Blue Blog

Australia`s Great Barrier Reef slips into "poor" health

10/07/2013

 
Australia admitted Wednesday conditions at the Great Barrier Reef are "poor" as it battles UNESCO threats to downgrade its heritage status over concerns about pollution and development.

Environment Minister Mark Butler released a report card showing that the reef's health had slumped since 2009 due to cyclones and floods, despite progress on reducing agricultural runoff.

"Extreme weather events significantly impacted the overall condition of the marine environment which declined from moderate to poor overall,' the report said.

It said key reef ecosystems were showing "declining trends in condition due to continuing poor water quality, cumulative impacts of climate change and increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events".

Despite reductions in nitrogen (7 percent), pesticides (15 percent), sediment (6 percent) and pollutants key to outbreaks of devastating crown-of-thorns starfish (13 percent), the report said the reef was in trouble.

Major flooding in 2010-2011 followed by powerful cyclone Yasi had badly damaged the world's largest coral reef, degrading water quality and depleting overall cover by 15 percent.

"Full recovery will take decades," the report said.

Conservationists said the report was alarming and showed the need for far greater action from the government, with the current plan and targets "unlikely to save our reef".

"The outlook for the reef is not good but the situation isn't hopeless, solutions do exist," said WWF's Nick Heath.

"We just need more investment, more targeted action in the most dangerous pollution hotspots."

While reductions had been achieved, Heath said they were far short of 2009 targets, particularly pollutants key to starfish outbreaks, which fell by 13 percent instead of 50 percent — a goal now pushed back to 2018.

"We are likely to need a nitrogen pollution reduction target of up to 80 percent if we are to arrest crown-of-thorns outbreaks," he said.

A major longitudinal study of the reef's health, published last year, revealed that coral cover had more than halved due to storms, predatory starfish outbreaks and bleaching linked to climate change over the past 27 years.

Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage, accounting for 48 percent, with the coral-feeding starfish linked to 42 percent, according to the study.

UNESCO has threatened to downgrade the reef's world heritage status to declare it at-risk in 2014 without significant action on rampant coastal and resources development seen as a threat to its survival.

Scientists who advised the government on the reef's health for the report card said declining water quality associated with agricultural and other runoff was a "major cause of the current poor state".

The team, led by James Cook University's Jon Brodie, said intense floods and cyclones had also "severely impacted marine water quality and Great Barrier Reef ecosystems".

"Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme weather events," it said.

Butler unveiled lofty targets for improving water quality over the next five years, aiming for at least a 50 percent reduction on 2009 levels of nitrogen pollutants linked to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, 20 percent for sediment runoff and 60 percent for pesticides.

"In spite of solid improvement, data tells us that poor water quality is continuing to have a detrimental effect on reef health," Butler said.

"To secure the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef it is critical that we build on the momentum of the previous reef plan with a focus on improving water quality and land management practices through ambitious but achievable targets.


 

14/06/2013

 
Ten thousand feet below the ocean's surface, the seafloor is a dark, desolate, and dangerous place where even the most benign-looking creatures can be deadly predators. Recently, a team of scientists discovered an unlikely new carnivorous species— the harp sponge ( Chondrocladia lyra).

C. lyra is called the harp sponge because its basic structure, called a vane, is shaped like a harp or lyre. Each vane consists of a horizontal branch supporting several parallel, vertical branches. But don't let the harp sponge's whimsical appearance and innocent sounding name fool you, it's actually a deep-sea predator.

Clinging with root-like "rhizoids" to the soft, muddy sediment, the harp sponge captures tiny animals that are swept into its branches by deep-sea currents. Typically, sponges feed by straining bacteria and bits of organic material from the seawater they filter through their bodies. However, carnivorous harp sponges snare their prey—tiny crustaceans—with barbed hooks that cover the sponge's branching limbs. Once the harp sponge has its prey in its clutches, it envelops the animal in a thin membrane, and then slowly begins to digest it.

Using MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) Tiburon and Doc Ricketts, researchers collected two sponges and made video observations of ten more. The first harp sponges that the scientists found had only two vanes. However, additional ROV dives revealed sponges with up to six vanes radiating out from the organism's center. Scientists believe the harp sponge has evolved this elaborate candelabra-like structure in order to increase the surface area it exposes to currents, much like sea fan corals.

The harp sponge's unusual shape and exposure to currents may also help it to reproduce more effectively. The swollen balls at the tip of the sponge's upright branches produce packets of sperm. These sperm packets are released into passing currents and are captured on the branches of other nearby sponges. The sperm then works its way from the packets into the host sponge to fertilize its eggs. As the fertilized eggs mature, these contact sites swell up, forming bulges part way up the host sponge's branches (see photo).

It has been less than twenty years since scientists first discovered that sponges could be carnivores. Since then, marine biologists have discovered dozens of new carnivorous species. In fact, all the members of the harp sponge's family Cladorhizidae—including the ping pong tree sponge (shown below)—are carnivores.

The deep seafloor can be a very inhospitable place. It is cold, dark, and resources are often scarce. The harp sponge is an extraordinary example of the kind of adaptations that animals must make in order to survive in such a hostile environment.


 

End the Cruel Practice of Live Sushi

13/06/2013

 
Target: Ambassador of Japan to the United States of America, Kenichiro Sasae

Goal: End the practice of  ikizukuri, where animals are consumed as sushi while still alive and fully conscious

The traditional Japanese practice of ikizukuri, known as “live sushi” in the United States, is still being practiced today, despite its evident cruelty. Restaurants advertise the dish as a delicacy, and it involves eating animals that are traditionally used in sushi–while they are still alive.

There are still a number of restaurants where the dish is available, although it is very controversial in Japan. To create live sushi, the sushi chef selects a fish, shrimp, lobster, or octopus, guts it and removes the lower half of its body, and places the conscious animal on top of its removed insides and flesh. This is then served to the customer, who will eat the animal while it is still alive and sensitive to pain.

This practice is controversial in Japan, yet it is still being practiced and advertised as a delicacy. It is cruel and inhumane, and no creature deserves to be alive at the time of its consumption. “Live sushi” has been growing less popular, but it is time for it to be officially banned. Demand that this harmful practice is ended for good.


 

29/05/2013

 
She lay a hundred feet, but after three years of excavations and four geophysical research, the lost city became reality.


We are in the old city and mythological Heracleion (the Greeks) or Thonis (the Egyptians), and the first images are exceptional, because the waters were surprised and beautifully conservél'ancien port hub of international trade and active religious center.

The city found the light after 1200 years spent in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, stuck in the sand and mud.

The city was discovered by 30 meters at Aboukir near Alexandria, eight years ago.

The research was conducted by Franck Goddio and his archaeological team related IEASM, European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.
Researchers have discovered many shipwrecks, gold coins Athenian and giant stelae flanked by Egyptian and Greek writings. The discovery consists of 64 vessels, statues of 4.8 m, 700 anchors and countless gold coins and other artifacts.
More impressively, the sunken city reveals splendid religious objects hidden. Among them, a huge stone sculpture.

According to Franck Goddio, underwater archaeologist who has discovered the site, the city was probably built in the 8th century BC. BC, and is therefore older than the famous Alexandria. Over the years, many natural disasters have hit this city, before it was swallowed up by the sea, probably in the year 700 AD

"We have just started our research says Goddio. We will probably work for another 200 years before everything was discovered and understood. "

It is believed that this is the gradual erosion of soil that have dragged Heracleion in the Mediterranean. "We now know that a slow subsidence occurred in this part of the basin southeast of the Mediterranean Goddio writes on his website. Level rise observed during the ancient sea was also an important factor in the flooding of land. "
The Telegraph reports that researchers have an idea becoming clearer everyday life Heracleion, also called Thonis. In short, this city was the main port for maritime traffic in the region, including trade with Greece.

"We can provide a detailed trade Heracleion and nature of the maritime economy at the end of the ancient Egyptian portrait, told the Telegraph Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Mr. Robinson is a member of the team that recovered the artifacts in the submerged ruins of Heracleion.

"Heracleion was the main port of international trade in Egypt at that time, says Robinson. Taxes were levied on exports and imports. The whole town was administered from the main temple. "
 

Secretário de Estado do Tursmo fez o seu baptismo de mergulho

28/05/2013

 
Secretário de Estado fez batismo de mergulho e anunciou que vai baixar taxas e simplificar acesso às atividades marítimo-portuárias. Empresários salientam potencial

Em tempo de crise, o turismo de mergulho poderá contribuir para "esbater a sazonalidade" e representar, em 2020, "um volume de negócios de 17 milhões de euros" por ano no Algarve, mas, para já, "falta promoção a nível internacional". O alerta é de Luís Sá Couto, responsável do Centro de Mergulho Subnauta, com sede na Praia da Rocha, em Portimão, onde ontem de manhã o secretário de Estado do Turismo, Adolfo Mesquita Nunes, preparou o seu batismo de mergulho - que concretizou junto à Ponta de João Arens, em frente a Alvor, a cerca de três milhas de distância onde estão afundados desde 30 de outubro do ano passado o navio Oliveira e Carmo e a corveta Zambeze, da Marinha Portuguesa, no denominado Parque Subaquático Ocean Revival.

"Neste momento, esta atividade náutica representa muito pouco, gerando um volume de negócios calculado de cinco milhões de euros anuais", disse ao DN Luís Sá Couto. O responsável estima que em 2012 tenham passado dez mil mergulhadores, na sua maioria portugueses, pelo Algarve - um destino com potencial para 90 mil a cem mil mergulhos por ano "podendo facilmente passar para 70 milhões de euros por ano de receitas", referiu. Os mercados inglês, irlandês, alemão e escandinavo contam com mais de dois milhões de mergulhares ativos, sendo apontados como alvo da promoção por parte do Algarve para viajarem esta região, sobretudo durante a Primavera e o Outono e assim combater a sazonalidade.


 

Jacques Cousteau

27/05/2013

 
Born on June 11, 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, France, Jacques Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-Lung, a breathing device for scuba-diving, in 1943. In 1945, he started the French Navy's undersea research group. In 1951, he began going on yearly trips to explore the ocean on the Calypso.




Cousteau recorded his trips on the TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. In 1996, the Calypso sunk. Cousteau died on June 25, 1997, in Paris, France.

  "However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more
interdependent every day."

  Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born in the village of Saint-André-de-Cubzac, in southwestern France, on June 11, 1910. The younger of two sons born to Daniel and Elizabeth Cousteau, he suffered from stomach problems and anemia as a young child. At age 4, Cousteau learned to swim and started a lifelong fascination with water. As he entered adolescence, he showed a strong curiosity for mechanical objects and upon purchasing a movie camera, he took it apart to understand how it operated.

Jacques Cousteau's curiosity notwithstanding, he did not do well in school. At 13, He was sent to boarding school in Alsace, France. After he completed his preparatory studies, he attended Collège Stanislas in Paris and in 1930, Cousteau entered the Ecole Navale (French Naval Academy) at Brest, France. After graduation, as a gunnery officer, he joined the French Navy's information service. He took his camera long and shot many rolls of film at exotic ports-o-call in the Indian and South Pacific oceans.

In 1933, Jacques Cousteau was in a major automobile accident that nearly took his life. During his rehabilitation, he took up daily swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. A friend, Philippe Tailliez, gave Cousteau a pair of swimming goggles, which opened him to the mysteries of the sea and began his quest to understand the underwater world. In 1937, Cousteau married Simone Melchior.

They had two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe. Both sons, in time, would join their father in underwater world expeditions. Simone died in 1990 and one year later, the senior Cousteau married Francine Triplet, with whom he had a daughter and son (born while Cousteau was married to Simone).

During World War II, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Jacques  Cousteau and his family took refuge in the small town of Megreve, near the Swiss border. For the first few years of the war, he quietly continued his underwater experiments and explorations. In 1943 he met Emile Gagnan, a French engineer who shared his passion for discovery. Around tthis time, compressed air cylinders were invented and Cousteau and Gagnan experimented with snorkel hoses, body suits and breathing apparatus.

In time, they developed the first aqua-lung device allowing divers to stay underwater for long periods of time. Cousteau was also instrumental in the development of a waterproof camera that could withstand the high pressure of deep water. During this time, Cousteau made two documentaries on underwater exploration, Par dix-huit mètres de fond ("18 Meters Deep") and Épaves ("Shipwrecks").


 

Napoleaon Wrasse as market product

21/05/2013

 
The humphead or Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) is one of the largest reef fishes in the world and is the largest member of the wrasse family (Labridae). The enormous size of adult fish is made even more imposing by the prominent hump that develops on their forehead, from which they earn their common name. Mature adults also have thick lips; juveniles can be identified by their pale greenish colour and two black lines running behind the eye.

Also known as:
Giant wrasse, humphead, Maori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse, truck wrasse, undulate wrasse. French Napoleon.

Size: up to 2.3 m
Weight: up to 191 kg

The humphead wrasse is found throughout the Indo-Pacific Oceans, from the Red Sea and the coast of east Africa to the central Pacific, south from Japan to New Caledonia.

The humphead wrasse is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List, and listed on Appendix II of CITES,

Threats
Although the humphead wrasse has a widespread distribution, it has never been common in its range and recent reports have revealed a worrying decline in numbers. Its life history characteristics make this species extremely vulnerable to exploitation and the population can only sustain light levels of fishing.
Traditionally, the flesh of this fish has been highly prized and more recently this species has become one of the most highly sought species of the Live Reef Food Fish Trade (LRFFT), a luxury food industry that has undergone an increase in popularity in many eastern Asian countries. Humphead wrasse can fetch up to US $100 per kilogram at retail in Hong Kong, and as their numbers dwindle the rarity of the species is likely to increase the price. Cyanide is typically used to catch fish for this trade because live fish are difficult to take any other way; a practice that devastates coral reefs.

Conservation

Little is known of the biology and distribution of the humphead wrasse and more data are urgently needed to understand the scale of the threats faced by current populations, and to implement effective conservation programmes. The World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Groupers and Wrasses Specialist Group is working to collect this all-important data and to raise awareness of the issues involved throughout the region. The species is partially protected in areas of Australia, the Philippines, the Maldives and Palau and was proposed for inclusion in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in November 2002. Trade restrictions are particularly important, as this species cannot be hatchery reared and all individuals in trade come from wild populations.

 

Skydiving from a helicopter !

16/05/2013

 
There's only one thing that's better than scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and that's skydiving from a helicopter, releasing your parachute just above the water, swimming down to the bottom to get your tank and then scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. This is Scuba Skydiving.
 

Manta and Devil Rays at risk

14/05/2013

 
Fished at alarming rates, manta and devil rays line the streets of many fish markets around the world – sought primarily for their gill rakers – the feathery structures these filter feeders use to strain their food as they glide through the water. At a one-time payout of about $250 per kilogram, is it really worth the destruction?


“The demand for their valuable gill rakers used in Chinese health tonic is driving overfishing of these species,” said Ania Budziak, Project AWARE’s Associate Director of Science and Policy. “Unfortunately, they’re easy to target and they’re most likely disappearing quicker than most people realize. The catch of these species reported to FAO has nearly quadrupled in the past decade while 8 of the 11 species are classified as threatened by IUCN, meaning they are at risk of extinction in the wild.”


Like sharks, mantas are at the top of every diver’s must-see list. So living mantas can bring significant, lasting economic benefits to tropical islands and coastal communities across the globe.

A single manta is estimated to be worth $1 million in tourism over its lifetime; while that same manta could be worth as little as $150 to a fishery.



Project AWARE and our partners worked hard and succeeded in helping to get mantas protected under CITES to ensure that international trade is strictly controlled and held to sustainable levels. This was a historic milestone for manta conservation, but we’re not stopping there. Check out Project AWARE’s infographic, Manta and Devil Rays at Risk, learn more and find out what you can do to help.



 

Bottlenose Dolphin Rescue

12/05/2013

 
During a Manta Ray night dive, in Kona, Hawaii  Bottlenose Dolphin needed help to get a fishing hook and line of it's left pectoral fin.

 

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