Gulf of Mexico Fishery Shut Down for Sea Turtles

loggerheadseaturtle_noaaResponding to an April suit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, last week the National Marine Fisheries Service ordered a six-month emergency closure of the Gulf of Mexico’s bottom longline fishery to halt sea-turtle slaughter. When sea turtles get tangled among the hundreds (or even thousands) of baited hooks used by longline fishing vessels, they sustain life-threatening injuries. If they don’t drown while caught in the hooks, turtles are often unable to snap out of the extreme psychological stress of capture and die immediately after release. According to the Service’s data, fishery vessels in the Gulf caught nearly 1,000 sea turtles — including about 800 federally protected loggerheads — between July 2006 and December 2008, nearly eight times the number the agency itself deemed permissible. Now the fishery will be closed for 180 days, starting on May 16, to allow for a new evaluation of the fishery’s impacts and ensure it’s not likely to jeopardize the existence of sea turtle species.

“This temporary closure gives sea turtles a much-needed reprieve and gives the agency time to make scientifically sound decisions regarding the long-term operation of the fishery,” said Center attorney Andrea Treece. “More sea turtles will now have a chance to make it back to their nesting beaches — and even just look for food — without getting caught up in longlines.”

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Daily Mail – Tuna will be wiped out by 2012 unless overfishing is stopped, environmental groups have warned. If current quotas are maintained, the breeding population of Atlantic bluefin tuna will have disappeared in three years, it is claimed. The population can only be saved by a complete halt to fishing in May and June, when the fish swim to the Mediterranean to spawn, the World Wildlife Fund says.

World Wildlife Fund – The population of tunas that are capable of reproducing – fish aged 4 years or over and weighing more than 35kg – is being wiped out. In 2007 the proportion of breeding tuna was only a quarter of the levels of 50 years ago, with most of the decline happening in recent years.

Meanwhile, the size of mature tunas has more than halved since the 1990s. The average size of tuna caught off the coast of Libya, for example, has dropped from 124kg in 2001 to only 65kg last year. Data gathered by WWF show that this pattern has been observed across the entire Mediterranean.

Before the age of large-scale industrial fishing, individual tunas could even weigh in at 900kg. The loss of these giant tunas – able to produce many more offspring than medium-sized individuals – has a disproportionately high impact on the reproduction of the species.

The huge overcapacity of fishing fleets, catches that far exceed legal quotas, pirate fishing, the use of illegal spotting planes to chase the tunas, under-reporting of catch, fishing during the closed season, management measures disregarding scientific advice – and the insatiable appetite of the world’s luxury seafood market – have all contributed to this dramatic decline.

WWF is calling for the immediate closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery to give the species a chance to recover, while continuing to encourage consumers, retailers, restaurants and chefs to join the global movement to avoid the consumption of the imperilled fish.

Climate News of the Week: USDA Revises Plant Hardiness Map


The United States Department of Agriculture is responding to climate change by updating the Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the first time in 20 years. The map shows where various types of plant species can thrive, and as warmer annual temperatures move northward, the more than 80 million U.S. gardeners and farmers will be looking to the map to see what new plants may be able to grow in their area. The Plant Hardiness Zone Map is typically used for domesticated plants, but this graphic display also sheds light on how native plant species are shifting due to climate change. The updated map is due out later this year.

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Meet my cousin from Mars: Why ET’s genetic code could be just like ours

The physics arXiv blog, April 6, 2009

Ten of life’s 20 amino acids must be common throughout the cosmos, based on a thermodynamic analysis of the likelihood of them forming.

This turns out to match the observed abundances in meteorites and in early Earth simulations.

The combined actions of thermodynamics and the subsequent natural selection suggest that the genetic code we observe on the Earth today may have significant features in common with life throughout the cosmos, according to two McMasters  Scientists.   Today, Paul Higgs and Ralph Pudritz at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, put forward an answer which has profound implications for the nature of life on other planets.

We know that amino acids are common in our solar system and beyond. Various first experiments to recreate the conditions in the Earth’s early atmosphere have produced 10 of the amino acids found in proteins. Curiously, analyses of meteorite samples have found exactly these same 10 amino acids. Various researchers have noted this link but none have explained it.

Now we know why, say Higgs and Pudritz. They have ranked the amino acids found in proteins according to the thermodynamic likelihood of them forming. This turns out to match the observed abundances in meteorites and in early Earth simulations, more or less exactly.

Researchers: Even “Organically Raised” Cows Are a “Climate Bomb” by Stephanie Ernst Published February 25, 2009 @ 07:42AM PST

Researchers: Even “Organically Raised” Cows Are a “Climate Bomb”

Published February 25, 2009 @ 07:42AM PST

OK, I wish the title of “The Cow Is a Climate Bomb” had been worded differently. Cattle themselves are not at fault here. Animal agriculture and humans are, for forcing into existence so very, very many of them, just so that we can then kill, eat, and wear them. But still, this study and article are saying what most people have been refusing to acknowledge: “Whether cattle are reared organically or with conventional farming methods, the end effect is bad for the environment, according to a new German consumer report.”

-Read on after the jump for more on this important, first-of-its kind study-