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News articles on pacific
Mongabay.com news articles on pacific in blog format. Updated regularly.
(04/19/2011) Forests spanning an area larger than Costa Rica—5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres)—have been handed out by the Papua New Guinea government to foreign corporations, largely for logging. Granted under government agreements known as Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), the land leases circumvent the nation's strong laws pertaining to communal land ownership. Now, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests, is urging the Papua New Guinea government to declare a moratorium on SABLs.
Scientists follow rise of mercury pollution in seabird feathers
(04/18/2011) Analyzing the feathers of the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) going back to 1880. researchers have uncovered rising levels of the toxic methylmercury in the endangered birds that is generally consistent with rising mercury emissions in the Pacific region. Methylmercury is a more toxic compound than mercury that binds with organic molecules when it is released through industrial processes, such as burning coal and other fossil fuels.
Expedition granted?: hoping to save nearly-extinct seals through National Geographic contest
(03/24/2011) Dashiell Masland, known as 'Dash', has always been in love with the sea and its inhabitants. Now, she is hoping to take that passion to the Hawaiian Islands to save one of the world's most threatened marine mammals: the Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi). Extinction is a real possibility: already, the related Carribbean monk seal vanished forever around 1950. Decimated by sealers, whalers, and even soldiers in World War II, the Hawaiian monk seals are struggling to make a come back with only 1,100 individuals surviving and the population decreasing by 4% a year. Today many face starvation due to a lack of prey. This is where Masland, who is currently competing in National Geographic's Expedition Granted, hopes to help.
5 million hectares of Papua New Guinea forests handed to foreign corporations
(03/23/2011) During a meeting in March 2011 twenty-six experts—from biologists to social scientists to NGO staff—crafted a statement calling on the Papua New Guinea government to stop granting Special Agricultural and Business Leases. According to the group, these leases, or SABLs as they are know, circumvent Papua New Guinea's strong community land rights laws and imperil some of the world's most intact rainforests. To date 5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres) of forest have been leased under SABLs, an area larger than all of Costa Rica. "Papua New Guinea is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. [The country's] remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services," reads the statement, dubbed the Cairns Declaration. However, according to the declaration all of this is threatened by the Papua New Guinea government using SABLs to grant large sections of land without going through the proper channels.
Mitsubishi and Walmart agree to clean up fish sourcing practices
(03/09/2011) Two big players in seafood today announced that they are changing the way their fish are caught. Mitsubishi, which owns the UK's most popular brand for tuna in a tin, Princes, and Walmart, which owns Asda, have agreed to stop buying from fishermen who use purse seines fishing in conjunction with fish aggregating devices (FADs) by 2014. These methods have been blamed in part for the vast overfishing of the world's tuna and helping to decimate other species, such as sharks and rays, as bycatch.
Fisheries commissions' ability to manage diminishing tuna stocks called into question
(12/31/2010) During a meeting earlier this month, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) disregarded appeals from the EU and Japan, as well as from Commission scientists, calling for a substantial and immediate reduction in catch rates of bigeye and yellowfin tuna in response to diminished stocks. An earlier meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) resulted in only cosmetic cuts to Atlantic bluefin quotas, calling into question the ability of the global system of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to prevent overfishing.
Rise in the number of whales hit by ships prompts Coast Guard to consider changes
(12/27/2010) A bumper crop of krill along the West Coast this past summer lured whales into the paths of cargo ships. With five collision deaths confirmed, and many more suspected, the US Coast Guard is investigating ways to mitigate future losses of these rare mammals.
Forgotten species: the plummeting cycad
(12/06/2010) I have a declarative statement to make: cycads are mind-blowing. You may ask, what is a cycad? And your questions wouldn't be a silly one. I doubt Animal Planet will ever replace its Shark Week with Cycad Week (perhaps the fact that it's 'animal' planet and not 'plant' planet gave that away); nor do I expect school children to run to see a cycad first thing when they arrive at the zoo, rushing past the polar bear and the chimpanzee; nor do I await a new children's book about a lonely little anthropomorphized cycad just looking for a friend. In the world of species-popularity, the cycad ranks pretty low. For one thing, it's a plant. For another thing, it doesn't produce lovely flowers. And for a final fact, it looks so much like a palm tree that most people probably wouldn't know it wasn't. Still, I declare the cycad to be mind-blowing.
Japanese making themselves sick with dolphin hunt
(11/01/2010) Japan's dolphin hunt of Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) could be making people sick, according to a new study by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Campaign Whale. The controversial hunt, which kills some 15,000 dolphins annually, produces cheap meat-for-consumption that on average contains over double Japan's limit on mercury contamination. "We are very concerned that people in Japan are threatening their health and possibly that of their children by unwittingly eating Dall’s porpoise meat that is dangerously contaminated with poisons such as mercury and PCBs," Andy Ottaway, Director of Campaign Whale, said in a press release.
Island nation announces Ukraine-sized sanctuary for whales and dolphins
(10/24/2010) Dolphins, whales, and dugongs will be safe from hunting in the waters surrounding the Pacific nation of Palau. At the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, Palau's Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism, Harry Fritz, announced the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary covering over 230,000 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) of the nation's waters, an area the size of Mongolia.
Photos: weird new species discovered in deep sea trench
(10/18/2010) Fish were not expected to be able to survive so deep, but scientists have captured footage of a new species of a scavenger-hunting snailfish swimming at an astounding 7,000 meters below the surface. The video, taken from an 8,000 meter-deep sea trench in the Southeast Pacific Ocean, showed a level of biodiversity that surprised seasoned marine biologist, who have previously surveyed five other deep sea trenches.
As a tiny island nation makes a big sacrifice, will the rest of the world follow suit?
(09/15/2010) Kiribati, a small nation consisting of 33 Pacific island atolls, is forecast to be among the first countries swamped by rising sea levels. Nevertheless, the country recently made an astounding commitment: it closed over 150,000 square miles of its territory to fishing, an activity that accounts for nearly half the government's tax revenue. What moved the tiny country to take this monumental action? President Anote Tong, says Kiribati is sending a message to the world: 'We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.'
Monster turtle killed off by man
(08/17/2010) Researchers have linked another extinction to human beings: this time of a massive prehistoric horned turtle. Prehistoric turtles in the Meiolania genus were thought to have vanished some 50,000 years ago. However, scientists have found a new species that was likely wiped out by human hunters much more recently.
Summer from hell: seventeen nations hit all-time heat records
(08/09/2010) The summer isn't over yet, but already seventeen nations have matched or beaten their all-time heat records. According to Jeff Masters' WunderBlog, Belarus, the Ukraine, Cyprus, Russia, Finland, Qatar, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Chad, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Ascension Island, and the Solomon Islands have all equaled or broken their top temperature records this year. In addition, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia was taken in Pakistan at 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Celsius); this incredible temperature still has to be reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Amazing reefs: how corals 'hear', an interview with Steve Simpson
(07/21/2010) Corals aggregate to form vast reefs, which are home to numerous species and provide vital ecological services such as protecting shorelines. However, coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to many factors, such as global warming and ocean acidification. Recent research by Simpson and his team of scientists has shown that corals, rather than drifting aimlessly after being released by their parent colonies and by chance landing back on reefs, instead find their way purposefully to reefs by detecting the sound of snapping shrimps and grunting fish on the reef. However, that discovery also means that the larvae might struggle to find reefs when human noises, like drilling or boats, mask the natural ocean sounds.
Papua New Guinea strips communal land rights protections, opening door to big business
(06/30/2010) On May 28th the parliament in Papua New Guinea passed a sweeping amendment that protects resource corporations from any litigation related to environmental destruction, labor laws, and landowner abuse. All issues related to the environment would now be decided by the government with no possibility of later lawsuits. Uniquely in the world, over 90 percent of land in Papua New Guinea is owned by clan or communally, not be the government. However this new amendment drastically undercuts Papua New Guinea's landowners from taking legislative action before or after environmental damage is done. Essentially it places all environmental safeguards with the Environment and Conservation Minister.
Killer whales split into three separate species
(04/25/2010) Using genetic evidence scientists have discovered that the world’s killer whales, also known as orcas (Orcinus orca), likely represent at least three separate species.
BPA not just in food and water, but contaminating the ocean
(03/28/2010) Increasingly consumers are concerned about the chemical bisphenol A or more-widely known as BPA, which is present in certain plastics. The chemical is capable of leaching from plastic containers and liners into our food and drink. But now there's a new place BPA has shown up in surprisingly high concentrations: the world's oceans. Scientists have discovered that despite being known for their hardness, polycarbonate plastics actually decompose in oceans, leaching chemicals, including BPA, throughout the marine ecosystem.
CITES rejects monitoring of coral trade
(03/21/2010) After denying protection to polar bears, sharks, and the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has today voted against additional protections for harvested coral species, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group. The joint US and EU measure would have put in place scientific and trade monitoring of over thirty species of red and pink coral in the Mediterranean and western Pacific.
Uninhabited tropical island paradise seeks REDD funding to save it from loggers
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
Islands and African nations present toughest treaty yet to combat global warming
(12/09/2009) Led by the small island state of Tuvalu, developing nations particularly vulnerable to climate change have put forward the most ambitious plan yet to mitigate climate change. Their move has split them from usual partners, such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, who are concerned about the economic consequences of the proposal.
Costa Rica proposes to downgrade Las Baulas National Park, threatening leatherback sea turtles
(11/11/2009) Costa Rica is considered by many to be a shining example of environmental stewardship, preserving both its terrestrial and marine biodiversity while benefiting from being a popular tourist location. However, a new move by the Costa Rican government has placed their reputation in question. In May of this year the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, presented a law to the legislature that would downgrade Las Baulas from a National Park to a 'mixed property wildlife refuge'. The downgrading would authorize a number of development projects that conservationists say would threaten the park's starring resident: the leatherback turtle.
California's great white sharks are a distinct population
(11/04/2009) Researchers have long thought that white sharks migrated across oceans, but a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that the population in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, along California, hasn't mixed with other white sharks for tens of thousands of years.
Protests over tuna industry development plans in Papua New Guinea
(10/21/2009) People from the area of Madang in Papua New Guinea are protesting government plans, supported by the World Bank's International Finance Cooperation (IFC), to build large-scale industrial tuna canneries and docks, labeled the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ). Over 700 people showed up and marched at the Madang Provincial Governmental Headquarters on October 15th, despite the protest being banned by local police.
On the edge of extinction, Fiji petrels observed at sea for the first time
(09/15/2009) The Critically Endangered Fiji petrel has been observed at sea for the first time by BirdLife International and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. First recorded in 1855 from one specimen found on Gau Island, Fiji, the rare seabird disappeared from scientific view for 130 years. Beginning in 1984 a handful of 'grounded' Fiji petrels Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi were found after landing on village roofs in Gau, but this is the first observation of the bird in its element: at sea.
Did fish poisoning drive Polynesian colonization of the Pacific?
(07/07/2009) The reasons behind the colonization of the Pacific islands have long been sources of controversy and fascination. Now a new study looks into toxic fish poisoning as a possible migration catalyst. Between AD 1000 and 1450, Polynesian colonization of the South Pacific flourished. The voyages that were undertaken in the discovery of these new lands were very dangerous and the people who conducted them undoubtedly had good reasons to do so. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology have performed research which shows that toxic ciguatera fish poisoning would provide sufficient impetus for such risky voyages.
UN calls for global ban on plastic bags to save oceans
(06/09/2009) The UN’s top environmental official called for a global ban on plastic bags yesterday. "Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.
UN: Population growth rates fall to 1.1 percent in Asia-Pacific
(05/19/2009) The population growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region has dropped to 1.1 percent, according to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2008, compiled by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The 1.1 percent growth rate is the lowest in the developing world.
Six nations pledge to protect the Coral Triangle
(05/19/2009) Last Friday, six nations signed a pledge launching the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Malaysia each agreed to protect the Coral Triangle, a region spanning 1.6 billion acres, half the size of the US.
Blue whales return to migration pattern used before commercial whaling
(05/13/2009) The blue whale may be returning to a migration route that it abandoned during commercial whaling. Researchers have discovered whales migrating from California to the coastlines of British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska for the first time since 1965. Fifteen different cases of whales have been recorded in the north Pacific; four of the whales were individuals who had been viewed off the coast of California, as well.
Fish operated on at ZSL London Zoo: Photo
(05/11/2009) A female prickly leatherjacket triggerfish Chaetodermis penicilligerus underwent an operation to remove a benign tumor from her tail at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo.
Seven new species of deep sea coral discovered
(03/09/2009) In the depths of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which surrounds ten Hawaiian islands, scientists discovered seven new species of bamboo coral. Supported by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the discoveries are even more surprising in that six of the seven species may represent entirely new genus of coral.
Papua New Guinea creates first nature reserve
(03/03/2009) Home to numerous endemic species and some of the Asia's last intact tropical forests, Papua New Guinea has created its first national conservation area. Unique in structure, the park is owned by 35 surrounding indigenous villages which have agreed unanimously to prohibit hunting, logging, mining, and other development within the park. The villages have also created a community organization that will oversee management of the park. The 10,000 villagers found partners in Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Conservation International, and National Geographic. The conservation organizations spent twelve years working with locals and the Papua New Guinea government to establish the YUS Conservation Area.
Indonesian coral reef recovering after devastating tsunami and years of destructive fishing
(01/05/2009) On December 26th, 2004 an earthquake recorded at a magnitude of 9.3 in the Indian Ocean created a massive tsunami that struck nations across the region. Enormous waves took the lives of nearly 250,000 people while destroying cities and towns in minutes. The tsunami also caused extensive environmental damage, including reef systems along many coastal areas. Four years after the tsunami researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have returned to site of the disaster to survey the damaged reefs and work with local communities on preserving this important resource. After exploring sixty sites of coral reef off the coasts of Aceh, Indonesia, the scientists report that reefs damaged by the 2004 tsunami are on the path to recovery.
Photo: commonly-kept gecko was thought to be extinct in the wild
(09/04/2008) The Crested Gecko is endemic to South Province, New Caledonia in the South Pacific. While the species is widely kept in the pet trade, the species was long believed extinct in the wild until it was rediscovered in 1994. It is now known to have three distinct populations and its conservation status is currently being evaluated by the IUCN. Trade in wild-caught individuals is presently banned.
50 years after the blast: Recovery in Bikini Atoll's coral reef
(05/27/2008) Fifty years after atomic bombs rocked Bikini Atoll and pulverized its coral reef, the lagoon again boasts a flourishing coral community. Scientists diving in the two-kilometer-wide Bravo Crater, created in 1954 by a blast 1,000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, found a thriving habitat with treelike corals 30 centimeters (one foot) thick. The study shows that coral reefs can recover from profound damage?when humans leave them alone.
Rat killing spree may save endangered wildlife on remote Pacific islands
(05/26/2008) A team of scientists is on its way to remote the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to eradicate rats that are threatening populations of indigenous seabirds, reports conservation International, an environmental group.
Papua New Guinea to ban log exports by 2010
(03/17/2008) Papua New Guinea (PNG) will phase out log exports by 2010 said Forest Minister Belden Namah last month. The move comes as the country seeks to gain greater control over illegal logging and promote expansion of oil palm cultivation.
Soil erosion: the future of Easter Island
(02/25/2008) Today the saga that is Easter Island's past is well known. The tragic circumstances that led to the downfall of its early civilization through starvation and war are of epic proportions. Many scientists agree that the real life scenario born from this isolated island serves as a warning, about the interrelatedness between scarcity of natural resources and conflict, for all mankind. However, current natural resource practices suggest that this lesson has fallen on deaf ears.
Expedition finds inverted pyramid where sharks dominate marine ecology
(02/25/2008) A survey of a remote Pacific archipelago turned up pristine coral reefs that could offer a "baseline" for measuring the human impact on reefs worldwide, report researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at the University of California at San Diego.
Only 4% of the ocean is pristine according to first oceanic map of human-impact
(02/14/2008) There is a much used adage regarding the ocean that goes something like this: we know more about our solar system than our ocean. Whether or not one believes this to be true (less than 5% of the ocean has been explored), a group of over twenty researchers, by agglomerating the available information on the oceans, have created a large-scale image of the ocean's health.
World's largest marine protected area established in the South Pacific
(02/14/2008) Kiribati, a small island nation in the South Pacific, has established the world's largest marine protected area.
Bird flies 7,150 miles in a week
(09/11/2007) The bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri) makes the longest non-stop migratory flight of any bird species in the world, reports a new study.
Islands to face water problems as sea levels rise, populations grow
(08/15/2007) Islands in the tropical Pacific may face water problems as sea levels rise and populations grow, warns research published in Vadose Zone Journal.
Coral reefs declining faster than rainforests
(08/08/2007) Coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought due to costal development, climate change, and disease, reports a study published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS One. Nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, a rate twice that of tropical rainforest loss.
How to save the world's oceans from overfishing
(07/08/2007) Global fishing stocks are in trouble. After expanding from 18 millions tons in 1950 to around 94 million tons in 2000, annual world fish catch has leveled off and may even be declining. Scientists estimate that the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has fallen by 90 percent since the 1950s, while about one-quarter of the world's fisheries are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Despite these dire trends, the situation is changing. Today some of the world's largest environmental groups are focused on addressing the health of marine life and oceans, while sustainable fisheries management is at the top of the agenda for intergovenmental bodies. At the forefront of these efforts is Mike Sutton, director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's conservation program: the Center for the Future of the Oceans. The aquarium, which has long been recognized as one of the world's most important marine research facilities, is pioneering new strategies for protecting the planet's oceans. Sutton says the approach has four parts: establishing new marine protected areas, pushing for ocean policy reform, promoting sustainable seafood, and protecting wildlife and marine ecosystems.
Unusual prehistoric shark beast captured in Japan
(01/24/2007) A rare frilled shark was captured live by fishermen off the coast of Japan. The toothy eel-like creature was taken to Awashima Marine Park in Shizuoka where it later died according to Reuters.
Saved by el Nino! Warm Pacific means fewer hurricanes
(11/30/2006) El Nino's to blame for the quiet 2006 hurricane season according to researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While some climate scientists forecast a big hurricane year in 2006, the official six-month season produced only nine tropical storms and hurricanes, below the average of 11. For the first time since 1997, there were no Category 4 or 5 hurricanes, the strongest type of storm. 2005 saw the worst hurricane season on record with 28 storms including 3 category 5 storms: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Hurricane Katrina caused some $80 billion in damage as it destroyed the city of New Orleans.
Weak El Nino returns to the Pacific
(10/05/2006) NASA satellite data indicates El Nino has returned to the tropical Pacific Ocean, although in a relatively weak condition that may not persist and is currently much less intense than the last major El Niño episode in 1997-1998.
Pacific wind pattern driving el Nino slows due to global warming
(05/03/2006) Global warming has caused a key wind circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean to weakened by 3.5 percent since the mid-1800s and scientists warn that it be further diminished by another 10% by 2100. The study, published in the May 4 issue of Nature, says that the weakening of the Walker circulation could could alter climate -- including el Nino and La Nina events -- and the marine food chain across the entire Pacific region. The Walker circulation, an atmospheric circulation of air at the equatorial Pacific Ocean which spans almost half the circumference of Earth, pushes the Pacific Ocean's trade winds from east to west, generating rainfall in Indonesia while creating ocean upwelling off the coast of South America that nourishes marine life.
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