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Atlantic CoastWatch March - April, 2007

South Florida H20 Woes


News For Coastal Advocates
Once again water supply has South Florida quivering. On the heels of
NOAA issuing a La Nina forecast that promises a continuation of drought conditions,
arrived the historic notice from the South Florida Water Management District that
z
the Everglades water spigot is officially capped at existing levels. This was bad
news for Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties which draw
about 500 million gallons daily from the river of grass. Carol Wehle, district director,
explained in an Associated Press article that the Everglades cap “sends a message South FL H20 Woes 1
to the utilities that if you want to grow, there are many sources of water that you
can access that are environmentally sustainable” such as increased use of re- Local Communities Step Up 1
claimed water and eventually, desalination plants.
Sayings 2
After nearly a year of drought, South Florida’s water supply back-up - Lake
Okeechobee – is also running dangerously low and is fast approaching the 10.2 feet
above sea level mark. Below this level Okeechobee water will no longer gravity Courts & the Seashore 3
feed canals that supply nearby sugar cane fields as well as the Atlantic wells from
which Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties also draw supplies. Without Publications 4
water from Lake Okeechobee, reports the Miami Herald, those wells would incur
salt water intrusion from the Atlantic ocean. If that happened it would take a decade Barbados Warmings 4
before they could again be drawn upon by the counties, according to the US Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE). Based on that evaluation, in a briefing to Governor Shifting Sands & Castles 5
Charlie Crist and top Florida lawmakers, USACE proposed a plan of last resort that
would draw and transfer groundwater from beneath South Florida’s three conser-
Salt Marshes Die-Back 5
vation areas. Said Wehle: “We will exhaust any and all avenues, including draco-
nian water restrictions, before asking for that water.”
NW Atlantic Shifts 6

Fire Proofed Predators


Local Communities Step Up 6

Ocean Acidification 7
With the federal government widely perceived as lax in restricting energy
consumption or pollution, more and more states, cities, towns and universities are
joining initiatives to reduce their global warming emissions. In December 2005, Key Seagrass Fixes 8
seven northeast states signed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which
is developing the nation’s first mandatory cap-and-trade permit system that will
regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from power plants. Their collective goal is to z
cap utility CO2 emissions at current levels by 2009, and reduce them by 35% by
2020. The still growing RGGI (Maryland enlists in June) may also examine whether
its CO2 cap and trade framework can be applied to other emission intensive sectors,
such as transportation Recurring
At the municipal level, 435 US mayors (representing 65 million citizens) People; Awards; Species &
have signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which was initiated in
Habitats; Restorations;
2005 by the Mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels. By signing on, the mayors agree to get
their communities to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing Report Cards; Products;
greenhouse gas emissions - 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Recent initiatives by Funding
Atlantic cities include plans for large-scale tree planting, congestion charges, green
building ordnances, renewable energy supply and a variety of green incentives. At Atlantic CoastWatch is a bimonthly
the county level, Virginia’s Arlington County, which has already reduced CO2 nonprofit newsletter for those con-
emissions to 2.6% below 1990 levels, plans to invest $6 million more to arrive at its cerned with environmentally sound
goal of a reduction of 10% by 2012. development between the Gulf of
(Continued, p. 7) Maine and the eastern Caribbean.
2
Atlantic CoastWatch
Vol. 11, No. 2 Sayings
A project of the Sustainable “Navy Fails to Use Common Sense About Birds, Jets,” by Duke University
Development Institute, which Nicholas School of the Environment professor Daniel D. Richter, was published in
the Charlotte Observer April 1, 2007.
seeks to heighten the environmen-
tal quality of economic develop- Each fall hundreds of thousands of migratory birds mysteriously fly from
ment efforts, in coastal regions, by across North America to winter in the swamps of Eastern North Carolina. These
communicating information about spectacular congregations of tundra swans and snow geese, pintails, mallards and
better policies and practices. SDI other ducks were first described by Carolinian John Lawson in the early 1700s. By
is classified as a 501(c)(3) organi- late winter, something stirs in these birds, and they abandon North Carolina for the
zation, exempt from federal far North, flying up to 50 mph and 8,000 feet over the Chesapeake Bay and Appala-
income tax. chian Mountains, the Great Lakes and finally across the vast Canadian provinces.
After a summer of nesting and raising families at the continent’s northern-most
Board of Directors limits, the birds will fly south for thousands of miles to reassemble in Eastern North
Carolina’s magnificent wildlife refuges.
Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr., Chair
Robert J. Geniesse, Chair Emeritus Migration cycle threatened
Roger D. Stone, President These incredible cycles of wildlife migration are now threatened by the
Dale K. Lipnick, Treasurer Navy’s desire to build an airfield in Washington County, NC, well within the bird’s
Gay P. Lord, Secretary overwintering habitat. The Navy is driven by failures to control suburbanization that
Nelse L. Greenway now surrounds its airbases in Virginia Beach, VA, where complaints about jet noise
David P. Hunt have grown louder than the Navy’s jets. As a result, the Navy pays millions of
Hassanali Mehran dollars for properties devalued by jet noise, and so plans to move jet training to a
Simon Sidamon-Eristoff new airfield in remote North Carolina, thinly populated by people but winter home
of some of the finest flocks of migratory birds in North America.
Advisers
The Navy’s favored site is called the Outlying Landing Field Site C (OLF).
William H. Draper, III Construction is planned to be complete by 2012, meaning the birds have up to four
Gary Hartshorn winters before they share airspace with powerful fighter jets, the F-18 Super
Stephen P. Leatherman Hornets. Courts have determined that the Navy in the past has failed to make
Jerry R. Schubel “objective determination” of the OLF’s environmental impact, and instructed the
Christopher Uhl Navy to study environmental impacts in more detail. In response, the Navy spent
$3 million on a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, available for
Staff public comment until April 24

Roger D. Stone, Director & President Incredibly, the Supplemental EIS seems little different from the Navy’s
Shaw Thacher, Project Manager previous efforts. It describes serious environmental impacts and points to critical
Anita Herrick, Contributing Editor impacts not yet investigated. The maps in the Supplemental EIS are most telling.
Robert C. Nicholas III, Contr. Editor They show OLF Site C to sit immediately adjacent to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife
Refuge, one of America’s finest wildlife refuges for overwintering birds. Maps also
Foundation Donors show exactly where the Navy will physically displace waterfowl from winter-
feeding grounds, as the future airfield occupies fields that currently supply impor-
Avenir Foundation tant fractions of the birds’ winter diet. The Supplemental EIS recounts how it has
The Fair Play Foundation taken 75 years to assemble the 400,000 acres for these refuges, and how during
The Madriver Foundation this period tundra swans have increased by 10 times, to nearly 100,000 strong.
The Curtis and Edith Munson
Foundation No facts, no proof
The Summit Fund of Washington The EIS presents no environmental risk assessment, so how can the Navy
be so confident it will not jeopardize 75 successful years of hard work, vision and
Sponsored Project investment in continentally significant wildlife management? There are major
problems found in the Supplemental EIS report titled “Noise Response Evaluation.”
16th Annual Environmental Film Because the Navy will conduct 30,000 touch-and-go landings per year at the new
Festival in the Nation’s Capital airfield, experiments recently tested bird behavior when confronted by F-18s.
March 11 - 22, 2008 These trials were not an auspicious beginning for F-18s at OLF Site C. According to
the report itself, several F-18 flight trials were postponed due to “high waterfowl
Featuring screenings of documentary, populations,” “safety concerns” and hunter complaints of jet noise. Incredibly, the
feature, archival and animated films. report concludes, “cumulative effects on waterfowl can not be fully determined
www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org through this evaluation.”
(Continued, p. 3)
3
People

Courts & the Seashore Alexander Sprunt IV (Sandy) recently


died after an influential career
working as an ornithologist for the
z In Natural Resources Defense Ccuncil v. Stephen L Johnson, Administra-
National Audubon Society. He retired
tor, USEPA, US District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ruled that EPA broke the law after
in 1995 as the society’s national vice-
failing to revise beachwater standards pursuant to the Beaches Environmental
president for research. In the 1960’s
Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000 (BEACH). EPA claims it can’t update the
his landmark research on bald eagles
1986 water monitoring and testing standards until 2011. Said Judge Gutierrez: the
led to the realization that the pesticide
BEACH Act “imposes a non-discretionary duty that EPA was obligated, but failed, to
DDT was threatening their existence,
abide by.” EPA was to complete studies of human illnesses from polluted waters by
by causing weak egg shells. He spent
2003 and should have replaced its obsolete standards by October, 2005. In NRDC’s
most of his life and career in the
2006 Testing the Waters report, 200 beaches were identified with waters that
Florida Keys, where according to the
violated health standards at least 25% of the time. Overall, 8% of the nationwide
Upper Keys Reporter he was active in
samples taken in 2005 represented a public health danger and there were 20,000
many preservation initiatives.
ocean, bay and Great Lakes’ beach closings.
A giant of fisheries research, Ransom
z The Supreme Court recently reached two important environmental
A. Myers, Jr., 54, died in Halifax, Nova
decisions. In the first, Massachusetts et al. v. USEPA, Massachusetts was joined in
Scotia, where he had been chair of
its suit by 12 other states and several environmental organizations. The States had
Ocean Studies at Dalhousie Univer-
petitioned EPA to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases in new vehicles, but it
sity. A former employee of Canada’s
had refused to consider the petition . The Court ruled in their favor in a narrow
Department of Fisheries and Oceans
decision (5-4), with Justice John Paul Stevens writing the majority opinion. What
and a gifted mathematician and
was at stake was not whether carbon dioxide was to be considered a pollutant, but
biologist, Myers combined knowledge
rather whether the states had the “standing” to challenge the EPA. As Damien
across disciplines to analyze minute,
Schiff of the Pacific Legal Foundation (which presented an amicus brief supporting
complex data and pick out broad
EPA’s position) wrote in his analysis : “The case is not about global warming policy,
patterns with global significance.
but rather about political theory.” Nevertheless, this ruling does bolster the author-
Among the most renowned of many
ity of states as many pursue their own initiatives to regulate greenhouse gases.
ccontroversial studies is “Rapid
Worldwide Depletion of Predatory
z In the second case, Environmental Defense et al. v. Duke Energy Corpora-
Fish Communities” that was co-
tion, the Court was unanimous in support of an initiative to ensure that power
authored by Boris Worm in 2003. That
plants install pollution control equipment in old, coal-fired facilities. The case grew
finding, derived in part from poring
out of a suit that was brought against Duke Energy by EPA for modifications to its
through 50 years of Japanese fishing
plants between 1988 and 2000. These upgrades were made without obtaining
records, served notice that 90% of the
permits and led to subsequent Clean Air Act violations . Duke claimed that the
oceans populations of large predator
modifications were part of routine maintenance and therefore did not warrant
fish, such as sharks, billfish, groupers,
special permits. Many utility companies have been similarly “maintaining” and
tuna, etc, were gone - lost to industrial
upgrading older power plants to avoid building new facilities that would have to
overfishing. In a 2003 Science Daily
comply with stricter pollution rules enacted in 1999. The case is being sent back to
Myers said: “I want there to be
the US Court of Appeals, where there are still important issues to be resolved, such
hammerhead sharks and blue fin tuna
as whether Duke’s modifications will have to comply with the more stringent rules.
around when my five-year-old son
grows up.”

Sayings, cont’d from p. 2 Awards

The Supplemental EIS undermines the Navy’s contention that “objective determi- Among the six 2007 recipients of the
nation” was made about this site. Environmental Law Institute’s
Rather than spend $3 million for a Supplemental EIS, the Navy should use National Wetlands Awards are Alice
common sense. Building a major jet airfield at OLF Site C will substantially degrade Wellford, a Virginia wetlands advocate
the environmental quality of eastern North Carolina’s National Wildlife Refuges. and Jeanne Christie of Maine,
Because the airfield is within the birds’ overwintering habitat, even if the birds executive director of the Association
aren’t initially spooked, the Navy jets will likely exert cumulative effects on the of State Wetland Managers. Christie
birds, a consideration that the new EIS itself explicitly states was not studied. is cited for her two decades of
leadership organizing wetland
Finally, the new EIS provides no clue about where the hundreds of thou- programs at local, state and national
sands of birds might find their own “outlying landing field,” when they are dis- levels. Among Wellford’s outreach
turbed by jets. The courts need to deny again that the Navy has made “objective activities with local schools and other
determination” of environmental impact, and the Navy needs to greatly improve its groups, she started the Rapphannock
land-use planning, both for current and future facilities. Phragmites Action Committee that
has rid hundreds of acres of that
Reprinted with the author’s permission. invasive species.
4
Species & Habitats

Year-end bird counts yielded alarming


drops for black ducks, long the most
Publications
popular species for hunters in the
Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. z While Orrin Pilkey’s long unyielding effort to advance rational shoreline
Maryland’s Department of Natural development has been the subject of many prior books, his latest Useless Arith-
Resources reported about 13,000 metic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future (Columbia Univer-
Black Ducks statewide in 2006, 9,000 sity Press, 2007) questions the reliance by policy makers on computer models. Co-
less than 2005 and 19,000 less than authored with his daughter Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Pilkey’s latest is replete with
2004. Development-driven habitat examples of computer modelling pitfalls that are drawn from fisheries manage-
losses of the salt and freshwater ment, nuclear waste disposal, beach restoration, climate change and sea level rise.
marshes that they prefer may be the Pilkey sets the tone clearly in the first chapter, selecting a quote by Jim O’Malley, a
principal reason for the decline in former East Coast Fisheries Federation representative: “Whenever I hear a fishery
black duck numbers. Consequently, scientist proclaim that his analysis is rigorous, I am reminded about what John
scientists with help from Ducks Kenneth Galbraith is reputed to have said once to a group of economists: that the
Unlimited radio-tagged overwintering prestige of mathematics has given economics rigor but, alas, also mortis.”
birds to get a closer fix on where they
eat and sleep. z With the insurance industry broadly re-appraising coastal coverage,
Climate Appraisal Services LLC has set up a way for homeowners and prospective
As part of its annual Christmas real estate buyers to evaluate the environmental circumstances and climatic
survey, the National Audubon Society forecasts for any US property. Among www.climateappraisal.com reports, that cost
notes the recent northwards shift of $30 per property address, are maps that show addresses and streets in relation to
the evening grosbeak (Coccothrustes a 3 foot sea level rise, as well as hurricane risk, local EPA Toxic Release Inventory
vespertinus) along the Atlantic sites and many other variables. This first version of the reports should prove helpful
seaboard. The birds breed in the for citizens in their re-appraisal of coastal real estate, even though greater specific-
northern forests of Canada and the ity would be more valuable.
northeastern US and used to migrate
south during winter. They were z A perfect follow-up and accompaniment to Dick Russell’s Striper Wars
sporadic visitors as far south as (Island Press, 2005) appears to be H. Bruce Franklin’s The Most Important Fish in
Georgia, but according to the Augusta the Sea (Island Press, 2007). Franklin’s account starts readers on a journey through
Chronicle have not shown up since the the Atlantic menhaden’s cultural and ecological roles, from Indian and colonial
1980’s. During winter they were times through the 20th century consolidation of the industrial fishing fleet. It
habitual on Cape Cod and a colorful culminates with a thorough examination of federal policies that have allowed the
guest on bird feeders, but haven’t Atlantic population to reach its lowest point ever. Franklin does this unglamorous
been seen there in several years. filter feeding fish (aptly named Brevoortia tyrannus or “little tyrant”) considerable
According to Ivan Valiela, a Boston favor with his thoughtful description of menhaden’s historical circumstances,
University marine scientist and the ecosystem functions and ongoing plight.
keynote speaker at the Cape Cod
Natural History Conference, the
grosbeaks may no longer need to Barbados Warmings
head south for food and sustenance
due to milder winters in their northern
In a recent article in the Barbados Advocate, James Blades, secretary-
range.
treasurer of the Barbados Marine Trust, discussed the adverse effects of global
warming on the island. There has been major loss of both the fringing reefs and the
Amphibian specialists Rafael Joglar
barrier reefs, on the west and south Coasts in particular. The reefs have been a first
and his wife, Patricia Burrowes at the
line of defense against the sea, mitigating the force of storms and wave action,
University of Puerto Rico, have been
which Blade says have grown more severe with global warming. Damage to the
working on the mystery of disappear-
reefs over the years has also been caused by domestic sewage and contaminated
ing frogs there. According to the
runoff from construction and farming. The island has been experiencing beach
Miami Herald, Joglar first noticed
erosion as well due to the rougher seas and the loss of the protective barrier of the
something amiss in the early 1980’s
reefs.
when the sound of the “coqui”
(Eleuthrodactylus) disappeared from
In order to replenish the reefs, the Barbados Marine Trust has initiated
the island’s rain forests. Examining
several projects. For starters, they have been transplanting corals which were
possible causes, they noticed that
dislodged during dredging operations. And, in a pilot project on the South Coast, the
between 1970-2000 the average
Trust has installed “Reef Balls”, which are modular, artificial reefs built of concrete
minimum temperature in El Yunque
that are easy to construct locally. Dome-shaped and pierced with holes, Reef Balls
National forest increased by 2
are designed to attract a variety of marine life. Said Blades,“It is my personal
degrees fahrenheit, which coincided
opinion that there needs to be serious attention and support thrown behind mecha-
with the appearance of chytrid fungi in
nisms that are going to be built by us and put in the sea, that can sustain life, and by
the frogs. Due to the fungi, 3 of 17
that I mean fish life, but also create the necessary barriers against the rough sea.”
known “coqui” species are believed
5
to be extinct; 2 are on the national
endangered list and 7 or 8 others are
Shifting Sands & Castles fast declining. Said Joglar, “Amphib-
ians can’t regulate their internal
temperature the way mammals do. It
North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) voted 7-0 to can actually get too hot for the coqui.”
examine whether the state’s shoreline building guidelines should be relaxed
instead of strengthened. Under existing NC law, allowable building zones along the Restorations
shore have been set according to a specific distance from dune vegetation. In some
cases the dunes that are the basis for that setback distance have shifted seaward New York City biologists recently
following sand renourishment projects. The problem, developers note, is that the delighted upon discovery of a 12 foot
permitted building sites remain firmly planted, no matter whether the distance to beaver lodge near the Bronx Zoo. It
the dune vegetation or the ocean has changed. has been 200 years since beavers last
plied New York City’s waters. A 2 or 3
Over the next two years the CRC will hear arguments about why new year old male “Jose” was named
houses should be allowed to be re-built where past houses have been swept away. after US Representative Jose Serrano
The greater storm readiness of new building codes will be stressed by developers who obtained $15 million to fund the
who will likely imply that beach renourishment mixed with new construction will Bronx River’s restoration. Serrano,
help stabilize the shoreline. On Oak Island, town council member Dara Royal according to the New York Times, said
argues in the Carteret News-Times that “we would be in a better position to he had always envisioned the river
weather the next storm if people could replace houses that were built before getting cleaner, “but I don’t know to
modern building codes.” Further, flexible setback rules would open up valuable lots what extent I imagined things living in
where construction is now prohibited. On Emerald Isle, according to the Winston- it again.”
Salem Journal, the proposed rules would free up 12 vacant lots for construction,
and 150 homes would be “rebuildable” if they were to need replacement. Spencer Among the gains touted in NOAA’s
Rogers of North Carolina Sea Grant observes that not a single oceanfront lot would 2006 State of the Sanctuaries Report
have been built on Wrightsville Beach’s shoreline had the current “setback” rule is the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary’s
existed in the 1960s, when those beaches were widened. (FKMS) Dry Tortugas no-take reserve.
After just 5 years, a census of Dry
Duke University’s professor emeritus Orrin Pilkey , interviewed by the Tortugas shows steady increases of
Journal, took a grimmer view: “The reason it’s distressing is a nourished beach black grouper, mutton snapper, pink
disappears anywhere from two to 10 times faster. You’re putting up a very tempo- shrimp as well as larger numbers of
rary line of defense. We’re going to have to start moving back.” large fish. Re-built fish stocks from the
no-take reserve are expected to “spill-
over” eastward and help repopulate
Atlantic Salt Marshes Die-Back the rest of the FKMS.

In Atlantic states, salt marshes no longer seem to be recovering the way Since 2000 NOAA’s Oyster Recovery
they once did. In a 2006 aerial survey by the Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) of Partnership has spent $10 million
22% of Delaware’s salt marshes, 40% exhibited dieback. Said CIB’s Chris Bason, planting 1 billion hatchery raised
“We were surprised. The most alarming thing was you could see no green vegeta- oysters spats in the Chesapeake Bay.
tion present.” In the Salisbury Daily Times Bason explained how salt marshes The problem, as the Baltimore Sun
mitigate storm surge, sequester carbon dioxide and provide essential estuarine article that broke the story made
habitat and that “they are some of the most valuable ecosystems we have. They’re clear, is that only 1/3 were planted in
working for us every day.” But, like other researchers, Bason can’t pinpoint a single protected areas, leaving 2/3 available
explanation for the die-back. for watermen to harvest and sell at
$30/bushel. Other irregularities such
Further up the coast, Stephen Smith, a plant ecologist with the Cap Cod as funding the partnership’s annual
National Seashore, has been studying this phenomenon around the Cape for dinner further placed into question
several years. He described “sudden wetland dieback”last summer in the Cape NOAA’s definition of “restoration
Cod Times as “something that people who have spent their entire careers working funds” prompting congressional calls
in salt marshes have never seen before. There’s no precedent for it.” for an oversight investigation.

According to Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Ron Keeping south Florida’s famous
Rozsa, who has spent 25 years restoring salt marshes, the question now is “Do beaches stocked with sand is becom-
Tidal Marshes Have a Future in Long Island Sound?” Rozsa points at the 3 millime- ing a lot tougher and more expensive.
ter per year sea level rise already measured in Long Island Sound, which should Local off-shore borrow sites are
increase due to global warming, and recommends in the New London Day that largely depleted and sand for
future restoration efforts should only be made for those salt marshes able to renourishment projects must now be
migrate to undeveloped higher ground. Notwithstanding uncertainty over the transported from sand mines 100
cause of saltmarsh dieback, ecologists agree that there is no reason to delay miles inland, offshore areas to the
mitigatng known salt marsh stressors, whether pollutants or nearby sprawl. north or even from the Bahamas, the
Dominican Republic or the Turks and
6
Caicos. Miami Beach is already
delaying its beach replenishment
projects, as those seeking sand are
finding that other communities would Northwest Atlantic Shifts
rather keep it for their own needs.
‘’For practical purposes,’’ points out According to a recent study by Charles Greene of Cornell and Andrew
Miami-Dade environmental director Pershing of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences, there are some
Carlos Espinosa in the Miami Herald, fundamental changes occurring in the ocean along the coasts of New England and
``we are out of sand…. We are as good Canada that are affecting the fish population. Heretofore, scientists have focused
as one storm” on the depletion of stocks from overfishing; however, Greene and Pershing have
found that an increase in fresh water coming from the Arctic starting in the 1980s
Report Cards has changed the conditions in the marine environment. There are two main reasons
for this influx of fresh water: the acceleration of melting ice and higher precipita-
Following up on its initial report Toxic tions in the region. There has also been a reversal of wind patterns in the Arctic
Nation: a Report on Pollution in which has pushed the cold fresh water down the Eastern Coast of Canada.
Canadians which was published in
2003, the activist group Environmen- The lower salinity and colder temperatures have affected the water’s
tal Defence subsequently tested stratification. It seems that the surface layer is not mixing as much with the saltier,
children and parents from five colder water in the depths. This has created a longer season for the phytoplankton
Canadian families. In some cases, the to grow in the surface water, thereby causing an increase in the zooplankton, which
children in the study had higher levels feeds on it. This in turn may explain why the herring population has boomed,
of certain chemicals than their because they feed on the zooplankton. Meantime the colder temperatures in the
parents. This year they decided to test deep water have created unfavorable conditions for cod, while snow crab and
four prominent politicians, who shrimp are thriving, especially as their chief predator is so diminished.
volunteered themselves for the
experiment. Included were the ”Most people, when they think of global warming, they just think of it
ministers of health and the environ- getting warm,” noted Matthew Cieri, a fish stock asssement biologist at Maine’s
ment. All four showed higher levels of Department of Marine Resources. In the Portland Press Herald, Cieri cites the
chemicals and toxins than any group study’s usefulness for demonstrating the complexity and associated large scale
that had previously been tested. impacts of global warming.

In his final fisheries study Ransom


Myers (see People) and University of
North Carolina’s Charles Peterson
Fire Proofed Predators
describe how the overfishing of sharks
has impacted sea scallops and Two studies recently measured high contaminant levels of polybromi-
estuaine habitats. With lowered levels nated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in peregrine falcon eggs from New Hampshire and
of shark predation the mid-Atlantic Maine, and in the fat of harbor seals. PBDEs were first introduced in the 1970s as
cow nose ray population has grown fire retardants used for electronic insulation and mattress foam. Eaten, swallowed
rapidly, feasting on scallops and other and inhaled, PBDEs bio-accumulate in fat and have also been measured in mam-
shellfish. This increased foraging by mals’ milk. Researchers have found that in addition to causing developmental and
cow nose rays reduced seagrass neurological defects in lab animals, PBDE can alter male fertility, ovary develop-
habitat in North Carolina’s estuaries, ment as well as liver and thyroid functions in humans and animals. As a result of
which made it tougher for blue crabs, lab tests manufacturers ceased production of the penta- and octa- forms of PBDE in
shrimp and other estuary species to 2005, offering the deca- variety as a “safe” alternative.
hide from predators. Though many
factors can alter estuarine habitats, Of eight peregrine eggs tested for a study by the US Fish and Wildlife
this was among the first studies that Service and the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, NH, the average deca-
made explicit such impacts due to the PBDE level was 991 ppb, the highest ever measured in North American bird eggs.
overharvest of an apex predator. This is is close to the level that causes developmental brain defects in mice,
according to the Natural Resouces Council of Maine (NRCM). In her study of harbor
In its first ever status report seals, Susan Shaw of the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Massachu-
Stellwagen Bank National Sanctuary setts found the highest concentrations of PBDEs in pups (because of their mothers’
is decribed as being in near critical milk), followed by yearlings and adult males. The concentration of the chemical in
condition. Said the sanctuary’s Shaw’s seals was equal or higher to that found in Britain’s gray seals, which have
superintendent Craig MacDonald in a exhibited thyroid problems.
Cape Cod Times interview, “If this
sanctuary were a patient, it would be With an exponential rise in the prevalence of deca-BDE in the US, Maine,
in guarded condition in need of Massachusetts, Illinois and California are now in the process of enacting laws to
immediate care.” Sewage outflows phase it out, and Washington just has. The Maine legislature banned octa- and
from the Boston region contributed to penta- in 2006, but held off on deca- until its toxicity could be assessed. Said
the Stellwagen’s water quality rating Deborah Rice, a toxicologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control and
“fair to good.” Thanks to fishing gear Prevention, in the Seattle Post Intelligencer “We know enough now to ban deca.”
7
impacts, long-term changes to
biodiversity and whale strikes and
entanglements its habitat/living
Ocean Acidification resources were listed as “fair to
poor.” And the sanctuary’s maritime
Though oceans are referred to as carbon dioxide (CO2) sinks, because they archaeological resources were
absorb greenhouse gas emissions, they are fast becoming acidic. Since industrial- bestowed with the worst rating of
ization, according to NOAA’s Richard Feely, ocean acidity has risen 30%, to a level “poor” due to bottom trawling gear
not seen in hundreds of thousands of years. Unless man-made emissions are that regularly snags the Bank’s many
reduced Feely and other prominent marine experts say that increase could jump to wrecks. A final management plan
150% by 2100, well above the oceans’ acidity during the last 20 million years. This based on the report is due by the end
man-made alteration bodes poorly for ocean ecosystems where species depend on of summer, while a draft will be
carbonate shelled organisms such as plankton, shellfish and coral. As a conse- available in June for public comment.
quence reports ScienceNOW Freely projects that “shell-building by marine URL: sanctuaries.noaa.gov
organisms will slow down or stop. Reef-building will decrease or reverse.”
The Earth Day Network’s Urban
A related concern is based on where and how CO2 is transforming the Environment Report (UER) scores the
oceans. Douglas Wallace of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences has been 72 largest US cities according to their
analyzing samples taken from the North Atlantic in 1981 and 2004. He found large air quality, toxics and waste, drinking
increases in man-made CO2 present at depths of 3000 to 5000 meters, an “acidic” and surface water, quality of life,
zone that dissolves calcium carbonate. Wallace’s other finding was that this zone’s parks and recreational opportunities,
upper boundary had risen 400 meters since industrialization. He predicts that due human and public health and global
to continued CO2 emission levels it will rise another 700 meters by 2050. Stanford warming prospects. Tallied together
University’s Ken Caldeira responded to the delivery of these alarming reports each city received an overall ranking
during the 2007 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting by as well as a vulnerable population
advising that they “almost certainly underestimate the gravity of the situation.” index rating that describes the risk of
urban residents to their surrounding
environmental factors. Among
Atlantic cities with the worst overall
Local Communities Step Up, cont’d from p. 1 ranking were Miami (71), Newark,
(66), Atlanta (64), Baltimore (57) and
Academia is also doing its part. This past winter, Richard Levin, president Bridgeport CT (54); while some of the
of Yale University, was spotlighted at the Davos Economic Conference where he “best” urban environments included
spoke of his institution’s efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. University of Portland, ME (8), Virginia Beach (20),
Florida president Bernie Machen joined 30 other academic chiefs pledging to take Boston (23) and Columbia SC (23). In
action on their campuses to achieve climate neutrality. In Maryland, president Jane terms of the vulnerability of citizens to
Margaret O’Brien added St. Mary’s College to a growing list of international environmental “threats” Miami was
signatories of the “Talloires Declaration,” which was launched by Tufts University ranked worst (72), followed by
in 2005. The Talloires Declaration’s ten point agenda not only stresses green Newark (71), Providence (64) and New
campuses and curricula, but the development of a student culture prepared to face York City (62).
new global warming realities. A recent referendum by St. Mary’s College students
voted 1005-75 in favor of a campus wide shift to green energy that will add $25 to Products
the tuition there each year.
An experimental photovoltaic chip
developed at the Department of
With Appreciation Energy’s National Center for Photo-
voltaics doubles the energy conver-
sion efficiency of standard silicon solar
We extend very special thanks to the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation.
cells by broadening the spectra of light
The continuation of their most generous support will enable us this year to make
captured. With manufacture at least a
long planned improvements to our website and other services, and we are ever so
year away, the center’s director Larry
grateful. We also highlight the strong support provided once again by the Madriver
Kazmerski described this energy cost
Foundation and Hart Fessenden, our former board member and longtime trea-
breakthrough in Scientific American
surer, and offer warm thanks to these other recent donors:
as “the photovoltaic equivalent of the
four-minute mile.”
Anne Emmet George Muser
Helen C. Evarts Mr. and Mrs. A. Wright Palmer
Winner of Popular Science’s 2006
Kathryn Fuller Malcolm E. Peabody
Innovation of the Year “Grand
Sarah Ittmann William D. Rogers
Award” is the Bostitch Hurriquake
Anthony Knerr Anne and Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff
nail designed by Ed Sutt. The nail’s
Lorna Livingston John A.H. Shober
bottom-half has ribs to help secure
Peter and Lucy Lowenthal Sally Wardwell
houses through 170 mph hurricane
Frani Blough Muser Robert G. Wilmers
gusts. The extra thick top half is
Atlantic CoastWatch
Sustainable Development Institute
3121 South St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: (202) 338-1017


Fax: (202) 337-9639
E-mail: susdev@igc.org
URL: www.susdev.org
www.atlanticcoastwatch.org

Tax-deductible contributions for Atlantic CoastWatch are urgently needed.

twisted to reduce “nail” wobble, while an


extra strong 25% larger head will help
keep things battened down. The Key Seagrass Fixes
Hurriquake adds roughly $15 to the
construction cost of a house compared to Each year during the winter season tourists visiting the Florida Keys
one built using standard nails. swell the year-round population of 82,000 by 75%. The area is surrounded
entirely by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKMS) which covers
According to the New York Times, a novel 2,800 square miles with aqua-marine waters, coral reefs and sea grasses as the
idea developed in Europe about 20 years primary attraction. Unfortunately damage from boats has been broadly
ago has yet to find its market in the United inflicted, which can be easily observed from the air as white lines lacing into the
States. Natural pools, also described as dark green seagrass beds. These are the prop scars of boats that have
swimming ponds, combine swimming grounded on the Keys’ shallows - a common occurrence according to NOAA and
areas with water gardens. Self-cleaning the Florida Department of Environmental Protection which report 500 to 600
and requiring no chemicals, their cost runs incidents in FKMS each year.
about the same or slightly more than that
of a conventional pool. Natural pools are Prop-scarred seagrass beds require betwen 5 to 10 years to re-grow,
available through just two US based and up to a century for larger areas. In the FKMS there are 30,000 acres of
companies, Total Habitat of Kansas and cumulatively scarred seagrass beds which otherwise could serve as a nursery
Expanding Horizons of California habitat for pink shrimp, sea trout, redfish, snook, spiny lobsters and stone crabs,
among other species. Restoring seagrass beds is vital for the multimillion dollar
Funding south Florida seafood and fishing industries.

With the goal of making solar energy When possible, fines and penalties are levied against wayward boaters
affordable for every US household by to help fund restoration projects. For boat owners the fines start around $75 per
2015, the Department of Energy’s “Solar yard of prop-scar with at least $100 added for negligence. To restore them, the
America Initiative” announced research gashes are filled with nutrients and planted with seagrass seedlings. Birds are
funds of $168 million that will be awarded recruited to fertilize the young seagrasses, as they perch atop stakes that are
to 13 corporation led research consortia planted in the prop scar zone. Bird boxes placed on nearby islands serve to
pending congressional approval. Corpo- further encourage such avian assistance.
rate matching funds will raise the federal
funding to $357 million to figure out how To reduce seagrass damage in the first place, a public awareness
to cut the cost of photovoltaic (PV) campaign has been started to educate the boaters, particularly at the point of
electricity to about the same as that rental, where no prior experience is required for those launching themselves
purchased from the grid. In 1990, accord- onto charted but unfamiliar waters. In addition, at NOAA’s newly opened Eco-
ing to ScienceNOW, PV electricity genera- Discovery Center in Key West, there is an appealing series of interactive
tion ran about four times more than multimedia exhibits which highlight the restoration work on the seagrass and
conventionally produced electricity. Now reef ecosystems in general. Novice boaters are encouraged to visit.
PV is only about twice as expensive.