Category Archives: News

Plastiki: Restocking in Samoa


British adventurer David de Rothschild spoke about his adventure sailing as the captain of the Plastiki Eco-Expedition. The Plastiki is a boat made entirely out of plastic bottles. The expedition set sail from San Francisco on March 20 2010 and arrived in Sydney on July 26 2010. Captions and Photo source: ©© Kris Krug

Excerpts;

The crew of the Plastiki remain in Samoa resupplying the boat and preparing for their final leg to Australia.

Wayward winds had pushed Plastiki towards the island nation instead of the intended destination of Fiji.

The crew have now traveled 5,483 nautical miles and made landfall on Samoa on May 25, just two weeks after leaving Christmas Island.

The final leg of the voyage is expected to take around 40 days…

Read Full Article, CNN

Scotland pristine white sand targeted by thieves in midnight raids

Tiree

By Moira Kerr, The Scotsman.

It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, but it could soon be a case of paradise lost on the Isle of Tiree.

Tiree, called ‘the Hawaii of the north’ by windsurfers, is famed for its unspoiled white beaches, but an estate factor warns that sand has been disappearing by the truckload

For sneak thieves are carrying out midnight raids on the Hebridean island’s spectacular shores, stealing tonne upon tonne of sand.

A large chunk of Tiree and its magnificent white sand beaches falls under the ownership of the Duke of Argyll’s estate. And the thefts have escalated to such a point that Andrew Montgomery, Argyll Estates’ factor, has fired a warning shot to the culprits.

In a letter published in an island newsletter, he wrote: “Extraction is still taking place, and indeed over the Christmas period dumper trailers were loaded at Barrapol overnight and their loads of sand subsequently transferred to one tonne bags at the Crossapol camp.

“It seems the idea here was apparently to make it appear that the sand had been imported legitimately from a mainland source.

“I am aware of the culprits and of those using this material, and if you are intent on carrying on in the same manner, I will have no option but to prosecute without warning.

“The continuing close interest of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH] and Argyll and Bute Council planning enforcement officers is forever present. However, not withstanding this, all commercial users of sand and gravel on Tiree have been warned in writing that commercial extraction is illegal, and that further instances of unlawful sand/mineral extraction for commercial building and/or building supply purposes will amount to common theft. I am sure the majority of islanders understand the need for due diligence on my part.”

Island crofters have a legal right to take small scale quantities of sand for use on their land, but Ian Gillies, Argyll Estates representative on Tiree, said yesterday: “The minimal extraction we don’t have an issue with; it is the commercial extraction that we do have a problem with, along with the planning department and Scottish Natural Heritage.”

Known by windsurfers as the “Hawaii of the north” Tiree is so low-lying it is often referred to as the land beneath the waves.

SNH officer Ross Lilley said: “SNH is interested, but it’s not necessarily about the immediate cause and effect, it’s the long term potential threat on the coastland.

“There is a long-term trend of sea levels rising, you get climate change and the coastline is vulnerable. It’s something the community has to protect in the long term, because they are vulnerable to further erosion.”

He added: “We would like to work with the community to find a way of making sure that they get some source of sand and gravel, but in such a way that it doesn’t cause long-term erosion to the coastline.

“We did commission a study by the British Geological Survey about where there were mineral losses on the island and where there could be a quarry. That study is still available, it’s really a planning issue.”

A Tiree builder, who did not want to be named, said: “We bring all our sand and gravel in from Oban and it’s a bit unfair if some people are paying for it and some aren’t.”

He said there were a number of commercial builders on Tiree but was unaware of who was taking sand from the beaches.

He added: “Argyll Estates had permitted it to be taken from certain beaches, but then SNH got involved, it was all to do with coastal erosion.

“We as builders got a letter from Argyll Estates, saying we weren’t to use sand and gravel from the beaches, and we have adhered to this.”

Original Article

Off Florida, skimming boats fight oil spill

Florida Oil

By Lloyd Dunkelberger, The Herald Tribune.

At sea, the enemy is elusive.

Aided by a strong southwesterly wind and waves averaging 4 to 6 feet, the unprecedented threat to Florida’s economy and environment lurks in the dark Gulf waters uncomfortably close to the white sandy beaches of Pensacola Beach, Navarre and Grayton Beach.

Less than 4 miles from the opening of the Pensacola Pass, the vital inlet that connects the Gulf with the inland bays, bayous and coves surrounding Pensacola, Howie Hobbs spots something in the water. It is oil.

A thin sheen, obvious to an experienced charter boat captain like Hobbs but barely discernible to others, is riding the waves. More visible are widely dispersed, reddish, coin-size globules of oil.

“It’s heading straight to the beach,” said Hobbs, a Mississippi resident who once was the captain of a BP crew ship that ferried workers and supplies to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Pushed by the strong prevailing wind and currents, the globs of today will become the tar balls of tomorrow on the Panhandle beaches.

Starting Friday, the tar balls and patties began descending on some of Florida’s most pristine beaches.

Thus far, the impact has been minimal. On Friday, 520 tar balls were collected on Escambia County beaches — with the largest measuring a little more than 7 inches — and 12 tar mats were found floating 6 miles south of the Navarre Pier in adjoining Santa Rosa County, state environmental officials said.

The tar mats, trailing sheen, were about 30 feet by 15 feet.

The threat was met with the increased use of skimming ships off the coast and a cadre of cleanup workers along the beaches.

But the oil, which continues to spew at a rate of more than 12,000 barrels a day from the BP well, remains a growing menace right off Florida’s Panhandle shores.

On Saturday, state officials said scattered tar balls and patties were found between Pensacola Beach eastward to Grayton Beach in Walton County.

And more oil looms in the Gulf, with the state Department of Environmental Protection reporting a light sheen, 3 miles by 100 yards, a little more than a half-mile off Pensacola Beach on Saturday. State officials also noted the spill model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration placed the “primary oil plume” only 2 miles from Pensacola.

Original Article

Thad Allen: Oil Spill Is ‘Holding The Gulf Hostage’

Excerpt, from CNN Blog, June 6th 2010.

The federal government’s response manager to the Gulf oil disaster, Thad Allen, says BP has made progress, but cautioned it was too early to call the effort a success.

“We’re making the right progress. I don’t think anyone should be pleased as long as there’s oil in the water,” Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.

Allen was responding to remarks over the weekend by BP’s senior vice president, Bob Fryar, who said the company was “pleased” with its operation to funnel crude up from the ruptured undersea well to a drilling ship a mile above on the Gulf of Mexico.

Fryar said the company funneled about 250,000 gallons of oil in the first 24 hours from a containment cap installed on the well to a drilling ship on the ocean surface.

But that’s only about 31 percent of the 798,000 gallons of crude federal authorities estimate is gushing into the sea every day.

Allen confirmed that BP has been able to bring oil to the surface after placing the cap, but said no one should be pleased until a relief well is completed and the leaking stops.

“This is an insidious enemy,” Allen said. “It’s attacking all of our shores, it’s holding the gulf hostage, basically.”

Even as the administration has tried to distance itself from oil company BP in recent days, with the Justice Department launching both criminal and civil investigations into the spill, it has not been enough to temper the frustration seething among residents along the coastline.

Original Article

The damages caused by Singapore’s insatiable thirst for land

Sand Mining Bangladesh

By Tom Levitt.

While logging and deforestation has gained global attention the growing sand mining sector is being largely ignored. Fuelled by Singapore’s land and construction demands it is wreaking environmental destruction across south-east Asia

The fast growing market for sand in south-east Asia, particularly from Singapore, is being linked to widespread damage to coastal ecosystems and fish stocks.

The densely populated state of Singapore has expanded in size by more than 20 per cent since the 1960s by reclaiming vast amounts of land from the sea, in doing so becoming the world’s biggest importer of sand – 14.2 million tonnes in 2008.



Most of its exports have come from neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam but all three have now attempted to limit or ban exports of sand. With plans to expand its surface area by a further 7 per cent by 2020, Singapore is becoming increasingly reliant on another one of its neighbours, Cambodia, to meet its demand.

Although Cambodia publicly maintains that it has banned sand exports, an investigation by the NGO Global Witness has estimated that 796,000 tonnes of sand with a retail value of US$248 million are still being extracted and exported to Singapore every year from just one province, Koh Kong.


Ecological damage

The extraction is coming at a significant environmental cost. Dredging reduces water quality by increasing turbidity, blocking sunlight and killing off plant life, including seagrass and coral. Sand extraction also disrupts natural sedimentary regimes causing increased erosion and greater flood risks. There have also been reports of significant declines in fish stocks.

Campaigners are now worried that the rapid rise in sand mining activity in Cambodia could see the Koh Kong province in particular meet the same fate as Indonesia’s Riau Islands. Over-extraction there led to significant damage to coral reefs and entire islands disappearing, forcing the authorities to ban sand exports back in 2007.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, did announce a ban on sand exports last year but Global Witness later found this only covered river sand and not seabed sand. It claims the sector is rife with corruption and largely controlled by individuals close to the ruling elite in the country. 



Sand dredging licences, Global Witness maintains, are being allocated inside protected mangrove and seagrass habitats. Local newspapers have also reported villagers being attacked and killed during forced evictions from areas of increased sand extraction.


‘Ultimately the people who are reliant most on the natural resources will lose out: fishermen who are being evicted or seeing their stocks plummet from sand dredging boats coming through their catch area; and indigenous people,’ said Global Witness campaigner George Boden.

Corruption

Having already logged much of the country’s forest resources, Global Witness accuse Cambodia’s elite, in collusion with mining companies, of switching their attention to sand.

The report says there is little evidence that any of the financial benefit from the booming sand mining trade is benefiting the country as a whole.

‘Millions of dollars are changing hands, but there is no way of tracking whether royalties, taxes and other revenues generated are reaching the national treasury…as usual, it is Cambodia’s poor who have borne the brunt of this elite capture, with loss of their livelihoods and coastal environments,’ the report says.

While the problem is being felt most critically in Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, Global Witness says the majority of the blame lies with Singapore, which it accuses of ignoring concerns about the environmental impact of its sand imports as it gives the go-ahead to new racing tracks, casinos and port developments requiring yet more sand. 


In response to the NGOs findings, the Singapore Government said the import of sand to Singapore was done on a commercial basis and that they were ‘not party to any agreement or contract for the import of sand’.

However, Global Witness says it has evidence that government ministries were involved in buying sand, allegedly from Cambodia.

Illegal trade

In fact the industry has become so lucrative that as neighbouring countries implement bans to safeguard their ecosystems, there has been a growing market from Singapore for smuggled sand.



Greenpeace Indonesia says smugglers had no problem getting their exports into Singapore and were ‘rarely intercepted by customs boats or the navy’. It said 300 million cubic metres of sand was being exported illegally every year.

There have also been reports that Singapore is turning its attention to sand mining opportunities in Bangladesh, a country where erosion is already threatening its coastline.

Global Witness says the onus is now on Singapore to act: ‘The Singapore government tries to portray itself as a regional environmental leader and is hosting the World Cities Summit in June this year showcasing its environmental leadership. The reality is their demand for sand is having a hugely damaging impact on the environment in surrounding countries.

‘Its failure to mitigate the social and ecological cost of sand dredging represents hypocrisy on a grand scale,’ said Boden.

The NGO says the country should bring in guidelines for construction companies on the sustainable sourcing of raw materials.

Jerry Berne from Sustainable Shorelines, which campaigns on sand dredging, says reforming the sector may prove difficult.

‘Unfortunately for our coastlines and the ecosystems these sustain, the dredging industry, its consultants, shipping interests and many governmental agencies are deeply committed to this process and the profits it generates.’

However, he said dredging could be done sustainably. ‘Not all dredging is a bad thing. In its place and properly vetted for its environmental impacts (not the often questionable reports from industry backers), dredging might be a relatively safe mining practice. Today, however, too little efforts goes into insuring this.

‘Also, it seems too many of those who should know about the harm being done by it are either ignorant or remain silent,’ said Berne.

Original Article

Bangladesh and Illegal Sand Mining: Read Full Article, Dredging Today (01-26-2010)
The government is going to formulate a policy to stop haphazard sand extraction from different rivers as unplanned sand extraction is harming the country’s aquatic resources…

Cap collects some Gulf oil; crude washes into Fla.

By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press Writer.

Waves of gooey tar balls crashed into the white sands of the Florida Panhandle on Friday as BP engineers adjusted a sophisticated cap over the Gulf oil gusher, trying to collect the crude now fouling four states.

Even though the inverted funnel-like device was set over the leak late Thursday, crude continued to spew into the sea in the nation’s worst oil spill. Engineers hoped to close several open vents on the cap throughout the day in the latest attempt to contain the oil.

As they worked on the system underwater, the effect of the BP spill was widely seen. Swimmers at Pensacola Beach rushed out the water after wading into the mess. Brown pelicans coated in chocolate syrup-like oil flailed and struggled in the surf on a Louisiana island. The oil on the beaches of East Grand Terre near Grand Isle, La., were stained in hues of rust and crimson, much like the color of drying blood.

“In Revelations, it says the water will turn to blood. That’s what it looks like out here — like the Gulf is bleeding,” said P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish as he kneeled down to take a picture of an oil-coated feather. “This is going to choke the life out of everything.”

President Barack Obama was set to visit the Louisiana coast Friday, his second trip in a week and the third since the disaster unfolded following an April 20 oil rig explosion. Eleven workers were killed.

A mile below the water’s surface, the cap has different colored hoses loosely attached to it to help combat the near-freezing temperatures and icylike crystals that could clog it. The device started pumping oil and gas to a tanker on the surface overnight, but it wasn’t clear how much.

“Progress is being made, but we need to caution against over-optimism,” said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man for the disaster.

He said a very rough estimate of current collection would be about 42,000 gallons a day, though he stressed the information was anecdotal.

Robots a mile beneath the Gulf were shooting chemical dispersants at the escaping oil — though it looked more like flares when illuminated a mile underwater.

To put the cap in place, BP had to slice off the main pipe with giant shears after a diamond-edged saw became stuck. By doing so, they risked increasing the flow by as much as 20 percent, though Allen said it was still too soon to know whether that had happened.

“Once the containment cap is on and it’s working, we hope the rate is significantly reduced,” he said.

The jagged cut forced crews to use a looser fitting cap, but Allen did not rule out trying to again smooth out the cut with the diamond saw if officials aren’t satisfied with the current cap.

The best chance to plug the leak is a pair of relief wells, which are at least two months away. The well has spit out between 22 million and 47 million gallons of oil, according to government estimates.

In Florida, spotters who had been seeing a few tar balls in recent days found a substantially larger number before dawn on the beaches of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and nearby areas, a county emergency official said. The park is a long string of connected barrier islands near Pensacola.

David Lucas, of Jonesville, La., and a group of friends abruptly ended their visit to Pensacola Beach after wading into oily water.
“It was sticky brown globs out there,” Lucas said after the group cleaned their feet in the parking lot and headed south to Orlando.

Just to the west at Gulf Shores, Ala., Wendi Butler watched glistening clumps of oil roll onto the white sand beach during a morning stroll. An oily smell was in the air.

“You don’t smell the beach breeze at all,” said Butler, 40.

Butler moved to Perdido Bay from Mobile days before the spill. Now, her two kids don’t want to visit because of the oil and she can’t find a job.

“Restaurants are cutting back to their winter staffs because of it. They’re not hiring,” she said.

Meanwhile, BP PLC Chief Executive Tony Hayward sought to reassure investors, saying the company has “considerable firepower” to cope with the severe, long-running costs. Hayward and other senior BP executives struck a penitent note in their first comprehensive update to shareholders since the oil rig explosion, stressing their commitment to rebuilding BP’s tarnished reputation, improving safety measures and restoring the damaged Gulf coast.

“We will meet our obligations both as a responsible company and also as a necessary step to rebuilding trust in BP as a long term member of the business communities in the U.S. and around the world,” said BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. “This is in the interest of all our stakeholders.”

In oil-soaked Grand Isle, BP representative Jason French might as well have painted a bulls-eye on his back. His mission was to be BP’s representative at a meeting for 50 or so residents who had gathered at a church to vent.

“We are all angry and frustrated,” he said. “Feel free tonight to let me see that anger. Direct it at me, direct it at BP, but I want to assure you, the folks in this community, that we are working hard to remedy the situation.”

Residents weren’t buying it.

“Sorry doesn’t pay the bills,” said Susan Felio Price, who lives near Grand Isle.

“Through the negligence of BP we now find ourselves trying to roller-skate up a mountain,” she said. “We’re growing really weary. We’re tired. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Someone’s got to help us get to the top of that mountain.”
Obama shared some of that anger ahead of his Gulf visit. He told CNN’s Larry King that he was frustrated and used his strongest language in assailing BP.

“I am furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn’t think through the consequences of their actions,” Obama said. “This is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for potentially years.”

Newly disclosed internal Coast Guard documents from the day after the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig indicated that U.S. officials were warning of a leak of 336,000 gallons per day of crude from the well in the event of a complete blowout.
The volume turned out to be much closer to that figure than the 42,000 gallons per day that BP first estimated. Weeks later it was revised to 210,000 gallons. Now, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons of crude is believed to be leaking daily.

The Center for Public Integrity, which initially reported the Coast Guard logs, said it obtained them from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The logs also showed early in the disaster that remote underwater robots were unable to activate the rig’s blowout preventer, which was supposed to shut off the flow from the well in the event of such a catastrophic failure.

Original Article

A Challenge to Florida Beach-Driving Tradition

daytona-beach-driving
Daytona Beach, FL. Photo source: ©© Steven Martin

Excerpts;

Questions linger after a 4-year-old girl from the United Kingdom was hit and killed by a car on the sand along Daytona Beach.

Debates over the practice of beach driving are nothing new. Over the decades, several lawsuits have been filed, either by environmentalists looking to protect sea turtles or by waterfront homeowners complaining about property rights…

Read Full Article, The New York Times

Beach Driving, Surfriders Foundation
Driving on the beach is a long-standing tradition in many areas of the United States, including Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, portions of the New Jersey shore, North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Georgia’s islands, certain areas in Florida, North and South Padre Islands and other areas in Texas, and several areas in Oregon and Washington, including the Long Beach Peninsula shoreline.
It is widely recognized that beach driving can cause serious ecological impacts by potentially destroying nesting areas for sea turtles and birds such as the piping plover and damaging or destroying vegetation and dunes. Shore erosion can be accelerated by careless beach driving and vehicles on the beach can be a safety hazard to beach goers.
In recognition of the potential impacts of beach driving, most areas that allow this practice regulate it in some way, including:requiring licenses or passes, limiting the number of vehicles on the beach, limiting beach, driving to certain types of vehicles (e.g. 4WD), enforcing speed limits, specifying beach access ramps and the, allowed driving zone along the beach, prohibiting driving on dunes an in other ecologically sensitive areas, prohibiting driving during certain times of the year, such as during seabird or sea turtle nesting seasons or when beach pedestrian traffic is so high that vehicles on the beach would represent a safety hazard.
Volusia County in Florida is home of Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, where there is a tradition of beach driving dating back to the early days of the automobile.

A Feast Interrupted

sand-prints-coastal-care
Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpts;

Every few days, in some places as often as twice a day, tractors roll along a hundred miles or so of sandy beaches in southern California, scooping up not only trash but also seaweed that’s washed ashore, along with the myriad small creatures that shelter in it. This mechanical “beach grooming”, practiced for decades, helps keep up the classic sand-and-surf image that draws millions of people to the region’s beaches, but it also sweeps away a resource that provides vital nourishment for shorebirds.

“Grooming sandy beaches changes rich coastal habitats into barren plains of unstable sand,” says Jenifer Dugan of the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose team has surveyed over 40 beaches, both those that are regularly groomed and beaches where beach wrack, kelps and seagrasses brought ashore by waves and tides, is left in place. Their ongoing studies since 1995, funded by California Sea Grant, California State Parks, Minerals Management Service, and the National Science Foundation, have found far fewer creatures and far lower diversity of life on beaches that are regularly cleaned by “sanitizer” tractors.

On beaches where wrack was left undisturbed, “Our surveys have found a very high abundance and diversity of intertidal life compared to similar beaches in other parts of the world,” Dugan says…

Read Full Article, By Hal Hughes, in Making Waves