Shark fin soup on menus of nearly 200 restaurants, despite state bans

August 2, 2019 by  
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On land, the world is tuning in for Shark Week celebrations, but out in the oceans, the reality for sharks is much more grim. A recent update of the digital database maintained by the Animal Welfare Institute indicates that almost 200 restaurants across the country offer shark fin soup and other shark products despite being banned in more than 12 states. Shark fins are festive delicacies, especially for East Asian communities, but the practice of removing fins from sharks is an abusive tradition condemned by conservationists and animal rights activists around the world. “The United States is a major producer, exporter and trade stop for shark fins,” said Cathy Liss, president of Animal Welfare Institute. “Clearly, the existing patchwork of state laws and uneven enforcement have failed to shut down a lucrative billion-dollar industry. When shark fin soup is on the menu, so is animal cruelty.” Related: Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban California has the highest number of restaurants offering shark dishes (59 restaurants) despite a full ban on shark fin possession, sale, trade or distribution in 2013. New York passed a similar ban in 2014 but still has 19 restaurants that offer shark products. Bans are also pending in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Approximately 73 million sharks are killed every year just to harvest their fins. The practice often includes the capture of sharks and the bloody removal of their fins while they are still alive. The sharks are then tossed back in the water, where their chances of survival are nearly impossible. This widespread method is considered inhumane and cruel because of the suffering that the sharks endure during and after the removal of their fins. Despite their reputation, sharks are absolutely essential for healthy marine ecosystems . According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, all species of warm-water flat sharks are considered critically endangered except for one. This year, Canada passed a national ban on shark imports and exports, but in the U.S., legislation is still on a limited state-by-state level. + Animal Welfare Institute Image via Alondav

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Shark fin soup on menus of nearly 200 restaurants, despite state bans

Toxic algae bloom forces all Mississippi beaches to close

July 10, 2019 by  
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The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced a total ban on swimming in the ocean until a toxic algae bloom subsides. Over the weekend, MDEQ added Pascagoula Beach West and Pascagoula Beach East to the list of beaches where swimming is prohibited; the list now includes all of the state’s 21 beaches. The blue-green Harmful Algal Bloom is almost certainly caused by massive amounts of fertilizers that entered the watersheds this year due to unusually high rainfall. High rates of precipitation over the winter and spring months forced officials to open the Bonnet Carré spillway in Louisiana, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. A spillway is essentially a reservoir for excess water from dams that occasionally needs to be released into the ocean when they become too full. Related: Scientists working to help manatees poisoned by Florida red tide This year, due to abnormally heavy rainfall, the spillway has been opened for a total of 104 days and counting. In comparison, the Bonnet Carré spillway was only opened for 23 days in 2018 and remained closed for all of 2017. Officials believe that the algae bloom will dissipate once the spillway can be closed again, because the bloom will be cut off from the likely source of fertilizer-contaminated freshwater. The algae bloom is actual a type of cyanobacteria that feeds off of the nutrients from fertilizers, namely nitrogen and phosphorus. The bacteria creates a blue-green tint to the water and has a foul smell. According to a statement released by MDEQ, exposure “can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. MDEQ advises that those exposed wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas.” Recreation along the beaches and coastlines is still permitted; however, officials prohibit anyone from entering the water and advised “people and their pets to avoid water contact such as swimming or wading, because exposure to the blue-green HAB can be harmful.” Via Gizmodo and MDEQ Image via Phil Whitehouse

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Toxic algae bloom forces all Mississippi beaches to close

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

Little Caesars debuts vegan sausage

May 23, 2019 by  
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Vegetarians have finally pushed Little Caesars past its tipping point. After years of clamoring for better vegetarian and vegan pizza options, Little Caesars is now offering a plant-based sausage, or impossible meat, made by California-based Impossible Foods . This is the first time a national pizza chain has offered a vegan meat substitute. Before vegans get too excited, note that initially only three markets will feature the faux sausage: Fort Myers, Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Yakima, Washington. However, the new Impossible Supreme Pizza will still not be 100 percent vegan as it’s topped with dairy cheese. Little Caesars is not the first place most vegans would look for a meal. But as demand for plant-based products grow, even meat-heavy restaurants are taking notice. Last year sales in plant-based products increased 17 percent, compared with a 2 percent overall growth rate in the grocer sector, according to Nielson. “It’s here to stay,” said Little Caesars CEO David Scrivano. Impossible Foods’ vegan sausage is made from similar ingredients to their burgers, such as legume hemoglobin derived from soy. According to the company website, “Although heme has been consumed every day for hundreds of thousands of years, Impossible Foods discovered that it’s what makes meat taste like meat. We make the Impossible Burger using heme from soy plants — identical to the heme from animals — which is what gives it its uniquely meaty flavor.” Even meat eaters might want to try the pizza made with this impossible meat. According to Medical News Today , a recent study showed that eating red meat even occasionally could shorten your life. Red and processed meat consumption has been linked to diabetes, coronary heart disease and some types of cancer. So the less meat you eat, the better for you, and the better for animals. Impossible Foods reports that more than 7,000 restaurants now offer their products, including such traditionally vegan-unfriendly chains as White Castle, Burger King and Red Robin.  The company is increasing its production capacity at its Oakland, California manufacturing plant. This summer a second production line will double its output. Via CNBC Image via Michael Rivera

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Little Caesars debuts vegan sausage

Sparkman Wharf cargotecture restaurants revitalize Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood

April 30, 2019 by  
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Any successful restaurant requires communication among workers, but when you’re turning out quality food in a 30 by 8 foot space, even more cries of “below,” “behind” and “heard” are necessary to keep staff from trampling each other. “There’s not enough room to open the oven door and the beer cooler at the same time,” says Tampa restaurateur Ty Rodriguez, co-owner of Gallito. Rodriguez’ newest restaurant opened last November and occupies a former shipping container in Sparkman Wharf, a major project revitalizing Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood in Flordia. Sparkman Wharf , formerly known as Channelside Bay Plaza, is the southern anchor of a $3 billion district called Water Street Tampa. The plan includes about 180,000 square feet of office space, 65,000 square feet of ground level retail, a park and recreational lawn. Yet the most eye-catching feature is the collection of repurposed shipping containers which now house nine places to order a meal, get a coffee or an ice pop. Seating is outside — sorry, the micro-restaurants barely contain the staff. Related: Is cargotecture the future of construction? What you need to know for your next project Strategic Property Partners, LLC, who owns the wharf, worked with local art studio Pep Rally Inc. to paint a mural encompassing all the containers. SPP describes the result:  “The collage pattern of the mural includes natural elements and imagery celebrating the history and culture of Tampa. Water currents and raindrops move through mangrove roots. Egret, blue crabs, and anoles crawl through the artwork. Oranges and tobacco leaves are set over bricks, reminiscent of Ybor City. Nautical patterns as well as the latitude and longitude coordinates featured in the Sparkman Wharf brand are a nod to the wharf itself and to Port Tampa Bay. The varied and vibrant color palette complements the energy of the outdoor space and the diversity of the food concept available within the dining garden .” While the containers look gorgeous and upcycling materials always sounds like a cool idea, there is more than meets the eye at the Wharf when it comes to these small restaurants operating inside shipping containers. Rodriguez gave Inhabitat the lowdown. First of all, the owners had a lot of experience before opening Gallito . Rodriguez and his best friend, Chef Ferrell Alvarez, already own Rooster & The Till , named the top restaurant in 2018 by the Tampa Bay Times. Alvarez was a 2017 James Beard Best Chef South nominee. Tampa entrepreneur Chon Nguyen is the third partner in Gallito. The three had worked together prior to opening the Nebraska Mini Mart, a 400 square foot restaurant in a former drive-up market. So these guys know what they’re doing — even in small spaces. When they first heard about Sparkman Wharf, the partners were intrigued. “We thought it was an extremely interesting idea,” Rodriguez says. “What can we do in a 30 by 8 foot container that’s successful, good and most importantly, is feasible to pump good food out of an incredibly small area?” Since the other chefs involved were friends and colleagues, he was confident the wharf would have quality restaurants. The concept behind Gallito is an upscale, family-friendly taqueria with high-quality ingredients . “We wanted to do something palatable for a mass audience,” Rodriguez says. To work efficiently in a small space, they chose a pared-down menu with two appetizers, five tacos and a limited choice of Mexican beer, wines, sodas and house-made sangria. “We don’t have a wide variety of everything, but what we do is unique.” Prep was the biggest challenge. Even though Gallito doesn’t open until noon, the sous chef and cook get there at seven. On weekdays, three to four people are usually working. On the busy weekend days, the staff maxes out at six — which is all the container can hold. “If I went in there on a Saturday and tried to help, I’d just be in the way,” Rodriguez says. To keep things simple in the fast casual container, they also had to trim down the point of sale so that every product they sell fits on one screen, rather than having separate screens for drinks and appetizers, as they do at Rooster & the Till. “How many steps is it going got take to complete this taco?” Rodriguez and Alvarez ask themselves. Gallito’s front of house staff garnish the tacos as they come out, something that wouldn’t be done in a more formal setting. Since seating for both Gallito and Nebraska Mini Mart is all outdoors , Rodriguez has become addicted to the daily forecast. “I can tell you more about the weather in Florida than I care to talk to anyone about. We live and die by the weather.” If it rains, they have to cut labor and shorten that day’s operating hours to stay afloat. This will be Gallito’s first summer at Sparkman Wharf and he’s hoping Tampans will brave the heat. Rodriguez may be serious about food, but he’s not above the occasional cargotecture pun. “Because of tight quarters and where everything is situated inside the container, you have to think outside the box.” Images via Inhabitat

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Sparkman Wharf cargotecture restaurants revitalize Tampa’s Water Street neighborhood

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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Conchs in the Bahamas could be extinct in 10 years

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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Hurricane Michael leaves uncertainty for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida

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