BP Oil Spill: Start Worrying About Whale Sharks

We can see the oil-coated pelicans, the tar-balled beaches, and the dead marine mammals that wash up. But its a lot harder to know what is going on beneath the surface. And Pete Thomas sounds a warning over what might be happening to one of the oceans’ gentlest and most beguiling beasts: the whale shark.

Here is what Pete says:

Now it’s feared that another of nature’s iconic marine creatures — the whale shark, which is the world’s largest fish — will soon be included on a checklist of spill victims long enough to fill afield guide.

Sylvia Earle, an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, agreed with the assessment that many of the more than 100 whale sharks she and other scientists encountered recently during an expedition 70 miles off Louisiana might be “on death row” because much of their historic feeding habitat is closer to shore, within the spill zone.

Whale sharks, long-distance travelers that can measure 40 feet, were once harvested globally. They’re classified as “vulnerable,” one step up from “endangered” on a red list published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Little is known about migration patterns of whale sharks that utilize the Gulf of Mexico. But some are believed to help support recreational diving industries off Belize and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

What is known is that these gentle giants are filter-feeders who spend much of their time skimming for plankton and small fishes at or near the surface. Unfortunately, this is where spilled oil tends to gather, so the future looks bleak for whale sharks unable to steer clear of now-tarnished areas, such as the Mississippi River Delta, in which they’ve feed for perhaps millions of years.

Dr. Eric Hoffmayer, a scientist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, says at least five whale sharks have been spotted within 20 miles of the spill area. The number might be much greater were it not for boating and fishing restrictions that have limited the number of people who typically report such sightings.

I’m always amazed at how little we really know about some of the planet’s most impressive creatures, and critical ecosystems. Which only makes me wonder at the unintended damage we busy, busy humans do to them as we pursue our busy little lives.

When we will start pricing those externalities, those consequences, into oil, our economies, and the avalanche of consumer goods no one seems to be able contemplate doing without? When will we all step back and live lives that see the whole planet instead of just the things that affect our comfort and well-being? Probably never?

Here’s a video to make you think about that:

Enhanced by Zemanta

We Have Slow Food. Are You Ready For Slow Driving?

55 mph speed limit being erected in response t...
Image via Wikipedia

When President Carter called for a 55 mph national speed limit in response to the 1970s Arab oil embargo there was a national outcry, and car manufacturers were not far from a decades-long binge on massive cars with powerful engines that could propel them nicely at speeds far in excess of the pokey 55 mph (recent research indicates that given an open road, Americans choose to cruise at 70 mph).

But with oil saturating the Gulf of Mexico, billions of American dollars a year going to nasty, hostile, dictatorships, and climate change slowly throttling the planet, I’ve been waiting for someone, somewhere, to make the case again for slowing down. And according to WIRED, someone has. And the new number is–drumroll–50 mph!

Everyone knows easing up on the accelerator can improve your fuel economy and reduce your emissions. But what kind of impact would it have on the environment if everyone had to slow down?

A potentially big one, as it turns out.

Dutch researchers say lowering the speed limit to 80 km/h (50 mph) would cut transportation-related CO2 emissions by 30 percent. Less drastic cuts in maximum speed would yield reductions of 8 to 21 percent, according to the study by CE Delft.

How?

Beyond significantly reducing the amount of fuel vehicles burn, a strictly enforced 50 mph speed limit would increase the time required to cover a given distance. That would lead many people facing long commutes to ditch cars in favor of other modes of transport, like rail. Longer term, the impact could prompt people to move closer to urban centers.

Okay, I’ll give it a shot. There’s no reason to rush anymore, anyhow, because we are still fully plugged in via our smartphones, even when we are stuck in a car (kidding, cyclists, kidding. Sort of…).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Race To The Gulf: Sailors Will Sail

Despite the BP catastrophe, sailors turned out for the Race To The Coast this past weekend which took the fleet from Lake Pontchartrain to Gulfport. A friend of mine raced on a J30 and made this video. The fleet raced past lots of oil booms and barges, but at least saw some (healthy) dolphins. Looks like nice breeze and a great time.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]