Our Troubled Oceans elenas-vieques.com


The Navy is Killing Whales.

The best news I have had in years...

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Endangered Whales From Navy Sonar

HONOLULU– Attorneys from Earthjustice filed suit today in Hawai‘i federal district court on behalf of Ocean Mammal Institute, Animal Welfare Institute, KAHEA, Center for Biological Diversity, and Surfrider Foundation challenging the U.S. Navy’s plan to use high-intensity, mid-frequency active sonar in antisubmarine exercises in Hawai‘i’s waters. The planned sonar would emit blasts far louder than levels associated with mass whale strandings and fatalities.

The Navy has announced plans to use the sonar in up to 12 separate sets of Undersea Warfare Exercises during 2007 and 2008 in Hawai‘i’s waters, including within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and near the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

..................... Use of military sonar has been associated with strandings not only on Kaua‘i, but in Greece (1996), the Bahamas (2000), Madeira (2000), Vieques (1998, 2002), the Canary Islands (2002, 2004), the northwest coast of the United States (2003), and Spain (2006). Necropsies performed on whales stranded in the Bahamas and the Canary Islands (2002) revealed hemorrhaging around the brain and in other organs, most likely due to acoustic trauma from the use of high-intensity sonar. The Navy itself concluded that for the Bahamas stranding “an acoustic… injury…caused the animals to strand…and subsequently die…”, and a report commissioned by the Navy stated that “the evidence of sonar causation [of whale beachings] is, in our opinion, completely convincing.”


Your immediate help is needed to defend whales around the world from the Navy's use of ear-splitting mid-frequency sonar.

NRDC has just filed suit in federal court to force the Navy to begin taking humane precautions that would spare countless whales and other marine mammals from being maimed, deafened or killed during routine training.

You can help stop the Navy's needless killing of whales by going to
https://www.savebiogems.org and learn more.

Hundreds of whales have already died after getting blasted by mid-frequency military sonar. And scientists suspect that many more are being injured and killed without our ever knowing.

Mid-frequency sonar is designed to detect enemy submarines by flooding tens or even hundreds of square miles of ocean with sound waves. Warships carrying sonar blast the ocean with a noise level up to 245 decibels -- billions of times more intense than the level known to disturb whales.

That intensity of sound is roughly comparable to a Saturn V rocket at blast-off. Some beached whales have been found bleedingaround their brains and ears after sonar training exercises.

But the Navy refuses to take common-sense precautions during sonar exercises that would prevent whales and dolphins from stranding, suffering and dying!

The mounting death toll is not only preventable, it is illegal. The Navy is violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other environmental laws by refusing to adequately protect whales during training and testing.

I'm sure you agree that whales should not have to die for naval practice. And the Navy should not get away with breaking our environmental laws.

But it has become clear that our military will go right on conducting business as usual unless you. and others like you, intervene to stop them.

Please go to https://www.savebiogems.org/yearend/donate05d.asp if you would be willing to make a donation to fight this onslaught.



The oceans are in trouble.Fully 90 percent of each of the world's large ocean species, including cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish and marlin, has disappeared from the world's oceans in recent decades, according to the Canadian analysis (see below)

Some of it is the fault of man - maybe most of it. It is not too late to fix it - but it will be if people don't know about it. Most of us here have heard there are problems with our local reefs.
** NEWS** About 75% of corals have suffered the greatest incident of coral bleaching in the history of the Caribbean. An incident that started this September, 2005. The areas affected are Eastern Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the Virgin Islands and some islands further east. Also Belize has been affected. You can now dive or snorkel over miles and miles of 'glowing' white bleached out corals. ---------------------------------------Problems exist around the world as the information below will show.

This all has to do with the balance of nature. The big fish eat the little fish. We are the big fish. There are other big fish and they need the little fish. The reefs are the breeding and feeding grounds for most of the chain.

Then there is the plankton. You probably know that these are microscopic life forms that float around in the ocean. Sometimes there are not enough plankton to go around. Other times there is too much plankton. You probably know that the rainforests are important to life on earth because they produce oxygen and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Did you know that something like 70% of the air we breath comes from the ocean and is produced by plankton? Plankton also removes carbon dioxide. The rainforests are important but the health of the oceans is even more important.

Below are some articles I found about plankton and coral reefs and overfishing. The stories aren't very long but there is more than a few of them. I hope you will take the time to look over some of this. It is important........Letter from Brian R. in Vieques.

This from Australia........

Plankton is made up of animals and plants that either float passively in the water, or possess such limited powers of swimming that they are carried from place to place by the currents. The word plankton comes from the Greek word planktos, which means ‘wandering’ or ‘drifting’. Plankton dominates the well-lit surface layers of the world's oceans.

Plankton range in size from tiny microbes, which are invisible to the naked eye, to jellyfish metres long. Apart from bacteria, planktonic organisms are the most abundant life form on earth and play a crucial role in the marine food chain. Without plankton, there would be few living organisms on earth, and certainly no Great Barrier Reef. Planktonic organisms are food for a range of animals from barnacles and sea squirts to large fish and whales. The largest fish in the world, the Whale Shark, is a plankton feeder as are many of the largest whales.

Phytoplankton are tiny, photosynthetic organisms. This means they can manufacture their own food using energy from sunlight, producing oxygen as a by-product. They are often referred to as tiny plants because of this ability to photosynthesise, but many species of phytoplankton are more closely related to protists and bacteria than true plants. Phytoplankton typically range in size from 0.002 mm to 1 mm and include diatoms, dinoflagellates, Radiolaria, Ciliata and Cyanobacteria (better known as ‘blue-green algae’).
Phytoplankton produce more oxygen than all plant life on earth and are vital in maintaining the earth’s atmosphere. They are also the organisms most likely to be affected by global warming and climate change. Scientists around the world are concerned that harmful rays from the sun could pass through the hole in the ozone layer and kill phytoplankton, which live mostly in the upper layers of the ocean.

Phytoplankton - A Critical Link in a Big Chain

......Red tides are composed of dinoflagellates, which are a type of phytoplankton found in the sea. Most people have probably seen phytoplankton without even knowing it, witnessing the bioluminescent qualities that some of these tiny organisms have.... They, however, have a much greater role in the sea and are considered critical to all life on Earth. Among other things, these tiny organisms greatly contribute to the food chain and are responsible for generating large amounts of oxygen through photosynthesis.

Phytoplankton are tiny, drifting, plantlike organisms that are found throughout the world's oceans, but mostly along coasts. These tiny organisms come in every shape imaginable, but only under a microscope can the diversity and intricacy of phytoplankton truly be appreciated. ..

Aside from this fact, phytoplankton are responsible for producing the food that is consumed by an abundance of life in the sea. The general rule of the ocean food chain is that plants produce and animals consume, thus 'plants', such as phytoplankton, are the first link of the food chain. As the primary producers of the food chain, phytoplankton must be produced in great quantity.. some estimate that between 200 and 250 billion metric tons are produced annually! An example of the role phytoplankton play in the ocean food chain is that zooplankton consume phytoplankton, then bivalves (mussels) consume the zooplankton, and cod consume the bivalves, and finally a top consumer, such as a killer whale, eats the cod.

So, we know that phytoplankton produces food for many animals of the sea; but how is it produced? Four essential ingredients are necessary for phytoplankton to grow: water, sunlight, nutrients and carbon dioxide. When these factors are in balance, phytoplankton is able to thrive. Often because these tiny organisms are dependent on specific conditions to grow, they are used as an indicator for environmental problems. For example, in an area where pollutants are present, phytoplankton will likely be absent.

Another important role that phytoplankton play in the environment is their ability to use photosynthesis to remove carbon dioxide from seawater and consequently release oxygen.

Thus, the sea can absorb a lot of the carbon dioxide produced in the atmosphere, caused from activities such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. The reason why this is so important is that carbon dioxide is considered a green house gas, contributing to global warming, so the less we have in the atmosphere, the better. In addition, when phytoplankton (which is composed of carbon) dies, it also helps to control carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by sinking to the ocean bottom and being covered by other material. Thus, this harmful gas has no way of returning to the atmosphere.
Phytoplankton may be microscopic in size, but they are certainly enormous in the roles they play throughout the ocean ecosystem.
Air from the oceans------------------------------------

While many of us would know that plants generate oxygen for our environment, fewer would know that it is ocean-borne plants that carry most of the oxygen-production load.

Florida oceanographer Ellen Prager is co-author of a new book called "The Oceans."

"Most of the Oxygen that we breathe comes from small, drifting plants in the ocean."
So these drifting plants called phytoplankton play a critical role in producing the air that we breathe... just one of the many recent developments in ocean understanding...

"With technology such as satellite imagery and other modern techniques, we've been able to get a much broader view of the ocean and what's in there at one time. And so, some of those techniques have allowed us much better understanding. And so it may be that in the past ten years we have a much better feel for the significance of how much phytoplankton is in the ocean and its overall impact on the earth."

Back to the phytoplankton... Not only are they producing vast amounts of oxygen that we need. They help scrub the atmosphere of gasses we need to be rid of...
"They're also a 'sink' for Carbon Dioxide because since they're photosynthesizing, they're taking up Carbon Dioxide when they're giving off Oxygen."

For more information, visit www.floridaenvironment.com. With help from its Environmental Studies Program, we're produced at the Whitaker Center at Florida Gulf Coast University and funded by SWFCEE, the Southwest Florida Council for Environment Education.

Fishing Has Decimated Major Species, Study Says
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday 14 May 2003

Industrial fishing practices have decimated every one of the world's biggest and most economically important species of fish, according to a new and detailed global analysis that challenges current fisheries protection policies.

Fully 90 percent of each of the world's large ocean species, including cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish and marlin, has disappeared from the world's oceans in recent decades, according to the Canadian analysis -- the first to use historical data dating to the beginning of large-scale fishing, in the 1950s.

The new research found that fishing has become so efficient that it typically takes just 15 years to remove 80 percent or more of any species that becomes the focus of a fleet's attention. Some populations have disappeared within just a few years, belying the oceans' reputation as a refuge and resource of nearly infinite proportions.

"You'd think the ocean is so large, these things would have someplace to hide," said Ransom Myers, who conducted the new study with fellow marine ecologist Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "But it doesn't matter where you look, the story is the same. We are really too good at killing these things."

If current practices continue, Myers said, the world can expect serious economic disruptions, food shortages in seafood-dependent developing nations and lasting damage to marine ecosystems. But shortsighted environmental policies and pressure from industrial fishing interests have largely stymied domestic and international efforts to rebuild failing populations, Myers and others said.

Even where recovery efforts are underway, the new work suggests that targets are much lower than they ought to be -- reflecting a global memory loss about just how many fish once roamed the sea and how large they once were.

"It's an incredibly important paper," said Jeremy Jackson, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., who has decried the problem of "shifting baselines," in which people keep redefining "normal" as they become accustomed to increasingly degraded environments. "The science is unassailable. And the industry knows damn well it's getting harder and harder to keep up."

The new work, published in today's issue of the journal Nature, used data collected by governments and the fishing industry going back 50 years and more. The team uncovered many long-forgotten records, including survey data compiled in advance of major fishing expeditions and initial catch data from early forays into new areas.

It took a decade just to gather all the numbers. But as they worked through the statistics, Myers and Worm saw a pattern emerging in all 13 continental shelf and oceanic systems they studied: The sea was a much more bountiful place a few decades ago than they had imagined, and fishing's impact on ocean ecosystems has been vastly underestimated.

Much of the decline can be attributed to the advent of "longline fishing,"
perfected by the Japanese, in which fishing lines as long as 60 miles, bearing thousands of hooks, are trailed behind a single boat. On the open ocean, the study found, those catches typically declined tenfold -- from about 10 fish per hundred hooks to just one -- in the first decade of fishing. Sometimes the declines were even steeper. In the Gulf of Thailand, for example, 60 percent of the large finfish, sharks and skates disappeared during the first five years of industrialized trawl fishing in the 1960s. Along the narrow continental shelf near South Georgia island in the South Atlantic, where large predatory fish once were plentiful, virtually all disappeared after just two years of intensive fishing in the 1970s.

"The chronic problem we have in evaluating fisheries is we don't have good data on the size of a population until the fishing is well underway, so we didn't really have a way of evaluating how severe the problem is," said Jane Lubchenco, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "What Myers and Worm have done is a laborious, painstaking, comprehensive and careful analysis to try to rectify that situation."

..................... According to the U.S. figures released this week, American fisheries have been experiencing "steady, incremental improvement," with some species once in trouble now "fully rebuilt" and scores of other species "recovering." But the Canadian report calls into question the meaning of those terms. Is it fair, some experts asked, to call a population "rebuilt" when it has been restored to the level of a decade ago -- a level already 90 percent below what it was before the trawlers came?

"The issue of shifting baselines is critical," said Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a national coalition of more than 150 commercial and recreational fishing interests and environmental groups, which has criticized the U.S. reporting system as a politicized overstatement of ecosystem health.

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations -- the West Coast's largest organization of commercial fishermen -- pointed to Alaska's recent successes in achieving sustainable fishing practices as evidence that there are "glimmers of hope." Nonetheless, he acknowledged, "we need to do much better."

The Canadian report does not focus on solutions -- two major U.S.-based fisheries commissions are expected to release recommendations soon -- but Myers said the key is to reduce, at least temporarily, catches in many areas.
"If stocks were restored to higher abundance, we could get just as much fish out of the ocean by putting in only one-third to one-tenth of the effort," he said. "It would be difficult for fishermen initially, but they will see the gains in the long run."

Others have called for the creation of a network of undersea reserves; a reduction in fishing industry subsidies; and improved technology to reduce the unintended "bycatch," which accounts for as much as 25 percent of each haul and is typically killed and tossed back to sea.

Fish have a habit of jumping on to the tables of rich people.
Pierre Gillet, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers

Fisheries in crisis —

Fish are the last wild creatures on Earth to be hunted on a large scale, and like many other renewable resources are already being exploited to the limit. The chief culprit is overfishing by industrial fleets, mostly from developed countries. This crisis in fish stocks has now reached major proportions - over 60% of the world's fish stocks are 'in urgent need of management' because of overfishing, according to the UN.

So desperate has the situation become that several commercial fish species - including Atlantic cod, haddock and bluefin tuna - are now on the endangered species list. In fact, the worldwide collapse of fish stocks has already started. When early explorers arrived at Newfoundland's Grand Banks in 1500, they reported that fish were so plentiful they could simply be hauled out of the sea in baskets. In 1993, after centuries of over-exploitation, the Grand Banks fishery was closed down completely - with the loss of 40,000 fishermen's jobs.

A net loss — The world marine catch stands at nearly 100 million tonnes per year. However, 25 per cent of this is 'cheap fish' - such as pollack, jack mackerel and pilchards - most of which ends up as animal feed. A further 27 million tonnes of 'by-catch' - nearly a third of the global catch - is thrown back dead into the sea. In the Gulf of Mexico shrimpers throw back 4 kilograms of dead fish for every kilogram of shrimp they actually catch. On a wider scale this death toll includes thousands of dolphins and porpoises as well as vulnerable species such as turtles, billfish and sharks.

Fisheries are also threatened by marine pollution - including agricultural run-off from land, untreated sewage disposed of at sea, and sediments from rivers whose watersheds are exposed by deforestation. In addition, rising ocean temperatures resulting from global warming are in danger of wiping out some species altogether. Winter temperatures in the North Sea have been 4 degrees Celsius above normal for six years - seriously disrupting cod breeding patterns.

— Having decimated their own stocks, high-tech Northern vessels have headed south, where their largely unmonitored activities have depleted stocks and undermined local livelihoods. In the productive waters off northwest Africa, foreign fleets run by industrialised countries take over six times as much fish as local fishermen. Most of the fish traded internationally comes from the South but ends up in the North, where people eat an annual average of 27 kilograms of it - triple that of the South, where fish may be crucial in the local diet. All but one of the 40 countries where fish is the main source of protein are in the South. But pressure from foreign fleets and the export-driven policies of indebted Southern governments means the most malnourished part of the world is forced to forgo some of its supply of a rich source of protein and other vital nutrients.

Too many boats — Government subsidies have allowed national fisheries in the North to swell to an unsustainable size. In 1997 the fishing industry in Europe received subsidies totalling US$1.4 billion - about $14,000 per boat. This cash funds overcapacity - WWF estimates that Europe has 40 per cent more boats than needed to catch fish on a sustainable basis.

Worldwide there are now one million 'industrial' fishing vessels - the world's fishing fleet doubled between 1970 and 1990. The result of too many boats chasing too few fish is conflict. In 1995 Spain and Canada came to blows after a high-seas chase revealed that a Spanish trawler was catching undersized halibut near Canadian waters. In 1996 the Indian government was forced to stop issuing fishing licences to foreign trawlers after protests by small-scale fishermen - who at one point burnt 14 trawlers, seized four others and held a vessel operator hostage.
Small and needy — Around 200 million of the world's poorest people depend on fishing for all or part of their livelihood. In contrast large-scale fishing employs only about 200,000 people.

In developing countries, the small-scale sector produces more economic and social benefits than the industrial one. It uses less capital and fuel, generally more selective gear, is based in rural areas and usually produces more food for the domestic market than for export. Fish for export are caught with less waste than in the over-subsidised industrial sector. Women traditionally play key roles in marketing and processing the catch, but may be displaced by modernisation. Synthetic nets will be factory-made rather than hand-woven, and fish caught by bigger boats will be landed at distant ports rather than on the beaches.

The good news — The long marginalised small-scale sector is becoming better organised. Scientists and other professionals formed the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers in 1984. And in 1997, fisherworkers launched their own international organisation, the World Forum of Fish Workers & Fish Harvesters. The global fisheries crisis is often ascribed to 'too many fishermen chasing too few fish'. These groups disagree. They want to see more people earning a livelihood from better-managed, less industrialised fisheries that help sustain communities and
conserve this vital resource for future generations.

U. S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Office of Seafood
May 2001

Find this article at:

June 19, 2002
Human Fecal Bacterium Causing Caribbean Coral Disease

Since 1996, a disease known as whitepox has been decimating populations of coral, particularly in the Florida Keys. Now scientists writing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report that a bacterium commonly found in human feces may be to blame. Although the source of the coral-killing bacteria remains unconfirmed, the findings suggest that maintaining high standards of water quality is crucial to saving the reefs' remaining coral.

As one of the fastest-spreading coral diseases, whitepox can devour between two and 10 square centimeters of living reef tissue every day (see image). It specifically targets the species Acropora palmata, or elkhorn coral, and some Florida reefs have lost as much as 85 percent of their A. palmata. "These are the giant redwoods of the reef," says study co-author James W. Porter of the University of Georgia. "What used to be the most common coral in the Caribbean has now been recommended for inclusion on the endangered-species list."

Porter and his colleagues thus set out to determine what was causing the coral-killing plague. Initially expecting to find a unique marine pathogen, the scientists were surprised to discover that the culprit was in fact one of the most common bacteria known. The researchers developed cultures from samples of healthy coral and colonies afflicted with whitepox. They identified 221 bacterial strains, four of which appeared more frequently on diseased coral. But only one of them—Serratia marcescens, which resides in the guts of humans and other animals as well as in soil and water—is capable of causing whitepox in healthy coral samples, the team reports.

Elevated water temperatures, perhaps the result of global warming, have been implicated in another blight against coral—bleaching. Higher temperatures also increase the rate whitepox-induced coral loss and could be a root cause. "Warmer water depresses coral growth but increases bacterial growth," study leader Kathryn Patterson of the University of Georgia explains. "In combination, this domino effect could foretell disaster. There appear to be environmental changes occurring that may be making this nonpathogenic bacterium pathogenic." --Sarah Graham

-------------- Coral Information & Photos ----------

If any of this has gotten your attention there are a whole lot of other places to find out more. Check out some of the links below.














Links of Interest
Academic and Research Partners

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA's Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP)
Reefs at Risk Caribbean Project, World Resources Institute (WRI)
United States Coral Reef Task Force
National Science Foundation
University of Miami - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI)
American Museum of Natural History, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation
The College of The Bahamas
Stanford University
University of Arizona
University of California, Davis
University of Exeter
Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
Oceanografia Fisica (CICESE)
Australian National University - Center for Resource and Environmental Studies
Universidad de Costa Rica - CIMAR
Coral Reef Unit, United Nations Environment Programme
Environmental Defense
Florida Institute of Oceanography
North Carolina State University
ReefBase Project

ICRI and Related Links

International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)
International Coral Reef Action Networks (ICRAN)
The WorldFish Center
International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN)
World Bank (Coastal and Marine Management)
Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN)