ENN's editors summarize the most compelling environmental and sustainable economy themes of the week. In the news August 1st - 5th: The grim view from space, man's best friend cloned, halting desert creep in Senegal, ENN's readers weigh in on energy, and much more.
Top Ten Stories of the Week
Sustainable Economy News Roundup
EarthNews Radio Review
Guest Commentary: Time to Tackle the Pirates
The Week's Top Ten, by Carrie Schluter
In the news August 1st - 5th: The grim view from space, man's best friend cloned, halting desert creep in Senegal, ENN's readers weigh in on energy, and much more.
1. Shuttle Commander Sees Wide Environmental Damage
Space shuttle commander Eileen Collins has seen the Earth like few others -- from the far reaches of space -- and reports that the view should make us think about the health of our planet. "The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have."
2. Loss of Wolves Changes Canadian Ecosystem
It looks like fear of the "big, bad wolf" might have changed an entire ecosystem. In parts of western Canada, researchers have noted that the disappearance of wolves in the 1960s has had a detrimental domino effect on a number of other species, including elk, birds and beavers.
3. Indonesia Sanctuary Puts the Beast Back into Animals
Indonesia's trade in endangered animals has had an unexpected side effect: taking the "wild" out of wild animals. The Cikananga Animal Rescue Center has taken up the challenge of helping animals, from cockatoos to tigers, regain their natural instincts, necessary for their successful return to the wild.
4. Weather Service Predicts Many More Hurricanes This Year
Brace yourself, east coasters: It looks like we could be in for a long, active hurricane season. With two hurricanes behind us, the National Weather Service predicts seven to nine more before the season is over. The likely culprit behind the stormy weather? You guessed it. Global warming.
5. You Don't Do It, We Will, EPA Tells States on Cutting Downwind Pollutants
Twenty-eight states across the country had better reduce power plant pollution...or else. Unless state officials clean up their act and put plans together to make the air cleaner for those living downwind, the Bush administration will be prescribing specific pollution mitigation measures in the fall of 2006.
6. Ivory Bill's Doubters Convinced by Tapes
Last week a group of ornithologists called into question the re-emergence of the ivory billed woodpecker, saying that the blurry videotaped evidence just didn't appear to be convincing. This week, they say they're convinced, thanks to audio recordings of a double-rap that could only be made by that elusive species.
7. Senegal Mulls 'Green Wall' to Stop Desert Advance
In an effort to draw the line on the Sahara desert, environmental officials in Senegal are considering going on the offensive by planting a "Great Green Wall" of trees. "Instead of waiting for the desert to come to us, we need to attack it," said Environment Minister Modou Fada Diagne.
8. Grad Student Believes Wood May Replace Oil
An Idaho grad student has a novel idea for addressing the oil crisis. Juan Andres Soria has created a process through which wood is turned into bio-oil, which has similar properties to crude oil. His experiments with the process thus far have revealed oil grades that have the potential one day to replace products including gasoline tar, and certain resins.
9. South Korean Scientists Clone First Dog
A team led by Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk has made the record books by cloning a dog -- an Afghan hound, to be exact -- while rekindling the debate over the ethics of cloning. In 2004, Hwang and company cloned human embryos, also a first. Speaking of his latest feat, he said, "Dogs share physiological characteristics with humans. A lot of diseases that occur in dogs can be directly transferred to humans."
10. If You Could Have Written the Energy Bill...
The provisions in the new energy bill signed last week left many environmentalists thinking that there must be more innovative approaches to decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. So ENN's publisher, Jerry Kay, posed the following question to ENN readers: "If you could have written our national energy legislation what would you have included?" As we predicted, the response has been tremendous. These summaries showcase the diversity of our readers' opinions and ideas:
Sustainable Economy News Roundup, by Paul Geary
This week ENN's Sustainable Economy channel brought you news of the good, the bad, and the innovative. Let's start with the innovative.
Environmental News Network this week launched the ENN Expo, a place where companies and organizations can showcase their environment-friendly products and services in a self-directed interactive format. Companies that utilize the Expo will get the attention of ENN's green-savvy audience; readers will learn about the most cutting-edge new products in the ever-growing green marketplace. Here's the full story:
The Expo brings you the latest in innovation, but we've featured plenty of forward-looking companies in the Sustainable Economy channel as well; this week was no different. Here are some companies (large and small) and individuals that ENN featured that are working every day for a cleaner, more sustainable world:
Innovative Environment-Friendly Products: Soda Club
Toyota to Keep Electric RAV4s in Service
Green For Good Launches Website' Featuring Nearly 1400 Green, Organic And Eco-Friendly Products
Landfill Expert Always Let His Entrepreneurial Talent Go To 'Waste'
Turning Recycled Materials into Stylish, Customized Panels
EPA Recognizes Starbucks as Among Largest Green Power Purchasers in the U.S.
In the "bad" category, conflicts over environmental practices, or lack thereof, find themselves in the business pages (including here at ENN) regularly:
DEP Urged to Protect Pennsylvania's Environment from Toxic Mercury
Energy Education Needed to Avert Conflict in the Rocky Mountains
Environmental Group Accuses California Farms of 'Double Dipping' Subsidies
Feds Subpoena Home Depot Records in Hazardous Waste Probe
Toyota-GM Talks on Fuel Cell Venture Stalled
In the "good" department, we find two organizations that are designed to get people involved at the ground level:
New California Farm Trail: Sierra Oro Farm Trail Promises a Culinary Glimpse of Specialty Farms in Northern California
4th Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair to Be Held in August
Perhaps we should add a fourth category to today's report: "Better late than never:"
Be sure to check ENN regularly to get the latest news about business and the environment. We'll continue to cover the latest in product and service innovation in the environment-friendly market. You can find it here on ENN on our Sustainable Economy News page.
EarthNews Radio Review, by Paul Geary
Each week EarthNews Radio provides you with 90-second blasts of information about science, activism, and the environment. And you don't have to be at your radio to hear them! The ENN Radio Network's space on ENN allows you to listen to several of Jerry Kay's EarthNews Radio broadcasts that you may have missed. They're there when you want to listen to them.
This week, EarthNews Radio featured an effort by college students to get others involved, and to get people in the US talking about automobile efficiency in particular and energy policy in general. The "Road to Detroit Campaign" is in high gear:
Often there are aspects of wildlife that humans may consider a nuisance, or even downright dangerous. But animals depend on these functions for survival, and humans would be well-served to understand them. Jerry Kay brought you information about vital animal functions that are often met with misunderstanding by humans:
And this week, EarthNews Radio featured several organizations designed to fill your mind with fascinating scientific and environmental information:
Listen to EarthNews Radio regularly to hear Jerry Kay's interviews with many compelling scientists, activists, and environmentalists. They'll certainly get you thinking -- and may even prompt you to act! And be sure to visit EarthNews Radio's home here at ENN; you can find it at www.enn.com/enn_radio_main.html.
Time to Tackle the Pirates -- An ENN Guest Commentary
by Dr. Claude Martin, WWF International
The skull-and-cross-bone flags may be gone, but pirates are still sailing the oceans -- and still plundering as they go. The loot these days is not gold and jewels, but fish. And by unwittingly buying these illegally obtained spoils, you and I are helping drive fish populations to extinction.
Fish and seafood products are among the most widely traded commodities worldwide, worth billions of dollars annually. Some species attract extremely high prices. Patagonian toothfish -- often marketed as Chilean sea bass -- fetches up to US$35 per kilogram, for example, while top sashimi-quality tuna has reached over US$200 per kilogram.
With this much money to be made, it’s perhaps not surprising that pirate fishing -- otherwise known as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing -- takes place.
Investigations over the last couple of years have revealed complicated webs of professionally coordinated IUU fishing activities spread across many countries. These ventures use various strategies to evade apprehension and avoid national and international laws and agreements to protect fish stocks and other marine resources. The origin of their illegal catch is so well disguised that it can be sold legitimately and enter consumer markets -- mainly those in Japan, the EU, the US, and other developed countries.
The evasive nature of IUU fishing makes it hard to assess its scale. However, in some important fisheries, IUU fishing is thought to account for up to 30% of total catches. For specific species the situation is even worse where IUU fishing may account for at least half the Patagonian toothfish in the market place.
The damage is enormous. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 76% of the world's fisheries are classified as “fully exploited”, or “over-exploited”. The FAO also reports that catches of some species may be 300% more than the permitted level due to IUU fishing.
This has enormous consequences. South Africa, for example, has reportedly lost US$290 million since the mid-1990s to toothfish poachers alone, and legitimate toothfish fishing has been completely wiped out. One of the country’s toothfish stocks collapsed after just three years of pirate fishing.
This pattern is repeated throughout the world, with pirates vacuuming up fish and other seafood to commercial extinction in one place, then moving on to the next. IUU fishing also affects employment and food security in developing coastal countries that lack the means to patrol their waters.
Poachers are not just decimating valuable fish stocks. Their unregulated use of damaging, and sometimes illegal, fishing practices is killing tens of thousands of seabirds, dolphins, sharks, and turtles each year, and wiping out delicate deep-sea corals and other habitats that are vital fish breeding grounds.
The good news is that some countries have already started to fight IUU fishing. Australia, South Africa, and France are increasing the surveillance of their southern waters, and chasing and apprehending poachers. The US, where it’s a federal offence to import or transport fish caught in violation of state and foreign law, also goes after poachers. Last year two men were jailed and fined US$5.9 million for smuggling lobster caught illegally in South Africa.
However, these efforts are being undermined by the current complicated jungle of multilateral treaties and agreements governing the High Seas -- the 64% of the ocean that lies outside of any nation’s jurisdiction -- and the failure of many countries to enforce, or even ratify, regional and international laws regarding fish stocks.
One of the biggest problems is so-called flags of convenience (FoC). Under existing laws governing the High Seas, the law of the flag state -- the country in which a vessel is registered -- applies. So if a country either hasn’t signed up to fishing agreements or doesn’t enforce them, then vessels flagged to that country are able to plunder the High Seas at will.
The problem doesn’t end with FoC countries. Many more countries either fail to restrict fishing companies from owning and operating FoC vessels or do not rigorously inspect FoC vessels landing at their ports -- including countries with some of the biggest fishing fleets such as the EU, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Governments are also currently not making citizens working on FoC vessels liable to national laws, which effectively allows pirates to break the laws of their country with impunity.
Markets could also be more responsible in demanding legally caught fish. For example, as part of its efforts to manage toothfish fisheries, CCAMLR, the body responsible for fisheries in the Southern Ocean, has a catch documentation scheme to monitor toothfish trade. However, one of the largest importers of Patagonian toothfish, Canada, has not implemented this system.
Clearly, more needs to be done than simply chasing boats and prosecuting the few smugglers who are successfully tracked and caught. IUU fishing is so pervasive that a systematic, international approach is needed to prevent illegal activities at every point along the chain, from fishing to the market.
It’s time for countries to crack down on FoC vessels and to ratify and enforce international regulations such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Countries should also follow the lead of the US and make it a crime to break the fisheries laws of other nations. And customs agencies and retailers must vigorously ensure that the fish entering their country and markets is demonstrably legally caught.
If the world as a whole doesn’t act together to fight illegal fishing, we are set to lose a valuable natural resource that contributes to our food supply, economy, and health.
Dr. Claude Martin is the director-general of WWF International, based in Gland, Switzerland.
Photo: Adult black-footed male ferret at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center. Credit: Paul Marinari/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.