Category Archives: News

Much Gulf Oil Remains, Deeply Hidden and Under Beaches


Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

Excerpts;

As BP finishes pumping cement into the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead Thursday, some scientists are taking issue with a new U.S. government report that says the “vast majority” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been taken care of by nature and “robust” cleanup efforts.

In addition, experts warn, much of the toxic oil from the worst spill in U.S. history may be trapped under Gulf beaches, where it could linger for years, or still migrating into the ocean depths, where it’s a “3-D catastrophe,” one scientist said…

Read Full Article, The National Geographic

CAMBODIA: Sand dredging prompts fishermen’s protests

Sand Cambodia

IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis, a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Fish are the primary source of income for residents of this sleepy, rustic border town in southwestern Cambodia, but when the area’s sand dredging vessels prowl the waters to plough up the riverbed, the fish all but disappear.

“When they were dredging a lot, we stopped bothering to even go out since it was not possible to catch anything,” Dol Sareem, a 60-year-old fisherman, told IRIN. “In those months, we caught half as much fish.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen banned sand exports in May 2009, yet sand mining continues in Koh Kong Province, the epicentre of the country’s corrupt dredging industry, enriching local elites and leaving fishermen to suffer, said international watchdog Global Witness.

There has been a lull in the sand operations since April, but local fishermen including Dol Sareem, who lives in Koh Kong’s main fishing community of dilapidated wooden homes with corrugated tin roofs, became so distressed by the impact of sand dredging that they joined several hundred people to protest in front of the provincial government office last December.

“It has improved since they have not been dredging these last few months but it’s still not like before,” he said.

Fishermen operating along the nearby River Kampot were less restrained in expressing their frustration. In February, they destroyed dredging equipment which they believed was responsible for the collapse of a riverbank.

Law not enforced

Dredging extracts sand below the sea floor, disturbing marine life and, more significantly, the spawning grounds that replenish it.
Cambodia

Dredgers remove 25,000 tons of sand each day from the Cambodian seas to export primarily to Singapore, where it is used for land reclamation, according to a Global Witness report in May.

The group valued a year’s worth of Cambodian sand at US$250 million on the Singapore market.

The report, entitled Shifting Sands, said the industry lacks transparency and government regulation, and could severely damage marine ecosytems essential to the livelihoods of many fishing communities.

“Companies operating in the sand sector as well as Cambodia’s regulatory agencies are ignoring environmental and social safeguards, and international industry best practices,” the report said.

The Cambodian government rejects the report’s findings. The response by government officials closer to the ground, however, has been contradictory.

Pech Siyon, Koh Kong’s director of the Department of Industry, Energy and Mines, told local media he expected the main dredging company, LYP, named after Ly Yong Phat, the senator with the ruling party who is identified by Global Witness as the leading figure in the industry, would resume export operations in the near future.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have placed restrictions on sand exports because of the environmental destruction it causes.

As a result, Global Witness says, Singapore has turned to Cambodia, where laws are lax.

According to Chourn Bunnara, who is based on the Cambodian coast with the NGO Fisheries Action Coalition Team, fishing communities have been largely powerless to raise concerns with the government about dredging vessels violating the ban.

Original Article And Learn More, IRIN (07-15-2010)

BP Oil spill: officially the worst disaster off a U.S. coast


Oil platform. Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

Excerpts;

BP ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico released more than 200 million gallons of oil before it was capped, government officials said Monday, as the company was poised to stuff the well with dense mud in preparation for a final seal later this month.

The new figures, described as the most accurate to date, place the size of the BP spill in the upper range of earlier estimates, affirming the disaster’s ranking as by far the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history…

Read Full Article, The LA Times

E.P.A : It Was Wise to Use Oil Dispersant

Oil Dispersant
An aircraft releases chemical dispersant over an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Captions and Photo source: NOAA /US Coast Guards

Excerpts;

Spraying dispersants on oily water in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t make the mixture any more toxic than the water was with Louisiana sweet crude alone, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.

Paul Anastas, the agency’s assistant administrator for research and development, said that the toxicity of the mix of oil and dispersant sprayed to combat the gulf oil spill was generally in the range of moderate, comparable to the effects of the oil.

So while the use of toxic chemicals in the gulf has always been recognized as a trade-off of risks, he said, the agency’s latest research shows that using dispersants to limit the effects of the BP spill was wise…

“The idea of fighting one toxic chemical, oil, with another, dispersant, does not sit well with all parties.” And Mr. Anastas said that further studies were needed. “The type of acute toxicity we’re discussing today is only one part of the hazard,’’ he said. Another is the health effects of the breakdown products of the dispersant, which the agency has yet to investigate…

Read Full Article, The New York Times

Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn, The New York Times
A seemingly feel-good story showed up this week on the nation’s front pages and newscasts: The oil that befouled the Gulf of Mexico for 86 days is vanishing from the surface, leaving workers with little to clean. But scientists warn the oil’s ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves…

Louisiana blue crabs are tough, but oil spill and dispersant might be tougher

Scientists and Academics Call For Immediate Halt of Chemical Dispersants in Gulf, The Ocean Foundation
Over 100 scientists and academic institution, research laboratory, conservation organization leaders plus human rights defenders from as far away as Norway and Greece have issued, July 18th, a joint Scientists Consensus Statement on the Use of Chemical Dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico calling for the US Administration to immediately halt chemical aerial spraying in the Gulf region.
BP has used nearly two million gallons of Corexit chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the cleanup effort with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The massive volume of dispersants and the way they have been applied, both on the surface and one mile below the surface, is unprecedented. Once oil is dispersed in deep water, it cannot be recovered.
The rationale behind the use of the dispersant is to keep oil from the sensitive wetlands and coastlines. However, by dispersing the oil throughout the water column, this practice is making it impossible to recover the dispersed oil at the surface while plumes of the dispersed oil remain at depth, entering the food chain at many levels where it will bioaccumulate as it moves up the food chain.
Corexit is one of the most toxic dispersants and one of the least effective on Louisiana crude oil. However, it is the mixture of Corexit and oil that represents an even greater threat as the toxic effects are magnified. Corexit, designed to break down lipid layers, facilitates the movement of toxic materials across the membranes of wildlife and human beings. The dispersant-oil mixture is killing marine wildlife, including dolphins, whales and fish, while also causing a range of serious human health effects to those who have been exposed.
The scientists believe the worst impacts of the disaster are yet to come, and without deliberate, independent scientific tracking and assessment, they could remain hidden…

EPA Response On Oil Dispersants

Fishermen wrinkle their noses at smell tests


Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Even the people who make their living off the seafood-rich waters of Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish have a hard time swallowing the government’s assurances that fish harvested in the shallow, muddy waters just offshore must be safe to eat because they don’t smell too bad…

Louisiana wildlife regulators on Friday reopened state-controlled waters east of the Mississippi to harvesting of shrimp and “fin fish” such as redfish, mullet and trout. Smell tests on dozens of specimens from the area revealed barely traceable amounts of toxins, the federal Food and Drug Administration said.

The tests were done not by chemical analysis, but by scientists trained to detect the smell of oil and dispersant…

Read Full Article, Daily News / AP

NOAA, The Sniff Test

What is a BP spill seafood sniffer? The Week

Erosion doubles along Alaska’s Arctic coast:: Cultural and Historical Sites Lost

alaska-erosion-usgs
A cabin along the Arctic Alaska coastline was recently washed into the ocean because the bluff it was sitting on top of was eroded away. Captions and Photo source: ©© Benjamin Jones, USGS

Excerpt, from USGS.

Coastal erosion has more than doubled in Alaska, up to 45 feet per year, in a 5-year period between 2002 and 2007 along a 40-mile stretch of the Beaufort Sea. A U.S. Geological Survey-led study reveals that average annual erosion rates along this part of the Beaufort Sea climbed from historical levels of about 20 feet per year between the mid-1950s and late-1970s, to 28 feet per year between the late-1970s and early 2000s, to a rate of 45 feet per year between 2002 and 2007. The study was published in the February,18th 2009 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

USGS scientist and lead author Benjamin Jones cautioned that it is possible that the recent patterns documented in their study may represent a short-term episode of enhanced erosion. However, they may well represent the future pattern of coastline erosion in the Arctic. “Erosion of coastlines is a natural process, and this segment of coastline has historically eroded at some of the highest rates in the circum-Arctic, so the changes occurring on this open-ocean coast might not be occurring in other Arctic coastal settings,” said Jones.

The authors proposed that these recent shifts in the rate and pattern of land loss along this coastline segment are potentially a result of changing arctic conditions, including declining sea ice extent, increasing summertime sea-surface temperature, rising sea level, and increases in storm power and corresponding wave action.

“Taken together, these factors may be leading to a new era in ocean-land interactions that seem to be repositioning and reshaping the Arctic coastline,” wrote Jones and his colleagues. “And any increases in the current rates of coastal retreat will have further ramifications on Arctic landscapes – including losses in freshwater and terrestrial wildlife habitats, and in disappearing cultural sites, as well as adversely impacting coastal villages and towns. In addition, oil test wells are threatened.”

Alaska Coastal Erosion2

In fact, in another recent study along the same stretch of the Beaufort Sea, Jones and his co-authors verified “disappearing” cultural and historical sites, including Esook, a turn-of-the-century trading post now part of the Alaskan seafloor and Kolovik (Qalluvik), an abandoned Inupiaq village site that may soon be lost. At another site, near Lonely, Alaska, Jones snapped a picture of a wooden whaling boat that had rested on a bluff overhanging the ocean for nearly a century. A few months later the boat had washed away to sea. This study was published in the journal Arctic.

Understanding contemporary erosion rates is important because Arctic climate change is leading to rapid and complex environmental responses in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems in ways that will almost certainly affect the rate and pattern of coastline erosion in the Arctic, the authors wrote. “For example,” said Jones, “the recent trends toward warming sea-surface temperatures and rising sea-level may act to weaken the permafrost-dominated coastline by ‘helping’ more quickly thaw ice-rich coastal bluffs and may potentially explain the disproportionate increase in erosion along ice-rich coastal bluffs relative to ice-poor coastal bluffs that we documented in our study.”

The authors also documented sections of coastline that eroded more than 80 feet during 2007. Interestingly, there were no westerly storm events during the summer of 2007, traditionally believed to be the drivers of coastal erosion in this region the Arctic. However, 2007 did boast the minimum arctic sea-ice extent on record and relatively warm ocean temperatures. The authors emphasized that monitoring of coastal erosion should continue to better understand the causes for these heightened erosion rates, particularly as Arctic regions are being targeted for additional hydrocarbon development.

Alaska Coastal Erosion

Original Article And Learn More, USGS

Climate change threatens life in Shishmaref, Alaska; CNN
“When the arctic winds howl and waves pummel the shore of this Inupiat Eskimo village, Shelton and Clara Kokeok fear that their house, already at the edge of the Earth, finally may plunge into the gray sea below. “The land is going away,” said Shelton Kokeok, 65, whose home is on the tip of a bluff that’s been melting in part because of climate change. “I think it’s going to vanish one of these days.”
A dozen Alaskan villages, including Shishmaref, are at some stage of moving because of climate-change-related impacts like coastal erosion and flooding…Around the world, as many as 150 million people may become “climate refugees” because of global warming, according to an Environmental Justice Foundation report, which attributes some of the moves to rising sea levels…”

Alaska Coastal Erosion
Photo source: USGS

New Questions Arise On Dispersant Use In Oil Spill

dispersant-oil-spill
Plane Drops Dispersants on Oil Spill. Captions and Photo source: ©© NWF

Excerpts;

BP inched closer to permanently sealing the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico as environmental officials defended themselves Sunday against assertions they allowed the oil giant liberal use of chemical dispersants whose threat to sea life remains unknown.

The Coast Guard routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of chemicals per day to break up the oil, despite a federal directive to use the dispersant rarely, congressional investigators said…

Read Full Article, AP / The Economic Times

Jamaica’s Beaches in peril

negril-jamaica
Negril, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Captions and Photo source: ©© Jannes Pockele

Excerpts;

For centuries, Negril, a seven-mile stretch of white sand beach on the western tip of Jamaica, was cut off from the rest of the island by bad roads and a large swamp.

Negril beach, Jamaica, remained relatively unknown to the world until the 1960s and 1970s, when U.S. “hippies,” students and Vietnam veterans gravitated towards this laid-back village.

The U.S. travellers arrived in ever-increasing numbers and, towards the end of the 1970s, Negril blossomed as a tourist destination. But with the growing population and improved infrastructure, the natural beauty of Jamaica’s third largest tourism centre has suffered visible deterioration…

Read Full Article, IPS News

negril-beach-jamaica
Negril beach, Jamaica. Photo source: ©© Emilio Santacoloma

China alleges: ocean cleared of oil 10 days after spill

bohai oil spill greenpeace
Photo source: © Greenpeace

Excerpts;

Chinese officials said July 26th, that an oil slick in coastal waters has been cleaned up 10 days after a massive explosion sent an estimated 1,500 tons of crude into the Yellow Sea along the northeastern port city of Dalian.

But beaches along Dalian’s long shoreline remain closed indefinitely, with oil covering rocks and pebbles on the sand, and fishing has been banned until the end of the summer. Environmentalists say nearby bays are also polluted…

Read Full Article, The Los Angeles Times

Cleaning Dalian Harbor, Boston Big Picture