January 12, 2006
Re-extinction for the coelacanth?

The coelacanth, an ancient fish that was thought to have disappeared with the dinosaurs until one was discovered in 1938, is feared to be in danger of extinction for real thanks to a thoroughly modern predator: deep-sea trawlers.

It was in August 2004 that the local fisheries authority first received a phone call saying fishermen in Kigombe had caught a 'strange' fish. Officials went to check and to their amazement found two specimens of Latimira chalumnae - the coelacanth. Over the next five months 19 more were netted - weighing between 25kg and 80kg. Another appeared last January, then there was a gap until the fish again turned up as The Observer visited.

The numbers are perplexing officials of the Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Programme, which has a long-term strategy for protecting the species, with the help of Irish aid. They see a connection with trawling - especially by big Japanese vessels - near the coelacanth's habitat, as within a couple of days of trawlers casting their nets coelacanths have turned up in shallow-water nets intended for sharks.

Hassan Kolombo, a programme co-ordinator, said. 'Once we do not have trawlers, we don't get the coelacanths, it's as simple as that.' His colleague, Solomon Makoloweka, said they had been pressuring the Tanzanian government to limit trawlers' activities. He said: 'I suppose we should be grateful to these trawlers, because they have revealed this amazing and unique fish population. but we are concerned they could destroy these precious things. We want the government to limit their activity and to help fund a proper research programme so that we can learn more about the coelacanths and protect them.'

The coelacanth has an amazing history, about which I encourage you to read more here and here. If you can get past the light blue text on a white background at the start of this page, you'll be rewarded with a tale of travelling into coelacanth territory, and see some pictures of the ancient fish in its native habitat. Thanks to MeMo for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2006 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack

The longer we wait, the harder it is to reverse, if even possible.

from TruthOut

Global Warming to Speed Up as Carbon Levels Show Sharp Rise
By Geoffrey Lean
The Independent UK

Sunday 15 January 2006

Global warming is set to accelerate alarmingly because of a sharp jump in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Preliminary figures, exclusively obtained by The Independent on Sunday, show that levels of the gas - the main cause of climate change - have risen abruptly in the past four years. Scientists fear that warming is entering a new phase, and may accelerate further.

But a summit of the most polluting countries, convened by the Bush administration, last week refused to set targets for reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. Set up in competition to the Kyoto Protocol, the summit, held in Sydney and attended by Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, instead pledged to develop cleaner technologies - which some experts believe will not arrive in time.

The climb in carbon dioxide content showed up in readings from the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, taken at the summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The measurements have been taken regularly since 1958 in the 11,400ft peak's pristine conditions, 2,000 miles from the nearest landmass and protected by unusual climatic conditions from the pollution of Hawaii, two miles below.

Through most of the past half-century, levels of the gas rose by an average of 1.3 parts per million a year; in the late 1990s, this figure rose to 1.6 ppm, and again to 2ppm in 2002 and 2003. But unpublished figures for the first 10 months of this year show a rise of 2.2ppm.

Scientists believe this may be the first evidence that climate change is starting to produce itself, as rising temperatures so alter natural systems that the Earth itself releases more gas, driving the thermometer ever higher.

Posted by: Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible on January 18, 2006 1:27 AM