Floridians break world record for largest underwater cleanup

June 18, 2019 by  
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The coastal city of Deerfield, Florida made headlines this weekend for hosting the world’s largest underwater cleanup. This year, for the city’s 15th annual cleanup event, 633 divers gathered on the beach to scuba dive and collect more than 1,500 pounds of debris. By the number of divers participating, this cleanup is officially the largest in the world. Divers traveled internationally and from all over the country to participate in the event, and a Guinness Book of World Records officiant was on-site to confirm that the event indeed broke the previous record held by divers in the Red Sea. Led by an Egyptian diver, the Red Sea event in 2015 included 614 divers from around the world. Related: Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach cleanup in history The Florida cleanup event was hosted by Dixie Divers and the Deerfield Beach Women’s Club. According to one of the event planners, Tyler Bourgoine, “It was a great time … Everyone was working together and cleaning up one part of the reef or pier.” The group launched the event from a fishing pier on Deerfield Beach. Much of the debris collected was related to the fishing activities off the pier and in the area. Throughout the world, abandoned fishing gear remains an enormous percentage of marine litter. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — thought to be the largest collection of trash in all of the oceans at 79,000 metric tons — the majority of the debris is abandoned fishing gear. The cleanup is a small but important step to reducing over 8 million metric tons of trash that is estimated to enter the ocean every year and cause obscene damage to marine mammals, birds and other wildlife . Via EcoWatch Image via Shutterstock

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Floridians break world record for largest underwater cleanup

Pop-up shipping container accommodations add a bit of luxury to local festivals

June 18, 2019 by  
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For those who aren’t exactly in the mood to sleep in a dusty old tent on the ground while they attend a weekend music festival, Caboose & Co. has a better alternative. The West Sussex-based company is providing events around the world with a more sustainable accommodation option in the form of luxury glamping pods made out of shipping containers . After realizing that many event organizers are often hard-pressed to provide decent on-site lodging for event attendees, the Caboose & Co. team decided to create a sustainable solution that would also provide a taste of luxury. Today, the portable Cabooses can be easily transported to events around the globe by truck, train or ship. Related: Treehouses made from shipping containers offer the ultimate glamping getaway in Portugal The company provides two types of glamping pods , both made out of repurposed shipping containers. The first is the Rocket, a two-bedroom container that sleeps up to four people. The elongated container has two sundecks on either end with plenty of seating, perfect for enjoying some outdoor time. The interior of the Rocket shipping container features a modern design. The living space is compact but comfortable with en suite bunk bedrooms and a small bathroom with a shower and flushing toilet. The second glamping pod is called The Scotsman, which is a smaller, one-bedroom pod that sleeps up to two people. Like the Rocket, the pod has a large sun terrace that leads to the interior space. There is a double bed with a comfortable mattress as well as a small bathroom. Both containers come with electricity and hot water. Since its inception, Caboose & Co. has been making a name for itself as the go-to company for festival accommodation . It recently set up a pop-up hotel at Cheltenham Festival and will also be on-site at a number of upcoming events such as the Hay Festival, Glastonbury and more. + Caboose & Co. Images via Caboose & Co.

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Pop-up shipping container accommodations add a bit of luxury to local festivals

New sustainability plan for Washington State Ferries

June 18, 2019 by  
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Washington State Ferries (WSF), the state’s biggest consumer of diesel fuel, has released a two-year action plan for operating the ferry system more sustainably. Washington’s ferries burn more than 18 million gallons of fuel per year, generating more carbon and greenhouse gas emissions than any other component of the state transportation system. The new plan seeks to reduce emissions and waste, improve air quality and protect orca whales. Ferries serve the northwest part of Washington State, linking Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juan Islands and other places that locals and tourists live and visit. “Because we operate our 23 ferries on Puget Sound and manage 20 terminals on its shores, we have an obligation to ensure WSF is doing everything we can to protect our environment,” said Amy Scarton, assistant secretary at Washington State Department of Transportation. “This plan lays out our commitment to tackle these issues and continue our efforts to make Washington’s ferry system the greenest in the world.” Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting To cut down on emissions , the ferries had already decreased speed. Since adopting new speed guidelines in April 2018, they saved about 450,000 gallons in fuel. WSF is now working on hybridization and electrifying the ferry fleet. Local orcas, known as Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their biggest threats are toxic contaminants , prey availability and disturbance from vessel noise and traffic. WSF has already slowed its vessels in critical orca habitat to reduce noise, and plans to undertake a baseline noise inventory of the ferry fleet. WSF has already begun to remove creosote—which is toxic or carcinogenic to fish, birds, mammals and amphibians —from its facilities, and aims to complete creosote removal by 2021. The ferry system is also installing high efficiency LED fixtures to minimize light spillage. + Washington State Department of Transportation Images via San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau. Photos by Brandon Fralic, Monika Wieland Shields and Western Prince Whale Watching

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

April 19, 2019 by  
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Take advantage of the warmer weather by visiting any number of the hundreds of national parks across the country on April 20 for absolutely free. The National Parks Service is celebrating National Park Week by offering free entry into all of the 418 parks spread throughout the United States. If you have never been to a national park or if it has been a while since your last visit, you may be surprised to learn about all the fun and excitement that awaits you. Here is a quick guide on some of the most popular national parks in the country and how you can spend your time in the great outdoors. Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the most famous parks in the U.S. The park is known for its abundant wildlife , hot springs and exploding geysers. Given its enormous size, there are plenty of things to do at Yellowstone for children and adults alike. Related: An adventurer just journeyed into America’s largest national park — here’s what he found Located mostly in Wyoming, the park boasts 12 campgrounds with tent and RV access, plus 300 isolated campsites. There are nearly 1,000 miles of hiking trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. You can also bike at the park and enjoy some kayaking on one if its many lakes. If you plan on bringing your family along for the ride, the park offers specialized programs for children as well as horseback riding. Yosemite Established in 1890, Yosemite National Park  attracts many visitors for its beautiful waterfalls. But the 1,200-square-mile park also features vast meadows, large sequoias and a grand wilderness section. While sightseeing is the main attraction, there are plenty of things to keep your entire family busy. Common activities at California’s Yosemite National Park include biking, wildlife watching, camping , fishing, horseback riding and water activities. Before booking your trip to Yosemite, check with the park for any closures due to inclement weather. Glacier Point Road, for example, is often closed until May because of excess snowfall. Great Smoky Mountains The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the country. According to DK , the Smoky Mountains record more than double the number of tourists every year than any other location. While this is a popular destination, there are ways to avoid the large crowds. Skip out on the popular scenic highway and opt for one of the many side trails. The ancient mountain range features one of Earth’s most widespread deciduous forests and boasts a wide diversity of life. This includes a large selection of wildflowers and black bears . When it comes to activities, visitors can enjoy camping, hiking, wildlife watching, fishing and scenic driving. Acadia If you are looking for a good coastal drive, then Acadia National Park is right up your alley. Acadia National Park is the only one of its kind in Maine and features some dramatic views of the Atlantic coastline. You can also hike some trails on Cadillac Mountain, kayak in the ocean or partake in some amazing whale watching from just outside of Bar Harbor. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials A good strategy to see most of Acadia is to navigate the Park Loop Road, either by bike or motor vehicle. The 27-mile road has an array of different viewing points. One of the more popular stops is Otter Cliff, which overlooks a 110-foot drop. The park, of course, also features plenty of other things to do, such as camping, climbing, geocaching, fishing , swimming and bird watching. Tips for visiting a national park Once you decide to visit a park , it is always a good idea to call or stop by the visitor center and check in. Park rangers are valuable sources of information and can tell you what type of activities are available during the time of your visit. They can also tell you if there are any construction projects going on or special events that might make navigating through the park difficult. Speaking of the visitor center, it contains everything you need to know about the park, including typical rates and interesting places to visit. You can also find guided tours, which are a great way to get introduced to the history of the park and learn why it is significant to the region. Free admittance on April 20 In honor of National Park Week, the National Parks Service is offering free admittance to all parks in the United States on April 20. That day coincides with National Junior Ranger Day, which is geared toward children, making the free offer perfect for families. According to Matador Network , there are other themes throughout the rest of week, including Military and Veterans Recognition Day,  Earth Day , Transportation Tuesday, Wild Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, Friendship Friday, Bark Ranger Day and Park Rx Day. You can learn more about National Park Week, plus find important information about a national park near you, by visiting Find Your Park and the  National Parks website . Images via Ian D. Keating , Mobilus in Mobili , Jeff Gunn , Thomas , Eric Vaughn , Badlands National Park and Grand Canyon National Park

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National Parks are offering free entry on April 20 to celebrate National Park Week

Boa Mistura turns 52 fishing boats into art to bring awareness to the plight of the parrotfish

April 16, 2019 by  
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Inspired by the natural design and shapes of the tropical parrotfish, these previously-rusty old boats now don bright new exteriors. The venture was another in a long line of community projects aimed to create “art as a tool for change” organized by the Madrid-based art collective Boa Mistura . The Pepillo Salcedo village in the Dominican Republic has limited access to electricity and running water, and fishing is an essential facet of the economy and life. Boa Mistura, known for inspiring neighborhoods with its artwork, incorporated the community into the endeavor. With the help of local fishermen and their families, 52 fishing boats were sanded down, removed of mollusks, repaired with fiberglass and painted with primer to prepare them for their colorful transformations. The fishermen of Pepillo Salcedo took to the project enthusiastically, some paddling for hours to reach Los Coquitos Beach, where their boats were to be painted. Related: Old fisherman’s shack is reimagined as a dreamy eco retreat The utilization of the parrotfish conception was a mindful decision, as the animal holds a special significance in the tropical Caribbean region. The parrotfish feed off algae that collect onto the coral reefs , contributing to the cleanliness and therefore survival of the vital coral. What’s more, when the parrotfish eat the algae, it allows for the coral polyps (the soft, tiny organisms that help to form the structure of reefs) to become more resilient to other stressors, such as pollution or global warming. The fish feeds off of the coral itself as well, which is then turned into sand through the parrotfish’s digestive system and the animal’s tough teeth — some of the strongest teeth in the ocean , according to scientists. It is a fragile balance and relationship that benefits both the fish and the reef. A single parrotfish can produce hundreds of pounds worth of white sand in a single year, which means a substantial portion of the Caribbean beaches is made of parrotfish poop. Though the parrotfish is a protected species, intense illegal fishing has caused a devastating deterioration in both the fish population and the delicate harmony of the ecosystem. Needless to say, if the parrotfish numbers continue to decline, the region’s iconic white sand beaches and the colorful coral reefs will be in big trouble . The entire project took about four weeks, and now the 52 yolas (the local term for these traditional fishing boats) that cruise the Bay of Manzanillo serve as a reminder for the respect and mindfulness required for the survival of the Caribbean parrotfish, white sand beaches and coral reefs. + Boa Mistura Images via Boa Mistura

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Boa Mistura turns 52 fishing boats into art to bring awareness to the plight of the parrotfish

A quick guide to the environmental issues you’ll find on the ballot

November 2, 2018 by  
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The general election for 2018 features many interesting issues related to environmental improvements. But with these environmental proposals competing with other issues on the ballot, it is easy for them to get lost in the shuffle. From funding eco-friendly projects to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, here is a quick guide to some of the environmental issues on the 2018 ballots around the U.S. Alaska Salmon Initiative The first measure on Alaska’s ballot is an initiative that would force the state’s Department of Fish and Game to hand out permits for projects and activities that might harm fish . The measure also focuses on improving habitats for anadromous fish, like salmon, by looking at water quality, stream flow and temperature. If passed, the measure will create a system for processing permits, which includes allowing public input on major permits. The fish and game department will still have the authority to deny permits if the project or activity harms fish or habitats. Any existing projects would be exempt from the new permit system. Arizona Proposition 127 In a push for clean energy, this proposal would mandate that 50 percent of electric utilities come from renewable sources by 2030, and the percent required would steadily increase each year. The acceptable renewable energy sources would include solar , wind and biomass as well as certain hydropower, geothermal and landfill gas energies. California Proposition 3 There are a number of propositions on California’s ballot related to environmental issues, but Proposition 3 is one of the most significant. This initiative will give the green light for close to $8 billion in funds for surface and groundwater storage, watershed protection (habitat restoration) and water infrastructure. The measure outlines where all of the money will be dispersed and how much funding each project will receive. Colorado Proposition 112 This proposition on Colorado’s ballot would limit the areas available for oil and gas development, including fracking , in an effort to maintain public health and safety. If passed, oil and gas developments would have to maintain a distance of 2,500 feet from occupied structures and vulnerable areas, including homes, schools, hospitals, parks, lakes, rivers, sporting fields and more. Florida Constitutional Revision 4 Florida is taking a major step against offshore drilling this election. Constitutional Revision 4 could ban offshore drilling, putting an end to oil and gas mining on lands under state waters. Lumped into this revision is a ban that will prevent individuals from vaping inside closed workplaces. The ban includes any electronic device that generates vapor, such as electronic cigarettes. The ban would only be enforced in indoor workplaces. Georgia Amendment 1 This amendment would allow up to 80 percent of the revenue from sales and use taxes of outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailers to go to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund for land conservation, including protecting water quality, conserving forests and wildlife habitats and improving state and local parks. Montana Ballot Issue #14 I-186 This initiative will help regulate new rock mines in the state. If passed, new mines would be required to have plans for reclamation, restoration or rehabilitation to receive permits. More specifically, the new mines would be required to have adequate plans to avoid water pollution. Water contaminated by acid mine drainage often results in perpetual treatment to make the water safe for consumption. The measure also gives the Department of Environmental Quality the right to reject permits that do not have a reclamation plan in place. Nevada Question 6 Nevada’s environmental initiative this year will put the state on track for renewable energy by 2030. Question 6 on the Nevada ballot proposes that all utility companies invest in renewable energy over the next 12 years. If passed, the measure would require electric companies to transform half of their electrical output to renewable sources by the projected date. The current law requires utility companies to use 25 percent of renewable electricity by 2025. Rhode Island Question 3 This measure would authorize $47.3 million in funds for various environmental projects throughout the state. The measure outlines where the money will be allocated and the different types of projects that will be funded. The projects include coastal resiliency and access, clean water and treatment, dam infrastructure, bikeway initiatives, farmland access and local recreation. The largest project on the ballot is related to improving water quality and would receive $7.9 million. Washington Initiative 1631 Initiative 1631 in Washington targets greenhouse gas pollutants and rewards companies that promote clean energy. If voted in, the law would impose fees on carbon emissions. The price of the fee starts out at $15 for every metric ton of carbon, increasing every year by $2. The money generated from the fees will go right back into the environment. The revenue would help improve air quality, raise awareness about clean energy and examine environmental issues in various communities. Companies that comply with environmental standards could also receive credits from the added revenue. The measure also requires that Native American tribes have their voices heard on projects that affect their land. All of the money dispersed from the carbon fee will have to be approved by a public board first. Via Vote Smart , Ballotpedia and NCSL Image via Element5 Digital

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A quick guide to the environmental issues you’ll find on the ballot

A global ban on fishing on the high seas? The time is now

October 23, 2018 by  
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Marine biologist Daniel Pauly is calling for a total ban on open-ocean fishing to rebuild depleted global fish stocks and prevent the demise of the fishing industry itself.

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A global ban on fishing on the high seas? The time is now

Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

July 27, 2018 by  
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Only 13 percent of the planet’s oceans are unaffected by human activities, such as fishing and pollution, according to a recent study from the Wildlife Conservation Society . The study , published in Current Biology and executed in tandem with the University of Queensland, has completed the first systematic analysis of the Earth’s oceans and revealed that the only intact portions of global waters could be found in protected parts of the remote Pacific Ocean and around the poles. But even those waters have their tides turning toward becoming unsafe territories for marine wildlife . The research comes after studies in January and February revealed dead zones of marine wildlife quadrupled since the 1950s, and industrial fishing areas now cover half of the world’s oceans. “We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains,” Kendall Jones, lead researcher on the project, told NPR . “The ocean is immense, covering over 70 percent of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.” The cause of this human impression is due to enormous fishing fleets, global shipping and pollution run-offs from land. Add all of this to the distress caused by climate change , and it’s no surprise we’ve arrived at this point. Still, only 5 percent of the remaining wilderness found in the ocean resides in marine protection areas. Related: Astounding responsive map shows shark interactions with commercial fishers “Beyond just valuing nature for nature’s sake, having these large intact seascapes that function in a way that they always have done is really important for the Earth,” Jones said. “They maintain the ecological processes that are how the climate and Earth system function — [without them], you can start seeing big knock-on effects with drastic and unforeseen consequences.” In response to mounting pressure by scientists to create a protection status for the high seas, the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) has planned negotiations to create a treaty in September 2018. The debate will center around cutting fishing subsidies valued at more than $4 billion by governments worldwide. According to Jones, fishing “would actually be unprofitable if it weren’t for big subsidies.” He continued by noting that “the vast majority of marine wilderness could be lost at any time, as improvements in technology allow us to fish deeper and ship farther than ever before.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + Current Biology Via  The Guardian Images via Nelly Lendvai and Rey Perezoso

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Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans for now

School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

July 27, 2018 by  
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Americans often take education for granted. Whether their children attend public or private schools, the opportunity to learn is always there, from kindergarten through high school and often beyond. Meanwhile, many children around the world can only dream of this priceless endowment. Sydney architect Stephen Collier noticed this problem and wanted to take action – so, along with various international non-profit groups, he developed School-in-a-Box, which has helped make the dream of education a reality for many children in Papua New Guinea . In the Beginning Four years ago, Collier read Drusilla Modjeska’s novel The Mountain , which tells the story of how established cultures based on clans struggle to embrace contemporary mores in post-independence PNG. Since Collier was born in PNG, he had a personal interest in the material, and he contacted Modjeska, a stranger at the time. She asked him to join her on an excursion to Tufi , where she revealed she had an indefinable project in dire need of an architect. Collier was soon en route; he and Modjeska flew into the tropical coastal fjords of the province of Morobe in a tiny Dash8 plane. Multiple Challenges Modjeska is the co-founder of Sustain Educate Art Melanesia (SEAM), an organization that works to improve literacy in the six villages of Morobe. In the more remote areas of PNG, adult literacy is often as low as 15 percent; even though parents want their kids to be educated, they don’t want to sacrifice their customary connection to the farmland that sustains everyone in the villages. In addition, the villages are each very difficult to reach, with many sitting along single-file ridges above the coast, creating a long and treacherous journey for children. Even though the PNG government funds remote schools, each of which typically supports between 100-150 students of various ages with two teachers, these schools have a minimal number of books (no reference or literary texts, only workbooks) and hardly ever have electricity. Paper is hard to come by, fresh water is rare, and there are no pencils, crayons, pens or other writing materials. Students can’t read to each other, and the schools have nothing written by locals. The Box is Born Collier and Modjeska started brainstorming as soon as their plane touched down and a solid concept for School-in-a-Box began to grow. Early on, it was clear the box had to include water and solar electricity resources and storage systems. The box had to be light enough to easily transport from village to village, large enough to be functional, and tough enough to last and protect its cargo. Related: Hand-Built Library on Wheels Helps Retired Teacher Spread the Love of Reading The boxes, made from polycarbonate , are the same as those used by the US Army to transport armaments. The tents, poles, solar panels, and other materials conform to the box’s dimensions. The stretchable roof covers around 485 square feet and its translucent fabric is easily wound into a miniscule size for storage. The Treasure Inside Modjeska’s and Collier’s goals for the School-in-a-Box were multifaceted. They wanted the contents of the box to focus not just on childhood education, but also on creative writing and drawing for adult literacy classes, sharing and recording local stories to encourage imaginative investigation instead of pattern/repetitive learning, and making education more accessible to girls. After intensive idea sharing, they decided that each lockable, waterproof School-in-a-Box would include: two marine-grade plywood cabinets a 20 x 26-foot stretch tent with cables, poles, cables, stakes and ties two flexible solar panels batteries and an electrical board two laptop computers an A3 printer, guillotine and laminator books, paper, pencils, crayons, paints and brushes a 1,320-gallon water storage tank a simple water filter that can function without electricity or chemicals How It Works When the assembly is complete, cooling breezes flow freely underneath the structure. The roof is flexible enough to adjust to weather conditions and the sides are adjustable to stave off high winds. Collier created a hefty fabric gutter along one side to accumulate rainwater for storage in a pillow tank. To protect the gutter from direct sunlight, he made it concealable under a raised platform. The local community contributes some of the materials and helps in the platform construction. When closed, the cabinets form a box, although they open up and extend out in five directions. A teacher can conduct a class on one side, private study can take place on another, and the other sides serve as storage compartments. Looking Forward Mundango Abroad, The Readings Foundation, Planet Wheeler Foundation, Victorian Womens’ Trust, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and numerous other charitable organizations support the project, which has been going strong since its inception in 2014. Stephen Collier Architects, which won The Australian Institute of Architects Small Project Architecture prize in 2018 for this project, is investigating how to deliver more boxes to PNG in the future. A new fund to make that happen and take donations has been set up. If you would like to donate or assist in other ways, please email  info@collierarchitects.com  with SCHOOL-IN-A-BOX in the subject line. + Stephen Collier Architects Images courtesy of Stephen Collier Architects

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School-in-a-Box brings the gift of learning to children in Papua New Guinea

Coral forests thrive near Sicilys underwater volcanoes

July 10, 2018 by  
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Nearly one kilometer below the water surface near Sicily, a rare ecosystem of corals, sponges and wildlife is thriving. A recent study from conservation agency Oceana discovered healthy and active coral forests near underwater volcanoes just north of Sicily. These coral forests were previously undiscovered by humans but have not been spared from their impact via pollution. As an under-researched area, scientists wanted to learn more about the wildlife near the Aeolians Islands north of Sicily, the location of several underwater volcanoes . Exploring around a kilometer under the surface, the team found coral forests rich with endangered species. At the shallowest levels, a research robot found red algae beds that support both plants and sea animals in the area. Sea fans and horse mackerel were abundant near the surface. At intermediate depths, sharks laid eggs in beds of black coral, complemented with beds of red coral and yellow tree coral. Both colored corals are considered threatened species in the Mediterranean Sea . Related: Red List expands to 26,000 endangered species The most exciting discoveries were found at the bottom of the ocean floor. As far down as 981 meters, researchers found naturally growing bamboo corals on the endangered species list , as well as sea squirts and carnivorous sea sponges that were not known to live in the area. The deep dive also revealed two species never before seen in the area: the skinny sea star  Zoroaster fulgens and a goby fish originally found near the Adriatic Sea. Unfortunately, this unique environment isn’t immune to human damage. The diving robot discovered extensive evidence of fishing pollution , including abandoned traps, nets and fishing lines. Some of those contributed to the death of the wildlife, including turtles and corals. Other discarded waste found includes single-use plastic flatware, glass and even tires. “We have found tens of features that are internationally protected in the Mediterranean, from impressive coralligenous beds to loggerhead turtles and many species of corals and molluscs,” Ricardo Aguilar, senior research director for Oceania, said in a statement. “However, we also found widespread impacts of human activity, even in the farthest and deepest areas, and it is vital that we stop harming marine life if we are to preserve the uniqueness of this part of the Tyrrhenian Sea.” The discoveries will help scientists develop a plan to protect the unique ecosystem from future damage. Oceana’s expedition is part of bigger research expedition with the Blue Marine Foundation to better understand the Aeolians Islands and their  environment . + Oceana Images via  © Oceana

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Coral forests thrive near Sicilys underwater volcanoes

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