Thursday, September 23, 2010

Micro-Plastics Beach Sampling Will Take Place Again in October

San Juan County Beach Watchers will soon begin their third round of beach sampling to determine the quantity of micro-plastics intermingled with the sand on our local beaches. This sampling and sorting process is part of a research project being done by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (MSC) on the shorelines of counties all around the American Salish Sea.

Twice a year, (October and March,) buckets of sand are collected from these areas. The sand and other organic materials are sifted out, and the remaining man-made products (99% plastic,) are then sorted into different categories and counted. The samples are sent to the MSC, where the tabulated results are analyzed to determine the prevalence of small plastic particles in our marine environment, and where it is most heavily concentrated.

This Fall's sampling will take place during the week of October 18 on Orcas and Lopez, and a number of volunteers will be needed. If you haven't already done so, please contact Nancy Alboucq on Orcas or Susan Muckle on Lopez if you would like to help out. It is an interesting and thought-provoking project - come join us!

Check out the Sounder Article on Beach Watchers and the Marine Health Observatories

This week's Sounder (Sep 22,) features a full-page article on our Kwiaht/WSU Beach Watchers Marine Health Observatories, complete with photo and a map of all the MHO and salmon seining locations. The article describes the recent Marine Resources Committee meeting in East Sound, moderated by Shann Weston, and includes nice quotes from Marcia Spees, Orcas Beach Watcher from the '09 class. Nice job, everyone! Keep up the good work.

FDA Approval Pending For Genetically Engineered Salmon?

What will probably be the final FDA hearing on the request by a Massachusetts company (AquaBounty,) to sell genetically-modified salmon eggs, was held in DC on September 21. The bio-tech company has been trying for 15 years (at a cost of millions of dollars,) to gain approval to market their product.

A growth hormone implanted in the Atlantic salmon eggs from chinook salmon is activated by DNA from another eel-like fish known as "ocean pout." The DNA protein acts as anti-freeze, keeping the growth hormone from turning off in colder weather, as it normally would in wild fish. This enables the modified salmon to grow quickly to large size, and be ready for market about twice as soon.

AquaBounty plans to produce the eggs at a hatchery on Prince Edward Island, and then ship them to a hatchery in Panama to be raised to market size. The company maintains that both facilities are inland from the ocean and fully contained, with no danger of GE fish escaping. They also say only sterile females will be produced.

There isn't room here to go into details on this complex situation, which is causing great concern among scientists and environmentalists, but a Google search will turn up a lot of additional information. Purdue University has done considerable research on this situation, but according to some reports, the FDA has considered only AquaBounty's research during the hearing process. Interestingly, the approval is being sought for a "veterinary drug" - not for a food product or process -- since the modified eggs are a change to the nature of an animal.

Many people fear that if approval is given in this case - the first of its kind - many other GMO requests will follow; apparently some are already waiting in the wings for the outcome of this one. Another disturbing aspect of this situation, is that if these salmon are allowed to be brought to market in the US, apparently no special labeling will be required to identify them as genetically-modified!

If you wish to voice your concerns, it will be important to do so soon, as the FDA seems to be leaning towards approval, and its decision is expected soon.

Here's one of many sites on this subject:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Upcoming TV Shows about the World's Trash and Water Problems

Two documentaries on environmental topics of critical concern will air at the end of this month on CNBC TV.

"Trash, Inc: The Secret Life of Garbage," will be broadcast on Wednesday, September 29 at 9 PM Eastern Time (check listings for local time,) and will include a segment on Charles Moore. (See following article.)

"Liquid Assets: The Big Business of Water," will be shown on the following night at the same time.

More information on these broadcasts, including some previews, can be found on You-Tube.

OCT 26: Charles Moore To Speak Again in Friday Harbor

Note Correction: Talk is at 7:30 pm, (not 7 pm as originally noted.)

Noted marine researcher Charles Moore will give a talk on "Combating the Oceans' Plastic Plague," at the San Juan Community Theater on Tuesday, October 26, at 7:30 pm. Two years ago Doris Estabrooks, the Friday Harbor resident who spearheaded the successful crusade to ban polystyrene food containers in San Juan County, arranged Captain Moore's first appearance in the islands. She has convinced him to return and speak again since, as Doris noted, "passing the ordinance has not made the plastics problem go away."

Because Doris, who is passionate about this issue, wants as many people to attend Moore's lecture as possible, there will be no admission charge. But at the same time, she is working hard to cover all the costs of his visit. Donations are still very much needed and appreciated.

Checks (which are tax-deductible,) should be made out to Moore's organization, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and mailed in care of: Doris Estabrooks, 2143 Cattle Point Road, Friday Harbor, 98250.

To learn more about the Algalita Foundation and Captain Moore's work, go to his website at: .