Thursday, 27 May 2010

Just How Big is the BP Disaster Oil Slick?

There's an interesting web page recently developed that puts the BP oil disaster into your local perspective. You can use google earth technology to see how big the slick would be if it was on your own doorstep. Click here to access the site, where I have planted the slick over London.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Basking Sharks Expedition June 2010

We are getting excited now about the prospect of another trip up to Scotland's Inner Hebrides with the Fairbairns Sea Legend Captain Jimbo to look for and ultimately swim with Basking Sharks. Last year we managed in water encounters for four out of our five days at sea, and this year we are aiming at fine tuning our search areas. We already operate in the country's best Basking Shark hotspots, but after last year we have identified a few ways to get on site quicker and at optimum shark times.
If you are interested in joining us, then contact me here on the Acuatours site. Don't miss Basking Sharks 2010. Prices start at only £450 per person.

Monday, 24 May 2010

More Chevron Muscle Flexing

Chevron continues to fight its court battle against claims it should pay 27 billion USD to communities in the Lago Agrio region affected by massive contamination by the then operators Texaco.
After recently demanding that over 600 hours of raw footage be handed over by film maker Joe Berlinger, who made a documentary on the disaster named "crude", Chevron are now demanding that an environmental expert witness be disregarded in court.
The case is taking place in Lago Agrio, a town built amidst previously virgin rainforest at the time of the Texaco explorations during the 1980's.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Tiger Mind Maps

A new study by University of Hawaii researchers suggests tiger sharks may use mental maps and calendars to guide their migrations as they search for food.

The study used satellite tags to track sharks at French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Researchers led by Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology found some tiger sharks stayed at the atoll year-round.

Others visited in the summer to feed on fledgling albatross but then migrated to other spots along the Hawaiian islands or to the open ocean.

The study was designed to develop a better understanding of long-term movement patterns of sharks in the monument.

The study appears in the journal Marine Biology.


Saturday, 22 May 2010

Thoughts on Oil

It is interesting at this time of the immense and catastrophic oil disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, to note the wave of anxiety issuing forth from the blogosphere about the entire context of offshore drilling and what that means now or could mean in the future. It has been pretty usual over the last two weeks or more to be getting three or four mails per day asking me to sign a petition calling for the banning of some programs, or the halting of plans for future others.
These emails caused me to reflect on a conversation I had about oil exploration in the amazon back last year when I took a group into the rainforest for a three week trip. Our guide was a very active advocate of indigenous rights, and we were conversing about how the Ecuadorean government had opened up a part of Cuyabeno reserve to oil exporation. The communities were protesting about the invasion of their territory, and were mostly worried about what would happen in the event of a disaster happening to their part of the world. Our guide was of the opinion that technology has come so far, as well as awareness and global and social responsibility, since the 80's where we saw the Texaco destruction in the Lago Agrio area, as well as the Exxon Valdez disaster, so after three decades of learning how not to do it, he opined that lessons had been learned, and that such disasters were extremely unlikely. The wider and possibly more serious consequences of such exploration are the effects of social change on indigenous communities, and the ever lasting effect that continues long after the oil runs dry.
At the time, that made sense to me, and clear cut logging was probably inevitably more destructive in the longer term, and so was oil a viable alternative with possible ecological benefits?
I have not answered that question in my own mind, but what I can now say, is that "a low risk scenario" is not at all acceptable. There absolutely has to be a "zero risk scenario" or we just simply should not be exploring for fossil fuels in these pristine wilderness'. The multi identity (pass the buck) BP mess up in the gulf of mexico has reminded everyone that even the small risk is too big to take, and that even the tiniest chance of risk can bring the most monumental consequences.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Peruvian Government plans to explore untouched Amazon for oil...

This is the first blog I am hosting from my Acuatours Blog, rather than maintain two blogs, I am now going to post everything here, to save me time and hopefully allow for more inventive blogging, so now instead of just marine world activity, you will be able to read my posts on the Amazon Rainforest and other things.

Here's some bad news to start with:

Spanish-Argentine oil giant Repsol-YPF has applied to Peru's government to cut 454 kilometers of seismic lines and construct 152 heliports in its search for oil on uncontacted tribes' land in the remote Amazon rainforest. Repsol's plans were revealed in a report sent last month to Peru's Energy Ministry, which will now decide whether to approve the project. Cutting seismic lines, a key part of oil exploration, involves clearing paths through the forest and detonating explosives at regular intervals.

The area where Repsol hopes to work, known as Lot 39 (in Loreto department near the Ecuador border), is home to at least two of the world's last uncontacted tribes, who could be decimated if contact occurs between them and the company's workers. Repsol has already carried out some preliminary exploration in this area in the past, when it recommended its workers defend themselves from potential attack from the tribes by using a megaphone: "If peaceful contact and understanding can't be reached and the attack continues, try to establish communication using a megaphone."

If Repsol finds commercially-viable quantities of oil, a pipeline would be required to transport it from the remote Amazon to a terminal on Peru's Pacific coast. Plans for a pipeline have just been made public by Anglo-French company Perenco, which has already found large oil deposits in the region. Lot 39 includes large areas of a proposed reserve for uncontacted peoples, and indigenous organization AIDESEP is suing the companies for working there.

Survival International director Stephen Corry said, "What would the uncontacted Indians in this region make of seismic lines and heliports? They're likely to respond in one of two ways—either by fleeing, or by attacking people they will view as hostile invaders. Either way, the consequences will be profoundly damaging. Repsol and the Peruvian authorities should know by now that you simply can't look for oil in rainforest belonging to uncontacted Indians in a safe manner." (Survival International, April 20)

On the identity of the uncontacted peoples in the area, Survival International's David Hill writes: "One of the two uncontacted groups is possibly related to the Waorani/Huaorani, known by some as the Taromenane. The identity of the other group is less clear, but names such as Pananujuri and Arabela have been used."

Meanwhile, Juan José Quispe, leader of Peru's independent Legal Defense Institute (IDL) issued a public statement demanding the government take measures to protect the life of Asterio Pujupat Wachapea, an imprisoned Awajun indigenous leader accused in the death of a National Police officer who disappeared in the violence at Bagua last June. The statement said that Pujupat had been "savagely beaten" by guards at the National penitentiary Institue (INPE) at Bagua. (La Primera, Lima, April 25)


Saturday, 15 May 2010

Vote for me...

I have entered the Bradt/Independant on Sunday travel writing competition. Please help me get the peoples choice vote by clicking on the banner on the righthand menu and then voting. You can read the entry there, it is about an amazing experience I had last year in the Amazon. I hope some of you that like my blog postings can give me a vote!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Sail powered ships found it easier...

A report from the Marine Conservation Society and the University of York built on data from historical government records has shown how today's fishing fleet has to work seventeen times harder than when the fleet was mainly sail powered. The study measured exactly how much fishing power in the UK fishing fleet was used to catch the amounts of fish shown in the records, and that the tecnhnological and industrial advancement of the fleet has not resulted in an increase in catches. The records show that the UK fleet landed four times more fish into England and Wales in 1889 than it does today. The report is likely to shed light on the long term implications of European fisheries policy that is based on catch data that goes back only 20-40 years.
Professor Callum Roberts, from the University of York’s Environment Department, said: “This research makes clear that the state of UK bottom fisheries – and by implication European fisheries, since the fishing grounds are shared – is far worse than even the most pessimistic of assessments currently in circulation.

With that in mind I have just returned from a meeting with representatives of Balanced Seas who are currently collecting data from all water users so that the government will be better informed when establishing its commitment to a European directive to create Marine Conservation Zones by 2012. The indepth questionaires identify areas of water used by people from all disciplines such as yachting, diving, angling and commercial fishing. The data collected will hopefully help to identify key habitat and species dependant areas that could benefit from the protection that would be beneficial from conservartion zone status. You can contact Balanced Seas here.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Is this Zimbabwe?

A politician in a plane crash, angry voters barred from voting, uncertainty and a certain British sense of mayhem. This could be a military junta run republic in the tropics, but no, it is jolly old England on voting night. I'll hopefully take a look at what the possible changes will mean for marine conservation in the UK, once we know who will hold the power. For now, back to the swing-o-meter.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Is Sea Shepherd Embracing Public Sensibility?

Love or Hate Sea Shepherd, you have got to admire the tenacity of Paul Watson, and have more than a fleeting ounce of respect for his grasp of media wiles and how he plays that understanding to his generous advantage.
There are aspects of some Sea Shepherd campaigns that have had many or most marine conservationists publicly wincing whilst, I suspect, celebrating a well controlled inner yell of victory. However, there is ongoing serious debate amongst most major marine NGO's as to whether SS's tactics are actually damaging the cause. It is not helpful to be lumped in with a band of black shirted pirates, and seeing the SS stands at some dive and travel events has you wondering whether their recruiters hang out at local hells angel establishments, such is the mottliness of their crew.

So, it is with an pucker of trepidation that I read today that Sea Shepherd are to embark on an educational campaign within the Galapagos Islands. Is this a first for Sea Shepherd or is my understanding of their politica such that I can only envisage them as bestubbled gas mask wearing alumni? Maybe the dictatorial might of presidente Correa has cuddly pseudo terrorist Cpt Watson trembling in his Dubarry's.
It is a possibility that Watson's rattle shaking has brought about some unwanted attention of the angry president and another booting-out is on the cards, or, what would be more desirable is that the Sea Shepherd camp have recognised the success and acceptance of local community educational programs and that this new gentler side of Sea Shepherd will spread through the pirate ranks and become wider policy.
Imagine...antarctia next year will be a tranquil sea of westerners teaching japanese whalers the why's and wherefore's of conservation aboard a candelit flotilla.