Saturday, December 11, 2021

Aurora at the White sea


From Yahoo

Although few of us live close enough to Earth’s poles to regularly observe auroras, we all have access to YouTube.
In a new video marine biologist Alexander Semenov gives us an ethereal glimpse of a green aurora rushing through the sky over Russia’s White Sea.
And because it’s a 4K video, it feels like you’re there!
The haunting Hans Zimmer music helps with the vibe too.
White Sea with the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical raster chart)
Although few of us live close enough to Earth’s poles to regularly observe auroras, we all have access to YouTube.
In a new video marine biologist Alexander Semenov gives us an ethereal glimpse of a green aurora rushing through the sky over Russia’s White Sea.
And because it’s a 4K video, it feels like you’re there! The haunting Hans Zimmer music helps with the vibe too.

Semenov recently posted the brief video of the green aurora to his YouTube channel.
Semenov, who goes by Aquatilis on YouTube, gives no context for the video in its description.
Although we know from previous videos that the marine biologist is the Head of the Divers’ team at Moscow State University’s White Sea Biological Station.
And that he is a big fan of capturing surreal ocean moments on video.

In the video Semenov shows about a minute of green northern lights ribboning their way through a clear, starry sky.
The aurora pulses in strength throughout the video; growing into a band of flaring, bright, almost white, green light around half way through.
Shooting stars in the sky zipping by here and there add a special touch.

As for the science, auroras are a result of solar winds interacting with gases in Earth’s atmosphere.
The solar winds—which are streams of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, or the corona—pass by Earth and are largely deflected by the planet’s magnetosphere.
Some of the charged particles, however, hook around the magnetosphere’s edge and dive into the poles. When they do, they interact with oxygen and emit either an orange-red or yellow-green glow.
The charged particles also interact with nitrogen, emitting a blue and/or purple glow.

Anybody who’s now in the mood for more ephemeral displays of cosmic beauty, auroras occur on other planets too.
Planets like Jupiter and even Saturn have auroras appear at their poles.
And nobody has seen those first hand.
Which means Semenov will have to wait with the rest of us until we become an interplanetary species to see them.

The post 4K Video of Aurora Over Russia’s White Sea Is Breathtaking appeared first on Nerdist.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Ocean plastic is creating new communities of life on the high seas

Coastal podded hydroid Aglaophenia pluma, an open-ocean crab (Planes genus) and open-ocean gooseneck barnacles (Lepas genus) colonizing a piece of floating debris.
Credit: Smithsonian Institution

 From Phys by

Coastal plants and animals have found a new way to survive in the open ocean—by colonizing plastic pollution.
A new commentary published Dec.2 in Nature Communications reports coastal species growing on trash hundreds of miles out to sea in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, more commonly known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

"The issues of plastic go beyond just ingestion and entanglement," said Linsey Haram, lead author of the article and former postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).
"It's creating opportunities for coastal species' biogeography to greatly expand beyond what we previously thought was possible."

Gyres of ocean plastic form when surface currents drive plastic pollution from the coasts into regions where rotating currents trap the floating objects, which accumulate over time.
The world has at least five plastic-infested gyres, or "garbage patches."

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, between California and Hawai'i, holds the most floating plastic, with an estimated 79,000 metric tons of plastic floating in a region over 610,000 square miles.
While "garbage patch" is a misnomer—much of the pollution consists of microplastics, too small for the naked eye to see—floating debris like nets, buoys and bottles also get swept into the gyres, carrying organisms from their coastal homes with them.

Linsey Haram, a marine biologist who studies organisms on ocean plastic, on an expedition to British Columbia.
Credit: Stephen Page

A New Open Ocean

The authors call these communities neopelagic.
"Neo" means new, and "pelagic" refers to the open ocean, as opposed to the coast.
Scientists first began suspecting coastal species could use plastic to survive in the open ocean for long periods after the 2011 Japanese tsunami, when they discovered that nearly 300 species had rafted all the way across the Pacific on tsunami debris over the course of several years.
But until now, confirmed sightings of coastal species on plastic directly in the open ocean were rare.

One advantage of the institute, Haram—now a fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science—pointed out, is the low carbon footprint of its vessels.
"It can take a lot of energy to get out to the middle of the ocean with a gas-powered boat," she said.
"So they use large-cargo sailing vessels to go around and remove plastics from the open ocean."

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ocean Voyages Institute founder Mary Crowley and her team managed to collect a record-breaking 103 tons of plastics and other debris from the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
She shipped some of those samples to SERC's Marine Invasions Lab.
There, Haram analyzed the species that had colonized them.
She found many coastal species—including anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods—not only surviving, but thriving, on marine plastic.

Anika Albrecht of Ocean Voyages Institute, on a 2020 expedition collecting plastic in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, where she served as Chief Mate.
Credit: Ocean Voyages Institute 2020 Gyre Expedition
A Sea of Questions

For marine scientists, the very existence of this "new open ocean" community is a paradigm shift.

"The open ocean has not been habitable for coastal organisms until now," said SERC senior scientist Greg Ruiz, who heads the Marine Invasions Lab where Haram worked.
"Partly because of habitat limitation—there wasn't plastic there in the past—and partly, we thought, because it was a food desert."

The new discovery shows that both ideas do not always hold true.
Plastic is providing the habitat.
And somehow, coastal rafters are finding food.
Ruiz said scientists are still speculating exactly how—whether they drift into existing hot spots of productivity in the gyre, or because the plastic itself acts like a reef attracting more food sources.

Now, scientists have another shift to wrestle with: How these coastal rafters could shake up the environment.
The open ocean has plenty of its own native species, which also colonize floating debris.
The arrival of new coastal neighbors could disrupt ocean ecosystems that have remained undisturbed for millennia.

"Coastal species are directly competing with these oceanic rafters," Haram said.
"They're competing for space. They're competing for resources. And those interactions are very poorly understood."

And then there is the invasive-species threat.
Scientists have already seen that begin to play out with Japanese tsunami debris, which carried organisms from Japan to North America.
Vast colonies of coastal species floating in the open ocean for years at a time could act as a new reservoir, giving coastal rafters more opportunities to invade new coastlines.

"Those other coastlines are not just urban centers… That opportunity extends to more remote areas, protected areas, Hawaiian Islands, national parks, marine protected areas," Ruiz said.

The authors still do not know how common these "neopelagic" communities are, whether they can sustain themselves or if they even exist outside the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
But the world's dependence on plastic continues to climb.
Scientists estimate cumulative global plastic waste could reach over 25 billion metric tons by 2050.
With fiercer and more frequent storms on the horizon thanks to climate change, the authors expect even more of that plastic will get pushed out to sea.
Colonies of coastal rafters on the high seas will likely only grow.
This long-overlooked side effect of plastic pollution, the authors said, could soon transform life on land and in the sea.

Luz Quiñones, a scientist in SERC's Marine Invasions Lab, analyzes a mix of coastal organisms (the podded hydroid Aglaophenia pluma) and open-ocean organisms (Lepas gooseneck barnacles) on a colonized net.
Credit: Smithsonian Institution

Williams College, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Institute of Ocean Sciences in British Columbia and the Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington also contributed to this article.

For this discovery, Haram teamed up with Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit that collects plastic pollution on sailing expeditions, and a pair of oceanographers from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
The oceanographers, Jan Hafner and Nikolai Maximenko, created models that could predict where plastic was most likely to pile up in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
They shared that information with Ocean Voyages Institute.
Links :

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Tracking ocean plastic from space

From NASA by Emily Cassidy

Researchers are using satellite data and machine learning to map microplastic concentrations across the ocean.

About 8 million tons of plastic flow from rivers and beaches into the ocean every year.
These plastics are carried by ocean currents and broken down by waves and the Sun into small microplastics.
Much of it floats at the calm center of circular ocean currents (called gyres) in large garbage patches.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is between California and Hawaii, is a well-known garbage patch because there’s a lot of ship traffic going through it.

Scientists typically measure how much plastic is in garbage patches by dragging nets behind boats.
This sampling method is geographically sparse and doesn’t give researchers a sense of how much plastic concentrations change over time.

A new method developed by researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) maps the concentration of ocean microplastics across the world using satellite data.
The researchers used data from eight microsatellites that are part of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission. CYGNSS satellites receive signals reflected off the ocean from global positioning system (GPS) satellites to measure the roughness of the ocean surface.
These roughness measurements provide scientists with measurements of ocean wind speeds that are used to understand and predict hurricanes.

When there’s plastic or other debris in the ocean, waves are dampened, creating less roughness than expected.
“In cleaner waters there’s a high degree of agreement between ocean roughness and wind speed,” said Professor Chris Ruf, principal investigator of the CYGNSS mission and one of the authors of the research.
“But as you head into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch you see a bigger discrepancy between wind speed measurements and the roughness of the surface.”
Ruf and UM research assistant Madeline Evans compared CYGNSS roughness measurements to NOAA measurements of ocean wind speeds to see where waters were less rough than expected.
Using this method, in combination with plastic concentration data from literature, Ruf and Evans mapped daily concentrations of microplastics across the ocean.
This microplastics dataset was recently published at NASA’s Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC).

Researchers at the University of Michigan used data from NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission to map the daily concentration of microplastics across the ocean.
The maps show microplastic concentrations on July 29, 2017, and April 8, 2018.
Red areas show places where microplastic concentrations are high. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

This research is the first to map ocean microplastics over such a large area and is the first to map concentrations at a high temporal resolution, revealing seasonal variations in microplastic concentrations.
In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for example, microplastic concentrations are higher in the summer and lower in winter.
They saw similar seasonal variation in garbage patches in other gyres too, due to more vertical mixing when the temperatures are cooler. Ruf and Evans also did a time-lapse of all of the major rivers in the world and saw a large amount of microplastics coming from the Yangtze and Ganges.

Another innovative way of detecting ocean debris and plastics in the ocean was recently developed by NASA’s Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT).
The research team used machine learning, open-source tools, and imagery from Planet Labs to find debris in the ocean.
They trained a model, based on ground truth observations, that can automatically detect and label marine debris globally.
The open-source code they developed (available on the IMPACT GitHub) could also be used to detect other phenomena on Earth using satellite imagery.

Links :

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Shipping's Arctic future

File image courtesy Rosatomflot

From Maritime Executive by Gordon Feller

Climate models project continued and dramatic Arctic sea ice reductions, including nearly ice-free summer conditions by the mid-21st century.
While Arctic navigation depends on other factors besides sea ice - including economics, infrastructure, bathymetry, and weather - these projections are useful for strategic planning by governments, regulatory agencies, and the global maritime industry.

The planet’s fast-warming climate brings new opportunities for international transportation networks and offers shorter maritime navigation distances, at least during summer months.
In particular, the opening of Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) increases the need for new ports and modern infrastructure to service ships that plough through ice-free and ice-covered waters.
Projections suggest that the NSR's July-October navigation season will average about 120, 113, and 103 days for PC3, PC6, and OW vessels (respectively) by late-century.

Near-Term Opportunities Are Changing Rapidly

The global competition for the Arctic is clearly intensifying.
One way to understand the unfolding drama is to look at the situation facing Arctic ports.
The icy world which these ports have known, since the very first vessels came ashore, is changing much faster than humans had ever expected.

Arctic shipping arteries are operated by abundant vessels and icebreakers, sailing between principal locations behind the Arctic Circle, Europe and Asia, which means that they need to be supported by well conducted system of hubs.
In lower latitudes, shipping ports are mostly located near city cores, since most cargo activities start and end there.
A supply of longshore labor is another reason for ports to be located close to larger cities.
This means that deepwater ports (and the services they provide) are typically close to global maritime shipping and often taken for granted.

The situation in the Arctic is quite different.
Deepwater ports, places of refuge, marine salvage, adequate port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and towing services are rarely available.
The availability of port infrastructure and support directly influences the level of risk associated with transiting a particular waterway – and it directly corresponds to the levels of marine insurance rates.

There are few deepwater ports in U.S. or Russian waters near the Bering Strait.
The closest U.S. harbor with deep water is Dutch Harbor in the southern Bering Sea.
On the Russian Federation side, the nearest deepwater port is Provideniya.
Other Russian ports near the Bering Strait that are closed to foreign ships are Egvekinot, Anadyr and Beringovsky.

Between the Atlantic and Arctic, there are many Norwegian, Icelandic and Russian deepwater ports.
Also, there are a number of deepwater ports along the west coast of Greenland.

In the North American Arctic, there are essentially no deepwater ports along the North Slope of Alaska, or throughout the Canadian Archipelago, except for the port of Tuktoyaktuk.
Tuktoyaktuk suffers from a shallow approach channel and a high degree of in-fill silting.
There are also limited port facilities at Resolute Bay, in the middle of the archipelago, which acts as a center of transportation, communications and administration for the high Arctic.
However, it can only handle ships of 16 feet of draft alongside a sunken barge used as a dock.

In the Hudson Bay, the Port of Churchill is Canada’s only northern deepwater seaport.
It enjoys well-sheltered infrastructure, alongside berthing facilities.
It provides access, via rail, to the interior of Canada and North America in general.
The growing Port of Churchill offers four berths for the loading and unloading of grain, general cargo and tanker vessels, and it can efficiently load Panamax size vessels.
The current shipping season runs from mid-July to the beginning of November, though the use of icebreakers could significantly lengthen the shipping season.

The primary Russian ports in the Arctic are Murmansk, Archangelsk, Dudinka, Varandei, Vitino, Kandalaskha.
Upgrade and modernization investments are now underway in each one of these.
Statistics show that Murmansk Oblast is the biggest Arctic shipping hub.
Located on the Kola peninsula at the coast of Barents Sea, it is a non-freezing port which can service any type of vessels.
Since 2004, more than €4.4 billion have been invested in improving Murmansk’s deepwater port facilities to include new oil, coal and container terminals, as well as expanded rail lines.

At the other end of the Arctic, Vladivostok is being developed as a significant North-East Asian hub, offering access to China, Japan and South Korean markets.
The port of Petropavlovsk on the coast of Kamchatka is also set to be developed as an eastern hub for the Northern Sea Route.

Russia and China invest in the Northern Sea Route

The Russia-China trade corridor is now the focus of intense concern in both Beijing and Moscow.
The political and trade ties of these two countries are on the rise, and with billions of dollars being spent on the hard infrastructure, those opportunities are only going to increase.
With the increasing number of Free Trade Agreements that China and Russia share, it appears certain that significant future investment potential lies within this corridor.

China has been a huge investor in the Russian Arctic economy, and not just within the region’s hyper-active oil and gas sector.
Beijing’s leaders know quite well that the Northern Sea Route is set to become a major global shipping route for cargoes flowing from Asia to Europe, and vice versa.
Russia has responded to the big opportunities that it sees (and that China also sees) by designating the entire region as a “Free Trade Zone,” as defined by Russian national law.
It covers an area which stretches for nearly 5 million square kilometers.
Arctic residents will enjoy tax benefits and easier administrative procedures.

Work on this newly designated zone is focused on attracting both Russian and non-Russian private sector investments into road and rail, including Chinese investment.
New (and, some think, quite generous) tax incentives are currently being offered to investors, while the knock-on infrastructure requirements are huge.
$243 billion is being set aside in funding in a region that is expected to generate $500 billion per annum by 2030.
Major projects to upgrade Arctic ports are already underway.

In October of last year, President Vladimir Putin formally adopted the “Strategy for the Development of the Russian Arctic Zone and Provision of National Security Through 2035.” The Strategy gives particular significance to Murmansk Oblast, emphasizing a broad range of complex and multifaceted transformative measures targeting this province.
Murmansk has long been the Russian Federation’s most prioritized Arctic entity.

The “Strategy” document lays out the plan for multiple geographies within the country:
Chukotka will see a series of ambitious transit projects.
Those include the Pevek seaport and terminals (Chaun Bay), a transportation-logistical hub in the Provideniya port (Bering Sea), and a year-round sea terminal on the Arinay Lagoon (also on the Bering Sea).
In the Yamal, the document’s envisages several ambitions.
One is the development of an integrated system of transportation infrastructure, which includes measures in both sea- (the port of Sabetta with supporting facilities as well as the canal in the Gulf of Ob).
In the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the Strategy it calls for the development of strategic-level transportation infrastructure.
Namely, the document emphasizes plans to build a deep-water, ice-free Indiga Seaport suitable for ships with a deadweight of at least 100,000 tons.

In January of 2020, Russia’s government approved a number of acts to give new economic benefits and subsidies to businesses or investors willing to engage in projects in the country’s High North.
This legal framework covers Murmansk Oblast, Chukotka, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Nenets Autonomous Okrug as well as portions of five other federal subjects - Arkhangelsk Oblast, Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Krasnoyarsk Krai, the Republic of Karelia and the Republic of Komi.

It is all aimed at attracting foreign investors capital into the Arctic territories, and Russia has outlined four main types of projects that will receive a program of benefits from the central government:
The extraction of hydrocarbons located offshore, on Russia’s continental shelf, with a severance tax (imposed on the removal of natural resources) set at 5 percent for oil and 1 percent for natural gas over the next 15 years.
The extraction of hydrocarbons on the continent, with an emphasis on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas-chemistry (gazokhimiya).
New investors are expected to be promised a severance tax of zero percent in the next 12 years upon starting industrial extraction.
The production of LNG (as well as other projects related to the gazokhimiya industry).
Investors will have to pay the severance tax in full only after 17 years of industrial production.
For other projects the potential benefits largely depend on what’s being extracted, and the project’s scope.
Aside from non-hydrocarbon-related investments (including minerals), this type includes infrastructure projects (such as seaports and pipelines).

Alexander Kozlov, who heads the Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, says that the Arctic zone’s share of Russian GDP is close to 10 percent and receives 10 percent of total foreign direct investment.
It suffers from chronic under-population, containing less than 1.5 percent of the total Russian population.
Over the past 15 years, the local population has actually decreased by 300,000, according to Kozlov.

Russia’s hopes for the region are pinned on the prospect of creating more than 21 new large regional mega-projects (including the Indiga Port in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug), exploration of large deposits of platinum and other metals in Krasnoyarsk Krai and Murmansk Oblast, and the creation of a full-cycle lumber/timber-producing complex in Arkhangelsk Oblast.

Geostrategic competition

Decreasing sea ice is extending opportunities for global shipping, in turn increasing the geostrategic importance of the region.
The Arctic is rapidly becoming a new theater of great-power competition – both geo-economic and geo-strategic.

Russia has been attempting to expand its exclusive economic zones in the region and is conducting enforcement operations with internationally unrecognized authority in Arctic Seas.
The Russian military has also been improving its capabilities to operate in the Arctic.
Similarly, China, coveting Arctic shipping routes and potential resources, has been attempting to legitimize potential future Arctic claims by describing itself as a “near-Arctic” power.

Eight countries— Canada, Denmark (including Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States—have Arctic territory, while five countries (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Norway, Russia, and the U.S.) have Arctic Ocean coastline.
As climate change reduces ice cover in the Arctic, Russia will likely experience the greatest percentage access increases to its exclusive economic zone, followed by Greenland/Denmark, Norway, Canada and the U.S.

Russia has the most expansive Arctic territory of any of these countries, and it is by far the most capable Arctic competitor.
The Kremlin views the Arctic as critical to its overall national defense strategy.
Consequently, the country is actively preparing its military forces to operate there, while simultaneously working to secure and exploit the region’s untapped resources.
Russia hopes to control enough Arctic resources, particularly energy resources, to ensure national economic stability and growth while controlling all shipping near its coastline and maintaining sufficient military power to deter any aggressors crossing the Arctic.

Russia maintains that its extensive Arctic capabilities give it additional rights, and has claimed authority to regulate ships transiting international waters in the NSR.
This policy has been protested by other nations, who state that it violates international laws— specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
However, UNCLOS—along with the Polar Code—may be inadequate for the unique Arctic environment.
Ambiguities and inconsistency between them have resulted in the Arctic nations enacting their own navigation laws and policies.

Links :

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Data storage, mining and wind: oceans seen as new frontier but at what cost?

Nordenskiold glacier in Svalbard, a northern Norwegian archipelago.
Industries are increasingly looking out to sea for space, resources, wind and cold, clean water.
Photograph: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

From The Guardian by Helen Scales

Industries gazing out to sea for more space, more cold, clean water and more wind offer a glimpse of the future and its risks

In September 2017, a giant, floating fish farm capable of raising 1.5 million salmon was installed in central Norway.
Besides its vast size – the circular structure is roughly the equivalent of two baseball fields – what set SalMar’s Ocean Farm 1 apart was its location three miles off the coast.
It was hailed as the world’s first offshore salmon farm.

Four years later, there have been two production cycles with better growth and survival of salmon compared with inshore farms, according to the company, hence less food waste and a lower carbon footprint.
Energydemand was also reduced compared with traditional inshore farms because seawater naturally flows through the nets, oxygenating salmon with no need for the pumps used on traditional inshore farms.

But the facility now lies empty, awaiting the development of new nets after farmed salmon escaped through a tear.
Tougher nets will be vital for SalMar’s next-generation Smart Fish Farm that’s slated to be four times bigger and will operate even farther from the coast.

Plans to place fish cages offshore are part of a wider trend among industries that are gazing out to sea in an effort to find more space, more cold, clean water and more wind.
Many are chasing an ambition of greater sustainability.
These initiatives are mostly at an early proof-of-concept stage, but they offer a glimpse of what the future of the ocean could look like, as well as some of the risks.

SalMar’s Ocean Farm 1, three miles off the coast of Norway.
Photograph: SalMar ASA/PA

“It’s not the first time we’ve had a kind of offshoring initiative,” said Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Popular culture in the 1960s and 70s portrayed the ocean as offering a brighter, shinier future with new opportunities to advance humanity, from seabed mining to living underwater.
“I have a suspicion that the ocean yet again will become either a place for technical scientific fixes or for capitalism to constantly reinvent itself with clever new solutions,” says Dodds.

Part of the new wave of industrial interest in offshore waters comes from tech companies.
Microsoft has tried sinking data centres to see how well the sea can cool the systems and save power.
After two years underwater a mile off Orkney in Scotland, a storage device was brought up encrusted in sea life.
It performed well in its time underwater, according to the company, with fewer failures than land-based systems, and its energy efficiency is being analyzed.

A number of problems could arise if seabed data storage takes off.
“Where does all the heat go for oceans and seas that we’re already worried about in terms of warming?” Dodds said.
It’s also unclear whether operators would carefully remove units at the end of their lifespans, possibly raising equivalent problems as encountered with decommissioning oil rigs in the North Sea.
“I want to see some more careful research that really reassures me that overall, given the scaling-up implications, that it really is better to be offshore as opposed to on land,” Dodds said.

He has seen a lot of interest from companies in data storage in the cold climate of Arctic regions but little research into the implications for ocean biodiversity.
“There’s this presumption that just because we can’t see something or just because the ocean is so enormous, we can probably crack on.”

As well as new ideas for using the ocean, old ones are coming back.
After a decades-long hiatus, mining companies are once again planning to exploit metallic deposits on the deep seabed.
This latest rush to mine the deep is facing growing opposition.
Civil society, governments, scientists and corporations are calling for a moratorium on seabed mining due to the likely impacts on biodiversity and climate.

The International Seabed Authority (ISA), the global regulator, is holding an in-person meeting in December at its headquarters in Jamaica, despite requests from states and observers to postpone – pandemic-related travel restrictions mean the meeting is not likely to be well-attended.
In a letter to the ISA in October, the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition criticised the plan as “out of step with the growing calls for more inclusion in global decision-making”.
Critics are concerned the ISA may take the opportunity in December to give the deep-seabed mining industry the go-ahead to commence in 2023.

Deep-sea mining robot Patania II was trialled in the Pacific Ocean in April 2021.
Photograph: GSR/Reuters

The race for the ocean has caused conflicts to unfold between different offshore users.
While offshore aquaculture companies are keen to emphasise the sustainable credentials of their operations, they face opposition.

The Don’t Cage Our Ocean Coalition, a group of environmentalists, consumer advocacy organisations and fishing organisations, liken these offshore operations to land-based industrial feedlots.
Their concerns include escaped fish mingling with wild populations and adding nutrients and pollutants to waters that in many places are already struggling.
“It’s all going somewhere, even if we don’t see it,” says founding member Marianne Cufone.
The organisation is campaigning against US federal waters being opened to large-scale fin fish farming, such as salmon and tuna.

At present, there’s no aquaculture in US federal waters but that could change if plans go ahead to streamline the permitting process.
Other regions, Cufone says, are stepping away from fish farms both inshore and offshore, including a Danish moratorium on new fish farms and Canadian plans to phase out ocean fish farms in waters off British Columbia.
“We should learn from what comes before us and move on to smart, progressive, thoughtful, sustainable approaches if we want to increase domestic seafood production without harming our fishing communities and others who care about and want to use the waters,” she said.

The wind energy sector is also looking to move further offshore and meeting resistance from environmentalists and fishing industries.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration committed to building 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
Many fishers feel they are being forgotten in the race to tackle the climate crisis.
They are worried about losing access to fishing grounds and that windfarm installations could disrupt ocean currents and fish populations.

Offshore wind developers have held meetings with fishermen to plan windfarms more collaboratively.
After talking with fishers, Empire Wind, a proposed offshore windfarm south of Long Island, changed its plans to include an area open to fishing.

A lack of inclusive planning risks causing problems in UK waters, where the government has pledged to install 40 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
Nature conservation groups are worried the current planning regime is not fit for purpose.
“At the moment, the industry is very project-led,” says Joan Edwards, director of marine conservation at The Wildlife Trusts.

Windfarm developers in the UK can pick an area and approach the crown estate, which owns most of the seabed around the UK out to 12 nautical miles, for a lease.
A better approach, Edwards says, would be to identify places nationally where offshore wind will not affect important parts of the marine environment, via noise pollution and digging up the seabed for cabling.
“We need to work out just how best to develop this industry so that it gives us renewable energy but doesn’t create more of a problem for nature,” she says.

With industries rushing offshore, the ocean is on a course to become more crowded.
To avoid a messy and damaging scramble for marine real estate, a coordinated approach is needed.
“We’re really going to have to be very confident these things are being regulated, monitored and evaluated holistically, and over the long term as well,” says Klaus Dodds.
“There’s a real danger that we think the oceans are this kind of frontier space, that we can just do things and worry about the implications later.
That’s patently not true.”
Links :

Monday, December 6, 2021

Plastic trash in the ocean is a global problem, and the US is the top source – a new report urges action

Plastic debris on a beach on Lanai, a sparsely populated Hawaiian island. 
Matthew Koller, CC BY-ND
From The Conversation by Matthew Savoca, Anna Robuck and Lauren Kashiwabara

Plastic waste of all shapes and sizes permeates the world’s oceans.
It shows up on beaches, in fish and even in Arctic sea ice.
And a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes clear that the U.S. is a big part of the problem.

As the report shows, the U.S. produces a large share of the global supply of plastic resin – the precursor material to all plastic industrial and consumer products.
It also imports and exports billions of dollars’ worth of plastic products every year.

On a per capita basis, the U.S. produces an order of magnitude more plastic waste than China – a nation often vilified over pollution-related issues.
These findings build off a study published in 2020 that concluded that the U.S. is the largest global source of plastic waste, including plastics shipped to other countries that later are mismanaged.

And only a small fraction of plastic in U.S. household waste streams is recycled.
The study calls current U.S. recycling systems “grossly insufficient to manage the diversity, complexity and quantity of plastic waste.”

As scientists who study the effects of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems, we view this report as an important first step on a long road to reducing ocean plastic pollution.
While it’s important to make clear how the U.S. is contributing to ocean plastic waste, we see a need for specific, actionable goals and recommendations to mitigate the plastic pollution crisis, and would have liked to see the report go further in that direction.

Plastic is showing up in seafood

Researchers started documenting marine plastic pollution in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Public and scientific interest in the issue exploded in the early 2000s after oceanographer Charles Moore drew attention to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a region in the central north Pacific where ocean currents concentrate floating plastic trash into spinning collections thousands of miles across.

More plastic garbage patches have now been found in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean.
Unsurprisingly, plastic pervades marine food webs.
Over 700 marine species are known to ingest plastic, including over 200 species of fish that humans eat.

Humans also consume plastic that fragments into beverages and food from packaging and inhale microplastic particles in household dust.
Scientists are only beginning to assess what this means for public health.
Research to date suggests that exposure to plastic-associated chemicals may interfere with hormones that regulate many processes in our bodies, cause developmental problems in children, or alter human metabolic processes in ways that promote obesity 
Scientists estimate that if plastics continue to enter the ocean at current rates they will outweigh fish by 2050.
Current estimates show that at least 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day, and if left unchecked plastic will outweigh fish by 2050. Here are some shocking figures on how plastic pollution is affecting our oceans and our underwater wildlife.

A need for a national strategy

The new report is a sweeping overview of marine plastic pollution, grounded in science.
However, many of its conclusions and recommendations have been proposed in various forms for years, and in our view the report could have done more to advance those discussions.

For example, it strongly recommends developing a national marine debris monitoring program, led by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.
We agree with this proposal, but the report does not address what to monitor, how to do it or what the specific goals of monitoring should be.

Ideally, we believe the federal government should create a coalition of relevant agencies, such as NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, to tackle plastic pollution.
Agencies have done this in the past in response to acute pollution events, such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but not for chronic problems like marine debris.
The report proposes a cross-government effort as well but does not provide specifics.

In 2019 volunteers for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation removed nearly 300,000 pounds of trash from U.S. beaches, nearly all of it plastic.
Surfrider Foundation, CC BY-ND

An underfunded problem

Actions to detect, track and remove plastic waste from the ocean will require substantial financial support.
But there’s little federal funding for marine debris research and cleanup.
In 2020, for example, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program budget request was $US7 million, which represents 0.1% of NOAA’s $5.65B 2020 budget.
Proposed funding for the Marine Debris Program increased by $9 million for fiscal 2022, which is a step in the right direction.

Even so, making progress on ocean plastic waste will require considerably more funding for academic research, nongovernmental organizations and NOAA’s marine debris activities.
Increased support for these programs will help close knowledge gaps, increase public awareness and spur effective action across the entire life cycle of plastics.One way to address marine plastic waste is to capture it before it enters the ocean.
Trash Wheel, a solar-powered semi-autonomous trash interceptor, removes floating debris from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
There has been a great renaissance in garbage collection technology in the past 10 years and Mr. Trash Wheel is one of the pioneers, collecting over 3 million pounds of trash in Baltimore, Maryland. 
An old technology becomes new again and is changing the landscape of the beautiful inner harbor.
Corporate responsibility and equity

The private sector also has a crucial role to play in reducing plastic use and waste.
We would have liked to see more discussion in the report of how businesses and industries contribute to the accumulation of ocean plastic waste and their role in solutions.

The report correctly notes that plastic pollution is an environmental justice issue.
Minority and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by many activities that produce plastic waste, from oil drilling emissions to toxic chemicals released during the production or incineration of plastics.
Some proposals in the report, such as better waste management and increased recycling, may benefit these communities – but only if they are directly involved in planning and carrying them out.

The study also highlights the need to produce less plastic and scale up effective plastic recycling.
More public and private funding for solutions like reusable and refillable containers, reduced packaging and standardized plastic recycling processes would increase opportunities for consumers to shift away from single-use disposable products.

Plastic pollution threatens the world’s oceans.
It also poses direct and indirect risks to human health.
We hope the bipartisan support this study has received is a sign that U.S. leaders are ready to take far-reaching action on this critical environmental problem.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

A kitesurfing session in over 50 knots of wind


Here it is, my jump from the cap frehel!
For those who dont know it, this is one of the most beautiful and mystic places close to my home in Britanny, France.
I ve been dreaming about jumping from this cliff for years & after analyzing how the weather is at this spot and how this jump could be done the perfect conditions were finally aligned!