Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years

January 24, 2019 by  
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The Bahamas is famous for its large conch population, but some studies claim that could change significantly over the next decade if the archipelago doesn’t start enforcing its laws and introduce stricter regulations. Overfishing has devastated many of the Bahamian conch communities, and it is making reproduction so difficult, the sea slug could be extinct within 10 years. This would be devastating to Bahamian tradition and culture, not to mention the economic impact on the fishing industry. According to the Matador Network , about 9,000 fishermen, which is about 2 percent of the population, depend on the conch fishery. These sluggish sea creatures move too slowly to mate in just pairs. Instead, it’s safer for them to mate in groups, with at least 50 others nearby. But many of the Bahamian conch communities are below critical levels. Related: 60% of wild coffee species are now threatened with extinction The conchs in the Florida Keys suffered the same fate more than four decades ago. Back in 1975, the once abundant conch population went extinct because of overfishing. Now, the Bahamas are facing the same problem, because the nation has some of the most lenient fishing regulations in the Caribbean. However, the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources announced on January 13 that it would be ending exports and increasing its regulatory staff in an effort to protect the conchs . There could be some push-back according to Shelly Cant-Woodside, the director of science and policy for the Bahamas National Trust. “We’re not used to regulations or enforcement,” Cant-Woodside told National Geographic . Because the conch industry is the only source of income for many residents of the Bahamas, they might not welcome new restrictions. Right now, the fishermen can legally fish adult conchs after they have had enough time to reproduce. But the Bahamas’ Department of Marine Resources will enforce this rule more strictly by recommending a mandatory minimum shell thickness. Biologist Any Kough said that the new recommendation is encouraging, and it is a “clear sign” that the department is aware of the troubles the conch population is facing in the Bahamas. Via Matador Network and National Geographic Image via Briana Baud

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Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban

January 24, 2019 by  
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Shark finning has sparked numerous controversies for the horrible act of animal cruelty that has led to the banning of shark finning in 12 U.S. states. However, the ban is so difficult to effectively enforce that some restaurants in at least 10 of the states still manage to have shark fins on their menus, and some are starting to question if the ban is worth it. Shark finning — the act of slicing fins off live sharks and throwing the wounded shark into the ocean , where they sink and eventually die of suffocation and blood loss — became illegal in U.S. waters back in 2000. Yet, shark fins have been making their way to the states from countries that don’t ban the practice and catch sharks. Although the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. — who supports the national shark fin ban — updates their yearly list of establishments that serve shark fin soup, restaurants are still featuring the infamous soup on the their menus. According to National Geographic ,  shark fin soup is a “status dish in Asian countries” and has a long history dating back to the Song Dynasty. Currently, the soup is traditionally served at wedding receptions as a sign of respect for guests. Related: Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration The “luxury dish” is prepared by boiling the shark fins and removing the skin and meat. The softened protein fiber that is left behind is then shredded and put into the soup. Trying to ban this item from restaurants is proving to be a major problem for U.S. enforcement agencies due to understaffing. Not to mention, making a case against shark fin vendors can be difficult since the trade is mostly underground, like illegal drugs. “I know it’s going on, I know it’s out there,” says San Francisco marine warden William O’Brien. “But it’s a very private matter — it’s not the kind of thing that, you know, people are selling to the public.” To make matters worse, the fines and jail sentences for violating the ban are usually light and don’t deter the practice. Via National Geographic Images via Shutterstock

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Own a funky, biophilic home by an acclaimed upcycling artist for $1.2M

November 28, 2018 by  
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A truly one-of-a-kind home has surfaced on the Florida market that offers luxury living in a lush, jungle-like environment as well as a wealth of upcycled art . Located just north of Fort Lauderdale in the town of Wilton Manors, the home is a sculptural oasis designed by owner Michael Jude Russo, an internationally renowned multimedia artist. Filled with light and views of the outdoors, the unique two-bedroom, two-bath dwelling is now being sold for $1,200,000, an asking price that includes all of the sculptures and art on display in the house, studio and gardens. Built in 1957 on a roughly quarter-acre lot facing south, the creative artist’s 1,386-square-foot residence features an open-floor plan with an abundance of glass to blur the boundaries between the indoors and out. “The inspiration came from my lifelong belief in the circularity of good design (no ‘dead ends’) and its integration with nature,” explained owner and artist Michael Jude Russo . “My favorite aspect of the house is how natural light plays visually through the interior during the day. I appreciate the house as an artistically interconnected functional entity. One that offers framed garden views through every door and window.” In addition to the property’s many artworks that were built of recycled and reclaimed materials, the home and furnishings were constructed primarily from sustainable and natural building materials. Russo also added that all the landscaping and house upkeep were “organically maintained,” meaning no pesticides were used. The plumbing, electrical systems and roof were replaced in 2009. Original artist-designed light fixtures and built-in, sculptural, artist-designed glassware and china cabinets can be found throughout the home. Related: Italian artist creates extraordinary sculptures out of reclaimed driftwood Water features prominently in the landscape, from the 10,000-gallon saltwater swimming pool to the 1,500-gallon river water feature integrated with two fountains and a salt system. Full-height sliding doors create a seamless connection with the garden. The property at 401 NE 26 Drive, Wilton Manors, Florida is currently being listed by Virginia Hornaday of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty for $1,200,000. + Artist Residence Wilton Manors Images by Iuse Steve Brown for ONE Sotheby’s Realty

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Own a funky, biophilic home by an acclaimed upcycling artist for $1.2M

3 reasons why it’s time to install solar in the Sunshine State

November 1, 2018 by  
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With some of the highest solar capacity in the nation, there’s clear demand for the clean energy job potential in Florida.

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3 reasons why it’s time to install solar in the Sunshine State

Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

October 18, 2018 by  
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The full extent of damage from Hurricane Michael is still not known. But when the storm hit the Florida Panhandle, it did more than destroy property and accumulate a human death toll that is still on the rise. Part of the hurricane’s devastation included sweeping away the nests of threatened baby loggerhead sea turtles that were hatching on Florida beaches after damage from previous storms. From May through October, the Gulfside Beaches in Florida’s Franklin County are dotted with sea turtle nests. But Hurricane Michael has replaced the dunes with scalloped sand in the town of Alligator Point, which was one of the most prolific areas for sea turtle nests in the state. Loggerheads are a federally-protected species and the most common type of sea turtle in Florida. Sea turtles lay eggs many times throughout the season, which results in hundreds of nests across the Panhandle that each hold anywhere between 50 to 150 eggs. Protecting those nests is a 24/7 job, and volunteers and city staff both work to make sure the hatchlings can make it to the ocean safely. At St. George Island in Franklin County, there were only seven nests left after the hurricane, but volunteers said if they haven’t already hatched, it is likely that none survived. According to Reuters , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute started monitoring the beaches of Franklin County for sea turtle nesting activity back in 1979. In the 1990s, there was a huge increase in the number of turtles hatching and crawling to the ocean. Since then, there has been a significant drop-off. “The downward trend seen with hatch success began as a result of beach conditions and has continued due to tropical storms, high tides and erosion,” said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website. However, during the last year, Franklin County had more than 1,1100 loggerhead nests — the most the state had seen in four years. Hurricane Michael came late in the nesting season, and that might be the only reason that this year’s turtle population wasn’t totally wiped out. Florida master naturalist Lesley Cox said that they had a lot of nests this year and no storms until Michael, so there is a good chance that a lot of hatchlings made it. Now, the question remains whether or not the beach erosion from the storm will keep the area from being a sufficient habitat for nesting next year. Via Reuters Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( 1 , 2 )

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This contaminated, post-industrial site will become a massive park in Florida

October 16, 2018 by  
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New images have been unveiled of international design firm Sasaki’s proposal for transforming a 180-acre, post-industrial site in Lakeland, Florida into a privately funded park with aims of becoming “one of the greatest urban landscapes in the country,” according to the firm. Billed as a future “Central Park” for Lakeland, Bonnet Springs Park will begin with a comprehensive remediation process to heal the damaged and contaminated landscape. Spearheaded by Lakeland realtor David Bunch and his wife Jean with the backing of philanthropists Barney and Carol Barnett, the sprawling park will be a vibrant new destination for residents. It is slated for completion by 2020. Located near downtown Lakeland, the land for Bonnet Springs Park is currently underutilized and has accumulated tons of trash. More than 80 acres of land are contaminated with arsenic and petroleum hydrocarbons. With the help of a 20-person advisory committee that has helped remove 37 tons of trash from the site, the 180-acre landscape is now entering its environmental remediation phase, which includes stockpiling contaminated materials into safely capped hills, constructing  wetlands for filtering pollutants and creating stormwater management strategies. Although the park is privately funded, hundreds of Lakeland community members have been invited to add their feedback and input on the design. Sasaki’s masterplan includes heritage gardens, a canopy walk, a welcome center, nature center, event lawn, walking and biking trails, non-motorized boating activities and a sculpture garden . The new buildings in the park will be designed to harmonize with the landscape, with some of them partially buried into the terrain. A plan will also be put in place to ensure the economic sustainability and continued maintenance of Bonnet Springs Park. Related: Solar-powered POP-UP Park takes over underused Budapest square “Bonnet Springs Park, from a planning and design perspective, presents a rare opportunity to transform a significantly challenged urban plot of land in an effort to improve Central Florida’s quality of life for generations to come,” noted the architecture firm. “Sasaki’s designs will improve the site’s ecological health, foster unique harmonious architectural design and set the park up for self-sustaining , economic success.” + Sasaki

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Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide

September 7, 2018 by  
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The toxic red tide has been raising states of emergency within Florida counties over the past few months. The harmful algal blooms are causing extensive fish deaths as well as sickness and death in sea turtles, birds and marine mammals, including manatees. Scientists at Florida International University (FIU), in coalition with Mote Marine Laboratory , are racing against the clock to neutralize the poisonings with a new treatment. Red tide accounts for 10 percent of manatee deaths in the last decade. Because of the current bloom cycle, that could jump to a tremendous 30 percent in the near future. Thanks to a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program , a three-year program is being launched by FIU and Mote to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees affected by the Florida red tide. The project allows scientists to study cellular immune responses in the marine mammal to various antioxidant treatments. “The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” explained Kathleen Rein, the FIU chemist that is leading the research team in tandem with colleague Cathy Walsh, a marine immunology expert at Mote’s labs. Related: Manatees taken off the endangered species list – but that may not be good The current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances, just isn’t ebbing the tide. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process,” Rein said. “If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.” The manatee recently advanced from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list to threatened status. However, the current Florida red tide bloom, which is continuing without any predictions on its duration, has already claimed more than 103 of the 575 manatee deaths this year — almost 18 percent. “The need for better treatment is underscored by the current, long-lasting bloom of Florida red tide and its intense impacts on Florida manatees,” Walsh said. With the current red tide bloom being the worst the state has endured since 2005, the situation is critical. + Florida International University + Mote Marine Laboratory Image via Ramos Keith / U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

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Exotic pets are most likely to be released in the wild and become invasive species

August 24, 2018 by  
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With imports of Fish and Wildlife-regulated reptiles exceeding one million individuals each year, it is no surprise that many of these animals are finding their way into the wild, where they are threatening natural ecosystems. Exotic pets can be extremely endearing and are bought at a low cost when they are babies. But when these animals get too large to handle or are cast off by wavering attention spans, they invade native ecosystems. This is the case for iguanas, Chinese water dragons and ball pythons, which have become the most commonly released pets in the wild, according to new research. The massive exotic pet trade, which isn’t fully regulated, has become the leading cause of invasive amphibians and reptiles in the wild. Whether as predatory hunters or as spreaders of “alien” diseases and pests to native populations, the discarded exotic pets are wreaking havoc that ecologists and animal control workers are endlessly working to offset. Oliver Stringham and Julie Lockwood, leading ecologists at Rutgers University in New Brunswick,  researched the prevalence of specific exotic species. The paper was published on Wednesday and cross-references attributes of species that are commonly released versus those that are typically kept by their owners. The study compared data from  citizen scientists  on numbers of species that were introduced into the wild with figures of imports and sales from online pet stores. Related: It’s finally illegal to own wild animals in the UAE In total, the researchers documented 1,722 species of reptiles and amphibians that were sold on the U.S. market between 1999 and 2016. They found that species that grow to large sizes were most likely to be released. Some of the animals also have long lifespans for pets, as in the case of the boa constrictor, which requires costly care over its 30+ year lifespan. “These species are so abundant in the pet market, they’re potentially more likely to be bought by impulsive consumers that haven’t done the proper research about care requirements with some small fraction of these consumers resorting to releasing these pets when they become difficult to care for,” Stringham said in an interview with Earther . “Even if released exotic pets fail to become established, they still cause harm to wildlife by spreading new diseases.” The effects have been catastrophic for many ecosystems . The animal trade-driven chytrid fungus plague alone has devastated amphibian populations on a global scale. In the Florida Everglades, where released exotic pets are the most prevalent, Burmese pythons and tegu lizards continuously scavenge native populations. Stringham and Lockwood hope that their research will deter importers from selling these wild animals from impulsive buyers in the future; a more likely scenario is the regulation of the amount of animals or the prices for which they are sold. Via Earther Images via Paul Hudson and Thai National Parks

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Tiny seahorse trapped in fishing line gets a second chance

June 15, 2018 by  
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A tiny seahorse named Frito received a second chance at life after being trapped in fishing line. Florida resident Dawn McCartney said she and her two daughters were snorkeling when they found a rope and plastic trash in the water. Among the debris, the family saw a small seahorse with fishing line wrapped around her neck multiple times. McCartney called the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), who came to the seahorse’s rescue . Frito, a female lined seahorse, was rescued last weekend, on June 10. McCartney carefully untangled the seahorse and put her in a water bottle filled with ocean water until the CMA rescue team could come pick up Frito. CMA, an animal rescue center, rehabilitated the seahorse, whom they described as their smallest rescue yet , and were able to return her to a seagrass bed in the wild on June 14. Related: Floridians rescue manatees stranded on shores drained by Irma “Our mission of rescue, rehabilitation and release applies to all marine life, big and small,” CMA CEO David Yates said in a statement . “The level of care our team gave to tiny Frito is inspiring. It is so rewarding to get her back home.” (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Release of Frito, the Tiny Seahorse Frito, the tiny seahorse is going home! Join us in welcoming home our smallest rescue patient as she is released into the wild! #CMAinspires Posted by Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Thursday, June 14, 2018 CMA said Frito’s rescue story is similar to that of other animals they’ve rescued — the creatures were tangled in fishing line. Monofilament fishing line drifting in ocean waves could endanger many species of marine life such as sea turtles , birds , stingrays, dolphins … and tiny seahorses. CMA said people can lower the chances of animal entanglement simply by cleaning up fishing line and disposing of it back at a dock. In a 2017 blog post , CMA offered other suggestions for fishers who want to help keep marine life safe, such as using barbless circle hooks or recycling monofilament fishing line. While non-monofilament line and hooks can’t be placed in the recycling bins for monofilament lines, fishers can cut the sharp point off hooks and cut non-monofilament line into pieces 12 inches or smaller before putting those in covered trash cans to help protect marine animals. + Frito the Seahorse + Clearwater Marine Aquarium Images courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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The US just experienced its hottest May on record

June 11, 2018 by  
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It’s a familiar theme: each year, it seems, is the hottest year on record. The most recent climate change milestone in the U.S. occurred last month, when the country experienced its hottest May ever recorded. “Nature is dealing cards from a very different deck now compared to the 20th century,” climate scientist David Titley told USA Today . The average temperature for May in the lower 48 states was 65.4°F, 5.2°F above the average temperature for the month in the 20th century. Prior to this year, the record hottest May occurred in 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl. While climate change contributed to the record warmth, two significant tropical storms brought heat and precipitation north from the Gulf of Mexico. While more than a quarter of the contiguous U.S. remains in drought, some states, including Maryland and Florida , experienced their wettest month of May on record. As a result of heavy winter snow melting rapidly in a warm spring, locations in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming have experienced significant flooding. Related: Climate change has transformed much of Alaska over the past three decades Beyond the average monthly temperature, more than 8,590 daily warm temperature station records were either broken or tied throughout May. “This was 18 times more than the approximately 460 daily cold temperature station records during the month,” NOAA wrote. “Several of the daily records were noteworthy, including 100°F on May 28 in Minneapolis, Minnesota  — the earliest such occurrence on record.” + NOAA Via Ecowatch and  USA Today Images via NOAA

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The US just experienced its hottest May on record

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