The oceans are in trouble.Fully 90 percent of each of the world's large ocean species, including cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish and marlin, has disappeared from the world's oceans in recent decades, according to the Canadian analysis (see below)
Some of it is the fault of man - maybe most of it. It is not
too late to fix it - but it will be if people don't know about
it. Most of us here have heard there are problems with our
local reefs. ** NEWS** About 75% of corals have suffered the greatest incident of coral bleaching in the history of the Caribbean. An incident that started this September, 2005. The areas affected are Eastern Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the Virgin Islands and some islands further east. Also Belize has been affected. You can now dive or snorkel over miles and miles of 'glowing' white bleached out corals. ---------------------------------------Problems exist around the world as
the information below will show.
This all has to do with the balance of nature. The big fish
eat the little fish. We are the big fish. There are other
big fish and they need the little fish. The reefs are the
breeding and feeding grounds for most of the chain.
Then there is the plankton. You probably know that these are
microscopic life forms that float around in the ocean. Sometimes
there are not enough plankton to go around. Other times there
is too much plankton. You probably know that the rainforests
are important to life on earth because they produce oxygen
and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Did you
know that something like 70% of the air we breath comes from
the ocean and is produced by plankton? Plankton also removes
carbon dioxide. The rainforests are important but the health
of the oceans is even more important.
Below are some articles I found about plankton and coral reefs
and overfishing. The stories aren't very long but there is
more than a few of them. I hope you will take the time to
look over some of this. It is important........Letter from
Brian R. in Vieques.
Plankton is made up of animals and plants that either float
passively in the water, or possess such limited powers of
swimming that they are carried from place to place by the
currents. The word plankton comes from the Greek word planktos,
which means wandering or drifting.
Plankton dominates the well-lit surface layers of the world's
Plankton range in size from tiny microbes, which are invisible
to the naked eye, to jellyfish metres long. Apart from bacteria,
planktonic organisms are the most abundant life form on earth
and play a crucial role in the marine food chain. Without
plankton, there would be few living organisms on earth, and
certainly no Great Barrier Reef. Planktonic organisms are
food for a range of animals from barnacles and sea squirts
to large fish and whales. The largest fish in the world, the
Whale Shark, is a plankton feeder as are many of the largest
Phytoplankton are tiny, photosynthetic organisms. This means
they can manufacture their own food using energy from sunlight,
producing oxygen as a by-product. They are often referred
to as tiny plants because of this ability to photosynthesise,
but many species of phytoplankton are more closely related
to protists and bacteria than true plants. Phytoplankton typically
range in size from 0.002 mm to 1 mm and include diatoms, dinoflagellates,
Radiolaria, Ciliata and Cyanobacteria (better known as blue-green
Phytoplankton produce more oxygen than all plant life on earth
and are vital in maintaining the earths atmosphere.
They are also the organisms most likely to be affected by
global warming and climate change. Scientists around the world
are concerned that harmful rays from the sun could pass through
the hole in the ozone layer and kill phytoplankton, which
live mostly in the upper layers of the ocean.
Phytoplankton - A Critical Link in a Big Chain
......Red tides are composed of dinoflagellates, which are
a type of phytoplankton found in the sea. Most people have
probably seen phytoplankton without even knowing it, witnessing
the bioluminescent qualities that some of these tiny organisms
have.... They, however, have a much greater role in the sea
and are considered critical to all life on Earth. Among other
things, these tiny organisms greatly contribute to the food
chain and are responsible for generating large amounts of
oxygen through photosynthesis.
Phytoplankton are tiny, drifting, plantlike organisms that
are found throughout the world's oceans, but mostly along
coasts. These tiny organisms come in every shape imaginable,
but only under a microscope can the diversity and intricacy
of phytoplankton truly be appreciated. ..
Aside from this fact, phytoplankton are responsible for producing
the food that is consumed by an abundance of life in the sea.
The general rule of the ocean food chain is that plants produce
and animals consume, thus 'plants', such as phytoplankton,
are the first link of the food chain. As the primary producers
of the food chain, phytoplankton must be produced in great
quantity.. some estimate that between 200 and 250 billion
metric tons are produced annually! An example of the role
phytoplankton play in the ocean food chain is that zooplankton
consume phytoplankton, then bivalves (mussels) consume the
zooplankton, and cod consume the bivalves, and finally a top
consumer, such as a killer whale, eats the cod.
So, we know that phytoplankton produces food for many animals
of the sea; but how is it produced? Four essential ingredients
are necessary for phytoplankton to grow: water, sunlight,
nutrients and carbon dioxide. When these factors are in balance,
phytoplankton is able to thrive. Often because these tiny
organisms are dependent on specific conditions to grow, they
are used as an indicator for environmental problems. For example,
in an area where pollutants are present, phytoplankton will
likely be absent.
Another important role that phytoplankton play in the environment
is their ability to use photosynthesis to remove carbon dioxide
from seawater and consequently release oxygen.
Thus, the sea can absorb a lot of the carbon dioxide produced
in the atmosphere, caused from activities such as deforestation
and burning of fossil fuels. The reason why this is so important
is that carbon dioxide is considered a green house gas, contributing
to global warming, so the less we have in the atmosphere,
the better. In addition, when phytoplankton (which is composed
of carbon) dies, it also helps to control carbon dioxide levels
in the atmosphere by sinking to the ocean bottom and being
covered by other material. Thus, this harmful gas has no way
of returning to the atmosphere.
Phytoplankton may be microscopic in size, but they are certainly
enormous in the roles they play throughout the ocean ecosystem.
Air from the oceans------------------------------------
many of us would know that plants generate oxygen for our
environment, fewer would know that it is ocean-borne plants
that carry most of the oxygen-production load.
Florida oceanographer Ellen Prager is co-author of a new book
called "The Oceans."
"Most of the Oxygen that we breathe comes from small,
drifting plants in the ocean."
So these drifting plants called phytoplankton play a critical
role in producing the air that we breathe... just one of the
many recent developments in ocean understanding...
"With technology such as satellite imagery and other
modern techniques, we've been able to get a much broader view
of the ocean and what's in there at one time. And so, some
of those techniques have allowed us much better understanding.
And so it may be that in the past ten years we have a much
better feel for the significance of how much phytoplankton
is in the ocean and its overall impact on the earth."
Back to the phytoplankton... Not only are they producing vast
amounts of oxygen that we need. They help scrub the atmosphere
of gasses we need to be rid of...
"They're also a 'sink' for Carbon Dioxide because since
they're photosynthesizing, they're taking up Carbon Dioxide
when they're giving off Oxygen."
For more information, visit www.floridaenvironment.com.
With help from its Environmental Studies Program, we're produced
at the Whitaker Center at Florida Gulf Coast University and
funded by SWFCEE, the Southwest Florida Council for Environment
Fishing Has Decimated Major Species, Study Says
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday 14 May 2003
Industrial fishing practices have decimated every one of the
world's biggest and most economically important species of
fish, according to a new and detailed global analysis that
challenges current fisheries protection policies.
Fully 90 percent of each of the world's large ocean species,
including cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish and marlin, has disappeared
from the world's oceans in recent decades, according to the
Canadian analysis -- the first to use historical data dating
to the beginning of large-scale fishing, in the 1950s.
The new research found that fishing has become so efficient
that it typically takes just 15 years to remove 80 percent
or more of any species that becomes the focus of a fleet's
attention. Some populations have disappeared within just a
few years, belying the oceans' reputation as a refuge and
resource of nearly infinite proportions.
"You'd think the ocean is so large, these things would
have someplace to hide," said Ransom Myers, who conducted
the new study with fellow marine ecologist Boris Worm of Dalhousie
University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "But it doesn't matter
where you look, the story is the same. We are really too good
at killing these things."
If current practices continue, Myers said, the world can expect
serious economic disruptions, food shortages in seafood-dependent
developing nations and lasting damage to marine ecosystems.
But shortsighted environmental policies and pressure from
industrial fishing interests have largely stymied domestic
and international efforts to rebuild failing populations,
Myers and others said.
Even where recovery efforts are underway, the new work suggests
that targets are much lower than they ought to be -- reflecting
a global memory loss about just how many fish once roamed
the sea and how large they once were.
"It's an incredibly important paper," said Jeremy
Jackson, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
in La Jolla, Calif., who has decried the problem of "shifting
baselines," in which people keep redefining "normal"
as they become accustomed to increasingly degraded environments.
"The science is unassailable. And the industry knows
damn well it's getting harder and harder to keep up."
The new work, published in today's issue of the journal Nature,
used data collected by governments and the fishing industry
going back 50 years and more. The team uncovered many long-forgotten
records, including survey data compiled in advance of major
fishing expeditions and initial catch data from early forays
into new areas.
It took a decade just to gather all the numbers. But as they
worked through the statistics, Myers and Worm saw a pattern
emerging in all 13 continental shelf and oceanic systems they
studied: The sea was a much more bountiful place a few decades
ago than they had imagined, and fishing's impact on ocean
ecosystems has been vastly underestimated.
Much of the decline can be attributed to the advent of "longline
fishing," perfected by the Japanese, in which fishing
lines as long as 60 miles, bearing thousands of hooks, are
trailed behind a single boat. On the open ocean, the study
found, those catches typically declined tenfold -- from about
10 fish per hundred hooks to just one -- in the first decade
of fishing. Sometimes the declines were even steeper. In the
Gulf of Thailand, for example, 60 percent of the large finfish,
sharks and skates disappeared during the first five years
of industrialized trawl fishing in the 1960s. Along the narrow
continental shelf near South Georgia island in the South Atlantic,
where large predatory fish once were plentiful, virtually
all disappeared after just two years of intensive fishing
in the 1970s.
"The chronic problem we have in evaluating fisheries
is we don't have good data on the size of a population until
the fishing is well underway, so we didn't really have a way
of evaluating how severe the problem is," said Jane Lubchenco,
a professor of zoology at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
"What Myers and Worm have done is a laborious, painstaking,
comprehensive and careful analysis to try to rectify that
..................... According to the U.S. figures released
this week, American fisheries have been experiencing "steady,
incremental improvement," with some species once in trouble
now "fully rebuilt" and scores of other species
"recovering." But the Canadian report calls into
question the meaning of those terms. Is it fair, some experts
asked, to call a population "rebuilt" when it has
been restored to the level of a decade ago -- a level already
90 percent below what it was before the trawlers came?
"The issue of shifting baselines is critical," said
Lee Crockett, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation
Network, a national coalition of more than 150 commercial
and recreational fishing interests and environmental groups,
which has criticized the U.S. reporting system as a politicized
overstatement of ecosystem health.
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation
of Fishermen's Associations -- the West Coast's largest organization
of commercial fishermen -- pointed to Alaska's recent successes
in achieving sustainable fishing practices as evidence that
there are "glimmers of hope." Nonetheless, he acknowledged,
"we need to do much better."
The Canadian report does not focus on solutions -- two major
U.S.-based fisheries commissions are expected to release recommendations
soon -- but Myers said the key is to reduce, at least temporarily,
catches in many areas.
"If stocks were restored to higher abundance, we could
get just as much fish out of the ocean by putting in only
one-third to one-tenth of the effort," he said. "It
would be difficult for fishermen initially, but they will
see the gains in the long run."
Others have called for the creation of a network of undersea
reserves; a reduction in fishing industry subsidies; and improved
technology to reduce the unintended "bycatch," which
accounts for as much as 25 percent of each haul and is typically
killed and tossed back to sea.---------------------------------------------
Fish have a habit of jumping on to the tables of rich people.
Pierre Gillet, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers
Fisheries in crisis
Fish are the last wild creatures on Earth to be hunted on
a large scale, and like many other renewable resources are
already being exploited to the limit. The chief culprit is
overfishing by industrial fleets, mostly from developed countries.
This crisis in fish stocks has now reached major proportions
- over 60% of the world's fish stocks are 'in urgent need
of management' because of overfishing, according to the UN.
So desperate has the situation become that several commercial
fish species - including Atlantic cod, haddock and bluefin
tuna - are now on the endangered species list. In fact, the
worldwide collapse of fish stocks has already started. When
early explorers arrived at Newfoundland's Grand Banks in 1500,
they reported that fish were so plentiful they could simply
be hauled out of the sea in baskets. In 1993, after centuries
of over-exploitation, the Grand Banks fishery was closed down
completely - with the loss of 40,000 fishermen's jobs.
A net loss The world marine catch stands at nearly
100 million tonnes per year. However, 25 per cent of this
is 'cheap fish' - such as pollack, jack mackerel and pilchards
- most of which ends up as animal feed. A further 27 million
tonnes of 'by-catch' - nearly a third of the global catch
- is thrown back dead into the sea. In the Gulf of Mexico
shrimpers throw back 4 kilograms of dead fish for every kilogram
of shrimp they actually catch. On a wider scale this death
toll includes thousands of dolphins and porpoises as well
as vulnerable species such as turtles, billfish and sharks.
Fisheries are also threatened by marine pollution - including
agricultural run-off from land, untreated sewage disposed
of at sea, and sediments from rivers whose watersheds are
exposed by deforestation. In addition, rising ocean temperatures
resulting from global warming are in danger of wiping out
some species altogether. Winter temperatures in the North
Sea have been 4 degrees Celsius above normal for six years
- seriously disrupting cod breeding patterns.
Having decimated their own stocks, high-tech Northern
vessels have headed south, where their largely unmonitored
activities have depleted stocks and undermined local livelihoods.
In the productive waters off northwest Africa, foreign fleets
run by industrialised countries take over six times as much
fish as local fishermen. Most of the fish traded internationally
comes from the South but ends up in the North, where people
eat an annual average of 27 kilograms of it - triple that
of the South, where fish may be crucial in the local diet.
All but one of the 40 countries where fish is the main source
of protein are in the South. But pressure from foreign fleets
and the export-driven policies of indebted Southern governments
means the most malnourished part of the world is forced to
forgo some of its supply of a rich source of protein and other
Too many boats Government subsidies have allowed
national fisheries in the North to swell to an unsustainable
size. In 1997 the fishing industry in Europe received subsidies
totalling US$1.4 billion - about $14,000 per boat. This cash
funds overcapacity - WWF estimates that Europe has 40 per
cent more boats than needed to catch fish on a sustainable
Worldwide there are now one million 'industrial' fishing vessels
- the world's fishing fleet doubled between 1970 and 1990.
The result of too many boats chasing too few fish is conflict.
In 1995 Spain and Canada came to blows after a high-seas chase
revealed that a Spanish trawler was catching undersized halibut
near Canadian waters. In 1996 the Indian government was forced
to stop issuing fishing licences to foreign trawlers after
protests by small-scale fishermen - who at one point burnt
14 trawlers, seized four others and held a vessel operator
Small and needy Around 200 million of the world's poorest
people depend on fishing for all or part of their livelihood.
In contrast large-scale fishing employs only about 200,000
In developing countries, the small-scale sector produces more
economic and social benefits than the industrial one. It uses
less capital and fuel, generally more selective gear, is based
in rural areas and usually produces more food for the domestic
market than for export. Fish for export are caught with less
waste than in the over-subsidised industrial sector. Women
traditionally play key roles in marketing and processing the
catch, but may be displaced by modernisation. Synthetic nets
will be factory-made rather than hand-woven, and fish caught
by bigger boats will be landed at distant ports rather than
on the beaches.
The good news The long marginalised small-scale sector
is becoming better organised. Scientists and other professionals
formed the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers
in 1984. And in 1997, fisherworkers launched their own international
organisation, the World Forum of Fish Workers & Fish Harvesters.
The global fisheries crisis is often ascribed to 'too many
fishermen chasing too few fish'. These groups disagree. They
want to see more people earning a livelihood from better-managed,
less industrialised fisheries that help sustain communities
conserve this vital resource for future generations.
U. S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Office of Seafood
Find this article at:
Human Fecal Bacterium Causing Caribbean Coral Disease
Since 1996, a disease known as whitepox has been decimating
populations of coral, particularly in the Florida Keys. Now
scientists writing in the current issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences report that a bacterium
commonly found in human feces may be to blame. Although the
source of the coral-killing bacteria remains unconfirmed,
the findings suggest that maintaining high standards of water
quality is crucial to saving the reefs' remaining coral.
As one of the fastest-spreading coral diseases, whitepox can
devour between two and 10 square centimeters of living reef
tissue every day (see image). It specifically targets the
species Acropora palmata, or elkhorn coral, and some Florida
reefs have lost as much as 85 percent of their A. palmata. "These are the giant redwoods of the reef," says
study co-author James W. Porter of the University of Georgia.
"What used to be the most common coral in the Caribbean
has now been recommended for inclusion on the endangered-species
Porter and his colleagues thus set out to determine what was
causing the coral-killing plague. Initially expecting to find
a unique marine pathogen, the scientists were surprised to
discover that the culprit was in fact one of the most common
bacteria known. The researchers developed cultures from samples
of healthy coral and colonies afflicted with whitepox. They
identified 221 bacterial strains, four of which appeared more
frequently on diseased coral. But only one of themSerratia
marcescens, which resides in the guts of humans and other
animals as well as in soil and wateris capable of causing
whitepox in healthy coral samples, the team reports.
Elevated water temperatures, perhaps the result of global
warming, have been implicated in another blight against coralbleaching.
Higher temperatures also increase the rate whitepox-induced
coral loss and could be a root cause. "Warmer water depresses
coral growth but increases bacterial growth," study leader
Kathryn Patterson of the University of Georgia explains. "In
combination, this domino effect could foretell disaster. There
appear to be environmental changes occurring that may be making
this nonpathogenic bacterium pathogenic." --Sarah Graham
Coral Information & Photos ----------
any of this has gotten your attention there are a whole lot
of other places to find out more. Check out some of the links
Links of Interest
Academic and Research Partners
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA's Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP)
Reefs at Risk Caribbean Project, World Resources Institute
United States Coral Reef Task Force
National Science Foundation
University of Miami - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric
National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI)
American Museum of Natural History, Center for Biodiversity
The College of The Bahamas
University of Arizona
University of California, Davis
University of Exeter
Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
Oceanografia Fisica (CICESE)
Australian National University - Center for Resource and Environmental
Universidad de Costa Rica - CIMAR
Coral Reef Unit, United Nations Environment Programme
Florida Institute of Oceanography
North Carolina State University
ICRI and Related Links
International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)
International Coral Reef Action Networks (ICRAN)
The WorldFish Center
International Coral Reef Information Network (ICRIN)
World Bank (Coastal and Marine Management)
Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN)