Save the Sea Lions!

Western Steller Sea Lions are an endangered species which live in the western Aleutian Islands. They have been having trouble recovering recently due to overfishing of their favorite food sources (Atka Mackerel and Pacific Cod). To help these Alaskan sea lions, the NOAA has signed a prohibition on commercial fishing of the Pacific Cod and the Atka Mackerel in the area which will take effect on January 1, 2011. This decision creates a 3 mile buffer zone around the rookery of the sea lions, places severe restrictions on mackerel harvest amounts, and causes seasonal closures of cod fishing areas. The NOAA evaluated the eastern Steller sea lion and has listed it as threatened. These new fishing restrictions will hopefully be helpful for the sea lions on the western islands to bounce back, and will likely be beneficial to the cod and mackerel stocks themselves. As we know, it is important to let dwindling fish stocks to bounce back before fishing again, rather than increasing effort to catch even more of the hurting fish stock levels.

Article from the NOAA here!

New Superbreed Algae for Use as Biofuel and Fishfood?

Transalgae, an Israeli company, is looking to be the “Monsanto of algae seed” without their negative environmental connotations. We know from class when we watched that film on aquaculture that feeding farmed fish with smaller fish is an extremely inefficient way of growing a fish stock. If a genetically modified algae from Transalgae were able to provide a healthier and cheaper option which was less impacting on other fish populations it would be a huge advancement in the aquaculture industry. Also, Transalgae discusses how limited resource availability factors into their development of algae. Since there is limited availability of freshwater for growing algae, they discuss their aim to produce algae on demand which is suitable for all growth systems (seawater, temperature ranges, etc.). The goal of Transalgae will be to produce specialized and personal algae for biomass for biofuel or for aquaculture feed on an individual basis. The company is expecting to start releasing products in the next 6 months.


Recent Lead Levels in D.C. Homes: Whodunit?

The clean water act was signed into law in 1972 and amended in 1986 in Washington D.C. Yet a recent discovery shows that water with high levels of lead was being pumped into many D.C. homes and is still present. There are 3 major reasons why lead can be introduced to residential homes: old piping and erosion of lead pipes, pH changes that can cause lead to dissolve more readily, and lack of a mineral scale on lead piping which can normally prevent leaching from old pipes. So then what happened that caused these 15,000 homes to contain abnormally and potentially dangerously high levels of lead in their water? Water authorities in the area had apparently used a substance, chloramine, in order to keep microbial contaminations low. It had been in use for a number of years until it was realized that the chloramine was eating away at the mineral scale on the lead pipes and lead had been leaching out. A report was released in 2006 about the heightened levels of lead in the area and an extra inhibitor was added and helped to lower a levels of leached lead. They also tried to implement a program which replaced many of the lead containing service lines to many homes but it was costly and not all homeowners in the area paid for the replacement. Unfortunately, 4 years after the initial report it seems as though lead is still present in the area. Children and babies are those most at risk in lead contaminations. Out of the 15,000 affected houses, 859 children were found to have significant exposure to lead (>10µg/ ml in blood)

Check out the article here

or the actual report

Monitoring River Water

Temperature, pH, conductance, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity are parameters commonly used in aquatic ecology studies. However, New York’s Susquehanna River Basin Commission has recently decided to permanently implant various water quality sensors in sites along along the Susquehanna River. These sensors would provide automatic updates every five minutes. Furthermore, according to the SRBC’s Andrew Gavin, “If any deviations would occur that would depart from normal ranges, an alert is sent to our office where staff would immediately know if there was a change of condition.” While plans are underway to install ten new monitors in New York, Pennsylvania already has thirty monitors in its portion of the river. After their installation, data from a monitor will be available to the public at Many people, however, may not be aware that certain chemicals may spike naturally at certain times of the year. These stations are being installed in response to public concern for water contamination that may result from drilling of the Marcellus Shale in New York State. This data will allow a comparison between pre-drilling conditions and post-drilling conditions, after drilling gets underway.

Read the full article here:

Africa Water Summit Shows Increased Fortunes For Continent; Challenges Remain

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This video highlights the dangers of unclean water and the general inability of a rather large proportion of our population to access clean drinking water. It is a well put-together representation of the article below, which discusses that which is currently being done to address the current unfortunate state of affairs in the continent of Africa. This is a socioeconomic issue that is also an aquatic ecology issue. It is also a human rights issue which implores us to act on that which infringes upon the ability of our people to live. “With a total population of close to 1 billion, about 350 million Africans live without access to safe drinking water and almost 600 million live without access to basic sanitation.” Furthermore, as relayed by both the article and video, diarrhea is the biggest killer of children under 5 years old. This is also a gender rights issue, as women are seminal figures in the gathering of water for families, thereby making their insight into cleanly habits to be of greatest importance in African communities. Much disease transmission occurs through water. Water cleanliness is an issue of critical importance that must be addressed if Africa’s third-world issues are to be resolved. With its billion residents, the development of Africa cannot be ignored if the people of the world are to move forward in collected efforts to combat AIDS, poverty, war, hunger, and other tremendously important issues that threaten our species.

Read the full article here:

Soon We’ll Be Drinking Recycled Pee; Some of Us Already Are

All human waste is seen as quintessentially dirty, and recycling is seen by many to be the quintessential act of environmental friendliness. This being said, can human beings stomach their inherent discomforts for the greater good of the planet? Of course, there will never some sort of direct linkage between the toilet bowl and the tap, but our ability to recycle water allows us to filter harmful substances out of sewage water. This particular ability, a method called the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), has been in place since January 2008 and is used to turn “96 million gallons of wastewater into 70 million gallons of recycled water daily, for an efficiency rate of nearly 75 percent.” It should be noted that this figure is only for Orange County (California), where there has been talk of further increasing the volume of recycled water. If output is expanded to 100 million gallons, then each day’s worth of recycling will produce enough to supply 850,000 residents with water for a year.

Read the full article here:

Florida Keys Declare Open Season on the Invasive Lionfis

The lionfish, first discovered in the Florida Keys in 2009 and thought to have been released by aquarists in the 1990s, has been proliferating in the area beyond control. In an attempt to involve the public and bring awareness to the potential damage caused by these fish, a derby of men, called the Lionfish Hunters, created a tournament with 18 groups of divers to spear and catch the lionfish. Prizes are given to the team who can catch the most. The fish is plentiful enough at this point in time to hold multiple derbies a year. This invasive predator threatens the ecologically sensitive marine system in this area.

Other parts of the Carribean have also suffered from the impacts of the lionfish. It is a veracious predator able to destroy native fish populations in a very short period of time. Researchers in the keys examined more than 1,000 lionfish and found that they had preyed upon more than 50 different species of fish, some of which were juvenile grouper and snapper, extremely important commercial fish in the area. The lionfish has the potential to do not only ecological harm, but also economic harm. The region’s economy relies heavily on commercial fishing and recreational diving, and the potential threat to its livelihood is all too possible.

The lionfish exhibits qualities typical of invasive species. In addition to being nonnative, and taking over the niches of other native fish living in the marine system, the fish can produce up to 30,000 eggs in a single spawn and can do so as frequently as every four days. While these numbers contribute to the dense population of lionfish in the area, they can be very elusive and difficult to kill. Eradication seems practically impossible, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hopes to at least have some form of local control.

Video that goes along with the article: Invasive Lionfish

The power of the Moringa Tree

In developing countries water quality is a problem, as they do not have the luxuries we are provided, like water plants. Clean water is an absolute necessity and should not be costly to attain. However, for many people clean water is not easily found. Currently, it seems as though scientists have found a method to provide clean water to poorer people: by using the Moringa tree. This tree, known as the “Miracle Tree,” which supposedly possesses the power to strengthen individuals with HIV, improve baby health, and treat diseases like tuberculosis and heart disease, can now add another quality to the list: water purification. How is this possible? The answer truly is simple. Dried seeds from this tree are ground into a powder and placed in the water. In the water, positively charged proteins in the Moringa seed powder attract negatively charged particles, such as clay, bacteria, and negatively charged toxic materials. These complexes of positively and negatively charged particles can then be filtered out of the solution. The process helps decrease turbidity in water and removes 90-99% of bacteria. This newly discovered feature of the Moringa tree seeds may have a positive impact on those who suffer from a lack of clean water. To read more, click on this Article.

As discussed in the article, this feature of Moringa trees is incredible and would provide poorer people with easy access to clean water. I was reading about some statistics regarding water quality and came across some shocking facts: 300 million people in Africa do not have access to clean drinking water! As if this weren’t bad enough, over 90% of cholera cases are in Africa. Obviously, clean water is a huge problem in Africa. I think this method of cleaning water would help prevent many people in this country from cholera and would provide them with a cheap and effective way of purifying water. This method seems to have a lot of promise and it would be great if it were employed in the countries and areas that need it the most. To see the statistics and read more, click on this Article.

‘No Fish Left Behind’ Approach Leaves Earth With Nowhere Left to Fish

According to a study done by the University of Bristish Columbia the Earth has run out of places to put new fisheries.  This is the first study of its kind.  The study has revealed that fisheries expanded one million sq. kilometres per year from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s.  This number tripled during the 80s and 90s.  The vast increase in fisheries has led to a five-fold increase in the amount of fish available to catch.  In the 1980s the catch reached about 90 million tons and than dropped to around 87 million tons in 2005.  The researchers believe that this decrease in the amount of catch available was from the lack of room to expand fisheries, not from good conservation efforts.  Most of the groups that run these fisheries use all the fish in the surrounding waters until there are none left. This is essentially what the movie “The End of the Line” talked about. If humans keep this up we are going to have a huge problem in the future.

Animal Autopsies in Gulf Yield a Mystery

Since July 19, 2010, in Gainesville, Florida, Dr. Stacey, a veterinary pathologist who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is attempting to figure out the causes of so many animal deaths along the gulf coast this year. Despite what most would assume to be an obvious reason, the oil spill, Cr. Stacey is finding that the answer is far from that simple. 1,866 birds, 463 turtles, 59 dolphins, and one sperm whale have been found dead, but a majority of these organisms show no visible signs of oil contamination. Dr. Stacey has found that much of the evidence, in the case of sea turtles, points to commercial fishing. Other possibilities for the mortalities include oil fumes, oiled food, and the dispersants used to break up the oil or even disease.

Veterinarians are relying on shrimp boat data recorders and chromatographic spectrum analysis that can tell if the oil residue found in an animal has the same “chemical signature” as the BP crude oil from the spill. Tissue samples are also being collected and will be sent for analysis to see if the animals may have died from disease or the dispersants used to break up the oil from the spill.

Shrimp and sediment found in the throats of turtles are an indication that these high mortality rates are caused by the nets of shrimping boats. Turtles are not fast enough to prey on shrimp, unless they are in a contained area like a net where they are surrounded by hundreds of them, says Dr. Stacey. Also, sediment is a clear indication of drowning from being caught in nets. It is believed that shrimpers took advantage of the lack of attention paid to net regulations allowing turtle escape while Coast guards and inspectors were occupied with issues from the oil spill. Fisherman have been caught fishing in closed waters from the oil spill and exceeding legal tow times. Both indirect and direct effects from the oil continue to be examined.

Here is a video to go along with the article – What’s Killing the Sea Turtles