Ocean waters off the coast of California are acidifying twice as fast as the rest of the world's oceans, new research shows.
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By Eoin Higgins
The climate crisis is hurting the New England fishing industry, claims a new report published Monday, with a decline of 16% in fishing jobs in the northeastern U.S. region from 1996 to 2017 and more instability ahead.
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
Marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has made the difficult decision to suspend its campaign to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise in Mexico's Upper Gulf of California.
Two of the Sea Shepherd ship that patrol the vaquita refuge. Jack Hutton / Sea Shepherd<p>Vaquitas (<em>Phocoena sinus</em>), which are endemic to the Sea of Cortez in the Upper Gulf of California, are on the brink of extinction, although there are different estimates of how many are left. A recent <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.190598" target="_blank">study</a> calculated there to be fewer than 19 vaquitas left as of the summer of 2018. Another <a href="http://www.iucn-csg.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CIRVA-11-Final-Report-6-March.pdf" target="_blank">report</a>, conducted by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), suggested only about 10 individuals remain, although it also stated that there's a 95 percent chance that 6 to 22 individuals continue to exist.</p><p>The biggest threat to the vaquitas is the illegal fishing of <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22003/9346099" target="_blank">totoaba</a> (<em>Totoaba macdonaldi</em>), which, like the vaquita, is classified as a critically endangered species by the IUCN. The totoaba's swim bladder is believed to have special medicinal qualities in traditional Asian medicine, despite there being no scientific evidence to support this. The bladders, which are used to make a "curative" soup, <a href="https://awionline.org/content/vaquitas-and-totoabas" target="_blank">can fetch prices up to $14,000 USD</a>, according to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and they're regularly trafficked in the global wildlife trade.</p>
A vaquita surfacing in the Sea of Cortez. Sandra Alba / Sea Shepherd<p>Since totoabas are about the same size as vaquitas, vaquitas easily get caught in the gillnets meant to capture totoabas. Gillnets are also used to catch shrimp in the Sea of Cortez, which wreaked further havoc on the vaquita population.</p><p>In 2015, the Mexican government placed a two-year ban on gillnet fishing in the Sea of Cortez, and in 2016, it announced a <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2016/07/mexico-bans-gillnets-to-protect-rare-vaquita-porpoise/" target="_blank">total ban on gillnet fishing</a>. Despite these legislative efforts, fishing has continued in the area. During a patrol in October 2019, Sea Shepherd reported seeing <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/10/rampant-fishing-continues-as-vaquita-numbers-dwindle/" target="_blank">more than 70 fishing boats</a> in the vaquita's critical habitat.</p>
A dead vaquita floating in the ocean. Robbie Newby / Sea Shepherd<p>Last month, the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-04692.pdf" target="_blank">announced</a> that it would ban all imports of Mexican shrimp and other seafood caught in the vaquita's refuge, an action taken under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Conservationists hope this latest step will provide enough protection to help the vaquita survive.</p><p>"This is exactly how the law protecting marine mammals is supposed to work: if Mexico's fisheries kill vaquita at a rate that violates US standards, the US must ban imports," Zak Smith, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement. "Mexico has no choice but to eliminate the destructive fishing taking place in the northern Gulf of California that is driving the vaquita to extinction. It's the only hope the vaquita has for survival, and it is required if Mexico wants to resume exporting these products to the United States."</p>
Sea Shepherd crew members removing illegal gillnets from the Upper Gulf of California. Robbie Newby / Sea Shepherd<p>Sea Shepherd has spent the last six years patrolling the vaquita refuge, often with scientists and photographers on board to collect data on the vaquitas and to conduct acoustical monitoring. The group has also retrieved 1,200 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the vaquita habitat, according to a <a href="https://seashepherd.org/2019/09/09/expedition-to-sight-critically-endangered-vaquita-porpoise-a-success/" target="_blank">statement</a> on its website.</p><p>While Sea Shepherd isn't able to be in the Sea of Cortez right now, the Mexican navy will be monitoring the waters, Watson said. Fshing activities may decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's also possible that poaching will continue — or even increase. "Poachers take advantage of opportunities," Watson said.</p><p>Sea Shepherd crew will return to the vaquita refuge as soon as it can.</p>
Illegal fishing activity taking place in the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shepherd<p>The vaquita may be fighting for survival, but Kate O'Connell, marine wildlife consultant at AWI, believes there's still hope.</p><p>The vaquita sightings demonstrate that vaquita remain, and those that have been spotted appear healthy," O'Connell said. "New <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.190598" target="_blank">research</a> … shows that vaquita may reproduce annually, which would increase the species' potential to recover from its current low numbers. While the situation is daunting, other marine mammal species have come back from extremely low numbers, including the northern elephant seal, which was nearly exterminated in the 19th century, and has rebounded from less than 100 individuals to well over 100,000."</p>
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Heather Cruickshank
Trillions of bacteria and other microbes live in the human digestive system. Together, they form a community that's known as the gut microbiota.
Many bacteria in the microbiota play important roles in human health, helping to metabolize food, strengthen intestinal integrity and protect against disease.
The Chinese city of Shenzhen announced Thursday that it would ban the eating of dogs and cats in the wake of the coronavirus, which is believed to have stemmed from the wildlife trade, according to Reuters.
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By Jane Goodall
The world is facing unprecedented challenges. At the time of writing, the coronavirus COVID-19 has infected over 3.57 million people globally and as of the 4th of May 250,134 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Zoonotic Disease Transmission in Markets<p>When wild animals are sold in such markets, often illegally, they are typically kept in small cages, crowded together, and often slaughtered on the spot. Humans, both vendors and customers, may thus be contaminated with the fecal material, urine, blood and other bodily fluids of a large variety of species – such as civets, pangolins, bats, raccoon dogs and snakes. This provides a perfect environment for viruses to spill over from their animal hosts into humans. Another zoonotic disease, SARS, originated in another wildlife market in Guangdong.</p><p>Most <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/whats-in-a-name-wet-markets-may-hide-true-culprits-for-covid-19/" target="_blank">wet markets</a> in Asia are not dissimilar to farmers' markets in Europe and the US. There are thousands of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5arUFkZm0" target="_blank">wet markets in Asia</a> and around the world where fresh produce – vegetables and fruit, and sometimes also meat from domestic animals – are sold at reasonable prices. And thousands of people shop there rather than in supermarkets.</p><p>It is not only in China that wildlife markets have provided the ideal conditions for viruses and other pathogens to cross the species barrier and transfer from animal hosts to us. There are markets of this sort in many Asian countries. In the bushmeat markets of Africa – where live and dead animals are sold for food – the hunting, slaughtering and selling of chimpanzees for food led to two spill overs from ape to human that resulted in the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Ebola is another zoonotic disease which crosses from animal reservoirs into apes and humans in different parts of Africa.</p>
Wildlife Trafficking and the Spread of Disease<p>Another major concern is the trafficking of wild animals and their body parts around the world. Unfortunately, this has become a highly lucrative multi-billion-dollar business, often run by criminal cartels. Not only is it very cruel and definitely contributing to the terrifying extinction of species, but it may also lead to conditions suitable for the emergence of zoonotic diseases. Wild animals or their parts exported, often illegally, from one country to another take their viruses with them.</p><p>The shocking pet trade in young wild monkeys and apes, birds, reptiles and other wild animals is another area of concern. A bite or scratch from a wild animal taken into the home could lead to something much more serious than a mild infection.</p><p>Once COVID-19 was recognized as a new <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/list/zoonotic-diseases/" target="_blank">zoonotic disease</a>, the Chinese authorities imposed a ban on the selling and eating of wild animals, the Wuhan wildlife market was closed down, and the farming of wild animals for food was forbidden.</p><p>There are thousands of small operations throughout Asia and other parts of the world where wild animals are bred for food as a way of making a living in rural areas. Unless alternative sources of income for these people, as well as for others exploiting wildlife to make a living, can be found and they can get help from their governments during their transition to other ways of making money, it is likely that these operations will be driven underground and become even more difficult to regulate.</p><p>Nevertheless, whatever the problems, it is clearly of great importance that the ban on trading, eating and breeding of wild animals for food should be permanent and enforced – for the sake of human health and the prevention of other pandemics in the future. Fortunately, a majority of Chinese and other Asian citizens who responded to surveys agree that wildlife should not be consumed, used in medicine or for their fur.</p>
Medicinal Products Loopholes and Bear Bile<p>The use of some wild animal products for traditional medicine is thus far still legal in China (though rhino horn and tiger bones are banned). And this creates a loophole that will be quickly seized on by those wanting to continue to trade in wild animals such as the highly endangered pangolin, rhinos, tigers and the Asiatic black bear, known commonly as the Moon Bear because of the crescent-shaped white marking on its chest.</p><p>Other Asian bears – brown bears and Sun bears – are also exploited for their bile. And so long as farming bears for their bile is legal, and products containing their bile is promoted, this will stimulate the demand for the bile.</p><p>It is important to consider the welfare of the animals who are unwittingly responsible for zoonotic diseases. Today we know that all the animals mentioned are sentient beings, capable of knowing fear, despair and pain. Moreover, many of them demonstrate extraordinary intelligence. Allowing the use of wildlife trading for medicinal purposes can lead to unbelievably inhumane treatment of some of these sentient beings.</p><p>This is most certainly the case, for example, with bears farmed for their bile in Asia. They may be kept for up to thirty years in extremely small cages – sometimes they cannot even stand up or turn around. The tiny cages prohibit all natural behavior for these intelligent and sentient animals, who endure a life of fear and suffering.</p>
Disease Originating from Factory Farming<p>It is not only from wild animals that zoonotic diseases have originated. The inhumane conditions of the great factory farms, where large numbers of domestic animals are crowded together, has also provided conditions conducive to viruses spilling over into humans. The diseases commonly known as 'bird flu' and 'swine flu' resulted from handling poultry and pigs. And domestic animals are also sentient beings who experience fear and pain. MERS originated from contact with domestic dromedary camels in the Middle East, perhaps from consuming products from infected camels such as undercooked meat or milk.</p>
Conclusion<p>Scientists warn that if we continue to ignore the causes of these zoonotic diseases, we may be infected with viruses that cause pandemics even more disruptive than COVID-19.</p><p>Many people believe that we have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world. We need to halt <a href="https://rainforests.mongabay.com/08-deforestation.html" target="_blank">deforestation</a> and the destruction of natural habitats around the globe. We need to make use of existing nature-friendly, organic alternatives, and develop new ones, to feed ourselves and to maintain our health. We need to eliminate poverty so that people can find alternative ways to make a living other than by hunting and selling wild animals and destroying the environment. We need to assure that local people, whose lives directly depend on and are impacted by the health of the environment, own and drive good conservation decisions in their own communities as they work to improve their lives. Finally, we need to connect our brains with our hearts and appropriately use our indigenous knowledge, science and innovative technologies to make wiser decisions about people, animals and our shared environment.</p><p>While there is a justified focus on bringing COVID-19 under control, we must not forget the crisis with potentially long-term catastrophic effects on the planet and future generations – the climate crisis. The movement calling for industry and governments to impose restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gases, to protect forests, and clean up the oceans, has been growing.</p><p>This pandemic has forced industry to temporarily shut down in many parts of the world. As a result, many people have for the first time experienced the pleasure of breathing clean air and seeing the stars in the night sky.</p><p>My hope is that an understanding of how the world <em>should be</em>, along with the realization that it is our disrespect of the natural world that has led to the current pandemic, will encourage businesses and governments to put more resources into developing clean, renewable energy, alleviate poverty and help people find alternative ways of making a living that do not involve the exploitation of nature and animals.</p><p>Let us realize we are part of, and depend upon, the natural world for food, water and clean air. Let us recognize that the health of people, animals and the environment are connected. Let us show respect for each other, for the other sentient animals, and for Mother Nature. For the sake of the wellbeing of our children and theirs, and for the health of this beautiful planet Earth, our only home.</p>
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The population of a marine parasite that sometimes worms its way into sushi has increased by 283 times in the last nearly 40 years, a University of Washington (UW)-led study has found.
By Cathy Cassata
While you plan to stock up on groceries during the pandemic, you may be wondering which items with a longer shelf life are the healthier choices to add to your cart, and which are the unhealthy ones to stay away from.
Healthier Choices<h4><u>1. Prunes</u></h4><p>With a shelf life of a year, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-plums-prunes" target="_blank">prunes</a> make a great option for increasing your produce intake even when you can't get to the store.</p><p>"This no sugar added dried fruit not only provides a good source of fiber to promote digestive health, [but] prunes are also incredibly versatile. Enjoy them alone as a sweet treat, add into homemade trail mix, or purée and use as a substitute for added sugar in any baked good," said Palinski-Wade.</p><p>Eating 5 to 6 prunes per day can prevent bone loss, she added.</p><p>Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are also go-to shelf stable options, said <a href="https://foodinsight.org/author/alyssa-ardolino/" target="_blank">Alyssa Pike</a>, RD, manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation.</p><p>"There are tons of options depending on your needs and preferences, and they can be cooked to add extra nutrients to a meal or easily thrown into a smoothie," Pike told Healthline.</p>
Less Healthy Choices<h4><u>1. Instant pancake mix</u></h4><p>While just-add-water pancake mixes are convenient and have a long shelf life, many are also a source of refined carbs without much nutritional value.</p><p>"Instead choose an option rich in protein and whole grains, such as <a href="https://shop.kodiakcakes.com/collections/flapjack-waffle-mix" target="_blank">Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes</a>," said Palinski-Wade.</p>
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China banned its trade in wild animals Sunday until the new coronavirus, which was linked to a market in Wuhan where wildlife was sold, is eradicated. Now, conservationists are calling on the country to make the ban permanent.
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By Bret Stetka
Glaciers continue to melt. Sea levels are on the rise. And now scientists believe the changing climate may put our brains at risk. A new analysis predicts that by 2100, increasing water temperatures brought on by a warming planet could result in 96 percent of the world's population not having access to an omega-3 fatty acid crucial to brain health and function.