Monthly Archives: December 2007

Study: One-quarter of U.S. bird species at risk

USA Today

 

Almost all of Hawaii’s non-migratory native birds are on a new watch list of the USA’s most imperiled bird species.

The list, released Wednesday by the National Audubon Society and American Bird Conservancy, includes about one-quarter of the more than 700 species that breed in the USA.

The groups cited an array of human activities — habitat loss from urban sprawl and energy development, introduction and invasion of foreign animals and disease, and global warming — as key causes of declining numbers for 217 kinds of threatened and endangered birds.

Ninety-eight species are regarded at “imminent risk of extinction,” Audubon president John Flicker says. “The clock is ticking. Many will not survive unless we act to save them.”

The birds’ home territories range from tropical forests in Florida to eastern woodlands to the sagebrush deserts of the interior West. The most alarming location, however, is Hawaii. Thirty-nine of the 41 native species that live and breed only on the islands are on the list.

“Hawaii is way out there, so it’s out of sight and therefore out of mind in the continental U.S.,” says George Fenwick, head of the conservancy.

Fenwick’s group has petitioned the federal government to put two of those birds on the endangered species list, which would give them more protection. Six others are seldom-seen and may already be gone, conservancy vice president Mike Parr says.

“They are so fascinating and so little-known, we don’t even know if some of them are extinct, and yet (Hawaii) is one of the United States,” Parr says. “You expect that in the wilds of New Guinea or the Amazon Basin, but not in America.”

Those species may still live in remote parts of the islands. Parr says digital recorders are being tested there to try to detect the birds’ songs. He compares them to the ivory-billed woodpecker, a southern species long believed extinct until scientists spotted it in Arkansas in 2004.

Co-author Greg Butcher of Audubon says the bird groups combined their efforts to create a standard list and to build better support and funding.

“People and birds share a need for clean water, for clean air and for a natural habitat,” Butcher says. “As we see bird populations that are out of kilter, there’s a sense the entire environment is out of kilter.”

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Filed under america, biodiversity, birds, endangered, extinction, hawaii, migration, pacific

New fish quota to protect plaice and sole

For years European Union fishermen have seen a reduction in their fishing quotas. This is meant to keep the maritime species from dying out. Recently the situation has seen a slight improvement and the numbers of some species in European waters are stabilising. On Wednesday, the EU’s Executive Committee announced its recommended quotas for next year. The quotas will again be lowered and fewer fish will be caught than in previous years. The European fishing quotas are determined on the basis of advice given by various experts, including Dutch biologists, and the IMARES research institute which specialises in marine ecology research.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Two biologists are on their hands and knees on the deck of a ship sailing the Wadden Sea. They are searching for fish such as plaice, sole, whiting, crabs and shrimp – sometimes they even find a jellyfish. The boats fish at different spots during the day. According to Marcel de Vries of IMARES:

“Each year we fish at 130 fixed locations. We return every year and we compare what we find and what we caught in previous years.”

At every spot an enormous fishing net splashes into the sea, where it remains for 15 minutes. Sometimes the net is full of junk; other times it is teeming with fish.

Plaice and sole
Plaice and sole are the most important species in the Dutch fishing trade, which is why the study placed special emphasis on the two flatfish. Biologist Loes Bolle says the fishing expeditions are only a minor part of the extensive research which determines European Union advisory policies.

“We count fish in all Dutch waters, but the same happens in Germany, Belgium, England and Denmark. We also estimate how many fish are caught by fishermen. We combine the statistics in an attempt to determine how many fish can be caught without threatening the species’ survival.”

After the fish are counted on the Wadden Sea, each one is measured to determine the proportion of smaller and younger fish, or young and old.

Thankless task
In the course of the day the scientists spend many hours on their knees, counting and measuring hundreds of plaice and sole. But the work seems thankless, since the politicians will probably ignore their advice. Biologist Loes Bolle says they are more concerned about protecting the economic interests of the fishing industry, which means they’ll often allow an increase in the quotas.

“We give biologically responsible advice, in other words, we do our best to recommend how fish can be caught in a sustainable manner. We are attempting to help fishermen keep the population at a viable level so that the species can survive. The best course of action would be to ban fishing for the time being, but that is not realistic. We do our best to ensure that enough fish will survive so that the species do not become extinct. This will also guarantee that fishing does not become extinct.”

Biologists are recommending a reduction in the quota for plaice and sole in 2008. It’s now the politicians’ turn, beginning with the European Commission.

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North West fire threat to wildlife

Perth Now – Narelle Towie

FIRES are pushing native mammals to the brink of extinction in WA’s North-West, according to the WA Department of Environment and Conservation.

The number of smaller animals, such as bandicoots, wallabies and possums, has drastically dropped over the past 15 years and experts warn they will be wiped out if action isn’t taken.

“Fires are increasing in the middle of the dry season and they have become very intense and large-scale,” said the department’s Kimberley region fire ecologist Ian Radford.

“In some areas in the north of Australia small and medium animal numbers have gone down to such low levels that some species are considered to be locally extinct.”

The decline has stemmed from a change in landscape management, ecologists say.

“The Aboriginal people were managing the country much more. They were on the ground burning small patches and because they had more small fires the big fires didn’t happen,” Dr Radford said.

In the past, patch burning used by Aborigines to attract kangaroos — because burnt areas sprout fresh grass — created a mosaic of burnt and overgrown country. It was a habitat perfect for smaller animals, which also keep fires naturally contained.

When settlers arrived 150 years ago, not only did they add arson and accidental fire to a delicate ecosystem, they also shifted the Aborigines from the land, changing the landscape.

Over time the mosaic has been replaced by broad plains of long grass areas, perfect for fuelling large fires.

“Over the last 15 years, it’s been like watching a car crash,” the University of Tasmania’s forest and ecology professor, David Bowman, said.

“Small animals have suffered massive decline. The north used to be a premier site for mammal diversity, one of the places where there has been very little extinction.”

Though Australia has one of the world’s highest extinction rates, the north Kimberley and Northern Territory are the only places where there have been no known extinctions since European settlement.

This is now likely to change.

A report in Austral Ecology showed that of all the animals caught for research in northern Australia, small mammals had dwindled from 30 per cent in 1986 to 1 per cent in 1999.

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WWF: Bigeye Tuna Overfished And In Danger Of Extinction

AHF

John Concepcion – AHN News Writer

Cambridge, United Kingdom (AHN) – Wildlife protection group WWF on Thursday said the bigeye tuna is on the brink of extinction because of excessive fishing.

The bigeye tuna, which is used to make sashimi and sushi, is one of the most common types of tuna popular in Japan, a country that consumes a quarter of the world’s supply of the fish.

A WWF statement read, “Bigeye tuna are under threat because authorities are failing to recognize the dire extent of overfishing.”

The group said in order to arrest the chilling trend, authorities in tuna-fishing countries should set a limit on the catch and set programs to restore the population of the bigeye tuna.

TRAFFIC, a monitoring group of the WWF and the IUCN-The World Conservation Union, said catching young or juvenile bigeye tuna reduces the availability of adults and compromises the stock because nothing will be breeding new young.

Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Program head, said “Instead they end up being worth a few cents in a can, and tuna stocks are on the verge of collapse. The biological and economic future of the bigeye tuna fishery is at serious risk.”

 

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Christmas Island crab colony faces extinction

 News.com.au

CHRISTMAS Island’s world-famous red crabs are facing extinction, along with many other unique species, according to an authority on the island’s environment.

Dr Laurie Corbett said billions of tiny ants that could kill a crab in two hours had halved the crab population over the past 10 to 15 years and could, within a few years, threaten the species with extinction.

Wildlife-watchers and documentary makers from around the world are due on Christmas Island shortly to observe the annual migration of the crabs to the ocean from the island’s rainforests.

Dr Corbett said the catastrophic decline in crab numbers on the island, from an estimated 120,000 in the 1990s to 50,000-60,000 today, was caused by the spread of yellow crazy ants, an introduced species that most probably arrived on the island decades ago on imported timber products.

“Crazy ants spray formic acid when the crabs disturb them. This acid initially blinds the crabs, then within a couple of hours they will begin foaming at the mouth and then die within 48 hours,” he said.

“The ants then eat the dead crab.”

Dr Corbett said that if crab numbers fell below 40,000, the colony could become unviable and face extinction.

Christmas Island is the only place in the world where the crabs are found.

Aerial and ground baiting programs carried out by the National Parks Authority since 2002 have failed to stop a population explosion of ants, which Dr Corbett said had formed super colonies.

“Super colonies have ant populations of more than 1000 ants a square metre,” he said.

“Once the ants reach these sorts of densities, they are almost impossible to eradicate.

“The problem with poisoning the ants is that it not only kills the ants, it does unknown harm to other species and, so far, it hasn’t stopped the spread and growth of the ant colonies.”

Dr Corbett said many other unique native animals, including the Christmas Island frigatebird and Abbot’s booby bird, were also threatened with extinction from competition and by falling prey to more than 20 introduced species. These ranged from feral cats and chickens to giant African snails.

Dwindling numbers of native species could also dash hopes of an eco-tourism industry for the island after the inevitable closure of its only industry, phosphate mining.

Christmas Island Phosphate, which operates the mine, is locked in a legal battle with the Federal Government over an application to extend its mining lease and the life of the mine.

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Endangered seals shot in Australia

Associated Press

SYDNEY (AFP) — Rare and protected Australian fur seals have been killed in an apparent shooting spree in Australia’s island state of Tasmania, conservation officials said Wednesday.

At least nine seals had been found dead along the island’s east coast, conservation official Andrew Irvine told Australian Associated Press.

Three had been confirmed shot, he said.

“When we visited the sites we found nine dead seals and the body positions indicated an unnatural cause of death,” Irvine said.

“There was also a considerable amount of blood around each of the dead animals indicating their death was the result of a sudden major injury.”

He said the areas had been set aside for wildlife conservation, adding: “It appears that a person has gone to these islands specifically to shoot some of the wildlife there.”

The Australian fur seal is one of the world’s rarest and its numbers are recovering slowly after it was hunted to the brink of extinction.

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Japanese Golden Eagle: Critically Endangered

 Japanprobe

The Asahi Shinbun reports that the Japanese Golden Eagle is in trouble:

The outlook is grim for Japanese golden eagles, designated a national natural treasure. Breeding rates have plunged in the Tohoku region, home to the endangered bird of prey, according to researchers.

Loss of habitat and hunting grounds is to blame.

Raptor researchers in the volunteer Mokin-rui Chosakai group said that only 10 young inuwashi eagles left the nest among 61 breeding pairs surveyed in 2006 in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region.

Either eggs were not laid, or if laid, did not hatch. Many of those that hatched soon died, the researchers said.

In Iwate Prefecture, only two young eagles grew to adulthood and set out on their own, among 32 adult breeding pairs this year, researchers said.

[…]

The Japanese golden eagle is on Japan’s Red List as a critically endangered species–one step away from becoming extinct in the wild. The Red List was revised by the Environment Ministry in December 2006.

The majestic bird is one of the largest raptor species in Japan, with a wingspan of about 2 meters. It is protected under the Law for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Only about 500 to 650 golden eagles survive in mountainous areas across the nation, from Hokkaido to Kyushu.

For more information on the Japanese Golden Eagle, check out this article from the Japanese Society for Preservation of Birds. You can also download, print out, and create a folded paper craft eagle from this site.

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