Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Reef Check Announces new BUDDY BREATHING Program

Dive Shops join with Reef Check to support volunteer divers by providing FREE AIR!

In a major initiative announced today by Reef Check, California’s dive community has joined together to help support volunteers working to protect our nearshore reef ecosystems. Top dive shops across the state have agreed to provide free air to Reef Check divers as part of the Reef Check “Buddy Breathing” program. Divers who show their NAUI or PADI Reef Check EcoDiver specialty card will receive free air fills for Reef Check survey and monitoring work.

“We’re excited to see dive shop operators coming together to help give back to the environment by supporting our volunteer divers as they protect our rocky reefs” said Reef Check California Director Dr. Craig Shuman. “Our monitoring results are helping to educate everyone about the status of our valuable nearshore resources so that they can be better managed and we’re grateful to our partners in the dive industry for such generous help. Pioneering dive shops that have joined together to support the “Buddy Breathing” program include:

  • California Diving Company - Santa Clarita, CA (
  • Captain Frog Scuba – Bakersfield, CA (
  • Ocean Adventure Dive Company – Venice, CA (
  • OEX Dive and Kayak Centers –La Jolla, Mission Bay and Pt. Loma CA
  • Peace Scuba – Ventura, CA (
  • Reef Seekers – Beverly Hills, CA (
  • San Diego Underwater Adventures – San Diego, CA (
  • Scuba Haus – Santa Monica, CA (
  • Scuba Schools of America (nitrox included) – Montclair, CA (
  • Xtreme Scuba (nitrox included) – Ventura, CA (

California’s reefs look very different than they did 30 years ago. Abalone are almost gone in Southern California and big fish have become scarce while our kelp forests have become sparsely inhabited. Working together, divers can unite and bring back this valuable resource. To that end, the Reef Check Foundation plans to train over 500 divers in the next 3 years to help establish California’s first state-wide community based monitoring network. Divers are already being trained but we still need your help. For more information and to get involved, go to

Founded in 1997, the Reef Check Foundation (a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization), was established to reverse the coral reef crisis and promote the protection and rehabilitation of reefs on a global scale. The Reef Check California program was founded in 2006. Reef Check programs provide ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions for local businesses and communities, and thousands of volunteers participate in its programs in over 80 countries worldwide.

For more information, visit Reef Check at Scuba Show in Long Beach June 2nd and 3rd in Booth 727 or online at

Whales & Dolphins (Smithsonian Handbooks)

A beautifully illustrated guide to every species of whale, dolphin and porpoise. Covers their identification, evolution, biology, behaviour, reproduction and social lives. Includes tips on how and where to watch whales, dolphins and porpoises, and information on their conservation.

From the great illustrations and quick-reference title bar that includes taxonomic, habitat and population information, to the range maps and behavioral information, this book was such a steal. I received this book shortly before starting cetacean surveys in the south pacific and it was an incredible source of information.

I have used many field guides and, although I never tested its 'water-proofness", it is simultaneously concise yet complete. It not only gives identification keys for individual species, but also keys to identifying individual animals. If you are a teacher, student, biologist or enthusiast, get it, wherever you are in the world.

Monday, 28 May 2007

EU Proposes Ways To Make Dismantling Old Ships Safer for Humans, Environment

May 23, 2007 — By Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union should play a more active role in halting the scrapping of old ships in dangerous and polluting conditions in Asia, a practice likely to worsen as single-hull tankers are phased out in favor of safer double-hulled vessels, the top EU environment official said Wednesday.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the bloc should lead efforts, including drafting international ship recycling laws, as one-third of the world's merchant ships fly EU-member flags and even more are owned by European companies.

"Many ships from Europe and around the world are broken up in South Asia in appalling conditions which lead to hundreds of deaths and injuries each year and serious coastal pollution," Dimas said in a report to the 27 EU governments.

He proposed several steps to improve the situation, including more safety and waste monitoring and increasing "clean ship" dismantling in Europe. He also suggested the shipping industry should pay for the scrapping of old vessels.

Worldwide between 200 and 600 large merchant vessels are taken apart each year for valuable scrap metal. Older ships contain hazardous materials including asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and large quantities of oils and oil sludge.

Most of the dismantling is done under unsafe conditions on beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

"There is an urgent need for binding international rules, but until an international solution is found, the EU should tackle the problem caused by the ship dismantling of state-owned ships and warships," Dimas said.

The International Maritime Organization is preparing the first a binding convention on the safe and environmentally sound recycling of old ships.

Dimas invited EU governments and shipping industry to comment on his proposals by Sept. 30.


On the Net:

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu

Using a format similar to that of his previous work, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Troost creates another comical and touching travel memoir. Troost and his wife, Sylvia, move from busy Washington, D.C., to Vanuatu, a nation made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific. As Sylvia works for a regional nonprofit, Troost immerses himself in the islands' culture, an odd mix of the islanders' thousand-year-old "kastoms" along with imperialist British and French influences.

This really means that Troost gets to live in a nice house while he gets drunk on kava; dodges "a long inferno of magma and a cascade of lava bombs" at the "world's most accessible volcano"; and checks out the "calcified" leftovers from one of Vanuatu's not-so-ancient traditions, cannibalism.

At the end of the book, the couple move to Fiji so that Sylvia will have state-of-the-art medical care when she gives birth to their first baby. While modern-day Fiji provides little fodder for Troost's comic sensibilities, the birth of his son enables him to share some deeper thoughts and decide it is "time to stop looking for paradise." A funny travelogue with a sentimental heart, Troost's latest work genuinely captures the search for paradise as well as the need for home.

Experts Find Turtles Are Drawn to Light Sticks

May 09, 2007 — By Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Endangered loggerhead turtles snared by longline fishermen may be inadvertently lured to the hooks because of an attraction to light sticks designed to attract tuna and swordfish, researchers said.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found in lab experiments that young loggerhead turtles will swim toward lights similar to those used by fishermen to attract big fish.

"Juvenile turtles are indiscriminate eaters and bite nearly everything small that they encounter," said Ken Lohmann, a UNC biology professor whose expertise is turtle navigation.

Lohmann recommended that longline fishermen direct the lights, designed to mimic the nighttime luminescence of squid, toward the bottom of the ocean. Turtles spend most of their time near the surface.

"The fish are found at much greater depths," Lohmann said. "If the lights are shaded so that the lights are directed downward, the turtles may not see them."

He also suggested that fishermen switch to colors of light that turtles can't detect.

Lohmann conducted the study with John Wang, a graduate who is now a research associate at the University of Hawaii and National Marine Fisheries.

Inadvertent turtle catches have long been a concern, said David Bernhart, chief of protected resources for National Marine Fisheries in the Southeast region.

U.S. longline fishermen working in the Atlantic have had to use circle hooks since 2004 to limit inadvertent catches, a change Bernhart said reduced the number of turtles captured by 50 percent.


Information from: The News & Observer,

Subsurface Fiji Wins Prestigious Diving and Environmental Award

Recognized by ‘PADI Project Aware’ for their efforts in protecting and conserving the underwater world, Award Winning Dive Operator Subsurface Fiji has been awarded the prestigious “PADI Project Aware Environmental Achievement Award 2006”.

Subsurface Fiji will be honoured by ‘PADI Project Aware’ in leading publications, including Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and The Undersea Journal for placing priority on sharing and preserving this precious marine environment.

Already a winner of the ‘Fiji Excellence in Tourism Award’ for Diving in 2005, Subsurface offers diving at 44 sites throughout the entire Mamanuca Island chain, whose underwater jewels are one of Fijis most treasured secrets. With increasing international Awards, spreading the word that Fijis environment is pure and to be cherished, Subsurface Fiji has placed the mystical Mamanuca Islands firmly on the map.

Well done Karen and tony for this! Putting Fiji diving where it belongs!


The fight against whaling - Fiji Times Online

The fight against whaling - Fiji Times Online:

"The fight against whaling

Sunday, May 27, 2007

IF you're an ardent follower of the TV series Criminal Minds being shown on Fiji One, you would have also caught the Greenpeace advertisement featuring Sir Anthony Hopkins lobbying on behalf of the ocean's giant leviathans the endangered whales.

It is a timely advertisement given that on May 28-31, the annual 2007 meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will happen in Anchorage, Alaska.

Many will attend including representatives from Pacific Island countries that are members of the IWC to determine the future of whales.

The IWC is the decision making body of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) and originally had 14 member states.

Over the past 50 odd years, its membership has grown to 73 and they hold the fate of the whales and the dolphins in their hands.

The IWC was established in response to recognition that after centuries of whaling, species after species of the great whales were being hunted close to extinction.

Intensive whaling efforts such as those in the 1960s where about 70,000 whales were caught annually led to international action to regulate the commercial whaling industry.

However, it came too late for the Atlantic population of gray whales which have been hunted to extinction."

The fight against whaling - Fiji Times Online

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Lonely Planet Fiji

Get this guide if you're goin' 2 Fiji! Simply a must have!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Modest Growth in South Pacific Tourism

Visitors to South Pacific continued to grow in 2006, despite a number of challenges the region faced. Provisional figures indicate that approximately 1.28 million people visited the region in 2006, up 3% on 2005.

This confirms tourism is on track to be a significant contributor to pillar 1 of the Pacific Plan – economic growth. Chief Executive Tony Everitt said “this modest growth demonstrates that overall our region’s reputation in key markets is robust. However, we cannot afford to be complacent. Some South Pacific destinations are having to work extra hard to attract visitors in 2007. We believe our industry has the potential to be contributing USD2B pa to the region’s economy by 2010. But this will require a lot of hard work, commitment, and investment in product development and marketing by both the private and public sector.”


Tui Tai, a Unique Family Vacation

Tui Tai Adventure Cruises has launched a series of specials for families. Specials are now available for families of 4 and 5 members. While the regularly scheduled adventure cruises maintain a minimum age of 14, there are now specially designated “Family Expeditions” available where the minimum age is 8.

“We’ve been getting a lot of interest from families and the adventure cruise is so perfect for a family vacation,” said Morika Young, “Families find that the adventure cruise has something for everyone: great activities, service, food, comfort. Relaxing in some of the most remote islands in the world is a great way to bring the family together.” For families of 5, the special is “4 Pay, 1 Free.” For families of 4, the special is “3 pay and the youngest pays just half price.”

For more information on these great family specials, visit their website today! (Source: Active Fiji / Tui Tai Adventures Cruises)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List

This hefty volume reminds vacationers that hot tourist spots are small percentage of what's worth seeing out there.

A quick sampling: Venice's Cipriani Hotel; California's Monterey Peninsula; the Lewis and Clark Trail in Oregon; the Great Wall of China; Robert Louis Stevenson's home in Western Samoa; and the Alhambra in Andalusia, Spain.

Veteran travel guide writer Schultz divides the book geographically, presenting a little less than a page on each location. Each entry lists exactly where to find the spot (e.g. Moorea is located "12 miles/19 km northwest of Tahiti; 10 minutes by air, 1 hour by boat") and when to go (e.g., if you want to check out The Complete Fly Fisher hotel in Montana, "May and Sept.-Oct. offer productive angling in a solitary setting").

This is an excellent resource for the intrepid traveler.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Florida Manatees May Lose Endangered Status

April 13, 2007 — By Jim Loney, Reuters

MIAMI -- Florida manatees are dying in record numbers and the lumbering marine mammals face growing threats from speedboats, a toxic foe called red tide and the potential loss of their warm winter havens at power plants.

So why is the U.S. government talking about removing its protective "endangered" label, conservationists ask.

"It's a concern because the mortality numbers are still so high," said Dr. Maya Rodriguez, a veterinarian at the Miami Seaquarium who treats sick and injured manatees. "All it might take is a few power plants to close or a really bad red tide to really hurt the population."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that the slow-moving West Indian manatee, one of the first creatures put on the U.S. endangered species list in the 1960s, no longer qualifies as endangered. That follows a similar move by Florida officials last year.

Wildlife officials say the manatee is not in immediate danger of extinction and its status should be changed to "threatened."

"We're not proposing to take it off the list, just change its status," said Dave Hankla, an FWS field supervisor. Changing the status could take several years.

A change from endangered to threatened would not diminish the manatee's protection, but advocates say it could be hurt by public perception that it is no longer in danger.

An annual census found 2,812 manatees in Florida this year, down from 3,113 in 2006. Reported deaths numbered 417 last year, the highest on record, and 101 died in the first three months of this year.

The West Indian manatee, related to the West African and Amazon versions and to the dugong of Australia, is a giant that grows to an average of 10 feet and more than 1,000 pounds. Its wrinkled and whiskered face, reproduced as a stuffed toy, has won the hearts of generations of children.

It has no natural predators. But its penchant for resting on the water's surface has made it a frequent victim of boat propellers.

Manatees are also routinely crushed or drowned in canal locks or hurt by stray fishing line and hooks. They are vulnerable to red tide algae blooms and to winter cold.

Their numbers have increased in the last 30 years, in part due to boat speed restrictions. Developers and boating groups argue for easing restrictions to allow more boat slip construction.


But conservationists say the potential closure of aging electric plants is an unsolved problem for the survival of the species. Water temperatures below 61 degrees Fahrenheit put a manatee in danger and every winter hundreds gather at waterfront power stations to take advantage of warm discharge water.

Florida Power & Light, the state's largest electric company, has five plants that are refuges and as many as 1,500 manatees can be found at the plants on a chilly winter night.

"FPL has no plans to definitely close any of our power plants," said Winifred Perkins, FPL's manager of environmental relations. "But it's most people's opinion that most of these plants won't be around 50, 60, 70 years from now ... From the manatee's point of view, it's an acute issue."

A state task force is considering ways to create alternative warm-water winter homes for manatees.

Red tide, an algae bloom that scientists believe is toxic to manatees, has been blamed for large die-offs. One in 1996 killed about 150 manatees.

"Red tide is the big unknown right now," said Pat Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club. "We're still not sure how much of a risk red tide is. Is it getting worse or is it just killing more manatees?"

Source: Reuters

Monday, 21 May 2007

Scuba Divers Sign Language Manual

This handbook is fun, yet very important! It is fun to practice the signs, but I've also learned many emergency signs for diving, I feel more secure knowing that my buddy understands me underwater.

Empty Nets as Tide Turns on Asia's Fishermen

May 14, 2007 — By Jalil Hamid, Reuters

KUALA MUDA, Malaysia -- The old adage 'there are plenty more fish in the sea' no longer rings true for Malaysian fisherman Shafie Said.

"These days, we have to go farther offshore and into deeper waters to fish," said Shafie, aged 39, his face weather beaten after 16 years sailing tropical waters in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of northwest Malaysia.

"Sometimes we return empty handed," Shafie said sadly.

It is a story told across Asia by millions of fishermen who ply the region's seas to bring home their main, and often only, source of income.

A staple in Asia with its extensive coastlines and poor populations, seafood provides up to 70 percent of the animal protein intake of most Asians.

But the tide is turning as fish stocks in Asia have declined by 70 percent in the past 25 years, says Stephen Hall, head of WorldFish, a non-profit research body based in northern Malaysia.

"We are taking far too many fishes out of the sea and not leaving enough there to grow and re-generate," Hall said at his seaside office on the Malaysian resort island of Penang.

Compounding the problem is global warming, which will bring rising sea levels, higher sea-surface temperatures, higher salinity and greater weather extremes from droughts to storms.

Scientists predict mean sea levels will rise by 10-90 cm (4-35 inches) over this century, with most estimates in the range of 30-50 cm (12-20 inches).

"This will likely damage or destroy many coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and salt marshes, which are essential to maintaining many wild fish stocks," explained a WorldFish report.

Warming seas are changing fish migration patterns with some fish heading south and others moving north, damaging entire ecosystems and affecting reproduction and replenishment rates.

Scientists in Australia are already warning of a massive decline in fish along the country's eastern seaboard with marine life such as yellow-fin tuna and stinging jellyfish moving towards Antarctica as sea waters warm.

"It's not a disaster for the ones that can move south. It is for the ones that can't move south," Dr Alistair Hobday, the lead author of a recent report from the CSIRO, Australia's premier scientific institution, told Reuters recently.


Researchers say the implications of the global overfishing crisis are greater for Asia than any other part of the world. Fish is a vital part of food security, employment and income in the region.

But while the number of fish in the sea is dropping dramatically, the demand for fish is rising as populations grow.

The Asian Development Bank has predicted that demand for fish in Asia will continue to rise, reaching 69 million tonnes by 2010 and accounting for 60 per cent of the world demand for fish for human consumption, compared to 53 per cent in 1990.

China with its 1.3 billion population and growing affluence is expanding its fish consumption, especially for expensive reef fish sold live at restaurants.

In the Philippines, a major source of reef fish, 90 percent of fish stocks have been depleted, conservation group WWF said. Divers report seeing lifeless reefs in areas that were once teeming with fish.

Last December, Philippine authorities rescued more than 1,000 endangered humphead wrasse from poachers. The reef fish, which can sell for as much as $200 per kilo, are adored by diners in China because their large lips are considered a delicacy.

In India, turtles get caught up in their thousands in trawler nets and nesting sites such as Devi -- where tens of thousands of Olive Ridley turtles would nest in a single night -- are becoming devoid of turtles.

A shark species called "Karat hangar" has already vanished off the coast of Bangladesh along with sea-horses and other fish.


And it's not just the environment that is at risk.

Fishermen in Asia and across the Indian Ocean in Africa are economically vulnerable to the decline in fish stocks, which directly affects their livelihoods, local economies and diet.

Poor and often uneducated, many are unaware of the need to help marine life rejuvenate by throwing back immature fish and avoiding catching turtles and other sea creatures in nets.

"Fishers need to reduce their reliance on narrow resources by learning to exploit a broader range of species and pursue alternative sources of income and fish production such as marine and aquaculture," Hall explained.

But teaching the world's estimated 29 million fishermen about sustainable fishing is an enormous task, especially as many live in countries where education systems are poor, poverty endemic and where there is little investment in aquaculture projects.

WorldFish suggests governments enforce tighter controls over fishing such as ceilings on the number of boats allowed to operate in certain areas and institute a vessel registration system. But enforcing such a system may be close to impossible.

Another solution is expanding fish farms in Asia. But these require significant investment as well as a successful campaign to convince fishermen to change their lifestyles from plying the seas for fish to raising them in ponds on land.

Bangladesh, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, relies on fish for about 80 percent of its national animal protein intake. Yet the fish are disappearing, leaving Bangladeshi fishermen baffled and their incomes dropping.

"Many fish species have vanished and our prime catch of silvery Hisha is also dwindling," said fisherman Suleman Miah.

"The golden days of fishing are gone. (Additional reporting by Anis Ahmed in Dhaka)

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Brunei To Curb Commercial Fishing Amid Dwindling Marine Stocks

April 13, 2007 — By Associated Press

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei -- Brunei will impose a moratorium on commercial fishing in coastal waters starting January 2008 following a plunge in fish stocks, an official said.

Only small-scale, individual fishing will be permitted until marine resources recover to sustainable levels in waters known as Zone 1, which covers 3 nautical miles (4.8 kilometers) from Brunei's shoreline, Fisheries Department officer Ranimah Abdul Wahab said Thursday.

According to Fisheries Department statistics, fish stocks in this tiny sultanate on Borneo island fell 43 percent between 1980 and 2000. The worst affected area was Zone 1, where waters are as much as 50 meters (165 feet) deep. No current data was available.

Brunei has a coastline stretching 130 kilometers (80 miles). Its sea territory spans 38,600 square kilometers (14,900 square miles) with fishing areas separated into four zones.

The country has one of Southeast Asia's highest rates of per capita fish consumption, and has to import about 50 percent of its fish needs to supplement local fishing.

Each resident consumes an average of 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of fish per year, resulting in an annual national demand of 15,500 metric tons (17,000 U.S. tons), according to government data.

Source: Associated Press

Monday, 14 May 2007

Lonely Planet Fiji

Get this guide if you're goin' 2 Fiji! Simply a must have!

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Fiji Aggressor I Returns to Suva, Fiji

Press release from

The eighteen passenger catamaran Fiji Aggressor I returns to Suva, Fiji and resumes charters on May 12, 2007. Built in 1997 and refit in 2006, the spacious 106-foot long, 30-foot wide aluminum catamaran has three passenger decks and countless personal amenities like a hot tub, computer station, lounge with entertainment center and nine private staterooms.

Seven-day diving charters depart from the Tradewinds Hotel in Suva. Guests will explore the walls and channels near Gau Island, Wakaya Island and Namena.

The Fiji Aggressor I joins the 10-passenger Fiji Aggressor II steel monohull, which has operated diving charters in Fiji since 1995.

See their website for full details:

Friday, 11 May 2007

Seeman Sub to join Scubapro and Uwatec

Johnson Outdoors - owner of Scubapro and Uwatec - announced it is adding the popular German brand, Seemann Sub, to its portfolio of winning outdoor recreational brands.

The family-owned and managed German company was acquired from Robert and Ella Stoss. The transaction, which closed on April 2, 2007, continues Johnson Outdoors’ strategic focus on acquisitions that complement its businesses, have market-leading potential and strengthen long-term profitability.

Seemann Sub, founded in 1979, is one of Germany’s largest dive equipment providers, offering a complete line of dive gear for the price driven consumer. Over the next six months, the Company plans to relocate its existing SCUBAPRO® and UWATEC® business in Germany into Seemann Sub™ operations located in Wendelstein, Germany.

“Continuous innovation and strategic, targeted acquisitions are key to achieving our future growth vision,” said Helen Johnson-Leipold, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson Outdoors. “Germany is the #1 dive market in Europe, and establishing a strong presence there is essential to returning our diving business to historic levels of profitability. As a result of this acquisition, overnight Johnson Outdoors has become one of the top three competitors in this important regional marketplace. The opportunity beyond Europe is even more exciting as we look to leverage the Scubapro global dealer network to expand distribution of Seemann Sub™ around the world.”

See their huge website for full range...

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The Fiji Dive Game

Well here we are with another little stunt by FVB which they failed to tell everyone about!


Undersea Productions: Marine Life of Fiji & Tonga, video identification guide

Undersea Productions: Marine Life of Fiji & Tonga, video identification guide

Marine Life of Fiji and Tonga: A Video Identification Guide

Created for divers, snorkellers, aquarists and all underwater enthusiasts.

Includes 2 DVD videos that you can play on your TV or computer PLUS a 16-page reference booklet with line drawings, descriptions and helpful information.

This "V.I.D." Guide (Video ID) covers the incredible marine biodiversity of this fantastic corner of the South Pacific. Beautifully filmed and visually engaging, Marine Life of Fiji & Tonga

contains pretty much every species you are likely to see, catch or hear about when getting wet in this part of the world. Three years and more than 3000 dives in the making, this is both an essential tool and exotic entertainment.

Disc One: FISH including sharks, lionfish, gobies, angelfish, ghost pipefish, rays, eels, butterflyfish, dragonets, seahorses, barracudas, parrotfish...

Disc Two: EVERYTHING ELSE including whales, nudibranchs, corals, octopus, crustaceans, sponges, jellyfish, sea stars, sea snakes, cuttlefish...

More information here...

Scientists Equip Narwhals as Arctic Oceanographers

April 23, 2007 — By Will Dunham, Reuters

WASHINGTON -- Scientists have enlisted some supremely qualified recruits to retrieve important data on one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth. And all these recruits want is a nice fish dinner.

That's because they are narwhals, a deep-diving arctic whale famous for the males' long, spiral tusk.

University of Washington marine biologist Kristin Laidre and colleague Mads Peter Heide-Jorgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources have equipped three narwhals with sophisticated satellite transmitters to send data on water temperatures in ice-clogged seas between Greenland and Canada.

"In a way, we've converted these animals into oceanographers," Laidre said this week. "We're not only learning about their ecology and biology, but we're collecting data that can be useful for bigger-picture climate change questions."

The whales are collecting data about Baffin Bay, their winter habitat between northeast Canada and Greenland. Baffin Bay joins with the Arctic Ocean to the north and west and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via Davis Strait.

Laidre said there had been essentially no such data on this region from wintertime, when it is covered in ice and impassable to ships. It is an important link in global ocean circulation and a good place to detect ocean changes in due to climate change.

But the whales thrive in these winter conditions. They dive to depths of 1.1 miles to feed on Greenland halibut, a deep-water flatfish living on bottom of Baffin Bay.

The devices placed on their backs record water temperatures at various depths and track narwhal movements and diving behavior, adding to the understanding of these elusive whales. The devices transmit 400 readings a day.


"If you can attach an instrument to a whale that's going down to the bottom of Baffin Bay and coming back up again -- diving 1,800 meters over and over again -- you can collect some fantastic data that only very, very sophisticated oceanographic instruments can collect," Laidre said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources back the research.

The world narwhal population is close to 100,000, with about 50,000 to 70,000 in the Baffin Bay area, Heide-Jorgensen said. They grow to about 16 feet long, with the tusk adding up to 9 feet more. They weigh upward of 1.5 tons, with males bigger than females.

The aim is to equip eight to 10 whales with the devices. Doing so is easier said than done.

The scientists set nets to catch the whales, and monitor the nets 24 hours a day.

When a whale becomes ensnared, the scientists jump into two inflatable boats and rush to the scene, knowing they need to get the whale to the surface so it can breathe. The whales wildly try to escape, but calm down after being placed in a sort of sling between the boats, the scientists said.

The scientists then attach the devices with two plastic pins -- painlessly, they say -- to a ridge on the animal's back.

The three whales now sending data were trapped last summer. No whale has been harmed in the process, they said.

"Capturing a narwhal requires an extraordinary amount of patience and optimism," Laidre said.

Source: Reuters

Scientists Work on Encyclopedia of Life

Wired News - AP News:

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a whale-sized project, the world's scientists plan to compile everything they know about all of Earth's 1.8 million known species and put it all on one Web site, open to everyone."

See website here....

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Aqua-Trek Fiji oins the Shortlist of Finalists in Best Practice in Travel & Tourism

Tourism for Tomorrow Awards 2007 – AQUA-TREK FIJI joins the Shortlist of Finalists showcasing World’s Leading Examples of Best Practice in Travel & Tourism

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) of London announced the finalists for the 2007 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and Aqua-Trek, a scuba diving company in the Fiji Islands, is one of 3 Awards Finalists chosen for the Conservation category. Tourism businesses from all over the world applied for these prestigious Awards, which represent the highest accolade for best practice in Travel & Tourism development.

An international committee of experts selected the finalists from hundreds of applications from more than 40 countries representing Travel & Tourism on all seven continents. According to the WTTC, Costas Christ, Judging Chairman of the Awards and an internationally recognized expert in sustainable tourism said: “With rigorous evaluation standards and detailed criteria, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have become the “Oscars” of Travel & Tourism industry. Today that means not only providing an outstanding tourism product but doing so in a way that helps to protect the cultural and natural heritage of our planet.” A thorough site visit and scrupulous verification process was conducted for every finalist.

Aqua-Trek created a world class Shark Dive in Beqa Lagoon that has been called “The #1 Shark Dive in The World”. Divers can view up to 8 species of shark. Aqua-Trek's Shark Conservation and Sustainable Tourism Program was developed along with the dive and has been instrumental in the conservation of sharks on a local and global level. The program aims to educate people about the importance of protecting this threatened marine species whose role is vital to our ecosystem. In addition to conservation and education, the project provides income to local villages; preserves the cultural heritage of the indigenous people; provides Fiji with a successful sustainable tourism enterprise; and creates an unparalleled opportunity to study sharks in their natural environment.

This award brings international recognition of best practices in conservation and sustainable tourism to both Aqua-Trek and the Fiji islands.

  • Mrs. Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, Fiji’s Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations, Tourism and Environment said: “Aqua-Trek reflects the most amazing best practice strategy I have seen in Fiji or in the Pacific for that matter. Apart from building Fiji up as one of the best dive sites in the world, Aqua-Trek has undertaken this in the most sustainable way in association with the environment and the traditional link that most Fijians hold to sharks and their prowess as kings of the reef. Aqua Trek’s lobbying of government to ban shark fishing in our territorial waters and prohibit the sale of shark fin products in Fiji has also commenced. Everybody wins. I salute Aqua Trek for their vision.”

All finalists will be recognized at a prestigious Award ceremony at the 7th Global Travel & Tourism Summit in May, 2007 in Lisbon Portugal.

Contact: MaryAnne Hines at Ph: 415/398-8990 USA

Tourism for Tomorrow Information:

Tags follow 'Nemo' fish to home

The remarkable homing instincts of some coral reef fish have been revealed.

A team tagged two species of reef fish larvae to see where the juveniles were going after spending weeks and even months maturing in open sea.

It found most of the orange clownfish - made famous by the Finding Nemo movie - and vagabond butterflyfish returned to the reef where they had first hatched.

Writing in the journal Science, the team said the discovery could have implications for marine protection.

"Marine fish lay very small eggs, and when they do, they are released into the water column," explained co-author Professor Geoff Jones from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

"They develop into a really tiny little larvae that we think drift around in the water currents, sometimes for months.

"The missing link in our understanding of coral reef fish has always been: where do the larvae go?"

Help from Mum

But until now, finding this out has been extremely tricky - attaching tags to miniscule larvae is not an easy task.

So the international team of researchers tackled the problem by getting the mother to help.

Satellite image of the Kimbe Island  (Science)
The study took place on a small reef in Kimbe Bay
They did this by collecting female coral reef fish from a small 0.3 sq km reef in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, and injecting them with a rare, stable barium isotope.

The females pass this isotope to their developing offspring where it accumulates in their bones, giving the baby fish unique chemical signatures.

A few weeks later, the team returned to the reef and collected young fish to test them to see if they carried the "tag".

"We found that 60% - well over half - were coming back to the small island reserve, which was an unexpected result," Professor Jones told the BBC.

Navigational feat

The scientists are uncertain how the vividly coloured orange clownfish and vagabond butterflyfish perform this feat but hope to find out with further research.

An adult butterflyfish (Science and R. Patzner)
"Perhaps they are somehow remaining in sensory contact with their home island and are able to maintain their position and not end up drifting too far away," said Professor Jones.

"Or maybe they are getting carried away, but they have a homing mechanism to swim back to their home reef."

Although the study was carried out on two species, Professor Jones believes the finding may apply to other coral reef fish too, and if this is the case, it could have consequences for marine conservation.

It shows that small no-take marine reserves are a good way to protect over-fished species, he said, because there should be enough juveniles returning to the area to sustain numbers over time.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/05/04 15:14:23 GMT


Saturday, 5 May 2007

Indonesia Quake Caused Huge Coral Die-Off

April 12, 2007 — By Reuters

JAKARTA -- A strong earthquake that struck Indonesia's Sumatra island two years ago caused one of the biggest coral die-offs ever documented, a study by scientists from two conservation groups found.

The quake itself killed nearly 1,000 people on Nias island off the western coast of Sumatra island.

The scientists, who surveyed 35 sites on the coastline, found that the earthquake had raised the island of Simeulue near Nias by up to 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in), exposing most of the coral reefs ringing the island over about 300 km (190 miles) of sea floor, a news statement said.

The scientists were from the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society and the government-backed Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoERS).

"This is a story of mass mortality on a scale rarely observed," said Dr Stuart Campbell of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia marine programme.

"In contrast to other threats like coral bleaching, none of the corals uplifted by the earthquake have survived," he said.

Campbell said, however, that some sites in Simeulue were now recovering.

"At many sites, the worst affected species are beginning to recolonise the shallow reef areas. The reefs appear to be returning to what they looked like before the earthquake, although the process may take many years," he said.

Dr Andrew Baird of ARCCoERS said the earthquake had provided a one-off chance to study such a phenomenon.

"This is a unique opportunity to document a process that occurs maybe once a century and promises to provide new insights into coral recovery processes that until now we could only explore on fossil reefs."

The team said it had documented, for the first time in Indonesian waters, extensive damage to reefs caused by the crown-of-thorns starfish, a coral predator that has inflicted huge damage on reefs in Australia and other parts of the world.

"People monitoring Indonesian coral reefs now have another threat to watch out for, and not all reef damage should be immediately attributed to human influences," said Baird.

Indonesia has some of the richest reef environments in the world, but many have also suffered from human interference.

The government has banned the use of chemicals such as cyanide and bombing to catch fish, but such practices still go on in many parts of the huge tropical nation made up of more than 17,000 islands.

Source: Reuters

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Master Guide for Underwater Digital Photography

New book shows how to make the most of digital technology, with tips for purchasing gear, selecting camera settings and taking the first dive with a digital camera.

Also included are exposure techniques; lighting tips; ideas for close-up and super-macro photography; tips for fish photography, reducing backscatter; travelling with and caring for underwater digital equipment; and tips for reef protection.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Real Men Wear Utilikilts - News - Travel Gear Blog

As a Scotsman who is into the Outdoors, I just couldn't go past this post at

Real Men Wear Utilikilts - News - Travel Gear Blog:

"Real Men Wear Utilikilts
By Mika | Permalink | No Comments | January 4th, 2007 | Trackback

Real Men Wear UtilikiltsAt one of the many coffee shops around Portland that I swing by to grab a morning cup o’ joe, I spotted a guy sporting a Utilikilt. It’s not my first time seeing a kilt wearer, but I’d say they’re fairly rare on this side of the pond.

After chatting with our new friend, an REI employee, he agreed to let me take a picture with my new T-mobile Dash smartphone (more to come on the Dash another day) to post here on Travel Gear Blog.

If you see him running around Portland - and you might, as these kilts are donned more days than not for him, be sure to say hi. But remember, it’s culturally insensitive to ask whether it’s worn in true Scotsman style."