ENN summarizes the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news November 21st - 25th: Coral repairs in Mexico, a toxic slick pollutes waters in China, sonar threatens marine life, and India makes progress in the war on tiger poachers.
The Week's Top Ten
In the news November 21st - 25th: Coral repairs in Mexico, a toxic slick pollutes waters in China, sonar threatens marine life, and India makes progress in the war on tiger poachers.
1. Study Shows There's More CO2 Now Than Past 650K Years
Never before in the past 650,000 years has there been as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as there is today. That's the bottom-line finding of researchers in Europe who studied the air bubbles trapped for thousands of years in Antarctic ice. "...These studies tell us that there's a strong relationship between temperature and greenhouse gases," said geosciences specialist Edward Brook. "Which logically leads you to the conclusion that maybe we should worry about temperature change in the future."
2. Environmentalists Fight Forest Plan Change
On Tuesday a year-and-a-half-old change to the Northwest Forest Plan came under fire by environmentalists in a Seattle federal court. The change, which eliminated the requirement for certain projects to undergo evaluation for their likely impact on watersheds prior to approval, was requested by the timber industry. According to Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, "even in key watersheds, there are no standards that control logging or mining or roadbuilding or grazing or any other activities."
3. Humane Society Sues Government over Poultry Slaughter
In a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the U.S. this week, the group argues that commonly used poultry-slaughtering methods are cruel as well as potentially dangerous to human health. National Chicken Council spokesman Richard Lobb defended the usual method of stunning the animals by dipping them in electrically charged water. "We do have humane handling and slaughter in the industry," he said "The system is set up to stun the bird so that it is insensitive to pain when it is killed, and it should be dead before it enters the scalder."
4. Mexican Divers Try To Fix Storm-Wracked Coral Reef
Having suffered the wrath of Hurricane Wilma in October, the Manchones coral reef -- one of the world's largest reef systems -- is under repair. The task of re-attaching broken pieces of coral to the living reef with straps is a challenging one for the Mexican SCUBA divers, who have had to battle the effects of Tropical Storm Gamma during the course of their work. "There's still a lot of live coral down there which is great, but we have a lot more work to do, and this weather's not helping," summarized diver Luis Guerra.
5. U.S. is Reducing Greenhouse Gases without Kyoto, White House Adviser Says
Despite having declined to sign the Kyoto accord, the U.S. is doing its part to slow global warming, the White House said this week. According to James Connaughton of the Council on Environmental Quality, "While we are not able to produce the outcome Kyoto would require of us, we are able to make substantial progress under the banner of the treaties in which we are participating."
6. Chinese Oil Firm Apologizes for Polluting Water Supply in Northeastern City
Nearly four million residents of the city of Harbin in northeast China had an unpleasant week, due to a chemical plant explosion that polluted the major city's water supply. China National Petroleum Corp., singled out by environmental officials as the source of the toxic spill, apologized on Thursday for the mishap. Environmentalists criticized government handling of the situation: "Careful environmental evaluation should have been made to avoid building dangerous factories near residential areas and water sources in the first place," said Friends of Nature's Xue Ye.
7. U.N. Says Sonar Threatens Dolphin, Whale Survival
Following an October lawsuit by a coalition of enviro groups claiming that the Navy's use of sonar ran afoul of environmental protection rules, news this week from the U.N. that sonar does, indeed impede the ability of some marine species to navigate and locate food. Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society said, "This is a hugely serious concern as these animals need sound to navigate, to find their food, to communicate and to mate."
8. India Says It Busts Major Tiger Poaching Ring
A tiger poaching ring in India suspected of killing 10 or more of the animals in the Ranthambhore reserve has been taken out by police. With a rapid decline in tiger populations documented in the past year, activists say that even more progress must be made to stop poaching. Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India said, "The authorities are in a complete state of denial about the problem and large scale tiger poaching has not been addressed."
9. New Wave of Hybrids Offer More Mean, Less Green
It looks like the hybrids of tomorrow might have more in common with their gas-guzzling counterparts than with the standard awkward-looking models that have taking the streets by storm lately. Long on fuel economy by short on performance, today's hybrids are being replaced by sleeker, more powerful versions -- but all that power comes with an environmental price. "...if you have a hybrid that guzzles and doesn't pollute less, then what are you doing?" asks the Sierra Club's global warming director Dan Becker.
10. Throw Another Skippy or Wallagang on the Barbie?
In a week traditionally focused on food in the U.S., word out of Australia that a different kind of meat has been making its way to the barbecues of Oz. How about a little kangaroo for dinner? Recognizing that would-be consumers might not take to the concept of "kangaroo meat" the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, along with Food Companion International magazine, is holding a contest to "...come up with a catchier name."
Guest Commentary: Medicine and Fishery Management Merge...Again
By Craig Springer, Fish & Wildlife Service
The parallel is too curious to be overlooked. James Henshall, M.D.,had his home just a short walk away from his work in a Victorian two-storythat still stands. There on the grounds at a national fish hatchery inBozeman, Montana, Dr. Henshall hit his stride in the late 1800s - notpracticing medicine - but directing fish culture operations as thesuperintendent of a fledgling federal hatchery.
Henshall is probably best known as author of the classic Book of theBlack Bass, which is still available at most any book store. Therein heposited about the "eminently American fish" and its behavioral traits:"the arrowy rush" of the "gamest fish that swims." He waxed poetic aboutsmallmouth bass, and argued that the spotted bass did not exist as adistinct species. Henshall gave up a career as a medical doctor fordistinguished work in conservation and fish culture.
Today, modern fish culture and medicine again merge at the Bozemanstation where Henshall once lived and worked.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Aquatic Animal Drug ApprovalPartnership (AADAP) program is based there. This national program isdesigned to generate, compile, and manage much of the complex informationneeded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for one purpose - toget new aquatic animal drugs and theraputants on the market and in use. Nomatter if the drug is to be used for treating parasitic infection inlargemouth bass, gill disease in walleye, or bacterial infection in salmonand trout - fish you might find on the end of your line or under plastic atthe grocery - AADAP plays a major role in channeling that information tothe FDA.
It's an arduous process to get a new aquatic animal drug approved,and it can take years of research and millions of dollars. In somerespects, getting new drugs approved for fish and other aquatic animals ismore difficult than it is for people. Reason being, people eat fish andshellfish. New drugs must effectively target specific diseases anddisease-causing pathogens. They must also be manufactured at the highestquality, and be safe for the target species, the environment, and forpeople - and all such claims must be supported by solid scientific data.
"With any new animal drug that's been approved by the FDA, you knowit's met the gold standard," said Dr. Dave Erdahl, AADAP's director."Getting useful drugs and theraputants approved and into the hands offishery managers and fish culturists results in healthy fish, healthypeople, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy."
Recent examples of new drugs are worthy of note: The FDA approvedformalin for controlling external parasites in all species of fish. Thenew animal drug Chorulon enhances fish propagation - it's used to inducespawning, and has utility in endangered species conservation. OxyMarine isa new skeletal marking agent. With it, fishery biologists can quickly,safely, and with low cost, mark fish en masse so that they can moreeffectively assess fish populations. In fall of 2005, the FDA approvedAquaflor for catfish - the first new antibacterial drug approved in manyyears.
AADAP is a partnership; its scientists help coordinate the datagenerated from over 130 entities comprised of state and federal agencies,Native American Tribes, and private companies - all set on seeing newaquatic animal drugs approved.
The parallel continues. Henshall made a mark in fisheriesconservation, and certainly influenced the pursuit of what is todayAmerica's favorite game fish. AADAP's work resounds in fisheries managedfor public good or private gain. The science is manifest in the live-well,staving off extinctions, and even on your dinner plate.
Photo: An Eastern Wild Turkey. Credit: Gary M. Stolz/U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.