Archive for the 'arctic' Category

Jun 01 2010

THE EARTH IS BLEEDING BLACK

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BP Oil Slick – Photo: Richard Perry, The New York Times



Declaration of Penguin Sympathy and Penguin Solidarity



We have had our short moment in the sun. For the briefest time, humans flocked to see “March of the Penguins.” During those days, they cared about us. But we have learned, like many before us, that fame is fleeting. And there lots of birds and bees and fish and bears, and a flock of documentary filmmakers looking for Emmys and Oscars.


Thanks to the internet, we have learned that there are many species threatened as we are. The Javan Rhinoceros, fish like the Vaquita, the Cross River Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Golden-Headed Langur, the Black-Footed Ferret, the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Giant Panda, and the Polar Bear from the other end of the Earth. We could go on and on.


Today our hearts go out to all those live in and about the waters of the Gulf Coast. The oysters, the shrimp, the sturgeon, the Brown Pelican, the Least Tern, the Piping Plover, the Oystercatcher, the Northern Gannet, and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. We could go on and on. And we know it is nesting season.


To our human brothers and sisters, we have a simple question. When will you learn? How many of us have to die before you remember once again to live simply? A train instead of a car. Walking rather than riding. Charity not greed. Care not carelessness.


The American President says he is in control. Perhaps you sleep better believing him. But we who swim and fly know that he controls not the ocean, not the sky, not the ice or the snow.


There is a hole in Earth. The Earth is bleeding black.


The ice melts. The ocean burns.


Wake up!




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Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP



BPwideGeraldHerbert

Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP




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Aug 24 2009

THE ICE MELTS – HUMANS SQUABBLE

OK so maybe now you will believe us – us small folk you think are so cute. The ice is melting. What have we been telling you? The ice is melting.

Down here. Up there. In Montana. In Europe. In South America. In Asia.

Melting faster than you thought. Or wanted to admit.

Go to the BBC: see the pictures.

This is Antarctica, our home:

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years.

Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University says this about the melting ice:

This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We’ve known that it’s been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier.

Now similar things are happening up north in the Arctic.

Professor Jason Box of Ohio State University, has been studying the melting ice up north with Greenpeace. He has been surprised by the lack of significant ice they encountered in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada.

According to the BBC: “He has also set up time lapse cameras to monitor the massive Petermann glacier. Huge new cracks have been observed and it’s expected that a major part of it could break off imminently:

The science community has been surprised by how sensitive these large glaciers are to climate warming. First it was the glaciers in south Greenland and now as we move further north in Greenland we find retreat at major glaciers. It’s like removing a cork from a bottle.

So you are finally seeing the melting ice. But what exactly are some of you doing about it. Banding together to finally confront global warming? Taxing your use of carbon?

How about fighting each other to take advantage of the melting ice? Now that sounds like human beings

The more the ice melts the easier it is to send ships through the North. Russia, Canada, Denmark and the United States all have a strong interest in controlling the northern route. The Russians are having training exercises and firing missiles; the Canadian government is sending its politicians to show how much they care about the far north. Everybody is planting their flags on the ice.

Nobody is asking the polar bears.

Nobody is asking the penguins.



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Apr 08 2009

POLAR MELT TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Forgive us for being out-of-touch for so long. We’ve just completed a 100-day workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation on Polar Melt Traumatic Stress Disorder PMTSD.

Thanks to Angela Schrimsky and Donald-Peter Fredricksen of the Avian Therapy Center for leading the group.


Unfortunately while we were talking, a large portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf broke off from the Antarctic mainland confirming the most dire predictions about the climate crisis. We have though, thanks to our talented workshop leaders, learned some very interesting meditation techniques. Not to mention the chanting exercises: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”


Now if only Angela and Donald-Peter could do something about our melting home.


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Larsen B Ice Shelf – Photo: Mariano Caravaca



It is not easy to watch the ice melt around you. It is not easy to see your home in danger. To know your fellow penguins may not survive.


The other day, the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about ways to protect the polar regions:

Clinton said the recent collapse of an Antarctic ice bridge was a stark reminder that the poles are gravely threatened by climate change and human activity.
“With the collapse of an ice bridge that holds in place the Wilkins Ice Shelf, we are reminded that global warming has already had enormous effects on our planet and we have no time to lose in tackling this crisis,” she told the first-ever joint meeting of Antarctic Treaty parties and the Arctic Council at the State Department in Baltimore.
The bridge linking the Wilkins shelf to Antarctica’s Charcot and Latady Islands snapped on Saturday after two large chunks of it fell away last year. The shelf had been stable for most of the last century before it began retreating in the 1990s.



And we have recently received word for our friends up north that the arctic ice. As William Marsden reported for the Montreal Gazette::

In the summer of 2007, a large portion of Arctic Sea ice – about 40 per cent – simply vanished. That wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not yet. As recent as 2004, scientists had predicted it would take another 50 to 100 years for that much ice to melt. Yet here it was happening today.



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Measuring Arctic Ice – Photo: Martin Hartley, Reuters



Hopefully, Schrimsky and Fredricksen will be heading there to do a workshop.
Unfortunately the Arctic Nations are now arguing about who has control over the ice and melting ice and the resources that will soon be easily to get to as the ice recedes.


And for all the talk about making the shift to renewable resources and away from burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, Jad Mouawad of the New York Times reported on April 8, 2009:

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.
But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Royal Dutch Shell said last month that it would freeze its research and investments in wind, solar and hydrogen power, and focus its alternative energy efforts on biofuels. The company had already sold much of its solar business and pulled out of a project last year to build the largest offshore wind farm, near London.
BP, a company that has spent nine years saying it was moving “beyond petroleum,” has been getting back to petroleum since 2007, paring back its renewable program. And American oil companies, which all along have been more skeptical of alternative energy than their European counterparts, are studiously ignoring the new messages coming from Washington.

Already one penguin species has been named by the US EPA as endangered and 5 other species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the EPA:

The penguin species recommended for endangered status is the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), of South Africa and Namibia … The five species recommended for threatened status are: the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), the white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata), the Fiordland crested penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), the erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), all from New Zealand, as well as the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) of Chile and Peru.

They have solicited more scientific information about the:

effects of climate change and changing ocean, land or sea ice conditions on the distribution and abundance of these penguin species and their principal prey species over the short and long term (especially information on known prey substitutions and their effects on the penguins …

If only they had attended our workshop!


What can we say except: “Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”
All together now:
“Om melt melt melt; Om drip drip drip … ”



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Oct 03 2008

WEARY PENGUIN SYNDROME

We at Penguins United have been busy for the last month and have allowed much too much time to go by without checking in with you, our faithful readers.

Burn out, I think you call it!

We call it WPS – weary penguin syndrome.


Emperor Penguins on Glacial Ice


We are very tired of being what you call “an indicator species” – like in “a species whose presence, absence, or relative well-being in a given environment is indicative of the health of its ecosystem.”

Not much well-being happening these days for us.

Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, penguins are sounding the alarm for potentially catastrophic changes in the world’s oceans, and the culprit isn’t only climate change, says a University of Washington conservation biologist.

Oil pollution, depletion of fisheries and rampant coastline development that threatens breeding habitat for many penguin species, along with Earth’s warming climate, are leading to rapid population declines among penguins, said Dee Boersma, a University of Washington biology professor and an authority on the flightless birds.

“Penguins are among those species that show us that we are making fundamental changes to our world,” she said. “The fate of all species is to go extinct, but there are some species that go extinct before their time and we are facing that possibility with some penguins.”

How depressing is that?

Here are some facts:

  • Once about 400,000 pairs lived in the Magellanic penguin colony at Punta Tombo in Argentina between the late 1960s and early 1980s; there are just half that today.
  • African penguins decreased from 1.5 million pairs a century ago to just 63,000 pairs in 2005.
  • Galapagos Islands penguins have fallen to around 2,500 birds, about one-quarter what it was when Boersma first studied the population in the 1970s.
  • Adélie and Chinstrap penguins have declined by 50 percent since the mid-1970s.

  • Where Adelie Penguins Live

    Changing climate also appears to be key in the decline of Galapagos penguins, she said. As the atmosphere and ocean get warmer, El Niño Southern Oscillation events, which affect weather patterns worldwide, seem to occur with greater frequency. During those times, ocean currents that carry the small fish that the penguins feed on are pushed farther away from the islands and the birds often starve or are left too weak to breed.

    These problems raise the question of whether humans are making it too difficult for other species to coexist, Boersma said. Penguins in places like Argentina, the Falklands and Africa run increasing risks of being fouled by oil, either from ocean drilling or because of petroleum discharge from passing ships. The birds’ chances of getting oiled are also increasing because in many cases they have to forage much farther than before to find the prey on which they feed.

    Right now Galapagos penguins is the only penguin species covered by the Endangered Species Act. But we all need protection.

    According to the Center for Biological Diversity:

    For instance, each of two recent El Niño years decimated Humboldt penguin populations along the coast of Chile and Peru, calving of an iceberg off Antarctica resulted in reproductive failure for an entire emperor colony, and a major oil spill off the South African coast wiped out many thousands of African penguins.

    Any wonder we are suffering from Weary Penguin Syndrome?

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    Jan 18 2008

    PENGUINS: ON THIN ICE

    If you are reading this, it’s probably because you have been thinking about penguins, or about global warming and climate change, maybe wondering how we are doing, or maybe about your future.

    These are scary and complicated times for all of us.

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    Adélie 422 walking – Photo: Geroge F. Mobley



    The news down South is not very good. And for that matter, it’s even worse up North. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. But there’s one thing that really confuses me. Now that I’m surfing the web – interesting choice of words for a penguin – I read a lot of newspaper reports about the climate crisis. And, of course, the comments that readers post. Have you ever taken the time to read those comments?

    So many of you humans are so very angry. You’re angry at the newspaper for printing the reports. You’re angry at your scientists for telling you about rising levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and melting ice. About disappearing glaciers. Check it out: angry comment after angry comment.

    What’s going on? Is it so very hard to acknowledge what is happening before your very eyes? Here’s a picture of the Boulder Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana, US in 1932.

    boulderglacier1932mt.jpg


    And a photo taken in 2005:

    boulderglaciermt2005.jpg



    It’s gone. Do you want to blame the scientists?

    Is it so very hard to understand that the Earth is paying a price for all the coal you burn to keep your cities lit so bright? When did you become so afraid of the dark? Is it so very hard to understand that there is a price to be paid for the SUVs you drive to the malls you shop in? Where is it written in your holy books that each man and woman needs to have a car, two cars, three? That it is too much of an inconvenience to ride together in buses and train and trolleys? That you need second homes and motor boats and private airplanes?


    Anyway here’s a quick update of the latest news. Antarctica, our home, our ice is melting. TV3 in New Zealand reports:

    The ice shelves of Antarctica are collapsing faster than scientists could ever have predicted, loosened by warming climate conditions – warm air and warm water is compromising the existence of the entirety of the Antarctic ice sheet as global temperatures rise.

    Dozens of ice shelves are steadily breaking apart – three major ice shelves have disintegrated in recent times, one of which taking mere days to collapse …

    During the last 15 years, almost 90% of the glaciers observed by scientists in Antarctica have shown significant levels of retreat.



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    Adelie penguins – Photo: Frans Lemmens



    Our dear friends, the Adélies, founding members of Penguins United, are in deep trouble. The melting ice is a matter of life and death for the Adélies. A National Geographic headline asks “Antartica’s Adelie Extinct in a Decade?”

    Adélie penguins in Antarctica are in the midst of a major upheaval as climate change causes their icy habitat to warm up, experts say.

    Some populations of the birds are thriving, but most are declining rapidly.

    The penguins rely on winter sea ice as a platform for feeding on ocean krill.

    But they also need the ice to shrink in the summer so they can access their breeding colonies on land.

    The mid-latitudes of the Antarctic Peninsula once provided the perfect habitat for the penguins—but not anymore.

    “That region has experienced the most rapid warming during winter on the planet,” said Bill Fraser, an ecologist with the Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.

    “The mid-winter temperatures are now around 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit [6 degrees Celsius] higher than they were 50 years ago.”



    Help the Adélies. Save the Ice. Save our Home.





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    Sep 25 2007

    WE ARE ALL TUVALU

    Another day without a penguin dollar. One of the benefits of living without money. As world leaders gather at the United Nations for talk, more talk, there is more news about the ice.

    The BBC says “Ice withdrawal ‘shatters record.'” Which means we have lost more ice than ever before:

    “The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.

    The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

    Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.”

    The fabled Arctic shipping route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is normally ice-bound at some location throughout the year; but this year, ships have been able to complete an unimpeded navigation.

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    East Greenland 2 – Photo, Christian Morel



    Words don’t do ice justice. You have to see it the ice to understand. There are human scientists who have dedicated themselves to better understand the ice. Their project is called the International Polar Year. They have some extraordinary photographs on their website, including many by a truly gifted photographer, Christian Morel. Look. Feel. Experience. Mourn the loss of the ice.


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    Antarctic Peninsula – Photo, Christian Morel


    Speaking to BBC News on Monday this week, Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, said: “2005 was the previous record and what happened then had really astounded us; we had never seen anything like that, having so little sea ice at the end of summer. Then along comes 2007 and it has completely shattered that old record.”

    He added: “We’re on a strong spiral of decline; some would say a death spiral. I wouldn’t go that far but we’re certainly on a fast track. We know there is natural variability but the magnitude of change is too great to be caused by natural variability alone.”



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    Svalbard – Photo, Christian Morel



    And so what does it mean to you, this melting ice. The islanders of Tuvalu already know what is happening. Do you?

    The Associated Press can help:

    How would some of the United States’ best known cities look if seas rise by slightly more than 3 feet? It’s a disturbing picture.

    The projections are based on coastal maps created by scientists at the University of Arizona, who relied on data from the US Geological Survey. Many scientists say sea rise of 1 meter is likely to happen within 100 years. Here is a look at what that might do:

    Boston

    Fourth of July celebrations wouldn’t be the same. The Esplanade, where fireworks watchers gather, would be submerged by a rising Charles River, along with the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops stages its annual concert. Some runways at Logan International Airport will be partially covered, and the neighborhoods tourists know best would be smaller.

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    Hatch Shell Boston Pops – Photo, Winslow Townsend, AP


    New York

    At the southern tip of Manhattan, sea water would inundate Battery Park City, now home to 9,000 people. Waves would lap near the base of the new Freedom Tower. Beachfront homes from the blue collar Rockaways to the mansions of the Hamptons, could be swamped by advancing surf.

    New Yorkers seeking a change of scene would find it tougher to get out of town, since both runways at LaGuardia Airport would be partly underwater. But all that would pale compared to what would happen during a bad storm. If giant storm walls were built across key waterways, that might protect parts of the city, “but that doesn’t help anyone outside the gates,” said Malcolm Bowman, who leads a storm surge research group at Stony Brook University.

    Miami

    You can kiss goodbye the things that make south Florida read like an Elmore Leonard novel: the glitz of South Beach, the gator-infested Everglades, and some of the bustling terminals of Miami International Airport.

    Many of the beachside places where tourists flock and the rich and famous luxuriate would be under water. Spits of land would be left in fashionable South Beach and celebrity-studded Fisher Island.

    While the booming downtown would be mostly spared, inland areas near the airport and out to the low-lying Everglades would be submerged. Miami would resemble a cookie nibbled on from the south and east.

    New Orleans

    If the levees break again and the nation gives up the fight to save the lowest parts of New Orleans, the Big Easy would be reduced to a sliver of land along the Mississippi River, leaving the French Quarter and the oldest neighborhoods as the only places on dry ground.

    Another article by Seth Borenstein of AP puts it this way:

    Experts say that protecting America’s coastlines would run well into the billions and not all spots could be saved.

    And it’s not just a rising ocean that is the problem. With it comes an even greater danger of storm surge, from hurricanes, winter storms and regular coastal storms, Boesch said. Sea level rise means higher and more frequent flooding from these extreme events, he said.

    All told, one meter of sea level rise in just the lower 48 states would put about 25,000 square miles under water, according to Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona. That’s an area the size of West Virginia.

    The amount of lost land is even greater when Hawaii and Alaska are included, Overpeck said.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s calculation projects a land loss of about 22,000 square miles. The EPA, which studied only the Eastern and Gulf coasts, found that Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina would lose the most land. But even inland areas like Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also have slivers of at-risk land, according to the EPA.

    And for you college students:

    Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians – the Bushes’ Kennebunkport and John Edwards’ place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.

    Spring Break! Gone! Kaput! Like Tuvalua!

    If that’s not enough to get you moving, nothing is.




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    Apr 25 2007

    A BILLION PEOPLE

    What’s a penguin worth? A baby seal? A polar bear?

    A billion people?

    How much will you give me for a billion people? Mothers and brothers, sisters and cousins. Grandfathers and grandsons?

    American scientists have figured out how to measure how much land would be lost and how many people might be affected by rising sea levels.

    They figured out how many people might die if melting Arctic and Antarctic ice – or storms – raise the level of the sea 100 feet. That’s the level of the big Tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people.


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    Meltwater stream on the Greenland ice sheet.

    Photo by Roger J. Braithwaite, The University of Manchester UK



    I’m only a penguin, but the answer scares me.


    “More than 1 billion people live in low-lying areas where a sudden surge in sea level could prove as disastrous as the 2004 Asian tsunami, according to new research by U.S. government scientists.”

    I’ve never seen a billion of anything. A billion is bigger than my penguin mind can imagine.

    “The team also found that a 100-foot (30-meter) rise in sea level would cover 3.7 million square miles of land worldwide.”

    But let’s suppose the water doesn’t get that high. What if it’s just one-sixth that high:

    “A rise of just 16 feet (5 meters) would affect 669 million people and 2 million square miles of land would be lost.”

    Maybe these scientists are just trying to scare us. A lot of people think scientists exaggerate. This is what one of them, E. Lynn Usery, said:

    “Sea levels are currently rising about 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 millimeters) each year, making it unlikely such a scenario would suddenly occur across the globe, Usery said.

    “But he said 10,000 years ago sea levels rose 20 meters in 500 years – a relatively short span – after the collapse of the continental ice sheets due to warming temperatures.

    “‘It can happen in a short period of time if we look at the historical data,’ Usery said.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18230533/


    So I guess the penguin question of the day is: what are you willing to do to save a billion people?

    No responses yet

    Apr 24 2007

    GLOBAL WARMING ISLAND

    Tear up your maps! Throw away your globes! Faster than a speeding train! We have global warming’s first new island. Using the language of the native people, the Inuit, “American explorer and Greenland expert, Dennis Schmitt … has named it Warming Island (Or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit, the Eskimo language.”

    Thanks to the British newspaper, The Independent, we have a picture:

    globalwarmingislandcropweb.jpg



    And this is what they say: “The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.”
    http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2480994.ece

    How interesting that we see this picture on the same day we read that although China admits global warming will have a dramatic effect on its environment the government is unwilling to impose strict caps on its carbon dioxide emissions. What’s a penguin to do?

    And it’s obviously not just China. Check out this graph of the countries that have increased their emissions in the last few years, and the countries that have made important changes.

    emissionschart042407.jpg



    It seems that 34 countries have increased their emissions since 2004. The worse offenders are Turkey, Spain. Portugal, Canada, Greece, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Liechtenstein and the United States of America. What’s a penguin to say?

    No responses yet

    Apr 22 2007

    DON’T PICK UP A PENGUIN

    How many scientists telling you that you have changed the world for the worse will it take? How many studies of melting ice? How many new coal-fired plants spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere do you need? Hummers and SUVs?

    It’s not enough that you have ignored the obvious. Now you want to mess with my friends and family to prove what every living thing except humans know.

    Give me a break.

    How about this brilliant headline:

    “Want to monitor climate change? P-p-p-pick up a penguin!”

    It turns out “scientists at the University of Birmingham are trying out an alternative bio-indicator – the king penguin – to investigate whether they can be used to monitor the effects of climate change.”

    The great idea: put penguins on treadmills. Implant “heart rate loggers” in penguins going to sea.

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    © mlenny


    And why? To see whether we have to work harder and use more more energy and swim further looking for food when fish and food are scarce.

    Do you really need to misuse us to learn about the man-made climate crisis? Why not open your eyes and see the melting glaciers? Listen to your children coughing from asthma! Try to see the night sky from your pollution-filled cities! List the rivers you can no longer swim!

    No responses yet

    Apr 20 2007

    YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING

    Forgive us, but sometimes it takes a while for us to get word of what’s going on. We just heard that Canadian Fisheries spokespeople were disappointed that only 860 seals were killed during the first three days of Canada’s seal hunt. They indicated “that melting ice has depleted much of the herd in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

    Only 860! Oh my God – or maybe Oh your God!

    Why so low? Well it seems the seals have been drowning before the hunters could get to them.

    How can a seal drown? Well it takes a bit of time for baby seals to learn how to swim. Kind of like humans and bicycles. And so much ice is melting that the baby seals have been drowning. They try the best they can to cling to the pockets of ice, but many of them don’t make it.


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    Courtesy: Rei Ohara



    “The quota for all three phases of this year’s seal hunt is 270,000 seals. That is 65,000 fewer than last year, a change imposed mainly because of the toll from the ice conditions.”

    What’s so important about seals? “Fishermen sell seal pelts mostly for the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil, earning about $78 per seal.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17953506/

    No responses yet

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