Monthly Archives: December 2009

Eel slips off the shelves to save it from extinction


AMSTERDAM: Smoked eel on toast looks set to become an even rarer treat at Dutch parties, as the main supermarket group in the Netherlands plans to stop selling the endangered fish from 2010.

Following moves by smaller competitors, Albert Heijn said it would phase out all eel products on its shelves next year, and would introduce a different fish sort as a more sustainable alternative to the popular national delicacy. The chain has more than a 30 percent share of the Dutch market, far outstripping rivals.

The move will come as a blow to Dutch fisheries, which have also been hit by a partial ban on eel fishing introduced this year, aimed at stemming a 95 percent slide in the European eel population in the past four decades.

The European eel is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The Dutch arm of environmental group WWF has compared eating an eel roll to consuming a panda sandwich.

The long snake-like slippery fish is a popular treat at Dutch parties and fairs, most commonly smoked.

It also holds a place in Dutch history. In the 19th century, people died in the “eel uprising” that followed a ban on the sport of “eel pulling”, which involved stringing a rope across a canal and hanging an eel for people on boats to try to grab. – Reuters

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Europe’s flora becoming more homogeneous


Washington, December 13 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have determined that due to more plant introductions than extinctions, plant communities of many European regions are becoming more homogeneous, and thereby losing the ability to react to environmental changes. According to the findings, the same species are occurring more frequently, whereas rare species are becoming extinct. It is not only the biological communities that are becoming increasingly similar, but also the phylogenetic relations between regions. These processes have led to a loss of uniqueness among European floras.For their research, the scientists analysed the data of flora native to Europe (Flora Europaea), extinct plant species (national red lists) and alien plant species from the DAISIE database. The researchers also took into account those European plants that are native to a particular region of Europe but considered as introduced species in another. It works in a similar way for the species considered to be “extinct”. While in the whole of Europe only 2 plant species can “really” be considered as extinct, approx. 500 species have become locally extinct. One such example is the Blue Woodruff, a weed that grows on cultivated land, which has been greatly displaced particularly from the intensification of agricultural practices. This species is considered to be locally extinct in Germany and Austria for example, whereas it still occurs in Italy and Spain.The researchers were able to demonstrate, that biodiversity is increasing in all regions of Europe due to high numbers of alien species. But at the same time, the plant communities of the regions are becoming increasingly more homogenous because alien species are distributed relatively consistently over the continent. If one finds many very similar looking trees, then one assumes that the flexibility of the communities is no longer as high to be able to react positively to these changes. According to the researchers, biological depletion from loss of species and introduced species is a consequence of global change associated with increasing pressure on the environment.”Our studies have shown that in spite of an increase in regional species richness due to species introductions exceeding the local extinctions of plant species in European regions, these are increasingly losing both their phylogenetic and taxonomic uniqueness,” said Dr. Marten Winter from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). (ANI)

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Hong Kong shark fin traders criticise US report


HONG KONG — Hong Kong shark fin merchants on Wednesday reacted angrily to a US study that said meat from endangered species was being sold in the city’s markets to make a popular soup.

In the new study for the journal Endangered Species Research, US scientists said they had used DNA testing to trace the geographic origin of shark fins on sale in Hong Kong. They found 21 percent of the fins came from endangered scalloped hammerhead shark stocks in the western Atlantic.

But the Hong Kong Shark Fin Trade Merchant’s Association said its members had not done anything illegal.

“The study is exaggerated,” a spokesman for the association told AFP.

“We are not doing anything against the law. The sale of endangered scalloped hammerhead shark fins has not been made illegal here.”

The scientists are calling for the March 2010 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to draw up trade regulations to protect hammerhead and other shark populations not covered by the pact.

One kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of scalloped hammerhead shark fin can sell for 120 US dollars or more in the city, according to the researchers.

Shark fins are used to make a soup that is considered a rare delicacy and a must-have at many Hong Kong wedding banquets.

Mak Ching-po, chairman of the Hong Kong Dried Seafood and Grocery Merchants Association, also criticised the study.

“Shark populations will grow exponentially if we don’t keep fishing them,” Mak told Hong Kong daily The Standard.

“As a result, humans will be in short supply of smaller fish such as garoupa, as sharks will eat them.”

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would abide by any new regulations adopted after the CITES meeting next year.

“Hong Kong is committed to the protection of endangered species, and will closely follow the international control as required by CITES on the trade in endangered species,” it said in a statement.

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Scientist: Extinction threatens Coral Reefs unless CO2 limited to 350ppm


COPENHAGEN. Dec 9, 2009. Extinction of Coral reefs and 10-20% of marine species is likely if greehouse gases aren’t brought down to 350ppm, warned Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland. He gave a presentation at the US Pavilion at the COP15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen about the threat of climate change to the world’s coral reefs. Over 500 million people living in approximately 90 nations are dependant in some way on coral reefs.


Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was a contributing author to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007, which shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

“Carbon and coral reef ecosystems are not sustainable at temperatures that increase up to 2 degrees above the pre-industrial or concentrations of CO2 above 450ppm.”

“Eliminating these habitats will inevitably lead to about 10 to 20% of marine biodiversity going extinct. Thats all those organisms that are highly dependant on coral reefs. And losing coral reefs will have enormous issues for 500 million people living in approximately 90 nations.”

“In the longer term we will have exacerbation of the problems of storm damage and sea level rise if we lose the coastal protection service that coral reefs provide.”

“So one of the most difficult things for scientists to do in a policy environment that finds it difficult to deal with emissions is to tell the truth. Now the truth is that coral reefs don’t do well above about 350ppm CO2.”

“So any pathway in terms of policy has to bring CO2 down below 350ppm. Otherwise we are not going to have coral reefs. And on that pathway we must minimise the amount of time where we get close to 450ppm and these thresholds that are looming. This means some dramatic reductions in emissions. If we don’t make that decision, there is a lot of peoples livelihoods hanging in the balance.”

Marine scientists have been at the forefront of calling for strong and rapid action on Climate Change with Australian scientists releasing a Marine Report Card in November 2009.

In January 2009 150 Marine Scientists from around the world issued the Monaco declaration warning that “Ocean acidification could affect marine food webs and lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening protein supply and food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing industry.”

“The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable.” said James Orr of the Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL-IAEA) and chairman of the symposium. “The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen.”

The Declaration urged Governments to “prevent severe damages from ocean acidification by developing ambitious, urgent plans to cut emissions drastically”, as well as for Governments to improve communications with scientists and between scientists and economists.

Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville claimed in January 2009 that coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef reached a tipping point in 1990 with coral growth having slowed by more than 14 percent since then.

Reef corals create their hard skeletons from dissolved materials in seawater. As human induced climate change has injected growing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the worlds oceans have absorbed carbon dioxide making them more acidic which effectively reduces the ability of marine organisms to form skeletons. This will effect the whole food chain in the ocean.

Dr Glenn De’ath said that the severe and sudden decline in calcification was an unprecedented occurrence in the last 400 years. “The causes of this sharp decline remain unknown, but our study suggests that the combination of increasing temperature stress and ocean acidification may be diminishing the ability of GBR corals to deposit calcium carbonate,” he said.

In 2007 fifty Australian marine scientists issued a strong warning in a Consensus declaration on Coral Reef Futures calling for immediate and substantive reduction targets in human produced greenhouse emissions.


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Killer Fungus Threatening Amphibians


ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2009) — Amphibians like frogs and toads have existed for 360 million years and survived when the dinosaurs didn’t, but a new aquatic fungus is threatening to make many of them extinct, according to an article in the November issue of Microbiology Today.

The fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd),was found to be associated with waves of amphibian extinctions in Central America and north-eastern Australia in the 1990’s. Bd infects over 350 amphibian species by penetrating their skin, but little else is known about where it came from and how it causes disease.

The earliest published record of Bd is from a specimen of an African clawed frog in 1938 from South Africa. Around this time there was a huge trade in clawed frogs when they were used in one of the earliest human pregnancy tests. The global exportation of the clawed frog is likely to have spread Bd around the world. The infection is spread by fungal spores released into the water supply from imported infected animals.

Researchers are trying different approaches to treat existing Bd infection. Some are treating tadpoles with antifungal drugs, whilst more innovative approaches involve introducing ‘probiotic’ bacteria that naturally secrete antifungal compounds which kill Bd on amphibians’ skin. To help limit the spread of infection, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) now recommends screening imported amphibians for presence of Bd.

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