three weeks ago, but I got an email this morning saying the site content was lost. Not gone, not deleted...lost. So, it's out there on the internet somewhere. If you see it, let me know.

In the meantime...let's talk about whales. So much whale news!

photo credit Australian Customs Service

Whaling season has crept up on us again, and the tensions are running high in several countries, namely Japan. Earlier in July a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to discuss a potential whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean was delayed one year thanks to a walkout of those representing Japan & friends.

"Delegates from Japan, Iceland and a number of allied Caribbean and African nations walked out when the issue came up at the IWC's annual talks in Jersey, throwing the meeting into disarray. They later returned to the IWC floor but no agreement was reached on the issue, which was put on hold until next year's IWC meeting to be held in Panama."

Some good news from this meeting, however, is that the IWC has changed its membership fee policy to that of accepting only bank transfers, which are easily traced. This was due to concern that Japan has been buying smaller nation's memberships in return for their pro-whaling votes.

Japan has been adamant about continuing their whaling programs in the Antarctic despite its unpopularity worldwide. Guess who else has been adamant about returning to the Antarctic? Sea Shepherd. Oh yeah. That's right.

"Each successive year, Sea Shepherd has sent bigger fleets and faster vessels, while Japan has downscaled its forces; last season, for the first time, the activists had the upper hand."

An interesting sidenote: "Some observers have suggested that Japan sees blaming Sea Shepherd as a way to escape from Southern Ocean whaling without losing face."


Come August, however, change was in the air:

"A senior member of a government review panel set up to advise options after last summer's disastrous season has raised the stakes by openly calling for a halt. Respected Japanese consumer advocate Hisa Anan rejected any scientific need to kill whales.
'Research whaling has been conducted for more than 20 years now,' Ms Anan told the ABC through an interpreter in Tokyo. 'I think they've gathered enough scientific data and even if they want more, they can conduct non-lethal research.'"

The Fisheries Agency has even suggested the end of Japanese whaling, but a minority of the panel seems to agree.

A significant concern of the Japanese pro-whalers appears to be pride and saving face. The terms "giving up", "giving in" and "quitting" frequently come up on their side of the argument. It's common knowledge that the Japanese are a proud people - and for good reason too. Their discipline and schooling standards are well known throughout the world as top-notch, and their culture is one that is sensitive to and offended by outsiders trying to come in to tell them what to do. All understandable. However, most of the world seems to agree that the time for whaling has passed. The proportion of the Japanese population that actually consumes whale meat is small, and the financial burdens of supporting an expensive overseas industry with little return is worth mentioning.

Last year Japan went home with less than 1/5th of their total catch quota thanks to the Sea Shepherd crew. Some are arguing that it's too dangerous and simply not worthwhile to whale anymore, but others are just too proud to call it quits.

More information here:
Japan Walkout throws Whaling Talks into Disarray - TimesUnion.com
Whaling Body Outlaws Malpractice with Anti-Corruption Reform - The Guardian
Japan 'To Continue' Antarctic Whaling - BBC
Japanese Advocate calls for Halt to Whale Hunt - Sydney Morning Herald
Japan Considers Canning Whaling Program - ABC Australia

Friday, 12 August 2011

Cape Cod Bay holds Hidden Risk for Dining North Atlantic Right Whales - Science Daily

photo credit C. Hotchkin

As I've mentioned before, North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered species in the world - marine or otherwise. Only about 450 individuals are left. Needless to say, conservation efforts are trying to move forward quickly with research helping us to better understand how to protect them. The number one threat to North Atlantic right whales is ship strikes. While feeding on tiny crustaceans called copepods (think Plankton from SpongeBob), these whales cruise along just below the surface where they are difficult to see but still in danger of being hit by boat propellers. What's more is they're pretty much silent feeders.

"Auto-detection buoys are making a remarkable attempt at recording the whale sounds to show when whales are in the area," said Susan Parks, assistant professor of acoustics and ecology and senior research associate, Penn State Applied Research Laboratory. "But North Atlantic right whales don't make call sounds when they are eating, so they don't show the whales when they are feeding."

Researchers are attaching suction cups with acoustic recording tags to the whales (pictured above) to track their movements in an effort to learn where they go to feed and what areas to focus on protecting.

Full article here (Science Daily)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The 'Steve' is Free!

photo credit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Great news from Lerwick - the Sea Shepherd's flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, has been freed! Thanks to all of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's supporters, they were able to raise more than $735,000 in under two weeks to post a bond to the British courts, freeing the ship from detainment...with one minute to spare! A court date has not yet been decided for the civil case brought by Fish & Fish Limited for the freeing of illegally caught tuna in Libya.

A message posted on the Sea Shepherd's website:

"We sincerely thank everyone that donated to help Save Our Ship. Your help enabled us to ‘Free the Steve’ and it will soon be on its way to the Faeroes. However, despite everyone’s best efforts, we had to cut into our already scarce budget to meet the bond amount and ‘Free the Steve.’ We face the ongoing costs of Operation Ferocious Isles, the transit of our vessels from the northern hemisphere to the southern for Operation Divine Wind, and finally, the cost of that Antarctic campaign as well. We are all on the same crew, despite our different roles and varying locations. We all feel that inner drive to protect innocent lives and ecosystems, and I know many of you have given what you can— but please keep your donations coming in. Without your help, we cannot continue this important work."

Full article here (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Monday, 1 August 2011

'Shark Week' Returns to Discovery...But what Message is it Sending?

photo credit Discovery

Guys, it's back. It's Shark Week.

As a friend of mine put it quite nicely on Tumblr: "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

For a week every summer, sharks take center stage and thousands of crazed fans sit in front of their TVs and computers, eyes glued to the screens, waiting for the next clip of an airborne great white chomping the hell out of a seal, or for little nuggets of trivia for quiz nights at the pubs. Shark Week has exploded in popularity, and it's really impossible to not be aware of it's approach weeks before it's actually here. Even for losers like me without a TV. For a breif history on Shark Week, see last year's post here.

So - if we can be serious here for a minute - I took a look at this year's schedule and was instantly disappointed. There's still a HUGE focus on shark attacks and it still casts sharks in a pretty bad light. I'd like to take this moment to remind everyone that approximately 5 people are killed each year by sharks, while 100 million sharks are killed each year by people. They are not the deadly killers - we are. So it's really not fair to have all the focus on how they're the big murderers of the sea. It's misleading to the general public who might only know about sharks what Shark Week tells them.

image credit unknown; clickthrough for larger
(please alert me if you know!)

The headlining shows have titles like "Great White Invasion" and "Killer Sharks" (shown with a photo of a child in bloody water... mean, seriously.) Have a look at some of these descriptions and see for yourself:

December 1957: the height of tourist season in South Africa. Merry vacationers from around the globe descend on an idyllic resort town along the sunny coast to enjoy the summer. It's not long until the white sands are clogged with dead bodies and the sapphire waters are red with blood. The culprit? The authorities suspected a single, massive rogue shark with a taste for human flesh."

"The white sands are CLOGGED with dead bodies and the sapphire waters are red with blood"? Really?

A diver is caught in the mouth of a great white, and survives. A woman is caught in a tug-of-war between a shark and her rescue crew. Scientists are surrounded by sharks and one has his leg bitten off, but lives to defend the shark. These and more are the world's five most amazing shark attack survivor stories."

Then they have another called "Rouge Sharks" that pretty much turns "Jaws" into a documentary. Thanks guys.

I scroll down to the comments and I feel a bit better. Most of what I see is criticism for the hyped-up bloodthirsty portrayal of sharks when actually they're extremely sensitive and important players in balanced marine ecosystems. If you click back to last year's post, you'll see that Discovery was initially promoted as an educational network. The Shark Week line-up this year seems far from it - and at a time when shark numbers are plummeting due to the shark fin trade. Shame on Discovery for turning a blind eye to a species they're quite aware they can actually help and focusing still on the money-making stories of deadly encounters and vicious killers.

I do like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that intentions are good and the raised awareness will help. I hope it does. But when people do things like the link I'm about to post, it banishes all doubt from my mind. Ignorance is bliss and sometimes people just suck.

Why would you post recipes for an endangered species during a week initially meant to raise awareness and educate people, Esquire?

I hate to be a party-pooper, but Shark Week has become a joke. you can't broadcast death and chaos for 55 minutes, and throw in a conservation message at the end while the credits have already begun to roll. It just doesn't work.

Now that you're all thoroughly bummed out by my stark realism...go play some shark games.

I turned myself into a shark:

Friday, 29 July 2011

Free the Steve!

photo credit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The Sea Shepherd's methods might be controversial, but one thing is for sure...They get shit done. Even the Japanese admitted it.

But the Sea Shepherd's flagship the Steve Irwin is in danger of being seized and sold. Right now, the British courts are holding the vessel in Lerwick, Scotland because of a civil lawsuit brought against Sea Shepherd for the release of (allegedly) illegally caught endangered bluefin tuna by Maltese fishing company Fish and Fish Limited. The bond demanded for the release of the ship is a whopping $1,411,692.87.

But you can help! I urge you to donate whatever you can to aid this fearless organisation's flagship and to help get it back out onto the seas in time to save the Faeroese pilot whales and the great whales of the Southern Ocean.

I understand times are tough right now and money is scarce for most. Believe me, I understand...this blog ain't called the UNEMPLOYED Marine Biologist for nothin'. However, I do make a little bit of money here and there, and recently I've been really bummed about the state of everything and I've been trying to figure out what makes me happy and what makes the world a better place. I reached two conclusions: 1.) Doing everything in my power to protect and raise awareness about marine conservation is what makes me happiest, regardless of money. 2.) I would be devastated if the Sea Shepherd lost their flagship vessel and wasn't able to protect our seas in that special kick-ass way they do. Also, I hate my fucking "job", so I gave all that misery-money from my check last week to a better cause: Supporting the direct action and conservation of the people at Sea Shepherd.

Whatever you can spare, I urge you to do the same. I promise you won't regret it!

Click here to read (and watch!) a personal message from Captain Paul Watson.

Monday, 25 July 2011

BP Holds Gulf Spill Assessment ‘Financially Captive’ - Forbes

photo credit Getty Images

Honestly I really don't understand how this is legal, let alone morally sound. Why do we glorify business over everything else? Anyway...

"BP has been able to delay and deny efforts to assess the damage caused by its 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because it controls the funding for those efforts, a Louisiana state official told senators today."

Basically, since BP is supplying the money, BP gets to decide what to do with it. Also - and here's the scary part - BP gets to decide when projects like cleanup and restoration are "done" or need "no further action".

BP's To-Do List (or Not-To-Do List...) includes the following: Leaving anchors in the water from oil booms, designating areas effectively "cleaned up", signing off on projects before they begin and delaying reviews and approvals of projects.

Garrett Graves, chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, thinks that control should be stripped from BP and given to the public:

“I think that equation needs to be flipped over. I think the public needs to be in the driver’s seat. By being able to control the checkbook, you can control what’s in these workplaces, how the assessments are conducted [and] the timelines of the assessments.”

Full article here (Forbes)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

European Commission Apologises for Disastrous Fishing Policy - The Telegraph

photo credit Reuters

"Sorry" won't fix it, but at least it's a start...

"The European Commission has apologised for decades of an EU fishing policy so disastrous that the next generation of children may never see fish on their dinner plate."

You know, I've been suggesting that as a possible fate for a long time, and people think I'm being over-dramatic. Well, there you have it, folks. It just might happen. Hate to say I told you so.

Maria Damanaki, the EU's maritime commissioner, admits "We cannot afford business as usual. Maybe 10 years ago, the past, it was easier for us, in the European Commission, in governments, in the sector, to close our eyes. We cannot do that anymore because if we do our children will see fish, not on their plates, but only in pictures."

Worldwide, the average percentage of overfished stocks hangs around 25%. In Europe it's 88%.

Damanaki's new vision is to begin 15-year plans based on scientific advice in 2013. Fishing fleets will be substantially reduced and stocks will be given a chance to recover. Her prediction is that stocks should recover 70% in 10 years, after which catch numbers can be gently increased again.

"The current CFP has failed. It has not given us healthy fish stocks and it has not delivered a sustainable living for our fishing industry. Only genuine fundamental reform of this broken policy can turn around these failures. We need to end the unacceptable practice of throwing dead fish back to the sea. It's a terrible waste of perfectly good food and one of the biggest failings of the [Common Fishing Policy]," said Richard Benyon, British fisheries minister.

I sincerely hope that true, progressive reform is made and the European Commission will decide to protect fish species instead of their wallets.

Full article here (The Telegraph)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Great White Shark Jumps from Sea into Research Boat - The Guardian

Just kidding, this is from "Jaws"

Okay I was just about to go to bed, but I've GOT to say something about this.

A great white shark jumped into a research boat. A GREAT WHITE SHARK JUMPED OUT OF THE WATER AND INTO A RESEARCH BOAT. [Insert "we're gonna need a bigger boat" joke here.]

I'm sure we've all witnessed the awesomeness that is to be seen when a great white jumps out of the waters off Seal Island, South Africa during Shark Week (which is fast-approaching!). Sharks in this area swim up quickly from beneath their prey - fat tasty seals - and launch themselves out of the water in spectacular displays of pure power.

"Dorien Schröder [team leader at Oceans Research] recounted how she pulled her colleague to safety before the shark, weighing about 500kg (half a ton) landed on top of the bait and fuel containers. At first half of its body was outside the boat but in a panic the shark thrashed its way further on to the vessel, cutting the fuel lines and damaging equipment before becoming trapped between the containers and the stern. The crew found safety at the bow of the boat."

What happened next? Schröder was kind enough to keep water flowing over the shark's gills to keep it alive. Another boat was sent out to try to remove the shark from the research vessel, but was unable to. The vessel had to be towed back to port WITH THE SHARK STILL ON BOARD. Then a crane lifted it off and back into the water. Then the shark freaked out and beached. Then the people tried to direct the shark out of the harbour to the sea, but the shark wasn't getting it. Finally the shark was literally dragged out of the harbour by a rescue vessel and swam away.

And I thought I had a bad day.

Full article here (The Guardian)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Saving Valentina

Please take a moment to enjoy this amazing video circulating on the net of Michael Fishbach's (co-founder of The Great Whale Conservancy) story of his close encounter and subsequent rescue of a young entangled humpback whale. Great work!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Metro Loves the Ocean

The Metro is my favourite free paper here in London. It's quick and concise, it's got a little bit of everything and it's got lots of colour photos. I greatly enjoy reading it on my breaks and on the Tube when I can't be bothered to actually look at the people around me. Much to my delight, there were TWO ocean-related stories within its pages this past week. Let's have a look:

Photographer Helps Promote WWF's Blue Mile Conservation Project

photo credit The Metro via Jurgen Freund

Jurgen Freund is using his work showcasing beautiful marine species and scenery to help promote the WWF's Blue Mile project and fund conservation efforts worldwide.

"As part of Blue Mile, the WWF is urging people to take part in a sponsored event – covering a mile in or by water. Fundraisers can swim, paddle, kayak, or stroll beside a river, lake or beach."

The London event will be held at Stoke Newington West Reservoir on 4 September. Click to the article for more info!

Jaws Dropping: It's Sun, Sea and Sharks

photo credit The Metro

Shark decline has come up a number of times in this blog. It's real and it's happening now. The culprit? Overfishing, primarily for shark fin soup - a wasteful "delicacy" among Asian countries. Demian Chapman is a marine biologist working in Belize to document the positive effect protected marine areas have on shark populations, and the negative effects brought on by the removal of sharks in marine ecosystems. Boating, snorkeling and hanging out with sharks in Glover's Reef sounds too good to be a job, but important work is going on here.

"The main thing we’ve learned about taking out big predators is you can almost never predict the effect but there always is one and it’s always negative."

Want to get involved? Click through for information on how you could be volunteering to help sharks in beautiful Belize!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Paula the Octopus to predict Women's World Cup - The Telegraph

There's a new cephalopod on the block, and her name is Paula.

I'm sure we all remember the famed psychic octopus of Germany - Paul - from last year's World Cup. Sadly, he's dead. Sorry. But fear not, a new lady-pus will be predicting the outcome of the Women's World Cup for your betting pleasure.

Paula, whose gender is actually unknown, is one of eight psychic octopi in training across Germany's Sea Life aquariums. She boldly predicted Canada to win the first match against Germany, much to the upset of her people. When Paul did the same last year and picked Spain to win over Germany, he was threatened with being turned to calamari snacks for unhappy fans. Alas, he was right, and Spain offered to send bodyguards to protect the psychic cephalopod.

Paula's off to a rocky start, as her prediction was close but not correct. Maybe she's just nervous? Better luck next time miss.

Full article here (The Telegraph)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Dolphin Deaths: BP Oil Spill may have had Indirect Role, Researcher says - al.com

photo credit Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Gulfport, MS

I know I've mentioned the dramatic increase in dolphin deaths in the Gulf before - particularly young ones. Evidence is building to suggest the BP spill is playing a role.

Both oil and chemical dispersants could have upset the food web enough to prevent pregnant mothers from building up enough blubber to carry healthy young and insulate them from the cold.

"Worthy says 153 bottlenose dolphins have washed up on Gulf coasts since January, including 65 newborn, infants, stillborn or those born prematurely."

Full article here (al.com)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hands Across the Sand 2011 Summary

It's been a few days since the 25th when people around the world joined hands in unity against offshore oil drilling, and to be honest I needed to not think about it for a few days.

This year was decidedly less spectacular than last. No doubt the lack of an environmental disaster this spring meant people easily forgot that this was an annual event.

Three people showed up in London - far less than I was expecting given the amount of effort I put into promoting it, the early press we got and the promises from other people saying they would be there. Was I disappointed? Well, yes. How could I not be? But do I regret doing it? Absolutely not. I did my best, and I would regret it more if no one did anything this year in London.

Forty US states and eighteen countries participated this year - a noticeable drop from last year following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the cause is still strong. This year in London we talked about what had been done since the spill, and what new information had come out. It's difficult because we're still researching, measuring and analyzing the effects of the spill and we don't really have a good understanding of the environmental implications just yet. We also discussed BP's shady tactics of buying out a number of researchers in the Gulf last summer...We won't be hearing from them for several years still.

I'd like to think this is a lull in the feelings of the people while we are still sorting out this mess, and when new information revealing the true amount of damage is brought forward, there will be more people with outreached hands drawing lines in the sand.

On a personal note, this was the first environmental event I've planned entirely by myself, and it was harder than I expected. Lessons were learned and I have some experience and ideas for the next event...which I'll be mentioning soon!

I'll leave you with our tiny but happy Hands Across the Sand demonstration this year in St James's Park, London:

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hands Across the Sand 2011 Final Call


TOMORROW Hands Across the Sand comes to a beach (or public area) near YOU. JOIN HANDS if you think it's time to say NO to offshore oil drilling & dirty fossil fuels and YES to clean energy & a sustainable future!

Join me in London at noon and give 15 minutes of your weekend to the planet we all call home.

Find us on:
Hands Across the Sand
Global Ocean

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

World's Oceans in 'Shocking' Decline - BBC

image credit Getty Images

Well I've been real busy, but if the BBC has time to smack this on their front page, I guess I do too.

Bad news for our seas and marine life:
"The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists. In a new report, they warn that ocean life is 'at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.'"

The contributing factors? Climate change, pollution and overfishing - to name a few.

"We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years."

Hundreds? Shit. That is bad.

The truly troubling part is that individual marine stressors such as agriculture runoff and ocean acidification are "working together" in their damaging effects on the marine ecosystem.

The panel of scientists was brought together by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), who made the following suggestions to avoid a marine species mass extinction event:

• "Stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
• Mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
• Making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions."

Full article here (BBC)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Hands Across the Sand 2011 Update

image credit Hands Across the Sand

Your local Hands Across the Sand event is happening a week from tomorrow! Get excited!!! (I know I am.)

To find your local event, check the map at the official Hands Across the Sand website, or register your own if there's not one close by! It's not too late!!

If you happen to be in the London area, come on down and join me at St James's Park for a fun, fast & free way to help save the environment and move towards a cleaner energy future. Check us out on Facebook, Gumtree or the official Hands Across the Sand site under "Global Locations". I promise it will be a good time!

Rain or shine, folks. No harm in getting a little wet while protecting our seas.

All welcome. Even YOU. :)

And now, I am please to bring to your attention, a lovely article which contains an interview about our event this year. I'm very happy people are taking notice of this! Click below!

Digital Journal via Alexander Baron, Op-Ed: Hands Across the Sand - To Save the Planet

I'd also like to thank London Against Cetacean Slaughter and Global Ocean for helping to promote this event. Keep fighting the good fight, guys!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Let's Talk Dolphin! - The Guardian

photo credit Stephen Frink, Getty Images & Science Faction

"It started out as the dream of a maverick 60s scientist, but new experiments mean we may soon be able to converse with dolphins."

Don't get your hopes up, kids - but I think it's now widely accepted that dolphins do communicate in one form or another.

This short article from The Guardian introduces a study that is to be commenced later this year attempting to introduce dolphins to human words in their own language of clicks and whistles.

"Later this year, divers will slip into the waters off the coast of Florida wearing a newfangled device that can listen and respond to wild dolphins by producing its own noises for words such as "seaweed". If the dolphins pick up the new language, the next step just might approach a rudimentary conversation."


Full article here (The Guardian)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A Birthday Wish

Hey everyone,

My birthday is on Monday and I'm trying to raise $100 for the Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration. If you love marine biology, the beach, or the environment (or me!) and you're feeling generous, please consider making a small donation to this cause!

Click here! Thank you!! :)

photo credit Cathy Hennessy

Thank you to all my friends who helped me reach my goal of $100 for the Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration!! Couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Whales Throng New York City Area, Surprising Scientists (National Geographic)

photo credit Flip Nicklin & National Geographic

The Big Apple attracts some big attention - and some even bigger whales, apparently!

"It turns out a lot of big whales have a taste for the Big Apple area, including the 100-foot (30-meter) blue whale, the largest animal on Earth, scientists say."

Honestly, this is the worst spring ever for me to be away from home...Hundreds of right whales in Massachusetts, blue whales in New York...what the hell guys. What the hell.

Wait for meeeeee... :(

Anyway, a series of underwater sound recorders was placed along the southern coast of Long Island and into New York Harbor in 2008 and 2009 to study the types and amount of human-made noise underwater and how it affects whales. The songs of at least six different species of whales were heard around the Empire State!

Aaron Rice, science director of the bioacoustics lab, was surprised at the "juxtaposition of having such large charismatic animals that represent ocean biodiversity living right off of the largest city on the Atlantic coast."

I agree!

Full article here (National Geographic)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Personal Update

Hey all - just a quick update about yours truly. :)

This blog has been neglected a bit recently...so let me tell you why! PS- It's relevant.

SO, first of all, I've been distracted by a bit of a project which you will (hopefully) see soon! More on that when it's actually posted.

Second, I've been distracted by a bit of a project. Wait - did I say that? Oh yeah, there's TWO! This one you can know about right now though, and you can even be a part of it if you'll be in lovely lovely London next month!

Yep, it's time to start planning for the annual Hands Across the Sand event! And this year, the London even is being organised by...ME!! So it's gonna be super-fun, right? Right.

So hey, if you'll be in London on the 25th of June, come join hands with us in the beautiful St James's Park (my personal favourite) across the Blue Bridge to say NO to offshore oil drilling and fossil fuels and YES to clean energy! Check out the event on Facebook here! All welcome! Seriously, like everybody. More information to follow on this blog, in the group and on Twitter.

It would be great to see as many of you as possible. :) I promise it will be fun and not weird. I'm actually pretty cool in person. *coughcough*drinksafter?*cough*
Our event is listed on the Hands Across the Sand international map, so check it out and let me know what you think or if you have any ideas.

Thirdly, I'm very pleased to say I've been taken aboard at Global Ocean - a London based marine conservation charity that does great work to raise awareness about the effects of modern life on the seas and funds crucially important marine conservation and research projects. You can check them out (and please do) here. The website is currently being re-launched into an amazing new layout, so keep these guys bookmarked. I'm sure I'll be posting more bits from them in the future.

So there you have it! I'm truly sorry about the neglect, but take heart in knowing I've still been spending my spare time on marine biology, conservation and environmental issues. You'll see more of me around now. Thanks for sticking by me in my chaos - I love you all!

The Unemployed Marine Biologist xoxo

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Endangered Whales Gather in Unprecedented Numbers - CNN

photo credit NOAA

I was jumping out of my skin when I read about this!! I'm very jealous...I'd give a lot of things to be there and see this.

Over 100 Northern right whales have been observed off of Cape Cod Bay recently - the largest congregation ever recorded. Considering there's only about 450 of these animals left in the entire world...that's a pretty big chunk of the population.

They're been attracted by the unusually large and long-lasting plankton bloom that's happening this spring. The whales feed mainly on copepods - tiny oil-rich crustaceans suspended in the water column.

Their presence is exciting, but right whales are vulnerable to ship strikes, and having so many concentrated in one area ups the risk. However, Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Division, happily reports that no whales have thus far been struck.

Full article here (CNN)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

One Year Ago - What has Happened since the Gulf Oil Disaster?

photo credit The Associated Press

It's been a busy week. The numerous religious holidays are upon us, but besides that we've had both Earth Day and the one-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. But don't worry - it hasn't gone unnoticed. So for our dear Mother Earth, let's have a look at what exactly is happening one year after the blowout that led to the greatest environmental disaster in US history.

"As the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill approaches, some scientists have deemed the health of the Gulf of Mexico as 'nearly back to normal,' though countless workers involved in cleaning up the aftermath of the disaster are reporting mysterious and unexplained illnesses."

The people employed by BP and related agencies to clean up the mess in the Gulf have been consistently reporting symptoms such as severe headaches, nausea, respiratory infections, trouble breathing, dizziness, constant cough, rashes and other ailments. Although BP will be quick to tell you there is no definite correlation between these symptoms and working at the cleanup sites - the trend is clear. People are sick.

"During the hot summer cleanup last summer, Andre [a cleanup responder] says planes would fly overhead spraying chemical dispersants that would drift over the workers, burning people’s skin and making it hard to breathe. Andre says he watched workers collapse from exposure to toxic fumes of the oil. Soon, Andre says he succumbed himself and spent days in the hospital with 'tubes and IV coming out of everyplace in my body.'"

To add insult to injury (literally), when Andre tried to ring BP about the $21,000 in medical costs they agreed to pay for, he found the line had been disconnected.

So where does BP stand on its response program? Ask Ken Feinberg, the man put in charge of dolling out the $20 billion set aside for claims against BP:

"The program is working in terms of money going out the door. We're spent! We're paid out! In the last seven months we're approaching $4 billion, including about $1.7 billion for Louisiana."

The people of Louisiana and other Gulf states, however, are not as satisfied. In a meeting with Mr. Feinberg himself, several voices stood out among the crowd:

"You know, Tony Hayward waned his life back, but everybody in this building wants their life back...You say you've paid so many people in Lafourche [Louisiana]? I don't know one of them."

"What about the people, myself included, that's lost everything that they had? Everything that they've worked for, everything that they took pride in? And you can't get no help from nobody, because there is none. Because ya'll tell everybody that everything's fine in the Gulf of Mexico. Don't worry about nothin'. Everything's gonna be back to normal...When in fact, you're sitting there lying to our faces."

"We had the best
[shrimp] product in the world - Now we're known as an oil product!"

And talks of expanding offshore drilling are on the rise! Can you believe it?!

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters "Some of the members of Congress are acting as though the Deepwater Horizon well oil spill never happened."

Says David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, "In the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989, lawmakers passed sweeping new laws raising the financial liability of oil companies, expanding cleanup demands and improving the strength of tanker hulls. This time, they’ve done nothing."

So the effects on the human population of the Gulf of Mexico are pretty clear...but are similar things happening to the marine life? The truth is, science doesn't know - and probably won't know for some time - but the people of the Gulf have their own observations.

"This is Dead...This is Dead...This is Dead..." says Nick Collins as he sorts through his oyster catches. "It's the biggest oyster kill in Louisiana history, probably in the Gulf Coast's history...And I wish I wasn't part of it, I wish I wasn't here."

Dead dolphins and turtles have been washing up on the shores in record numbers. Patches of seabed are smothered and dead. Oil continues to wash ashore. And yet it's been difficult to find data on the long-term effects and environmental impacts. LaTosha Brown, Director of the Gulf Coast Fund, describes it as "The Great Gulf-Coast Experiment" - and she's not half wrong.

So what needs to happen that hasn't happened yet?

"First of all, there has to be an acknowledgement that there hasn't been of the severity of the damage to the ecosystems and to the communities that rely on these ecosystems. Then, number two, if that happens, there has to be meaningful, sustained and community-informed response or decision-making about restoring - to the full extent of that impact - what needs to be done. And neither of those two mandates have been met or are really well on their way to being met," says Derrick Evans, Director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives.

There is still oil in the Gulf. The disaster isn't over. We're beginning to get a clear idea of what is happening to the human life of the area, but it may still take years to understand the full environmental impacts. Don't let a few news articles or commercials tell you everything in the Gulf of Mexico is "back to normal." We are still fighting this battle. The residents are still fighting this battle. The marine life will continue to fight this battle for a very, very long time. Everything is not okay in the Gulf. A year on, and we've still got a hell of a lot of work to do.

More information & articles:
BBC World Service Assignment: Louisiana Deepwater - BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Report Mysterious Illnesses Year After Disaster - Huffington Post
A Year after the BP Spill, Drilling Discussion on the Rise - Miami Herald
Gulf Tides 12: One Year Later - BP Drilling Disaster - April 20, 2011 - Gulf Restoration Network

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gulf Oil Spill v2.0

photo credit Jerry Moran

And we're back! Blog News on the sidebar for more.

So what happened in the meantime? Well, I'm sure you've all heard by now about the second Gulf oil spill. It's just kind of amazing...the things that go on in this world...

For those late to the party, here's a rundown:

Slicks were sighted via helicopter on 18 March around the same area as the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling site. There were multiple reports of slicks about 100 miles long. It was confirmed on 20 March that the oil was not coming from the Deepwater Horizon site.

"State agents traced back the oil to an Anglo-Suisse well about 30 miles southeast of Grand Isle that had been plugged for permanent abandonment. It's not clear how much oil leaked from the well, but it's surely more than the 5 gallons Anglo-Suisse originally told the Coast Guard had leaked."

According to Anglo-Suisse, the leak has been plugged. However, evidence suggested that oil continued to flow days later.

New oil has been found on Louisiana shores, and cleanup crews still working almost a full year later on the BP spill now have an added burden.

Full articles here:
Oil Spill Reported Near Deepwater Drilling Site in Gulf - Huffington Post
A New Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico—and Insight into the Causes of the Old Spill - Time

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Oil-Spill Investigators: 'This was an Entirely Preventable Disaster' - Daily Comet

photo credit USCG

Just the headline breaks my heart.

Deep down I think we all knew it, but now it's proven. We could have avoided this. All of the death of marine life and all of the hardships of the people of the Gulf coast were avoidable.

"BP failed to keep a close watch on work done by the cement contractor at its doomed Macondo oil well, even though an audit had spotlighted problems with the firm, Halliburton Co., three years before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to the presidential oil spill commission."

The "root technical cause" of the BP blowout last April was found to be a "failure of the cement that BP and Halliburton pumped to the bottom of the well."

"The commission previously documented concerns about the stability of the nitrogen-injected foam cement used to seal the Macondo well before BP temporarily stopped work at the site.
[Well sites are first drilled, then temporarily stopped in order to attach rigs.] A faulty cement job could allow channels or vulnerabilities for natural gas and oil to escape a well during the time between when it is drilled and when it is later hooked up to a production facility.

In 2007, BP commissioned an audit of Halliburton's work on a separate project that concluded the contractor's cement foam slurry had a tendency to become unstable.

'BP's own cementing expert described the "typical Halliburton profile" as "operationally competent and just good enough technically to get by,"' the report said."

Halliburton has not yet accepted the investigation's results.

Halliburton isn't the only one to blame, however. Accountability was spread across all companies involved including BP and Transocean. A combined lack of attention to warning signs, faulty equipment and poor communication caused this terrible disaster - all of which were entirely preventable.

Full article here (Daily Comet)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Shark Fin, Sea Cucumber Exports Banned in Marshalls - Marianas Variety

That would be me and a sea cucumber

The Marshall Islands in Micronesia have been experiencing a rise in their illegal shark and sea cucumber fisheries. Concerned about overfishing, species depletion and illegal exporting, Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph has announced a moratorium on all trade and export of both sharks and sea cucumbers, and their products.

“No one is registered and authorized to fish for sharks, but there are substantive reports that it is happening,” he said.

The same situation appears to be happening with sea cucumbers.

“'Any company involved is required to register and get authorization from the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority to export sea cucumbers,' Joseph said.”

The issue for the sea cucumbers of the Marshall Islands is that there are currently no regulations in place for harvesting.

“'So MIMRA has instituted a moratorium on sea cucumber trade until we develop a management plan,' Joseph said.”

Sea cucumbers are often sold in Asian countries as traditional medicine for all kinds of circumstances from pail alleviation to aphrodisiacs. Whether these treatments actually work or not is debatable.

Full article here (Marianas Variety)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

U.S. Gulf Coast Dolphin Death Toll Rises - Reuters

I haven't written about the spill in a while. Partially because I've been away, and partially because the reporters have been too. It's been almost a year now, and the spill has effectively slid back in the news and is not receiving nearly as much attention as it used to. Of course we all saw this coming, but it's been especially hard to find articles about the science of the spill rather than the business. Besides, Justin Bieber got a new haircut...who CARES about the Gulf Coast?


Dolphins have been dying in large numbers in the Gulf. The remains of 59 dolphins have been recovered from beaches along the coast...and that's not the most heartbreaking part of it. Half of them are babies.

This is about 12 times the normal number of dolphin deaths for this time of year.

"Although none of the carcasses bore outward signs of oil contamination, all were being examined as possible casualties of petrochemicals that fouled the Gulf of Mexico after a BP drilling platform exploded in April 2010, rupturing a wellhead on the sea floor, officials said."

I did read something not so long ago...I believe it was in Leviathan or, The Whale by Philip Hoare (which is a great book by the way), though I can't be sure. Studies have shown that the contamination in adult bottlenosed dolphins along the American coast are so high that most females will lose their first calf due to their own toxicity. Perhaps with the additional contamination the BP oil spill has caused in the Gulf, this statistic is rising even higher? What if no females can give birth to healthy calves this year...then what?

At least 29 of the dead dolphins have been positively identified as bottlenose dolphins.

"The latest wave follows an earlier tally of 89 dead dolphins - virtually all of them adults - reported to have washed ashore in 2010 after the Gulf oil spill.

Results from an examination of those remains, conducted as part of the government's oil spill damage assessment, have not been released, though scientists concluded those dolphins 'died from something environmental during the last year,'"
said Blair Mase, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spokeswoman.

I think it's pretty obvious what they're suggesting.

Full article here (Reuters)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Fishing Skippers admit £3 Million ‘Black Fish’ Scam at High Court - The Shetland Times

Illegal fishing is becoming more and more of a problem as stocks continue to decline. Most cases unfortunately slip by unnoticed by authorities, but this one...This one was big.

A massive scam has been pulled by fishermen in order to cheat the fishing quota restrictions set by the European Union. A £14 million discrepancy between declared landings and total earnings has been found at Shetland Catch Ltd. Yesterday, three more fishermen confessed to illegally landing mackerel and herring at an estimated value of £3 million.

"They hid the true quantity of their catch from the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) and landed in excess of their agreed quota of mackerel and herring."

"The court was told that the boats did not even have to land their catch at [Lerwick] harbour. A supply pipe took the fish straight from the hold into the Shetland Catch factory."

An investigation into the scam found that in some of the landings, the amount of illegal undeclared fish actually exceeded the amount of declared fish. Illegal fish comprised up to 42% of total landings.

When I think about the amount of fish that is, it just disgusts me. These people have no regards to the environment, sustainable fishing, other fishermen and the population of both fish and people that depend on them. It is truly a sad case.

The prosecuting advocate depute added that as a result of this gross overfishing, the United Kingdom "had effectively exceeded its fish quota for herring and mackerel." In other words, they ruined it for everybody. Thanks, assholes.

If this doesn't get you livid enough, check out this post that shows another side of illegal fishing - dumping of "cheap" species to make room for fish with a higher payout.

I hope karma rips these guys a new one.

Full article here (The Shetland Times)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Three Mexican Fishing Boats Seized by Coast Guard - KRGV

Before we get into this...I have a confession to make.
I've been cheating on this blog with another one. Two, actually. Yes - I have two other blogs. But you'll have to find them yourself. :P

Also, in addition to the champagne accident now SIX weeks ago (which still hasn't been repaired...), the happy addition of bleach was added to my laptop. And a few missing keys as emergency surgery. So, yeah. I don't have a lot to work with here. Normally I'd write this all in the "Blog News" sidebar, but I feel the need to explain my on-and-off absences.


Good news from the US Coast Guard. They've seized three Mexican ships fishing endangered species in United States waters! The article doesn't go into much detail, but it's worth noting that the bad guys don't always get away!

Good work, USCG.

Full article here (KRGV)

Monday, 14 February 2011

A Special Valentine's Message!

Hey all!

Happy Valentine's Day! Spread the love, but don't forget to love our oceans!!


New Pressure on Iceland over Whaling - FishUpdate

Conservation groups in the US are mad. They'd like to remind Iceland that it is in violation of the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreement that bans commercial whaling, and the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which bans international commercial trade in whale parts and products.

Around 19 different conservation and animal welfare groups which represent millions of citizens are calling on US government secretaries Gary Locke and Ken Salazar to invoke the Pelly Amendment, which "authorises the president to impose trade sanctions against another country for 'diminishing the effectiveness' of conservation agreements."

This would be bad news for Iceland, which exports large quantities of cod and haddock to the United States. Icelandic fisheries are directly tied into the whaling industry, with many fishermen fishing during one season, and whaling during the off season.

"According to reports, the conservation and welfare groups have identified specific Icelandic companies as potential targets for trade sanctions; these include major seafood industry players that are directly tied to Iceland’s whaling industry."

On a semi-related note, Iceland is currently in the process of applying to the European Union, in which whaling is illegal. Will the seafaring nation of Iceland finally leave this scandalous piece of history behind?

Full article here (FishUpdate)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Sharks Up Close: 'Shark Shepherd' Jim Abernethy Photographs the Fearsome Predators - The Telegraph

I'm totally on a shark kick. It's hard not to be. Sharks are awesome.

photo credit Jim Abernethy & Barcroft

These are the best photos of sharks I've ever seen, so you should definitely check them out. Jim Abernethy has spent the past 35 years in the company of sharks and even has personal relationships with certain individuals.

If you like what you see, check out his book of photographs Sharks Up Close. He even has a flying boat to take aerial photos! It's called the Oversear...get it? I thought that was wicked clever.

Valentine's Day is coming up, so if I've got a secret admirer out there...you could get me Mr. Abernethy's book. :P

Full article here (The Telegraph)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sharks in Chinatown

Hi all.

The demonstration last Thursday in Chinatown was a great success!

photo credit EcoHustler

I was excited before I even got there. I had read an article the day before we even went over about restaurants that were already pulling shark fin soup from their menus, fearing the bad PR it would bring them.

"'We’ve taken it off the menu,' says Yip-Cheong Wong, manager at the Golden Dragon, pointing to a sticker plastered across the soup section: 'Save the shark: This item is no longer available.'"

And other restaurants have followed suit, how exciting!

Personally, I was a bit worried about going into a cultural center on a big holiday and offending people who value their traditions. I've mentioned here before I don't think aggressive confrontation is always the best way about things. However, I did like the way the EcoHustler blog put it:

"The trouble is, eating shark fin is a cultural phenomenon so you have two choices: be politically correct and look the other way or strap a pair on and have a conversation with the people who like to eat it."

The people of Chinatown seemed genuinely concerned about the shark populations and many of them were very opposed to shark fin soup and the practice of shark finning. It was a very friendly afternoon and we reached a lot of people.

So what did we do?

Well, Matt over at EcoHustler created some nice leaflets (available for download and distribution) for the event with information about the decline of shark populations and a few suggestions for people to take action. Having never handed out leaflets before, I was honestly surprised at how many people took and read them. I always just assumed that no one ever took those things, ha! We also had a lovely shark-person in participation:

photo credit EcoHustler

And shark cookies!

om nom nom
photos are my own

We teamed up with Global Ocean, who is preparing a petition to end shark finning in the European Union. Please take a moment to sign it here. There is only one week left before it must be delivered!!

Conversations worth mentioning were with a restaurateur who owns a chain of Chinese restaurants and was concerned about the image shark fin soup gives establishments who continue to sell it, and a woman raised in China who has known shark fin soup all her life but remains shocked and horrified at the practice of finning and doesn't understand why anyone actually supports it.

All in all, a great day with great people.

Missed the event? No worries. Stay tuned here for future rallies and things you can do on your own. Why not start by refusing to buy from restaurants who continue to serve shark on the menu, and by signing the Global Ocean petition?

Additional Information:
Shark’s Fin Comes Off Menu as Cruelty Campaign Sways U.K. Chefs - Bloomberg
(*Worth noting in this article, Royal China claims to have removed all shark products from their restaurants, but investigation by EcoHustler proves otherwise. It is important to note that many of these restaurants will serve it off the menu as to not attract negative attention)
Check out EcoHustler's summary of the event here; "We Joined the SharkSide!"
Save Our Sharks leaflets for download
Global Ocean
Global Ocean's petition to ban shark finning in the European Union

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Say No to Shark Fin Soup on Chinese New Year

photo credit Shawn Heinrichs

Chinese New Year is Thursday, and celebrations will be happening all week long. While I'm all for dancing dragons, beautiful paper lanterns, fireworks and a shit-ton of rice, one Chinese tradition I will not be enjoying is shark fin soup.

Shark fin soup has been described as "bland" and "gelatinous." Not exactly something appealing. Yet, as a status symbol, it has been gaining popularity for quite some time as the middle class economy in China has grown.

The practice of finning is gruesome and wasteful beyond a doubt. Live sharks of every species are caught and their fins are cut off while the animals are still alive. Only the fins are saved - the rest of the shark is thrown back into the sea. Unable to swim with their fins now removed, the sharks sink to the bottom and die a slow death, often eaten alive by scavengers or smaller fish. Additionally, many shark species need to swim in order to push oxygenated water over their gills to breathe. Without the ability to swim, the sharks slowly suffocate on the ocean floor.

It was recently announced by the Pew Environment Group and a wildlife trade monitoring network called Traffic that the ten-year shark conservation plan set by shark fishing nations has failed. Agreed upon in 2001, recommendations included "identifying and protecting key habitat, ensuring catches are sustainable, and minimising waste and discards."

Of the top 20 shark fishing nations - which account for 80% of the worldwide catch (~100 million animals per year) - only 13 currently have national plans outlined.

"'The fate of the world's sharks is in the hands of the top 20 shark catchers, most of which have failed to demonstrate what, if anything, they are doing to save these imperiled species,' said Glenn Sant, leader of Traffic's global marine programme."

Due to the increase in negative publicity, and the knowledge spreading that shark fin soup is no longer a sustainable dish, many restaurants have been taking positive measures and removing it from their menus.

Says Bernard Ng, Imperial City restaurant manager in London: "Times are changing and this once popular dish has become less fashionable in recent years...I think it's a positive decision that sets us apart from other Chinese restaurants."

But what can you and I do about it?

Well, for starters, don't buy shark fin soup! Don't ask for it, don't order it, don't go to restaurants and events that offer it...Reduce the demand! You are in control of what you support, so make a conscious effort not to support this unsustainable dish.

If you're on Facebook, I highly recommend looking up The Global Shark Initiative. They're a great organisation that offers lots of information and opportunities to take action on behalf of sharks - simple things we all can do to make a difference, like writing letters or sharing information via links. Save our Sharks from a Bowl of Soup is a similar group.

If you happen to be in London, let's go on a date! There will be a gathering of awesome environmentally-minded people in Chinatown this week, organised by EcoHustler:

"On Thursday 03 February people from many walks of life will come together in London’s Chinatown to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese New Year, and also to show their support for local efforts to take shark fin off the menu. The global trade in shark fin is pushing these ancient and awesome creatures to the brink of extinction. Sharks are apex predators, so when they are taken out, ecosystems are pushed out of balance with devastating knock-on effects. It is estimated by scientists that 90% of the global shark population has already been wiped out.

Sales of shark fin traditionally reach their peak at Chinese New Year. By visiting Chinatown on that day with flyers detailing the extent of the problem, with a positive message sustainability, we hope to change attitudes for the better, and persuade consumers to change their dining habits to protect our oceans.

You are invited to join this loose alliance of marine conservation groups, environmentalists, scientists, students and other concerned citizens to make a stand for sharks."

The more, the merrier. :)

image credit The Global Shark Initiative & Din

More information:
Shark Nations Failing on Conservation Pledges - BBC
Shark Fin Soup off Menu at Chinese Restaurants - The Evening Standard
The Global Shark Initiative - Facebook
Save our Sharks from a Bowl of Soup - Facebook
More on EcoHustler's London Gathering