Friday, June 11, 2010

When Garbage Doesn't Die

When Garbage Doesn't Die

How plastic debris is contaminating the world's oceans.
Editor's Note: Water Planet is an open forum for leading nonprofit marine conservation groups and advocates to sound off on environmental issues. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Divers Alert Network®.

Continental masses cause ocean currents to develop circular patterns, known as gyres, in each of the three major ocean basins. The North Pacific Gyre, formed by the southern currents off the coast of North America and the northern currents off the coast of Asia, is the world's largest.

As increasing amounts of plastic trash and debris find their way to sea, this natural phenomenon has become an area of concern. Over time, all floating waste from land migrates to gyres, where it remains trapped — out of sight, out of mind, but not without adverse environmental consequences. The North Pacific Gyre is home to what many are now calling the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, a concentration of plastic debris estimated to be 30 feet deep and spread out over an area twice the size of Texas.

The problem: Plastics don't break down naturally. Instead, they undergo a process of photodegradation, in which sunlight causes the material to disintegrate into increasingly smaller pieces. Water samples taken from the garbage patch show stratified layers of plastic bits, including a cloudy mass of plankton-sized particles. "The gyre contains plastic in all states of degradation," says Capt. Charles Moore, who first discovered the problem. "It all combines in a sort of soup."

His was a rude awakening back in 1997. During a yacht race from Southern California to Hawaii, Moore veered off a normal heading and saw an ocean he barely recognized. He notes that within the gyre, "Every time I came on deck to survey the horizon, I saw a soap bottle, bottle cap or a shard of plastic waste bobbing by. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic."

It was his personal wake-up call, and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation was born to address the perils of plastics pollution. His operational premise: "Industries reaping large profits from the creation of these plastic materials should be tasked with the challenge of recycling."

While large pieces of plastic debris are a well-documented threat to sea birds and turtles, the new concern is what is happening beneath the water's surface. Researchers worry that marine animals are mistaking the smallest plastic bits for plankton. As they ingest the plastic, the fear is that these polypeptides are working their way up the food chain. As a result, they may even be finding their way to our dinner tables in the tissue of tuna, mahi mahi and other culinary favorites. Early research suggests that degraded plastics create chemicals that mimic estradiol (a sex hormone). Agents such as bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, and a whole gamut of other harmful synthetic polymers contained in plastics have been shown to interfere with critical aspects of metabolic activity in humans.

Challenges to cleaning up the growing mass of plastics in the world's oceans are many, including the great distance from land, the nebulous nature of this slurry and seasonal rough seas. Despite these setbacks, scientists and environmental groups have proposed a variety of solutions. An obvious solution in the minds of some environmentalists is banning disposable plastic bags and creating awareness about superfluous packaging.

"The best way to stop this problem is to refuse plastics when offered," says Daniella Russo, executive director and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC). In the end, there are those tasked with cleaning up this mess of epic proportions, and to that we have to look to governmental agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to take the lead.

There is also the more strategic and personal means of proactive resolution. We have to collectively reduce our "plastic footprint." We know that from looking at our landfills. Now we know that from sailing our seas.

What Divers Can Do

Left to right: James Leichter, Miriam Goldstein and Doug Woodring display the debris recovered during Project Kaisei’s SEAPLEX expedition to the Eastern Pacific
Garbage Patch.
The magnitude of the plastic problem may leave many divers feeling helpless; however, small steps to reduce plastic waste do help. Here are some tips:

Switch bags
Make plastic use a conscious decision. Look around: Everything from apples to CDs to individual slices of cheese comes wrapped in plastic. Whenever possible, choose plastic alternatives or reusable options; that includes paper bags and reusable cloth grocery bags. Unless absolutely necessary, skip the plastic produce bags. If you must use a disposable plastic item, make sure you recycle the plastic. Many grocery stores have a recycling bin for plastic bags.

Replace bottles
Bring your own aluminum or steel water bottle to the office, gym or when you travel. If you do need to purchase bottled water, be sure to recycle the bottle.

Request a "for-here" cup
Coffee bars are usually set up to dispense your java in paper cups with plastic lids. If you're not on the run, ask that yours be served in a ceramic mug. If you are on the run, bring your own reusable mug.

Get involved
Educate yourself, and share what you learn with friends, starting with your own tips on how to reduce plastic waste. Post your ideas here.  Sign up to receive more information about our oceans, and opportunities to help at:
Imaging Foundation - Sea Save.

Join Imaging Foundation Facebook Page and Causes

Who’s Doing What?

PLASTIC Pollution Coalition
The coalition provides a platform for individuals and institutions to share resources and coordinate efforts, explore synergies and strategize together to reduce plastic pollution.
Visit: plasticpollutioncoalition for more information.  

Algalita Marine Research Foundation
Capt. Charles Moore, the man credited with discovering the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation with the goal of protecting the marine environment through research and education. The foundation has released an educational DVD series titled The Synthetic Sea Story; it traces the history of research on plastic debris in the world's oceans. Visit Algalita Web Site for more information.

Focused on removal operations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working to use oceanographic information to help predict the areas of convergence where debris likely concentrates. A better understanding of these processes will provide enough confidence forcost-effective, successful cleanup efforts. For additional information visit NOAA.

Dive Into Your Imagination
Dive Into Your Imagination is changing the way a new generation views oceans. During a recent SEAPLEX expedition for Project Kaisei, founder Annie Crawley helped document the North Pacific Gyre and has created an excellent online blog on the science of the garbage patch.
Visit Dive into Your Imagination for more information.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Slavery and Shark Finning - Diabolical Partnership

Costa Rica has announced it will prosecute the owners of two Taiwanese fishing vessels from which they rescued 36 Asian crew members, including 15 Vietnamese, from slavery last month. The information was posted online by the Overseas Labor Administration of Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, which was quoting a statement from the Vietnamese embassy in Panama on Friday.

The embassy says it has completed the procedures for repatriating the 15 Vietnamese sailors as well as six compatriots who had fled from the boats off the city of Puntarenas last May. The six escapees had done menial work onshore until this March, when they’d asked the local authorities to get word of their and the fellows’ plight. They said they had worked in harsh conditions on the Yulon 70 since April 14 last year.

After the complaint was lodged, police raided the two boats and rescued the enslaved Vietnamese, Indonesian, Filipino, Taiwanese and Chinese fishermen. San Jose officials said the crewmen had been forced to work 20 hours a day, and had often been starved and beaten.

The men said they’d been promised US$250 a month in their employment contracts, of which they would keep $20 and the rest would be sent to their families, but they had received nothing.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two New Shrimp Discovered at Cocos Island

Two new species of transparent mini-shrimp were discovered by scientists at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in the waters off Cocos Island, 532 km from Puntarenas. These microscopic organisms-only 1.5 millimeters long, are at the base of the food chain of marine ecosystems. Both belong to a subclass of animals called copepods.
Alvaro Morales, the Center for Research in Marine Sciences and Limnology (Cimar) at UCR, said: “Copepods are microscopic but vital in the ocean.” The specialist explained that the larvae of commercially important species such as sardines, snappers and sea bass, and echinoderms-starfish-and even whales feed on copepods. “Without them, the oceans would be sick”.

The first discovered species of shrimp was called Symbazoma Cocoense . This crustacean measures just 1.4 mm long (similar to the thickness of a coin) and at its widest part measures 0.3 millimeters. “It’s a reef mini0shrimp rather elongated with two short antennae,” explained Morales, who studied females of this species in the CIMAR.

The species Cymbasoma cocoense is also characterized by having a carapace. This means that the chest and head are fused into one piece, that’s where you put the two eyes.
Having two eyes appears to be a novelty, but in fact it is because it is not common in this subclass. “There are many individuals of these species that have no eyes or have only one of them,” said the UCR specialist.

The carapace is also where the legs are attached. These tips are those that give the appearance of shrimp, such as those commonly known. The second species that was discovered was Monstrillopsis . Only adult male animals were analyzed. “This the first time that this genus of marine animals (Monstrillopsis) has been recorded in the country,” concluded the researcher. The animal is even smaller than the one described above, but it has long antennae. It measures 1.4 millimeters in length and about 0.2 millimeters at its widest part. “This species is less transparent or translucent than the other, which could be associated with different habits of life among them,” said Morales.
According to the biologist, this is likely to be because the coral colony inhabited by the species is darker, which means the animal needs to “get” darker to blend with the environment and at least make it difficult for attacks on their predators.

Like the previous species, this also has cephalothorax. Experts estimate that the life cycle of both animals and copepods is very short and lasts, at most, about 30 days.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hawaii: First in USA to ban possession of shark fins


May 28, 2010: Hawaii has become the first state in the nation to ban the sale, possession and distribution of shark fins.

Today Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii signed the bill prohibiting the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins, an ingredient in expensive shark fin soup served in Asian restaurants.

The Act, which takes effect July 1, 2010, gives restaurants in Hawaii until July 2011 to dispose of stocks of shark fins. Thereafter, those in violation of the Act will face fines ranging to $15,000 for a first offense. A second offense provides for fines from $15,000 to $35,000, and shark fins, commercial marine licenses, vessels, fishing equipment, or other property involved in the violation will be subject to seizure and forfeiture. Penalties for a third offense provides for fines from $35,000 to $50,000, seizure and forfeiture as above, plus a year in jail. The Act has teeth!

The Shark Research Institute is asking other states and the federal government to follow suit with similar legislation modeled after the Hawaii bill.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cocos Island - Organizational Meeting, Tuesday, May 2010

The rain teamed throughout the night,  the cool permeated the camp and was a relief to the constant intense heat.  The pounding sound on the roof was fabulous and lulled me to sleep.

As per our schedule breakfast at 6:30 AM rice and beans and a great cup of Costa Rica coffee. Everyone scrambled down the hill for the morning meeting and the rain abated.

Geiner Golphin called the meeting to order at 7:29 AM
A surprise guest appeared, but he seemed unprepared and had little to contribute:)
The rain required enhanced efforts to protecting some current construction projects. Three casitas are currently roofless and a crew worked into the night to reinforce plastic protective roofs.

The patrolling crew found six fishing boats within the Cocos Island border.  No longlines were confiscated and the boats fled the park.

At 2 PM there will be a movement of a few team members from the Wafer Bay facility to Chatam.  This will provide a bit of relief to the Chatam Bay team who live without electricity and many other conveniences enjoyed by the main hub in Wafer Bay.

A new group of park personnel and volunteers will arrive in the beginning of June.  A set of duties, tasks, as well as an updated orientation package must be prepared before their arrival.  This job was delegated.

The next vessel leaving Cocos Island (UnderSea Hunter) will return to Costa Rica.  Park personal must use this opportunity to transport some of the non- biodegradable materials on this vessel.

Tonight our resident scientist will deliver a presentation  "Investigation of Island Animals" 6:30 PM - Everyone is eager to attend!

Preparations are being made for the upcoming visit and reinspection by the UNESCO team.  We all want to make sure National Park Cocos Island is best positioned to be retained as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A team was assigned the task of testing a new batch of cement to see if it will hold up against the rigors of Cocos Island climate.  If so, it will be used in several future Cocos project, including the construction of a new mooring to be used by patrol boats.

In July, there is space for RACSA personnel - they are needed to come to the island to help strengthen the communication infrastructure (especially in Chatham)

There isn't an antennae that reaches all the parts of the island. It is vital that there is a reliable system that allows park personnel, and collaborating organizations to communicate with each other from anywhere on the island.  Park personnel are researching ways to acquire this vital tool.
Regarding administration in San Jose, best to route all questions through Golfin or other people so that the message is always correct and official.

Quote of the Day: Preocupate mas por tu caracter que por tu reputacion. Tu caracter es lo que realmente eres, mientras que tu reputacion es solo lo que los demas piensan que eres. " Worry more about your character that your reputation.  Your character is who you are, your reputation is merely who other believe you are.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cocos Island Waterfall - Then and Now

Cocos Island - Hike to Wafer Bay Waterfall

The stay on Cocos Island is going much to fast.  I need to take a bit of time to explore the waterfall and other sites.  We will be back on the boat and diving in two days.  The hike to the local waterfall is spectacular!

Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica - Monday Morning 7:30 AM Meeting -

Monday Morning - 7:30 AM Meeting - Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica

Open by Geiner Golphin Monday, May 17, 2010

Today a park boat will visit the live-aboard dive vessel Argos. While there, they will deliver a safety presentation to the guests and pick-up supplies the Undersea Hunter Group generously transported from the mainland.

An electrician will be visiting the island this week. The three small volunteer casitas will be wired. A request was made that any other electrical problems / request be compiled on a list so the electrician can attend to these tasks during his stay.

The problem of plastic accumulation on the island was discussed. Huge amounts of plastics are recovered from the long lines confiscated from poachers. These materials must remain in park custody until a trial is held. This can take years. Meanwhile all the material accumulates on the island. No solution was reached.

All organic refuse generated by volunteers is composted. A short discussion about this workflow was discussed.

Work detail to clean and organize the bodega/storage shed was dispatched.

The radio for the patrol boat was fixed. This communication tool was housed in a fiberglass box. Drilling holes and releasing the heat generated by the electronics seems to have done the trick. There is only one boat radio for this patrol boat and in cases of poaching confrontation it is essential that this tool is up and running.

Meeting ended with a thought for the day

La vida es muy peligrosa.
No por las personas que hacen el mal, si no por las que se sientan a ver lo que pasa.
Albert Einstein.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cocos Island - Sunday

The island team works every day. Breakfast is at 6:30 AM "en punto." A general overview meeting, attended by all, follows at 7:30 AM. At this meeting Geiner Golfin, the Cocos Island manager discusses all the projects to be executed, coordinates times, and allows exchange for suggestions and questions. The meeting takes place at the edge of Wafer Bay and usually lasts 30 -40 minutes. Then the teams disperse.

There is a biologist on the island who is studying the invasive and endemic species. He departs daily and spends times counting animals in a variety of transects. There is also using motion sensor cameras strategically located around the island to monitor activity.

Huge efforts are focused on maintaining and fixing equipment. Human error, humidity, and the saline conditions of the island are brutal on the minimal equipment the team uses to combat the finning and poaching around the island. While on the island we have been considering novel ways to get equipment fixed in a time efficient way. We are also interested in examining the frequency of equipment failure due to human error to see if training programs and proactive care schedules could help lower this number.

While the island has an infirmary, there isn't a consistent medical presence onhand for emergencies. We are hoping to create a 24/7 video consultation option for emergency situations.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cocos Island - On Site Status Report

So much has changed at Cocos Island over the last 20 years, and so much has remained the same.

The small, three room park station remains standing; add on facilities has tripled the size of the structure. Generous donations have equipped the park guards with a few computers and Internet capabilities. The hydroelectric power of one of the Chatam Bay streams powers the volunteer efforts.

White terns, or “holy spirit terns” are once again beginning their nesting process. After choosing a mate each pair is seen fluttering around the island in their own choreographed flight pattern. Set against the sheer cliffs of Cocos Island, this performance is truly breathtaking.

Underwater Cocos remains one of the final refuges for sharks and other marine megafauna. During a single 60-minute dive, visitors are likely to find white tip sharks, marble rays, schooling scalloped hammerheads, immense schools of jacks and many other impressive underwater inhabitants. Unfortunately miles of fishing line can also be seen choking the underwater rock substrate; theses lines are punctuated by large hooks and often decaying sharks and other park inhabitants.

Diligent efforts continue to stop the constant poaching that plague the island. Despite all advances and generous donations of boats, radios and other tools, a poaching truce within the park borders still seems out of reach. There are two fundamental problems contributing to this situation.

1. Costa Rican law mandates a 24-hour window in which official papers must be filed, in person for any poaching infraction. Logistically this is impossible since the crossing takes 36 hours.
2. Funding for Cocos Island is run through a complicated series of government entities nested in the Costa Rican government. A very small percentage of donated money actually reach in situ park personnel. A broken propeller today, will render a boat unusable. A requisition for a new part may take weeks and often months. During this period, the boat sits and the poachers are unrivaled.

Both of these points can be easily changed. We are now working on solutions. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged. Stay tuned over the next few days for Cocos Island updates.

Georgienne Bradley
Executive Director
Imaging Foundation

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hammerhead sharks still have hope for international protection at CITES

Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini) are very close to being listed under Appendix II of CITES during the Conference of the Parties (CoP 15), held in Doha, Qatar. Even though the proposal submitted by the United States and Palau Islands to regulate the international commerce of hammerhead shark products enjoyed the support of the majority of the Parties (75 in favor, 45 against, 14 abstentions), it was not enough to reach the mandatory 2/3 majority.

Many Latin American countries supported the proposal, such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Honduras, as well as other countries from the rest of the world, such as the European Union, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Australia, among others. Unfortunately, an opposing minority, led by China and Japan, the former being the main global shark fin consuming nation and the later the greatest opponent to the protection of any species under this convention, successfully blocked the proposal. Among the opposing parties in Latin America outstand Guatemala and Venezuela, while Mexico abstained. Other opposing countries include Indonesia, Senegal, and Singapur.

Fortunately, there may still be hope for the hammerhead shark. The possibility exists that the vote may be opened again during the Plenary Session of the Convention during the morning of Thursday, March 25. Since it was such a close vote, a change of position of only a few countries could make the difference. Thus, we call on the countries that voted against the proposal, like Guatemala, or Mexico that abstained, to reconsider their position and vote "YES", so that hammerhead sharks may receive the international protection they deserve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Activists celebrate Shark Finning Birthday in front of the Costa Rican Supreme Court of Justice.

Last Wednesday February 17, over 100 activists sang "Happy Birthday" to the Judges of Costa Rica's Supreme Court of Justice, to celebrate the 3rd year of waiting for a resolution that could finally put an end to shark finning in Costa Rica.
Since January of 2006, the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court of Justice, ruled in favor of a Constitutional Lawsuit filed by Pretoma (04-001511-0007-CO), in which the use of public infrastructure is ordered for the landing of fishery products by the foreign shark finning fleet. In February of 2007, a year later, Pretoma filed a contempt suit against the Ministry of Public Transportations, Incopesca, Customs, and Ministry of Environment, because the authorities had ignored the orders of the Constitutional Court. Three years later, the Costa Rican people are still waiting for a resolution, while the foreign fleet continues to carelessly land sharks and fins in the privacy of their dock.

Watch the video at this link:

Read the entire news release at:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Invitation to Shark Finning Birthday Party

Pretoma's lawsuit against the use of private docks by foreign fishing boats to illegally offload shark fins is turning 3 years old this month. While they continue to wait for a ruling on the case, they've decided to "celebrate" the event by throwing a birthday party with a giant cake and other activities.

Place: In front of the Supreme Court, San José, Costa Rica
Date: Wednesday, February 17
Time: 11:00 am

Pretoma filed suit against Incopesca, Mopt, Minaet, and Customs, citing the agencies were in contempt of the Supreme Court's ruling (Voto 1109-2006) mandating that foreign boats use public installations in Puntarenas to offload their cargo. By not upholding the court's order, the aforementioned agencies are allowing hundreds of tons of unregulated shark fins to pour into the country via private docks whose ownershave turned a blind eye to the court order and the interest of the Costa Rican public.Through this peaceful "birthday party" we want to remind the Supreme Court thatCosta Ricans are still waiting for the court's final decision that will uphold the responsible management of sharks and the country's marine resources.

If you are in San Jose...join the party in support against shark-finning!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shrimp's Dirty Secrets

Why America's Favorite Seafood Is a Health and Environmental Nightmare

By Jill Richardson, AlterNet
Posted on January 25, 2010, Printed on January 30, 2010

Americans love their shrimp. It's the most popular seafood in the country, but unfortunately much of the shrimp we eat are a cocktail of chemicals, harvested at the expense of one of the world's productive ecosystems. Worse, guidelines for finding some kind of "sustainable shrimp" are so far nonexistent.

In his book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Taras Grescoe paints a repulsive picture of how shrimp are farmed in one region of India. The shrimp pond preparation begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda.

Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics. And yet, as of 2008, Americans are eating 4.1 pounds of shrimp apiece each year -- significantly more than the 2.8 pounds per year we each ate of the second most popular seafood, canned tuna. But what are we actually eating without knowing it? And is it worth the price -- both to our health and the environment?

Understanding the shrimp that supplies our nation's voracious appetite is quite complex. Overall, the shrimp industry represents a dismantling of the marine ecosystem, piece by piece. Farming methods range from those described above to some that are more benign. Problems with irresponsible methods of farming don't end at the "yuck," factor as shrimp farming is credited with destroying 38 percent of the world's mangroves, some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on earth. Mangroves sequester vast amounts of carbon and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis. Some compare shrimp farming methods that demolish mangroves to slash-and-burn agriculture. A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.

A more responsible farming system involves closed, inland ponds that use their wastewater for agricultural irrigation instead of allowing it to pollute oceans or other waterways. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, when a farm has good disease management protocols, it does not need to use so many antibiotics or other chemicals.

One more consideration, even in these cleaner systems, is the wild fish used to feed farmed shrimp. An estimated average of 1.4 pounds of wild fish are used to produce every pound of farmed shrimp. Sometimes the wild fish used is bycatch -- fish that would be dumped into the ocean to rot if they weren't fed to shrimp -- but other times farmed shrimp dine on species like anchovies, herring, sardines and menhaden. These fish are important foods for seabirds, big commercial fish and whales, so removing them from the ecosystem to feed farmed shrimp is problematic.

Additionally, some shrimp are wild-caught, and while they aren't raised in a chemical cocktail, the vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don't clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space.

After trawling destroys an ocean floor, the ecosystem often cannot recover for decades, if not centuries or millennia. This is particularly significant because 98 percent of ocean life lives on or around the seabed. Depending on the fishery, the amount of bycatch (the term used for unwanted species scooped up and killed by trawlers) ranges from five to 20 pounds per pound of shrimp. These include sharks, rays, starfish, juvenile red snapper, sea turtles and more. While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2 percent of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over one-third of the world's bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.

Given this disturbing picture, how can an American know how to find responsibly farmed or fished shrimp? Currently, it's near impossible. Only 15 percent of our total shrimp consumption comes from the U.S. (both farmed and wild sources). The U.S. has good regulations on shrimp farming, so purchasing shrimp farmed in the U.S. is not a bad way to go. Wild shrimp, with a few exceptions, is typically obtained via trawling and should be avoided. The notable exceptions are spot prawns from British Columbia, caught in traps similar to those used for catching lobster, and the small salad shrimp like the Northern shrimp from the East Coast or pink shrimp from Oregon, both of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. However, neither are true substitutes for the large white and tiger shrimp American consumers are used to.

The remaining 85 percent came from other countries and about two-thirds of our imports are farmed with the balance caught in the wild, mostly via trawling. China is the world's top shrimp producer -- both farmed and wild -- but only 2 percent of China's shrimp are imported to the U.S. The world's number two producer, Thailand, is our top foreign source of shrimp. Fully one third of the shrimp the U.S. imports comes from Thailand, and over 80 percent of those shrimp are farmed.

The next biggest sources of U.S. shrimp are Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. Together, those countries provide nearly 90 percent of America's imported shrimp. Interestingly, Ecuador's shrimp industry exists almost entirely to supply U.S. demand, with over 93 percent of its shrimp coming up north to the U.S. The vast majority of those shrimp (almost 90 percent) are farmed. Sadly, shrimp production is responsible for the destruction of 70 percent of Ecuador's mangroves. Farming practices in other countries range from decent to awful, but there's currently no real way for a consumer to tell whether shrimp from any particular country was farmed sustainably or not.

Geoff Shester, senior science manager of Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch, says that ethical shrimp consumption is a chicken and egg problem. On one hand, the solution is for consumers to show demand for responsibly farmed and wild shrimp by eating it but on the other hand, ethical shrimp choices are not yet widely available. Seafood Watch is working with some of the largest seafood buyers in the U.S. to help them buy better shrimp, but it's currently a major challenge.

The first challenge is that labeling and certification programs do not yet exist to identify which farmed shrimp meet sustainable production standards. The second challenge is that even when such programs are in place, the U.S. demand will likely greatly exceed their supply.

Shester's advice to consumers right now is "only buy shrimp that you know comes from a sustainable source. If you can't tell for sure, try something else from the Seafood Watch yellow or green lists." Knowing that many will be unwilling to give up America's favorite seafood, he advocates simply eating less of it and keeping an eye on future updates to the Seafood Watch guide to eating sustainable seafood.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Power of Friendship

Can you recall the last time you and a handful of friends discussed how you would, if you could, change something about the world? It was around your coffee table, over a beer, after a thanksgiving meal. Hear your friends getting passionate and optimistic about the future. Can you hear them?

We do. Looking around our tiny working space we see hard working, passionate volunteers. Not paid employees, not big-wig executives, but our friends. If we could pay them, we would, if we did, they’d probably refuse. We call this our philanthropic experiment. Our working hypothesis: can a small group of empowered friends make a large difference for the future viability of the ocean. Our methods: Expand our friendship circle out to embrace more and more like-minded ocean and wildlife lovers. The results of the experiment are looking bright. By embracing fellow Care2 friends, we have made huge headways. We now are faced with one more challenge to success…getting out the vote between now and Friday. You can make this experiment work. Here’s how…

Here is a step-by-step guide for how to vote:

1. Log on to Facebook and follow this link:

2. Facebook will then ask you if you want to “Allow” this application on your homepage. Click “Allow.” Keep in mind, you can always remove this access immediately after voting.

3. You will then be prompted to the Imaging Foundation Community Giving page.

4. Click the “Become a Fan of this Page” button

5. Once you are a fan, click “VOTE FOR CHARITY”

Use the tools provided at the bottom of the voting page (“Tweet This,” “Post to Wall,” and “Invite a Friend”) to help spread the word!

Who are your contacts? Be creative! Without an extended team, we will have a hard time winning this event. A few examples: Co-workers, fraternity/sorority, book clubs, address book, dive clubs, activities, listservs. How do you contact them? Some ideas: send private messages, send an email blast, a mass text, post on forums, see who’s on IM, tweet, make a phone call, do whatever you can to reach as many of your contacts as possible! Most importantly, have fun and be creative!

If you can join our efforts between January 15-22, please send an email to with the subject line <> and we will forward you instructions about how you can spread the word.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wave Rave 500

Three weeks ago the telephone rang, and I heard the news. Out of 500,000 organizations, our small group of volunteers had emerged victorious! We are finalists in the Chase Community Giving Competition. I created the Imaging Foundation – Sea Save nonprofit organization a few years ago so we could work on orphan programs that did not seem to fit into traditional funding categories. We were spending a lot of time in the field and uncovering problems that required immediate attention but lacked the necessary financial support.

Naïve, we rolled up our sleeves and started building educational programs. We used our own equipment and funding. As we found more and more challenges, we realized we did need to find a way to supplement our volunteer efforts. That telephone call was the rescue beacon! This was a truly democratic way to support a program. People from all over the world had taken the time to sign on to Facebook and click “yes”! Our dream of launching all the programs we had initiated over those years was now within reach.

After the initial shock wore off, I realized I had a nearly impossible task before me. I had three short weeks to put together a million-dollar proposal—literally. To complicate things, I had to complete this assignment over the holidays. But I was not about to let the seemingly endless number of “out of office” replies stand in the way of progress. Winning this contest would mean so much for the ocean and the programs our team had worked so hard to develop.

So I got together with a bunch of friends to brainstorm ways to reach out and rally supporters. This was not going to be easy, and our biggest challenge was figuring out a way to have our message heard through the myriad e-mails in people’s inboxes and the barrage of Internet requests. Hmmmmmm. After a few hours of spirited discussion, we had to break up our gathering. It was a Saturday night, and we had places to go and people to see. Then it hit me. Everyone makes time in their schedules for parties. Why not host an event to celebrate the sea? While doing so, we could take time to reflect on the current challenges facing the oceans and invite our friends to help us realize our dream by casting a simple vote.

What came next reminded me of my favorite movie “Pay It Forward.” What started as fiction has evolved into a real-life movement, proving that kindness has the power to grow exponentially. In my version, I sent out a request to close friends asking them to host a “Wave Rave” on Jan 16th. They then forwarded my request to their friends and so the movement began. Within days, people from all over the world began offering to host their own event. Some were formal, others less so. Some are to be held at large aquariums, other small tea parties. We have people from Nigeria to Rio from the Canary Islands to Illinois. Many of these events have great backstories. Most are being held by people I have never even “met” before, and they are all building this wonderful “wave” of excitement and understanding.

Care2 is such a wonderful hub of high-energy advocates that we thought we should announce this opportunity here. To join the international movement, sign up for our Facebook event here:

I hope we are able to host 500 events worldwide. What a great way to leave behind politics and other differences and focus on something that everyone can agree with. We all love our big blue ocean!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

End "Finning" -- Save the Sharks!

if no Shark Teeth! in 30 secs, press refresh...

End "Finning" -- Save the Sharks!
Target: U.S. Senate
Sponsored by: Ocean Conservancy

The wasteful practice of finning -- slicing off a shark's valuable fins for soup and tossing the body back to sea -- must be stopped. The situation is grim for a growing number of shark populations who are in peril from overfishing and unsustainable finning -- we must do better.

The U.S. passed a national finning ban in 2000, but the practice continues and is still legal in many other nations. The demand for the fins -- which can sell for up to hundreds of dollars per pound -- remains high for shark fin soup, a delicacy.

The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 closes loopholes in the U.S. finning ban and can revitalize shark conservation efforts on a global scale. It must be passed without further delay. Please join us in sending a powerful message to your senators to end finning and save the sharks!

LINK to Sign Petition:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The search is on for an entangled whale...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Search is on for another entangled whale off Kona Island

By Carolyn Lucas
West Hawaii Today

Marine experts and divers are searching the waters off the Kona Coast for a humpback whale entangled in polypropylene line, deflated buoys and other fishing gear.

They warned against anyone trying to free the whale themselves, however. Disentangling these 45-ton creatures is extremely dangerous and requires a special permit.

While conducting a whale watching tour, Casey Cho, of Adventure X Rafting, first spotted and followed the tangled whale Monday afternoon about a mile off Hapuna Beach.

"The rope had deeply cut through the flesh of the whale in three places. In some areas, the flesh had grown over the ropes. It was very upsetting and sad to see such a horrible ordeal happening to a beautiful creature," Cho said.

Capt. Beth Goodwin, of Liquid Robotics, relieved Cho and continued following the whale in her vessel until response teams from the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on the Big Island and Maui arrived.

The sanctuary crews were able to briefly assess the whale, thought to be an adult, and its situation just before dark. They placed a satellite tag on the animal to track its movements and decided to postpone the rescue effort until early yesterday morning, said Justin Viezbicke, marine conservation coordinator for NOAA's Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Rescuers found no whale yesterday, just the tag, which the animal had managed to shake off. They spent several hours searching for the whale, but were unsuccessful, Viezbicke said.

"Every entanglement is life-threatening at some point," he said. "This whale looked emaciated and its health was compromised. We don't know where the fishing gear is from, how long the whale has been tangled, the severity of its injuries or how long it will survive."

There have been up to six reports this season of entangled whales statewide and two whales were freed, Viezbicke said. Those who see an entangled or distressed whale should immediately report it by calling (888) 256-9840.

Whale Sharks beaching worldwide...

“They were very majestic and docile animals
and were known to allow snorkelers and scuba
divers to swim gracefully along side them in the
Ocean where they lived for millions of years... until now...

industrial toxins killing whales on Earth...

GONUBIE Beach was closed for swimming yesterday amid fears
that the carcass of an 8 meter Whale Shark washed up on the beach.

Whale sharks are harmless plankton feeders common to KwaZulu-Natal North.

“They feed by swimming on the surface with their mouths open and filtering small fish and plankton, or krill, now contaminated with industrial chemicals known by the EPA to be carcinogenic and toxic to living cells. (Life)

“They were very majestic and docile animals and are known to allow snorkelers and scuba divers to swim gracefully with them in the Ocean where they lived for millions of years until industrial, petroleum based toxins were freely dumped into rivers worldwide killing all species of whales.”

5,000 pound Whale Shark ... dead...
washes ashore on Long Island

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A 26-foot-long dying shark washed ashore Tuesday on a Long Island beach, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said.

Five more Blue Whale Deaths Off the California Coast
by David Gurney Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 at 5:01 PM

Five confirmed but unexplained blue whale deaths in the last six weeks.


... i see all of this as a global ecological catastrophe...

when dolphins and whales are dying at our feet....

and our children are born with neurological damage...
secondary to their own mom's eating seafood for their health...

i don't understand why people are not outraged over the loss of our Oceans and their own child's intelligence...

Larry --

Friday, January 1, 2010

Connecting the plastic eco dots . . . . .

Connecting the plastic eco dots . . . . .
Why we MUST keep plastic out of the Oceans....

This brief flash video describes the ecological scenario unfolding daily in our oceans, worldwide, and underscores the importance of no longer dumping plastic and industrial byproducts into the only living Oceans in the entire universe.