Tuesday, February 06, 2007

More Declining Numbers

Sea Turtles Dying Along Bangladesh Coast

More than 200 turtles, some weighing 20 kg (44 pounds) or more, have died in the Bay of Bengal along the Bangladesh coast over the past week, government officials and witnesses said on Monday.

"Around 140 turtles were found dead along a 4-km (2.5 miles) stretch of the beach," Mohammad Aminul Islam, deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar district, said.

He said more turtles were dying on the shores of St. Martin island, 35 km off the country's southeastern tip, Teknaf.

Fishermen have reported that some dolphins have also died.

No one seems to know why the sea creatures are dying...

Baltic Sea salmon stocks dive in 2006

Stocks of wild salmon in the Baltic Sea are in continuous decline but 2006 may have been a particularly bad year, with an estimated drop of 50 percent from the previous year, a scientist said on Monday.

"Fish counters, catches ... All the reports point in the same direction," said Jaakko Erkinaro, a professor at the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

"The figure of (a) 50 percent (drop between 2005 and 2006) is likely. Whatever the exact figure is, it's a marked decline," he told AFP, attributing the decrease to several hypotheses: a fall in salinity, warming of the waters or a rise in seal stocks.

"But it remains a big question mark," he said.

Wild salmon quotas were drastically reduced in the 1990s by the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission, which over the years reduced them from 700,000 fish to 300,000 in 2005.

The European Union decided in October to reduce by an additional five percent the quotas for 2007.

The Baltic Sea is a shallow and virtually closed sea and therefore very polluted.

Pregnant women are, for example, advised to avoid eating wild salmon because of levels of PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls) and PCTs (polychloroterphenyls) five times higher than farmed salmon, according to the European food safety authority.

Erkinaro said salmon was not the only fish species in the Baltic Sea that was threatened.

"There are problems with other species. Cod, for example, in the southern Baltic, or river trout. The causes are varied," he said...

The numbers of beluga, the white whales of Alaska, have halved in 13 years

A new report by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, to be published later this year, will reveal that the number of beluga whales in Cook Inlet has declined dramatically in the past decade and now stands at just 302. This is less than half the number recorded in 1994, according to Brad Smith, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

"There is a one-in-four chance that this population is going to become extinct in 100 years," he said. "This is the only population of belugas found in the Gulf of Alaska. If we lose these whales they will not be replaced. These whales are genetically and physically isolated from other populations."

Belugas have become a symbol of man's effect on the environment due to their capacity to absorb large amounts of pollution. Those in the Gulf of St Lawrence in Canada have such high concentrations of chemical pollutants in their bodies that their carcasses are treated as toxic waste. But now the distinctive white whales, an inspiration for Moby-Dick, are showing signs of their own demise.

Decades of whaling have placed belugas in a vulnerable position, accor-ding to campaigners who are now warning that a deadly combination of increasing boat traffic, oil and gas exploration and pollution are all adding to the pressure on the species. The whales are also subject to attacks from polar bears and killer whales, and global warming is changing the movements of the pack ice that dictates their range.

Government scientists are now developing a plan to protect the remaining belugas, which will include recommendations to create areas of "critical habitat" where human activity would be subject to greater regulation....

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