Latest News Archive 2010

 Radioactivity   MA Marine Aggregates   ML Marine Legislation   BW Bathing Water   MR Marine Reserves   RE Renewable Energy   OA Ocean Acidification   PO Pollution   FI Fisheries   GW Global Warming   CE Coastal Erosion

December 2010

FI Scottish North Sea haddock fishery given certificate of sustainability by Marine Stewardship Council

FI Doubts expressed about Marine Stewardship Council certification in UK seas

FI Lawbreaking and abuse of EU drift net conversion scheme by Italian fishing fleet

FI Questions asked about how EU money is first spent on modernising a fishing vessel, then scrapping it

FI How the EU subsidises illegal fishing

FI Controversy surrounds Marine Stewardship Council "sustainable fishery" certifications

FI Scottish fishermen are said to have illegally landed "black fish" worth around £37 million

FI PO Concern that Scottish salmon fish farms are concealing their true environmental impact

FI Scallop fishery still a problem in the Clyde's inshore waters

PO A deep water oil spill in UK seas would affect many parts of the North Atlantic ocean

FI Scallop dredging — parliamentary Early Day Motion

GW Melting ice and freezing Britain

CE Temporary Felixstowe Protection

CE Severe Suffolk beach loss

PO Ship-to-Ship Oil transfers given go ahead

PO Transocean oil rig suffered start of blow-out in North Sea

GW Hadley Centre re-evaluates impact of climate change on northern oceans

PO "One-fifth of world's unrecovered oil reserves are in the Arctic", it is claimed

RE Scottish government and Mitsubishi link to create offshore wind turbine manufacturing plan

FI "Atlantic conference on protection of Tuna and Sharks disappoints conservationists

PO Ocean-going ships to get ratings on energy efficiency

PO North Sea oil pollution prevention plan agreed

GW "Critical habitat" set aside for polar bear in Alaska

FI "FishFight" launched to combat CFP fish discarding practice

RE Spain competing with UK to build largest offshore wind turbine

CE Further severe Norfolk beach loss

Misc Incidence of whale and dolphin strandings is increasing

GW PO Last chance for UK carbon collection and storage in the North Sea to prove it can work

European nuclear waste shipped via Norway to Russia

FI Stocks of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna facing total collapse

FI Edinburgh zoo's sea lions and penguins to eat only sustainably caught fish

BW UK claims record compliance with EU Bathing water quality standards, but doubts persist

MR Norfolk's 'Great Barrier Reef'

RE Portugal to test new floating wind farm

November 2010

PO Arctic oil-spill clean-up plans "thoroughly inadequate"

Misc The world's best underwater photographs 2010

PO EU ports to cut fees for low-emission ships

FI Isle of Man takes steps to limit access of Scottish scallop fishermen to Manx waters

PO Tribunal to hear water information case

Misc Latest on the Seal Deaths

RE Oil and Gas industry in dispute with Wind Turbine industry over North Sea sites

PO EU and US recommence deep water drilling, and EU seeks to extend life of existing platforms

FI ML Defra begins to define its thinking for CFP Reform

PO Greenpeace sues UK for end to Shetland oil drilling

PO Greenland wants $2bn bond from oil firms keen to drill in its Arctic waters

Misc American Military Sonar Weapon Testing killing whales?

OA Sea urchins and other echinoderms show a tolerance of acidified seas

PO Can the oceans be cleared of floating plastic rubbish?

FI Scottish fisherman fear that the collapse in whiting stocks could now confront mackerel

FI Fewer UK fishermen are landing less fish, whilst prices are rising

FI MR Fishermen express concern over how the Marine Act's network of MCZs is being identified

ML PO GW OSPAR Conference produces a Ministerial Statement of its aims up to 2020

ML MARINET analyses the strengths and weaknesses of OSPAR's Quality Status Report 2010

MR MARINET Report calls for "fundamental changes in marine management"

CE Coastal footpath scheme under fire from CLBA

CE Happisburgh residents criticise 'insulting' compensation offer

RE Halcrows complain at Huhne's exclusion of tidal and wave power

RE Scotland launches £70m wind energy fund

RE 228 MW Wind Farm to be built in German section of the North Sea

GW FI OA PO Marine biodiversity will decline sharply, warns UN

PO World's first deep sea mineral mine gets go-ahead

ML MMO announces commencement of marine planning in two East Coast areas

Will waste disposal costs from the new coastal nuclear power stations be correctly calculated?

RE Plan to extend UK's largest offshore windfarm scrapped

RE UK Government says : No to Severn barrage, but Yes to Nuclear power

FI PO Norwegian fish farms challenged over their pollution

PO EU proposes overhaul of safety rules for oil rigs

GW Climate change could lead to Arctic conflict, warns senior Nato commander

October 2010

OA GW Important ecological shifts in the North Atlantic reported by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation

MISC Speculation that the Environment Agency and Natural England may be merged

RE Severn Barrage rejected as too expensive relative to other renewables

MISC Norfolk Wildlife Trust — Adult Wildlife Workshops

RE Dropping of the Severn Barrage — Barry & Vale FoE statement

PO EU Parliament drops call for a freeze on deep water oil and gas drilling

PO IMO fails to agree CO2 reduction targets for new ships

PO BP Deepwater Horizon oil well spill declared "effectively dead"

PO FI OA GW Mixed picture on health of North East Atlantic

PO OSPAR Ministers called to take action on marine litter at Atlantic Summit

FI Shetland acts to protect important marine habitats from scallop dredging

FI MA Scottish Government agrees to review the ecological condition of the Clyde

BW 2010 is a bad summer for Scottish Bathing Waters

Misc Isle of Scilly seaweed is retaining its natural character

FI GW Census of Marine Life says there are more than 1 million species living in our oceans

PO Chevron to begin deep water oil exploration off UK coast

RE Scotland aims for 100% of electricity from renewables by 2025

FI US company considering six species of fish for GM modification

Misc Latest on the Seal Mutilations

CE CLA Concern on Coastal Erosion

CE Erosion of Hunstanton Cliffs

PO BP's Deepwater Horizon oil platform was flying a "flag of convenience"

PO UK winning in efforts to soften regulation of offshore oil drilling

Misc 30 year old Arctic tern has travelled 1 million miles during its lifetime

MR Does the failure of UK terrestrial conservation foretell ill for UK marine conservation?

RE Only 20% of the contract for UK's largest offshore windfarm goes to UK firms

PO UK shipping emissions six times greater than previously calculated

GW Explanation sought for ocean cooling event 40 years ago

PO Oil discovered in the pristine seas off Greenland

RE Listing of all Offshore Wind Farms

September 2010

RE Massive New Windfarm on the horizon

Misc Macabre Seal Deaths — Further Input

PO Bob Latimer wins a major breakthrough

Misc Macabre Seal Deaths — Updates

OA Ocean acidification already eating away at commercial shellfish

GW Arctic sea ice in 2010 melts to third lowest area on record

PO Most of the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill is now lying on the seabed

PO EU launches "motorways of the sea" initiative

FI RE EU to give €45m in grants for green maritime research

GW PO Global warming could reduce the number of Arctic hurricanes, facilitating exploration

Misc Macabre Seal Deaths in North Norfolk

FI PO Is the Growth Hormone in GM Salmon a serious health risk?

RE Cornish Wave-Hub for marine renewable electricity has been successfully installed

CE Yet another Whitehall Norfolk coast visit

FI Ecological meltdown in the Firth of Clyde

GW Antarctic ice-shelf not as ancient as first thought

ML EU Commission decides on criteria for "Good Environmental Status" in Marine Strategy Framework Directive

FI Huge mussel shellfish farm planned at Lyme Bay, Dorset

CE Compensation for Property Loss due to SMP?

FI PO Fast-growing GM Salmon approved by US government scientists, but elsewhere there is great concern

FI UK seas can now supply fish to the nation for only 3 days out of every 5

RE UK and Norway agree to co-operate on offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and oil and gas

PO Pollution from British offshore oil rigs worsens

FI Scottish trawlermen convicted of illegal herring and mackerel fishing

FI Iceland and Faroe Islands claim increased mackerel fishing quotas

MR Help decide which coastal areas need to be Marine Conservation Zones

PO Bid for oil company suggests there is still plenty of oil in the North Sea

PO At least 75% of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil-spill still in the sea

PO Norwegian preparedness for marine oil spills described as shameful

RE UK ports to be fast-tracked through planning process

MA Will Gower yet retain its Beach?

MA Do we perceive a 'rethink' on Marine Aggregate Dredging?

MR ML UK Government designates 15 new Marine Protected Areas under EU legislation

PO Now Atlantic is found to have huge 'garbage patch'

Misc North Norfolk Seal Death Mystery

August 2010

RE World's largest offshore tidal turbine about to be installed in Scottish waters

ML MR Concern is expressed that "austerity cuts" will damage marine conservation

GW Calving of large ice block from a Greenland glacier could portend the future

RE UK faces financing problem for its offshore wind programme

BW PO Many UK Blue Flag beaches could be contaminated by sewage

FI 4th August: the day the UK starts eating someone else's fish

PO FI Scientists conduct a species census of the oceans, but warn of mass extinctions

PO NAO tackles EA over Water Pollution

BW PO FI OA MARINET responds to Defra claim of "significant improvements" in UK seas

BW PO MARINET questions clean bill of health for East Anglian beaches

GW Serious long-term decline in marine phytoplankton populations

GW Severe decline in Scottish kittiwake, fulmar and herring gull populations

July 2010

FI MARINET launches its Common Fisheries Policy Reform campaign

CE MA Destruction of Norfolk's Golden Sand Beaches

RE Marine renewable energy makes progress via Wave Hub, Cornwall

FI New reports warn of global and Scottish fishing collapse

BW PO Eye on Earth

CE More Coastal Management manipulation?

PO Offshore Oil Transfer menace slowly being addressed

PO FI Anti-depressants in sea may damage food chain

CE More threatened villages take up the cudgels

CE Resistance to SMP escalating

PO Half of all fossil fuels now come from sources lying below the sea floor

PO EU Commissioner suggests a ban on offshore drilling pending evaluation of BP incident

PO How the relief oil-well is being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico

PO Eco warrior's Pacific journey shows how 'dumb plastic' is killing our seas

FI Plans to reform whaling regulations collapses

MA Important scientific studies still absent from offshore East Anglian aggregate REA

MA New aggregate extraction licence sought in the Severn Estuary

PO OA High CO2 concentrations can turn fish into daredevils

June 2010

PO Can the BP Gulf oil-spill be safely handled by oil dispersants?

MR Scientists call for worldwide system of highly protected marine reserves

BW PO The midway Bathing Water Directive — a retrograde step?

CE Rapidly Eroding Suffolk

MA Erosion-threatened Thorpeness householders blame dredging

FI PO New evidence that noise pollution affects fish

Coastal statistics on link between leukaemia and plutonium remain secret

RE £2bn offshore windfarm to go ahead off north Wales

RE Offshore energy has massive potential for the UK

PO Problems in the Baltic Sea remain serious

PO US halts deep-water offshore oil exploration

May 2010

PO Waste plastic is now an "environmental emergency"

FI If Jesus were to return to the Sea of Galilee today…

PO Norway grapples with explosion threat in its North Sea oil rigs

PO New evidence of sewage pollution of UK beaches

CE Coming 'Shoreline Management Plan' (SMP) Presentations

BW Artificial surfing reefing at Bournemouth has "teething problems"

PO Deep-water methane holds many secrets

CE Suffolk Coastal Loss escalating

FI Rare box crab netted by Cornish fisherman

PO Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have serious long-term consequences

ML International market for "conservation credits" proposed

MR Diver records wealth of marine life in wrecks in Liverpool Bay

CE Spending Cuts and Coastal Protection

MA Singapore uses offshore dredged sand to increase its territory

PO Cause and attempts to control the US Deepwater Horizon oil spill

CE Research into Coastal Defence Structures

GW Arctic winter sea-ice cover still shrinking

FI Can Cod be replaced by fish-farming the carnivorous tropical Cobia?

FI New study documents the huge decline in UK fish stocks

PO New USA policies on offshore oil exploration

PO Norway considers whether to start oil drilling in the Arctic

MA EUMARSAND — A European approach to Marine Aggregate Dredging

GW New rules for the Arctic Ocean urged by WWF

April 2010

CE Erosion trip leaves mixed feelings

MA Tracking the Dredgers

PO Government Planning Inspectorate backs ongoing beach sewage pollution

PO Pathogens identified in sewage-contaminated bathing water

FI Sea anglers fear fishing ban

Misc Marine Planning Collaboration

MA Who decides whether aggregate dredging causes serious damage?

FI Scottish scallop fishermen threaten the livelihood of Yorkshire crab fishermen

PO GW British campaigner urges UN to accept 'ecocide' as international crime

OA Acidification in the Arctic threatening a catastrophe

MR A precious legacy tainted by politics?

RE SW offshore marine energy potential to be mapped

Misc CEGW Defra publishes report on "Adapting to Coastal Change"

FI CITES and Japan criticised for failing to protect Bluefin Tuna

PO FIGW The TED prize sponsors "The Mission Blue Voyage"

MA House of Commons Crown Estate Inquiry input from MARINET

Misc FI Sea Shepherd reports on whaling in the Southern Ocean

March 2010

MR C.O.A.S.T. and Lamlash Bay launch their first newsletter

RE Scottish Government offers "prize" to encourage the generation of marine energy

FI Shellfish as nutritional food

CE Reversing Beach and Shoreline Erosion

PO Beach litter increasing says Marine Conservation Society survey

FI MR Fishermen meet UK Government to discuss Marine Reserves

FI OA New marine species and habitats threatened with destruction

RE New design for offshore wind turbines

MR IUCN says marine reserves are essential for the survival of the planet and humankind

FI EU supports ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna

CE Obituary — Blaise McArdle of Sand-RX

MA Humber Estuary & Coast — Another Independent report

FI Is catching wild fish more humane than farming fish?

FI Does fish farming make sense?

PO UK 1, MARINET & Environment 0

OA Rapid ocean acidification raises new concerns

MA MARINET appeals to Minister over East Anglian marine aggregate dredging

PO Tyne contaminated dredge disposal trial the subject of a Defra report

Seagulls and animals become radioactive at Sellafield

February 2010

Misc Scientists trying to invent a means of listening more carefully to marine mammals

Misc 'Wave glider' can collect key scientific facts about the oceans

Misc Subsea 'cat's eyes' could save dolphins' lives

MA Marine & Fisheries Agency (MFA) British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) Support

CE 'Ideas for protecting Norfolk and Suffolk's coastline'

CE Hopton Residents battling for sea-defence cash

FI The Last of the Many

RE 'Clouds get in the way'

OA POGW Pollution creating acid oceans

FI MA British native oysters threatened by an underwater snail

FI Most seafood ecolabelling schemes are deficient says WWF

Misc New UK licensing round for oil and gas exploration breaks acreage record

MR FI Fishermen and Natural England in talks over conservation off Dorset coast

PO Measures to protect the oceans from the dumping of rubbish have failed

RE Norway signs up to North Sea offshore supergrid

PO New moves to ban oil transfers off the east coast

MA MR Fishermen's Response to pSPA

MA European Justice and Dredging

RE UK government to invest £22m in new marine energy technologies

January 2010

MR URGENT — The Chagos Marine Reserve

CE Major Norfolk Landowner concerns on our Coastline

PO Water Companies face Legal Challenge over CSOs

ML France and United States sign joint marine partnership

Misc Burial at sea can create new reefs, suggests Dorset diver

MR GW Coral Reefs can recover from Climate Change damage if protected by marine reserves

MR FI Norfolk fishermen boycott coast meeting

CE The emotive side of erosion

CE Billion Pound Sea Wall for Norfolk?

CE Oilrigs should be used for homes in areas at risk of flooding, report says

RE More sea-derived energy — 'Neptune Proteus NP1000'

Latest figures published on radioactivity in food and the environment

Public consultation on new nuclear power station at Bradwell, Essex

MR Lundy Island is first MCZ under new Marine Act

10 new nuclear power stations proposed around English and Welsh coasts

FI MARINET makes submission to EU Fisheries Reform public consultation

OA Starfish and other marine animals are a major absorber of CO2

RE Mega-windfarm coming to offshore Norfolk

MR Marine Conservation Society launches voting campaign for MCZs

OA New Briefing Note on Ocean uptake of CO2

RE London Array offshore windfarm to start construction in early 2011

MR New Marine SACs and SPAs announced by Natural England and JNCC

MA Vulnerability of Sizewell

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Scottish North Sea haddock fishery given certificate of sustainability by Marine Stewardship Council

Scotland's high quality, locally caught North Sea haddock has achieved the gold standard of sustainability, delivering a major boost to the fishing industry.

The first landings of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified haddock arrived at Peterhead market on 29th October 2010.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, joined fishermen and members of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) in Peterhead to witness the official presentation of the award.

North Sea haddock is the first Scottish white fish to be certified with the gold standard of sustainability, and is of significant value to the fleet (26 thousand tonnes worth £25m in 2009).

Scottish North Sea Haddock is the first fishery of its kind to be certified in the North Sea.

Mike Park, Chair of SFSAG said: "The Scottish industry has been involved in a number of initiatives to demonstrate its sustainability and today is a significant milestone, illustrating the progress that has been made in a relatively short period of time. Achieving MSC accreditation for North Sea haddock will enable the industry to prove its credentials to the supply chain, through a recognised and independently verified standard, and ensure that the top quality haddock landed by Scottish vessels is available to as many consumers as possible."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Congratulations to SFSAG for this landmark achievement. Scotland is leading the rest of Europe on fisheries conservation and achieving the MSC gold standard for Scottish haddock is further recognition of this. The award is excellent news for our fishing fleets and is testament to the hard work of the industry in recent years. North Sea haddock is Scotland's most valuable white fish stock and achieving sustainable stock status will ensure further opportunities for our fishermen in the future. This could open the door for lucrative deals with leading retailers which value MSC status. The Scottish Government and industry have been working together to ensure that we are at the forefront of developing innovative ways to manage our fisheries. We have introduced the Conservation Credits Scheme in North Sea white fish fisheries, which has been instrumental in the certification of haddock. And WWF ranked Scotland number 1 in Europe, together with Denmark, for conservation measures by North Sea white fish fleets in 2009."

Haddock currently ranks number four in volume and value in the UK marketplace and total retail sales increased year on year to 30th September 2010 by 5.4% in value and 14.7% in volume.

Davie Anderson, Chairman of the Scottish Association of Fish Producer Organisations said: "There has been considerable interest from both retailers and the food service sector in MSC North Sea haddock. Certification will help to secure existing markets, create new opportunities, and reassure the consumer that North Sea Haddock is a good purchase choice."

Notes provided by WWF Scotland:

Source: WWF Scotland 29th October 2010.

MARINET observes:
MARINET welcomes the development of sustainable fishing practices, and their proper accreditation so that management can proceed on a sound basis, with the public knowing that the fish they are eating has been sustainably harvested from wild stocks. However in the case of the North Sea haddock fishery a number of questions still need to be answered before we can be certain that this present MSC accreditation is sound. These are:

  1. The assessment of a sustainable yearly catch must be based on historic stock levels, and not on present day depleted stock levels. This is essential if we are to rebuild the true potential of the stock, both in terms of the stock size that the ecosystem can support and in terms of rebuilding the fishing industry itself. If we base the definition of a sustainable yearly catch on a current depleted stock level, then we are preventing any possibility of genuinely rebuilding the stock to its full capacity. This would be a very short-sighted policy. The question therefore arises — is MSC accreditation built on historic or current present day stock levels? If we do not have a MSC definition based on historic stock levels, then we do not have a genuinely economically, socially and ecologically sustainable fishery.

  2. The accreditation of the haddock fishery must contain provisions that are workable and practical in order to protect other species and the wider ecosystem. For example if cod is a significant by-catch, then it is doubtful that the haddock fishery is really acting in a sustainable manner because the North Sea cod stock is at a level which requires it not to be fished, and the cod which are caught will be discarded as it will be illegal to land them. Also, cod and haddock are top level predators in the North Sea ecosystem, so removal of their numbers in significant amounts affects the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole. These factors need to be evaluated in the determination of whether the fishery is sustainable.

  3. There is a serious suspicion that the Scottish North Sea haddock MCS accreditation is simply an extension of single species management. If so, this is clearly not an ecosystem approach to the management of our seas and fisheries. Until we have a genuine ecosystem approach, where the integrity of the marine ecosystem itself is paramount, we cannot seriously expect the health of our fisheries to be rebuilt and restored. Until a genuine ecosystem approach is put in place, all so-called sustainability accreditation is window-dressing at best and, at worst, a denial of reality leading to a continuing collapse of the whole ecosystem.

  4. The information published on the Marine Stewardship Council website about the Scottish North Sea haddock fishery and its certification does not provide an answer to any of the above questions, click here. To have confidence in the process in which the Marine Stewardship Council is engaged, it is essential that its reports are published in full and are available on their website. This appears not to be the case at the present time, thus leaving important matters of fact unclear and in doubt.

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Doubts expressed about Marine Stewardship Council certification in UK seas

In an article dated 3rd August 2010 in their newsletter, click here, Dr. Sally Campbell, vice-chair of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (C.O.A.S.T) explores the issue of whether the Marine Stewardship Council and its certification scheme is accurately assessing whether certain fish stocks are being fished sustainably, and poses the question "Is it time for the MSC to revisit what 'stewardship' really means?"

In the article, Dr. Campbell observes: "The basic and continuing concern is what is meant by sustainability?"

Dr.Campbell cites the MSC definition in response to this question, and observes that Principle 2 of the MSC criteria states that sustainability is " Maintaining the structure, function and diversity of the ecosystem."

Dr. Campbell further observes: "It is clear that in many of the assessments this is seen as simply maintaining the status quo. So a degraded habitat is not recognised as such. There is no demand to rebuild the rich ecosystem that has been degraded by that particular fishery. The nephrops [Nephrops norvegicus, known variously as the Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn, langoustine or scampi] trawl fishery is a good example where nephrops predators are no longer present. The much reduced stock over the last 30 years of trawled fish in the North Sea is a glaring example where many eminent marine scientists insist the haddock stock is not at a sustainable level for the catches being taken. How crazy is a system that persuades shoppers this fish is really sustainable in both terms of stock left and the ecosystem from which it was taken? If the Clyde nephrops trawl fishery is certified as sustainable it will reinforce the belief in many quarters around the world that the Blue label is worth little biologically and scientifically, but many ££s in branding."

Dr. Campbell continues: "Following our presentation of views on the krill certification in our newsletter, COAST received correspondence from just about every corner of the world, all saying the same thing; we've received criticisms of bad outcomes, bad science, or no science at the time, letting fisheries through assessment, too much money tied in with certifiers, linkage of pre-assessment and assessment with same company, questionable linkages of governments with the certifiers and MSC, and so on. Something must be done to look at these glaring deficiencies in the processes. Sadly, what was started by Unilever and WWF to initiate MSC in an attempt to improve the dire state of fisheries and their ecosystems around the world, is now in danger of becoming no more than a branding exercise. Both WWF and MSC need to revisit certification and remove the Blue label from fisheries that damage their ecosystems in any way or are not actively assisting to repair and rebuild damaged marine ecosystems."

Source: C.O.A.S.T. Newsletter.

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Lawbreaking and abuse of EU drift net conversion scheme by Italian fishing fleet

Research by and its Italian partners has revealed disarray in the EU-funded plan to rid the Mediterranean of damaging drift nets.

Drift nets, known as 'walls of death', are a threat to marine life including dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. The nets can extend to dozens of kilometres.

In 1992 the EU agreed to ban drift nets longer than 2.5km or to catch certain species, with the ban coming into force in 2002. Between 1998 and 2002 the EU promoted drift net reconversion plans for the Italian fishing fleet. Approximately 700 vessels were involved and the plan was half financed by the EU and half by national aids. The total amount is estimated to be €200 million.

Following the repeated infringements of the drift net ban recorded by Greenpeace, OCEANA, The Humane Society, WWF as well as by EU inspectors, an infraction proceeding was filed against the Italian government. In 2009 the European Court of Justice ruled that between 2000 and 2005 Italy had failed to properly control and sanction the use of drift nets.

Controls were increased and between 2005 and 2009 over 300 Italian fishing vessels were sanctioned for illegal use of drift nets, according to data released by the Italian Coast Guard. Of these, 89 vessels had previously received aid to convert to other fishing gear (the average amount of conversion aid was €170,000 per vessel). In addition, marine conservation groups have recorded sightings of dozens of vessels using prohibited drift nets.

In the years that followed some of the sanctioned vessels received additional EU aid for modernisation, scrapping or exit from the fleet. Two cases are particularly interesting.

  1. Sibari and Sibari II. In 2002, the vessel Sibari received €72.000 from the 2002 drift net reconversion plan. In 2004, Sibari was scrapped and the owner compensated with €403,000. That money was used to purchase in 2005 the vessel Fioreavanti which was then renamed Sibari II (5RC1097). Sibari II was caught three times with illegal drift nets ("spadara") and sanctioned once in 2005 and twice in 2006. On June 20th, 2006 the Coast Guard seized 11km of drift nets, 500kg of swordfish and 150kg of tuna. At the end of 2006 Sibari II left the fleet and received €545,000 (50% from FIFG and 50% national aid).
  2. MZ01026 (no name known). This drift netter received €192,000 in 1998 through the first drift net conversion plan (that money was received as compensation for giving up drifnet fishing). In 1999 it received an additional €123,000 for scrapping and the EU fleet register records it as being demolished that year (the vessel's CFR number is ITA000005819). In 2006, MZ1026 was found with a drift net and sanctioned. It is unclear if the vessel was also seized.

Last April the Italian government announced a bluefin tuna (BFT) moratorium for Italian purse seiners and that an initial 50% of the national bluefin tuna quota would be made available to long liners, fixed tuna traps and recreational fisheries.

The drift net fleet immediately jumped on the opportunity and is now asking for additional long line licences. Up to last week the Italian government had received a total of 54 demands for new long line licences including from vessels on the 'black list' for illegal use of drift nets.

The drift net fleet appears to be exploiting a loophole in the current control system. Controls on a fishing vessels having both small drift nets ("ferrettara") and long line licences is difficult because although fishermen are not allowed to catch swordfish or tuna with a ferrettare, if they are have a long line licence and are caught with these species on board, they can pretend the fish were caught with long liners even though they were actually caught with drift nets. An internal circular from the Italian ministry of fisheries authorises vessel owners with a ferrattara licence to receive a long line licence provided they return a less selective fishing gear.

Commenting on the findings, Jack Thurston, co-founder of said: "It is a story of waste, fraud and abuse that's hard to believe. The Italian government must act on these revelations to ensure that all public aid is recovered from those who have benefited from the drift net reconversion plan but have continued fishing illegally. Furthermore, vessels that infringe the rules of the common fisheries policy should be barred from receiving public aid. Unless sanctions on law-breakers really bite, we can expect that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing will continue regardless of any control efforts that are put in place. As things stand, Italian fishermen regard the small fines as just another cost of doing business. The Italian government has the powers to levy much higher fines. It's high time it used its powers to enforce the law."

A full list of the vessels sanctioned for drift net use or sighted using drift nets by marine conservation organisations is available here.

A new, wide-ranging report on Illegal, Unregulated or Unreported (IUU) fishing by Italian drift netters is now available, click here.

Source: 14th December 2010.

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Questions asked about how EU money is first spent on modernising a fishing vessel, then scrapping it

Overcapacity in the EU fishing fleet is one of the main factors contributing to overfishing.

According to the European Commission the current EU fleet is two to three times the size required to catch the available fish stocks. In short, our ability to catch fish far exceeds the number of fish available.

In 2004 the EU stopped subsidising vessel construction but public money (EU funds and national co-financing) is still used for the modernisation of fishing vessels, without any assessment of how much this is contributing to over-fishing.

Analysis of fisheries subsidies data has revealed those vessels that received subsidies for modernisation, while only a short time later to receive subsidies for scrapping as an attempt to reduce the capacity of the fleet.

Between 1994 and 2006 shows that a total of 860 vessels received public aid for modernisation — sometimes several times — and subsequently for scrapping or in some cases transfer to third countries or reassignments to other uses. About half of the vessels are from Spain (326) and France (120).

In some cases a very short time elapsed between the modernisation and scrapping. 32 vessels received subsidies for modernisation and less than a year later got subsidies for scrapping, reassignment or transfer to third countries.

In the case of the Spanish vessel Mikel Deuna Primero only 17 days passed between funding decisions for modernisation and scrapping. The Italian Mamma Assunta received more than €20,000 for modernisation in 2001 about two years later €70,000 for scrapping.

Taken together, the EU spent at least €15 million in subsidies for modernisation of vessels. It subsequently spent more than €150 million on scrapping the very same vessels. View the full list of modernised-then-scrapped vessels here.

These revelations were based on analysis of EU fisheries subsidy payments between 1994 and 2006. Spending public money on scrapping vessels that have previously received modernisation and construction subsidies is almost certain to be continuing today, however the data released by governments is less detailed than it used to be and so it is not possible to confirm this is the case.

National governments continue to use the European Fisheries Fund to modernise vessels without even asking which stocks they will target.

With the large majority of stocks in bad shape and the consensus that fleet capacity has to be reduced it is likely that vessels receiving modernisation subsidies today will before very long be getting aid for scrapping. For example, the bluefin tuna fleet, built with the aid of EU subsidies, is likely soon to receive public aid to permanently or temporarily stop fishing because stocks are so depleted.


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How the EU subsidises illegal fishing has published a list of 42 convictions of fishing vessel owners that have also received EU subsidies under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The study, which focuses on two major EU fishing nations, Spain and France, involves matching records of court convictions with data on EU fisheries subsidy payments. Between them, the 36 law-breaking vessels received €13,510,418 in EU subsidies between 1994 and 2006.

Illegal fishing contributes to the overfishing of valuable fish stocks, many of which are at dangerously depleted levels.

While previous studies have shown that many EU fisheries subsidies have directly contributed to the overfishing of fish stocks, this is the first study that draws the link between subsidies and illegal fishing. While there is no obligation to take criminal behaviour into account when deciding which vessels should get subsidies, EU Member States are free to consider this information. There is little evidence that any of them are.

"EU Member States should ensure those in receipt of subsidies are not engaged in illegal fishing. Subsidies have in the past fuelled overfishing; in the future they must be used to support a transition to more sustainable fishing." said Markus Knigge of the Pew Environment Group, which commissioned the research into convictions and co-founded the website that tracks EU fisheries subsidies payments.

The research gives only a snapshot of the problem of illegal fishing and the prevalence of EU subsidies being paid to vessels that have been convicted of illegal fishing, or that have gone on to break the law having received subsidies. Data on convictions is very hard to obtain and for this study the principal sources were newspaper reports, which will only ever give a very incomplete picture of the situation.

"European governments should publish comprehensive lists of convictions for illegal fishing so we can know who is breaking the law. This is the only way to ensure that public money is not going to fishermen who are breaking laws that protect our precious fisheries." said Jack Thurston, a co-founder of

Five of the vessels on the list received more than €1 million each in EU subsidies. They have been convicted of serious infringements ranging from logbook misreporting to captures under minimum size to use of illegal fishing gear and exceeding quota.

Some of the vessels on the list have been convicted multiple times and have been heavily fined.

In 2001, Hodeiertza and Gure Reinare, two vessels owned by Pesqueras Zozuak / Pascual Santizo, were found guilty of using illegal fishing gear. Each vessel was fined €35,000. The EU had financed the construction of the vessels to the tune of nearly €2 million between them. Hodeiertza received a further EU grant for modernisation in 2006.

The study also covers the UK which, until December 2009, was alone among Member States in publishing detailed prosecution reports until the Marine Fisheries Agency decided to remove this information from its website, on grounds of 'data protection'.

The full list of identified infringements can be viewed online:

Source:, 11th March 2010.

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Controversy surrounds Marine Stewardship Council "sustainable fishery" certifications

A long running fisheries row has come to a close as the Antarctic toothfish is finally certified as a 'sustainable' catch, despite furious objections from some scientists.

Dissostichus mawsoni
Dissostichus mawsoni / photograph by Paul Cziko via wikipedia under Creative Commons

Dissostichus mawsoni caught in the Ross Sea can now be sold with a Marine Stewardship Council sustainability badge, after consultancy company Moody Marine addressed previous objections of the certification.

This toothfish fishing has provoked fierce debate, with several prominent Antarctic researchers claiming it could not possibly be fished sustainably. Several researchers used the pending certification of the animal as an example of what they claimed was serious problems with the MSC process, arguing in Nature that it was "failing to protect the environment and needs radical reform".

Moody Marine — the company appointed by MSC to examine the Ross Sea toothfish — has defended the Marine Stewardship Council (Moody Marine letter to Nature).

Sources: Community of Arran Seabed Trust, December Newsletter and, 19th November 2010.

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Scottish fishermen are said to have illegally landed "black fish" worth around £37 million

The Press and Journal reports 23rd November 2010 that six Scottish skippers landed "black fish" worth more than £15million as part of a scam to dodge strict quota limits.

Laurence Irvine, 64, Gary Williamson, 51, William Williamson, 63, George Henry, 51, John Stewart, 55, and Colin Leask, 37, admitted the illegal landing of hundreds of tonnes of mackerel and herring when they appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Fourteen fishermen have now been convicted of being involved in the quotas scam, and the value of illegal landings uncovered during a long-running investigation stands at around £37million.

Lord Turnbull heard yesterday that landings were made over a three-year period at the premises of Lerwick-based Shetland Catch Ltd, which previously admitted helping the skippers.

The six, all from Shetland, admitted contravening fishing laws by "knowingly or recklessly" providing false information to the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA). They are:

Antares skipper Irvine, of Aviemore, Symbister, made 77 illegal landings worth £5,627,139 — the highest amount uncovered by investigators so far.

Research W skipper William Williamson, of Westerlea, Symbister, made £3,604,769 from 57 landings, and the boat's co-skipper Gary Williamson, of Norvag, Symbister, earned £1,993,787 from 31 landings.

Adenia captain Henry, of Noonsbrough, Clousta, Bixta, made 16 landings worth £1,545,461, while Stewart, of 57 King Harald Street, Lerwick, who was skipper of the Antarctic, earned £1,049,251 from 41 landings.

Leask, of Vaarhjem, Symbister, master of the replacement Antarctic II, failed to declare 13 landings worth £1,427,511.

The offences were all committed between January 2002 and March 2005.

Advocate depute Peter Ferguson told the court that pelagic fishing vessels were the largest and most profitable in the Scottish fleet.

Their nets can trap hundreds of tonnes of fish which are pumped into large, refrigerated sea water tanks on board to ensure fresh delivery to shore-based processors.

The five vessels involved in yesterday's hearing all landed their catches at Gremista, Lerwick, where Shetland Catch Ltd can process 1,000 tonnes of fish a day.

The European Council of Fisheries Ministers decides each year how much fish can be caught. Fishermen and their agents must submit logbooks, sales notes and landing declarations for scrutiny by the SFPA — now known as Marine Scotland and responsible for enforcing quotas. Mr Ferguson said fishery protection officers became suspicious that there were widespread illegal landings of mackerel and herring.

Accountants were brought in to examine the books of the eight processing factories in Scotland and they discovered that the figures for Shetland Catch did not add up. Its premises were raided in September 2005 and the scam was uncovered.

Last month, Victor Buschini, 50, and Hamish Slater, 51, masters of the Fraserburgh-registered Enterprise, appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh and admitted their part in the operation.

Slater, of 8 Strichen Road, Fraserburgh, made undeclared landings worth £3,994,941.

Buschini, of Poulton Le Fylde, in Lancashire, earned £3,240,621 in illegal catches.

The pair are expected to appear in court again in January.

Their convictions came just six weeks after a further case where six other skippers admitted taking part in a similar £15million scam when they appeared at the High Court in Glasgow. David Hutchison, 64, Robert Polson, 47, Thomas Eunson, 55, Allen Anderson, 54, John Irvine, 66, and Allister Irvine, 61, all from Whalsay, Shetland, hid the true total of their catches. They had been due to appear for sentence yesterday but their case was adjourned until February.

Scott Pattison, of the Crown Office, said yesterday's convictions followed a "complex investigation" involving Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary. He added: "This prosecution follows the conviction of eight others in August and October, for similar offences, and is part of an extensive and complex investigation which is continuing into other fish landings."

Cephas Ralph, of Marine Scotland, said: "Illegal fishing is a crime committed against the marine environment and the many honest fishermen who abide by the regulations and fish responsibly."

The case against the six skippers who appeared in the Glasgow High Court will return to court in February when lawyers will report on progress on trying to calculate the illegal profits made by the fishermen. They cannot be sentenced until this process is completed.

Vic Thomas of Friends of the Earth Scotland is reported ( as saying that these cases may have set Scottish fishermen's demands for greater local control of fisheries management "back for generations".

He said: "This was sheer greed. Nobody can support black fish landings. It is just crass racketeering and it's not doing the Scottish fishing fleet any good whatsoever. A lot of fishermen and local politicians are making the case for more local control because the Common Fisheries Policy has not worked. But the problem is that if we are pressing for more autonomous decision making then this is the sort of thing that is going to knock that back for generations."

Sources: The Press and Journal, 23rd November 2010 and The Scotsman, 27th August 2010.

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Concern that Scottish salmon fish farms are concealing their true environmental impact

A series of Freedom of Information requests on behalf of the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) has exposed how the Scottish Government made a policy u-turn in the face of pressure, including the threat of legal action, from the salmon farming industry.

In March Marine Scotland informed the industry that it would be publishing details online of certain inspection reports on salmon farms relating in particular to sea lice infestations and fish escapes, carried out under the terms of the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act, given a ruling by the Scottish Information Commissioner that such information should be in the public domain.

The industry's trade body, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), responded threatening Marine Scotland with legal action if any company's business was "compromised" as a consequence. Marine Scotland then announced that it was suspending the publication plan and reviewing the situation in light of the issues raised by SSPO. In October Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham confirmed that no audits or inspections of fish farms had taken place since March 2010.

Guy Linley-Adams, the lawyer tasked with spearheading S&TA's campaign to protect wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout from the negative impacts of aquaculture, commented: "The threat by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation to bring claims for damages against Marine Scotland over publication of enforcement audits is, in my experience, unprecedented. On the one hand it shows just how confident the salmon growers are of their position in Scotland with respect to central government. On the other it is a clear indication of just how impotent the authorities are in the face of the salmon farmers' bullying tactics."

Paul Knight, S&TA CEO, said: "This saga gives the lie to Scottish Government's contention that the salmon farming industry is properly and effectively regulated. It now appears that the industry is calling the tune and consequently there must be fundamental questions over the credibility of Scottish Government's aquaculture policy and, indeed, its commitment to protecting wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout, two of Scotland's iconic natural resources."

Prominent amongst salmon farming companies opposing the publication of inspection reports in March was Loch Duart Ltd, which brands itself as the "Sustainable Salmon Company". Loch Duart admitted to an escape of 4,000 farmed salmon from its Loch Laxford site in early November.

Mr Linley-Adams added: "Loch Duart is a prime example of why Marine Scotland's inspection reports should indeed be in the public domain. The company has an abysmal record on fish escapes and is reported to have lost almost 60,000 in eight separate incidents in the last ten years. Perhaps it is understandable why it so keen to suppress certain inspection reports on its farms."

Extracts from correspondence between Marine Scotland and the salmon farmers (obtained under FOI)

Source: Salmon and Trout Association, 26th November 2010.

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Scallop fishery still a problem in the Clyde's inshore waters

C.O.A.S.T (Community of Arran Seabed Trust reports in its editorial in its latest newsletter (December 2010) on the continuing struggle to establish a sustainable fishery in the Clyde, and particularly so in respect of the scallop fishery.

"The recent 'scallop war' between the Manx and Scottish governments is fundamentally a battle of credibility. And a quick look at recent political events demonstrates there is one clear loser.

"A genuine window of hope opened when the old Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department was dismantled in 2007. A new approach to managing Scotland's sea-based resources was firmly on the cards, as restructuring by the SNP paved the way for Marine Scotland — a dedicated branch of the Environment Directorate.

"There was already momentum behind that "wind of change". Just a few months before in 2006, C.O.A.S.T.'s long-standing proposals for a marine protected area were being discussed alongside plans for Clyde-wide scallop management as proposed by the Clyde Fishermans' Association in the forum of the Environment and Rural Affairs committee. It seemed that things were moving in the right direction and fishermen's representatives were on the way to taking some hard decisions that would protect the industry's future and the health of the Clyde.

"Indeed the Clyde Fisherman's Association seemed proud of the idea of a marine protected area and actively supported reduced scallop effort. But scallop fisheries management was never going to be simple and within four years, that momentum had regrettably stalled.

"It is now 2010. Next month will be the second anniversary of the Clyde IFG (Inshore Fisheries Group). Wider area control is not even on the IFG table. Gear restriction is being 'considered,' but nothing is happening. Something as simple as increasing the minimum landing size of Scallops in the Clyde has been delayed by protracted discussions with progress dependent on the outcome of an economic impact assessment commissioned by the Scallop Working Group. Any measures to actually change fishing effort and practices to conserve one of the few remaining stocks in the Clyde are still at the drawing board stage, held up in meetings where words fly without action.

"So when Scottish scallop boats complained last month that they were being 'discriminated against' by virtue of a conservation-minded by-law that excluded large dredging vessels from Isle of Man inshore waters, the Scottish government should surely have bravely respected their Manx counterpart's painful, but progressive stance. After all, scallop management was something Scottish fishermen had wanted to achieve for their own waters for years.

"Instead the Scottish response was one of bullying indignation. The fishing restriction was portrayed as crude protectionism based on piecemeal science, the damaging impact of dredging on the seabed left unmentioned.

"It is not just enough to point out what the Scottish Government would have said if the shoe had been on the other foot. To attack another jurisdiction's enviably forward-thinking conservation measure is both tragic and a public relations disaster. The scallop war indicates the Isle of Man is 20 years ahead in the sustainable management of its marine resource. And meanwhile, the reputation of Scottish political and industry representatives took an inter-agency, indeed international, nose-dive that will take a great deal of work to restore. Clyde scallop management is about damage limitation in more ways than one.

"Both our immediate and European neighbours are often told how the Scottish fishing fleet leads the way in conservation measures, but the knee-jerk attack on the Isle of Man puts this in context. It exposes a status quo where little has changed since the days of SEERAD (Scottish Executive Environmental and Rural Affairs Department), as sustainability measures are still ignored in favour of the short-term extraction of a resource.

"It is an unsustainable approach and until there is more urgent action, C.O.A.S.T. will explore all legal channels to ensure there is a Clyde fishing industry for future generations".

Source: C.O.A.S.T, December 2010

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A deep water oil spill in UK seas would affect many parts of the North Atlantic ocean

An oil spill from a deep water blow-out near the Shetland Islands could reach the coastlines of Scotland, eastern England, Norway and Greenland, according to a company which began drilling there in October.

The Shetland Islands, Scotland
The Shetland Islands, Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Chevron, one of the world's largest oil companies, made a worst-case forecast of the impact caused by a spill of 77,300 barrels per day lasting just 14 days.

But the company told government officials that its computer spill modelling repeatedly crashed when set to run for a longer period, which it said was typical of the software commonly used in the industry. Oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster.

When the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) allowed Chevron to drill the Lagavulin prospect on 30 September, it said that the secretary of state, Chris Huhne, was "satisfied that the project is not likely to have a significant effect on the environment". Decc told the US company that the application did not need to be accompanied by an environmental statement and did not order a separate assessment.

In earlier correspondence with Decc, Chevron also said it was "likely" that the impact of a spill on whales and dolphins in the area would be limited because "given their good swimming abilities, relative intelligence and nomadic behaviour, some avoidance behaviour could be expected".

Chevron was the first company to be given deep water drilling consent in the UK after the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Environment minister Charles Hendry last month said the government had considered Chevron's oil spill response plan "very carefully".

Greenpeace, which is taking the government to court over its decision to approve further deep water drilling before the causes of the Deepwater disaster have been fully established, said: "The UK government remains entirely unwilling or unable to learn any lessons from Deepwater Horizon. The government has given the green light to a project that could cause oil to coat the protected salt marshes and sand dunes of the north Norfolk coast off the back of an unfinished computer model run by a company who says we shouldn't worry about the effect of oil on whales and dolphins because they're clever enough to swim out of the way of a spill. This bizarre state of affairs shows precisely why there needs to be a moratorium on new deep-sea drilling off our coasts."

The Guardian has obtained Chevron's "oil pollution emergency plan" — detailing what it would do in the event of a spill — as well as confidential emails between the company and government officials in the weeks before the consent was granted.

Following the Deepwater disaster, Chevron doubled its original worst case spill estimate to 77,300 barrels per day.

The Chevron plan says that it would take four months to drill a relief well in the event of a blow-out, at a depth of 5,140ft, with BP expected to carry out the job. The likely thickness of the spilt crude — based on nearby wells — would increase the size of the slick five-fold.

The plan admits that spill modelling is not effective for oil spilt in deep waters nor when an "ongoing spill results in a continually replenished slick which has the potential for an ongoing beaching event". It also does not account for potential "jetting" from a well bore.

Based on the modelling it said that if attempts to cap the well or disperse the slick were not successful, more than 233,000 barrels "could be expected to beach on… western Norway and the Shetland Islands. In smaller quantities, oil could also reach the Orkney Islands, Faroe Islands and even eastern Iceland and eastern Greenland with potential to reach eastern England and western Denmark."

Chevron admits it would take a minimum of two to six weeks before it could cap a flowing well, and even longer if the required equipment was not available or the weather was bad.

Chevron said in a statement: "It is important to emphasise that spill modelling is just one tool used in preparation for spill response. In the event of an actual spill the direction of oil travel would be determined much more accurately by visual observation using spotter planes and this would be used as the basis for actual deployment of personnel and equipment. Chevron's first and greatest focus is on prevention — we take a conservative approach in exploration well design and Lagavulin is included. There would have to be a failure of all the barriers that are in place to prevent loss of containment — our west of Shetland wells have been drilled with multiple barriers and Lagavulin is no exception."

Decc said Chevron's environmental statement was approved after consultation with regulators and appropriate agencies: "Chevron adequately addressed the potential impact of an oil spill in its environmental submissions. Before the Lagavulin well was fully consented Chevron were asked to review their plans in the light of the available information about what had happened at Macondo [BP's Deepwater Horizon well]."

Source: The Guardian, 7th December 2010.

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Scallop dredging — parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM)

MARINET has been asked by C.O.A.S.T. (Community of Arran Seabed Trust to circulate the text of an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons which notes the serious adverse impact that scallop dredging can have on the marine ecosystem and thus calls upon the Government to take action to regulate this type of fishing. The text of the EDM is reproduced below.

That this House notes with concern the impact which scallop dredging is having on the marine environment; further notes that this practice has only started in recent decades and effectively scrapes the seabed to retrieve scallops but in the process damages other species and marine life; further notes the charted decline of the number of marine species living in the seas and is troubled that excessive scallop dredging is contributing further to this worrying trend; and calls on the Government and devolved administrations to take steps to regulate scallop dredging as a matter of urgency to protect the marine eco system and ensure that the United Kingdom can continue to support a diverse range of marine wildlife off its coasts.

You are requested to contact your MP to ask him/her to sign this EDM (EDM 1209 on Scallop Dredging).

The serious impact of scallop dredging and the reaction of the Isle of Man government to the threat it poses in its waters can be seen in two recent articles in the Latest News section of the MARINET website and

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Melting ice and freezing Britain

European readers do not need to be reminded that we are experiencing a record cold premature Winter for the second year running, which appears to correlate powerfully with the plunge of the North Atlantic Conveyor a.k.a. the Gulf Stream. It has been long known that the only difference between those places of a similar latitude to the UK such as Saskatchewan and Siberia, which regularly experience -40 to -45 degrees C, is that they don't have the cuddling warm Gulf Stream that kindly provides Britain and coastal Europe with a far more temperate climate.

Research in 1995 reported that the Gulf Stream was plunging, because being denser saline warm water, it was sinking below the lower density colder surface water liberated by the melting of the glaciers and the north polar icecap so bringing about a reduction in its effect by some 30%. This meant that whilst the rest of the world heated up with global warming, this Northern Europe could freeze.

More on this was reported at the Coastal Futures Conference that took place at SOAS, London on 30th Nov. 2006 (see 'Climate Change and the Marine Environment — Report of the Coastal Futures Conference Nov.'06 that can be read at:

Inasmuch as there appeared to have been no reports or papers, therefore seemingly no ongoing research since that time, recognising the importance of following any such trends, MARINET contacted the Met Office for the latest information. They responded promptly, pointing out that the earlier report suggesting a weakening of the circulation by 30% was apparently based on only a few observations which were later found to be within the limits of variability . Research has in fact been ongoing over the past ten years, but the observations have shown no systematic weakening over this last decade, although there is a lot of variability on seasonal and faster timescales (see and Geophysical Research Letters).

So it would appear that fearing a further onslaught of the powerful body trying so desperately to debunk the the experts and convince us that there is no such thing as global warming, the climatologists are not publishing findings until and unless it can be conclusively proved that this threat exists, which in the current climate (in both meanings of the wording) might be a wise move.

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Temporary Felixstowe Protection

Mike Page's aerial photo of the River Deben mouth
Felixstowe Ferry and the mouth of the River Deben. Photo: Mike Page

Work has started on a £50,000 short-term temporary measure in an attempt to prevent the low-lying area around Felixstowe Ferry from being lost to the sea this winter, in the hope of protecting 40 properties, including homes, boat yards, public houses and the golf course. Meanwhile, the EA are pondering a more permanent scheme which it hopes to start next summer if technical approval and funding permit this.

Over the past six months the loss of water flow and sediment from the Deben estuary and the dredging site off Bawdsey to the North East has brought about wave attack resulting in deep underminement to the toe of the rock defence. This loss of material is now bringing about subsidence that is allowing the shingle embankment to slip, erode and narrow, leaving real fears that the sea could soon break through. This result is just as MARINET earlier predicted in evidence on the outcome of dredging a deep navigation channel, as given to the Public Enquiry into the Bathside Bay Port extension (See 'The Charade at Felixstowe' at

Already at the northern end, beach erosion has exposed 1.5m of steel sheet piling at the toe of the concrete sea wall, which the Environment Agency is attempting to strengthen by shingle embankment and local clay on the landward side to the same height as the existing embankment along some 50 metres of its length. A shingle embankment and a rock wall is planned for the eastern end but this poses a threat that the rock armour may fall into the navigation channel. The temporary stabilisation envisaged will take place between the two Martello Towers.

For the full story read Richard Cornwell's 'Felixstowe: Work to keep hamlet safe from sea this winter — but permanent solution needed' in the 16th November '10, East Anglian Daily Times.

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Severe Suffolk beach loss

The severe and rapid loss of soft cliff defences in Suffolk continues unabated. The images below come from the Daily Mail of 19th November and depict 'The Retreat' at England's Lane, Easton Bavents, near Southwold, Suffolk.

They show the same location a year apart, the first having been taken in October 2009, the second on November 15th 2010. Undoubtedly far more has disappeared in the past three weeks. Strangely, the paper blames the loss on 'Mother Nature'


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Ship-to-Ship Oil transfers given go ahead

Tankers anchored off coast
Tankers anchored of the East Coast between Lowestoft & Southwold. Picture Mike Page 31.7.09

Just as if the sea off East Anglia hasn't enough threats to its sea and beaches already, we now have the prospect of major oil spills.

In July this year MARINET reported that Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning announced a review allowing all views on offshore Suffolk ship-to-ship oil transfers to be heard ahead of proposed legislation banning such transfers in British waters. The law was due to come into force from 1st October 2010, but was pushed back to 1st April, 2011, allowing local authorities, industry and environmental non-governmental organisations to all give their view by 30th September. Just prior to this Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Terese Coffey had signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the new laws banning all ship-to-ship transfers off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped. (See 'Offshore Oil Transfer menace slowly being addressed ' at

Last November, then Secretary of State for Transport Lord Adonis moved to cease transfers in UK waters. But now, placing oil company profits paramount to environmental security, new Shipping Minister Mike Penning has announced that instead of a general prohibition, all ship-to-ship transfers outside harbour authority areas will be restricted to a single designated area off the north Suffolk coast, so making the threat even greater to the most environmentally sensitive part of our coastline. He claimed "Ship-to-ship transfer operations have been common in UK waters for many years with a generally excellent safety record". There is outrage in the local population who are very angered by the reversal in favour of the oil companies.

So now the sea between Lowestoft and Southwold is to become the sole area for more than 50 small tankers bringing oil from Russia to transfer their cargo to larger vessels unable to negotiate the Baltic Sea. Thus, as well as risking serious pollution, they will be able to avoid port duties, the use of local labour and round the year income for the catering establishments and hotels whilst. sitting on oil stocks waiting for the price to escalate.

The full story by Tom Potter appears as 'Southwold: Oil transfer decision sparks fears for Suffolk coast' in the East Anglian Daily Times of 7th December 2010 and can be seen on the EADT website here.

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Transocean oil rig suffered start of blow-out in North Sea

Drilling company Transocean had an incident on one of its North Sea rigs similar to that which caused the biggest oil spill in US history earlier this year, it emerged today.

An internal company report obtained by the BBC shows that four months before the US disaster the Sedco 711 rig in the North Sea, which is leased by Shell and operated by Transocean, experienced similar problems.

In this case, however, the blow-out preventer — which is believed to have failed on the Deepwater Horizon — worked effectively, preventing oil and gas from spurting uncontrolled up the rig's pipe.

Source: The Guardian, 7th December 2010.

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Hadley Centre re-evaluates impact of climate change on northern oceans

The chances of northern Europe facing a new ice age, or of catastrophic sea-level rises of almost four metres that swamp the planet over the next century, have been ruled out by leading scientists.

But the risk of tropical forests succumbing to drought brought on by climate change as well as the acceleration of methane emissions from melting permafrost, is greater, according to the Met Office Hadley Centre, in its latest climate change review.

The government-run climatology centre also suggests that, by the latter half of this century, the Arctic could become largely ice-free in summer, given new evidence of a slightly faster rate of decline.

The study examined international peer-reviewed science over the past three years, and involved remodelling data on a more powerful computer. The research will feed into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's assessment in 2013.

"The evidence of the dangerous impact of climate change is clearer than ever," said Vicky Pope, head of Hadley's climate predictions programme. "New understanding of the science suggests the overall impact will be about the same [but] in some cases, like the risk of methane release from wetlands and permafrost melting, [we] now conclude that the risks are greater."

The evidence downplayed chances of the Atlantic conveyor ocean current, which warms northern Europe, from slowing, forcing temperatures down in the region. "The risks are not as great as we thought before." said Pope.

The report identified increased loss of Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets, and new research suggesting that once gone that ice might not be able to recover. But icesheet collapse is unlikely to be catastrophic, with losses occurring at different speeds.

The worst case — of a four-metre rise in sea level — is now all but ruled out in the next century, but 20cm to 60cm rises are likely. The rise will not be the same everywhere and there is a lack of understanding about the potential regional effects.

Among other assessments, old-growth forests, which were thought to be carbon neutral, are now known to still absorb CO2; there is new evidence of their susceptibility to drought, and that tropical deforestation can accelerate climate change.

Rainforest, Borneo
Borneo rainforest in Danum valley, Sabah. The Met Office review also highlights the affect of deforestation on global warming. Photograph: Frans Lanting/ Frans Lanting/Corbis

There is also evidence emerging of increasing emissions of methane, a powerful, but short-lived, gas from wetlands.

Source: The Guardian, 6th December 2010.

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"One-fifth of world's unrecovered oil reserves are in the Arctic", it is claimed

The race to carve up the Arctic for its oil, gas and mineral reserves has been charted for the first time in an attempt to alert international policy makers to serious territorial disputes that could result.

The new map is designed to illustrate historical, ongoing and potential arguments about ownership in the competition to control areas rich in natural resources.

A map showing the martime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region
A map showing maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region. Photograph: PA. For a full screen version of this map, along with details of national territorial claims, click here

The map's publication by Durham University researchers comes as a growing number of states including the UK cast their eyes towards polar regions and big slices of the ocean floors.

Countries must establish sovereignty over disputed territories if they are to exploit their undiscovered, technologically recoverable energy reserves.

The attempts to assert such rights have already alarmed conservationists who want better international protection for the poles as climate change melts the ice and opens up more land and seabeds for exploration.

Last year, a Russian submarine planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole to highlight its claim to a big chunk of the Arctic. Other disputes could involve Canada, US , Denmark (through Greenland), Iceland and Norway.

The Arctic map has been prepared by Durham's International Boundaries Research Unit. Its director, Martin Pratt, said a survey by the US Geological Survey estimated that a fifth of the so-far undiscovered but recoverable resources lay within the Arctic Circle. "We are talking 90 million barrels of oil, nearly 17 hundred trillion cubic feet. I cannot even imagine how much that is, but it is a lot. I suppose for any state, control is significant as other resources dwindle."

Pratt said the map was an attempt "to collate information and predict the way in which the Arctic region may eventually be divided up. The freezing land and seas of the Arctic are likely to be getting hotter in terms of geopolitics." There was likely to be increasing concern over damage to the "unique environment" of the Arctic. It is vulnerable and extracting oil and gas is not an environmentally friendly activity."

Russia first made a submission about the areas to the UN over the area in 2001. Claims are made under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Coastal states can extend their rights beyond the 200-mile limit from their shoreline if there is a continental shelf.

Russia claims its continental shelf extends along a mountain chain under the Arctic called the Lomonosov Ridge. Its flag-waving last year was part of its determination to provide more weight to the claim, which have to be verified by geological and sub-sea surveys.

The US has yet to even sign up to the UN convention.

Source: The Guardian, originally published 6th August 2008.

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Scottish government and Mitsubishi link to create offshore wind turbine manufacturing plan

Mitsubishi has pledged to invest £100m over five years in plans to turn Edinburgh and the Lothians into a "green energy hub"

The company aims to create research and development hub for offshore wind technology, to try to help the Scottish government reach its renewable energy targets. Areas for potential offshore development have previously been identified, including one site on the east coast known as the Forth Array.

Unveiling a package of announcements in Edinburgh, Mitsubishi announced it had acquired Loanhead-based Artemis Intelligent Power(AIP) — a company which grew from research into fluid power at the University of Edinburgh in 1994.

New ownership safeguards the 25 existing jobs and creates 30 new engineering posts at the firm.

Between Artemis and a new 'Centre for Advanced Technology' the Japanese firm says it hopes to create a further 200 jobs over five years to research new green energy technologies towards mass production.

They are yet to decide where the new centre will be. A spokesperson confirmed it would be somewhere within the Lothians and said announcements would be made in the coming months.

If the research is successful, Mitsuibishi and the Scottish government hope it will lead to the creation of a major offshore wind turbine manufacturing site in Scotland.

Win Rampen, the managing director of AIP, said it will continue as an independent technology company, with Mitsubishi taking 100% shareholding. He said:

"This marks a huge step forward for the development of our game-changing technology.

"Drawing on the breadth and depth of Mitsubishi's expertise and skills, AIP look forward to accelerating our research and development work with a view to our technology being used in turbines in UK and European waters by 2015."

First Minister Alex Salmond met officials from Mitsubishi this morning to reveal the plans to the national and local media.

Salmond said:"Scotland is a leader in the development of clean green energy and boasts a world-class research and development base that is pioneering technologies that will have a global impact on combating climate change. I am delighted that Mitsubishi is establishing a presence in Scotland through the creation of a Centre for Advanced Technology and the acquisition of Artemis Intelligent Power. Mitsubishi's decision to invest in Scotland demonstrates how Scotland's renewable revolution is gathering pace and that we have the quality infrastructure and skilled workforce to deliver success in this rapidly-growing industry. As well as delivering new jobs and investment, over the long-term this announcement could result of the creation of a major offshore wind turbine manufacturing site in Scotland."

Salmond pointed towards Scotland's historical ties with Japanese sea trade. His aides confirmed negotiations between Scottish Enterprise and Mitsubishi had been taking place for more than a year ahead of today's announcements.

He added: "Mitsubishi has strong historical links with Scotland, with its origins in the Nagasaki Shipping company set up with the support of Thomas Blake Glover, the Aberdeenshire pioneer of Japanese commerce. The Scottish Government, Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise are doing all we can to secure substantial inward investment and to capitalise on our strengths and skills. I wish Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe every success on their ambitious plans as we work together and towards a low carbon future."

Mitsubishi already has working partnerships with Scottish and Southern Energy — the firm behind plans to build a biomass plant at Leith Docks.

Research and development will be the first step towards a five-year plan to get turbines up and working off Scottish coasts according to Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe chief executive Akio Fukui. He said: "This exciting project squares the circle of Scottish-Japanese industrial history dating back to when Thomas Glover assisted in the creation of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the 1800s. The first Japanese naval vessel was built in Aberdeen in the late 1800s in Scotland, and now the first game changing offshore wind turbine will be built here too. This builds on our existing partnership with SSE on low carbon energy developments, including offshore wind, and we are very pleased to be working with the UK and Scottish Governments to turn this vision into a heavy engineering reality."

Source: The Guardian, 3rd December 2010.

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Atlantic conference on protection of Tuna and Sharks disappoints conservationists

An international conservation conference in Paris at the end of November made progress on protecting sharks, said environmental groups, but didn't do anything to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna which has been severely overfished to feed the market for sushi in Japan, .

Delegates from 48 nations spent 11 days in Paris haggling over fishing quotas for the Atlantic and Mediterranean, poring over scientific data and pitting the demands of environmentalists against those of the fishing industry.

Fisherman land a bluefin tuna
Conservation groups had hoped to see bluefin tuna fishing quotas slashed or suspended, but the quota was reduced by a mere 4%. Photograph: Jeffrey L Rotman/Corbis

Conservation groups said delegates took steps in the right direction with moves to protect oceanic whitetip sharks and many hammerheads in the Atlantic, though they had hoped for more. Sharks were once an accidental catch for fishermen but have been increasingly targeted because of the growing market in Asia for their fins, an expensive delicacy used in soup.

WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana and the Pew Environment Group all strongly criticised the 2011 bluefin quotas set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT, which manages tuna in the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as species that have traditionally been accidental catches for tuna fishermen.

Environmental groups had hoped to see bluefin fishing slashed or suspended, saying illegal fishing is rampant in the Mediterranean and that scientists don't have good enough data to evaluate the problem.

The commission agreed to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean from 13,500 to 12,900 metric tonnes annually about a 4% reduction. It also agreed on measures to try to improve enforcement of quotas on bluefin, prized for its tender red meat.

Sergi Tudela, head of WWF Mediterranean's fisheries program, attacked the "measly quota reduction." Oliver Knowles, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, complained that "the word 'conservation' should be removed from ICCAT's name." Russell F Smith, representing the US delegation, said: "I think we made some progress. I wish we'd made more."

Meanwhile, the CNPMEM French fishing industry union praised the decision, saying "reason prevailed."

The international commission's committee of scientists had said keeping the status quo was acceptable, but environmentalists say there is so much unreported fishing that doing so is irresponsible.

Japan buys nearly 80% of the annual Atlantic bluefin catch. Top-grade sushi with fatty bluefin can go for as much as 2,000 yen ($24) a piece in high-end Tokyo restaurants.

While the focus of the Paris meeting was tuna, sharks have become a growing concern. Environmentalists say there are disastrously inadequate rules on shark capture. Although there are elaborate international fishing regulations and quotas for other types of fish, sharks have long been an afterthought, even though some species have declined by 99%, Oceana said.

The international commission banned fishermen from catching and retaining oceanic whitetip sharks. It voted to limit the catch of several types of hammerhead sharks and to require countries to keep data on shortfin mako sharks.

Delegates also decided that Atlantic fishermen will now be required to carry special gear to remove hooks from sea turtles.

While the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and other regional commissions regulate fishing, trade bans are handled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. Environmentalists were sorely disappointed by a meeting of that body in March, where Atlantic bluefin and six species of sharks failed to get protection.

Source: The Guardian, 29th November 2010.

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Ocean-going ships to get ratings on energy efficiency

A free internet database set up by Richard Branson will list the energy efficiency of almost every ocean-going vessel, in a scheme designed to reduce shipping emissions by nearly 25%.

Using publicly available data on the engine size and CO2 emissions of nearly 60,000 ships, exporters and importers, as well as holidaymakers on cruises, will be able to choose between clean and dirty ships.

The initiative, called, rates ships from A-G in a similar fashion to ratings given to fridges or washing machines. It will allow supermarkets, oil and mining companies, food importers, retailers and manufacturers to specify that their goods are sent from places like China or Australia only by the least polluting ships.

Britain, which imports most of its food and manufactured goods by sea, is expected to be one of the heaviest users of the database.

Shipping contributes around 1bn tonnes of CO2 a year, about 3-4% of the world's total. This makes it collectively the sixth largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world, just after Germany.

"By eco-labelling clean and dirty ships, we hope to change the mindset in shipping and begin making gigaton-scale reductions in emissions," said Peter Boyd, director of Carbon War Room, a business NGO co-founded by Richard Branson with the aim of saving millions of tonnes of CO2 from industry.

"The shipping industry was doing pretty well nothing. In the past, any ship was much like another, and ships polluted like mad. We hope this will act as a catalyst for the industry to become not only sustainable, but also more profitable," said Branson, who is in Cancún for the climate talks.

Shipping has been slow to address carbon emissions. The world fleet has been driven for years by engines designed to burn the cheapest, dirtiest "bunker" fuel. Nearly 15% of the world's ships account for about half of all the industry emissions.

In addition, most shipping lines traditionally pass on most of the fuel costs to charterers, providing little incentives to build more efficient ships.

Source: Guardian 5th December 2010.

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North Sea oil pollution prevention plan agreed

Ministers and officials from nine European countries plus EU executive have agreed to implement a series of measures to protect the North Sea and its approaches from oil spills and other pollution. The agreement was struck in Dublin on 24th November 2010.

An action plan lays out how the governments of the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Ireland intend to prevent pollution, prepare for incidents and respond to them in a co-ordinated way.

The states are all parties to the 1969 Bonn convention, which Ireland acceded to earlier this year. The European Commission is also a party. The action plan is divided in three parts: strategic aims, operational objectives and specific actions.

The Bonn convention's parties intend to boost aerial surveillance of shipping and other maritime activities, and ensure efficient evidence gathering following pollution incidents. National responses will be aligned and better co-ordinated.

Specific actions agreed include updating the agreement's counter-pollution manual. There will also be joint training exercises to prepare for combating possible oil spillages in the region. The action plan will be reviewed in 2012.

Source: ENDS Europe Thursday 25 November 2010

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"Critical habitat" set aside for polar bear in Alaska

The Obama administration is setting aside 187,000 square miles (484,330 sq. kilometres) in Alaska as a "critical habitat" for polar bears, an action that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

The total, which includes large areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, is about 13,000 square miles (33,670 sq. kilometres), or 8.3 million acres (3.36 million hectares), less than in a preliminary plan released last year.

A polar bear and her cubs in Alaska
A polar bear and her cubs in Alaska. Photograph: AP

Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, said the designation would help polar bears stave off extinction, recognising that the greatest threat is the melting of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change. "This critical habitat designation enables us to work with federal partners to ensure their actions within its boundaries do not harm polar bear populations," Strickland said. "We will continue to work toward comprehensive strategies for the long-term survival of this iconic species."

Designation of critical habitat does not in itself block economic activity or other development, but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would adversely affect the polar bear's habitat and interfere with its recovery.

Nearly 95 percent of the designated habitat is sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska's northern coast. Polar bears spend most of their lives on frozen ocean where they hunt seals, breed and travel.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell and the state's oil and gas industry had complained that the preliminary plan released last year was too large and dramatically underestimated the potential economic impact. The designation could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and tax revenue, they said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said reductions included in the final rule were mostly due to corrections that more accurately reflect the U.S. border in the Arctic Ocean. Five U.S. Air Force radar sites were exempted from the final rule, as were Native Alaskan communities in Barrow and Kaktovik, Alaska.

The Interior Department has declared polar bears "threatened," or likely to become endangered, citing a dramatic loss of sea ice. Officials face a Dec. 23 deadline to explain why the bears were listed as threatened instead of the more protective "endangered."

Kassie Siegel, a lawyer for the Centre for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has filed a lawsuit to increase protections for the polar bear, hailed the designation of critical habitat. "Now we need the Obama administration to actually make it mean something so we can write the bear's recovery plan — not its obituary," she said. Siegel called for the administration to impose a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in bear habitat areas. "An oil spill there would be a catastrophe," she said. "That seems like an understatement."

The Arctic Slope Regional Corp., which advocates for Alaska Native business interests, said in a statement that the decision disproportionately impacts Alaska Natives and called the designation the "wrong tool" for conserving the polar bear because it does nothing to address climate change. "The burden of the impacts will be felt by the people of the Arctic Slope," said Tara Sweeney, vice president of external affairs for ASRC, which is based in Barrow, Alaska. "This is a quality of life issue for our people."

Kara Moriarty, deputy director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said the action would hurt oil and gas exploration in Alaska by creating more delays and added costs to projects in what already is a high-cost environment, she said. "The companies and the industry will be required to go through more permitting and create mitigation measures without a direct benefit to the polar bear or oil and gas development," Moriarty said. "The Fish and Wildlife Service has found over and over again our activities pose no threat to the polar bear."

Source: The Guardian, 25th November 2010.

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"FishFight" launched to combat CFP fish discarding practice

The tv chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, has launched a campaign called FishFight in order to try to persuade the EU to cease the practice in its Common Fisheries Policy of discarding fish that are surplus to fishing quotas.

He states on the FishFight website (

"For the past few months, I have been travelling around the UK meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public.

"You can find out all about my experience, and how it has changed the way I think about fish, in the Channel 4 series, Hugh's Fish Fight, to be broadcast in January 2011.

" is the website and campaign hub which will accompany the series and continue its work over the coming months. It's supported by a wide coalition of environmental NGOs and, we hope, by a growing number of fishermen and policy makers too.

"The first element of the campaign — and the first area where we are looking for public support — is the issue of discards at sea. More elements to the campaign will follow in the New Year (we will be looking at aquaculture, particularly salmon farming, and also at the environmental issues surrounding the global tuna fisheries). For now though, here is some background to our campaign to eliminate discards.

"According to an EU paper in 2007, between 40% and 60% of all fish caught by trawls are being discarded. Experts agree that the figure is at least as bad now as it was then. (We have settled on the figure of half, which many believe is conservative).

"Discarding is not limited to the North Sea, it's a massive problem throughout EU waters. Some of these discards are undersized fish, and some of them are species for which there is currently little market. But much of it is "over-quota" fish: prime cod, haddock, coley, whiting, plaice, and other major food species, for which the fishermen have run out of quota.

"But in the pursuit of other fish for which they do still have quota, they cannot avoid catching large numbers of the "wrong" species. It's an inherent problem in what is known as a "mixed fishery".

"The fish are being thrown away because to land them would be illegal. Only a tiny proportion of these fish will survive. For obvious reasons, fishermen hate discards. Conservationists hate them too.

"Even politicians don't like them. But they are an unavoidable consequence of the current Common Fisheries Policy and the quota system. The very same rules that have been devised with the aim of protecting stocks (principally quotas and minimum landing sizes) have become the reason that so much fish is being thrown back into the sea.

"The CFP is under review and due to be reformed in the coming months. The fishfight campaign aims to influence this reform. We do not seek to dictate policy, merely the consequences of policy.

"By signing up to our campaign you will be writing directly to the policy makers in Europe. And you will help to ensure that a reformed CFP has the elimination of discards as a primary objective. Thank you so much for your support. Please spread the word.

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Spain competing with UK to build largest offshore wind turbine

A group of Spanish firms have kick-started an initiative to build a massive 15MW wind turbine in a bid to tackle the technical and financial difficulties afflicting the offshore wind energy market.

Turbine manufacturer Gamesa has confirmed it is leading the project, dubbed Azimut, alongside 11 wind and engineering firms and 22 research centres. It added that the research project will require a total investment of €25m over the next four years.

Artist's impression of planned British Aerogenerator X
The 10MW Aerogenerator X, a new breed of mammoth offshore wind turbine in development by British firm Arup — but a planned 15MW turbine by Spanish firms would dwarf it. Illustration: Wind Power Limited and Grimshaw

The main responsibilities will be divided between five firms, with Gamesa heading work on wind capture, Acciona Windpower responsible for electricity conversion, Alstom Wind managing the substructures, Acciona Energía heading up construction, operation and maintenance at offshore sites, and finally Iberdrola Renovables developing the grid connection.

The timetable of the project is slated to be finalised in 2013, but the Azimut group said it hopes to have established the technological groundwork to build the machine by 2020. The project, which is backed by the Spanish government's Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology, is designed to help the industry overcome some of the technical and financial hurdles currently limiting the roll-out of offshore wind energy.

"The most pressing of these obstacles are availability, turbine foundations and energy delivery to land," said Gamesa in a statement. "And [also] narrowing the gap between offshore energy's cost and required investment and those of onshore wind energy sites."

If built, Azimut's wind turbine will be significantly larger than any wind turbine currently planned. US firm Clipper Windpower tops the league at the moment, with plans to build the 10MW Britannia offshore machine in the North East of England, although it is thought that the company is unlikely to deliver a commercial turbine from the project in time for the next wave of Round 3 offshore wind farms.

Source: The Guardian, 24th November 2010.

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Further severe Norfolk beach loss

Newport beach

The Winter northerly gales came prematurely again this year, resulting in an early severe loss of beach level and dune face removal. Such severe stripping once rarely came before February.

Here is a picture taken by Mike King of Newport beach looking north, where three metres of beach sand depth have been taken to sea, consequently further damaging the dune defences.

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Incidence of whale and dolphin strandings is increasing

Marine scientists have appealed for volunteers to watch for stranded whales and dolphins and report instances as soon as possible to understand why so many are being found on beaches.

It follows the unexplained mass stranding of 33 pilot whales found dead on Rutland island off the coast of north-west Ireland last month and more than 500 dolphins, porpoises and whales stranded on British beaches this year.

dead dolphin on beach
More than 500 dolphins, porpoises and whales have become stranded on British beaches this year Photograph: Greenpeace/PA

New figures to be released this week will show that whale and dolphin strandings are increasing. According to the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) there have been 9,494 recorded strandings on British coasts in the past 20 years, but the number could be much higher because many are likely to go unreported. Most are washed ashore dead but around 10% are still alive.

Strandings have increased by nearly 25% since central records were first kept by CSIP. "In the first 10 years there were between 300 and 400 a year, but since 2000 there have been more. The highest number was in 2003 when 800 were found stranded. Now there are around 500 a year," said Robert Deaville, project manager for CSIP. "We under-report the numbers. There are several very good volunteer networks in the south west, Wales and Scotland, but we do need more people in England," said Deaville.

Because cetacean research is hard to conduct at sea, information gleaned from strandings has become essential to understand the health of whale and dolphin populations. Between 1990 and 2000 there were no recorded strandings of humpback whales on British coasts, but since then there have been 13. "That suggests that humpback whale populations are recovering. It's very sad for the individuals but it reflects the [wider] growth in populations," said Deaville.

map showing humpback whale strandings from 2001 to 2009

Post mortems show that most stranded animals have died from natural causes but high-powered sonar used by navies and the oil and gas industry is increasingly associated with deaths.

However, scientists are wary of attributing too many strandings to the technology. Only around 14 animals found on British coasts in the past decade are likely to have been affected by sonar, said Paul Jepson, a cetacean researcher at the Institute of Zoology. "It's not very common, but if we are detecting even a few it could mean there are many more at sea. Old records show that well before sonar or the oil and gas industry came there were mass strandings. There is a natural component but the trouble is separating the natural from the man-made. Sometimes we cannot find any disease, injury or trauma in stranded animals and they appear in good health. Some of these could be caused by something acoustic," said Jepson.

Scientists think the large pod of pilot whales found dead on Rutland island, Donegal last month was the same seen off the outer Hebrides a few days earlier. It was reported that the Royal Navy had been exercising in the region and could have disoriented the pod with its sonar.

Pilot whales are known to be sensitive to acoustic disorientation and have been found to suffer from a condition known as "gas embolism", which is common to the bends suffered by human divers. But the navy has insisted its activities had nothing to do with the mass stranding, saying the nearest vessel to the incident was more than 50 nautical miles away, at the Clyde Naval Base, Faslane, and was not using sonar.

Richard Benyon, minister for environment and fisheries, urged people to watch for stranded animals. "Keen-eyed members of the public can also play a vital role in reporting strandings. Dog walkers, ramblers and people all around the country can help us capture information about every whale or dolphin that strands on our beaches."

Source: The Guardian, 22nd November 2010.

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Last chance for UK carbon collection and storage (CCS) in the North Sea to prove it can work

A collection of portable cabins and odd pieces of machinery has been assembled on an old, cracked patch of concrete outside Longannet power station on the banks of the Firth of Forth. Two thin metal towers loom over the huts, on which blue skies and white clouds have been painted.

This huddle of equipment may look unprepossessing, but it houses an ambitious technological enterprise. Engineers are testing equipment for Britain's first full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) device. The lessons learned on this windswept corner of Fife will be used to design a full-scale machine that could turn coal-burning power plants into eco-friendly generating stations.

The Longannet carbon-capture system, scheduled to begin operations in 2014, will involve a major scaling-up of the test rig and should remove more than a million tonnes of the carbon dioxide currently being pumped into the air by its eight giant coal-burning generators every year. This will then be funnelled into a depleted North Sea gas field and stored. The technology could transform the use of fossil fuels in Britain and prove to be a major export earner.

"The plant proposed for Longannet is the last and best candidate we have for building a device that could be fitted to existing power stations to extract and isolate their carbon emissions," said CCS expert Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University. "All other carbon-capture schemes being considered by the government have either been rejected or withdrawn by their backers. This is all we have left. The government has yet to make its final commitment. It looks good, however."

Several hundred million tonnes of carbon dioxide are produced in Britain every year, with electricity generating stations accounting for a substantial proportion. The UK has pledged to reduce these emissions by 80% by 2050, with renewable power plants taking over much of our energy production.

"However, we will always need plants to provide power, virtually instantly, for those moments — at a World Cup final half-time, for example — when kettles are switched on round the nation," said John Campbell, director of energy wholesale for ScottishPower, which owns Longannet. "Coal plants are good at providing rapid power generation."

All that needs to be done is prevent their carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere. For example, Longannet, which provides power for two million people and is one of Europe's largest power plants, emits between 7m and 8m tonnes a year. As a result, ScottishPower has joined forces with Shell and the Norwegian chemical company Aker to design a full-scale carbon capture and storage plant, Britain's first, to remove a sixth of all Longannet's carbon emissions.

Longannet's test rig is now providing precious data for their plans. At present, less than a thousandth of the station's flue gases is captured. But the chemistry for the full-scale plant will be the same and will use techniques originally developed to prevent carbon dioxide exhaled by crewmen from poisoning the air in nuclear submarines. "We exploit chemicals called amides," said Tom Corless, the test rig's technical director. "They bind and isolate the carbon dioxide."

In the Longannet rig, which began operations 18 months ago, flue gases, which are 12% carbon dioxide, are pumped up one of its towers. Then amides are showered down from the top. These combine with the carbon dioxide and sweep it back down the tower. Other gases are allowed to escape.

The resulting chemical mix is then heated, a process that breaks apart the carbon dioxide and the amides. The latter are kept and reused. The carbon dioxide is released via the rig's second tower. "A key point about setting up this rig is to find ways to improve the kind of amides that we use so we can keep down the heating bill and the cost of the carbon-capture plant. So far we have managed to cut operating costs by about a third," added Corless.

In the test rig, carbon dioxide is put back into the atmosphere. But when the full-scale plant is built it will be pumped through an old gas pipeline to the Goldeneye platform operated by Shell. There it will be forced underground into the former gas field where decades' worth of carbon dioxide could be stored.

"Gases stored in these fields remained there for millions of years until humans drilled into them," added Haszeldine. "So we are confident that carbon dioxide will stay down there. The crucial point is that we can use our North Sea engineering expertise and our depleted offshore gas fields to develop a new industry — one that could have crucial benefits for Britain and for tackling global warming."

Source: The Guardian, 21st November 2010.

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European nuclear waste shipped via Norway to Russia

Highly radioactive waste from Germany can secretly be shipped around the coast of Norway to Murmansk three times this winter, reports Barents Observer. Germany and Russia are now negotiating the final parts of a deal to bring back to Russia old Soviet designed uranium fuel from a research reactor in Rossendorf in the former DDR.

The German Federal Office for Radiation Protection has already given the approval for transport 951 spent uranium fuel elements by truck from the nuclear reactor in Rossendorf and then export by boat. The approval is published on in the overview of transport permissions given by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

The transport permission is valid from 23rd September this year until 16th April next year, meaning the export can take place any time this winter.

If following the same route as other spent nuclear fuel from former USSR-designed reactors in Europe, the highly radioactive nuclear waste will sail around the coast of Northern Norway towards Russia's Arctic harbour Murmansk. Upon arrival at the Atomflot harbour in Murmansk, the nuclear waste will be reloaded to railway wagons and sent all way through European Russia to Mayak in the South Urals. Mayak is Russia's central storage and reprocessing facility for spent nuclear fuel.

The German newspaper Sûddeutsche Zeitung writes that there will be three shipments of spent nuclear fuel from Rossendorf to Russia. According to the overview Barents Observer can read from the German radiation protection authorities issued in July this year, the maximum containers per transport is 18.

The total number of fuel elements from the German research reactor is 951 and if the load is divided into three shipments, there will be some 300 fuel elements in each shipment.

Earlier in November ten-of-thousands of demonstrators were trying to block a train with of radioactive waste from France to Germany's storage site in Gorleben. Green groups are also protesting the coming shipment of uranium fuel from Germany to Russia. Environmentalists from all over the world signed an appeal letter to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier this week. From the Murmansk region, both Kola Environmental centre and Bellona-Murmansk have signed the appeal.

The environmentalists say uranium fuel sent to Russia's Mayak facility creates more radioactive waste when reprocessed and isotopes can end up in the Arctic through the Siberian River systems from Mayak near Chelyabinsk via Ob to the Arctic Oceans. It will however be impossible for German and Russian environmentalists to block the shipments of nuclear waste around the Arctic coast of the Barents Region.

The shortest export route from a port on the German Baltic Sea coast to Mayak is by boat to St. Petersburg, but recent history shows that Russia does not want such uranium fuel to be shipped to St. Petersburg. As Barents Observer has reported several times over the last year, Russia uses its special designed harbour at the icebreaker base Atomflot in Murmansk for import of nuclear waste from central Europe.

At Atomflot, the containers with spent nuclear fuel can be reloaded to railway wagons with the help of the same crane that reload spent nuclear fuel from the icebreaker fleets transport and storage vessel Imandra. Few metres from the crane is also a foreign designed storage room for spent nuclear fuel. Norway is one of several countries that have assisted Atomflot with new facilities for nuclear waste handling.

In October, Barents Observer revealed that yet another shipment of spent nuclear fuel was secretly shipped from Poland around the northern coast of Norway to Murmansk. Polish and Norwegian authorities did not wanted the public to be aware of the sailing schedule for the vessel loaded with the weapon-grade uranium fuel.

Yngvar Bratved with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities told Barents Observer in October that for security reasons they are reserved with specific information (about such nuclear cargo) before and during the voyages.

There are likely two reasons why such nuclear cargo are shipped the longer route around Norway to Murmansk, instead of sailing the much shorter route through the Baltic Sea and St. Petersburg on its way to Mayak. First of all it is important to keep the vulnerable cargo as far away from possible terrorists as possible, and secondly because Murmansk has an excellent harbour facility for receiving such nuclear waste.

The harsh seas off the coast of northern Norway and Russia's Kola Peninsula are not an easy attack point for al-Quaida or other non-state terrorist groups that might want to blow up or get access and steal weapon-grade uranium or other radioactive substances such as the cargo from Poland and Germany.

Source: The Barents Observer 16th November 2010.

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Stocks of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna facing total collapse

Atlantic bluefin tuna are one of the most remarkable fish in the sea. Their amazing biology allows them to dive down to 1,000m and race through the water at extraordinary speeds, migrating thousands of kilometres across the ocean each year. Yet, today, overfishing — some of it illegal, unregulated and unreported — has taken an enormous toll.

shoal of Atlantic bluefin tuna
A shoal of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a species under imminent threat due to overfishing, seen off the coast of Spain. Photograph: Brian J Skerry/Getty Images/National Geographic

Many of the world's foremost marine scientists now believe that populations of Atlantic bluefin are on the brink of collapse. In fact, recent studies by fisheries scientists show that the species has declined more than 80% since 1970. Efforts at protection, though, continue to fall short.

Fuelled largely by the lucrative global market in sushi and sashimi, the high value of bluefin has placed significant political pressure on those responsible for managing global tuna populations. When it has counted most, the international community has allowed short-term profits to trump the long-term health of our oceans. One notable example happened this spring at the 2010 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Every year, billions of plants and animals are taken from the wild and sold as food, pets, souvenirs and medicines. CITES was adopted in the 1970s to help balance the needs of commerce and conservation — ensuring that trade in animal products doesn't endanger a species' very existence. At its heart is a rigorous scientific review process that provides governments with objective information to evaluate when overexploitation merits international protection.

However, when a proposal was submitted to CITES last March to protect bluefin, it was stopped cold, a victim of political games and back room deals that even reached national news media. Despite support from the CITES Secretariat and governments including the US, Norway and the member states of the European Union, the proposal was defeated. Years of science, backed by leading researchers and international organisations outlining the desperate need to protect Atlantic bluefin,were simply disregarded.

In the wake of the defeat of the bluefin CITES proposal, representatives from the countries that had manoeuvred to prevent a responsible decision put forth an excuse. They argued that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) — one of the globe's largest and oldest regional fishery management organisations — should be the body to respond to the crisis facing the great fish, even though it has consistently failed in the past.

During 17-27 November, ICCAT will convene in Paris for its annual meeting, giving leaders the opportunity to rise to the challenge, demonstrate responsible leadership and save this wonder of the deep. It is time for ICCAT to heed the warnings of scientists and take decisive action by suspending the fishery for Atlantic bluefin tuna until strong management and enforcement measures are in place, and the species shows signs of recovery. National governments and international fishery management organisations would then need to work to end mismanagement, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Additionally, as a global insurance policy, ICCAT should agree to prohibit taking bluefin in their spawning grounds, in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

We cannot continue to empty our oceans without consequence. If ICCAT fails to act, the bluefin tuna will face total collapse.

Source: The Guardian, 19th November 2010.

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Edinburgh zoo's sea lions and penguins to eat only sustainably caught fish

Sea lions and penguins at Edinburgh zoo are changing diet to help save threatened fish stocks.

They are in the vanguard of a push by the Marine Stewardship Council encouraging zoos to follow retailers and restaurants in using only sources it has certified as sustainable.

sealion being fed from bucket of Certified Sustainable Seafood
Miranda the sea lion eating MSC-certified Scottish herring at Edinburgh Zoo. Photograph: Karen Murray/MSC/PA

Uncertified herring are no longer disappearing down the throats of Sofus and Miranda, the zoo's sea lions. They have been replaced by MSC-approved stocks from Scottish waters. The zoo's 200 penguins will be soon guzzling certified South African hake instead of blue whiting from the Pacific if trials prove them a suitable substitute.

Darren McGarry, animal collection manager for the zoo, said: "We're really pleased that the Patagonian sea lions have taken to their new feed. Zoo animals can be very picky about what they eat but they've taken to the MSC-certified feeds straight away."

Gentoo penguins were also rather choosy diners, said McGarry, and it was important to ensure their new diet suited them in taste and nutrition. "It's important as well that the South Africa hake fishery has radically reduced its seabird bycatch as part of its MSC certification — a cut that means thousands of seabirds will be saved. We're really pleased to support that work and will be working towards adding a recommendation for MSC-certified feed with any penguin we export to another zoo."

MSC's Claire Pescod said the sea lions' change of food "supports the Scottish fishing communities that rely on the certified herring fishery and have proved their sustainability through the MSC process".

Source: The Guardian, 16th November 2010.

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UK claims record compliance with EU Bathing water quality standards, but doubts persist

A record number of beaches and bathing spots in England and Wales reached the highest European standards for water quality this year, monitoring by the Environment Agency has claimed.

deckchairs on Brighton Beach looking out to the pier
Brighton beach: Some 425 beaches and swimming sites met the higher EC standard this year, sampling by the Environment Agency showed. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA Archive/PA Photos

Figures showed 86.2% of bathing waters met the higher "guideline" standards set down by the European Commission in 2010 — a rise from 80.2% last year and a huge increase from 1990 figures when less than a third of bathing sites made the grade. Some 98% of beaches and inland swimming areas met the mandatory minimum EC standards for water quality — down 0.6% on last year's levels, data published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showed.

The good results in 2009 came after two years in which heavy rain and flooding caused water quality to drop as pollutants were washed into the seas.

This year, 10 of the 493 beaches and bathing spots monitored failed to meet minimum standards, compared with seven out of 495 tested last year.

Some 425 beaches and swimming sites met the higher EC standard this year, sampling by the Environment Agency showed.

All 79 monitored beaches in Wales met the minimum standards, with 88.8% reaching the higher "guideline" levels, while in England 97.6% of bathing spots met the mandatory standard and 85.7% reached the more stringent level.

Tougher standards come into force from 2015, but already more than 80% of beaches in England and Wales are clean enough to meet the new measures, the Environment Agency said.

The Agency's chief executive, Paul Leinster, said: "The number of bathing waters in England and Wales attaining the highest quality status has almost tripled over the last 20 years — over eight in 10 sites now meet the EU 'guideline' standard for water quality. The Environment Agency is working hard with others to drive improvements and tackle all sources of pollution alongside beach users, local authorities, farmers, land managers and water companies."

The 10 bathing waters that failed to meet minimum standards in 2010 were:

Source: The Guardian, 15th November 2010.

MARINET observes: All is not as it appears. The EU Bathing Water Directive 76/160 requires the Environment Agency to test for the presence of salmonella and enteroviruses in sea water where it is known that sewage can be present i.e. in all those areas which have failed to meet the higher Guideline standard under Directive 76/160 - namely, the 13.8% of beaches/bathing waters that failed to meet this standard in 2010. If salmonella or enteroviruses are are found to be present, then the bathing water fails the minimum Mandatory standard (and, of course, the higher Guideline standard too). However, the Environment Agency failed to test these 13.8% of bathing waters, and so their true compliance with EU Directive 76/160 is unknown.

The importance of testing for salmonella and enteroviruses is that these tests record the presence or absence of the actual pathogens present in the sea water — see and

Also, it is argued that in 2015 a revised EU Bathing Water Directive will bring in stricter standards. However, this revised Directive will eliminate the requirement (currently ignored) to test for salmonella and enteroviruses, will permit a more restricted sampling frequency (once a month as opposed to once every two weeks), and if a sample fails it can be discounted if it is claimed that there was "extreme weather" and the sample can then be retaken once the "extreme weather" has finished.

The problem at the moment is not just that salmonella and enteroviruses sampling is being ignored (thus creating a false picture of compliance) but also that storm discharges of raw sewage are being made in many locations and their impact is not being picked up either because the sampling point is not located in the places that are being contaminated by these storm discharges, or because the sampling regime is too infrequent (only one sample every 14 days, thus "missing" many storm discharge events, see Surfers Against Sewage, 6th August 2010.

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Norfolk's 'Great Barrier Reef'

underwater photograph of the reef
Photograph of the chalk reef by diver Rob Spray of the MCS

The Daily Mail of 26th November '10 published an item entitled 'The Great Barrier Reef of Norfolk: 20 mile chalk bank found of British coast is world's longest' which claims the recent discovery of a chalk reef stretching some 20 miles in 8 metres water depth only 100 metres off the coast between Cley and Trimingham in North Norfolk, which could turn out to be the world's longest chalk reef.

The reef is composed of a complex of gullies, deep chasms and arches forming a habitat for many species, including rarer sponges, sea slugs, anemones, tompot blenny, the leopard spotted goby plus crabs, lobsters and the like.

It must be hoped that the publicity of this finding may qualify it for an eco-system based protected marine reserve free from uninhibited commercial exploitation.

The complete article may be read in detail on the Daily Mail website here.

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Portugal to test new floating wind farm

Portugal's EDP (Energias de Portugal) will test the first prototype of a floating offshore development plant early next year in Aguçadoura, in the north of the country.

artists impression of floating wind farm

The WindFloat can be assembled near the shore and towed out to sea

The head of Technological Development at EDP Inovação, João Maciel, said tests could last between 12-to-24 months. The project will be based in a water depth of 40 metres.

The project has a budget of around €18.4 million.

The next phase, pre-trade, foresees the installation of 3-5 towers with 25 5MW Vestas turbines, at an estimated cost of €4.3 million/MW. The commercial phase comes at a cost of around €3 million/MW.

According to Maciel, the site in northern Portugal was selected, "because it is closer to the real conditions of the deep sea, despite the LNEG (Portugal's National Laboratory for Energy and Geology) having suggested a region of the Algarve - where the sea is calmer - for the first phase of testing."

EDP's WindFloat project has been tested in a wave tank since May 2009 and is based on the technology from Principle Power.

The semi-submersible technology had three pillars. One of these held a wind tower, with a 2MW turbine. This technology has the advantage of being fully assembled onshore and subsequently towed to the place where it will produce energy.

Source: Windpower Monthly 12th November 2010

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Arctic oil-spill clean-up plans "thoroughly inadequate"

The next big offshore oil disaster could take place in the remote Arctic seas where hurricane-force winds, 30ft seas, sub-zero temperatures and winter darkness would overwhelm any clean-up attempts, a new report warns.

With the ban on offshore drilling lifted in the Gulf of Mexico, big oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell are pressing hard for the Obama administration to grant final approval to Arctic drilling. Shell has invested more than $2bn to drill off Alaska's north coast, and is campaigning to begin next summer.

But the report, "Oil spill prevention and response in the US Arctic Ocean", by the Pew Environment Group, warns that oil companies are not ready to deal with a spill, despite the lessons of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

"There is a lot of pressure by Shell to drill this summer," Marilyn Heiman, director of the US Arctic programme at Pew said. "But the oil companies are just not prepared for the Arctic. The spill plans are thoroughly inadequate."

It took BP three months to bring its ruptured well under control. The former chief executive, Tony Hayward, admitted this week that the company had to improvise its response plan as it went along. Trying to clean up a spill in the extreme conditions of the Arctic would be on an entirely different order of magnitude. "The risks, difficulties, and unknowns of oil exploration in the Arctic … are far greater than in any other area," the report said.

The consequences for the Arctic's environment would be dire, it said, wiping out populations of walrus, seal and polar bear and destroying the isolated indigenous communities that depend on hunting to survive.

photo of the oil pipe-line snaking-off across the snow
The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Photograph: Doug Wilson/Corbis

Getting to the scene of a spill would be a challenge. The nearest major port, Dutch Harbor, is 1,300 nautical miles away from the drilling areas in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and what few air landing strips exist are not connected to any road system. There are no coast guard vessels in either sea, and the nearest coast guard station is 950 miles by air away in Kodiak Alaska.

Response teams would confront gale-force winds, massive blocks of ice and turbulent seas, total darkness for six weeks of the year, and extreme cold. Cranes would freeze and chemical dispersants, such as those used to break up the BP spill, might not work.

Then there is the ice. Left undetected, a pipeline leak could spread oil beneath the surface of sea ice. Ice floes could carry oil hundreds of miles away from the source. At freeze-up, oil can become trapped within ice within the space of four hours, remaining there until spring. If it becomes trapped within multi-year ice, oil could stay in the environment for years, or even a decade, the report said.

Pew and other environment groups have ramped up their campaigns on offshore drilling, taking out full-page advertisements in gulf newspapers calling on the Senate to pass tougher offshore drilling regulations.

An oil spill bill passed in the US House of Representatives last summer, but has stalled in the Senate amid strong objection from the oil industry to provisions that would lift the current $75m cap on liability. There is also increasing concern that the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, will lift the hold placed on Arctic drilling permits after the oil disaster in the gulf.

The report does not call for a complete ban on Arctic drilling, but it recommends far more extensive study of the potential environmental impacts of a spill before industry is allowed to go-ahead. "We need to take a surgical approach and see what areas should and should not be allowed," said Heiman.

The report also says that any spill response has to be tailored to the extreme Arctic conditions, and that oil companies be required to real-life test runs of their containment efforts. "We can't be training them the moment the oil hits the water and the ground like we did in the Gulf," Heiman said. "There is much more work that needs to be done to protect the Arctic."

Source: The Guardian 11th November 2010.

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The world's best underwater photographs 2010

A collection of the year's best underwater photography, chosen by the judges of two major competitions — Our World Under Water and the fourth annual Deep International Underwater competition. The two competitions attracted more than 5,000 entries and winners were picked from 20 countries across the world. Prizes for the contests make up the largest prize pool for underwater photography, with $120,000 (£74,000) up for grabs.

To see the photographs, visit the Guardian website here.

Source: The Guardian, 9th November 2010.

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EU ports to cut fees for low-emission ships

A group of European ports will offer reduced fees for ships with lower pollutant emissions from next year.

The discounts will apply for ships arriving at the Dutch ports of Amsterdam, Moerdijk, Dordrecht and Rotterdam from 1st January. The ports of Antwerp in Belgium, Hamburg and Bremen in Germany and Le Havre in France intend to follow suit later in the year.

The ports will base charges for visiting vessels partly on emissions performance under a new, voluntary assessment scheme, the Environmental Ship Index (ESI). This was launched on Tuesday by the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH), which hopes to see it used across the world.

Precise details are not yet available. But IAPH managing director Fer van de Laar told ENDS he expected potential reductions in charges of up to 5% for the cleanest ships. Although this is a small margin, it should be enough to provide an economic incentive to cut emissions.

The ESI offers a simple and easily established score of emissions performance, which can be applied to all kinds of ship. It compares a ship's emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) to legal standards. The system places the most emphasis on NOx performance.

Points are also awarded for reporting energy efficiency, as there are no legal limits on carbon performance. Particulate output is not covered as it is closely associated with sulphur emissions.

A ship that just meets current emissions standards, set by the International Maritime Organisation for open waters and by the EU at berth, would have a rating of 0. Another ship that has no pollutant emissions and which also reports its energy efficiency would be given 100 points.

Emissions from shipping are an important source of air pollution around the world, leading to limits on fuel sulphur content. A number of EU member states have established economic incentives for port operators to supply electricity to ships, enabling them to switch off their engines and improve local air quality.

Source: ENDS Europe, 4th November 2010

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Isle of Man takes steps to limit access of Scottish scallop fishermen to Manx waters

A decision by the Isle of Man government to exclude half the Scottish scallop-dredging fleet has provoked furious protests from the Hollyrood government.

The Isle of Man has passed a by-law that will exclude 40 large vessels from fishing for lucrative scallops during the short season that begins this month. The move was greeted with consternation by fishermen in Scotland where a government spokesman branded the new by-law as "unjustified and discriminatory."

photo showing dozens of scallop boats fishing off the Manx coast
A photo taken by a young Manx skipper of scallop vessels fishing off the Targets, west of Peel, at the start of the 2008 scallop season. The 2009 season saw even greater numbers of vessels arrive for the 'olympic fishery', which saw markets saturated, catch rates fall dramatically, and widespread damage to fishing grounds.

The Isle of Man has made no statement of any kind but proposing the new bylaw in March Phil Gawne, fisheries minister, said it was to pre-empt a repetition of the events of last year when attempts to impose emergency conservation measures were vetoed by the Scottish government.

He said that he was hopeful that the new by-law, which has been given the approval by ministers in London, would be of great benefit to Manx and Scottish fishermen. The Isle of Man is also creating the Queenie Management Board which will involve fishermen in the management of queen scallops.

Isle of Man officials say that the "nomadic" Scottish scallop dredging fleet wiped out a generation of scallops when they arrived for the short fishing season between 1st Nov and Christmas last year. The move follows a decision by the Isle of Man fisheries minster last week to close 40 square kilometres of Ramsay Bay as a nature reserve which will also benefit scallops.

The Manx by-law comes after Wales closed its waters to the Scottish scallop-dredging fleet this year.

The Scottish government hit back at the Manx government. A spokesman said: "The Isle of Man measures will not safeguard the marine environment and are simply a flawed and discriminatory attempt to reduce scallop fishing effort by excluding some Scottish vessels. This is without any scientific basis and smaller vessels are still free to fish without restriction."

The Isle of Man have rejected reasonable Scottish Government proposals, which would achieve the reduction in scallop fishing they seek while not unfairly penalising Scottish vessels."

Two members of the Clyde Inshore Fishery Group, the management body for the area, are understood to have walked out last week because they would not sit in the same room as a representative of Manx fishermen. Scottish officials confirmed that feelings were running high among Scottish fishermen and that legal action was being considered by the Scottish scallop dredging industry.

Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said: "It would have been perfectly possible to incorporate management and still allow those who had fished there for decades and kept stocks healthy for decades to go on fishing. The effect will be to transfer the revenue from Scottish fishermen to fishermen in the Isle of Man. We think this is a political move by the Isle of Man government to protect the resource for themselves. That's not fair. We have been desperately trying to get the Isle of Man government to talk to us."

Privately Scottish fishermen blame their own government for not responding more forcefully to the proposals by the Isle of Man and the science that has led them to close the scallop fishery to large vessels.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries minister, announced that a ban on scallop dredging in Luce Bay in the south west of Scotland, close to the Isle of Man, which is designated a special area of conservation would be extended so that it was not overfished by vessels excluded from Isle of Man waters.

Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, is understood to have called his counterpart in the Isle of Man yesterday to remonstrate with him over the closures but officials say the Isle of Man complied with its requirement to consult the Scots and the bylaws are unlikely to be shifted in the courts.

The by-law applies to vessels over 300 horsepower that have not fished for more than 50 days in the area over the past 18 months. Other Scottish vessels with "grandfather" rights will be allowed to go on fishing.

Source: Fish2fork, 2nd November 2010.

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Tribunal to hear water information case

As well as the ongoing dispute over the need for information on CSOs (Combined Sewage Outfalls) SmartSource, who advise consumers on reducing water bills so needs water and drainage information, and FishLegal, an angling organisation which campaigns against river and lake pollution, are just two of the organisations pressing for the release of water company data, as their requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) were turned down by the water companies.

Those requesting information were earlier backed by the Information Commissioner who considered that private water utility companies had to abide by the Environmental Information Regulations. But in March 2010 they revised their stance when by the Information Commissioner ruled that the water utilities were entitled to refuse information on the basis that the Water Companies were not covered by the Environmental Information Regulations because the EIR only applied to public bodies, whilst the water authorities were private organisations.

While it is true that the Freedom of Information Act only applies to public bodies, environmental data is covered by the EIR which also extend to private organisations that carry out "functions of public administration" or exercise environmental responsibilities under the control of a public body. Thus, the issue is in doubt.

Now the matter is being dealt with an appeal forming an important tribunal case. It could determine how much the public right of access to environmental information applies to data held by numerous other private organisations in addition to public bodies. The findings and outcome are very important, as they may also set a precedent on to what extent private companies in other industries with environmental duties are covered by the regulations on public access to information.

MARINET feel that the public have a right to know, as the public drink the water, are effected by any pollution and are well aware that the water companies have a marked impact on the environment. Further, that anyone buying a home or a business is concerned about water purity, cost and potential drainage problems.

The private water companies are carrying the functions, duties and responsibilities of the original Local Authority Water Boards who were forced by decree to let them be privatised. Thus surely they must come under the same disclosure rules as the Local Authority predecessor? If the private water companies took on the functions from the Local Authority, then the law requires them to be taken on the same terms and conditions as they had with the Local Authority. Thus there exists no reason why they should be able to opt out of disclosure exactly as was required of the service provider prior to the change of "ownership". Perhaps we shall see the results of the new government's promise on freedoms and openness. And perhaps not.

The BBC obtained material from the Environment Agency through an EIR request which appears to reflect internal differences within the agency on how best to relate to the water companies. For this see BBC News 'Open Secrets' at

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Latest on the Seal Deaths

Researchers at St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) are still working with the RSPCA and the Scottish Agricultural College to try to establish the cause of the recent spate of mysterious seal deaths, but have yet to reach a firm conclusion. They have ruled out the effects of fisheries, deliberate mutilation, the effects of illegal traps and attacks by killer whales or sharks, and considered that the injuries were most likely caused by the ducted propeller systems on ships operating in shallow waters. They have closely examined bodies and concluded that the 'corkscrew' type lacerations were made by the seals rotating against a smooth-edged blade while at the same time being dragged past the blade by a powerful force. They said:

"Most diagnostic of all has been the imprint on some animals of the serrated 'rope cutter' that is present on most of these types of ducted propellers to stop ropes getting entangled in the propellers".

A part of the Sea Mammal Research Unit report of Tuesday 26th October 2010 'states:

"The extremely neat edge to the wound strongly suggests the effects of a blade with a smooth edge applied with considerable force, while the spiral shape is consistent with rotation about the longitudinal axis of the animal. The injuries are consistent with the seals being drawn through a ducted propeller such as a Kort nozzle or some types of Azimuth thrusters. Such systems are common to a wide range of ships including tugs, self propelled barges and rigs, various types of offshore support vessels and research boats. All the other explanations of the injuries that have been proposed, including suggested Greenland shark predation are difficult to reconcile with the actual observations and, based on the evidence to date, seem very unlikely to have been the cause of these mortalities. We believe that the most likely cause of death for the seals from the UK is associated with the seals being drawn through a ducted (or cowled) propeller, such as a fixed Kort or Rice nozzle or a ducted azimuth thruster."

A short report may be seen under Mystery seal deaths 'caused by boats' at the St Andrews University website or in full as a large pdf file at

Earlier sources of information are the reports under our 'Latest News' which can be searched for using the Search Box facility at the bottom of the page, and also to be found on the BBC website at the following locations: and

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Oil and Gas industry in dispute with Wind Turbine industry over North Sea sites

The British oil industry has threatened to take legal action to defend its interests in the North Sea against offshore wind farm developers.

Dozens of giant offshore wind projects are being planned, mostly in the North Sea, and many will encroach on areas licensed for oil exploration and production. One wind farm developer told the Observer that conflict between the two industries looks likely.

The warning over legal action came from trade body Oil and Gas UK. The government is currently consulting on national policy statements, which set out how the UK's ambitious renewable energy targets will be met, with offshore wind turbines a key factor. In its submission, Oil and Gas UK said the policy statements did not take account of the way offshore wind farms could impede mobile drilling rigs, disrupt helicopter flights and get in the way of pipelines and underwater equipment.

"It would be most unfortunate if individual licencees were forced to resort to legal processes in order to defend the rights granted under their existing petroleum licences," Oil and Gas UK's submission said.

Jim Footner of Greenpeace said the government should be backing wind power: "The oil lobby is threatening to scupper the UK's chances of developing a cutting-edge offshore wind industry. There is a definite conflict between oil interests, who are going to ever greater extremes to extract their product, and offshore wind. Is the government going to kowtow to a highly polluting industry which relies on something that is running out, or will they back offshore wind, which will provide tens of thousands of jobs, cut emissions and secure our energy future?"

Mark Petterson of Warwick Energy, which developed the world's largest offshore wind farm, off the Kent coast, said the transition did not have to be confrontational. "The experience on our three projects to date, which have all had some degree of overlap with oil and gas, has shown that this can work."

Source: The Guardian, 31st October 2010.

Stop Press: The Oil and Gas industry refute the above story:

Source: CMS News, 2nd November

"Oil & Gas UK advises that the allegation made in the Observer and Scotsman newspapers that it is 'threatening legal action' to defend its oil and gas interests against offshore wind developers is wholly untrue. On the contrary, Oil & Gas UK is calling for strong co-operation between oil and gas and renewable industries in recognition of the fact that the UK will have to exploit all sources of energy production to meet its future energy needs.

"The organisation also highlights the need for a thorough consultation process in order to create an effective regulatory framework so that companies, in both sectors, do not have to resort to legislation to sort out ambiguities in Government policy. Oil & Gas UK made these points explicitly clear in the submission it made to the UK Government's consultation on the national policy statements, which set out how the UK's renewable energy targets will be met.

"David Odling, Oil & Gas UK's Energy Policy Manager, said: "In order to meet the UK's future energy needs, we are going to have to invest in all forms of energy, including oil and gas and renewables. It is important therefore that the two industries — offshore hydrocarbons and wind — work together, particularly in areas such as Hornsea where permissions have been granted for wind farm development in zones already licensed for many years for oil and gas exploration and production and where production of gas is widespread.

"Our call is for greater co-operation, not less and I can assure you that threatening legal action is furthest from our minds. On the contrary, Oil & Gas UK held a joint workshop in our offices just two weeks ago at the end of October with Renewable UK. This was very well attended by both our members and representatives from the wind energy developers. Its purpose was to improve communications and liaison between the two sectors; promote common understanding and establish a plan for solving some of the emerging issues, with the intention of achieving peaceful co-existence between the two industries. The meeting was very helpful and will provide a firm foundation upon which future relations can be built. It is hoped that we can emulate the extent of collaboration we have achieved working with the fishing industry in the North Sea over the past forty years."

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EU and US recommence deep water drilling, and EU seeks to extend life of existing platforms

Aftershocks from the BP-Macondo oil rig blow-out are still making waves as European and US regulators review existing legislation on several fronts, from offshore safety standards, to deep sea drilling and end-of-life infrastructure.

A recently announced European Commission policy paper on offshore oil and gas platforms has brought some relief to operators when it became clear that the EU executive was not recommending a moratorium on deep water oil drilling in the North Sea. Instead new legislation, to be proposed early 2011, will focus on harmonising European laws governing environmental liability, drilling safety and oil spill remediation. Similarly across the Atlantic, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ended a temporary deep water drilling moratorium six weeks ahead of its expiration date.

Mr Salazar explained that the industry was meeting milestones for improvements in drilling safety. He also noted that vital oil spill response capabilities had become available since BP's blown-out well was permanently sealed in September.

But the end of the moratorium does not mean US operators are now off the hook. The US Department of the Interior introduced tough rules on the decommissioning of old oil and gas offshore platforms and infrastructure, also known as 'idle iron'. In Europe, ageing platforms may also face greater regulatory attention.

More than 600 of the nearly 4000 platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico have been singled out for removal under the department's "guidance on idle iron". And 3,500 wells, out of roughly 50,000 that have been drilled since 1947, must be permanently plugged and abandoned over the next three-five years.

A Notice to Lessees issued in September warned US operators that they would have 120 days, as of 15th October, to submit a comprehensive decommissioning plan for all pipelines, wells and structures that have been idle for the last five years.

"The cost of compliance for operators will be between US$1.4 and US$3.5bn, [on top of normal decommissioning activity], while possible foregone earnings [due to removal of platforms] could be as high as US$18bn", says Professor Mark Kaiser of Louisiana State University's Centre for Energy Studies.

The rules have rocked the international oil and gas community to its foundations. "This is the first time that a government has put a stringent date on when structures have to be removed," said Jan Groot, project manager at offshore oil and gas decommissioning consultancy PlatformBrokers. Mr Groot warned that the US government's action may prompt European policy-makers to take similar measures. "[It] may be the trigger for North Sea governments to put in place time limits for decommissioning," he added, pointing out that more than 100 platforms are ready for removal in the North Sea.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive says more than half of the 547 fixed platforms in British waters have exceeded their original design life of 20-25 years. But regulators focus more on how to extend the lives of these platforms, than on their removal. This is because Britain risks being dependent on imports once its oil reserves have been exhausted, making extraction a more pressing item.

"The [UK's] Offshore Decommissioning Unit ensures that oil and gas infrastructure is decommissioned in a timely manner but at the same time encouraging reuse where possible, hence no definite deadlines," explained Kevin Munro at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change's energy development sector.

Similarly, the Netherlands is keen to continue extracting oil for as long as possible. "The Netherlands government wants to get as much oil and gas produced as possible and is actually trying to attract independents to do the work. Keeping the infrastructure intact is important with regards to this policy," added Ruud Liem at Dutch oil and gas industry association IRO.

In Denmark too, decommissioning remains a distant notion, given that operators are either still producing or exploring further production potential. "We have not yet had any discussion regarding setting deadlines for the removal of these installations," confirmed Ann Christin Lia, head of section at the Danish Energy Agency.

At this stage, Norway is the only jurisdiction with hard and fast rules concerning the timing of decommissioning. Two to five years before an oil field is shut down, the operator must submit a decommissioning plan to the authorities. Following approval the operator is given a fixed deadline, usually five years, to remove the platform.

It is still unclear whether the EU is considering setting deadlines for decommissioning idle iron. A spokesperson said it intends to present concrete proposals for decommissioning in mid-2011. "We are monitoring actions of relevant member states, especially the UK where the vast majority of ageing installations is located," he said.

North Sea operators do not yet face the same stringent decommissioning deadlines as their US counterparts. But decommissioning activity is set to increase. With the OSPAR convention's decommissioning policy up for review in 2013 and a possible tightening of regulation in the EU, operators are well advised to stay ahead of the game.

Source: ENDS Europe, 25th October 2010.

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Defra begins to define its thinking for CFP Reform

In the Autumn 2020 edition of Fishing Focus, the Defra and MMO marine fisheries newsletter, Defra has begun to define its thinking on two important potential components of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Reform. In the first instance, Defra wants to see the definition of catch quotas broadened to allow all fish caught to be landed, regardless of the size of the fish. And, in the second instance, Defra wants catch quotas to be determined on the basis of the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of individual stocks.

With regard to broadening of the catch quota to require all fish caught to be landed, Fishing Focus reports:

"The interim results from the UK catch-quota pilot have just been published, and are looking promising. The pilot was set up to test this new way of managing fisheries, where the quota accounts for all fish caught, not just those landed at port.

"This aims to manage the fish stocks, reduce discards and maximise the value of the catch.

"Defra and Cefas, along with Marine Scotland, are running the pilots for cod in the North Sea this year. A total of 23 boats in the UK are participating, and all the cod they catch is counted against their quota, regardless of size and marketability.

"The participants have been given up to 30% more quota, which is less than the average normally discarded. They can therefore land more of what they catch, but as they must stop all fishing when the quota is reached, mortality is not increased.

"The scheme is monitored using Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM), which includes CCTV. This will also provide useful scientific information. Cefas and Marine Scotland issued interim reports in October. These demonstrate good evidence that this system can work, and gives us all confidence that the system can provide the necessary control required to operate a catch quota scheme.

"The initial results also show that the amount of under Minimum Landing Size cod caught by the participating vessels (which must be discarded or sent to fish meal) is very low. Fishermen are using their professional knowledge and skills to maximise the return from what they catch. For example, some participants have used larger cod ends to reduce retention of smaller cod (which count against their quota) and some have moved to new areas to avoid juveniles, or reduced the soak time of gill nets to limit damage to cod while immersed in the sea.

"Arnold Locker (Director of Locker Trawlers Ltd) said: “I am very positive about the trials this year, because it makes the skipper sit down and think about the consequences of catching small cod, because they will count against his quota. It works very well for a single species, such as cod and we would be definitely interested in participating in a similar scheme next year. My one big reservation is that this system would not work as well for multiple species and the catches would be driven by the weakest species — we would be driven out of business and would have to tie up if whiting, for example, were included in such a scheme.”

"The reports have been submitted to the EU Commission, which is pleased with the work done so far. Other Member States are also supporting this initiative. In Aberdeen recently, Germany, Denmark, Norway and the UK all signed a declaration, which proposed an expansion of catch quotas.

"The interim results show that more evidence is required to prove that catch quotas can work in different fisheries, and at a larger scale. So, we want to expand the pilot next year, increasing the number of vessels and the number of species to include cod, haddock, whiting, plaice and area VIIe sole. As with this year's trial, participation in the scheme would be on a voluntary basis. You can choose whether to join in and which species to include. This trial is all about working in partnership with the fishing industry, so we need your input.

"You can read the interim report here and the declaration at"

With regard to the definition of Maximum Substainable Yield, Fishing Focus reports:

What is MSY and why is it a good idea?

"MSY is a science-based approach to harvesting fish stocks which maintains high fish stock levels to allow for high catches that are sustainable in the long-term. In other words, for fishermen to be able to catch more fish in future without threatening stock sustainability.

How are we going to achieve MSY?

"For many stocks fish are currently caught (landed or discarded) at levels higher than MSY. We therefore need to reduce the number of fish caught from these stocks to allow fish to breed, so that there are bigger stocks in future and higher catches are possible. In the short term this may mean reduced quotas to allow stocks to rebuild, but in the longer term it means higher catches, less effort to achieve the catches, higher profits and less impact on the marine environment. For some stocks, for example North Sea haddock and saithe, we've already achieved MSY and fishermen are reaping the benefits of stable catch levels and profits. We should have these benefits for all stocks in future."

MARINET observes: The development of new management policies in order to rebuild fish stocks is very welcome. It is in everyone's interests that fish stocks are rebuilt, and as soon as possible. However, we must be very cautious about the use of this new concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The key question is the baseline of the size of the fish stock. For example, the North Sea cod stock is currently around 60,000 tonnes. However, in 1900 it was ten times larger e.g. 600,000 tonnes, and in 1850 it was twice the size of the 1900 level e.g 1.2 million tonnes (ref: and Therefore, the question arises as to what size of stock we are to base our Maximum Sustainable Yield figure on? Is it on the currently severely depleted stock size (depleted largely due to over-fishing) or is it on the historic level? MARINET firmly believes that it should be nearer to the historic level than the current level. If it is not, then we are denying future generations the level of abundance which we know the seas can support if managed properly, and we are denying the future fishing industry the full potential of stock sizes which far-sighted management can accomplish. Also, stock sizes based nearer historic levels rather than current levels, will afford us far greater "food security" in the future because the annual catch that will be possible will be far greater.

MARINET also observes: The development of catch quotas which require all fish caught to be landed is welcome. This will eliminate the terrible practice of discards. However, once again, caution must be exercised. Firstly if, in order to maintain the value of the catch, catch-quotas will have to be lifted (because the catch will now include small/juvenile fish with no market value and other species of low market value), we are in danger of increasing the intensity of the fishing of certain fish stocks rather than reducing the intensity e.g. North Sea cod. The conservation necessity is to maintain or reduce quota levels, rather than to lift them. Therefore the solution to this problem of the value of the catch can be found by the CFP offering a minimum guaranteed landing price for the quota. This means that if the quota contains unmarketable or low value fish, then this remains acceptable without having to raise the quota (i.e. the volume/weight of fish caught) because there is a guaranteed price for the lower sized quota. Thus, we continue to be able to practice conservation of the fish stock by catch quota levels without having to raise the catch quota level. Hence, more juveniles and more older fish (a requirement of the Good Environmental Status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) will remain in the sea, thus increasing overall stock levels year on year, and thus enabling us to return eventually to historic stock levels. Hence, we need to be exploring guaranteed prices for current or lower catch quota levels for the fishermen, rather than seeking to lift catch quota levels to solve problems of economic viability.

Source: Fishing Focus, Autumn 2010.

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Greenpeace sues UK for end to Shetland oil drilling

The campaign group said it had filed a claim at the Royal Courts of Justice seeking a ban on new activity until the causes of BP's Deepwater Horizon accident are fully understood.

More than 20 licences have been issued for new deep water drilling this autumn, despite the Gulf of Mexico accident that killed 11 men and set off a giant oil spill.

Greenpeace's lawyers will argue the drill sites are too close to environmentally sensitive areas that are home to protected species. They will also claim the Government has failed to review environmental regulations since the Gulf of Mexico accident.

The Government said it had been notified by Greenpeace about the potential action, but had not been served papers.

John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, said: "The Government is handing out oil drilling licences left, right and centre as if the Deepwater Horizon disaster never happened. And they've got to stop. The oil industry is drilling in riskier and more dangerous places in UK waters, where a spill could be a disaster for wildlife."

Chris Huhne, Britain's energy secretary, has argued that "it's clear that our safety and environmental regulatory regime is fit for purpose".

The UK doubled inspections after the Deepwater Horizon accident and the North Sea oil industry set up a group to look at their own practices. Individual companies have also been reviewing their processes, while insisting that Britain has the world's safest regime.

Anders Eldrup, chief executive of Denmark's state energy giant Dong, the largest deep water licence holder off the Shetland Islands, told The Daily Telegraph there was no need for a ban.

"We've been looking carefully at our processes and there's a great difference between the way things are done in America and the North Sea, which is much stricter. We have been working through procedures once more and doing extra reviews and feel that Norway and the UK are safe."

Last month, Chevron has admitted its new deep water drilling campaign off the Shetland Islands could cause an oil spill worse than BP's accident. The US oil giant believes that, in a worst-case scenario, the North Sea well could release 77,000 barrels a day — 25pc more than gushed into US waters this year.

The company doubled its worst possible forecast from 35,000 barrels per day, after reviewing its data in the light of BP's accident.

Source: Telegraph 12th November 2010.

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Greenland wants $2bn bond from oil firms keen to drill in its Arctic waters

Greenland is demanding that oil companies bidding to drill in huge areas of its Arctic waters each pay an estimated $2bn (£1.25bn) upfront "bond" to meet the clean-up costs from any large spill.

satellite image of Greenland

The condition, which is thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, will please environmentalists and could encourage other governments to follow suit in the wake of BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster. Half a dozen energy companies — thought to include Shell, Cairn Energy, Statoil, the Danish companies Dong and Maersk Oil — are in negotiations with the Greenland government about the licensing round, the largest for years.

They are bidding for the right to drill across about 50,000 square kilometres of unexplored waters, much of it in deep water and all in harsh conditions. The government had planned to announce the winners in August, but arguments over the requirement to pay a bond has delayed the process. Intensive negotiations are under way and the winners could be announced as early as next week.

The payment — either in the form of a parent company guarantee for the larger companies or a straight advance — would have to be made once companies were awarded a licence to explore a block. This is despite the fact that actual drilling would not take place for another three or four years because of the mapping and geological preparatory work that would have to be carried out.

Such a requirement could exclude smaller deep water exploration companies that have less financial clout because they do not bring in their heavyweight partners until they start drilling. Companies that have bigger balance sheets and less deep water expertise could be favoured in the process. No final decision has been made on the bond payment requirements but it seems likely that it will remain in place, despite some companies' protests.

Negotiations have been complicated by the unpredictable relationship between Greenland and Denmark. Greenland is a self-governing territory of Denmark, which is responsible for its foreign affairs and must sign off on any oil contracts.

The Greenland licensing round, covering the Baffin Bay area off the west coast, has attracted enormous interest — and controversy. BP withdrew from the bidding in the wake of the Gulf disaster, knowing that it was unlikely to win a block given the environmental and political backlash that would have ensued.

No commercial discoveries of oil or gas have yet been made off the coast of Greenland but the industry expects it is only a matter of time before they strike lucky. In 2008, US scientists released a new estimate of 18bn barrels equivalent of undiscovered oil and gas resources in the Arctic circle between western Greenland and eastern Canada.

The remaining bidders are interested in five huge blocks, each one about 10,000 square kilometres. Greenland is also planning two more licensing rounds in 2012 and 2013, which are also likely to prove hugely popular.

Environmentalists are nervous about plans to open up Arctic seas for oil exploration because the cold conditions would make a spill far more damaging. A report by US government scientists concluded that a quarter of the 4.9m barrels of oil estimated to have been spilled in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico has evaporated or been dissolved. Oil spilled in the Arctic would not evaporate and would be far harder to disperse and break down.

Sir Bill Gammell, Cairn's founder and chairman, has previously said that while drilling off Greenland was expensive, because of the harsh conditions and distances involved, it was like a "treasure hunt" because one discovery there would be likely to lead to many more.

Source: Guardian 12th November 2010.

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American Military Sonar Weapon Testing killing whales?

dead whales on Rutland Island

One of the largest ever known mass whale deaths came about in early November when 33 Pilot Whales were beached on Rutland Island off the coast of County Donegal.

The main suspicion of the cause emanates from Dr. Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, who points to a highly secret powerful military sound weapon increasingly used by submarines which has prior been blamed for causing whale strandings around the world. He is concerned that Royal Navy sonar equipment could be implicated.

Six whales that died following stranding in the Caribbean earlier gave scientists their first evidence of the harm sonar can inflict, as post mortem examinations found that their inner ears, vital for navigation, had been severely damaged by a lower power mid-audio-frequency version. Despite the findings, the American navy is commencing a new highly controversial lower-frequency system next month that is far louder and will travel much further. The USN claims that it needs a more powerful device to keep track of potentially threatening submarines.

A short BBC video of the tragedy can be seen here.

Whales, already under threat from pollution, fishing nets and collisions with boats and continuing whaling are already diminishing rapidly, and just don't need any more enemies. Although the research is so far inconclusive, conservationists agree that we should avoid any further risks to them.

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Sea urchins and other echinoderms show a tolerance of acidified seas

Sea urchins are likely to be able to adapt to increasingly acidic oceans resulting from climate change, according to new research. When the animals, known as echinoderms, were exposed to water high in carbon dioxide early in their lives, there were no adverse effects.

Echinoderms are a diverse group that includes sea cucumbers and starfish. Their natural resilience could represent a competitive advantage under some climate change scenarios. The experiments, carried out by Nadia Suarez-Bosche, exposed larvae of the shallow-dwelling sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris to deep-sea water naturally rich in CO2.

Sea urchin

Echinoderm larvae showed no adverse effects when exposed to water that was relatively high in CO2. After five days of incubation in the water samples, the scientists measured the physiological responses of the larvae and found that they were still growing and developing well even under the highest CO2 concentrations of up to 600 parts per million (ppm). The current atmospheric CO2 concentration is around 390 ppm.

When CO2 dissolves in water, carbonic acid is formed. Previously, it was thought that the increasing acidity of seawater — caused by the oceans absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere — would be damaging for these organisms.

It was thought the corrosive effect of the acid would harm their calcium carbonate skeletons. The key to their ability to tolerate a wide range in water pH (the scale that determines how acid or alkali something is) comes from the variability of their natural habitat, even under present environmental conditions. "Echinoderms are found all over the world's oceans, but particularly in coastal environments, where they are naturally exposed to huge fluctuations in pH," explained Dr Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, leader of the research team and a co-author of the study.

Echinoderms belong a group of organisms known as "calcifiers", which incorporate carbon from seawater directly into their skeletons in the form of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3). Whilst the scientists found no adverse effects on larval development or soft tissue production in the present study, they did observe a significant decrease in the amount of calcium carbonate that the organisms produced, resulting in smaller and thinner skeletons.

Given future acidification scenarios, "calcification could decrease but it would not prevent larvae from colonising the deep sea because they can tolerate these changes in the carbon chemistry of the water," explained Ms Suarez-Bosche.

However, this is likely to have implications for the global carbon budget, as calcification is an important removal process, or "sink", for carbon in the ocean. Collaborative research suggests echinoderms currently contribute more than 5% to the total removal of inorganic carbon from the surface ocean to the deep sea, which happens when these organisms die and sink to the deep ocean — a process known as the "biological carbon pump".

Ocean acidification is widely considered one of the most pressing challenges in climate science but predicting the likely effects on the wide range of calcifying plants and animals in the ocean is complicated. This has led to some contradictory findings among previous studies and difficulty in reaching a general consensus on the changes likely to occur.

The researchers believe their findings in sea urchins could potentially apply to other species of echinoderms, but more research is needed to find out.

The study is the first to investigate the impact of elevated CO2 levels on echinoderms using seawater naturally high in CO2, without relying on experimental manipulation of seawater in the laboratory. Seawater was collected during a research cruise to the Porcupine Abyssal Plain site in the North Atlantic in 2009. Echinoderm spawn was immediately added to the sample, which was then sealed and left to incubate. Physiological measurements, pH and other aspects of the carbonate chemistry were taken at time zero and again at the end of the experiment.

"Unfortunately, we cannot do these experiments in-situ because of the extreme pressures involved and so this is not a perfect analogue for ocean acidification, but using this method mimics potential conditions as naturally as we can," explained Dr Iglesias-Rodriguez.

The scientists from the National Oceanography Centre presented their findings recently at the Challenger Society for Marine Science conference in Southampton, UK.

Source: BBC News, 25th October 2010.

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Can the oceans be cleared of floating plastic rubbish?

Scientists are investigating ways of dealing with the millions of tonnes of floating plastic rubbish that is accumulating in our oceans.

They are a quirk of ocean currents — a naturally created vortex known as a gyre — where floating rubbish tends to accumulate. The largest is in the North Pacific and covers an area twice the size of France. Others have since been discovered in the North Atlantic and most recently the South Atlantic.

Scientists now fear the same process is probably taking place in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

As well as damaging coasts and killing marine life who mistake the plastic for food, contaminants in the water, which attach to the plastic debris, are transporting waste chemicals across the world's oceans.

At the UK's University of Sheffield, scientists are investigating how they could accelerate the speed at which the plastic breaks down by looking at micro-organisms already found in the sea that naturally feed on plastic.

Promising results have already been seen in finding out which microbes are attaching themselves to plastic in coastal waters around the UK. The next stage will be to analyse how these enzymes work in the natural environment and how they might work in controlled environments where plastic would be the prominent carbon source.

But the researchers emphasise that even if they can narrow down the microbes and encourage their proliferation in an area like the plastic waste patch just found in the South Atlantic, this would be a very slow process.

"It's a bit like imagining how long it would take us to eat something the size of Canary Wharf," says the University's Dr Mark Osborn. If you have hundreds of thousands or millions of organisms colonising one piece of plastic then you can imagine the potential for scale up in terms of the rates of potential degradation."

Biological intervention to restore the ocean environment, otherwise known as bioremediation, is a relatively new field and would require careful assessment of any potential consequences.

And most current work is based on stopping plastic getting into the oceans in the first place.

Source: BBC News, 6th October 2010.

Note: additional information on how to manage and recycle waste plastics is available in this BBC news item.

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Scottish fisherman fear that the collapse in whiting stocks could now confront mackerel

The release of the latest scientific advice for the catch uptake of blue whiting that recommends a quota of only 40,000 tonnes for 2011 is a stark reminder of the threat facing the valuable mackerel stock if uncontrolled fishing by Iceland and the Faroes is allowed to continue, according to the Scottish Fishermen's Federation.

In recent years EU vessels have fished for blue whiting based on scientific advice, but the lack of an international agreement for the stock in the past, resulted in a number of non-EU countries such as Iceland and the Faroes engaging in 'free-for-all' fishing. It is believed that fishing fleets in the NE Atlantic in some years may have annually caught in excess of 2m tonnes of blue whiting.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "Whilst our knowledge of blue whiting is not detailed and the scientific advice may be unreliable, we do know that the stock is at a low level and that there are very few juvenile fish about. In all likelihood, this has been caused by the irresponsible fishing of countries that have not adhered to a management plan."

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, a constituent member of the SFF and whose fishermen catch blue whiting under strict management controls, says the situation underlines the need for an urgent resolution to the current mackerel dispute where Iceland and the Faroes have fished massively increased quotas this year.

"This is a stark reminder of what could happen to our mackerel stock if there is uncontrolled fishing and why a sensible agreement needs to be reached as quickly as possible on both blue whiting and mackerel," he said.

EU fleets have developed higher value human consumption markets for blue whiting whilst other countries have largely been catching the fish for fishmeal production.

Source:, 6th October 2010.

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Fewer UK fishermen are landing less fish, whilst prices are rising

Around 12,200 fishermen are now active in the UK, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has revealed in its latest Fisheries Statistics report. From 2000 to 2009 the number of full-time UK fishermen steadily fell, whilst the fall in part-time fishermen was less steep.

"This important fisheries management tool includes detailed data about the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen and the quantity and value of fish landings, imports and exports," say the MMO. "The statistics will influence and complement government policy and, in conjunction with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), help inform changes to the Common Fisheries Policy."

Statistics reveal that quantities of fish landed in the UK were slightly down on last year, but the total value of fish landed increased. Fish exports increased by 15 per cent, while imports fell by eight per cent. Tables say how UK vessels landed 581,000 tonnes of fish with a value of £674 million — one per cent less than 2008 in quantity but a six per cent increase in value.

UK vessels landed 23,000 tonnes of cod (down 67 per cent since 1994, the earliest year for which comparable data is available) and 36,000 tonnes of haddock (down 61 per cent over the same period). 172,000 tonnes of mackerel were landed, a decrease of 28 per cent since 1994.

UK fish exports rose 15 per cent compared with 2008, with the main species being mackerel, salmon and herring. Fish imports fell by eight per cent to 720,000 tonnes.

The full report, and more detailed supplementary tables, can be seen at

There are no hard copies available this year of the 2009 UK Fisheries Statistics. Copies of earlier editions, going back as far as 1866, are accessible on the MMO website.

Source: Western Morning News, 5th October 2010.

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Fishermen express concern over how the Marine Act's network of MCZs is being identified

The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) has expressed concern that the establishment of an "ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas" will result in the displacement of fishing vessels from their customary fishing grounds.

The organisation explains that this fear is not lessened by the rushed and confused process, overseen by Natural England, through which regional groups of stake-holders have been asked to contribute to the process of designating candidate marine conservation zones, and to suggest appropriate management measures to protect those seabed features regarded as requiring protection.

It has not helped that European special areas of conservation are being applied by the UK authorities at the same time, using a different set of criteria to that used for the domestic MCZs; or that there have been serious misunderstandings over which body has jurisdiction over what part of the process: Natural England, Defra, MMO, SFCs/IFCAs are all involved. Additional jurisdictional complexities arise from devolved administration.

These, along with other important issues, have been raised by the MPA Fishing Coalition, a broad based industry body formed to ensure a fair deal for fishermen in the establishment of MPAs in UK waters, of which the NFFO is a leading member.

Against this background, a recent meeting between Defra officials and the NFFO began serious consideration of the displacement issue. During the course of the meeting the Federation drew attention to two key aspects of the displacement issue.

  1. Economic consequences for vessels of limited range whose crews will lose their livelihoods if excluded from their fishing grounds. Aggregated to a fleet level, this could mean that whole communities could be severely affected. But also vessels with a longer operational range could be forced to fish in adjacent areas, impacting on those fisheries; or much further afield where their impact would nevertheless have an effect
  2. It is by no means certain that a policy of ring-fencing parts of the marine environment into MPAs is an effective strategy for achieving Good Environmental Status across the marine environment. Senior figures within environmental science, as well as fishermen, have asked whether this is the best way to strike a balance between food security and protection of the marine environment. Fishing effort diverted from customary grounds will have an impact and scarcely any thought has been given to this in the current process.

The experience of the 2001 area closure of the North Sea cod spawning grounds were highlighted as salutary example where good intentions led to adverse results through a series of unintended consequences. The pressure on the Commission to "be seen to be doing something", against the background of a decline in the cod stocks led to the closure. However, the scientific post-mortem undertaken by ICES, concluded that the closure had done nothing for cod but that the demersal fleet had been given no alternative but to fish in the juvenile haddock areas and the beam trawlers had been forced to fish in pristine areas in which they had never fished before. The overall result of the closure was massive discarding of immature haddock and serious damage to benthic features, with minimal, if any protection for cod.

The Lyme Bay closure was also raised as a flawed approach to habitat protection that had cast a long shadow in terms of displaced effort and unintended consequences.

Defra's central point was that the whole thrust of the current process establishing marine conservation zones in UK waters, is to involve stakeholders, and to as far as possible, identify areas in which management measures will achieve conservation objectives without disturbing economic activities like fishing.

It was emphasised that there is an important difference between the approach required for the European MPAs where designation of MPAs must be exclusively based on scientific (biological and ecological) criteria and that adopted in the UK for its domestic MCZs, where minimising the socio-economic impact whilst providing adequate protection for valuable or scarce features is at the heart of the process.

It was also made clear that ministers and the UK Government as a whole, would want to avoid an adverse impact on the fishing industry as far as possible, and also, again so far as possible, to avoid adverse unintended consequences. It was for these reasons that the impact assessments currently being prepared will be critically important.

Confusions between the respective roles of Defra, Natural England and MMO and the SFCs/ICFAS had recently been resolved. The stakeholder process overseen by Natural England, as well as making recommendations on MCZ designations, will be asked to suggest management measures to protect scarce or valuable features.

The NFFO emphasised that notwithstanding the Government's good intentions in seeking to establish a network of MPAs, with stakeholder involvement and a good evidence base, the fly in the ointment is the unrealistic timeframe that precludes the possibility of realising those ambitions.

The NFFO is committed to balanced and proportionate steps to prevent loss of biodiversity. However, a classic and largely artificial moral panic about the supposed imminent demise of hundreds of thousands of marine species, and the widespread collapse of commercial fish stocks, floated the Marine and Coastal Access Act through Parliament. It also led the Government into a rushed and deeply flawed process of establishing a network of MPAs through a big bang process. Instead of an incremental, steady, approach where one MPA would be trialled and necessary lessons learned before going on to the next MPA, armed with that experience, we are in the middle of a headlong rush on all fronts at once. The Federation and others in the MPA Fishing Coalition are genuinely and heavily involved in the four regional projects, but not without serious misgivings about where the industry is being led.

Both Defra and the NFFO are agreed that the process of establishing MPAs can be done well or done badly. Approached badly, extensive economic, social and ecological damage is likely to result. Approached through a process of close engagement with the industry, particularly on the question of management measures within MPAs where these are required, the disruption can be kept to a minimum. Fishermen's information is critical to this process, as is the framework established to allow for the industry to be genuinely engaged in the process. The regional projects, so far as we can judge, have only been partially successful in persuading fishermen to hand over data on where they fish, when and with what. The fixed timetable means that flawed system or not, inadequate data or not, Natural England will be making recommendations to ministers next summer on a network of marine protected areas. Some of these may overlap with the European special areas of conservation. Decisions will then be made on initial management measures required to halt any perceived degradation of the features for which the sites have been designated.

Source: 14th october 2010.

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OSPAR Conference produces a Ministerial Statement of its aims up to 2020

The Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR) has produced a Ministerial Statement of its aims between now and 2020. The Convention, composed of 15 European countries with a direct interest in or impact upon the NE Atlantic, is administered by a Commission directed by the member countries. The work of the Commission is centred on a scientific-based monitoring and assessment of the condition of the seas of the NE Atlantic, along with the formulation of management principles for the improvement of these seas. The monitoring embraces biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, offshore industries, radioactive substances and climate change, whilst foremost amongst the formulation of management principles is the development of the ecosystem-based approach to marine management, and the various management tools which this ecosystem-based approach requires.

The OSPAR Ministerial Statement was agreed at a conference in Bergen, Norway, 20-24th September 2010. A feature of OSPAR's work is that it welcomes the involvement of NGOs alongside that of the delegations from the member countries. MARINET attended the conference, and has produced a summary of the Ministerial Statement about OSPAR's aims over the next 10 years which can be seen at

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MARINET analyses the strengths and weaknesses of OSPAR's Quality Status Report 2010

The Commission of the inter-governmental Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic (OSPAR) has, as one of its principal tasks, the monitoring and assessment of the condition of the NE Atlantic.

In conjunction with the recent Ministerial meeting of OSPAR in Norway concerned with the renewal of its charter, OSPAR has published its review of the change in the condition of the NE Atlantic over the last ten years since 2000, along with a set of proposals for the Commission's work over the next ten years until 2020. This publication is titled Quality Status Report 2010 (QSR 2010).

MARINET has undertaken an analysis of QSR 201 which can be seen at

MARINET greatly welcomes QSR 2010 and regards it as a significant achievement and vindication of the existence of OSPAR and its work. However, the condition of the NE Atlantic remains severely challenged by pollution from hazardous substances, eutrophication and the emerging impact of climate change, as well as by the impact of industry (oil and gas, nuclear power, and aggregate extraction), and its biodiversity remains in serious decline, in large part due to relentless over-fishing.

It is therefore essential, MARINET argues, that the scientific portrait assembled by QSR 2010 is rigorous in its accuracy if governments are to correctly formulate management policies over the next ten years, and it is essential that OSPAR's own formulation of the management principles which underlie policy development are of the highest quality and integrity. It is in this context that the MARINET report analyses QSR 2010.

MARINET believes that there remains room for OSPAR, and the governments of the member countries who compose OSPAR, to raise their sights and ambition. Indeed, unless there is considerably greater vision and resolve by all parties concerned, MARINET believes that the NE Atlantic's decline could continue and, rather than achieve a state of restoration in terms of biodiversity and the health of its overall ecosystem, the North East Atlantic could experience the severe decline that has befallen the North West Atlantic.

As a result, MARINET has recommended to OSPAR and, in particular its member countries, that in the forthcoming 10 years to 2020, OSPAR should be allowed to :

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MARINET Report calls for "fundamental changes in marine management"

Front page of Ocean Planet

A new publication by MARINET titled The Ocean Planet reviews the condition of our seas and oceans, focusing on the North East Atlantic in particular.

In the light of the serious challenges which our seas face around the world, The Ocean Planet believes that a restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem health requires fundamental changes in how we manage the seas and oceans.

The Ocean Planet argues that we have to return sovereignty to the seas and oceans. This means that the integrity of the oceans and their ecosystems must at all times have primacy — in other words, their sovereignty is returned to them.

The concept of primacy for the marine ecosystem in all the world's seas and oceans is the key proposal in The Ocean Planet. It means that sovereignty of the ocean ecosystems is recognised as belonging to the ecosystem itself, and that the definition of what is in its best interests does not rest solely in our hands.

Only then, when we accept the primacy of ecosystem integrity, will we have ceased playing around with definitions of sustainability which are simply different ways of carrying on "business as usual" (i.e. exploitation leading to ecosystem decline and, eventually, collapse); and, instead, we will have adopted a management regime that is genuinely sustainable, and can be measured as being so by clear evidence of ecosystem restoration and the long-term maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for human use.

It therefore follows that all human activities, including fishing, require to be licensed. Further, such licences should only be granted if an activity can show that it is either leading to a restoration of biodiversity, or will have no adverse impact on the ecosystems upon which that biodiversity depends.

MARINET believes that this global licensing system, covering all seas (including "the high seas" i.e. those currently beyond national jurisdiction — an existing example of such a licensing agency is the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission ) is essential.

This system is required to regulate not only the fishing practices which threaten the loss of all global commercial fish stocks by 2050, but also the extractive activities for minerals and fossil fuels which are now looking beyond continental shelves to the oceans for their future supplies. If these activities are not regulated by licence, then ecosystems will begin to collapse to a pale shadow of their former selves throughout our oceans as they already have done in certain areas, such as the North West Atlantic.

The Ocean Planet recognises that this fundamental change in marine management is not going to happen overnight, and requires a fundamental shift in the mindset of governments and societies around the world which, in the first instance, must recognise that these problems exist, and in the second, recognise the nature of the solutions that are required to be put in place.

Central to these solutions is the adoption of the a strong version ecosystem-based approach. The strong version recognises the primacy of ecosystem integrity (that the seas and oceans possess their own sovereignty and have an inherent right to exist in a sound natural condition); and, that management based on the ecosystem approach must deploy no-take marine reserves on an extensive basis, and make use of the precautionary principle in order to restore damage to marine ecosystems where this damage already exists or is clearly threatened.

MARINET believes that the European Union should be adopting these new principles and thinking in its forthcoming Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, and that the United Kingdom should be using these principles as it identifies the marine conservation zones and marine spatial planning strategies following the enactment last year of the UK's Marine and Coastal Access legislation.

MARINET is looking for people to assist in its work to secure both a Reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and an Amendment of the UK Marine Act in line with these new marine management principles, and if you would like to assist in this important work or to obtain a hard copy of The Ocean Planet, please contact MARINET.

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Coastal footpath scheme under fire from CLBA

A 30 Km length of coastline footpath stretching from Happisburgh to Sheringham in north Norfolk is one of several earmarked in a national pilot scheme aiming to protect seaside walkways, but the scheme has been tagged a "waste of time and money" by a country landowners and business lobby. It has been earmarked for one of the next stretches of the England Coast Path, a national trail promoted by Natural England using the Marine and Coast Access Act of 2009 to help preserve the route.

The initial stretch was at Weymouth Bay in Dorset, with work on the next five in Kent, Cumbria, Somerset, Durham and Norfolk due in 2011. But Norfolk has a particular problem, in that any set route is likely to have a short life, disappearing due to the ongoing rapid erosion, this further making it very unsafe. Hence, an inclusion to being able to find a replacement route for routes lost to the sea is called for. Where the sea has taken property, paddocks, peoples gardens, garages, etc. the original accepted route has disappeared and taken up and into to private property, and now consists of part demolished ruins, caravan parks, farmland and the like, not fit for purpose.

On these grounds the CLBA (Country Land and Business Association) regional adviser Rob Wise said "the selection of the Norfolk stretch highlights what a waste of time and money this legislation is. Almost 90pc of this portion already has access along it. The only gap is between West and East Runton — an area of caravan parks atop eroding cliffs. This is hardly a place where the general public is clamouring for legislated access." He queried the need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on the project when it would be better spent on maintaining and improving facilities on established paths such as signs, toilets, and car parks.

EDP24 — 16th October 2010 .

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Happisburgh residents criticise 'insulting' compensation offer

erosion threatening remaining houses on cliff-top

Mike Page's December 2009 aerial photo showing the erosion at Happisburgh.

North Norfolk Happisburgh householders, threatened by the loss of their homes due to ongoing erosion, have reacted angrily to 'an insulting' offer by North Norfolk District Council to compensate for the ten dwellings most endangered at only between 40 and 50% of their true value.

Householders have made a final impassioned plea to councillors to give them 100pc of the value, but the Councillors said it was "the best we can do". Hotel owner Di Wrightson said: "A 40-50% purchase offer is not just and right and could be seen by some as insulting. You have the opportunity to put things right."

The complete story by Steve Downes with full quotes appears in the Eastern Daily Press of Saturday, 16th October, 2010.

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Halcrows complain at Huhne's exclusion of tidal and wave power

Halcrows want to go into tidal and wave energy in the Severn — complain that Huhne's National Policy Statement has quite clearly excluded these sources, harming the chances of raising private capital.

From NewNet Online News

UK focus on wind and nuclear should not harm tidal energy development, says expert

The development of offshore wind and nuclear in the UK should not be given preference to the detriment of the fledgling wave and tidal energy sectors, an industry expert told NewNet.

Ben Hamer, who is project director at Halcrow and working on developing the proposed Severn Barrage tidal energy project in UK waters, said the sectors need renewed focus from government to attract investment.

"We have a foothold in tidal and wave energy fields. It is very important that we don't allow the desire to promote nuclear and wind to give the hint that we are not supporting wave and tidal just because they are in an earlier phase of development," he said.

The comments come ahead of the government announcing plans on how it will reform its electricity market to encourage energy companies to invest in renewable energy, which is due to take place in the first half of 2011.

"What we are seeking to do is make sure tidal — and other renewables such as wave — are not forgotten in the wholesale review of the electricity market price system," he said.

"At the moment, the National Policy Statement has excluded quite clearly tidal and wave energy from its contemplations and we are quite keen to make sure that those get built back in sooner rather than later."

Last month, the UK government said it would not support plans to build a ten-mile tidal energy project across the Severn Estuary but Halcrow — alongside partner companies Ove Arup & Partners, Sancroft International and Marks Barfield Architects — have formed the Corlan Hafren consortium and insist it can be profitable without government's financial backing.

Hamer said he could understand the cash-constrained government's position but the project should be attractive enough not to drive private investment away.

"Although one can understand the desire to steer them towards nuclear and offshore wind as two underpinning parts to our low carbon energy policy, what we don't want them to do is drive investors to other countries," he said.

NewNet Online News ( 1st November 2010.

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Scotland launches £70m wind energy fund

Ports and shipyards in Scotland are being given £70m to help tackle a multibillion pound funding gap facing the offshore "green economy", Alex Salmond has announced.

The first minister said the investment fund would allow Scottish ports and windfarm factories to upgrade their facilities to meet the immense challenge of building and installing the vast offshore wind and marine energy farms planned by ministers.

"We are a nation with considerable natural and human resources and the political will needed to deliver a green energy revolution that can build sustainable economic recovery and reduce Europe's carbon emissions," he told to the RenewableUK annual conference in Glasgow today. He said the £70m fund would help "leverage" further private funding for ports at Leith in Edinburgh and Dundee, and fabrication yards at Nigg near Inverness and Methil in Fife, which are among the sites most likely to win support from the fund. It would allow Scotland to create around £7bn and 28,000 jobs from green energy over the next decade, but business leaders and banks have warned the UK's facilities are too poor and fragmented.

Around 7,000 wind turbines are expected to be built offshore around the UK over the next 10 years, with Scotland expected to see 40% of the UK-wide investment. Scottish Enterprise, the investment agency, estimates at least £222m is needed immediately to upgrade 11 key Scottish green energy sites.

Last month, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) announced a very similar £60m fund for ports and fabrication yards in England; Salmond said his larger fund will be "open for business immediately", while the Decc funds will become available next April.

His announcement is the latest in a series of high-profile green energy statements by Salmond in his campaign to make Scotland the "Saudi Arabia" of the renewables industry, and to project his nationalist government as one of the world leaders on renewables. In September, he set a tougher green electricity target of 80% by 2020, and claimed Scotland could generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

However, Salmond's decision to set up this £70m fund marks a defeat for his ambitions to create a larger Scottish "green investment bank" worth at least £360m with help from the European investment bank (EIB) and other major institutions.

Salmond had thought that George Osborne, the chancellor, was sympathetic to his pleas for the Treasury to release £190m accrued to Scotland from its share of the fossil fuel levy on energy bills.

The first minister hoped to use that cash to kick-start the green investment bank and get the EIB to match it with European renewables funding; the £360m would then be used for a massive investment programme in Scottish renewables ports and infrastructure.

But to the first minister's fury, the Treasury has decided to stick to its traditional rule that the money would be counted as part of the Scottish government's block grant from the UK government. In other words, if it paid out the £190m from the levy, it would lose £190m from its block grant.

See the full article at The Guardian 2nd November 2010.

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228 MW Wind Farm to be built in German section of the North Sea

Vattenfall AB, Sweden's state-owned utility and Europe's second-biggest wind operator, and Stadwerke Mienchen GmbH will invest more than 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in a German sea-based wind park.

The 288-megawatt Dan Tysk wind farm will be built 70 kilometres (47 miles) west of the German island of Sylt in the North Sea, the Stockholm-based company said today in a statement. Vattenfall owns 51 percent and regional utility Stadtwerke Muenchen the rest, reflected in the investments, Ingegerd Bills, a company spokeswoman said.

"Vattenfall keeps investing in renewable energy for long- term reduction of our carbon-dioxide emissions," said Oeystein Loeseth, Vattenfall's chief executive officer, in the statement.

The amount covers the development to completion at the end of 2013 to early 2014. Siemens AG, Europe's largest engineering company, will provide 80 turbines for the park. Terms for that agreement were not available.

Vattenfall will start building Dan Tysk, one of 26 approved German offshore facilities, in 2012. It will supply enough power for more than 500,000 homes and help generate power for Munich's subway and tram system, Stadtwerke Muenchen said.

Vattenfall outlined plans to sell assets, cut investments and increase renewable energy projects in September this year. The company planned to raise money from selling non-core assets for investments in clean energy, including U.K. offshore wind.

Decisions on which projects to prioritise and possible divestments of non-profitable businesses will be made in December, Bills said. "We will have a clearer picture of our wind portfolio in December," she said.

The company ranks behind Danish utility Dong Energy A/S in European offshore energy, according to Bills. The Swedish company last month started Thanet, the world's largest offshore wind farm, off the coast of England.

Source: Bloomberg, 21st October 2010.

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Marine biodiversity will decline sharply, warns UN

Marine biodiversity will significantly deteriorate in the next 20 years and lead to greater marine productivity losses unless ecosystem-based management practices are put in place, the UN's Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned.

Cross sectoral approaches such as ecosystem-based management are urgently needed to address growing pressures on the marine environment from fishing activities and the impact of rising temperatures and acidification of sea water, says UNEP.

The agency's Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook was released in Japan at this year's UN biological diversity meeting. The report predicts that by 2050 marine productivity will have decreased in nearly all fishing areas designated by the UN. Fishermen will be left with mainly smaller fish lower down the food chain.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are the main instrument to tackle biodiversity loss in oceans and seas. But MPAs only represent 1.17% of global ocean surface, which is significantly less than the UN's 10% target for 2010, according to the report.

Among many areas of concern, UNEP highlights an increase in nitrogen levels linked with discharges of wastewater and agricultural run off as well as emissions from vehicles and shipping. Nitrogen can result in so-called 'dead zones' of low oxygen levels, which now cover an estimated 246,000 km2.

The global annual average growth of shipping traffic is 9-10%. Some routes that are most likely to introduce invasive species have seen the fastest growth of bulk cargoes. There is also particularly high risk of oil- and ship-sourced pollution in the Red Sea and south-east Asian regions because of increasing traffic.

You can view the UNEP Report here.

Source: ENDS Europe 19th October 2010

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World's first deep sea mineral mine gets go-ahead

The green-light for the world's first deep-sea mineral mine in Papua New Guinea's waters has caused alarm among scientists and indigenous people who fear it will damage local marine life.

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Michael Somare, today licensed the new mine for ore that contains copper, zinc and gold, to be run by Canadian company Nautilus Minerals. Sited in the Manus Basin within Papua New Guinea's territorial waters, it will be near hydrothermal vents 1,600 metres below the surface.

Driven by rising copper prices around the world, Nautilus' Solwara 1 project will excavate 1.2 to 1.8m tonnes of high-grade sulphide ore a year.

Scientists are concerned about the scale of the mining. Paul Tyler from the University of Southampton and chair of the Census of Marine Life said: "Hydrothermal vents have a very distinctive fauna that is only found on hydrothermal vents so mining close to the vents could wipe out the vents or cause a large amount of damage in the surrounding area."

Nautilus says it has carried out extensive environmental research and impact assessments, and has conservation mitigation strategies in place such as moving organisms for later recolonisation. But Tyler said: "When you mine near a hydrothermal vent you change the flow of fluids through the sea floor. You might switch the vent off or create another one elsewhere — that might affect the distributions of animals around the vent."

Deep-sea organism populations do not have resilience to disruptions and have slow grow growth because of limits in food supply and the cold water.

"These organisms catch, store and break down carbon that is removed from the atmosphere by shallow water organisms," said Elliott Norse, president of Marine Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC. "The deep sea also harbours organisms that could be important to humans as anti-cancer medicines — but that we might not even know about yet."

The indigenous communities of Papua New Guinea are also against the mining operation, and have petitioned the government to prevent it.

However, one expert said the risks had to be put into the context of damage caused by other types of mining, such as excavating a mountaintop. Linwood Pendleton, the director of Ocean and Coastal Policy at Duke University, said: "Hydrothermal vents are naturally combustible habitats, they blow up, they become colonised, then the vents die and the ecosystems around them die, so if mining were done at a small scale and low frequency then it may fit very well into this chaotic system of destruction. Mining a mountaintop, once it is gone, it's gone."

It is unlikely that concerns will stop the mining project going ahead as no one from the international community can interfere in Papua New Guinea's territorial waters of the Bismark Sea.

Comment was not available from Nautilus Minerals.

Source: The Guardian, 21st October 2010.

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MMO announces commencement of marine planning in two East Coast areas

In a News Release dated 28th October 2010, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has announced that it is to commence delivery of the marine spatial planning process established via the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The News Release reads:

"In consultation with partners and stakeholders, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has selected the sea areas off the coast between Flamborough Head in East Riding of Yorkshire to Felixstowe in Suffolk (known formally as East Inshore and East Offshore) as the first two English marine plan areas that will be developed from April 2011.

"These two area plans will be the first in a series that will, over the coming years, grow to become a comprehensive marine planning system around England, enabling the effective integration of economic, social and environmental factors and promoting the sustainable development of our seas. The Marine Planning System is also likely to have significant benefits for local communities and the national economy.

"The decision marks a major delivery milestone for the MMO in implementing the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Government's vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The MMO is the first organisation in the world to develop an integrated planning system for the marine area, mirroring the terrestrial planning regime, which has, over 60 years, become an established and trusted mechanism for integrating and balancing land use.

"Steve Brooker, the MMO's Head of Marine Planning, said: "England's marine area is extremely crowded in terms of existing activities and the pressure and competition for space are going to increase. Marine planning will enable the MMO and others to balance and integrate the vast range of competing activities and aspirations. As a country, we can then take informed decisions about the development of our sea area and our priorities, based on shared understanding, a common baseline and sound evidence."

"In taking forward marine plans from April 2011, the MMO will engage closely with the work of local authorities, coastal forums and communities to determine and agree how all those with an interest in the sustainable use of our seas can best contribute to this ground-breaking initiative."

Source: MMO News Release, 28th October 2010.

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Will waste disposal costs from the new coastal nuclear power stations be correctly calculated?

The Guardian, 18th October 2010, reports that the nuclear industry could end up passing on to taxpayers the costs of disposing of waste from new reactors under government plans, according to official documents seen by the The Guardian.

This is despite Ministers' claims that the industry will no longer receive any public subsidy — repeated by the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne — as he unveiled the next step in the UK's new nuclear reactor programme.

The Government has been consulting with nuclear operators about how they will pay their waste disposal costs. But the response by the Ministry of Defence, which has a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines so must also pay a disposal levy, said the proposals favoured private reactor companies and could encourage a "'someone else's problem' attitude".

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the partially state-funded body responsible for cleaning up the UK's publically owned civil nuclear sites, also said the levy could underestimate the disposal costs, leaving the taxpayer to cover any shortfall. The NDA said such a levy could inadvertently lead to a "futures market" where nuclear reactor companies trade radioactive waste like a commodity.

Industry experts said that if the Government underestimated the costs, companies could buy options to store the waste from planned reactors if they believed the disposal levy would increase in the future.

Waste storage at Sellafield nuclear plant

A yellow and black pattern shows full (black) and additional space (yellow) at the temporary storage of High level radioactive nuclear waste at Sellafield nuclear plant. Britain's nuclear waste is currently stored around the country in interim facilities. Photograph: AFP

Highly radioactive waste from the UK's old reactors and nuclear weapons programmes is currently dotted around the country in interim storage facilities. The cost of disposing of this will be met by the taxpayer via the MoD and the NDA. The plan is to eventually build a £12bn underground repository to store this waste permanently. This repository could also house waste from new civil nuclear power stations.

The industry will only invest in new reactors if the Government fixes a disposal levy to cover their contribution towards disposal in such a repository. The taxpayer will be liable for any shortfall if the actual costs exceed this levy decades from now.

The Government has outlined how companies will have to pay for decommissioning costs but will not announce how they will contribute towards a new repository until later this autumn.

Jean McSorley, a Greenpeace consultant, said: "The NDA's document reveals there is a substantial risk of underestimating the cost of disposing of waste from new reactors. Any shortfall would have to be paid by the taxpayer, resulting in a significant subsidy to the nuclear industry. The Government has to stick to its promise of no more subsidies for new reactors and must act to close any loopholes in the proposed funding arrangements."

The "fixed unit price" (FUP) levy proposed by the Government charges operators on the amount of electricity they generate, rather than the volume of waste they produce. The MoD's submission said this would favour reactor companies which typically produce more waste for the electricity they generate than the UK's fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. "The current proposal aimed at removing uncertainty could encourage perverse behaviour, poor technical choices, short-term thinking and a 'someone else's problem' attitude," its submission said.

The NDA said its response to the consultation on the disposal levy was "very positive in tone" and supported the idea of delaying the setting of the FUP ("fixed unit price") until more was known about the future costs. "It is in this context that our author raised the possibility of operators being given an 'asset' if, over time, the FUP turns out to be an underestimate. This is not a scenario we believe to be likely."

A Government spokesman said: "We are keen to ensure that operators of new nuclear power stations meet in full their waste management, waste disposal and decommissioning costs."

Source: The Guardian, 18th October 2010.

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Plan to extend UK's largest offshore windfarm scrapped

Vattenfall confirmed last week that it has abolished plans to extend Kent's 300MW Thanet offshore windfarm by 50%, in a move that is bound to spark fresh questions about the availability of grid connections for offshore wind projects.

The Swedish utility applied to the Crown Estate earlier this year to build extensions to the Thanet and nearby 90MW Kentish Flats offshore windfarms. The combined expanded capacity would have amounted to 198MW, enough to power about 132,000 homes.

However, Vattenfall has now announced that the so-called "Thanet 2" is unfeasible, citing tight timescales and limited access to the grid.

Thanet offshore windfarm

David Hodkinson, UK Vattenfall Wind Power head of development, insisted the decision had not been taken lightly and said the extension had not been permanently ruled out.

"We hope there will be a future opportunity to return to the possibility of an extension to the Thanet project but for now we will focus on operating the existing project safely and productively, providing twenty or so local jobs in the process," he said.

Vattenfall said it will push on with plans to add up to 17 turbines at the Kentish Flats site and will shortly start a public consultation before submitting a planning application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The company also announced last week that it plans to beef up its presence in France, opening a new office in Paris in the next few months and preparing to bid for a series of French hydropower concessions next year.

If successful, the hydropower projects will further boost Vattenfall's renewables portfolio and position the company for further growth in the French market.

"In France we have almost nothing. We know there are hydro concessions coming from EDF in 2013-2014 and we are interested," chief executive Oystein Loseth told Reuters last month.

Source: The Guardian, 18th October 2010.

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UK Government says : No to Severn barrage, but Yes to Nuclear power

The Government announced, 18th October, the green light for eight new nuclear power stations in a move that will see the UK push forward with the most ambitious fleet of new nuclear power stations in Europe. The coalition Government also confirmed that it is dropping support for controversial plans to build a huge tidal barrage across the Severn estuary.

The backing for a new generation of nuclear power stations marks a significant political compromise by the Climate and Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, after the Liberal Democrats had campaigned against new nuclear in the general election. The Conservatives, however, had backed new nuclear power stations.

The announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change will see nuclear power plants operating at eight sites within the next decade:

All are in the vicinity of existing nuclear power plants.

Chris Huhne said: "I'm fed up with the stand-off between advocates of renewables and of nuclear which means we have neither. We urgently need investment in new and diverse energy sources to power the UK."

Last November, former energy secretary Ed Miliband named 10 sites suitable for new nuclear reactors, but two greenfield sites in Cumbria — Kirksanton and Braystones — have been dropped from the list by the coalition Government. But the coalition has stressed that new reactors will have to be built without public money. Earlier this year, Energy Minister Charles Hendry told a nuclear industry audience: "The coalition agreement clearly sees a role for new nuclear, provided that there is no public subsidy. We are clear. It is for private sector energy companies to construct, operate and decommission new nuclear plants. It will be for us to ensure the appropriate levels of safety, security and environmental regulation."

The coalition Government's revised draft national policy statements on energy shows that half the new energy capacity built in the UK by 2025 is expected to come from renewable sources of energy — the majority of which is likely to be wind.

Source: The Guardian, 18th October 2010.

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Norwegian fish farms challenged over their pollution

Spot checks on Norwegian fish farms suggest a pattern of "poor environmental routines" and installations that have become a major source of pollution in their areas, the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency, Klif, has reported.

Klif, collaborating with regional authorities, targeted farms in fjords along Norway's west coast. The offending plants "lack specific targets in relation to pollution and what the fjord system can tolerate", it said. "Their risk assessments cover neither emissions nor environmental effects of pollution and chemical use."

While pollution per kilogram of fish produced has declined in recent years, production has increased to such an extent that fish farming is now the largest source of nutrients from southernmost Norway to the Russian border. In 2009, more than 700 fish farms were registered in the country, according to Klif.

Source: ENDS Europe, 14th October 2010.

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EU proposes overhaul of safety rules for oil rigs

The European Commission has restated in a policy paper that the EU should have a single piece of legislation dealing with offshore oil and gas activities to plug holes in its patchy safety regime, strengthen licensing standards and roll out best practices.

This policy paper, first announced several months ago, outlines proposals to overhaul rules applying to the offshore oil and gas industry. This sector is mainly regulated under national law, with licensing and safety rules varying greatly across the EU.

EU law only covers certain aspects of offshore activities and rules are often spread across different pieces of legislation. Such a fragmented regime makes it difficult to manage safety and environmental risks, increases costs for companies and may slow down Europe's response to accidents, says the Commission.

It proposes a "more coherent legal framework for offshore exploration and production activities in Europe that ensures EU-wide application of state-of-the-art practices". This will help streamline legislation and create a level playing field, it adds.

In 2011, Brussels will propose an EU requirement for the licensing of hydrocarbon exploration and production, based on an impact assessment. Prospective operators should have a contingency plans and prove that they would be able to pay for damage in the event of an accident, according to Wednesday's paper.

The Commission wants to extend the Seveso II directive on pollution control and major accidents to offshore oil and gas installations. It says that the 2004 directive on environmental liability should also be changed to cover all EU maritime waters, as demanded by the European Parliament on 7 October 2010.

The EU executive is preparing a guidance document to clarify how the waste framework directive applies to oil spills. In 2010, oil and gas companies should present action plans to improve safety and joint industry roadmaps, it says. Firms with headquarters in Europe should apply EU safety standards in all their operations worldwide.

Source: ENDS Europe, 13th October 2010.

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Climate change could lead to Arctic conflict, warns senior Nato commander

One of Nato's most senior commanders has warned that global warming and a race for resources could lead to conflict in the Arctic. The comments, by Admiral James G Stavridis, supreme allied commander for Europe, were made as Nato countries convened for groundbreaking talks on environmental security in the Arctic Ocean. The discussions, in the format of a "workshop", with joint Russian leadership, were an attempt to create dialogue with Moscow aimed at averting a second cold war.

"For now, the disputes in the north have been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years in the race of temptation for exploitation of more readily accessible natural resources," said Stavridis.

The US naval admiral believes military forces have an important role to play in the area — but mainly for specialist assistance around commercial and other interests.

"The cascading interests and broad implications stemming from the effects of climate change should cause today's global leaders to take stock, and unify their efforts to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of co-operation — rather than proceed down the icy slope towards a zone of competition, or worse a zone of conflict," he added.

Admiral Stavridis made his views known in a foreword to a Whitehall paper, entitled Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean: promoting co-operation and preventing conflict, written by Prof Paul Berkman, head of the Arctic Ocean geopolitics programme at the University of Cambridge. The discussions, which took place at the Scott Polar Institute where Berkman is based, have been given impetus by the speed of change around the north pole where the ice cap is melting and oil and other minerals are becoming available for extraction.

In recent weeks, Cairn Energy has announced the first oil and gas discoveries off Greenland and a wave of new mining licences are about to be awarded there. There are similar moves to produce gas in the far north of Russia and Norway, all in the shadow of BP's Gulf of Mexico's oil spill.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, spoke about our "common responsibility" at the international forum on the Arctic in Moscow recently. He is aware the melting ice offers access to reserves of oil and minerals, as well as new shipping lanes, but that the Arctic is an "area for co-operation and dialogue".

Prof. Berkman, a key figure in organising the workshop, with funding from the Nato science for peace and security programme, said the challenge is to balance national and common interests in the Arctic Ocean in the interests of all humankind. "Strategic long-range ballistic missiles or other such military assets for national security purposes in the Arctic Ocean are no less dangerous today than they were during the cold war. In effect, the cold war never ended in the Arctic Ocean."

One of the first speakers at the workshop was Prof Alexander Vylegzhanin, who co-directed the workshop from the Russian Academy of Sciences. He was followed by former US ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz; European Parliament vice-president, Diana Wallis; and Canadian high commissioner, James Wright.

There were also contributions from senior British, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and Norwegian delegates with participants from 16 nations.

Building on the interdisciplinary discussions with academics, government administrators, politicians, and industry representatives, Prof. Berkman said the workshop should be a major first step towards building a dialogue that both considers strategies to promote co-operation as well as prevent conflict in the Arctic Ocean.

As Admiral Stavridis noted: "Melting of the polar ice cap is a global concern because it has the potential to alter the geopolitical balance in the Arctic heretofore frozen in time."

Source: The Guardian, 11th October 2010.

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Important ecological shifts in the North Atlantic reported by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation

The latest Ecological Status Report from Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) is now available.

The report provides indicators for the ecological status of the North Atlantic Ocean and supplies information for important marine issues such as climate warming impacts, biodiversity, pollution and fisheries.

The Status Report summary states in respect of Marine Climate Change Impacts:

Changes in seasonality and phenology

Seasonal timing, or phenology, is occurring earlier in the North Sea and is related to regional climate warming. For example, some species have moved forward in their seasonal cycles by 4-5 weeks. However, not all trophic levels are responding to the same extent; therefore in terms of a productive environment, this change is currently considered detrimental because of the potential of mis-timing (mismatch) of peak occurrences of plankton with other trophic levels including fish larvae. There is a high confidence that these changes are associated with regional climate warming.

Marine biodiversity and invasive species:

Oceanic plankton biodiversity is increasing in the North Atlantic associated with temperature increases. There is a strong relationship between biodiversity and size-structure in pelagic communities. Increasing biodiversity is associated with a decreasing size-structure of the community. This in turn may have implications for marine ecosystem services such as smaller-sized fish communities and reduced carbon draw down.

Marine climate change impacts: Northward shifts

Warmer-water species are currently increasing in the North Sea due to regional climate warming and the North Atlantic Ocean. In terms of a productive environment this change is currently considered detrimental because the warmer-water species are not replacing the colder-water species in similar abundances which may negatively impact other trophic levels including fish larvae. For example, an important zooplankton species has declined by 70% in the North Sea. There is a high confidence that these trends are related to regional climate warming.

Ocean acidification

Organisms that could be particularly vulnerable to acidification are the calcifying organisms such as coccolithophores and foraminifera. The CPR survey is providing a critical baseline and is currently monitoring these vulnerable organisms in case these organisms start to show any negative effects due to acidification in the future.

Marine ecosystem health and water quality

At the regional scale, it has been found that most phytoplankton trends are related to hydro-climatic variability as opposed to anthropogenic input (e.g. nutrient input leading to eutrophication). This means that the North-East Atlantic as a whole is generally considered to be fairly healthy. This is not to say, however, that certain coastal areas and the southern North Sea are not vulnerable to eutrophication and climate change may also exacerbate these negative effects in these vulnerable regions. It has also been found that the number of microplastics collected on CPR samples is increasing and the frequency of occurrence and bloom timing of some Harmful Algal Bloom species are related to regional climate warming.

To view the report:

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Speculation that the Environment Agency and Natural England may be merged

Communications and Management for Sustainability (CMS) reports that, based on a Defra news release, there is speculation following the announcement of the public expenditure cuts that the Environment Agency and Natural England may be merged in order to save costs. CMS reports:

"The Defra view of the reduction of quangos makes revealing reading coming on top of the overall reduction in the Defra budget by 29% over the period to 2014/15.

Singled out for particular attention are the Environment Agency and Natural England who have been highlighted as 'retain and substantially reform' giving credence to the rumour that the two bodies may be merged. It remains to be seen if the Defra cut is applied to these two organisations at this scale as has been widely rumoured. In any event change on this scale is bound to lead to major re-organisation.

Defra has been working closely with its largest environmental arm's length bodies — the Environment Agency and Natural England — to ensure a radical and comprehensive package of measures which will transform them into leaner, more efficient front line delivery bodies focused strongly on the Government's ambitions for the environment and the green economy. There will be significant change across the organisations, to create a new delivery model that is the most effective and cost-efficient way to deliver, and exert leverage, in support of the Government's objectives. Both Environment Agency and Natural England will: dramatically reduce their back office costs while keeping to the minimum possible reductions in delivery;

Source; CMS News 26th October 2010.

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Severn Barrage rejected as too expensive relative to other renewables

A Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) report has signalled the end of the proposed Severn Estuary tidal station. The 10 mile barrage was estimated to reach in excess of £30bn to build and as such is considered too expensive in light of other more cost efficient renewable energy sources.

"That level of investment is very demanding of the industry," Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said, speaking to reporters after announcing the tidal barrage would no longer go ahead. "Other renewables are more economic than the most economic Severn option — a barrage — and a lot more economic than the smaller [Severn] projects."

Jane Davidson, Welsh environment minister, however, acknowledged the key role the Severn could play in the future of renewable energy in the UK, noting the value of the 'tremendous marine energy resource' in the area. Ms Davison also expressed her support for future projects in the Severn and other locations around the Welsh coastline.

"The sustainable exploitation of this resource will play a vital role in moving us towards achieving our climate change goals and those of the UK," Ms Davidson said.

DECC's report released last week did suggest that future Severn projects would not be indefinitely ruled out and recognised the barrage could generate at least 5 percent of the UK's future electricity needs — equivalent to the amount of energy generated by two nuclear power stations. Smaller tidal projects may continue in and around the Severn but the barrage is, for now, dead in the water.

Source: 25th October 2010.

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Norfolk Wildlife Trust — Adult Wildlife Workshops

Bamboozled by barnacles?     Mystified by mussels?

Norfolk Wildlife Trust invistes you to explore the county's wealth of marine life in a series of workshops

Workshops combine an informative indoor presentation by Rob Spray from Seasearch with an afternoon on the coast surveying Norfolk's coastal wildlife.

Booking essential — to book or for further information please telephone 01603-598333

Workshops are free. On booking you will be asked for a £10 deposit per workshop. The deposit will be refunded when you attend or if two weeks notice is given if you are unable to attend.

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Dropping of the Severn Barrage

Barry & Vale FoE statement 18th October 2010

Barry & Vale FoE welcome the dumping of the mega-barrage, but remind the Minister that the feasibility study was to cover all tidal power options. Tidal current turbines give far cheaper power and some versions are ready for full-scale deployment [1].

The Welsh Minister, Jane Davidson, specified all tidal options in announcing the studies in January 2008 [2], but the Severn Tidal Power group were unfortunately allowed to dominate with their mega-barrage from the 1980s. The new decision is a rebuff to Peter Hain and Prof Brian Morgan who advocated a huge Severnside development on the back of the barrage.

It also shows those environmentalists who argued for the mega-project whatever the sacrifice to conservation, including Jonathan Porritt, they should not seek to over-ride local interests but to seek consensus.

Time and resources have been wasted when we should have gone ahead with moderate-scale options — a pilot tidal lagoon and tidal current turbines. The latter could be extended into a 'tidal fence' across the lower estuary, as advocated by the RSPB.

We hope R&D will also continue into the 'tidal reef' concept, from Minehead to Aberthaw. This could generate as much power as the mega-barrage, but without disruption to shipping and without damaging the upper Severn special area of conservation.

Contacts: Keith Stockdale, FoE co-ordinator, 14 Robert St, Barry, mob. 07980-925643
Max Wallis, 029-2021 0708


    A new tidal-energy machine called 'Neptune Proteus NP1000' is soon to be deployed in the Humber Estuary ('The Engineer' of 11th Jan.'10 story by Siobham Wagner)

  2. Tuesday, 22 January, 2008 W080039-ESH Severn Tidal Power — study announced by Jane Davidson
    The wide terms of reference of the feasibility study into Severn tidal power covered all tidal schemes. It included a caution over a tidal barrage which shows the Minister had listened to criticism of the mega-barrage. Unfortunately, Westminster's DBERR/DECC led the studies and didn't heed the warnings.
    "Harnessing the tidal power of the Severn Estuary as part of the future production of renewable energy will not be an easy or straightforward choice. I am very much aware of the Estuary's environmental importance and the environmental protection legislation which, quite rightly, will need to be taken into account. I am absolutely committed to continuing our open and constructive dialogue with the many organisations and individuals who have an interest in the Severn Estuary."

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EU Parliament drops call for a freeze on deep water oil and gas drilling

MEPs have rejected a call for a moratorium on deep water oil drilling in the EU following the BP oil spill. The call, made by the Parliament's environment committee in September, was only backed by 285 MEPs.

Ministers meeting at an OSPAR conference on the north-east Atlantic in September also rejected a call to consider a freeze on oil drilling in the North Sea, a proposal made by Germany. The most vocal opponents were Norway, the UK and Denmark.

The European Commission confirmed it will issue a policy paper on the safety of offshore oil platforms on 13th October. Energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has called for a moratorium and, according to Reuters, he will maintain his position despite increasing opposition.

Earlier this year, the European Commission said it wanted to strengthen licensing procedures, set technical standards at EU level and extend liability laws to all EU waters instead of just coastal areas. Oil companies may also be required to show that they are able to deal with a spill before obtaining a permit.

The Parliament's resolution backs many of the demands made by the environment committee. For example, MEPs say that damage caused to marine waters should be covered by the environmental liability directive. The Commission should also consider mandatory insurance schemes to compensate businesses affected by a spill.

The race for the Arctic's oil reserves has put environmentalists on alert. In September, three green groups raised concerns over the signing of an agreement between Russia and Norway to resolve a border dispute in the Barents Sea. This could lead to a new boom in offshore oil and gas exploration in this vulnerable region, they said.

Source: ENDS Europe, 8th October 2010.

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IMO fails to agree CO2 reduction targets for new ships

At a meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) last week national representatives failed to agree on mandatory energy efficiency standards for new ships that could have played an important role in curbing the sector's CO2 emissions.

A coalition of emerging economies including China, Brazil, South Africa and India blocked a draft regulation on Friday, the last day of a week-long meeting of the IMO's marine environment protection committee (MEPC) in London. The dissenters voiced their long-standing opposition to greenhouse gas reduction measures that would apply indiscriminately to all countries.

The emerging economies also blocked mandatory energy efficiency management plans for all ships. Opposition to these plans to cut CO2 from shipping bodes ill for the more controversial market-based instruments also under discussion.

An expert group reported back on emissions trading options but no final recommendations were made. The MEPC committee will return to all climate-related issues at its next meeting in July next year.

In his opening speech, IMO chief Efthimios Mitropoulos warned delegates that this was their last opportunity to prove they are serious about cutting emissions before the next big UN climate meeting in Cancún. With little concrete progress, the IMO's case to retain responsibility for curbing shipping emissions grows ever weaker.

The European Commission has said it will take unilateral action to reduce shipping emissions if there is no global agreement to cut them by 2011. The EU executive plans to include the sector in its emission trading scheme (ETS), as it is doing for aviation.

Source: ENDS Europe, 5th October 2010.

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BP Deepwater Horizon oil well spill declared "effectively dead"

The United States National Incident Commander, Thad Allen, declared the BP oil well spill "effectively dead" following a pressure test by BP on the plugs, 20th September 2010 "Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico," he added.

The well leaked more than 4m gallons of oil before it was temporarily capped on July 15 — a disaster that cost BP chief executive Tony Hayward his job, took £45bn off BP's market value and brought new drilling in the Gulf to a standstill. About 400 lawsuits are pending.

BP expected the permanent plug to be finished in July, but bad weather caused complications. The 75-ton cement plug was finally fitted 2.5 miles below the surface five months after it started leaking.

The well leaked 5,000 barrels — 210,000 gallons — of oil a day. It has so far cost BP $8bn in clean-up and other costs — though the final bill will dwarf that.

BP is grappling with lawsuits from businesses whose livelihoods were affected by the spill, including fisherman and environmental workers. It also faces a compensation bill from the state of Alabama for $148m.

In June, US President Barack Obama forced the company to set aside a $20bn compensation fund — though BP does not expect to have to pay so much. If it is found guilty of gross negligence, BP could face a further $18bn in penalties.

Mr Obama welcomed yesterday's news but cautioned that the road ahead "will not be easy" as the focus switches to rebuilding damaged Gulf communities.

It is also expected that another series of plugs will be required by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement before BP can abandon the well. Meanwhile, industry peers are worried about the ramifications for deep water drilling. "The whole industry is terrified it could happen to them," said Peter Hitchens, an analyst at Panmure Gordon. "The whole way we drill wells could actually change. They're going to take a lot longer. They're going to be a lot more scrutinised."

Oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhilips and Royal Dutch Shell have pledged $1bn towards developing technology that can capture oil underwater should there be a deep-sea blow-out in the future.

BP has attempted to deflect blame for the incident, publishing an internal report earlier this month that sought to share responsibility with Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and contractor Halliburton.

BP expects to demobilise a fleet of drilling rigs and other ships that have been stationed at the well for months. That fleet has included two drill ships, three drilling rigs, production vessels, tankers and ships that operated underwater robots.

Marshalling shareholder support in the City may take longer, however. The explosion prompted BP to suspend its dividend payments for the first time in 18 years. BP was previously responsible for 15pc of all the dividend income in Britain. Restoring that is one of many challenges for new chief executive Bob Dudley.

Source: The Daily Telegraph, 20th September 2010.

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Mixed picture on health of North East Atlantic

ENDS Europe reports, 24 September 2010 : Despite "clear signs of improvement" over the past ten years, a number of serious problems continue to threaten the North East Atlantic marine environment, according to a report presented at a meeting of the OSPAR convention in Norway.

The most widespread impacts on marine ecosystems are due to fishing activities, according to the Quality Status Report 2010. Biodiversity loss, ocean acidification and the impact of climate change on the area are also major environmental concerns.

The report, which follows a first assessment in 2000, shows advances in some areas including inputs of nutrients, contaminants, key radioactive substances and pollution from oil and gas production. For example, oil discharges have fallen by 20% on average in the area since 2000, with most countries meeting OSPAR's 15% target.

But some targets set in 2000 will not be met. This is the case for OSPAR's goal of no eutrophication by 2010. And concentrations of hazardous substances remain a problem in many coastal areas. For example, very often levels of cadmium, mercury, lead, PAHs and PCBs are "unacceptable" in fish, shellfish and sediments, according to the report.

Source: ENDS Europe, 24th September 2010.

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OSPAR Ministers called to take action on marine litter at Atlantic Summit

Ministers attending the high level meeting of the OSPAR Commission in Norway were asked by Seas At Risk, KIMO International and other environmental NGOs to support a manifesto calling for urgent action to deal with marine "garbage patches" and the build up of marine litter in the North-East Atlantic.

A Press statement by Seas At Risk and KIMO states that current levels of litter are unacceptable with on average 712 items per 100m of beach. Not only is this an eyesore it has severe ecological and economic impacts. 94% of North Sea Fulmars, a sea bird that feeds exclusively at sea, have on average 0.3g of plastic in their stomachs, equivalent to 30g or a plate full for a human. And last year municipalities in the Netherlands and UK spent approximately €28 million just cleaning beaches.

With 'garbage patches' forming across the world, most notably in the Pacific Ocean and an area in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, urgent action is needed the stop the accumulation of marine litter.

The Seas At Risk/KIMO manifesto calls on Ministers to end the problem of marine litter within a generation, to make marine litter a priority for the OSPAR Commission and to set an intermediate 40% reduction target for 2020. Ministers are being asked to support a range of measures and initiatives that would regulate and help prevent litter reaching the sea from ships and land-based sources and stop the growth in marine litter.

The manifesto was presented by Seas At Risk and KIMO to Ministers on 24th September at a KIMO side event "A Plastic Breakfast" highlighting the impact of marine litter by dissecting and removing the litter from a beach washed Fulmar's stomach. More details will follow soon.

The 'Marine Litter Manifesto for the North-East Atlantic' is also supported by a host of influential national and international groups, including the North Sea Foundation, WWF, Birdlife International, the Marine Conservation Society, the Surfrider Foundation and Waddenvereniging.

Chris Carroll of Seas At Risk said: "Along with combined global efforts, regional action is vital in order to stop the growth of marine litter. Ministers of the OSPAR Commission have a golden opportunity to set an example and agree to a range of measures that would discourage ship waste dumping and help prevent litter reaching the seas from land based sources."

John Mouat of KIMO International said: "Ministers now need to recognise that marine litter is not just a visual or social issue but is a serious pollution issue of the level of radioactivity or hazardous substances and should be treated as such. The 2010 OSPAR Environment Summit provides the perfect opportunity to send such a strong statement by setting a target to reduce marine litter by 40% by 2020."

Source: Seas At Risk, 17th September 2010.

Note: MARINET attended the OSPAR Conference, and Ministers agreed to support the initiative to take action to curtail marine litter, but dropped the 40% reduction target and replaced it with the phrase "ambitious reduction targets". The move to replace the numerical target by a non-numerical target was supported by the United Kingdom.

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Shetland acts to protect important marine habitats from scallop dredging

The Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) has developed, and is in the process of implementing, a marine spatial management plan that will voluntarily close sea areas to scallop dredge fishing that are believed to contain certain habitats defined as important in the EU Habitats Directive.

Through consultation and the use of the Shetland Marine Spatial Plan stakeholders have worked together to close approximately 25 square km spread over 19 locations around Shetland where mearl, horse mussel or eel grass beds have been classified previously. As these habitats could be disturbed by dredge fishing activity, a minimum distance 'buffer zone' of 50 metres has been installed around beds, although for large beds and some shallow voes this has been extended to hundreds of metres.

This innovative and pro-active voluntary initiative to conserve important habitats is certainly the only one of its kind within Scotland presently, and more likely within the UK and Europe.

In addition to closing areas known to contain important habitats, fishers have also agreed to avoid locations where there are unconfirmed reports of others, and from their own knowledge of Shetland waters to report beds that have not been officially defined so that they can be incorporated into the marine spatial plan in the future.

The development, industry consultation and refinement of the plan were conducted with close support and advice from the Fisheries Science and Marine Planning, Policy and Advice Sections of NAFC (North Atlantic Fisheries College) Marine Centre, the latter of which administers the Shetland Marine Spatial Plan.

At its meeting on 2nd September 2010 the SSMO Board unanimously agreed to take forward this exciting initiative. This Board includes representatives from the Shetland Fishermen's Association and the Shetland Inshore Fishermen's Association both of whom have supported the principles of the proposed Marine Spatial Plan.

Jennifer Mouat, Fisheries Manager with the SSMO commented that this was a policy which would not only protect important marine habitats but also demonstrate the ongoing proactive approach to fisheries management in Shetland. "I am very pleased that the Board have made this bold decision which will add to the suite of measures which we already have in place to ensure the long term sustainability of the shellfish fishery and the marine environment. The Shellfish sector has an annual value of over £5m to the Shetland economy and is key in terms of supporting some of the remoter areas and communities within the Shetland Islands. It is therefore important that we continue to work with the fishermen themselves as well as other key stakeholders to ensure the fisheries continued success."

On being asked about the importance of the development, Head of Marine Science and Technology at the NAFC Marine Centre, Dr. Martin Robinson said: "I am proud and delighted that the Centre has been able to support the SSMO and its members in taking these steps toward preserving some of the important habitats around Shetland. It is truly an innovative step in the context of European inshore fisheries management, and will hopefully point the way forward for others to follow. Shetland is acknowledged as being ahead of the curve both in the quality of its inshore fishing data and marine spatial planning, the former being due to the continued support of the Centre and the SSMO by Shetland Islands Council, the latter with additional assistance from the Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative (SSMEI). This is an example where these strengths have been combined and utilised by the innovative SSMO stakeholders to instigate spatial management that has unquestionable benefits."

Full details of the plan can be found on the SSMO web site at :

Source: North Atlantic Fisheries College, 9th September 2010.

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Scottish Government agrees to review the ecological condition of the Clyde

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (C.O.A.S.T) reports that Scotland's Environment Secretary has signalled a progressive approach to marine management by undertaking to lead a review of the Clyde following a recent meeting.

A group of concerned Clyde stakeholders including commercial fishermen and C.O.A.S.T. met with Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, and Marine Scotland officials at Holyrood on Thursday 23rd September. The meeting was arranged and attended by Kenneth Gibson MSP for Cunninghame North.

In a constructive meeting concerns were raised about the ecological state of the Clyde. Mr Lochhead was told that to safeguard the future of both the Clyde marine environment and avert a total collapse in the Clyde fishing industry immediate action was necessary.

The Cabinet Secretary was given a substantial quantity of scientific papers which proved conclusively that areas previously dredged recovered their fecundity once dredging and bottom trawling ceased. Such a cessation would allow the Clyde to start recovering from 25 years of rapid decline.

It was also pointed out that previously there was a ban on bottom trawling within 3 miles of the shore from 1889 until 1985. Therefore it is only in the last 25 years that bottom trawling has been allowed within the 3 mile limit. The Cabinet Secretary was asked to go out to public consultation on the reintroduction of the prohibition of bottom trawling and dredging within 3 miles from the shore, thereby creating a regeneration area in the Clyde which would enable a recovery of the seabed and ultimately secure a long term future for the fishery.

The Cabinet Secretary agreed to ask his officials to prepare recommendations for restoring the health of the Clyde, including the possibility of consulting on the restoration of a three mile limit.

The meeting concluded with the cabinet secretary giving these undertakings:

Source: COAST September Newsletter.

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2010 is a bad summer for Scottish Bathing Waters

Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are frustrated with yet another year's shocking bathing water results for Scotland. During the course of the 2010 Scottish bathing season 13 beaches recorded single sample failures with 4 beaches failing outright to reach bathing water standards that are 34 years old and that will soon be superseded by more stringent standards.

A double whammy of bad news for Scottish water users sees Scottish Water turn off their tertiary sewage treatment at Pease Bay, increasing the health risk for surfing at one of Scotland's most popular winter surfing beaches.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are one of the major sources of pollution, responsible for the continued failures of Scottish Bathing Waters. CSOs discharge raw sewage and storm-water during periods of heavy rain. CSOs operate as an emergency escape route when rainwater overloads our already oversubscribed sewerage system.

SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) and Scottish Water often blame the weather, however if SAS's consistent calls for increased investment from Scottish Water, were to be combined with the adoption of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) by Scottish planners and a more conscientious use of water by the public, the current shameful use

During the bathing season in Scotland, (from 1st of June until 15th of September) the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) tests the water quality at bathing water sites once a week. A 100ml sample is tested for indicators of human sewage and if present the beach fails the 1976 EU Bathing Water Directive standards. This woeful and outdated standard represents a 1 in 7 chance of contracting Gastro Enteritis.

The 13 beaches that had single sample failures are; Saltcoats, North Berwick (Milsey Bay), Girvan, Rockcliffe, Carrick, Nairn (East), Thurso, Prestwick, Luss, Sandyhills, Lossiemouth (East), Dhoon Bay and Broughty Ferry. If a beach has more than 1 failed sample the beach fails for the season.

The 4 Scottish beaches that failed are; Heads of Ayr, Ayr South Beach and Irvine in Ayrshire, and Elie (Harbour and Earlsferry) in Fife.

When you add the fact that 23 samples were granted abnormal weather waivers on six separate dates (24 May; 15 June; 21 June; 22 June; 23 June; 26 August), this does not bode well for the revised EU Bathing Water Directive (2006) that comes into force in 2015.

The revised directive has more stringent water quality standards and a requirement for improved public information. This can result in permanent signage at Scottish beaches warning against bathing due to dangerous water quality.

SAS Campaign Director, Andy Cummins says: "Another disappointing bathing season for Scotland leaves me deeply concerned. We are still struggling to meet outdated and woefully inadequate standards after 34 years. Scottish Water urgently needs to invest in and update antiquated sewerage system before more and more beaches fail."

And a double whammy of terrible news for Scottish surfers and waveriders as Scottish Water turn off their tertiary treatment today at Pease Bay, as the bathing season finishes. By turning off tertiary treatment the effluent discharged has a dramatically increased bacterial load. This results in an increased risk to surfers and waveriders health from illnesses and infections like; Ecoli, Hepatitis A, Gastro Enteritis and much more.

SAS's Edinburgh Rep Alasdair Steele says: "The best surf in Scotland, especially on the East coast occurs outside the bathing season. Surfers are more at risk than the average bather because we are immersing in and ingesting the water when we wipe out. In England and Wales, water companies are required to keep treated their sewage to a high standard all year round when people use the sea. We believe Scottish surfers deserve the same levels of protection."

Source: Surfers Against Sewage, 16th September 2010.

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Isle of Scilly seaweed is retaining its natural character

Seaweed is still thriving around the Isles of Scilly but there has also been an increase in alien species from the Pacific Ocean, a scientist says.

Prof Juliet Brodie, from the Natural History Museum, has been surveying the islands, where there are about 30% of the 600 species native to UK waters. She said initial findings showed that seaweed flora appeared to be generally similar to the last study in 1983. But she added some alien species not found then were now well-established.

Thong Weed
Thong Weed

The week-long survey was part of the Isles of Scilly Marine Biodiversity Project, which the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust has been running for two years. Prof Brodie — who also carried out the 1983 survey — worked with a team of volunteers, including members of the trust. She said the aim was to look at whether the seaweed flora was much the same as in 1983.

The initial findings showed that, despite concerns about climate change and other environmental threats, at least as many species were still present. However, she added that species including wire weed and devil's tongue weed, both conspicuous and invasive alien species from the Pacific, were also well-established.

The survey team also sampled and pressed hundreds of seaweed samples. The samples are to be used by the Natural History Museum to create DNA profiles, the trust said.

Source: BBC News Cornwall, 2nd October 2010.

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Census of Marine Life says there are more than 1 million species living in our oceans

The US$650m funded Census of Marine Life (COML) project has announced the culmination of its work, concluding that the deep is home to more than a million species — of which less than a quarter are described in the scientific literature.

Since the project started in 2000, around 16,000 species have been added to the COML databases and more than 5,000 are still being worked on by scientists. In total, around 2,600 scientific papers have been published as part of the project.

microscopic sea-life

The Census of Marine Life (COML) is the culmination of a decade of work by 2,700 scientists from 80 countries, who went on more than 540 expeditions into the farthest reaches of the most mysterious realm on the planet — the world's oceans.

Jesse Ausubel, environmental scientist at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and co-founder of the COML project said that the results had far exceeded any vision he had started with. "On the one hand we feel like the people in London and Paris who, 250 years ago, were creating the first dictionaries and encyclopaedias. In 2000, there was a chaos with regards the information about marine life. Now we have a valid list of species, 201,000 as of yesterday. 90,000 of these species have web pages in the Encyclopaedia of Life. 35,000 of these have DNA sequences. It's not your grandfather's census: this census is this wonderful, living, interactive set of databases on the internet with hyperlinks to images, sounds, the ability to create maps."

The COML will form a baseline against which scientists will be able to monitor biodiversity changes as they are affected by a range of environmental factors. "We live in a world of very rapid change," said Ausubel. "Increasing illumination and sound in the ocean, the removal of sea life, acidification, changes in temperature and currents. We want to monitor and evaluate the effects of these and other activities. We can't do any of these in the absence of baselines. We hope what the census has done is create the first baseline and create a framework in which it is easy to add more information about marine plants or other newly-discovered animals."

To mark the end of the COML project, scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) showed off the results of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, an inventory of more than 16,000 marine species and the culmination of more than 19 trips into Antarctic waters.

Huw Griffiths, a marine biologist at the BAS said that identifying new species sometimes required specialist techniques. With the help of a team from New Zealand, BAS identified a a new species of amphipod crustacean, which looks a bit like a shrimp. "Natural variation in the shape and colour of this creature makes it difficult to tell if the ones we found were the same type of species, or not. Using DNA barcoding it was possible to identify this animal as a different species that was new to science."

Understanding what lives in the Southern Ocean has helped scientists to identify a benchmark against which they can measure the effects of climate change, he added. "The marine life we study in Antarctica is, naturally, vulnerable to these effects including warming sea surface temperatures, rising ocean acidification and decreasing winter sea ice. But we've also seen just how resilient some of these creatures can be, surviving and thriving in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet."

Despite a decade of work and 9,000 days at sea, however, there is much still to be done. COML scientists estimate that 10% of the species in European oceans have yet to be described. Around South Africa that figure is 38%, in Antarctica it is 39 to 58%, for Japan it is 70%, the Mediterranean deep-sea 75% and Australia 80%.

Ian Poiner, chair of the COML steering committee, said: "All surface life depends on life inside and beneath the oceans. Sea life provides half of our oxygen and a lot of our food and regulates climate. We are all citizens of the sea. And while much remains unknown, including at least 750,000 undiscovered species and their roles, we are better acquainted now with our fellow travellers and their vast habitat on this globe."

Source: The Guardian, 4th October 2010.

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Chevron to begin deep water oil exploration off UK coast

The UK government has given the go-ahead for the first deep water drilling off Britain since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in a move that was immediately condemned as "irresponsible" by Greenpeace. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said the strictest possible regulation was being applied to Chevron which plans to start operations on a new well in the West of Shetlands.

"We can confirm that the Secretary of State has given consent to Chevron's Lagavulin Prospect. The government is determined to drive forward our move to a low-carbon economy and develop the UK's renewable energy sources but this cannot happen overnight. The fact is that in the meantime we will be dependent on oil and gas," it said in a statement.

The department said it was a choice between producing hydrocarbons in UK waters where there was one of the most robust safety and regulatory regimes in the world and with all the economic benefits that will bring, or paying to import oil and gas from elsewhere. "All lessons learnt from Macondo [in the Gulf of Mexico] have been applied to this well and steps have been taken to prevent the specific failures on Macondo. Close scrutiny of the well will continue, by the health and safety executive, by Decc and by Chevron itself," it added.

photo of offshore drilling rigs
Chevron is to begin operations on a new oil well in deep water West of the Shetland islands. Photograph: Alamy

Greenpeace said it was now preparing to take legal action against the government to try to prevent the drilling going on having previously tried to disrupt the drill ship by occupying it and then sending out swimmers in front of it. "It's irresponsible for the government to give the green light for deep water drilling when it's clearly not learned the lessons from the BP oil disaster," said Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven.

"A government claiming to be the greenest ever should be taking us beyond oil, but instead Chris Huhne is opening the door for the oil industry and inviting it to drill in ever more dangerous and difficult to reach places," he added. John Sauven was scathing about the timing of the move which comes before many of the official reports into BP's Macondo well disaster in the gulf have yet been completed.

"Without waiting to learn the lessons from the Gulf Of Mexico and without waiting for public and expert opinion, Huhne has made the bizarre decision that there is a low risk of harm from Chevron's deep-sea drilling and there is no need for an environmental assessment of its affects," said Sauven.

UK efforts at European talks on the marine environment have softened efforts — led by Germany — to increase international scrutiny of offshore drilling.

Source: The Guardian, 1st October 2010.

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Scotland aims for 100% of electricity from renewables by 2025

The Guardian reports, 28th September 2010: " Motivational speakers tend to say that if you're going to aim for anything, aim high and think big. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, has done precisely that. Again. Over the past five days, Salmond has doubled his government's target for generating "green" electricity. Last Thursday he tore up the Scottish government's goal of making half of Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and replaced it with a new target of 80%. Today at an international low carbon investment conference in Edinburgh, he set a higher goal, claiming Scotland could actually generate all of its electricity — currently about 6.8GW — from green sources by 2025.

dockside photo
A tidal energy turbine developed by Atlantis Resources is loaded onto a barge in Invergordon. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Alex Salmond has built his career on being a motivational speaker. He told the Edinburgh low carbon investment conference the opportunity presented by offshore wind and marine energy was "a pivotal turning point in human history, on a par with the move from hunter-gathering to settled agricultural communities or the discovery of the New World in 1492".

His critics accuse him of being much better at selling than delivering. And industry anxieties about how easily and quickly these goals can be reached are intensifying: today an official study published by his own government said these ambitions "were not easy to achieve".

The Scottish government's offshore wind industry "route map" stated: "The barriers to development are considerable and the timelines are challenging." There were significant problems with existing infrastructure, the lack of grid connections and dock facilities, worries over finance and the environment, and a shortage of engineers, it warned.

But Salmond has influential supporters. Ian Marchant, the chief executive of one of the UK's largest renewables companies, Scottish and Southern Energy, told The Guardian his firm had been pressing for the 50% target to be dropped for some time.

"We think that the 50% was a slam dunk," he said. Today's onshore projects and already authorised offshore schemes sorted that. Industry and the government needed to be "deliberately stretched" by the new 80% target. "If the past record is anything to go by, we will get there," he said.

Even generating 100% from renewable sources was achievable; and it could be doubled by 2030. Over the next 20 years, Marchant added, "I calculated that Scotland's potential is roughly 200% for renewables, onshore wind, offshore wind, hydro and biomass."

Neither man pretends the warnings in the "route map" paper are wrong. But the question neither can yet answer is how readily the gap between rhetoric and delivery will be closed. The investment conference should help address that, but the challenges are significant and sobering, even without factoring in the justifiable anxieties about protecting the marine environment, landscapes and industrialisation of coastal cities.

Estimates about the capital cost of building the vast offshore windfarms needed around the UK vary: the main working figure at present is that £200bn will be needed by 2020, with 40% of that spent in Scotland. And senior investment experts are clear about this: after the worst global recession of modern times most of that will have to be funded, at first, by the taxpayer.

The investment agency Scottish Enterprise said recently at least £222m would be needed immediately to upgrade 11 ports and fabrication yards, such as Dundee, Leith and Aberdeen, to make them capable of supporting offshore wind farms. And that figure excludes cash for new wave and tidal energy infrastructure around Orkney and the Pentland Firth.

Salmond remains publicly optimistic. He is hoping to launch a new green energy investment bank with at least £360m to spend later this year; he predicts worldwide energy costs will continue to rise with demand and oil scarcity increasing, and believes wind power plant costs will fall (a view born out by a report yesterday that said offshore farms could be nearly 25% cheaper to make by 2025).

But his own advisers seem much less gung-ho, at least for now. Raymond Flanagan, Scottish Enterprise's low carbon investment manager, warns that the energy giants, such as Marchant's company, will have to find much of the money.

But at present, offshore power remains a risky investment. Installing one gigawatt offshore currently costs around £2.6bn. Until those costs "dramatically" decrease, most power companies will be put off. "The appetite for risk over the last couple of years has diminished, so life has become more difficult," he said.

"Financial solutions must be found to go beyond the limitations of the utilities' balance sheets," he said. In other words, Salmond and David Cameron, the UK prime minister, have their work cut out installing the 30GW of offshore wind capacity they seek by 2020.

Source: The Guardian, 28th September 2010.

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US company considering six species of fish for GM modification

We reproduce here an article in The Observer, 26th September 2010, which reports on the plans of the US company, AquaBounty, to develop the genetic modification of fish, and the reaction in the United States and wider afield to this proposal.

comparis	on between size of conventional & GM fish
A genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Photograph: AP

Buried in a prospectus inviting investors to buy shares in a fledgling biotech company is an arresting claim attributed to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

"Commercial aquaculture is the most rapidly growing segment of the agricultural industry, accounting for more than $60bn sales in 2003. While land-based agriculture is increasing between 2% to 3% per year, aquaculture has been growing at an average rate of approximately 9% per year since 1970."

And then the prospectus for the US company AquaBounty offers this observation to tantalise prospective investors: "The traditional fishery harvest from the ocean has stagnated since 1990."

So what is to be done to satisfy the world's seemingly insatiable appetite for fish? An appetite that will see the consumption of farmed fish outpace global beef consumption by nearly 10% within five years, according to the UN?

AquaBounty, whose shares are sold on London's Alternative Investment Market, thinks it has the answer. And if, as looks increasingly likely, the US government agrees, the implications for global food production will be enormous. Welcome to the new world heralded by the "GM salmon". The company's dream of selling genetically modified salmon eggs that allow the fish to grow to maturity in half the normal time received a giant fillip last week when it announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was close to granting approval.

A positive FDA response would see salmon become the first GM-engineered animal marketed for human consumption. Dramatically speeding up the time it takes to harvest a mature salmon could stimulate a huge rise in production, making salmon plentiful and cheaper, GM enthusiasts say. AquaBounty expects to receive the nod by the end of this year, meaning GM salmon could be on supermarket shelves within three years. The company's share price doubled on the strength of the announcement.

But the euphoria the company and its investors experienced following last week's announcement quickly evaporated amid a furious backlash from consumer groups.

"The furore over this fish puts paid once and for all to the myth that US consumers are content eating GM food," said Eve Mitchell, European food policy adviser at Food and Water Watch Europe, which opposes GM food. "Consumers are not, and in fact jammed up the White House telephone lines last week protesting any approval. Quite understandably the salmon industry is not happy either, as people will simply avoid all salmon rather than risk getting this stuff. Only those who stand to gain financially think this is a good idea."

Predictably, vested fishing interests have waded into the row. Local radio stations from Ireland to Canada carried interviews with angry fishermen who fear that initial reluctance to consume GM salmon will be overcome by simple economics. "Genetically modified food is just a bad deal," a commercial fisherman in Charleston, South Carolina, told his local station. "This will attack our marketplace. It'll come on the market so cheap that people will buy it, because we're all on a budget."

Ronald Stotish, AquaBounty's chief executive officer, is keen to play down these particular fears. His company is more interested in selling its technology to the burgeoning markets of Chile, China and Asia rather than competing with Atlantic fishermen. "The global salmon market is very, very large and the opportunity is in areas that cannot raise salmon," Stotish told the Observer. "We don't believe it need threaten any national markets, particularly for the high-value premium markets. We are hopeful that people don't regard us as an economic threat, but simply look to us as a technology that maybe can become part of the future."

If Stotish, a biochemist by training and an urbane advocate for his cause, succeeds, other companies are waiting in the wings to exploit similar GM technologies. AquaBounty itself is looking at GM trout, according to its prospectus, and has conducted trials on catfish. Up to six other species of fish — including tilapia and cod — are viewed by biotech companies as ripe for genetic modification, according to experts. Not that Stotish enjoys being the vanguard of a GM food revolution. "It would be far easier to be the third or fourth or fifth [company to bring a GM animal to market]. If you are the first, you attract all of the attention and the burden of attention falls to you. It's a difficult position for a small firm like us."

AquaBounty is also battling dire warnings that its chief product threatens the natural food chain. The company's genetic technology ensures that more than 98% of its salmon cannot reproduce, Stotish says. In addition, the eggs it produces (which are all female thus ensuring the GM fish cannot reproduce among themselves) will be sold only to strictly monitored growers operating fish farms under licence from the FDA.

"This biological and physical containment almost certainly guarantees no interaction with wild salmon," Stotish pledged, pointing out that about 95% of the world's salmon is already produced in farms.

But Helen Wallace, of the anti-GM group GeneWatch, said she had serious concerns. "AquaBounty admit that they expect more than 1% of their fish to be able to reproduce," Wallace said. "If, as they intend, they end up producing large numbers of eggs, that's a large risk." Escaped GM salmon could "outcompete" its wild counterpart by reproducing earlier and threatening its food supply. Some researchers have suggested that even a small number of escaped GM salmon could cause extinction of wild populations in as little as 40 generations.

With potentially weak constitutions, the new salmon might then struggle to adapt to life outside captivity. Food and Water Watch goes as far as to suggest the GM salmon "may only last long enough in the wild to prevent natural populations from reproducing, leading to a total extinction of salmon in open waters".

Escapes are not uncommon. In March, nearly 100,000 farmed Atlantic salmon escaped into the wild from just one hole in a net at a UK fish farm.

Such concerns take place against the backdrop of a much wider battle between pro-GM groups and an increasingly vocal organic movement. GM crop production is promoted aggressively on the grounds that it can help eliminate global hunger and bring down food prices. Opponents claim the promised GM revolution that saw crops made resistant to potent herbicides — something that could dramatically reduce farmers' spraying time — has resulted in the rise of superweeds across vast tracts of US farmland.

Experts said they had been expecting the battle over GM food to move to fish for some time because they are easier to modify. Stotish said his company was focused purely on aquaculture. But GM pork already looks a real possibility. The Enviropig, a trademarked pig that has been genetically modified to excrete less polluting phosphorous in its faeces, has been developed by researchers in Canada. Genetically modified chickens capable of laying eggs containing proteins needed to make cancer-fighting drugs have been created by Scottish scientists.

A goat that produces a spider's web protein — paving the way for silk to be farmed — is under development. GM goats have also been raised to produce human breast milk and to deliver a special protein for people whose blood cannot flow smoothly. And then there is the GloFish, agenetically modified fluorescent zebrafish that, according to its sales blurb, would grace any aquarium and comes in three "striking colours" — starfire red, electric green and sunburst orange.

But amid the rush to spread GM's reach and scope, at least one government has recently had second thoughts. Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysia's deputy prime minister, last week announced his government would not be releasing genetically modified male Aedes mosquitoes capable of sterilising female mosquitoes. "We must consider several aspects of the proposed release, including its impact on the environment," Yassin said. "In addition, the release of the mosquitoes must be endorsed by several international organisations."

For GM opponents, the U-turn was a cause for celebration, a sign that politicians still accept that the technology carries massive risks. But the ultimate victory in the argument about genetically modified food comes down to the invisible hand of the market. Both sides agree it is significant that none of the big GM technology companies such as Monsanto is attempting to create GM meat or fish, preferring to focus on more lucrative GM crop production.

"The process of genetically modifying animals has been a commercial failure," Wallace said. "Too many scientists and small biotech companies have engineered animals just because they can, without thinking through the technical, economic, marketing, animal welfare, environmental or social issues."

Yet Stotish senses opportunity for his fledgling industry. "Once the [GM] technology was adapted for plant systems, the size of that opportunity dwarfed the efforts on the animal side. We've lagged behind." If the FDA gives the green light to GM salmon, expect a frantic game of catch-up."

Source: The Observer, 26th September 2010.

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Latest on the Seal Mutilations

Further input on the Norfolk seal mutilations appeared on the evening of 30th September on Channel 5, purporting a new theory that the seal injuries were due to Greenland shark attack. It held that the strange spiral wounds found on the seals are nigh identical to those found on seal carcasses on Canada's Sable Island' despite the facts that no similar resemblance was apparent. The 'blogs' resulting can be seen reading 'Corkscrew Seal Lesions Blog' 'Overview' and 'Discussion of Possible Causes' on the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme website here.

But a number of facts tend to rule out this theory, as Greenland Sharks are known to be creatures of the Arctic Sea, unknown in the Southern North Sea. They are not predatory, but are carrion scavengers that feed only in the deep sea bottoms, and no seal remnants have ever been found in their stomach contents. The injuries sustained by the victims bear little or no resemblance to shark bites, which are normally rounded bites, non-linear and ragged. Furthermore there appears to be no signs flesh removal (See picture inset showing the lesions and the three previous items at

In support of the novel theory the programme said that it is thought that the sharks may have become predators only recently as a result of less offal being discarded by fishing boats at sea, due to less fishing taking place because of previous over-fishing. It further suggested that the shark cuts into the seal's skin and blubber at the head with a sawing motion of its jaws, and then pulls and shakes the carcass to remove a chunk of flesh. The spiral then tears down the body of the seal occurring because of the seal's collagen mesh blubber structure, which, when pulled violently at one end, splits along the 'mesh' structure under the skin, opening up those gaping wounds.

BBC1's 'Look East' covered the issue on 5th October with 'Could this shark be responsible for seal deaths in Norfolk, which video film may be seen some half way through the programme here.

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CLA Concern on Coastal Erosion

The Norfolk members of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), concerned as they might well be, have published a report on erosion hoping to find practical answers to tackling coastal management on the east coast. The project was supported financially by the Broads and Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Boards, Norfolk County Council, North Norfolk District Council, the Norfolk Churches Trust, Targetfollow Estates, the Horsey Hall estate and the Burnley Hall estate.

With experts from the coastal engineering firm Halcrow, they looked at how effective the nine rock reefs at Sea Palling reefs were, and how similar schemes could be modified to give an overall improvement.

The existing reefs at Sea Palling are parallel to the shoreline, and whilst they have helped to reform some three miles of beach and prevent further undermining of the seawall, they have exacerbated severe coastal erosion to the south by retaining the sand that would otherwise have flowed down to maintain them. Thus, considerable and costly regular beach recharge became necessary, this further deepening the seabed, increasing the beach slope and elevating the waves. It is thought that angling the reefs at 22 degrees will effect a compromise between the two conflicting issues, and provide a degree of long term sustainability.

Henry Cator, chairman of the Broads Internal Drainage Board said "This is about protecting fertile agricultural land, food security, biodiversity, amenity, heritage, community and the freshwater habitat in Broadland, which is one of the most important habitats in northern Europe".

The item entitled 'Norfolk rock reefs could be the answer to coastal erosion' by Ed Foss appeared in the Eastern Daily Press of 20th August '10.

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Erosion of Hunstanton Cliffs

The multi-coloured layers forming Hunstanton Cliffs (see our last-but-one picture in 'Why Canute Failed — A Treatise on Sea Defences' at are eroding rapidly, though not near so fast as the shores of much of north-east Norfolk, as the offshore dredging in The Wash is not so close nor so intense as that in the other areas.

Now in response to rising concern, specialists are being introduced by the Environment Agency who earlier said that the chalk and carrstone cliff faces should be allowed to erode naturally to provide material to recharge the beach until they threatened clifftop properties and the road, and that no active intervention would be needed for another 50 to 100 years.

Brian Long, who is West Norfolk Councils cabinet member of the environment, said that until now erosion had been measured in a very "arbitrary" way, and that "It was apparent that the level of erosion of the cliffs was not particularly well documented" and "It is important to know what is happening so that you can take appropriate measures" Further "If the project reveals the cliffs are eroding at a quicker rate than previously thought, action will be taken sooner."

The full report by Annabelle Dixon under 'Experts probe Hunstanton cliff erosion' appeared in the pages of the Eastern Daily Press of 5th October '10.

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BP's Deepwater Horizon oil platform was flying a "flag of convenience"

In a News Release to the OSPAR ( conference in Bergen Norway, 20th to 24th September 2010, the French environmental organisation Robin des Bois ( stated that the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico was flying a flag of convenience (Marshall Islands) which required the safety regime for the platform to be far less stringent than if it had been flying a United States flag. The News Release reads:

"The Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico and prior accidents in the North Sea and across the globe involving offshore platforms are a reminder to industries, neighbouring countries and the international community that exploration and exploitation of fossil resources present an increasing risk for workers, the environment and regional and worldwide economy. This is of particular significance for the North-East Atlantic concerning ongoing and future installations. OSPAR contracting parties should ensure that the best available techniques are accessible to prevent disasters. Robin des Bois is urging international co-operation by all contracting parties to put in place co-ordinated and practical contingency plans. Concerning projects in OSPAR Region I (Arctic) and Region V (Wider Atlantic) contingency plans are all the more important due to their remoteness and extreme climate conditions. Germany's recommendation on a Moratorium on certain new Oil Exploration Activities in Deep Waters 10.8.5 is a good starting point on this subject.

"The BP accident involved an offshore platform flying a flag of convenience, Marshall Islands, which meant that safety inspections take four to eight hours whereas if it was a US flag inspections could last 2-3 weeks. Such flags of convenience are used within OSPAR regions and in the case of accidents, they make investigations to establish technical and financial responsibilities more complicated. The use of convenience flags for offshore platforms in the North-East Atlantic and in the Arctic should be reconsidered."

Source: Robin des Bois News Release to OSPAR Conference, dated 17th September 2010.

MARINET observes:

  1. Norway has had to handle three oil rig incidents in the NE Atlantic involving uncontrolled pressure in the well, similar to the Deepwater Horizon incident, since December 2009, see
  2. deep water drilling off Britain is concentrated in the region west of Shetlands where BP already has four producing fields, and is pushing for further rig work on the North Uist prospect. Chevron and Total are also talking to the UK Department for Energy Climate Change (DECC) about undertaking further drilling west of the Shetlands, which the government believes may hold 17% of all UK remaining oil and gas reserves.
  3. Therefore, MARINET asks, how many oil platforms in the North East Atlantic are also operating under flags of convenience, as BP's Deepwater Horizon was? Are the BP oil platforms west of Shetlands doing so? And, if flags of convenience are being used widely in the NE Altantic, as Robin des Bois state , is this practice safe?
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UK winning in efforts to soften regulation of offshore oil drilling

The British government is reported, The Guardian 23rd September 2010, as successfully fending off an attempt to introduce international scrutiny of offshore drilling that was proposed by Germany in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Richard Benyon, a minister at Defra dispatched to Bergen, Norway, for a meeting of signatories to the Convention of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR,, appears to have won the support of other oil producers such as Denmark and Holland.

The latest draft documents — now supported by Britain and Germany — show a diluted agenda, under which nation states will undertake their own review of drilling practices and then report back to the OSPAR Commission of fifteen European countries behind the Convention. An earlier draft proposed by Germany and seen by The Guardian specifically recommended an international review and talked about a "moratorium on certain new oil exploration activities in deep waters".

The original documents made clear that Germany's worries lay beyond just BP's Deepwater Explorer accident and it made specific reference to North Sea incidents. It mentioned loss of life or hydrocarbon releases with the Maersk Explorer rig in 1977, the Ecofisk Bravo platform in the same year, the Ocean Odyssey semi-submersible in 1988 and the Piper Alpha platform disaster when 167 workers were killed and 670,000 tonnes of oil were spilled into the North Sea.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change, which has sent its own officials to monitor the talks, said that it was taking all necessary steps to ensure deep water drilling off Britain was done to the highest possible standards, and rejected the idea of a moratorium such as the one that could have resulted from the original German proposal to OSPAR.

"The government is determined to drive forward our move to a low-carbon economy and develop the UK's renewable energy sources but this cannot happen overnight. The fact is that in the meantime we will be dependent on oil and gas," said a DECC spokeswoman. "So it is a choice between producing oil and gas here in UK waters — where we have one of the most robust safety and regulatory regimes in the world, with all the economic benefits that will bring — or paying to import oil and gas from elsewhere," she added.

deep water drilling off Britain is concentrated in the region west of Shetlands where BP already has four producing fields but is pushing for further rig work on the North Uist prospect. Chevron and Total are also talking to DECC about undertaking further drilling west of the Shetlands, which the government believes may hold 17% of all UK remaining oil and gas reserves.

Britain has also rejected suggestions from the European Energy Commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, that there might need to be a moratorium on deep water drilling. The UK's Health and Safety Executive, which reports annually on the offshore industry's safety record, this year issued a stern warning over the increase in both serious accidents and spilled oil.

The HSE labelled the industry's performance "not good enough", while Steve Walker, head of the offshore division, expressed disappointment and concern that major and significant hydrocarbon releases were up by more than a third on last year. He added: "This is a key indicator of how well the offshore industry is managing its major accident potential, and it really must up its game to identify and rectify the root causes of such events."

Source: The Guardian, 23rd September 2010.

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30 year old Arctic tern has travelled 1 million miles during its lifetime

The news that an Arctic tern has been rediscovered on the Farne Islands, 30 years after it was ringed as a chick, has sent ornithologists rushing to check the record books. The bird, known as 'CE60645' after the ring placed on its leg in spring 1980 by National Trust warden John Walton, is indeed the oldest Arctic tern ever found in Britain.

But it still has a long way to go before it catches up with Britain's oldest known wild birds: a Manx shearwater on Bardsey Island in Wales, and a fulmar on Orkney, both of whom reached the age of at least 50, and may still be out there somewhere.

Their long lives are in sharp contrast to the fate of our nation's favourite bird, the robin. In the 1930s, scientist David Lack discovered that very few robins live more than a year or two — thus puncturing the cherished belief that the same robin returns to our garden year after year. Most garden birds lead the same brief lives — rarely surviving longer than three or four years at most.

Apart from their great age, the Arctic tern, Manx shearwater and fulmar have another thing in common: they are all seabirds, which collectively hold most of the avian longevity records. This may seem surprising, as we often think of the high seas as a dangerous place. But while a marine existence might not suit us, seabirds have evolved a lifestyle perfectly suited to wandering the world's oceans.

Indeed, it is when seabirds come to land to breed each spring and summer that they are in most danger. To avoid predators such as rats and foxes they nest in vast colonies on steep cliffs and offshore islands. In the past, this made them vulnerable to another mammalian predator: us. For much of Britain's history, coastal communities depended on seabirds for food, fuel and feathers — a lifestyle that continued well into the 20th century, with the "bird people" of St Kilda.

By now, in early autumn, the oldest Arctic tern will have departed on its epic journey south to Antarctica — a round trip of more than 40,000 miles. So in its 30-year lifetime it has already comfortably clocked up more than one million miles — a world record not just for a bird, but for any living creature.

Source: The Guardian, 21st September 2010.

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Does the failure of UK terrestrial conservation foretell ill for UK marine conservation?

A report by leading wildlife experts warns that England's terrestrial wildlife protection areas are not effective enough at preserving species due to poor management, small size, ease of reach by the wider public (especially in urban areas) and lack of inter-connections between wild areas. The only measure met by the sites is their ability to support the full-range of England's wildlife and habitats.

MARINET therefore asks: will the current efforts under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to create a network of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) throughout Britain's seas, and in a manner that should be ecologically coherent, fare any better in their purpose than the UK's terrestrial sites? If we cannot get the principles right for protecting biodiversity on land, what are our chances for doing so in the sea where our knowledge is considerably less?

The recommendation and remedy for this deficiency on land by the authors of the report is the creation the creation of 12 huge "ecological restoration zones" to improve key habitats and foster better connections between them. MARINET therefore asks: should we not also be creating extensive "ecological restoration zones" in our seas, similar in extent to the 30% recommendation of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in their 2004 report, Turning the Tide, and as MARINET itself recommended to government when the Marine Act was before Parliament in 2009?

To assist our readers in their understanding of theses issues, and to enable them to answer the questions MARINET poses, we reproduce here the report in The Guardian, 24th September 2010, which outlines the details of this high-level study into the effectiveness, and failure in ecological terms, of the UK's terrestrial wildlife protection areas.

"England's nature reserves, national parks and protected areas are failing in four out of five key quality benchmarks, according to a major year-long government-sponsored review.

The report by leading wildlife experts warns that England's wildlife protection areas are not effective enough at preserving species due to poor management, small size, ease of reach by the wider public (especially in urban areas) and lack of inter-connections between wild areas. The only measure met by the sites is their ability to support the full-range of England's wildlife and habitats.

To help improve the quality of England's wild areas for conservation and stem the loss of two species per year to extinction, the authors recommend the creation of 12 huge "ecological restoration zones" to improve key habitats and foster better connections between them. Sir John Lawton, who led the review, said between £0.6bn and £1.1bn is needed to help rebuild nature in England. "Before the report, we knew that the state of our wildlife network was not great — butterflies, for example, are declining inside our protected areas as fast as they are outside," said Lawton. "But the situation today would have been a lot worse without the existing protection network."

The report, which was commissioned by the then environment secretary Hilary Benn last September, says the "serious short-comings" on the four criteria demonstrate that England lacks a "coherent and resilient ecological network" for its animals and plants.

England has a network of thousands of formally-protected wildlife sites that make up around 7% of its land and are crucial habitats for the country's 55,000 animal and plant species. A much larger area of land comes under national parks or other designations but these offer much lower protection for wildlife. Just 6.1% of England's total land is given over to 3,174 sites that provide the strongest protection — sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) — compared with the 10% recommended by the UN.

map of England showing 'Tier' areas
A map of England's wildlife protection areas

These protected habitats are increasingly under pressure from new housing and climate change, the report warns, and in many cases have been lost already. Of a list of 182 such sites published in 1916 by banker and naturalist Charles Rothschild, 89.6% had experienced a loss by 1997, with 21 being lost entirely.

The Making Space for Nature report, which will strongly influence Britain's first white paper on the natural environment in 20 years, is damning about the condition of wildlife sites in England. Going into further detail about the four areas of failure, it says the vast majority are too small, with 77% of SSSIs and 98% of local wildlife sites less than 100 hectares (247 acres) — the size of 100 international rugby fields. Many species, such as bats, need much larger areas to thrive.

They are also poorly connected, with "wildlife corridors" such as hedgerows and rivers either lost to development or in poor condition. The total length of managed hedgerows, for example, declined by 6.1% between 1998 and 2007. Management of the vast majority of the two lower quality groups of sites "are both inadequately protected and poorly managed", the authors conclude.

The report also says wildlife sites are not close enough to urban areas, with just 240,514 hectares (about 600,000 acres) overlapping with the 2,677,620 hectares (about 6.6 million acres) of urban areas across England.

The only quality measure met by the sites is their ability to support the full-range of England's wildlife and habitats. Wildlife experts are adamant that the situation can be reversed, writing that "given resources, determination and skill, we know what to do, and how to do it".

Of the 12 ecological restoration zones suggested by the report, Lawton said: "There will be some places where the bang for your buck is so big, it's worth going big-scale. These zones could be even bigger than existing efforts such as the Great Fen Project [the restoration of 3,700 hectares (about 9,125 acres) of wetlands between Huntingdon and Peterborough]. To create these we'll need to purchase land. Though farmers and landowners needn't worry, it will all be done voluntarily, not through compulsory land purchase." The headwaters of the Thames, Lawton said, would be an obvious site for a zone.

The benefits to wildlife would be huge, he added, and also create opportunities for tourism such as birdwatching and walking. Lawton sees such zones as being paid for by businesses and individual philanthropists as well as government, and would be protected by existing UK and EU wildlife protection legislation. The coalition government has already proposed a much greater role for private funding in British conservation.

Wildlife groups welcomed the report's findings. Alice Hardiman, of the RSPB, said: "Our countryside and wildlife need a champion, and Professor Lawton's recommendations, if acted upon and funded, could help to deliver vibrant landscapes that are important for the future of wildlife and people. In times of austerity we need to budget carefully, so funding wildlife schemes and a protected network of nature reserves which can relieve floods, create green lungs for city dwellers, or buffer the UK against the impacts of climate change are prudent ways of using budgets."

Stephanie Hilborne, who was on the review's panel and is chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, which manages 90,000 hectares (about 222,000 acres) of nature reserves across the UK, said: "There is growing recognition that we need to think differently about our natural environment — continuing to protect our special sites but restoring nature and working with, not against, it."

Glance right as you head north on the A1 just past Huntingdon and, in the distance, under the vast skies of Cambridgeshire you will see all that remains of what was Britain's largest lowland lake: nothing. Whittlesey Mere was one of the last corners of the Fens to be drained and turned over to industrial agriculture in the middle of the 19th century. Within two decades, one of the country's most spectacular butterflies, the large copper, was extinct. Other rare fenland plants, insects and birds also vanished.

Luckily, a small rectangle of marshy fenland close to Whittlesey Mere was saved by the nature-loving philanthropist Charles Rothschild, who created one of Britain's first nature reserves when he bought Woodwalton Fen in 1910. But Rothschild could not anticipate that saving a fragment of pristine countryside was hardly saving it at all.

The draining of surrounding land caused the natural peat to dry out and shrink. The ground around Woodwalton lowered by four metres over the last 150 years, leaving the fenland reserve literally, high and dry. While Rothschild enthusiastically reintroduced lost species, including the large copper, they swiftly disappeared again, along with the fenland plants upon which they depended.

Today, more than 99% of traditional fenland has been lost, mainly to agriculture. Just 1.1% of Cambridgeshire is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) compared with a national county average of 6.8%.

Since the 1950s, frantic conservation efforts have attempted to stop Woodwalton drying out. But the best chance for repairing it now lies with the Great Fen project, exactly the type of large-scale habitat restoration advocated by Prof Lawton in his report today.

Ten years old this year, this ambitious project aims to link Woodwalton and another national nature reserve, Holme Fen, converting barren agricultural land in between into a 3,700-hectare (9,142-acre) mosaic of attractive, species-rich and publicly accessible fenland, grassland, reed bed and woodland between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

Whittlesey Mere will never again glitter in the sunlight but conservation on this kind of scale offers rare species a far better chance of not merely clinging on, but expanding to enrich the wider countryside.

Source: The Guardian, 24th September 2010.

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Only 20% of the contract for UK's largest offshore windfarm goes to UK firms

The world's biggest offshore windfarm has opened off the UK coast but the company behind the project said that less than 20% of the £900m investment in the project has gone to British firms.

The low figure will concern ministers who have portrayed green technology as a growth sector that will help drive a recovery in the UK economy. In his speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in September, the energy and climate change minister, Chris Huhne, promised a "third industrial revolution" led by green energy.

At the official opening ceremony on the P&O ferry the Pride of Burgundy Huhne said he wanted to get Britain out of the "dunce corner" on renewable energy. He also criticised the "frankly atrocious record" on renewables that the coalition government had inherited. The UK is 25th out of 27 in the EU league table on renewable energy. Just 3% of power comes from renewable sources like wind and solar, against a target of 15% by 2020.

The biggest single contract for the Thanet farm off the coast of Kent has gone to Vestas of Denmark, the turbine manufacturer that closed its only UK blade-making facility on the Isle of Wight last year.

The Thanet Offshore Wind Farm Photograph: Vattenfall
aerial view of windfarm

The 20% figure is better than the 10% reported by E.ON and its partners on the London Array scheme — another offshore windfarm — which will open in 2011, but is still an embarrassment to government.

"Where we can we have sought to use UK businesses in building the Thanet offshore windfarm and we estimate that nearly 20% of our capital expenditure has been given to businesses in the isle of Thanet and the rest of the UK," said a spokesman for Vattenfall, the company behind the Thanet project.

UK firms known to be involved include McNulty on Tyneside which did some engineering work; SubOcean of Aberdeen which laid the subsea power cables; and Noble Denton which did project management on Thanet.

And yet the profits available to suppliers to the booming offshore wind sector have more than doubled in recent years with industry estimates saying it cost £1.25m per megawatt (MW) in 2004 now up to £3m per MW today. The higher costs reflect shortages in the supply chain which enable contractors to ramp up prices. The Thanet project's costs had been expected to run to £750m but have escalated, while the even bigger London Array (630MW) is currently expected to cost over £2bn.

The lack of British content in the new offshore windfarms is an awkward reality check for successive governments, which have always talked about the number of "green" jobs that will result from renewable investment. But industrialists said this situation would continue until the UK attracted a major turbine-making facility because the blades account for the bulk of the total project cost.

Vestas bought a plant on on the Isle of Wight expecting to benefit from onshore wind projects but ended up exporting much of what it produced to America before closing it down and concentrating on research and development. Other big turbine makers such as Siemens and GE are looking at establishing plants in Britain but are reluctant to finally commit themselves until they are sure the deeper offshore projects from the Round Three windfarm licensing will definitely go ahead. They are worried that Huhne's promises will not be delivered at a time of public spending cuts.

However, Thanet is an important milestone for the wind sector in Britain because it marks the point that 5MW of this kind of renewable power has now been installed and is generating carbon-free electricity.

The National Grid reported recently that Britain received 10% of its electricity from wind over one 24 hour period.

The Thanet farm, will be able to produce 300MW of electricity from 100 turbines — enough to power over 20,000 homes. It will be the biggest offshore facility of its kind until the even larger London Array, which has an eventual goal of 340 turbines, is completed. Thanet will dwarf the nearby Kentish Flats facility off Whitstable, also run by Vattenfall and using similar Vestas turbines.

RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body, argues that on average, due to better wind conditions, a wind turbine in the UK generates 50% more electricity than the same wind turbine in Germany. However, Germany already has a total of 21,315 wind turbines installed compared to little over 3,000 in the UK.
"Investing in renewable energy will boost our economy by creating new green industries and jobs — the government must ensure adequate funding and make the UK a world leader in tackling climate change."

Source: The Guardian, 24th September 2010.

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UK shipping emissions six times greater than previously calculated

Carbon emissions produced by UK shipping could be up to six times higher than calculated, says a report into the world's fleet of 30,000 commercial vessels.

The report published today by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change says that Britain has consistently calculated its emissions incorrectly by only including bunker fuel sold at UK ports. This is misleading, say the scientists, because the majority of vessels sailing to and from Britain refuel in places like Rotterdam in Holland, where fuel prices are significantly cheaper.

The research comes at a crucial moment because the EU is committed to raising money from a shipping levy as a way to raise up to $100bn a year for developing countries to be able adapt their economies to climate change. A modest shipping tax could raise nearly $10bn a year.

The levy, or tax proposal, will be discussed at a meeting of the UN's International Maritime organisation (IMO) in London next week. No decision is expected to be made but they talks will pave the way for the key global climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, in November.

On the basis of its international bunker fuel sales, UK shipping emissions for 2006 — the last figures available — were around seven megatonnes of carbon dioxide (7 MtCO2). But the report, prepared by researchers at Tyndall and the Sustainable Consumption Institute at Manchester University, argues it is fairer to calculate UK shipping emissions on the basis of goods exported from or imported into the UK. On this basis, UK emissions rise to 31 or 42 MtCO2 respectively.

If these calculations are accepted, it would make it harder for Britain to meet its commitment to avoid dangerous climate change. The emissions allocated to shipping would possibly be higher than the amount of CO2 released by UK aviation.

The global shipping industry bills itself as the most energy-efficient means of transport, handling more than 90% of all world trade. But it releases between 2.8 -4% or more of all carbon dioxide emissions. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that these emissions could increase by 150-250% by the year 2050 in line with the expected continued growth in international seaborne trade.

Pressure is now mounting on the industry and the IMO to reduce emissions. The European Union has called for shipping to cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels over the next decade as part of efforts to fight global warming.

The recession has resulted in a major downturn in world trade and many ship owners have resorted to reducing ship speeds — and emissions — to save fuel. But the fear is that shipping emissions will rise dramatically when global economies pick up again.

"As the rest of the world strives to avoid dangerous climate change, the global shipping industry's carbon emissions could account for almost all of the world's emissions by 2050 if current rates of growth — fuelled by globalisation — continue", says the report.

Oxfam demonstrated recently outside the IMO offices in London in support of a shipping tax or levy. Japan has submitted proposals for a levy rather than an emissions trading scheme, with the money raised going to developing country ports and ship recycling yards, many of which are located in India and Bangladesh, an official said.

Ships that improve their fuel efficiency and new ships that exceed efficiency requirements would be offered partial refunds on the levy.

Source: The Guardian 23rd September 2010.

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Explanation sought for ocean cooling event 40 years ago

Scientists studying a rapid cooling of the oceans around four decades ago have found that the traditional explanation for the phenomenon, which involved pollution in the atmosphere, does not stack up.

The discovery does not cast doubt on the overall science of human-caused climate change. But the study will receive more scrutiny than normal because it is the first scientific paper co-authored by Prof Phil Jones since he was cleared of accusations of manipulating data in the row over the hacked climate science emails which were written by University of East Anglia staff.

Between 1968 and 1972, in the time it took Nixon to serve one term as president of the United States, the surface temperature of oceans in the northern hemisphere plummeted by 0.3°C. That might not sound large, but because water is so effective at storing heat it represents a huge amount of released energy.

Researchers had thought that the drop was due to the build-up of sulphur aerosols in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning. These cool the planet by reflecting sunlight. But Jones and his colleagues conclude that it happened too quickly for that explanation to work.

"The work in the paper questions this somewhat," said Jones. "We didn't know that ocean temperatures in the northern North Atlantic cooled so rapidly before this paper." Previously, it was thought that sea surfaces in the northern hemisphere cooled gradually and steadily after the second world war before heating up abruptly in the 1970s.

Lead author David Thompson of the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, agrees. "The pollution presumably ramped up over a longer time-frame."

Part of the reason for the confusion is because previous studies examined temperature change on a decadal scale. In contrast, Thompson's research uses data collected by ships and buoys over the past two and a half centuries to examine temperature change on a month-by-month basis.

The team fed the data into a model developed by Thompson that blocks out short-term changes in ocean temperature — triggered, for example, by volcanic eruptions which spew sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere. This allowed them to identify changes in ocean temperature that weren't linked to natural variation.

The model revealed that the cooling event was far from gradual, as previously believed: the temperature of the surface of oceans in the northern hemisphere dropped by 0.3°C in just four years. The model also revealed that the focus of the cooling event was in the northern North Atlantic — from around the latitude of the southern tip of the UK northwards.

The cause of the cooling is not clear, but according to Mark Maslin of the Environment Institute at University College London, one possible culprit is the Great Salinity Anomaly — an unusually large discharge of ice from the Arctic Ocean in 1967 that caused a 10,000 cubic kilometre pool of fresh water to form off the coast of Greenland.

Normally, surface water in the northern North Atlantic cools during the winter, sinking as it becomes denser. In turn, warm, deep water rises to the surface, releasing its heat into the atmosphere. It is possible that the Great Salinity Anomaly shut down this mixing process and triggered a cool period by dumping light, fresh water on the surface.

It wouldn't have been the first time, said Mike Mann at Penn State University. Around 12,800 years ago, a similar event on a far greater scale may have triggered a mini ice age. "A sudden run-off of fresh water into the North Atlantic from melting ice… suppressed the sinking of high-latitude North Atlantic ocean water that drives the thermohaline circulation."

Although the study has highlighted holes in our knowledge of past temperature trends, it hasn't changed the fact that greenhouse gases are warming the world up, said Gabi Hegerl at the University of Edinburgh. "In my opinion, this research does not question our current interpretation of the overall causes of 20th-century warming.

Source: The Guardian 23rd September 2010.

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Oil discovered in the pristine seas off Greenland

The Scottish oil producer, Cairn Energy, has said it has found oil in the untouched waters off the coast of Greenland. However, the company, which had previously announced a gas find in the pristine region, said that it had abandoned that earlier test well after deciding the volume was not commercially viable.

Cairn's founder, Sir Bill Gammell — the former Scottish rugby international and public school friend of Tony Blair — described the find in Baffin Bay, the sea between Greenland and Canada, as "extremely encouraging", but cautioned that further analysis was needed. The exploration group was the FTSE 100's second biggest riser after it said that it had found oil for the first time since it began drilling in the Arctic waters.

The gas find sparked euphoria among many local people, with the promise of profits and jobs, when it was revealed by The Guardian in August but the company is now writing off bore costs of $84.2m (£54.3m). Investors took the view that it could be different this time around, with the shares closing up 9.5p at 436.5p, an increase of more than 2%. Gammell, who is also Cairn's chief executive, said: "The presence of both oil and gas confirms an active, working petroleum system in the basin and is extremely encouraging at this very early stage of our exploration campaign."

Cairn is the only producer so far to have been granted permission to drill for oil offshore in Greenland and the discovery will please the oil industry, which has long believed that the Arctic harbours some of the last huge reserves. Analysts at the consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimated there could be over 20bn barrels of oil equivalent in the country.

The find will also delight the Greenland government, which is desperate to diversify its fragile economy away from a dependence on fishing, tourism and cash handouts from Denmark, which still formally has sovereignty over the world's largest island. Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland's minister in charge of mineral resources, described the latest find as "another encouraging result".

Greenland — Photograph: Tony Waltham/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
view of Greenland town looking out to sea

But the discovery will raise concern among environmental groups, which are opposed to drilling on the grounds that any accident would be disastrous. Opposition has grown, particularly to deep water drilling, in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Greenpeace activists scaled a Cairn rig in the Arctic during September in protest at the operations, and the organisation has warned that icebergs and other tough conditions in the region pose too high a risk of an oil spill.

In a detailed statement, Cairn said it had found oil "intermittently" in a 400m section of the Alpha-1S1 well, which has reached depths of more than 4,300 metres. It said: "Initial geochemical analysis of various hydrocarbon samples recovered from the well… confirms the presence of two oil types, which have different origins and levels of maturity." The Alpha well is now being deepened, with Cairn adding that the drilling of a third well is also ahead of schedule.

Richard Griffith, analyst at Evolution Securities, said that both wells proved the presence of hydrocarbons off the coast of Greenland but that neither was a "commercial discovery". He said the odds of a well striking oil was one in 10, adding: "This outcome may be disappointing but in a broader context does not mean the province is a write-off."

Exploration in the deep ocean off Greenland's west coast resumed in 2001, three decades after a previous effort failed to find petroleum. Cairn started drilling 108 miles west of Disko Island in July and the following month was given permission to drill at two more sites.

The Edinburgh-based company, which is in the process of selling a majority stake in its Cairn India division to Vedanta Resources for up to $8.5bn, also said that it had posted a letter to shareholders on the sale. Funds raised from the disposal, which is awaiting approval from Indian regulators, expected within the next month, will be partially spent on exploration in Greenland.

Source: The Guardian, 22nd September 2010.

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Listing of all Offshore Wind Farms

A comprehensive listing of all UK offshore wind farms, those now operational, now under construction, approved, withdrawn after approval or after submission, submitted and site awarded can be seen by visiting

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Massive New Windfarm on the horizon

A further truly huge windfarm eventually covering 6,000 square kilometres is planned to be placed 43 km off the Suffolk coast starting in 2015. Initially it will be made up of 420 turbines spread over 300 to will create 1,200 megawatts of electricity, enough for 720,000 homes. When fully complete the scheme will generate 7,200 MW, enough to power to supply the needs of over four million homes.

You can see the detail by going to or by reading the press article by Craig Robinson entitled 'Huge wind farm off Suffolk coast to create hundreds of jobs' in the East Anglian Daily Times of Thursday, 23rd September here.

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Macabre Seal Mutilations — Further Input

Professor Mike Cowling, Chief Scientist of The Crown Estate Marine wrote the following, which discounts the possibility of suction offshore dredging as being one of the possibilities for the seal deaths.

"I think you may firmly discount the possibility of suction dredging being the cause, for the following reasons:

  1. The draghead end of the suction pipe has a very strong, ~6 inch spacing, steel grid over it, to prevent rocks greater than that size from entering the system, potentially damaging the pump and getting into the cargo. I have closely examined a draghead myself.
  2. The suction pump is a centrifugal type, which does not have 'blades' as such and would not cause the observed injuries.
  3. The process is not without noise and hence there cannot be 'unsuspecting' seals in close proximity.

We are also continuing to consider potential causes, so far without success".

Despite the assurances given by SCIRA/Scatoil/Starkraft on 23rd August (see 'Macabre Seal Deaths — Updates' in our recent 'Latest News' listings at a degree of suspicion for the seal mutilation still exists, attributed to the apparatus in use for cutting the trenches in which to embed the power cable from the offshore Sheringham Shoal Wind Turbines to the onshore Weybourne Terminal, as both the timing and the location of the operation are seen as coincident.

Those interested and concerned can see the information on the apparatus and methodology employed by visiting the SCIRA website item whilst the TM3 trench cutting mechanism used can be seen at

Suspicion and correlation alone in no way proves or disproves the cause of the damage to the seals, but, if further investigation shows this possibility viable, it should not prove impossible to place a guard fencing around the channelling cutters.

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Bob Latimer wins a major breakthrough

Bob Latimer has long been fighting a major campaign battle with DEFRA and the EA over a threatened environmental disaster involving the dumping of contaminated toxic waste under the seabed at Souter Point, 4 miles offshore from the Tyne estuary. If you don't recall the history please first go to 'Contaminated waste dumped off Tyne estuary' at and to 'EC to take the UK to Court over Waste Water Directive 91/271/EEC' at

Now, after the interchange of massive amounts time, cash and correspondence with the 'authorities' in taking on the government, he has won the legal battle on people's rights to challenge the matter in court, normally impossible because of the massive financial cost for the objector, whilst the government happily use our public money to stop them. DEFRA claimed that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not required, and despite the evidence granted a licence for the dredging and offshore dumping of high levels of tributyl-tin (TBT), heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, copper and zinc), aluminium, dibutyl-tin (DBT), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH).

The matter was reported by James Johnston in the Shields Gazette of 21st September 2010 and can be read here. But due to it's importance, we reproduce the article in full below:

David v Goliath win over toxic waste

A fish shop owner in South Tyneside is celebrating today after winning his "David and Goliath" legal battle with the Government over toxic sludge dumped off the coast. Bob Latimer, 66, helped spearhead a legal fight — which reached the United Nations — over people's rights to challenge allegations of environmental damage in court.

Backed by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the businessman and former engineer, from Bents Road, Whitburn, claimed that financial risks prevented anyone taking legal action over green issues. Now in a landmark ruling, UN officials in Geneva, Switzerland, say the Government failed in its commitments to an international agreement, which aims to give ordinary citizens fair access to the courts in cases concerning the environment.

The judgement, hailed as hugely important by environmental law experts, could open the door to new rules covering legal costs and encourage more individuals and community groups to take their cases to the courts. "It's a tremendous victory for the common man," said Mr Latimer. "It will make it easier for people to bring legal action against big corporations. "In the past, companies have known high legal costs prevents most people from taking cases to court, going the full distance, and many firms have played on that fact. This decision should change that situation."

The case claimed that Mr Latimer and the MCS had been prevented from challenging an alleged breach of environmental laws relating to a Port of Tyne Authority project. It was given a licence to dump thousands of tons of waste dredged from the Tyne's dock areas — contaminated with toxic substances such as arsenic and mercury from the shipbuilding industry — under the sea off Souter Point. The waste was capped by sand and silt, but campaigners said that because of the wave energy of the North Sea, there was a "grave environmental threat of the toxic substances escaping into the marine environment outside the dispersal site".

They claimed breaches of environmental laws, and a perceived lack of an adequate environmental impact assessment, could not be challenged in court because of "unreasonable" financial risks.

Mr Latimer and the MCS were represented in court by a team activist lawyers from ClientEarth. They argued that the UK has breached the Aarhus Convention, an international agreement it ratified in 1998 and says individuals should not be prevented from taking environmental cases to court due to cost. "It has been the best part of two years since we started this, but I was always confident we were going to win," said Mr Latimer. "Our legal team were fantastic."

A spokesman for Defra and the Ministry of Justice said the Government was considering the findings.

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Macabre Seal Deaths — Updates

Although both the timing and positional placement of the seabed power cables running from the mighty Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm to Weybourne are coincident with the mutilated seal findings, on 23rd August SCIRA/Scatoil/Starkraft put out a statement on their website saying "Recent media reports have attempted to implicate the Sheringham Shoal Wind Farm operations in the death of more than 40 seals at Blakeney Point on the Norfolk coast. Both Scira and the police have checked all equipment on vessels operating at the site and found no connection". MARINET is still pursuing not the on site vessels themselves but the cable seabed embedment mechanism.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) have now taken over the regulatory duties of the MFA and are acting as a central pooling source for information on the mysterious seal deaths, and will be placing updates on their website at Anyone with information that may assist could help establish the facts by sending this to

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Ocean acidification already eating away at commercial shellfish

Last week, the National Academies of Science released a report on research of what has been called "the other carbon problem" — ocean acidification. Excess carbon in the atmosphere has been lowering the ocean's pH (increasing its acidity), which has the potential to severely alter the ocean's chemistry. The NAS report says that we're way behind in studying this problem, which wasn't even fully recognized until recently. Just how far behind we are is made clear by a paper that will be released this week by PNAS, which reveals that two species of commercially harvested shellfish are likely to already be suffering increased mortality due to ocean acidification.

The basics of ocean acidification are fairly simple. Roughly a third of the CO2 emitted by human activity has ended up dissolved in the oceans; some fraction of that has combined with water to form H2CO3, a weak acid. These reactions take place quickly enough that a drop in pH has been apparent in some long-term monitoring stations. Overall, current estimates are that the pH of the oceans have dropped by 0.1 units (pH is a logarithmic scale) since the beginning of industrial carbon emissions.

This may sound minor, but as the NAS notes, it is expected to cause a "suite of changes in ocean chemistry." Chief among them is a change in the availability of carbonate ions, which corals and shellfish use to build reefs and shells, respectively. With reduced access to the raw material for their homes, it's possible that these animals, which provide ecosystem services and food to humans around the globe, might fall under increased stress, and be more prone to population crashes.

According to the new paper, however, those concerns are already past their sell-by date: significant shellfish species are already having problems with ocean acidification.

Most of the studies of acidification's impacts have been done in prospective studies, in which a population of animals are exposed to an environment that represents likely future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. For example, we're a bit above 390 parts-per-million CO2, so a study might set up an environment where the levels are 750ppm, which we could hit by the end of the century. These studies have generally found that shellfish don't do well in this environment, suffering from malformations, loss of shell material, and increased mortality.

The authors of the new paper saw these as well, since they tested two species, the quahog clam and bay scallop, in concentrations of 750 and 1500 ppm. At the 750ppm level, basic shell structures like the hinge were severely malformed, while the surface of the shell had holes that were apparent when it was examined via scanning electron microscopy. There was also a significant drop in the viability of the larvae, and those that did survive were developmentally delayed compared to those raised at today's concentrations. Matters got worse at the higher levels.

The interesting twist in the new work is that the authors also run the experiment under preindustrial CO2 levels of about 250ppm (actual levels were closer to 280ppm). For both species of shellfish, the mortality was much lower and development proceded more quickly. For the quahog, viability doubled (from 20 percent to 40 percent), while for the bay scallop, viability went from 43 percent to 74 percent. The animals made major developmental milestones more quickly-metamorphosis at day 14 occurred in half the animals at preindustrial CO2 levels, but that dropped to less than seven percent at modern levels.

Overall, they suggest that population crashes in bivalves have been ascribed to a number of stresses, like overfishing and pollution, but it's possible that ocean acidification has also been at work in these cases. Given that the Earth has experienced higher CO2 levels in the past, why are they being hit so hard now? According to the paper, it's actually been over 24 million years since levels are likely to have been this high, and many shellfish have diversified more recently than that; any changes in CO2 in the intervening time have also been far more gradual than the current pace.

ars technica 20th September 2010.

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Arctic sea ice in 2010 melts to third lowest area on record

Arctic sea ice melted over the summer to cover the third smallest area on record, US researchers said on 15th September 2010, warning that global warming could leave the region ice free in the month of September 2030.

At the end of the spring and summer "melt season" in the Arctic, sea ice covered 4.76 million square kilometres (1.84 million square miles), the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) said in an annual report.

"This is only the third time in the satellite record that ice extent has fallen below five million square kilometres (1.93 million square miles), and all those occurrences have been within the past four years," the report said.

A separate report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that in August, too, Arctic sea ice coverage was down sharply, covering an average of six million square kilometres (2.3 million square miles), or 22 percent below the average extent from 1979 to 2000.

The August coverage was the second lowest for Arctic sea ice since records began in 1979. Only 2007 saw a smaller area of the northern sea covered in ice in August, NOAA said.

The record low for Arctic sea ice cover at the end of the spring and summer "melt season" in September, was also in 2007, when ice covered just 4.13 million square kilometres (1.595 million square miles).

Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC, said climate-change skeptics might seize the fact that Arctic sea ice did not hit a record-low extent this year, but said they would be barking up the wrong tree if they claimed the shrinkage had been stopped. "Only the third lowest? It didn't set a new record? Well, right. It didn't set a new record but we're still headed down. We're not looking at any kind of recovery here," he told AFP. In fact, Serreze said, Arctic sea ice cover is shrinking year-round, with more ice melting in the spring and summer months and less ice forming in the fall and winter.

"The Arctic, like the globe as a whole, is warming up and warming up quickly, and we're starting to see the sea ice respond to that. Really, in all months, the sea ice cover is shrinking — there's an overall downward trend," Serreze told AFP. "The extent of Arctic ice is dropping at something like 11 percent per decade — very quickly, in other words. Our thinking is that by 2030 or so, if you went out to the Arctic on the first of September, you probably won't see any ice at all. It will look like a blue ocean, we're losing it that quickly," he said.

Losing sea ice cover in the Arctic would affect everything from the obvious, such as people who live in the far north and polar bears, to global weather patterns, said Serreze. "The Arctic acts as a sort of refrigerator of the northern hemisphere. As we lose the ice cover, we start to change the nature of that refrigerator, and what happens up there affects what happens down here in the middle latitudes," he said. "We might have less cold outbreaks, which you might say is a good thing, but it's not such a good thing in regions that depend on snowfall for their water supply."

NOAA noted in its report that the first eight months of 2010 were in equal first place with the same period in 1998 for the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperatures on record worldwide, and the summer months were the second warmest on record globally, after 1998.

Source: Yahoo News, 16th September 2010.

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Most of the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill is now lying on the seabed

In contradiction to a US government report released last month saying that upwards of 70 percent of the oil released during the three month spill that followed the explosion of the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon has been cleared, university scientists are confirming that the majority of the oil is being found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Professor Samantha Joye of the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, who is conducting a study on a research vessel just two miles from the spill zone, said the oil has not disappeared, but is on the sea floor in a layer of scum, thus confirming earlier studies by the University saying as much as 80 percent of the oil still remained in the Gulf.

The studies also confirm that hundreds of thousands of gallons of the controversial oil dispersant Corexit dumped on the spill may have done more harm than good by simply cosmetically cleaning up the problem, which, at the bottom of the sea, will do far more long term harm than good.

"We're finding it everywhere that we've looked. The oil is not gone," Joye said. "It's in places where nobody has looked for it."

The oil will undergo tests to determine its exact provenance, but Joye said there is simply too much oil to be chalked up to natural seepage.

The discoveries are bound to reignite suspicions between residents of the Gulf of Mexico and the Federal Government, which was initially criticised for its handling of the spill. It also vindicates independent environmental research conducted by southern US universities after the spill began, which were initially witheringly denied by Federal response units and BP.

The findings also coincide with the 9th Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians now taking place in the European Parliament, where Bellona and others are demanding a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. "The Deepwater Horizon spill has revealed huge knowledge gaps," said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. "We know very little about how long it takes for oil to dissipate."

All 13 of the core samples which Prof. Samantha Joye and her team have collected from the bottom of the gulf are showing oil from the spill, she said. In an interview with ABC News from her vessel, Prof. Joye said the oil cannot be natural seepage into the gulf, because the cores they've tested are showing oil only at the top. With natural seepage, the oil would spread from the top to the bottom of the core, she said. "It looks like you just took a strip of very sticky material and just passed it through the water column and all the stuff from the water column got stuck to it, and got transported to the bottom," Joye said. "I know what a natural seep looks like — this is not natural seepage."

In some areas the oily material that Prof. Joye describes is more than two inches thick. Her team found the material as far as 70 miles away from BP's well. "If we're seeing two and half inches of oil 16 miles away, God knows what we'll see close in — I really can't even guess other than to say it's going to be a whole lot more than two and a half inches," Joye said.

This oil remaining underwater has large implications for the state of sea life at the bottom of the gulf. For Ian MacDonald, a Florida State University biological oceanographer, who is not a part of Joye's team, the latest studies confirm that the government assessments, especially the August report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), were too optimistic. The oil "did not disappear," he said. "It sank."

Prof. Joye said she spent hours studying the core samples and was unable to find anything other than bacteria and micro-organisms living within. "There is nothing living in these cores other than bacteria," she said. "I've yet to see a living shrimp, a living worm, nothing."

Studies conducted by the University of Georgia and the University of South Florida caused controversy back in August when they found that almost 80 percent of the oil that leaked from BP's well is still out in the waters of the Gulf. Prof. Joye and her team's report stands in stark contrast to that of the federal government, which on August 4 declared that 74 percent of the oil was gone, having broken down or been cleaned up.

"A report out today by our scientists shows that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water," President Obama said in August, referring to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) findings. The studies by Prof. Joye and other scientists found that what the government reported to the public in August only meant that the oil still lurked, invisible in the water.

The White House and the NOAA have so far issued no statement on the University of Georgia findings. "Nobody should be surprised," by the findings, Joye said. "When you apply large scale dispersants, it goes to the bottom — it sediments out. It gets sticky." Bellona's Frederic Hauge agreed. "It may seem as if BP and US authorities have been too quick to declare the danger is over. The use of dispersants has drawn a lot of oil down into the water, which extends the oil's life," he said.

Source: Bellona, 14th September 2010.

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EU launches "motorways of the sea" initiative

The Spanish and French governments launched the first EU motorway of the sea on 16th September, connecting the ports of Gijón and Nantes-San Lazaire, just a day after the European Commission called for better use of waterways at a ministerial meeting.

A freight service linking the two cities will operate three times a week first, then daily. The aim is to remove 100,000 lorries on this road segment annually. The service will receive €30m funding from Spain and France and €4m from the EU's Marco Polo programme.

There are currently 7.2 million lorry journeys annually between the Iberian peninsula and France carrying 55 million tonnes of freight compared with just 10Mt of sea-borne freight, according to Spain's transport and public works ministry.

The motorways of the seas initiative was launched by the EU Commission in its transport white paper and is part of the Trans-European network (TEN-T). A commission spokesman told ENDS the Gijón-Nantes connection was the first such motorway.

For a Map of Motorways of the Sea and additional information, see

Source: ENDS Europe, 16th September 2010.

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EU to give €45m in grants for green maritime research

The European Commission is going to grant €45m funding for large, multidisciplinary research projects on sustainability issues related to the maritime sector. A call for proposals will be launched, says the EU Commission.

The projects will fit around four themes: multi-use offshore wind platforms (€14m), bioinformatics to better understand marine ecosystems (€9m), the Mediterranean and Black Seas (€13m), and how to manage marine protected areas and wind energy (€9m).

Within these themes, projects will cover food, agriculture, fisheries, biotechnology, energy, environment and transport. Would-be participants will be able to apply until 18th January and projects will be selected by autumn 2011, according to the EU executive.

Further details, see EU Commission Press release here.

Source: ENDS Europe, 8th September 2010.

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Global warming could reduce the number of Arctic hurricanes, facilitating exploration

Global warming could halve the frequency of Arctic hurricanes — extreme storms that strike the north Atlantic during winter — by 2100, according to a new study, potentially encouraging exploitation of the region's oil reserves.

"Our results provide a rare example of climate change driving a decline in extreme weather, rather than an increase," says Matthias Zahn at the University of Reading. His study, published in the Nature journal. is the first to use a global climate model to assess how Arctic hurricanes may behave in a warmer world.

The results of his study may provide encouragement to oil and gas companies that currently consider drilling in the northern north Atlantic very risky, he says. "As the likelihood of hurricanes destroying oil rigs declines, drilling in the region may become a more attractive option."

Arctic hurricanes, also known as polar lows, are explosive storms that develop and die over a few days. They form when cold air from the Arctic flows south over warmer water: the air takes up heat, expands and rises, generating convection currents that sometimes snowball into storms.

Zahn and his colleague Hans von Storch, of the Meteorological Institute at Hamburg University, used a global climate model to project the impact of three scenarios on temperature, humidity and other variables in 2100. They then fed this data into a regional model to assess how polar lows may respond.

Assuming that greenhouse gas emissions rise rapidly in the future, the frequency of Arctic hurricanes could fall from an average of 36 per winter to about 17 by 2100, the model suggests. If emissions rise more slowly the number of hurricanes could fall to 23 per winter.

Polar lows are less likely to form in the future because climate change will warm up the air in the north Atlantic faster than it warms up the ocean, reducing the thermal difference and reducing the risk of convection currents forming.

The Arctic is of great interest to oil and gas companies, but Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, says many are concerned that extreme weather as well as icebergs could damage rigs and trigger oil spills. However he warns industry against interpreting Zahn's results as a signal that the region is safe to exploit. "As we have seen from BP in the Gulf of Mexico, there are plenty of hazards associated with drilling for oil and gas that have nothing to do with the weather," says Parr. "Even if the frequency of hurricanes declines, we would be bonkers to go into such a fragile ecosystem and risk sacrificing it just to obtain more oil."

Erik Kolstad at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen, Norway, adds that while polar lows may be reduced in some Arctic regions, they would only move onto others where sea ice has retreated to form new ocean. "These regions include the Barents Sea, where the Russians are exploring for gas and oil, the Northern Sea Route, where shipping companies hope to be able to travel from Asia to Europe, and in the Beaufort Sea, where the Canadians are exploring for oil and gas," says Kolstad.

Fewer polar storms could also mean less extreme weather in the UK, says Suzanne Gray at the Mesoscale Group at the University of Reading, who was not part of the research team. "Polar lows occasionally lead to heavy snowfall even over England. Motorways get blocked and people have to sleep in their cars overnight. So perhaps we won't be seeing so many of them in the future."

Source: The Guardian, 16th September 2010.

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Macabre Seal Deaths in North Norfolk

In the past month the mutilated bodies of 58 grey and common seals have been washed up on our North Norfolk beaches at Wells, Blakeney and Morston, adjacent to the well known Blakeney Point seal colony. All exhibit what appears to be a deep single smooth edged mechanical rotary blade cut extending from the head down the torso, evenly spiralling down the body, as seen in the picture below.

Dead seal

Some of the seals found have the skin and blubber stripped from the carcase down to the rib cage as in the picture below:

Dead seal

Whilst NE, the NT, the RSPCA and the Police are mystified, and can rule out malicious attack, a number of possible causes come to mind, e.g:

  1. Entrapment in the sand and gravel suction tubes employed in offshore seabed aggregate dredging.
  2. Impact from shipping side-thruster propeller blades.
  3. Entrapment by the cooling water suction intake of nuclear power plants, e.g. Sizewell.
  4. Contact with any experimental underwater weaponry in The Wash military testing ground.
  5. Contact with seabed excavators for cable routing from the Race Bank area wind turbines.
  6. Contact with unguarded rotary blade type undersea tidal turbines.
  7. Trapping by coils of World War II barbed wire coastal defences, previously covered by sand accretion, becoming exposed due to loss of cover with seabed lowering.

A rather defensive spokesman for Britannia Dredging informed MARINET that (1) is unlikely as either entry of the bulk of a seal would prove impossible or, were it possible, that the entire carcase would be macerated. Side thrust propellers (2) would be appear unlikely as they have been in wide use for many years, and the thrust is outward and away from the hull, not facilitating or inducing entry. (3) would appear to be unlikely as the nuclear plants are situated at Sizewell, well to the south and reversed to the main tidal flow of the area. As for (4) we cannot imagine what such could be and would not know or could readily find out as it would come under the Official Secrets Act, whilst (5) would probably be jet thrust channelling rather than suction. Although suction is not involved in (6) it would at first seem that this could conceivably be responsible if such generating devices are being tested in our area. Yet a reply to our enquiry of Professor Mike Cowling of the Crown Estate Marine Section, who license these, negates this hypothesis as no such devices have been licensed anywhere near the area concerned. (7) is a distinct possibility, as despite the passage of 70 years, some still remain, and can be seen at extreme low tides. But then one would expect random scratches and irregular cuts rather than the sharp edged deep linear slicing resultant.

Seals are very inquisitive creatures, and would be quite interested in any seabed activity, particularly if flatfish are being disturbed from their seafloor cover, as such ready meals are in short supply for them now.

MARINET is attempting to establish the exact nature of the mechanism used for seabed trench excavation for cable burial and precisely what mechanics the 'vacuum' pipes use in sucking up aggregates from the seabed.

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Is the Growth Hormone in GM Salmon a serious health risk?

Dan Kennedy, The Guardian 7th September 2010, writes:

"With fish stocks around the world depleted by overfishing and disrupted by climate change, farm-raised salmon stands as a viable if not entirely appetising alternative.

"Last Friday [3rd September 2010], though, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a potentially dangerous step. The agency ruled that salmon whose genes have been altered so that they grow more rapidly than their wild counterparts are safe for human consumption. In so doing, the FDA opened the door for salmon to become just another unhealthful cog in the industrial-food machine. And it may have foisted upon the public yet another cancer risk.

"According to a report in the New York Times, FDA scientists found that the altered fish,developed by AquaBounty Technologies, based in the Boston area, were unlikely to escape into the environment and cross-breed with native schools of Atlantic salmon. The agency also found that even though the genetically altered salmon carry elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a suspected carcinogen, those levels are so minute that they pose no health risk.

"Precautions aside, it requires considerably more than the customary level of naivety to believe wild salmon wouldn't be contaminated by their laboratory-designed cousins. If AquaBounty's progeny ever come to market, it would only be a matter of time before some unforeseen accident undid everyone's best intentions.

"But it is the IGF-1 about which we truly ought to be concerned, because the FDA's finding is evidence of an unacceptably narrow focus. The substance occurs naturally in salmon and other animal products, and the agency tells us that the genetically altered fish contains only a tiny amount more. Yet, by considering such matters one at a time, the FDA may well be introducing us to many tiny risks that start adding up to a very real risk.

"This isn't the first time we've had to worry about IGF-1. In the 1990s, the FDA approved the use of genetically engineered recombinant bovine-growth hormone (rBGH, also known as rBST) to induce cows to produce more milk. It was, and is, a controversial practice, and I wrote about it for an iconoclastic (and defunct) environmental journal called Garbage magazine.

"My reporting convinced me that rBGH posed a greater risk to cows than to humans, as the unnaturally high rate of milk production stressed the animals, sometimes resulting in an infection known as mastitis. (Which is treated with antibiotics. Which enter the food supply. Which — well, you get the picture.)

"But cows given rBGH, like genetically altered salmon, also have higher levels of IGF-1, some of which makes its way into the milk. Not enough to worry about? Perhaps. But if salmon and milk and a whole range of edible food-like substances (to use Michael Pollan's phrase) yet to come contain elevated levels of IGF-1, when, exactly, are we supposed to start worrying?

"In addition to being linked to colon, prostate and breast cancer, IGF-1 is a trigger for puberty, which has led to speculation that too much could cause puberty to come about prematurely. IGF-1 also has its uses, both legitimate and dubious. When human-growth hormone is administered as a corrective to children with certain rare types of hormonally based dwarfism, it stimulates the production of IGF-1, which in turn boosts growth. A quick search of the internet also reveals that IGF-1 is touted as an anti-aging formula and as a body-building substance.

"As it happens, I recently finished Jared Diamond's celebrated book Guns, Germs and Steel, which, among other things, explains the civilising effects of domesticating — that is, genetically altering — certain plants and animals. But genetic engineering as practiced in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago contained within it certain limits that ensured some degree of safety. Even the green revolution of the 1960s was based on tried-and-true methods of selective breeding.

"By contrast, modern scientific tools allow genetic engineers to try just about anything in order to see what will happen. AquaBounty's Atlantic salmon, for instance, contain a growth-hormone gene from Chinook salmon — and another gene from an entirely different fish, the ocean pout, which has the effect of keeping that growth-hormone gene switched on. The result is an alien creature, unknown in the natural world.

"Consumer and governmental wariness has so far prevented genetically modified foods from taking over our grocery shelves. Milk from cows given rBGH is banned by the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Some American companies — even Wal-Mart — have done a nice business selling milk guaranteed to be from rBGH-free cows.

"Likewise, a host of consumer organisations is fighting against genetically modified salmon. Typical is this statement from Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, which is full of warnings about the environmental, toxic and even allergenic hazards posed by "mutant salmon".

"The FDA won't make a final decision until later this fall, after a round of public hearings. So perhaps this is not yet a done deal. Maybe Michelle Obama is importuning her husband even now. Trouble is, there are few politicians willing to incur the wrath (and eschew the campaign contributions) of the American industrial food system.

"In the end, the battle over genetically modified salmon is emblematic of a larger problem: an ongoing shift away from real food in favour of substances concocted in a lab."

Source: The Guardian, 7th September 2010.

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Cornish Wave-Hub for marine renewable electricity has been successfully installed

After seven years in the making and a series of last-minute delays, the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA) has finally installed its pioneering Wave Hub device off the north Cornish coast, further establishing the UK as the world's leading test centre for marine energy.

The final phase of deployment has involved the cable-laying vessel Nordica lowering the 12-tonne socket onto the seabed, and specialist contractor CTC Marine has placed in position the device's four 300-metre cables which serve the four berths that will allow prototype wave energy devices to transmit energy back to the mainland.

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) has already signed up to plug its PowerBuoy wave energy converter into one of the berths and the RDA is currently in talks with a number of other marine energy developers about them using the test hub.

The PowerBuoy wave energy converterThe PowerBuoy wave energy converter, which is to be used as part of the Wave Hub project.

The news of the successful launch was welcomed by David Willetts, UK Science Minister, who said the project could help the UK become a leading exponent of marine energy, creating thousands of jobs in the coming decades. "The UK is already leading the way with 25 per cent of the world's wave and tidal technologies being developed here. This is a huge opportunity for UK business — the sector could be worth £2bn by 2050 and it has the potential to create up to 16,000 jobs by 2040."

South West RDA's Wave Hub general manager Guy Lavender said that the facility would provide a major boost to the UK's wave-energy sector for years to come. "Wave Hub will be on the seabed for the next 25 years, helping the world gain invaluable knowledge about how we tap the vast energy potential of our oceans in the pursuit of clean, abundant, renewable energy and cementing the UK's position at the forefront of this green power revolution," he said.

The project faced a number of delays earlier this summer when equipment problems and weather conditions halted installation of the 25km cable from the device to the shore. The Wave Hub device will now undergo a series of tests before the first marine energy device is deployed next year.

Source: The Guardian, 7th September 2010.

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Yet another Whitehall Norfolk coast visit

A succession of Government Ministers have been and gone to and from some of the worst eroding areas of East Anglia over the past few years, meeting selected people, offering a few words of encouragement but doing little in practice. Just as one appears to enter into rapport with one Minister, he is replaced, so the whole issue starts all over again.

The most recent visit was that by the new government Junior Environment Minister in charge of such matters, Richard Benyon, who came to see the ongoing carnage at Scratby, Hemsby, Winterton and Hopton, which coastal sites suffer, as he stated, "the most serious erosion problems in Europe" and where the withdrawal of sea defences under the latest government policies threaten much loss of life, livelihood, housing, business, amenity and a multi-million gap in the local economies.

Richard Benyon admitted that this was "a national problem that needs national solution" and gave an undertaking that he would look closely and carefully at the problems of protecting seaside communities where lives and businesses depend on big beaches but made it quite clear that there was not a huge pot of cash to bale out problem-hit areas.

The relating press items on the Ministerial visit are to be seen in the Lowestoft Journal as 'Our beach is disappearing' and also in the Lowestoft Journal under 'Minister visits erosion hotspots'.

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Ecological meltdown in the Firth of Clyde

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (C.O.A.S.T. comment in their most recent newsletter on the state of crisis which confronts fisheries and marine biodiversity in the Firth of Clyde. This follows publication, July 2010, of the paper by Dr. Ruth Thurstan and Prof. Callum Roberts, University of York, in which they document the very serious decline in the health of fisheries and marine biodiversity in the Firth of Clyde. The paper titled Ecological Meltdown in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland: Two Centuries of Change in a Coastal Marine Ecosystem can be viewed here.

C.O.A.S.T. write in their latest newsletter:

"Are the majority of Politicians and fishery managers completely out of touch with reality?"

"For over 7 years the Clyde has seen virtually no commercial white fish landings. Sea Anglers have struggled to catch a fish at all. The commercial mobile fishermen left in the Clyde rely on dragging and dredging the seabed for the last remaining invertebrates.

"Yet, we have calls from politicians like Liam MacArthur Lib-Dem MSP and leaders of the mobile fishermen, for relaxations in current effort control to allow them more freedom to catch what remains. This is the main reason the Clyde is in this dire position today; lobbying by the Clyde Fishermen's Association and associated MPs 25 years ago for the abolition of the 3 mile limit on trawling, resulted in destruction of white fish nursery beds and unsustainable short term over- fishing.

"The current effort control system of managing the fishery has obviously completely failed the Clyde over the past 25 years. Surely, it is time to return to area control.

"COAST like many other organisation and individuals based around the Clyde would like to ask Richard Lochhead just when is he going to start managing the Clyde on behalf of all its inhabitants. Or will he just continue to ignore the majority of voters in the south west of Scotland.

"We do not want more time wasting committees or working groups looking into the problems and possible solutions. We want a Cabinet Secretary with the common sense to see the obvious measures that need to be put in place; a re-introduction of the 3 mile limit in the Clyde that was abolished in 1985. To start to address a problem there is a clear need to acknowledge first that the problem exists. This year at long last Government scientists have finally acknowledged what local people have been saying for over a decade.

"View the latest government stock assessment: (n.b large pdf file)

"But this report only assesses fish and shellfish of interest to the commercial sector. In the Clyde an important part of the food web, the seabed has been wiped clean of the majority of its life and wiped clean of seabed habitats which are so important for a healthy ecosystem.

"Will Richard Lochhead, Cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment and Marine Scotland continue to ignore the facts?

"Will the usual spin and excuses be put out about Inshore Fishery Groups managing the fisheries for sustainability?

"The recent Marine (Scotland) Act might after 5-10 years protect a few individual rare or iconic species. It will not repair a broken ecosystem.

"The government have continually allowed one small section of the fishing industry a veto over any proposals put by the majority of Clyde stakeholders for change. If this continues communities around the Clyde will be left with only two options, using the courts and ballot box."

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Antarctic ice-shelf not as ancient as first thought

Bryozoans, a class of marine animal, make unlikely prophets of doom. Nevertheless, scientists believe these tiny marine creatures, which live glued to the side of boulders, rocks and other surfaces, reveal a disturbing aspect about Antarctica that has critical implications for understanding the impact of climate change.

collection of bryozoansBryozoans found in the Ross and Weddell seas. Photograph: British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey researchers have found the dispersal of these minute animals suggests a sea passage once divided Antarctica 125,000 years ago. The discovery was made for the ongoing Census of Antarctic Marine Life project and involved comparing bryozoans from the Ross and Weddell seas. These two seas are separated by the west Antarctic ice sheet, one of the planet's largest masses of ice. Bryozoans found in the Ross and Weddell seas should have been fairly different in structure if the sheet had been stable and ancient. The two populations would have slowly evolved in different manners, if the sheet was millions of years old.

But Dr David Barnes and his team discovered that the two populations were almost identical, indicating the two seas must have been connected by a major sea passage in the recent past, around 125,000 years ago. "What we've got is this group of animals that don't disperse very well because the adults don't move at all and the larvae are short-lived and sink, so they find it difficult to get around," says Barnes. "So you're left with this nice signal of where things used to be connected and, in this case, it appears to be a connection between what is now an ice sheet."

The impact of the west Antarctica ice sheet melting sufficiently to let a major sea passage extend through it would have been considerable. A complete collapse of the sheet today would lead to a sea-level rise of between 11ft and 16ft, for example, though the event uncovered by Barnes may only have been a partial one. Nevertheless, the research indicates that the great ice sheet, once thought to be impregnable, is really highly vulnerable.

Source: The Observer, 5 September 2010 .

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EU Commission decides on criteria for "Good Environmental Status" in Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The following Press Release was issued by the EU Commission in Brussels on 1st September 2010:

"The European Commission today adopted a decision outlining the criteria necessary to achieve good environmental status for Europe's seas. This will help Member States to develop co-ordinated marine strategies within each regional sea, ensuring consistency and allowing progress to be compared between regions. The definition of the criteria is a requirement under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which aims to achieve good environmental status in all EU marine waters by 2020.

"Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We want our seas to be healthy and productive. Today's decision is a starting point in establishing precise objectives for the achievement of good environmental status. The adoption of the decision on criteria for good environmental status during the International Year of Biodiversity marks a further step in the development of the post-2010 EU biodiversity strategy."

The Commission decision:

"The Commission decision on the criteria for Good Environmental Status of marine waters focuses on different aspects of marine ecosystems including biological diversity, fish population, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and noise.

"The criteria and associated indicators defined in the decision have been based on scientific and technical advice provided by independent experts and have to be used by Member States to determine the environmental status of the marine ecosystem. They build on existing obligations and developments in EU legislation, covering elements of the marine environment not yet addressed in existing policies.

"However, while some criteria are fully developed and operational others require further refinement. The decision highlights the need to develop additional scientific understanding for assessing good environmental status to support an ecosystem-based approach to the management of Europe's marine waters. A revision of the criteria will therefore be necessary to take account of new scientific knowledge.

2020 target for good environmental status

"Good Environmental Status means that the overall state of the environment in marine waters provides ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are healthy and productive. Use of the marine environment must be kept at a sustainable level that safeguards potential uses and activities by current and future generations. This means the structure, functions and processes of marine ecosystems have to be fully considered, marine species and habitats must be protected and human-induced decline of biodiversity prevented.

"To achieve the EU's objective of good environmental status for all marine waters by 2020, Member States have to develop marine strategies which serve as action plans for applying an ecosystem-based approach to the management of human activities. Good Environmental Status must be determined at the level of marine regions or sub regions, on the basis of 11 qualitative descriptors of the marine environment specified in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Regional co-operation is required at each stage of the implementation of the Directive."

Further information:
On the Marine Strategy Framework Directive:
On regional sea conventions:

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Huge mussel shellfish farm planned at Lyme Bay, Dorset

Plans have been announced for the largest offshore mussel farm in Europe to be set up in Lyme Bay, Dorset.

The company behind the project hopes it will produce up to 10,000 tonnes of mussels a year — more than the entire annual production of Scotland, where much of the UK industry is based.

The project, using 15.4 square kilometres of seabed leased from the Crown Estate, will be on three sites in the bay. Offshore Shellfish (OSL), which is to begin a pilot project, hopes eventually to employ up to 30 people on the farm and to help to create three times that number of jobs in the transport, engineering and supply industries.

photograph of mussels

Most shellfish production in Scottish lochs on the west coast is on ropes and long lines. Some schemes, such as that in the river Exe in Devon, grow mussels on the riverbed.

John and Nicki Holmyard have sold their business on Loch Etive to finance their £5m investment. "This new business is a unique opportunity to produce mussels away from the coast, which will help diversify and develop the full potential of large-scale seafood production in the UK," John Holmyard said. "The mussels will be grown on ropes suspended above the seabed, which ensures they are free from grit. Being offshore, the farm will be well flushed with clean oceanic water that is rich in the plankton on which the mussels feed naturally."

Initially, production will be aimed at the export market. "We designed this as a large-scale development to enable us to provide the volumes required by European buyers," said Nicki Holmyard. "However, with low per-capita consumption of mussels in the UK, our long-term aim is to develop the market by encouraging greater domestic consumption of this highly nutritious and delicious seafood."

In Scotland, mussels take two to three years to grow, but this should be reduced to two in the warmer waters off the south coast, she said.

Source: The Guardian, 4th September 2010.

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Compensation for Property Loss due to SMP?

A quite amazing potential offer was revealed in an item entitled "Cliff top home-owners weeks away from compensation offers" that appeared in the Eastern Daily Press of 28th August 2010, stating that owners of cliff top homes at Happisburgh, destined to lose their properties due to the withdrawal of funding for coastal defences under the demands of Managed Retreat in the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) may soon be offered part compensation for their losses. The houses would be bought and demolished if the offers were taken up.

Between 40 and 50% of the value was suggested, although this would probably not be at the market price but the pre-blight value, where previously any such compensation was refused. North Norfolk District Council leaders said "the offer was "a very important breakthrough which was both sustainable and reliable — and could have impacts nationally if the model was adopted at government level". But, they also said that they would only offer the part-reimbursement "of the theoretical value of their homes if they were inland and not at any risk from coastal erosion" Please note "if they were INLAND and NOT at any risk from coastal erosion". One just cannot believe that the owners of secure properties would wish to accept their half-value. Only those faced with approaching loss might do so, but it appears that they do not have this offer available. Thus the net cost would be nil.

Others in the UK faced with losing homes to river flooding, motorway and airport construction are fully compensated. In coastal Europe full compensation is available from sea flooding, though the situation does not arise as they have full coastal protection and a ban on the main cause, near-shore aggregate dredging. And they certainly do not have policies such as the Shoreline Management Plan that intentionally permits, allows, aids and abets the loss of the coastline.

No mention has been made of reimbursement of the huge losses that will come about with the loss of the holiday and tourist businesses, the amenity value of our beaches, the caravan sites and camping sites, or the fishing trade. The cost of compensation for such are vastly greater than the sum that would be saved by abandoning the sea defences.

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Fast-growing GM Salmon approved by US government scientists, but elsewhere there is great concern

Genetically modified salmon, which grows at a superfast rate, is safe to be farmed and eaten, American scientists have declared. The move by experts advising U.S. watchdogs will clear the way for the first GM creature to be sold as food.

The first GM salmon could be on American dinner tables within two to three years, and possibly on British plates soon after that, paving the way for the genetic modification of other fish and food animals into what critics are calling 'Frankenfood'.

image comparing the size of normal and GM salmon

Shares in the company behind the technology leapt by 26 per cent on the London Stock Exchange on Friday 3rd September, providing evidence that analysts see GM as the future of fish production. However, the science is highly controversial and consumers will have questions about the impact on human health and the environment.

Critics of GM food fear the technology leads to the creation of mutant misshapen fish and could harm wild fish populations if they escape. Research on GM trout in Canada found that while they grew faster and were much bigger, a number developed misshapen heads and bloated bodies.

The firm behind the GM Atlantic Salmon, Aqua Bounty, says its fish are normal but for the fact they grow up to three times more quickly. As a result, the AquAdvantage Salmon reach a market weight of around 3kg (6.6lb) in 16-18 months instead of the three years for farmed fish. In theory, they would reach around 6kg after three years, which would be double the size of most natural salmon of the same age.

The growth is speeded up by the insertion of two genes, one linked to the production of growth hormone and a second to ensure growth continues even in very cold temperatures.

The technology allows fish farmers to produce many more salmon at much lower cost, so boosting output and profits. The scientists behind the salmon have created safeguards to prevent any danger of them escaping and breeding with the wild population. These include ensuring all the fish involved are female and sterile. Now, two expert reports commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have concluded it is safe for GM salmon to go into production.

On health, the scientists on the Veterinary Medicines Advisory Committee said there are 'no material differences' between GM and conventional salmon. They say the fish contains the expected amounts of nutritionally important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They concluded: 'Food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon.' And they added 'there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption'.

However, they admitted there are gaps in the research looking at whether some types of GM fish — not those currently planned for dinner tables — might cause an allergic reaction.

On the environment, a second team of scientists concluded the safeguards put in place by Aqua Bounty would be sufficient to allow production to go ahead. Initially, the eggs would be produced in Canada, then shipped to Panama to be grown and then killed. Over time the technology would be extended worldwide.

The FDA is due to make a final decision this month on whether to approve the GM salmon.

But a coalition of 31 U.S. consumer, animal welfare, environmental and fisheries groups is opposing approval. They claim tests used to show the safety of the GM salmon were based on very small samples and point out that some of the fish had higher levels of growth hormone in their bloodstream, which is claimed to create a cancer risk.

While the GM fish are supposed to be sterile, critics said up to 5 per cent might be able to conceive and breed if they got into the wild. Pete Riley, director of campaign group GM Freeze, said: 'We are extremely concerned about the potential for these fish to escape.'

Source: The Daily Mail, 6th September 2010.

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UK seas can now supply fish to the nation for only 3 days out of every 5

In Britain we eat more fish than our seas can produce. UK fish supplies only last for seven months of the year. After that, the UK becomes dependent on fish from elsewhere, according to the report Fish Dependence from leading independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) and OCEAN2012,.

"We've cashed in the chips on our fish supplies; but we now have a big chance to restore fish stocks at the UK level and beyond" said Aniol Esteban, head of environmental economics at nef and co-founder of OCEAN2012.

The report points to the forthcoming reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as a unique opportunity to turn this situation around and create a new fisheries model that will restore marine ecosystems and deliver a fair share of resources across the world.

The report shows the impact of stock decline and rising consumption by mapping resources onto a calendar year and then finding the day when the EU — and each one of its member states — starts to eat the catch from the rest of the world. It shows that:

The nef / OCEAN2012 Report states that with 72% of fish stocks in European waters overfished, it is clear that we need to fish and consume in a different way; so that we can guarantee jobs, food and income, and support millions of livelihoods now and into the future.

"A healthy marine environment is a pre-condition to building a stronger economy, a more robust industry and happier fishing communities. There are fish without fisheries but no fisheries without fish." says Aniol Esteban from nef/OCEAN2012.

The next few months will define the direction of EU fisheries reform. The nef / OCEAN2012 Report calls on the UK government to show leadership and act to secure a new EU fisheries policy that delivers sustainable and fair outcomes for all.

"The good news is that some UK fish stocks are recovering, but the reality is that the large majority of stocks continue to be overfished. The UK government is showing some positive signals, but now is the time to translate these into real action." says Rupert Crilly from nef, and co-author of the report.

Findings of the report suggest the UK has potential to become a leader in sustainable fishing and consumption, which would ensure stock viability for future generations as well as improve our marine environment.

"Richard Benyon MP, fisheries minister, has a phenomenal opportunity to turn this situation around. Rewarding responsible fishing with priority access, and enshrining environmental sustainability as a condition for economic and social outcomes, are two basic principles that need to be at the heart of the reform" says Aniol Esteban.

Note: OCEAN2012 is an alliance of organisations dedicated to transforming European Fisheries Policy to stop overfishing, end destructive fishing practices and deliver fair and equitable use of healthy fish stocks. OCEAN2012 was initiated, and is co-ordinated, by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organisation working to end overfishing in the world's oceans. The founding members of OCEAN2012 are the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA), the Fisheries Secretariat (FISH), nef (new economics foundation), the Pew Environment Group and Seas At Risk (SAR).

Report: To view the Report, Fish Dependence, visit

Source: New Economics Foundation and OCEAN2010, 4th August 2010.

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UK and Norway agree to co-operate on offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and oil and gas

Energy ministers from the UK and Norway have signed a joint ministerial statement pledging to encourage the wind energy industry to exchange information on the development of offshore North Sea wind projects.

This will allow them to learn from each other and lower costs for industry across the entire value chain, claims the statement.

Charles Hendry signed the document during his visit to Norway, where he met the Norwegian minister of petroleum and energy, Terje Riis-Johansen, at the 2010 ONS conference and exhibition.

On renewables, the statement also says that the countries will "support and follow closely" the work of National Grid and Statnett (Norway's national network company) on a feasibility study for an interconnection between the UK and Norway.

It ties the UK and Norway to "work together to encourage uptake of renewables and access to green energy in developing countries, including through REEEP and IRENA". REEEP is the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership, which aims to catalyse the market for renewables with a focus on emerging markets and developing countries, while IRENA is the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The ministerial statement also highlights "the growing potential for North Sea marine renewable energy projects to bring new investment and green job opportunities and to strengthen energy security in the region".

As part of the priorities outlined in the document, Mr Hendry and Mr Riis-Johansen also agreed to work together on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), as well as the oil and gas industries.

On CCS, the document states that the two countries will:

Source: New Energy Focus, 25th August 2010.

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Pollution from British offshore oil rigs worsens

New provisional data published by the UK's health and safety agency has revealed a marked increase in the number of "major and significant" hydrocarbon releases from offshore oil platforms operating on the UK continental shelf in 2009-10.

Releases are up by more than a third on last year. The increase will cause concern as Britain is exploring further oil drilling near the Shetland Islands. In June, the government said it was going to increase the number of inspections at North Sea oil rigs.

Safety in the offshore oil and gas industry is under intense scrutiny after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The European Commission will announce legislative proposals to overhaul EU rules on oil drilling at the end of September.

For full details and to view the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report, see

Source: ENDS Europe, 25th August 2010

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Scottish trawlermen convicted of illegal herring and mackerel fishing

Six trawlermen from Shetland face unlimited fines and multi-million pound confiscation orders for illegally landing £15m worth of herring and mackerel to cheat strict quotas designed to conserve fish stocks.

The six skippers from Lerwick admitted that they made false declarations about the true size of their catch after nearly 200 voyages between January 2002 and March 2005, deliberately breaching their own annual fishing quotas.

Their conviction has followed a long-running investigation by police and the Scottish fisheries protection agency which also led to guilty pleas from a Lerwick-based fish wholesalers Shetland Catch Ltd for supplying false reports about the size of the landings.

The case is one of the largest-ever involving so-called "black landings", the illegal practice once widespread in Scottish ports where skippers deliberately caught and landed fish which breached quotas, in defiance of European conservation measures. The practice has largely died out, but Scott Pattison, director of operations with Scotland's prosecution authority, the Crown Office, said there were other similar investigations under way.

"This is not a victimless crime. The consequences of overfishing on this scale are far-reaching and the impact on fish stocks and the marine environment is potentially devastating," he said. "The legislation is to protect the marine environment for the good of all and to safeguard the fishing industry."

The six men were caught after the fisheries agency suspected widespread and significant quota breaches. Detailed "forensic accounting" uncovered significant discrepancies between the declared income for Shetland Catch and its actual income. Detective superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian police, who led the investigation, said: "As can be seen from the pleas tendered today, this was criminality at an extremely high level."

The Scottish mackerel fishery, the largest of its kind for the British fishing industry, is now accredited for its conservation practices by the Marine Stewardship Council.

However, British ministers and industry leaders are currently in a furious dispute with Iceland and the Faroes for dramatically increasing their self-declared mackerel quotas. Last week, one Faroese boat was blockaded at the quayside by angry local skippers in Peterhead.

Precise details were released after the hearing at the high court in Glasgow about the scale of the illegal landings by all six men, who had shared three trawlers. Robert John Polson, 47, made 46 "black" landings worth £3,682,000, and David Kay Hutchison, 64, made 49 landings worth £3,698,433, from the vessel Charisma; Thomas Sutherland Eunson, 55, made 18 illegal landings worth £1,457,243, and Allen Magnus Anderson, 44, made four undeclared landings valued at £442,168 from the trawler Serene; while John Arthur Irvine, 66, made 56 landings worth £3,658,981 and Allister Irvine, 61, made 25 landings worth £1,828,981 from the Zephyr.

European and British fisheries legislation requires skippers to make full declarations of their catch sizes, including the species of fish caught, within 48 hours of landing their catch in port, at the time to within 80% accuracy.

All six men are due to be sentenced in November, when they face unlimited fines. The Crown Office added that it was also pursuing a confiscation order under proceeds of crime legislation of up to £15m against all the accused. As a result of their conviction, they have also had their quotas of mackerel and herring drastically reduced between 2007 and 2012.

Source: The Guardian, 26th August 2010.

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Iceland and Faroe Islands claim increased mackerel fishing quotas

The Scottish Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has described the decision of both the Governments of Iceland and the Faroe Islands (constitutionally part of Denmark) to award arbitrary fishing quotas for mackerel as extremely damaging and irresponsible.

At the end of July, the Faroe Islands set a quota for mackerel of 85,000 tonnes for this year, which is 15 per cent of the recommended global total allowable catch (TAC) and far in excess of their previous four per cent share. This follows a recent decision by Iceland to declare themselves a quota of 130,000 tonnes.

It is believed that this level of fishing is likely to have a detrimental impact on the fishery and impact on the sustainability of the stock. It will undermine Scottish mackerel fishing, the first large-scale mackerel fishery in Europe to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Richard Lochhead said: "By setting a unilateral mackerel TAC far in excess of their previous share, both the Faroe Islands and Iceland have taken short-sighted and selfish decisions that could be disastrous for global mackerel stocks. Scotland is at the fore of promoting responsible, sustainable fishing practices therefore these unacceptable actions are deeply frustrating for Scottish fishermen.

"I'm pleased that the EU has now publicly denounced these extremely damaging and irresponsible actions by both countries. I am greatly encouraged by the commitment being shown by the EU on this and hope that these matters will be at the fore of Iceland's EU accession negotiations. Mackerel is one of the most sustainable fisheries thanks to the action that Scotland and other EU member states have taken to successfully manage stocks. This is now being put at risk by the irresponsible actions of Iceland and the Faroes."

Richard Lochhead has been working closely with Richard Benyon, UK Fisheries Minister, and the European Commission to find a solution to this issue. Both Richard Lochhead and Richard Benyon have written to European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki to raise their shared concerns. Mr Lochhead welcomes the subsequent announcement by the Commissioner voicing the EU objections to the actions taken by Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Source: Fish News 10th August 2010.

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Help decide which coastal areas need to be Marine Conservation Zones

SAILORS, surfers, scuba divers — in fact anyone who loves the sea — your country needs you. If you know your coastline like the back of your hand then you can help decide which areas need special protection.

Between now and 30th September, Natural England wants sea lovers to upload details of underwater species, habitats and landscapes to hep it decide which areas will be covered by Marine Conservation Zones. Information from Metro readers will be 'critical' in boosting scientific knowledge, said Michelle Hawkins from Natural England.

'It's really important they go to and share any information,' she added.

Recreational and commercial needs will be taken into consideration before zones get marked in 2012, the agency stressed. The only existing zone has covered parts of Lundy Island off north Devon since 2003.

Five years on, lobsters are growing up to seven times bigger than they used to.

Lundy's second annual underwater photography competition, the 'Splash-In', took place last month and produced some spectacular shots of marine life and habitats.

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Bid for oil company suggests there is still plenty of oil in the North Sea

The near $2bn bid for Dana Petroleum is a boost for the North Sea showing that high values can still be put on companies with exposure to a very mature oil region that some had mocked as the new Dead Sea.

The Dana move is not exceptional with Addax Petroleum being snapped up the Chinese and even BG — formerly part of British Gas and with a wide range of UK assets — among the companies which saw their share price roar ahead on the back of more takeover speculation, this time involving Shell. But generally, the oil majors such as Shell and BP have been in retreat from their home base preferring to put their mega-bucks into up-and-coming provinces further afield such as offshore Angola, deep water Brazil or even Iraq.

The Oil & Gas UK, the industry group, reported this year that the amount of exploration and appraisal drilling had slumped by 40% in 2009 to 65 wells while the number of new fields sanctioned by government was down by 50% to six. But the organisation has continued to argue that the North Sea still offers enormous opportunities pointing out that nearly £5bn is spent annually on offshore schemes supporting 440,000 jobs.

There are also large companies such as Total of France keen to produce hydrocarbons from new frontiers such as West of Shetlands but generally the bigger groups have been in retreat.

The latest problems in the Gulf of Mexico has triggered a sell-off of assets by BP worldwide but it has denied speculation that it would dispose of further North Sea fields in a bid to raise cash.

Equally the Deepwater Horizon blow-out has raised questions about whether oil companies will have the kind of access they have had to deep water drilling in the Gulf plus West Africa and elsewhere. This could play into the hands of those who believe that the North Sea might offer much smaller discoveries compared to the "elephants" of Angola but are much easier to produce.

Oil & Gas UK is convinced that with the right tax incentives the North Sea could still keep on producing much-needed oil — and even more so gas — for many years on top of the near 40bn barrels that have already been recovered. Many companies are now planning to build wind farms deep into the North Sea but it will be a while before the silver city of Aberdeen is known for green energy rather than black gold.

Source: The Guardian, 20th August 2010.

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At least 75% of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil-spill still in the sea

White House claims that the worst of the BP oil spill is over have been undermined when a senior government scientist said three-quarters of the oil was still in the Gulf environment and a research study detected a 22-mile plume of oil in the ocean depths.

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) departed from an official report from two weeks ago which suggested the majority of the oil had been captured or broken down.

"I would say most of that is still in the environment," Lehr, the lead author of the report, told the house energy and commerce committee.

The growing evidence that the White House has painted an overly optimistic picture when officials claimed two weeks ago the remaining oil in the Gulf was rapidly breaking down has fuelled a sense of outrage in the scientific community that government agencies are hiding data and spinning the science of the oil spill. No new oil has entered the Gulf since 15 July, but officials have said the well is unlikely to be sealed for good until mid-September.

Under questioning from the committee chair, Ed Markey, Lehr revised down the amount of oil that went into the Gulf to 4.1m barrels, from an earlier estimate of 4.9m, noting that 800,000 barrels were siphoned off directly from the well.

By some estimates, as much as 90% of the oil was unaccounted for. Lehr said 6% was burned and 4% was skimmed but he could not be confident of numbers for the amount collected from beaches.

NOAA has been under fire from independent scientists and Congress for its conclusions and for failing to explain how it arrived at its calculations. The agency has failed to respond to repeated requests from Congress to reveal its raw data and methodology.

Markey told Lehr the NOAA report had given the public a false sense of confidence. "You shouldn't have released it until you knew it was right," he said. "People want to believe that everything is OK and I think this report and the way it is being discussed is giving many people a false sense of confidence regarding the state of the Gulf," Markey said.

Lehr said the agency would release all supporting data in two months. But the impression of stonewalling has damaged the credibility of the Obama administration in the scientific community.

"That report was not science," said Ian MacDonald, an ocean scientist at Florida State University who has studied the Gulf for 30 years. He accused the White House of making "sweeping and largely unsupported" claims that three-quarters of the oil in the Gulf was gone. "I believe this report is misleading," he said. "The imprint will be there in the Gulf of Mexico for the rest of my life. It is not gone and it will not go away quickly." MacDonald went on to warn of a tipping point from which the wildlife and ecosystem in the Gulf could not recover.

Meanwhile experts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have mapped a 22-mile plume of oil droplets from BP's well, providing the strongest evidence so far over the fate of the crude.

"These results indicate that efforts to book-keep where the oil went must now include this plume," said Christopher Reddy, one of the Woods Hole team. The report also said the plume was very slow to break down by natural forces. "Many people speculated that subsurface oil droplets were being easily degraded," said Richard Camilli, the lead author of the paper. "Well, we didn't find that. We found it was still there."

The scientists zigzagged for hundreds of miles across the ocean to track the plume, taking 57,000 readings of its chemical signature during a 10-day research voyage at the end of June. The Woods Hole effort reinforces earlier reports from research voyages by scientists from the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University who detected the presence of deep water plumes of oil.

University of South Florida scientists have reported oil in amounts that were toxic to critical plankton on the ocean floor far east of the spill. Those findings have not been reviewed by other scientists.

According to the Woods Hole findings, the deep water plume is 22 miles long — or about the length of Manhattan — 1.2 miles wide and 650ft high. It noted that the plume was not made up of pure oil but included toxic oil compounds including benzene and xylene. This has raised new questions about the administration's decision to use nearly 2m gallons of a chemical dispersant Corexit to break up the oil.

The NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, herself an ocean scientist, has played down the first reports of oil in the ocean depths, whilst Ian MacDonald, an ocean scientist at Florida State University, and other scientists have accused NOAA of discouraging them from making public their findings about lingering oil in the deep water.

A NOAA spokeswoman said that the Woods Hole voyage was in late June, while the broken BP well was still spewing oil. "It's not necessarily an indication of where we are today" she said. A NOAA team reported two weeks ago that just over a quarter of oil remained in the Gulf as a light sheen on the surface or degraded tar balls washing ashore.

Source: The Guardian, 19th August 2010.

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Norwegian preparedness for marine oil spills described as shameful

One year after a Chinese tanker grounded off Telemark and fouled Norway's southern coast, environmental activists and those charged with clean-up preparedness are crying "foul" themselves. They're blasting the government for failing to follow up on promises to boost spill-fighting capabilities.

Norway's coalition government, led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour Party, has come under even more criticism. Newspaper Aftenposten and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) have been among the media outlets taking the pulse of oil spill preparedness on the anniversary of the grounding of the tanker Full City and following BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They've interviewed officials from environmental organisations and public authorities charged with tackling oil spills when they occur, and they're not happy.

oil spill from grounded tanker

WWF, for example, released a report late last week that was strongly critical of the government's response to the Full City spill. They contend that necessary vessels and equipment needed to clean up oil spills and prevent them from spreading are still not in place along most of Norway's coastline.

Tugboats are now in place along the southern coast, WWF concedes, but no agreements are in effect for tugboats to be deployed from Egersund in the south to Lofoten in the north along Norway's long west coast. Other vessels earmarked for oil spill clean-up are old and slow, WWF claimed, and heavy bunker oil is still allowed on ships sailing in and out of Norwegian ports.

WWF claimed that much of the preparedness that has improved was in response to demands from as long ago as 2001, not after last summer's oil spill that ranked as the largest in Norwegian history and sentenced the vessel's captain to jail.

"It's especially shameful that we don't have full tugboat preparedness along the entire coast," Nina Jensen of WWF told Aftenposten.

Other groups are criticising a proposal to reduce the number of ships requiring pilots on board, fearing that can lead to more accidents and groundings.

Government officials, already on the defensive over a number of other environmental issues of late, contend they have responded to last year's spill and are following up on their promises. Karl-Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen of the Labour Party, chief of staff in the prime minister's office, said the tugboats are in place along the especially sensitive southern coast, a popular holiday destination, and that "we have focus" on the need for strengthening preparedness along the West Coast as well. He also noted that NOK 127 million in extra funding was allocated for oil spill preparedness, calling that "a major boost" for maritime safety and environmental protection.

Source: News and Views from Norway, 3rd August 2010.

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UK ports to be fast-tracked through planning process

New Civil Engineer (NCE) reports that ports in the UK are to be fast-tracked through the planning process. A framework for new port development was published earlier this week in the draft ports National Policy Statement (NPS). Published by the Department for Transport (DfT), new ports in England and Wales will have planning decisions made by the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), informed by the ports NPS.

NCE claimed that new port facilities are going to play an important role in building a low-carbon future by allowing renewable energy sources, such as offshore wind, to be deployed, and reported "The new NPS, which is subject to public consultation, sets out the broad need for additional ports capacity up to 2030 and beyond. It will apply to major developments of at least 500,000 TEU (container units) per year — a port less than one-sixth the size of Felixstowe."

Shipping minister, Paul Clark said: "With over 90 per cent of all goods arriving in the UK by sea, our ports currently employ over 54,000 people and clearly play a crucial role in the daily life of everybody in this country." whilst CBI's Director of Business Environment, Dr Neil Bentley, told NCE: "While it is completely right that ports are free to operate on a commercial basis, any planned development clearly needs to be considered carefully to ensure local and environmental issues are properly taken into account. This new document will make it easier for those wishing to invest in ports development to submit planning applications, as well as providing an important framework for the IPC to use when considering them,"

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Will Gower yet retain its Beach?

A large area of sand off the coast of The Gower in South Wales could be left untouched following a major rethink by a dredging company. According to a report on 'This is South Wales', Llanelli Sand Dredging had said it intends to relinquish its hard-fought licence to remove up to 1,050,000 tonnes of sand from Helwick Bank, near Port Eynon, over a seven year period. But in return, the company requires a variation on a separate dredging licence relating to Nobel Banks, an area further out to sea in the Bristol Channel.

The report said that the move was warmly welcomed by protesters (Gower SOS) who have long hard fought to stop the Helwick Bank licence being granted in a campaign, even mounting a public inquiry held in Swansea in 2006. They feared, among other things, years of dredging at Helwick Bank was responsible for the loss of sand at Port Eynon beach.

Llanelli Sand Dredging said it recognised "continued public concern regarding further dredging on Helwick Bank", but pointed out there were few alternatives sources of sand to supply the construction market, and pledged to continue to monitor the seabed surrounding areas at Nobel Banks where it had removed sand.

The full report may be read at

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Do we perceive a 'rethink' on Marine Aggregate Dredging?

Sand and Gravel News have reported that the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) and The Crown Estate have made a joint public statement of intent which committed both parties to reviewing all dredging licences over a rolling five-year period, surrendering areas no longer containing economic resources of marine sand and gravel, and publishing an annual report detailing the extent of dredging activities within licensed areas.

BMAPA Chairman John Miller (CEMEX UK Marine) said: "While the original intention of this initiative was to improve the transparency of the industry's activities and to encourage improvements in practice, the policy, planning and regulatory environment in which we all have to operate has undergone a fundamental Sea Change thanks to the Marine Bill. We are now moving beyond the high level concept towards the practical delivery of improvements on the ground (or water…). As we do so, accurate spatial information about offshore activities — past, present and future — will become increasingly valuable in helping to deliver sustainable marine management. In this respect, perhaps after 10 successful years the Area Involved initiative has yet to actually realise its true value in helping to support the sustainable management of marine aggregate extraction operations in UK waters."

Following the ten-year anniversary of the Area Involved Initiative in 2008, a new report has been published which provides an overview of the changes in the area of seabed licensed and dredged between 1998 and 2007, along with some explanation of the observed trends. Building on the five-year review, published in 2005, this report also provides data on the total extent of dredging that has occurred over the period, the cumulative dredge footprint. The key trends reported include:

Documents appertaining are available to be downloaded from the websites of either BMAPA ( or The Crown Estate ( or the full report may be read at and

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UK Government designates 15 new Marine Protected Areas under EU legislation

As part of the UK's contribution to the EU's Natura 2000 network, the UK government has named and now submitted to the European Commission 15 new marine sites for protection. 13 of the sites will be protected as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), and 2 areas will be protected as Special Protection Areas (SPA).

The new sites will ensure the conservation of a wide range of marine organisms from sponges and sea squirts through to sea birds. The range of habitats covered by the new areas is also diverse with sandbanks, reefs and caves being among the types of habitats covered.

The new protection will mean that fishing, dredging and other developments such as offshore wind farms will be restricted or banned altogether. All 15 sites have been named following substantial research and consultation to ensure the sites offer the best in conservation resources.

Consultation and research is still on-going at a number of additional sites, including Dogger Bank which is considered to be a potential site for a large scale wind farm and a major contribution to the UK renewable energy target. The Dogger Bank is also a major nursery for commercial fisheries.

Marine Environment Minister, Richard Benyon, commented: "Our seas are home to some of the most diverse species and habitats in the world and they need just as much protection as our land. This is a major step forward in helping us to achieve clean, healthy and vibrant seas where marine life can thrive."

The sites located all around the UK coast will cost about £4 million to set up and have an annual running cost of £1.3 million to manage and monitor.

If the new reserves are accepted by the European Commission for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network, it will effectively double the area of the marine environment that the UK has under conservation or protection status. This will mean that more than 4% of the UK's marine area will be covered by conservation measures.

The new candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are:

The new Special Protection Areas (for birds) are:

The sites are identified on the following map, Source The Guardian 20th August 2010.

Special Areas of Conservation map

The sites were proposed following investigation by partner organsiations Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales and Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Natural England is responsible for inshore marine areas (0 - 12 nautical miles off the coast) around the English coast. The Countryside Council for Wales is responsible for inshore marine areas (0 - 12 nautical miles off the coast) around the Welsh coast, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee is responsible for offshore marine areas (12 - 200 nautical miles off the coast) around the UK.

Source: Wildlife News, 20th August 2010.

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Now Atlantic is found to have huge 'garbage patch'

A huge expanse of floating plastic debris has been documented for the first time in the North Atlantic Ocean. The size of the affected area rivals the "great Pacific garbage patch" in the world's other great ocean basin, which generated an outcry over the effects of plastic waste on marine wildlife.

The new plastic waste, which was discovered in an area of the Atlantic to the east of Bermuda, consists mostly of fragments no bigger than a few millimetres wide. But their concentrations and the area of the sea that is covered have caused consternation among marine biologists studying the phenomenon.

Small fragments of plastic could pose an even greater menace to marine life than the larger fragments that become entangled with animals such as albatrosses and turtles. We know that smaller pieces of plastic are eaten and it's unclear what happens to that plastic then. But clearly biological organisms were not designed to eat plastic.

Source: Independent 20th August 2010.

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North Norfolk Seal Death Mystery

Thirty-eight seals grey and common with macabre injuries have been washed up on North Norfolk beaches ranging from Wells down to Blakeney and Morston in the past two weeks. Their injuries, all consisting of a single smooth edge deep cut starting at the head and spiralling down the torso of the animals, appears to have been caused by a single rotating blade within a channel or cowling, or by the seals rotating past a static blade.

Dave Thompson of the Sea Mammal Research Unit in St Andrews, Scotland, who is assisting the investigation with Wells Police, the National Trust, The Marine Management Organisation, the RSPCA, Natural England, National Wildlife Crime Unit, Eastern Sea Fisheries, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reported that he had seen identical injuries and consequent seal deaths off the coast of Fife over the past two years, but not near on the scale as those now being seen in Norfolk.

The injuries are not fully consistent with the animals being caught up in boat propellers nor could have been caused by another seal or a predator nor that any individual has been cutting them with a knife. A number of possible theories have been voiced, some linking them to the excavation of cable channels for The Wash wind turbines, some to the seabed suction tubes used by offshore aggregate dredgers, some to the sea water cooling intake from the distant nuclear power stations, some to the animals entering a tidal stream electricity generator, others to propeller strikes by azimuth cowled thrusters from the increased shipping activity in the area. The investigation continues.

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World's largest offshore tidal turbine about to be installed in Scottish waters

The world's largest tidal turbine has been unveiled at a facility in Invergordon, Scotland, marking the culmination of a decade of development activity, and moving tidal power one step closer to commercial viability.

The AK1000 has been developed by Atlantis Resources Corporation, a developer of electricity-generating tidal current turbines, and is due to be installed on the sea bed and connected to the grid at a dedicated berth at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney later this summer.

The company said the turbine is capable of generating enough electricity for more than 1,000 homes and is designed for harsh weather and rough, open ocean environments such as those off the Scottish coast.

Turbine on quaysideWorld's Largest Tidal Power Turbine Is Unveiled Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The AK1000 tidal energy turbine above, developed by Atlantis Resources, is loaded onto a barge in Invergordon, Scotland. It stands 22.5m high. It has an 18 metre rotor diameter, weighs 130 tonnes and stands 22.5 metres high. It is capable of dispatching 1MW of predictable power at a water velocity of 2.65m/s.

Atlantis chief executive Timothy Cornelius said the unveiling and installation of the turbine marked an important milestone for the marine power industry in the UK. "The AK1000 is capable of unlocking the economic potential of the marine energy industry in Scotland and will greatly boost Scotland's renewable generation capacity in the years to come," he said. "Today is not just about our technology, it is about the emergence of tidal power as a viable asset class that will require the development of local supply chains employing local people to deliver sustainable energy to the local grid. The AK1000 takes the industry one step closer to commercial-scale tidal power projects."

Atlantis claims the AK1000 development programme has already injected more than £5m into the UK's renewable energy sector and has provided employment across a broad range of sectors including design, engineering, fabrication and project management.

"We are at the start of a new industrial boom, akin to the development of the North Sea oil and gas fields," said Cornelius. "If we receive the same support from all levels of government that the oil and gas industry received to make the North Sea the success that it is, then the future is very bright for marine power and even brighter for Scotland."

Source: The Guardian, 13th August 2010.

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Concern is expressed that "austerity cuts" will damage marine conservation

Plans to set up a network of marine conservation areas and safely build vast offshore windfarms and deep-sea oil rigs around the UK could be hampered or irreparably damaged by spending cuts, senior ecologists have warned. They fear that 40% cuts in the government's environment funding will hit crucial research programmes into the health of Britain's seas at a time of unprecedented pressures on marine habitats.

Conservationists believe the cuts will severely affect a marine research centre in Aberdeen, an outpost of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), where 30 scientists and support staff lead crucial surveys and scientific studies on fish stocks, marine biodiversity and the seabed around Britain.

One senior government adviser said that this would leave the UK exposed to legal action and potentially the loss of funding from the European commission for breaching its duties under EU birds and habitats directives, which require ministers to protect vulnerable species such as dolphins and sea birds.

Legal action and uncertainties about the suitability of sites could delay the offshore renewables programme and cost industry and the taxpayer more in future. "It's a double bang: it gets in the way of development and if we make mistakes we'll be clobbered by the [EU] commission. We'll get whopping great penalties, to say nothing of the reputational damage," he said.

Energy companies are installing thousands of offshore wind turbines around the British coast, while the oil industry, led by BP, is pushing for licences to drill test wells in deep but poorly studied waters off western Scotland and Shetland.

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 passed by the Labour government, the UK is also committed to setting up a network of marine conservation zones, dedicated to preserving the most vulnerable and significant areas of sea, as the first step towards introducing marine protection areas where tough controls on industry, fishing and pollution will be enforced.

Stuart Housden, director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said the JNCC's work in Aberdeen played a vital role in establishing where to set up marine protection zones and where it was safest to build offshore windfarms or tidal and wave power machines, or to sink oil wells.

"These are very expensive and difficult to do, and these processes have already been starved of funds, but at the same time governments in Edinburgh and London are very anxious to see opportunities for offshore renewables and oil and gas pursued with vigour," he said. "But to do that we need to have good environmental assessments; we need to know what's out there and where to declare the best protected areas. They're trying to cut corners and save money when the pressures to do developments at sea are so fast and furious, and before the best sites are identified, with serious damage potentially being done."

Source: The Guardian, 14th August 2010.

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Calving of large ice block from a Greenland glacier could portend the future

The entire ice mass of Greenland will disappear from the world map if temperatures rise by as little as 2°C, with severe consequences for the rest of the world, a panel of scientists has told the US Congress.

Greenland has just shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University

"Sometime in the next decade we may pass that tipping point which would put us warmer than temperatures that Greenland can survive," reported Alley to the US Congress, adding that a rise in the range of 2°C to 7°C would mean the obliteration of Greenland's ice sheet. The fall-out would be felt thousands of miles away from the Arctic, unleashing a global sea level rise of 23ft (7 metres), Alley warned. Low-lying cities such as New Orleans would vanish. "What is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that nature has ever done," he said.

Speaking by phone, Alley was addressing a briefing held by the House of Representatives committee on energy independence and global warming. Greenland is losing ice mass at an increasing rate, dumping more icebergs into the ocean because of warming temperatures, he said.

The stark warning was underlined by the momentous break-up of one of Greenland's largest glaciers which has set a 100 sq mile chunk of ice drifting into the North Strait between Greenland and Canada. The briefing also noted that the last six months had set new temperature records.

Robert Bindschadler, a research scientist at the University of Maryland, told the briefing: "While we don't believe it is possible to lose an ice sheet within a decade, we do believe it is possible to reach a tipping point in a few decades in which we would lose the ice sheet in a century."

satellite view of glacierAn enormous chunk of ice, roughly 97 square miles in size, has broken off the Petermann Glacier along the northwest coast of Greenland. Photograph:Aqua/Modis/Nasa

The ice loss from the Petermann Glacier was the largest such event in nearly 50 years, although there have been regular and smaller "calvings". Petermann spawned two smaller breakaways: one of 34 sq miles in 2001 and another of 10 sq miles in 2008.

Andreas Muenchow, professor of ocean science at the University of Delaware, who has been studying the Petermann glacier for several years, said he had been expecting such a break, although he did not anticipate its size. He also argued that much remains unknown about the interaction between Arctic sea ice, sea level, and temperature rise. Muenchow told the briefing that over the last seven years he had only received funding to measure ocean temperatures near the Petermann Glacier for a total of three days. He was also reduced, because of a lack of funding, to paying his own airfare and that of his students to they could join up with a Canadian icebreaker on a joint research project in the Arctic

Source: The Guardian, 10th August 2010.

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UK faces financing problem for its offshore wind programme

Britain will miss its target to deliver 30% of electricity generation from renewable energy by 2020 unless investment in new offshore wind capacity is increased significantly, according to the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The current scarcity of pre-construction finance is hampering efforts to build new offshore capacity, according to PwC. Offshore wind is expected to deliver around half of the additional 27GW of renewables capacity needed to meet the 30% target. This implies an average annual roll-out rate of 1.1GW, which is significantly above the historical build rate. In 2009, 0.3GW of offshore capacity was completed in the UK. Developers will need annual funding of up to £10bn to achieve the annual roll-out rate. Annual funding would have to peak by around 2015.

"It would be highly risky for the UK to think it can plan for a significant increase in roll out towards the second half of the decade to reach the [30%] target once a recovery is in place… particularly given the reliance on a smooth supply chain, planning consent and grid access," said the consultancy. PwC recommends several options to resolve pre-construction financing issues in the offshore wind power sector. For example, the Green Investment Bank announced by the government could provide some funding but with just £2bn of capital it will not be able to make a significant contribution.

Other possible remedies include underwriting risks through new taxes such as a levy on electricity consumers, additional renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) for a limited period, or making offshore investments tax free for the public through Individual Savings Account (ISA) holders, says PwC.

Investment in the sector could also be opened up to pension funds if risk prospects were lowered, perhaps through a regulated asset scheme with capped liabilities for cost over-runs. An estimated total of £33bn is needed between now and 2020 to develop additional offshore wind capacity in the UK.

Source: ENDS Europe, Monday 26 July 2010.

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Many UK Blue Flag beaches could be contaminated by sewage

We reproduce here an extract from an article in The Guardian, 6th August 2010, which reports on a claim made by Surfers Against Sewage ( that around one-quarter of the Blue Flag beaches in the UK are in fact contaminated by sewage originating from storm overflows, thus causing serious health risks to sea bathers at those beaches.

The Guardian states: "At least one in four of Britain's premier bathing beaches are failing to meet the strict requirements of their "Blue Flag" designation, freedom of information requests to local authorities and beach operators have found.

The result is that tens of thousands of bathers who believe they have been swimming in Britain's cleanest waters may have unknowingly been exposed to raw sewage, according to pollution watchdog group Surfers against Sewage (SAS). The beaches in question have no system in place to monitor daily sewage pollution or to warn people if an overflow occurs. SAS says they should be stripped of their status.

Only 131 beaches in Britain have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status, an international standard that is only granted if beach operators meet more than 30 strict criteria. Local authorities, who compete to get the coveted designation, pay more than £600 a year to be allowed to fly the blue flag.

But SAS research seen by the Guardian shows that 35 of the 131 beaches cannot possibly meet criterion 28 of the Blue Flag code. This requires beach operators to warn the public during and after emergency pollution events, such as a sewage discharge. According to the Freedom of Information requests made by the group, many local authorities responsible for accredited beaches do not ask for any data from water companies on combined sewage overflow spills, where heavy rain causes sewers to flood and discharge into the sea.

The 35 beaches named by SAS include some of the most popular in Britain (see full list below). There are 20 in England, including Polzeath and four others in Cornwall, Woolacombe and one other in Devon, Margate and four others in Kent and several on the Isle of Wight. A further nine beaches in Wales, three in Scotland and three in Northern Ireland were named.

Andy Cummins, SAS director, called for the 35 beaches to lose their Blue Flag status. "It is a major concern that these 35 beaches could have the Blue Flag flying while the public could unwittingly be swimming around in raw sewage discharged from nearby combined sewer overflows. Pathogens associated with sewage polluted waters include E.coli 0157H, hepatitis A, and gastroenteritis. We have had many calls from people saying that they used Blue Flag beaches and who said they became very ill. It's impossible to prove that they have been made ill by pollution picked up there, but we have compelling cases of incidents impacting on people's health."

Cummins said he suspected that many other popular bathing beaches were regularly polluted by raw sewage: "There are more than 20,000 combined sewage outfalls (CSOs) and it is very hard to keep track of them."

List of beaches

The beaches named by SAS as having no system in place to monitor daily sewage pollution or to warn people if an overflow occurs are:

Source: The Guardian, 6th August 2010.

Note: The full range of pathogens and diseases which bathers may be exposed to in sewage contaminated bathing waters can be seen on the MARINET website at

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4th August: the day the UK starts eating someone else's fish

In Britain we eat more fish than our seas can produce. UK fish supplies only last for seven months of the year, after that, the UK becomes dependent on fish from elsewhere, according to the report Fish Dependence from leading independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) and OCEAN2012, published this July.

The report points to the forthcoming reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as a unique opportunity to turn this situation around and create a new fisheries model that will restore marine ecosystems and deliver a fair share of resources across the world

The report shows the impact of stock decline and rising consumption by mapping resources onto a calendar year and then finding the day when the EU — and each one of its member states — starts to eat the catch from the rest of the world. It shows that:

UK could show leadership on EU fisheries — The next few months will define the direction of EU fisheries reform, nef / OCEAN2012 call on the UK government to show leadership and act to secure a new EU fisheries policy that delivers sustainable and fair outcomes for all.

The report urges immediate action to:

The full article can be read at the new economics foundation.

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Scientists conduct a species census of the oceans, but warn of mass extinctions

A scientific study over the last 10 years of the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the world's oceans, The Census of Marine Life, has attempted to paint a baseline of marine life and estimates there are more than 230,000 species in our oceans, but most ocean organisms still remain nameless and their numbers unknown.

A team of more than 360 scientists around the world have spent the past decade surveying 25 regions, from the Antarctic through the temperate and tropical seas to the Arctic in order to count the different types of plants and animals. The results show that around a fifth of the world's marine species are crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, krill and barnacles. Add in molluscs (squid and octopus) and fish (including sharks) and that accounts for up to half of the number of species in the world's seas. The charismatic species often used in conservation campaigning — whales, sea lions, turtles and sea birds — account for less than 2% of the species in the world's oceans.

The surveys have also highlighted major areas of concern for conservationists. "In every region, they've got the same story of a major collapse of what were usually very abundant fish stocks or crabs or crustaceans that are now only 5-10% of what they used to be," said Mark Costello of the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland in New Zealand. "These are largely due to over-harvesting and poor management of those fisheries. That's probably the biggest and most consistent threat to marine biodiversity around the world."

The main threats to date include overfishing, degraded habitats, pollution and the arrival of invasive species. But more problems are around the corner: rising water temperatures and acidification thanks to climate change and the growth in areas of the ocean that are low in oxygen and, therefore, unable to support life.

The Census of Marine Life identified enclosed seas such as the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, China's shelves, Baltic, and the Caribbean as having the most threatened biodiversity. "Enclosed seas have the risk that, when you impact it and throw chemicals or other garbage into it, it will not go away so easily as it will from the open ocean," said Miloslavich. Dense coastal populations of humans also tend to be packed along enclosed seas, meaning increased pollution and extraction of more biodiversity from the water.

The Mediterranean, which contains almost 17,000 identified species, scored the maximum threat rating of five for four of the categories. Scientists studying the Mediterranean identified problems related to increased litter from shipping and munitions across the sea as well as bombs discharged during the Kosovo war. The Mediterranean also faces problems because of invasive species displacing the creatures that already live there. This sea had the most alien species out of all the 25 regions surveyed by the The Census of Marine Life, with more than 600 (4% of the all species present). Most had arrived from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal.

The most diverse regions identified by the The Census of Marine Life are around Australia and South-east Asia. "It's also a hotspot for terrestrial biodiversity as well and this has been known for about 100 years," said Costello. "It looks like that region with the coral reefs has always had a very high rate of speciation. It also has a very diverse range of habitats — from the deepest areas of the oceans to large areas of shallow seas, which can support coral reefs."

Both Australian and Japanese waters contain more than 30,000 species each and are among the most biologically diverse in the world. Next in line are the oceans off China, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Apart from algae and the seabirds and mammals that travel around the sea, the The Census of Marine Life identified the manylight viperfish (Chauliodus sloani) as the most "cosmopolitan" marine creature. Its presence was recorded in around a quarter of the world's seas.

"This inventory was urgently needed for two reasons," said Costello. "First, dwindling expertise in taxonomy impairs society's ability to discover and describe new species. And secondly, marine species have suffered major declines — in some cases 90% losses — because of human activities and may be heading for extinction, as happened to many species on land."

Miloslavich said the The Census of Marine Life data would "allow policy-makers to make better and more informed decisions on what areas should be protected for the better management of resources and the ecosystems as well, in order that they keep providing good services."

For every marine species of all kinds known to science the The Census of Marine Life scientists estimate that at least four have yet to be discovered. They said that around 70% of species of fish have been discovered, for example, but for most other groups likely less than one-third are known. As of February, the number of marine fish species known to science stood at 16,764, and was growing at around 100 a year. Scientists estimate that there are almost 22,000 fish species in the world.

The most fruitful potential areas for discovery include the tropics, deep seas and southern hemisphere.

"At the end of the The Census of Marine Life, most ocean organisms still remain nameless and their numbers unknown," said Nancy Knowlton, a biologist at the Smithsonian Institution, leader of the COML's coral reef project. "This is not an admission of failure. The ocean is simply so vast that, after 10 years of hard work, we still have only snapshots, though sometimes detailed, of what the sea contains. But it is an important and impressive start."

Note: For pictures of some of the species mapped by The Census of Marine Life, click here.

Source: The Guardian, 2nd August 2010.

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NAO tackles EA over Water Pollution

A report of 7th July in the Yorkshire Post entitled 'Watchdog report: Battle against water pollution 'ineffective' describes how the National Audit Office have criticised the Environment Agency as being ineffective in tackling the UK's water pollution despite spending £8m per year on addressing 'diffuse water pollution'. Millions of pounds spent on tackling water pollution each year has had little impact and has not proved value for money, the National Audit Office said today. The public spending watchdog said the Environment Agency (EA) spent £8m annually tackling "diffuse" water pollution, such as run-off from agricultural land and roads. But last year only 26 per cent of rivers, lakes and other bodies of water in England met required European levels for water quality.

According to the National Audit Office (NAO) a failure to meet the EU requirements, which demand 60 per cent of water bodies reach good standards by 2027, could potentially lead to fines of up to £250m a year.

A report by the NAO said the EA had not sufficiently identified the extent to which the failure of lakes and rivers to meet water quality standards is down to diffuse pollution, as opposed to "point sources" — single identifiable places such as a sewage works. The study said the agency was targeting the agricultural sector as the main source of diffuse pollution, which comes from multiple dispersed sources such as fields and roads. But there was limited information on the impact of different farming practices on diffuse pollution, which in the agricultural sector comes from nutrients such as phosphates and nitrogen fertilisers as well as animal waste. As a result it was not possible to know if the EA was effectively targeting its resources by encouraging certain farming practices.

The report also found awareness among farmers about the responsibility for diffuse pollution remained low, with almost three quarters (72 per cent) surveyed by the NAO saying agriculture contributed only a little or not at all to the problem.

The NAO said EA advice and voluntary initiatives across government to change farming practices had limited impact and needed to be co-ordinated.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said poor water quality had serious financial and environmental costs. "Many farmers remain unconvinced of their contribution to the problem, so the Environment Agency should intensify its efforts to raise awareness."


The National Farmers Union (NFU) give their point of view (here) that farmers are being unjustifiably blamed because the EA lacks sufficient evidence on the effectiveness of its inspections whilst those water bodies) causing most diffuse pollution (e.g. through sewage works) are not being persuaded to acknowledge responsibility. Further, that the EA has been slow to recognise the ineffectiveness of some sanctions and regulations.

The full NAO report and associate copy can be seen here.

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MARINET responds to Defra claim of "significant improvements" in UK seas

The UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a report on the condition of UK seas, Charting Progress 2, claiming in their press release "More fish, cleaner and greater biodiversity" and "significant improvements" for UK seas.

This Defra press release was followed by an article in The Guardian, 21st July, which we reproduce here, along with a rebuttal of Defra's claims by David Levy, chair of MARINET.

The Guardian writes:

"Thousands of holidaymakers heading to British beaches this summer will be cheered by a major government report into the state of the UK's seas. Coastal waters are getting cleaner, fish stocks are improving and species diversity in estuaries is increasing, according to the most authoritative examination ever carried out of UK seas.

But while the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs study boasts of "significant improvements" since the last such report in 2005, it also paints a picture of an environment being rapidly affected by a warming world. Seas around the British Isles are higher, warmer and more acid, it says, and coastal litter levels are at a record high.

The sea surface temperature of UK waters has risen on average by between 0.5 and 1°C since the 1870s, which could affect the fish that appear on our plates in future. Of the 330 species found around the UK, cold-water species such as cod are in retreat, while warm-water fish including red-mullet, sea bass and John Dory are spreading rapidly.

Fish stocks are improving overall, partly due to fishing reductions brought about by European Union quotas, despite criticism from marine conservation groups that the quotas are set too high to maintain fish stocks. The proportion of fin-fish stocks in UK waters being harvested sustainably has risen from 10% in the early 1990s to 25% in 2007.

However, the report notes that a large majority of stocks are still being fished at unsustainable levels. Fish are simultaneously being hit by warming waters, which are causing the cold and warm water zooplankton that fish feed on to move north. The warm water zooplankton tend to be smaller and less nutritious, affecting fish larvae and stocks.

Climate change is also causing sea levels to rise, with the mean sea level rising by 1.4mm per year in the 20th century. While slower than global growth of 1.7mm per year in the same period, the rise has not always been steady — in the 1990s, it was going up by 3-4mm each year. More coastal erosion and more flooding are likely to occur as a result, says the report, with the Humber estuary and Norfolk coast particularly at risk.

UK waters are also not exempt from the global trend of ocean acidification due to higher levels of dissolved CO2. This leads to harmful effects for marine life that rely on calcification, such as crustacea and molluscs. But the authors of the report admit the lack of a baseline for pH levels makes it hard to measure the rate of our acidifying seas.

Levels of pollution continue to drop since Defra's research in 2005, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury. However, there are still some localised problems such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which, while stabilising nationally, are still found in places at levels that affect wildlife, including harbour porpoises. Litter levels doubled, though, between 1994 and 2007, with 2,000 items per kilometre of coastline. Litter was even found at a depth of 1,000 metres.

The picture for waterbirds and seabirds is mixed. Waterbird numbers are largely healthy, with the 2006/2007 population numbers 85% above levels in the 1970s. But seabirds have seen a 9% decrease in numbers since 2005, with herring gull numbers down over 50% since 1969. Seabirds are suffering particularly badly in north and north-west Scotland, due to the arrival of invasive species such as rat and mink, which affect nesting sites.

The evidence in the report was gathered from peer-reviewed science provided by universities, government agencies, NGOs and industry.

Marine environment minister Richard Benyon said: "The report's findings show that we are moving in the right direction, but there is more work that needs to be done, especially to protect the UK's seabirds. I am committed to improving our marine environment by delivering the conservation measures in the Marine and Coastal Access Act and hope to see further improvements in the next report as we gain the benefits from Marine Conservation Zones." In January, Lundy Island off the north Devon coast became England's first Marine Conservation Zone

Source: The Guardian, 21st July 2010.

David Levy, MARINET chair, writes: "Under the watchful gaze of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, DEFRA used the auspicious venue of the Royal Society to deliver Charting Progress 2 (CP2), their scientific report on the State of UK Territorial Seas. It was a venue chosen to deliver two things of note. Firstly that this report has scientific validity and is fit for purpose, and secondly that you would be intimidated to find fault with its contents.

As an interested NGO, I was prepared to approve the work done and join the throng of back-slappers in congratulating DEFRA on a fine piece of work. However the fact is that I did not find it fit for purpose, and I have a suspicion that it will turn out to be another UK smoke and mirror ploy when deadlines elapse and we have failed to deliver on our European obligations in the time period we have been allowed.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires that we establish Good Environmental Status (GES) for our seas by 2020, with fish stocks in a sustainable position and so able to support growth in their numbers and thus feed our people.

Surely, it is essential that Charting Progress 2 records the baseline for MSFD indicators (e.g. commercial fish stocks, marine food webs). Without these baselines how can we establish progress towards good environmental status? The timeline is shrinking towards 2020 and, likewise, a willingness in government to report the truth.

We appear to have run away from the task and are currently hiding behind documentation which is claiming that facts on fish stocks don't exist, when indeed they do. The omission of the reality of the fish stocks within CP2 coloured literally the various maps provided within this report, and revealed a startling contrast between the maps and the socio-economic maps of the Productive Seas which basically show "all ahead" for British Industry. This is a fraudulent distortion of the reality.

Government's rôle is to lead, and they have been slow to realise that industry believes in partnership: symbiotic relationships that could have delivered for the marine ecosystem all the advantages of working together. For example, joint sea shipping lanes and marine conservation zones (MCZs), windfarms and MCZs, oil and gas pipelines and MCZs, and communications infrastructure on the seabed and MCZs.

Why has government not identified the standards, and helped to create these partnerships to achieve these standards? It is difficult to understand why government refuse to be honest and explore these opportunities. I really believe industries are ready and willing to assist in this task, and that they have stepped up to the mark.

Government responding in this way would protect our marine ecosystem, and provide our conservation efforts with a substantial network of MCZs and corridors for habitats and fish stocks with little interference, except for service personnel undertaking activities for those industries. Importantly, it would formalise an initial network of MCZs which the government's regional MCZ identification groups could develop.

MCZ identification groups are top heavy, loaded with industries' representatives and with few conservationists. Moreover, they have been guided to identify zones where MCZ interference would not be welcome, and are not responding as originally tasked to identify the scientific criteria for where MCZs should be created. A back to front exercise overseen by government's DEFRA.

Finally I would point to the role of NGOs and scientists maintaining integrity and independence from government. This means that they should not be locked into roles where their obedience to government overrides their will and better judgement. It is essential that their decision-making is independent from this system."

MARINET also observes regarding CP2:

Whilst there have been improvements in some fish stocks (largely due to fishing bans via quotas and other instruments), the portrait of "significant improvements" in fish stocks is simply not true.

Defra is placing a great deal of spin on the improvements which have occurred, but the reality is that things remain in a very serious condition.

The reason for this approach by Defra is that under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EU legislation) all commercial fish stocks and the food webs which support them have to be in a sound and healthy condition by 2020 — what is known as "good environmental status [GES]". Defra is currently working out how it cam comply with GES for commercial fish stocks by 2020.

Charting Progress 2, and its reporting of the science which puts a positive spin on the facts, is part of this process. Defra is trying to claim that the science shows a progressive improvement so that we will not be in breach of the EU law in 2020. This is the "fraudulent" aspect of their approach because reality shows that the truth is very much the opposite.

Here are some facts:

  1. All commercial fish stocks (size of population) are massively below historic levels. Therefore to claim that they are at full reproductive capacity is not true.
  2. The age profile of all fish stocks is heavily affected by fishing — the longer a fish lives, the more fertile it becomes (lays an increased number of eggs). For example, a cod becomes sexually mature at 6 years and can live until 25 years old. The older the cod, the more eggs it lays annually. The age profile of the cod population is such that there are no fish older than 6 years in the commercial stocks (population). The same pattern is true for other commercial fish stocks. Therefore to claim that fish stocks are at full reproductive capacity is not true. [Note: the reality of requiring the cod population to be sustained by the sexual behaviour of 6 year old fish is like asking the human population to be sustained solely by people who have just attained puberty.]
  3. The Charting Progress 2 report on fish stocks around the UK reported that they could not assess whether the general state of UK commercial fish stocks is improving, holding steady or deteriorating because they did not have enough information — their phrase "the trend for each region could not be assessed". To say that the scientific data does not exist to enable trends to be established is simply not true. For example, the Sea Fisheries chairman for the Irish Sea (who spoke at the meeting) revealed that Defra is simply not doing the necessary work to enable GES for fish stocks to be determined. He stated that of the 48 commercial fish stocks in the Irish Sea, Defra is claiming that 29 cannot be assessed (i.e. over 50%) because the right kind of scientific data does not exist. Note: Defra are not saying that the scientific data does not exist, but that the "right kind of scientific data" does not exist. This is what leads one to believe that Defra is behaving badly, possibly "fraudulently".
  4. Between 1998 and 2006, the tonnage of fish and shellfish from UK seas landed in the UK and abroad fell from 900,000 tonnes to 600,000 tonnes (Defra figures). Is this how one measures "significant improvement"?

There is much to be researched here as to the truth of UK fish stocks at the present time, but we feel that Charting Progress 2 (the scientific publication by Defra upon which The Guardian article is based) is not recording and, equally importantly, not reporting the true reality.

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MARINET questions clean bill of health for East Anglian beaches

We reproduce here an article published in the Eastern Daily Press on 26th July 2010 which claims "Clean bill of health for region's beaches", and a rebuttal of this claim by Pat Gowen, MARINET member, who lives in Norfolk.
The Eastern Daily Press writes:

"The region's coastal waters have been given a reassuring clean bill of health at the start of the school summer holidays. Tourism leaders last night welcomed the biggest study ever undertaken of the state of the UK seas, which reports declining, low levels of pollution and improving marine eco-systems.

The Charting Progress report, a five-year study compiled by scientists at the government's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) also offers hope to the region's fishermen that fish stocks are recovering. The positive messages come as a welcome boost to the region's tourism economy — worth £471m a year in Great Yarmouth alone — at the start of the main season. And the report will give extra confidence to beach-goers coming in the wake of five destinations — Hunstanton, Sheringham, Cromer, Sea Palling and Lowestoft — winning prestigious Blue Flags this summer.

Cefas chief scientist Mike Waldock said: "This is a good news story. Most of the trends information shows the input of pollutants declining year on year."

While contamination by hazardous substances such as mercury had reduced in most regions — remaining largely an issue in the sediment of certain large river estuaries — the outlook was particularly good around East Anglia due to there being no legacy of heavy industrial activity.

Dr Waldock highlighted the clampdown on the use of tributylin (TBT), a toxic antifouling compound banned for use on small boats in the 1980s and large vessels in 2008, as a good example of environmental improvement. The decline in TBT levels had seen a significant increase in the populations of oysters, mussels and dog whelks (marine snails) around the East Anglia coast.

The concentration of such pollutants was insignificant enough to pose no risk to eating shellfish, he added.

Dr Waldock said contamination of sea water from the overflow of sewage treatment works during heavy storms was also declining as facilities improved; in East Anglia it was almost entirely a winter phenomenon so there was little impact in terms of sea bathing.

One negative of the report was the presence of litter, particularly plastic, found on all beaches surveyed and on the sea bed. Dr Waldock said: "While litter is clearly an aesthetic and economic problem - who wants to go on a dirty beach? — the impact is less clear on animal health." He said efforts would be stepped up to look at the impact of offshore litter when new EU regulations came into force.

The report, which draws on evidence gathered by scientists around the UK, points to fish stocks improving but not having reached a level of complete recovery judged by the presence of really large specimens. The scientists also considered the impact of global warming and report sea levels having risen by 14cm during the past century with surface temperatures increasing by 1°C since the late 19th century.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council's cabinet member for tourism Graham Plant welcomed the report's findings on pollution as "excellent news for tourism" and said the sewage overflow problem during storms had been addressed by investment in new treatment works. Chris Wightman, one of the last fishermen operating out of Lowestoft, said he had seen a marked recovery in fish stocks over the past three or four years with levels of cod, skate and Dover sole all improving."

Pat Gowen, MARINET member, writes: "Independent expert evidence and findings do not support the optimistic enthusiasm expressed by the tourist industry over the glossy report tendered by our government through CEFAS.

As regards the health of our coastal resorts, not a single beach throughout East Anglian was proved to meet the imperative mandatory standards required by the Bathing Water Directive, as the requisite tests to determine the full microbiological parameters were not applied. At the best, the bathing water quality can be said to be unknown.

At the same time continuing offshore aggregate extraction is systematically stripping our beaches of sand, with many beaches having disappeared already. It is further destroying our offshore habitats, feeding grounds and spawning beds hence damaging the entire interdependent marine ecosystem.

Whilst a few fish species can be seen to be surviving, recent independent research from the University of York and Marine Science Scotland have warned that the seas around the UK are rapidly becoming 'marine deserts'. The ten year study 'Census of Marine Life' into world fishing and will shortly report that fisheries will be driven to extinction by 2050 unless action is taken now. Dr Alex Ford of the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Marine Sciences has just written that the level of drugs emanating from sea sewage outfalls is changing fish behaviour, just as Britain's giant utility companies have been given permission to carry on polluting beaches due to the government's Planning Inspectorate rejection of an attempt by the Environment Agency to impose regulations on 4,200 outlets that pump raw sewage into the UK's sea and rivers.

The United States National Academy of Sciences have just discovered that oceanic rising CO2 levels are having far-reaching consequences for the sustainability of fish populations, which are therefore soon likely to become extinct, whilst the UN Environment Programme has just reported that the ever-growing level of plastic debris in the sea is causing the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals every year. And now for good measure we face the environmental hazards manifested by deep sea drilling for oil and gas.

These are but a few of the many authentic reports evidencing the decline and death of our seas and its coastline. Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York's environment department recently stated "Research makes clear that the state of UK bottom fisheries — and by implication European fisheries since the fishing grounds are shared — is far worse than even the most pessimistic of assessments currently in circulation"

This is not the time for smug complacency and false assumptive optimism masking the real gravity of the situation, but the point at which we must face the facts of the ever degrading marine and shoreline environment and so deal with it before it becomes too late."

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Serious long-term decline in marine phytoplankton populations

The amount of phytoplankton — tiny marine plants — in the top layers of the oceans has declined markedly over the last century according to scientists in the journal, Nature. They state that the decline appears to be linked to rising water temperatures.

They made their finding by looking at records of the transparency of sea water, which is affected by the plants. The decline — about 1% per year — could be ecologically significant as plankton sit at the base of marine food chains. This is the first study to attempt a comprehensive global look at plankton changes over such a long time scale.

phytoplankton seen through a microscope
Phytoplankton in its myriad varieties is essential for life in the oceans

"What we think is happening is that the oceans are becoming more stratified as the water warms," said research leader Daniel Boyce from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. "The plants need sunlight from above and nutrients from below; and as it becomes more stratified, that limits the availability of nutrients.

Phytoplankton are typically eaten by zooplankton — tiny marine animals — which themselves are prey for small fish and other animals.

The first reliable system for measuring the transparency of sea water was developed by astronomer and Jesuit priest Pietro Angelo Secchi. Asked by the Pope in 1865 to measure the clarity of water in the Mediterranean Sea for the Papal navy, he conceived and developed the "Secchi disk", which must be one of the simplest instruments ever deployed — it is simply lowered into the sea until its white colour disappears from view.

Various substances in the water can affect its transparency; but one of the main ones is the concentration of chlorophyll, the green pigment that is key to photosynthesis in plants at sea and on land.

The long-term but patchy record provided by Secchi disk measurements around the world has been augmented by shipboard analysis of water samples, and more recently by satellite measurements of ocean colour. The final tally included 445,237 data points from Secchi disks spanning the period 1899-2008.

"This study took three years, and we spent lots of time going through the data checking that there wasn't any 'garbage' in there," said Mr Boyce. "The data is good in the northern hemisphere and it gets better in recent times, but it's more patchy in the southern hemisphere — the Southern Ocean, the southern Indian Ocean, and so on."

The higher quality data available since 1950 has allowed the team to calculate that since that time, the world has seen a phytoplankton decline of about 40%.

The decline is seen in most parts of the world, one marked exception being the Indian Ocean. There are also phytoplankton increases in coastal zones where fertiliser run-off from agricultural land is increasing nutrient supplies. However, the pattern is far from steady. As well as the long-term downward trend, there are strong variations spanning a few years or a few decades.

Many of these variations are correlated with natural cycles of temperature seen in the oceans, including the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation. The warmer ends of these cycles coincide with a reduction in plankton growth, while abundance is higher in the colder phase.

Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of the marine programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), suggested there could be other factors involved - notably the huge expansion in open-ocean fishing that has taken place over the century. "Logically you would expect that as fishing has gone up, the amount of zooplankton would have risen — and that should have led to a decline in phytoplankton. So there's something about fishing that hasn't been factored into this analysis." The method of dividing oceans into grids that the Dalhousie researchers used, he said, did not permit scrutiny of areas where this might be particularly important, such as the upwelling in the Eastern Pacific that supports the Peruvian anchovy fishery — the biggest fishery on the planet.

If the trend is real, it could also act to accelerate warming, the team noted. Photosynthesis by phytoplankton removes carbon dioxide from the air and produces oxygen. In several parts of the world, notably the Southern Ocean, scientists have already noted that the waters appear to be absorbing less CO2 — although this is principally thought to be because of changes to wind patterns — and leaving more CO2 in the air should logically lead to greater warming.

"Phytoplankton produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries," said Boris Worm, another member of the Dalhousie team. "An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently."

The question is: how differently?

If the planet continues to warm in line with projections of computer models of climate, the overall decline in phytoplankton might be expected to continue. But, said, Daniel Boyce, that was not certain. "It's tempting to say there will be further declines, but on the other hand there could be other drivers of change, so I don't think that saying 'temperature rise brings a phytoplankton decline' is the end of the picture," he said.

The implications, noted Dr Lundin, could be significant. "If in fact productivity is going down so much, the implication would be that less carbon capture and storage is happening in the open ocean," he said. "So that's a service that humanity is getting for free that it will lose; and there would also be an impact on fish, with less fish in the oceans over time."

Source: BBC News, 28th July 2010.

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Severe decline in Scottish kittiwake, fulmar and herring gull populations

Three types of Scottish seabirds have seen their numbers nearly halved in the past decade, according to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The JNCC report has outlined a population drop of about 40% among Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Herring Gulls over the past ten years.

The JNCC, which advises the UK and devolved governments, said lack of food was the most likely cause due to climate change and human activity.

RSPB Scotland said it was a "worrying trend." Rory Crawford, a policy officer with the organisation, said it was necessary to build "resilience" into seabird populations. He said: "With the impacts of climate change becoming evident the new Scottish Marine Act needs to play a crucial role in building this resilience. Importantly, it promises to create marine protected areas in key locations for marine wildlife." He added: "If this breeding season turns out to be another disastrous one for sensitive species like Kittiwakes, then it's the starkest warning yet that we must implement these new laws as a matter of urgency."

The RSPB suggested that the worst affected areas are the Northern Isles where there were breeding problems for species like the Arctic Tern and Guillemot. Its initial figures this year from Orkney and Shetland suggested many seabirds were struggling because of a lack of sand eels — their main food-source.

Source: BBC News 28th July 2010

MARINET observes: The overall trends in relative breeding success of seabirds in the UK, for the period 1986 to 2007, is recorded on the Defra publication Charting Progress 2 : The state of UK seas , published July 2010, see Defra website From a baseline of 100, the black-legged kittiwake has fallen to an index value of just below 40, the Common guillemot has fallen to an index value of 30, and a mean of 21 seabird species has fallen to an index value of a little of 60, ref: Figure 3.8 Charting Progress 2.

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MARINET launches its Common Fisheries Policy Reform campaign

With 88% of European fish stocks currently being over-fished, and 30% of these to the point where they are now facing commercial extinction (EU Commission figures), MARINET is determined that the forthcoming Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) proposed by the EU Commission will actually succeed because experience teaches us that all previous attempts at Reform by the Commission have failed. There is no room for error this time and the actual extinction, due to over-fishing, of the world's largest cod fishery off Canada's Grand Banks in the NE Atlantic is a haunting testimony to this.

MARINET believes that meaningful CFP Reform will only come about if the European institutions of government (Council of Ministers, Parliament and Commission) actually write into the reformed Common Fisheries Policy the obligation that it must observe the statutory requirements of EU law. In other words, the reformed CFP must meet the legal obligations of the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), 2008, which requires all commercial fish stocks and marine food webs to be in a sound and healthy condition by 2020. The CFP Reform Green Paper, which the EU Commission issued last year and consulted the public upon (see MARINET's response (, made no mention of meeting these MSFD legal obligations.

MARINET's CFP Reform campaign is built on the premise that the EU must, in its new Common Fisheries Policy, observe EU law. If the new, reformed CFP does this then the European governmental institutions will be able to guarantee to the people of Europe (and the World) that, firstly, fish stocks in the European waters of the NE Atlantic will be restored to historic population levels, and secondly, their future management will maintain these restored population levels. These two guarantees are essential, and nothing less will be acceptable.

In the past, the Common Fisheries Policy has been solely determined by the Council of Ministers. However the recent Treaty of Lisbon has ensured that, for the first time, the European Parliament will have an equal say in how the new Common Fisheries Policy is written.

How politicians, both in Brussels and in the national parliaments of Europe, perceive the CFP and the state of our commercial fish stocks is therefore important. MARINET intends to establish a web-based international symposium — Seaposium — which will record the scientific evidence about the state of the NE Atlantic fisheries and how they can best be managed. As a result politicians will be informed by the science, and their decisions on the new CFP will be tested against the facts recorded by the science.

Details about the MARINET CFP Reform and how people may contribute, both practically and financially, are recorded in the latest MARINET Newsletter, and additional information about the campaign and the condition our fisheries in European seas and the NE Atlantic is viewable on the CFP Reform page of our website at

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Destruction of Norfolk's Golden Sand Beaches

The Government's new generation of Shoreline Management Plans are the pathfinder plans for the coastal defence for all England's coastline. Their policy of "Managed Retreat" is systematically destroying the golden sand beaches of most of England's coast, so they will not be available to be enjoyed by future generations.

Read the full article at

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Marine renewable energy makes progress via Wave Hub, Cornwall

The next stage of the South West RDA's (Regional Development Agency) pioneering Wave Hub project is getting underway with the start of excavation work on Hayle beach, Cornwall.

Contractors will dig a pit to house a connecting block that will join Wave Hub's offshore cable with onshore cables linked to a new electricity substation.

The work, which is being carried out by Dawnus Construction and will take two weeks, will involve piling metal sheets into the sand to a depth of some 5m to create a metal box 10m long and 5m wide, with a further 5m of sheet above beach level. The sand inside the box will then be excavated to a depth of about 3m.

When Wave Hub's 25km, 1,300-tonne subsea cable is laid later this summer, it will terminate inside the beach pit and be connected to cables threaded through two ducts that have already been drilled through the sand dunes at Hayle. These cables will lead back to a substation currently being built on the other side of the dunes, and ultimately connect Wave Hub with the National Grid.

drawing of Wave Hub showing connections

Wave Hub is creating the world's largest test site for wave energy technology by building a grid connected socket on the seabed, 16km off the coast of Cornwall, to which wave power devices can be connected and their performance evaluated.

The £42 million project has been developed by the South West RDA and is a cornerstone of its strategy to develop a world class marine energy industry in South West England.

Wave Hub's cable, which is being manufactured by JDR Cable Systems in Hartlepool, is nearing completion and the RDA has appointed CTC Marine Projects based in Darlington, County Durham to deploy the cable and hub during the summer. The substation building is largely complete and the installation of more than £1 million of electrical equipment will begin later this month. Legal agreements have been signed with leading renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies Limited to take the first berth at Wave Hub using its PowerBuoy wave energy converter.

Wave Hub is being funded with £12.5m from the South West RDA, £20m from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme and £9.5 million from the UK government. An independent economic impact assessment has calculated that Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and inject £560m into the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and £332m could be generated in South West England.

Source: Maritime Journal 16th June 2010

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New reports warn of global and Scottish fishing collapse

Two 'doomsday' scenario reports on the state of fish stocks, one global and the other closer to home in Scotland have just been published, reports, 12th July 2010.

Researchers from the University of York and Marine Science Scotland have warned that the seas around the Firth of Clyde have been so heavily fished that they have almost become marine deserts.

Meanwhile, the Census of Marine Life has carried out a ten years study of world fishing and is due to reveal that the world may run out of fish within the next 40 years. Both reports were highlighted in the Sunday Times.

In the Scottish situation the researchers said the Clyde was once rich in fish life with many edible varieties such as cod, halibut and herring. All that remains now of any commercial worth are langoustines, but that stock too was in danger of collapse because of overfishing. Marine Science Scotland warned that the collapse was approaching the scale of the disaster which happened off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the 1960s when cod practically disappeared.

On a global level, the world's fishing fleets are now catching 150 million tons of seafood a years more than four times the amount in the 1950s when there were probably more fishing boats. But huge improvements in fish finding and fish catching technology in the past 50 years means stocks are being wiped out at an unsustainable rate.

Full details of the Census of Marine Life Study are due to be published shortly. But the message is already clear, says the the Sunday Times — global fisheries will be driven to extinction by 2050 unless action is taken now.

Source:, 12th July 2010.

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Eye on Earth

'Eye on Earth' is a two-way communication platform dealing with matters of the environment which brings together scientific information with feedback and observations of millions of ordinary people. Here you are able to view air and bathing water quality for the majority of Europe as well as to provide your feedback. You can even share this data with your friends and family using a number of social networking sites.

The website can be found at

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More Coastal Management manipulation?

Waveney District Council, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal Futures have been funded by money from DEFRA to form one of fifteen 'Pathfinder' projects across the country. This latest political manoeuvre is not to try to relocate the coastal footpaths lost to increasing erosion, but to encourage public acceptance of the changes that result from the loss of businesses, amenity, income and housing as a result of it by the appearance of consultation. Better we would have thought to use money for opposing the cause and to invest in sustainable defences.

The following article entitled 'Project to help erosion-hit villages' written by Hayley Mace appeared in the Eastern Daily Press on 1st July '10.

aerial view of the sea wall with collapsed sections
The collapsed sea wall just north of Corton, near Lowestoft, in March this year. Photograph taken by Mike Page.

A £1.5m project to help two threatened communities find ways to adapt to coastal erosion was officially launched this week.

The Suffolk Coastal Change Pathfinder Project has been set up with government funding to help villagers in Corton, near Lowestoft, and Easton Bavents, near Southwold, look at possible ways that they can change their lifestyles, homes and businesses to adapt to the changing coastline.

With about 95 homes in Corton at risk within the next 100 years and tourism businesses relying on the local beaches, it is hoped that Pathfinder will help people come up with constructive ways to limit the effects and costs of erosion.

The project was officially launched in Lowestoft on Tuesday and over the next 10 months, people living and working in the two villages will have the chance to take part in workshops and events aimed at creating ideas and planning for the future.

The scheme, which is being led by Waveney District Council with Suffolk County council and Suffolk Coastal Futures, is one of 15 Pathfinder projects across the country which was set up with money from the department for food, environment and rural affairs last year.

Ken Sale, Waveney council's portfolio holder for the greenest county, said: "The issue of coastal erosion is pressing and emotive. The government is committed to effective management of our coastline and will defend against erosion where it is sustainable and affordable. However there will be some locations where it is not sustainable to build new defence structures, or to maintain existing ones. Where this is the case, communities will need to start preparing for, and managing, change. In this current climate of tight budgets and spending cuts it is reassuring to be granted this fund, which will be used to support community engagement and planning."

A new Pathfinder website, which features information about erosion, details of the Pathfinder events and an interactive forum so that local people can put forward their ideas, has also been launched at

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Offshore Oil Transfer menace slowly being addressed

Falmouth's campaign on the hazard presented by sea transfer of oil seen at and that of the concern of moored tanker oil transfers off Felixstowe at has been highlighted by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, showing the true nature of the type of catastrophe that can result.

Whilst the oil companies make extra profits by avoiding port charges and by sitting on oil stocks waiting for the price to escalate, the marine and coastal environment is severely threatened by such (mal)practice. Yet amazingly Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Terese Coffey seem to wish for it to continue!

The Lowestoft Journal of 9th July reports that a much-needed but now delayed review is forthcoming in an article entitled 'Offshore oil transfer laws face review'

The long-running debate over the right of tankers to transfer oil while anchored off the Suffolk coast took another turn last night (Thursday) when it emerged that a review of the regulations was to take place. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning announced that the review would be carried out to allow all views to be heard ahead of proposed legislation banning transfers in British waters.

The law was due to come into force from 1st October, but this has now been pushed back to 1st April, 2011, allowing local authorities, industry and environmental non-governmental organisations to all give their view by 30th September.

The news comes just days after Waveney MP Peter Aldous and Suffolk Coastal MP Terese Coffey signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the new laws banning the ship-to-ship transfers off the Suffolk coast to be scrapped.

A stretch of water between Lowestoft and Southwold has become a favourite site for tankers bringing oil from Russia to transfer their cargo to larger vessels — prompting concerns that an accident could lead to severe pollution on the North Suffolk coast.

Yesterday, Mr Aldous said he was glad to hear the decision after calling for the economic benefits of having the tankers offshore to be considered alongside any possible environmental impact.

He said: "This is good news as it provides all interested parties the opportunity to put forward their own views. I would urge them to take part in the consultation and to forward their views to me.

Doing all we can to retain jobs is most important in these lean times but I do fully understand the need to consider the safety of oil transfer from ships."

Speaking before the decision James Reeder, company secretary of business group Enterprise Lowestoft, said that offshore transfers brought valuable business into Lowestoft.

He said: "The guest houses and the tugs which take out buoys and look after the ships are all making money. This legislation would just push the tankers past the 12-mile offshore limit of territorial waters and that money would go elsewhere and the practice would be more difficult to legislate.

I understand the environmental concerns and I think this needs a full, public debate before any laws are made. I think that managing the situation would be more sensible than chasing it away."

Source:Lowestoft Journal 9th July 2010.

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Anti-depressants in sea may damage food chain

The Telegraph reports on July 6th that a yet further damaging input to the sea is threatening the marime food chain. Pat Gowen's experience at Hemsby could be evidential, as where ten years ago he would be able to catch two or three pints of brown shrimp Crangon crangon or Crangon vulagaris for tea with a ten minute push-net trawl, the catch is now only a few seabed stones.

Rising levels of antidepressants in coastal waters could change sea-life behaviour and potentially damage the food-chain, scientists said.

Research into the behaviour of shrimps exposed to the antidepressant fluoxetine showed that their behaviour was dramatically affected. The shrimps are five times more likely to swim toward the light instead of away from it, making them more likely to be eaten by fish or birds, researchers said. They fear this could have devastating effects on the shrimp population.

Dr Alex Ford, from the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Marine Sciences, said: "Crustaceans are crucial to the food chain and if shrimps' natural behaviour is being changed because of antidepressant levels in the sea this could seriously upset the natural balance of the ecosystem. "Much of what humans consume you can detect in the water in some concentration. 'We're a nation of coffee drinkers and there is a huge amount of caffeine found in waste water, for example. It's no surprise that what we get from the pharmacy will also be contaminating the country's waterways."

The study, published in the journal Aquatic Toxicology, found that the shrimps' behaviour changes when they are exposed to the same levels of fluoxetine found in the waste water that flows to rivers and estuaries as a result of the drugs humans excrete in sewage.

Dr Ford said: "Effluent is concentrated in river estuaries and coastal areas, which is where shrimps and other marine life live — this means that the shrimps are taking on the excreted drugs of whole towns."

Prescriptions for antidepressants have risen rapidly in recent years, according to the Office for National Statistics. In 2002, there were 26.3 million antidepressant prescriptions handed out by doctors in England and Wales but Dr Ford said the environmental effect of pharmaceuticals in sewage had been left largely unexplored.

Source: Telegraph 6th July 2010.

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More threatened villages take up the cudgels

Hemsby, just north of Great Yarmouth, is the latest threatened coastal village to react to the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) 'no intervention' clause that would permit escalating erosion of an already devastated shoreline where 95 coastal homes and 90% of the frontal dune system have already been lost since offshore dredging commenced.

An inaugural meeting on 22nd June '10, addressed by group chairman Lyndon Bevan, Pat Gowen of MARINET and the and the new MP's Secretary set the scene, as reported under 'Fears raised over coastal plans' in the Great Yarmouth Mercury of 24th June '10.

Abandoning an established holiday hub like Hemsby to the waves will have a catastrophic effect on tourism and will hit hard in Great Yarmouth, it was claimed this week. With 20,000 bed spaces at risk Lyndon Bevan, chairman of the Hemsby Coastal Group, said the revised Shoreline Management Plan's suggestion that Hemsby went undefended "beggared belief."

Hemsby is the latest in a string of coastal villages to come out against the controversial blueprint which they say is unjustifiable and should be opposed.

Mr Bevan said the human and social costs were too high and would ripple through the whole of the borough, damaging tourism related income. But the document had not looked at the full picture and was based on theoretical erosion rates that might not match reality which could totally change the picture.

Social justice he added was the other sticking point with the Government offering a "derisory" £4000 to £6000 towards the costs of demolishing your own property. Even then there was no guarantee of getting on the housing list, he added."We have more holiday beds than Great Yarmouth so where does that leave them?" he said, adding: "Hemsby puts so much into the economy. We have 20,000 bed spaces, how are they going to replace them? I just cannot believe it. "The social justice issue is our main concern. They are offering a derisory amount — if the money is available. And they say they might put you on the housing list. Does that sound like social justice? Why should people in Yarmouth have protection and people in Hemsby not? "The predictions could be totally wrong. We built the Viking festival on the advice of fishermen where the highest tide had been all year and with those high winds blew half of it away. If the fisherman cannot be sure then how can anyone else?

Hemsby Coastal Group first discussed the SMP at a meeting on Tuesday June 15 after an official drop-in session at Great Yarmouth Town Hall which they say was poorly advertised saw few visitors. Representatives from Hopton, Scratby, Caister and Winterton were present.

A spokesman for the Hemsby group described the SMP as "an engineers report" that lacked compassion. Hemsby is calling on everyone — especially those in properties most at risk — to oppose the plan and back its call for an extended rock berm to Winterton, protecting Hemsby and the SSSI designated dunes.

Source: Great Yarmouth Mercury.

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Resistance to SMP escalating

Resistance and opposition to the dictates of the Shoreline Management Plan continues to escalate piecemeal from threatened residents. The article 'Fight, coastal action group urges' that appeared in the Great Yarmouth Mercury tells the strategy being developed by more bodies wishing to save their homes, living and businesses.

Hopton is aiming to swing a breaker's ball through a coastal defence plan which suggests no defence. Leaflets will be dropping on to more than 1,000 doormats urging villagers to take a stand against the Government's Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) at a public meeting at Potters Leisure Resort on Thursday. Its suggestion to abandon a huge stretch of the coast to the sea has caused a storm of protest. But Brian Hardisty, chairman of Hopton Coastal Action Group, says not enough people have woken up to the implications of the plan on house prices and the damage it could do to the tourist industry.

He said a flurry of information drop-in sessions, including one at Sea Palling on Tuesday and at Great Yarmouth Town Hall on Wednesday this week were too low-key and unbalanced in that there was no opportunity for debate or to hear conflicting views.

The SMP has already been rejected once by Great Yarmouth Borough Council and is currently up for review.

Mr Hardisty said: "The meeting is to discuss the SMP for Hopton which has not been changed from what it was three years ago which is no active intervention in the medium and long term. Once the SMP is accepted by the borough council it is going to be there for 100 years.

"Campaigner Malcolm Kerby told me that under no circumstances should the SMP be accepted by the borough council because there is nothing in place to stop things sliding in to the sea. Most people in the village have never heard of the SMP. Council representatives are coming to explain it to people. We have to create interest because once it's a deal and is accepted it is a done deal."

Bernard Harris and Tim Howard will represent the borough council at the meeting. MP Brandon Lewis will be at Westminster and is sending a representative.

Great Yarmouth Mercury.

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Half of all fossil fuels now come from sources lying below the sea floor

The international oil and gas industry is taking ever-increasing risks in order to extract the Earth's last remaining fossil fuel reserves — at the expense of both mankind and the environment. That is the conclusion reached by Oekom Research AG's latest study of the industry.

The rating agency has evaluated how 27 of the world's largest listed oil and gas companies are facing up to their social and environmental responsibilities and the challenges these entail. The highest rating, on a scale from A+ (highest score) to D-, was achieved by the Austrian integrated oil and gas company OMV, with an overall score of B.

It was followed in 2nd and 3rd positions by the Italian company Snam Rete Gas and the French company Total, both of which also scored a B. The UK BP Group, which has been in the headlines for weeks due to the serious accident on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, does not feature among the top performers in the industry.

"The willingness of companies to take risks in order to exploit the remaining reserves of fossil resources is increasing in the face of dwindling reserves and steady or rising demand," says Kristina Rüter, Research Director at Oekom Research and analyst in charge of this sector. Increasingly, oil and gas drilling is taking place not on land, but in the oceans, and it is going deeper and deeper. It is not unusual for drilling to be carried out in water 1,000 metres deep.

In the case of the Deepwater Horizon, in addition to a water depth of over 1,500 metres, the borehole went down an additional 5,600 metres through rock strata under the sea bed. "If the industry does not change course, further disasters are likely," warns Rüter. Approximately half of all fossil resources now come from sources lying below the sea floor. There are currently around 3,000 drilling rigs in operation, the majority of them in the Atlantic Ocean. If all the exploration licences which have already been issued are utilised, this number will continue to rise.

Source: Oekom Research Press Release, 30th June 2010.

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EU Commissioner suggests a ban on offshore drilling pending evaluation of BP incident

EU energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has spoken out in favour of a "de facto" moratorium on new permits for offshore oil drilling in Europe until the causes of the BP oil spill are known.

"Any responsible government would at present practically freeze new permits for offshore drilling," he told MEPs in Strasbourg. The commissioner said there was room to improve EU legislation on liability in case of oil spills.

"Existing legislation could be made clearer and up to date," Mr Oettinger said. Europe needs an "unequivocal" liability regime that more clearly defines the territorial applicability of environmental laws and extends them "to more fully cover the issues of biodiversity and secondary damage". This includes laws on environmental impact assessments, habitats and wild birds, environmental liability and water.

The European Commission will, if necessary, propose to amend such legislation or introduce offshore-specific rules in the coming months when the cause of the BP oil spill is known, the commissioner said. MEPs have expressed frustration over the lack of clear information on the safety situation in Europe.

Mr Oettinger proposed the establishment of an EU framework "for controlling the controllers", or national authorities responsible for ensuring oil firms abide by EU laws. "The traditional division of labour between national authorities and the European level is no longer good enough," he told the parliament.

The commissioners for energy, environment and maritime affairs will meet with industry representatives and national surveillance authorities to review existing safety practices and policies. Mr Oettinger will present the result of this meeting to the parliament's environment committee.

The energy commissioner said oil companies must review and strengthen their emergency plans, and national regulators must require firms to demonstrate they can deal with unexpected events and pay for any damage caused. Such payments could be made through insurance obligations or a special European fund, he added.

Source: ENDS, 7th July 2010.

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How the relief oil-well is being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico

Relief wells are being drilled in order to halt the haemorrhaging of BP's damaged, leaking Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.

"After 76 days, 190 million gallons of oil, and a $22.5bn (£15bn) clean-up and compensation bill so far" reports The Guardian, 4th July 2010 "BP is poised to plug its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling engineers have only one chance to get it right. One wrong move as engineers break through the cement and steel pipe of the Macondo well could increase the torrent of oil into the Gulf. In the worst case scenario, it could even trigger a blow-out in the relief well.

"They pretty much have one shot," said Wayne Pennington, the chair of geophysical engineering at Michigan Tech University. "Once they hit it and they try to kill it they really just have that one chance." Pennington and other experts agree the chances of such a disaster are remote. But it cannot be ruled out entirely as BP moves into the most delicate phase of its relief well operation. Nor can the prospect of unexpected delays, due to technical glitches or forecasts for a very active hurricane season.

The first of two relief wells is within striking distance of the Macondo, about 15ft (4.5m) away from the pipe and 600ft or so (200m) above the reservoir, after weeks of drilling. The second, ordered by the Obama administration as a safety back-up, is some weeks behind. "There is a chance — a slight chance — they could nick the wellbore," Thad Allen, the coastguard commander, said. "We shouldn't come off that mid-August date until we know they've actually gone through the leaking well", he told a White House briefing.

The most important thing is establishing a clear connection with the Macondo so they can begin pumping in the heavy drilling mud according to Mark Proegler, a BP spokesman. A nick risks starting a new small leak, or possibly even a collapse of a section of the pipe, given that it was damaged in the explosion in ways still not fully understood.

Those challenges are still some days away as BP continues to find the optimal point to break into the well, a process known as ranging. "We have many days ahead of us of ranging runs," said Proegler. The process involves lowering a device down the relief well that bounces electromagnetic waves through the rock to try to measure the distance to the metal pipe of the Macondo, a target barely seven inches (18cm) in diameter. "They are homing in on that metal or iron signal from the first well," said Julius Langlinais, a former petroleum engineer and professor at Louisiana State University.

The search for the Macondo would go faster if BP were using measurement drilling tools, whereby sensors installed in the drill string send the appropriate readings back to the surface, said Langlinais. However, that equipment is hugely expensive. Instead, BP is relying on a process that involves swapping the drill bit for the line carrying the sensor.

"They have to pull the drill string out of the well and lower down this sensitive device that looks for magnetic field variations and from that they can tell where the casing of the well is," Pennington said. Then engineers remove the device, replace the drill string and begin all over again. Each shift can take up to two days.

At some point though the engineers will arrive at the right spot on the pipe, somewhere between the reservoir and the leak. They will then stop and install metal casing in the relief well, using cement to secure it in the rock. The intercept could be complicated if it turns out that the oil is flowing around the pipe, and between the pipe and the cement of the well bore.

Engineers also have to be spot-on in their calculations as to how much drilling mud — or pressure — to exert on the well to choke it off. A vessel containing 44,000 gallons of mud is on standby. The mud must be viscous enough to flow down the pipe but also dense enough to slow down the oil bubbling up from below. That balance will be crucial to gaining control over the well, so that the flow of oil is checked without having to continuously pump in more mud. "You get a dense enough mud and a tall enough column in that flow path, and the reservoir can't flow any more. It can't buck the pressure," said Darryl Bourgoyne, a petroleum engineer at Louisiana State University.

diagram showing relief wells and intercept method

Then, if all has gone according to plan, operators will install a cement plug, sealing off the well for good.

Source: The Guardian, 4th July 2010 .

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Eco warrior's Pacific journey shows how 'dumb plastic' is killing our seas

David de Rothschild set out on a mammoth ocean crossing aboard his recycled yacht to highlight pollution of Earth's waters — but even he was shocked by what he found

The voyage has been overshadowed by the more graphic pollution of the BP oil spill, but even that is dwarfed by the scale of the problem the Plastiki highlights. While the deaths of seabirds and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico are still being measured in the hundreds, according to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, and more than 100,000 marine mammals. Back in 2006, the UN concluded that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Since then the problem has only grown.

For the full story see The Guardian of the 11th July 2010.

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Plans to reform whaling regulations collapses

The Guardian reports, 23rd June 2010 : Thousands of whales will continue to be killed each year after international negotiations to redraw whaling rules collapsed following two days of secret talks.

However, anti-whaling groups hailed the collapse as a success, as it means the ban on whaling — introduced 24 years ago but ignored by some nations — remains.

A compromise agreement failed to be reached at the meeting of the 88 member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Agadir, Morocco.

The acting IWC chairman, Anthony Liverpool, said that "fundamental positions remained very much apart", while the chief US delegate, Monica Medina, said: "After nearly three years of discussions, it appears we are at an impasse."

Pro-whaling countries Japan, Norway and Iceland — with backing from the US, New Zealand and some green groups — had proposed lifting a ban on commercial whaling in return for cutting the number of whales killed by using quotas that would reduce over a 10-year period. But Britain, Australia and Latin American countries opposed ending the moratorium.

The failure to reach a consensus means discussions will be suspended for a year. It also calls into question the IWC's future, with the background documents to the talks saying: "The status quo is not an option for an effective multilateral organisation." But the current situation, in which Norway and Iceland hunt whales despite the IWC ban and Japan uses a "scientific whaling" loophole to hunt 1,000 mostly minke whales, will now continue.

Wendy Elliott at WWF, expressed disappointed at the outcome of the talks. "Governments failed to find a way forward," she said. "Once again, they have put politics before science. This brings into question the integrity of the commission and its ability to make meaningful decisions that benefit whale conservation." WWF — along with Greenpeace and the Pew Environment Group — issued a statement backing a lifting of the ban under certain conditions.

The Japanese whaling commissioner, Yasue Funayama, said Japan had offered major concessions to reach a compromise and blamed anti-whaling nations' refusal to accept the killing of a single animal. "We must rise above politics and engage in a broader perspective," she said. The head of the New Zealand delegation, Geoffrey Palmer, blamed an "absence of political will".

Richard Benyon, Britain's minister for the marine environment, said: "It is hugely disappointing that the world could not come together to give greater protection to these magnificent creatures. "We in the UK have been consistently clear that any new agreement must reduce the numbers of whales that are killed each year with the aim of a complete phase-out of all commercial whaling."

Chris Butler-Stroud, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, hailed the breakdown in the talks, adding: "We must not forget that Japan, Iceland and Norway continue to whale outside of the sanction of the IWC, and that is a situation that has to change."

Normally held in public, the IWC meeting drew criticism for going into secret session. It also took place in the shadow of corruption claims, with media allegations suggesting Japan had bought countries' pro-whaling votes by paying for flights and IWC membership fees, a charge that was denied.

Japan, Norway and Iceland have reportedly killed 35,000 whales since the International Whaling Commission started a ban on commercial whaling in 1986. Japan conducts its Antarctic kills in the Southern Ocean using a loophole in the ban which allows whales to be killed for research purposes. Norway and Iceland operate commercial whaling in the northern hemisphere outside of IWC control. Those in favour of lifting the moratorium argued it would mean fewer whales were killed under a quota system, but the totemic nature of the ban for many environmentalists made it a principle they were not prepared to abandon.

Source: The Guardian, 23rd June 2010.

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Important scientific studies still absent from offshore East Anglian aggregate REA

MARINET has again repeated its earlier requests, ongoing since 2008, to the East Anglian Offshore Dredging Association (AODA) and their consultant Emu Limited that the offshore Regional Environmental Assessment (REA) include a number of important scientific studies in order to test the evidence behind the assertion that offshore aggregate dredging is not a cause of local beach and coastal erosion.

MARINET made a request earlier this year to the Minister at Defra, see to request the aggregate dredging companies to include these scientific studies. However the Minister declined, stating that the REA is a "voluntary industry initiative" and not his responsibility. MARINET observes that the government has historically supervised the process for the approval of the marine aggregate licences, and still does so via the new Marine Management Organisation.

Given the failure of AODA to respond to the requests from MARINET to include these scientific studies in the REA, MARINET has asked the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) to assist in persuading AODA to include these studies, see letter of 8th July 2010 to BMAPA at However BMAPA has declined to meet MARINET to discuss this matter at the present time.

Therefore, MARINET has again written to AODA and its consultant, Emu Limited, repeating the request to include these scientific studies, see letter of 8th July 2010 to Emu at MARINET believes that it is essential that the granting of future aggregate extraction licences offshore from the East Anglian coast is based on sound science and, therefore, it makes good sense for the scientific integrity of the East Anglian REA to be assured. At present, due to the exclusion of these scientific studies, such integrity is not assured.

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New aggregate extraction licence sought in the Severn Estuary

Severn Sands Limited (formerly Crossavon Limited) has applied to the Welsh Assembly Government and the Gloucester Harbour Trustees for an application to extract sand from Areas 455 and 459 in the Severn estuary, offshore from Newport. The application is located at Northern Middle Ground (Welsh Grounds), and appears to be for a period of five years. The rate of extraction is specified at 150,000 tonnes per annum, rising to 400,000 tonnes per annum, but the date of the increase in extraction tonnage is not specified. Sand is currently extracted by the same company from a site which lies nearby to the north-east on Bedwyn Sands.

MARINET has commented to the Welsh Government Assembly on this application, see letter dated 8th July 2010 at, and has requested rejection of the application until clarity is obtained about the length of the licence and the tonnage to be extracted, about whether the adjacent licence on Bedwyn Sands is to be surrendered, and until a full study of the cumulative impact of extraction at Areas 455 and 459 is made in combination with all the other licensed aggregate extraction sites in the Bristol Channel and Severn estuary.

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High CO2 concentrations can turn fish into daredevils

High carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean may turn fish into reckless daredevils, according to a study published in PNAS this week. When scientists exposed two different species of fish larvae to elevated carbon dioxide levels, the fish began to ignore the smell of predators, multiplying their mortality rate up to nine times the current level. The oceans are predicted to have high enough concentrations to completely impair the fishes' predator detection as early as the end of this century.

It is thought that if the affected species cannot adapt quickly to the higher levels of CO2 then they are likely to become extinct.

ARS Technica 6th July 2010

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Can the BP Gulf oil-spill be safely handled by oil dispersants?

The ingredients of the chemical dispersants being used to clean up the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico have been released to the public. Corexit 9527 was the first to be used. It contains propylene glycol and 2-butoxyethanol. Propylene glycol is a colourless, odourless, viscous liquid used in many common household products including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and anti-freeze. It functions as a solvent and has a low level of toxicity. 2-butoxyethanol is another clear solvent used often in cleaning products. Laboratory tests have shown that long-term inhalation of high concentrations of 2-butoxyethanol causes tumors in animals. For this reason, the use of Corexit 9527 became controversial and was replaced by Corexit 9500.

Corexit 9500 contains propylene glycol, light petroleum distillates refined from crude oil and dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate; a common ingredient in laxatives.

Both products are manufactured by Eastman Chemical, Dow Chemical and Equistar. What they do is make an oil spill go from a slick on the surface of the water to tiny droplets of oil mixed with water. Everyone knows the fact that oil and water don't mix. Dispersants help oil and water to blend together and break into particles that can be vacuumed up.

Source: New York Times, June 13, 2010.

Nearly a million gallons of dispersant have been poured into the Gulf of Mexico to fight the largest oil spill in US history, even though little is known about their effects which, fishermen claim, makes them sick and kills sea life. At least nine fishermen idled by the spill during prime shrimping, oystering and fin-fishing season, have been hospitalised after working to clean up the slick.

Seafood lovers have also turned out in the thousands for a seafood festival in Louisiana, fearing the oil and dispersant in peak spawning season had killed off this year's shrimp and oyster populations and the larvae of next year's harvests.

When BP first began using dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico, it was an older version of Corexit, which contained the solvent 2-butoxyethanol, according to Ron Tjeerdema, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Davis.

Ron Tjeerdema, who has studied dispersants for 25 years, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "That surprised me. The reality is, they were trying to use up their old stocks of Corexit and then switched to the new ones, in which butoxyethanol is replaced by what they call a food-grade solvent. They changed it for two reasons — to make it a little less harmful to workers and because the food-grade solvent is a little bit better at mixing with crude oil."

Studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) link short and intermediate exposure to 2-butoxyethanol in monkeys, rats, mice, rabbits and dogs to several health conditions including the destruction of red blood cells, or hemolysis, which can lead to kidney, spleen or liver damage. Other ill effects noted by the CDC were breathing difficulties, skin irritation, physical weakness and unsteadiness, sluggishness, and convulsions, as well as birth defects and fewer offspring in mammals.

The nine fishermen who were taken ill in the Gulf after helping to clean up the oil spill reported symptoms including chest pains, dizziness, nausea, and a burning sensation on the skin.

Louisiana tugboat captain Kevin "Godzilla" Curole used to surf off Port Fourchon, the Louisiana oil port closest to where the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank in April, rupturing a riser pipe which has been spewing oil into the water ever since. "I loved surfing there. It was my way of unwinding with my buddies. But the last time I went, on Mother's Day in early May, I couldn't wait to get out of the water and get home and have a shower. My skin was burning, my lips felt like they would fall off," he told AFP, blaming the uncomfortable sensation on BP's use of Corexit.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen has said that nearly a million gallons of dispersant has been used.

Ron Tjeerdema, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, and some 50 other experts met for two days in Louisiana and unanimously recommended that dispersants still be used to fight the slick. "We all agreed — and we're talking 50 people — that dispersants were the lesser of two negative possibilities, of two bad choices," said Tjeerdema.

Essentially, the experts decided to sacrifice marine life — which would be harmed anyway by the oil gushing into the Gulf and hanging underwater in huge plumes — to protect the shoreline, including Louisiana's marshlands, home to numerous species of animals and plants.

Carys Mitchelmore, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, explained in testimony to Congress last month the trade-off that is made when a decision is taken to use dispersant. "This is an example of a known pollutant purposely added to the marine environment," she said. "It is used because its overall benefit to the environment offsets the risk. But it is an environmental trade-off, the protection of one habitat at the cost of another."

Dispersants don't remove oil from the sea, but only change its properties, said Mitchelmore, adding that little was known about the toxicity of dispersants and dispersed oil. She urged long-term monitoring of the use of dispersants.

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP), 7th June 2010.

US scientists have charted vast oil plumes from the gushing BP well beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, and warn that the impact of the "invisible" undersea oil may be felt for years. "The public is seeing just a small fraction of what is taking place out there. Most of the oil is under the surface," Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, told AFP.

Scientists on the vessel sent down a deep-water diving camera that records what is happening under the water. The images they saw looked "almost like an oil and vinegar mixture — just like you have in a salad dressing with oil bubbles," said Schweiger. "That's what it looks like under the Gulf where the water has been contaminated… We're looking at an area of around 150 miles that's contaminated with this sub-surface oil," Schweiger said, warning that the oil "will not go away tomorrow or anytime soon."

The area hit by the spill provides the United States with half its shrimp and oysters, more than a third of its blue crab, and a quarter of all its fin fish, said Schweiger. "We have contaminated our seafood basket," he stated.

At least four research groups from different US universities have reported finding massive plumes deep beneath the surface of the Gulf. Researchers from the University of South Florida reported that they found "a wide area with elevated levels of dissolved hydrocarbons throughout the water column, possibly indicating that a limb of an undersea oil plume has spread northeast toward the continental shelf."

University of Georgia marine scientists reported two weeks ago finding deep-water plumes thousands of feet below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico. The other two universities that have reported finding plumes are Louisiana State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

But after the scientists went public with what they have found under the sea, BP chief executive Tony Hayward said that studies carried out by the British oil company found "no evidence" of underwater plumes of oil. BP has sprayed nearly one million gallons of dispersant on the spill, according to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.

Steven Pedigo, head of Oil Spill Eater International, which manufactures a product that has been used to clean up thousands of oil spills in 20 countries, without dispersing the oil, told AFP that dispersants "sink the oil into the water column."

"Saying there is no evidence of plumes when you're using dispersant is disingenuous," Pedigo said.

Fish scientist Prosanta Chakrabarty called the BP boss's statement "a disgrace. They haven't offered any evidence to counter what at least four independent teams of university researchers have found, and when you look at the difference between what BP said was coming out of the well in the beginning and what really is coming out, you have to question them," he said.

Chakrabarty warned that the oil and dispersant mix that is lurking below the surface of the Gulf could wipe out dozens of species of fish, including two different species of pancake batfish which he discovered six months ago. "Currently there are no reports about massive fish kills being sighted, but I'm afraid that a lot of damage is being done below the surface where the majority of oil is," he said.

Schweiger said that, with most of the oil hiding deep beneath the sea, "This is much more of a chronic problem than it is dramatic. It's a different kind of problem because of the way the oil has been dispersed. This is going to be a slow-motion play-out over months and years and will have enormous impact on fisheries and on bird life and on all the things we care about in this region."

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP), 4th June 2010.

MARINET observes:

The question of whether the Gulf of Mexico and its marine life is affected by the oil dispersants is a relatively short-term issue. There is a much longer-term issue from the presence of all this spilt oil. This oil will, in the course of time, "naturally" disappear because marine bacteria will feed upon it. It will in fact be a gigantic feast for these bacteria, and these bacteria will experience a population explosion.

However, these bacteria will require oxygen for their own metabolic processes and this they will obtain from the dissolved oxygen in the sea. A huge population explosion of these bacteria will therefore very likely strip all the dissolved oxygen out of the sea in the areas where the oil is present i.e. throughout the affected areas of the Gulf. This stripping of dissolved oxygen from the sea is bad news for other marine life ( e.g. fish, crustaceans and marine animals in general) which also require this dissolved oxygen. In short, it will not be there and hence they will die of asphyxiation.

This is the classic pollution event know as "eutrophication", usually caused by blooms of algae feeding on excess nutrients in the sea water which, when the blooms die, are eaten by bacteria who strip all the dissolved oxygen out of the sea. These excess nutrients originate, in many cases, from sewage discharges and agricultural fertilisers arriving in the Gulf via the region's rivers and the Gulf of Mexico already experiences this "classic" form of euthrophication, and is indeed notorious in this regard. The advent now of this massive amount of spilt oil will likely intensify the eutrophic effect, and could continue to intensify the effect until all the oil has been eaten by bacteria. This could take a substantial amount of time. In the meanwhile, there will be little spare dissolved oxygen in the sea, and the rich and abundant marine life in the Gulf will therefore be facing very dire prospects for some time.

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Scientists call for worldwide system of highly protected marine reserves

More than 245 marine scientists from 35 countries are calling for the establishment of a worldwide system of very large, highly protected marine reserves as 'an essential and long overdue contribution to improving stewardship of the global oceanic environment.'

While small marine reserves are known to protect some species, large reserves comparable to large national parks on land are necessary to better protect sea life in our oceans, which cover 71% of the planet.

By signing the statement, the experts endorsed the scientific case for designating very large, highly protected marine reserves and called on policymakers to take bolder action in establishing these areas. The statement issued by Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group, has been released in conjunction with World Oceans Day.

"The need to set aside more and larger marine reserves as one means of ensuring the continued health of our oceans is well accepted among marine scientists", said Dr. Bernard Salvat, noted coral reef scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Paris' École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). "We have to work on very large trans-boundary marine protected areas with intergovernmental agreements. We now need to speak out to educate governments and the public about the crisis facing our oceans and the long term benefits of establishing large, no-take marine reserves."

Overfishing, pollution and climate change are adversely affecting the health of the world's oceans, and ultimately threatening the livelihoods, food security and economic development of millions of people. Very large reserves can help reduce these problems, according to a recently published book, The Unnatural History of the Sea, by Dr. Callum Roberts, who is with the UK University of York.

Less than 0.5 percent of the world's oceans are fully protected from extractive or destructive activities. Large, no-take marine reserves have been shown to blunt the effects of excessive commercial fishing by offering a refuge for sea life to breed and spawn, providing for healthier fisheries as the fish swim into surrounding areas, and thus ensuring more resilient coastal economies. Because the ecosystems in ocean reserves are healthier, they are also more resistant to the damage caused by pollution, climate change and a wide range of other development activities.

"More than a century after nations had the foresight to protect important landscapes like Yellowstone National Park in the United States and Kruger National Park in South Africa, they have just begun to turn their attention to protecting similarly significant places in the sea", said Jay Nelson, director of Global Ocean Legacy. "The world's leaders need to recognise what more than 245 marine scientists from across the world understand: that the designation of very large, highly protected marine reserves is critical to maintaining the health of the ocean environment.'"

Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group in partnership with the Oak Foundation, Lyda Hill, the Robertson Foundation and the Sandler Foundation, strives to protect and preserve Earth's most important and unspoiled oceanic ecosystems. Its goal is to work with local citizens and governments to secure the designation of a handful of world class, no-take reserves that will provide ecosystem scale benefits and help conserve the global marine heritage.

A copy of the science statement (available in English and French) as well as additional information about Global Ocean Legacy is available at:

Source: News Service, 10th June 2010.

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The midway Bathing Water Directive — a retrograde step?

If one has recently visited the Environment Agency website to view the detailed analyses of the fortnightly samples taken from the UK's resorts (1), it will be seen that a selective part of the dictations of the 76/160/EC Bathing Waters Directive are still displayed, but so too is a leaning to the revised 2006/7/EC Bathing Waters Directive of 15th February 2006 (2). Although the mandatory total and faecal coliforms are shown, as are guideline faecal streptococci per 100ml of bathing water, the full listing of 76/160/EC mandatory parameters including the actual enterovirus and salmonella pathogens are no longer listed in the columns. So is the EA trying to achieve the best from both by this construed combination?

Sampling for enterovirus and salmonella required to establish mandatory conformity has long been ignored by the environment agency, resulting in 564 of the UK's 587 designated bathing waters (96.1%) being of unknown conformity last year as to be seen in our 'Good Beach Guide at

But now it's all of UK's bathing waters, as the columns listing both enterovirus and salmonella have disappeared altogether.

Sadly, this is permitted under the rulings of the revised 2006/7/EC Bathing Waters Directive, but the EA are obviously not using this yet as this lists specific testing for Intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli, not those as in the original Directive!

2006/7/EC now monitors and reports only two microbiological parameters — Intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli. The original requirement to monitor for the real pathogens, salmonella and enteroviruses, has been dropped completely.

Intestinal Enterococci are a subgroup of the wider group of organisms defined as Faecal Streptococci. (note — Faecal Streptococci were listed as such in 76/160/EC Bathing Waters Directive as a recommended guideline, not as a mandatory requirement). These bacteria are excreted in the faeces of humans and other warm blooded animals, and thus, relative to their concentration, form a good indicator of faecal pollution.

Escherichia coli, a.k.a. E.Coli form the other parameter. These are thermo-tolerant bacteria proliferating in the lower intestine of mammals. They are symbiotic with the digestive process, produce Vitamin K and help eliminate the culture of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Virtually all strains are harmless except for the cerotype E.Coli-0157 which can cause serious illness and fatality. They thus serve as an excellent indicator of the presence of untreated sewage, and were as Faecal Coliforms (F.Coli), a parameter employed in the original 76/160/EC Bathing Waters Directive.

Sadly the new Directive will again only apply to the 'bathing season' from May to September each year, ignoring the fact that wave surfers, wind-surfers, divers, jet-skiers and even brave swimmers regularly use the waters during the Spring, Autumn and Winter months. We asked for year round observance, but this request was ignored when drafting the new Directive…

Thus, the revised Directive now has a single standard which will apply to only two microbiological parameters to be monitored: Intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli. The original requirement to monitor for the real pathogens, salmonella and enteroviruses, has been dropped completely.

A further setback is that the new Directive will allow for the discounting (ignoring) of up to 15% of poor samples (failures) at some bathing sites if it can be claimed that these failures were due to single short-term pollution events. It now becomes possible for new samples to be taken until the required pass is possible. Evidence from the recent press and TV exposures show that this clause is being very liberally translated in the sampling regime. Furthermore, instead of testing once a fortnight as before, the new regime sets a minimum of only four samples needing to be taken during the bathing season (i.e. one a month) with an additional sample just before the season opens.

The only good news is that is that factual information to the vulnerable public has to be given, and that the assessment which will be given in terms of a rather over-simplified 'Excellent', 'Good' and 'Poor' quality status may, in reality, be seen by the public as possibly being more meaningful despite it to a large extent being subjective.

The new 2006/7/EC Bathing Waters Directive is clearly the product of a much simplified compromise, doing away with the different mandatory and guideline compliance.

The route to finding the detailed analysis as distinct from the subjective assessments are convoluted and tortuous, but may be found below under (1).

Compliance levels in the 2006/7/EC Bathing Water Directive have changed. MARINET has serious concerns in that many of the points for inclusion made throughout our submissions have been omitted, to the detriment of respect for the health of water recreation lists. It appears that instead of enforcement to meet the law the EC has changed the law to suit those who regularly broke it.

As the Environment Agency are obliged to make their findings openly and freely available to the public, as enterovirus and salmonella are not to be included, and as failed samples will not be indicated on the register, there is little point in MARINET now continuing to publish its Good Beach Guide, as it would be devoid of essential content and duplicative of that put out by the authority.

Sibylle Grohs of the European Commission read a draft the above treatise, and responded: "Yes, this is true. But the reasons for dropping these two parameters was not cost but their lack of effectiveness. It is a matter of fact that the EC corresponded with complainants including Marinet over a long period of time even before the beginning of the revision of the Directive".

(1) The route to finding the detailed analysis as distinct from the subjective assessments are convoluted and tortuous, but may be found by going to then to click on 'New Bathing Water' on the Left Hand Side column. Go 'Bathing Waters near you', then to 'What's in your backyard' — bathing waters'. Put in the nearest Post Code, and click on the blue spot which appears on the map. Next click on 'View Data' to see the results. On a one off basis, perform this for each resort of interest.

(2) You can read the full 2006/7/EC Bathing Waters Directive and the maximum concentrations of bacteria permitted in coastal and transitional bathing waters as a pdf file here.

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Rapidly Eroding Suffolk

The Lowestoft Journal has recorded that a stretch of sea just wall north of Lowestoft has been closed because it has become unsafe. The wall below Cliff House and Tibbenham's Score in Corton is temporarily closed following the slippage of masonry in the area.

The full story 'Corton sea wall closed' by Hayley Mace can be read in the Lowestoft Journal here.

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Erosion-threatened Thorpeness householders blame dredging

Andrew Woodger of BBC Suffolk wrote an item for the BBC website entitled 'Homeowners living on the cliff top at Thorpeness are questioning whether dredging is to blame' following Thorpeness experiencing a loss of their beach shingle cover and a twenty foot section of cliff overnight in early May. All the previous shingle has been washed away exposing the gabions (wire baskets filled with rocks) which protected the sandy cliff.
exposed gabions at foot of cliff

Gabions at Thorpeness

The British Marine Aggregate Producers Association said there's no connection between dredging at sea and the erosion on the beach, despite the fact that one of the largest current projects is providing the aggregate for the £300m expansion project at the Port of Felixstowe. "If there's any doubt that the extraction was causing an impact on the coastline, the dredging would simply not be permitted," said Mark Russell, director of BMAPA.

Suffolk Coastal District Council says it is consulted on any dredging work, but it has no powers or control over it. Yet, unlike other coastal councils, they never object to granting further dredging licences when consulted. Not that this would ever prevent it!

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New evidence that noise pollution affects fish

Fish are being threatened by rising levels of man-made noise pollution, according to scientists who have reviewed the impact of noises made by oil and gas rigs, ships, boats and sonar on fish species around the world.

Rather than live in a silent world, most fish hear well and sound plays an active part in their lives. Increasing noise levels may therefore severely affect the distribution of fish, and their ability to reproduce, communicate and avoid predators.

Underwater sounds are difficult to hear by people living in air. "People always just assumed that the fish world was a silent one,"says biologist Dr Hans Slabbekoorn of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

In the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Dr Slabbekoorn and colleagues from the Netherlands, Germany and the USA report how the underwater environment is anything but quiet. So far, all fish studied to date are able to hear sounds, either by an inner ear or a lateral line that runs along a fish's side. Different fish vary in the sensitivity of their hearing. For example, Atlantic cod have "average" hearing abilities, say the authors, while freshwater goldfish can hear at higher frequencies. Generally fish hear best within 30-1000Hz, though species with special adaptations can detect sounds up to 3000-5000Hz.

80% of global freight transport takes place by motorised shipping, and the global shipping fleet comprises around 1.2 million vessels.

Fish-finding echo sounders have been used by fishing boats since the 1950s, and some exceptional species are sensitive to ultrasound, while others such as the European eel, a freshwater species that spawns at sea, are sensitive to infrasound.

This means human-generated underwater noise has the potential to affect fish just as traffic noise affects terrestrial animals such as birds, say the researchers. "The level and distribution of underwater noise is growing at a global scale but receives very little attention," says Dr Slabbekoorn.

To date, most research has focused on the impact sound might have on marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins. But noise pollution might severely affect the distribution of fish, and their ability to reproduce, communicate and avoid predators. For example, some studies have reported that Atlantic herring, cod and blue-fin tuna flee sounds and school less coherently in noisy environments. That could mean that fish distributions are being affected, as fish avoid places polluted by man-made noise.

Noise pollution could significantly impact communication between fish: so far over 800 species of fish from 109 families are known to produce sounds, generally broadband signals at less than 500Hz. Fish make sounds when fighting over territories, competing for food, within spawning aggregations and when under attack from predators.

Earlier this year, Dr Slabbekoorn published a report in the journal Behavioural Ecology that suggested that cichlid fish in Lake Victoria, East Africa produce species-specific sounds that also correlate with the size of the fish. The sounds play an essential role in mating and sexual selection among cichlids in the lake, he reports.

So as well as affecting the distribution of fish, this means noise pollution could interrupt their reproduction, by causing stress or restricting their ability to find a mate or keep them from preferred spawning sites. It could also prevent fish from hearing each other and communicating effectively, and affect their ability to detect noisy prey, or hear oncoming predators.

Source: Earth News, BBC Online, 1st June 2010.

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Coastal statistics on link between leukaemia and plutonium remain secret

The Herald Scotland, 30th May 2010, reports that Scotland's first, longest and most disputed Freedom of Information case has ended up with vital cancer statistics remaining secret.

After two investigations by the Scottish information commissioner, Kevin Dunion, plus appeals to the Court of Session in Edinburgh and the House of Lords in London, numbers that might shed light on the links between children's blood cancer and radioactive pollution have been kept under wraps.

The Scottish Green Party, which made the original request, is frustrated and annoyed. The Scottish Health Service, which fought to keep the information confidential, sounds relieved.

Back at the start of 2005, Michael Collie, a researcher for the then Green MSP, Chris Ballance, asked the Scottish Health Service for the annual incidence of childhood leukaemia in every census ward in Dumfries and Galloway from 1990 to 2003.

They wanted to test widespread suspicions that the debilitating and potentially fatal cancer could be caused by radioactive contamination. Plutonium from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria washes up on the Solway coast, and has been detected around the shoreline.

The health service, however, refused to release the information on the grounds that the small numbers of cases in particular areas might enable individual patients still alive to be identified. So Collie lodged Scotland's first Freedom of Information appeal with Mr Dunion's office in St Andrews on 27 January 2005.

After a six-month investigation, Mr Dunion concluded that the information could be released in a way that would not identify individuals. But the health service appealed to the Court of Session.

The Scottish court upheld Mr Dunion's findings, but the health service then appealed again to the House of Lords in England. In July 2008, five law lords concluded that Mr Dunion was wrong in law, and ordered him to rethink his decision. They argued that the form in which the information would be released amounted to sensitive personal data, that should be kept confidential under the 1998 Data Protection Act.

As a result Mr Dunion has conducted a second investigation, the results of which were sent to those involved last week. This time he agreed with the House of Lords, and ruled that the information as requested should not be released. He did, however, order the health service to provide aggregated statistics for the whole Dumfries and Galloway Health Board area. But they will not show the very local effects that are suspected.

"I regret that it has taken so long to finalise this decision, particularly when your application was the first to be made," wrote Mr Dunion to Mr Collie. "I appreciate how frustrating the whole process must have been for you."

The saga had helped resolve some issues over the form in which information had to be provided, but there were still problems. "Confusion over the definition of personal data is likely to remain for some time," said Mr Dunion.

"I don't think there is anything at all for us in this," commented former MSP Mr Ballance. "We wanted to test the hypothesis that childhood leukaemia rates are higher by the coast than inland, because of radiation from Sellafield blown in on sea spray. An aggregated set of statistics for the area will tell us nothing except that they are about in line with national statistics. I think we know that already." Mr Ballance argued that local communities had a right to their own health statistics. "The small numbers at issue here are a problem, but I don't accept that there is no better way round it," he stated.

NHS National Services Scotland's medical director, Dr Marion Bain, accepted this had been a difficult request. "We are fully supportive of the fundamental principles underpinning Freedom of Information," she said. "At the same time, we have a clear duty to respect and preserve patients' right to confidentiality."

The information in the form now requested by Mr Dunion would be released. "We will continue to work closely with the information commissioner to make as much information available as possible where this is consistent with protecting patient privacy," Dr Bain added.

Source: The Herald Scotland, 30th May 2010.

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£2bn offshore windfarm to go ahead off north Wales

Construction work will begin next year on one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world, an energy firm has announced.

The £2bn Gwynt y Mor windfarm will have 160 wind turbines around 10 miles off the north Wales coast near Colwyn Bay and Llandudno.

The RWE Innogy-led project is expected to be completed in 2014.

Source: BBC Online 4th June 2010

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Offshore energy has massive potential for the UK

The UK could become a net exporter of offshore-generated renewable electricity by 2050 by utilising just under a third of its total offshore wind, wave and tidal energy resources. This is according to a report published by the Offshore Valuation Group, an informal collaboration of government and industry organisations. Under this scenario, the offshore energy industry would also create 145,000 jobs in the UK and provide £28 billion in tax revenues annually.

The report said that the government and industry need to make sure that the next round of offshore wind projects were able to connect to a "supergrid" to avoid locking out potential future electricity sales to Europe.

It also said that the UK needs to develop the supply chain as well as a new financing structure that can support the scale and speed that is required of the industry.

The UK, where offshore wind installed capacity has recently reached 1 gigawatt, is leading the global sector.

About £100 billion is expected to be invested in UK offshore wind projects over the next decade. However even though the potential is huge, the sector is facing high development costs, an underdeveloped supply chain, technology and engineering challenges, as well as a lack of grid infrastructure.

The report states that Britain could become the "Saudi Arabia of the renewables world" on the back of North Sea wind and wave resources, and estimates that by 2050 the UK could generate annually offshore the equivalent in electricity to 1 billion barrels of oil and gas.

"The UK is now most of the way through its first great offshore energy asset, our stock of hydrocarbon reserves. The central finding of this report is that our second offshore asset, of renewable energy, could be just as valuable. Britain's extensive offshore experience could now unlock an energy flow that will never run out," the report concludes.

The report looks at different likely scenarios for growth of the industry with even the most conservative — 13% resource utilisation, producing 78 gigawatts of power at a capital cost of £170bn — which would provide half of the UK's electricity demand. A more ambitious scenario, using 29% of resources would see 169GW installed at a cost of nearly £433bn and would make Britain a net exporter of electricity.

Sources: Dow Jones Newswires, 19th May 2010
The Guardian, 19th May 2010.

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Problems in the Baltic Sea remain serious

None of the open basins of the Baltic Sea have reached an acceptable ecosystem health status, according to the latest scientific assessment from the Helsinki Commission (Helcom) released at a meeting in Moscow, 20th May 2010.

Reiterating similar warnings from last year, the Helsinki Commission says that despite a decrease in inputs of nitrogen by 30% and phosphorus by 45% since 1990, eutrophication has not diminished. Further upgrading of waste water treatment plants is still necessary.

Concentrations of certain persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins have fallen following bans of these substances. But new substances such as brominated flame retardants and pharmaceuticals have also become a cause of concern.

Human-induced pressures on the marine environment are highest in areas with the highest population densities such as the Gulfs of Finland, Riga and Gdansk and the south-western sea area. The Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland is the only large area with a favourable status for biodiversity.

The findings are intended to help the implementation of Helcom's 2007 Baltic Sea action plan. Baltic Sea ministers have adopted the Moscow declaration, reaffirming their commitment to phasing out phosphates in detergents by 2015 and develop national implementation programmes by 2011.

Source: ENDSeurope 21st May 2010.

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US halts deep-water offshore oil exploration

The U.S. government has ordered a temporary halt to drilling at 33 deep-water exploration rigs, part of a broader response to the massive BP oil spill that threatens efforts to tap offshore fields seen as crucial to increased U.S. oil output.

The move may potentially delay project development plans by companies like Chevron Corp in the Gulf of Mexico, where rising production has helped offset shrinking domestic onshore supply.

Unlike the US administration's recently announced six-month extension of its ban on new deep-water drilling permits, and cancellation of a much-anticipated lease sale offshore Virginia, this pause for existing deep-sea exploratory rigs threatens to affect proven oil discoveries rather than just untested areas.

Although the measures will not affect oil wells already in production, the 33 exploratory rigs are supposed to stop at the first safe opportunity, and implement new safety measures before resuming operations. US Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, confirmed that the halt would not apply to rigs operating in shallow waters.

This could increase costs and delay development plans for companies like Royal Dutch Shell, which is among the biggest Gulf explorers, while major contract drillers who could be left with idled rigs include Transocean Ltd and Noble Corp. Brazilian state oil company Petrobras said the suspension could slow the development of its Gulf of Mexico Cascade-Chinook fields that were originally scheduled to begin production in the second half of this year. Those areas were expected to reach 80,000 barrels a day over several years.

Energy consultants Wood Mackenzie previously estimated a six-month extension of the ban would delay 80,000 barrels a day in U.S. oil production that was expected in 2011. While that is only about 5 percent of the Gulf's total output, any delay to future development could elevate long-dated oil prices and would increase demand for imported crude, something President Barack Obama has sworn to curb.

In addition to cancelling the Virginia lease sale, the US government has also cancelled a lease sale that was planned for the western Gulf of Mexico in mid-August, an area that could have produced up to 423 million barrels of oil.

The Gulf of Mexico accounted for about 29 percent of U.S. crude oil production and 11 percent of natural gas output last year, according to the U.S. Energy Department. About 24 percent of America's total oil production came from wells in Gulf waters more than 1,000 feet deep. About 5 percent of U.S. gas output came from wells at such depths.

New exploratory drilling in water depths of more than 500 feet will be banned under the six-month moratorium.

Source: Reuters, 27th May 2010.

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Waste plastic is now an "environmental emergency"

In an article in The Daily Mail, 17th May 2010, the television journalist Simon Reeve reports on the severe impact that plastic is now having on the world environment, both on land and at sea. He reports that plastic waste chokes and kills at least a million seabirds every year and 100,000 marine mammals. In addition, plastic fragments release potentially harmful styrene compounds which not only contaminate the sea but also attract other chemicals in the water, such as DDT and PCBs, which adhere to the plastic. These polluted plastic fragments are so small (the size of plankton) and look like food that they are readily eaten by small fish, which in turn are eaten by larger fish, which in turn are eaten by us. Thus, the whole food chain is now polluted by plastic, much of it toxic in nature.
We reproduce his full report below.

"Hawaii is generally considered to be the one place in the world where you should be able to guarantee finding paradise. The beautiful tropical islands have been used as the setting for countless TV series, ranging from Lost to Jurassic Park. Isolated in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, distance alone should protect Hawaii's spectacular landscapes and turquoise sea from the environmental problems facing the rest of the planet. So when I arrived in Hawaii, at the end of a long journey around the Tropic of Cancer for my recent BBC2 series, I was staggered to discover beaches covered in plastic rubbish washed up from around the world.

"Pristine sand was covered by old plastic toothbrushes, combs, shoes, belts and mouldings. Sam Gon, a Hawaiian conservationist, took me to one beach where 70 local volunteers had just removed tons of garbage. Yet as soon as it was cleaned, the waves dumped another mountain of rubbish. The larger pieces of waste can be collected by hand. But when Sam and I dropped to our knees, I could see the surface of the beach was covered with millions of small plastic pellets, known as nurdles, the raw material that factories warm, shape and mould to form the almost infinite number of plastic products that surround our lives. Dumped, lost or washed out of factories into our seas in their trillions, the nurdles would be difficult to remove from the beach even with a giant sieve.

"Yet the big shock came when Sam told me to dig into the sand. Plastic doesn't biodegrade. Instead it breaks down into ever smaller pieces. Among the grains of sand, and to a depth of several feet, were billions of tiny plastic flecks, which the pounding of the sea was reducing in size. As I dug through the plastic, I realised the sandy beach was being transformed into a plastic beach. A chill went down my spine.

"During the past five years I have travelled around Earth's tropical region for three television series, Equator, Tropic Of Capricorn and, most recently, Tropic Of Cancer. On my trips I've explored and investigated some of the most pressing issues affecting us and our planet, including poverty, disease and religious fundamentalism. My journeys have left me in no doubt that the most critical challenge we face is our relationship with the environment.

"From the beaches of Hawaii to the seas around Britain, we are soiling our own nest. Since finishing my travels and returning home from Hawaii, I've taken a closer look at British beaches. It was a shock to realise how they have changed since I was a child playing on beautiful coastlines in Dorset and south Wales, where my little brother James would happily eat the sand. Britain's beaches, just like those in Hawaii, are now covered in more litter than ever before.

"The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores and wildlife, has revealed that while total litter has increased by 77 per cent since its Beachwatch survey and clean-up in 1994, plastic litter has increased by an extraordinary 121 per cent. In September, the MCS will be organising another national Beachwatch clean-up and it needs all the help it can get. Decades ago, beach rubbish was biodegradable. Now it is mainly plastic and even beaches that seem clean can have an astonishing 5,000 plastic fibres per litre of sand. But worryingly, the plastic we see on our beaches is just a fraction of the plastic waste that is clogging our oceans.

"Apart from a tiny quantity that has been incinerated, all the plastic ever created — totalling hundreds of millions of tons — is still out there in the environment in some form. Huge amounts have been stuffed into landfills as rubbish, from where plastic can leach poisonous toxins into groundwater supplies. But vast quantities have also been dropped as litter on beaches or city streets around the world. Rivers often wash it out to sea.

"Added to that are the estimated 600,000 plastic containers dumped overboard by ships and navies every single day. In total, at least 100 million tons of plastic rubbish is thought to be sloshing around in our seas.

"The scale of the problem is extraordinary. The beaches I visited in Hawaii are being swamped by rubbish from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast accumulation of the world's plastic debris floating in the Pacific Ocean. Twice the size of France, the Garbage Patch is like a plastic soup in the sea and is doubling in size each decade. Unbelievably, it is not alone. Scientists are convinced that sea currents have created five vast swirling garbage patches in our oceans, including a huge one in the North Atlantic identified in the past few months, which has up to 520,000 bits of rubbish per square mile. Even more rubbish lurks below the surface, as around 70 per cent sinks down to pollute the seabed.

"This is an international scandal and a global problem, for which we are all responsible. From bicycle helmets to food packaging, from water bottles to toothbrushes, plastic makes our lives easier. But its production and use is completely out of control. Factories produced more plastic in the first decade of this century than in the entire 20th century.

"They are churning out a staggering 300 million tons of plastic each year, much of which will be turned into products that are used once and then thrown away.

"As rubbish on land, plastic is a scourge of our modern world. In our seas, the damage all this plastic does is terrifying. Plastic garbage traps, chokes and kills at least a million seabirds every year and 100,000 marine mammals. As if that wasn't bad enough, it could also be killing us. Plastic fragments release potentially harmful styrene compounds, contaminating the sea, and they attract other nasty chemicals in the water, such as DDT and PCBs, which then 'stick' to the plastic. Fragments of plastic collected from the sea around Japan have been found with concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals at levels one million times higher than in the surrounding seawater.

"In some areas of the Pacific there are six times more plastic bits than plankton. Because the polluted fragments are so small and look like food, they are being gobbled up by small fish, which in turn are eaten by larger fish — which in turn are eaten by us. So plastic is ruining our beaches, choking the oceans and poisoning our food chain. The consequences are still not fully understood, but they are likely to be devastating.

"This environmental catastrophe is being completely ignored by our politicians. Yet there is so much that could and must be done to help the problem. Alternatives to plastic and biodegradable plastics made from corn and soy are under development. We need to spurn and reject the main culprits: plastic bags, packaging and single-use water bottles, a wasteful obscenity. These make up the bulk of plastic garbage.

"In Bangladesh, they have abandoned plastic bags and replaced them with natural jute bags. If they can do it, so can we. At stake is the future of British beaches, our seas and the food chain. It is nothing short of an environmental emergency!"

Source: The Daily Mail 17th May 2010.

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If Jesus were to return to the Sea of Galilee today…

BBC online news, 12th May 2010, reports that fishing has been banned in the Sea of Galilee.

"The Sea of Galilee has for centuries provided a healthy living for hundreds of fishermen — the disciple Peter among them, according to the Bible. But now an unprecedented fishing ban is being enforced on the Sea of Galilee because, says the Israeli Government, chronic over-fishing has severely depleted stocks.

The Sea of Galilee is a mythical and historical place. It was here, says the Bible, that Jesus walked on water and in the hills overlooking where he fed the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves. According to the Gospels, when Jesus told Peter to cast his nets into deep-water, "they caught fish in such large numbers their nets began to break". From Biblical times to the great travel writers of the 19th Century people wrote about the abundant fish stocks of Lake Galilee.

The Galilee, in reality a large freshwater lake, has supported fishermen and their communities along its shores for hundreds of years. As recently as 10 years ago there were more than 100 small boats and eight trawlers working the lake.

Today Menachem Lev skippers the last large boat on the Galilee but as he casts his nets into deep-water he knows they won't come up full. There are a few mullet and catfish — but alarmingly few of the large St Peter's Fish, for which the Galilee is famous. Official figures show that as recently as 2005 almost 300 tonnes of the local St Peter's Fish were caught here. Last year that figure fell to just eight tonnes. Most of the fish I saw being caught out on the lake were small juveniles — very little worth keeping.

The Israeli Government's response to falling stocks is a blanket two-year ban on fishing. Menachem the fisherman disagrees. "It's not fishermen who are to blame," bemoans Menachem, who has been putting his boat out onto the water here for 31 years. "What good would a two-year ban do? After two years, even more fishermen and more boats would come back. In the meantime the cormorants and other birds that eat all the young fish would still be here." A fishing ban would also force Menachem, and his three man crew — all members of the En Gev Kibbutz on the eastern shore of the Galilee — to find alternative work. Another 100 or so fishermen with smaller boats, dotted around the lake, would be in a similar predicament.

Surrounded by specimen jars in his Tel Aviv laboratory, Professor Menachem Goren, an aquatic biologist, says he can come to no other conclusion. There are too many fishermen, with nets that catch too many small fish and there has been no management of fishing on the lake. A fishing ban is tough, but it's the only way to deal with the problem."

They still serve tasty, freshly-fried St Peter's Fish at En Gev restaurant to the coach loads of tourists who call in every day. It's deceptive, though. Because of declining stocks, nearly all of the fish has been bought from fish farms.

As he returns to the harbour, after a day's fishing under the sweltering sun, with yet another disappointing catch, Menachem Lev is clearly unhappy that he's being forced to hang up his nets for two years. But it may be the only way if, as in Biblical times, they'll one day again be full to bursting with fish."

Source: BBC On-line 12th May 2010 written by Wyre Davies.

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Norway grapples with explosion threat in its North Sea oil rigs

The Guardian reports, 27th March 2010, that gas build-up threatens Norwegian North Sea oil rigs, with workers evacuated as Norwegian engineers pump cement into offshore wells in order to prevent explosions, thus highlighting the dangers brought to prominence by the BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Ninety oil workers have been evacuated from a North Sea rig as engineers fight to control a huge build up of pressure in a well which critics say has the potential to blow-up the platform and cause a major environmental problem. The Norwegian company Statoil has been pumping cement into an offshore well on the Gullfaks field in an operation similar to the one being attempted today by BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

The equivalent of around 70,000 barrels of oil a day of production from the Gullfaks C, Tordis and Gimle platforms has been shut down and more than 90 staff evacuated from the area, which lies in Norwegian waters. The country's industry regulator said it was the third well control incident on Gullfaks in the past six months.

Jake Molloy, offshore organiser of the RMT union in Aberdeen, said the case also highlighted the continuing dangers of oil extraction off Britain's coast. He added: "The huge gas bubble under the Gullfaks has the potential to threaten the platform."

However, Statoil said today that the well was being brought under control. "We had a build-up in pressure and the barriers through the blowout preventer worked as they should. We are now pumping cement into the well and the pressure is starting to fall," said Kai Neilsen, a spokesman for the oil group in London.

Nelson said the previous incidents on Gullfaks had not been serious but Inger Anda, a spokeswoman for Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA), said a well "kick", reported in December, was serious. A further incident on 30 April this year — also a gas kick caused by high pressure — was brought under control quickly. Anda said the authority was having daily meetings with Statoil until the latest problem was resolved.

Gullfaks C started production in 1990. It is one of three large concrete-legged platforms comprising the huge Gullfaks development and stands in water 217 metres deep — much shallower than BP's Deepwater well in the Gulf. The unit taps oil from the Tordis field as well as taking in supplies from the Gimle and Skinfaks satellite fields.

The Bellona green campaign group said it was concerned about lax regulation in the North Sea. It described the Statoil field emergency as "very critical" and highlighted continued risks of offshore oil and gas exploration in the wake of BP's well blowout and environmental disaster off America.

"They have a situation in which there is uncontrolled pressure from the well, one of the barriers is gone and one barrier is left," said Frederic Hauge, head of Bellona, one of the leading environmental groups in Norway. "Uncontrolled pressure is very serious and has the capability of being a large accident," he said, adding that in the first quarter of 2010, eight incidents took place in the Norwegian oil industry that could have had huge consequences. That is very serious. Regulatory work in Norway may look nice from outside, but we have a lot of security issues in the Norwegian industry."

Source: The Guardian, 27th May 2010.

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New evidence of sewage pollution of UK beaches

In a article in The Sunday Times, 23 May 2010, new evidence has come forward that combined sewer overflows (CSOs) — the practice of discharging sewage overflows into rivers and the sea without treatment — are being used on a widespread basis, and are even contaminating Blue Flag beaches which are meant to have attained the highest quality standards. For details of the types of illness that can be contracted from bathing in sewage contaminated water, see MARINET website

The Sunday Times articles reads:

"On holiday in Padstow, Cornwall, last year Alex Burns and his brother Simon shrugged off England's wet and stormy summer to enjoy some surfing. After three days of crashing about in the waves, Simon became violently sick. "I started being sick at midnight and was sick eight times that night," said Simon, 14. The vomiting bug was gone within 24 hours, but two days later Alex fell ill. "It started in the late afternoon and then I was being sick probably every half-hour," he said last week.

The two brothers, from a village near Banbury, racked their brains over what could have made them so ill. They ruled out food poisoning and concluded that it could have been only one thing: dirty, bug-infested sea water. The possible source of that contamination may lie in a huge database provided last week to The Sunday Times by the Environment Agency (EA). It maps tens of thousands of sewage spills from overflow and outfall pipes into the country's bathing waters during 2008 and 2009.

In theory, pipes affecting public beaches are supposed to spill out significant amounts of raw sewage and rainwater only three times at most during the whole summer. But the data reveal that in the worst cases some are operating as often as five times a day. According to the documents, in the summer of 2008 outlets in Padstow and nearby Rock discharged sewage and floodwater more than 40 times. On July 9 that year, one raw sewage outlet at Padstow was operating for more than 17 hours.

Did similar spills in 2009 make the Burns brothers ill? The data cannot be seen — because, to the fury of many people, water companies still refuse to make all their information available.

However, even the limited EA figures paint a grim picture. They reveal that there are 15,000 sewage and floodwater overflows; of these, 457 affect designated bathing areas — including 50 blue flag beaches. The overflows are supposed to cope with emergencies, but the data show that they operate much more frequently than the public imagines. During heavy rain, they start flowing.

At Combe Martin, on the north coast of Devon, three sewage overflow pipes discharged more than 70 times during the 2008 bathing season and more than 50 times in 2009. During one test there were 23,400 faecal bacteria per 100ml of water; the recommended level for the cleanest beaches is 100 bacteria per 100ml, or fewer. Mothecombe, on the south coast of Devon, had more than 120 spills during the summer from sewage outlets that could affect the water quality. Exmouth had more than 150.

Surfers, who regularly contract stomach bugs and infections, have long suspected that overflow pipes are being used routinely to dump unprocessed sewage. But they have struggled for years to get any detailed discharge data from the water companies. Andy Cummins, campaign director at Surfers against Sewage (SAS), said: "The evidence The Sunday Times has uncovered is outrageous, but unfortunately not surprising. Sewer overflows are being used to dump sewage rather than treat it. It matches up with anecdotal evidence that SAS is receiving from water users all over the country. These shocking figures highlight the contempt that water companies are showing towards water users, bill payers and the environment."

South West Water has been credited with dramatically improving the overall water quality of its beaches with a £1.5 billion "Clean Sweep" programme. The new data reveal there is still much to do.

About 2.8m cases of illness a year are caused by swimming in dirty water, according to a 2002 study funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are most at risk. A 2003 World Health Organisation report, Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments, states: "Direct discharge of crude untreated sewage through short outfalls or combined sewer overflows into recreational areas presents a serious risk to public health."

Candice O'Donnell, 26, the European ladies' longboard surfing champion, who was brought up in Newquay, Cornwall, said a warning system was required on the country's beaches. "Your beach may look clean but just around the corner there might be a sewage overflow," she said. "And it might have been raining and they don't tell you that the water has a lot of bacteria in it."

Last week Southern Water, which covers the Hampshire, Sussex and Kent coast, as well as the Isle of Wight, admitted that some of its overflow pipes were discharging more than 100 times during the summer. It disclosed details of 38,000 "spills" in 2007-9, from discharges lasting a few minutes to others lasting several weeks.

On the Isle of Wight three overflow pipes each discharged untreated sewage and storm water more than 100 times during 2008. The Good Beach Guide, produced by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), recommended just seven of the island's beaches in 2009, compared with 16 in 2008. Joe Caudwell, 35, a teacher and surfer who lives at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, said he suffered an ear infection in July last year after surfing on the island's Hope beach after rain. "I felt dizzy and sick and had really poor hearing," he said. "I lost my balance and felt disoriented. It completely drained me." The Hope beach sewer overflow pipe is located near the car park on the seafront. Caudwell has been keeping an eye on it ever since his ear infection. "Whenever there is heavy rainfall, stuff will come out," he said. "It's grey or brown liquid and has a very unpleasant smell. Sanitary items get stuck between the bars of the pipe. You see used sanitary towels and toilet paper."

On some stretches of the coast, hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of untreated sewage and floodwater are pumped out offshore from popular beaches. The Anchorsholme pumping station near Blackpool, Lancashire, operated more than 70 times between April and September last year during wet weather, sending 340,000 cubic metres of raw sewage and storm water out to sea.

A pumping station in Whitburn, South Tyneside, discharged sewage and floodwater on 40 occasions during the 2009 bathing season for nine hours on average. Robert Latimer, who lives on the seafront, said sewage debris was regularly strewn along nearby Seaburn beach and the promenade. Despite the sewage pollution, Seaburn last year achieved the highest water quality standard after EA tests. Earlier this month it was awarded the prestigious blue flag award. "This is absolutely shocking," said Latimer. "This is a beach with sewage and it should never have got a blue flag."

Thomas Bell, coastal pollution officer with the MCS, said the Seaburn test results showed the testing regime was a "blunt instrument". He added: "These tests were designed by Europe when countries were pouring out huge amounts of sewage into the sea. They are not designed to pick up sporadic discharges that might occur only a few times a month but are a hazard to health."

Even when the tests do show high readings of bacteria, water companies can claim the overflows were deluged because of abnormal levels of rain. The sample is then disregarded and another one is taken.

The water companies are resisting public requests for detailed information about spills from what are known as "combined sewer overflows". Fish Legal, which campaigns for better water quality, has been refused information from the water companies on sewage discharges affecting rivers. Company executives argue that they do not run public bodies and therefore do not have to comply with the environmental information regulations. Christopher Graham, the UK information commissioner, has backed the water companies on this issue, but Fish Legal is appealing. Guy Linley-Adams, a lawyer representing Fish Legal, said: "It's hard to think of any organisation or public body that has as big an impact on the environment as the water companies. The idea they are not covered by these regulations is frankly laughable."

The poor state of some beaches will come under closer scrutiny with the implementation of a tougher new bathing directive by 2015. The MCS estimates that as many as one in seven beaches may be rated "poor", which means that signs must be erected warning bathers against swimming.

The European commission is also scrutinising the country's use of raw sewage overflow and outfall pipes. It is taking Britain to the European Court over the discharges at Whitburn, which it believes may be in violation of the European Union waste water directive.

Paul Hickey, head of water quality at the EA, said: "There has been huge investment to improve bathing water quality and 98.6% of the country's beaches now comply with the mandatory EU standard. However, we are not complacent and where there are problems we'll investigate and take action." The agency says that in the past two decades more than 8,000 overflow and other storm sewage outlets both on the coast and inland have been improved to reduce the number of spills. Further improvements are planned and an additional 400 overflow pipes in bathing and shellfish areas will be fitted with monitoring equipment. The agency said the limit on sewage overflow of just three significant spills during a bathing season was enforced only if the sewage was likely to make the beach fail the current water quality tests. Next year more information will be provided at beaches about the locations of overflows and the possible risks.

South West Water said it was working with SAS and the Health Protection Agency to establish whether the reporting of sewage and stormwater discharges at some of its 1,500 overflows could be improved. It said overall water quality in the region had improved dramatically in the past two decades.

Southern Water said it had worked with the EA to tackle overflows with "unacceptable impacts" on the environment and all of its beaches met the mandatory standard.

Water UK, which represents the water companies, says £1 billion has been earmarked for improving overflows during the next five years.

Source: The Sunday Times, 23 May 2010.

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Coming 'Shoreline Management Plan' (SMP) Presentations

A series of presentations labelled 'public consultations' on the regions coastal protection plans are about to come about, where four public 'drop-in' events will allow the public to see the various SMP documents and its supporting studies, as well as taking a direct consultative part in a part of the project called a 'strategic environmental assessment', where staff from the various organisations involved will be on hand to answer questions.

The drop-in sessions will be at Sea Palling village hall on 8th June, Great Yarmouth Town Hall on 9th June, Corton Village Hall on 10th June and the Church Rooms in Mundesley on 11th June. Each event will run from 2.30pm to 7pm.

Bearing in mind the appalling shortcomings of the initial SMP resulting in its utter rejection, it is important that these documents are thoroughly studied and contemplated, and that your arising concerns are expressed. The plans and documents pertaining can be seen at council offices and libraries in the coastal towns and villages, and are available online at

It is important that the ridiculous concept of allowing the loss of coastline to the sea under 'Managed Retreat' is pointed out, and that nothing whatsoever is being done about the main cause of the erosion experienced, i.e. offshore aggregate dredging.

In the light of the heightening economic crisis and the high probability of cuts in coastal protection coming about in forthcoming budget allocations, it is even more important to address the cause rather than merely attend to the consequences and partial remediation.

Our website items listed under will provide a good grounding in the limitations and shortcomings currently abounding.

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Artificial surfing reefing at Bournemouth has "teething problems"

The Guardian reports, 18th May 2010 Our railways have had problems with the wrong sort of snow and leaves, but now a coastal resort has hit trouble with the wrong type of waves. A £3m artificial reef is producing surf that is too short and too difficult for the average boarding enthusiast, a report found today.

The man-made reef at Boscombe, near Bournemouth, was the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere, but has received a mixed reaction from surfers. Now the council is withholding a £150,000 performance payment from its creator, ASR Ltd, until the issues are resolved.

Problems identified in a study published today include issues with the length of ride and the frequency of waves, which need to be "slightly less challenging" to attract journeyman surfers. The findings were based on a performance assessment by experts at Plymouth University showing that the reef had only achieved four of its 11 objectives since opening in November. Created 225m out to sea and made of 55 sand-filled bags, the reef was aimed at making surfing conditions better.

Bournemouth Borough Council's summary of the report found that: "The reef does work and, in the right conditions, is producing steep, challenging waves suitable for expert surfers. But the ride is not as long as required; frequency of surfing waves is not as often as [those on] the beach; and the wave would be surfable by more people (ie intermediate as well as expert surfers) if it were slightly less challenging." The information was partly garnered from cameras monitoring the breaking waves' shape and strength.

Mark Davidson, of the university's School of Marine Science and Engineering, said today: "The results of this analysis showed that the reef was successful in producing a new wave at Boscombe which was rideable for experienced surfers and boogie-boarders. The new wave on the reef was significantly different to the waves that are available on the natural beach around the Boscombe Pier. However the wave was consistently shorter than the design criteria, which promised rides of around 65m. Additionally, it was less consistent than the neighbouring beach, when it had been hoped that the reef would increase the consistency of the surfing waves in the area. Thirdly, the wave is more challenging than was first anticipated, breaking powerfully and quickly on take-off, making it difficult for even early intermediate surfers to enjoy the wave."

The council is now looking at whether the reef has properly bedded in or needs more time to settle. ASR Ltd, a New Zealand firm, is to present a proposal for "refinements". Bournemouth council's service director for leisure, Roger Brown, told the Bournemouth Echo: "Obviously there is an element of some disappointment but I always thought the reef would probably need some modifications. Our contractors ASR have agreed with the performance assessment and are committed to carrying out this work. It's not just their final payment of £150,000 that is at stake; it's also their reputation. I'm optimistic that the ride length can be improved, the take-off speed can be reduced and surfing can be made less difficult."

The findings will be discussed publicly at a council cabinet meeting on 26 May. The authority went ahead with the plan as part of the Boscombe Spa Project — a revamp aimed at attracting new visitors. The seafront promenade now features new restaurants and apartments. The whole project is set to cost around £11.3m, exceeding last year's estimate of £10.8m. The scheme has seen a 32% increase in visitor numbers, the council added.

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Deep-water methane holds many secrets

Did deep-water methane hydrates cause the BP Gulf explosion, and do they pose a serious problem for all deep-water oil wells?

The vast deep-water methane hydrate deposits of the Gulf of Mexico are an open secret in big energy circles. They represent the most tantalising new frontier of unconventional energy a potential source of hydrocarbon fuel thought to be twice as large as all the petroleum deposits ever known.

For the oil and gas industry, the substances are also known to be the primary hazard when drilling for deep-water oil.

Methane hydrates are volatile compounds — natural gas compressed into molecular cages of ice. They are stable in the extreme cold and crushing weight of deep-water, but are extremely dangerous when they build up inside the drill column of a well. If destabilised by heat or a decrease in pressure, methane hydrates can quickly expand to 164 times their volume.

Survivors of the BP rig explosion told interviewers that right before the April 20 blast, workers had decreased the pressure in the drill column and applied heat to set the cement seal around the wellhead. Then a quickly expanding bubble of methane gas shot up the drill column before exploding on the platform on the ocean's surface.

Even a solid steel pipe has little chance against a 164-fold expansion of volume — something that would render a man six feet six inches tall suddenly the height of the Eiffel Tower.

Scientists are well aware of the awesome power of these strange hydrocarbons. A sudden large scale release of methane hydrates is believed to have caused a mass extinction 55 million years ago. Among planners concerned with mega-disasters, their sudden escape is considered to be a threat comparable to an asteroid strike or nuclear war. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a Livermore, Ca.-based weapons design centre, reports that when released on a large scale, methane hydrates can even cause tsunamis.

So it is not surprising to anyone who knows about the physics of these compounds that the Deepwater Horizon rig was lost like a waterfly crumpled by a force of nature scientists are still just getting to know.

For further details of this story, please visit The Guardian, 20th May 2010.

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Suffolk Coastal Loss escalating

Warning signs on beach

The past two weeks have seen Lowestoft lose much of its popular beach and backing cliffs, and the urgent need to move between 6,000 and 8,000 tonnes of sand and shingle in an attempt to stabilise before the onset of the holiday season. Elsewhere in Suffolk similar coastline losses continue to escalate.

Emergency measures were put into place at Thorpeness after shoreline material was swept out too sea, resulting in a serious beach level drop in early May. In just two weeks what was a gently sloping shingle beach was replaced by a sheer drop of 7 metres and homes in North End Avenue threatened by underminement.

The beach is stripped and the seawall at Corton, just north of Lowestoft, has been closed to the public as it is unsafe and insecure following underminement and slippage of masonry into the sea. Waveney District Council are asking that people keep well away from the area due to the hazard presented.

Orford Ness lighthouse

The historic Orford Ness Trinity House Grade II listed building lighthouse that has guarded the Suffolk coast for centuries could be undermined and lost to the sea within the next five years. It has emerged that in its recently published 'Aids to Navigation Review' Trinity House recommends decommissioning subject to more consultation.

However Southwold lighthouse — which was only itself saved from closure last year — will have its range extended in a bid to compensate for the loss.

Andy Smith, cabinet member for coastal protection and deputy leader of Suffolk Coast District Council said that coastal protection is a top priority for the council and that prompt, innovative action will continue to be taken. He said that he would soon be meeting with residents to explain what action is being taken and discuss what the options are for the future.

MARINET wonders, now that the evidence is so clear to see, whether this 'action to be taken' will include addressing the fundamental cause in the future by opposing to the issue of further licences to dredge offshore as is attended to by all other East Anglian Councils.

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Rare box crab netted by Cornish fisherman

A Cornish fisherman has netted a rare species of deep-sea crab, normally found at depths of up to three kilometres. This particular individual measures one metre across, whilst the species itself can grow up to 2 metres.

Skipper Matthew Keast was fishing for turbot 80 miles west of Scilly when the giant box crab was hauled up in his nets. The Blue Reef Aquarium is now looking after the crab. Curator Matt Slater says: "It looks like something from another planet and has caused quite a stir here."

close-up image of the box crab

This particular species of crab is also known as 'shame-faced'. It's earned this name because of the way their claws fold in in front of their face, as if hiding it in shame.

When hungry the box crab uses its powerful claw to open up the shells of various small sea creatures. Despite its long journey from the depths, the crab appears in reasonable condition.

Matt Slater says: "It's one of the oddest crabs I've ever seen. It has weird eyes on stalks which look like bicycle handlebars and a strange pair of backward facing pincers. Apparently it's normally found very deep on the edge of the continental shelf which runs from Morocco to Ireland at depths of 3,000 metres," he explained.

Due to the great depths at which they live little is known about giant box crabs, however it is thought they are scavengers and live mainly off dead fish they find on the seabed.

Source: BBC Cornwall 20th April 2010.

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Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have serious long-term consequences

As the United States grapples with one of the worst oil spills in its history, experts still have no idea of the extent of the damage and impacts that will be felt across the Gulf of Mexico, among coastal communities, and by marine resources. As the oil enters the currents of the Gulf, it looks possible that impacts will be experienced along the south-eastern seaboard of the United States. Three of the United States 13 National Marine Sanctuaries could be significantly affected:

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, situated 70-115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, which includes underwater communities that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico atop underwater mountains called salt domes.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, surrounding the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys and which contains some of the most extensive living coral reef in the United States.

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, located off the Georgia coast, and which is one of the largest nearshore live-bottom reefs in the south-eastern United States.

These sanctuaries are home to some of the most important and cherished marine resources in the United States, designated and protected by federal law. Equally significantly, the human communities that are connected to these special places are likely to be severely impacted by the spill. These communities rely on the sanctuaries for livelihoods, recreation, tourism, and fishing — all activities likely to be adversely impacted in coming weeks and months.

For further information about these sanctuaries, see the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation.

There is also mounting evidence that the leaking crude oil has become caught up in the powerful loop current in the Gulf of Mexico, and from there could move from the Gulf up the Atlanic coast. If that were to be so the crude, which has been reported by a oceanographic research ship to be collecting in the form of a plume six miles long at a depth of 1,000 metres, could travel still further afield and enter the Atlantic circulatory systems. For further information, see The Guardian 18th May 2010.

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International market for "conservation credits" proposed

The idea that nature is worth more to us alive than dead is a simple one. It is also one the new UK Government has promised to deliver, reports The Guardian, 17th May 2010.

"As the Conservative party put it in their election manifesto, they pledged to "pioneer a new system of conservation credits to protect habitats". If the detail of this idea is successfully rendered, this could transform the way we value the natural world and finance its protection. Caroline Spelman, the new Secretary of State for environment, food and rural affairs, should have the policy at the top of her in-tray."

"Under the scheme proposed in the manifesto, any property development that results in biodiversity loss must compensate for that loss by an equal investment in biodiversity and habitat conservation or restoration elsewhere. That's a good start, but if such things can be successfully priced, and if investment is at a significant scale, then conservation credits should be made available in many other parts of the global economy as well."

For further details, see the Guardian of 17th May '10.

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Diver records wealth of marine life in wrecks in Liverpool Bay

Chris Gregory, a marine diver, has told the Irish Sea Marine Conservation Zone project about his experiences as a marine diver in Liverpool Bay and the importance of wrecks for marine life. Chris Gregory has been diving wrecks in the Liverpool Bay area for 20 years.

"Hundreds of wrecks are strewn over the approaches to Liverpool," says Chris. "I've dived all sorts — paddle steamers, World War Two ships, you name it."

Liverpool Bay is one of the best places in the country for wreck diving. By the 1860s up to 70 ships a day could arrive in Liverpool's thriving docks. But the Mersey Estuary and Liverpool Bay are unusually dynamic, with dangerous shifting sandbanks. Accidents were inevitable and over 350 ships are thought to have sunk in the bay.

What surprises people is the multitude of marine life that the wrecks are home to. "The Mersey has the second fastest flowing tides in the Northern hemisphere and animals flourish in the plankton soup carried by the currents. The wrecks are covered in plumose anemones and there are huge old lobsters that have been on the wrecks for decades. There are lots of rays, big crabs, dogfish, shoals of bib, flatfish of all kinds and the occasional angler fish," says Chris.

What makes the wrecks all the more important is that they are beacons of marine life in an otherwise often featureless seabed of sand and gravel. Chris Gregory and his wife Barbara have dived together all over the world and have over 1,500 dives between them, including a 'couple of hundred' in the Irish Sea.

Recently they have been talking to Emily Hardman, local liaison officer for the Irish Sea Conservation Zones project. The project has so far visited 13 clubs and dive centres around the North West, encouraging divers to get involved with recommending Marine Conservation Zones. As Chris explains: "I'm all for marine protection because I've seen reefs around the world that are now barren. I like the idea of protecting the undersea environment and I'm especially concerned about my area, which is the Irish Sea."

Source: Irish Sea Marine Conservation Zone Newsletter, May 2010

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Spending Cuts and Coastal Protection

John Gummer, former MP for the Suffolk Coastal constituency and president of Suffolk Coast Against Retreat (SCAR), now environment and climate change consultant, spoke of his concern that Coastal protection in the region may fall victim to deep public spending cuts, leaving people to repair their own defences, when he addressed the annual meeting of the Alde and Ore Association on 10th May '10. He suggested that people with land and homes by the sea may need to "make do and mend" because multi-million-pound "Rolls Royce answers" would be put on the back-burner.

The report on the meeting included comment from Edward Vere Nicoll, manager of the Benacre Estate including most of Covehithe where they are losing 16 acres a year over the 3.5 miles of coast and so wish to put in adaptive defence and safety measures including chestnut pale fences, marram grass, and protection, including sediment roped together and lined beneath the beach, hoping that Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, the Environment Agency and Natural England would not refuse permission.

The full report by Amy Gray may be seen in the Eastern Daily Press of 11th May '10 under the heading 'Fears for the future of coastal protection funding' on the web here.

A further report appeared by Richard Cromwell in the East Anglian Daily times of the same date under 'Communities face battle to keep rising seas at bay if budgets slashed' that provided more of John Gummer's input. In this he said that there would be "no absolutes" any more and organisations such as Natural England and the RSPB would need to agree compromises to allow coastal defence and renewal energy schemes to proceed as well as saving wildlife and habitat.

He deplored the current way in which defences were designed with 100-year plans and three-year budgets arguing that there needed to be more immediacy to deal with problems occurring now, and said:

"We have a system which says where we will be in 100 years' time and then look at building something we expect to last 50 years, which is ludicrous — and we have a budget for three years, which is manifest nonsense. We don't know what is going to happen in 100 years and to base our policy on that seems to me to be plain balmy and we don't have accurate enough information to make those decisions. Twenty years is far enough away the longest period in which you could make a reasonable assumption. That's a sensible long-term".

"Communities will have to be more active, too in the future. It will be our duty to find practical ways of doing things because at the heart of it will be cost-effectiveness. We have a system which says where we will be in 100 years' time and then look at building something we expect to last 50 years, which is ludicrous — and we have a budget for three years, which is manifest nonsense. We don't know what is going to happen in 100 years and to base our policy on that seems to me to be plain balmy and we don't have accurate enough information to make those decisions"

"Twenty years is far enough away the longest period in which you could make a reasonable assumption. That's a sensible long-term. Communities will have to be more active, too in the future. It will be our duty to find practical ways of doing things because at the heart of it will be cost-effectiveness"

He said there would still be a need to protect fragile biodiversity but organisations such as Natural England and the RSPB should not have the right to simply say no when nature is threatened. "I don't want to lose the great-crested newt but I cannot agree that there should be no no-go areas — there should be compromise to find ways to keep the biodiversity but also have the energy scheme or best defences," he said.

The full report can be read in the East Anglian Daily Times here.
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Singapore uses offshore dredged sand to increase its territory

Singapore, which prides itself on being one of the most environmentally friendly nations in Asia, is expanding its coastline with irresponsibly dredged sand from Cambodia, according to a report from the environmental NGO, Global Witness

Global Witness says the lucrative sand trade devastates ecosystems, lacks regulatory oversight and enriches traders at the expense of local fishermen. The report, Shifting Sand: how Singapore's demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance, reveals that much of the demand is from Singapore, a small island state with big ambitions to increase its territory.

The city state of 4.9 million people has expanded its surface area from 582 sq km in the 1960s, to 710 sq km in 2008, an increase of 22%, and it has ambitious plans to reclaim further land from the sea. This requires far more sand than the island is able to provide for itself, prompting suppliers and middlemen to dredge and buy overseas.

Cargo manifests and photographs in the report suggest Singapore imported 14.2m tonnes of sand worth $273m (£184m) in 2008 from Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia. Its sourcing has reportedly expanded recently to Burma, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

The lucrative trade has alarmed neighbouring nations, which have seen chunks of their land being shipped off. After local media reported the shrinkage of several islands in Indonesia, the government there banned sales of sand to Singapore in 2008. Malaysia and Vietnam have imposed similar controls.

After the trade moved to Cambodia, the prime minister, Hun Sen, announced last May that his country too would restrict exports of sand. But Global Witness says coastal dredging operations have increased in the year since. The NGO estimates a single Cambodian province — Koh Kong — has an annual trade with Singapore worth $248m (£168m). On a single day, the NGO says its investigators have seen nine dredgers inside a single protected area — the Peam Krasop wildlife sanctuary and Koh Kapik Ramsar site.

The dredging operations threaten mangrove swamps, coral reefs and the biggest seagrass bed in the South China Sea, which is home to several rare species including the Irrawaddy dolphin, dugong and seahorses, it said. Local communities have reported a sharp fall in fish stocks and crab harvests.

The Cambodian government has denied any link with dredging operations. In Cambodia, at least 14 firms have been given dredging licenses. A tonne of sand, which costs $3 (£2) per tonne to extract, can be sold for $26 (£18) per tonne in Singapore. It is unclear how much of the revenues are returned to the people in the form of taxes.

"Cambodia's natural resource wealth should be lifting its population out of poverty. Instead, international aid has propped up basic services in Cambodia for over 15 years. Meanwhile, money from natural resources disappears into private bank accounts, and nearly 70% of the population subsists on less than $2 a day," said George Boden, campaigner at Global Witness.

The government of Singapore, which will this summer host the World Cities Summit — focusing on sustainability — denies any wrongdoing. It says the import of sand for reclamation is done on a commercial basis with safeguards for the environment.

"The policing and enforcement of sand extraction licences is ultimately the responsibility of the source country. However, Singapore will continue to play its part to ensure that sand is extracted in a legal and environmentally responsible manner," noted a statement by the Ministry of National Development. "We have not received any official notice on the ban of sand exports from Cambodia."

Source: The Guardian, 11th May 2010.

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Cause and attempts to control the US Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The deadly blast on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas, an investigation by BP has revealed. A report into the blast has said the gas escaped from the oil well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding. The sequence of events, described by rig workers, provides the most detailed account of the blast that killed 11 workers and led to more than 3 million gallons of crude oil pouring into the Gulf. The Obama administration has suspended new offshore drilling in Alaska and Virginia.

However hopes of a quick fix to stop oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig gushing into the Gulf of Mexico were dashed when a build-up of crystallised gas blocked the pipes in the huge metal containment tower, which then had to be lifted from the seabed. The metal tower, specially designed and constructed to cap the leak, is the height of a four-storey building and weighs 100 tonnes. The hope had been that it would hold the oil still gushing out of the well, which could then be siphoned out of the top, but the blocked pipes made that impossible.

The problem is blamed on methane gas, partly frozen into slush by the cold temperatures on the seabed at 1,500 metres (5,000ft). Engineers anticipated the problem, but not the volume of the gas build-up in the pipes. Engineers are now considering a "junk shot", shooting a mix of debris — including shredded tyres and golf balls — into the well at high pressure to clog it.

Whilst the well remains uncapped, oil continues gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 4,000 barrels a day or more (equivalent to 795,000 litres or 210,000 gallons).

Source: The Guardian, 9th and 10th May 2010. water-horizon-blast-methane-bubble

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Research into Coastal Defence Structures

'Sand and Gravel News' report that Marine Construction Planning UK were awarded a contract by Ceredigion County Council on 3rd May 2010 to undertake a 3D mobile bed physical modelling study to assist in the detailed design of coastal defence structures planned for the coast between Borth and Ynyslas, Aberystwyth, Wales. The study, promoted by Ceredigion County Council will include the examination of beach behaviour.

MARINET welcomes this approach in that it should lead to actual sand movement being studied instead of assumed.

The full item can be seen on-line under

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Arctic winter sea-ice cover still shrinking

Arctic ice reached a larger maximum area this winter than in the last few years, scientists say, but the long-term trend still shows it to be declining. The 30-year trend shows that the maximum annual sea-ice cover, usually seen in March, is shrinking by 2.7% per decade.

Only 10% of the cover consists of relatively durable ice that has formed over more than two years, a record low. Scientists from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), say the thin ice is prone to summer melt.

"Thickness is important, especially in the winter, because it is the best overall indicator of the health of the ice cover," said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. "As the ice cover in the Arctic grows thinner, it grows more vulnerable to melting in the summer.

"In the 1980s, thick multi-year ice made up 30-40% of the cover, the scientists say. The summer minimum area is changing much faster than the winter maxima, shrinking by about 0.7% per year. Last year UK researchers showed that the ice has also markedly thinned in recent years.

The Arctic sea-ice reached its maximum extent this year on 28th February, slightly earlier than usual, and remained roughly constant through March. Averaged over March, the sea-ice covered 15.16 million sq km (5.85 million sq miles). By comparison, this was 590,000 sq km (228,000 sq miles) below the average for the years 1979 to 2000, and 730,000 sq km (282,000 sq miles) above the record low of 2006.

The winter saw big variations in Arctic air temperatures, with some areas much warmer and others cooler than average. Some parts of the region including the Barents Sea experienced air temperatures 4°C above the long-term average, while others, including the Bering Sea, were as much as 2°C below the average — a pattern reflected in the areas where the thick, multi-year ice accumulated.

graph showing continued March maximum ice loss from 1980 to present

The maximum sea ice extent is declining by about 2.7% per decade. The data comes principally from two NASA satellites. IceSat measures the height by which the ice rises above the surrounding ocean, which can be used to calculate the overall ice thickness. Meanwhile, the Quikscat satellite can distinguish between multi-year and newly formed ice using differences in the way they scatter light.

The shrinkage in Arctic ice area and volume carries implications for climate change globally. Dark water absorbs more of the Sun's energy than reflective white ice, so the decline of sea-ice will act to amplify a warming trend. NSIDC researchers believe that a warm summer could see a major melt. "We're not set up well for summertime," said Dr Meier. "We're in a very precarious situation." Forecasts of the date by which Arctic summers will be ice-free range from five years to several decades, with natural climatic cycles playing an important role.

Source: BBC News Online, 7th April 2010.

Note: The Catlin Arctic Survey is currently researching the impact of climate change in the Arctic region, see
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Can Cod be replaced by fish-farming the carnivorous tropical Cobia?

A new fast-growing tropical fish that could provide an alternative to popular species for environmentally-conscious fish-lovers is being imported to the UK.

With recent studies revealing that UK's fish stocks have fallen by 94% in the past 100 years, Marine Farms ( argues that cobia, which has white flesh and a high oil content, could be the next big farmed fish species. The fish grows three times faster than Atlantic salmon and has good taste and consistency according to Bjørn Myrseth, the chief executive of Marine Farms, based in Norway.

"For us it is a very attractive fish because of the rate of growth. It can grow from about 1g to 5kg-6kg in a year, when it takes salmon around 30 to 36 months to reach the same size. It also has good eating qualities with very firm flesh and high oil content. It is easy to prepare and has a nice mild flavour. The challenge will be to introduce the fish and convince people to eat it — we have to make it known to people," he said.

In the wild, cobia can grow up to 60kg, but it is very uncommon for the fish to be caught commercially. Marine Farms expects to produce 1,500 tonnes of the fish this year for export. There are plans to expand the site, which has the capacity to produce up to 6,000 tonnes a year, depending on demand.

The fish could also provide a viable alternative for other fish species that are under strain. Said Myrseth: "With a high oil content, it is also great raw for sushi or sashimi. It can also be used as a replacement for fish such as tuna, if people are looking for an environmentally sustainable alternative, as the texture and flavour are quite similar. The fish is currently placed at the more expensive end of the market and costs slightly more than Atlantic salmon, but we hope that as demand grows the cost of the fish will go down, and if demand is high enough it could become a relatively inexpensive fish in the future."

Cobia has been commercially produced in Asia, particularly in Taiwan where it is stocked in about 80% of ocean cages, according to the Marine Farms website. It has operated a cobia farm in Florida since 2002 and has opened operations in Belize and Vietnam.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, which publishes guides for sustainable seafood purchasing, recommends US-farmed cobia as it is farmed inland with closed recirculating systems that help prevent diseases and pollutants. However, it advises against buying cobia from outside the US as it is often farmed in floating or submerged cages and pens in nearshore and open ocean waters. "This creates a risk of disease transfer, escapes and pollution impacts on surrounding ecosystems and species," according to the Seafood Watch website.

Myrseth said all Marine Farm cobia was sustainably farmed in low-density ocean cages with site rotation to prevent disease and damage to the environment. "This is very important to us, because if the environment is impacted we are the first to feel that. The company's cobia is fed on fish oil, fish meal and vegetable protein but it aims to feed the fish on vegetable protein in the future."

Dawn Purchase, aquaculture officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: "With 50% of global seafood now being farmed it is essential that all current and new farmed species coming into the UK market is produced in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, which ensures the health and diversity of the environment on which it depends."

Charles Clover, creator of The End of the Line — an exposé of the fishing industry — declined to comment on cobia specifically but said the farming of carnivorous fish posed significant environmental problems because of the shortage of smaller fish to provide food. Without that it is difficult to see how the aquaculture industry is going to continue to grow, unless they find some way of creating synthetic fish food, and as fish have been eating other fish for millions of years, that is not going to be easy."

MARINET observes: It is an accepted fact in the fish farming industry that it takes around 4 kg of wild fish protein in the form of fish food to produce 1 kg of farmed fish. Therefore it is difficult to see how farmed carnivorous fish can be viewed as a sustainable alternative to wild harvested fish. The real issue is how we properly manage wild fish populations.

Source: The Guardian, 5th May 2010

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New study documents the huge decline in UK fish stocks

Developments in the UK's trawling fleet have masked an "extraordinary" decline in the amount of fish in our waters over the past 120 years, according to a study by York University and the Marine Conservation Society.

Researchers say records of fish landings stretching back to the 1880s in the UK show falls in species such as cod, haddock and plaice have been greater and more long-term than previously thought.

Figures gathered by the UK government since 1889 show fishing vessels today have to work 17 times as hard to land the same number of fish as they did in 1889 when they were sail-powered and fished close to port.

The data, which has been analysed for the first time, suggests technological developments in the fleet and their movement to new fishing grounds enabled them to fish further, deeper and faster — masking the decline in fish in UK waters.

Overall, the UK trawl fishing fleet landed twice as much fish in 1889 than it does today, claim the researchers from the University of York and the Marine Conservation Society.

In England and Wales the amount of fish being landed in the 19th century was more than four times greater than current levels.

Landings peaked in 1937 — when the catch was 14 times what it is today. And an examination of the time and effort the vessels had to put into trawling to secure their catch showed the amount of fish available dropped by 94%.

The researchers, publishing their findings in the online journal Nature Communications, say fish stocks were in decline well before the amount of fish being caught went "catastrophically downhill" in the 1960s. They warn that fisheries have been declining more seriously and over a longer period than suggested by scientific assessments of European fish stocks, which only go back 20 to 40 years. And they call for much stronger reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to allow for recovery of fisheries in the seas around the UK.

Dr Simon Brockington, head of conservation at the MCS, said: "Over a century of intensive trawl fishing has severely depleted UK seas of bottom-living fish like halibut, turbot, haddock and plaice. Improvements in technology and movement to new fishing grounds masked "very severe" declines in fish stocks". He warned that declines were much greater than thought — and that some species' populations were only 1% or 2% of what they historically were.

As a result, he said: "The reform of the common fisheries policy needs to set recovery targets which are much more ambitious than they currently are."

The study calculates the "landings of fish per unit of fishing power", comparing the effort trawling vessels put in with the amount of fish they were rewarded with to assess the availability of fish.

The crash has been huge for some species — with the rate at which halibut were being caught declining 500 times and haddock by more than 100 times. Both species have declined by more than 99%, while hake and ling declined by more than 95% and cod have fallen by 87%, the researchers say.

Professor Callum Roberts, from the University of York's environment department, said: "This research makes clear that the state of UK bottom fisheries — and by implication European fisheries since the fishing grounds are shared — is far worse than even the most pessimistic of assessments currently in circulation. European fish stock assessments, and the management targets based on them, go back only 20 to 40 years. These results should supply an important corrective to the short-termism inherent in fisheries management today."

Source: Press Association and The Guardian, 4th May 2010.

The article titled "The effects of 118 years of industrial fishing on UK bottom trawl fisheries" can be viewed here as a PDF file and was published in Nature Communications.
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New USA policies on offshore oil exploration

In a speech at Andrews Naval Air Facility, Washington, 31st March 2010, President Barack Obama opened much of the U.S. Atlantic east coast for the first time to oil and gas drilling. Oil and gas development and exploration on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf will be expanded to enhance America's energy independence, while protecting fisheries, tourism, and places off U.S. coasts that are "not appropriate" for development.

"This is not a decision that I've made lightly," explained President Obama, who said he has been considering it for more than a year. "But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy. I want to emphasise that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy, and the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long term. To fail to recognise this reality would be a mistake."

The Bristol Bay area of the North Aleutian Basin in Alaska is one area that is too special to drill and must be protected, said President Obama. He has issued a Memorandum withdrawing Bristol Bay from oil and gas leasing through June 30, 2017, whether for exploratory or production purposes. Rights under existing leases in this area are unaffected. Bristol Bay is one of the world's most productive marine ecosystems. Nearly half of all U.S. seafood is harvested from Bristol Bay, which hosts the largest wild sockeye salmon runs in the world, the world's largest single-species fishery for Alaska pollock, as well as red king crab and halibut fisheries.

"Today is a good day for Alaska's coastal communities, our fishing industry and our economy," said Kelly Harrell, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. "We are constantly witnessing the consequences of oil and gas development here in Alaska with spills and incidents happening continuously. The benefits of extracting a small, finite amount of oil and gas resources at the heart of our most valuable, renewable fisheries resources simply don't outweigh the tremendous risks."

In January 2007, President George W. Bush stripped away the last layer of protection for Bristol Bay, the executive ban on offshore drilling. The Minerals Management Service had scheduled a lease sale for 2011 in the same 5.6 million-acre block of fish-rich waters previously sold and then bought back with taxpayer dollars after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

President Obama's Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has overseen the administration's re-evaluation of this and other previous energy development decisions. Salazar commented, "By providing order and certainty to offshore exploration and development and ensuring we are drilling in the right ways and the right places, we are opening a new chapter for balanced and responsible oil and gas development here at home."

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard called the new strategy "a positive development."

"Exploring for and developing our nation's offshore resources could help generate more than a trillion dollars in revenues and create thousands of jobs to add to the already 9.2 million jobs supported by today's oil and natural gas industry," said Gerard. Jack Gerard is already seeking to open still more of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling. "As we move forward, we hope that consideration can be given to other resource-rich regions, such as the Destin Dome area of the Eastern Gulf and areas off the Pacific Coast and Alaska. We also need to ensure that the permitting processes are handled in an expeditious way," he said.

Environmental groups were quick to commend the President for protecting Bristol Bay, but they expressed grave concern that oil and gas development in new areas off the Atlantic coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would harm the environment. Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Rodger Schlickeisen said, "While we are pleased that the Obama administration has decided to permanently protect Alaska's salmon-rich Bristol Bay and continue protection of the California coast until 2017, we're extremely concerned about the administration's planned expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, south Atlantic, and mid-Atlantic coasts. The administration's planned expansion of oil drilling risks the health of marine wildlife, fisheries, and coastal economies. It continues and expands our dependence on fossil fuels at a time when we need to reduce our dependence in order to address the harmful impacts of global warming,"

"The Virginia lease sale, just north of North Carolina and at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, puts at risk some of America's richest marine life and coastal resources, which are the backbone of many coastal economies, generating billions of dollars in revenues from tourism, recreation, and commercial fishing," said the Southern Environmental Law Centre.

"Opening the South Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling will do nothing to address climate change, provide only about six months worth of oil, and put at risk multi-billion dollar tourism and fisheries industries. One oil spill could devastate a coast," said Derb Carter, director, Carolinas Office of the Southern Environmental Law Centre. Drilling for oil would risk Southern tourism, rare wildlife, and fisheries for what the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service estimates would be only enough oil for six months that would take seven to 10 years to bring online, said Carter. But it would have no impact on domestic oil and gas prices until at least 2030, and even then any such impact would be "insignificant," according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

WWF's Vice President for Arctic and Marine Policy Bill Eichbaum said his group is pleased that Bristol Bay will not be subject to drilling, but he said WWF is worried that exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas will be allowed. "It is our sincere hope that Secretary Salazar will follow the science that clearly outlines the enormous risks we face if these areas are exploited before important environmental safeguards are put in place," said Eichbaum. "The hard lessons of the Exxon Valdez oil spill still haunt us."

Jack Gerard, speaking for the American Petroleum Institute, tried to assure the public that the industry has a good safety record, saying, "The oil and natural gas industry has a proven track record of safe oil and natural gas development and the majority of the American people recognise this by supporting greater offshore development for the benefit of their communities, their states and their nation."

But environmentalists are unconvinced. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, "The oil industry already has access to drilling on millions of acres of America's public lands and water. We don't need to hand over our last protected pristine coastal areas just so oil companies can break more profit records. Drilling areas like the Arctic threatens marine life like whales and polar bears. Where there is offshore drilling, there is a constant danger of oil spills. One oil spill is all it takes to destroy a coastal tourism economy and the jobs that depend on it. We can achieve real energy independence and economic vitality by investing in clean energy like wind and solar and efficiency," he said. "This kind of power creates good, lasting American jobs and positions our nation to become a global leader in the new clean energy economy."

Source: Environment News Service, 31st March 2010

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Norway considers whether to start oil drilling in the Arctic

Norway faces a tough decision this autumn over whether to open up pristine parts of the Arctic for oil and gas drilling. Two recently issued reports, one by the environment ministry and the other by petroleum institute NPD, will inform its decision.

The environment ministry's report says the probability of accidents connected to oil and gas exploration around the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands in the Barents Sea is low, but their environmental consequences "may be substantial".

The NPD petroleum institute's report estimates there are about 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the Lofoten and Vesterålen region. These could be worth NOK 500bn (€63bn), the government agency estimates. This is the first-ever estimate based on seismic surveys, and compares with a previous NPD estimate of 1.5 billion barrels. Norway's oil and gas industry has estimated there are about two billion barrels waiting to be tapped. These are essential to continue Norway's oil and gas boom, the industry says.

"We will use the next six months to assess the reports," said Norway's energy minister, Terje Riis-Johansen. A spokesperson for the NPD said a third report may come out in summer that would assess the impact of drilling on regional development. The Norwegian coalition government has been divided on the issue. The dominant labour party has insisted on waiting for detailed data, but its traditional trade union ally LO supports the oil and gas drilling to create jobs. Labour's minor coalition partners from the left and the centre oppose it.

Source: ENDS, 20th April 2010

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EUMARSAND — A European approach to Marine Aggregate Dredging

'Eumarsand', the European Sand and Gravel Resources site to be seen at could prove to be a step toward responsible sanity as it directly states the environmental harm brought about by offshore aggregate mining. It further points out that there are currently no coherent policies to deal with the situation. Here follows a quote from the content.


1. Overview

2. Impacts of marine sand extraction

Effects of marine aggregate extraction which have been considered include:

  1. Significant alteration of regional sediment transport patterns and coastal morphodynamics:
    Changes in seabed elevation may:
    • alter inner shelf flows.
    • enhance the wave energy towards the coast.
    • change the active beach-nearshore sediment systems and budgets.
    • enhance coastal erosion and retreat.
  2. Harmful effects on fauna, flora and water quality in the area of mining:
    • Destruction of benthic habitats and species, such as fish and shelfish populations
    • The formation of turbid plumes, of fine-grained sediments, during extraction may affect the benthic ecology, far from the extraction site.
    • Creation of large depressions on the seabed (depending upon extraction method) where anoxic conditions may develop.
  3. Disturbance of cultural heritage sites e.g. shipwrecks of archaeological interest.
  4. Potential conflicts of interests exist between marine aggregate industry and other sea-bed users: Fisheries, Shipping, Oil Industries, and, more recently: Offshore Windmill Farms (for power generation).

3. Motivation

It appears that there are:

  1. no coherent policies and regulations, even between long-standing trade Partners.
  2. disparities between the different EU Member States, in 'know-how' necessary to address effectively the various scientific problems related to:
    • resource prospecting; and
    • the environmental impacts of marine aggregate mining.

Thus, need at European level, for integrated and coherent approaches to resource prospecting:

  1. environmental considerations; and
  2. the development of a science-based approach to management.
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New rules for the Arctic Ocean urged by WWF

WWF has stated that a warmer Arctic cannot continue to operate under rules which assume that it is ice-covered and essentially closed to fishing, resource exploration and development, and shipping.

WWF has launched a group of reports on protecting this newly accessible, highly vulnerable environment which also has profound significance for global climate, the global economy and global security.

The International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic reports were launched following a visit by Russian President Medvedev to the Norwegian capital, Oslo, for talks which include Arctic issues and just before the Arctic Council meets in Greenland.

"The melting of the Arctic ice is opening a new ocean, bringing new possibilities for commercial activities in a part of the world that has previously been inaccessible," said Lasse Gustavsson, incoming Executive Conservation Director for WWF-International and currently CEO of WWF-Sweden. "What happens in the Arctic has a global environmental and economic impact. For instance, more than a quarter of the fish eaten in Europe comes from the Arctic, and yet we do not have effective rules for fishing in newly accessible areas."

The Arctic may well be ice free during summertime within decades. Commercial ships have recently successfully sailed the Northern Sea Route above Siberia, and ship yards are getting more and more orders for tankers capable of dealing with remnant ice.

Accelerating oil and gas exploration is raising the prospects of Exxon Valdez scenarios — spills in highly susceptible environments in the absence of clean-up rules and infrastructure. A related issue is the impact on marine mammals and fish from noise generated by shipping and seismic activity to locate hydrocarbon deposits.

The first WWF report analyses how today's international legal regime meets the challenges posed by the unprecedented rapid change taking place in the Arctic. It concludes there are large gaps in governance and management regimes, with loopholes that could allow irreparable damage to the marine environment, its biodiversity and indigenous peoples.

The responsibilities and mechanisms for keeping marine resource extraction within sustainable limits are unclear and so are the responsibilities and mechanisms for preventing or responding to pollution accidents and shipping disasters.

The second report outlines the options, and the third report proposes a new Arctic framework convention as a solution that could address the urgent gaps.

"We challenge Arctic governments to advance alternatives that would work equally well to safeguard the region," said Gustavsson. "WWF shows that it is not possible to simply deny that problems exist, or to insist that there are already adequate responses to the problems. We need a new comprehensive solution for the protection of the Arctic's marine environment. The ice has protected the Arctic Ocean for hundreds of years; we have collectively removed that protection though our contributions to climate change, and now we must work collectively to replace that protection."

The WWF reports may be accessed here.

Source: WWF 26th April 2010

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Erosion trip leaves mixed feelings

Huw Irranca-Davies MP recently visited erosion stricken sites along the Norfolk to meet coastal erosion campaigners to hear of their concerns and ideas. One group so visited, at the request of local MP Tony Wright, was Hopton, where the rate of erosion is one of the very worst since offshore aggregate dredging commenced off the coastline.

The Minister heard first hand about the fierce debate surrounding a report released by the borough council last week saying that the outer harbour was not to blame for Hopton's rapidly-dwindling beaches, as well as erosion-fighting suggestions such as the creation of an artificial reef. Others blame the placement of the Scroby windfarms, but few will admit to the obvious, the loss brought about by cumulative dredging.

The groups were left with mixed feelings following the visit. Brian Hardisty, chairman of the Hopton Coastal Action group was among those voicing concerns to the minister and was reassured that Mr Irranca-Davies had promised to do what he could for the area. He said: "I was satisfied with him coming and in terms of the reception we got we couldn't hoped for any better. He could be the man who can do something for us if they still are in power after the next election." But fellow member of the erosion group and Master Mariner Barry Collingwood said that though the visit was positive in that it had brought the issue to wider public attention, nothing concrete had emerged from it.

Also urging action sooner rather than later was local business man Brian Potter, whose leisure resort overlooks the sea. He said "It's very good that the minister came to see the problems we're facing since the outer harbour was built but whether or not in the due course of time something will be done remains to be seen. Something does need to be done because if it's not then the ground that we're standing on could be gone."

As part of his visit Mr Irranca-Davies also visited Scratby, where he discussed the Pathfinder project for which the borough council has been awarded nearly £300,000. This money comes from a national pot, and is designed to encourage new approaches to the problem of coastal erosion specifically in that area.

Mr Irranca-Davies emphasised the importance of including the community in the process, and of considering 'soft' defences like buy-to let schemes. He said: "It's one thing to look at maps but it's another to come out and meet the people involved. This is about making sure we have as many tools in the toolbox as possible to deal with this situation."

The minister also reassured the Scratby coastal erosion group that their efforts to extend the rock berm defences by 1km from California would not be compromised by the Pathfinder project. These reassurances follow the announcement in January by borough council coastal manager Bernard Harris that he was confident that the £3.1m berm defences, which would protect hundred of homes, were likely to become a reality.

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Tracking the Dredgers

A very useful site is the Live Ships Map to be found by going to

The first screen that appears gives the option of which type of ships of the many you may want to watch, so untick the already ticked boxes to lose those of little interest. You will then see numbers or squares on the map indicating blocks where the vessels are. Click on any one of the squares once and the map will zoom in to that specific square and show you the icons for vessels. A left click on that icon will give you more information, a right click for more details. Clicking on a vessel seen in red provides the extra information which gives considerable detail of trip, purpose, position, tonnage, photos etc.

If you are not sure which ships of the many are the dredgers, then the very low speed and the area will indicate them. A long term study could be used with landing data to help correlate position, time spent and any later arising consequences.

The world map can be adjusted in size and definition by the zoom control on the left by clicking on the plus and minus sign at the bottom of the zoom bar. The positioning of the map can be changed with the left and right arrows or by holding down the LH mouse key whilst moving it across the screen.

The maps can be seen in Satellite, Map, Hybrid or Terrain format by deciding the View control at the top right of the screen. They will refresh and update automatically about every one and a half minutes, but if long left static they will need to be refreshed, when an invitation to perform this is indicated.

Also of interest are the many potentially hazardous tankers moored off Southwold, all waiting for the oil price to go up whilst supplies are withheld. My last count of tankers on Sunday was 17 all in one small block. (See 'New moves to ban oil transfers off the east coast at:

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Government Planning Inspectorate backs ongoing beach sewage pollution

What is in effect a licence to continue to pollute has been given to the water companies by the government's Planning Inspectorate that will allow untreated sewage to flow to our beaches and bathing waters from combined sewage outfalls (CSOs). WaterUK, which represents the water industry, stated "We are pleased with the inspectorate's decision".
The following article by Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Maurice Chittenden appears in the Business section of The Sunday Times of 25th April '10 under the heading 'Water rats to carry on polluting'.

'Water rats' to carry on polluting

Britain's "water rats" — the giant utility companies — have been given permission to carry on polluting beaches just as families start digging out buckets and spades for the summer holidays. The government's Planning Inspectorate has rejected an attempt by the Environment Agency to impose regulations on 4,200 outlets that pump raw sewage into the sea and rivers.

It means the water companies — which together recorded profits of £1.8 billion in 2008-09 — have again escaped attempts to make them clean themselves up — 21 years after The Sunday Times first exposed what they were doing in a series of articles called the Water Rats.

Instead, Britain now faces the ignominy of being fined and ordered to purify its water by the European Court of Justice over deaths of fish in the River Thames.

The water companies say Britain's increased population and erratic weather has put pressure on an underground system dating from Victorian times that routes both excess sewage and flood water through combined sewer overflows (CSOs). However, campaigners claim that, rather than just being kept for emergencies, some CSOs are used hundreds of times a year.

The Environment Agency wanted better controls on the outlets, especially on their use during dry weather when it suspects the water companies find it cheaper to dump sewage rather than send it to treatment plants. Six water companies appealed against the move, however, and the Planning Inspectorate has ruled largely in their favour. The firms argue that if they did not discharge the sewage, it would back up into homes or flood streets. Environmental groups say the ruling allows water companies to carry on polluting beaches such as Combe Martin in Devon, judged the dirtiest beach in Britain last year, and Staithes in North Yorkshire, a previous recipient of the "award".

Combe Martin has not one but three CSOs. The Environment Agency and South West Water have launched a £70,000 investigation into the poor quality of its bathing water. The CSOs there were used 57 times between May 6 and September 4 last year. When a new European Union bathing water directive comes into effect in 2015, signs will have to be placed on the beach informing bathers of the poor water quality if the situation does not improve. Staithes also has a CSO and a storm water outfall and has the worst cleanliness record in Britain, failing the minimum water quality standard 11 times in 13 years.

Thomas Bell, coastal pollution officer for the Marine Conservation Society, which will publish its annual list of the dirtiest beaches next month, said: "We believe the water companies are in breach of European law. When the system is full, a mix of flood water and raw sewage is shot down these pipes and dumped wherever the pipe stops." Andy Cummins, campaign director at Surfers Against Sewage, said: "We are extremely disappointed. The water companies effectively have a licence to pollute. It is shameful to say these CSOs have no effect on water quality at all. Hepatitis A can survive for up to 90 days in sea water."

The European Commission is now preparing court papers to take Britain to the European Court of Justice to establish under what conditions the CSOs can operate. The Environment Agency said it was considering an appeal against the Planning Inspectorate. "The water companies have had 20 years of privatisation to sort out this issue," it said. "We are disappointed. We have challenging European targets on water quality to meet and if you have pipes pumping out raw sewage, that is going to be difficult."

WaterUK, which represents the companies, said: "We are pleased with the inspectorate's decision. We are committed to keeping the impact of the overflows to a minimum. We will spend £1 billion in the next five years improving the CSOs. But getting rid of them is beyond the bounds of possibility."

A full copy of the appeal decision is available as a large 5MB pdf file by clicking here.

MARINET observes:
Combined sewage outfalls (CSOs, see MARINET article come at a price to the quality of the environment, and also pose a serious risk to bathing water quality and thus human health. For information about the health risks, click here.

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Pathogens identified in sewage-contaminated bathing water

The full range of pathogens affecting humans, ranging from bacterial diseases to virus and worms, has been recorded in a publication titled Swimming in Sewage published jointly by the US Natural Resources Defence Council ( and the Environmental Integrity Project (

It is an established medical and scientific fact that bathing in sewage contaminated water exposes humans to a range of pathogens, and legal standards of bathing water quality are set and monitored under the EU Bathing Waters Directive, see

However exposure of bathers to sewage above these legal limits can still occur in bathing waters which normally comply with the EU Directive's quality standards when overflow sewers discharge untreated raw sewage into or close to bathing waters. Such overflow events occur either when the sewers are overloaded by rain from storms, thus overwhelming normal sewage treatment facilities, or when the routine capacity of the sewerage system is seriously deficient.

When such events occur, human health is placed at what is considered to be an unacceptable level of risk. The range of diseases which bathers can be exposed to is recorded in the NRDC's Swimming in Sewage publication, and is listed below. (Alternatively you may view this tabulation as a PDF document by clicking here).

pathogens in sewage tabulation page 1 pathogens in sewage tabulation page 2 pathogens in sewage tabulation page 3

This listing of pathogens present in untreated sewage complements that already resides on our website under 'Wastewater and Sewage Treatment', 28th October 2009, to be found at

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Sea anglers fear fishing ban

Richard Cornwell reports in the Eastern Daily Press of 27th March '10 that the ancient right of sustainable beach fishing may be lost if the Marine Bill is rushed through, as follows.

One of the most ancient rights of an Englishman — to fish from the beach — is under threat. New zones to protect marine life and habitat could mean that in certain areas anglers will be banned from casting off and landing their catch from the shore. If a ban is brought in, it may not just hit the fishermen, but possibly walkers, people wanting to have picnics, sunbathe, paddle or just play on the shoreline. There could be more fishing bans offshore, too.

Conservationists stress that bans — if any are agreed — will only affect specific sites, not the whole coast. It will be to protect rare or under-threat species and habitat after years of alleged over-fishing commercially and pollution, and as yet no-one knows whether any of these sites will be in Suffolk.

Fishermen, though, are worried. Around 100 anglers were told about the possible bans at a meeting at Felixstowe's Manor Club. Gary Markham, of Markhams Fishing Tackle, Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, said the fishing community was deeply concerned about the proposals and the speed of the process. We have been told that bans could definitely be on the cards, he said. It seems proposals have to be put forward next year which means the research must be complete by November. It seems something which ought to take five years is taking five months and is going to be rail-roaded through. It seems that if there was a rare plant or habitat found close to the shore then fishing would be banned from that area. This could mean in some cases fishing actually banned from the beach. People may say, well move along the beach. But that is not always easy because there are other restrictions — swimming areas, rocks, places busy with people."

Mr Markham said there was concern over possible prohibitions in offshore areas, too. Charter boats were already facing restrictions on fertile fishing grounds because of no-go zones around the new wind farms, and a new batch of restrictions could hit small commercial fishermen, such as the small trawlers operating out of Felixstowe Ferry. The reason for the possible fishing bans is the creation of Marine Conservation Zones under new laws to protect the sea and its rich range of creatures and plants.

The coast has been divided into projects to research and develop the zones. From Felixstowe Ferry north, Net Gain is co-ordinating the work and from the Ferry south, including the Stour and Orwell estuaries, Balanced Seas is in charge.

Project officer for Balanced Seas, Sue Wells said the new conservation areas would only affect beaches below the high tide mark, the sub tidal areas, and research was taking place into the creatures and habitat of these areas.

"We are working in partnership with a wide range of organisations, users of the beaches and seas, to get everyone involved and get their views," she said. "To have a ban on fishing from a beach will be fairly rare, but we cannot say definitely, 'no, there will not be', just in case there is something which needs to be protected and action has to be taken. We want to reassure anglers but at the same time cannot say there won't be any restrictions anywhere."

She said the aim was to obtain a balanced view — with coastal users working with the scientists to look at options for responsible management.

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Marine Planning Collaboration

The Eastern Daily Press columns of 21st April '10 carries a report indicating collaboration between academics and business interests in utilising the sea.

Marine collaboration aiming to ride wave of new ideas

A collaboration between academics and marine science specialists Gardline Group has been launched to help the region's businesses harness the opportunities offered by the sea. The North Sea Marine Cluster has been set up by Great Yarmouth-based Gardline and experts at the University of East Anglia (UEA) aiming to pool the region's existing expertise and plan for future potential growth areas. The initiative follows the introduction of the Marine and Coastal Access Act which will see major changes in the management of British seas.

Possible future opportunities for business includes setting up and monitoring marine protection areas, sites in which wildlife will be protected, changes to planning regulations, wind farm development and growth in fish farming. The cluster will be open to other member organisations to join and contribute expertise in research, data collection and analysis and experience in planning, port development, marine aggregates and environmental issues.

Gardline chairman Gregory Darling said: "There is lots of activity but no one is standing up high and looking over the horizon and planning for the future. "If we don't plan for the opportunities ahead they will pass us by."

Prof Peter Liss, based in the School of Environmental Sciences at the UEA added: "The hope is that the cluster will act as a watchtower for new opportunities associated with developments such as marine protected areas, pollution monitoring and marine surveillance and energy related matters means that there is a centre of expertise available now, looking at and over the horizon, that can match resources and capability to specific needs."

Gardline was set up in 1969 to support the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea. The company, which employs more than 1,000 globally, has a range of subsidiary operations involved in activities including marine sciences and surveying, satellite communications, security, digital mapping and vessel charters.

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Who decides whether aggregate dredging causes serious damage?

The major offshore aggregate dredging area, located off East Anglia, is currently being assessed by a Regional Environmental Assessment (REA) in order to see whether the numerous extraction sites which have been licensed there since the 1960s onwards are having any adverse effect on the adjacent coastline and offshore marine biology.

The REA study is being commissioned and paid for by the aggregate companies, and a Scoping Study (the terms of reference for the REA) was prepared during 2009.

MARINET commented during 2009 on this Scoping Study, and noted that its scientific studies lacked any scientific re-assessment as to whether the steepening of East Anglian beaches is being caused by offshore dredging; lacked any assessment as to whether sand drawn from the beaches and coastal defences is ending-up at the dredging sites; lacked any assessment of the disappearance of the wildlife-important offshore sand bank at Scroby Sands (measuring 1 mile long by one-quarter mile wide) — which before the 1960s existed above sea level during even the highest tide levels — is related to offshore dredging; and, lacked any re-assessment of the offshore wave regime which, MARINET believes, is incorrectly characterised in the EIAs that are used to secure the offshore dredging licences.

MARINET brought these deficiencies to the attention of the dredging companies and their consultant, but this failed to result in any amendment in the Scoping Study of the REA — see MARINET website record

Accordingly, MARINET has written to the Minister at Defra, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, who is responsible for marine aggregate issues to ask him to "call-in" the REA in order to ensure that these important scientific studies identified by MARINET are incorporated into the REA's work — see letter dated 1st February 2010

The Minister has now replied to MARINET, see letter dated 2nd March 2010. The Minister states that the REA is a voluntary arrangement, wholly determined and paid for by the marine aggregate companies. The Government claims, therefore, that it cannot intervene.

As a result, MARINET has now drawn this reply from the Minister to the attention of the aggregate companies, see letter dated 16th April 2010. MARINET has explained to the dredging companies that the Minister believes that it is their responsibility to ensure that the Regional Environmental Assessment has scientific integrity by ensuring that a full range of scientific studies are undertaken,. Further, MARINET has stated that if the dredging companies want people to believe that offshore aggregate dredging has no adverse impact, then the aggregate companies should commission the studies, as identified by MARINET, which will prove this.

So, the ball is once again back in the court of the aggregate companies. And, the question is very clear — if the aggregate companies refuse to include these scientific studies in the REA — as they have refused so far — who is actually determining whether aggregate dredging is damaging the coastline and the marine environment?

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Scottish scallop fishermen threaten the livelihood of Yorkshire crab fishermen

Yorkshire crab fishermen have claimed their livelihoods could be put at risk by Scottish trawlers dredging for scallops in their fishing grounds.

Fishermen say over the past 20 years they have created a sustainable area for crab and lobster off the coast of Bridlington. However from now on, Scottish boats will be allowed to work a patch which includes part of the Yorkshire area.

This is legal under EU legislation but local fishermen are opposed to it. They say it will plough up the seabed and kill shellfish.

Bridlington is Britain's busiest shellfishing port and is worth millions to the region's economy. Local fishermen have cultivated an area which extends 15 miles off the Yorkshire coast in which to lay pots to catch crab and lobster. However, only the first six miles from the shore is protected by the North Eastern Sea Fishing Committee, and the sea beyond that is subject to EU fishing laws, meaning most of the fishermen's area is unprotected.

After meetings between the Scottish scallop fishermen and the Bridlington and Flamborough Fishermen's Society a 30 square mile area has been agreed in which the scallops could be caught. That decision has angered many East Yorkshire fishermen.

Skipper Tony Pockley said: "All they're doing is ploughing the crabs and lobsters into the ground and killing them. Why should we have to move all our fishing gear when we've been there for 20 years? It doesn't seem right, it doesn't seem fair." He said he was worried about how the seabed would recover from the scallop fishing. "The ships work 24/7," he said. "They can clear an area of four square miles in two days. When they're finished it's completely clear, it's like a farmer ploughing a field. It could take month and months, we don't know how long it will take to recover."

Steve Cowan of the Bridlington and Flamborough Fishermen's Society said the Scottish fishermen had given their Yorkshire counterparts a week to move their pots.

John Hermse of the UK Scallop Association, said: "There has been no increase in scalloping activity levels from previous years. Scalloping is a nomadic activity, we might work areas and then not come back to them for years. We are working closely with local fishermen in Yorkshire to ensure fishing gear is not damaged."

Source: BBC NEWS, 31st March 2010.

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British campaigner urges UN to accept 'ecocide' as international crime

A campaign to declare the mass destruction of ecosystems an international crime against peace — alongside genocide and crimes against humanity — is being launched in the UK.

The proposal for the United Nations to accept "ecocide" as a fifth "crime against peace", which could be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), is the brainchild of British lawyer-turned-campaigner Polly Higgins.

The radical idea would have a profound effect on industries blamed for widespread damage to the environment like fossil fuels, mining, agriculture, chemicals and forestry.

Supporters of a new ecocide law also believe it could be used to prosecute "climate deniers" who distort science and facts to discourage voters and politicians from taking action to tackle global warming and climate change.

"Ecocide is in essence the very antithesis of life," says Higgins. "It leads to resource depletion, and where there is escalation of resource depletion, war comes chasing behind. Where such destruction arises out of the actions of mankind, ecocide can be regarded as a crime against peace."

Higgins, formerly a barrister in London specialising in employment, has already had success at the UN with a Universal Declaration for Planetary Rights, modelled on the human rights declaration. "My starting point was 'how do we create a duty of care to the planet, a pre-emptive obligation to not harm the planet?'"

After a successful launch at the UN in 2008, the idea has been adopted by the Bolivian government, who will propose a full members' vote, and Higgins has taken up her campaign for ecocide.

Ecocide is already recognised by dictionaries, but Higgins' more legal definition would be: "The extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished."

The ICC was set up in 2002 to hear cases for four crimes against peace: genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression (such as unprovoked war), and crimes against humanity.

Higgins makes her case for ecocide to join that list with a simple equation: extraction leads to ecocide, which leads to resource depletion, and resource depletion leads to conflict. "The link is if you keep over-extracting from your capital asset we'll have very little left and we will go to war over our capital asset, the last of it," adds Higgins, who has support in the UN and European commission, and among climate scientists, environmental lawyers and international campaign groups.

Source: The Guardian, 9th April 2010.

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Acidification in the Arctic threatening a catastrophe

Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered.

Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.

"This is extremely worrying," said Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish — like mussels — to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."

Just as an acid descaler breaks apart limescale inside a kettle, so the shells that protect molluscs and other creatures will be dissolved. "This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on molluscs," said Gattuso, speaking at a European commission conference, Oceans of Tomorrow, in Barcelona. The oceanographer told delegates that the problem of ocean acidification was worse in high latitudes, in the Arctic and around Antarctica, than it was nearer the equator."More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm," he said. "Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail."

About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.

This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. "We knew the Arctic would be particularly badly affected when we started our studies but I did not anticipate the extent of the problem," said Gattuso.

His research suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. "Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic," he added.

The tiny mollusc Limacina helicina, which is found in Arctic waters, will be particularly vulnerable, he said. The little shellfish is eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds. Its disappearance would therefore have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. The deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa would also be extremely vulnerable to rising acidity. Reefs in high latitudes are constructed by only one or two types of coral — unlike tropical coral reefs which are built by a large variety of species. The loss of Lophelia pertusa would therefore devastate reefs off Norway and the coast of Scotland, removing underwater shelters that are exploited by dozens of species of fish and other creatures.

"Scientists have proposed all sorts of geo-engineering solutions to global warming," said Gattuso. "For instance, they have proposed spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles that would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth, mitigating the warming caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

"But these ideas miss the point. They will still allow carbon dioxide emissions to continue to increase — and thus the oceans to become more and more acidic. There is only one way to stop the devastation the oceans are now facing and that is to limit carbon-dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency."

This was backed by other speakers at the conference. Daniel Conley, of Lund University, Sweden, said that increasing acidity levels, sea-level rises and temperature changes now threatened to bring about irreversible loss of biodiversity in the sea. Christoph Heinze, of Bergen University, Norway, said his studies, part of the EU CarboOcean project, had found that carbon from the atmosphere was being transported into the oceans' deeper waters far more rapidly than expected and was already having a corrosive effect on life forms there.

The oceans' vulnerability to climate change and rising carbon-dioxide levels has also been a key factor in the launching of the EU's Tara Ocean project at Barcelona. The expedition, on the sailing ship Tara, will take three years to circumnavigate the globe, culminating in a voyage through the icy Northwest Passage in Canada, and will make continual and detailed samplings of seawater to study its life forms.

A litre of seawater contains between 1bn and 10bn single-celled organisms called prokaryotes, between 10bn and 100bn viruses and a vast number of more complex, microscopic creatures known as zooplankton, said Chris Bowler, a marine biologist on Tara.

"People think they are just swimming in water when they go for a dip in the sea," he said. "In fact, they are bathing in a plankton soup."

That plankton soup is of crucial importance to the planet, he added. "As much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plankton as is absorbed by tropical rainforests. Its health is therefore of crucial importance to us all."

Source: The Observer, 4th October 2009.

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A precious legacy tainted by politics?

On 1st April the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, acceded to worldwide demands and designated the Chagos as a marine reserve. This declaration will make it the largest marine protected area in the world, totalling more than 210,000 square miles — an area twice the size of the UK. He was responding to the demands of over 275,000 people who had written in support of the proposal to preserve this unique marine habitat from further exploitation by commercial fishing. Read a fuller version of the history here.

However, this campaign has been accompanied by the pleas of the indigenous Chagosians, forcibly removed a generation ago to make way for the building of a US Air base at Diego Garcia. Despite winning a High Court ruling to permit them to return, HM government remains intransigent and awaits an EU Court of Human Rights judgement as to whether the continued exile can stand. See the Channel 4 news report here.

One can only hope that a way can be found to respect the rights of the indigenous people in a manner which promotes the vital conservation objectives of the marine reserve.

MARINET observes: The lessons of this exercise will prove valuable to conservationists and politicians struggling with the sustainability of our own local waters, and those of the NE Atlantic, over fished to a disastrous level through the workings of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This Policy, in the process of reform (see needs radical revision as a matter of urgency, and the lesson is clear — if the Chagos Islands can have all their seas out to 200 nautical miles protected from fishing and other extractive activities, why is it that UK seas cannot benefit from a similar philosophy of protection so that we can rebuild and restore our fish stocks to a healthy condition? The reality is that our fish stocks are in serious decline, and a number face commercial extinction. As things stand, the UK government can deliver protection for our seas in the Indian Ocean, but not in the NE Atlantic. Therefore, when it comes to protectcing our fish stocks and our seas perhaps it is we who are the second class citizens, and not the exiled Chagos Islanders… !

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SW offshore marine energy potential to be mapped

A project to map offshore renewable energy potential around the coast of South West England has been announced. The South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) has appointed renewable energy consultancy PMSS to lead the £100,000 study, which will examine the potential for wave, tidal and offshore wind installations up to 2030.

This will inform future investment decisions by the industry, feed into the ongoing consultation about Marine Conservation Zones through the Finding Sanctuary project and help the South West retain its leading role in the development of marine renewables. The announcement was made at the RenewableUK Wave and Tidal conference in London, during an update from the RDA about its pioneering Wave Hub marine energy project in Cornwall.

Claire Gibson, director of sustainable resources at the South West RDA said, "The ability to deploy commercial installations is crucial to the development of the marine energy industry in the South West and this study will map the potential over the next 20 years. It will provide data invaluable to the industry and will help ensure that marine renewables are given due consideration in future discussions about planning for the South West's marine environment. This includes the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for marine energy confirmed by the UK Government,. We have long championed the need for an SEA as an essential pre-cursor to licensing areas of sea for commercial development, and we look forward to its swift progress."

impression of Wave Hub

The South West RDA's flagship marine energy project is Wave Hub, which will create the world's largest test site for wave energy technology by building a grid-connected socket on the seabed, 10 miles off the coast, to which wave power devices can be connected and their performance evaluated.

The first phase of onshore construction was completed last month and work began this month on a new electricity substation in Hayle, where Wave Hub's subsea cable will come ashore on the north coast of Cornwall. Wave Hub will be completed this year, with the first wave energy devices expected to be deployed in 2011. The £42m project is being funded with £12.5m from the South West RDA, £20m from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme and £9.5m from the UK government.

Source: Maritime Journal 11th March 2010.

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Defra publishes report on "Adapting to Coastal Change"

Defra has published on 30th March 2010 a report titled: Adapting to Coastal Change : Developing a Policy Framework. Defra states that this report "represents a staging post in the evolution of a policy framework on supporting communities in adapting to coastal change." The Policy Report follows on from an announcement by Defra on 1st December 2009 that it is supporting financially, to the value of £11 million, 15 coastal local authorities — whom it terms as "coastal change pathfinder authorities" — with projects that the authorities are running in conjunction with their communities in order to plan for coastal change. This funding will run until spring 2011.
Details of the Defra Report can be obtained from their website
We record below the local authorities and their projects currently receiving "pathfinder funding".
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CITES and Japan criticised for failing to protect Bluefin Tuna

Writing in The Huffington Post, 28th March 2010, David Helvarg, President of the Blue Frontier Campaign (, has strongly criticised both CITES (U.N.'s Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) and Japan for failing to take action to protect Bluefin Tuna which is threatened with extinction. He writes:

"Pass the bluefin sushi, shark fin soup and polar bear paw ashtray.

"It's all over except for the name change following the March 13-25 meeting of CITES in Doha, Qatar that included a Japanese Embassy reception serving highly endangered Bluefin tuna. Its time to rebrand CITES the Corporate Inspired Termination of Existing Sealife. And hey Japan, it's not called "bashing" when you go after a criminal.

"But first, a little background. Despite our wars, homicide rates, illnesses, accidents and addictions, humans remain prolific breeders, having more than doubled our population in the last 45 years from 3 billion to almost 7 billion. We're also highly effective predators. Having wiped out most large land animals and replaced them with domesticated meat animals like pigs and cattle, we're now in the process of repeating this systemic carnage in the sea, wiping out marine wildlife such as cod, tuna and sharks faster than they can reproduce, even as we rapidly expand industrial-scale fish farming, recreating the agricultural revolution of 10,000 years ago (only in a far less sustainable manner — we're feeding the farmed fish on wild fish).

"Our atavistic urge to kill off potential competitors and turn wildlife into dead objects of wealth, status and adornment was reflected at the CITES meeting in Doha Qatar, an oil rich Arab state on the Persian Gulf though they prefer to call it the Arabian Gulf. Either way, it's the deadest sea I've ever sailed on, with little more than oil rigs, jellyfish and sea snakes. (And perhaps a model for the world's oceans in the not-too-distant future, thanks to the efforts of Japan's delegation to CITES and the quiet cooperation they received from the world's latest superpower, the People's Republic of China).

"Unlike Germany, Japan never seriously accepted responsibility for its crimes during World War Two and I'm sure after it has helped facilitate the decimation of the seas its government will find a way to again deny responsibility for this latest crime, continuing to brand any criticism of its corporate fleets and seafood companies, "Japan Bashing."

"Along with mercury-contaminated dolphins and whales, the Japanese consume over 75 percent of the world's (also mercury laden) Bluefin tuna as sushi and sashimi. These large apex predator fish can sell for $10,000 each (one huge fish once fetched $175,000). Given that kind of market incentive it's no surprise that the existing stocks have plummeted. The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock is nearing total collapse while the Western Atlantic stock, that includes U.S. Bluefin, has declined some 80 percent since the 1970s.

"Still, the CITES meeting not only failed to enact a ban on trade in Bluefin tuna meat (very expensive Japanese sushi), but also rejected any protection for seven species of highly endangered sharks (used in shark fin soup, a gelatinous $100 a bowl status symbol in China). They also refused to protect rare pink and red corals (used for expensive jewellery) or even polar bear body parts (proof of the kill for "sports hunters").

"Following the vote on Bluefin, Japanese delegates began cheering along with some of their "friends." As with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings where Japan continues to push for a renewal of commercial whaling, many of these "friends" are in fact delegates from poor developing countries who are given financial aid by Japan in exchange for their votes. Japan also pays many poor coastal and island nations fees to fish tuna in their waters.

"Unfortunately, few of these nations have their own Coast Guards to make sure that foreign fishing vessels obey the rules and don't destroy the living resources that local fishing communities also depend on. U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen recently told me he has grave concerns about the ability of emerging states to enforce fisheries laws within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones. The two most critical examples he cited were Micronesian (Pacific) and Southwest African states that he said, "are really at the mercy of some of these foreign fleets."

"Among the most destructive of these fleets are the Japanese, Chinese, South Korean and Spanish, though the Italians do their fair share of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean, mainly targeting the large, sleek torpedo-shaped Bluefin.

"Two major science studies on overfishing were released this decade. One reported 90 percent of the biggest pelagic (open ocean) fish — including sharks, tuna and billfish — have been eliminated by overfishing just since 1950. This study was largely based on catch records by Japan's global longline fishing fleet. The other study suggests if present trends of industrial overfishing continue without change there will be no commercially viable wild fisheries left by mid-century. This is the study Japan seems determined to prove right. Unfortunately, the U.N. has now become its accomplice in this short-sighted rush to end our last great hunter-gatherer activity on our last great wilderness commons.

"After that comes to pass, we'll just have to start tightening our belts and hanging on tighter as twenty percent of our animal protein is eliminated from the global diet and the benefits and natural services provided by living marine ecosystems and their keystone species like shark and tuna begin to fade away. We'll also have to start adjusting some of our cultural references. After all, there's always more fish in the sea.

…"Until there's not."

Source: The Huffington Post, 28th March 2010

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The TED prize sponsors "The Mission Blue Voyage"

The TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Prize, see, is supporting Sylvia Earle, the 2008 TED Prize winner, in her efforts to protect the world's oceans.

The first step in granting Sylvia Earle's wish is The Mission Blue Voyage. On 6-10th April 2010, TED will host a one-of-a-kind conference on the National Geographic Endeavor, sailing across the Galapagos Islands to raise awareness about the urgency of ocean conservation issues, and to call for governments to establish more Marine Protected Areas. TED is bringing together marine scientists, deep-sea explorers, technology innovators, policy makers, business leaders, environmentalists, activists, artists and celebrities for this epic adventure into the blue.

The world's oceans are in trouble. They've become a dumping ground for pollutants; acidity levels are on the rise. 90 percent of the big fish have disappeared. Destructive fishing practices are killing countless numbers of marine mammals each year. Although environmental groups have done impressive work toward making the world greener, up until now the blue part of our planet — 71 percent of the Earth's surface — has been largely ignored.

Today, less than one percent of the ocean is protected — while over twelve percent of land is. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are defined as "areas where natural and/or cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters." Mission Blue's focus is to begin securing MPAs in a few crucial areas. Sylvia refers to these places as "hope spots," because, in her words, "If we can embrace them and protect them, there is hope — not just for continuation of these wonderful, extraordinary places — but there's hope then for humankind."

The goal of the Mission Blue conference is to create content that will change minds and shift perception of the vital importance of our ocean's health. TED will use its platform to inspire the diverse high-profile attendees (who have credible voices on these issues), to advocate for Marine Protected Areas and the urgency of ocean conservation, to spread ideas and information to the public, and to incite action and influence policy makers.

The voyage is only the beginning. The conference will serve as a launching pad for the larger Mission Blue Campaign to do what is only possible if everyone is on board: save the oceans. Public support is the first step in pressuring governments to secure protection. The talks from the Mission Blue Voyage will be released on and

Source: The Huffington Post, 30th March 2010.

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House of Commons Crown Estate Inquiry input from MARINET

MARINET submitted evidence of our concern on licensing Offshore Aggregate Dredging to the recent House of Commons Treasury Committee Inquiry on the Management of the Crown Estate, which paper was published on 22nd March '10. Our input to the inquiry may be seen in the Marine Aggregate Dredging listings under 'MARINET contributes to HoC Treasury Sub-Committee inquiry on Crown Estate'

You can read MARINET's submission here

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Sea Shepherd reports on whaling in the Southern Ocean

The environmental group, Sea Shepherd, has sent this report to The Guardian on whaling currently being undertaken in the Southern Ocean by Japan's whalers. The report is filed by the engineer, Wietse Van Der Werf, on the Sea Shepherd vessel "Steve Irwin".

"When I rolled back into port this month with the Sea Shepherd team and our ship the Steve Irwin, it had been an eventful few weeks at sea, chasing Japanese whalers around the Southern Ocean in a bid to stop their annual whale hunt. I joined the ship in August as part of an international crew of volunteers, eager to work with an organisation willing to physically intervene against the poaching.

"As an engineer, working in the engine room fills an important role in the campaign effort. Having an older vessel, the success of our operation very much depends on us keeping the engines running smoothly and ensuring we have enough speed and durability to catch up with the whaling ships and stay with them for as long as we can. On the one hand we have a team of very experienced engineers, officers and seafarers on board. On the other, a part of the crew learns along the way. Their commitment to take risks, dedication to work and the personal sacrifices they have made to come on board make them much valued members of the team.

"The Southern Ocean is an unforgiving place. Many of the new crew get hit by the wave of seasickness which spreads through the ship during the first few days out of port. Although people get used to the life of rolling and pitching pretty quickly, it is far from comfortable. Sleeping becomes quite difficult when your bunk is rolling back and forth or you sleep in one of the forward cabins with near zero gravity. Imagine trying to catch up on some much needed sleep after a long day at work when you get thrown up against the ceiling every 10 seconds. Life at sea made me appreciate the comfort and ease of life on the land.

"At first sight, the sea is a pretty cold and empty place. But after a closer look, you find the place crawling with life. Albatrosses fly gracefully across our bow and occasionally land on deck for a quick rest stop. Seals lie dotted around on the ice floes and our presence has on some occasions been responded to with angry growls from those we awoke from their afternoon nap.

"A couple of centuries ago, whales were considered a shipping hazard with the need for careful navigation around enormous pods of whales. Now we are happy to get quick glimpses of breaching humpback, piked or fin whales.

"One day, about 50 metres from the ship, two humpback whales jumped out of the water, throwing their huge bodies up in the air, and crashing back down, causing huge eruptions on the surface. We all rushed up to the deck and stood there in awe. Up until that point we hadn't seen many whales at all. Quite a discouraging observation when you consider a vast industrial whaling fleet looming about. But here they were and happy to show off their tricks. Amid the cheering and clapping from the growing crowd of spectators on deck, they continued to breach, flip and dive back down. When you see these animals in the free, open ocean, their wilderness, their world, it gives you strength to carry on.

"During this year's campaign we were in many confrontations with the whaling ships. Blocking their slipway, trying to stop them from entering the whale sanctuary area and ensuring the harpoon ships stayed close by to keep an eye on us instead of going off over the horizon in a bid to resume whaling. Standing outside on the deck and seeing a ship bearing down upon you at speed is a thrilling sight and we have needed to take greater care in looking out for the movement of the whalers. With two — what we believe deliberate — rammings, of which one resulted in the sinking of the "Ady Gil", Sea Shepherd's trimaran, they have shown themselves to be prepared to use violence against us. It seems that with increasing value put on threatened animals in the wild, poachers are willing to go to extremes in defending their lucrative operations.

"After having followed the factory ship Nisshin Maru for over three weeks while no whaling could take place, we were forced to head back to land. Low on fuel, food and fresh water we turned the ship and set course for Australia.

"During the last night with the whaling fleet I stood outside on deck and looked out at the factory ship in front of us for one last time. I felt a great sense of pride, to know that in the 21st century it is still a committed, dedicated, and hard working group of ordinary people that can bring about the change needed to keep this planet healthy and sane. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has."

Source: The Guardian, 25th March 2010.

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C.O.A.S.T. and Lamlash Bay launch their first newsletter

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), which has pioneered the creation of Scotland's first "no-take" marine reserve in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran, West Scotland, has launched its first newsletter with a declaration that C.O.A.S.T. is seeking to help set up a coherent network marine reserves in the Clyde area. Howard Wood, C.O.A.S.T. Chairman, comments:

"Use of the Clyde's marine environment has been transformed over the past 50 years. We have seen traditional fish stocks crash, sea-angling boat-hire companies vanish and our renowned fishing festivals wane. With these changes has grown a sense among coastal communities that we need more say in the way our local waters are managed. For too long important decisions affecting the sea have been influenced by a top-heavy industry, far removed from these local impacts.

"On a rising tide of unrest, C.O.A.S.T. was formed and after over a decade of campaigning, Lamlash Bay finally became Scotland's first No Take Zone (NTZ) in 2008, protecting an area of seabed in an important small step towards the regeneration of the Clyde. But this mini-breakthrough sadly does not paint the full picture. The full proposals for the Lamlash Bay Community Conservation Area — only complete once a Marine Protected Area is established in the rest of the Bay — are being stalled after four years of talks. This is now a matter of real urgency for our political representatives.

"Once the MPA is in place, C.O.A.S.T.'s work will not stop there. Our organisation wants to help build a network of communities around the country who are now waking up to the importance of local control over their marine environment. Members of C.O.A.S.T. are not single-minded environmentalists. C.O.A.S.T. is a campaign organisation dedicated to localising decision-making where appropriate. C.O.A.S.T. believes the health of a coastal economy is closely linked to the health of the marine environment.

"It is for these reasons we will continue to try and influence government policy and legal interpretation. We will work with Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, the fishermen of the Clyde and all interested parties to develop a coherent network of MPAs in the Clyde with Lamlash Bay at its heart. We also hope to appoint a marine ranger in the future, be actively involved in marine education, research in the NTZ and the intertidal zone and assist in developing a truly sustainable marine environment around the island and in the whole Clyde. In short there is still a lot of work to be done."

Source: C.O.A.S.T. 25th March 2010

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Scottish Government offers "prize" to encourage the generation of marine energy

A £10m prize for taming the stormy Scottish seas by building a working marine energy station has been opened for entries. The global competition, funded by the Scottish Government, aims to replicate the success of bounties such as the Ansari X prize which in 2004 led to the first private space flight.

The Scottish energy minister, Jim Mather, said the £10m Saltire prize was the world's most valuable government-funded prize for technology innovation, but critics complained that it was a wasteful "vanity project".

The status of the competition was boosted by the disclosure that the Crown Estate, the agency that owns the UK's seabed out to 12 nautical miles, will enable the shortlisted entries to be tested at sites off the west coast of Scotland.

Jim Mather also clarified the rules for the prize: the winning entry, harnessing the power of tides or waves, will have to generate 100GWh of electricity over a two-year trial period sometime between 2012 and 2017, enough to power 10,000 homes.

The prize was first proposed in Washington DC by Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National party leader, in April 2008, to boost investment and expertise in marine renewables and to promote the significant potential of Scottish coastal waters. So far, there have been 140 registrations of interest.

The competition will be open to existing designs and established marine energy firms, including the Edinburgh-based firms behind the "sea snake" wave machine, Pelamis, and the "oyster" wave machine, Aquamarine power. New entrants to the industry will have to fund their new designs independently.

Alex Salmond and the Crown Estate announced last week that 10 tidal and wave power schemes had been chosen for deployment around the Orkney Islands and the Pentland Firth in what they described as the world's first fully fledged commercial marine energy programme. Scotland's coastal waters have the potential to generate up to 25% of Europe's marine energy, experts suggest.

Source: The Guardian, 24th March 2010

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Shellfish as nutritional food

The Shellfish Association of Great Britain has produced a series of publications which explain the potential nutritional benefits from eating shellfish. For further details, see

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Reversing Beach and Shoreline Erosion

Peter Waller found a good video to share with you, demonstrating how low cost tried and tested methodology not only stops erosion in its tracks but actually builds by bringing back the lost sand. It can be seen by the film selected by going to

Three versions are available according to your choice of 56K dial-up modem, 1,000-1400 Kbps cable DSL or 1500 Kbps high speed cable.

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Beach litter increasing says Marine Conservation Society survey

Litter on our beaches is still unacceptably high, with more plastic rubbish washed up than ever before. Those are the findings from the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) Beachwatch Big Weekend 2009 report. It also reveals that while total litter has increased by 77% since the first Beachwatch in 1994, plastic litter has increased by a staggering 121%.

MCS Litter Projects Officer Rachel Bailey said: "Our seas and beaches are becoming overwhelmed with plastic litter, which not only looks horrible, but kills and injures many of our fantastic marine animals every year. Over 260 species of marine wildlife become entangled in litter or mistake it for food. The solution is to stop litter getting into the sea in the first place and the Marine Conservation Society is delighted that government and political parties have announced their commitment to drawing up action plans to reduce marine litter."

The Beachwatch 2009 summary report can be downloaded as a pdf file here.

Source: Marine Conservation Society, 26th March 2010

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Fishermen meet UK Government to discuss Marine Reserves

Scottish and English fishing leaders have recently met government and environmental groups as part of a high level engagement over the creation of the new marine protected areas around UK waters.

The recently formed coalition of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO) held its first talks with Defra, Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The fishing industry does not oppose these new zones in principle (also called MPAs) - the first came into existence off Lundy a few weeks ago - but is anxious to ensure that a proper balance is struck and the interests of the industry are maintained.

The fishing coalition says that along with the arrival of offshore wind-farms, the establishment of MPAs represents the biggest potential threat to fishermen's access to their fishing grounds that the industry has faced in its entire history. "There are now legal obligations on ministers both at European level and domestically to introduce MPAs in UK waters. The statutory nature conservancy agencies at present have a massive budget to provide advice to Government on the implementation of both European and domestic MPAs. They are driving the MPA agenda forward at breakneck speed."

The coalition said that inevitably for a first engagement, this meeting was a ground clearing exercise for all involved when some important points were clarified, which included recognising the coalition as the principal body for engaging with statutory advisors and Government decision makers.

Source: 16th February 2010

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New marine species and habitats threatened with destruction

Weird and wonderful new discoveries are continually being made in the unexplored depths of our oceans, but could disappear forever - before we even learn of their existence, warns one of the foremost marine biologists, the University of Plymouth's Dr Jason Hall-Spencer.

Dr Hall-Spencer explained his research into the dangers facing pristine habitats and new species discovered on seamounts* in a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in San Diego.

For the very first time, through the Census of Marine Life, researchers are assembling a comprehensive picture of what lives in the ocean.

As part of the group's symposium, Dr Hall-Spencer explained how 98% of all known marine species live on the sea floor, yet we have mapped so little of the ocean that amazing discoveries are constantly being made as he says; "Less than 1 per cent of the estimated 50,000 seamounts have ever been surveyed and our research visits have revealed pristine coral reefs and many species that are brand new to science. However, over the past five years, these surveys have also worryingly revealed that all over the world, deep sea habitats are suffering severe impacts from bottom trawling down to depths of 1000 metres and more."

Dr.Hall-Spencer's findings on the reef damage caused by bottom trawling, which include stripped boulders and smashed corals of over 4500 years old, have succeeded in influencing public policy with new UN and FAO recommendations now being implemented as a direct result. The research has also seen four areas so far designated as Marine Protected Areas and closed completely to bottom trawling.

His presentation also described the first ever submersible dives on the world's largest (40km long) cold water reef of the Arctic waters off Norway and discussed the alarming fact that just as we have discovered these reefs, they are threatened by the corrosive effects of ocean acidification.

Source: Plymouth University News, 18th February 2010

* A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface (sea level), and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of 1,000 — 4,000 metres depth.

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New design for offshore wind turbines

A radical windmill design could hold the key to making offshore wind power more economical and helping the UK meet its ambitious renewable energy targets.

overhead view of the Aerogenerator

The Aerogenerator turns conventional windmills on their side, with a 100m tall V-shaped blade rotating on a vertical, rather than the usual horizontal, axis. By building all the moving parts and machinery at the base of the windmill rather than the top of a tower, its designers claim it will be easier to build and maintain, making its renewable electricity cheaper. Nova (Novel Offshore Vertical Axis Demonstrator)— which came up with the design — is one of three projects being funded by the government-backed Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) as part of a project to find ways of bringing down the cost of offshore wind power.

The UK has the biggest wind resource in Europe — some estimates put the UK's share at one-third of the continent's total. Taking advantage of the country's potential wind power will be critical in meeting the targets set by government for the UK to meet 15% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

In January, the government announced a £75bn programme to build 25GW of offshore wind turbines. The nine sites in line for development in the Crown Estate's programme — including Dogger Bank, the Bristol Channel, the seas off Norfolk and the Firth of Forth — are all further away from the coast and in deeper waters, around 30m, than any existing offshore project, and therefore more challenging to build.

"The current cost of electricity by offshore wind is somewhere between 12-15p per KWh, that's about double the cost of onshore wind and three times the cost of conventional generation. Our job is to significantly reduce that. By 2020, we want it to be comparable to onshore generation. As we move to 2050, we want it to be comparable to conventional generation," said Grant Bourhill of the ETI.

He said that traditional offshore windmills seemed to have reached their economic limit with the huge 10MW turbines that are planned for the next few years, but Nova could potentially deliver more. "No one understands the economic limits for vertical-axis and it may be the economic limit is significantly better than a 10MW can provide, so we will be able to generate electricity at a much lower cost. The design could be more reliable and the maintenance costs could be significantly lower because the main components are actually closer to sea level than they are with the horizontal-axis design," said Bourhill

Nova, which has collaborators from Cranfield, Sheffield and Strathclyde universities, is being developed by OTM Consulting Limited. The team aims to have 1GW of offshore vertical axis turbines installed by 2020, with a demonstrator Aerogenerator turbine built offshore by 2015. Each windmill would be designed to generate between 5MW and 10MW of power but, because each would be cheaper to build than an equivalent modern turbine, the overall cost of an offshore wind farm, and the electricity, should be lower.

The ETI's strategy for offshore wind is to find ways to make this source of energy much cheaper and more reliable. The other two projects funded by the institute's £20m offshore scheme are Helm wind, a consortium led by energy company Eon that is focused on examining how conventional windmill designs can be made more cheaply, and Project Deepwater, a design for floating windmills out at sea led by Blue H Technologies and which includes collaborations from BAe Systems and EDF energy.

The ETI's funding for the three projects so far is aimed at producing detailed design specifications for the three ideas. Bourhill said that, once these plans have been evaluated by the institute, one of the ideas will be in line for a multi-million pound demonstration project.

More details from the Guardian website, 29th Jan at

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IUCN says marine reserves are essential for the survival of the planet and humankind

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( has produced a statement dated 1st February 2010 which states clearly why we have to establish marine protected areas (marine reserves) on a widespread basis throughout the world's seas and oceans if life as we know it, both terrestrial and marine, is to survive. We provide here the text of that statement.

"Oceans cover more than 70% of our planet. They include some of the most fragile ecosystems and species on Earth, but are continuously abused. More than 60% of the human population now lives on or near a coastline and 80% of tourism is concentrated in coastal areas. Exploited by over-fishing and subjected to pollution and oil and gas extraction, marine resources have been seriously affected in many regions.

"One of the most effective means for protecting marine and coastal biodiversity is through the establishment and proper management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

"IUCN's definition of a Marine Protected Area is: "Any area of intertidal or sub-tidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment," (Kelleher, 1999). Marine Protected Areas cover many different types of protection. Some are "no-take zones" that are essential to enable fish stocks to recover while others allow multiple use of their resources.

"MPAs protect key ecosystems such as coral reefs. Not only do they act as safe breeding grounds for fish, they also generate tourism, which in turn brings jobs. Unfortunately, most tourism revenues are held by big companies with little benefit going to the local population. Creating more Community Managed MPAs would enhance the flow of benefits to local people.

"More than 90% of the world's carbon dioxide is stored in the oceans, and they remove 30% of the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere. MPAs, which often encompass 'barrier' ecosystems such as coral reefs or mangroves, can also reduce the impact of damage from natural disasters such as hurricanes. Waves are slowed by the reefs while mangroves are effective windbreaks that reduce soil erosion. Examining the destruction caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there was ample evidence that in areas with healthy coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, the human population was protected and the impact of the disaster reduced. Mangroves also absorb pollutants and act as a natural water filter, preventing many pollutants from reaching the sea.

"Close to 25% of fishing in developing countries is carried out near a coral reef and more than 70% of the world's fisheries are in danger. Studies have shown that the knock-on effect of "no take" marine protected areas, not only doubles the amount of fish but also their size in a very short period of time. MPAs including in the High Seas, are key to replenishing biodiversity and nourishing the growing human population. They also serve as nurseries for key threatened species including whales and turtles whilst protecting a variety of marine ecosystems and the rich biodiversity they sustain.

"But despite the important role of MPAs for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, only 1% of the ocean is protected. The goal of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the Convention on Biological Diversity of establishing a global, representative system of MPAs by 2012 is far from being met. Protected Area managers face a wide range of challenges, from lack of governmental funding and support, to antagonism from local communities. With good communication and awareness programmes, this trend could be reversed. Involving the local population in the protection of marine protected areas would help generate sustainable livelihoods through revenue from fishing and tourism.

"An effective MPA system is needed to ensure that the oceans recuperate, continue to store carbon dioxide, that fish stocks recover and that coastlines are protected from harsh climatic conditions. It is no longer a technical question but a matter of survival for the planet and humankind."

Source: IUCN, 1st February 2010

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EU supports ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna

The 27 EU members announced on 10th March 2010 that they would vote to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), joining a growing list of supporting countries, including the United States of America.

"WWF welcomes the EU announcement, which will give this devastated species the possibility to recover," said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. "Other governments must back the ban when they meet for CITES later this week."

"The EU is a major trade and development partner in many key regions of the world, and some countries may have been hanging back on Atlantic bluefin tuna to see what the Europeans would decide to do," Tudela said.

"With the two largest holders of bluefin tuna fishing quota on either side of the Atlantic — the U.S. and EU — now supporting the trade ban, other countries should follow suit," Dr Tudela said. "Our only remaining concern is that we do not understand the continuing need on the part of the EU for conditions to be attached to the Appendix I listing. WWF believes this trade ban should be implemented immediately, without conditions or delay. The EU must now push for widespread support of this proposal during the CITES meeting."

The proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I was submitted by the Principality of Monaco in October. Atlantic bluefin tuna is at serious risk of commercial extinction because of decades of unsustainable and illegal fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, driven by demand from Japan's luxury seafood markets.

The eligibility of Atlantic bluefin tuna for the CITES Appendix I listing proposal is backed by independent experts including a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation panel, and the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the regional fisheries management organisation in charge of this fishery.

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 15) will take place March 13-25 in Doha, Qatar. The Convention is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

Source: WWF News release, 10th March 2010

MARINET observes: As welcome as this ban is, it is a sad indictment on the EU Common Fisheries Policy and European Governments that they are only prepared to act with any serious resolve to protect a commercial fishery (bluefin tuna in this instance, but the same is true of all other commercial fish species in the NE Atlantic) when it reaches the point of extinction. The time has come for a fundamental Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy based on the adoption by all governments of the strong version of the ecosystem-based approach to marine management for our seas (for the definition of the "strong version", see along with the adoption of a new default position by all governments whereby all extractive activity, including fishing, is prohibited in the seas of the NE Atlantic unless that activity can demonstrate that it is capable of contributing to the restoration of the health of the marine ecosystem (as defined in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, see or will cause no adverse impact to the marine ecosystem. In short, the Common Fisheries Policy must be reformed to be subordinate to the requirements of EU law and be obligated to actively implement the legal requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and associated legislation.

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Obituary — Blaise McArdle of Sand-RX

Jerry Berne of Sustainable Coastlnes, our fellow group in the USA, writes to tell us the sad news that Blaise McArdle died this past December.

Blaise was a great fighter for holding our coastlines and did much research into the sound scientific methodology of accomplishing this, coming up with his very own 'Sand-Rx' treatment that can be seen on our web site here by visiting our treatise on coastal defences entitled 'Why Canute Failed at

Blaise offered to come to Britain to treat any given kilometre of one of our eroding beaches for free in order to prove the efficacy, but sadly his offer was never taken up. It's too late now. He was in the middle of a French beach reclamation using his 'Sand-RX' when he died, so was probably unable to see this project to a successful conclusion.

The loss of such knowledge and expertise is a sad blow for those who are fighting to hold our shorelines.

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Humber Estuary & Coast — Another Independent report

A previously undiscovered November 1994 study entitled 'Humber Estuary & Coast' has just been found by our Dr. Harry Buckland. This work was commissioned by the Environment Sub-Committee of Humberside County Council and prepared by the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies at the University of Hull. It can be read in full at

Whilst being of particular interest to those directly concerned with the rapid erosion along the Holderness Coast, from Flamborough Head to Skegness. it also shows how the wider coastline right down to North East Norfolk and beyond is effected.

Here follows a short extract from the 47 page report:

"The Bridlington beaches are, however, merely the shoreward extremity of the vast deposit of the Smithic Sand stretching far out into the Bay — on stormy days the waves can be seen breaking on this sand bank a mile out from the shore. Without the Smithic Sand, Bridlington's beaches would disappear with disastrous results both for tourism and the fishing industry — the sand being an important nursery and feeding ground for several fish species. Any attempts to remove the sand, as valuable aggregates for example, should be considered extremely carefully before any irrevocable decisions are reached".

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Is catching wild fish more humane than farming fish?

The author of the book "Eating Animals", Jonathan Safran Foer, asks the question whether catching wild fish is more humane than farming fish in an article for The Guardian, 23rd February 2010. He states:

"So are wild-caught fish a more humane alternative? They certainly have better lives before they are caught, since they do not live in cramped, filthy enclosures. That is a difference that matters. But consider the most common ways of catching wild tuna, shrimp and salmon. Three methods are dominant: longline fishing, trawling and the use of purse seines.

"A longline looks something like a telephone line running through the water suspended by buoys rather than poles. At periodic intervals along this main line, smaller "branch" lines are strung — each branch line bristling with hooks. Now picture not just one of these multihook longlines, but dozens or hundreds deployed one after the other by a single boat. And, of course, there is not one boat deploying longlines, but dozens, hundreds, or even thousands in the largest commercial fleets.

"Longlines today can reach 75 miles — that's enough line to cross the Channel more than three times. And longlines don't kill just their "target species", but 145 others as well. One study found that roughly 4.5 million sea animals are killed by longline fishing every year, including roughly 3.3 million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,000 sea turtles, 75,000 albatross and 20,000 dolphins and whales.

"Even longlines, though, don't produce the immense bycatch associated with trawling. The most common type of modern shrimp trawler sweeps an area roughly 25 to 30 metres wide. The trawl is pulled along the ocean bottom for several hours, sweeping shrimp (and everything else) into the far end of a funnel-shaped net. Trawling is the marine equivalent of clear-cutting rain forest. Whatever they target, trawlers sweep up fish, sharks, rays, crabs, squid, scallops — typically about 100 different fish and other species. Virtually all die. The least efficient operations throw more than 98%, dead, back into the ocean. There is something quite sinister about this scorched-earth style of "harvesting" sea animals.

"Modern fishing techniques are destroying the ecosystems that sustain more complex vertebrates (such as salmon and tuna), leaving in their wake only the few species that can survive on plants and plankton, if that. As we gobble up the most desired fish, which are usually top-of-the-food-chain carnivores such as tuna and salmon, we eliminate predators and cause a short-lived boom of the species one notch lower on the food chain. We then fish that species into oblivion and move an order lower. The generational speed of the process makes it hard to see the changes (do you know what fish your grandparents ate?), and the fact that catches themselves don't decline in volume gives a deceptive impression of sustainability.

"Trawling and longline fishing aren't only ecologically worrisome; they are also cruel. In trawlers, hundreds of different species are crushed together, gashed on corals, bashed on rocks — for hours — then hauled from the water, causing painful decompression (this sometimes causes the animals' eyes to pop out or their internal organs to come out of their mouths). On longlines, too, the deaths animals face are generally slow. Some are simply held there and die only when removed from the lines. Some die from the injury caused by the hook in their mouths or by trying to get away. Some are unable to escape attack by predators.

"Purse seines are the main technology used for catching tuna. A net wall is deployed around a school of target fish, and once the school is encircled, the bottom of the net is pulled together as if the fishers were tugging on a giant purse string. The trapped target fish and any other creatures in the vicinity are then winched together and hauled on to the deck. Fish tangled in the net may be slowly pulled apart in the process. Most of these sea animals, though, die on the ship, where they will slowly suffocate or have their gills cut while conscious. In some cases, the fish are tossed on to ice, which can actually prolong their deaths.

"Does all this matter enough that we should change what we eat? What conclusion would most selective omnivores reach if attached to each salmon they ate was a label noting that 2.5ft-long farmed salmon spend their lives in the equivalent of a bathtub of water and that the animals' eyes bleed from the intensity of the pollution? What if the label mentioned the explosions of parasite populations, increases in diseases, degraded genetics and new antibiotic-resistant diseases that result from fish farming?

"Although one can realistically expect that at least some percentage of cows and pigs are slaughtered with speed and care, no fish gets a good death. Not a single one. You never have to wonder if the fish on your plate had to suffer. It did."

MARINET observes: The above are not the views of MARINET, but of Jonathan Safran Foer. These views, and their proselytising approach, are recorded in Mr. Foer's recent book "Eating Animals" , published by Hamish Hamilton.

Source: The Guardian, 23rd February 2010

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Does fish farming make sense?

The author, Jonathan Safran Foer, offers the following thoughts in an article in The Guardian, 23rd February 2010, on fish farming following on from his recently published book "Eating Animals".

"Factory-farmed chickens, turkeys and cattle all suffer in fundamentally similar ways. So, it turns out, do fish. We tend not to think of fish and land animals in the same way, but "aquaculture" — the intensive rearing of sea animals in confinement — is essentially under-water factory farming.

"The Handbook of Salmon Farming, an industry how-to book, details six "key stressors in the aquaculture environment": "water quality", "crowding", "handling", "disturbance", "nutrition" and "hierarchy". To translate into plain language, those six sources of suffering for salmon are: water so fouled that it makes it hard to breathe; crowding so intense that animals begin to cannibalise one another; handling so invasive that physiological measures of stress are evident a day later; disturbance by farmworkers and wild animals; nutritional deficiencies that weaken the immune system; and the inability to form a stable social hierarchy, resulting in more cannibalisation. These problems are typical. The handbook calls them "integral components of fish farming".

"A major source of suffering for salmon and other farmed fish is the abundant presence of sea lice, which thrive in the filthy water. These lice create open lesions and sometimes eat down to the bones on a fish's face — a phenomenon known as the "death crown" in the industry. A single salmon farm generates swarming clouds of sea lice in numbers 30,000 times higher than naturally occur.

"The fish that survive these conditions (a 10% to 30% death rate is seen as good by many in the salmon industry) are likely to be starved for seven to 10 days to diminish their bodily waste during transport to slaughter then killed by having their gills sliced before being tossed into a tank of water to bleed to death. Often the fish will be slaughtered while conscious, and convulse in pain as they die. In other cases, they may be stunned, but current stunning methods are unreliable."

Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO), responded to Jonathan Safran Foer in an article of his own in The Guardian on 2nd March 2010. He stated:

"Jonathan Safran Foer's opinions on the salmon industry are misguided." he states.

"I am chief executive of the SSPO which represents 95% of Scottish farmed salmon production and it is recognised as a leader in animal welfare best practice. Last month the RSPCA reported that Scottish farmed salmon was top of its Freedom Food charts, with an impressive 60% of production participating in its stringent animal welfare scheme which includes standards for husbandry, stocking density and harvesting.

"Of the 532 million farm animals that are reared under the RSPCA scheme, some 440 million are Scottish farmed salmon. More broadly, salmon farming is one of the most highly regulated sectors of the food industry, complying with national and international legislation as well as with retailer standards and the independently audited Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture.

"Contrary to Foer's claims that "salmon spend their lives in the equivalent of a bathtub of water", the average underwater pen is, by volume, the size of two Olympic swimming pools — meaning that fish have ample room to swim freely. As salmon only occupy a maximum of 2% of the space available in the pen, the remaining 98% of water is available for swimming. Therefore it is simply not true to imply that salmon are somehow packed into a confined space and constricted in their movements.

"Foer describes the marine environment in which salmon are grown as "filthy water" and goes on to suggest that "animals' eyes bleed from the intensity of the pollution". These statements are nonsense. Excellent water quality is essential to grow quality salmon. The clean, clear coastal waters on the west coast and islands of Scotland, with excellent tidal flows, are ideal growing conditions.

"It is in the farmers' interests to respect and safeguard the quality of the marine environment on which the fish depend. Furthermore, the release into the water of anything produced as a result of fish farming activity must be permitted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

"The health of the marine environment and the welfare of the animals in the farmers' care are crucial to the production of a healthy, high quality product which has made the industry one of the foremost food sectors in the UK today. This iconic Scottish industry produces high quality food products — the result of painstaking development and improvement over more than three decades.

"It concerns me that an American author of fiction purports to write a factual account of a major, successful food industry with little regard for the implications of his lack of research."

MARINET observes: Whilst there is clearly an important issue about the standards to which farm fish are reared (e.g. pen size, water quality, disease control and so forth), there is a wider issue.

Fish are being farmed largely because wild populations have collapsed. They have collapsed primarily due to over-fishing of the wild populations, salmon included.

These fishing practices not only over-fish the target species but also do so to a degree where the species is unable to breed productively and thus replace itself. In the case of some species, adult fish are being caught before they are barely sexually mature whilst, at the same time, the entire older population of that species is caught and marketed. The reality that faces these fish is analogous to the human population being culled at the age of ten, and then expecting the survival of the human population to be dependent upon the sexual behaviour of ten year olds.

In addition, some fishing practices, notably trawling, damage the seabed and severely disrupt the whole marine ecosytem and food chain.

More importantly still, fish farming does have an enormous impact on wild marine populations of fish. Salmon, to take the example being examined here, are carnivores. They live by eating other fish. They therefore need to be fed, and to do this fish farms have to rely on the capture of fish protein from the wild oceans. This fish protein consists of fishmeal and fish oil which are obtained by grinding up herring, mackerel and sardines caught from the wild ocean. Thus to grow a salmon in a fish farm requires three to four pounds of smaller fish to produce one pound of a larger one, thus effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul. Consequently, although the salmon may be farmed, the farmed salmon is still placing substantial fishing pressure on the wild oceans.

It is therefore essential to remember that salmon in fish farms need to be fed wild fish; and, how this wild fish protein is captured remains a crucial question. At present, farmed salmon are dependent on the same fishing practices that are currently causing the major slide towards a collapse in global commercial fish populations.

It is these fishing practices that have to change. If they do not, there will be little to feed the farmed fish — and without food for the farmed fish, there will be no fish farms.

Sources: The Guardian, Jonathan Safran Foer: the truth about fish farming — 23rd February 2010
Our salmon are not 'factory-farmed'. We're a leader in animal welfare — 2nd March 2010

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UK 1, MARINET & Environment 0

UK polluters won a round, but not the war on 18th December 2009, when the EU Court came a decision on the UK meeting the requirements of the EC Urban WasteWater Directive, 91/271/EEC. (See earlier mention of this on our website at and and other previous news by a Google Search.)

European court dismisses Commission's water pollution case against the UK

The European Court of Justice has thrown out the European Commission's case against the UK for failing to fulfil its duties under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

The long-running case had two components. First, the Commission claimed the UK had failed to identify several bodies of water as sensitive to pollution.

Second, it claimed that the UK had failed to meet stringent treatment standards for discharges into those bodies and into two water bodies in Northern Ireland - Lough Neagh and the Upper and Lower Lough Erne.

The court judged that the first complaint "must be rejected in its entirety". It is thought this will save £5-6 billion that would otherwise have to be spent.

On the second complaint, the court said the UK had failed in some of its obligations by not stringently treating discharges from Craigavon and Magherafelt in Northern Ireland. "As to the remainder, the second complaint must be rejected as partly inadmissible and partly unfounded," it judged.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We are pleased with this decision. Water quality in England and Wales is better than at any time since the industrial revolution and we are still working on improvements."

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Rapid ocean acidification raises new concerns

Ocean acidification could be rising at the fastest rate for tens of millions of years, Britain's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) reported on Monday. The warning follows the publication of a study in Nature Geoscience at the weekend.

Comparing current conditions with the greenhouse gas event of 55 million years ago, known as the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), scientists at the University of Bristol found "a geologically unprecedented rate of acidification". A UN report published in December last year raised similar concerns.

During the PETM, high temperatures and CO2 levels of carbon dioxide appeared within a few thousand years and subsided after several hundred thousand. "The change observed today is occurring at the scale of hundreds of years — and this might be too much for marine life to handle," Andy Ridgwell told NERC.

Further NERC comment on this matter can be seen at

Source: ENDS Europe, 15 February 2010

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MARINET appeals to Minister over East Anglian marine aggregate dredging

The marine aggregate dredging companies with licences off the East Anglian coast are currently undertaking, at the behest of the UK Government, a Regional Environmental Assessment of the impact of the extraction licences upon the coastline and the ecology of the sea.

The first stage of the Regional Environmental Assessment (REA) is to draw up a Scoping Report which defines what scientific studies are required.

MARINET has informed the consultants undertaking the REA that the Scoping Report needs to include a historical study of the change in beach profiles along the coast up until the present day related to the date when licences were first granted (1960s), a tracer study to determine whether material on the beaches is being eroded and ending up at the dredging sites, a study to establish whether there is any correlation between offshore aggregate dredging and the disappearance of the offshore sandbank at Scroby Sands which used to be permanently above high water and measure 1 mile long and one-quarter mile wide (supporting marram grass sand dunes, breeding terns and seals) but which now lies permanently below high water mark, and a study to determine whether the wave model which calculates the erosive force on the coast of the offshore wave regime has been formulated using the correct meteorological data.

The Scoping Report has decided not to include any of the above issues identified by MARINET. An appeal has been made by MARINET to the consultants against this decision, but the appeal has been turned down.

Following the recent debate in the Houses of Parliament on offshore aggregate extraction, see, it has been stated by the Minister of State at Defra who is responsible for the licensing regime that no further consideration can be given to MARINET's claims that aggregate dredging is causing coastal erosion in East Anglia and damaging the marine environment until " new scientific evidence" is available to support these assertions.

MARINET has now written to the Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, to point out to him that the very scientific study his Department of State has commissioned — the East Anglian REA — is failing to include the key scientific studies which might provide this scientific evidence. Accordingly, MARINET has requested the Minister it "call in" the REA and to amend its Scoping Report so that these studies are included. The text of the MARINET letter to the Minister can be seen at with the date of 1st February 2010.

Quite simply, the industry cannot have it both ways — claim that the scientific evidence does not exist and then block the scientific studies which would establish whether the evidence does or does not really exist.

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Tyne contaminated dredge disposal trial the subject of a Defra report.

Defra has produced a report, titled The First UK Offshore Contaminated Dredge Material Capping Trial, which records the outcome to date of the controversial trial to dispose of contaminated dredge material taken from disused docks in the Port of Tyne and dumped at a seabed site in the outer estuary near Souter Point.

This controversial project, involving highly contaminated dredged material, was to be made safe at the offshore site by a process of capping. In other words, once the dredged material had been dumped on the seabed, it was to be capped with clean silt and sand in order to prevent its dispersal by currents and storms into the wider marine environment. If such dispersion were to occur, the polluting effect would be considerable.

The ability to create a cap of sufficient thickness at the disposal site proved far more complicated than anticipated, and the full nature of the whole project can be read in the Defra Report, available here as a pdf file.

The significance of this project lies in the fact that other Port Authorities around the UK have similar disposal problems with contaminated silt in disused docks and, if the docks are to be redeveloped, this contaminated material requires a disposal site. The Port of Tyne project has been designed to test the proposition that such contaminated material can be safely disposed at an offshore seabed location.

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Seagulls and animals become radioactive at Sellafield

The Times reports, 25th February 2010, that the Sellafield nuclear plant is Western Europe's most heavily contaminated industrial site, and is facing an unexpected environmental challenge.

The 262-hectare (645 acres) plant in West Cumbria is being overrun by seagulls, mice and stray cats, and managers are battling to contain the problem. Things have become so serious that a cull of seabirds is being considered. There are concerns that some have been swimming in open ponds containing plutonium and radioactive waste, some of which date back to Britain's atomic weapons programme of the 1950s and 1960s.

"It's a coastal site so there are thousands of seagulls around," said Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment ( "They fly in and float around on the open waste ponds and act as a gateway to poison the wider area."

Ali McKibbin, media relations manager at the plant, confirmed that 350 animal carcasses were being stored in an industrial freezer on the site, mostly birds but also some small mammals.

Under Environment Agency rules, any animal that dies within the perimeter fence must be treated as nuclear waste, because it may have been exposed to radiation. The carcasses could not be allowed to decay naturally, Ms McKibbin said, because they were considered "putrescent" nuclear waste, and so were kept frozen until they could be disposed of in a special landfill facility on the site.

One of the open-waste storage ponds contains significant quantities of plutonium. About 30 new carcasses are collected every month. One source said that bird-control was subcontracted to a company called Avian, which employs two full-time staff at the site to control numbers and deter birds from nesting in and fouling buildings. "It's a big contract — egg-pricking, pigeon trapping, nest disposal — the lot," said the source, who works for a rival pest control company in the North of England.

Ms McKibbin added that discussions were under way about an intensive culling programme. Drugged bait would probably be the method, although she emphasised that no final decision had yet been taken. The seagull problem was "under control", there was no danger to the public and any methods used to control bird numbers would be humane, she said.

The sprawling site, which contains hundreds of buildings — many of which are scheduled for demolition — lies along coastline bordering the Lake District National Park. As well as birds, various other animals are frequently found on site. "It is a large industrial site so there are quite a number of stray cats," Ms McKibbin said. A company called Mitie won a contract in 2006 to supply Sellafield with services including pest control. Mitie employs 450 staff at the site, although few of these are involved in pest control.

Ms Mckibbin said: "A professional pest control organisation is employed to manage the number of gulls. All activities are done under licence in a safe and humane manner that causes the gulls minimum distress and suffering."

The site, which used to be known as Windscale, is where Britain developed the technology to build the atomic bomb and is the location of the world's first civil nuclear power station. Britain's high-level nuclear waste is stored at the site, which is owned by the Government through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Source: Times Online 25th February 2010

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Scientists trying to invent a means of listening more carefully to marine mammals

The increasing exploitation of the oceans for power generation, shipping and mineral extraction is bad news for wildlife. Human offshore activity can cause underwater noise that affects marine mammals such as seals, whales, and dolphins, as well as disturbing the fish that they feed upon.

In order to protect sea life, many offshore regions have laws that require dedicated visual observers to watch for marine life and signal when human activities, such as exploration, construction or offshore power generation, should be slowed down or even stopped in order to avoid disturbing it. This is costly for the companies involved, and doesn't work well in poor weather or at night. The answer may be to listen more carefully to the local wildlife.

Scientists now want to use passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) systems to listen for these vocalisations, and so ensure the creatures' safety while also eliminating unnecessary delays to sea-borne work.

For the full story, visit the article published in The Institution of Engineering and Technology Magazine, 8th August 2009

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'Wave glider' can collect key scientific facts about the oceans

Known as Wave Gliders, a new piece of technology in the shape of a platform can travel around the oceans collecting scientific data.

The Wave Glider can travel long distances, hold itself in one place like a buoy, and patrol areas and collect information without ever needing to refuel. This means it can travel to a distant area, collect data, and return for maintenance without ever requiring a ship to leave port.

The Liquid Robotics Wave Glider is a configurable platform designed to support a wide variety of sensor payloads. It can keep station or travel from point to point. Data is transmitted to shore via satellite, and its continuous presence at a location means data can be delivered as it is collected. Payload power is provided by two solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and a charging optimisation system.

A unique two-part architecture and wing system directly converts wave motion into thrust allowing the Wave Glider to travel long distances, hold station, and patrol vast areas without ever needing to refuel.

There are many areas where it could be used because this is a surface vehicle that can station-keep. It harnesses the wave energy and it can operate in a small watch circle, so it is suitable to replace a buoy out in the middle of an ocean.

"This is a pretty compelling technology," says Justin Manley of Liquid Robotics. "I wish I could say that I invented it. I didn't, but I'm proud to say that I think I can advance it into new applications."

"The world has also been talking about fleets of unmanned vehicles that will work together — a network of robots for a while now. Obviously, any undersea component is going to need a surface element to reach satellites for communication and the connection to the Internet that we all rely on. Because the Wave Glider has essentially an infinite endurance, I think this could become the equivalent of a cellular phone tower in the ocean for underwater vehicles."

Justin Manley adds: "A major science question with ocean acidification has to do with the flux of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and the ocean. The way to start learning about this is if we could acquire lots of measurements of carbon dioxide levels just above and below the water surface over large areas. This is the platform that will enable that type of scientific programme."

Source: The Institution of Engineering and Technology Magazine, 8th August 2009

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Subsea 'cat's eyes' could save dolphins' lives

Whales and dolphins might avoid being inadvertently trapped in fishing nets if a marker developed for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) can win commercial backing. Marine scientists estimate that nearly a thousand dolphins, porpoises and whales die every day as a result of being caught unintentionally by fishing equipment.

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have completed sea trials of the device, which can be used to identify the location of high-value underwater objects such as oil field equipment and cables to sonar systems. It could also be detected by creatures, such as dolphins, that use sonar to navigate.

Described as a nautical version of 'cat's eye' road markings, the spherical units, in which an elastomer core is surrounded by a rigid shell of glass-reinforced plastic or steel, reflect tuned sonar signals at specific frequencies depending on their composition. DSTL says the units could be attached to fishing nets so that whales and dolphins picking up the signal could avoid the area.

Unlike existing location devices used by oil and cable companies that continually pulse a signal, this is a passive system that only returns a signal when an attempt is made to identify it. And because it doesn't require a battery, DSTL says maintenance costs are significantly reduced.

Historically, passive devices have relied on chlorofluorocarbons housed in metal discs. The DSTL system's physical properties mean it doesn't need the potentially harmful chemicals.

Subsea Asset Location Technologies, a company set up to commercialise the technology, is seeking venture capital funding to complete the development phase and bring a product to market.

"This is another example of DSTL technology being directed outside its original military application and making a difference to industry," said the laboratory's head of technology transfer, David Harris.

Source: The Institution of Engineering and Technology Magazine, 12th April 2008

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Marine & Fisheries Agency (MFA) British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA) Support

The MFA website content seen under 'Marine Environment' leaves us with little doubt of its full support of the dredging industry. The exploitation of the environment obviously takes full priority over and above concern for our sea, seabed and coastal environment in their eyes. See more at

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'Ideas for protecting Norfolk and Suffolk's coastline'

That's the title of an item by Hayley Mace that appeared in The Lowestoft Journal of 23rd February '10, which can be read in full on their web page at here.

But inspection reveals that it's not really protection at all, merely that East of England Minister Barbara Follett voiced the governments £5m funded 'Pathfinder' programme at a 22nd February '10 meeting of coastal councillors and 'environmental experts' at the second Coastal Initiative Conference, dealing mainly with the reimbursement compensation opportunities available to those who abandon their homes and businesses.

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Hopton Residents battling for sea-defence cash

A 'Google Search' for 'Hopton' on this website will reveal our earlier input of the rapid erosion threatening housing and infrastructure at Hopton, just south of Great Yarmouth. This continues to escalate, now six times that wrongly earlier predicted by the 'experts' because they did not take the impact from offshore dredging into account. Now the residents are up in arms fighting the demands of the Shoreline Management Plan which did not provide for defences by recommending ".

The full article entitled "Hopton group fights for sea defence cash" is from the Great Yarmouth Mercury.

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The Last of the Many

Just one fishing trawler of an original one thousand now remains based at Great Yarmouth. The last herring drifters left in the 1970s and by the 1980s only about 20 fishing boats remained in Yarmouth.

And now just one fishing trawler, the 'Eventide', is now to be seen going out from Great Yarmouth, where in the 1900's there were over one thousand boats catching over 2,000 million fish in just one season. A combination of pollution, dredging and overfishing and catch limitation quotas have wreaked havoc on the once thriving industry.

'Great Yarmouth's sole fishing trawler' written by Anthoy Carroll in the Eastern Daily Press of 24th February 2010 tells the story.

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'Clouds get in the way'

The fog surrounding Scroby Sands windfarm

The fog surrounding Scroby Sands windfarm

An interesting local micro climate phenomena around the Scroby Sands windfarm was captured by local aerial photographer Mike Page from his Cessna-150 aircraft, showing the mist created by the 40 metre blades set above the 60 metre high turbines so giving low level clouds around them.

No doubt the change of dew point between frontal and rear air pressures coupled with the mixing of the damp warmer air near sea level with the upper colder and drier air produced the visible evidence of the 'fog' around the turbines whilst at the same the sky beyond and the coastline itself remained perfectly clear.

But an interesting consideration is that this provides visible evidence that the interception of the wind over such a wide area must be taking a degree of energy from the wind that would otherwise add to eroding wave heights at the shoreline. This indicates a further potential environmental advantage of wind farm installations in that they may be helping to slow down the rate of loss of our disappearing coastline.

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Pollution creating acid oceans

For the full story see the Guardian of the 17th February 2010

The world's oceans are becoming acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the last 65 million years, threatening marine life and food supplies across the globe, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Bristol looked at how levels of acid in the ocean have changed over history.

They found that as ocean acidification accelerated it caused mass extinctions at the bottom of the food chain that could threaten whole ecosystems in the future.

The rapid acidification today is being caused by the massive amount of carbon dioxide being pumped out by cars and factories every year, which is absorbed by the water. Since the industrial revolution acidity in the seas have increased by 30 per cent.

The last time such a fast change occurred is thought to be 65 million years ago, when some natural event caused ocean acidification and the dinosaurs died out.

The study looked at sediments from around 55 million years ago, when temperature rose by up to 6C and acidification was occurring at a similar rate as today.

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British native oysters threatened by an underwater snail

Native oysters, considered to be one of the finest delicacies produced in Britain, are under threat from a vicious underwater snail called a tingle.

Stocks of the oysters have fallen to dangerously low levels around the Solent, an area that used to provide about half of all of Britain's home-grown oysters.

Fisherman and some shellfish experts have blamed the tingle, a tiny sea snail or whelk that bores a hole into the oysters and sucks out the flesh. They have given warning that the pests could spread from the Solent to Essex, or Cornwall, the two main oyster growing areas in Britain.

At its peak 20 years ago, the oyster winter season in the Solent was worth £2 million a year when about 160 boats collectively hauled in more than 1,500 tonnes — about half the British catch. But now fewer than ten boats trawl the oyster beds and the Solent produces no more than about 5 per cent of natives, according to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain. Terry Lankford, a shellfish merchant based in Hythe, said he was convinced the tingle was responsible for killing the oysters. "The industry will collapse unless we make some changes immediately. There will always be some oysters there, but it will become economically unviable for the fishermen to work" he said.

The length of the regulated oyster season was cut this winter from 11 weeks to just five, starting on November 2 and finishing on December 4. David Jarrard, assistant director of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said: "At the moment the tingle is a localised problem around the Solent, but all stocks could be affected if it spread down the south coast or around to Essex."

Other oyster experts pointed out that over-fishing and dredging of the seabed was equally to blame for the troubles of the industry.

Source: The Daily Telegraph 28th January 2010

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Most seafood ecolabelling schemes are deficient says WWF

In a new report commissioned by WWF the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) comes out on top, but the report reveals poor performance among other assessed seafood ecolabelling schemes and calls for improvements across the board to strengthen their effectiveness.

Accenture's non-profit practice, Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) compared and ranked seven fishery certification schemes that use ecolabels on seafood products against a set of WWF criteria that focus on the schemes' effectiveness in addressing the health of fisheries and oceans.

The MSC is ranked the highest in the ADP report, Assessment of On-Pack, Wild-Capture Seafood Sustainability Certification Programmes and Seafood Ecolabels, with a score of just over 95 percent compliance to the assessment's criteria requirements.

The report finds that except for the MSC, the other assessed schemes — Naturland, Friend of the Sea, Krav, AIDCP, Mel-Japan and Southern Rocklobster — do not evaluate fisheries across all criteria to the extent required to support sustainable fishing and healthy oceans.

"The findings of this assessment reveal serious inadequacies in a number of ecolabels and cast doubt on their overall contribution to effective fisheries management and sustainability." said Miguel Jorge, Director of WWF International's Marine Programme. While the assessment shows the MSC comes out best in class using the most rigorous programme out there, it is not perfect. Improvements are needed across the board to ensure all seafood ecolabels deliver on their promise."

The assessment points to significant differences in transparency, information availability, structure and accuracy of claims made by each scheme. Aside from the MSC, all other schemes assessed have substantial shortcomings in the area of transparency and information provision.

"The growth of seafood ecolabels over the last ten years attests to the strong demand from consumers and seafood companies who want seafood from better fisheries." added Jorge, WWF Director. "But with the proliferation of ecolabels and the variability of these schemes there is a real risk of confusion, or worse still a lack of confidence in seafood ecolabelling among buyers and consumers."

Source: WWF 19th January 2010

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New UK licensing round for oil and gas exploration breaks acreage record

A Press Release from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced that a new round of offshore licensing will give a further boost to the UK's offshore oil and gas industries. For the first time since 1998, this round also offers blocks in all areas of the UK seas for new licensing.

The blocks offered include a number relinquished under the Government and industry's 'Fallow Initiative', which stimulates activity on blocks where there had been no significant activity for three years. The DECC Minister, Lord Hunt, said: "This record-breaking 26th Round includes areas of the Continental Shelf not as yet explored, and will provide a new boost to activity in the basin. The round will help to secure the future of the UK's oil and gas industry which still provides three quarters of our energy needs and some 350,000 jobs. Estimates suggest there are still around 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent, or possibly more, to be produced, and this latest licensing round will help ensure we realise this potential. As we make the transition to a low carbon future, we must ensure we have secure energy supplies by making the best use of our indigenous energy resources in a safe and environmentally sound way."

14 blocks that were classified as "fallow" in 2009 have either been fully, or partly, relinquished in time to be on offer in this round. In addition, the majority of areas licensed in the 1st Round in 1964 that have not been allowed extensions have been relinquished and are included for offer in the 26th Round.

The Government has also introduced a new Frontier licence with an extended nine year exploration term for the West of Scotland area, which aims to encourage oil and gas exploration in an area in which geological data is as yet scant. In deciding which areas to offer for licensing, DECC conducted a thorough Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of UK waters. DECC has accepted the SEA's recommendations that licensing may proceed subject to some areas being withheld from licensing for the moment due to lack of information.

Before any licence awards are made, an environmental assessment under the Habitats Directive will be carried out.

Source: DECC 27th January 2010

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Fishermen and Natural England in talks over conservation off Dorset coast

Natural England has held the meeting in Lyme Regis to consult on plans to designate certain areas in Lyme Bay as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) to protect rare habitats and species.

Some fishermen boycotted what they said was a 'pointless' meeting because they believed the decision had already been made. But other worried sea users were eager to find out how the move might affect them.

Natural England's marine advisor Louisa Knights said: "It's an opportunity for all the stakeholders to see the proposals and ask questions. It's not a done deal, this is a consultation and that is one of the reasons we are having the meeting, to encourage people to feed into the consultation. But it's their decision if they don't want to come."

Harry May, who operates two deep sea and mackerel fishing boats out of Lyme, said: "I'm interested to see what's going on and if the plans affect me. I don't think they will, but you never know quite what the powers that be have plans for a few years down the line. They might bring in rules that will stop my kind of fishing, but I don't think they will at the moment."

The plans come just over a year after the Government closed around 60 square miles of the bay to scallop dredging and trawling, and it is those fishermen who it is feared will suffer the most. But Natural England said introducing the SACs would help repair the reefs damaged by trawling and dredging.

Static fisherman Angus Walker believes it is too early to tell if the original closure in 2008 has had any impact. "I had hoped what they had implemented to start with would remain until they had time to make a proper assessment if it was working," he said. "It's probably going to give us more sleepless nights."

Martyn White, from Seaton, is backing the proposals. He said: "I would like to see the fish numbers back to how it was 30 or 40 years ago. I wouldn't want to see the fishermen going out of business, especially the local guys, but I think it has been handled very carefully and with them in mind as well."

A retired static fisherman, who did not wish to be named, is eager to see the seabed in better condition but said imposing more restrictions would cause problems between fishermen. He said: "It will increase the amount of towed activity outside the box because they will all try and fish as close to the box as they can. The moment any static boys move outside the box they are at risk. You will get conflict between the towed gear and static boys."

Source: Bridport News 28th January 2010

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Measures to protect the oceans from the dumping of rubbish have failed

Thousands of tons of rubbish are thrown into the sea each year, endangering humans and wildlife. The news service, Spiegel Online, reports that it has obtained a classified German government report which indicates that efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to clean up our oceans have failed entirely.

Since the world's oceans are so massive, few people seem to have a problem with dumping waste into them. But plastics degrade at very a slow rate, and huge amounts of them are sloshing around in our oceans. Wildlife consumes small pieces causing many of them to die, since the plastics are full of poisons. And, as experts warn, we've reached a point where it's even getting dangerous for humans to consume seafood.

Given these conditions, the international community has been pushing for four decades for massive bureaucratic efforts aimed at clearing the oceans of waste. In 1973, the United Nations sponsored a pact for protecting the oceans from dumping. Additional provisions have been added to the so-called Marpol Convention — short for "marine pollution" — on six different occasions. And nine years ago, the European Union put directives on the books that forbid any dumping of maritime waste into the ocean while in ports.

According to a classified German government strategy paper, if you add up all the good such measures have done, you still end up with zero. In fact, according to the confidential paper, international efforts aimed at protecting the oceans have failed across the board. Our oceans have devolved into vast garbage dumps.

Even strict laws have yet to do anything to help the oceans, the paper states. Take the case of the North and Baltic seas. Although dumping into them has been illegal since 1988, the amount of waste found in these seas has still "not improved." The German government also estimates that, each year, 20,000 tons of waste finds its way into the North Sea alone, primarily from ships and the fishing industry. The paper concludes that all related international agreements have been "unsuccessful".

Source: Speigel Online

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Norway signs up to North Sea offshore supergrid

Norway is to participate in a joint initiative between nine EU countries on developing an offshore energy grid in the North Sea region. The initiative's idea is to link up wind farms in the region to address problems such as intermittence.

The Norwegians bring to the project a great potential for wind power, said Norwegian energy minister Terje Riis-Johansen. This potential is largely unexploited to date. Norway also has extensive experience in offshore construction.

Signatories to the North Sea declaration are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. A strategic plan will be agreed at a high level meeting to be held in the second half of 2010. The goal of the cooperation is to coordinate the development of an offshore grid in the North Sea and connecting it with installations on the mainland. There are plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the continuing work on this initiative later in 2010.

Source: ENDS Europe 8th February 2010

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New moves to ban oil transfers off the east coast

New legislation could soon be put in place to ban the controversial transfer of oil between ships anchored off the east coast.

For the last year, the sea between Lowestoft and Southwold has become a favoured site for tankers bringing oil from Russia to transfer their cargo to larger vessels, with up to 50 boats being moored offshore at a time.

Now the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has launched a six-week consultation on proposals to regulate the practice, which had raised concerns that any accident could lead to oil pollution ruining the region's coastline as the sea off north Suffolk is the only place in British waters where the transfers are still allowed.

Full article at EDP 10th February 2010
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Fishermen's Response to pSPA

A well worded response to the Outer Thames (OT) Potential Special Protection Area (pSPA) Consultation by Fisherman Chris Wightman acting on behalf of the Anglian Fishermen's Association can be seen here.

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European Justice and Dredging

Although the emphasis is on port dredging, the following European Court of Justice ruling on the application of The European Habitats Directive could have a decisive bearing on aggregate dredging and its impact of our offshore and coastal areas.
From 'Sand and Gravel News' of January 18th 2010 under 'Environmental Issues' comes this news that the European Court of Justice has upheld the thrust of an environmental directive aimed at conserving natural habitats across Europe.

The EU Habitats Directive, a conservation framework, includes the Natura 2000 network of protected sites. For the network, member states submit sites to the European Commission for conservation consideration. The port city of Papenburg feared that the environmental initiative might affect the Meyer-Werft, a shipyard on the Ems River in Lower Saxony. Despite having approved dredging there in 1994, Germany in 2006 submitted downriver areas for consideration under the Habitats Directive. Meyer-Werft specialises in building cruise liners, and the river must be specially dredged every time a deep ship navigates from the shipyard to the North Sea.

Papenburg sought to prevent the German government from agreeing to the European Union's placement of the area in the protected sites network, or an exemption to the requirement for an environmental assessment at the site if it did make the network.

The German court asked the European Union's high court to clarify when a member state may refuse to agree to a draft list of protected sites, and if pending Ems River dredging should be subject to an environmental assessment. The Court of Justice ruled that conservation objectives must direct the treatment of a proposed site; member states may only refuse their inclusion based on environmental grounds, and not for economic, social or regional reasons.

If the pending dredging, though approved before the EU directive, is distinct from other dredging projects on the river, it must undergo environmental review, the Court of Justice ruled, as that would likely affect the environment.

If the upcoming work is part of regular maintenance for the purpose of navigability, it could be considered a single project. If such a project was federally authorised before passage of the EU directive, no assessment would be required.

Any project proposed at a place on the list of protected sites must not cause harm to the natural habitats there. Once a site is listed, ecological risks must be assessed and avoided, the court concluded.

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UK government to invest £22m in new marine energy technologies

Marine energy will be ready for mass scale deployment and an important new commercial UK industry by 2020 said the Carbon Trust as it announced that the six most promising technologies that will receive new funding to speed up the deployment of full scale prototypes of their leading designs.

The Carbon Trust announced that the six most promising technologies will be supported with £22m of new funding. Designed and managed by the Carbon Trust, the Marine Renewable Proving Fund (MRPF) uses new funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The MRPF marks a new level of commitment to developing wave and tidal technologies by helping the UK's most promising technologies to progress towards early stage deployment and accelerating the first commercial projects in UK waters.

The Carbon Trust has selected Atlantis Resources, Aquamarine Power, Hammerfest Strom UK, Marine Current Turbines, Pelamis Wave Power and Voith Hydro to receive support. Set against a shortage of funding in the sector, the new finance will bridge a funding-gap that was stifling progress, creating more certainly around the technical performance of each technology which will trigger increased confidence in the sector.

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "The UK must urgently diversify, decarbonise and secure its energy sources and marine energy could over time provide up to 20% of the UK's electricity. Generating electricity from the UK's powerful wave and tidal resource not only plays a crucial role in meeting our climate change targets but also presents a significant economic opportunity for the UK. Wave alone presents a £2 billion economic opportunity for the UK. The demonstration of full scale devices at sea is central to realising the full potential of marine energy and getting the first commercial projects in the water is critical to 'de-risk' the technology and attract the necessary private sector investment. This is the start of major new industry that will generate jobs and wealth across the UK."

Carbon Trust analysis shows that 25% of the world's wave and tidal technologies are being developed in the UK. Marine energy is an emerging industry with massive growth potential and each successful technology is competing for a stake in what will be a major growth industry. All of the devices receiving MRPF funding will be deployed in UK waters, which will stimulate supply chain opportunities associated with construction and deployment of these technologies. Over 75% of the funding released through the MRPF will go to the UK supply chain.

Source: The Carbon Trust, 2nd February 2010

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URGENT — The Chagos Marine Reserve

Since last November, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been running a consultation on a proposal to set up a marine reserve around the Chagos Islands. You can see the full document here.

The consultation is due to close on 12th February 2010.

Greenpeace and others are organising an on-line petition to persuade the FCO to set up a reserve. Instead of responding to the FCO consultation, you can go directly to and simply sign up there. This petition has an endorsement from Professor Callum Roberts.

Two recent news stories add background to the issues. The Guardian on 27th January gives a gallery of images, and includes a piece by Tony Juniper, where he says "Protecting the Chagos archipelago is a rare opportunity for the UK to create a conservation area as important as the Galapagos islands or Great Barrier Reef". The story also makes clear that the consultation process has excluded the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, evicted by the British to make way for a US air base years ago.

However, The Times in an article on the 22nd January adds another twist, by pointing out that "A company belonging to the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser is opposing plans to create the world's biggest marine reserve. His company holds a government contract to manage fishing in the area, which would be banned if the reserve were created."

Murky waters.

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Major Norfolk Landowner concerns on our Coastline

David Horten-Fawkes standing in front of Holkham Hall

David Horton-Fawkes, estates director at Holkham. Photo: Ian Burt

Directors David Horton-Fawkes and Mark Little of the 6,100 hectare Holkham Estate in North Norfolk are expressing their 'real concerns' over the Shoreline Management Plan due to the serious impact that this would have on farmland and freshwater habitats of the protected Holkham National Nature Reserve.

They state in a letter that protection of farmland should be a higher priority, while assumptions relating to tidal effects should be revisited, writing "We have real concerns that a number of the parameters within which the SMP has been based are flawed. In particular, we are concerned that long-term records of marshland accretion and the impact of tidal forces in the area have been misinterpreted. Local knowledge indicates that some of the assumptions made will not be realised in practice."

The Holkham Estate letter says: "We are of the view that insufficient weight has been applied to the protection of agricultural land, with loss of such areas being disregarded within the cost/benefit analysis. This is particularly short-sighted in view of the future need for increased food supply and the associated food security issues" also pointing out that there is no indication as to what compensation would be available if the proposals become policy'

Source: Eastern Daily Press 21st January '10 article by Chris Hill entitled 'Concern at threat to Norfolk coast'.

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Water Companies face Legal Challenge over CSOs

Water companies have been accused of demanding a "licence to pollute" in a row over the control of sewage outfall systems. Campaigners are incensed that the wealthy firms are trying to wriggle out of Government orders to monitor thousands of overflow pipes that can be used as emergency outlets.

Six of the biggest water boards are launching a legal appeal against the Environment Agency which imposed restrictions on 4,193 overflows around Britain. The judicial hearing, which starts in Cardiff on 19th January 2010, is seen as a crucial test of will with ecologists and pressure groups concerned that the Agency will be outgunned by the water companies' financial firepower.

"What they are asking for is, effectively, a licence to pollute," said Thomas Bell, of the Marine Conservation Society, which has campaigned to clear up pollution from the outlets. These outlets are known as Combined Sewer Overflows, designed as a fail-safe when sewers flood. The conditions imposed were reasonable and for the water companies to appeal them en masse is ridiculous. They claim they are low-risk so if that is true they should have no problem with them being regulated. They are supposed to be used only in emergency conditions when the sewers are flooded but we are becoming increasingly concerned that they are being used as a regular means of sewage disposal.

Britain has a network of 22,000 CSOs providing relief to the nation's largely Victorian sewer system and the Environment Agency regulates the number of times they can be used, see MARINET report

The water industry has spent £2.5billion over the past 20 years rebuilding the most polluting overflows and water quality in rivers and coasts has improved. But campaigners believe that rogue CSOs still pose a threat to marine life and swimmers.

Source: Sunday Express. 17th January 2010.

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France and United States sign joint marine partnership

On 17th November 2009, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) signed a partnership agreement with its newest international partner, France's Agence des aires marine protégées (AAMP).

The US and France have the two largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, and cooperation between the two nations on MPA work is a natural link and will yield significant marine resource protection in American and French waters around the world.

The agreement was signed by ONMS and AAMP representatives on Moorea Island at the recent Pacific Marine Managed Areas Conference.

The signing was celebrated with chants in Hawaiian and Tahitian, as well as an exchange of traditional Polynesian gifts between the ONMS's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and representatives from various French Polynesian MPAs.

"We have enjoyed working with NOAA sanctuaries for a year now," said Christophe LeFebvre, AAMP's Coordinator for European and International Affairs, "and we are confident that the experience and capacity of the sanctuary program will help our MPA Agency achieve its ambitious goals."

"AAMP has been such a pleasure to work with," stated Elizabeth Moore, ONMS's Chief of Staff for International Activities. "They have demonstrated tremendous knowledge, enthusiasm, and professionalism, and we are very much looking forward to working together in the coming years."

The agreement provides for a five-year program of work between ONMS and AAMP, focusing on exchanges of experience and expertise in various realms of MPA designation and management, as well as partnering on major MPA projects.

The US will support France in its organisation of the Second International Marine Mammal Protected Area Conference (Guadaloupe, 2011) and the Third International Marine Protected Area Congress (Marseilles, 2013); ONMS organised the prior of each of these meetings in 2009 and have happily and confidently passed the torch to AAMP.

Separate projects will also be developed for the Pacific and Caribbean regions within the next year. Pacific projects are already being discussed and will include a series of exchanges between the Monument, Fagatele Bay NMS, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS, and their partners, and their French Polynesian counterparts, focusing on traditional Polynesian culture and management methods, MPA experiences, and World Heritage co-operation. The first exchange is tentatively scheduled for summer of 2010 between Hawaii and the Marquesas.

Source: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

MARINET observes: This exceptional and most encouraging act of international co-operation leads us to the question, will Britain join forces with Commonwealth countries to do the same? If Britain were to combine with Commonwealth countries, we could create the largest managed area of seas in the world, with enormous potential for restoring health and well-being back to our oceans. The chart below gives a glimpse of the scale of this joint British and Commonwealth enterprise:

Country EEZ + Territorial Waters
United States 11,351,000 km²
France 11,035,000 km²
Australia 10,648,250 km²
Russia 7,566,673 km²
Canada 5,599,077 km²
Japan 4,479,358 km²
New Zealand 4,083,744 km²
United Kingdom 3,973,760 km²
Brazil 3,660,955 km²
Chile 2,017,717 km²

The question is : Will the British Government and The Commonwealth Office take the initiative? Indeed, is this on the agenda for the UK Parliamentary election in 2010?

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Burial at sea can create new reefs, suggests Dorset diver

An artificial reef made of concrete "bereavement balls" containing the cremated remains of the dead could bring new life to the Channel and help to revive an industry in decline. A 200m reef is planned for the Dorset coast, where the diving industry has slumped in the past few years. The intention is to build a structure that would provide a permanent memorial to the dead as well as a breeding ground for marine life that would attract divers back to the area.

The project has won the backing of the Environment Agency, which has pledged £10,000 towards the cost of a survey of 1 sq km of seabed off Ringstead Bay, between Weymouth and Lulworth Cove. The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed, has also given approval in principle, provided that a public body can be persuaded to take statutory responsibility for the project.

A non-profit company has been set up by local businesses. The project co-ordinator, Neville Copperthwaite, said that the Dorset dive industry had been hit by a "double whammy". Divers have been lured away by competition from the Scylla, a former warship scuttled near Plymouth, and put off by the closure, on safety grounds, of a Second World War wreck that was one of the area's most popular dive sites.

Mr Copperthwaite said: "In 2003 there were 24 dive charter boats operating in the area. Today there are just six. There used to be five or six dive shops. Now there is one. Divers have been attracted to the Scylla like iron filings to a magnet. The closure of the wreck of HMS Hood on safety grounds has not helped either. Hardly anyone one noticed what was going on because all the attention and funding has been focused on the 2012 Olympic sailing events, which will be taking place nearby."

The scheme will initially be aimed at the families of dead fishermen, divers and other seafarers. It would give them an appropriate send-off and a permanent underwater grave. The basketball-sized "bereavement balls", which are more of a dome shape, would be hollow and have a plaque with the name of the person whose remains they contain.

They would provide a home for lobsters, fish and other marine creatures, allowing new life to grow. Initial work on the reef is being funded by local businesses who have set up a company, Wreck to Reef, but ultimately it will be paid for by the families of the bereaved. Wreck to Reef has yet to reveal the likely cost of being buried at sea.

Mr Copperthwaite said: "A lot of people have their ashes scattered at sea but using this method they would always be in the same place so relatives can have somewhere to visit and pay their respects. We have been talking to staff at the Weymouth crematorium about how to market the project sensitively. We want to make sure that whatever we do it will be done with dignity. We have approached various undertakers and have received quite an enthusiastic response. Dorset is a seafaring county and scattering ashes at sea is very popular. The reef balls are made out of concrete, which will either be mixed with the ashes or a container holding the remains will be stored inside the ball. The ball will be lowered into the water and a diver will then place it on the bottom in order to build up the reef. The water there is 20m deep and it will take thousands of reef balls to build it up."

Members of Dorset County Council are being asked to decide next month whether the local authority will be the reef's statutory leaseholder. So far 22 business that will benefit from the reef, such as diving schools, hotels and restaurants, have signed up to the project and provided £25,000 for initial survey work. Southern Sea Fisheries has promised 6,000 baby lobsters in the hope that the reef will prove a vital restocking ground and support the commercial fishing industry. Derek Sargent, a member of the Weymouth Lifeboat crew, said: "It would be a nice resting place for the deceased and the families could remember where they put their loved ones."

The reef, which will be a mile out to sea, will be the first of its kind in Britain, although similar structures have been popular off the East Coast of America for the past 30 years.

Source: The Times, 19th January 2010.

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Coral Reefs can recover from Climate Change damage if protected by marine reserves

A study by the University of Exeter provides the first evidence that coral reefs can recover from the devastating effects of climate change. The research shows for the first time that coral reefs located in marine reserves can recover from the impacts of global warming.

Scientists and environmentalists have warned that coral reefs may not be able to recover from the damage caused by climate change and that these unique environments could soon be lost forever. Now, this research adds weight to the argument that reducing levels of fishing is a viable way of protecting the world's most delicate aquatic ecosystems.

Increases in ocean surface water temperatures subject coral reefs to stresses that lead quickly to mass bleaching. The problem is intensified by ocean acidification, which is also caused by increased CO2. This decreases the ability of corals to produce calcium carbonate (chalk), which is the material that reefs are made of.

Approximately 2% of the world's coral reefs are located within marine reserves, areas of the sea that are protected against potentially-damaging human activity, like dredging and fishing. The researchers conducted surveys of ten sites inside and outside marine reserves of the Bahamas over 2.5 years. These reefs have been severely damaged by bleaching and then by hurricane Frances in the summer of 2004. At the beginning of the study, the reefs had an average of 7% coral cover. By the end of the project, coral cover in marine protected areas had increased by an average of 19%, while reefs in non-reserve sites showed no recovery.

Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Exeter said: "Coral reefs are the largest living structures on Earth and are home to the highest biodiversity on the planet. As a result of climate change, the environment that has enabled coral reefs to thrive for hundreds of thousands of years is changing too quickly for reefs to adapt. In order to protect reefs in the long-term we need radical action to reduce CO2 emissions. However, our research shows that local action to reduce the effects of fishing can contribute meaningfully to the fate of reefs. The reserve allowed the number of parrotfishes to increase and because parrotfish eat seaweeds, the corals could grow freely without being swamped by weeds. As a result, reefs inside the park were showing recovery whereas those with more seaweed were not. This sort of evidence may help persuade governments to reduce the fishing of key herbivores like parrotfishes and help reefs cope with the inevitable threats posed by climate change".

Professor Mumby's research was funded by National Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.

Reef facts

To download high quality reef videos by Professor Peter Mumby:

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is dedicated to conservation and restoration of living oceans and pledges to champion their preservation through research, education and a commitment to Science Without Borders®.

Source: Exeter University website, Monday 11th January 2010

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Norfolk fishermen boycott coast meeting

Fishermen are becoming progressively more angry as their living is being taken away from them by the unopposed destruction of the marine environment due to aggregate dredging and the imposition of exclusion zones caused by windfarm installations, cable routing and other impediments, this on top of fish quotas considered unnecessary.

As a result they are boycotting meetings planned by the government's 'Net Gain' and Natural England consulting those impacted by the marine conservation zones planned in and around The Wash, the first meeting of which was held at King's Lynn Town Hall on 18th January. This event followed the collapse of prosecutions said to cost a million pounds of taxpayers money made against two King's Lynn skippers, Lee Lake and Gregory Campbell, who were accused of dredging cockles on a sandbank closed to fishing.

The full story by Chris Bishop may be seen by visiting the EDP24 website.

It is difficult to envisage the vital mutual cooperation of the fishermen in establishing sustainable fishing and conserving the marine environment unless the vested authorities take into account and begin to understand the needs and livelihoods of the small dependent fishermen instead of just representing the vested interests of those huge commercial concerns that cause the main damage.

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The emotive side of erosion

A rather sad and moving film of the heatbreaking social impact of the continuing erosion at Happisburgh can be seen by visiting:

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Billion Pound Sea Wall for Norfolk?

An ambitious idea for an enormous 27 mile long offshore protective sea wall enclosure extending from Great Yarmouth has been proposed by Mike Evans, Chairman of the Royal Yachting Association and current President of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, who also represents private boat owners on the Broads Authority.

The proposition is claimed to protect The Broads and low laying inland villages and communities, provide fresh water for irrigation and prevent salination of the inland waterways, create jobs and provide windfarm emplacement and further protect our shoreline, beaches and sand cliffs from further erosion. It is not unprecedented as major projects such as Holland's Flevoland was reclaimed from the sea together with the Dutch freshwater Islemeer, a 400-plus square mile shallow lake in the central Netherlands, both of which were once the saline inland Zuiderzee.

But The Netherlands has a very different attitude towards such forward planning, whilst in the UK the defeatist principle embodied by 'Managed Retreat' and permitting the continuity of offshore dredging is in vogue. Indeed it is this, as well as Britain's serious economic situation that may defeat the proposed project. The needed support and financial backing for such a strategy is highly unlikely in the UK's current economic climate and the continued government policy of aiding and backing continued erosion under the dictates of the 'Managed Retreat' and 'Shoreline Management Plan' policies are set in concrete at this time. Sadly, we do not live in Holland or coastal Europe with their progressive positive and protective policies, but suffer a negative and defeatist attitude from all the myopic bodies that have power over our disappearing coastline.

Furthermore, sea rise alone is a relatively minor component in the threat to our coastline, Broads and inland villages. We have a far greater and more meaningful threat, that of erosion due to huge seabed mining offshore. We currently have sea-level rise of 3.2mm per annum, this added to by 2mm of sinkage annually, giving an equivalent of a sea rise of 5.2mm per year. One would thus have expected an effective sea rise of (3.2 + 2) x 35 = 182mm, i.e. 18.2 cm over 35 the years since 1972 when east coast dredging began in earnest. This level could be slightly increased due to the degraded climate that is producing more erosive waves due to more frequent stronger and longer lasting northerly winds. On an average 1 in 20 beach slope the 35 year 18.2cm sea rise would have produced a sea incursion of the mean high tide mark of 18.2 cm x 20 = 3.64 metres, perhaps allowing that little more for the worsening climatic conditions of global warming. In fact the mean rate of approach has been between six and twenty times this, now with far deeper water offshore and waves right to the sea wall and dune front at many points along much of the East Anglian coastline.

So it is not so much that the sea has risen but that the beaches have dropped, so permitting the sea over them giving a far nearer mean tide mark. This has been brought about directly by the impact of government backed offshore aggregate dredging, as is given on this website under 'Marine Aggregate Dredging' to be found at and our treatise on Coastal Defences 'Why Canute Failed' to be seen by going to

Between three and five metres of sand and shingle have been stripped from a massive area of the sea bed off the greater Great Yarmouth area. This correlates with the exposure and fracture of the Scroby Wind Turbine power feed cables, once trenched and covered three metres deep in the seabed, which were left exposed and dangling two metres above it following nearby seabed mining. Such underminement, as already evidenced by the base scour of the Winterton to Happisburgh concrete sea wall and the loss of our beaches, dunes and sand cliffs along the vast majority of the East Anglian coastline would undoubtedly come about to an even greater extent seriously undermining any wall built in even closer proximity to the dredging sites.

Thus, whilst we might well approve of the brave concept, we must fear that in practical terms there will be found not only little support but much opposition. The rewards to be gained by the dredging companies, the Crown Estate and the Treasury by the continuing release of aggregate supply from our beaches, dunes and sand cliffs act as a distinct impediment to any plan that prevents their demise.

The original 12th January '10 press article on the subject entitled "Could £1bn sea wall plan be the salvation of Norfolk?" can be read on the EDP24 website and you can take part in a web poll by going to the Anglia Afloat website by logging on to

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Oilrigs should be used for homes in areas at risk of flooding, report says

Decommissioned North Sea oil platforms should be towed to the waterfronts of coastal cities at risk of flooding and converted into homes, shops and universities protected from rising sea levels, a study recommends.

Britain should not retreat from the waves but embrace them, adapting to climate change and consequent flooding by building new communities, either on stilts or floating platforms.

A team of senior architects, engineers and civil servants, appointed by the Royal Institute of British Architects and Institution of Civil Engineers, considered the options for responding to a 6ft 6in (2m) rise in sea levels by the end of the century.

Read the full article at The Times, 15th January 2010

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More sea-derived energy — 'Neptune Proteus NP1000'

blades of turbine

From 'The Engineer' of 11th January '10 comes this story by Siobham Wagner entitled 'Humber rides the Wave' of a demonstration of a new tidal-energy machine called 'Neptune Proteus NP1000' soon to be deployed in the Humber Estuary.

Proteus is a moored device built with a square-turbine cross section designed to work in shallow waters. It has patented flow-control shutters to maximise the area of water hitting the turbines, thus increasing torque and power output, designed to function efficiently, generating 30% more electricity per unit channel than circular turbines, generating at least 1,000MW total.

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Latest figures published on radioactivity in food and the environment

The latest in the annual series of reports, Radioactivity in Food and the Environment for 2008 (RIFE-14), has been published by the UK government monitoring agencies. The monitoring assesses the exposure to the UK public from natural and man-made sources of radioactivity, and assesses levels experienced both in the environment generally and in food. The man-made sources of radioactivity include those resulting from discharges from nuclear installations (e.g. nuclear power stations and defence establishments) and the fall-out from Chernobyl.

For example, if one were to catch and eat seafood in the Morecambe Bay area (Heysham) throughout the year (2008), it is estimated by RIFE-14 that a person would experience an annual dose of radioactivity amounting to 0.042 mSv (milli-Sieverts), with 0.013 mSv of that dose arising from the seafood and 0.029 mSv arising from being in the intertidal area and handling fishing gear (e.g. 0.013 + 0.029 = 0.042 mSv). The annual dose limit of exposure for a member of the public (fisherman) is 1 mSv. This annual dose limit is set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection,

RIFE-14 reports that if a person were to eat 1 kilogramme of cockles picked during 2008 from Morecambe Bay (Flookburgh), then that 1 kilogramme of cockles would contain the following radioactivity (Note: 1 Becquerel is one radioactive disintegration/emission per second emitted from a radioactive element/radionuclide).

Radioactive substance/radionuclide Radioactive emission (Becquerel per kilogramme)
Carbon-14 (14C) 82.0
Cobalt-60 (60Co) 0.36
Zinc-65 (65Zn) 0.20
Strontium-90 (90Sr) 0.29
Zirconium-95 (95Zr) 0.38
Niobium-95 (95Nb) 0.75
Technetium-99 (99Tc) 2.3
Ruthenium-106 (106Ru) 0.75
Silver-110m (110mAg) 0.14
Antimony-125 (125Sb) 0.21
Caesium-134 (134Cs) 0.08
Caesium-137 (137Cs) 3.7
Cerium-144 (144Ce) 0.39
Europium-154 (154Eu) 0.20
Europium-155 (155Eu) 0.17
Plutonium-238 (238Pu) 0.34
Plutonium-239 +240 (239Pu + 240Pu) 2.0
Plutonium-241 (241Pu) 12.0
Americium-241 (241Am) 5.9
Curium-243 + 244 (243Cm + 244Cm) 0.0053

RIFE-14 monitors food in the marine, coastal and terrestrial environment, covering food from both the sea and farms. RIFE-14 also records the impact and presence of the fall-out from Chernobyl.

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Public consultation on new nuclear power station at Bradwell, Essex

The Dept. for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has recently held a public consultation, involving a public meeting, at Maldon in Essex in order to consider the proposed new nuclear power station at Bradwell, sited on the coast of the Blackwater estuary, Essex. The full transcript of this public meeting, covering both the issues raised by the audience and the replies by DECC officers, may be read here as a pdf file, and it is still possible for the public to contribute to this public consultation by writing to

Points of note made at the public meeting are:

  1. The existing nuclear power station at Bradwell, now out of commission, produced 240 megawatts of electricity. The new nuclear power station will produce (depending on final design) between 1 and 1.6 gigawatts. In other words, it will be between four and six times larger.
  2. In order to cool the new nuclear power station, it will have to take in around six million tonnes of water from the estuary every day and then discharge it back again into the estuary. It is known that this process of taking in cooling water from the estuary kills all the marine life drawn into the power station with the water i.e larvae of marine creatures, fish and shellfish eggs, zooplankton (microscopic animals), phytoplankton (microscopic plants) and so forth. At a rate of six million tonnes of water per day, this means that all the water in the estuary will go through the nuclear plant within the space of about 10 days. This is likely to have a profound effect on marine life in the estuary, and other creatures (wild birds) who live on this marine life and food chain.
  3. The nuclear waste (spent fuel rods) from the new power station will be stored at the new power station. It is estimated that they could be stored there for up to 160 years as the whole national question of what to do with nuclear waste remains unresolved and, even if it is resolved in the near future, there is a large backlog of waste currently being stored at the existing nuclear power stations which would take priority in the transfer to a national waste respository.
  4. A principal radioactive discharge from Bradwell into the environment (into the waters of the estuary) is in the form of Tritium which is an isotope of hydrogen (3H). Bradwell is an old Magnox type reactor which ceased electricity production in 2002. However, it still makes discharges of Tritium (a beta emitting radionuclide) into the waters of the estuary. In 2008 Bradwell discharged 20,000,000,000 Becquerels of Tritium (i.e 20 billion Bq or 20 GigaBecquerels) or into the estuary [Note: 1 Becquerel of radioactivity is one radioactive disintegration/emission of the isotope per second]. By comparison, a Magnox nuclear power station still producing electricity, such as Dungeness A, discharged to sea 90,000,000,000 Becquerels of Tritium in 2008 (source RIFE, 2008).

For further details about the campaign against a new nuclear power station at Bradwell, contact Mid Essex FOE (

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Lundy Island is first MCZ under new Marine Act

It has been announced by Natural England that Lundy Island, one of England's most spectacular marine habitats, has become England's first Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

The new Lundy Marine Conservation Zone will cover the same area as the former Marine Nature Reserve (and is being created by the automatic legal transition from MNR to MCZ). A timetable for developing conservation objectives, and for carrying out public consultation on them, is currently under consideration by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The existing management of the island's waters, including the No Take Zone, will remain in place unchanged.

The seas around Lundy are home to an impressive range of wildlife, such as grey seals, red band fish, crawfish and at least eight species of coral (which include pink sea fans, red sea fingers and sunset cup corals). Lundy is also the only place in the UK where five cup corals exist together. Its importance was recognised by its designation as a Marine Nature Reserve in 1986 and it was also designated as a Special Area of Conservation in 2000 in recognition of the significance of its special habitats, which include reefs, sea caves and sandbanks.

Lundy's designation accompanies a much wider project to identify and designate new MCZs elsewhere. Through an ambitious, nationwide initiative, the MCZ Project is inviting people who use and value the sea to recommend the locations of future MCZs. No other country in the world has attempted to engage so many people in developing plans for marine protection on such a large scale before.

There are currently four independent, stakeholder-led MCZ Projects — Balanced Seas (south-east), Finding Sanctuary (south-west), Irish Sea Conservation Zones (Irish Sea) and Net Gain (North Sea). Each regional project has a stakeholder group made up of representatives of sea users and interest groups, which will submit its recommendations for MCZs to Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) by June 2011. On receipt of these recommendations and any further advice provided by Natural England and JNCC, DEFRA will draft designation orders, and carry out a formal public consultation in early 2012. The aim is for DEFRA to complete the MCZ designations by December 2012.

Source: Natural England, 12th January 2010

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10 new nuclear power stations proposed around English and Welsh coasts

The Government has approved 10 sites in England and Wales for new nuclear power stations, most of them on locations where there are already nuclear plants. In Scotland, where there are already two plants, the Scottish Government is saying that no new nuclear plants are needed.

map of UK showing current and proposed nuclear power station

The 10 sites deemed suitable for future nuclear plants are: Bradwell in Essex, Braystones, Kirksanton and Sellafield in Cumbria, Hartlepool in Cleveland, Heysham in Lancashire, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in North Wales. The sites at Braystones and Kirksanton in Cumbria are in the locations where no nuclear plants exist at present.

These 10 new sites will now be considered for planning permission by the new national Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). It is expected that the IPC will consider some of these planning applications within the next twelve months so that the first new nuclear power stations can become operational from 2018 onwards.

Source: BBC News 9th November 2009

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MARINET makes submission to EU Fisheries Reform public consultation

The EU has commenced a process which will lead to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Up until now, the CFP has been determined by the Council of Ministers, with MEPs and the Parliament having no say in the matter. However, following the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is now a party in constitutional terms to the formulation of the Common Fisheries Policy. This means there there is now a wider democratic input, and the new Common Fisheries Policy will have to reflect the wishes of the European Parliament.

MARINET's submission to the European Commission has spelt out the issues very clearly, and has expressed concern that at present the Green Paper on CFP Reform appears neither to recognise fully the primacy of law over policy, nor the essential need for the reformed CFP to be firmly grounded in the ecosystem-based approach. Until both of these matters are fully incorporated into the CFP, any attempt at reform will fail and the serious decline in European commercial fish stocks (over 80% of commercial fish stocks are being overfished beyond their maximum sustainable yield, and 30% of these stocks are beyond their safe biological limit and thus in danger of permanent, irreversible collapse) will, disturbingly, remain unaddressed. The MARINET submission may be seen at

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Starfish and other marine animals are a major absorber of CO2

Scientists publishing in ScienceDaily, 9th January 2010 believe that the impact on levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere by the decaying remains of a group of marine creatures that includes starfish and sea urchins has been significantly underestimated.

"Climate models must take this carbon sink into account," says Mario Lebrato, lead author of the study.

Globally, the seabed habitats occupy more than 300 million million square metres, from the intertidal flats and pools to the mightiest deep-sea trenches at 11,000 metres. The benthos — the animals living on and in the sediments — populate this vast ecosystem.

Calcifying organisms incorporate carbon directly from the seawater into their skeletons in the form of inorganic minerals such as calcium carbonate. This means that their bodies contain a substantial amount of inorganic carbon. When they die and sink, some of the inorganic carbon is remineralised, and much of it becomes buried in sediments, where it remains locked up indefinitely.

Lebrato and his colleagues provide the first estimation of the contributions of starfish, sea urchins, brittle stars, sea cucumbers and sea lilies — all kinds of echinoderm — to the calcium carbonate budget at the seabed. They estimate that the global production from all echinoderms is over a tenth (0.1) of a gigatonne of carbon per year — that is, more than a hundred thousand million kilograms.

This is less than the total biological production in the main water column, or pelagic zone, which scientists believe to be between around 0.6 and 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon per year. But echinoderms apparently deliver more carbon to the sediments than do forams, for example. These microscopic animals live in vast numbers in the oceans and are traditionally regarded along with coccolithophores (single-celled marine plants surrounded by calcium carbonate plates) as one of the biggest contributors to the flux of calcium carbonate from the sunlit surface waters to the ocean's interior — the so-called 'biological carbon pump'.

"Our research highlights the poor understanding of large-scale carbon processes associated with calcifying animals such as echinoderms and tackles some of the uncertainties in the oceanic calcium carbonate budget," says Lebrato: "The realisation that these creatures represent such a significant part of the ocean carbon sink needs to be taken into account in computer models of the biological pump and its effect on global climate."

There is a worry that ocean acidification due to increased carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels could reduce the amount of calcium carbonate incorporated into the skeletons of echinoderms and other calcifying organisms.

However, different echinoderm species respond to ocean acidification in different ways, and the effects of rising temperatures can be as significant as those of rising carbon dioxide. How this will affect the global carbon sink remains to be established.

Lebrato concludes: "The scientific community needs to reconsider the role of benthic processes in the marine calcium carbonate cycle. This is a crucial but understudied compartment of the global marine carbon cycle, which has been of key importance throughout Earth history and it is still at present."

The work was done by Mario Lebrato when he was at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) and affiliated with the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES); he is now at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Germany.

The joint authors are: Mario Lebrato (NOCS/SOES), Debora Iglesias-Rodríguez (NOCS/SOES), Richard Feely (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle), Dana Greeley (NOCS/SOES), Daniel Jones (NOCS), Nadia Suarez-Bosche (NOCS/SOES), Richard Lampitt (NOCS), Joan Cartes (Institut de Ciències del Mar de Barcelona), Darryl Green (NOCS) and Belinda Alker (NOCS).

Source: ScienceDaily, 9th January 2010.

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Mega-windfarm coming to offshore Norfolk

Approval is imminent for a £100 billion investment into third-generation windfarms that will include 1,000 turbines to be placed by Scottish Power and Sweden's state-owned Vattenfall 15 miles off the Norfolk coast. But construction of the massive project may not start until 2018.

The wider story is told by Stephen Pullinger in the Eastern Daily Press of 5th January '10 in an article entitled 'Off-shore wind farm plan heralded as green power step change'.

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Marine Conservation Society launches voting campaign for MCZs

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has launched a new campaign on their website which seeks to ask the public to identify and vote for those sites which merit marine protected area (MPA) status.

MCS has identified 73 sites around the coasts of the UK, mostly in inshore waters, which they believe merit conservation protection. The public can view these sites, and their particular conservation merits, by visiting The public are also asked to identify sites that are not listed by MCS.

The sites are organised by region (North East England, South East England, Southern England, Channel Isles, South West England, Wales, North West England & Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, West Scotland, East Scotland), and may be viewed overall on a UK map.

For further details, contact MCS

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New Briefing Note on Ocean uptake of CO2

The UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) has produced a Briefing Paper which covers all the issues relating to the uptake of CO2 by the oceans, and assesses the current state of scientific knowledge.

It is estimated that the oceans remove about a quarter of the atmospheric CO2 emissions due to human activities. However there is some doubt as to whether the oceans will continue to possess this removal capacity as sea temperatures rise due to global warming. Also of concern is the increased acidification of the oceans due to the increased levels of CO2 that are being absorbed. It is feared that increased acidity will impact on those creatures, many of which are very small and at the base of the marine food chain, which possess calcium carbonate shells. These shells are at risk of being dissolved by increased seawater acidity.


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London Array offshore windfarm to start construction in early 2011

Partners in the London Array offshore windfarm, Thames estuary, have signed contracts worth almost €2bn to cover the first phase of construction. Work to install the first 630 megawatts of generating capacity is scheduled to start in early 2011.

A contract worth around €1bn was signed in May 2009 and will see Siemens Wind Power supply 175 turbines. In December 2009 a further five contracts were awarded for the construction of undersea foundations, offshore substations and transmission cables.

If approved, a second phase of the project will add more capacity to bring the total to 1 gigawatt (GW), according to project partners DONG Energy, E.ON and Masdar. This would make the London Array the world's largest offshore wind farm.

Meanwhile British energy regulator Ofgem has announced a shortlist of six firms vying for contracts to connect nine other planned offshore wind farms to the mainland. The contracts are worth over €1bn. The winners will be announced in May 2010.

Source : ENDS Europe, 14 December 2009.

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New Marine SACs and SPAs announced by Natural England and JNCC

In connection with a public consultation lasting until 26th February 2010, Natural England, in conjunction with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), has announced that a new raft of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas for wild birds (SPAs) are to be created under the Natura 2000 Habitats Regulations (EU Habitats Directive).

10 new marine SACs and 2 new marine SPAs are to be created.

There are currently 81 SACs with marine components, covering 2% of the UK sea area. A list of the SACs and their qualifying marine features is available, see 76 of these SACs are in inshore waters, 5 are in offshore waters. There are four marine habitats and four marine species present in UK waters offshore from the coast for which the European Commission has stated that SACs may be designated.

The marine habitats are:

The marine species are:

The 5 existing offshore marine SACs are:

The 12 new proposed marine SACs and SPAs are:

The offshore marine SACs are being identified by the UK Government in conjunction with their legal commitment under the OSPAR Convention ( to create an ecologically coherent network of marine reserves by 2010. For the exact location of the existing and proposed UK marine SACs, see

Full details about the existing and proposed new marine SACs (both inshore and offshore) and the proposed new SPAs can be obtained by visiting Natural England and Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

MARINET welcomes these new additions to the UK marine SAC and SPA network, both inshore and offshore. They are an essential improvement on the marine conservation network. However, these new and existing sites are entirely linked to the European Habitats Directive (four types of habitat: Sandbanks which are slightly covered by seawater all the time; Reefs; Submarine structures made by leaking gases; Submerged or partially submerged sea caves ) and take no account of the vast number of other types of marine habitat that exist, all of which are important and many of which are being severely damaged.

Therefore MARINET observes that it cannot be said by the UK Government that these new and existing marine SAC sites are representative of the marine ecosystem as a whole — a key characteristic required by the OSPAR Convention comittment to create an ecologically coherent network of marine reserves by 2010. In addition, it is not clear either how these new and existing marine SAC reserves are linked to each other in any coherent ecological manner to sustain the four different marine ecosystems which they are protecting.

Further, MARINET observes that none of these marine SACs are focused on fish species and commercial fish stocks which are under very severe pressure in all UK seas. MARINET observes that a network of marine SACs which takes no account of fish species and fish stocks — a key, dominant feature of the whole marine ecosystem — simply cannot be said to comply with the UK Government's OSPAR Convention commitment to create an ecologically coherent network of marine reserves by 2010.

Thus, whilst MARINET welcomes these new SACs and SPAs, it advises that we must be under no illusion as to the serious shortcomings that these actions represent when considering the urgent need to be creating and ecologically coherent network of marine reserves in order to protect the marine ecosystem as a whole throughout UK seas. These recently announced actions to create new SACs and SPAs fall woefully short of the real action which is required. Over 80% of European commercial fish stocks are being overfished at the present time, and 30% beyond their safe biological limit (see CFP Reform Green Paper).

These actions on SACs and SPAs will do little to address this urgent crisis.

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Vulnerability of Sizewell

Despite our earlier warnings, the risk of erosion is now heightened at the Suffolk Sizewell nuclear power station plant as the government has given permission for further aggregate dredging offshore. See items on this concern at

It needs to be asked if the authorities are aware of Chapter 22 of Agenda 21 from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, adopted in 1992, a binding legal agreement which reaffirms the paramount importance of the safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive waste. This is a relevant Joint Convention legal document regarding consultation on Nuclear Power Stations and Justification. (see #32 of the DECC Document "The arrangements for the management and disposal of waste from new nuclear power stations: a summary of evidence" November 2009)

Section (c) states:
(that states should) "Not promote or allow the storage or disposal of high-level, intermediate-level and low-level radioactive wastes near the marine environment unless they determine that scientific evidence, consistent with the applicable internationally agreed principles and guidelines, shows that such storage or disposal poses no unacceptable risk to people and the marine environment or does not interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea, making, in the process of consideration, appropriate use of the concept of the precautionary approach".

A link to the Chapter in Agenda 21can be seen by visiting