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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
October, 2003, Vol.6 No. 10

Coastal Alert    




Supreme Court, DOJ, DENR join hands in environmental protection
Expansion of Tubbataha Reef World Heritage Site eyed
USAID funds new fisheries management project
BFAR vows to strictly enforce ban on manta ray hunting
Demand for seaweed up
Region 7 fisheries declining
Masbate City: Philippines’ first LGU-run CRM interpretive center opens
Quezon Province: Contractor warned against illegal mining
Davao, Batangas:Thousands clean up shores
Iloilo: Three cops nabbed for illegal fishing

Scientists turn spotlight on threats and opportunities of booming marine aquaria trade
First 'World Atlas of Seagrasses' reveals vital role of marine meadows
Oceans becoming more acidic
Campaign criticizes CITES decision on beluga caviar
US Navy agrees to limit global sonar deployment
Weather disasters caused millions in damages 
US agency supports CITES queen conch conservation measures
Hong Kong's harbor threatened by land reclamation
Australia hunts suspected poaching ship
Study shows economic gains from wildlife refuges
New tagging method for white sharks
Expedition explores Bahamas depths for new drugs
Whale stranding illustrates the importance of collecting data from stranded marine mammals
ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign launched


Supreme Court, DOJ, DENR join hands in environmental protection
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Supreme Court of the Philippines, and Department of Justice signed a Memorandum of Commitment (MOC) to establish a database of pending environment and natural resources cases and conduct nationwide monitoring in the resolution of the cases.

Under the MOC, the three agencies will form “The Environmental Monitoring Team” (TEAM) tasked inventory pending ENR-related cases and identify hotspots where illegal activities frequently occur. The TEAM will prepare a prioritized list and subject these to intensive monitoring.

Field monitoring meetings in identified hotspot areas will also be conducted at least once every four months. This will address pending issues that delay the case flow of ENR-related cases being monitored.

The assistance of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) will be employed in cases where DENR personnel are subjected to harassment suits in the performance of their duties.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) through its National Environment Action Team as well as other government agencies and non-governmental organizations can also be sought for assistance. Environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. was appointed as Special Counsel to keep track of the agreement’s implementation.

Expansion of Tubbataha Reef World Heritage Site eyed
The Philippine government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with Conservation International (CI), is looking at expanding the present 33,200-hectare protected area boundary of Tubbataha Reef World Heritage Site in Palawan, to include the Cagayan ridge in the Sulu Sea.

Tubbataha Reef is one of 12 marine World Heritage Sites worldwide. It is also included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The widening TRWH’s borders is expected to heighten efforts in marine biodiversity conservation.

USAID funds new fisheries management project
A 7-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and focused on fisheries management will start full implementation in 2004.                

The Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) project aims to improve biological diversity and increase sustainable harvest in the Philippine marine ecosystem. It will address watershed management, non-point source pollution, and other factors to improve the management of fish stocks and the marine ecosystem. Other activities will include assisting the Government of the Philippines to improve related national policies, and building greater public awareness and participation in sustainable fisheries management.                

The project is managed by Tetra Tech EM Inc., a leading provider of consulting, engineering and technical services.

BFAR vows to strictly enforce ban on manta ray hunting
TAGBILARAN CITY-After a year-long study, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) 7 announced it will again implement the ban on the hunting of manta rays.

Fishery Administrative Order 193 bans the taking, selling, buying and transporting of manta rays and whale sharks.

But while BFAR 7 was conducting an assessment on the population of manta rays in Central Visayas, it allowed accredited fishermen to catch manta rays. The BFAR learned that several species of manta rays are heavily hunted. C. Fuentes, Cebu Daily News, 10.21.03

Demand for seaweed up
France, China and Korea require more seaweed from the Philippines.

Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines president Benson Dakay said France is buying about 6,000 tons of seaweed from the Philippines this year.

China recently started importing 10,000 to 12,000 tons while Korean doubled imports from 1,500 to 3,000 tons of raw seaweed. I.R.. Sino Cruz, Cebu Daily News, 10.06.03

Region 7 fisheries declining
In 1963, then President Diosdado Macapagal declared that the Philippines can be self-sufficient in fish “if our fisheries resources are properly developed”. Stressing the need to manage the country’s fisheries, Macapagal declared the third week of October as Fish Conservation Week.

Today, 40 years later, the Philippine fish stock continues to decline, threatening food security.

According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the average national consumption of fish per capita in 1987 was 40 kilos. In 1996, the figure dropped to 24 kilos per Filipino.

Although fish sufficiency level in Central Visayas is still high (36 kilos of fish per person for 2002), a fishery stock assessment by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of Camotes Sea, in northeastern Cebu, reveals that populations of some fish species are declining due to overfishing.

A study by the WorldFish Center in 1998 to 2001 revealed that, overall, the level of fishing in the Philippines is 30 percent higher than it should be.

The “overfished” state of the country’s fisheries emphasizes the need for management.

Prices of fish have been on the rise since the early 1990s. More juvenile or immature and low-value fish are caught and sold. Fish caught are smaller and species of higher value, which used to be abundant, have become scarce. Fishers spend more time at sea to fish and come home with meager catch. Liberty Pinili, CRMP

Masbate: Philippines’ first LGU-run CRM interpretive center opens
Masbate City opened last September 30 the Philippines’ first interpretive center dedicated to coastal management and operated by the local government.

Masbate CRM Interpretive Center, Masbate City (A Sia, 2003)

Established by local ordinance and housed in a heritage building (ca. 1946), the Masbate CRM Interpretive Center (CRMIC) is tasked primarily with ‘translating’ coastal resource management (CRM) to every day language, so that it is better understood and appreciated by the general public, who must be involved in the effort to manage and conserve the coastal environment. Besides housing exhibits on the province’s coastal features, coastal issues, and CRM best practices, the Center serves as the hub for all information, education and training activities undertaken by the city government related to CRM. It also operates the Masbate CRM Showcase Tour, a study tour that features some of Masbate Province’s best coastal management experiences and lessons.

During its first week of operation, the Center received more than 1,000 visitors, mostly students from local schools. With public interest running high, exhibit viewing is currently on a “strictly by reservation only” basis, in order to limit the number of visitors to not more than 200 daily and thus ensure the quality of visitors’ experience and learning.

The CRMIC was developed with the assistance of the Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP). It is open weekdays from 8:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.

For more information about the CRMIC and its services, call the Masbate City Planning and Development Office, Tel. (056) 333 5608.

Quezon Province: Contractor warned against illegal mining
LUCENA CITY-The Quezon Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) warned the contractor of a Philippine Port Authority (PPA) project to use only legally sourced sand and gravel.

The Php130-million project of the PPA involves road repair and land reclamation in the coastal villages of Dalahican and Talao-Talao.

The Penro also reminded the PPA that both projects have yet to secure environmental compliance certificates.

The environment office received reports that the contractor of the projects took sand from Talao-Talao beach. D. Mallari Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10.28.03

Davao, Batangas:Thousands clean up shores
Around 8,000 people cleaned up Davao’s coasts during the 18th International Coastal Cleanup Day last September.

In Mabini, Batangas, at least 2,000 picked up a total of 63 tons of garbage during the cleanup.

In both areas, government officials concerned raised the need to promote awareness on garbage management and coastal resource protection to address pollution of their beaches and seas. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9.21.03, 9.22.03

Iloilo: Three cops nabbed for illegal fishing
Three policemen are being investigated after they were caught aboard a fishing vessel that was arrested for illegal fishing off northern Iloilo.

Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas ordered the investigation to determine higher-ranking police officials were involved in the incident. He said the policemen would not dare flaunt the provincial government’s aggressive campaign against illegal fishing if they did not enjoy the protection of their superiors.

The three policemen are now under the custody of the Regional Police Office of Region 6. PNA in Cebu Daily News, 09.27.03


Scientists turn spotlight on threats and opportunities of booming marine aquaria trade
NAIROBI/LONDON, 30 September 2003 – Over 20 million tropical fish, including 1,471 species ranging from the sapphire devil to the copperhead butterflyfish, are being harvested annually to supply the booming marine aquarium trade in Europe and the United States, according to the most comprehensive global survey ever undertaken.

A further 9 to 10 million animals, including mollusks, shrimps and anemones, and involving some 500 species, are also being traded to supply tanks in homes, public aquaria and dentists' surgeries.

Up to 12 million stony corals are being harvested, transported and sold annually, estimates United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) report."From Ocean to Aquarium: The Global Trade in Marine Ornamentals" says the value of aquarium creatures in trade is worth between $200 million and $330 million annually.

Southeast Asia is shown to be the main source of the trade, but ornamental marine species are increasingly being taken from several island nations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Most of the demand comes from the United States, Europe and to a lesser extent Japan.

"For the first time we have an accurate estimate of the number of fish, corals and other animals being taken from coral reefs and brought to public aquariums and fish tanks in homes across Europe and the USA", said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director.

"Collecting tropical fish brings pleasure to millions. It also fuels an important, and mostly legitimate, industry", Toepfer continued. "This valuable new data should enable more informed and effective decision making at the policy, industry and consumer level. The global trade in marine species on the one hand poses a significant risk to valuable ecosystems like coral reefs, but on the other has great potential as a source of desperately needed income for local fishing communities. As a result it represents another important weapon in the war against poverty and in helping to meet not only the United Nations Millennium Development Goals but also the World Summit on Sustainable Development's Plan of Implementation."

Unlike freshwater aquarium species, where 90 per cent of fish species are currently farmed, the great majority of marine aquariums are stocked from wild caught species. This activity, if not carried out in an appropriate manner, can cause irreversible damage to coral reefs.

“A minority of fishermen, in countries such as Indonesia, use sodium cyanide to capture fish,” says Colette Wabnitz, one of the report's authors. "An almost lethal dose of the poison is squirted into the coral reef where fish shelter. It stuns the fish to allow capture and export, but can also kill coral and other species. The fish may survive the export process but usually die of liver failure soon after being purchased."

The report also highlights the economic value presented by a well-managed aquarium marine trade. Mark Collins, UNEP-WCMC Director, says, "If managed properly, the aquarium industry could support long-term conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs in regions where other options for generating revenue are limited. Some collection techniques have minimal impact on coral and the industry as a whole is of relatively low volume yet of very high value."

Copies of the report are available from the UNEP web site at or at:

First 'World Atlas of Seagrasses' reveals vital role of marine meadows
LONDON/NAIROBI, 14 October 2003 – Manatees, dugongs and green sea turtles are just some of the growing list of already threatened species at risk from the destruction of ocean seagrass, a new report has revealed.

The first-ever-global survey of the underwater meadows of seagrass that skirt the world's coasts reveals that 15 per cent of this unique marine ecosystem has been lost in the last 10 years.

The findings give new urgency to protect and conserve these important habitats, which are threatened by runoff of nutrients and sediments from human activities on land, boating, land reclamation and other construction in the coastal zone, dredge-and-fill activities and destructive fisheries practices.

The World Atlas of Seagrasses, prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) provides the first ever global estimate for seagrasses world-wide: 177,000 sq km, an area just two thirds the size of the UK.

Seagrasses are a mixed group of true flowering plants - not seaweed – that grow submerged in large meadows in both tropical and temperate seas. They are a functional group of about 60 species of underwater marine flowering plants.  Thousands more associated marine plant and animal species utilise seagrass habitat.  They range from the strap-like blades of eelgrass in the Sea of Japan, at more than 4 metres long, to the tiny, 2-3 cm, rounded leaves of sea vine in the deep tropical waters of Brazil.

According to the new UNEP-WCMC Atlas seagrass meadows should be considered one of the most important shallow marine ecosystems to humans, playing a vital role in fisheries, protecting coral reefs by binding sediments, cleaning coastal waters and providing coastal defense from erosion.

Frederick T. Short, University of New Hampshire, USA and co-editor of the Atlas comments: “Seagrasses are a critical and threatened coastal habitat worldwide. Their role in the ecology of the ocean and their importance to fisheries is increasingly recognized. The World Atlas of Seagrasses makes available a global perspective on this imperiled ecosystem.”

“Like coral reefs, seagrasses are at a critical juncture, heavily impacted by human activities and climate change,” said Short. “With the global view provided by the Atlas, our ability to preserve and restore seagrass ecosystems is enhanced.”

The new global figure for seagrass is likely to be an under-estimate as seagrasses off the western coasts of Africa and South America remain unsurveyed.

For more information about the Atlas, including maps and photographs go to or

The World Atlas of Seagrasses is available from:

Oceans becoming more acidic
The world's oceans are slowly getting more acidic in response to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to a report published in the journal Nature.

Authors Ken Caldeira and Michael Wickett, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said the lowering of the waters' pH value is not great at the moment but could pose a serious threat to current marine life if it continues. Increasing use of fossil fuels means more carbon dioxide is going into the air, and most of it will eventually be absorbed by seawater. Once in the water, it reacts to form carbonic acid.

Combining available knowledge about the history of the oceans with computer models of climate change, the authors predicted “amounts of future acidity that exceed anything we saw over the last several hundred million years, apart from perhaps after rare catastrophic events such as asteroid impacts.” If carbon dioxide release continues unabated, ocean pH could be reduced by as much as 0.77 units, they warned.

It is not absolutely clear what that means for marine life, however. Most organisms live near the surface, where the greatest pH change would be expected to occur, but deep-ocean life forms may be more sensitive to pH changes. Coral reefs and other organisms whose skeletons or shells contain calcium carbonate may be particularly affected, because it would much more difficult to build reef structures in water with a lower pH.

Previously, most experts looked at ocean absorption of carbon dioxide as a good thing because when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere it warms planet, and when absorbed by the ocean, it reduces the amount of greenhouse warming. “Now, we're understanding that ocean uptake of carbon dioxide may at best be a mixed blessing,” the authors said.

Full article:: The EUCC Coastal News

Campaign criticizes CITES decision on beluga caviar
Caviar Emptor, a partnership of environmental groups seeking to restore the Caspian Sea's near-extinct beluga sturgeon, has challenged a trade quota sanctioned by a United Nations body to export Caspian beluga caviar for the remainder of 2003. The conservationists are particularly concerned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat's claims that the beluga sturgeon population is recovering. Caviar Emptor contends that this is not consistent with the most recent data from the region.

CITES' assertion is based on faulty methodologies for analyzing fish abundance," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, marine biologist and director of ocean strategy with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), one of the members of Caviar Emptor. Pikitch's analysis of the most recent stock surveys indicates that the beluga sturgeon population declined by an alarming 39 percent from 2001 to 2002. "The quota for beluga caviar exports should be zero. Any number above that is unwise and unsustainable."

Caviar Emptor is urging the United States, the world's largest importer of the delicacy, to take action to help protect beluga sturgeon. As a result of a petition by the members of Caviar Emptor, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed that beluga sturgeon be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A final decision by the Service is more than a year overdue.

Listing of beluga sturgeon as an endangered species would halt beluga caviar imports into the United States, which accounts for about 60% of the world's beluga caviar imports, according to the most recent statistics. An endangered species listing for beluga sturgeon has been supported by more than 50 marine scientists, the Caspian range state Azerbaijan, 200 American chefs and gourmet retailers, and by nearly 3,000 individuals from the Caspian region, Europe, Asia and North America. Seaweb

US Navy agrees to limit global sonar deployment
LOS ANGELES, 13 October 2003 – In a groundbreaking accord with conservation and animal welfare groups, the US Navy has agreed to scale back deployment of a dangerous new kind of high-intensity sonar system.

The National Marine Fisheries Service last year issued a permit to the Navy to use its Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (or LFA) sonar in over 75 percent of the world's oceans, but a federal judge ruled in August that the government violated numerous federal environmental laws in doing so, and that the system could endanger whales, porpoises and fish. The judge ordered the parties to negotiate a stipulated injunction. The agreement caps an eight-year battle over protection of marine life from this potentially lethal sonar, which uses extremely loud, low-frequency sound to detect submarines at great distances.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Humane Society of the United States, Cetacean Society International, League for Coastal Protection, Ocean Futures Society, and Jean-Michel Cousteau sued the government over its original permit, which would have allowed testing and training with the system worldwide over a period of five years.               

Under the terms of the agreement, the Navy will limit use of the new sonar system to specific areas along the eastern seaboard of Asia (around North Korea and China), including portions of the Sea of Japan, the East and South China Seas, and the Philippine Sea. The agreement does not allow LFA sonar in the waters off the Hawaiian Islands, where the Navy had been permitted to use the system this year. In addition to geographical limits, the Navy agreed to certain seasonal exclusions, which conservationists believe will protect critical whale migrations, and to coastal exclusions ranging from 30 to 60 nautical miles. None of the limits apply during war or heightened threat conditions.

The LFA sonar system is capable of generating sounds up to 140 decibels more than 300 miles away from the sonar source. Many scientists believe that blasting such intense sounds over large expanses of the ocean could harm entire populations of marine mammals and fish. During testing off the California coast, noise from a single LFA system was detected across the breadth of the North Pacific.

Saying they recognized that the proliferation of active sonar has become a global environmental problem, the coalition of conservation and animal welfare groups today also announced an international campaign to limit its use. The coalition includes NRDC, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International Ocean Futures Society and its president Jean-Michel Cousteau.

"The agreement with the U.S. Navy is a major step toward protecting the marine environment, but it is only the first part of what must be a global effort," said IFAW president Frederick O'Regan. "The increasing use of active sonar by militaries around the world threatens the survival of numerous marine species. If ever there were a situation to employ the 'precautionary principle,' this is it. We're calling on the international community to begin regulating and mitigating the impact of high intensity active sonar before it's too late."

The United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) requires States "to assess the potential effects on the marine environment" of systems such as high intensity active sonar, and to take all measures "necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source."

The danger to marine life from mid-frequency sonar, whose sound waves do not reach as far as LFA sonar, is clearly documented. Mass stranding and mortality events associated with its use have occurred in the Bahamas (2000), Madeira (2000), and the Canary Islands (2002). Other cases have occurred in Greece (1996), the U.S. Virgin Islands (1998, 1999), the Canary Islands (1985, 1986, 1989), and, most recently, the Northwest coast of the United States (2003).

Mid-frequency sonar systems are widely used by the U.S. and many European nations, and low-frequency systems, such as LFA sonar, are in development by both the U.S. and its allies, including Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. The British Royal Navy alone plans to deploy at least 12 low-frequency sonar systems in the near future.

These announcements come just days after the scientific journal Nature reported that intense, active sonar may kill certain marine mammal species by giving them decompression sickness or "the bends" -- the same illness that can kill scuba divers who surface too quickly from deep water. The international team of scientists that authored the study said compressed nitrogen apparently formed large bubbles in the tissue of whales exposed to intense active sonar, damaging their vital organs and causing internal bleeding and possibly intense pain.

Weather disasters caused millions in damages 
In 2002, the world experienced about 700 natural disasters-nearly 600 of which were weather-related events. Economic losses from weather disasters worldwide approached $53 billion, a 93 percent increase over 2001. The year also set numerous local and regional records for windstorms, rain intensities, floods, droughts, and temperatures.

Poorer nations are the most vulnerable to climate change. While the average number of deaths per weather event has declined, the total number of people affected is on the rise. Over the past two decades, floods and other weather-related disasters were among factors prompting some 10 million people to migrate from Bangladesh to India.

In 2002, rains in Kenya displaced more than 150,000 people, while more than 800,000 Chinese were affected by the most severe drought in over a century. Erratic weather patterns are the primary cause of famine for about 18 million Africans. Vital Signs, Worldwatch Institute, 10.01.03

US agency supports CITES queen conch conservation measures
The US National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) announced support of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) embargo on queen conch imports from three Caribbean countries; Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In an effort to support sustainable trade in queen conch, CITES has recommended that importation of queen conch (Strombus gigas) be suspended from these countries. CITES sent notifications to all CITES countries recommending that they not accept shipments of queen conch beginning September 29, 2003.

Queen conch is found throughout the wider Caribbean Region, including Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda. Products from conch include meat, pearls and shells. Queen conch populations in Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are currently being exploited at rates that may be unsustainable. In addition, CITES has expressed concerns about the amount of illegal, under-reported and unregulated fishing of this species. The United States imports approximately 80 percent of the world’s trade, usually resulting in imports of more than 1,000 metric tons of meat a year.

In 1986, the U.S. banned all harvest of its own queen conch populations in the continental United States, and in 1992, CITES included queen conch in CITES Appendix II. An Appendix II listing includes species that, although currently not threatened with extinction, may become threatened without trade controls. Permits indicating that trade is sustainable are required for queen conch international trade.

Although the restrictions announced mainly affect commercial importers of queen conch products, officials are warning American tourists who visit the Caribbean that they seriously consider not purchasing queen conch meat or souvenirs to bring back to the United States. Law enforcement officers may inspect and confiscate queen conch meat and shells upon return to the United States.

Hong Kong's harbor threatened by land reclamation
HONG KONG — Victoria Harbour is in danger of disappearing.

Decades of land reclamation to keep pace with breakneck development in the former British territory have whittled the harbor down to nearly half its size in the days when tea and opium merchants plied their trade on wooden sailing ships. The Hong Kong government plans as much as 636 hectares (6.36 square km) more of reclamation, activists say.

The harbor has already been reduced by 3,200 hectares, said Winston Chu, chairman of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour.

The group went to court to oppose the reclamation but the judge ruled in favor of the project. K. Hunt of Reuters, 10.01.03

Australia hunts suspected poaching ship
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia began the hunt for another ship suspected of illegally fishing in its southern waters.

Authorities seized earlier an Uruguayan-flagged ship suspected of poaching Patagonian toothfish.

Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald said the latest boat spotted in Australian waters was thought to be the Ghanaian-flagged Alos and had been photographed near Heard Island and McDonald Islands by Australian fishing boat Southern Champion.

Marine conservationists have warned the toothfish could become commercially extinct by 2007 because illegal fishing above quotas is depleting already dwindling stocks. Reuters, 10.08.03

Study shows economic gains from wildlife refuges
WASHINGTON — People living near the 542 wildlife refuges in the United States also gain from the protected wildlife habitat, according to a government study that touts the economic benefits of the refuge system.

The study by the Fish and Wildlife Service finds 35.5 million people visited the 542 refuges in 2002, up 42 percent from 24.9 million visitors in 1995, bringing a huge boost in spending and jobs to communities located just outside the refuges.

Those visits fueled $809 million in spending in 2002 at locales near public lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System, a 70 percent increase from the $473.million spent in 1995, the study says. They also helped create 18,728 non-federal jobs in 2002, up 84 percent from 10,169 jobs in 1995, it says. Associated Press, 10.10.03

New tagging method for white sharks
Six white sharks have been tagged by scientists using new specially developed tagging poles allowing them to be tagged in the water next to the vessel. "The sharks ranged from two meters to more than four meters," said project leader John Stevens of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), who is now waiting to receive signals from the electronic tags.

The sharks were tagged off the southern coast of Western Australia, after reports of a recent stranding of sperm whales.

Two pop-off archival (PAT) tags and two satellite-tracking tags were attached to sharks. "The tag has to stay on, delicate electronics need to survive the rigors of being on a shark during its daily activities and the sharks need to surface so that the tags can transmit signals," said Stevens.

PAT tags store information on shark movement and behavior for several months before releasing from the shark, floating to the surface and transmitting their information via satellite.

The satellite-tracking tag allows the shark's progress to be plotted whenever it surfaces and successfully transmits a signal via the ARGOS satellite system. A three-meter female white shark recently PAT-tagged was estimated to have traveled at least 1,300 km along the southern coast of WA between May and June.

Expedition explores Bahamas depths for new drugs
14 October 2003 – Using a deep-diving manned submersible and scuba, a team of HARBOR BRANCH researchers recently explored waters around the Bahamas in search of new marine organisms that produce chemicals with potential for fighting human diseases.

Scientists at HARBOR BRANCH Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) have spent two decades searching around the globe for new marine animals that might contain chemicals with the potential to fight cancer, Alzheimer's and other human maladies. Much of this research has relied on the institution's two Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles, which can take four people to a depth of 3,000 feet and are equipped with sophisticated and unique robotic equipment for collecting marine organisms.

This work has already led to the discovery of several chemicals that have shown great promise for fighting cancer, infections, and other afflictions. One, a compound called discodermolide, has proven an effective cancer cell killer, even in tumors that are resistant to Taxol®, one of the best treatments for breast and ovarian cancers currently available. It is now in the first phase of human clinical trials and continues to show great promise. Such successes are encouraging, but more treatments are needed if the spread of pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and other diseases are to be stopped, and so the search continues.

The Bahamas mission, aboard HARBOR BRANCH's Seward Johnson II research vessel has the following key goals:

  1. To document deep-water seafloor communities using video, photographs, and collection of archive specimens
  2. To collect and test chemicals produced in or by marine organisms collected to discover if they have the potential to fight human diseases. This process involves simple tests while on the ship that determine if a chemical can, for instance, kill bacteria, and then more elaborate tests back on land that indicate whether a chemical can kill cancer cells or shows other signs of medical potential.
  3. To gather living specimens of sponges and tunicates for research on ways to either farm-raise the animals that produce important chemicals or to maintain healthy laboratory cultures of microorganisms, which are often supported by larger animals such as sponges, that produce important chemicals.

Go to to read dispatches from the ship throughout the expedition from Oct. 9-24, 2003, and to learn more about the team's research.

Whale stranding illustrates the importance of collecting data from stranded marine mammals
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) and scientists from various academic institutions believe they have found a new subspecies of Bryde’s whale in North Carolina.

On March 13, 2003, a beach comber found a dead baleen whale on the shore of Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. During studies of tissue samples collected, scientists determined that the animal most likely died from starvation, as a result of line entanglement. Scientists also determined that the whale is a member of the baleen whale family, and has a unique genetic sequence, only seen in one other whale.

Similar to crime scene investigators, marine mammal scientists collect biological and other data from stranded animals, in order to piece together not only the identity and natural history of the species, but also to identify the cause of death. Such stranding investigations ultimately give scientists a glimpse into the type of threats facing marine species and the overall health of the oceans.

A new federal program, funded by Congress and implemented by NOAA, the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, makes this kind of work possible, by providing funds to authorized volunteers and local communities during and after strandings.

Bryde’s whale is a baleen whale and is unique in having three longitudinal ridges on its head. It has a prominent dorsal fin, which is relatively tall. Bryde’s whales are typically tropical and subtropical species, but may be found in some slightly colder waters. They feed on pelagic schooling fish, such as anchovy and herring. Bryde’s whales are active feeders, and can dive for 20 minutes or so. The Bryde’s whale has twin blowholes with a low splash guard to the front. It has no teeth, but in their place are two rows of baleen plates.

ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign launched

WASHINGTON, DC, 02 October 2003 – The international environmental organization, Eco-Spirit, announced the launching of its ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign. Eco-Spirit's President, David Reeves, stated: “The purpose of this new campaign is to unite all people of all faiths and spiritual beliefs, all races, all countries, and all cultures, behind a common goal of protecting the Earth and our environment, a goal which members of Eco-Spirit believe is a moral imperative.”

“Eco-Spirit's ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign seeks to promote a better understanding of the common ground among all people, by identifying the mutual environmental ethic that many of us share, and by educating people around the world on that common ethic,” Reeves said. “Unfortunately, there have been a lot of divisive forces at work recently among the people of the world. Differences of religion, race, nationality, and culture sometimes pull us apart. Eco-Spirit hopes with its ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign to emphasize our similarities, rather than our differences, bringing humanity together, while at the same time improving global environmental protection.”

For more information on Eco-Spirit, how to become a member, and how to join Eco-Spirit's ONE EARTH ONE PEOPLE Campaign, visit their website



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