Monthly Archives: January 2017

Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year

Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles becoming embedded in tissues, scientists have warned, in findings described as ‘sobering’ by the Prince of Wales.

Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium believe that microplastics accumulate in the body over time and could be a long term health risk.

And they say the amount of plastic absorbed will only get worse as pollution in the oceans increases, a finding described by the Prince of Wales as ‘sobering.’  The Prince has previously described micro-particles as ‘grey goo.’

Dr Colin Janssen, who led the research, said the presence of plastic particles in the body was ‘a concern’.

. . . The study is the first comprehensive risk assessment of its kind. Scientists calculated that more than 99 per cent  of the microplastics pass through the human body – but the rest are taken up by body tissues.

Mussels feed by filtering around 20 litres of seawater a day, ingesting microplastics by accident.

Most are excreted, but on average each mussel contains one tiny fragment lodged in its body tissue. As plastic pollution builds up in the ocean that will increase.

If current trends continue, by the end of the century people who regularly eat seafood could be consuming 780,000 pieces of plastic a year, absorbing 4,000 of them from their digestive systems.

A person eats mussels and French fries during the annual Braderie de Lille (Lille Fleamarket) on September 1, 2012 in Lille, northern France. At least two million visitors are expected over the weekend at the Braderie, one of Europe's largest fleamarket, gathering about ten thousands professional salesmen and Lille residents who want to sell or exchange their unwanted good. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GettyImages)  mussel-rock

Microplastics are widely found in mussels, oysters and other shellfish, Left photo credit Phillippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages

. . . There are more than five trillion pieces of microplastic in the world’s oceans and the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic waste is being added to the sea every minute.

By 2050 that will increase to four trucks every minute. The plastic in the ocean will take decades or even centuries to break down into small pieces, but many scientists believe it will never completely disappear.

Featured Image: A larval perch that has ingested microplastic particles, Credit: Oona Lonnstedt  

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Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year, study shows 

By Sarah Knapton, science editor, The Telegraph

24 January 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/24/seafood-eaters-ingest-11000-tiny-pieces-plastic-every-year-study/

 

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Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life

The waters of the Pacific off the California coast are transparently clear. Problem is: Clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into desert (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA).

From Alaska to Central America, and beyond, sea life has been devastated over the past three years like never before. . . scientists refer to the lethal ocean warming over the past few years as “the Warm Blob.”

After all, global warming hits the ocean much, much harder than land. Up to 90% of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is absorbed by the ocean, which is fortuitous for humans.

“Upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades” (Source: Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content, NOAA, Climate.gov, July 14, 2015). More than 3,000 Argo floats strategically positioned worldwide measure ocean temps every 10 days.

Scientists classify the Warm Blob phenomenon as “multi-year ocean heat waves,” with temperatures 7° F above normal and up to 10°F above normal in extreme cases. How would humans handle temperatures, on average, 7° to 10°F above normal? There’d be mass migrations from Florida to Alaska, for sure. As it happens, sea animals do not do well. They die in unbelievably massive numbers; all across the ocean… the animal die-offs are unprecedented. Scientists are stunned!

After years of horrendous worldwide sea animal die-offs, 2016 was a banner year. Is this out of the ordinary? Sadly, the answer is: Yes.

The numbers are simply staggering, not just in the Pacific, but around the world, e.g., the following is but a partial list during only one month (December 2016): Tens of thousands of dead starfish beached in Netherlands; 6,000 dead fish in Maryland waterway; 10 tons of dead fish in Brazilian river; tens of thousands of dead fish wash up on Cornwall, England beach; schools of dead herring in Nova Scotia; 100 tons of fish suddenly dead in Indonesia; massive fish deaths ‘state of calamity’ in Philippines; thousands of dead crayfish float down river in New Zealand; masses of dead starfish, crabs, and fish wash ashore in Nova Scotia, and there are more and more….

In fact, entire articles are written about specific areas of massive die offs, for example: “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?” Smithsonian.com, May 4, 2016. Chilean health officials had to resort to heavy machinery to remove 10,000 dead rotting squid from coastlines earlier in the 2016 year. Over 300 whale carcasses hit the beaches and 8,000 tons of sardines and 12% of the annual salmon catch… all found dead on beaches, to name only a few! You’ve gotta wonder why?

According to Nate Mantua, research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California: “One of the things that is clear is there’s a lot of variation from year to year along the Pacific Coast, and some of that is tied into natural patterns, like El Niño,’ Mantua said. ‘But what we saw in 2014, ‘15 and the first part of ‘16 was warmer than anything we’ve seen in our historical records, going back about 100 years” (Mary Callahan, Year in Review: Ocean Changes Upend North Coast Fisheries, The Press Democrat, Dec. 25, 2016).

climate-change-photo-nasa-kathryn-hansen2

 Photo: NASA/Kathryn Hansen 

. . . Morosely, too-warm ocean water serves as breeding ground for the infamous deadly “red tide,” a bloom of single-celled organism that thrives in warmer waters, producing a neurotoxin called domoic acid, resulting in enormous numbers of sea lion fatalities and massive destruction of Dungeness crab fisheries and all kinds of other trouble.

Too-warm water also contributes to the collapse of bull kelp forests, which are the ocean’s equivalent of the tropical rain forest; meanwhile, purple urchins thrive and multiply in explosive fashion in the poisonous environment, devouring remaining plant life. Thereby, out-competing hapless red abalone, the shellfish that people love.

Collapsing food chains are evident up and down the Pacific Coast earmarked by large die offs of Cassin Auklets, a tiny seabird, as well as massive numbers of Common Murres. The sea lions and fur seals suffer from starvation and domoic acid poisoning. In early 2013 scientists declared the sea lion die-off an “unusual mortality event.”

Nursing sea lion mothers are unable to find enough forage like sardines and anchovies.

. . . Bottom line, the ecosystem is under fierce attack, and it is real, very real indeed with too much global warming, too much ag runoff, too much heavy-duty massive overfishing, likely too much nuclear radiation, and deadly acidification caused by excessive CO2 concentrations (already damaging pteropods at the base of the marine food chain) as the ocean absorbs anthropogenic CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, similar to the upper atmospheric conundrum where 400+ ppm of CO2 (anything over 350 ppm leads to serious planetary trouble over time) is already heating up the planet as the ocean absorbs 90% of that heat.

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GLOBAL WARMING CLOBBERS OCEAN LIFE

by ROBERT HUNZIKER

JANUARY 16, 2017

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/16/global-warming-clobbers-ocean-life/

Featured image photo credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

Pacific bluefin population is estimated to have plummeted by 97% from its historic high due to decades of overfishing.

Huge fish sells for 74m yen [$656,000 US, $850,000 CAD] as conservationists call for moratorium to help stabilise plunging Pacific stocks.

A bluefin tuna has fetched 74.2m yen (£517,000) at the first auction of the year at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, amid warnings that decades of overfishing by Japan and other countries is taking the species to the brink of extinction.

The 212kg fish, caught off the coast of Oma in northern Japan, was bought by Kiyomura, the operator of the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain, after its president, Kiyoshi Kimura, outbid rivals for the sixth year in a row.

. . . Conservationists said the publicity surrounding the auction risked overshadowing the plight of the Pacific bluefin tuna. They have called for a two-year moratorium on fishing to rescue the Pacific bluefin population, which is estimated to have plummeted by 97% from its historic high due to decades of overfishing.

“People should be thinking about that when they see news about the auction,” Jamie Gibbon, officer for global tuna conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told the Guardian.

Last month, 25 tuna-fishing nations plus the European Union agreed on the need for an urgent bluefin tuna recovery plan, but Japan is expected to resist drastic cuts in catch quotas or a moratorium to give stocks the opportunity to recover.

About 70% of Pacific bluefin are less than a year old when caught, according to Gibbon, and 95% are caught before they reach three years old – a practice that damages the species’ ability to reproduce.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission tightened international limits in 2015 as the species remained under threat, halving the catch of bluefin tuna under 30 kilograms from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

“If fishing continues at its current rate, then Pacific bluefin stocks will fall to levels that are commercially unsustainable, but Japanese officials continue to say that catch reductions will place too big a burden on fishermen,” Gibbon said. “Short-term profits are being put ahead of long-term conservation.”

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is commonly served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro – a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly – can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.

The global popularity of Japanese food is fueling an appetite for bluefin in other countries, including China.

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Bluefin tuna sells for £500,000 at Japan auction amid overfishing concerns

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

5 January 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/05/bluefin-tuna-sells-for-500000-at-japan-auction-amid-overfishing-concerns

Photo courtesty of The Guardian