Environmental News April 12 - May 14, 2018

Quote for the week

"The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share."
— Lady Bird Johnson

Whales in Ice-Free Arctic Face Emerging Threats from Vessels
May 14, 2018
By University of Victoria
In the Arctic, marine mammals such as belugas and bowhead whales rely on a quiet environment to communicate and forage. But as Arctic sea ice shrinks and shipping traffic increases, vessel disturbance could very likely impact their social behaviors, distribution and long-term survival. A recent study calls for precautionary measures to minimize the negative impacts of increased vessel traffic in the Arctic as climate change continues to melt the ice for longer periods of time.
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Record-Breaking Ocean Heat Fueled Hurricane Harvey
May 11, 2018
By University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
Weeks before Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas coast in August 2017, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were warmer than ever recorded. These warmer conditions could have contributed to the strength of the storm, causing it to break precipitation records and cause devastating flooding. The National Center for Atmospheric Research shows the correlation between the volume of rain and amount of water evaporated from an unusually warm ocean.
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Powerful Hurricanes Strengthen Faster Now than 30 Years Ago
May 9, 2018
By Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Hurricanes that intensify rapidly— a characteristic of almost all powerful hurricanes— do so more strongly and quickly now than they did 30 years ago. The chief driver of this phenomenon is actually a natural climate cycle, called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation or AMO. This is central to the increasing intensification of hurricanes, broadly affecting conditions like sea temperature that are known to influence hurricanes.
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Yes! Mexico City Banned Captive Dolphin Facilities
May 8, 2018
By Aleksandra Pajda
Following last year’s ban of dolphin performances, Mexico City has just announced a ban on dolphinariums. Within six months, all captive facilities will have to move their dolphins someplace else. This is great news for a species never meant for captivity, as they are known to suffer serious psychological problems and illnesses due to their small tanks and separation from family. Fortunately, more and more countries are now recognizing the problem that is marine mammal captivity and working towards freeing those beautiful animals.
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Researchers Find Evidence of Inbreeding in B.C. Killer Whales
May 5, 2018
By CBC News
Research from the NOAA have published research results that discovered evidence of inbreeding among the resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Two male southern resident killer whales off B.C.'s West Coast have fathered most of the population's calves, which is worrisome to scientists for a couple important reasons. Killer Whale numbers are dwindling and scientists are concerned that mating between closely related individuals could lead to genetic disorders and decrease the population's fitness. It is uncertain why these two males fathered so many calves, although it could have been due to the fact that they were the biggest and oldest males.
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Hawaii Approves Bill Banning Sunscreen Believed to Kill Coral Reefs
May 2, 2018
By Vanessa Romo
Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing chemicals they say are contributing to the destruction of the state's coral reefs and other ocean life. If signed by the governor, it will make Hawaii the first state in the country to pass such a law, but it would take until 2021 to go into effect. There is some opposition, mainly coming from big sunscreen companies, that argue the ban goes too far. However, there has been a move from Hawaiian non-profits, businesses and athletes that have begun to make their own regulations that help lessen the harm caused by these chemicals.
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Miami Now Nation’s Top Importer of Shark Fins. Many States Have Banned the Product
May 1, 2018
By Jenny Staletovich
Miami’s position in the trade industry has added shark fins to its list of imported items. Since 2015, Miami has led the nation in the number of shark fins imported from Hong Kong, likely caused by an increasing number of import bans in other states. While the US represents only a small fraction of the shark fin trade, the industry worldwide kills millions of sharks annually and therefore has a devastating effect on their population. Part of the problem lies in the ability to tell whether or not shark fins were harvested in a sustainable manner, or more likely not. Two proposed laws now winding through Congress would tighten restrictions, all in an effort to decrease the huge threat the practice of shark finning poses to sharks. However, these bills have problems and there are valid worries that there could be repercussions to enforcing an all-out ban, such as an uptick in sales from unregulated sources.
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Thomas Cook gives Sea World three-month deadline to improve after failing animal welfare checks— or it’ll stop ticket sales
April 30, 2018
By Caroline McGuire, Digital Travel Editor
The Thomas Cook travel agency is reconsidering working with Sea World in Florida after the marine park failed to meet their standard for 100% success. The agency stopped promoting them online in March, and has given the park 3 months to meet the audit requirements based on rules by the Association Of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Over the past few years, Sea World has lost significant amounts of money due to increased awareness of the mistreatment of marine mammals shown in documentaries like Blackfish.
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Fish and Wildlife Commission Votes Against Harvest of Goliath Grouper in Florida Waters
April 28, 2018
By Ed Killer
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had a meeting April 26 in Fort Lauderdale. They declared that there won't be a harvest of Goliath grouper for at least a year. Harvest and possession of this fish has been prohibited in Florida and U.S. federal waters since 1990. It remains critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list, although recent stock assessments by the FWC indicate the stocks are recovering well. In the end, the 7-member governor-appointed volunteer commission did however, leave the door open for a harvest in the future.
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Ocean Explorers Philippe and Ashlan Cousteau Plunge Into a New Season of CARIBBEAN PIRATE TREASURE
April 26, 2018
By TV News Desk
Philippe Cousteau and his journalist wife, Ashlan Cousteau investigate incredible stories of pirates' plunder and lost loot in the new season of "Caribbean Pirate Treasure.” Premiering on June 13 at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, they travel to tropical beach destinations to explore the fascinating tales of legendary shipwrecks, ruthless pirates and sunken treasure that lurk beneath the surface.
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Scientists Suggest ‘Protecting Reefs of Hope” May Offset Climate-Change Damage to Coral Reefs
April 23, 2018
By Simon Fraser University
Among the most damaging effects that climate change has wrought on the natural world are those sustained by coral reefs. Bleaching is a phenomenon that can occur for a number of reasons, but has becoming increasingly common in coral reefs primarily due to global warming. Despite this grim scenario, SFU alumnus Emily Darling and marine biology professor Isabelle Côté are hopeful that all is not lost for coral reefs.
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Corals Are in Serious Trouble. This Lab Could Help Save Them
April 23, 2018
By Wired, ENN
At the California Academy of Sciences, there is an experiment that could help save corals from annihilation. Here, they are producing sexually, contrary to how they do so in the wild in a process called coral spawning. This fragile process occurs once a year, but in captivity at this academy they have been continuously spawning thanks to technology and a dedicated team of researchers. This could create stability in an otherwise frail population and allow scientists to observe them more closely and perform crucial long-term studies.
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Mission to Untangle Female Right Whale Highlight’s Species’ Precarious Plight
April 22, 2018
By Oliver Milman
A mission to disentangle a North Atlantic Right Whale from a thick rope wrapped around its jaw has proved a partial success, amid growing fears that the endangered species is approaching a terminal decline. This particular female whale is considered one of the most important of her species, as she has given birth to a total of 8 calves, so it was concerning to see her in trouble. This particular species is already in trouble, as they have a population of less than 450, so it is crucial that scientists do all they can to protect them.
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101 Ways to Fight Climate Change
April 20, 2018
By Patrick Sisson, Megan Barber, and Alissa Walker
Each year on April 22, more than one billion people in 192 countries celebrate the largest civic-focused day of action in the world: Earth Day. It’s a day chosen to commemorate the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970, and the annual event now includes themes, well-organized action plans, and events in cities big and small. Although Earth day is only once a year, there are several ways we can work to preserve our precious ecosystems, whether it be by adding solar panels, recycling your clothes, or xeriscaping.
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How to Raise Kids Who Care About the Environment
April 20, 2018
By Caroline Bologna
In today’s divisive and often frightening political climate, many parents hope to raise a younger generation that will lead the world with more care and compassion. This goes for the environment too, as it faces more threats and less protection. President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, Collin O’Mara, inspects the many ways youth can be educated to be conservationists. Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and president of EarthEcho International recommends taking shorter showers, reducing meat consumption, and calculating your overall water use. It is important to talk about the most prevalent environmental issues, whether they be local or global, to better educate your children and make them conscious and aware of their actions. Most importantly, getting our kids to spend time outside makes them genuinely care about the environment and develop a connection with nature.
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Sharks, Dolphins and Turtles Are Turning Up In Strange Places Because of Climate Change
April 20, 2018
By Kate Sheridan
Luke Halpin, someone on a Canadian research vessel off the coast of Vancouver, recently spotted a pod of bottlenose dolphins along with false killer whales. Dolphins have never been seen that far up north, and they aren’t the only animals that appear to be moving up north as water temperature rises. Swordfish, Loggerhead sea turtles, and Bull sharks have all been found recently in places far from where they normally reside. It’s still too soon to say if these animals will consistently establish themselves in warming northern waters. But Halpin says it’s possible that might happen in the future—especially if we don't change the temperature trends we're seeing today.
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Great Barrier Reef Saw Huge Losses From 2016 Heatwave
April 18, 2018
By Quirin Schiermeier
Extreme heat in 2016 damaged Australia’s Great Barrier Reef much more substantially than initial surveys indicated, according to ongoing studies that have tracked the health of the coral treasure. One-third of the reef was negatively affected by the warm waters, capturing attention worldwide. It is unlikely that it will recover soon, so we must focus our efforts in preventing further temperature increase in the ocean and preserving a vital ecosystem.
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Which is Bigger: Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Your State?
April 17, 2018
By Sam Hart
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not an actual land mass floating out in the ocean, it’s a concentration of particles ranging from 10 kilograms of debris per square kilometer to over 100. Trillions of pieces of plastic debris gather at this one location far into the Pacific Ocean, between California and Hawaii. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing in size, and now you can see it in comparison to the state you live in.
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Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles
April 16, 2018
By Damian Carrington
Scientists have recently, accidentally created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles. This unplanned breakthrough gives a ray of hope to those disillusioned about the global plastic pollution crisis. It was discovered at a Japanese dump back in 2016, but scientists have only now revealed the detailed structure of this crucial enzyme. What makes it so important is the fact that this enzyme can break down the plastic in just a few days instead of it taking hundreds of years to degrade.
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Ocean Heat Waves Are Killing Marine Life and Water Circulation Is the Slowest in 1,500 Years— Here’s What You Can Do
April 13, 2018
By Michelle Neff
A new study found that there has been a 54% increase in the number of days in which heat waves have warmed the oceans since 1925. This phenomenon is due to the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. People have been avoiding this issue for too long and it could end up having a disastrous impact on both marine life and people. Already we are seeing the bleaching of coral reefs and many marine species populations collapse with their ocean home increasing in temperature.
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The Reason to Never Buy Bottled Water that No One Talks About
April 12, 2018
By Malorie Macklin
While bottled water can be a savior in times of natural disaster or compromised water service, it’s proving to be anything but convenient or healthy for wildlife. Whether it be because of health hazards, plastic pollution, or have controversial water harvesting practices, there are many reasons why bottled water is rating criticism lately. No matter the source or manipulation of the water, one fact remains: bottled water companies are removing water from a location where it is needed to sell it elsewhere. The drought in California is particularly affected by this phenomenon, as these companies are extracting water in a way that is harmful to ecosystems and wildlife in this region. In addition, the manufacturing of plastic bottles requires oil, an increasingly scarce resource that has other damaging extraction practices. Although plastic bottles are recyclable, many of them make their way into terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems where it won’t degrade for hundreds of years.
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NASA Finds Tropical Cyclone Keni Dropped Heavy Rain on Fiji, Direct Hit to Kadavu
April 12, 2018
By NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
On April 10, Tropical Cyclone Keni passed to the southwest of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. No casualties were reported even though it was much more powerful than Tropical Cyclone Josie. Winds of greater than 81 mph and flash floods were responsible for widespread damage over the island of Kadavu. Rainfall maps are created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, which continues to collect data to track this cyclone.
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The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is Ballooning, 87,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting
March 22, 2018
By Livia Albeck-Ripka
In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water in a place called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Although “Patch” is in the name, it is not an island of trash as may be conceived to be, but rather a place polluted with tiny microplastics that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Currents bring these objects here, of those many are pieces of plastic that eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that later get eaten by fish, and then humans. The main concern with this issue is dealing with the removal of these microscopic particles after they have disintegrated in a few decades.
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67 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
January 31, 2018
By Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis
Since taking office last year, President Trump has made it a priority to eliminate federal regulations— especially those concerning the environment. His administration has since targeted certain rules that seem “burdensome” to the fossil fuel industry, including major Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change. As of now, a total of 33 rules have been overturned, and plenty of others are still in the process of being reversed.
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