How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’

How Long Before These Salmon Are Gone? ‘Maybe 20 Years’

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: September 16, 2019 SNIP: Chinook, or king salmon, are huge, powerful fish, the largest member of the salmon family in North America. Spring-summer Chinook make an epic migration thousands of miles through the Columbia River to the waters surrounding Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, and then back to the high elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Before the 20th century, some 10 million to 16 million adult salmon and steelhead trout are thought to have returned annually to the Columbia River system. The current return of wild fish is 2 percent of that, by some estimates. While farming, logging and especially the commercial harvest of salmon in the early 20th century all took a toll, the single greatest impact on wild fish comes from eight large dams — four on the Columbia and four on the Snake River, a major tributary. The four Snake River dams are used primarily to create reservoirs for the barging of Idaho’s wheat to ports. But the dams raise water temperatures and block travel migration routes, increasing fish mortality. Climate change also has raised both river and ocean water temperatures, which can be deadly to fish. In 2015, for example, unusually warm water killed an estimated 250,000 sockeye salmon. For decades, experts have tried to ameliorate the loss of the Columbia’s wild fish by installing ladders that allow the fish to swim around the dams, and by placing them in barges and trucks for transport around the dams. The massive efforts have not stemmed the decline, despite the fact that more than $16 billion has been spent on recovery over the last...
As Bering Sea ice melts, Alaskans, scientists and Seattle’s fishing fleet witness changes ‘on a massive scale’

As Bering Sea ice melts, Alaskans, scientists and Seattle’s fishing fleet witness changes ‘on a massive scale’

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: September 15, 2019 SNIP: For two years, the Bering Sea has been largely without winter ice, a development scientists modeling the warming impacts of greenhouse-gas pollution from fossil fuels once forecast would not occur until 2050. This ice provided a giant platform for growing algae at the base of the food chain, and has been a significant contributor to the remarkable productivity of a body of water, stretching from Alaska to northeast Russia, that sustains some of the biggest fisheries on the planet. Much of U.S. seafood – ranging from fish sticks to king crab legs – comes from the Bering Sea, which generates income for an arc of communities that reaches from Savoonga to Seattle, where many of the boats that catch and process this bounty are home-ported. For Native people such as Akeya, who is Yup’ik, the ice also has shaped their culture, helping them to hunt the walruses, whales, seals and other marine life that have long formed a crucial part of their diet. Researchers now are uncertain when and to what extent the ice may return, and have scrambled to better understand the consequences of back-to-back years of its loss. This summer, the pace of change also quickened on shore as a record-shattering heat wave contributed to the deaths of salmon before they could spawn, to wildfires that shrouded the city of Anchorage in smoke, and to the further melting of permafrost, which causes ground to shift and can create problems for buildings and roads. Offshore, temperatures in some spots at the bottom of the northern Bering Sea this summer measured...
‘National tragedy’: Trump begins border wall construction in Unesco reserve

‘National tragedy’: Trump begins border wall construction in Unesco reserve

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 13, 2019 SNIP: Construction of a 30ft-high section of Donald Trump’s border barrier has begun in the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument in southern Arizona, a federally protected wilderness area and Unesco-recognized international biosphere reserve. In the face of protests by environmental groups, the wall will traverse the entirety of the southern edge of the monument. It is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the US-Mexico border being funded by the controversial diversion of $3.6bn from military construction projects. This will include construction in Texas, New Mexico as well as Arizona where, according to a government court filing, some 44 miles of new barrier construction will pass through three federally protected areas. These are the Organ Pipe wilderness, Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge and San Pedro Riparian national conservation area, the location of Arizona’s last free-flowing river. The Trump administration has deemed the new structures necessary due to a “national emergency” of unauthorized immigration into the US. “What is being proposed is bulldozing one of the most biologically diverse regions of the entire United States,” said Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center. “Walling off these precious places would be a colossal mistake and a national tragedy.” Organ Pipe, located south-west of Tucson, Arizona, is a 330,000 acre wilderness home to mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn and “more bird species than can be listed”, according to the National Park Service website. It is also a deeply significant area for the nearby Tohono O’odham nation which has long opposed Trump’s border wall on their ancestral lands. “This unneeded, expensive blight will...
Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

Climate change: Electrical industry’s ‘dirty secret’ boosts warming

SOURCE: BBC DATE: September 13, 2019 SNIP: It’s the most powerful greenhouse gas known to humanity, and emissions have risen rapidly in recent years, the BBC has learned. Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, is widely used in the electrical industry to prevent short circuits and accidents. But leaks of the little-known gas in the UK and the rest of the EU in 2017 were the equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road. Levels are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom. Cheap and non-flammable, SF6 is a colourless, odourless, synthetic gas. It makes a hugely effective insulating material for medium and high-voltage electrical installations. It is widely used across the industry, from large power stations to wind turbines to electrical sub-stations in towns and cities. It prevents electrical accidents and fires. However, the significant downside to using the gas is that it has the highest global warming potential of any known substance. It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1,000 years. Where once large coal-fired power stations brought energy to millions, the drive to combat climate change means they are now being replaced by mixed sources of power including wind, solar and gas. This has resulted in many more connections to the electricity grid, and a rise in the number of electrical switches and circuit breakers that are needed to prevent serious accidents. Collectively, these safety devices are called switchgear. The vast majority use SF6 gas to quench arcs and stop short circuits. Researchers...
Dolphins in English Channel being poisoned by toxic chemicals

Dolphins in English Channel being poisoned by toxic chemicals

SOURCE: MetroUK DATE: September 12, 2019 SNIP: Bottlenose dolphins in the English Channel have some of the highest levels of toxic mercury in their skin and blubber ever recorded among the species, scientists have found. They being poisoned by chemicals banned as far back as the 1970s and 1980s because of the risk they posed to wildlife and humans. The chemicals, known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), were commonly used as a refrigerant and are extremely durable, remaining in ecosystems for decades and passing up the food chain. ‘These organic compounds are able to dissolve in fats and oils, and consist of the by-products of various industrial processes and pesticides, among others,’ said Dr Krishna Das. ‘Bottlenose dolphins are often used to study levels of environmental pollutants, as the organic compounds accumulate within their thick layer of fatty tissue.’ Dr Krishna Das, a zoologist at the University of Liege, Belgium, said toxic organic pollutants can be detected even in the deepest dwelling marine life. The dangerous chemical accumulates at the top of the food chain and has a disastrous impact on an animal’s fertility and immune system. Recent research has suggested the long-lasting man-made pollutant could wipe out half of the world’s killer whale population in the next 30...