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PostPosted: 11-03-2006 08:16    Post subject: Environmental Issues Reply with quote

Not sure where to stick this one. It's not Global warming, it's not news, etc, so I'll run it up this brand new flagpole and see if anyone salutes:
Scruffy is the new green

Richard Black

Caring for the environment should mean not caring how you look, our environment correspondent Richard Black argues in The Green Room.

Once upon a time it was easy to spot an environmentalist.

He or she would be the messy shambles of a figure loping along the street, rainbow beanie-hat on head and battered parka held together by peace badges.

Alternatively you could use your nose for identification - washing facilities are necessarily limited in anti-nuclear camps and treetop sit-ins.

How things have changed.

When I go to meetings now on issues like renewable energy, climate change or water resources, not a beanie can be seen.

Men in grey suits and clean shoes sit in serried ranks of serious intent, just the occasional overly green tie or orange sock betraying that this is not a city bankers' clan gathering or old school reunion.

Women - too few - sit in equally serious islands of red, green and peach.

All have gone through that process, mysterious to the true eco-warrior, known as "grooming".

Chairing a TV discussion recently, I saw something I had never expected - the environmentalist wearing a tie, the pro-business libertarian an open-necked shirt.

What is the world coming to?

Same stripes

To some, this smartening is a sign that environmentalism has grown up. The modern green spirit wants to influence politicians and businessmen, to look good in a TV soundbite or on a conference platform.

To do so, they believe they must adopt the same language and the same uniform.

But there is a major downside; and typically it is displayed outside the conference venue, as smart-suited delegate after smart-suited delegate arrives and leaves by taxi.

The reason? Our peacock-brained obsession with looking smart.

Government ministers must have every hair cemented in place, green businessmen must keep their pinstripes parallel, eco-worriers have to remain fragrant under planetary-scale stress.

Which makes the greenest form of urban transport, the bicycle, unthinkable.

So you have 200 people gathering to talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and virtually all using a highly-polluting form of personal transport.

Progress? I don't think so.

Taking it by the scruff

Now I am far from being an eco-saint; and as a BBC journalist I am obliged to remain neutral on issues such as the science of climate change, and let the evidence speak for itself.

But I am doing my piffling bit for the natural world; I have released my inner scruff.

When I go to meetings and conferences now, all else being equal, I will cycle, as I usually do on other urban journeys.

I will find a seat among the smart serried ranks and let the sweat evaporate. I might bring a clean T-shirt along; then again I might not.

The secret is simply not to care.

Quite frankly, if they want to find ways of reducing energy consumption, curbing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling urban pollution, they can put up with the sweaty armpits on my T-shirt.

After all, in most parts of the world, most people have to manage without looking smart; they can't afford it.

My great-grandparents had one bath a week and two sets of clothes, one for work and one for Sundays.

Their carbon footprints were a lot smaller than mine.

Suited to purpose

There are many wonderful aspects of progress, and I would not argue for throwing off many of them.

Consumption of proper amounts of food is undoubtedly a good thing; consumption of medicines when you are ill, of books, of CDs, of wooden furniture (sustainably sourced, of course) - fantastic, bring it on.

But fashion we can do without; it is a luxury we do not need, a bauble that blinds, an environmental dead end.

It is fashion which leads a friend of mine to "need" 14 watches so she always has one that matches; fashion which leads a relative to possess more than 40 pairs of shoes.

Let's not even talk about the resource implications.

At the Oscars last week, I learn from elsewhere on this website, "Ziyi Zhang dazzled in a black bustier with a full skirt covered in Swarovski crystals by Giorgio Armani while Jessica Alba sparkled in a gold Versace halterneck".

Now, Ziyi Zhang and Jessica Alba would look gorgeous in my dad's pyjamas - and he hasn't had a new pair since 1979.

I am sure the same goes for George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But you, environment minister, and you, green business person, are never going to look like Ziyi Zhang or George Clooney, however many Armani bustiers (whatever they might be) you wear.

And you know what? You don't have to. Your business is not to look good; your business is to do good.

And for you gold-cluttered youth, you sultanas of bling with your four-wheel drives and well-groomed doglets; a global conscience is not a fashion statement, ok?

So don't bother about how you look. Forget convention, it is there to be overthrown; release your inner scruff, jump out of your taxi and onto your bike.

Scruffy really is the new green. Darling.

The Green Room is a weekly series of opinion articles on environmental issues on the BBC News website
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PostPosted: 07-08-2009 11:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't smell that sea air: British holidaymakers warned as rotting seaweed gives off lethal fumes
By Peter Allen
Last updated at 10:50 AM on 07th August 2009

Holidaymakers are being warned to avoid beaches in northern France covered in potentially lethal rotting seaweed.
It has washed up in massive quantities in Brittany, where thousands from the UK are currently on their summer break.
As the algae rots it releases a noxious gas that can have the same effect as cyanide.

Environmentalists have warned that the seaweed could soon spread to the UK coast.
The authorities have closed St-Michel-en-Greve beach in Brittany - visited by 800,000 Britons a year - after a rider passed out and his horse died after inhaling toxic gas released by algae 3ft deep.

Pierre Philippe, of the hospital in Lannion, Brittany, said hydrogen sulphide was 'as dangerous as cyanide'.

He said he had treated several cases of poisoning caused by the gas, including a council worker paid to clear beaches of algae who was taken to hospital in a coma.

Known locally as sea lettuce, the seaweed is thriving on the nitrates washed into the water supply from agricultural fertiliser and farm animal waste.

As the seaweed decomposes, it forms a crust under which hydrogen sulphide accumulates. When the crust breaks, the gas escapes.
Marine biologist Alain Menesguen said: 'This is a very toxic gas, which smells like rotten eggs. It attacks the respiratory system and can kill a man or an animal in minutes.
'It is likely to be a feature of any area where intensive farming methods are employed.'
This includes Britain, where such farming techniques are common.

Environmentalist Jean-Frangois Piquot said the toxic algae was definitely spreading further afield. He said: 'There are about five beaches that are unusable in Brittany. The problem is getting worse.

'There is no doubt that farming is to blame. Brittany has 5 per cent of French agricultural land but 60 per cent of the pigs, 45 per cent of the poultry and 30 per cent of the dairy farms.
'As our rivers are not long, the pollution does not have time to clear before the water reaches the sea. It enters a closed bay and the sunlight produces the seaweed.

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PostPosted: 07-09-2009 17:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seaweed suspected in French death

French investigators are examining whether a lorry driver has become the first victim of a toxic seaweed that is clogging parts of the Brittany coast.

The driver died in July after carrying three truckloads of sea lettuce away from the beaches where it has been decaying, releasing poisonous gas.

His death was originally recorded as a heart attack but prosecutors want to know if it was linked to the seaweed.

France's PM warned of the health risk while visiting the beaches last month.

Francois Fillon announced that the government would pay for cleaning up the beaches polluted by the sea lettuce, ulva lactuca.

Locals had raised the alarm after a horse, being ridden over the sands, collapsed and died. Its rider fell unconscious and had to be dragged off the algae-coated beach.

By then, the lorry driver had already died.

The 48-year-old driver had been working without a mask or gloves and died at the wheel of his vehicle when it crashed into a wall, reports Tim Finan in Brittany for the BBC.

The man had been part of the annual operation to remove 2,000 tonnes of rotting sea lettuce from the beaches at Binic.

His family have so far refused to allow an autopsy to establish the exact cause of his death, but on Monday the local prosecutor ordered a preliminary investigation.

Christian Urvoy, the mayor of Binic, said: "'We want to know if in future we should take precautions to safeguard workers who collect or transport seaweed."

A spokesman for the local authorities has strongly denied they were aware of the death when Mr Fillon visited St-Michel-en-Greve in August.

Researchers from France's National Institute for Environmental Technology and Hazards (Ineris) have visited the same beach and found hydrogen sulphide in such concentration that it could be "deadly in few minutes".

Sea lettuce is harmless in the sea, but as it decomposes on the beach it releases the deadly gas.

Environmentalists say decades of misuse of Brittany's agricultural land is to blame for the explosion of algae, due to the high levels of nitrates used in fertilisers and excreted by the region's high concentration of livestock.

They have called for tighter controls on farming.
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PostPosted: 23-09-2009 07:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

Desert dust storm chokes Sydney

Australia's biggest city, Sydney, has been shrouded in red dust blown in by winds from the deserts of the outback.

Visibility is so bad that international flights have been diverted and harbour ferry traffic disrupted.

Emergency services reported a surge in calls from people suffering breathing problems. Children and the elderly have been told to stay indoors.

Sydney's landmarks, including the Opera House, have been obscured, and many residents are wearing masks.

Traffic has been bumper-to-bumper on major roads.

The dust blanketing eastern parts of New South Wales has been carried by powerful winds that snatched up tons of topsoil from the drought-ravaged west of the state.

One Sydney resident told the Associated Press news agency: "The colour was amazing... I'm 72 years old and I've never seen that in my life before."

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned of "widespread damaging winds" in Sydney and other areas, as gusts of 65km/h (40mph) hit the city.

Forecasters predicted the winds would weaken later on Wednesday.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says it has been a difficult 24 hours for Australia, which has been hit by earthquakes, hail storms and bushfires.

In parts of New South Wales, huge hail stones whipped up by thunderstorms smashed windows and sent residents running for cover.

Further north in Queensland, officials banned open fires in many areas when bushfires sprang up after a spell of hot, dry weather.

Two minor earthquakes hit Victoria state on Tuesday, and heavy rains that followed led officials to issue a warning of flash floods.

TBH, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often in Oz. Even here in UK we sometimes get 'red rains', when dust gets blown here from the Sahara. This happens every few years (maybe every year?), certainly not at decades long intervals!
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PostPosted: 07-10-2009 08:03    Post subject: Reply with quote

Warning over River Trent cyanide

The deadly chemical cyanide and a quantity of raw sewage have leaked into a 30-mile stretch of the River Trent in Staffordshire.

Thousands of fish have died and people are being warned to stay away from the river while the incident is controlled.

The Environment Agency said pollution in the stretch between Stoke-on-Trent and Yoxall made it a health risk.

Farmers, anglers and boaters have been warned that water should not be taken out of the river "for any reason".

Alan Walters, from the Environment Agency, told BBC News the incident had had "a huge impact".

He said they were attempting to use hydrogen peroxide to offset the worst effects of the spillage.

Andrew Marsh, from Severn Trent Water, said a leak of cyanide, which had not been caused by the company, had knocked out a water treatment plant and this had led to a discharge of sewage.

The Environment Agency said the pollution was expected to reach Burton on Trent by late afternoon on Wednesday.

It is thought the risk to the public may then have been reduced but officers were continuing to monitor the situation.

A spokeswoman said an investigation had been launched into the cause but could not give further information for legal reasons.

The cyanide and untreated sewage were at levels to be "cause for concern, especially with regard to fish, wildlife and animals".

Thousands of fish have already died but it was important that farm animals and dogs were kept out of the water.

"We are tracking the pollution as it moves downstream," the spokeswoman added.

The RSPCA said it would be sending a team to the area at first light to assess the situation.

"We expect there will be quite a big clean-up operation involved. For those people with livestock we would remind them to get them away from the area as safely as possible," a spokeswoman said.
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PostPosted: 10-10-2009 08:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan to refill shrinking Dead Sea with salt water
Jordan is to refill the shrinking Dead Sea with salt water despite concerns from environmentalists about the threat to its unique eco-system.
By Richard Spencer in Amman
Published: 6:00AM BST 10 Oct 2009

Water levels in the lowest and saltiest body of water on the planet are falling by more than four feet a year, giving rise to quips that the Dead Sea is dying.

The government in Amman has said it is planning to extract more than 10 billion cubic feet a year from the Red Sea 110 miles to the south, feed most of it into a desalination plant to create drinking water, and send the salty waste-water left over to the Dead Sea by tunnel.

Similar plans are already the subject of a two-year feasibility study agreed by the Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians in a rare example of cross-border Middle East co-operation.

But the Jordanians have decided they cannot wait any longer. "Jordan will start with the first phase with the help of donor countries and private investors," its minister for water, General Maysoun Zu'bi, said this week.

But environmentalists said the two years allotted to the feasibility study were already too short for a proper assessment of the risks posed to the Dead Sea's unique ecology.

Environmentalists are concerned that the mixing of two different types of salt-water might have serious ecological consequences, including a build-up of algae.

There are allied plans to build up the Dead Sea's roads and hotels for tourism. There are also fears that increased salinity in the Red Sea might damage fish and coral.

"We know the plan's attractive to the Jordanian government because it will bring so much money circulating in the economy," said Munqeth Mehyar, director of Friends of the Earth in the Jordanian capital, Amman. "But the price is too high."

The study for the so-called "Red-Dead Water Conveyance Project", funded by seven donor nations and commissioned by the World Bank, is examining the economic and environmental impact of building the world's biggest desalination plant, running on hydroelectric power.

As well as replenishing water levels in the Dead Sea it would fulfil Jordan's estimated need for drinking water for half a century and supplement supplies for the Israelis and Palestinians, who live on its other side.

The Sea, already the lowest point on earth's land-mass, has dropped by 98 feet in 20 years, and its surface area has shrunk by a third. A recent study showed that the rate of disappearance was increasing as more water was extracted from its feeder source, the River Jordan, by all three authorities for drinking, agriculture and industry.

The Jordanians claim that their own plan, at present more modest, does not contradict the larger proposals being studied.

They have called it the Jordan National Red Sea Water Development Project and say it can "benefit from" the feasibility study. It will start next year, at a cost of an estimated USD2 billion, compared with the USD11 billion cost of the full scheme.

But Gen Zu'bi admitted that it could be considered "the first phase of the Red-Dead project".

The decision to go ahead in advance of the study's findings are said to have upset the Palestinians, though General Zu'bi denied this.

Jean-Pierre Chabal, vice-president of Coyne et Bellier, the French firm carrying out the study, said it was "paradoxical" that it might conclude that the scheme was unworkable after the project had effectively already begun.

"They say they want to use the study but also to go faster than the study," he said. "It is not clear to us how this can be, and I don't think it is clear to the World Bank either."
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PostPosted: 20-10-2009 09:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spanish wetlands shrouded in smoke as overfarming dries out peat
National park which was once a 'paradise' now on fire and churning out tonnes of CO2
Giles Tremlett, Las Tablas de Daimiel, central Spain, Monday 19 October 2009 15.36 BST

They are meant to be Spain's most important inland wetlands, but yesterday the lagoons at Las Tablas de Daimiel national park were not just dry, they were burning. Stilted walkways stood on baked earth and rowing boats lay stranded on the ground. Observation huts revealed no birds, just an endless stretch of reeds rooted in cracked mud.

Only 1% of the park's surface remains wet, but the real catastrophe is happening underground. "If you see smoke it is because the dried-out peat under the ground has begun to self-combust," a park worker warned visitors. Occasionally, the fire breaks to the surface, sending up puffs of white smoke.

Scientists warn the wetlands are losing the lining that once retained water, with deep cracks opening up in the worst areas. Park authorities worry the damage may prove irreversible.

Park director Carlos Ruíz believes this is a life-or-death moment for one of Spain's 14 national parks. "We are at a point of no return," he said in a recent report. Spain's environment ministry, which runs the failing park, this week banned Ruiz from talking to the Guardian, but scientists who know the wetlands all agree on what is happening.

The aquifer which once fed the lagoons now lies 50ft below them. Farmers near the park have sunk thousands of wells, some 300ft deep, and have spent years pumping out more water than goes in. Furthermore, the Guadiana river, which used to flow into the Tablas de Daimiel, has disappeared.

"People have been warning that it was going to dry out for 20 years," said Luís Moreno of Spain's Geological and Mining Institute.

As the peat burns, an area that once trapped carbon dioxide has started releasing vast quantities of it. "We saw the first smoke in August but the fires must have been burning for a while," said Moreno. "It is a very difficult thing to control. It could burn for months."

Many worry the political will does not exist to save a park where the last few lagoons are still a refuge for egrets, coots and other waterfowl.

"Daimiel was once a paradise, with thousands and thousands of birds," said Santos Cirujano, of Spain's Higher Scientific Research Council. "If they want to save it, they can, but that requires a will to conserve it."

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PostPosted: 26-10-2009 08:19    Post subject: Reply with quote

UK’s new marine reserves are threatened by legal loophole
Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent

Legislation to designate marine reserves around the coast of Britain is likely to contain a loophole that will allow fishermen to damage the fragile areas of seabed without fear of fines.

Conservationists are warning that the Marine & Coastal Access Bill, which has its final reading in the House of Commons on Monday, contains a clause that makes a mockery of calling the areas “protected”.

The poor state of the UK’s seas is largely attributed to the effects of commercial fishing. The new marine reserves, the aquatic equivalent of national parks, are intended to reverse the damage, but barring last-minute intervention, those caught harming protected areas will be able to escape punishment by simply stating that they were “sea fishing”.

Fishermen have defended the loophole, saying that it is necessary to protect them from being prosecuted for causing accidental damage under European environmental law.

The disagreement highlights the gulf that still exists between fishermen and conservationists. Bridging it is seen as being key to the success of the new reserves, which will be known as marine conservation zones. The idea of having such marine parks teeming with life, and off-limits to commercial exploitation, delights most of the public (in a recent poll carried out by the Co-op, 80 per cent of respondents, more than 500,000 customers, said that they were in favour) but the pleasure is not shared by the industries that rely on the sea.

Mention the words “marine reserve” in the headquarters of Plymouth Trawler Agents and the air turns cold. “We’re going to lose a vast amount of ground,” said Dave Pessell, a wiry ex-fishermen with 30 years’ experience. On top of rising fuel prices and quota restrictions, setting aside seabed for conservation reasons is seen as another slap in the face for the industry.

On the bridge of the trawler Wiron 2, moored nearby, the chill warms to anger. “There’s plenty of closed areas already. Nobody’s talking about those,” Andy Pillar, the manager of Interfish, a Plymouth-based fishing fleet, said. “Everyone likes to eat fish, but it seems no one values our fishing industry.”

Although the sea seems a borderless expanse, it is criss-crossed with the competing claims of shipping lines, aggregate dredgers, wind farm developers, oil and gasfields and a dozen types of fishing. Trying to get all sides to agree on which areas of the sea to set aside for conservation is like asking a crowd of farmers, housing developers and open-pit miners where in their area they would like to place a new national park.

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PostPosted: 22-11-2009 09:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

How 16 ships create as much pollution as all the cars in the world
By Fred Pearce
Last updated at 10:13 PM on 21st November 2009

Last week it was revealed that 54 oil tankers are anchored off the coast of Britain, refusing to unload their fuel until prices have risen.

But that is not the only scandal in the shipping world. Today award-winning science writer Fred Pearce – environmental consultant to New Scientist and author of Confessions Of An Eco Sinner – reveals that the super-ships that keep the West in everything from Christmas gifts to computers pump out killer chemicals linked to thousands of deaths because of the filthy fuel they use.

We've all noticed it. The filthy black smoke kicked out by funnels on cross-Channel ferries, cruise liners, container ships, oil tankers and even tugboats.

It looks foul, and leaves a brown haze across ports and shipping lanes. But what hasn’t been clear until now is that it is also a major killer, probably causing thousands of deaths in Britain alone.

As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.

Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.

But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use.

Thanks to decisions taken in London by the body that polices world shipping, this pollution could kill as many as a million more people in the coming decade – even though a simple change in the rules could stop it.

There are now an estimated 100,000 ships on the seas, and the fleet is growing fast as goods are ferried in vast quantities from Asian industrial powerhouses to consumers in Europe and North America.

The recession has barely dented the trade. This Christmas, most of our presents will have come by super-ship from the Far East; ships such as the Emma Maersk and her seven sisters Evelyn, Eugen, Estelle, Ebba, Eleonora, Elly and Edith Maersk.

Each is a quarter of a mile long and can carry up to 14,000 full-size containers on their regular routes from China to Europe.
Waiting game: Tankers moored off Devon waiting for oil prices to rise even further
Emma – dubbed SS Santa by the media – brought Christmas presents to Europe in October and is now en route from Algeciras in Spain to Yantian in southern China, carrying containers full of our waste paper, plastic and electronics for recycling.

But it burns marine heavy fuel, or ‘bunker fuel’, which leaves behind a trail of potentially lethal chemicals: sulphur and smoke that have been linked to breathing problems, inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

James Corbett, of the University of Delaware, is an authority on ship emissions. He calculates a worldwide death toll of about 64,000 a year, of which 27,000 are in Europe. Britain is one of the worst-hit countries, with about 2,000 deaths from funnel fumes. Corbett predicts the global figure will rise to 87,000 deaths a year by 2012.

Part of the blame for this international scandal lies close to home.

In London, on the south bank of the Thames looking across at the Houses of Parliament, is the International Maritime Organisation, the UN body that polices the world’s shipping.

For decades, the IMO has rebuffed calls to clean up ship pollution. As a result, while it has long since been illegal to belch black, sulphur-laden smoke from power-station chimneys or lorry exhausts, shipping has kept its licence to pollute.

For 31 years, the IMO has operated a policy agreed by the 169 governments that make up the organisation which allows most ships to burn bunker fuel.

Christian Eyde Moller, boss of the DK shipping company in Rotterdam, recently described this as ‘just waste oil, basically what is left over after all the cleaner fuels have been extracted from crude oil. It’s tar, the same as asphalt. It’s the cheapest and dirtiest fuel in the world’.
Bunker fuel is also thick with sulphur. IMO rules allow ships to burn fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulphur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in
the European Union. The sulphur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles, and it is these that get deep into lungs.

Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.

With an estimated 800million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.

A year ago, the IMO belatedly decided to clean up its act. It said shipping fuel should not contain more than 3.5 per cent sulphur by 2012 and eventually must come down to 0.5 per cent. This lower figure could halve the deaths, says Corbett.

It should not be hard to do. There is no reason ship engines cannot run on clean fuel, like cars. But, away from a handful of low-sulphur zones, including the English Channel and North Sea, the IMO gave shipping lines a staggering 12 years to make the switch. And, even then, it will depend on a final ‘feasibility review’ in 2018.

In the meantime, according to Corbett’s figures, nearly one million more people will die.


(The low sulphur zones have been good news for Falmouth. Ships have to call here to take on cleaner fuel before proceeding up-Channel.)
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PostPosted: 21-01-2010 10:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

A giant leap for British salmon
Remarkable comeback in South Wales, where coal pollution turned rivers black
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Thursday, 21 January 2010

The rivers of the South Wales coalfield once ran black with mining waste and were so polluted in places that no life could survive. But, in one of the most remarkable environmental turnarounds Britain has ever seen, a 20-year effort to clean them up has paid off – salmon have returned to all of them.

Watercourses such as the Ebbw, the Rhymney, the Taff and the Rhondda, whose names for many people are still redolent of a blighted landscape of pitheads and slag heaps, now have salmon running up them from the sea to spawn. Very Happy

The revolution has been brought about by 20 years of work by the Environment Agency, local authorities and angling clubs, in the wake of the collapse of the South Wales mining industry at the end of the 1980s.

It is part of a significant improvement in water quality across England and Wales, continuing for nearly two decades, which has seen salmon coming back to once heavily polluted rivers such as the Thames, the Mersey and the Tyne.

But the return of the "king of fish" to the South Wales valleys, confirmed by the Environment Agency, is perhaps the most extraordinary ecological recovery of all.

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, coal production dominated the region, reaching a peak on the eve of the First World War, when the industry supported 620 mines employing 232,000 men and producing 57 million tonnes of coal a year – a fifth of the entire output of Britain.

This meant that an enormous pollution load was dumped in the region's rivers, especially of coal dust, and it has been estimated that the River Taff alone received 100,000 tonnes of colliery waste in a single year, with equivalent loads dumped in neighbouring rivers and streams. Shocked

In many places the watercourses were devoid of all life, and there is a site on the River Taff called Black Weir, so named because that was the colour of the water carrying its coal-dust load. Yet by last year, the Taff was so clean that it hosted the Rivers International Flyfishing Championships, at Merthyr Tydfil.


All that coal waste must have eventually settled on the sea bed, creating a distinct layer of sediment which may prove a puzzle to geologists in the far future... Cool
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PostPosted: 19-02-2010 10:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

Twin threats to fragile undersea colonies of Britain
Squat lobsters, oreo fish and sea fans are among sealife at risk in ecosystems that may never be fully explored
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Marine life hotspots off the British coast are facing a double threat — deep-sea trawling and acidification of the oceans — a leading scientist warned yesterday.

The rich biodiversity of seamounts (underwater mountains) and cold-water coral reefs, which science has only recently begun to understand, needs urgent protection, Jason Hall-Spencer, of the University of Plymouth, said.

Seamounts are volcanic mountains that rise at least a kilometre above the sea bed. Together with cold-water coral reefs, which often cover seamounts, they are among the most important marine habitats, where new species are regularly discovered.

There are about 50,000 seamounts worldwide but only about 1 per cent have been explored. The ones in British waters include Anton Dohrn off Rockall, home to species such as pollock, cod, hake, monkfish, redfish, squat lobsters and oreo fish. However, these fragile ecosystems are in danger of being lost before they have been properly investigated.

Scientists for the Census of Marine Life, an international project cataloguing ocean organisms, say that many seamounts and cold-water reefs have been damaged by trawling and that others are vulnerable to acidification.

Dr Hall-Spencer, a leader of the census’s CenSeam project focusing on seamounts, said that heavy “rockhopper” trawl nets that roll along the sea floor had ripped apart some reefs, including several at Rockall.

“Almost every coral reef and seamount I’ve been diving on has been severely damaged, particularly those off the west coasts of Scotland and Ireland,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego.

“The main problem is bottom trawling. The gear has got stronger, so the trawler can risk getting closer to reefs. Sometimes they plough straight through. You see trenches ploughed through the sea bed that extend for kilometres. The coral is pulverised. The fish are gone because fish like to hide behind coral heads. It’s more like mining than farming — you’re removing a resource and not allowing it to renew itself.”

Corals that lie on seamount flanks, below the reach of nets, face a different threat: ocean acidification. As the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, more gas becomes dissolved in the ocean, making it less alkaline. This reduces carbonate that corals use to build shells and other solid structures. The effect is especially marked in Arctic waters, as low temperatures amplify the effects.

“Many of these reefs look doomed,” Dr Hall-Spencer said, adding that pristine reefs as well as those damaged by trawling need protection. Shallow degraded areas should be included as “they’re all we’ll have left if and when acidification gets worse,” he said.

Recent trawling bans in Rockall Bank and last year’s Marine Act will help, but more reserves were needed to preserve areas such as Anton Dohrn, he said.

Bottom trawls were first used on smooth (sandy or muddy) bottoms, and an occasional rock or wreck could destroy the net. But, as the article says, the gear has now got stronger and more damaging...
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Psycho Punk
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PostPosted: 19-02-2010 17:27    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope the Argies don't invade these colonies. Shocked
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What a Cad!
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PostPosted: 08-03-2010 09:52    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huge island of rubbish floating off California
Oceanographers have found that a vast floating island of rubbish in the Pacific has doubled over a decade and is now nearly six times the size of Britain.
By Nick Allen in Los Angeles
Published: 7:15PM GMT 07 Mar 2010

The giant waste collection, known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” lies between California and Hawaii and has been gradually growing for 60 years.

It contains everything from plastic bags to shampoo bottles, flip-flops, children’s toys, tyres, drink cans, Frisbees and plastic swimming pools.

Older debris has slowly broken down under the sun’s rays into small particles, which settle and are suspended just below the ocean surface.

The soupy water is heavy with toxic chemicals and the broken-down plastic particles are now turning up inside fish. Up to 26 pieces of plastic were recently found inside a single fish and researchers have warned that the chemicals will work their way into the human food chain. Sad

Beginning 500 miles off the Californian coast, the affected area, also known as the “plastic vortex”, now constitutes the world’s largest heap of rubbish.

The amount of debris is estimated at up to 100?million tons. Now there are hopes of converting the waste into fuel. A feasibility study will be undertaken using samples to be collected this summer.

Volunteers from Project Kaisei, a conservation project based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, plan to send two ships into the area to bring back some of the waste.

Doug Woodring, a member of the team, compared visiting the area to “going into outer space”.

He said: “This is the 'quiet zone’ in terms of human activity because there is no one out here working, polluting, or wasting things, yet we have still managed to leave our mark in the form of debris.”

Richard Pain, an Australian filmmaker, plans to cross the garbage patch in a craft made of plastic bottles to raise awareness of the problem.

He said: “To the eye as you look across it, it undulates like regular ocean. But when you look down into it, it’s just plastic everywhere. It’s like soup.”

The area is one of the world’s five major ocean gyres – huge systems of rotating currents which draw in waste from thousands of miles away.

Many of the plastic items floating there carry Chinese and Japanese writing, showing how far they have drifted on the currents.
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What a Cad!
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PostPosted: 20-03-2010 09:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caviar at risk as appetite threatens sturgeon extinction
Humankind's insatiable appetite for caviar has pushed the sturgeon to the brink of extinction with many types of the prized fish now officially rated as "critically endangered," a leading environmental group has warned.
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 7:00AM GMT 20 Mar 2010

The fish have swum in the world's seas for more than 200 million years but poaching and a huge appetite for black caviar, the fish's unfertilised eggs, risk wiping the sturgeon out altogether, it said.

"Sturgeon have survived dramatic change over the past 250 million years only to face the serious threat of becoming extinct as a direct result of human activities," said Mohammad Pourkazemi, an official at the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"Illegal catch, overfishing, the breaking up of the migratory routes and pollution are the key elements that have driven almost all species to the brink of extinction," he said in the statement.

The group estimated that 85 per cent of wild sturgeon are now at a very high risk of becoming extinct and said it had been forced to classify 17 of the 27 sturgeon species as critically endangered.

Experts said the group's gloomy conclusions were a clarion call for urgent action and would increase pressure on countries such as Iran to agree to a ten-year moratorium on sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea later this month.

Russia, traditionally a big consumer of the salty delicacy, is said to back such a ban. Black caviar, the most sought-after variety (there is also red caviar), can cost as much as £3,000 per kilogram.
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Great Old One
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PostPosted: 20-03-2010 17:55    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caviar- blech! Eek Eek Maybe my palate is unrefined, but if I had to choose between eating caviar or eating a dead worm I'd probably pick the worm (and not because I eat worms, by the way). I therefore don't contribute to sturgeon extinction.
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