sábado, 25 de agosto de 2012

Hong Kong Probes Liability for Plastic Pellet Spill

HONG KONG, China, August 14, 2012 (ENS) – Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says he supports the investigation into who is responsible for the plastic pellet spill, in which around 150 tonnes of plastic were dumped into the sea.

Hong Kong officials have said repeatedly that the plastic pellets pose no immediate threat to food and environmental safety. But environmentalists warn that the pellets, known as nurdles, can absorb pollutants from sea water, thus becoming toxic themselves.

Leung said is concerned about the spill and has maintained close contact with government departments involved in the cleanup.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said, “The Department of Justice together with the Marine Department are discussing the matter, tracing the whole incident, and looking at various parties involved.”
Overnight July 23-24 the plastic pellets were being shipped from Guangzhou to Shantou, both in southern China’s Guangdong Province, when the cargo ship Yong Xin Jie 1 ran into Typhoon Vicente, the worst storm to strike Hong Kong in more than a decade.

Seven 40-foot-long containers were lost overboard in the waters south of Hong Kong. 

Six of the containers contained sacks of small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of other plastic products, about 150 tonnes in total, according to Hong Kong environmental authorities. One container held bottles.

Five of the containers full of plastic pellets were located by the Hong Kong Marine Department, which salvaged the containers and the plastic pellets at sea. 

About 50 tonnes of pellets in 25 kg sacks were collected from the water, but many of the sacks that were still adrift broke open, releasing tonnes of the pellets that piled up in great white drifts across 10 Hong Kong beaches or scattered across the sand.

The sixth container known to hold sacks of plastic pellets is still missing.

The Xiamen-registered Yong Xin Jie 1 was leased to shipping agent China Shipping Container Lines at the time of the incident.

On Thursday, petroleum giant Sinopec, the company that produced the plastic pellets, pledged to establish a HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) fund to locate and salvage the missing sixth container and clean up the remaining pellets.

Lu Dapeng, a spokesman for Sinopec, said it was up to judicial and administrative authorities to determine who is responsible for the incident. He urged the shipping agent and carriers to provide incident reports as soon as possible.

Lu said the company was deeply worried over the spill incident which led to environmental impact and caused disturbance and inconvenience for Hong Kong residents. He said the company’s top priority is to find the missing container and halt further pollution.

So far, about 21 tonnes of the plastic pellets washed ashore have been cleared. Together with those collected by the Marine Department at sea, about half of the plastic pellets have been cleared. Some have been landfilled, but some of the pellets will be recycled, according to the Hong Kong Environment Department.

Chief Executive Leung told reporters the pellets must be cleared and attention should be paid to whether fish farm operators need assistance from the city government. Lam said the city government would provide support to those in the mariculture industry affected by the spill.

The Hong Kong government last week said the cleanup could take months. The Marine Department will continue helicopter searches, step up patrols along the coastline and arrange reinforcement from other districts to tackle the incident.

jueves, 23 de agosto de 2012

Endangered brown pelicans on North Deer Island

North Deer is one of the few natural islands left in Galveston Bay, as most natural islands have been lost due to subsidence and erosion. The most productive bird nesting island on the Texas Gulf coast, North Deer Island has experienced up to 10 feet of erosion per year. 

“This island has been extremely important to the recovery of the Brown pelican in Galveston Bay. Based on a strong and healthy population, our agency has proposed removal of the Brown pelican from the endangered species list,” said Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The young produced here are likely the birds that everyone sees wading in marshes and bayous throughout the Houston-Galveston area, Tuggle said. 

The erosion-protection project is part of the region’s habitat conservation goals established by the Galveston Bay Estuary Program partnership, whose mission is to preserve the bay’s economic and ecologic health. Partners worked for eight years to restore and protect North Deer Island’s eroding shoreline. 

Erosion destroyed habitat for up to 30,000 nesting pairs of birds that were using the island as well as nursery areas for commercially and recreationally important finfish and shellfish. 

Project partners barged in 24,100 tons of rock from a quarry in Missouri, using the Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Waterway as a route, to create 6,450 feet of stone breakwater and armored shoreline. 

The planning, engineering, and construction costs for the eight year endeavor totaled more than $3.2 million dollars. 

“These group efforts demonstrate that by working together we can turn good ideas into tangible results,” said Jamie Schubert, a biologist and project manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

“These habitats are important to our economy,” said Schubert. “Fish and wildlife resources in Texas contribute over $8 billion to the economy. These resources also are part of our natural heritage and deserve our consideration for their intrinsic value. By protecting the island, we ensure that these benefits will be there for our children.” 

The 144 acre island is co-owned by Houston and Texas Audubon. The island is managed as a bird sanctuary. No trespassing signs are posted and predators are removed. 

The salt marshes on the southeast side of North Deer Island are nurseries for fish and shellfish, and these salt marshes are important foraging sites for birds breeding on the island, according to the Houston Audubon Society. 

All species nesting on North Deer Island are migratory to some degree, and in winter, island marshes are used by migrating waterfowl. 

The partnership includes Audubon Texas, the Houston Audubon Society, EcoNRG, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program, the Kempner Foundation, Meadows Foundation, Reliant Energy, Shell Marine, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Galveston Bay Estuary Program, the Texas General Land Office,

martes, 21 de agosto de 2012

Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Up on Galveston Island

GALVESTON, Texas, August 13, 2012 (ENS) – Thousands of dead fish that washed ashore on Galveston Island over the weekend were killed by a toxic algal bloom, state officials confirmed Monday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said a bloom of Karenia brevis, also known as red tide, was found in Galveston Bay in concentrations high enough to kill the fish.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials began receiving reports of fish kills on Friday.
The reports were from Quintana Beach to the mouth of the Colorado River and included mostly Gulf menhaden, also called shad, with a few mentions of gafftopsail and hardhead catfish.

dead fish

Additional fish kills were reported over the weekend at Surfside Beach and Galveston; samples were collected from the Surfside jetty and San Luis Pass to look for Karenia brevis. 

In addition, fishermen reported coughing and dead fish 4 miles offshore of Galveston. Dead flounder and stingrays have been reported at Kemah and Bacliff.

Biologists originally thought that low oxygen levels were to blame, so additional investigations were conducted to determine if K. brevis was, in fact, the cause. 

On Sunday, the Texas Health Services biologists found varying levels of K. brevis in their sampling and officials then closed the following several areas of Galveston Bay to shellfish harvesting.
State officials are still investigating this event. Weather permitting, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials intend to conduct a coastal overflight later this week to get an aerial view of the bloom.
In Galveston, Parks Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun told reporters crews worked overnight to clean the beaches most frequented by the public and the western end of the island, which had the largest concentrations of dead fish. 

A second, smaller wave of dead fish arrived Monday morning and was removed, she said. Crews must clean the entire 32 miles of island beachfront, which is likely to take until Wednesday, de Schaun said.
In 2011 a red tide  covered most of the Texas Gulf Coast and Galveston Bay, closing oyster beds to harvesting.

K. brevis produces a toxin that affects the central nervous system of fish so that they are paralyzed and cannot breathe. As a result, red tide blooms often result in dead fish washing up on Gulf beaches. Three common signs of a red tide bloom are discolored water, dead fish and breathing difficulty, according to state health officials.

Jack Ralph, former head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Kills and Spills Team said it may not be necessary to cancel a trip to the Texas Gulf coast just because of a red tide.

“If it were my family heading to the coast, I would not cancel a vacation because of red tide. It’s an isolated, patchy phenomenon that does not blanket every stretch of beach. On any given day, there are generally miles of good beach and clean water for beach-goers and anglers to enjoy. However, we encourage all travelers to heed the advice of the Texas Department of State Health Services, get the current facts and draw their own conclusions, since different people have different comfort levels with these kinds of situations.”
It’s usually okay to eat fish, crabs and shrimp during a red tide bloom because the toxin is not absorbed into the fleshy tissues of these animals, says the Texas state health department which adds that people should never eat fish found sick or dead, whether or not they are caught during a red tide.
Sightings of dead fish or suspected red tide can be reported 24 hours a day to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials communication centers; call 512-389-4848 in Austin or 281-842-8100 in La Porte.

lunes, 20 de agosto de 2012

Can help save coral

Southampton, UK — Research from the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton has found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals.

Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps.

The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source.

High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae.

Without the algae, corals appear white, a state which is often referred to as 'bleached'. Bleaching often leads to coral death and mass coral bleaching has had already devastating effects on coral reef ecosystems.

The study of University of Southampton, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, has found that nutrient enrichment of the water can increase the probability of corals to suffer from heat-induced bleaching.

Within the coral, the growth of zooxanthellae is restricted by the limited supply of nutrients. This allows the algae to transfer a substantial amount of their photosynthetically fixed carbon to the coral, which is crucial for the symbiotic relationship.

Algal growth becomes unbalanced when the availability of a specific nutrient decreases compared to the cellular demand, a condition called nutrient starvation.

Researchers from the University of Southampton based at the Coral Reef Laboratory in the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, found that an increased supply of dissolved nitrogen compounds in combination with a restricted availability of phosphate results in phosphate starvation of the algae. This condition is associated with a reduction in photosynthetic efficiency and increases the susceptibility of corals to temperature and light-induced bleaching.

Dr Jörg Wiedenmann, Senior Lecturer of Biological Oceanography at the University of Southampton and Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory, who led the study, says: "Our findings suggest that the most severe impact on coral health might actually not arise from the over-enrichment with one group of nutrients, for example, nitrogen, but from the resulting relative depletion of other types such as phosphate that is caused by the increased demand of the growing zooxanthellae populations."

Dr Wiedenmann adds: "Our results have strong implications for coastal management. The findings suggest that a balanced reduction of the nutrient input in coastal waters could help to mitigate the effects of increasing seawater temperatures on coral reefs. However, such measures will be effective only for a short period of time, so it is important to stop the warming of the oceans, which will otherwise destroy most of the reefs in their present form in the near future.

"Finally, our results should help the design of functioning marine reserves.."