Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Earle: discussing the limits of the ocean's bounty

At last month's BLUE Ocean Film Festival, I had the opportunity to videotape an interview with Dr. Sylvia Earle on behalf of planSEA.com, an organization dedicated to teaching ocean conservation to the next generation: the children.

Dr. Earle is one of the leading figures of ocean exploration and conservation and we touched on a great many subjects in our interview. Here is a segment that addressed the need for education and also an important perspective regarding the taking of seafood.

I found her viewpoint in comparing seafood to "bushmeat" very enlightening. I've always said we rely on raising cattle and poultry as a way to feed the masses and Sylvia backs that up with the idea that we long ago realized that simply taking wild terrestrial animals (bushmeat) would not work, that it could not be sustained.

But that is exactly what we do with the ocean's bounty - and it is a very limited bounty, limited in the sense that it was never meant to feed the human population. That is why I have always been a supporter of aquaculture or aquafarming, recognizing that there are significant challenges that need to be addressed regarding the practice but convinced that the ultimate future of seafood harvesting will need to come from these controlled methods.

I have had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Earle and her staff on several occasions and let me tell you, she is one busy person. As explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society, she works 24/7 with major ocean conservation organizations and with the prominent decision-makers to help shape the future of our oceans.

It must be frustrating at times because the bureaucratic wheels can seem to turn so slowly. But I take heart in something I read recently in TIME magazine regarding political decision-making and the control of power. In an article about FDR, David Kennedy wrote,

"As the historian Henry Adams wrote, the greatest fear 'was power; not merely power in the hands of a president or a prince, of one assembly or several, of many citizens or a few, but power in the abstract, wherever it existed and under whatever form it was known.' That's why the framers of the Constitution constructed a political order based on 'checks and balances.' That arrangement has conspicuous virtues, but it also designs a measure of paralysis into the American political system. It impedes swift adjustment to changing economic and social realities. It sustains a chronic deadlock in which trauma and shock become necessary preconditions for effective political action. To a degree not found in other political cultures, it forges a perverse partnership between danger and opportunity."

Okay, in essence, it is saying that our political bureaucracy is structured to prevent the concentration of power and avoid knee-jerk reactions. And that's a good thing. Maddening, but a good thing. Particularly if we wait for environmental "trauma and shock" to elicit a political response, we know that it won't be an isolated event but a harbinger of many more, catastrophic events.

That's why we must persevere with both generating broader public awareness and motivating our leaders to act. Enough "events" have already occurred, there is enough evidence, enough data needed to act; we don't need to wait for the roof to cave in on us.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wolves, Seals & Tuna: some encouraging news

My apologies for my not keeping up with new postings. I have been immersed in some video & editing assignments. So let's see what's been going on lately . . .

Some good news:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has placed the wolves of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin back on the endangered species list. Once protected, these wolves of the Great Lakes were demoted from endangered to threatened by the Bush Administration and then all protection was removed in 2007. Following legal action by several NGOs, protection was reinstated but then it was removed by the new administration just this past April. New legal action again by NGOs has now once again reinstated the wolves endangered status.

It could continue to seesaw back and forth as the anti-wolf lobby, headed by cattle ranching interests, fights back. But the potential loss of these wolves has consequences, as seen in the past when open hunting of wolves caused a spike in the deer population and throughout a wide range of small animals and rodents. Cattle ranchers, in protecting their herds, now had a whole new set of problems to deal with as deer grazed on the lands and small animals ran amok in numbers. Nature demands that we keep our top predators to insure a balanced ecosystem.

Hawaiian Monk Seals have long been considered one of the most endangered of all marine mammals. Their existence in the Hawaiian Island chain, particularly in the northern islands, has been tenuous at best.

But the National Marine Fisheries Services has recently agreed to extend protection for the seals across the entire chain with federally protected habitat, thereby hopefully improving the seals chances for survival. This particularly important in the northern islands where the seals have had the greatest difficulty due to starvation, disease, and entanglement with fishing nets and gear.

Populations of tuna have been decimated worldwide as market demand for this seafood continues to grow. Realizing their future industry is at stake, several of the world's leading tuna processors have formed the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). Included in the foundation are Bumble Bee, Starkist, and Chicken of the Sea.

The foundation's goals are to commit to processing only tuna that:
  • Comes from well-managed, non-depleted stocks
  • Can be verified as to being legally caught
  • Has not been caught using methods that generate unacceptable levels of bycatch
  • Has not been transshipped (offloaded) at sea
All of these news items are good news but will require vigilance on the part of NGOs and government watchdog agencies or organizations to insure that they are properly carried out.

Still, it's nice to start the week on an optimistic note.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dealing In Endangered Species: slitting our own throats

What you see in the picture above are not wild cats in a cage, but the severed heads or pelts of cheetahs, ocelots and other rare and endangered cats - all confiscated and in storage in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' main storage facility in Colorado. It is a sobering place, a bold reminder of man's greed and perverted sense of dominion over animals - perverted because as we threatened our natural resources, we threaten ourselves.

The worldwide trade in exotic and endangered animals is as important an issue as global warming or pollution/commercial development as to its worldwide impact on species. In 1973, the U.S. Endangered Species Act was passed and two years later the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was ratified but while these laws and governing bodies have done much to regulate, enforce, and protect endangered species, the slaughter continues.

And why? Well, the dilemma with many endangered species is that, to the poacher, the value increases as the more endangered it becomes and in impoverished areas where much of the illegal poaching takes place, the temptation to put food on their table is too great.

Terry Grosz, former regional director of enforcement for the Fish and Wildlife Service explains, "Given the poverty and corruption that exist in other parts of the world, there will always be pressure to resort to the illegal wildlife trade. People have to eat. When people are hungry, this is what they do."

But what supports the market for these products? There is a market based on greed and status. Do we really need a tiger head or a set of white shark jaws above our mantle? Or a stuffed gorilla hand to use as an ashtray? Or how about a caiman, standing on hind legs and holding a silver tray like some reptilian butler? Man's superiority? Only in his capacity for evil.

Another pervasive motivation that drives the market is the cultural history in ancient homeopathic medicine. Rhino horns, tiger penis (freeze-dried for your convenience), black bear gallbladder bile, and many more - all for everything from libido to hangovers and more, and at times more challenging to address than the status souvenir buyer.

But it must be addressed. Scientists have been making estimates of as much 15% to over 30% of the planet's animal and plant species could be bound for extinction by 2050. Naturalist E.O. Wilson says we may be heading to a new epoch - the current Age of Mammals, or Cenozoic Period, would be followed by the Eremozoic Period, a Greek prefix denoting loneliness.

Support organizations that are working towards curtailing the illegal killing and trading of exotic and endangered animals: CITES, WildAid, Center for Biological Diversity, and there's many more. They need your help . . . and so do the plants and animals of Earth.

"Wildlife dies without a sound," says Grosz. "We're the only guys who can give them a voice." Join them.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shark Divers: announces new great white shark location for film and television

SharkDivers.com -- Press Release Distribution 6/24/2009 ============================================


Patric Douglas, Shark Divers


Shark Divers Announces New Great White Shark Location for Film and Television*

San Diego, Calif. -- Shark Divers CEO Patric Douglas will unveil the
world’s newest white shark aggregation site exclusively for film and television productions on July 4th , 2009. “This new white shark site is a game changer,” says Douglas. “I have not seen anything as pristine, accessible, and ready made for television productions since the discovery of Mexico’s Isla Guadalupe in 2001”

A limited number of production companies will be introduced to the site in 2010 (January through April), in order to maintain the location's pristine, untamed nature, as well as for the benefit of the white sharks. Typically, divers are encountering up to 10 animals a day in 100 foot visibility. The site enjoys deep conservation and research storylines."You only discover new sites like this once every 10 years," says Douglas. "Expect to be blown away.”

“As a production company looking for the next great shark show concept, you need a professional, shark-centric company to assist with the development of your ideas," says Douglas. “This is what we do: pro-shark productions with an emphasis on shark research." For the past 8 years Shark Divers' parent company, Shark Diver, has been innovating and supporting Mexican lead shark research at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico with U.C Davis and CICIMAR.

About Shark Divers

As a film, television and tourism spin-off of the commercial shark
diving company, Shark Diver, Shark Divers provides access to unique shark sites worldwide in a cost-effective environment with an eye towards shark production values that go light years beyond "the man on the sand with the bait crate." Shark Divers' experienced crews not only know sharks, but also have extensive experience in film, television, current research and current trends in shark productions. Shark Divers' crews are a unique group of shark researchers and underwater-film experts who can show your production company shark sites and storylines that capture the public’s imagination. For more information, visit the Shark Divers website at www.sharkdivers.com or contact Patric Douglas at staff@sharkdivers.com .

Shark Divers | “Changing the way the public sees white sharks…forever”

Sharks As Serial Killers: the press gets it wrong . . . again

Here's a prime example of how the mainstream media can misinterpret, either accidentally or deliberately, scientific research and in so doing misinform the public and perpetuate falsehoods and misconceptions.

I'm talking about a paper released by University of Miami marine biologist Neil Hammerschlag in the Journal of Zoology where he discusses his research in great white shark hunting behavior utilizing a geographic profiling method that was originally devised as a criminal investigative tool for tracking serial killers. By using the method to determine the location, size, and range of hunting patterns, Neil was able to show that white sharks have very sophisticated hunting strategies and that they improve with time - that the sharks learn and improve with experience.

Well, you can just imagine what the media did with it - making a correlation between the deranged serial killer and the evil, malevolent shark. Here are a couple of distorted headlines you can look at, comparing white sharks to Jack the Ripper, et al:

And here is Neil's published response:

This study is getting a lot of attention; however it is as misunderstood as sharks. Some media are sensationalizing/twisting the results of the study to sell papers. I hope readers will be more critical and seek out the real scientific paper.

In this study, a technique called geographic profiling (originally developed as a criminal investigation tool) was applied to analyze patterns of white shark predation on seals at Seal Island, in False Bay, South Africa.

Sharks hunt to eat. They are predators and seals are their prey. Serial killers have mental disorders and such disorders cannot be applied to animals. The study does not characterize sharks as serial killers in anyway, just that white sharks are more complex than we originally thought.

Sharks are constantly swimming, and unlike other animals they do not have the equivalent of a den, nest, or burrow. Therefore, establishing the existence (including location, size, and shape) of a search base or “centre of gravity” for a search pattern could provide important insight into their hunting behavior.

By applying geographic profiling, the study found that sharks are not mindless killers, but are in fact using sophisticated hunting strategies. The study found that sharks appeared to be hunting in an optimal manner
geospatially. Sharks processed a well-defined anchor point or search base, but not where the chances of prey interception were greatest. This location may therefore represent a balance of prey detection, capture rates, and inter-shark competition.

The study also found that smaller sharks had more dispersed prey search patterns and lower kill success rates than larger sharks. This could mean that white sharks refine their search patterns with experience and learn to concentrate hunting efforts in locations with the highest probability of successful prey capture. It might also be that larger sharks competitively exclude smaller sharks from the best hunting areas.

The most important thing is conservation of these magnificent animals.
If you read the study published online today in the Journal of Zoology, I am sure you will find it very interesting.

For a better news story please visit:

University of Miami

Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Biology & Fisheries
Co-Director, South Florida Student Shark Program (
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (RSMAS)
4600 Rickenbacker
Cswy, Miami, Florida, 33149
E-mail: nhammerschlag@rsmas.miami.edu

Sunday, June 21, 2009

American Clean Energy and Security Act: is it strong enough?

In an attempt to trim governmental bureaucracy, lawmakers will, from time to time, try to consolidate regulations, agencies, or laws. Oil czars, Homeland Security, etc. - all are understandable and well-intended steps to a more streamlined approach. And it can be effective as long as the the strengths of the consolidated components are retained - and sometimes that is not always the case.

On June 26th, a vote is scheduled in the U.S. Congress on the American Clean Energy and Security Act. While on the surface it would appear to be a worthwhile attempt at defining a single overarching strategy, the act is receiving considerable criticism from NGOs and scientific experts because it does not go far enough in properly addressing C02 emission standards and also limits the use of the current Clean Air Act in regulating or enforcing emission standards. The Clean Air Act has been successfully used for 40 years to reduce air pollution. If it's not broke, why fix it?

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, " Leading scientists such as NASA's James Hansen warn that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere must be reduced to no more than 350 parts per million. The American Clean Energy and Security Act sets a goal of allowing greenhouse gas concentrations to increase to more than 450 parts per million. At that level, scientists say there is a 50/50 chance that global warming will cause catastrophic impacts to humans and other species.

Any new global warming solution bill should work together with the Clean Air Act to preserve the lives and health of our children and fellow species. The American Clean Energy and Security Act instead repeals the Clean Air Act's ability to regulate critical polluters, instead allowing numerous coal-fired power plants to be built without any additional emissions-reduction requirements for more than a decade into the future. The world's top climate scientists call this approach 'reckless.' "

If you would like to voice your concern to your congressperson regarding the need for strengthening the American Clean Energy and Security Act, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Discovery's Shark Week: open for questions

One of the nice things about attending film industry conferences is the opportunity to have frank conversations with key individuals. At the recent BLUE Ocean Film Festival, I had the opportunity to spend time chewing the fat with Paul Gasek, EVP and Chief Science Editor for Discovery Channel Communications within both quasi-business and casual surroundings. Over the next few weeks, as Discovery Channel's Shark Week approaches (scheduled for early August), I'm sure I'll put up several posts about it.

In the meantime, check out David Schiffman's blog: Why Sharks Matter/Southern Fried Science. He saw my posts about the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and chose to attend. David introduced himself to me at the shark conservation discussion panel I moderated/participated in and he was introducing himself to many of the ocean conservation dignitaries (frankly, the young man seemed to be in hog heaven).

David spoke with Paul Gasek and arranged to have an online interview. You can submit questions for Paul regarding shark programming and David will edit it down to ten. Should be interesting.

You can view David's blog post requesting questions here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Politicians Recognize Global Warming: but oil drilling looms

A report was just released by the White House that declares that harmful effects from global warming are already hear and worsening. Now for many of you who have followed this issue, your first response might be "Well, duuuuh." But this is the first climate change report from the current administration and it is the strongest to date emanating from the White House.

"This is not a theoretical thing that will happen 50 years from now," said co-author Anthony Janetos of the University of Maryland. "Things are happening now."

Interestingly, this report was based on a report initiated near the end of the Bush administration who was forced by a lawsuit to produce a draft for Congress that was notably different from their typical dodge-and-weave approach.

Political machines - and, I dare say, humans in general - are inclined to act when disaster is on their doorstep. Proactive or long-term strategies seem to run counter to their nature, so this report is important as it basically states that the ostrich can no longer hide in the sand.

Jane Lubchenco, director of NOAA, says, "This report provides the concrete scientific information that says unequivocally that climate change is happening now and it's happening in our own backyard."

As encouraging as this report might appear as an indication of the current administration's commitment to change, we must still be diligent and even skeptical. Last week, a Senate committee voted to open millions of acres of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. The energy industry is still committed to status quo, expanding a dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and has yet to fully embrace the need and development of alternative energy sources. Therefore, their continued pressure and influence on the political decision makers is as strong as ever.

Oceana.org has some suggestions and steps you can take. Make sure your political representatives know how you feel and let's watch the Obama administration closely to ensure that we get the necessary change that was promised and, more importantly, that the environment needs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hawaii's Sea Turtles: increasing threat from longlines

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) has been hard at work for many years getting government decision makers and commercial fishermen to take steps to protect the several species of sea turtles. They are currently concerned with proposed changes in federal regulations regarding turtle, false killer whales, and humpback whales in Hawaiian waters.

Apparently, commercial longline fisheries' desire to increase their take of dwindling swordfish stocks is the motivating force behind the changes. Potentially, the number of turtles that can legally be killed in the process of fishing could be tripled from the current limit of 17.

Longline fishing is controversial because the technique - miles of long fishing lines with hundreds of baited hooks attached along the lines - is very indiscriminate in what it catches, from sharks to sea birds, to turtles: a tremendous amount of bycatch that is tossed aside.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has not responded to issues regarding whale deaths from long lines (in addition to the loss of Pacific loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles). The STRP has filed a lawsuit to get the NMFS to respond in keeping with the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

To learn more about the turtle's predicament and what you can do, check out the Sea Turtle Restoration Project web site.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BLUE Ocean Film Festival: The Cove, shark discussion

Well, once again I have been derelict in my duties, but it has been a very busy week here in Savannah, GA at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival. A lot of great ocean-related films and the opportunity to meet with many ocean conservation colleagues (Boy, do I have a lot of emails to get out!).

Of particular note at the festival was the screening of "The Cove." This is an incredibly powerful film and a righteous indictment of Japan's slaughter of dolphins. Not your cup of tea? Ah, but that's the point; this is not something to be swept under the rug. Check out their web site to learn more and where you can see it. It is a MUST SEE.

On Saturday, I moderated/participated in a shark conservation panel discussion. My fellow panelists were Melanie Marks, CEO of Shark Trust Wines, and Dr. Greg Stone, SVP of Ocean Projects for Conservation International, providing a consumer/commerce and scientific perspective respectively, along with my perspective as a filmmaker. It was a lively discussion with much input from the receptive audience, different ideas, and some healthy differences in opinion. But in the end, we were all united in the same goal: to make the public and the decision makers aware of the consequences of losing top predators like sharks through large-scale commercial shark fishing. Afterwards, festival staff congratulated me on a panel discussion that held the audience's interest - even as we ran late and made some folks late for their next event.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reminders: World Oceans Day (June 8) & BLUE Ocean Fim Fest (June 10-14)

Just a couple of quick reminders: tomorrow - June 8th - will be World Oceans Day 2009, sponsored by the Earth Project. There will be many events taking place to support this international recognition of the oceans, so check out their web site to learn more . . . and at the very least, wear blue that day!

And if an entire day committed to the oceans makes you develop a strong thirst, Shark Trust Wines will not only quench it with quality varietals but will also donate 30% of your online purchase to the Earth Project. Following World Oceans Day, Shark Trust Wines will continue its mission of donating 10% of sales to organizations involved in shark conservation and research. In the conservation field, that's business done right!

Then mid-week starts the BLUE Ocean Film Festival in historic Savannah, GA. This event is far and above the usual ocean film fare, with exclusive film showings and sneaks from Disneynature, Nat Geo, and important films coming out like A Sea Change (ocean acidification) and The Cove (Japan's dolphin slaughter). In addition, there will be distinguished leaders in ocean conservation there and numerous conservation seminars and discussion panels (I'm moderating one on shark conservation), so there will be plenty to see and do for the curious and the committed. Check out the full slate of events at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival web site.

So put on some blue, pour a glass of red, and take in some good ocean films and discussion.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Global Warming: mortality in human terms

Seems my environmental world revolves around two things: ocean conservation (with an especially soft spot for sharks) and climate change. And as I post about issues related to climate change, I notice they often revolve around a specific species - a bird, a fish, a cute fuzzy animal.

And this is where the cynics often step in. "What's so important about some little frog? Why the fuss over a stupid clam?" And so you bite your tongue and try to systematically take them through the intricate web of nature to get them to understand the importance of this plant or that animal and how relevant it is to our own lives.

And their bored expression just says it all.

So, let's put it into terms that they might better understand: 300,000 people dead each year.

The Global Humanitarian Forum just released a report, titled "Human Impact Report: Climate Change - The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis", in which this startling conclusion is reached based on temperature change calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the report's analysis of deaths caused by climate-related malnutrition and disease.

300 Million people are already seriously affected by global warming and that number is expected to double by 2030. The countries considered the most vulnerable are in the semi-arid dry land belt including the Sahara, Middle East, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and parts of the United States. Australia and the Arctic are also considered at great risk.

"This is one of the reasons why I've described climate change as all encompassing," said the forum president, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan. "This threat to our health, this threat to food production, this threat to security. It raises political tensions, it will have people on the move - and they are on the move - and many more which will bring tensions."

The report comes out 6 months before the planned United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen, where a new post-Kyoto climate agreement is to be forged.

300,000 dead. In some circles, that's called genocide.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Undersea Voyager Project: success with its first mission

In December of 2008, I posted about a new research organization,the Undersea Voyager Project, headed up by Scott Cassell. The project intends to push marine education forward through the use of state-of-the-art submersibles. Having just completed some initial checkout dives in Lake Tahoe, here's Scott's latest report:

I am proud to announce that the first mission of the Undersea Voyager Project (TAHUV) was a success.

With Bob Oberto resigning from the UVP, the UVP Team pulled together and scrambled to put a new list of scientists and researchers together quickly. They were successful and integrated the new science team seamlessly into 11 submersible dives.

We achieved much, made several discoveries (i.e. 3 ‘new’ ancient trees were discovered, and potentially a new species of Protist) and we had a lot of fun. I am extremely proud of the UVP Team.

Dive targets successfully explored with scientists in situ ranged from:
• Two Earthquake Faults (Dr. Schwickert, UNR)
• River/Lake interface (Geoffrey Schladow, UCD)
• Volcanic Mud Flows and Tsunami Mega Ripples (Neil Rondorf, SAIC)
• 2,000-year-old ancient trees (Dr. Andrew Klesh, UM, Dr. Daniel Brothers, UCSD, Dr. Letti Ramirez, CSUEB)
• Possible discovery of a new species (or re-finding an old one) of Protist (Dr. Christopher Kitting, CSUEB, Scott Valentine, LTCC).

And from the original list of scientists the UVP Team was able to dive Dr. Graham Kent, SIO, UCSD on the ancient trees as well.

A total of 58 submersible dives were performed and 33 SCUBA dives.

The UVP team was also successful with performing two live broadcasts from the submersible underwater! One on Fox 40 Morning Show and one on Good Day Sacramento. In both live broadcast, the reporter was able to dive in the sub and talk to the Anchor team back at the broadcast stations whom watched in real time.

Media attention was amazing! I was on the following programs promoting the UVP mission:
• Australian Broadcasting Network News
• KTHO AM 590 with Tom Singerline
• Wave Magazine
• Fox 40
• Fox News
• KOWL Radio with Howie (twice)
• Good Day Sacramento (Twice)

I am writing 8 articles at the moment about the TAHUV for both printed and Internet magazines and several TV groups have approached us to be on their talk shows over the next month.

I also initiated the ‘Youth Undersea Ambassador’ program. Three teenage kids were selected based on scientific programs they are active in, personality and support from parents and their principals. These kids performed a series of dives in the submersible (including piloting it) and were involved in data collection and observations of targets. Each was also trained in being a ‘Submersible Support Swimmer’ which included venting the submersible’s ballast system for the beginning of each dive and blowing the ballast system for surfacing and recovery. They are obligated to deliver lectures to their student peers and/or community based on the UVP mission on “What it is like to be a young Explorer / Scientist” three times this year. The program has been highly successful and the community of Lake Tahoe has been greatly supportive of it.

The TAHUV was filmed in both High Definition and in 4K Red Camera. We will use this outstanding footage for promotion (including for the D.E.L.I.V.E.R. program if the Team wishes) of the UVP, the production of two documentaries and one short IMAX teaser.

The UVP team consisted of:
Scott Cassell, President, Founder and Chief Sub Pilot
Shawna Meyer, Co-Founder (not present)
Will Kohnen, President of SeaMagine Hydrospace & Interim Vice President
Peri Best, Expedition Manager
Reds Regan, Expedition Coordinator, Artist
Julie Regan, TRPA Liaison Officer
Professor Scott Valentine, South Lake Tahoe College, Science Liaison
Dr. Jeff Wachs, D.O. UVP Team Medical Doctor
Dr. Andrew Klesh, Team Engineer, Space & Sea Interface Officer
Jenna Whisenand-Palacio, Media & Public Relations
Tom Loomis, Local Tahoe Region Liaison
Greg Mikolesek, Photographer and Diver, Viking & VR Liaison
Ivo Kocherscheidt, UVP Historian and Photographer
Steffen Schultz, Film Maker, Producer, Strange Media Productions
Robert Alan Martin, Film Maker, Producer, California Academy of Arts, Sausalito, CA
Nathan Garofalos, Film Maker, Producer Red Camera (IMAX Teaser)
Ildiko Nemeth, Foreign Affairs Officer
Paul Wilton, Machinist
Leslie Wilton, Artist
Steve Blair, Icthyologist, Assistant Curator - Aquarium of the Pacific

Youth Ambassadors
Nichole Phelan, Marine Biology, Geology student
Sid Loomis, Marine Exploration, Geology student
Mattie Ordway, Marine Biology, Ecology student

Support Volunteers
Dr. Andrea Donnellan, Website Designer and Master
Jim Phelan, Tahoe City Marina General Manager and Nichole’s Father
Adam & Wendy Muskovitz, Best Rent Tahoe
Jeanne Merkelbach, Tahoe Keys Resort and Marina
Ed Roe, Fire Fighter - Engineer, City of South Lake Tahoe
Carey Loomis – Transportation, Logistics and Sid’s mother
Robert Ordway – Diver and Maddi’s father
Adam Compton, relief Sub Pilot – SeaMagine

I am currently still in Lake Tahoe assisting in the editing of a short ‘trailer’ for the UVP and writing the documentary with Nathan Garofolos (which he will edit over the next three months)

We are in the planning stages of the one-month-long California Undersea Voyage (CalUV) in which we will perform survey dives completely around the Channel Islands with scientists and teachers from local institutions. Many of these dives will be broadcast in real-time to educational institutions and classes. Estimated time for this expedition is late summer.

The UVP is now open for business and I am proud to be a part of the D.E.L.I.V.E.R. Proposal. This will be a good year!

Scott Cassell
Undersea Voyager Project

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Coral Reef Yin-Yang: challenges and what's being done

Yin-Yang news for coral reefs. The bad news: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a study that predicts that coral reefs in the Coral Triangle - a wide expanse that includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste - could be wiped out by the end of the century due to climate change. This would not only represent a tremendous loss of coral species, but also the fish that are supported by the reef ecology. And then there's the millions of people who depend on the reefs for food and other marine resources.

"This is the planet's crown jewel of coral diversity and we are watching it disappear before our eyes," said Catherine Plume, director of WWF's Coral Triangle Program.

Now the good news: One of the forces threatening coral reefs, due to increasing temperatures or human interaction, is the increased growth of algae that essentially smothers or crowds out coral species. Hawaii is planning on banning the taking of three species - parrotfish, chubs (a type of surgeonfish) and urchins - that feed on invasive algae. The ban, if approved by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, starts with the island of Maui and would be a first for the state.

More good news: Japan is developing a new restoration process for re-planting coral reefs that involves growing coral polyps on ceramic pods and ensuring genetic diversity. While currently focused on Japanese reefs, the project with its new techniques hopes to expand to a worldwide level. As promising as their efforts are, it must be tempered with the need for addressing the problems that have brought coral reefs to the point where they require replanting techniques - coastal development, chemical pollution, and of course, climate change.

News bytes from Seaweb.org