Monthly Archives: April 2011

Nepal deforestation highlights clashing interests

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New research finds mangroves key to climate change


New research shows that mangroves store exceptionally more carbon than most tropical forests, but they are being destroyed from coastlines at a rapid rate causing significant emissions of greenhouse gases.

The findings from the study, which was carried out by scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the USDA Forest Service, underscore a call by scientists for mangroves to be protected as part of global efforts to combat climate change.

“Mangroves are being destroyed at an alarming rate. This needs to stop. Our research shows that mangroves play a key role in climate change mitigation strategies,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, Senior Scientist at CIFOR, a co-author of the paper, entitled Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the topics.

In the study, which was published on April 3 in Nature Geoscience, scientists quantified carbon storage in mangroves across a large tract of the Indo-pacific region. No studies to date have integrated the necessary measurements for total mangrove carbon storage across broad geographic domains.

From the results, the scientists estimated that the destruction and degradation of mangrove forests may be generating as much as 10% of all the global deforestation emissions despite accounting for just 0.7% of tropical forest area. Much of that carbon is stored in the ground below the mangroves forests that can be seen above the ground and water.

Deforestation and land-use change currently account for 8% to 20% of all global carbon emissions, second only to the use of fossil fuels. An international initiative known as REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) is considered one of the most cost-effective ways to slow the rate of climate change.

Mangroves occur along the coasts of most major oceans in some 118 countries. A 30% to 50% decline in mangroves over the past half-century has raised fears that they may disappear altogether in as little as 100 years.

Rapid 21st century sea level rise has also been cited as a primary threat to mangroves, which have responded to past more gradual sea-level changes by migrating landward or upward. Under current climate trends, sea level is projected to rise 18-79 centimeters this century – and even higher if ice-sheet melting continues accelerating.

Mangroves are also being threatened by increasing pressures from urban and industrial developments, as well as fish farms.

“There is a lack of awareness of the full implications of mangrove loss for humankind,” Murdiyarso said. “There is an urgent need for governments to acknowledge their importance and develop better policies to ensure their protection.”

Mangroves are not only key to climate change mitigation efforts, they also play important roles in adapting to the changing climate. They protect coastlines from storm surges and fluctuations in sea levels, including from tsunamis.

Source : Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

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More than 22,000 Pledge Support for Saving Imperiled Bluefin Tuna

For Immediate Release, April 8, 2011

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

More than 22,000 Pledge Support for Saving Imperiled Bluefin Tuna

Supporters’ Signatures Presented to Obama Administration Ahead of
Decision on Endangered Species Act Protection for Rare Fish

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today delivered to the Obama administration the names of more than 22,000 people from 104 countries who have pledged to boycott bluefin tuna as part of a larger campaign to save this imperiled fish from extinction. The signatures were submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is poised to decide next month on a petition from the Center to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. If approved, the listing could prohibit the trade and sale of bluefin tuna in the United States as early as May 2012.

“Saving bluefin tuna from extinction will require cutting consumer demand for this high-priced sushi item and implementing real protections that will finally put a halt to overfishing,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center staff attorney.

Bluefin boycottThe Center launched the bluefin boycott Nov. 30, 2010, after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas refused to act to protect the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has dropped by about 80 percent since 1970.

Since then, more than 22,000 people have signed on to the boycott. Dozens of the signers are chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants — including prominent chefs like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Dan Barber of Blue Hill in Manhattan — who have pledged not to serve bluefin in their restaurants.

“Dollars spent on bluefin tuna support unsustainable and often illegal fishing around the world,” Kilduff said. “In 2010, the United States imported $11.6 million worth of Atlantic bluefin tuna, with almost half of that amount going directly to Spain, a fishing power that frustrates international efforts to secure meaningful bluefin tuna protections. Because these imported bluefin tuna cross the Atlantic Ocean, buying bluefin is paying other countries to take them out of our waters. Rebuilding the bluefin tuna population and restoring our oceans requires breaking this consumer-driven cycle.”

Some Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico from March through June. Now, a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed an estimated 20 percent of juvenile bluefin tuna, the bluefin tuna are returning to the Gulf of Mexico even while the government continues to permit drilling without fully understanding either the cause or the ecological effects of the spill.

Southern bluefin tuna, fished around Australia, are critically endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Meanwhile, the overfishing of baby Pacific bluefin tuna risks the population’s sudden and irreversible collapse; 70 percent of these fish are caught before they are a year old and more than 90 percent before they are two years old.

Bluefin tuna are oceangoing fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 1,200 pounds. Unlike almost all other fish, they are warm-blooded and able to regulate their body temperature, which helps during their epic transatlantic journeys. Top ocean predators, they sometimes hunt cooperatively, much like wolves. With streamlined bodies and retractable fins, they can bolt through water at speeds of 50 miles per hour, crossing oceans in weeks.

Bluefin, which remain a staple in some sushi restaurants, have been declining for decades due to overfishing. A record-breaking $396,000 bluefin tuna was sold at auction in January 2011.

Please visit to sign the pledge, and share the Facebook page (

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African penguin edging closer to extinction


The birds are a top attraction in Simon’s Town, a naval village in Cape Town where motorists yield to the seabirds, but their numbers are dwindling, a worrying factor that also points to wider threats to the world’s oceans.

“The African Penguins have been decreasing, by 60 percent now, since 2004, so that’s why we are all very worried,” said Lorien Pichegru of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

“There’s 26,000 pairs left and that’s the lowest number ever recorded. At the beginning of the 20th century we had more than 2 million birds.”

Scientists call penguins an indicator species: one that is easy to monitor and can also point to unseen and wider problems in the ocean.

Africa’s nesting penguins were reclassified as endangered last year after their numbers were nearly wiped out, likely as a result of competition for food from commercial fisheries and shifting fish stocks.

The flightless birds, known for their “tuxedo” plumage and their comical walks, mainly eat anchovies and sardines and only breed in southern Namibia and South Africa.

But changing fish patterns have forced them to travel farther to find food and even establish new nesting areas such as at Simons Town’s Boulders Beach, where a pair arrived in the 1980s, and returning to Robben Island, famous for the prison that held Nelson Mandela.

“Food is one of the biggest threats, if not the biggest threat,” said Rob Crawford of South Africa’s department of environmental affairs, pointing to a 600-km shift in the migration path of sardines.

“Penguins cannot swim that far to feed their chicks and then at the end of breeding they’ve got to fatten up to moult as well,” he said.

Birdlife International has warned that the African Penguin, one of the world’s 18 penguin species, is edging closer to extinction.

To halt the slide, it has called for research into the effects of climate change and possible no-fishing zones around island colonies.

A 20-km trawling ban around the world’s biggest colony on St Croix Island in Algoa Bay, east of Cape Town, allowed nearly three-quarters of birds there to stop having to make exhausting long-haul hunts, research showed last year.

Healthy populations of the seabird would ordinarily withstand raids by egg-stealing gulls and hunters like seals, cats, dogs or wild predators.

But the population concerns mean that every individual is now seen as critical, and oiled, injured and abandoned chicks are rescued. Last year 49 babies were flown off an Algoa island due to threats of cold weather.

Rehabilitation is successful “because the birds are so feisty and they are able to survive after the release (from captivity)”, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds boss Venessa Strauss said.

The non-profit Cape Town-based organization treats around 1,000 penguins annually, including around 500 birds slicked in oil.

“It’s bigger than the penguins. It’s about the health of our marine ecosystem,” said Strauss, surrounded by solemn rescued adults from the species once known as Jackass penguins because of their noisy brays.

“A lot of focus is on the penguins but at the end of the day it’s about the ecosystem. The marine ecosystem is taking strain, and the penguins are just really telling a part of the story,” she said.

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Gardeners urged to save butterflies


Gardeners are being urged to plant butterfly-friendly flowers to “make nature come back to life”, after five rare species have become extinct and half of the remaining 56 species are under threat of extinction.

More than 70 per cent of butterfly species are in decline, according to the wildlife organisation Butterfly Conservation.

The number of small tortoiseshells have fallen by 68 per cent, while peacocks have dropped by 30 per cent in the past decade.

People are being urged to plant buddleia, verbena bonariensis, perennial wallflowers, lavender and marjoram, which are sources of nectar for the insects.

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Prawn Trawlers Among Causes Of Turtle Extinction


KUALA TERENGGANU, April 4 (Bernama) — The use of prawn trawlers has been identified as one of the main causes of turtle extinction not only in Malaysia but in other countries around the world.

This has forced shrimp importing countries, such as the United States, to issue regulations requiring prawn exporting countries to ensure fishermen install the turtle excluder (TED) device, which releases turtles trapped in trawlers, Fisheries Department director-general Datuk Ahamad Sabki Mahmood said.

“Without the device, prawns that are caught cannot be exported into the United States.

“The regulation referred to is the U.S Shrimp Import Embargo which was enforced in 1996,” he told reporters after launching the Turtle and Turtle Excluder Device Workshop here Monday.

His speech text was delivered by Fisheries Department Resource Management and Licensing Division director Gulamsarwar Jan Mohammad.

Ahamad Sabki said the TEDs, costing RM400 a unit, had already been in use in Sabah.

He hoped that the fishing community in the peninsula can use it to help prevent turtle extinction.

He said other threats to turtles include unplanned development activities at turtle landing areas, pollution, erosion, beach embankment, turtle egg trading and destructive fishing methods.

Turtle conservation and management efforts in Malaysia has been carried out since 1960, especially in states which have turtle landings such as Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Melaka, Perak and Penang, he said.

He added that work carried out by the Fisheries Department from 2000 to 2010 resulted in a total of three million turtle eggs hatched and 1.9 million baby turtles released into its natural habitat.


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Obama Administration Fails to Protect Rare Glacier National Park Insect Threatened With Climate-caused Extinction

For Immediate Release, April 4, 2011

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Obama Administration Fails to Protect Rare Glacier National Park Insect
Threatened With Climate-caused Extinction

MISSOULA, Mont.— The Obama administration today denied Endangered Species Act protection to the meltwater lednian stonefly, a rare insect in Glacier National Park that government scientists say needs federal protection to keep from going extinct. Using a tactic that has become commonplace on President Barack Obama’s watch, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the stonefly warrants federal protection but won’t get it. Instead, the species was added to a growing list of “candidates,” where it will wait for protection indefinitely. To date, Obama’s Interior Department has used the “warranted-but-precluded” designation for 24 species — more than any other administration. Now 260 species are on the candidate list, where they wait an average of 20 years for protection. At least 24 species have gone extinct while waiting.

“The glaciers in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030. If the meltwater stonefly has to wait 20 years for protection like most candidates, its chance of survival is basically nil,” said Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is working to save hundreds of candidate species.

Meltwater stoneflies are a food source for the American dipper, a small bird that walks underwater and flips over rocks to find food. Known from only 11 alpine streams in Glacier National Park — streams that are formed by runoff from melting snow — the flies are threatened with extinction because their glacier-formed habitat is disappearing due to climate change. When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, there were 150 glaciers larger than 25 acres each; today there are only 25 glaciers left of that size.

The stonefly begins life as a nymph in cold streams before metamorphosing into a quarter-inch-long adult fly. The nymphs are dark red-brown on top and pink on the bottom, with light-green legs. They die if water temperatures exceed 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change will decrease stream flow and raise water temperatures.

To date, the Obama government has only given Endangered Species Act protection to 58 species, for a rate of 29 species per year. In contrast, President Clinton protected 522 species under the Endangered Species Act for a rate of 65 species per year, while the first Bush administration protected 232 species for a rate of 58 per year.

“The Obama government is dragging its feet on protecting our country’s most threatened species,” said Curry. “The Endangered Species Act can save our plants and animals, but only if they’re granted actual protection.”

The Center and other groups have an active lawsuit in Washington, D.C., showing that continued delays in protecting candidate species are illegal because the Fish and Wildlife Service is not making expeditious progress listing species as the Act requires.

Learn more about the Center’s campaign to earn protection for all the candidate species.

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