Stop insuring fishery pirates
Sep27

Stop insuring fishery pirates

By Dana Miller, postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit in Vancouver, Canada. “Pirate” evokes images of legendary figures from the days of the great tall-masted sailing galleons, like Captain Henry Morgan, the famous 17th century “pirate of the Caribbean.” But piracy is still with us today, and modern pirates do not only steal from passing ships. They take from the common treasury of the ocean: the shared fisheries that states, fishers, and scientists spend many diplomatic hours working to apportion fairly and sustainably. I and my colleagues revealed that modern-day pirates in the form of illegal fishers are able to purchase insurance coverage for their blacklisted vessels. Our research appears this month in the September 2016 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Captain Morgan reportedly used one of the earliest systems of workers compensation insurance. If a pirate lost a limb during a raid, they were financially compensated for the loss. Now, nearly 400 years later, pirates can obtain insurance services from the same institutions that insure legal vessels. We identified the insurers of 67 vessels known for their involvement in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. Some of these vessels are well known and have been written about in high profile news articles. Without insurance, fishing companies may face enormous financial losses should an accident occur. Not only is insurance accessible to illegal fishers, it is also valued by these criminals enough to be purchased even for smaller vessels, when it isn’t legally required. If insurers change their policies to make it harder for illegal fishers to purchase insurance, we believe fewer of these fishers will find it profitable to participate in illegal fishing. At a minimum, insurers should consult officially verified illegal vessel lists to make certain listed vessels are not granted insurance. By transforming their current role from facilitating illegal fishing to deterring it, insurers can enable the use of marine insurance as an economic tool in the global fight against illegal fishing. Further reading: Miller, Dana et al (2016) Cutting a lifeline to maritime crime: marine insurance and IUU fishing. Front Ecol Environ 14(7):357–362, doi:1002/fee.1293 Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) combined vessel list “A renegade trawler, hunted for 10,000 miles by vigilantes.” NYTimes feature story about the Thunder by Ian Urbina, 28 July 2015...

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Reforming loose legal definitions of ecological restoration
May31

Reforming loose legal definitions of ecological restoration

Laws allowing open interpretation of ecological restoration undermine sound science in the recovery of self-sustaining living communities. Though mandates like the Clean Water Act have been powerful tools for instituting environmental protections in the United States, loose legal definitions of “restoration” mean that few mitigation projects install whole, functioning, and self-sustaining ecosystems. Likewise, programs aimed at recovery of endangered species do not necessarily prioritize the recovery of functional ecosystems to support them. Ecologist Margaret Palmer and legal scholar JB Ruhl examine the scientific and (US) legal bases for ecological restoration, considering how the two may be more fruitfully unified in “Aligning restoration science and the law to sustain ecological infrastructure for the future,” on page 512 of ESA Frontiers November 2015 (open access) special issue on “Preparing for climate change — infrastructure and other innovations.” Palmer, director of the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), and Ruhl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Program on Law and Innovation received ESA’s 2016 Sustainability Science Award for this effort to review the legal basis for restoration, identify unintended consequences of imprecise policies, and offer solutions. They describe valid ecological restoration projects, which either remove sources of destruction or mitigate their effects by actively influencing the biophysical processes that make the local ecological communities self-sustaining, and conclude with pathways to creating national best practices and minimum standards for restoration projects. Margaret A Palmer and JB Ruhl (2015). Aligning restoration science and the law to sustain ecological infrastructure for the future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13:...

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Kill da wabbit
Feb15

Kill da wabbit

A New Brunswick family helps remove invasive snowshoe hares from a group of remote Bay of Fundy Islands, five decades after introducing them as Bowdoin professor Nathaniel Wheelwright recounts in the February Natural History Note for Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Too much of an adorable thing. Snowshoe hares like this one, photographed in its winter finery in Denali National Park, are native to North America and range across the north of the continent from Alaska to the coast of Maine, but had not colonized the remote islands of the Bay of Fundy, 15 miles off the coast of Maine, without human help. Credit, NPS Photo/ Tim Rains. Snowshoe hares arrived on tiny Hay Island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in 1959, traveling by boat from Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada, with Wesley Ingalls and his nephew, Junior. The two fishermen had the idea that trapping hares would make an entertaining winter activity, when they were not fishing, and bring in a little extra money. With no competitors and few predators, Ingalls’ original dozen hares quickly became several hundred. When low tide opened a causeway to neighboring Kent Island, they hopped across (the Bay of Fundy is famous for having among the largest tides on earth). Junior went out to Hay two years later to harvest young balsam firs for his herring weir, as was his custom. The forest stand never grew back. A bramble of wood fern and raspberry grew up in its place, crowding out other plants and providing excellent cover for bunnies hiding from bald eagles and wintering snowy owls. Snowshoe hares are native to North America and range across the north of the continent from Alaska to the coast of Maine, but had not colonized the remote islands of the Bay of Fundy, 15 miles off the coast of Maine, without human help. On Hay and Kent their population reached 3-50 times the density of hare populations on the Maine mainland. They had an impact. Intrepid eaters, the hares mowed though young saplings as well as grass. In winter they even climbed the bases of trees to gnaw on twigs and bark. As mature trees aged and blew down in storms, no young trees grew to replace them. The hares bonsaied surviving young spruces into the shape of alpine cushion plants. For nearly five decades, the hares shaped the vegetation of Hay and Kent islands. Ingalls had unintentionally initiated and ecological experiment by introducing a keystone herbivore to the island. Kent island also happens to house Bowdoin College’s biological field research station, originally established in 1930s as a preserve for...

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Building with Nature: the Dutch Sand Engine
Jan27

Building with Nature: the Dutch Sand Engine

“Cities are emergent systems, with only 5 to 7 thousand years of history, mostly during the relative climatic stability of the Holocene,” said guest editor Kristina Hill, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. “We’ve never tried to operate a city during a rapid climate change, especially not on the scale of population we now have, with our largest cities housing upwards of 20 million people.”

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Reviving extinct Mediterranean forests
Sep09

Reviving extinct Mediterranean forests

Extinct Mediterranean forests of biblical times could return and thrive in warmer, drier future, researchers argue in a September 2015 report for Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal divides in the Aug 2015 ESA Frontiers
Aug05

Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal divides in the Aug 2015 ESA Frontiers

Highlights from the August 2015 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment   Armored in concrete, hardened shorelines lose the soft protections of coastal wetlands As we expand our coastal cities and armor the coast against the ravages of the sea, we lose the resiliency of the coastlines’ natural defenses. Rachel Gittman and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, NOAA, and the US Coast Guard report in the August issue of ESA Frontiers that sea walls, bulkheads, breakwaters, and the like put in place to protect coastal communities harden 14 percent (22,842 km) of the tidal shoreline of the United States. But this conservative 14 percent hides a concentration of coastal development along soft marshy estuaries, lagoons, and tidal rivers; remote rocky coasts are less likely to be bolstered with artificial structures. Gittman and coauthors Danielle Keller and Joel Fodrie will present research related to this report on shoreline habitat, hardening, and the ecosystem services trade-offs of different shoreline conditions at the upcoming 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. on August 9-14. Rachel K. Gittman, OOS 77-5 The living shoreline approach as an alternative to shoreline hardening: Implications for the ecology and ecosystem service delivery of salt marshes. Thursday, August 13, 2015: 2:50 PM, room 329, Baltimore Convention Center Danielle A. Keller, COS 7-9 Landscape setting affects the structure and function of oyster reefs. Monday, August 10, 2015: 4:20 PM, room 321, Baltimore Convention Center F. Joel Fodrie. COS 7-7 Landscape context effects the ecosystem-service delivery of temperate biogenic reefs. Monday, August 10, 2015: 3:40 PM, room 321, Baltimore Convention Center The ecological vibrancy of wetland habitats is valued by birders, hunters, recreational anglers, and commercial fisheries managers. Coastal wetlands succor birds, fish, and crustaceans, filter outflowing pollution, and naturally buffer the coast against storm surge and erosion. But natural dunes and salt marshes also absorb the energy of storms. Examples of natural dunes and salt marshes emerging from severe storms with little to no damage, while nearby bulkheads took a battering, suggest that storm surge protection and habitat protection need not be at odds. Nearly a third of the shoreline in the contiguous United States could be hardened by the end of the twenty-first century if the rate of shoreline hardening observed over the last century continues. On sheltered coasts, fortification of shorelines correlates more strongly with high housing density and GDP than with wave height or frequent storms. The authors project that growing populations will direct most new hardening to the US’ south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which encompass greater that 50 percent of the remaining salt marshes and 100...

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New diseases travel on the wings of birds in a rapidly changing north
Dec02

New diseases travel on the wings of birds in a rapidly changing north

When wild birds are a big part of your diet, opening a freshly shot bird to find worms squirming around under the skin is a disconcerting sight. That was exactly what Victoria Kotongan saw in October, 2012, when she set to cleaning two of four spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis) she had taken near her home in Unalakleet, on the northwest coast of Alaska. The next day, she shot four grouse and all four harbored the long, white worms. In two birds, the worms appeared to be emerging from the meat. Kotongan, worried about the health of the grouse and the potential risk to her community, reported the parasites to the Local Environmental Observer Network, which arranged to have the frozen bird carcasses sent to a lab for testing. Lab results identified the worms as the nematode Splendidofilaria pectoralis, a thinly described parasite previously observed in blue grouse (Dendragapus obscurus pallidus) in interior British Columbia, Canada. The nematode had not been seen before so far north and west. Though S. pectoralis is unlikely to be dangerous to people, other emerging diseases in northern regions are not so innocuous. Animals are changing their seasonal movements and feeding patterns to cope with the changing climate, bringing into close contact species that rarely met in the past. Nowhere is this more apparent than the polar latitudes, where warming has been fastest and most dramatic. Red foxes are spreading north into arctic fox territory. Hunger is driving polar bears ashore as sea ice shrinks. Many arctic birds undertake long migratory journeys and have the mobility to fly far beyond their historical ranges, or extend their stay in attractive feeding or nesting sites. With close contact comes a risk of infection with the exotic parasites and microorganisms carried by new neighbors, and so disease is finding new territory as well. Clement conditions extend the lifecycles of disease carrying insects, and disease-causing organisms. Migratory birds can take infectious agents for rides over great distances. In November 2013, Alaska Native residents of St. Lawrence Island, in the Bering Sea, alerted wildlife managers to the deaths of hundreds of crested auklets, thick-billed murres, northern fulmars and other seabirds, caused by an outbreak of highly contagious avian cholera (Pasteurella multocida). “It’s the first time avian cholera has shown up in Alaska,” said Caroline Van Hemert, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. “St. Lawrence Island is usually iced in by November, but last year we had a warm fall and winter in Alaska. We don’t know for sure that open water, climate, and high-densities of birds contributed to the outbreak, but it coincided with unusual...

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River Flow By Design: Environmental Flows Support Ecosystem Services In Rivers Natural And Novel
Oct09

River Flow By Design: Environmental Flows Support Ecosystem Services In Rivers Natural And Novel

“When the sun peeped over the Sierra Madre, it slanted across a hundred miles of lovely desolation, a vast flat bowl of wilderness rimmed by jagged peaks. On the map the Delta was bisected by the river, but in fact the river was nowhere and everywhere, for he could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the Gulf.”

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