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Environmental groups slam report on bluefin tuna quotas

Caribbean coral reefs in danger
Washington (UPI) Oct 8, 2010 - Coral reefs in the Caribbean are in danger of bleaching, researchers say. Scientists attribute the bleaching, caused by high water temperatures, to global climate change. Mark Eakin, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said coral bleaching is hitting more areas and some corals in the Caribbean that were spared in 2005, a year in which ocean temperatures were extremely warm, The New York Times reports. "I've heard of lots of bleaching and lots of dead corals in Panama," Eakin told the Times. "The bleaching is really kicking in strong at this point."

Bleaching occurs when high heat and sunshine cause the coral to "spit out" the algae that live symbiotically inside them. Severe bleaching can lead to coral death. A study released this week by the University of Buffalo in New York indicates that certain types of coral won't be able to adapt rapidly enough to survive global warming. The University of Buffalo researchers studied Porites divaricata, a common shallow-water scleractinian coral found throughout the Caribbean. While coral reefs -- known as the rain forests of the sea for their biological richness -- account for 1 percent of the world's ocean surface, they provide a home for 25 percent of all sea life. The demise of coral reefs would deprive fish of food and shelter, severely threatening reef fish populations and marine diversity.

The area affected by bleaching and dying corals would likely extend to the region east of Nicaragua, past Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, and south along the Caribbean coasts of Panama and South America, a warning issued in August by Coral Reef Watch stated. Water temperatures in the Caribbean reach their annual peak in September and October. "There is the potential that this will be worse than 2005, unless some tropical storms come through and mix the warm surface water with deeper, cooler water," Eakin told Inter Press Service. That year, a severe bleaching occurred across much of the Caribbean and more than 60 percent of the coral around the U.S. Virgin Islands died. Widespread coral bleaching has already occurred this year in Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. Mary Alice Coffroth, professor of geological sciences at the University of Buffalo, warned that most estimates predict that by 2100, global warming would cause sea temperatures to rise by as much as 2 to 6 degrees Celsius more than current temperatures.
by Staff Writers
Madrid (AFP) Oct 8, 2010
Environmental groups Friday criticised scientists' recommendations for fishing quotas of the lucrative but endangered bluefin tuna, which they warned are based on out-of-date and unreliable data.

The scientists on the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) concluded a four-day meeting in Madrid on Friday.

They issued recommendations to be presented to ICCAT, the inter-governmental group responsible for managing its stocks, at a meeting in Paris in November.

At its last meeting, in Brazil last November, ICCAT agreed to cut its catch for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by 40 percent, from 22,000 tonnes in 2009 to 13,500 in 2010.

SCRS said maintaining the allowable catch at 13,500 tonnes for 2011-2013 "will likely allow the stock to increase" and allow it to recover by 2022 "with at least 60 percent probability."

But they warned of "unquantified uncertainties" in gathering reliable data.

"Most of the data limitations that have plagued previous assessments remain and will require new approaches in order to improve the scientific advice the Committee can offer," the report said.

The environmental group WWF slammed the recommendations and called for a quota of "below 6,000 tonnes per year."

"The very data on which the scientists have based their analyses are severely inadequate and show many gaps," it said in a statement.

"WWF is shocked at the lack of precaution perpetuated by ICCAT in bluefin tuna management, and we are urging for catches to be slashed by at least half," Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, was quoted as saying in the statement.

"Tuna stocks are struggling at a mere third of sustainable levels, yet rules are continuing to be flouted and reporting duties ignored -- meaning ICCAT's scientists can't even do their job properly."

The Pew Environment Group, a Washington DC-based non-governmental organisation, charged the SCRS had "failed to recommend solid, scientifically-based catch limits."

It called on ICCAT countries at the Paris meeting to suspend bluefin fishing and protect their spawning grounds as the "first two crucial steps."

"Bluefin tuna fishing nations are providing scientists with out-of-date, incomplete and often unreliable information," said Remi Parmentier, a Pew Environment Group observer at the meeting.

"Because of these glaring gaps in data, scientists are essentially being asked to gaze into a crystal ball and pick a number for bluefin tuna catch limits.

"It allows fishing countries to assign bluefin tuna catch limits based on unfounded optimism instead of objective science. No species should have to rely on a crystal ball for its survival."

Industrial-scale harvesting on the high seas has caused bluefin stocks to plummet in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.

A meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Doha in March rejected a ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, after aggressive lobbying by the Japanese.

A single 220-kilo (485-pound) fish can fetch 160,000 dollars (120,000 euros) at auction in Japan, which consumes three-quarters of all bluefin, mainly as sushi and sashimi.




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Coral Oasis Found In Mediterranean Desert
Tel Aviv, Israel (SPX) Oct 08, 2010
The exploration vessel Nautilus, with a team of experts of the University of Haifa's Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, headed by Prof. Zvi Ben Avraham, discovered for the first time an area of reefs with deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean, offshore of Israel. This area apparently stretches over a few kilometers, 700 meters under the surface and some 30-40 km off the coast of Tel ... read more

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