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Flood impact won’t affect annual sardine run

Flood impact won’t affect annual sardine run


The impact of the recent devastating floods on the ocean will not affect this year’s sardine run in KwaZulu-Natal.


Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban and the SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity said conditions were set for the arrival of millions of sardines.

“What we know about the sardines so far is that there appears to be a lot in the Western Cape with sightings in the Plettenberg Bay area. We know they’re in the Cape. The question is, will they come here? Though the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal caused a surge in water and debris into the Indian Ocean, the impact on the ocean has largely passed, and it shouldn’t impact the sardine run expected to arrive around May.

“Temperature is the main thing that dictates the timing and extent of the movement up the coast. It has been an unusual few years in that they’ve been very wet. However, 2020 and 2021 were relatively good sardine runs, both of which were similarly wet being La Niña years. It’s holding the same pattern so I think we are going to get another good one. We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

Every winter‚ most often in June or July‚ millions of sardines leave the cold waters off Cape Point and make their way up the coast to KwaZulu-Natal.

Each year holiday-makers flock to the province to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, which is dubbed the Greatest Shoal on Earth, and includes sharks‚ birds and dolphins in a feeding frenzy as they prey on the sardines.


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A overview of the situation at Khokhoba in Resevoir Hills. Image: Sandile Ndlovu

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAMS COMMENDED FOR BRAVERY IN FLOODED KZN


KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka has commended the men and women in search and rescue teams who continue to look for 63 missing people in the aftermath of devastating floods in the province.

Campaigners hailed the ruling as a victory for ‘voiceless’ indigenous groups. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

CAMPAIGNERS FORCE SHELL TO HALT OIL EXPLORATION ON SOUTH AFRICAN COAST


Court instructs company to stop tests along Wild Coast after concerns raised about wildlife and lack of consultation.

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board operations manager Greg Thompson said monitoring would start in the second week of May.

“Our first few flights are normally through to East London to try to gauge how far north the sardines have moved. This is to ensure our shark safety gear is removed well before the first pockets reach KwaZulu-Natal waters.

“It’s fairly easy to monitor large quantities of sardines with associated predators in pursuit, but the small pilot shoals that pop up out of nowhere can be a challenge. Therefore we also rely on the information and sightings we receive from residents, fisherman and dive charters in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

Ugu South Coast Tourism CEO Phelisa Mangcu said the sardine run was a highlight on the south coast’s tourism calendar.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors who can experience this natural display after two years in lockdown and the devastating recent floods. Whether from the land, sea or sky, we have the best viewpoints for our many visitors who are looking for a unique family-friendly holiday.”

Source:

Nivashni Nair at Sowetan Live



Scientists Discover New Colourful Fish Species Hiding In Maldivian Coral Reefs

Scientists Discover New Colourful Fish Species Hiding In Maldivian Coral Reefs


Scientists have discovered a new species of fish hiding in the coral reefs of the Maldives that probably is the most beautiful and colourful looking fish you will ever see.


Named Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa, (finifenmaa means rose in Dhivehi language), the fish is a rose-veiled fairy wrasse that was actually hiding in plain sight. The fish was first discovered and studied in the 1990s, but at the time it was presumed to be the adult version of fish Cirrhilabrus rubrusquamis — a species that was known at the time. 

A recent study however took a fresh look into this vibrant and colourful species of fish, observing its colours, size and scales, only to find that this species actually hadn’t been registered before. 

Lead author and University of Sydney doctoral student Yi-Kai Tea explains, “What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution. This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management.”

California Academy of Sciences

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MEET METHUSELAH, THE OLDEST LIVING AQUARIUM FISH


Meet Methuselah, the fish that likes to eat fresh figs, get belly rubs and is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.

In this undated photo provided by The Chester Zoo shows two "tequila splitfin" fish in an aquarium at the Chester Zoo in Chester, England. This fish that swam in the spring-fed waters of west-central Mexico disappeared toward the end of the 20th century, however scientists and local residents have achieved the unthinkable: the return of a species extinct in nature, but conserved in captivity, to its native habitat. Credit: The Chester Zoo via AP

MEXICAN FISH EXTINCT IN WILD SUCCESSFULLY REINTRODUCED


There once was a small fish called “tequila splitfin” or “zoogoneticus tequila” that swam in a river in western Mexico, but disappeared in the 1990s. Scientists and residents, however, have achieved the return of a species extinct in nature—but conserved in captivity—to its native habitat.


While the fish is definitely unique and pretty, what makes this discovery more special is that it marks the first time a Maldivian scientist has formally described a new fish species. Maldives Marine Research Institute biologist, Ahmed Najeeb is one of the authors of the study.

Najeeb said in a statement, “It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives without much involvement from local scientists, even those that are endemic to the Maldives. This time it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species.”

Source:

Monit Khanna at India Times



Transgenic glowing fish invades Brazilian streams

Transgenic glowing fish invades Brazilian streams


Aquarium curiosity appears to be thriving after escape from fish farms and may threaten local biodiversity.


Fish genetically engineered to glow blue, green, or red under blacklight have been a big hit among aquarium lovers for years. But the fluorescent pet is not restricted to glass displays anymore. The red- and green-glowing versions, more vivid than normal zebrafish even in natural light, have escaped fish farms in southeastern Brazil and are multiplying in creeks in the Atlantic Forest, a new study shows. It is a rare example of a transgenic animal accidentally becoming established in nature, and a concern for biologists, who worry the exotic fish could threaten the local fauna in one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet.

“This is serious,” says ecologist Jean Vitule at the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba. Vitule, who was not part of the research, says the ecological impacts are unpredictable. He worries, for example, that the fluorescence-endowing genes from the escapees could end up being introduced in native fish with detrimental effects, perhaps making them more visible to predators. “It’s like a shot in the dark,” he says.

The unwelcome visitors are well known to scientists who have used zebrafish (Danio rerio) for developmental and genetic studies for decades. Native to Southeast Asia, the match-size freshwater fish were engineered to glow for research purposes in the late 1990s by endowing them with genes from fluorescent jellyfish (for blue and green colors) and coral (for red). In the 2000s, companies saw the potential of the neon fish as pets. Trademarked as Glofish, they became the world’s first genetically engineered species to be commercially available.

Now, they are one of the first to escape and thrive in nature. Early on, environmentalists worried about the possibility, and Glofish sales were banned in some U.S. states such as California and several countries—including Brazil.

In 2014, a single Glofish was spotted in canals near ornamental fish farms in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. But it had not multiplied, probably because native predators such as the eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) and the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) ate the interloper, says the biologist who spotted the transgenic animal, Quenton Tuckett of the University of Florida.

Brazil is proving more hospitable. André Magalhães, a biologist at the Federal University of São João del-Rei’s main campus, first spotted groups of the engineered zebrafish swimming in the Paraíba do Sul River Basin in 2015, in slow-moving creeks. The waters border the largest ornamental aquaculture center of Latin America, in Muriaé, and Magalhães says the fish probably escaped some of the center’s 4500 ponds, which release water into the streams.

Unlike Florida, the Brazilian creeks don’t have any local predators for zebrafish, and Magalhães believes they are now thriving. In 2017 he and colleagues began to survey five creeks in three municipalities, finding transgenic zebrafish in all of them. Every 2 months over 1 year, they collected and measured the animals and their eggs and analyzed their stomach content to see what they were eating.

The fish are reproducing all year round, with a peak during the rainy season—just as native zebrafish do in Asia. But the transgenic fish seem to achieve sexual maturity earlier than their forebears, which allows them to reproduce more and spread faster. The invaders are also eating well: a diversified diet of native insects, algae, and zooplankton, the researchers reported this week in Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment.


MEET METHUSELAH, THE OLDEST LIVING AQUARIUM FISH


Meet Methuselah, the fish that likes to eat fresh figs, get belly rubs and is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.

ANTARCTICA: INVASIVE SPECIES ‘HITCHHIKING’ ON SHIPS


Species from around the world that are “hitching a lift” on ships threaten Antarctica’s pristine marine ecosystem.


“They are in the first stages of invasion with potential to keep going,” Magalhães says. Before long, he says, the fish could become plentiful enough to directly affect local species by competing for food or preying on them.

Despite Brazil’s ban on sales of the fish, local farms keep breeding them, and stores all over the country sell them as pets. They may soon colonize other parts of the country: Isolated Glofish individuals were spotted in ponds and streams in south and northeast Brazil in 2020.

Tuckett, whose lab in Florida is close to U.S. farms that grow hundreds of thousands of glowing fish, says the Brazilian detection “should be a wake-up call” for fish producers and natural resource managers in Brazil. But he is not terribly worried about impacts. He suspects the transgenic fish will encounter predators as they move to larger bodies of water. And the animals’ bright colors will make them vulnerable.

For now, the glowing fish “could be considered little weeds growing up out of the concrete,” Tuckett says. Magalhães likes the metaphor, but points out that even little weeds can grow to cause a lot of damage.

Source:

Sofia Moutinho at Science



Fish oil and fishmeal industry harming food security in west Africa, warns UN

Fish oil and fishmeal industry harming food security in west Africa, warns UN


Campaigners say the sector leads to overexploitation of stocks while pushing up prices and aggravating local unemployment


The UN’s food agency has warned that the “overexploitation” of fish in west Africa by the growing global fishmeal and fish oil industry is having a “considerably negative impact” on food security, undermining the ability of local communities to feed themselves.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report said that in Senegal, where three more huge fishmeal factories opened between 2015 and 2019, the industry was “likely increasing the risk” of overexploitation of sardinella and bonga, two pelagic fish on which communities depend.

In Uganda, where the factories rely mainly on fish species eaten by poorer communities, the industry competes directly with the “poorest consumers”, it said, making the price of fish unaffordable. The FAO has previously called for catches of sardinella species to be halved as a matter of urgency.

Dr Aliou Ba, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, said: “We are heading for disaster and here is the proof. People here are facing rocketing food prices and devastating unemployment.

Greenpeace intercepts the fish oil tanker Key Sund in the Channel last October. The ship can carry 4,500 tonnes of fish oil, the equivalent of 90,000 tonnes of processed fish. Photograph: Kristian Buus/Greenpeace

“West African governments have created an economic model that benefits the wealthy in developing economies rather than our own people,” he said. “West African states should get rid of these destructive industries and take their responsibilities in order to preserve food security, jobs and the wellbeing of populations.”

Last October, Greenpeace activists intercepted a 96-metre tanker in the Channel carrying fish oil from west Africa to Europe, to highlight the threat the industry poses to food security and to livelihoods in the region.

The FAO report focused on nine countries, concluding that while the sector offered some economic opportunities, its “social benefits remain limited”.

In Senegal, the gap between supply and demand for fish is forecast to hit 150,000 tonnes a year this decade, sending prices rocketing.


In this photo provided by Sea Shepherd on Saturday Feb. 5, 2022, dead fish float in the Bay of Biscay, off La Rochelle, western France on Thursday Feb.3, 2022. France's maritime minister has ordered an investigation after environmental group Sea Shepherd released video and photos of a massive dump of fish in the Atlantic. The images show swarms of fish in the Bay of Biscay off the southwest France. The reason for the dump is unclear. (Sea Shepherd via AP)

MASS SWARM OF DEAD FISH IN ATLANTIC PROMPTS EUROPEAN INQUIRY


France and the European Union are investigating why a massive swarm of dead fish was released by a huge trawler in the Atlantic Ocean off France, after an environmental group released dramatic video and photos of the incident.

Oil pollutes Cavero beach in Ventanilla, Callao, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, after high waves attributed to the eruption of an undersea volcano in Tonga caused an oil spill. The Peruvian Civil Defense Institute said in a press release that a ship was loading oil into La Pampilla refinery on the Pacific coast on Sunday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

FISHERMEN PROTEST AFTER ERUPTION CAUSES OIL SPILL IN PERU


An oil spill on the Peruvian coast caused by the waves from an eruption of an undersea volcano in the South Pacific nation of Tonga prompted dozens of fishermen to protest Tuesday outside the South American country’s main oil refinery.


The industry creates employment in the factories and mills. However, many of the jobs are insecure, temporary and do not always employ local people – in Mauritania, for example, employees in the industry were mostly from China and Senegal.

In Senegal, fish oil and fish meal factories employed 129 permanent and 264 temporary staff in 2018 – compared with 600,000 workers in the artisanal fishing sector.

Almost all the fish-derived ingredient (FDI) produced in Congo, the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal is exported to China and Turkey, where the owners and investors in the west African factories and industrial fishing fleets mainly come from, the report found.

Globally, 69% of fishmeal and 75% of fish oil is used to feed farmed fish such as salmon and trout.

Source:

Karen McVeigh at The Guardian



Mass swarm of dead fish in Atlantic prompts European inquiry

Mass swarm of dead fish in Atlantic prompts European inquiry


France and the European Union are investigating why a massive swarm of dead fish was released by a huge trawler in the Atlantic Ocean off France, after an environmental group released dramatic video and photos of the incident.


The images by the group Sea Shepherd show a blanket of dead blue whiting fish floating on the surface of the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of southwest France. The group estimates it held some 100,000 dead fish.

Struck by the “shocking” images, French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin tweeted Friday that she ordered the National Center for Fishing Surveillance to investigate what happened.

Mass swarm of dead fish in Atlantic prompts European inquiry

Image 1 of 3

In this photo provided by Sea Shepherd on Saturday Feb.5, 2022, dead fish float in the Bay of Biscay, off La Rochelle, western France on Thursday Feb.3, 2022. France's maritime minister has ordered an investigation after environmental group Sea Shepherd released video and photos of a massive dump of fish in the Atlantic. The images show swarms of fish in the Bay of Biscay off the southwest France. The reason for the dump is unclear. (Sea Shepherd via AP)

The European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, announced an inquiry into “national authorities of the fishing area and presumed flag state of the vessel, to get exhaustive information and evidence about the case.”


Dramatic footage purporting to show the Trinity Spirit vessel on fire circulated widely on social media.

TRINITY SPIRIT OIL TANKER THAT CAN CARRY 2 MILLION BARRELS EXPLODES AT SEA


Dramatic footage shared on social media shows the Trinity Spirit oil tanker on fire and apparently sinking, with thick plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Post sampling in the water column in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Credit: members of the Pelagia cruise 64PE448/Florida Atlantic University

SCIENTISTS UNCOVER ‘MISSING’ PLASTICS DEEP IN THE OCEAN


About 51 trillion microplastics are floating in the surface waters of oceans around the world. Originating from various types of plastics, these tiny fragments (less than 5 millimeters in length) pollute natural ecosystems.


The Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association, which represents the Lithuania-registered trawler Margiris, which caught the fish, said in a statement that the fish were “involuntarily released into the sea” on Thursday because of a tear in the trawler’s net.

“Such an accident is a rare occurrence, and in this case was caused by the unexpectedly large size of the fish caught,” it said. It said the trawler has adapted its practices to deal with “the exceptional size of the fish currently in the area concerned.”

Sea Shepherd, however, questioned whether it was an accident or instead an intentional dump of unwanted fish. The group is calling for more policing of the seas — and especially of massive industrial trawlers — to protect sea life and oceans.

Source:

Sea Shepherd via Associated Press



Meet Methuselah, the oldest living aquarium fish

Meet Methuselah, the oldest living aquarium fish


Meet Methuselah, the fish that likes to eat fresh figs, get belly rubs and is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.


In the Bible, Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather and was said to have lived to be 969 years old. Methuselah the fish is not quite that ancient, but biologists at the California Academy of Sciences believe it is about 90 years old, with no known living peers.

Methuselah is a 4-foot-long (1.2-meter), 40-pound (18.1-kilogram) Australian lungfish that was brought to the San Francisco museum in 1938 from Australia.

A primitive species with lungs and gills, Australian lungfish are believed to be the evolutionary link between fish and amphibians.

No stranger to publicity, Methuselah’s first appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle was in 1947: “These strange creatures — with green scales looking like fresh artichoke leaves — are known to scientists as a possible ‘missing link’ between terrestrial and aquatic animals.”

An Australian lungfish, what biologists call an evolutionary link between fish and amphibians, living in a San Francisco museum is believed to be 90 years old. (Jan. 26)

Until a few years ago, the oldest Australian lungfish was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. But that fish, named Granddad, died in 2017 at the age of 95.

“By default, Methuselah is the oldest,” said Allan Jan, senior biologist at the Academy and the fish’s keeper. Methuselah’s caretakers believe the fish is female, although it’s difficult to determine the species’ sex without a risky blood draw. The Academy plans to send a tiny sample of her fin to researchers in Australia, who will try to confirm the sex and figure out the fish’s exact age.

Meet Methuselah, the oldest living aquarium fish

Image 1 of 5

Senior biologist Allan Jan holds Methuselah, a 4-foot-long, 40-pound Australian lungfish that was brought to the California Academy of Sciences in 1938 from Australia, in its tank in San Francisco, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


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In this undated photo provided by The Chester Zoo shows two "tequila splitfin" fish in an aquarium at the Chester Zoo in Chester, England. This fish that swam in the spring-fed waters of west-central Mexico disappeared toward the end of the 20th century, however scientists and local residents have achieved the unthinkable: the return of a species extinct in nature, but conserved in captivity, to its native habitat. Credit: The Chester Zoo via AP

MEXICAN FISH EXTINCT IN WILD SUCCESSFULLY REINTRODUCED


There once was a small fish called “tequila splitfin” or “zoogoneticus tequila” that swam in a river in western Mexico, but disappeared in the 1990s. Scientists and residents, however, have achieved the return of a species extinct in nature—but conserved in captivity—to its native habitat.

BABY SHARK BORN IN ALL-FEMALE TANK COULD BE THE FIRST ‘VIRGIN BIRTH’ FOR ITS SPECIES


Scientists say a rare shark “virgin birth” may be the first of its kind after a baby shark was born in an all-female tank in an Italian aquarium.


Jan says Methuselah likes getting rubbed on her back and belly and has a “mellow” personality.

“I tell my volunteers, pretend she’s an underwater puppy, very mellow, gentle, but of course if she gets spooked she will have sudden bouts of energy. But for the most part she’s just calm,” Jan said. Methuselah has developed a taste for seasonal figs.

“She’s a little picky and only likes figs when they are fresh and in season. She won’t eat them when they’re frozen,” said Jeanette Peach, spokeswoman for the California Academy of Sciences.

The Academy has two other Australian lungfish that are younger, both believed to be in their 40s or 50s, Jan said.

The Australian lungfish is now a threatened species and can no longer be exported from Australian waters so biologists at the Academy say it’s unlikely they’ll get a replacement once Methuselah passes away.

“We just give her the best possible care we can provide, and hopefully she thrives,” Jan said.

Source:

Haven Daley via Associated Press



Earth’s final frontier: China and the deep-sea gold rush set to cause environmental catastrophe

Earth’s final frontier: China and the deep-sea gold rush set to cause environmental catastrophe


Scientists say that a highly controversial deep-sea “gold rush” risks potentially devastating consequences for marine ecosystems, biodiversity, coastal communities and climate change.


The deep seabed is Earth’s final frontier but this mostly unexplored, dark and pristine abyss is threatened by highly destructive deep-sea mining which could be at full throttle within months.

File Photo: Pexels.com

“Most, if not all deep-sea biologists are very worried about deep-sea mining,” says Dr Moriaki Yasuhara a deep-sea ecologist and associate professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science in the University of Hong Kong.

The deep-sea mining agenda is being led by nations like China and private corporations desperate to extract polymetallic nodules from the deep ocean floor. They say these potato-sized nuggets rich in valuable cobalt, nickel and other battery metals could be the key to the world’s sustainable future.

There is a growing chorus of dissent which insists the environmental impact of these deep-sea mining operations has not been properly assessed. They involve giant mechanical seabed tractors, hoovering up nodules before crushing them and trailing long plumes of sediment.

Polymetallic nodules. Photo: Wikicommons.

Yasuhara explains that the deep seabed can be compared to a tropical rain forest or a coral reef in terms of biodiversity but is unique because of its vast size and great depth. Until recently, this mostly pristine and precious environment has remained beyond the reach of mankind. The problem is that it is so technically challenging to reach these remote subsea habitats, several kilometres beneath the surface, that research is thin and information scarce.

“We simply don’t yet know how many deep-sea species exist,” says Yasuhara. The fear is that this environment will be devastated even before scientists can fully evaluate and understand it.

Photo: mdpi.com.

It is this lack of knowledge which prompted Yasuhara to join the 617 leading ocean scientists and policy experts from over 44 countries who signed a statement calling for a pause to deep-sea mining.

The expert statement strongly recommends that “the transition to the exploitation of mineral resources be paused until sufficient and robust scientific information has been obtained to make informed decisions as to whether deep-sea mining can be authorized without significant damage to the marine environment and, if so, under what conditions.”

It’s not only scientists and experts like Yasuhara who are calling for a moratorium on all seabed mining activity.

Last December 1, Volkswagen Group, Triodos Bank, Scania, and Patagonia joined other major companies like the BMW Group, Volvo Group, Samsung SDI, Google and Philips in pledging to keep minerals sourced from the deep sea out of their products.

There is also much concern and opposition to seabed mining at grassroots level in the Pacific Island states like Tonga, the Marshall islands and the Cook Islands. Being adjacent to the area known as the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone where most of the deep-sea mining attention is focused, they have the most to lose from any future environmental destruction.

Location of the Clarion Clipperton Zone. Photo: Wikicommons.

One of these vocal indigenous environmental concern groups, the Te Ipukarea Society in the Cook Islands, recently pointed out that the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress overwhelmingly supported a moratorium on seabed mining at its meeting in Marseilles this year. 

While 44 government representatives from 39 countries backed the moratorium, eight representatives from six countries voted against it. This included two from each of Japan, Belgium and China. Of the 32 of more than 500 NGOs from around the world that voted against the moratorium, 26 were from China.

“We simply don’t yet know how many deep-sea species exist.”

DR MORIAKI YASUHARA

“These are the countries where a number of the companies wishing to mine the deep sea are based. It is for economic interest,” says Kelvin Passfield, technical director of the Te Ipukarea Society. 

Of course, China is far from the only player looking to engage in deep sea mining but it is heavily committed to maintaining its market dominance in rare metals and rare earth elements. It has worked tirelessly to perfect its technology and has embedded itself deeply in the regulatory body for deep-sea mining, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) based in Jamaica.

The ISA has issued 30 contracts to state-backed companies, multinational corporations and start-ups to explore more than 1.3 million square kilometres of the seabed. China holds five contracts, more than any other country, that give it the right to explore and potentially exploit 238,000 square kilometres (an area more than six times the size of Taiwan).

While private corporations are keen to exploit short-term profits for shareholders, China’s approach is long-term, strategic and politically orchestrated. It is led by state-owned enterprises like the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association (COMRA) and China Minmetals Corporation, a giant international metals and mining enterprise based in Beijing. 

China was one of the first nations to maintain a permanent representative to the ISA. Tian Qi is also his country’s ambassador to Jamaica and is often featured in local newspapers extolling the virtues of the ISA and his host country.

China was also the first country in the world to sponsor and maintain contracts for exploration for all three types of mineral resources in the international seabed area, outside the Exclusive Economic Zones of individual nation states. This makes China very popular with the ISA elite because the ISA derives its operating revenue from the licence fees reported to be US$500,000 each, plus a yearly administrative fee of US$47,000 per contractor. In this sense, China is the ISA’s most valuable client.

ISA secretary general Michael Lodge. File photo: ISA.

“From being the twelfth largest financial contributor to the budget of the Authority in 2000, China is now one of the top five contributors. This is remarkable progress,” said ISA secretary general Michael Lodge in 2018 at a contract-signing ceremony for COMRA. By 2016, China was the second largest contributor to the ISA and for China it’s a shrewd strategic investment with obvious geopolitical significance.

Polymetallic nodules and crusts are two of the most important mineral deposits in the ocean. They are rich in rare earth elements, iron, manganese, copper, cobalt, nickel, and other useful metals. According to a Wall Street Journal report in December, some estimates of China’s dominance of the rare-earth industry say it mines more than 70 per cent of the world’s rare earths and is responsible for 90 per cent of the complex processing. These rare minerals are used not only in the manufacture of battery components for electric cars and renewable energy but also for smartphone touch screens and missile-defence systems.

Not only does the ISA favour the interests of mining companies over the advice of scientists but its processes for [Environmental Impact Assessment) approvals are questionable”

DR. HELEN ROSENBAUM

As if to underline the geopolitical significance of deep-sea mining to China, on December 3 as delegates prepared to travel to Jamaica for the first ISA meeting in two years, China approved the creation of one of the world’s largest rare-earths companies. China Rare Earth Group will aim to maintain the nation’s dominance in the global supply chain of the strategic metals as tensions deepen with the US.

“China is one of the most important countries with respect to the emerging seabed mining industry,” writes Richard Page, in his 2018 report on Chinese policy, activity and strategic interests relating to deep-sea mining in the Pacific region and published by the Deep Sea Mining Campaign.

Some think that China is too influential at the ISA. It’s a concern amplified by the fact that the US is one of the few nations not represented because it has not yet ratified the Law of the Sea Convention and so is ineligible for membership. 

Critics claim the ISA is guilty of corporate capture and lacks transparency, independent scrutiny and scientific credibility.

“Not only does the ISA favour the interests of mining companies over the advice of scientists but its processes for EIA (environmental impact assessment) approvals are questionable”, says Dr. Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator of the deep-sea mining campaign.

In a recent press interview, Dr Sandor Mulsow who was head of the Office of Environmental Management and Mineral Resources at the ISA from 2013 to 2019, said he had witnessed “lots of irregularities.”

Licensed exploration Areas to COMRA, totaling 275,000km.

“The way ISA is working at the moment, it is not fit to regulate any activity in the oceans,” he told reporters.

The 26th session of the International Seabed Authority closed on December 14 after several days of in-person meetings in Kingston, Jamaica. Journalists were not allowed to attend and the ISA declined to respond to any media questions sent by email from HKFP on multiple occasions.

One key aim was to agree a roadmap for a new mining code to be in place by July 2023, which will regulate all extraction or exploitation activities. Reports indicate any agreement is still a long way off.

Nauru’s President Lionel Aingimea. Photo: UN.

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Campaigners hailed the ruling as a victory for ‘voiceless’ indigenous groups. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

CAMPAIGNERS FORCE SHELL TO HALT OIL EXPLORATION ON SOUTH AFRICAN COAST


Court instructs company to stop tests along Wild Coast after concerns raised about wildlife and lack of consultation


Unfortunately for the deep seabed and its rich biodiversity, the clock is ticking. On June 25 this year Nauru’s President Lionel Aingimea notified the ISA of the deep-sea mining plans to be carried out by a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian and NASDAQ-listed The Metals Co. He triggered a legal sanction to announce they would start mining in two years’ time (June 2023) if the key mining code of practice being developed by ISA was not in place by them. Critics say this will herald an unregulated wild west-style gold rush to ravage the deep seabed.

Despite a growing consensus that it is not necessary to trash the seabed in order to secure a sustainable future for humanity, and the widespread opposition from science and policy experts to rushing blindly into seabed mining, the clock is ticking down to July 2023.

Driven by multi-billion-dollar investments and China’s long-term geopolitical ambitions, and restrained only by a regulatory body lacking in any credibility, the prospects for the planet’s last unspoiled fringes seem bleak indeed.

Dr Moriaki Yasuhara of the University of Hong Kong. Photo: HKU.

For Yasuhara, given the unprecedented levels of ocean warming and the increased acidification of the sea, combined with ignorance of the destructive impact of deep-sea mining, this is the least appropriate moment to be embarking on large-scale destructive processes on an unknown and pristine environment. He emphasises that the deep ocean constitutes more than 90 per cent of the biosphere and plays a key role in climate regulation.

“This is not the right time from a climatic perspective to be starting man-made intervention in the deep-sea environment,” he says.

Source:

Stuart Heaver at Hong Kong Free Press



Mexican fish extinct in wild successfully reintroduced

Mexican fish extinct in wild successfully reintroduced


There once was a small fish called “tequila splitfin” or “zoogoneticus tequila” that swam in a river in western Mexico, but disappeared in the 1990s. Scientists and residents, however, have achieved the return of a species extinct in nature—but conserved in captivity—to its native habitat.


Its success is now intertwined with the community’s identity and being touted internationally.

It began more than two decades ago in Teuchitlán, a town near the Tequila volcano. A half-dozen students, among them Omar Domínguez, began to worry about the little fish that fit in the palm of a hand and had only ever been seen in the Teuchitlán river. It had vanished from local waters, apparently due to pollution, human activities and the introduction of non-native species.

Domínguez, now a 47-year-old researcher at the University of Michoacán, says that then only the elderly remembered the fish called “gallito” or “little rooster” because of its orange tail.

In 1998, conservationists from the Chester Zoo in England and other European institutions arrived to help set up a laboratory for conserving Mexican fish. They brought several pairs of tequila splitfin fish from the aquariums of collectors, Domínguez said.

Zoogoneticus tequila Reintroduction Project: An International Cooperative Project by Omar Domínguez

The fish began reproducing in aquariums and within a few years Domínguez and his colleagues gambled on reintroducing them to the Teuchitlán river. “They told us it was impossible, (that) when we returned them they were going to die.”

So they looked for options. They built an artificial pond for a semi-captivity stage and in 2012 they put 40 pairs there.

Two years later, there were some 10,000 fish. The result guaranteed funding, not only from the Chester Zoo but also a dozen organizations from Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, to move the experiment to the river.

There they studied parasites, microorganisms in the water, the interaction with predators, competition with other fish, and then introduced the fish in floating cages.

The goal was to re-establish the fragile equilibrium. For that part, the key was not so much the scientists as the local residents.

“When I started the environmental education program I thought they were going to turn a deaf ear to us … and at first that happened,” Domínguez said.

But the conservationists succeeded with patience and years of puppet shows, games and explanations about the ecological and health value of “zoogoneticus tequila”—the fish help control mosquitos that spread dengue.

Some residents made up a nickname for the little fish: “Zoogy.” They made caricatures and formed the “River Guardians,” a group mostly of children. They collect garbage, clean the river and remove invasive plants.

Domínguez said it is difficult to say if water quality is better because there is no previous data to compare, but the entire ecosystem has improved. The river is cleaner, there are fewer non-native species and cattle are no longer permitted to drink in some areas.

The fish rapidly multiplied inside their floating cages. Then they were marked so they could be followed and set free. It was late 2017 and in six months the population increased 55%. Last month, the fish had expanded to another part of the river.


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The reintroduction into nature of species that were extinct in the wild is complex and time-consuming. Przewalski’s horse and the Arabian oryx are among successful examples. The Chester Zoo said Dec. 29 that the tequila splitfin had joined that small group.

“The project has been cited as an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions – with recent scientific studies confirming the fish are thriving and already breeding in the river,” the zoo said in a statement.

“This is an important moment in the battle for species conservation,” said Gerardo García, the zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.

The IUCN’s red list of threatened species lists the tequila splitfin as endangered. Mexico’s freshwater ecosystems are under pressure from pollution, over-extraction of water resources and other factors. More than one-third of 536 species of freshwater fish that were assessed in the country are threatened with extinction, according to a 2020 report led by the IUCN and and the ABQ BioPark in the United States.

Still, in Mexico, Domínguez and his team are already beginning work on another fish that is considered extinct in the wild: the “skiffia francesae.” The Golden Skiffia could some day join “Zoogy” in the Teuchitlán river.

Source:

María Verza at Phys.org