The Sick Ocean

A major new scientific report, “Explaining Ocean Warming” was released on September 5th. It is grim. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, the findings are based upon peer-reviewed research compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries. It is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken on the subject of warming of the ocean.

Significantly, the ocean has absorbed more than 90% of “enhanced heating from climate change since the 1970s.” In other words, the ocean has been “shielding us” from the extensive affects of global warming. And, the consequences for the ocean are “absolutely massive.”

The “seasons in the ocean” are actually changing as a result.

“The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with the numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend,” D. Laffoley, et al, ed. Explaining Ocean Warming, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, Sept. 2016.

“A useful analysis undertaken by the Grantham Institute in 2015 concluded that if the same amount of heat that has gone into the top 2000m of the ocean between 1955-2010 had gone into the lower 10km of the atmosphere, then the Earth would have seen a warming of 36°C.”

In other words, humanity would be toast.

Here’s one of many dangerous “hooks” mentioned in the report: “Crucially, as evident in the past two years, the heat and CO2 accumulated in the ocean are not permanently locked away, but can be released back into the atmosphere when the ocean surface is anomalously warm, giving a positive rapid feed-back to global warming,” which would entail a decidedly harsh blow to life on the planet.

The 500-page report is all-inclusive with several subsections dealing with individual oceanic issues. Yet, a general overview of the “chain of impacts” is perhaps most relevant to an understanding of the dire consequences of failure to act by halting CO2 fossil fuel emissions as soon as possible.

The “chain of impacts” clearly demonstrates the linear interrelated behavior of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. Due to a domino effect of one problem cascading into others, key human sectors are now threatened, e.g. fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risks management, general health, and coast tourism.

In point of fact, scientific studies show rapid deterioration throughout the “change of impacts” statement such that an all-out alarm is necessitated. In short, the ole public clarion bells need to start ringing hard and loud because “the impacts on key marine and coastal organisms, ecosystems and ecosystem services are already detectable from high to low latitudes transcending the traditional North/South divide.”

In other words, the entire world oceanic ecosystem is already showing signs of severe stress or oceanic sickness.

Furthermore, the latency affect of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming means the impact of today’s carbon emissions shows up years and years down the line such that, assuming carbon emissions drop to zero tomorrow, global warming continues cruising along for many years to come.

All-important, the ocean is a “climate integrator” that regulates the entire planetary biosphere by absorbing 26% of human-caused CO2 and 93% of additional planetary heat. “Without the ocean, present climate change would thus be far more intense and challenging for human life.”

Meanwhile, the regulating function of the ocean comes with heavy costs, for example, ocean acidification and availability of carbonate ions are disrupted, which are building blocks for marine plants and animals to make skeletons, shells, etc.

This acidification impact is already a factor at the base of the food chain, as tiny pea-sized pteropods, which serve as food stock for everything from krill to salmon to whales, show ultra-thinning of their protective shells necessary for both reproduction and maturation, a problem especially found in the Southern Ocean. This early stage risk to disruption of the food chain is caused by excessive carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed into the ocean emitted by fossil fuels.

Astonishingly, sea level rise, the most noticeable oceanic impact, has already dramatically increased its rate of increase over the 1901-2010 period as the rate of rise from 1993-2010 accelerated by an astounding 88%. This sea level rise is already felt in cities like Miami where streets are being raised and additional pumping systems installed (Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas, miamibeachrealtor displays a photo of newly raised streets).

Assuming business-as-usual anthropogenic climate change, sources of dietary protein and income for tens of millions of people will likely be severely impacted by mass mortalities. Wherefore, the ole clarion bell needs to ring even louder, waking up citizens to the threat of impending serious food shortages. Fisheries and aquaculture, which are both key for survival for millions, are already at high risk.

Meanwhile, and unfortunately, climate change contemporaneously continues to negatively affect land agriculture, which will likely exacerbate food shortages with the ocean simultaneously stressed. In all, ocean warming is synergistic with other human-induced stresses such as over-exploitation, like drift net fishing, and habitat destruction, e.g., bleached coral, and chemical pollution, for example, Ag runoff.

The report has suggested solutions to ocean stress, as for example: (1) mitigating CO2 emissions by getting off fossil fuels is number no. 1 on the hit list, followed by (2) protecting marine and coastal ecosystems by governmental regulation of “protected areas” and (3) repairing damaged ecosystems with, for example, coral farming, and (4) adapting economic diversification zones and activities.

Importantly, the landmark study emphasizes the fact that “unequivocal scientific evidence shows that impacts on key marine and coastal organisms, ecosystems, and services are already detectable and that high to very high risks of impact are to be expected,” Ibid, page 53.

That statement is as straightforward, pulling no punches, as scientific papers ever get. The evidence is crystal clear that climate change is disrupting the ocean, which is the only ocean we’ve got.

There are no backups.

Here’s hoping Mr. Trump reassesses his “global warming is a hoax” statement. After all, he has a big audience.

Source: Counter Punch

Noam Chomsky: Climate Change & Nuclear Proliferation Pose the Worst Threat Ever Faced by Humanity

noam chomsky

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! – 16 May 16
Source: Reader Supported News

Video Democracy Now!


President Obama has just passed a little-noticed milestone, according to The New York Times: Obama has now been at war longer than any president in U.S. history—longer than George W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Obama has taken military action in at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Just last month, President Obama announced the deployment of 250 more Special Operations troops to Syria in a move that nearly doubles the official U.S. presence in the country.
As war spreads across the globe, a record 60 million people were driven from their homes last year. Experts warn the refugee crisis may also worsen due to the impacts of global warming. Over the weekend, NASA released data showing 2016 is on pace to be by far the hottest year ever, breaking the 2015 record. Meanwhile, many fear a new nuclear arms race has quietly begun, as the United States, Russia and China race to build arsenals of smaller nuclear weapons.
These multiple crises come as voters in the United States prepare to elect a new president. We speak with one of the world’s preeminent intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His latest book is titled “Who Rules the World?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road here in New York, then on today to [Chicago], to Madison, Wisconsin, and then to Toronto, Canada.

The New York Times is reporting President Obama has just passed a little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than any president in U.S. history—longer than George W. Bush, longer than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, longer than Abraham Lincoln. Obama has taken military action in at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Just last month, President Obama announced the deployment of 250 more Special Operations troops to Syria in a move that nearly doubles the official U.S. presence in the country.

As war spreads across the globe, a record 60 million people were driven from their homes last year. Experts warn the refugee crisis may also worsen due to the impacts of global warming. Over the weekend, NASA released data showing 2016 is on pace to be by far the hottest year ever, breaking the 2015 record. April became the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records. Meanwhile, many fear a new nuclear arms race has quietly begun, as the United States, Russia and China race to build arsenals of smaller nuclear weapons. These multiple crises come as voters in the United States prepare to elect a new president.

To make sense of the challenges facing the globe and the state of the U.S. election, we’re joined today by one of the world’s preeminent intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. His latest book is called Who Rules the World?

Noam Chomsky, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be with you again.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Noam, who rules the world?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s, to a certain extent, up to us. It is possible for populations to rule the world, but they have to struggle to achieve that. And if they don’t, the world will be ruled by concentrations of power—economic power, state power—closely linked with consequences that are of the kind that you describe. But that’s a choice.

AMY GOODMAN: How does the United States set the terms of the global discourse and, overall, what’s happening in the world?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s basically an outcome of the Second World War. At the end of the Second World War, the United States had a level of power and comparative wealth that had never existed in history. It had literally half the world’s wealth. It had an incomparable position of security—controlled the hemisphere, controlled both oceans, controlled the opposite sides of both oceans. In military terms, it was overwhelmingly preeminent. Other industrial societies had been devastated or severely weakened. The war had actually greatly benefited the U.S. economy. It ended the Depression. Industrial production virtually quadrupled. There was a debt, which you could easily grow out of it by growth. So the United States was in fact in a position to pretty much set the terms for virtually the entire global system.

It couldn’t stay that way, of course, and it began to erode pretty quickly, though, with all the changes over the past years, the United States still is in a preeminent position with incomparable advantages and maybe now a quarter of the world’s wealth. In military terms, on that dimension, the United States is completely alone. It’s the only country that has hundreds, maybe a thousand, military bases around the world, troops all over the world. U.S. military spending is almost as great as the rest of the world combined, technologically much more advanced. And within that context of the past 70 years or so, the United States has had a—usually, a pretty dominant role in world affairs and setting the framework within which others operate—not without conflict, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the two major threats facing the world today: nuclear war and climate change. Talk about each.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I might start by referring to the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a clock that’s—since 1947, shortly after the atomic bombing, they established a Doomsday Clock. Every year, a panel of specialists make an estimate of how close we are to midnight. Midnight means termination for the species. It’s moved up and back over the years. Right now, it—just last year, it was moved two minutes closer to midnight because of the two threats that you mentioned, stayed there this year. That’s three minutes to midnight, close as it’s been since the early 1980s, when there was a major war scare. It was recognized then to be serious. Now that Russian archives have been opened, we see that it was far more serious than was assumed. We were at one point literally minutes away, several points in fact, minutes away from nuclear war. That’s where the Doomsday Clock stands now.

The nuclear threat is the threat of—on the Russian border, which happens to be the invasion route through which Russia was virtually destroyed twice last century by Germany alone—well, Germany as part of a hostile military alliance—on that border, both sides are acting as if a war is thinkable. The U.S. has just sharply increased; it quadrupled military expenses on its side. The Russians are doing something similar. There are constant near collisions, jets coming close to colliding with one another. A Russian jet a couple months ago virtually hit a Danish commercial airliner. U.S. troops are carrying out maneuvers virtually on the Russian border. That threat is escalating and very serious. William Perry, a respected nuclear specialist, a former defense secretary, recently estimated that the threat is higher than it was during the 1980s. There are also confrontations near the Chinese around China, South China Sea and so on. That’s one major threat.

The other is what you just described. The threat of global warming is very serious. Every time one reads a science journal, there’s an even more alarming discovery. Virtually all the ice masses are melting. The Arctic ice mass, which was assumed to be pretty stable, is actually melting very fast, much more than was thought. The glaciers are melting. There’s severe droughts. Right now already, about 300 million people in India are on the edge of starvation from drought, which has been going on for years. The groundwater is depleted as the Himalayan glaciers melt, as they’re doing. It will undermine the water supply for huge areas in South Asia. If people think there’s a migration crisis now, they haven’t seen anything. The sea level is rising. Chances are it could rise three to six feet, maybe more, by the end of the century—some estimate even sooner. It will have a devastating effect, not just on coastal cities, but on coastal plains, like, say, Bangladesh, where hundreds of millions of people will be severely threatened. I mean, this is a—we’re already killing other species at the level of the so-called fifth extinction. Sixty-five million years ago, when an asteroid hit the Earth, devastating consequences ended the age of the dinosaurs, opened the way for small mammals to develop, ultimately evolve, finally evolve into Homo sapiens, which now is acting the same way the asteroid did. That’s the fifth extinction. It’s going to get worse. All of these are—the rate of global warming today is far faster, maybe a hundred or more times as fast as any moderately comparable period that can be estimated in the geological record.

And to make it worse, of these two huge threats, we have an electoral—the quadrennial electoral extravaganza is going on right now, of course. And it’s pretty remarkable to see how the worst threats that the human species has ever faced, the most important decisions it must make—and soon—are virtually absent from the discussions and debates. On the Democratic side, there’s a couple of comments about it here and there, not much. On the Republican side, it’s much worse. Every single candidate either denies global warming altogether or, in one case, Kasich, admits that it’s taking place but says we shouldn’t do anything about it, which is even worse.


NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s 100 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we’re going to go to a break. When we come back, we’ll play the last remaining Republican in the race, Donald Trump’s comment on climate change, and also get your take overall on the 2016 presidential election here in the United States. Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, has a new book out; it’s called Who Rules the World? Stay with us.

The Scientist Who First Warned of Climate Change Says It’s Much Worse Than We Thought


Oceans are warming. (photo: Shutterstock)

Oceans are warming. (photo: Shutterstock)

By Amelia Urey, Grist – 23 March 16

The rewards of being right about climate change are bittersweet. James Hansen should know this better than most — he warned of this whole thing before Congress in 1988, when he was director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. At the time, the world was experiencing its warmest five-month run since we started recording temperatures 130 years earlier. Hansen said, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”

Fast forward 28 years and, while we’re hardly out of the Waffle House yet, we know much more about climate change science. Hansen is still worried that the rest of us aren’t worried enough.

Last summer, prior to countries’ United Nations negotiations in Paris, Hansen and 16 collaborators authored a draft paper that suggested we could see at least 10 feet of sea-level rise in as few as 50 years. If that sounds alarming to you, it is — 10 feet of sea-level rise is more than enough to effectively kick us out of even the most well-endowed coastal cities. Stitching together archaeological evidence of past climate change, current observations, and future-telling climate models, the authors suggested that even a small amount of global warming can rack up enormous consequences — and quickly.

However the paper, publicized before it had been through peer review, elicited a mix of shock and skepticism, with some journalists calling the news a bombshell but a number of scientists urging deeper consideration.

Now, the final version of the paper has been published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. It’s been reviewed and lightly edited, but its conclusions are still shocking — and still contentious.

So what’s the deal? The authors highlight several of threats they believe we’ll face this century, including many feet of sea-level rise, a halting of major ocean circulatory currents, and an outbreak of super storms. These are the big threats we’ve been afraid of — and Hansen et al. say they could be here before we know it — well before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sanctioned climate models predict.

Here we help you understand their new paper:

Sea-level rise

The scientists estimate that existing climate models aren’t accounting well enough for current ice loss off of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Right now, Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets both contribute under or near 1 millimeter to sea-level rise every year; they each contain enough stored ice to drive up ocean levels by 20 and 200 feet, respectively.

This study suggests that, since the rate of ice loss is increasing, we should think of it not as a straight line but as an exponential curve, doubling every few years. But how much time it takes to double makes a big difference. Right now, measurements of ice loss aren’t clear enough to even make a strong estimate about how long that period might be. Is it 10 years or is it 40? It’s hard to say based on the limited data we have now, which would make a big difference either way.

But then again, we don’t even know that ice loss is exponential. Ian Joughin — a University of Washington researcher unaffiliated with the paper and who has studied the tipping points of Antarctic glaciers — put it this way: Think about the stock market in the ’80s. If you observed a couple years of accelerating growth, and decided that rate would double every 4 years — you’d have something like 56,000 points in the Dow Jones Industrial by now.

Or if stocks aren’t your thing, think about that other exponentially expanding force of nature: bacteria. Certain colonies of bacteria can double their population in a matter of hours. Can they do this forever? No, or else we’d be nothing but bacteria right now (and while we’re certainly a high percentage of bacteria, there’s still room for a couple other things).

Nature tends to put limits on exponential growth, Joughin points out — and the same probably goes for ice loss: “There’s only so fast you can move ice out of an ice sheet,” Joughin explained. While some ice masses may be collapsing at an accelerating rate, others won’t be as volatile.

This means, while some parts of ice sheet collapse may very well proceed exponentially, we can’t expect such simple mathematics to model anything in the real world except the terror spike of the Kingda Ka.

Ocean turnover

Mmm mm, ocean turnover: Is it another word for a sushi roll or a fundamental process that keeps the climate relatively stable and moderate?

That’s right — we’re talking the Atlantic Meridonal Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, and other currents like it.

As cold meltwater flows off of glaciers and ice sheets at enormous rates, it pools at the ocean’s surface, trapping the denser but warmer saltwater beneath it. This can seriously mess with the moving parts of the ocean, the so-called “conveyor belts” that cycle deep nutrient-rich water to the surface. These slow currents are driven by large-scale climate processes, like wind, and drive others, like the carbon cycle. But they also rely on gradients in temperature and density to run; if too much cold water from the glaciers pools at the surface, the whole conveyor belt could stutter to a stop.

In the North Atlantic, this would mean waters get colder, while the tropics, denied their influx of colder water, would heat up precipitously. Hansen says we’re already seeing the beginnings of AMOC’s slowdown: There’s a spot of unusually cool water hanging out off of Greenland, while the U.S. East Coast continues to see warmer and warmer temperatures. Hansen said it plainly in a call with reporters: “I think this is the beginning of substantial slowdown of the AMOC.”


Pointing to giant hunks of rock that litter the shore of the Bahamas, among other evidence of ancient climates, the study’s authors suggest that past versions of Earth may have featured superstorms capable of casually tossing boulders like bored Olympians.

And as the temperature gradient between the tropic and the polar oceans gets steeper, thanks to that slowing of ocean-mixing currents, we could see stronger storms, too.

This is surprisingly intuitive: Picture a temperature gradient like a hill, with the high temperatures up at the top and the low temperatures down at the bottom. As the highs get higher and the lows get lower, that hill gets a lot steeper — and the storms are the bowling balls you chuck down the hill. A bowling ball will pick up a lot more speed on a steep hill, and hurt a lot more when it finally runs into something. Likewise, by the time these supercharged storms are slamming into coasts in the middle latitudes, they will be carrying a whole lot of deadly force with them.

So what does it all mean?

Whether other scientists quibble over these results or not — and they probably will — the overall message is hardly new. It’s bad, you guys. It might be really, truly, deeply bad, or it might be slightly less bad. Either way, says Hansen, what we know for sure is that it’s time to do something about it. “Among the top experts, there’s a pretty strong agreement that we’ve reached a point where this is truly urgent,” he said.

So Hansen is frustrated once more with the failure of humanity to respond adequately. The result he’d hoped for when he released an early version of the paper online last summer was to get world leaders to come together in Paris to agree on a global price on carbon. As he told Grist’s Ben Adler at the time, “It’s going to happen.” (It didn’t happen, but some other stuff did.)

Still, true urgency would require more of us than just slowing the growth of emissions — it requires stopping them altogether. In a paper published in 2013, Hansen found that we have to cut 6 percent of our use of carbon-based fuels every year, if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

Carbon prices and emissions cuts are more the purview of politicians and diplomats, but if anything, Hansen has shown he is unafraid to stray beyond the established protocol of academic science.

“I think scientists, who are trained to be objective, have something to offer by analyzing the problem all the way to the changes that are needed in order to address it,” he said on a press call. “That 6 percent reduction — that’s not advocacy, that’s science. And then I would advocate that we do that!”

And to pre-empt the haters, Hansen wants you to remember one thing. “Skepticism is the life blood of science. You can be sure that some scientists will find some aspects in our long paper that they will think of differently,” he said. “And that’s normal.”

So while scientists continue their debate over whether the ice sheets are poised to collapse in the next 50 years or the next 500, the prognosis is the same: The future is wetter, stranger, stormier unless we make serious moves to alternative energy sources now. Will we? Maybe. We’ve started but we still have a long, long way to go. If it’s a race between us and the ice sheets, neither I nor James Hansen nor anyone else can tell you for sure who will win.

Hey, no one said telling the future was easy.

The Unseen Slaughter Under the Sea

By Taylor Hill, TakePart – 08 January 16


Ocean Defenders Alliance is on a mission to stop abandoned “ghost nets” from killing dolphins, sea turtles, and millions of other marine animals.


As we set off for our destination off the Southern California coast, Captain Rex Levi weaves Mr. Barker’s LegaSea, a 55-foot Chris Craft yacht, between the massive cargo ships plying Los Angeles Harbor. The dockworkers’ strike of the past winter is over but still reverberates at sea as the behemoths queue 35 deep, waiting their turn to offload cars, clothes, and other merchandise at the Port of Los Angeles.

Mr. Barker’s LegaSea belongs to environmental group Ocean Defenders Alliance and is named for Bob Barker, the game-show host and animal rights activist who donated $150,000—the price was right—toward the boat’s purchase. As we set out on a one-hour cruise, two gray whales on our left are also navigating a path amid the 1,000-foot-long ships—an ever-present danger during the marine mammals’ annual migrations. “We brake for whales,” says ODA founder Kurt Lieber.

A 50-foot-long boat called the African Queen, sunk in 90 feet of water, poses perhaps as great a threat to whales as to dolphins, seals, and sharks that can become entangled in derelict fishing gear snagged by the shipwreck. So on this spring day we’re on a mission to liberate them from these “ghost nets,” among the thousands around the world silently killing marine mammals and other ocean animals.

Killing Without a Cause

Imagine there’s a fence running through the wilderness and that each animal that passes by—deer, bear, bison—is in danger of getting its head stuck in the chain link and starving to death. That happens every day in the world’s oceans as lost, abandoned, and derelict fishing gear trap countless numbers of marine animals for years, decades, and perhaps even centuries.

“There are no borders in the ocean,” says Dianna Parker, communications coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program. “This is a global problem.”

The African Queen happens to be a local ghost fishing hot spot. Its resting place is just outside the boundary of California’s ban on gill nets—huge vertical nets that hang in the water—within three nautical miles of the coast. Boats that deploy gill nets, which have been blamed for inadvertently catching dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals, often cross over the African Queen.

“They go by and drag their nets along the sandy bottom here. They don’t know the wreck is down there and get their nets caught,” said Walter Marti, a volunteer diver for ODA. “The boats leave their nets behind, but those nets just keep on fishing and killing, perpetually.”

The mission today: dive to the wreck, remove some of the nets, and free trapped animals.

For Lieber, a Chicago native, these expeditions have become a life mission. Since 2002, he has embarked on more than 180 trips with his crew of volunteer divers and deckhands, recovering more than 32,000 pounds of fishing nets and 12,000 pounds of lobster and crab traps just along California’s coast.

Over the years, he’s seen just about every kind of critter caught in ghost nets—sharks, sea lions, lobster, eels, sea turtles, and even whales.

“I really didn’t expect this to become a long-term thing, but this fishing gear never stops, so we don’t stop,” Lieber says.

On this day’s dive, the team gets a glimpse of a global catastrophe.

“Just nets on top of nets down there,” Marti said in between the team’s first and second dive on the wreck.

For Marti and the dive team, the African Queen is a familiar foe. Over the years they’ve rescued nurse sharks, wolf eels, and lobsters from its web of nets and also seen the remains of sea lions, fish, and other animals they weren’t able to save.

“It’s an interesting yet depressing dive,” Marti says of the African Queen. “Interesting due to all the fish life, especially the wolf eels. Depressing due to the nets and other fishing gear snagged all about her.”

Diver Kim Cardenas has been down to the site before. On this trip she sees just how much work is left.

“It could take five or six more trips down there before it’s all removed,” Cardenas says. “You think you see all of it, but it’s buried too. You follow it down, and there’s just more and more—it never ends.”

Ghost Fishing’s Global Reach

A frustrating endeavor, but not unique, says NOAA’s Parker. She has worked for the agency’s marine debris program for the past four years, researching derelict fishing gear hot spots and participating in marine debris cleanups along the United States’ East and West coasts, the Great Lakes, and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Just as ocean currents are pushing plastics to convergence zones, also called gyres, abandoned nets often end up funneled into the same spots.

NOAA’s 244-foot research vessel, The Sette, last year recovered 57 tons of fishing nets and plastic garbage in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The archipelago is home to the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, which has been found to be highly susceptible to entanglements with ghost gear.

“We didn’t even finish,” says Parker. “We just ran out of room to store it on deck.”

Like a fine-tooth comb, the reefs along the 1,200-mile chain of atolls sift and snag drifting gill nets, trawl nets, longline fishing gear, and other ghost gear. An estimated 57 tons of derelict nets end up in the 139,000-square-mile Northwestern Hawaiian Islands region every year.

The global reach of ghost nets remains mostly unknown as few studies have looked at the worldwide consequences of abandoned fishing nets. But World Animal Protection, a Europe-based conservation group, estimates as much as 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost or abandoned every year.

In the U.S., NOAA researchers recently looked at seven fisheries and found that derelict fishing gear affected all of them. They discovered that 85,000 abandoned lobster and crab traps are ghost fishing in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, while in the Chesapeake Bay, more than 913,000 crabs are caught by derelict traps each year.

And more than 1,500 marine animals—including seals, sea lions, dolphins, sharks, 22 species of fish, and 15 species of birds—were found dead among 870 derelict nets discovered in the Puget Sound over the course of one year.

But help is on the way. ODA is just one of several volunteer teams that have joined a global nonprofit network called Ghost Fishing. Together, teams from Italy, Iceland, Australia, the U.S., and other countries have pulled up thousands of nets over the past decade, saving countless marine animals in the process.

In Washington state, more than $7 million from federal wildlife agencies is paying for the removal of more than 4,000 nets and nearly 3,000 traps from waterways. That has saved more than 3.2 million animals from entanglement, according to the Northwest Straits Foundation.

The problem of ghost nets is global. It's estimated that as much as 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost every year. (photo: NOAA/

The problem of ghost nets is global. It’s estimated that as much as 640,000 tons
of fishing gear is lost every year. (photo: NOAA/

Centuries of Needless Nets

Still, the problem is ever growing. Before 1950, there were no reports of turtles stuck in marine fishing gear. By 1970, all six species of sea turtles had been reported entangled in ghost gear. Today, more than 200 marine species worldwide are impacted by derelict fishing gear.

What’s changed?

First, technological advances have allowed much of the commercial fishing operations to move further into the open ocean, where retrieval of lost nets is rarely an option. But the biggest change has come in the materials used to make fishing gear. Long-lasting synthetics used in today’s nets keep derelict gear fishing for years, if not centuries.

“We’ve got nets out there that will go on catching fish for 450 years,” Lieber says “It used to be hemp nets and rope that would biodegrade, but this stuff stays.”

Parker also noted the lack of national, not to mention international, regulation of ghost fishing.

“Each fishery is different, and the rules have to make sense to be put in place,” she says.

One of the biggest challenges is getting both the conservationists and the commercial fishing operators to fully understand the issue.

“Fishermen aren’t out there trying to lose their nets—that’s a lot of money to replace,” Parker says. “At the same time, we need to get fishermen to understand that those abandoned nets are hurting them economically too.”

One fish caught by a ghost net is one less for a fisher to catch and sell.

Zeke Grader, a 40-year industry veteran and executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, says the fishing industry has a stake in keeping vessels from losing their gear.

“Our first venture into derelict gear was in San Francisco Bay and the herring gillnet fishery,” says Grader, whose association represents fishing interests along the West Coast. “It’s really the last urban commercial fishery in the country, not many places you can look out a skyscraper and see commercial fishing taking place, so we wanted to maintain a good image in the community.”

By fishing only on weekdays, herring gillnet boats avoided entanglements with recreational sailboats over weekends and spent that time retrieving nets they had lost while fishing.

“The most important aspect is figuring out how to minimize gear loss for whatever fishery you’re looking at, whether it’s gillnets, trawl, drift nets, or traps, and second, when gear is lost, you’ve got to ensure a way to recover it,” Grader says.

For fishers, recovery of just one lost net can mean savings of thousands of dollars.

“Any way we can give fishermen the opportunity to go back and retrieve their fishing gear is good regulation,” Grader notes.

Worldwide, efforts are under way to prevent the loss of fishing gear.

    • Better Nets, Fewer Ghost Nets: Improved fishing gear attachments and designs are limiting unwanted disconnects and snagging incidents.


    • Zoning Laws: Keeping fishing nets out of areas where crab and lobster traps are in place can limit the number of conflicts and entanglements.


    • Curfews on Catching: Restricting the time a net can “soak” or stay in the water without being attached to a boat can limit the chances of losing nets.


    • Biodegradable Trapdoors: Using biodegradable materials in fishing gear can shorten the duration of ghost fishing. In Maine, all lobster traps are required to come equipped with a biodegradable hatch, so if the trap is lost, the hatch will disintegrate and animals won’t get stuck inside.


    • Location, Location, Location: Placing GPS tags on individual nets, as many European fisheries do, is leading to much higher recovery rates of ghost gear.


    • Recovery Compensation: It’s not just conservation; money can be a good incentive too. Fishing boats in Northern California’s Dungeness crab fishery are heading out in the off-season to retrieve the thousands of lost and abandoned traps. The program sponsored by the University of California, Davis, lets the boaters sell the traps back to their original owners—saving crab fishermen money, compensating other local fishermen, and saving marine life from being trapped in ghost gear.


  • Recycling Program: Getting rid of old fishing gear can cost a pretty penny, and that price can deter fishers from properly disposing of nets. For over a decade, South Korea has offered a waste fishing gear buyback program, where fishers receive cash for every 100-liter bag of net they bring back.

Parker believes the tide is changing on ghost fishing.

“People are really starting to recognize that this is a problem,” she says. “Now, these solutions that are being implemented on the local levels need to start coming online as global initiatives.”

Grader agrees, but cautions against painting the fishing industry as rapacious ravagers of the sea.

“It’s like the marine protected areas set up along the West Coast here,” Grader said. “We were in support of the MPAs, but they were implemented wrong. It doesn’t matter the hell area you’re carving out, ocean acidification and warming water temperatures know no boundaries. You’re not going to really save the ocean without stopping pollution and getting aggressive on climate change.”

Back aboard the LegaSea, Lieber is busy hauling in the nets surfaced by the dive team. He’s also musing on how much more good could be done if he could just get the local fishing fleet to have him on speed dial.

“When they lose their nets, I just want them to report it, so I can go get it,” Lieber said. “I don’t want them to be put out of business, I just want them to stop facilitating these senseless deaths.”

The divers make their way back to the vessels’ swim step after cutting and successfully floating a few hundred yards of gill net and squid net wrapped around the African Queen.

But instead of a deckhand, an unexpected guest greets the divers: A sea lion pup has hopped aboard for a quick rest. The pinniped looks young, confused, and scared—shivering and emaciated.

A massive decline in Pacific sardines—one of the sea lion’s primary food sources—has created an epidemic of starving sea lions stranded on California’s shoreline. Just this year, more than 1,450 animals have been admitted to marine mammal rehabilitation centers up and down the coast.  

Lieber calls the local marine mammal center to get tips on what to do with the new crew member.

“So don’t even let her warm up here? She’s shivering,” Lieber asks. But while he’s still on the phone, the pup rolls off the swim step, darting back into the water as the first diver climbs the ladder and onto the boat.

“She’s who we’re trying to keep alive,” Lieber says. “There’s enough for them to worry about without having to deal with invisible nets that kill.”

Mer de plastique, laquelle est la plus polluée?


 DDQ_7037Source: Effets de Terre

Posté le 24 mai 2015 dans la catégorie:A la Une, Histoire de déchets.

En décembre dernier, une étude parue dans PLoS One évaluait les quantités de déchets plastiques dans les océans de la planète. A l’occasion d’un séminaire en Suisse, j’en ai tiré deux graphiques avec mon complice Jean-Marie Lagnel, qui montrent combien il est facile d’orienter la présentation de statistiques.


En décembre et février dernier, deux papiers importants ont paru dans la littérature scientifique, qui tentent de mieux cerner la question du plastique qui flotte dans les océans, le plus souvent sous forme de minuscules particules.

Cette semaine, j’étais en Suisse, à Berne, à l’occasion d’un séminaire sur la visualisation de la science organisé par l’Association des journalistes scientifiques suisses, présidée par Olivier Dessibourg, du Temps. J’y avais été invité avec mon complice Jean-Marie Lagnel, Directeur artistique et fondateur de Studio V2, pour évoquer notre travail commun pour le site internet d’Arte: des infographies et datavisuflisations sur toutes sortes de sujets, de la science dure à la démographie, en passant par l’économie, la pollution etc.

Lors du séminaire, la quarantaine de participants s’est essayée aux travaux pratiques: nous devions créer un poster en 45 minutes à partir des données sur la pollution des océans au plastique publiées en décembre dernier dans PLoS One et en février dans Science.

Cette première représentation est tirée des données du groupe de Markus Eriksen, qui a compilé les observations de 24 expéditions dans les océans de la planète. Il s’agit d’une estimation de la masse de déchets plastiques, océan par océan (Les données plus détaillées montrent qu’environ 70% de cette masse provient de macro-déchets de plus de 20 cm). On constate que le Pacifique Nord, baigné par d’immenses bassins de population comme la Chine et les Etats-Unis, est de loin le premier réservoir à déchets plastiques flottants. En étudiant les données de l’article dans Science du groupe de Jambeck, on observe que —s’il y a un grand désaccord sur les tonnages— ce sont bien des pays comme la Chine qui rejettent le plus de déchets dans les océans.


A la première lecture du tableau de données de Markus Eriksen, avant même de savoir ce que nous aurions à faire comme TP au cours de cet atelier, les données concernant la Méditerranée sautaient aux yeux: quatre fois moins de déchets que le Pacifique Nord seulement, alors que cette mer est un confetti à l’échelle des grands océans. Nous sommes donc tombés d’accord avec Jean-Marie, pour creuser ce sujet.

Pendant que mon acolyte commençait à réfléchir au meilleur moyen de représenter ce type de données, avec une très forte contrainte de temps, j’ai donc fouillé le réseau à la recherche des surfaces des océans. A ma grande surprise, ce n’était pas si facile, car il existe très peu de références au découpage nord-sud des océans Atlantique et Pacifique. Une fois trouvées ces superficies, une simple division conduit à la représentation ci-dessous, qui donne une toute autre image de la situation.


La comparaison des deux « Dataviz » est très spectaculaire et montre combien les choix opérés pour une visualisation de données conduisent à des résultats différents. La première, associée aux données sur les rejets par pays, montre très clairement que ce sont les pays pauvres et émergents qui bordent le Pacifique qui sont à l’origine de ce qu’on décrit à tort comme une mer —parfois même un continent— de plastique. Et la seconde rappelle à quel point la Mer Méditerranée est dans une situation alarmante en matière de pollution au plastique. La lecture des données plus détaillées du papier d’Eriksen le confirme: le poids des plus fines particules (entre 1/3 et 1 mm) représente 6% du total en Méditerranée, contre 2% dans le Pacifique Nord. Si on effectue la comparaison pour l’ensemble des petites particules (entre 1/3 et 5 mm), les plus vicieuses pour la faune aquatique, la différence est encore plus marquée: elles pèsent 29% du total de plastique en Méditerranée, contre 12,5% dans le Nord Pacifique!


Denis Delbecq

Earth wins time as land and seas absorb more carbon

Where does all the carbon go? Only half stays in the atmosphere Image: Ra Boe via Wikimedia Commons

Where does all the carbon go? Only half stays in the atmosphere
 Image: Ra Boe via Wikimedia Commons

Kind of good news but by no means should we slow efforts in the direction of a carbon-free Earth.
Self-protection of the planet (oceans, forests etc) has reached its limits and further violation could destroy Earth as well as mankind. That’s scientific and common knowledge as you, probably, can read here among other sources.


Climate change has intensified more slowly than scientists had expected because the continents and oceans are absorbing more atmospheric carbon dioxide.

LONDON, 17 May, 2015 − Half of all the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels remain in the atmosphere. The good news is that only half remain in the atmosphere, while the rest have been taken up by the living world and then absorbed into the land, and the ocean. That is, as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen, so also has the planet’s capacity to soak up atmospheric carbon.

The implication is that what engineers call “positive feedback” – in which global warming triggers the release of yet more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to accelerate yet further warming – doesn’t seem to be at work yet.

The implication, too, is that the world’s governments still have time to launch determined programmes to sharply reduce fossil fuel use, and switch to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources before climate change disrupts the planet’s food security and exacts what could be a devastating toll on the biosphere.

But most climate scientists know all this anyway: the real significance of a new study in the journal Biogeosciences is that US and British scientists have narrowed some of the uncertainties in what climate scientists like to call the carbon budget: how much gets into the atmosphere, where it goes, and how long it stays.

That is because although the big picture – that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are beginning to rise steeply – has been confirmed repeatedly by systematic measurements since 1956, the potential margin of error has been considerable.

“This increased uptake by land and ocean is not only surprising; it’s good news”

“There is no question that land and oceans have, for at least the last five and half decades, been taking up about half of the carbon emitted each year. The outstanding question is, Why?” said Richard Houghton of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, one of the authors.

“Most of the processes responsible for that uptake would be expected to slow down as the Earth warms, but we haven’t seen it yet. Since the emissions today are three times higher than they were in the 1960s, this increased uptake by land and ocean is not only surprising; it’s good news.

“Without it, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would be twice what it is, and climate change would be much farther along. But there’s no guarantee that it will continue.”

The carbon budget is an integral part of the climate puzzle: all simulations of how climate will change with increasing emissions from fossil fuels depend on an understanding of how much carbon dioxide concentrates in the atmosphere and what happens to it after that.

In the last few months researchers have reported a dramatic uptake of atmospheric carbon by new forests and the growth of woodland on the world’s savannahs and pinpointed the fjords – those steep, still stretches of sea in mountainous coastlines in the high latitudes – as prime “sinks” for atmospheric carbon.

Uncertainties narrowed

At the same time others have once again confirmed fears that thawing permafrost could release vast quantities of carbon stored for millennia is semi-decayed and now frozen vegetation.

But these have been studies of small pieces of the big puzzle. What the Biogeosciences authors did was to refine two global uncertainties. One is how much fossil fuel is burned each year and the other is how much is stacking up in the atmosphere.

Both sound simple, but the first question is complicated by differences in the ways nations maintain their own energy inventories, and the way they report the details, and the second depends on how the use of land has changed, how the oceans are responding to higher levels of acidification and how carbon dioxide levels vary according to region, and to season.

With greater certainty in the answers to the second question – which began with one single set of measurements at the top of a mountain in Hawaii now replicated worldwide – researchers found they could make more sense of the first question, and narrow the uncertainties to a point where they could write that they were “93% confident that terrestrial C uptake has increased and 97% confident that ocean C uptake has increased in the last five decades.

“Thus it is clear that arguably one of the most vital ecosystem services currently provided by the biosphere is the continued removal of approximately half of atmospheric CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.” − Climate News Network»

The Antarctic is Melting – teleSUR Special

Antarctic is melting tele sur

The South Pole holds 90 percent of the world’s fresh water and it is filtering into the ocean. Global warming and the ozone hole are responsible for the loss of ice in the frozen continent.


Source: teleSUR – Wed Specials

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