Tuesday, 21 November 2006

FIHTA Dive Fiji EXPO 2006

Well it was last weekend, and an all out success as well as one heck of a good time!

I just had to put a sentence up here about it, and Laura has the photos which i'll start posting next week!

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Scientists go hi-tech to save coral

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Scientists go hi-tech to save coral:

Scientists go hi-tech to save coral
Cold coral (TVE)
At cold depths, the rate of growth is very slow
Less is known about the floor of the world's oceans than the surface of the Moon.

It is only in the past few decades that technology allowing humans to peer into the previously uncharted depths has become available to scientists.

Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and manned submersible craft have opened up to exploration a whole new world of deep marine ecosystems.

One of the most startling discoveries has been the number of coral reefs living hundreds of metres beneath the surface, in temperatures ranging from 4-13C (39-55F).

The existence of cold-water corals has been known since the 18th Century, but the vast number of reefs found in the deeper reaches of the world's waters has amazed researchers.

Yet just as scientists are beginning to understand the significance of the coral to the surrounding environment, they are also witnessing destruction.

'Glacial' growth

Environmentalists point the finger of blame at the fishing industry and the practice of bottom-trawling with drag nets.

This method of fishing involves scouring the sea bed with huge nets that are some 60m-wide; they are held apart by two huge metal plates weighing up to five tonnes.

Submersible (TVE)
Submersibles have brought a revolution in understanding

"It's heavy gear, and the reefs and the coral colonies are very fragile and easily damaged," Jan Helge Fossa, chief scientist at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, tells TVE's Earth Report programme for BBC World.

"So it was quite obvious that this was an activity that couldn't go on," he adds.

Cold corals are very slow growing. Some individuals are estimated to be up to 1,800 years old, and many reefs began forming at the end of the last Ice Age.

Damage inflicted by bottom-trawling can result in catastrophic consequences for the species living amid the reefs.

Onboard the institute's research vessel, Dr Helge Fossa is leading a survey for cold corals off the northern coast of Norway.

Robot eyes

The Institute provides advice on the marine environment to the Norwegian government, which is one of the few nations that have introduced laws to protect cold-water corals.

After performing a multibeam sonar sweep that provides a real-time map of the search area, the team launches a ROV through the side of the ship.

Shrimp (TVE)
I have never heard a person in Norway, after looking at the videos, who objects to protection
Dr Jan Helge Fossa,
Norwegian marine scientist
Once the vehicle reaches the site 200m below the surface, its four powerful lights allow the onboard camera to beam pictures back to the scientists on the surface.

"What we see here is only coral rubble, and it's trawled out to small pieces," Dr Helge Fossa observes. "We have so far seen no live coral."

It is not long before the prime suspect is located: discarded trawling equipment. Closer inspection reveals that the nets and gear are likely to be about 20 years old.

Norway's Coral Act 1999 protects all coral reefs in the nation's waters from intentional damage, and bottom-trawling has been completely banned in areas surrounding five specific reefs.

However, the country has the longest coastline in Europe, making monitoring and policing the region a tough task.

Video campaign

To date, there have been no prosecutions from data gathered by the space-borne Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), but Dr Helge Fossa's team hopes images obtained by its high-definition submersible-camera system will help change that.

Discarded gear (TVE)
The Norwegian expedition finds evidence of discarded gear
"We know that it is important to get our results out, not only to the government but also to the public," he says. "That's why we use a lot of videos, it tells more than a thousand words."

He said it made people understand why the complex ecosystems needed protecting: "I have never heard a person in Norway, after looking at the videos, who objects to protection."

Some scientists believe that other nations should adopt similar protection measures as Norway, otherwise many more deep cold-water reefs will resemble a lunar surface.

The Television Trust for the Environment's (TVE) Earth Report - Cold Corals Deep will be broadcast on BBC World on 21 and 23 October 2006. Please check schedules for further details

Diagram showing how bottom trawling works (BBC)

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/10/20 12:17:05 GMT


Friday, 20 October 2006

New Environment Act Targets Conservation Of Natural Resources

(GovFIJI PR) - The new Environment Act will look into the conservation of natural resources says Director of Environment Mr Epeli Nasome.

Speaking to the Ministry of Information, Mr. Nasome said there are already existing legislations in place but these do not look at the protection of the environment.

"The Environment Act however looks at the sustainable use of natural resources and it also looks at waste management and pollution control," he said.

Mr. Nasome added the Act puts in place a legal institution like an environment tribunal for cases for non compliant individuals or companies to be taken to task.

And according to the Director, offenders will receive hasher penalties.

"These are what’s in this Act, the appropriate penalties – the penalties that were here before were very low."

Mr. Nasome said with the existing legislation, you could penalize a company up to $400, a very small amount compared to what the company gains.

"With the Environment Act for instance, if someone is found guilty they can be fined up to $250,000 and failing that they have to pay up ‘to $750,000 or face imprisonment for 10years."

Now that the Department of Environment has a full fledged Minister, Mr. Nasome is optimistic the new environment Act will soon be in force with the assistance of their Minister, Mr Pocesi Bone.

"With the Minister in place he will be able to put in place or bring into force a lot of provisions in the Act so we can start the enforcement on people."

The Environment Act will be implemented from 2007 after the Minister for Environment brings these provisions in December this year.

Source: http://www.fiji.gov.fj/publish/page_7456.shtml