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MEDIA REPORTS

WATER, OCEANS AND WETLANDS

This page was updated on: 01/12/10

2004

Water, Oceans and Wetlands Media Report Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2003; 2002

DECEMBER 2004

 

ACTION UPDATE: HIGH SEAS BIODIVERSITY PROTECTION

Efforts to ensure international action on protection of deep sea biodiversity in the high seas are gaining momentum. The issue was addressed recently in the United Nations, when the General Assembly for the first time clearly recognized that bottom trawl fishing can have adverse and destructive impacts on seamounts, coldwater corals and other vulnerable deep sea ecosystems. While falling short of calling for a moratorium – a move advocated by many scientists and non-governmental entities – the General Assembly agreed to call on States to “take action urgently” and consider interim prohibitions or moratoria on high seas bottom trawl fishing. In addition the General Assembly established a process to study issues concerning conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

 

Following on the heels of the General Assembly’s deliberations on oceans, governments and NGOs at the IUCN Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion on protection of high seas deep sea biodiversity from destructive fishing practices, calling upon the UN General Assembly to urgently “adopt a resolution calling for an interim prohibition on high seas bottom trawling, until such time as a legally binding regime is developed and adopted to conserve and protect high seas biodiversity from the impacts of destructive fishing practices, including bottom trawling.”

 

In related news, a number of publications were released recently that address the impacts of fishing on marine environments. The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report entitled “Turning the Tide,” which focuses on the impacts of fishing in the northeast Atlantic, makes specific recommendations on deep sea bottom trawling, while the Australian government’s Status of Coral Reefs of the World recognizes the need for urgent and precautionary action, including the prohibition of destructive fishing practices and establishment of marine protected areas, to conserve and sustainably manage coldwater coral reefs.

 

Links to further information

Turning the Tide - Addressing the impact of Fisheries on the Marine Environment

Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2004

UNGA draft oceans resolution

UN press release, 17 November 2004

Greenpeace statement to the UN General Assembly

3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition press release on relevant IUCN motions, 24 November 2004

 

OCTOBER 2004

 

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CALLS FOR A HALT TO NAVAL SONARS

The European Parliament has approved a resolution, which calls on the 25 EU member states to stop deploying high-intensity active naval sonar until more is known about the harm it inflicts on whales and other marine life. Tabled by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the measure was, according to news reports, approved by a wide margin with 441 votes in favor, and only 15 against and 14 abstentions.

 

“There can be little doubt that these sonar devices are responsible for the deaths of thousands of marine mammals, some of them endangered and protected species,” said Green Party European Parliament Member Caroline Lucas said.”

 

The resolution cites increasing scientific and public concern over a series of documented mass strandings and mortalities of whales following military sonar exercises. Noting a growing body of scientific research that confirms such sonar poses “a significant threat to marine mammals, fish and other ocean wildlife,” the resolution calls on member states to: establish a Multinational Task Force for developing international agreements on sonar and other sources of intense ocean noise; exclude and seek alternatives to the harmful sonars used today; and immediately restrict the use of high-intensity active naval sonars in waters falling under their jurisdiction.

 

“The increasing use of active sonar by militaries around the world threatens the survival of numerous marine species, including entire populations of whales and porpoises,” said Frederick O’Regan, President of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “This is a global problem that must be solved through international cooperation, and the resolution adopted today by the European Parliament is a significant step toward that goal.”

 

Links to further information

EU Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

European Parliament resolution on the environmental effects of high-intensity active naval sonars

European Parliament Votes to Protect Whales From Sonar, ENS, 29 October 2004

Ocean Futures Society press release, 28 October 2004

 

BANK AND GEF WORK TOGETHER TO PROTECT CORAL REEFS

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank have announced a five-year initiative to help protect coral reefs in developing countries. The US$11 million GEF grant, to be implemented by the World Bank along with an equivalent amount in matching funds, will support an initial $22.3 million Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Project. This represents the first phase of a 15-year targeted research programme to bring the best science from around the world to bear on issues related to coral reef vulnerability and resilience. Through the project, scientists will translate knowledge into tools and policies for decision makers.

 

The deterioration of coral reefs is a serious threat to the environmental and economic security of many coastal nations. Already, 93 of the 109 countries around the world with significant coral reef communities have suffered damage to them. Coral reefs are not only global assets of exceptional biodiversity value, they are significant drivers of economic growth.

 

“Over the past ten years, an increasing awareness of the importance of coral reefs has been evident, especially in light of their rapid decline in many regions, and their significance to developing countries,” states Marea Hatziolos, World Bank Project Task Manager. “However, at a time when management interventions are becoming increasingly important, what remains fundamentally unknown about these ecosystems is alarming. Significant gaps remain in our understanding of some of the basic forcing functions affecting coral reefs.”

 

Links to further information

World Bank press release, 14 October 2004

GEF homepage

 

EGYPTIAN WINS FIRST WASH MEDIA AWARD

Egypt national Nadia El-Awady has been awarded the first WASH Media Award for her article, The Nile and its People, which illustrates the impacts of industrial pollution, sewage and solid waste management on people’s health along the Nile River. As the first prize winner, El-Awady will receive US$500 and an all-expenses paid trip to Dakar, Senegal, to attend the first WASH Global Forum in November 2004. The second prize goes to Nereo C. Lujan from the Philippines for his article, Boracay’s Road to Ruin, on the Philippine resort island of Boracay.

 

The WASH Media Award was established by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in 2002 in order to encourage and promote investigative reporting on water, sanitation and hygiene issues by developing country journalists. The WSSCC seeks to enhance collaboration in the water supply and sanitation sector, in order to attain universal coverage of water and sanitation services for poor people around the world. The Council was set up in 1990 through a mandate by the UN General Assembly to maintain the momentum of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990). In 2001 it launched the global WASH campaign “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for all” aimed at mobilizing political support for these issues and to accelerate the attainment of the international development goals on water and sanitation.

 

Links to further information

WSSCC press release, 22 October 2004

WSSCC homepage

Global Wash Forum

 

FAO WINS SWEDISH SEAFOOD AWARD

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) received the Swedish Seafood Award for its work with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Supporting Technical guidelines carried out by the organization’s Fisheries Department. The Code’s standards promote global and regional cooperation in all sorts of national fishing industries, including small-scale fishing. It also stresses that environmentally sound and sustainable fishing can only be achieved through international effort. The award jury stressed that FAO’s work in securing food production has become increasingly important with the development of the fishing industry and with the overexploitation of fish stocks.

 

FAO intends to use its 300,000 kronor (US$41,300) prize, to further strengthen its assistance towards developing countries for the promotion of responsible fisheries.

 

The Swedish Seafood Award is organized by the Göteborg-based trade organization Svensk Fisk (Swedish Fish), which seeks to raise public awareness of the urgent need for all countries to increase cooperation towards better fisheries management.

 

Links to further information

FAO press release, 21 October 2004

FAO Fisheries homepage

Svensk Fish homepage

 

COSTA RICA CHAMPIONS MORATORIUM ON HIGH SEAS BOTTOM TRAWLING; GREENPEACE EXPOSES DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY BOTTOM TRAWLING

Costa Rica is supporting a moratorium on bottom trawling on the high seas, a move backed by many environmental and conservation organizations. The UN General Assembly is currently considering oceans matters and a UN resolution on this issue is due to be tabled in early November. Costa Rica has circulated language calling for all States to implement a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling until a legal framework ensuring the long term conservation of deep sea marine resources and biodiversity has been developed and implemented. The proposal further calls on States and relevant organizations, to collaborate on improving understanding and knowledge of the deep sea through an assessment of the extent of deep sea biodiversity and ecosystems, including populations of high seas fish stocks as well as straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and their vulnerability to deep sea fishing on the high seas, by 2005. The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), an alliance of environmental and conservation organizations dedicated to protecting deep sea life, is actively encouraging all member States to support Costa Rica’s additions to the draft resolutions. The DSCC has also recently proposed the need to implement a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

 

On a related development, Greenpeace is currently investigating and documenting bottom trawling in the North Atlantic. Greenpeace ship Esperanza recently encountered a Spanish bottom trawler fishing in international waters and has exposed the destruction caused by the trawler. Footage reveals abundant amounts of “bycatch” destroyed by trawling nets, including red squid, rays, dogfish, starfish, crustaceans, and various fish species.

 

Links to further information

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition website

Costa Rica’s proposals on bottom trawling

EU fleet exposed destroying deep sea life as UN meets to discuss protection, Greenpeace press release, 18 October 2004

 

NGOs URGE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO ADOPT MORATORIUM ON HIGH SEAS BOTTOM TRAWLING

A coalition of environmental and conservation organizations has called on the United Nations General Assembly to secure a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling in order to protect seamounts, coldwater corals and vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems. Noting that resolutions currently tabled for discussion at the General Assembly’s 59th session fall short of the measures needed to protect these fragile ecosystems, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) has urged the GA to “adopt a resolution declaring an immediate moratorium on high seas bottom trawling” and to initiate a process, held under GA auspices, to assess deep sea biodiversity and ecosystems, and to adopt and implement legally binding regimes to protect deep sea biodiversity from high seas bottom trawling.

 

DSCC Coordinator Kelly Rigg said, “One fifteen minute trawl can lay a deep seabed habitat to waste, destroying cold water corals which have taken millennia to grow. We may end up driving species as yet undiscovered by science to extinction.”

 

According to the coalition, only a handful of countries have deep sea bottom trawl fleets, with 11 countries having taken about 95% of the reported high seas bottom trawl catch in 2001. The DSCC states that with only a few hundred trawlers fishing on the high seas across the world, there is still time to bring this destructive fishing practice to an end before the industry spirals out of control. In addition to devastating deep sea ecosystems, bottom trawling also impacts deep sea fisheries, which are slow to recover.

 

This is not the first time the international community has called for action to protect deep sea ecosystems. The UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea considered the issue in 2002 and recommended that the General Assembly call for urgent consideration to improve the management of risks to vulnerable deep-sea areas and biodiversity. The most recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity also underlined the need for urgent action to address threats to marine biodiversity in deep sea areas and called upon the General Assembly to take measures to this end. Furthermore, over a thousand scientists signed a statement in February this year, urging the UN and other international bodies to establish a moratorium on bottom trawling in the high seas and calling on countries to ban bottom trawling within their Economic Exclusive Zones, where deep sea coral ecosystems are known to exist.

 

Links to further information

Deep Sea Conservation Coalition website

 

SEPTEMBER 2004
 

WORLD WATER MONITORING DAY 2004

World Water Monitoring Day will take place this year on 18 October. The annual monitoring day encourages citizens of the global community to take actions that positively impact the health of rivers, lakes, estuaries and other waterbodies. Volunteer monitoring groups, water quality agencies, students and the general public are invited to test four key indicators of water quality: temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.

 

World Water Monitoring Day, coordinated by American’s Clean Water Foundation and the International Water Association, was created to serve as an educational platform to introduce people to the importance of water monitoring, connect them personally with efforts to protect and preserve their local watersheds, and expand the base of information concerning the health of individual watersheds over time.
 

Links to further information

World Water Monitoring Day homepage

 

UPCOMING WATER AWARDS

Nominations for the 2005 international Stockholm Water Prize and the Wetland Conservation Awards are now being requested. The US$150,000 Stockholm Water Prize is presented annually to an individual, institution or organization for outstanding water-related activities. The activities can be within the fields of aid, awareness building and education, engineering, management or science. Any activity or actor, which contributes broadly to the availability, conservation and protection of the world’s water resources, and to improved water conditions, is eligible for nomination. Nominations should be submitted before 30 September 2004.

 

The US$10,000 Wetland Conservation Awards, sponsored by the Ramsar Convention, recognizes contributions of individuals, organizations, and governments around the world towards promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The 2005 Awards will be made in the three categories of management, science and education. The deadline for nominations is 31 October 2004.

 

Links to further information

Stockholm Water Prize guidelines

Wetland Conservation Award guideline

 

AUGUST 2004

 

UN-HABITAT LAUNCHES WATER FOR ASIAN CITIES PROGRAMME IN INDIA

Under the Water for Asian Cities Programme (WAC) of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has accorded US$20 million to six Indian cities to improve their water supply and sanitation facilities. The cities, all located within the State of Madhya Pradesh, will target the urban poor in order to facilitate achieving the internationally-agreed goals on water and sanitation. Some of the areas being focused on include: pro-poor water governance; water demand management; public awareness; partnerships; and integrated urban environmental sanitation. The ADB investment is part of a US$500 million commitment made by the multilateral development bank last year to support the urban water and sanitation sector in Asia through UN-HABITAT’s Water for Asian Cities Programme.

 

Links to further information

UN-Habitat press release

UN-Habitat Water for Asian Cities Programme

UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

 

WETLANDS INTERNATIONAL ANNOUNCES NEW AWARD

Wetlands International has announced the Luc Hoffmann Medal for Wetland Science and Conservation on occasion of its 50th anniversary. The medal will be awarded by decision of the Wetlands International Board of Directors and given out every triennium in honor of Luc Hoffmann, one of the founders of the global non-profit organization. Established to reflect Luc Hoffman’s belief that effective nature conservation activities is based on sound science, the award will be bestowed to an individual who has demonstrated excellence in one or more of three categories: scientific research; communication, education and/or public awareness; and wetland management. Wetlands International is seeking nominations for the award, the first of which will be presented on 25 November 2004 prior to the Board of Members meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The deadline for nominations is 20 September 2004.

 

Links to further information

Luc Hoffman Medal website

http://www.wetlands.org/aboutWI/LH_Award.htm

 

UNEP-WCMC AND DIVERS FIGHT OCEAN POLLUTION

The United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has launched a new initiative – Earthdive – in which professional and amateur divers will help record the health of the marine environment including coral reefs, mangrove swamps and coastal waters. Earthdive members are asked to contribute to a Global Dive Log (GDL) – a database of dives, snorkel trips, divers, dive sites, dive logs, science logs, key indicators, anthropogenic pressures and dive center, which will include additional datasets on coral reefs, seagrass beds and protected areas.

 

UNEP-WCMC, one of the world’s leading centers for coral reef conservation, is providing a unique mapping service, allowing divers to pinpoint locations and log their observations so that they can be shared with other divers and the scientific community.

 

As a commercial organization, Earthdive is also seeking to effect positive change towards a more sustainable marine environment by raising global awareness and financial support for the protection of our oceans. Half of all membership fees go directly to marine conservation projects and members will sign an international petition, demanding action to protect the oceans, which will be delivered to the United Nations in 2005.

 

“There is a natural link between diving and environmental protection, and we are working closely with Earthdive to encourage more people to bring the two together,” said Coral Cay Conservation CEO and Earthdive partner Peter Raines. “Recreational diving is a fast growing sport, with more than 1.5 million new divers being certified each year. Earthdive has a unique opportunity to unite this rapidly-growing community in vital conservation activities, which are ultimately of enormous benefit to us all.”

 

Links to further information

UNEP press release, 27 July 2004

Earthdive homepage

UNEP-WCMC homepage

 

JULY 2004

 

UNEP TO RESTORE IRAQ’S GARDEN OF EDEN

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will invest US$11million to restore the marshlands of southern Iraq, considered by some to be the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. The marshlands, the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East and Western Eurasia, were largely destroyed in the late 20th century as a result of the construction of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a vast drainage operation carried out by the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein. By 2001, UNEP released satellite images showing that 90% of the wetlands, home to rare and unique species like the Sacred ibis and African darter, and a spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, had been lost. But, with the collapse of the former regime in mid-2003, local residents began opening floodgates and breaching embankments to bring water back into the marshlands. Satellite images indicate that by April this year around a fifth, or 3,000 square kilometers, had been re-flooded. UNEP aims to further restore the environment and provide clean water and sanitation services for up to 85,000 people living there. The UNEP project, approved within the framework of the UN Iraq Trust Fund, will initially target around a dozen settlements with small-scale water treatment systems some of which are likely to be solar powered. Reed beds and other marshland habitats that act as natural, water-filtration systems will be restored to benefit not only local residents, but also provide new habitats for birds and other key wildlife.

 

Links to further information

UNEP press release, 23 July 2004

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?
DocumentID=402&ArticleID=4572&l=en

UN News Service, 23 July 2004

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=11447&Cr=Iraq&Cr1=

 

GEF SPONSORS WESTERN INDIAN OCEAN CLEAN-UP

The Global Environment Facility has announced the launch of a three-year, $11 million project to cut pollution in the Western Indian Ocean. The new project, to be implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is aimed at strengthening pollution laws, regulations and cooperation among the countries and islands that share the ocean, namely the Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania.

 

The Western Indian Ocean, home to more than 11,000 species of plants and animals, including 70% of the world’s marine turtles, has been threatened in recent years by unplanned urbanization, discharge of untreated sewage, habitat destruction, destructive fishing practices and overexploitation of resources.

 

Measures likely to form part of the project include improving the safe disposal of wastes, addressing the siting of rubbish tips, developing wetlands to naturally filter and detoxify sewage, and expanding recycling schemes.

 

The project, announced at the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention for the protection, management and development of the marine and coastal environment of the eastern African region, is seen as fulfilling part of the UN Millennium Development Goals relating to poverty eradication, the provision of drinking water, and hunger reduction, as well as the New Partnership for Africa's Development environment initiative and the World Summit on Sustainable Development's Plan of Implementation adopted in Johannesburg in 2002.

 

Links to further information

UNEP press release, 6 July 2004

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?
DocumentID=402&ArticleID=4557&l=en

UN Wire, 6 July 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040706/449_25551.asp

ENS, 6 July 2004

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2004/2004-07-06-06.asp

 

GREAT BARRIER REEF BECOMES WORLD’S LARGEST MPA

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has become the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) following a new national zoning plan that increases the Marine Park and World Heritage Area’s ‘no-take’ zones from 4.5% to 33.3%. Under the plan, all commercial and recreational fishing will be banned in 11 million hectares of the marine park, while tourism will continue.

 

Extending 1,400 miles along the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef encompasses over 2,900 reefs and 940 islands and is inhabited by 1,500 species of fish, 359 types of hard coral, 175 species of birds and more than 30 species of mammals, including dugongs and six of the world’s seven threatened species of sea turtles. The new network of highly protected areas is expected to reduce pressure on the Great Barrier Reef and enhance its capacity to overcome large-scale threats, such as biodiversity loss and coral bleaching.

 

“This is an historic moment for the Great Barrier Reef and for Australia,” said Australian Environment Minister David Kemp. “The Great Barrier Reef is not only a treasure for Australia but for the world.”

 

WWF and other environmental groups believe that the increased and stricter protection of the Great Barrier Reef should encourage other countries to take similar measures in key marine regions such as the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea in South-East Asia and the Meso-American reef in Central America.

 

“With its actions towards conserving one of the world’s greatest natural treasures, Australia shows once again that it is a world leader in marine protection,” said Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s global Marine Programme. “The Great Barrier Reef’s network of protected areas is a global benchmark which now sets a precedent for future marine conservation.”

 

Links to further information

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/

UN Wire, 2 July 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040702/449_25519.asp

ENS, 1 July 2004

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jul2004/2004-07-01-06.asp

WWF press release, 1 July 2004

http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/news/news.cfm?uNewsID=13892

 

WSSCC ANNOUNCES WASH MEDIA AWARDS
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), in collaboration with the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ), is holding a competition for journalists from developing countries who investigate issues in their countries related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The winner of the WASH Media Award will receive US$500 plus an all-expense paid trip to Dakar, Senegal, to attend the Global WASH Forum - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All - in November 2004. The deadline for receiving entries is 30 July 2004.

 

Links to further information

WSSCC WASH Media Award webpage

http://www.wsscc.org/media-award

 

JUNE 2004

 

RAMSAR WETLAND CONSERVATION AWARDS 2005

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is calling for nominations for the 2005 Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards. The award, made in three categories – management, science and education – is given for actions that have significantly contributed to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The awards will be conferred at the 9th Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2005. Nominations should reach the Ramsar Convention Secretariat by 31 October 2004.

 

Links to further information

Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award

http://www.ramsar.org/key_awards_index.htm


FAO MARKS SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF UN ATLAS ON OCEANS

UN officials and representatives of international scientific organizations met at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy, to mark the second anniversary of the release of the UN Atlas of the Oceans. The UN Atlas is an encyclopedic online resource containing news updates, analysis of policy issues, environmental studies, and data on the state of world’s marine resources. According to the FAO, the Atlas not only fills information gaps and promotes better understanding across disciplines and among stakeholders, but it helps build consensus on ocean policies and strategies. Since coming online two years ago, the Atlas has been accessed by thousands of individuals, including educators, students, policymakers, scientists, NGOs and resource managers.

 

Links to further information

FAO press release, 15 June 2004

http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/46213/index.html

UN Atlas of the Oceans

http://www.oceansatlas.org/

 

WB GRANTS LOAN TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY OF SOUTH CHINA SEA

The World Bank has approved a US$128 million loan and US$10 million grant to China for a project aimed at protecting the Pearl River delta and South China Sea. Water quality in many parts of the Pearl River and its tributaries, particularly around Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan, is poor, making the river system unsuitable for irrigation, aquaculture and potential recreational uses. This also contributes to serious pollution of the South China Sea and the waters around Hong Kong and Macau. According to the World Bank, the main objective of the loan and grant is to assist the Chinese government, particularly in the Guangzhou region, in addressing environmental problems in the area, through the improvement of environmental service delivery based on a regional planning approach. This includes: support of measures to reduce the largest source of land-based pollution entering the South China Sea; promotion of regional environment planning and management; promotion of jointly developed and managed municipal environmental infrastructure; assistance to formulate a regulatory framework for hazardous waste management; and assistance to facilitate entry of private sector service providers for environmental infrastructure.

 

Links to further information

UN Wire, 11 June 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040611/449_24831.asp

World Bank press release, 8 June 2004

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20210226~
menuPK:34468~pagePK:40651~piPK:40653~theSitePK:4607,00.html

 

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2004

Under the theme - Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive? - individual citizens, organizations, local councils and governments across the globe took part in this year’s World Environment Day celebrations. The theme, chosen by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), addresses the state of the world’s oceans, seas and coral reefs, which are increasing tainted by untreated wastewater, air-borne pollution and industrial effluent, and rapidly declining global fish stocks.

 

“On this World Environment Day, I urge governments, businesses and individuals everywhere to show renewed respect for the seas and oceans from whence all life on earth originate,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement to mark the event. “There is an urgent need for concerted action, on land and sea, at the national, regional and international levels.”

 

Less than two years ago, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, governments committed to time-bound goals to end unsustainable fishing practices, restore depleted fish stocks, establish a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the marine environment, and create representative networks of marine protected areas.

 

“These targets complement the internationally agreed development goals contained in the Millennium Declaration,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer. “Reducing hunger and poverty…throughout the world will go a long way to reducing the burden of the seas and oceans.”

 

World Environment Day, held annually on 5 June, is a “people’s event” with street rallies, parades, concerts, essays and poster competitions in schools, as well as recycling and clean-up campaigns. It is also one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. Other vehicles focusing on water issues include World Water Day, which takes place on 22 March, 2004 and World Ocean Day, which is celebrated on 8 June. The United Nations has also proclaimed 2005-2015 the International Decade for Water.

 

Links to further information

World Environment Day homepage

http://www.unep.org/wed/2004/

UN Wire, 7 June 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040607/449_24585.asp

IUCN World Environment Day press release

http://www.iucn.org/info_and_news/press/prwed2004.pdf

 

UNEP LAUNCHES GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION FOR WATER QUALITY MONITORING AND DATA

Marking World Environment Day, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environment Monitoring Systems Water programme (UNEP-GEMS) launched its “Great Water Quality Data Drive,” an initiative aimed at improving the scientific basis for global water assessments, particularly for inland aquatic environments. The Data Drive will be implemented over the next six months, closing in December 2004, with the results reported to such key UN fora as the UNEP Governing Council in February 2005 and the 13th session of the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development in May 2005. Since its establishment in 1978, UNEP-GEMS has become the primary source for global water quality data.

 

Links to further information

UNEP-GEMS press release, 5 June 2004

http://www.gemswater.org/newsroom/june5-2004-e.html

  

INDIAN FILM ON WETLANDS WINS ECOCINEMA FESTIVAL AWARD

Indian film director Surabhi Sharma won the Ramsar/MedWet award at the fourth International Environmental Film Festival for his film, Aamakaar, the Turtle People. Depicting the life of an Indian village facing the threats of shore erosion and the survival of a nearby turtle colony, the film was chosen by the jury for its focus on the link between people and nature. The EcoCinmema Festival took place on the Greek Island of Rhodes from 1-6 June. Among the 92 films entered, 12 competed in the Ramsar/MedWet award for the best film on water and wetlands. The Ramsar/MedWet award was created by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and its MedWet initiative to promote awareness of water resources, wetlands and their conservation, and to encourage directors, producers and filmmakers to help in spreading and promoting the values of the Ramsar.

 

Links to further information

EcoCinema Festival homepage

http://www.ecocinema.gr

Ramsar press release, 5 June 2004

http://ramsar.org/w.n.ecocinema_medwet2004b.htm

 

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM LAUNCHES “AFRICA WATER PROJECT EXCHANGE”

The World Economic Forum launched a matchmaking service to create public-private partnerships for the delivery, conservation and management of water projects in Africa. The launch was marked by dignitaries starting a “play pump,” a merry-go-round that allows children to pump water for their school while they play. The pump is one project to benefit from the Africa Water Project Exchange; maintenance of the pump is provided for through business advertisements on four sides of an elevated water tank. The Africa Water Project Exchange is the first regional component of the Water Project Exchange, the main component of the Water Initiative of the World Economic Forum.

 

Umgeni Water, a South African water utility, spearheads the Africa Water Project Exchange, which is already facilitating projects to strengthen the Joint Water Commission between Swaziland and Mozambique with private and public involvement and recycle water in South African industrial development zones, among others.

 

Links to further information

WEF news, 2 June 2004

http://www.weforum.org/site/knowledgenavigator.nsf/Content/Full%20
Stream%20Ahead%3A%20Doing%20Water%20Business%20in%
20Africa%20_2004?open&event_id=1166&year_id=2004

 

UN-HABITAT AND GREEN CROSS PROMOTE NEW WATER CONVENTION

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka met recently with former Soviet leader and Green Cross International President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Barcelona 2004 Forum in Spain to discuss the possibility of creating a new international convention on water as a basic human right. The two organization heads agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the proposed convention, which will also look at how to build capacity and training in support of the internationally-agreed development goals on water and sanitation, especially in Africa. They also noted that attaining water and sanitation targets depends to a large extent on having enabling policies and legislative frameworks, as well a cadre of well-trained professionals capable of implementing policies on the ground.

 

Links to further information

UN-HABITAT press release, 1 June 2004

http://www.unhabitat.org/promoting_water.asp

 

MAY 2004

 

WETLAND AMBASSADOR CAMPAIGN IN MEKONG AND YANGTZE BASIN UNDERWAY

The opening ceremony for the 2004 Wetland Ambassador Campaign for the Mekong and Yangtze basins took place on 28 May 2004 in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. Under the title “Living Rivers: From the Mountains to the Sea,” the Wetland Ambassador initiative works by engaging university students to conduct projects on important wetland issues and themes. The topics of projects selected for this year’s campaign range from species conservation and the cultural value of wetlands to the effects of exotic species, pollution, dams and irrigation projects on river systems. Through its expansion to the Mekong region, this year will mark the first time that the campaign has been organized across international borders, with the joint support of Danone-Evian and WWF Living Waters Programme, in partnership with the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the Mekong River Commission, the State Forest Administration of China, WWF China, WWF Indochina and WWF Thailand.

 

Links to further information

Ramsar press release, 28 May 2004

http://www.ramsar.org/w.n.wwf_ambassadors_launch.htm

 

UNEP AND WSSCC LAUNCH WET-WASH CAMPAIGN

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) have launched the Wastewater Emission Targets Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WET-WASH) aimed at cleaning up the world’s seas through meeting internationally agreed upon water and sanitation targets.

 

According to WSSCC, sewage is the largest source of marine contamination by volume, causing some US$16 billion a year in damage to coastal waters and peoples’ health. Through more innovative approaches to technology, infrastructure development, financing and management, the WET-WASH campaign aims at ensuring that global water and sanitation targets include, in particular, hygiene awareness and the safe discharge and re-use of wastewater.

 

The campaign was officially launched at the Global H20 - Hilltops-2-Oceans Partnership Conference in Cairns, Australia, which discussed links between integrated water resources and coastal area management. The launch, in which Ministers from China, St. Lucia, and Sri Lanka participated in a ‘hand washing’ ceremony with WSSCC Chair Jan Pronk and UNEP GPA Coordinator Veerle Vandeweerd, was preceded by a video message from former South African President Nelson Mandela.

 

Links to further information

WSSCC press release, 14 May 2004

http://www.wsscc.org/load.cfm?edit_id=524

 

RAMSAR TO OPEN OCEANIA OFFICE

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is opening a subregional office in Apia, Samoa. According to the Ramsar Secretariat, based in Gland, Switzerland, the new office will provide Small Island States and territories of the Oceania region with support for wetland conservation and management, as well as help in joining and implementing the Ramsar Convention. Of the 138 countries that have joined the Ramsar Convention, only four of Oceania’s 29 states are presently parties to the Convention.

 

“At last, we have all our regions covered by an advisory structure, which will help new parties to join us, and will help all parties to implement the Convention to the fullest,” said Ramsar Secretary-General Peter Bridgewater.

 

The Oceania subregional office, to be hosted by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), will work closely with Ramsar’s regional partners to implement the Convention’s wise use principle with regards to wetlands conservation.

 

Links to further information

Ramsar press release, 13 May 2004

http://www.ramsar.org/w.n.oceania_staff.htm

 

NEW FISHING HOOK TO REDUCE MARINE TURTLE DEATHS

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), together with scientists and the fishing industry, has tested a ‘circle’ shaped fishing hook that hopes to cut by 90% the number of marine turtles accidentally killed by longline fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean.

 

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the new hook is better than the current ‘J’ shaped hook, which can be snagged or swallowed by turtles, leading to suffocation or internal bleeding if swallowed. In contrast, the circle hooks are much less likely to be swallowed by turtles and easier to unhook when they are snagged. 

 

“The technology is cost-effective and also frees up hooks for tuna, swordfish, and other species,” said Scott Burns, Director of the WWF-US Marine Programme. “If fishermen decide to switch over to the new system, they will not only be helping protect endangered marine turtles, but they'll also be helping themselves financially in many instances.” 

 

Accidental catch - or bycatch - is probably the single greatest threat to marine turtles, with as many as 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherback turtles caught annually by commercial longline tuna, swordfish and similar fisheries.

 

Links to further information

WWF press release, 3 May 2004

http://www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroom/press_releases/news.cfm?uNewsID=12842

NOAA press release, 13 February 2004

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/InNews/fishnews0212004.htm

 

APRIL 2004

 

NEW ARAB WATER COUNCIL ESTABLISHED

Some 400 water experts, scientists, professionals and individuals from 17 Arab States met in Cairo, Egypt on 14 April 2004 to launch the Arab Water Council, an organization dedicated to water issues in the Arab world. The AWC aims to influence decision-making process, policy formulation, and strategic orientation for better water management in the region and represent regional views on water issues at international and global fora.

 

“The Arab Water Council is pioneering a new definition of the civil society and its role in the water affairs in the Arab States,” said Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, the AWC’s newly elected Council President. “The Arab countries are facing the greatest share of the water challenges in the world today. These challenges are driven by internal and external factors affecting its water and food security, threatening its economic, social, and environmental sustainability and hampering the development of a stable and secure region for its inhabitants.”

 

The Arab States comprise 22 countries in Africa and western Asia, mostly in arid and semi-arid zones. Many of these countries are among the lowest in the world in its share per capita of freshwater. The AWC plans on addressing this issue by advocating the rational and comprehensive water management to ensure efficient, effective, and equitable utilization of available water resources and technologies for the benefits of the inhabitants of the region.

 

Links to further information:

Arab Water Council homepage

http://www.arabwatercouncil.org/

 

$100,000 GRANT FOR WATER QUALITY RESEARCH INVITES APPLICANTS
The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is inviting applications for the Paul L. Busch Award – a $100,000 research grant for researchers to “continue their work, take risks, and explore new directions” in the area of water quality research. Seeking distinguish “rising stars” in scientific and engineering research in the fields of water quality and the water environment, the award recognizes groundbreaking research that leads to practical solutions to water quality problems. The closing date for applications is 1 June 2004.

 

Links to further information

WERF Endowment website

http://www.werf.org/Funding/endowment.cfm

 

MARCH 2004

 

OCEAN ‘DEAD ZONES’ ON THE RISE  

Ocean ‘Dead Zones’ are emerging as a major threat to world fish stocks, according to United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook Year Book, which was launched at the UNEP Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF) in Jeju, Korea on March 29, 2004.

 

There are nearly 150 oxygen-starved or “dead zones” in the world’s oceans and seas, the report notes, resulting from an excess of nutrients, mainly nitrogen, that originate from agricultural fertilizers, vehicle and factory emissions and wastes. Low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds to survive. Experts claim that the number and size of deoxygenated areas is on the rise with the total number detected rising every decade since the 1970s. They are warning that these areas are fast becoming major threats to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for food and livelihoods.

 

Dead zones have long afflicted the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay, but are now spreading to other bodies of water, such as the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Adriatic Sea, Gulf of Thailand and the Yellow Sea. They are also appearing off South America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. However, New Zealand experts say they are mystified by the report and question where the UN agency got its information. The New Zealand Fisheries Ministry says the country’s fish stocks are in a healthy shape and are not threatened by oxygen-starved zones.

 

Links to further information

UNEP Global Environment Outlook Year Book 2003

http://www.unep.org/geo/yearbook/

UNEP press release, 29 March 2004

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?
DocumentID=389&ArticleID=4399&l=en

“Dead Zones off New Zealand a Mystery,” Dominion Post, 31 March 2004

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2861096a10,00.html

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA’S MEKONG RIVER SUFFERS FROM DAM BUILDING IN CHINA

The level of Southeast Asia’s Mekong River has reached a record low, according to a recent report by the Mekong River Commission. Flowing from the Tibetan highlands through China’s Yunnan province, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Mekong provides livelihoods, food, water and transport for over 100 million people in Southeast Asia. Low rainfall in the past year and increased use by growing populations along the river are in part accountable for the low levels. However, dam building and activity in China in the upper stretches of the river have been implicated for most of the reduced and erratic flows, which have impacted fishing and agriculture downstream. China has already completed two large dams and is beginning work on a third. A further six dams are being planned for the future.

 

Links to further information

The Guardian, 25 March 2004

http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,7369,1177292,00.html

 

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT INCREASES GREAT BARRIER REEF PROTECTION

The Australian Parliament has passed a law that will make the Great Barrier Reef the world’s largest protected reef system. Scheduled to come into force in July, the statutory zoning plan, better known as the Representative Areas Program, will ban fishing in 33% (up from 4%) of the 345,000 sq km World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, and leave tourism as the only permitted industry.

 

“Coral reefs around the world are under rapidly increasing pressure from various aspects of population pressure, and our Great Barrier Reef is no exception,” said Australian Environment Minister David Kemp. “This [the law] is going to mean more fish on the Barrier Reef, healthier corals – it's going to mean bigger fish for tourists to come and see.”

 

The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s top tourist destination and contributes an estimated $1.5 billion into the economy each year. In the long term the fishing ban will enhance the $4.5 billion tourism industry, which far outweighs the $150 million commercial fishing industry.

 

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which led the campaign for better reef protection, was pleased with the passing of the law.

 

“It’s a stunning result and sets a new global benchmark for marine protection and we hope it will inspire other countries to do the same,” said WWF reef spokeswoman Imogen Zeethoven.

 

Links to further information

Environment Australia press release, 25 March 2004

http://www.deh.gov.au/minister/env/2004/mr25mar04.html

WWF Australia press release, 24 March 2004

http://www.wwf.org.au/News_and_information/News_room/viewnews.php?news_id=69

UN Wire, 25 March 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040325/449_22175.asp

 

WORLD CELEBRATES WATER DAY WITH FOCUS ON WATER AND DISASTERS

World Water Day was marked around the globe on 22 March with a focus on the theme: Water and Disasters. Under the coordination of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization, thousands of events and activities took place worldwide to: address the problems related to drinking water supply; increase public awareness on the importance of conservation, preservation and protection of water resources and drinking water supply; and increase government, international agency, NGO and private sector participation and cooperation in the organization of World Water Day celebrations.

 

Honoring World Water Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the establishment of a UN Water and Sanitation Advisory Board. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy announced that her organization has set up several water security projects in countries affected by man-made or natural disasters from earthquakes to drought to civil war and urged governments to invest more in clean water and sanitation systems to ensure they do not break down following a disaster. The European Union celebrated World Water Day by finalizing a special funding mechanism to promote access to clean water and sanitation for people in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Danone Group (including Evian Water) and WWF to promote awareness of water issues, especially those concerning wetlands management. The Stockholm Water Prize 2004 was also awarded to two ecologists on World Water Day for outstanding contribution to the world’s lakes and wetlands.

 

The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/res/47/193 of 22 February 1993, designating 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water.

 

Links to Further Information

World Water Day Events

http://www.worldwaterday.org/events/index.php

UN News Centre, 22 March 2004

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=10157&Cr=water&Cr1=

UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

http://www.unisdr.org/

World Meteorological Organizations

http://www.wmo.ch/index-en.html

 

EU SETS UP WATER FACILITY

The European Union has announced the establishment of a Water Facility to promote access to clean water and sanitation for people in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Proposed by European Commission President Romano Prodi, the €500 million (US$616 million) Water Facility is designed to stimulate the generation of additional funds for water and sanitation programmes.

 

“We strongly welcome this bold and timely decision by member states which, on World Water Day, sends a strong signal that the EU remains prepared to stand by its commitments and alongside its partners to ensure that halving the number of people without clean water and sanitation becomes more than just a goal but a reality,” said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “We hope today’s agreement on the Water Facility will mark a turning point and will prove a catalyst in generating additional funds for this vital campaign.”

 

The Water Facility is intended to be an instrument to support and deepen the involvement of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in the design and implementation of water policies, and is envisioned as a tool in forging the public-private partnerships needed to increase funding.

 

Links to Further Information

EU press release, 22 March 2004

http://europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?
p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=IP/04/375|0|RAPID&lg=EN

ENS, 23 March 2004

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2004/2004-03-23-01.asp

 

UN SETS UP WATER AND SANITATION ADVISORY BOARD

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the establishment of an Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation to mobilize funds for water and sanitation projects, as well as to help raise awareness and develop new partnerships on these issues. The Board will include several high-level officials, including former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and former US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, as well as technical experts. One of the main goals of the Board will be to assist in meeting the 2000 Millennium Summit goal of halving by 2015 the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water, as well as the 2002 WSSD goal to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation. World leaders have also agreed to develop, by 2005, integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans.

 

Links to further information

UN press release, 22 March 2004

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/sga870.doc.htm

 

2004 STOCKHOLM WATER PRIZE WINNERS

Two professors have won this year’s prestigious Stockholm Water Prize for their outstanding contributions toward the understanding of lakes and wetlands. The winners were Sven-Erik Jørgensen, a Professor of environmental chemistry at the Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Copenhagen and William Mitsch, a Professor of natural resources and environmental science and Director of the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

 

The Water Prize committee recognized Professor Jørgensen’s unique ecosystem models encompassing entire lake and wetlands systems, and in particular his work in developing modeling software for UNEP to support planning and decision making for the management of lakes and wetlands in developing countries and countries in transition. Professor Mitsch was rewarded for his research on constructed wetlands and their use as an inexpensive, final stage in the domestic wastewater treatment process – an approach which could have significant meaning for the developing world.

 

The Stockholm Water Prize was established in 1990 by the Stockholm Water Foundation and is presented annually in honor of outstanding achievements in water science, management, action or awareness building. His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will present the Prize in the Stockholm City Hall on Thursday, 19 August 2004.

 

Links to further information

Stockholm International Water Institute press release, 22 March 2004

http://www.siwi.org/press/presrel_04_SWP_Winner_Eng.htm

 

MEXICO TO HOST NEXT WORLD WATER FORUM

Mexico will host the fourth World Water Forum in 2006. A series of regional meetings will pave the way for the 2006 summit, which will be organized by the World Water Council and Mexico’s National Water Commission. An initiative of the World Water Council, the World Water Forum is organized every three years in collaboration with the authorities of the host country. The Forum provides a platform for the international water community, together with policy and decision makers, to find solutions for achieving water security. Each Forum is accompanied by a Ministerial Conference, the main objective of which is to develop firmer commitment to water issues at the high-level.

 

Marrakech hosted the first Forum in 1997, and the second took place in The Hague, the Netherlands in 2000. The third World Water Forum convened in March 2003 meeting in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga, Japan. More than 100 new commitments were made at this Forum, including on: adequate water supplies; improved health and sanitation with food production; transportation, energy and environmental needs; and more effective governance, improved capacity and adequate financing. A Ministerial Declaration was also signed affirming that Ministers are committed to fortifying capacity for water resources management and benefit sharing.

 

Links to further information

UN Wire, 23 March 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040323/449_14258.asp

Environmental News Network, 22 March 2004

http://www.enn.com/news/2004-03-24/s_14250.asp

World Water Council press release, 22 March 2004

http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/forum4/March_Water_Week.shtml

SD Coverage of World Water Forum 2003

http://www.iisd.ca/sd/3wwf/

 

WSPA LAUNCHES ANTI-WHALING CAMPAIGN

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has launched a new global campaign to outlaw whaling. Together with 140 non-governmental organizations and animal welfare groups, WSPA is lobbying the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to stop all commercial and scientific whaling operations and to highlight the issue of cruelty at this year’s meeting of the IWC, which is to be held in Sorrento, Italy in July.

 

“The cruelty behind whaling has become obscured in recent years by abstract arguments over population statistics,” said WSPA Director General Peter Davies. “The fact is that, whether it is one whale or a thousand, whaling is simply wrong on cruelty grounds alone.”

 

In addition to the ‘Whalewatch’ campaign, the WSPA issued a 150-page report, entitled “Troubled Waters,” which criticizes the lack of international rules on hunts by major whaling nations, such as Japan, Norway and Iceland. The report also estimates that whales die on average two minutes after they are hit by grenade-tipped harpoons. In the foreword, naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough describes how the report contains “hard scientific dispassionate evidence that there is no humane way to kill a whale at sea.”

 

Links to further information

WSPA press release

http://www.wspa.org.uk/index.php?page=941

Troubled Waters Whale Report

http://www.wspa.org.uk/data/080304_173035_TroubledWatersWhaleReport.pdf

 

WATER ON MARS

NASA scientists have concluded that there is a history of water on Mars, following evidence found by its land rover, Opportunity. Evidence found in a rock outcrop showed traces of sulfates and other minerals that form in the presence of water.

 

“NASA launched the Mars Exploration Rover mission specifically to check whether at least one part of Mars ever had a persistently wet environment that could possibly have been hospitable to life,” said James Garvin, NASA’s lead scientist for Mars and lunar exploration. “Today we have strong evidence for an exciting answer: Yes.”

 

The finding does suggest that if there had been life present when the rocks were formed, then the living conditions could have permitted an organism to flourish. The study, however, has found no direct evidence of living organisms.

 

Opportunity, the second of two NASA rovers, landed on Mars on 25 January, with the main mission of searching for signs of water on the planet. Its next mission is to try to determine whether the rock outcrop was originally laid down by minerals precipitating out of solution at the bottom of a salty lake or sea.

 

Links to further information

NASA’s Mars Program Site

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html

NASA press release, 2 March 2004

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/2004/74.cfm

 

FEBRUARY 2004

 

LARGEST EVER HUMPBACK WHALE STUDY MAKES A SPLASH

The most comprehensive study of endangered humpback whales is set to begin. Hundreds of researchers from the US, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala will be working together in a research study called SPLASH, which stands for “Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks.”

 

A partnership of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program and NOAA Fisheries, SPLASH is an international cooperative initiative that aims to understand the population structure of humpback whales across the North Pacific, and to evaluate the status, trends and potential human impact on humpback populations. Costing over $3 million and spanning three years, SPLASH will be conducted throughout the Pacific – from the north in the Bering Sea and Far East Russia to the south in Mexico and Costa Rica to the west in Hawaii and in Asian tropical waters – where humpbacks are known to roam. Participating scientists will take photographs of whales to help them identify and obtain estimates of whale ages and sex distribution and determine reproductive and mortality rates. Scientists will also take tissue samples to collect information on genetic diversity, and to determine levels of contamination by persistent organic pollutants. The information obtained will be translated and distributed throughout the research community.

 

Listed by the US Federal government as an endangered species in 1973, the northern Pacific humpback enjoyed an estimated population of 15,000 in the pre-whaling period. This number had plummeted by more than 50% to 7,000 in 1992, the most recent year reliable data was gathered. Scientists today say whale populations have been recovering due to the global moratorium on commercial whaling that began in 1986.

 

Links to further information

SPLASH webpage

http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/special_offerings/sp_off/splash/splash.html

Environment News Service, 18 February 2004

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2004/2004-02-18-02.asp

 

FISH POPULATIONS THREATENED BY MANGROVE FOREST DESTRUCTION

Destruction of mangrove forests is threatening fish populations in the Caribbean, according to an international group of scientists in a recent article published in Nature. Mangrove forests are areas with trees growing in shallow water. Their influence on reef fish communities had been thought to be negligible, but the study tracked more than 100,000 fish from 64 different species and found that mangroves serve as an intermediate nursery habitat that may increase the survivorship of young fish.

 

Links to further information

Mangroves enhance the biomass of coral reef fish communities in the Caribbean, Nature, 5 February 2004

http://www.nature.com/nature/links/040205/040205-8.html  

 

HAPPY WORLD WETLANDS DAY!

2 February 2004 marked the seventh annual World Wetlands Day, with some 80 countries organizing special events to celebrate and raise public awareness about their respective wetland ecosystems, as well as to mark the date of the signing of the international Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar on 2 February 1971.

 

Many initiatives were launched under the theme – From the Mountains to the Sea - Wetlands at Work for Us. In Africa, a workshop in Mali took place to set the basis for a regional network for the preservation of the Niger Delta. In Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, in cooperation with IUCN-The World Conservation Union organized seminars, exhibitions and group tours to designated wetlands sites. In Europe, MedWet and Ramsar organized a special event aimed at informing government and non-government bodies, as well as representatives from agencies involved in wetland management in Greece with regard to the activities, the benefits and the perspectives that emerge from the implementation of the Ramsar Convention and the operation of the MedWet Coordination Unit, for the Mediterranean basin, and in Greece in particular.

 

Ramsar Secretary General Peter Bridgewater was present in Mexico to celebrate the country’s designation of 34 new sites to be added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

 

Links to further information

Ramsar press release, 2 February 2004

http://www.ramsar.org/wwd2004_press_e.htm

Wetlands International press release, 2 February 2004

http://www.wetlands.org/news&/NewsItems/WWD04.html

 

JANUARY 2004

 

REGIONAL RAMSAR CENTRE IN PANAMA BEGINS OPERATION
The Western Hemisphere Regional Ramsar Centre for Training and Research on Wetlands began operations in January 2004. First proposed to the Ramsar Standing Committee by the Government of Panama in 1998, the regional center was established to “support the implementation of the Ramsar Convention through research and studies on the management and wise use of wetlands, with attention to biodiversity and the benefits that wetlands offer to the human population.” The center, which is based in Panama, will promote the Convention’s objectives through the organization of seminars, conferences, and meetings at the regional level and will establish links among the Contracting Parties to facilitate the application of the Convention through coordination and exchange between the Western Hemisphere and other regions. The center is supervised by Executive Director Rosa Montañez, who will be visiting the Ramsar Secretariat in early March 2004 to discuss the development of the center’s work plan and regional priorities.

 

Links to further information

Ramsar website

http://ramsar.org/w.n.panama_centre_director.htm

 

CENTRAL ASIA'S SECOND LARGEST LAKE THREATENED BY EXTINCTION
The Balkhash, Central Asia’s second biggest lake, is under threat and may face the same fate as the Aral Sea, according to UN officials. “We fear Lake Balkhash could meet a similar fate to the Aral Sea if current practice is not changed,” said Fikret Akcura, UNDP’s representative in Kazakhstan. “Just like the Aral Sea, there’s less and less water coming to the lake.”

 

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest inland sea, but due to Soviet era diversion of the main rivers that feed into the Aral for cotton growing, the sea is today a quarter of the size it was 50 years ago. Likewise, Lake Balkhash, which lies 250 miles north of Almaty, Kazakhstan, suffers from industrial pollution and from China’s excess usage of the Ili River, the principal of seven tributaries leading to the lake.

 

“With the population growth curve, agriculture, industry and urbanization in the western areas of China, there is of course going to be more water use on the Chinese side,” Akcura said. “If there is no agreement with China on the amount of water it can use from the Ili, Balkhash will be damaged in the same way the Aral was.”

 

Links to further information

UN Wire, 14 January 2004

http://www.unwire.org/UNWire/20040114/449_12038.asp

ENN, 14 January 2004

http://www.enn.com/news/2004-01-14/s_12025.asp

BBC News, 15 January 2004

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3397077.stm

 

NOAA DEVELOPS SEA TURTLE SAVING TECHNOLOGY

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together with the fishing industry, has developed new technology aimed at reducing the accidental capture of and harm to marine turtles.

 

According to NOAA and its partners, bycatch of leatherback and loggerhead turtles, both of which are endangered, on longlines can be reduced by up to 90% by switching from the traditional J-style hook baited with squid to a large circle-style hook baited with mackerel. New de-hookers and dipnets have also been developed to allow fishermen to remove hooks from turtles with minimal additional trauma. In addition, a ‘turtle elevator’ has been developed to bring larger turtles on board for de-hooking and disentanglement.

 

“Our cooperative research with industry has shown that these turtle bycatch-reduction techniques have been successfully tested …and are a viable solution for meeting everyone’s objectives,” said NOAA Fisheries Director Willian Hogarth. “I’m asking all nations to match our efforts and evaluate these techniques in their fisheries so we can meet our shared responsibility to protect sea turtles and allow commercial fishing to prosper.”

 

The results have received the endorsement of many in the fishing industry and environmentalists alike.

 

“We applaud the efforts of NOAA Fisheries and the Blue Water Fishermen to develop techniques for saving marine turtles from drowning in longline gear,” said Scott Burns, Director of Marine Conservations Programmes for the US office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “We are joining the partnership with NOAA and Blue Water to advance these technologies internationally so we can stop the wasteful and unnecessary killing of these endangered species while providing economic incentives for fishermen in the process.” 
 

Tests showed the use of these techniques can increase actual catch by as much as 30%, while at the same time allowing fishermen to retrieve hooks and other gear and avoid the extra time spent on entangled turtles. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has begun international outreach efforts to share the developments with other fishing nations. 

 

Links to further information

NOAA press release, 5 January 2004

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2004/s2147.htm

NOAA Fisheries homepage

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/

WWF press release, 5 January 2004

http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/marine/news/news.cfm?uNewsID=10622

 

IN SEARCH OF WATER ON MARS

Following the successful landing of NASA’s Spirit on Mars on 3 January 2004, the robotic rover will roam the planet’s surface in an attempt to find evidence of water by examining rocks and soil. Spirit landed in the heart of the Gusev Crater, a massive basin that scientists believe once held a gigantic lake. A long, deep valley apparently chiseled by ancient flows of water leads into Gusev, suggesting it was fed by an ancient river.

 

“We believe the pathway to finding life [on Mars] is to follow the water,” said Firouz Naderi, NASA’s Mars exploration program manager. The spacecraft is equipped with a spectrometer that will help scientists find iron-bearing rocks and other minerals that could have been formed in hot, watery conditions that may yield clues about the ancient Mars environment.

 

According to Charles Elachi, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, determining whether Mars ever supported living things would provide valuable insights into the evolution of life on Earth and the question of how rare or common life may be throughout the universe. “Mars appears at first look to have the right ingredients,” Elachi said.

 

Spirit’s twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, is expected to reach its landing site on 25 January to begin a similar examination of a site on the opposite side of the planet.

 

Links to further information

Reuters, 5 January 2004

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=570&ncid=753&e=
2&u=/nm/20040105/sc_nm/space_mars_water_dc

NASA homepage

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/mer_main.html

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