The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than ever recorded in modern history. New research finds that the world's second-largest ice deposit is not just melting from the surface but from below as well, which adds a new twist to consider when predicting global sea level rise.
The Arctic ice sheet stores large quantities of frozen water extending 1.7 million square kilometers (656,000 square miles) long, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In recent years it has seen unprecedented melting — seven times faster today than in the 1990s — that is likely to be intensified by the climate crisis. Scientists estimate that if the Greenland Ice Sheet completely melted, sea levels would rise by about 20 feet.
Researchers have long known that surface melt occurs from exposure to the sun and rising temperatures, but Arctic scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Germany have now determined that an underwater current of warmer water is carving a destructive path below the surface.
To come to their findings, the team took to the 79 North Glacier, a 50-mile-long "tongue" of floating ice that has slid into the ocean and floats on the surface while remaining connected to the land ice. In the last two decades the 79 North Glacier has seen dramatic loss of both its mass and thickness. The first-ever extensive ship-based survey of the ocean floor revealed an underwater current more than a mile-wide arriving from the Atlantic Ocean, bringing heat into contact with the glacier to accelerate its melting.
"The reason for the intensified melting is now clear," researcher Janin Schaffer said, according to EurekAlert!. "Because the warm water current is larger, substantially more warmth now makes its way under the ice tongue, second for second."
Schaffer and her team also found what is known as a bathymetric sill, which acts as a dam to water flowing over the seafloor. As water builds up against this barrier, it grows until eventually rushing over and coming into contact with the tongue, further melting the ice from below.
"The readings indicate that here, too, a bathymetric sill near the seafloor accelerates warm water toward the glacier. Apparently, the intensive melting on the underside of the ice at several sites throughout Greenland is largely produced by the form of the seafloor,"Schaffer said.
Writing in Nature Geoscience, the study authors add that similar effects were seen at other parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet as well. The researchers say that their findings may help to more accurately gauge the total amount of meltwater lost from the ice sheet each year.
By Rachel Hopkins
Tropical tuna species—skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tunas—are important economic assets for coastal communities across the globe, and even far from the ocean they are a favorite on supermarket shelves and in sushi bars. These three species—together worth close to $40 billion annually at the final point of sale—prompted eight Pacific island countries to launch World Tuna Day on May 2, 2011. In 2016, the UN officially adopted the date to highlight the importance of sustainable tuna management.
Despite that designation, however, concern for the future of these fish continues. Through the increased use of fish aggregating devices (FADs)—man-made floating rafts that attract fish in the open ocean—over the past three decades, purse seine fleets have seen dramatic increases in skipjack catch. But this has come at a cost to bigeye and yellowfin populations. Because FADs attract juvenile bigeye and yellowfin in addition to skipjack, increased skipjack fishing on FADs has resulted in fewer bigeye and yellowfin surviving to adulthood, which means fewer of those species in the water for crews fishing with other gear, such as longlines and pole and line.
Further, the international bodies tasked with protecting bigeye and yellowfin fisheries also manage skipjack, and they have been reluctant to adopt measures to reduce the impact of FAD fishing on bigeye and yellowfin populations out of fear those measures would hurt the skipjack industry.
The result has essentially been a years-long stalemate, the consequences of which are being borne out around the globe, in part because managers are also debating how much to restrict fishing with purse seine nets and longlines. The population of bigeye in the Pacific, which also faces pressure from longliners catching adult fish, has been decreasing and scientists recommend against further increases in fishing mortality. Atlantic bigeye populations are already experiencing overfishing, and scientists consider both Atlantic bigeye and yellowfin to be overfished. Bigeye have just a 38 percent chance of recovery by 2028, according to an analysis based on 2016 catch levels. Yet, due to insufficient controls by international managers, catch of both Atlantic stocks exceeded the agreed quotas in 2016.
Materials that can make up FADs are piled on the deck of a purse seine vessel in Micronesia.The Pew Charitable Trusts
Urgent Changes Needed
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body responsible for managing tropical tunas in the Atlantic Ocean, is on the hook to adopt a new tropical tuna measure, including a revised recovery plan for Atlantic bigeye, at its annual meeting in November. To be successful, ICCAT's new measure must:
- Set the Atlantic bigeye quota at a level that will give the stock at least a 70 percent chance of recovery by 2028 and ensure that the total catch, from both major and minor harvesters, does not exceed the overall quota.
- Take steps to reduce juvenile Atlantic bigeye and yellowfin catch via FAD management reform, including by reducing the number of FADs that may be deployed and the amount of purse seine fishing effort allowed on tuna schools associated with FADs.
- Ensure that ICCAT managers develop a more transparent and proactive approach to management—through a modernized approach known as a "management procedure," in which managers agree in advance on the goals for a fish stock and harvesting rules to ensure the goals are met—for tropical tunas, which will return the stocks to healthy levels or keep them there, over the long term. ICCAT needs to make sufficient progress this year to meet its agreed 2020 deadline to adopt management procedures for tropical tuna stocks.
In the western and central Pacific Ocean, tropical tunas are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The bigeye population there is doing better than in the Atlantic but has declined, and FADs are still proliferating at an alarming rate. WCPFC has catch limits for bigeye for the fleets of major longline harvesting nations and prohibits purse seiners from fishing on FADs for a period every year. Despite that, the purse seine fleets fishing on FADs may be catching as much as four times the number of bigeye as the longline fleets, and data suggest that a more effective way of managing the purse seine impact on bigeye would be to agree on a science-based limit on the number of times vessels can fish on FADs.
To better understand and thus regulate the level of FAD use, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement—eight countries that are members of the WCPFC and in whose waters more than 90 percent of FAD fishing in the commission's purview occurs—are using satellite technology to better track the devices. But to ensure sustainability of the bigeye/tropical tuna fisheries across the western and central Pacific, the WCPFC must:
- Take steps to ensure that the longline and purse seine catch of bigeye is within the limits advised by scientists and, in the purse seine fishery, replace the FAD closure with science-based limits on the number of times vessels can fish on the devices.
- Make progress on developing a harvest strategy for western and central Pacific bigeye in order to adopt a full strategy by 2021, with the goal of keeping the population at a sustainable level over the long term, with little risk of the stock falling into the danger zone.
This World Tuna Day, managers in the Pacific and Atlantic must take immediate action to help ensure the long-term sustainability of tropical tuna fisheries or continue to let shortsighted economic and political pressures determine their actions. Doing the right thing now would benefit the fish, and all who rely on them, far into the future.
Rachel Hopkins is acting director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' global tuna conservation campaign.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
In late April, President Trump issued an executive order promoting oil and gas drilling off America's coasts—and Thursday, in response, U.S. Department of the Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke plans to unveil a five-year leasing plan that opens our oceans to dangerous development.
Zinke's plan is intended to replace the five-year plan President Obama issued weeks before he left office—one that had made the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off-limits to drilling through 2022. The Obama administration's plan was finalized after an exhaustive, multiyear process, including the submission of more than 1.4 million comments from the public.
The Trump administration has touted its push to allow offshore drilling as part of a strategy—a reckless one—to create jobs and make the U.S. a leader in energy production. But the reality is that oil prices are plummeting, and interest in offshore drilling is dropping along with them. Opening our fragile shores to dirty oil and gas development is a dangerous idea that puts marine life and coastal communities at risk and contributes to the present and ever-growing impacts of climate change.
"We won't sacrifice our marine life, ocean habitat, and local economies to Trump's big polluter play," Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council said. "We'll stand with leaders of vision, business owners, and fishing families on every coast to protect our oceans and shores."
The Trump administration issued Monday a draft Incidental Harassment Authorizations for seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean's surface. By issuing these draft Incidental Harassment Authorizations for public comment, Oceana said the federal government is giving another gift to the oil industry—moving forward with the permitting process that gives geophysical companies permission to harm or disturb marine life in the pursuit of offshore oil.
According to the government's own estimates, seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more.
Seismic Testing to Begin in Atlantic #Ocean in Push for Offshore Drilling https://t.co/VT1d0ZkIP5 @Oceana @greenpeaceusa @seashepherd @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1494519763.0
"This threat is real and it's coming fast," said Nancy Pyne, campaign director at Oceana. "Coastal communities have the most to lose, but unfortunately their overwhelming opposition may be ignored by the Trump administration. The threats of seismic airgun blasting alone are bad enough, but it's also the first step to offshore drilling, which could lead to the industrialization of coastal communities and the risk of another BP Deepwater Horizon-like disaster. The time to protect our coast is now."
In late April, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding offshore drilling and exploration in U.S. waters. Specifically, the order calls for a review of the Five-Year Program (2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf , and directs the administration to fast-track the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting. Following that directive, the Trump administration re-initiated the permitting process for seismic airgun blasting in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida, reversing a decision by the Obama administration to deny these permits.
As of today, 125 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 elected officials, numerous commercial and recreational fishing interests, and an alliance representing more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. An Oceana report in 2015 found that offshore oil and gas development in the Atlantic could jeopardize the nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product that rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation.
"Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean," said Dr. Ingrid Biedron, marine scientist and campaign manager at Oceana. "Seismic airguns fire intense blasts of compressed air every 10 to 12 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end. The noise from these blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is approximately the distance of a flight from New York City to Los Angeles.
"In addition to being extremely loud, these blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival," said Biedron. "Numerous studies demonstrate the impacts that seismic airgun noise has on ocean ecosystems, including reduced catch rates of commercially valuable fish and silencing bowhead whales."
In 2015, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that 'the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which only about 500 remain."
While there is now a mandatory 30-day comment period for the draft Incidental Harassment Authorizations, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could approve seismic airgun blasting permits any day.
The Interior Department announced it is moving forward with seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean following President Donald Trump's executive order last month to aggressively expand offshore drilling in protected areas off the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
Six permit applications by energy companies—ones that were rejected by the Obama administration—are being reviewed by the department.
The oil and gas industry has long pushed for seismic surveys used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean's surface.
However, environmental groups warn that the surveys are an extremely loud and dangerous process.
"Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end," Dustin Cranor, Oceana's senior director of U.S. communications, told EcoWatch. "The noise from these blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is approximately the distance from Washington, DC to Las Vegas."
"These blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival," Cranor said. He noted that the government's own estimates show that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more.
Furthermore, Greenpeace said "pursuing this development stands at cross-purposes with the nation's necessary and rapidly accelerating move away from fossil fuels, and with previous commitments to address global climate change."
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Capt. Paul Watson explained, "One of the major threats to the survival of cetaceans, is noise pollution. More seismic testing and military LFS testing will result in more strandings. This decision equates to a death sentence for thousands of whales and dolphins."
Seismic data has not been gathered in the mid- and south-Atlantic regions, from northern Florida to Delaware, for at least 30 years.
The Interior Department said that the surveys are needed to update information about the Outer Continental Shelf that was gathered more than three decades ago, "when technology was not as advanced as today."
The Associated Press reported that any new drilling activity is expected to be limited to the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.
Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke said that the surveys will help "a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation's offshore areas ... and evaluate resources that belong to the American people."
Industry groups applauded the department's decision to review the permit applications. "There has been no documented scientific evidence of noise from these surveys adversely affecting marine animal populations or coastal communities," Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said.
"Renewed offshore energy production will reduce the cost of energy, create countless new jobs, and make America more secure and far more energy independent," Trump said before signing the document last month.
But Greenpeace said that Atlantic drilling would threaten the region's vibrant fishing and tourism industry, warning that "a spill equivalent to the BP Gulf oil disaster could coat beaches stretching from Savannah to Boston."
Additionally, Cranor pointed out that more than 120 East Coast municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, and an alliance representing 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting.
"These individuals and groups understand that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product are at risk if dangerous offshore drilling activities occur in the Atlantic Ocean," Cranor explained.
Conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against President Trump, challenging his decision to reverse President Obama's ban.
By Claire Douglass
The Obama administration formally denied today all pending permits to conduct seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean. Seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean's surface, was originally proposed in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida.
This announcement follows several recent historic moves by the Obama administration to decrease America's dependence on dirty fossil fuels, including the removal of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from the five year program (from 2017-2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf and the permanent protection of important areas of the Atlantic and Arctic from future offshore drilling.
We thank the Obama administration for finishing the job in protecting the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling activities.
East Coast communities can finally take a well-deserved sigh of relief knowing that their ocean and economies are currently spared from dangerous seismic airgun blasting.
With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, there was absolutely no reason to risk the damage that would be caused by seismic airgun blasting in the region.
Obama Takes Historic Action, Protects Arctic Ocean from Offshore Oil Drilling https://t.co/I5IRw0iJSv @CenterForBioDiv @EnvAm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479517506.0
President Obama and Director Hopper should be revered for their leadership in transitioning the U.S. away from expanded offshore drilling and toward a cleaner energy economy, including the development of renewable energy sources such as offshore wind.
Over the last few years, Hopper and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have made it a priority to listen to all stakeholders, from the interests of the oil and gas industry to the East Coast fishing and tourism economies.
As of today, more than 120 East Coast municipalities, more than 1,200 elected officials and an alliance representing more than 35,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families have publicly opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. These individuals and groups understand that nearly 1.4 million jobs and more than $95 billion in gross domestic product are at risk if dangerous oil activities occur in the Atlantic Ocean.
We know that seismic airgun blasting is dangerous. Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end. The noise from these blasts is so loud that it can be heard up to 2,500 miles from the source, which is approximately the distance from Washington, DC to Las Vegas.
Sonic Sea: Sounding the Alarm on Ocean Noise https://t.co/QLD84ICuFP @TheScienceGuy @ScienceNewsOrg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1463450437.0
In addition to being extremely loud, these blasts are of special concern to marine life, including fish, turtles and whales, which depend on sound for communication and survival. Numerous studies demonstrate the negative impacts that seismic airgun noise has on ocean ecosystems, including reduced catch rates of commercially valuable fish and silencing bowhead whales.
The government's own estimates state that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more.
In 2015, 75 leading marine scientists sent a letter to President Obama on the impacts of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean, stating that "the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on the reproduction and survival of fish and marine mammal populations in the region, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which approximately only 500 remain."
Today's decision comes from a visionary president dedicated to preserving the marine environment and furthering a legacy of action against climate change. We applaud the Obama administration for protecting the Atlantic Ocean for generations to come.
The 120-day, 4,600-mile feat will take Chris Bertish from Morocco to Florida.
On Dec. 6, Chris Bertish and his solar-powered stand-up paddle (SUP) board took off from the Agadir Marina in Morocco for an adventure of a lifetime. Approximately 120 days later, the South African sailor and big-wave surfer will have paddled 4,500-miles to Miami, Florida, making him the first person on the planet to SUP across the Atlantic Ocean.
That is, if everything goes to plan.
"I've been hearing that I'm nuts all my life, and I wouldn't want it any other way," Bertish, 42, told the New York Times before setting off on his journey, which took him and his team four years to plan. "I've been proving people wrong all of my life. But I've always wanted to push the boundaries because that's where the magic happens."
Bertish's SUP, of course, isn't your typical board. The $120,000, Phil Morrison-designed craft is more like a stand-up boat that has a watertight compartment that allows him to completely sit upright and stretch out for sleep and rest. The vessel also contains weather forecasting equipment, locater and GPS systems, water storage bladders and anchors. Two sets of solar panels will juice on-board batteries and the electronics.
The design is meant to protect Bertish from capsizing, an unfortunate incident which happened to Frenchman Nicolas Jarossay, who was the previous person who tried to SUP across the Atlantic earlier this year. Jarossay's attempt ended only hours after taking off.
"A key reason for placing the main cabin forward is the that it helps the craft self-right faster, more effectively than any other production boat on the market. The natural shape of the craft on the waterline lends itself to being wider in the forward section of the hull," Bertish's team said about the craft. "As a result, this is where most of the volume exists and by placing a cabin here, it enhances buoyancy to produce a more effective self-righting moment. Moreover, forward placement protects you from headwinds with a superior aerodynamic profile as well as providing easier control downwind. A center plate to aid straight line tracking improves capability even further."
The designers say that the board has a zero percent carbon footprint, to boot.
Bertish is highly aware that the journey will be long, treacherous and a true test of mental and physical endurance. As the Times describes:
"The first five days, as he becomes accustomed to the paddleboard and fights to avoid being blown back to land, will be the hardest, he said—90 percent of the challenge, in fact, by his estimate.
"Once at sea, Bertish can expect to battle rough seas, sun exposure and tricky tides and currents, as well as unforeseen obstacles. He had been waiting weeks in Morocco for the perfect window of weather conditions to begin, and on Tuesday, he concluded that it had arrived.
"Hoping to use the tides and weather conditions to his benefit, Bertish plans to paddle about 30 miles a day—mostly at night, to avoid exposure to the sun—for more than 120 days. On a typical day, Bertish said, he will alternate between resting and paddling every two or three hours. He will continuously hydrate and will nourish himself with protein shakes, freeze-dried meals with endurance additives, and salty jerky to replenish the electrolytes he will lose through sweating."
For entertainment, Bertish has his guitar and an onboard music player to play favorites like Eddie Vedder, Creed, INXS and Johnny Clegg. He also has eight recordings from his mental coach when he needs the encouragement. And in case you're wondering, to relieve himself, "the ocean is a terrific sustainable toilet," he told the Times.
Bertish is already besting his predecessor. Forty-eight hours after taking off, he posted onto Facebook that he was already 60 miles in open waters.
"It was a pretty tough 36-48 hours and now I am out into the big blue," he wrote. "Not exactly the right weather conditions to get me down to the Canaries. We wanted to build enough sea room and a buffer from land so that getting shipwrecked on land was not an option. Last night I had to jump in the water to get my para-anchor off my rudder and it looks like it's doing the same right now. I was taking a break to check systems and there were a couple of glitches along the way that I needed to sort out, but we are doing it!"
Bertish's current whereabouts can be tracked live on his website and on social media. The journey will also raise funds for his selected charities—Signature of Hope Trust, The Lunchbox Fund and Operation Smile.
"This has been a 4-year project in the making and lifetime of preparation and I'm ready," he said in a release. "My specialized SUP craft is incredible, I have an amazing team behind me, supporting me from land and an unbelievable support from friends and people all around the world for this incredible journey, which is going to change the lives of millions of children in Africa, which is what will keep driving and inspiring me right till the end."
I couldn't, post-election, muster a plausibly big enough piece of good news to warrant a Thanksgiving blog—but then this morning one arrived. In an astonishingly short eight years, as a result of tougher emission rules on power plants and a declining use of coal, concentrations of mercury in Atlantic Bluefin tuna, the sushi sort, dropped by 19 percent.
There are similar findings for bluefish, but tuna are much longer lived, so the results are extremely surprising—concentrations of mercury in even much older tuna fell at the same or faster rate as mercury concentrations in sea water, suggesting that fisheries contamination can be reversed far more quickly than anyone had dreamed.
Bluefin tuna are still not healthy for women of child-bearing age—and most of the tuna which had led more than 10 percent of U.S. women having unhealthy mercury in their blood is not from the Atlantic ocean, which is healing, but from the Pacific, where coal consumption and mercury loading remains unabated.
Mercury contamination is a serious public health issue. In the U.S. alone, hundreds of thousands of newborns are at risk of lower IQ's from the mercury burden they are born with. Concentrations of mercury have been coming down as a result of broad public education and advisories on which fish to avoid. Overall, mercury emissions in the U.S. have declined sharply as a result of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation.
[email protected]: Alarming Levels of #Mercury Contamination Found Across Western North America https://t.co/XIHxoDnZCH @autismspeaks @ewg— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474396877.0
Now the news from the North Atlantic suggests that globally the epidemic of mercury poisoning can be reversed far more rapidly than scientists had imagined. Requiring the clean up of coal power plant emissions in Asia, the globe's largest remaining source of mercury pollution, will begin to allow Pacific ocean fisheries to recover as well. It's important that countries considering the economics of building coal factor in the almost certain necessity to control for mercury—and when they do, they are likely to find that coal power is no longer economically competitive, so that not only will current plants reduce their emissions, but fewer new ones will make any kind of economic sense—which will be wonderful news for the communities where coal is mined and burned, as well as the climate.
More fundamentally, the North Atlantic story goes at the heart of the popular version of climate denialism—which is the initially plausible notion that the world is so large and each human so small, that it's just not likely that anything each of us does can really change the climate—or poison the oceans. And if we have, it's so terrifying that we really don't believe we can do anything about it. Isn't it too late?
What the declining mercury level in Bluefin tuna shows is that we can—and have—had enormous impacts on the natural world, but that we can, and are, reversing those impacts. Nature, if we stop abusing her, can heal herself not in centuries or even decades, but mere years—even the length of the U.S. president's term.
This is a good news story we need to tell everyone.
By Robert McSweeney
Rising sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic are likely to be behind a recent surge in cases of diarrhoeal diseases from marine bacteria in northern Europe and the U.S. East Coast, a new study says.
In their analysis that goes back to 1958, the researchers show that levels of Vibrio bacteria—which can cause illness in humans and even death—have been increasing as sea surface temperatures rise.
Vibrio cholerae bacteria.James Cavallini / Science Photo Library
Further ocean warming as a result of climate change could exacerbate this spread of marine bacteria, the researchers say, potentially bringing more human infections in future.
The most well-known Vibrio is cholera, a diarrhoeal disease that can cause severe dehydration and death if not treated.
This study considers other strains of Vibrio bacteria, such as Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which cause similar, though usually less severe, symptoms. These types of illness are known collectively as "vibrosis," which can lead to complications, such as blood poisoning.
Previous research has linked outbreaks of Vibrio infections around the world to warm sea surface temperatures. Warmer conditions mean a longer summer window for Vibrio bacteria to grow and a greater chance of their survival. This conclusion has been reached in studies of Chile, Peru, Israel and the Baltic states.
The new study, just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that a warming Atlantic Ocean is the main reason for an "unprecedented" number ofVibrio cases in North Atlantic countries in recent years. This includes a spate of cases contracted by swimmers during the European summer heat wave in 2006.
One of the main limitations for scientists trying to work out how ocean warming is affecting Vibrio bacteria is the availability of data.
Bacteria are typically measured by microbiologists by collecting and analyzing water samples, said lead author Dr. Luigi Vezzulli, an associate professor in microbiology at the University of Genoa. However, as he explains to Carbon Brief, this isn't without difficulty:
"This approach is costly and time consuming and historical Vibrio data are generally lacking."
Vezzulli and his colleagues found a way round this problem by instead analyzing samples of tiny marine creatures called zooplankton, on which Vibrio bacteria tend to hitch a ride.
Scientists have been collecting samples of plankton in the North Atlantic since 1958 via the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey. The CPR actually gets its name from the instrument that, when towed behind ships, collects plankton over huge areas of ocean.
Using the samples from nine locations—shown in the map below—the researchers analyzed the DNA of the preserved plankton to create a record of how Vibrio bacteria numbers have changed over the past six decades.
Vibrio sampling areas in the North Atlantic. Each red rectangle indicates where samples were collected over the period 1958-2011. The inset image shows the CPR instrument.Vezzulli et al. (2016)
The findings show that concentrations of the different Vibrio bacteria have increased in line with rising sea surface temperatures (SSTs) for eight of the nine North Atlantic locations.
The only exception was at Newfoundland. This is likely because, despite a warming ocean, SSTs in this region still average around 7C, the paper says, which is a bit cold for most Vibrio bacteria.
You can see how sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have changed over the 21st century in the map below. Coastal regions of western Europe and Canada have warmed the most—by as much as 1.5C in some places, as shown by the red shading. Vezzulli said it's clear that SSTs and Vibrio bacteria are linked:
"From long-term data it is apparent that the level of these pathogens is rising in the ocean as a result of global warming."
Change in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, calculated as the difference between the averages over the years 1890-1958 and 2000-11. Red and orange shading indicate areas of particular warming. The black dots show the Vibrio sampling areas.Vezzulli et al. (2016)
Marine Bacteria in a Time of Climate Change
As the North Atlantic has warmed and concentrations of Vibrio bacteria have increased, the number of Vibrio infection cases in northern Europe and the U.S. Atlantic coast have also risen, the paper says.
There could be several reasons for this, the researchers note, such as people being more likely to go out swimming in warm conditions. But the data suggest that the number and spread of Vibrio bacteria in the water is a strong factor.
This means the rising SSTs could be leading to more Vibrio infections in humans, the paper says:
"The evidence is strong that ongoing climate change is influencing outbreaks of Vibrio infections on a worldwide scale."
Therefore, the continued rise in global SSTs in future years may exacerbate the growth and spread of Vibrio bacteria, the researchers conclude.
The study is a "stunning collaboration that integrates major disciplines, including climate, oceanography, microbiology and public health," said Prof. Drew Harvell, a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, who wasn't involved in the study. She tells Carbon Brief:
"The implications of these finding are that warming events will increase risk to human health from ocean-based Vibrio bacteria."
Another conclusion from the study is that better monitoring for Vibrio infections may be necessary, Vezzulli said:
"This is particularly true for Northern Europe where, despite the substantial increased in the number of Vibrio infections—including many fatalities—in recent years, vibrosis [except cholera] are not notifiable diseases."
This means that doctors and hospitals in European countries are not currently required to inform their government when they treat someone with a Vibrio infection. More comprehensive data collection on Vibrio cases would help scientists keep tabs on how these diseases are being affected by climate change, Vezzulli concludes.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
The Obama administration released a draft Implementation Plan on Jan. 12 for the National Ocean Policy. The draft provides strategic action plans for the policy’s nine priority objectives. In response, Ocean Conservancy released the following statement from Emily Woglom, director of Government Affairs:
“We applaud the administration for following though on the landmark National Ocean Policy with the release of this draft Implementation Plan. We hope the draft plan will provide the direction and guidance needed to tackle some of the many challenges facing our ocean, including planning for offshore energy, protecting important marine habitat and addressing changes affecting the Arctic.
“With the plan’s release, and momentum building, the administration should ensure the appropriate resources are provided to continue the much-needed work on comprehensive ocean-use planning. The next step, setting up regional planning bodies to help fight against haphazard use of ocean resources, will allow ocean uses to be coordinated and management decisions to be made on the regional level. This will be a win for all involved.
“Ocean Conservancy encourages everyone with a stake in the health of the ocean to participate in the comment period in order to make this process as public and transparent as possible. Input and engagement from all ocean users is vital for both this plan and future implementation of the National Ocean Policy to foster coordination for a healthier ocean. We look forward to providing detailed feedback on the plan and engaging with the National Ocean Council as the process moves ahead.”
To read and submit comments on the draft Implementation Plan, see the National Ocean Council's full statement below:
National Ocean Policy Draft Implementation Plan
As part of President Obama's National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, the National Ocean Council has released a draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The draft Implementation Plan describes more than 50 actions the Federal Government will take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, which support tens of millions of jobs, contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy, and are essential to public health and national security.
The draft Implementation Plan will ensure the Federal Government targets limited resources more effectively to deliver demonstrable results for the American people, including predictability for users, more efficient and coordinated decision-making, and improved sharing of data and technology. For each action, the plan outlines key milestones, identifies responsible agencies, and indicates the expected timeframe for completion.
We Want to Hear From You
Click here to provide comments on the draft Implementation Plan. The public comment period is open until midnight EST, Feb. 27, 2012.
We are relying on your input to inform development of the final Implementation Plan and help ensure the National Ocean Policy is working for our nation. We welcome your general input, and also pose the following questions:
- Does the draft Implementation Plan reflect actions you see are needed to address the nine priorities for the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes?
- What is the most effective way to measure outcomes and to detect whether a particular action in the Implementation Plan has achieved its intended outcome? Would a report card format be useful?
Comments received will be collated and posted on the National Ocean Council website. The National Ocean Council will review and incorporate comments before finalizing the plan in 2012. The plan will be reviewed annually and modified as needed based on new information or changing conditions.
Comments may also be sent by fax to “Attn: National Ocean Council” at (202) 456-0753, or by mail to: National Ocean Council, 722 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20503. Allow at least 2-3 weeks additional time for mailed comments to arrive.
More on the Development of the draft Implementation Plan
The draft Implementation Plan was developed with significant input from national, regional, and local stakeholders and the general public. The National Ocean Council sought public comment from January through April 2011 and June through July 2011, and held 12 regional listening sessions around the country. In addition, the Governance Coordinating Committee, composed of state, Tribal, and local government officials, and the Ocean Research Advisory Panel, composed of expert representatives from a range of ocean sectors, provided input for the plan.
In mid-2011, the National Ocean Council released for public comment outlines for nine Strategic Action Plans that provided an initial view on how federal agencies might address the nine priority objectives highlighted in the National Ocean Policy. The outlines, by design, were draft products that served as an early and valuable point in the Implementation Plan development process for focusing public and stakeholder input.
During the public comment period that was open June 2—July 2, 2011, the National Ocean Council received more than 400 contributions from more than 200 individuals and groups. In addition, approximately 1000 individuals and groups participated in and provided comments at 12 regional listening sessions around the country. The National Ocean Council agencies evaluated more than 850 specific comments from stakeholders and the public, many representing multiple submissions of very similar comments. We considered all of the comments and accepted many, incorporating them into the draft Implementation Plan.
For more information, click here.
Ocean Conservancy is the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, with support from more than half a million members and volunteers.