Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters

Source: The New York Times

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A photo collage of plastic fragments found in the Arctic Ocean by the research team. A study published Wednesday shows a major ocean current is carrying trillions of bits of plastic from the North Atlantic to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there. Credit Andres Cozar

The world’s oceans are littered with trillions of pieces of plastic — bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and more, mostly in tiny particles — and now this seaborne junk is making its way into the Arctic.

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, a group of researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain and several other institutions show that a major ocean current is carrying bits of plastic, mainly from the North Atlantic, to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there — in surface waters, in sea ice and possibly on the ocean floor.

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Receding glacier and climate changes cause immense Canadian river to vanish in four days

Source: The Guardian

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A view of the ice canyon that now carries meltwater from the Kaskawulsh glacier, seen here on the right, away from the Slims river and toward the Kaskawulsh river. Photograph: Dan Shugar/University of Washington Tacoma

An immense river that flowed from one of Canada’s largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world’s geography.

The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of “river piracy”, in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another.

For hundreds of years, the Slims carried meltwater northwards from the vast Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada’s Yukon territory into the Kluane river, then into the Yukon river towards the Bering Sea. But in spring 2016, a period of intense melting of the glacier meant the drainage gradient was tipped in favour of a second river, redirecting the meltwater to the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles from its original destination.

The continental-scale rearrangement was documented by a team of scientists who had been monitoring the incremental retreat of the glacier for years. But on a 2016 fieldwork expedition they were confronted with a landscape that had been radically transformed.

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Deep seabed mining and interplay of conservation and low carbon wnergys

Source: BBC

British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals.

Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of “astonishingly rich” rock.

Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land.

Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed.

The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.

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Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

Source: The Guardian

More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry

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‘Possibly more famous than Australia’: Tourism operators say much of the Great Barrier Reef is still healthy and worth visiting despite bleaching in many areas. Photograph: Daniela Dirscherl/Getty Images/WaterFrame RM

In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, whichdamaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

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Incited Wars Among the Classic Maya- A new study of the relationship between climate change and clashes among the Classic Maya explicitly links temperature increases with growing conflicts

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Does a warming world beget more wars? A new study that investigates the relationship between climate change and clashes among the Classic Maya believes so, drawing an explicit link between temperature increases and growing conflicts. The study, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, examined about 500 years of Maya history, from 363 to 888 AD. This is the so-called Classic period in which the Mesoamerican civilization boomed, with its people constructing extensive cities and massive pyramids, as well as developing one of the earliest writing systems in the Americas. Indeed, the Maya began a tradition of recording historical events on stone monuments.  
 
The researchers cataloged inscriptions on monuments related to violent struggles and compiled temperature and rainfall records for the regions inhabited during the Classic period: the lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, which includes parts of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. A total of 144 unique conflicts emerged from inscriptions on monuments from more than 30 major Maya centers. The research team then compared conflict records to palaeoclimate data, and the correspondence was impressive. The change in conflict levels between 350 and 900 AD was considerable. The number of conflicts increased from 0 to 3 every 25 years in the first two centuries to 24 conflicts every 25 years near the end of the period. They noted the exacerbation of conflicts could not be explained by change in the amount of rainfall. It was instead associated with an increase in summer temperature.
 
Experts think that there are two potential mechanisms by which increases in temperature can lead to greater conflict. One is psychological — when temperatures rise, tempers shorten. Several studies suggest it is possible that increased average summer temperatures made the Classic Maya more bellicose. The other mechanism, is economic, and involves the staple crop for the Classic Maya: maize. Throughout the Classic period, average temperature fluctuated between 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) and 84.2°F (29°C). During periods when the temperature was around 82.4°F (28°C) or less, maize yields were reasonably stable, with little or no food shortage and little conflict. But as temperature continued to rise and the region experienced days at or above 86°F (30°C), crop shortfalls occurred frequently. Large-scale deforestation throughout the Classic period caused by urban expansion worsened the effect, increasing regional temperatures by reducing soil moisture availability. The result was food shortage, which led to spiking levels of conflict. With declining maize yields, a ruler could not have relied on opulent festivals or fed large labor forces needed to build impressive monuments. Consequently, going to war more often would have been an effective tactic to maintain status, prestige, and power. Eventually, the growth in conflict became explosive.
 
The researchers believe the findings have implications for the debate about contemporary climate change. Concern is growing that climate change effects would increase violence within and between human societies.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cautioned that climate change will exacerbate conflict at a range of scales, from inter-personal violence to civil war, while the US Department of Defense has classified climate change as a threat multiplier, suggesting that it could lead to political and social unrest and increased terrorism.  “
 
Further Information
 
Increasing temperature exacerbated Classic Maya conflict over the long term
 
Climate Change Incited Wars Among the Classic Maya

Salmon farming in crisis with rising sea lice, and escalating use of chemicals

Lepeophtheirus salmonis, or the common salmon louse, now infests nearly half of Scotland’s salmon farms. Last year lice killed thousands of tonnes of farmed fish, caused skin lesions and secondary infections in millions more, and cost the Scottish industry alone around £300m in trying to control them. Scotland has some of the worst lice infestations in the world, and last year saw production fall for the first time in years. But in the past few weeks it has become clear that the lice problem is growing worldwide and is far more resistant than the industry thought. Norway produced 60,000 tonnes less than expected last yearbecause of lice, and Canada and a dozen other countries were all hit badly. Together, it is estimated that companies across the world must spend more than £1bn a year on trying to eradicate lice, and the viruses and diseases they bring. As a result of the lice infestations, the global price of salmon has soared, and world production fallen. Earlier this year freedom of information [FoI] requests of the Scottish government showed that 45 lochs had been badly polluted by the antibiotics and pesticides used to control lice – and that more and more toxic chemicals were being used.

“Sea lice are a natural phenomenon,” says Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish salmon producers association. “All livestock on farms, terrestrial or marine, are encountering some kind of parasite or tick, and they’re dealt with. And that’s part of livestock farming. We are no different to terrestrial farms. Problems come and go, depending on biology and the environment. The louse is a hardy parasite. It’s a challenge for Chile and Norway, too. We are spending a lot on all sorts of things.”The salmon-farming industry, which has grown at breakneck speed since the 1970s, knows it has a huge problem, but insists it sees the lice as unwelcome guests that will soon be evicted rather than permanent residents. Rather than dwell on the lice, industry leaders point to the fact that in just 40 years, aquaculture has gone from providing 5% of the world’s fish to nearly 50%, and in Scotland, from a few hundred tonnes of salmon a year to more than 177,000 tonnes in 2015. They argue that new methods to control infestations are being developed and the chemicals being used are safe and degrade quickly, adding that they expect to have found a solution within a few years.
The global companies that dominate ownership of the farms, buoyed by high prices and growing worldwide demand, are confident that they will find solutions. Marine Harvest, the giant Norwegian multinational that grows 40,000 tonnes of salmon in its many Scottish farms, said this week that it needs to develop more effective ways to combat lice. The use of the toxic drug emamectin rising fast, but also that the industry had persuaded the Scottish environmental protection agency to withdraw a ban planned for next year. Other papers showed that the levels of chemicals used to kill sea lice have breached environmental safety limits more than 100 times in the last 10 years. The chemicals have been discharged into the waters by 70 fish farms run by seven companies.
FoI documents  show that the Scottish industry wants to “innovate” by building the world’s biggest salmon farm, which would triple the size of the largest now in operation. It could farm 2m fish at a time, and create as much waste as a city the size of Glasgow. The anwwer to the inevitable lice problems, say environmentalists, is to move the farms further offshore into deeper, colder waters, where lice are less able to survive, or to even put them on land, where they could be better controlled. But this would add greatly to industry costs and require investments of billions of pounds. In the meantime, the companies are using mechanical ways to trim the lice from the fish. These range from pumping the fish through water hot enough to make the lice let go of their hosts, to churning them as if in a washing machine. Both are condemned by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, and are known to be expensive and not always effective. Last year the heating of the water on a Skye fish farm led to the accidental slaughter of 95,000 fish. Another 20,000 died in another incident.

Further information:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/01/is-farming-salmon-bad-for-the-environment?CMP=share_btn_link

10th International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, results and EUCC presence

chatham_house_-_geograph-org-uk_-_783965Over 170 delegates attended the 10th International Forum on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing which took place on the 16 and 17 March. Diverse perspectives and ideas were offered in all sessions; themes included the ‘next steps’ for the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, IUU fishing on the high seas, small-scale fisheries and developing nations, the role of industry and the private sector, technology and big data and the nexus of IUU fishing, geopolitics and resource security.

PowerPoint presentations can now be accessed through the online agenda and a summary of the discussions will be released in the coming weeks.

We would like to reiterate our sincere thanks to the expert speakers and chairs in each of the sessions, and in particular to the forum’s keynote speaker, H.E. Said Jama Mohamed, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Somalia.

EUCC Participation

11:45 – 13:15 | March 16, 2017

Session 2 | ‘Tragedy of the Commons’: Regulating the High Seas How can the gap between international conventions and practical implementation and enforcement on the high seas be bridged? A discussion on the implications of IUU fishing on the Arctic sea will follow the formal presentations, raising important questions around fisheries management and high seas governance predominantly through the lens of the Central Arctic Ocean, which may be navigable as early as the first half of this century.

– Are current international conventions and instruments effectively mitigating IUU fishing on the high seas?

– How can we address the intersection of IUU fishing and sustainability in international laws on the high seas? ·

– Does the establishment of the Ross Sea MPA, the largest MPA to date, present a model for future progress in governing the high seas?

Chair and Speaker: Magdalena A.K. Muir

Research Associate, Arctic Institute of North America, Universities of Calgary and Alaska Fairbanks & Advisory  Board Member, Climate and Global Change, Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC)

Presentation:  Arctic Issues Scan, and Two Future Scenarios for the Arctic Ocean, Including: Implications for Climate Change, Arctic High Seas Regulation and IUU Fishing  with pdf found here or at

https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/Magdalena%20Muir_0.pdf

Speaker: Stuart Cory ,  Special Agent,  National Program Manager, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement 

Presentation: Challenges with global enforcement operations
https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/Stuart%20Cory.pdf

 

Speaker: Michele Ameri,  Legal Officer, UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea
Presentation: The international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the marine living resources of the high seas  

https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/Michele%20Ameri.pdf

Speaker: Jane Rumble, Head of Polar Regions Department, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Presentation: Regulating Fisheries – from the bottom to the top….

https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/Jane%20Rumble.pdf 

 

Further Information:

Event website  https://www.chathamhouse.org/event/10th-international-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing-forum

Agenda with links to presentations:  https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/events/special/IUU%20Forum%20Agenda%20Presentations.pdf?utm_source=Chatham%20House&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8141891_10th%20IUU%20Fishing%20Forum%20-%20Presentations%20%26%20Thank%20You&dm_i=1S3M,4UIBN,O7RQ38,IBBND,1

 

EUCC Presentation:  Arctic Issues Scan, and Two Future Scenarios for the Arctic Ocean, Including: Implications for Climate Change, Arctic High Seas Regulation and IUU Fishing found here or  https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/Magdalena%20Muir_0.pdf