Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card
Cruises at sea can be a blast. They can also be a negative blast to the environment. Consider the trash and sewage collected on board. A 3000 person cruise generates hundreds of thousand gallons of human sewage—alone. Some liners have taken positive action to reduce their environmental impact, others, have not. To our surprise, Disney Cruise Line is the worst rated on a recent Friends of the Earth Cruise Ship Report Card. Check it out at http://www.foe.org/cruisereportcard. Mickey Mouse needs to clean up his act.
Texas announces $135.4M coastal protection plan
By JUAN A. LOZANO (AP) – Sep 14, 2009
HOUSTON — Texas announced Monday that it was embarking on the biggest coastal protection effort in state history to fight beach erosion and defend against future hurricanes.
The $135.4 million plan comes just a year after Hurricane Ike’s powerful storm surge damaged thousands of homes in Galveston, the neighboring Bolivar Peninsula and other communities across southeast Texas. The Sept. 13, 2008 hurricane also scoured away beaches, submerged marshes in seawater and ruined thousands of acres of vegetation.
“We’ve been trying to do large scale projects like this for quite some time but (Hurricane) Ike has accelerated our efforts and created a greater sense of urgency,” Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a telephone interview shortly after announcing the plan in Galveston. “It’s the largest commitment to coastal protection in the history of Texas.”
Work will begin immediately on 26 projects from South Padre Island in South Texas to McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge on the upper Texas Coast, Patterson said. The projects have different timelines for being completed.
The biggest project will be a more than $46 million beach renourishment that will replace sand over a stretch of six miles from the west end of Galveston’s famed seawall.
Another stretch of Galveston’s beaches, which are a big tourist attraction but also fortify the seawall, were replenished earlier this year after being eroded by Ike. The 10-mile long seawall has protected the island city since it was built after the Great Storm of 1900, which killed 6,000 people.
Other projects include:
_ a $32 million project that will restore dunes along 20 miles of beaches that protect the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. The 55,000 acre refuge protects one of the largest remaining freshwater marshes on the Texas Coast.
_ an $18.3 million project to rebuild dunes on Bolivar Peninsula. Ike’s storm surge overwhelmed this thin strip of land along the Gulf of Mexico, washing away or damaging 3,600 homes and other structures.
_ a $1 million test project in South Padre Island that will place low profile stabilizers, or concrete filled tubes, underwater in beaches on the north end. The stabilizers will slow down erosion by retaining sand usually lost to waves and currents.
Patterson said these projects will protect not just the state’s physical assets but also the economy.
“It’s going to protect the dollars that are generated in the coast,” he said. “Without a beach in front of the seawall in Galveston, there are no tourists. Without tourists, no hotel motel taxes, no sales taxes generated.”
Patterson said the state is allocating $25 million for the effort. Matching funds from local communities and the federal government is increasing the total to more than $135 million.
A telephone message left Monday with the Gulf Restoration Network was not immediately returned.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Mafia and Toxic Wastes In Our Seas
ROME (Reuters) – Italian authorities have found the wreck of a ship sunk by the mafia with 180 barrels of toxic waste on board, one of more than 30 such vessels believed to lie off Italy’s southern coast, officials said on Tuesday.
Following a lead from a mafia turncoat, investigators used a remote-controlled submersible to film the 110-meter (360-feet) long vessel on Saturday, around 28 km (18 miles) from the coast of the southwestern Italian region of Calabria.
The ship, which officials say may even contain radioactive elements, lay in 500 meters (yards) of water in the Tyrrhenian sea. TV images showed at least one barrel had fallen from its damaged hull and lay empty on the seabed.
“There could be problems of toxins and heavy metals … this is an issue for the whole international community,” said Silvestro Greco, head of Calabria’s environment agency.
The ship’s location was revealed by Francesco Fonti, an ex-member of Calabria’s feared ‘Ndrangheta crime group, who confessed to using explosives to sink this vessel and two others.
Greco said investigators believed there were 32 ships carrying toxic waste sunk by the mafia since the introduction of tighter environmental legislation in the 1980s made illegal waste disposal a lucrative business for crime groups.
“The Mediterranean is 0.7 percent of the world’s seas. If in this tiny portion there are more than 30 (toxic waste) shipwrecks, imagine what there could be elsewhere,” he said.
(Reporting by Antonio Denti and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Louise Ireland)
Remote Coral Reef Recovers
Right now, most people are focused on an economic recovery and liking the signs they see, but marine scientists are also excited about a different kind of recovery: a coral reef that is gradually restoring itself back to health. The economic value of coral reefs should not be underestimated either. Many important fisheries rely on coral habitat, as does the tourist industry.
A few years ago, the world’s remotest coral reef of the Phoenix Islands, part of the Republic of Kiribati – in the Pacific – experienced a coral die-off event known as bleaching. This is when the tiny plants (algae) that live within the coral and provide it with the nutrients it needs, die, and the corals turn white without their symbiotic plant support. Coral bleaching is induced by warming waters. With ocean temperatures increasing around the world, scientists have long feared for the future of our coral reefs, with some estimating that warm water corals could be gone by 2050 if we continue to warm our water and not control our CO2 emissions. Corals are also impacted by the increasing acidity of our oceans, as the oceans absorb our pollution. We will be telling this important story in our new temporary exhibition opening in March 2010.
So scientists on a return trip to the Phoenix Islands recently were astonished and delighted to find that over half of the coral reef had regenerated and was teeming with life; corals are critical habitat for so many creatures.
The region is being proposed as a World Heritage Site, and perhaps this additional protection may have some benefits. But what is really important here is the ability of our ecosystems to self heal, if left alone from human interference. Marine scientists have been saying that this is true for some time – and other examples – closing areas to fishing, species protection etc. have shown it time and time again. But this is yet another example of how nature knows best and if we can allow it space and time, it can recover and renew.