The government tries to preserve a fecund part of the coral triangle
ALILA TIMUR, ALOR ISLANDS
HE LEARNED to fish the turquoise-coloured seas of the Alor archipelago in eastern Indonesia from his father. But it is not a vocation Samsul Osman wants for his own four children. He says that these days traditional fishermen like himself must paddle their outrigger canoes far out to sea for a catch of skipjack tuna that sells for about 60,000 rupiah (about $5). Sometimes his family goes hungry. The other fishermen sitting cross-legged on the white sand at Alila Timur, where traders come to buy tuna to sell at the markets of Kalabahi, the islands’ sleepy capital, nod their heads. Fish stocks are dwindling.
Alor is at the centre of the “coral triangle”, 6m square kilometres of the most biodiverse oceans on earth. These waters contain two-thirds of the world’s coral species, and twice the number of species of reef fish found anywhere else (more than 3,000). New species are still being discovered by scientists in Indonesia, such as, recently, Hemiscyllium Halmahera, a “walking” shark. But climate change and warming oceans, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, along with pollution from coastal communities and industries, threaten the fragile ecosystems that support underwater life, as well as millions of traditional
fishermen like Mr Osman.
Yet, besides the huge intrinsic value of the oceans to the planet, there is a compelling economic case for conserving them. Indonesia’s seas are vitally important for its own food security, and for the livelihoods of the 60m people that live close to its 95,000km (59,000-mile) coastline. Indonesia’s fisheries ministry wants to boost fish production to 20m tonnes in 2014, an increase of 14% over 2013. Fisheries exports, mostly to America, Asia and Europe, are a growing source of foreign exchange, worth $3.9 billion in 2012.
Such commercial pressures mean that simply telling governments to restrict fishing does not work. According to Lida Pet-Soede of the WWF, a conservation NGO, governments are more susceptible to the economic case for conservation: that fisheries will be sustainable only if big parts of the ocean are protected. And some do seem to be listening. In 2007 Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, asked the leaders of the five other coral-triangle countries (Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) to join a regional conservation initiative. Two years later they agreed on an “action plan” to manage their resources by, among other things, establishing marine protected areas (MPAs). The initiative has financial support from the American and Australian governments and from multilateral donors, such as the Asian Development Bank
So far Indonesia itself has established MPAs covering some 16m hectares (see map). By 2020 it plans to increase protected areas to 20m hectares, or about 10% of its total waters, covering a range of coastal and marine ecosystems, from deep waters and coral reefs to the mangroves and seagrasses where fish spawn. This is only a small step towards the 30% of the world’s oceans that scientists say must be protected to forestall a collapse in fisheries. But the protection of even 10% of Indonesia’s waters would be a big achievement.
The trouble is that Indonesia’s MPAs often seem to exist only on paper. A recent study by the World Resources Institute, a think-tank in Washington, rated only three of Indonesia’s 170-odd MPAs as “effective”. Sometimes the designs are flawed, with too few restrictions on fisheries. But more often the rules are flouted.
Moreover, the problems with Indonesia’s MPAs frequently originate far inland. Widespread deforestation of watersheds, for example, has increased the run-off of sediments and nutrients that impede coral growth by suffocating reefs or making them overgrown with algae. Sickly, stunted reefs are more vulnerable to ocean acidification and coral “bleaching” linked to carbon emissions and global warming.
Alor unto itself
Simeon Thobias Pally, Alor’s elected leader, approved a 400,083-hectare MPA in 2009. Sites are set aside as “no-take” zones so that fish can reproduce and their numbers recover. But frequent changes in personnel and turf wars between the national and local governments, as well as between the fisheries and forestry ministries, have all hampered implementation. Rahmin Amahala, the head of fisheries in Alor, hopes that the formal launch of the MPA, which has long been stalled, will mean more resources, which are sorely needed. At present the coastal police force has only two speedboats—and one of them is broken. Without patrols, it is impossible to catch the fishermen who are responsible for the illegal blast-fishing that has razed many of the islands’ coral reefs, let alone to enforce rules on sea zoning and fishing gear.
As the traders at Alila Timur cart off buckets brimming with freshly caught tuna, Mr Osman and his fellow fishermen are venting their frustration. They say they are grateful for the fish here, and understand that fish must reproduce so that stocks are replenished. But it is becoming harder to make a living as more boats arrive from already denuded waters to the west. “We cannot hide our anger any longer,” says one.
Who could forget, back in 2009, the launch of the "Best Job in the World"?
The campaign by Tourism Queensland generated global interest in the Sunshine State and the role of park ranger and "caretaker" of Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. Ben Southall was the inaugural winner, a Brit by birth and native of Hampshire, he beat 35,000 applicants for the coveted role.
Ben spent a year promoting the wonders of Queensland. In the first four days, he visited the pristine Whitehaven Beach, stopped for lunch at Hayman Island, went on a tour of the Coral Sea and Daydream Island and ended up at the Seaworld adventure park and a game of Aussie Rules (Richmond vs Adelaide - Go Crows!).
Four days into his year-long stint in the Best Job in the World, Ben said: "My stay on the Gold Coast has been nothing short of spectacular; there really is something for everybody."
Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world's largest coal ports.
The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
To give you an idea of the scale of this dredging, if all of the spoil was put into dump trucks, there would be 150,000 of them lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne.
This expansion is further proof that the Abbott government is hell-bent on turning Australia into a reckless charco-state that solely represents the interests of fossil fuel and coal companies.
Just around the corner from the port is a beach that is the nesting place for endangered green and flat back turtles. Fun facts about the flat back turtle: they're officially classified as "vulnerable" by the Australian Government, and nest only in northern Australia. They have the smallest migratory range of any marine turtle, so when their home in Queensland is destroyed, they've really got nowhere else to go.
Also in the spoil-dumping area are sea-grass beds, which are the home to dugongs. The "sea cows" may not be the sexiest of marine animals, but they are at risk of extinction, and most of the world's remaining population lives in the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the reasons that the Reef has World Heritage listing.
An independent government report from August this year found that dredging sediment travelled a lot further than previously thought. The risks include sediment being disturbed by severe weather. Even a cursory look at Queensland's weather patterns near the Reef over the past decade would show that severe weather, including tropical cyclones and flooding, is a regular occurrence, even if you disregard massively destructive events like Cyclone Yasi.
The Great Barrier Reef generated around 69,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and boosted our economy by 5.68 billion in 2011/12, according to recent research. Most of this is through tourism and reef-dependent industries like fishing.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has mischievously claimed that "Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have been placed on these projects". This is mischievous because, obviously, massively increasing coal exports at this time will do irreparable damage to our climate.
Worryingly, Greg Hunt's briefing and decision, released on the 11th of December, is based on the assurance of the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, the state-owned corporation that owns the project, that "the project area (dredging area) is not a notable or significant biodiversity site in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area" and "the potential impact area in the dumping ground (which is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park) is considerably small". The brief also says that the "habitats were recorded to recover from similar events".
You are obviously free to come to your own views about Hunt's strange cognitive dissonance, where on the one hand there are the "strictest conditions" on the dredging, but on the other hand the "dredging area is not a notable... site" in the Reef. Perhaps someone could leave a comment that explains why Hunt has required strict conditions if the area is not a significant site.
Unless of course, Hunt is simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes. You be the judge.
The very real problems are not just the vast and untold damage that dredging will do to the Great Barrier Reef, or the risk of damage to the reef by the substantial increase in shipping through the World Heritage Area.
The Abbot Point development has been green-lit to funnel vast amounts of coal out of Australia. The coal ports currently proposed, including Abbot Point and new coal terminals proposed at Wiggins Island, Raglan Creek, Balaclava Island, Dudgeon Point, and Cape York, would increase total coal tonnage by more than six-fold, from 156 Mt in 2011 to a capacity of 944 Mt by the end of the decade.
Australia's coal is one of the globe's fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott's government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.
Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.
Por Agencia EFE
Bogotá - El Gobierno colombiano declaró como reserva natural una zona de 26,232 hectáreas de playas caribeñas que tiene el departamento del Chocó (noroeste) con el objetivo de proteger a dos especies de tortugas gigantes en vía de extinción, informó hoy el Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible.
Al área protegida pertenecen los sectores de santuario de fauna en Acandí, Playón y Playona, en Chocó, donde desovan las tortugas de las especies Carey y Caná (tinglar), esta última considerada como la más grande tortugas marinas del mundo y ambas en vía de extinción.
Según el Ministerio, "el santuario se constituye en un área estratégica de conectividad para el ciclo de vida" de esos quelonios.
Además, el área marina protegida permitirá la consolidación de la pesca artesanal, toda vez que en la zona hay más de 80 especies de peces y varias de camarón.
Igualmente, la medida restringe la pesca industrial en 26,000 hectáreas de mar, incluidos los 12 kilómetros de Playona y dos que conforman Playón.
Las autoridades también pretenden disminuir la tala de bosque nativo, refugio natural de monos aulladores, titíes, algunas especies de lagartos y varios tipos de aves, detalló el ministerio.
Las Carey y las Caná (tinglar) son tortugas migratorias y los esfuerzos de conservación en Chocó tendrán repercusión en todo el Caribe, si se tiene en cuenta que estudios de marcaje y recaptura demuestran que algunas de las hembras encontradas en Colombia pasan parte de su tiempo en Costa Rica y México.
Las comunidades de la zona han encontrado en esas tortugas un símbolo de la región y las han convertido en patrimonio cultural, turístico y ecológico, según las autoridades.
Desde 1993 se han llevado a cabo jornadas de protección de esa especie, sobre todo en Semana Santa, pues los huevos y la carne de las tortugas eran consumidas a gran escala.
Con la declaración del Gobierno colombiano, el Sistema Parques Nacionales Naturales aumentó su superficie total a 14.2 millones de hectáreas, 1.3 millones de las cuales corresponden a zonas costeras (10 áreas protegidas, 1.4% del país), mientras que 12.8 millones de hectáreas están en territorio continental (48 áreas protegidas, el 11.2% del país).
Las autoridades de Colombia dijeron estar contribuyendo con los compromisos adquiridos en el Convenio de Diversidad Biológica, que prevé que para 2020 al menos el 17% de las zonas terrestres y de aguas continentales y el 12% de las zonas marinas y costeras se conserven.
The health of coral reefs offshore depend on the protection of forests near the sea, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society that outlines the importance of terrestrial protected areas to coastal biodiversity.
In a study conducted by WCS and the University of Queensland evaluating the effects of terrestrial protected area designs on Fiji's coral reefs, it turns out that what's best for land ecosystems is also best for coastal corals.
The study appears in the online edition of Marine Policy. The authors are: Carissa Klein of the University of Queensland; Stacy Jupiter of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Matthew Watts and Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland.
"When designing terrestrial protected areas, the key is to consider not only how much they benefit terrestrial biodiversity but also how much they benefit coral reef ecosystems," said lead author Dr. Carissa Klein. "Thinking about the connections between the land and sea is rarely done when designing protected areas – Fiji is leading the way globally."
Most managers realize how downstream ecosystems such as coral reefs can be negatively affected by land-based activities that cause increases in runoff and associated sediments, nutrients, and chemicals. Yet, there have been very few on-the-ground cases where protected area networks have been designed using truly integrated planning to minimize such external threats.
This matters in small island developing states like Fiji, where selection of the locations of terrestrial protected areas have been mostly ad hoc, and based more on the cultural or timber value of forests than on any desire to protect biodiversity. Fiji's current terrestrial protected areas, which cover less than 3 percent of land area in the country, neither adequately protect Fiji's sensitive island habitats and species nor contribute much to minimize runoff to adjacent coral reefs.
In 2008, a national Protected Area Committee was created by the Fiji government, in part to achieve the goals of protecting 20 percent of the country's land and 30 percent of its coastal waters by the year 2020. Looking to support the committee's efforts to land-sea planning initiative, the study authors systematically analyzed six scenarios for expanding Fiji's network of terrestrial protected area networks, with the aim to uncover how well each approach did to protect different forest types and minimize land-based runoff to downstream coral reefs. One scenario evaluated included all of the priority forests for conservation identified by the committee based on field data and rules of thumb.
"We're pleased that the results of our study confirm that the forests that the committee was considering for protection can offer significant downstream benefits to coral reefs," said Dr. Stacy Jupiter, Fiji Country Program Director and co-author on the study. "However, we were surprised to find that these priority places for management actually did not include a lot of the key threatened forest vegetation types. We therefore recommended to the committee to add some additional forests to their national register of priority places for protection."
This advice was taken by the committee, and additional forest areas were added to the final register of priority places for management endorsed by the Fiji government National
Long-lived deep-sea corals preserve evidence of a major shift in the open Pacific Ocean ecosystem since around 1850, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The findings, published December 15 in Nature, indicate that changes at the base of the marine food web observed in recent decades in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre may have begun more than 150 years ago at the end of the Little Ice Age.
Deep-sea corals are colonial organisms that can live for thousands of years, feeding on organic matter that rains down from the upper levels of the ocean. The corals' branching, tree-like skeletons are composed of a hard protein material that incorporates chemical signatures from their food sources. As a result, changes in the composition of the growth layers in deep-sea corals reflect changes in the organisms that lived in the surface waters at the time each layer formed.
"They're like living sediment traps, recording long-term changes in the open ocean that we can't see any other way," said coauthor Matthew McCarthy, professor of ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz.
Scientists can study sediment cores taken from the ocean floor for clues to past conditions in the oceans, but that approach is not very useful for the most recent millennia. In the open ocean of the North Pacific, sediment accumulates so slowly that the entire Holocene epoch (the past 12,000 years or so) is represented by less than 10 centimeters (4 inches) of sediment that has been stirred up by organisms living on the seafloor. "Even if there were good sediment records, we would never get the level of detail we can get from the corals," McCarthy said.
To analyze the coral skeletons, the UCSC researchers combined carbon dating with a novel technique for analyzing nitrogen isotopes in proteins. They were able to reconstruct records over the past 1,000 years indicating that a shift occurred around 1850 in the source of nitrogen feeding the surface waters of the open ocean. As a result of decreasing nitrogen inputs from subsurface water, the phytoplankton community at the base of the food web became increasingly dominated by nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, which are able to use the nitrogen gas absorbed by surface waters from the atmosphere.
"In the marine environment, the two major sources of nitrogen are dissolved nitrate, which is more concentrated in the subsurface and deep water and is brought to the surface by upwelling, and nitrogen fixation by specialized microorganisms that are like the legumes of the sea," explained first author Owen Sherwood, who worked on the study as a postdoctoral researcher at UCSC and is now at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The shift revealed in the coral record--from an ecosystem supported by nitrate coming up from deeper waters to one supported more by nitrogen-fixing organisms--may be a result of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre expanding and becoming warmer, with more stable layering of warm surface water over cooler subsurface water. This increased "stratification" limits the amount of nutrients delivered to the surface in nutrient-rich subsurface water.
Scientists have observed warming and expansion of the major mid-ocean subtropical gyres in the past few decades and have attributed this trend to global warming. The new study puts these observations in the context of a longer-term trend. "It seems that the change in nitrogen sources, and therefore possibly large-scale shifts in ocean conditions, switched on at the end of the Little Ice Age and it is still continuing today," McCarthy said.
A key innovation in nitrogen isotope analysis was crucial to this study. Nitrogen-15 is a minor stable isotope of nitrogen, and the ratio of nitrogen-15 to nitrogen-14 is widely used to trace different sources of nitrogen. The nitrogen fixed by cyanobacteria in surface water, for example, has a different isotope ratio from the nitrates in deep ocean water. The isotope ratio also changes as organisms eat each other and nitrogen moves through the food web, with organisms at the base of the web having lower ratios than organisms at higher "trophic levels."
Thus, two independent factors--the trophic level and the original source of the nitrogen--determine the nitrogen isotope ratio in an organism. McCarthy's lab developed a technique that can separate these two factors by analyzing individual amino acids--the building blocks of proteins. It turns out that the isotope ratios of some amino acids remain unchanged as they move up the food web, while other amino acids become enriched in nitrogen-15 with each trophic transfer.
"Amino acid analysis decouples the two effects so we can see their relative magnitudes," McCarthy said. "What we're seeing in the central Pacific is a major shift at the base of the food web."
The extent of the change is dramatic: a 17 to 27 percent increase in nitrogen-fixation since about 1850, after almost a millennium of relatively minor fluctuations. "In comparison to other transitions in the paleoceanographic record, it's gigantic," Sherwood said. "It's comparable to the change observed at the transition between the Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs, except that it happens an order of magnitude faster."
These and other recent results are changing scientists' notions about the stability of open ocean gyres such as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is the largest contiguous ecosystem on the planet. These open ocean gyres were once considered relatively static, nutrient-deprived "deserts." In the 1980s, however, scientists began regularly monitoring oceanographic conditions at deep-water station ALOHA near Hawaii, revealing a surprising amount of variability.
"Instead of relatively constant ocean deserts, time-series data has shown dynamic decadal-scale changes," McCarthy said. "Our new records from deep-sea corals now show that the decadal-scale changes are really only small oscillations superimposed on a dramatic long-term shift at the base of the Pacific ecosystem. This long-term perspective may help us better predict the effects of global warming on open ocean regions."
The new findings also suggest a new interpretation of data from other researchers showing changes in nitrogen isotopes in the bones of seabirds. A recent study of Hawaiian petrel bones using bulk nitrogen isotope data attributed the change to shifts in the length of open ocean food chains, possibly induced by overfishing (forcing petrels to feed lower on the food chain). In fact, the compound-specific data strongly imply that isotopic changes on all trophic levels are more likely due to the long-term shift in nitrogen sources at the base of the food web, McCarthy said.
Coauthor Tom Guilderson, who is affiliated with UCSC and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has been collecting deep-sea corals for more than a decade to study them for clues to past oceanographic and environmental conditions. He teamed up with McCarthy to initiate this project. In addition to McCarthy, Guilderson, and Sherwood, the coauthors of the paper include UCSC graduate students Fabian Batista and John Schiff.
Coral samples were collected by the Hawaiian Undersea Research Lab's Pisces V submersible, with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Geographic Society. The bulk of this research was funded by the National Science Foundation.
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Governor Neil Abercrombie ended months of anticipation today during a political event held at the Kona International Airport, signing into law a new set of rule changes governing the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area.
The new rules will affect 147 miles of Kona-side coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, from South Point to Upolo Point. The new law prohibits SCUBA spearfishing – a controversial part of the rules – and also regulates the take of certain marine species for aquariums, creates a “no-take” list for other marine species of importance, and closes a 1,500 foot section of Ka’ohe Bay to aquarium collecting.
The rules were passed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources but seemed to stall at the governor’s desk. Some who were involved in the creation of the rules feared Abercrombie would reject them. But on Saturday, the governor surprised the crowd that had gathered to recognize Kona’s outgoing State Representative Denny Coffman with the signing. The governor said he had been looking for the right time to sign the law, and it seemed as if the Kona gathering in honor of Coffman, who advocated for the new rules, would be appropriate.
The crowd of active Democrats cheered the announcement, and stood behind the governor as he enacted the new rules. He gave the pen that he used to sign to Denny Coffman.
El Programa del Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan (PEBSJ) presentó hoy la nueva Reserva Estuarina de la Laguna del Condado, primera reserva estuarina reconocida por el gobierno local y una de las pocas en su clase en el corazón de una capital del Caribe.
Designada por la Ley 112 de 2013, la reserva estuarina permite la restauración y la conservación de la Laguna, en armonía con su potencial turístico y recreativo apoyada por un proceso participativo.
Esos objetivos se deben lograr por medio de una Comisión de co-manejo, con la colaboración de nuestra entidad sin fines de lucro (el PEBSJ), la empresa privada (hoteles y restaurantes aledaños), vecinos de Alto del Cabro, Condado, Miramar y Santurce, el Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales y el Municipio de San Juan.
La presentación de la reserva se llevó a cabo en una conferencia de prensa en el hotel Condado Plaza, con la participación de la secretaria del DRNA, Carmen Guerrero; los senadores José Nadal Power y Ramón Luis Nieves; y la presidenta de la Junta de Calidad Ambiental, Laura Vélez.
“Por primera vez contamos con una ley que respalda nuestros esfuerzos de conservar la Laguna del Condado, con un Plan de Manejo democrático y participativo multisectorial”, dijo el doctor Laureano, director ejecutivo del PEBSJ. “Nuestra organización sin fines de lucro estará trabajando en la Reserva para que su protección se implemente de forma inclusiva”.
La reserva estuarina conlleva un nuevo escenario en la Laguna del Condado:
· Puesta en marcha de una Comisión de Co-manejo participativo, entre organizaciones de Gobierno, sin fines de lucro, vecinos y empresas privadas.
· Creación de un Plan de Manejo para su restauración y protección, en armonía con su potencial turístico y recreativo.
· Prohibición de embarcaciones de motor
· Prohibición de pesca y de captura de especies
· Iniciativas educativas sobre la conservación del manatí antillano
· Iniciativas para prevenir la contaminación con escorrentías pluviales
La Laguna del Condado, con un área de 101.85 cuerdas, es el cuerpo de agua con mayor diversidad de flora y fauna del estuario. Todos los ecosistemas tropicales están representados allí: manglares, praderas de yerbas marinas, playas arenosas y arrecifes de coral. Cuenta con especies amenazadas y en peligro de extinción como el manatí antillano.
Entre sus desafíos se encuentra el corte de árboles en sus márgenes, la entrada ilegal de embarcaciones de motor y las descargas de contaminantes por escorrentías. La designación de la Reserva Estuarina es una buena noticia, en la medida en que crea la herramienta legal con la cual se coordinan todos los esfuerzos para lidiar con los desafíos de uno de los principales atractivos turísticos y recreativos de Puerto Rico.
By John Martin
New Yorkers have access to every food imaginable. From the most exclusive restaurants to the hundreds of food carts scattered throughout the city, there is something here for every palate and every budget.
With this much variety, it’s sometimes easy to forget that some of our favorite foods can contain hidden risks. For instance, although fish can be a source of high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids and many vitamins and minerals, some species of fish can also contain harmful elements, like PCBs and mercury.
The EPA recently released the results of the agency’s New York City Commercial Market Seafood Study, which examined mercury concentrations in the most commonly consumed seafood in New York. Although the amount of mercury normally found in fish is not a health concern for most, the risk can be high for those eating certain kinds of fish and for unborn babies and young children. For instance, high levels of mercury can harm a young child’s developing nervous system.
During the study, EPA scientists purchased samples of 33 seafood species from vendors at the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, which supplies most of the fresh seafood sold to restaurants and stores in the New York area. After extensive testing of the collected samples, the species found to have the highest mercury concentrations were tuna, swordfish, Spanish mackerel, and mahi-mahi. Shellfish tended to have the lowest overall concentrations.
The entire NYC Commercial Market Seafood Study, including findings on all the fish species EPA tested, can be found here.
Although many people eat high-mercury seafood, the good news is that people are consuming less of it. Another recent EPA study has found that blood mercury levels in women of childbearing age dropped 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000 to follow-up surveys conducted from 2001 to 2010. Additionally, the percentage of women of childbearing age with blood mercury levels above the EPA’s level of concern decreased 65 percent from the 1999-2000 survey and the follow-up surveys from 2001-2010. A likely reason for these decreases was that women had shifted from eating higher-mercury types of fish to lower-mercury types of fish.
The lesson here? If you like fish, keep eating fish– just make sure you educate yourself and choose your fish wisely.
By By Douglas Main, Staff Writer December 5, 2013 9:29
A tumor on the lower jaw of a great white shark, near the Neptune Islands, South Australia. Scientists have known for more than 150 years that sharks get cancer. And yet the belief persists that the animals don't suffer from the disease.
That misconception is promoted in part by those who sell shark cartilage, who claim that the substance will help cure cancer, said David Shiffman, a shark researcher and doctoral student at the University of Miami. But no studies have shown that shark cartilage is an effective treatment, and the demand for the material has helped decimate shark populations, researchers say: Humans kill about 100 million sharks per year, according to a March 2013 study (although many factors contribute to the killing of sharks, including demand for shark-fin soup).
Recently, researchers in Australia noticed a large tumor protruding from the mouth of a great white shark, as well as another mass on the head of a bronze whaler shark. The great white's tumor measured 1 foot (30 centimeters) long and 1 foot wide, according to a study describing the tumors published online in November in the Journal of Fish Diseases.
"This was a very unusual sight as we have never before seen a [great] white shark with tumors," said Rachel Robbins, a study co-author and shark biologist at the Fox Shark Research Foundation, near Adelaide, in southern Australia. [Image Gallery: Great White Sharks]
In total, scientists have now documented tumors in at least 23 species of sharks, including the two in the new study, Robbins said. "The main take-home message from the study is that it adds to the growing evidence of tumor formation in sharks, contrary to popular belief that sharks do not suffer from such anomalies," Robbins told LiveScience.
"Sharks get cancer," said Shiffman, who wasn't involved in the study. "Even if they didn't get cancer, eating shark products won't cure cancer any more than me eating Michael Jordan would make me better at basketball."
The belief that shark cartilage can treat cancer diverts patients from effective treatments, according to a 2004 review in the journal Cancer Research. The demand for cartilage also fuels widespread fishing for sharks. One in six known species of sharks, rays and skates are considered threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an environmental group, Shiffman said.
It's unknown what caused the tumors in the great white or bronzer shark. However, reports of cancerous tumors in marine animals, especially mammals, have steadily increased over the past 20 years, raising concerns that industrial pollutants or human activities may trigger the cancers, according to the study. Beluga whales have been recorded to suffer from cancer, and in areas near aluminum smelting plants, cancer is the second leading killer of the whales, the study noted.
Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.
By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News
Researchers say they have found the first direct evidence that female sharks return home to breed.
In the study, scientists tracked lemon sharks in the Bahamas for 17 years to prove the case. Even though this species is highly migratory, pregnant females prefer to give birth where they themselves were born.
The researchers say it strengthens the argument for restrictions on fishing at specific sites.The idea of females returning to their own place of birth to reproduce has been observed in a number of marine species most notably in salmon but it has also been seen in sea turtles. In this new work, researchers looked at lemon sharks in their largest nursery area around the Bimini Islands in the Bahamas.
However since they are slow to mature, it required the scientists to undertake a long-term study to show that the females were returning home to give birth.
Between 1995 and 2012, the team deployed nets and tagged, measured and took genetic samples from every lemon shark they captured.
The researchers found that at least six females returned to give birth when they were between 14 and 17 years old.
Although the sample is small, the scientists say that the six represent between 24% and 75% of surviving females in the studied group."The issue is that not many of these babies will reach adulthood," said Dr Kevin Feldheim, from the Field Museum of Natural History, one of the lead authors.
"Of the couple of hundred sharks that were born between 1995 and 1998, only about a dozen reached adulthood. So the fact that we found six, we think is pretty significant." The researchers don't know the mechanism behind the drive to return, but they believe it could be widespread in other shark species."The maternally inherited DNA does show structure in other species and it is often attributed to the mothers coming back to specific sites to give birth," said Dr Feldheim.
"We don't know whether they are coming to where they were born like in lemon sharks. It is very possible that this occurs in other shark species."
The scientists believe that there are important conservation lessons to be drawn for work. If sharks are returning to specific sites at specific times, the authors believe it would make sense to close these areas to fishing to allow them to give birth.