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Joel Gallup, an environmental and political reporter for the Newport News-Times, has an interesting column on Tidepool.com about a potentially revolutionary mechanism for managing fish populations in the Northwest Pacific: monitor the gonads of female black rockfish, which increase and decrease in weight with the fluctuations of El Nino.

Blanchard and his friends measured the weight of female reproductive organs -- incongrously, called "gonads" in black rockfish -- the species that prompted Oregon's Labor Day sport closure. They correlated the female gonads' weight to sea surface temperatures. The gonad weights they found in the non-El Nino year of 1996 were the same they found in 1995, when there was a mild El Nino. The mild event had no effect on gonad weight, compared to the normal winds year of 1996.

But in 1997, when a full-fledged El Nino arrived, gonad weights dropped. It was a signal that went unrecognized, but it foretold of fewer groundfish being born that year -- and fewer catch fish in the near future.

What do all you Oceana scientists and fish experts think of this? Here's the full article (which, to give credit where credit is due, I came across on Gristmill).

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan biologist whose Green Belt Movement -- which started as a local tree-planting project -- has grown into an international movement for sustainable development and democracy.

Environmentalists tend to get pigeonholed as spoiled, self-righteous hippies obsessed with a trivial cause; Maathai's work is a good demonstration of how fundamental the protection of natural resources is to sustainable development, democratic governance, and international peace. She explains it best, so go ahead and read her Nobel Lecture.

Here's a start:

I stand before you and the world humbled by this recognition and uplifted by the honour of being the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate.

As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world. I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership. I know the honour also gives a deep sense of pride to our men, both old and young. As a mother, I appreciate the inspiration this brings to the youth and urge them to use it to pursue their dreams.

Read more...

Since 1992, marine biologists from Woods Hole have been tracking a lone whale as it roams the Pacific ocean, singing a song unlike that of any known species and following a migratory pattern that has baffled the scientists completely.

The whale's calls identify it as a baleen whale (blue, fin and humpback whales all belong to this category) but the frequency of the calls is far too high for a blue or fin whale and far too low for a humpback. The calls have deepened with the passing years; otherwise the song has not changed. Talk about a unique voice.

Check the New Scientist for the full story.

Today is not a good day for the oceans. First the China spill, now this:
DEADLY SHIPWRECK NOW A MAJOR ALASKA OIL SPILL

Slick measured at 2.5 miles in diameter and expanding

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - As the search for six victims of a rescue helicopter crash was scaled back, officials on Friday turned to a growing problem stemming from the break up of a cargo ship off Alaska: a major oil spill near a sensitive wildlife refuge.

Thousands of gallons of heavy bunker fuel and diesel spilled from a soybean freighter that was ripped clean in half off the shore of Unalaska Island. Near a wildlife refuge 800 miles southwest of Anchorage, the area is home to sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, tanner crabs, halibut and kelp beds.

Here's the full story from MSNBC Online. It's fairly gruesome; it seems a Coast Guard helicopter rescued some of the ship's crew and then itself crashed. The victims haven't been found but chances of their surviving the frigid waters of the Bering Strait are slim. Meanwhile, the oil slick is growing...

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