Archive for Endangered Species
www.bbc.co.uk 11th March 2013
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made a progressive step towards the conservation of sharks around the world by giving added protection to three endangered species. The convention, currently being held in Bangkok, Thailand, voted by a two-thirds majority to increase the status of the ocean whitetip, three species of hammerhead, and the porbeagle sharks, as well as Manta rays. Despite strong opposition from Japan and China, two countries known for their taste in exotic marine species, a shift in the attitude of South American nations such as Brazil and Colombia helped the motion pass. However, it could still be overturned on appeal on the final day of the convention this week. Although the move stops short of banning the shark fin trade altogether, it does introduce stricter regulations that can result in sanctions on animal products if flouted. Many shark populations have plummeted 90% in the last 100 years largely as a result of overfishing. As many as a 100 million sharks are captured every year.
www.guardian.co.uk 9th February 2013
David Milliband, the brother of Ed the leader of the Labour Party, is to lead the newly formed Global Ocean Commission, a body to tackle the lawlessness of the open ocean. Mr Milliband will be alongside Nelson Mandela’s former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, and the former president of Costa Rica, José María Figueres, as well as yet-to-be-announced commissioners picked from former heads-of-state and senior ministers. The oceans are beginning to feature more prominently in global politics as their fate is looking increasingly uncertain. The open seas are beyond any national legislation and are therefore lawless. Preventable problems like over-fishing and pollution are causing severe damage to the marine eco-system and the former could lead to a collapse of numerous fish-stocks by the 2040. David Milliband is a good candidate for his role in the Global Ocean Commission. During his position as Foreign Secretary under the last UK labour government he established the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean; an area of no-fishing covering 640,000 square kilometres. ”The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale,” David Miliband told the Observer. “It is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis. The long-term costs of the mismanagement of our oceans are at least as great as long-term costs of the mismanagement of the financial system. We are living as if there are three or four planets instead of one, and you can’t get away with that.”
Quoted from bbc.co.uk 10th January 2013
‘Figures from the South African government indicate that poaching for rhinoceros has increased substantially in the last year. A record 668 rhinos were killed for their horns in 2012, up almost 50% on the number for 2011. The majority of the animals were killed in the Kruger national park, the country’s biggest wildlife reserve. Experts say that growing demand for rhino horn in Asia is driving the slaughter. South Africa is home to around three quarters of the world’s rhinoceros population of around 28,000 animals. In 2007 a mere 13 animals were lost to poachers. But since then the killing has increased substantially. It is being fuelled by the belief in countries like China and Vietnam that powdered rhino horn has medicinal powers and can impact diseases like cancer. Horns can sell for around $65,000 a kg. The rich rewards have attracted criminal gangs who deploy a range of sophisticated technologies in their efforts to capture and dehorn the animals. The South African government have attempted to fight back using soldiers and surveillance aircraft, but the numbers indicate they are losing the fight.’
In other poaching news, Zambia has banned the hunting of big cats after the ministry of Tourism decided more money was to be made in keeping the animals alive. ‘Blood-sport’ only raised $3 million (£1.9 million) in 2012.
www.bbc.co.uk 5th January 2013
A new record has been set for the sale of a single Bluefin Tuna at the first sale of the year of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. The tuna, weighing in at 222kg, was sold to a sushi restaurant owner by the name of Kiyoshi Kimura for 155m yen ($1.7m; £1.05m). The fish was 45kg lighter than last year’s record, which sold for 56m yen. The sale comes just before the release of new data from the Pew Environmental Group on Monday, which is expected ‘to show a continued decline in Pacific bluefin stocks’. Japan consumes over half of the world’s Bluefin Tuna catch.
New research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that the illicit trade in animal and plant parts is worth $19 billion a year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and people trafficking. The report highlights the potential risk to national stability as armed rebel groups are using the trade to fund civil conflicts. The WWF study cites the example of a large elephant massacre in northern Cameroon as an example. In this case, rebel groups from Chad and Sudan killed 450 elephants in order to sell their ivory to buy arms. A recent seizure of an estimated 20 tonnes of ivory in Malaysia on route to China only shows to exemplify the scale of the trade. According to the Born Free Foundation, the number of elephants killed from poaching (c. 30,000) now exceeds the number that die of natural causes.
www.cnn.com 3rd July 2012
The Government Office Administration of the State Council of China has announced its intention to ban shark fins being served at official banquets. Shark fins are usually served in a soup that was originally reserved for the elite during imperial times. With the Chinese economic boom however, demand for the luxury dish has rocketed resulting in widespread and unsustainable shark fishing. Sharks are usually finned while still alive and the rest of the body is discarded. The demand for shark fin soup has been attributed to the increase of endangered shark species across the planet, rising from 15 in 1996 to 181 today. Between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed every year. The move by the Government Office Administration came after a proposal was put forward in the National People’s Congress early last year. Although it may take as long as three years to implement, the ban would ‘help cut the cost of sometimes lavish banquets held for state functions.’ Several companies have also made moves to ban the product in China including the Peninsula Hotel and Shangri-la Hotels chains. Swissotel in Beijing has already stopped.
www.independent.co.uk 17th June 2012
A stonemason has come up with the brilliant idea of creating a monument to commemorate all the species on the planet that have gone extinct. Sebastian Brooke’s original idea was to carve sculptures of non-existent species but the project soon spiralled to more grandiose designs. Mr Brooke has teamed up with David Adjaye, a London-based architect, to create Memo (“The Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory”). The monument will be situated on the Portland coast, the southernmost tip of Dorset and part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. A bell made from Portland stone (a practice that hasn’t been around since the Bronze Age) will be situated in the building and will toll out every time a species becomes extinct. Considering 20,000 species are currently listed as on the brink of extinction, and this number is only set to rise as human beings continue to destroy the environment, the bell should toll out fairly frequently. The Royal Society, the project has the support of Sir Crispin Tickell, chairman emeritus of the Climate Institute in Washington, the Eden Project creator Tim Smit, and Edward O Wilson, the Harvard biologist acknowledged as the father of biodiversity. Mr Adjaye is donating the design,an elegy to the ammonite, for free, so impressed was he by the idea. It will cost £20 million and take 18 months to complete, following an 18 month period for fund-raising.
www.bbc.co.uk 13th June 2012
EU fishery ministers have provisionally backed a ban on the wasteful practice of discards, whereby fishermen throw back non-target fish that are caught up in their nets. This would see discards of Herring and Mackerel banned by 2014 and those of Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Sole by 2018. The latter four will take longer to implement because of their tendency to swim together, therefore making it harder to avoid catching non-target species. The ban in not binding however and came as a result of a compromise following 24 hours of intense discussions between ministers, who all agreed that overfishing should end by 2015, 2020 at the latest. However, green groups such as Greenpeace have condemned the wording of the ‘agreement’, particularly the sentence: ”quantifiable targets linked to biological parameters”. Greenpeace argue that targets should be governed by science, not linked to it.
Sign Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign now to keep the pressure on the EU Fisheries Commission to change.
The National Geographic November 2011 Issue
Decades of civil war has taken its toll on the rich biodiversity of the East African Rift Valley, a monumental geological phenomenon that separates the Nubian tectonic plate from the Somalian plate before forking down either side of Uganda. The region has seen the numerous conflicts over the last century including the most deadly since WWII: The Great African War, which saw around 5 million die. It also happens to be home to the highest biomass of large mammals in the world as well s huge reserves of important minerals such as gold, tin and coltan. This, combined with the huge population increase that places like the Democratic Republic of Congo have seen recently (for example in Goma, pictured, which is located next to an active volcano), has made for a volatile situation. People want land, and there is only a limited amount to go around.
For the national parks of the area, times are not good. Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga National Park founded in 1925, is a ‘warzone’ with many people already settled inside the park’s boundaries. The lodges are gutted and tourism is almost non-existent following the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The remaining park rangers are constantly battling with local militias, called Mai-Mai fighters, who control illegal fishing and charcoal production. Conogolese soldiers stationed on the western shore of Lake Edward have decimated populations of megafauna. 96% of the park’s hippo population has been slaughtered and sold for bush meat by militias. If the park rangers’ job is hard enough, they also face direct threats to their lives. In response to the rangers destroying illegal fishing boats (the fishing fleet of Lake Albert has swelled from 760 in the 1960s to 6,000 today), the Mai-Mai have put out bounties on the rangers. Furthermore, 100,000 villagers have demanded the government to reduce the park by 90%, or they’ll take it by force.
The Ugandan Queen Elizabeth Park (above), established in 1952, is not a lot better. By 1980 elephant numbers had dropped from 3,000 to 150. A common belief among the crowded villages is that national parks are making the population poor. In Uganda’s Kagombe Forest Reserve, a presidential decree has disallowed National Forestry Authority from evicting immigrant settlers, largely because of the upcoming elections. In order to placate the native populations about the rise of immigrants, politicians then announced that they too should seize land (see picture below). Most wildlife has now been hunted out of the reserve, a once important corridor for chimps and other animals. According to the forestry authority’s sector manager, Patrick Kakeeto, “they’re cutting all of this down and we can’t touch them. For us, it’s kind of psychoprofessional torture.”
The current standoff in the South China Sea reported in the BBC has the potential to be the beginning of something far larger in scale. The standoff is between China and the Philippines, and the area of contention is Scarborough Shoal, a small atoll of islands and reefs that lies well within the Philippines 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) dictated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (above). However, along with most of the rest of the South China Sea, China claims the atoll belongs to them. On Sunday (8th April), the Philippine’s largest warship, on a routine patrol of the area, found eight Chinese fishing vessels around Scarborough Shoal. Upon boarding one, the Philippine navy found a large amount of illegally caught fish and coral. Two days after this, two Chinese navy surveillance vessels arrived on the scene and positioned themselves between the fishing vessels and the Philippine warship, foiling any attempts the latter had to arrest the fishermen. Tensions grew yet further with news, reported in the BBC today (Thursday 12th April), that a Philippine coastguard vessel was to join the warship to face down the Chinese.
China claims territory within the 200 mile EEZs of five other countries around the South China Sea: Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Regional flare-ups have happened in the past but they have, as yet, not ended in violence. One factor that must be taken into account when studying the geopolitics of the region is the possibility that a large amount of oil and gas resides beneath the Sea. This maybe one reason why China has been bolstering its navy in recent years, a move that makes it now the second largest naval force in the world after the USA with over 500 combat vessels. The People’s Liberation Army’s Navy also trialled its first aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
However, another factor that is sure to play a part in regional tensions in this part of the world is fish. It is interesting to note that although the confrontational nature of the Chinese surveillance vessels off Scarborough Shoal maybe to safeguard the area for future fossil fuel exploitation, it kicked off because of illegal fishing around the islands. With 70% of the world’s fish stocks being fished close to, already at, or beyond capacity has led experts to predict a catastrophic collapse in worldwide fish-stocks by the year 2048. Coastal communities in south-eastern Asian countries such as China and the Philippines have traditionally relied upon fish as a main source of protein and as fish populations decline, fishermen are having to travel further afield to satisfy demand. Not only does this have a devastating effect on the marine environment (from unsustainable fishing practices alone), but it also causes territorial disputes such as the one brewing around the Scarborough Shoal.
The fact that the Philippine navy is about to commence naval exercises alongside the US Navy in the same area makes for an interesting, and possibly fatal, few months. Although it is by no means certain that hostilities will commence (actually it is extremely unlikely as the last thing either the USA or China want is a clash), the fact that a standoff is even happening is because, presumably, the Chinese fishing vessels cannot find enough fish in areas of water that are less contested. This of course does not take into account the possibility that the boats were deliberately sent to the Shoal to reinforce China’s claim on the area.
Nobody wants a naval war to start in the South China Sea. Exploiting oil and gas reserves would become very difficult if it did. However, China does need to decide what is a more important resource: oil or fish. The former may matter more for the economy but the latter may be worth more to the population. Riots have started for far less than an increase in the price of fish. If it turns out that fish is a more important resource, then we here at LMV would not be surprised if clashes do happen in the South China Sea.
The coast of northern Australia is a beautiful environment that has been blighted in recent years by the global problem of marine debris. One form of debris in particular is causing problems: derelict fishing nets. These nets are made out of monofilament twine, a type of plastic that can last as long as 600 years in the environment, according to the US Marine Park Service and Mote Marine Laboratory. In places like Hawaii, ghost nets, as they are known, are shipped to a waste to energy facility but in northern Australia, due to the vast distances involved, the problem is harder to solve. They typically end up in landfill or are burnt.
GhostNets Australia is an alliance of 22 indigenous groups from three states in the northern part of the country. Formerly known as the Carpentaria Ghost Nets Programme, the group has been responsible for removing 7,500 nets off the beaches since 2004. Amazingly, less than 10% of these nets have originated from Australia, with the majority washing in from countries further North such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. As well as cleaning the shorelines, GhostNets Alliance has put a lot of time into finding alternative ways to dispose/reuse the nets they find apart from burning or landfill. One way is to use the tough monofilament line as a fabric thread in art pieces (see pictures) and another is to patch the nets up and reuse them again.
Ghost nets are particularly harmful in the marine environment as they carry on catching marine animals (see first and last picture). Organisations such as GhostNets Australia are doing a fantastic job preventing these nets being washed once again out to sea to cause more damage. This is why they have just won the WWF’s Creative Arts Award. We wish them every success in the future!
www.sciencedaily.com 1st March 2012
A new study by Colombia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory indicates that today’s ocean acidification through human carbon emissions is happening faster than at any time during the past 300 million years. Over this time there have been four mass extinctions caused by natural ‘pulse’ emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, which sent temperatures soaring. According to lead author Bärbel Hönisch, ”What we’re doing today really stands out. We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.” The study is the first to explore the geological record for signs of ocean acidification over time. The research team behind the study came from five different countries and reviewed hundreds of paleoceanographic papers to come to their conclusion. In the past 300 million years, there was only one time period where the ocean acidified as quickly as it is today. Spanning 5,000 years roughly 56 million years ago, a mysterious surge of carbon into the atmosphere caused an estimated 6 degree rise in global temperatures. The carbonic acid created in the ocean by the absorption of CO2 led to the dissolving of carbonate plankton shells on the seafloor creating a layer of mud. Normally these shells help regulate the acidity of the oceans.
LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke had the pleasure of attending a screening of Guy Harvey’s new documentary on sharks in the Caribbean today. Showing at the Hollywood Theatre in Grand Cayman, ‘This is Your Ocean‘ follows the journey of famous marine artists Guy Harvey and Wyland and shark specialist Tim Abernathy as they raise awareness on the plight of sharks (particularly Tiger sharks) in the Bahamas. Their work helped the Bahamas government announce in July 2011 the cessation of all commercial shark fishing in the country’s economic exclusion zone. The move wasn’t a moment too soon as the islands are about to host a 5,000 strong Chinese harbour construction crew. China is one of the main consumers of shark fin soup and there were fears that the arrival of the workforce would push up demand in the area. ‘This is Your Ocean’ is a 45 minute film is an enjoyable educational film that centres around the three environmentalists and a 14ft Tiger shark called Emma. Emma’s relationship with Tim Abernathy particularly is very moving. LMV attended with the Cayman Islands’ Department of the Environment shark specialist Ollie Dubock, who was also in the film. Following the showing, Ed met Guy and briefly discussed the possibility of working together (in collaboration with Pangaea Explorations) on a short documentary on sharks in the Cayman Islands towards the end of the year.
e360.yale.edu 28th February 2012
Poachers from Chad and the Sudan are responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 elephants inside a Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon over the space of six weeks. Officially the death toll stands at 458 but the actual number could be a lot higher as the park spans 220,000 hectares in the north of the country. Two species of elephants live in Cameroon: savannah elephants and forest elephants and their numbers are believed to stand somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000. The regional field program manager for the World Wildlife Fund in Cameroon, Bas Huijbregts, said “I wouldn’t be surprised if in the last six weeks that maybe more than half of the overall savannah elephant population in Cameroon has been killed.” The massacre appears to be well organised and ivory is the main reason behind it, probably for the growing Asian demand for the material. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has dispatched a team to the area and the European Union has called for the Cameroonian government to intervene. As yet no effective intervention has taken place. Mr Huijbregts also believes a similar slaughter maybe taking place in the Congo Basin.
www.independent.co.uk 18th February 2012
Researchers at Stanford University in California have come up with a radical new idea for tackling the problem of by-catch in the world’s oceans. By-catch is when fishermen are fishing for a target species, such as tuna, but catch other species, such as sharks, turtles, dolphins, and rays, unintentionally in the process. The phenomenon has been instrumental in radical declines of numerous species, including the Leatherback turtle whose populations have declined in the Pacific by 90% in 20 years. Now scientists have suggested that mobile marine reserves, monitored by satellites, could solve the problem. Existing static marine reserves are not adequate as endangered species simply migrate into unprotected waters. “I thought 12 years ago that we would not be able to do this, but I would say in the last 5 years the science has grown so quickly, at least in areas where we have rich data, we are on the cusp of doing this,” Larry Crowder, a professor of marine biology at Stanford, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver. “We don’t need to close the entire ocean, we only need to close the place where they are concentrated, where by-catch is particularly likely to be found, and leave the rest of the ocean open.” The main places the mobile marine reserves would focus on would be areas of high marine biodiversity such as “upwellings” (where minerals are brought to the oceans’ surfaces by rising currents) and “convergence zones”, where ocean currents collide.
On Friday 20th, SAB Miller launched a specially branded can of Miller Lite to help the conservation of turtles in the Caribbean. The beer company partnered up with the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) to launch the new beer can, with a proportion of sales going directly towards advocacy, research, education, and volunteer programmes orientated towards the protection of the sea turtle. The Cayman Islands’ Department of the Environment, which represents WIDECAST locally, will be responsible for making sure the money is properly spent. LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke attended the launch at the Club House on Seven Mile Beach, where Miller and DOE representatives were enlisting volunteers to attend beach cleanups around Grand Cayman. The beaches chosen for the cleanups were picked due to their importance for turtle nesting and Ed, along with LMV sponsor Neil D’Cruze and South African photographer Michelle de Villiers, went along to one on Grand Cayman’s North Shore, where they met up with a representative from DOE and Frank Roulstone, general manager of Cayman Distributors, the local distributor for Miller Lite. Having been there before to film marine debris, LMV knew this was likely to be the worst site out of the four. It did not disappoint. In just over an hour 17 full bin-bags of plastic waste were collected on a 100 metre stretch of beach. Michelle’s photos above and below hint at the extent of the plastic pollution found there.
In a world where most news about environmental issues is bad news, it is a huge relief to stumble across a success story. While filming out in the Cayman Islands, LMV has had the good fortune to do some volunteer work for the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme (BIRP), based in the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Park in the dense shrubland of Grand Cayman’s interior.
The Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is the largest native land animal on the Grand Cayman and is unique to that island. In 1990, a population survey of the lizard revealed around 150 in the wild. This number plummeted 12 years later to between 9 and 24. Invasive species (such as fire ants, rats, cats, and dogs), habitat destruction, and people were to blame. BIRP was established in conjunction with the CI National Trust in 1990, at the time of the first survey. While wild populations of Blue Iguanas were declining, BIRP begun a captive breeding programme in 1995-1996 that aimed to release young iguanas after they had grown big enough to be safe from snakes and cats. This usually takes about two years. The success of this programme has seen wild Blue Iguana populations jump to 637 (according to the most recent survey) with a further 300 still in captivity in BIRP. 12-16 Blues were also shipped off to various zoos in the USA as reserve breeding stock in case BIRP failed. They were given to the zoos of San Diego, Milwaukee County, Texas/Fort Worth and Indianapolis as well as the Shed Aquarium in Chicago. Breeding has not been as successful as on Grand Cayman but both San Diego zoo and the Shed Aquarium have had limited success bringing the total (official) Blue Iguana population outside of the Caymans to around 24.
As numbers are healthier, BIRP are now winding down the practice of collecting wild Blue Iguana eggs to give them a head start by hatching them in captivity. The protected areas around Grand Cayman are being expanded and public outreach aims to educate local people about the need to protect such a unique species. Iguana populations (although not Blue Iguanas) are still in decline on the other islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and even Blues on Grand Cayman are not completely free from danger. Wild cats and dogs are still a threat and the human development on island has only increased in pace. For now though, BIRP has had resounding success in protecting a unique species from extinction. Please visit their website blueiguana.ky to find out more.
Two scientists involved in the so-called ‘Polarbeargate’ scandal have been asked to take lie-detector tests by the US Department of the Interior (DOI). In 2004 Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett wrote a paper on dead polar bears floating in the Arctic, apparently drowned, and in doing so helped highlight the plight of the species in relation to melting Arctic ice. However, this year allegations within the DOI emerged claiming that acts of ‘scientific misconduct’ may have been committed in relation to the report prompting the DOI’s Office of Inspector General to launch an investigation. After several interviews, the DOI suspended Mr Monnett, who works for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, causing accusations of politics interfering with science and a witch-hunt. Although Mr Monnett has since returned to work, the focus has now shifted to his fellow author Mr Gleason, who was asked if he would take a polygraph. He replied that he would only if the agent interviewing him would take one also. ”There appears to be kind of a desperate, almost fierce nature to pursue this until they find something,” said Mr Gleason’s lawyer, Jeff Ruch, of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Mr Ruch has filed a complaint with the DOI saying his client should be investigated by a review board of scientists, and not the Office of Inspector General.
www.bbc.co.uk 3rd October 2011
The republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific has created the world’s largest shark sanctuary, covering around 2 million square kilometres (772,000 square miles) of ocean. The sanctuary, roughly the equivalent area of Mexico or Saudi Arabia, is three times the size of the former largest sanctuary created by Palau two years ago. The move by the Marshall government reflects the importance of diving tourism on the islands’ economy. ”In passing this [shark protection] bill, there is no greater statement we can make about the importance of sharks to our culture, environment and economy,” said Senator Tony deBrum, who co-sponsored the bill. New laws now dictate that the commercial fishing of sharks is banned, as is the trade in any shark products. Certain types of fishing gear will be banned and violators of these laws will face fines of up to £200,000. Shark fishing has been on the rise in recent years due to high demand in China and other Asian countries for shark fins. Around 73 million are killed annually resulting in a third of ocean-going sharks being out on the Red List of Threatened Species. The Marshall Island government worked closely with the US-based Pew Environmental Group to create the sanctuary.
Although having been in the Cayman Islands for a week, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke is still not sure whether he can stay to complete filming of Plastic Shores. Upon arrival on Tuesday (20th), his passport was seized by immigration and he has yet to have it returned. The main bone of contention seems to be what and who LMV will be filming and the amount of time LMV proposes to stay on the islands. The latter point is understandable, considering the financial status of the islands and the eagerness of many to gain citizenship here.
The Cayman Islands are well-known for diving and sailing holidays, as well as beautiful beaches and smart restaurants. Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands (the others being Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), also hosts the world’s only population of Blue Iguanas. LMV visited the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and met up with its head warden John Marotta. The Recovery Programme has been a spectacular success story for conservation, bringing the Blue Iguana back from functional extinction in 2004 to a population nearing 700 today.
John took LMV to a beach set away from the more popular tourist spots where he normally collects vegetation to feed the captive lizards in the programme (the programme makes sure that all food fed to the Blue Iguanas is representative of their natural diet and comes from the Cayman Islands). Whereas all the other beaches LMV has seen on the islands are made up of pristine white sand, this shoreline was more like something from Big Island, Hawai’i on the edge of the Pacific Garbage Patch. The beach was covered in plastic bottles and, according to John, it was comparatively clean due to a recent storm that had cleared most of the debris. 90% of the waste had come from cruise ships, which habitually dump trash as soon as they are out of national waters. Because of the way currents work, most of this washes back up on the Cayman Islands.
The CI government, fortunately (and unlike in the UK), seem to have a comprehensive cleanup strategy for this waste. Of course, as a large part of their economy is based on tourism, this would make sense. This hasn’t stopped some people trying to highlight the problem though. On South Sound Road that loops around the bottom of Grand Cayman, there is a tree covered in shoes and flip-flops. Called the Cayman Shoe Tree, it was started by Canadian electrician Wolfgang Brocklebank and his Swiss girlfriend Giovanna Inselmini to raise awareness for the amount of shoes washed up on the Cayman coastline. People are encouraged to add more shoes they find on the CI shoreline to the living sculpture.
www.independent.co.uk 28th August 2011
Torrential rainfall in eastern Australia has caused the destruction of 1,000 miles of sea-grass fields, the natural habitat and food for the country’s most endangered species the dugong, or sea cow as it more commonly known. At least 100 are known to have died so far as they travel further from their natural foraging areas to find food, putting themselves more at risk to disease, injury and death. The beds of sea grass, which makes up the largest part of the sea cow’s diet, takes 2 to 3 years to recover, and that is only if there are not any severe weather conditions in between. Sea cow populations are already in rapid decline due to pollution, escalating industrial activity and over-fishing by local populations. A new TV campaign is about to be launched to tackle the latter cause of the dugong decline. Activists believe that an overhaul of Australia’s Native Title laws should occur to prevent over-fishing and cruelty by aboriginal communities. Campaign organiser for Australians for Animals Colin Riddell says: “We have a confirmed report of a dugong calf being tied to the back of a boat, its cries bringing in the mother so they can both be killed. We have reports in our office of indigenous groups going out in motor boats with a GPS to find dugongs. Once found, they radio their mates and entire pods of dugongs are slaughtered.” Turtles also rely on sea grass as an important source of food and several hundred have been found washed up dead.
La Mode Verte (LMV) director Ed Scott-Clarke is set to travel to the Cayman Islands, a British protectorate in the Caribbean, to investigate and film the effects of marine debris on the island chain. With the kind support of several charities, the research trip should provide interesting and educational footage of one of the biggest problems affecting our oceans today.
The Cayman Islands are well known for its turtles. Unfortunately, these marine creatures are very susceptible to plastic waste, particularly plastic bags which look and move very much like jellyfish when underwater. As such a large part of the Islands’ economy is based on tourism, it will be interesting to see whether marine debris is having any kind of impact. All footage gathered in this trip will be used in LMV’s documentary ‘Plastic Shores’ due to be released in early 2012. The trailer and website will be released in the near future.
www.independent.co.uk 15th August 2011
A belief in East Asian countries that rhino horn can cure cancer has caused a surge in poaching and museum thefts. Rhino horn is now valued at around £50,000 a kilogram, more than gold or cocaine prompting increased fears for the species’ safety. In southern African countries such as Botswana, only 12 rhinos were killed per year for their horns between 2000 and 2007. However, by 2010 this number had risen to 333. This year, more than 200 have been poached. Now the UK, on behalf of the EU, is to requesting that Asian governments highlight to their populations the lack of evidence for medicinal properties in rhino horns. The problem will be tackled at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva. Richard Benyon, the UK’s Wildlife Minister, stated: ”The price is now very high. But rhino horn is basically keratin, which is the same stuff as our hair and fingernails, and it has no healing properties. The world community cannot sit back and just watch these species disappear, and we want to help debunk the myth of rhino horn’s healing powers.” When asked if he thought such a request would be interfering with the internal politics of Asian countries, Mr Benyon MP said: ”I don’t think it is preachy – it’s just asking these counties to recognise that there is a problem within their borders.” The myth behind the latest surge in demand for rhino horn is related to a Vietnamese politician who supposedly recovered from liver cancer after taking a dose of rhino horn. Although commonly repeated, the name of the politician remains elusive. The Asian market in ‘traditional’ medicines has caused the decline in several other endangered species including the Tiger.
e360.yale.edu 15th August 2011
Quoted from source:
‘The Environmental Investigation Agency reports that the Chinese government has reopened the trade in tiger and leopard skins obtained from “legal” sources, including controversial tiger farms. While Chinese officials vowed to combat poaching and the smuggling of tiger products as part of last year’s Global Tiger Recovery Program, the EIA says the government has reinstated the so-called Skin Registration Scheme, which allows skins from captive-bred cats to be registered, labeled, and sold. According to the group, which says it found several examples of skins for sale online, the scheme will only encourage the illegal trade in wild cat parts and makes a “complete mockery” of the nation’s tiger conservation pledge. “It’s doing nothing to actually help tiger and leopard conservation, instead providing a cover for illegal trade and creating a confused consumer market,” said Debbie Banks, head of the EIA’s Tiger Campaign. In the last century, wild tiger populations have plummeted from 100,000 to 3,500, and experts predict the animal will go extinct by 2022 if strong measures are not taken. The group’s warning comes as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prepares to meet in Switzerland this week.’
The problem of alien species in the UK is now such that members of the public are being encouraged to join the fight to prevent their spread. The Environment Agency has drawn up a “hit-list” of the ten invasive species that pose the largest threat to native wildlife and British waterways, costing around £1.7 billion a year to tackle. Top of the list is the so-called “killer shrimp” (pictured), which, although only about 3cm long, has a ravenous appetite and eats many native species such as young fish and other shrimp. This, in turn, has a knock-on effect on the rest of the food-chain. Other animals on the list are the American signal crayfish (which is endangering the less aggressive and smaller white clawed crayfish), the topmouth gudgeon (a rapidly reproducing Japanese fish), and the mink (which eats almost anything, but is doing particularly damage to native vole populations). Six plants make up the rest of the list: water primrose (the “most-wanted” of the plants), floating pennywort, giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and parrot’s feather. Although Britain’s waterways are the cleanest for decades, with native species like otters returning for the first time since the industrial revolution, environmental experts worry that the presence of these invasive species will jeopardise the success of the waterways to pass rigorous new ‘EU targets on the ecological health of waterways’. Rivers that do not meet the new targets could cause fine of millions of pounds.
www.latimes.com 4th August 2011
Oregon has joined Hawai’i and Washington to become the third state to pass legislation against the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed bill HB 2838 on Thursday (4th August) making California the last of the mainland Pacific coast states not to have similar legislation (it is currently being held up in the state Senate). President Obama has also made steps to tighten up a ban on shark finning in the US by signing federal legislation earlier this year. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Chinese communities and is viewed as a status symbol served particularly for weddings and banquets. Defenders of the practice claim it is a cultural tradition and banning it is tantamount to an “attack on Asian culture.” Many sharks have their fins removed while still alive and are then thrown back into the ocean to die a slow and painful death. Marine experts claim shark finning has led to the global decline in shark populations (around 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins and meat).
Warning: some viewers may find the footage disturbing.
www.greenpeace.org.uk 25th July 2011
The Greenpeace office in Indonesia were recently given a tip-off that an endangered Sumatran tiger had been caught in a trap on land that bordered a concession marked for Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the largest companies responsible for Indonesian rainforest deforestation. The tiger had been trapped for about six days without food or water. Greenpeace members and forest officers tried to rescue the emaciated animal but, unfortunately, it died during the attempt. There are now only around 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and with aggressive expansion policies of companies like APP, this number is likely to fall further as tigers are forced to come into increased contact with humans. APP provides packaging for many companies in Europe and North America, including Mattel and Disney. Strangely, the APP concession this tiger was found next to was marked as ‘non-controversial’ by the world’s largest forestry certification body, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). The PEFC have already been criticised for its close relations with APP.