In the News
Monday, July 21
Saturday, July 19
Monday, July 14
- Thanks to
Cartoon from the Tours de Jours comic strip that formerly appeared in
The Catalina Islander provided by Thelma Nowlin
Tuesday, July 08
- Thanks to
"Tim Berg of
Soldotna, Alaska, poses in Seward, Alaska,
with the 319.6-pound halibut he caught in
the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday, June 24,
2008, during the Seward Halibut Tournament.
Less than a week before the Seward Halibut
Tournament's final day, Soldotna angler Tim
Berg wrestled a herculean halibut from the
Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday morning that could
be worth $10,000."
Seafood, Blaine Bachman)
Monday, July 07
Saturday, July 05
GSEAS Dean Reflects on School's Development
An underwater robot pod, part of the Adaptive Sampling and Prediction
network, is launched off the deck of a research vessel into Monterey Bay.
This cold-water upwelling, oceanographic research was developed with the
help of NPS’ Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and headed
by a team of multidisciplinary investigators. The departing dean of GSEAS,
Dr. James Kays, understood the importance of each department’s role in the
development of the nation’s defense and established interdisciplinary focus
areas to help articulate its strengths to the Navy.
Wednesday, July 02
Tuesday, July 01
Thursday, June 26
Squid Found Floating Off California Coast
- If you eat
sushi, you may want to be involved with the following:
Seeking sushi sources
Help us with the details for our upcoming Seafood Watch sushi guide!
This fall Seafood Watch will launch our first-ever sushi pocket guide in
collaboration with the Blue Ocean Institute and we could use your help. Have
you wondered how our Seafood Watch research staff decide which fish to
include and what common names to use on our pocket guides and website? You
can help us with this very important step so our recommendations are
relevant and useful.
1. Let us know what your favorite sushi restaurants are serving. It's a way
to start a conversation and get chefs thinking about what types of fish they
use, where it comes from and how it's caught.
2. After selecting your favorite sushi restaurant, review their menu and ask
your server or sushi chef
these questions. If they ask, "Why you are you so curious?", tell them
you're helping the Seafood Watch program with some of its market research.
3. To help you remember what questions to ask, we recommend you click
the link to the survey, print it out and bring it with you to the
restaurant. Fill out as many questions as you can, but don't worry about
answering every question; anything you can do is helpful. When you get back
to your computer click the survey link again and enter your results!
4. Everyone who submits a survey will be entered to
win a cookbook from one of our Cooking for Solutions celebrity chefs or a
Seafood Watch reusable canvas tote bag. You must submit your results by July
14th to be entered into the drawing.
Wednesday, June 25
Monday, June 23
Friday, June 20, 2008
Wednesday , June
Tuesday , June
Thursday , June
Long-Lost Rubber Duckies Head for British Beaches
Monday , July 02, 2007
By Simon de Bruxelles
A flotilla of rubber
duckies, washed overboard from a container ship in the North Pacific in
1992, is about to invade Britain, according to an American oceanographer.
For the past 15 years
Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking nearly 30,000 Chinese-made
plastic bath toys — yellow ducks, green frogs, blue turtles and red beavers —
that were released into the Pacific Ocean when a container was washed off a
cargo ship during a storm.
Some of the bath toys, marketed in the U.S. as "Friendly
Floatees," are expected to reach Britain after a journey of nearly
17,000 miles, having crossed the Arctic Ocean frozen into pack ice, bobbed the
length of Greenland and been carried down the eastern seaboard of the United
Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Natural Science Center.
Ebbesmeyer, who is based in Seattle, said yesterday that those that had not
been trapped in circulating currents in the North Pacific, crushed by icebergs
or blown ashore in Japan were bobbing across the Atlantic on the Gulf Stream.
Any beachcomber who finds one of the ducks or their kin will be able to claim
a $100 reward from the toys' American distributor, The First Years Inc.
The ducks began life in a Chinese factory and were being shipped to the U.S.
from Hong Kong when three 40-foot containers fell into the Pacific during a
storm on Jan. 29, 1992.
Two-thirds of them floated south through the tropics, landing months later on
the shores of Indonesia, Australia and South America.
But 10,000 headed north and by the end of the year were off Alaska and
heading back westwards.
It took three years for the Friendly Floatees to circle counterclockwise east
to Japan, past the original drop site and then back to Alaska on a current known
as the North Pacific Gyre before continuing north towards the Arctic.
Many were stranded as the currents took them through the Bering Strait, which
divides Alaska from Russia.
Ebbesmeyer predicted that they would spend years trapped in the Arctic ice,
moving at the rate of one mile a day towards the Atlantic.
In 2000, eight years after their journey began, the ducks were reported in
the North Atlantic. In 2003, when they were expected to wash up on the American
eastern seaboard, The First Years announced the reward offer.
By that point the Floatees had been bleached white by the sun and sea water.
Sightings in the past two years have been scant, but oceanographers believe
that their next port of call is southwestern England, southern Ireland and
Simon Boxall, of the
Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England, said that the ducks offered
a great opportunity for climate-change research.
"They are a nice tracer for what the currents are doing as they travel around
the world, and currents are what determines our climate, and cycles of carbon,"
he said. "I would ask [vacationers] to keep an eye out, as they might be very
few and far between by now. It's a real adventure story and the plastic should
last 100 years, so we hope it will continue."
The landfalls have all been logged on a computer model called the
Surface Currents Simulation, which is used to help fisheries and find
people lost at sea.
Two children's books have been written about the saga and the ducks have
become collector's items, some changing hands for $1,000.
Organism ID'd That May Be Killing
Monday, July 02, 2007
By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press Writer
BOISE, Idaho —
An organism that may have played a part in killing thousands of
bighorn sheep in the West over
the last five decades and in thwarting repopulation efforts has been isolated in
a lab and found in struggling bighorn herds in the wild, biologists say.
Research done at Washington State University on tissue taken from dying lambs
captured in Hells Canyon _ a chasm that borders Idaho, Oregon and Washington _
isolated a type of bacteria called mycoplasma ovipneumoniae.
Biologists say that could be the initial organism that attacks the sheep and
works by inhibiting the ability of hairlike structures in airways to eliminate
bacteria that lead to deadly pneumonia.
Biologists have known that pneumonia often proves fatal to the wild sheep,
but have been stumped for years as why so many bighorns are susceptible.
"This is the first problem I've worked on where there is quite a bit of
evidence piling up where the agent is a mycoplasma," said Tom Besser, a
professor in WSU's department of veterinary microbiology and pathology. He works
at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on the school's Pullman,
In herds known to be infected with mycoplasma, anywhere from half to all the
lambs die each year from pneumonia. The lambs are most susceptible mainly
because their immune systems are not fully developed, said Frances Cassirer, a
wildlife research biologist with Idaho Fish and Game.
Among adult bighorns that hadn't previously been exposed to mycoplasma, 25
percent to 75 percent die, she said, noting the variation could be due to how
many were initially exposed or to how virulent a strain of the disease is at
She said pneumonia is the leading killer of bighorn herds infected with
mycoplasma. In herds not infected, the leading cause of death is predators,
mainly cougars, she said.
After WSU researchers identified the mycoplasma, biologists in Idaho,
Washington, Oregon, California and the Canadian province of Alberta sent the
researchers blood samples previously collected from 18 herds.
Researchers found antibodies to the mycoplasma in herds that saw deaths due
to pneumonia, but not in herds that were not experiencing large losses due to
"We found some really promising patterns and things seemed to fit together
really well," Cassirer said.
More tests are being done to confirm whether mycoplasma is leaving bighorns
open to pneumonia. One test involves infecting captive bighorn lambs at
Washington State University to see how they react.
Biologists say about 2 million bighorns once inhabited the West, but they
disappeared over most of their range in the 1800s and early 1900s due to
unregulated hunting and disease believed to have been carried by domestic
Repopulating projects and added protection in the last 50 years have now
boosted bighorn numbers to about 50,000, Cassirer said.
But sweeping epidemics of a mystery illness have wiped out thousands of Rocky
Mountain bighorns, California bighorns, Sierra Nevada bighorns, and desert
bighorns since reintroductions began. Cassirer said precise numbers of deaths
are not known.
Vic Coggins, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife,
said pneumonia likely was the main reason, even more than unregulated hunting,
for the bighorns' decline from 2 million. He said habitat loss also factored in,
but there is enough habitat available now across the West to support far more
than the current population.
"Easily," he said. "We estimate that in Hells Canyon we could have over
Currently, the area has a population of about 900, he said.
Cassirer said biologists aren't finding that infected herds can build up a
resistance with successive generations.
"If it's happening, it's not obvious to us," she said. "That's why we're
looking for another solution because the sheep might not be able to deal with it
on their own."
She said she didn't know how bighorn herds already infected with mycoplasma _
if that's a crucial factor in what's killing them _ could be helped.
She said attempts to find mycoplasma vaccines for domestic sheep have failed,
and even if one existed it would be difficult to administer to bighorns in the
Besser said mycoplasma is found in domestic sheep, but they typically
survive. He said he didn't know if domestic sheep were transmitting the bacteria
to wild sheep.
But Greg Dyson, executive director of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council,
is convinced domestic sheep are making bighorns sick.
"All indications are that the domestics are passing diseases and killing off
the bighorns," said Dyson. "And the bighorns just can't get a foothold to become
re-established. There have been entire herds that have died off."
In May the U.S. Forest Service, facing a lawsuit from Dyson's group and two
other environmental groups that share his concerns, announced that it was
restricting domestic sheep grazing in some areas of the Payette National Forest
this summer. The forest borders Hells Canyon.
In a federal court lawsuit filed in late June against the U.S. Department of
Agriculture over sheep grazing on land near Yellowstone National Park, the
Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity claim that
allowing domestic sheep to graze in the greater Yellowstone region of Idaho and
Montana puts wild bighorn sheep herds at risk of catching diseases from the
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Undersea Robots to Probe Mid-Arctic Ridge
Monday , June 25, 2007
The Gakkel Ridge,
encased under the frozen
Arctic Ocean, is steep and rocky, and scientists suspect its remote
location hosts an array of undiscovered life.
Researchers hope newly developed robots will give them their first look at
the mysterious ridge located between Greenland and Siberia.
Scientists from the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on
Cape Cod plan to begin a
40-day expedition of the ridge on July 1. They plan to use the robots to
navigate and map its terrain and sample any life found near a series of
underwater hot springs.
Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Natural Science Center.
Tim Shank, lead biologist on the international expedition, said researchers
have no idea what new life at the ridge might be like.
"I almost think it's like going to Australia for the first time, knowing it's
there, but not knowing what lives there," he said.
The Gakkel Ridge marks a 1,100-mile stretch from north of
Siberia, where the North
American and Eurasian tectonic plates continuously move away from each other.
Scientists believe new life could be discovered there because of hot springs
that are created at such tectonic boundaries when ocean water comes into contact
with hot magma rising from the earth's mantle.
The organisms known to exist in the Arctic basin, where the Gakkel is
located, may have evolved in a unique fashion because they were mostly isolated
from the life in the deep waters of other oceans for all but the last 25 million
years, said Robert
Reves-Sohn, the expedition's lead scientist.
The job of reaching any new organisms at the ridge falls to scientists
operating three new robotic vehicles, two of which are designed to navigate
untethered under the ice.
The two robots, named Puma
and Jaguar, cost about
$450,000 each and received significant funding from
NASA because their mission
is similar to what scientists hope to do in a future exploration under the ice
of one of Jupiter's moons, Europa.
The robots are built to descend to about 5,000 meters and work 5 to 6 meters
off the bottom, photographing and removing samples, said Hanumant Singh, the
project's chief engineer.
The advances are no guarantee of success, however.
The hot springs are difficult to find in far less challenging conditions and
the margin for error is thin, since the robots cannot surface through the ice
and be retrieved if there are problems.
Singh said the excitement of finding new organisms and understanding the
geology in the Arctic outweighs any risks to the robots.
"Even though we know there's a strong probability, or there's a reasonable
probability of losing a vehicle, it's still worth it," he said.
Troubled Times for Endangered Sea Otters
Sunday, June 10, 2007
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer
MONTEREY, Calif. —
Training her binoculars on a dark patch of floating seaweed, Gena Bentall
gasped. After searching for sea otters all day, the research biologist had
spotted one: a mother with a pup on her belly, but the otter's face was mauled
and dripping blood and a male was hot on her tail.
Female sea otters often bear scars on their noses, the price of breeding with
clumsy, sharp-toothed partners. But vicious injuries like this are showing up
with unusual frequency, one of several signs leading marine scientists to
suspect something is amiss for the threatened species.
"This is one of the things that makes us think the sex ratio is skewed in an
unhealthy way," said Tim Tinker, another otter expert who joined Bentall in
watching the injured mother try to outswim her menacing attacker in a rocky cove
near Monterey's famed Cannery Row.
The biologists have seen female otters _ many nursing babies, which makes
them incapable of getting pregnant _ with their muzzles ripped off. Even young
males have become targets of aggressive mating. The culprits are thought to be
itinerant, adolescent otters invading the territories of males who typically
guard their harems jealously.
Every spring and fall for the last quarter-century, teams of scientists have
fanned out along 375 miles of California coastline to count southern sea otters,
a species that was hunted to near-extinction a century ago. The census is used
to gauge whether the population is rebounding or declining, with at least three
years of similar results required to demonstrate a trend.
Tinker, a research biologist based at the University of California, Santa
Cruz, and Bentall, who works for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, were assigned to an
area that has one of the state's highest concentrations of sea otters.
Armed with binoculars and portable telescopes, they scanned the nearshore
water for three days, counting otters and noting their activities. The task is
tricky since sea otter heads can look an awful lot like floating kelp from a
distance. And observers can miss otters hidden by rocks or scared off by scuba
divers and kayakers.
Overall, the May survey brought welcome news following two years of declines
_ a solid 12 percent, or 334-otter increase that brought the number of adults
and pups combined above 3,000 for the first time. For the California sea otter
to be removed from the threatened species list, the count would have to average
3,090 or more over three years.
Scientists greeted the figures with measured optimism, noting that unusually
balmy, clear weather in early May provided good conditions for the census.
More significantly, they note, the average population over the last three
years is 2,818, still far below the delisting criteria but a 2.4 percent
improvement over the previous three-year benchmark. Combined with similarly
sluggish growth rates since the mid 1990s, the data suggest the species is
hanging on, but not bouncing back.
"The fact is the population is not recovering, and we really don't have a
good explanation for why," said Jim Estes, a veteran sea otter expert with the
U.S. Geological Survey.
Scientists are pretty sure elevated mortality rates among adult and young
adult otters are responsible for the disappointing comeback, as opposed to low
birth rates. Of particular concern is that survival rates for female otters have
gone down since the 1980s while increasing for the more mobile males, Tinker
No one knows for sure why the otters are failing to thrive, although there
are plenty of theories.
Tests on the carcasses of dead otters that wash ashore suggest they are
succumbing to diseases that may be linked to water pollution damaging their
immune systems. But scientists cannot know the cause of death for otters who
never end up on land, so they can't say whether disease or something else is the
"Here we have this otter population that seems to be on the cusp," Estes
said. "With a ratcheting down of the quality of the environment, it doesn't bode
very well in my mind for the future, which is just on the balance right now."
The first spring census, in 1982, found 1,856 otters. The population expanded
steadily _ by an average of 6 percent _ throughout the 1980s.
Based on previous growth rates of 13 to 15 percent seen in Alaska's northern
sea otters, experts thought it reasonable to expect the California population
would climb to about 16,000, the number estimated to have occupied the region
between Oregon and Baja Mexico in the 19th Century, before the otters were
nearly killed off by hunters seeking their thick, luxurious fur.
"But the population stopped growing," Tinker said.
In the case of the mother otter with the bloody face, Tinker said her
marauding suitor may have been trying to get her to wean or abandon her pup,
which would make her available for mating.
"When you just describe them as being cute, furry animals, you do them a
disservice," Bentall said. "They are incredible survivors."
On the Net:
Sea Otter Alliance:
November 30, 2006
Something to Read:
Thursday, 2 November 2006, 19:01 GMT
"Only 50 years left' for sea fish"
|By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of
the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.
Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of
decline is accelerating.
Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says
fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity.
But a greater use of protected areas could safeguard existing stocks.
"The way we use the oceans is that we hope and assume there will always be
another species to exploit after we've completely gone through the last
one," said research leader Boris Worm, from Dalhousie University in Canada.
||This century is the last century of
"What we're highlighting is there is a finite number of stocks; we have gone
through one-third, and we are going to get through the rest," he told the
BBC News website.
Steve Palumbi, from Stanford University in California, one of the other
scientists on the project, added: "Unless we fundamentally change the way we
manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this
century is the last century of wild seafood."
Spanning the seas
This is a vast piece of research, incorporating scientists from many
institutions in Europe and the Americas, and drawing on four distinctly
different kinds of data.
Catch records from the open sea give a picture of declining fish stocks.
In 2003, 29% of open sea fisheries were in a state of collapse, defined
as a decline to less than 10% of their original yield.
Bigger vessels, better nets, and new technology for spotting fish are not
bringing the world's fleets bigger returns - in fact, the global catch fell
by 13% between 1994 and 2003.
Historical records from coastal zones in North America, Europe and
Australia also show declining yields, in step with declining species
diversity; these are yields not just of fish, but of other kinds of seafood
Zones of biodiversity loss also tended to see more beach closures, more
blooms of potentially harmful algae, and more coastal flooding.
||We should protect biodiversity, and
it does pay off through fisheries yield
Carl Gustaf Lundin
Experiments performed in small, relatively contained ecosystems show that
reductions in diversity tend to bring reductions in the size and robustness
of local fish stocks. This implies that loss of biodiversity is driving the
declines in fish stocks seen in the large-scale studies.
The final part of the jigsaw is data from areas where fishing has been
banned or heavily restricted.
These show that protection brings back biodiversity within the zone, and
restores populations of fish just outside.
"The image I use to explain why biodiversity is so important is that marine
life is a bit like a house of cards," said Dr Worm.
"All parts of it are integral to the structure; if you remove parts,
particularly at the bottom, it's detrimental to everything on top and
threatens the whole structure.
"And we're learning that in the oceans, species are very strongly linked
to each other - probably more so than on land."
What the study does not do is attribute damage to individual activities
such as over-fishing, pollution or habitat loss; instead it paints a picture
of the cumulative harm done across the board.
Even so, a key implication of the research is that more of the oceans
should be protected.
But the extent of protection is not the only issue, according to Carl Gustaf
Lundin, head of the global marine programme at IUCN, the World Conservation
"The benefits of marine-protected areas are quite clear in a few cases;
there's no doubt that protecting areas leads to a lot more fish and larger
fish, and less vulnerability," he said.
"But you also have to have good management of marine parks and good
management of fisheries. Clearly, fishing should not wreck the ecosystem,
bottom trawling being a good example of something which does wreck the
But, he said, the concept of protecting fish stocks by protecting
biodiversity does make sense.
"This is a good compelling case; we should protect biodiversity, and it
does pay off even in simple monetary terms through fisheries yield."
Protecting stocks demands the political will to act on scientific advice
- something which Boris Worm finds lacking in Europe, where politicians have
ignored recommendations to halt the iconic North Sea cod fishery year after
Without a ban, scientists fear the North Sea stocks could follow the
Grand Banks cod of eastern Canada into apparently terminal decline.
"I'm just amazed, it's very irrational," he said.
"You have scientific consensus and nothing moves. It's a sad example; and
what happened in Canada should be such a warning, because now it's collapsed
it's not coming back."
1. Experiments show that reducing the diversity of an ecosystem
lowers the abundance of fish
2. Historical records show extensive loss of biodiversity along
coasts since 1800, with the collapse of about 40% of species.
About one-third of once viable coastal fisheries are now useless
3. Catch records from the open ocean show widespread decline of
fisheries since 1950 with the rate of decline increasing. In
2003, 29% of fisheries were collapsed. Biodiverse regions'
stocks fare better
4. Marine reserves and no-catch zones bring an average 23%
improvement in biodiversity and an increase in fish stocks
around the protected area
Civil Defense Message -
County of Hawaii
Read of today's [10-15-06] 6.3 magnitude earthquake, by
Dozens of fish, shrimp and coral
species, including two new types of a shark
that walks on its fins, have been discovered
in waters off New Guinea in the South
Pacific, conservationists announced Monday.
The researchers described the area as
“Earth's richest seascape” and “the most
biodiverse marine area on the planet.” But
they also warned that it faces threats such
as fishing with dynamite and cyanide,
commercial fishing and degraded water
quality from mining and logging in Papua
province, a section of New Guinea governed
“These Papuan reefs are literally
‘species factories’ that require special
attention to protect them from unsustainable
fisheries and other threats so they can
continue to benefit their local owners and
the global community,” expedition leader
Mark Erdmann, a researcher with Conservation
International, said in a
“Six of our survey sites, which are
areas the size of two football fields, had
over 250 species of reef-building coral each
— that’s more than four times the number of
coral species of the entire Caribbean Sea,”
The entire area covers 45 million
acres off a peninsula in northwest New
Guinea. Researchers have counted 1,200
species of fish there and 600 species of
reef-building coral — the latter equal to 75
percent of the world’s known total.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef,
covering an area 10 times bigger, has more
types of fish — 1,464 species — but just 405
species of coral. And the bigger Caribbean
Sea has fewer than 1,000 species of fish and
just 58 types of coral.
During two surveys earlier this year,
Conservation International and Indonesian
experts found at least 36 new species of
fish, coral and mantis shrimp in the waters,
which are peppered with 2,500 islands and
submerged reefs. The area also includes the
largest Pacific leatherback turtle nesting
area in the world, and is visited by whales,
orcas and several dolphin species.
Two of the new species are members of
the epaulette shark family, which
distinguishes itself by sometimes using its
fins to scamper away. Their name comes from
the fact that they have two large round
spots near their heads that look like
epaulettes, the shoulder ornaments on
Dynamite, cyanide threats
The researchers, who plan
additional surveys next year, said it's
already clear that Indonesia should extend
protections around the region, only
one-tenth of which now has national park
MSNBC.com that as resource-rich as the
region is, it faces immediate threats such
as the use of dynamite and cyanide by locals
to stun and then capture live fish for
"At two sites we heard ear-shattering
fish bombing blasts in the near vicinity,"
he said, "and our socio-economic team from
the State University of Papua documented a
number of villages where cyanide fishers
were actively targeting grouper for capture
with cyanide before exporting to China live.
"We also saw past
evidence of illegal logging, though I'm
happy to say that the Indonesian
government's crackdown on illegal logging
over the past five years seems to have
greatly reduced this activity in Papua and
we did not see any active logging. We are,
of course, concerned about stated plans for
both mining and logging in steep coastal
areas that would be done legally.”
Commercial fishing in area
Erdmann said a potentially greater problem
could be the introduction of commercial
fishing in the area as Indonesia transfers
fishing pressure from its overfished western
seas eastwards towards Papua.
survey our socio-economic team did interview
one Chinese-owned fish processing plant that
is set up in the southeast of the Kaimana
coastline," he said. "They are currently
fishing just offshore for shrimp using
trawls, but confided they had plans to bring
approximately 100 additional vessels on line
over the next two years targeting fish
stocks just offshore. Needless to say, this
is only one company, and this level of
investment would clearly be unsustainable
and likely collapse the fishery within three
to five years at most."
Conservation International — which has been
working with Indonesia as well as The Nature
Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund —
said it was optimistic that Indonesia would
see the value of protecting the region.
"We've been very
pleased with the positive response of the
Indonesian government to our survey results,
and with indications ... of their interest
in expanding a network of marine protected
areas to both protect the unparalleled
marine biodiversity and also ensure
sustainable management of fisheries in order
that local communities maintain their food
biodiversity was brought to the public's
attention last February, when Conservation
International reported that
an expedition to the Foja Mountains,
some 200 miles inland, had revealed a "lost
world" of wildlife.
© 2006 MSNBC Interactive
Indonesia Tsunami Survivors Sought as
Death Toll Climbs
Tuesday , July 18, 2006
PANGANDARAN, Indonesia — Corpses were recovered Tuesday from
beaches, homes and hotels ravaged by
's second tsunami
in as many years, pushing the death toll to at least 341. Nearly 230
people were missing.
The government, under fire for failing to pass on warnings about
the impending disaster, vowed to quickly build an alert system
across the country that straddles one of the world's most violent
Bodies covered in white sheets piled up at makeshift morgues,
while others lay beneath the blazing sun in the tourist resort of
a 6-month-old baby among them.
The search for survivors continued Tuesday, with parents among
the last to give up.
"The water was too strong," said Irah as she dug through a pile
of rubble with her bare hands, close to the spot where she last saw
her 6-year-old son. "Oh God. Eki, where are you?"
The magnitude 7.7 undersea quake on Monday
triggered walls of water more than six feet high that crashed into a
110-mile stretch of beach on
an area spared by the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami.
The waves destroyed houses, restaurants and hotels
and tossed boats, cars and motorbikes far inland.
The death toll rose Tuesday to at least 341,
according to Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal
Bakrie, and, with 229 more missing, the number was expected to
"We are still finding many bodies. Many are stuck
in the ruins of the houses," said police chief Syamsuddin Janieb.
Almost all the victims were Indonesians, but a
Pakistani, a Swede and a Dutch citizen were among those killed,
At least 42,000 people fled their homes, either
because they were destroyed or in fear of another tsunami, adding to
the difficulty of counting casualties.
At the area's main hospital, in the town of Banjar,
medics scrambled to treat a steady stream of patients, most from the
Pangandaran coast. Some slept on dirty mattresses on the floor,
while others were treated in the admissions hall.
Among the handful of foreign patients was Hamed
Abukhamiss, a 40-year-old Saudi who was eating french fries with his
family at a beach-side cafe when the tsunami came into view on the
His 12-year-old son, Yousif, saw the wave
approaching through binoculars, but no one believed him when he
Less than a minute later the family was swept away
in the torrent of water, and Abukhamiss' wife and 4-year-old son
"I'll bury them here, but I will never come back,"
he said, crying in his hospital bed. "How am I going to tell my
daughter her mother is dead?"
Monday's quake struck at 3:24 p.m. about 150 miles
beneath the ocean floor, causing tall buildings to sway hundreds of
miles away in the capital, Jakarta.
After the quake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning
Center and Japan's Meteorological Agency issued warnings of a
possible tsunami. It struck Java about an hour later.
Science and Technology Minister
Kusmayanto Kadiman said Indonesia received the bulletins 45 minutes
before the tsunami hit but did not announce them because they did
not want to cause unnecessary alarm.
"If it (the tsunami) did not occur, what would
have happened?" he told reporters in Jakarta, noting that there was
no effective way to spread a warning without a system of sirens or
alarms in place.
He said Indonesia now planned to speed up plans
for a nationwide warning system.
Indonesia was hardest hit by a 2004 tsunami that
killed at least 216,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean nations —
with more than half the deaths occurring in Sumatra island's Aceh
Though the country started to install a warning
system after that disaster, it is still in the early stages. The
government had been planning to extend the alert system to Java —
which was hit by a quake in May that killed more than 5,800 people —
Answering reporters' questions as to why no
warning was issued on Monday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla claimed
there was no need because most people had fled inland after the
earthquake, fearing a tsunami.
"After the quake occurred, people ran to the hills
... so in actual fact there was a kind of natural early warning
system," he said. However, of dozens of people interviewed by The
Associated Press in Pangandaran on Tuesday, only one person said he
felt a slight tremor. None said there was a mass movement of people
to higher ground before the tsunami, though some residents
recognized the danger when they saw the wall of water approaching.
Indonesia is on the so-called Pacific "Ring of
Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific
Imported Canned Tuna High in
Mercury, Enviro Group Warns
Tuesday , July 11, 2006
WASHINGTON — Many imports of
levels higher than the federal limit, according to analysis
by an environmental group.
Defenders of Wildlife found the highest levels of mercury in
tuna from Ecuador and Mexico — countries known for setting nets
where they see dolphins to catch large tuna swimming below.
"They tend to catch larger, more mature fish, which tend to have
higher levels, being at the top of the food chain," said Bob Irvin,
the group's senior vice president for conservation.
The group is a longtime advocate of dolphin-safe tuna.
The group had a laboratory test 164 cans of tuna labeled as being
from Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, Malaysia, the
Philippines and the United States. Tests were done by New
Age/Landmark laboratory, a Benton Harbor, Mich., company that has
been used by the federal government.
Analysis of the samples found:
--Average mercury content of U.S. tuna was generally lower than
--Tuna from Asia had the lowest average levels of mercury.
--Tuna from Latin America had the highest mercury levels, with
some exceeding the government limit of 1.0 parts per million.
The lab found higher levels of mercury even in light tuna, which
the Food and Drug Administration considers to be low in mercury.
FDA says it's safe to eat two meals a week of fish and shellfish
that are lower in mercury, such as canned light tuna, shrimp,
salmon, pollock and catfish.
But the agency says to limit
"white," tuna to one meal per week because it contains higher levels
Defenders of Wildlife said people should limit light tuna to one
meal each week, instead of two, and avoid canned tuna that says it
is imported on the label.
"The occasional tuna sandwich is not going to cause any problems,
but we are saying the government needs to do a better job of looking
at mercury content in light canned tuna, which up to now has been
touted as a low-mercury source of protein," Irvin said.
The federal government advises pregnant women, nursing mothers
and young children to avoid fish with high levels of mercury —
shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Elevated mercury levels
have been linked to learning disabilities and developmental delays
in children and to heart, nervous system and kidney damage in
Traces of mercury are found in nearly all fish and shellfish.
Released through industrial pollution, mercury falls and accumulates
in streams and oceans as
Methylmercury builds up in fish and shellfish as they feed, in some
types more than others.
However, eating fish also has widely acknowledged health
benefits. The American Heart Association advises people to eat fish
at least twice a week.
Coral Polyps Can Adjust Skeletons to Water
Friday , July 07, 2006
By Sara Goudarzi
Corals can alter their skeletons to match
the changing chemistry of seawater, making
them the only known animals to achieve such
a feat, according to a new study.
These animals are the building blocks of
reefs, large coral skeletons which host a
variety of other animals, plants, algae and
bacteria, and protect shores from erosion by
absorbing wave energy.
Coral reefs are made from
calcium carbonate secreted by
coral polyps over millions of years.
Corals generally use aragonite, a
carbonate material, to make the calcium
But the new study, detailed in the July
issue of the journal
Geology, shows that when there is a
decrease in the ratio of magnesium to
calcium in the seawater, corals can switch
to calcite for producing calcium carbonate.
"This is intriguing because, until now,
it was generally believed that the skeletal
composition of corals was fixed," said
co-author Justin Ries, a postdoctoral fellow
Johns Hopkins University.
Ries formulated six different
magnesium-to-calcium ratios that existed
throughout the 480-million-year history of
corals and then, in his lab, added three
species of Caribbean reef-building corals.
Two months later, he examined the mineral
composition of the coral skeletons and found
that each kind of coral had produced its
skeleton based on the kind of water it was
"This is particularly significant given
recently observed and predicted future
changes in the temperature and acidity of
our oceans via global warming and rising
atmospheric [carbon dioxide], respectively,"
Ries said. "That will presumably have a
significant impact on corals' ability to
build their skeletons and construct their
Revelers Trash Beaches
SAN DIEGO - Well over half a
million people celebrated the Fourth of July on San
Diego County beaches Tuesday.
Evidence of the party was everywhere Wednesday morning.
Thousands of pounds of garbage carpeted Mission and
Pacific beaches. The leavings included plastic bottles,
leftover food, coolers, tents, umbrellas and beach
Volunteers picked up more than 4,000 pounds of litter
from county beaches after last year's July Fourth
celebration, according to the San Diego County Surfrider
Association. The tonnage is likely to be comparable this
association is asking volunteers to help clean up
Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. Those willing to lend a
hand should gather at:
- the Ocean Beach Pier
- Belmont Park
- La Jolla Shores
- 15th Street in Del Mar
- South Carlsbad State Beach
- Oceanside South Jetty
Volunteers under 18 need a signed note from a parent or
guardian to participate.
the course of the four-day holiday weekend, an estimated
1.5 million people hit the beaches. Lifeguards made
about 1,500 rescues between Saturday and Tuesday,
including more than 500 on July Fourth, they said.
Have a Fun Summer!
Beach Safety 101: Tips for Staying Healthy Seaside
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
By Denise Mann
From death-defying rip currents and red-hot sun to
jellyfish stings and shark attacks, the beach can be a
pretty scary place. But it doesn’t have to be.
Experts tell WebMD that a day at the beach can be … well
… a day at the beach -- when you know what to look out for.
“Swimming and water activities are very healthy so long
as you use appropriate caution for yourself and your family
when you visit the beach,” says B. Chris Brewster, president
of the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), a
national organization based in Huntington Beach, Calif. The
first step is knowing where danger lurks and how to avoid
Conquering Rip Currents
Rip currents, often misnamed rip tides or undertows,
occur when surf pushes water up the slope of the beach and
then gravity pulls it back. This creates concentrated rivers
of water moving offshore. They tend to form as waves
disperse along the beach, causing water to become trapped
between the beach and a sandbar or another underwater
feature. The water converges into a narrow, river-like
channel moving away from the shore at high speed.
They are anything but benign. In fact, about 80 percent
of lifeguard rescues at ocean beaches are due to rip
currents and 80 percent of drowning deaths are also due to
rip currents, Brewster says. “Rip currents can occur at any
surf beach and they tend to be more intense as surf size
increases,” Brewster says.
The best way to protect yourself from rip currents is to
avoid them. ”Select a beach where lifeguards are present
because the chances of drowning are 1 in 18 million if a
lifeguard is present,” he says.
Sounds simple enough, but there are many beaches around
the U.S. where no lifeguards are provided by the local
community, he says.
“Make sure beaches are staffed at the time you are
swimming,” he adds. “At some beaches, lifeguards are only
staffed until 6 p.m., for example, so the mere fact that you
go to a beach where a lifeguard is present doesn’t mean a
lifeguard will be present when you are swimming,” he says.
Brewster advises checking with the lifeguards and asking
them to point out the safest places to swim. “It is their
role to help you find the safest place [and] if there are no
lifeguards present, you may find a kiosk or signs at beach
access points listing such information.”
If you do happen to get caught in a rip current, Brewster
advises swimming to the side one way or the other until you
no longer have difficulties or feel yourself being pulled.
Whatever you do, don't fight the current.
"These currents can move up to 8 knots, which is faster
than an Olympic swimmer can swim,” he says. “In many cases,
you will be simply unable to outpower the rip current, so
you’ll want to outsmart it,” he says.
Another option is to tread water until someone can assist
you, Brewster suggests.
“Learn to swim in the environment where you are going to
be swimming,” Brewster says. “You may be a confident pool
swimmer, but that doesn’t prepare you for conditions on the
North shore of Oahu in Hawaii,” he says.
“Always swim near a lifeguard and never swim alone,” he
says. “Even a very confident swimmer can experience
difficulties and if there is an emergency and you are alone,
you may not be noticed.”
Alcohol and Swimming Don't Mix
“You should avoid alcohol while swimming,” Brewster says.
According to the USLA, alcohol can reduce your body
temperature and impair your swimming ability as well as
impair judgment, causing you to take unnecessary risks.
Float Where You Can Swim
“If you have a raft, don't take it any further from shore
than you have the capability to swim,” Brewster says. “If
you are using a floating device such as a body board or
raft, use a leash so that if you fall off, you don’t lose
the device,” he recommends.
Steer Clear of Sharks
Each summer, we tend to hear about at least one horrific
shark attack. In fact, in mid-June, a surfer died after a
shark bit him in the left thigh in waters off northeastern
Brazil that are known for large concentrations of sharks,
according to media reports.
But shark attacks are actually rather rare. In fact,
worldwide there is an average of 50 to 70 shark attacks
every year, according to statistics compiled by the
International Shark Attack File.
“You are far more likely to be injured in a car accident
driving to the beach than to ever even see a shark,” says
Brewster. To avoid becoming a statistic, “don’t wear shiny
jewelry or swim at dusk,” Brewster suggests. “Shark bites
are believed to be a result of prey identification mistakes
where the shark thinks you are a fish or a seal.”
Jumping Over Jelly Fish
“Generally you want to avoid any and all jelly fish,”
Brewster says. “If they are in the water, you may want to
avoid the water or check with a lifeguard to determine what
level of problems they are experiencing,” he says. Still,
“jelly fish stings tend to be annoyances rather than
Mind the Water Quality
Most communities test beach waters and are required to do
so under federal legislation,” Brewster says.
“It’s a good idea to find out what the water quality is
before you go in because the results of poor water quality
are gastrointestinal distress, ear infection, and
occasionally more serious problems,” he says.
Some beaches will post updates on water quality but,
explained Brewster, this information is not always reliable
because most testing is random and occurs on an infrequent
“By the time the signs are up, the water quality may have
already been poor for over a day,” he says. A good call is
to avoid the ocean right after a rain fall. “If you have
recently had heavy rainfall, there is a high likelihood that
water quality may have degraded to at least some degree.”
Slather on Sunscreen
Nothing can ruin a day at the beach like sunburn.
Research has shown that sun exposure prior to the age of 18
significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer
later in life, including the potentially fatal melanoma. New
research has shown that sunburns after the age of 20 also
increase the risk of developing melanoma.
“You can substantially reduce your risk of getting burnt
and developing skin cancer by taking certain precautions,”
says Bruce Katz, MD, the director of the JUVA Skin and Laser
Center in New York City.
The first step is wearing sunscreen. "It’s not just about
sun protection factor (SPF), it’s also about the other
ingredients,” Katz says. Choose sunscreens with titanium
dioxide or zinc oxide.
“These ingredients block both ultraviolet-B (UVB) and
ultraviolet-A (UVA), while other ingredients block only UVB,”
he says. Choose an SPF of 15 or higher.
Remember that no sunscreens are sweat-proof or rub-proof,
so they will have to be reapplied every two hours,
particularly if you are sweating or swimming. It’s also
important to wear hats with broad rims and sunglasses with
protection built into the lenses.
“The sunlight is most intense from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” he
says. “Be careful and stand under an umbrella, and remember
that the sun is a lot stronger than it was 10 or 20 years
ago because ozone has thinned out.”
By Denise Mann, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
SOURCES: Chris Brewster, president, United States
Lifesaving Association. Bruce Katz, MD, director, JUVA Skin
and Laser Center, New York City.
Birth Rate on Upswing
Thursday , June 29, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO — The number of baby
born along the Pacific Coast has rebounded from record low levels,
suggesting that pregnant females are thriving despite a warming
Arctic feeding environment, biologists said.
The number of calves that passed Point Piedras Blancas near San
Luis Obispo jumped from 945 last year to 1,018 calves in 2006,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Fewer than 300 of the 3-month-olds were spotted in 2000 and 2001.
The whales have traditionally migrated to summer feeding grounds
in the northern Bering Sea, but have been forced farther north in
recent years because warming air and water has reduced the
population of its favored prey, the
In 1999, about 270 whales washed up dead or dying on the Pacific
Coast, some severely malnourished, according to NOAA.
But the whales appear to have taken advantage of melted polar sea
ice, discovering new routes to food farther north near Barrow,
Alaska, and finding enough crustaceans in the mud to nourish
pregnant females, scientists said.
"It's a reasonable level of reproduction, and the overall trend
over the past five years is positive," said Wayne Perryman, a NOAA
fisheries biologist in La Jolla.