UK Govt. Declares Chagos Marine Reserve

I have to give full props to the BBC for this short but inclusive bulletin, it talks about the islanders far more than any of the petitions (see here or here) or the co-opted environmental shills for the marine reserve ever did-

The UK government has designated an area around the Chagos Islands as the world’s largest marine reserve. The reserve would cover a 544,000 sq km area around the Indian Ocean archipelago, regarded as one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems. This will include a “no-take” marine reserve where commercial fishing will be banned.

But islanders, who live in exile, have expressed concern that a reserve may in effect ban them from returning. The islands are known for their clean waters and unspoilt corals. Conservationists say the islands possess up to half the healthy reefs in the Indian Ocean. However, Chagossians have said the protected zone could prevent them from fishing – their main livelihood.

The former residents, who were evicted from the British overseas territory between 1967 and 1971 to make way for a US Air Force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia, have fought a long-running battle in the UK courts for the right to return.

Reprieve Take Up The Case Of Chagos Ignored By Corporate Environmentalists

Also worth seeing is Johann Hari’s exposé of co-opted environmental shills. While this focusses on the rendered clients of Reprieve it does also talk about the dispossessed Chagossians and makes the good point that human rights are being abused while other lifeforms gain some protection.

Reprieve:- The British Government is this week expected to announce that 210,000 sq km around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean will become the world’s largest marine reserve.

Sadly, the proposed legislation fails to protect members of the controversial species homo sapiens.

Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands, has been used for illegal rendition and detention of Reprieve clients Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni and Mustafa Setmarian Naser. The strange omission of the homo sapiens species in the new legislation raises serious questions as to why they should not be afforded the same legal protections as marine life.

On the 1st March Clive Stafford Smith raised Reprieve’s concerns with the Foreign Secretary in a letter (full version may be downloaded Here):

More than 30 years ago, the entire population of the Chagos Islands was removed to Mauritius against their will, to make way for an American military base. It seems unlikely that conservation law would have allowed for the wholesale destruction of the natural habitat of, say, Dendrodoris tuberculosa (the warty sea slug), in order to build such a base – but this was perhaps the first example of the warty sea slug having greater rights than the lowly homo sapiens in the region.

The current legal position in BIOT is bizarre. Almost uniquely amongst states, the territorial waters of the BIOT only extend out to 3 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles allowed by international law. Inside the 3 mile limit, in theory, the species Homo sapiens has reasonable legal protection. BIOT’s laws roughly mirror those of England and Wales. There should be no detention without trial, no kidnapping and no rendition. Torture is a crime. The Geneva Conventions have the force of law. A court system exists to enforce the basic rights of members of this life form..

However, beyond 3 miles, these legal protections for Homo sapiens have no application. The BIOT courts and BIOT police have no jurisdiction to prevent the capture, torture or even the killing of members of the species if, for example, they are dragged onto a prison ship against their will by some people in American uniforms.

Indeed, we are currently representing a member of our species, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, in his claim against the FCO. As you know, Mr Madni was subjected to ‘extraordinary’ rendition (i.e. kidnapping for torture) via Diego Garcia.

Tthe effect of your proposals would be peculiar. All other animal and fish life will enjoy protection up to 200 miles out from Diego Garcia. In addition to the worthy warty sea slug, every polyp of Gardineroseris planulata (honeycomb coral), and every Chaetodon trifascialis (chevron butterflyfish) will enjoy strict protection from being captured, killed or mistreated many miles from land. It seems that the only exception will be for our own taxonomic group, who will not be included in this wide-ranging and sensible proposal.

Reprieve Director, Clive Stafford Smith said :

“On Diego Garcia you may be arrested for violating the rights of a Warty Sea Slug, but no-one will object if you land a plane with a kidnapped, shackled, hooded man trapped in a coffin-shaped box. This happened to our client, Mr Madni, and it cannot be right. We fully support the Government’s plan to protect sea slugs on the island – but only if Homo Sapiens are to be given the same protection.” (ht2 Earwicga)

A Warm Passage

The Canadian Coast Guard has confirmed that in a major first, a commercial ship travelled through the Northwest Passage this fall to deliver supplies to communities in western Nunavut.

For a ship to be able to travel through the Northwest Passage, which has historically been impassable with thick ice, had some wondering if the MV Camilla Desgagnés is heralding a new era in Arctic shipping.

Louie Kamookak, the director of hamlet housing and public works in Gjoa Haven, said tugboats and barges usually deliver supplies from the west. Residents were surprised to see the MV Camilla Desgagnés come in from the east, he said.

“Looks like it’s going to be more shipping or ships travelling, with the ice clearing up north of this area,” Kamookak said.

Rayes, who was on the vessel during its trip through the Northwest Passage, said the company informed the coast guard, which put an icebreaker on standby.

“They were ready to be there for us if we called them, but I didn’t see one cube of ice,” he said.

“They were informed about our presence [and] they were ready to give us the support needed. However, since there was no ice whatsoever, the service was not needed, we didn’t call for it.”

And down South it’s a tad toastier too-

Scientists have identified new rifts on an Antarctic ice shelf that could lead to it breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula, the European Space Agency said. The Wilkins Ice Shelf, a large sheet of floating ice south of South America, is connected to two Antarctic islands by a strip of ice. That ice “bridge” has lost about 2,000 square kilometers (about 772 square miles) this year, the ESA said.

If the ice shelf breaks away from the peninsula, it will not cause a rise in sea level, because it is already floating, scientists say. Scambos said the ice shelf is not on the path of the increasingly popular tourist ships that travel from South America to Antarctica. But some plants and animals may have to adapt to the collapse. The ice shelf had been stable for most of the past century before it began retreating in the 1990s.

Freighters, tourist ships, hell, business is good. What could possibly go wrong?

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Perspective

The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study. It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion. The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide. The study, headed by a Deutsche Bank economist, parallels the Stern Review into the economics of climate change.

Haiti Toll 793

Four major storms that pounded Haiti in August and September killed 793 people and left more than 300 others missing, authorities said Friday.

Haitian Civil Protection announced the new figures in a dramatic surge upward from their previous estimate of 326 dead on September 11 after the passing of Tropical Storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike.

According to the new data, “793 people were killed 466 of them in the city of Gonaives alone, the hardest hit by the storms, while there are 310 people unaccounted for and 548 injured,” said civil protection spokeswoman Alta Jean-Baptiste

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Warming Helps Ease Passage

And in shipping news…(why what did you think I meant?)-

For the first time ever, both the Northwest and the Northeast Passages are free of ice. Shipping companies have been waiting for this moment for years, but they will have to wait a little while longer before they can make use of the Arctic shortcut.

Shippers in Bremen are getting impatient. The Beluga Group, a shipping company based in the northern German city, had planned to send a ship through the Northeast Passage — or the Northern Sea Route, as Russians call it — this summer, according to spokeswoman Verena Beckhausen. The route leads from the Russian island Novaya Zemlya, off the northern coast of Siberia, through the Bering Strait between far eastern Russia and Alaska.

This route is radically shorter than the normal trip through the Suez Canal. From Hamburg to the Japanese port city of Yokohama, for example, the trip using the northern route is just 7,400 nautical miles — just 40 percent of the 11,500 nautical mile haul through the Suez. Dangerous ice floes normally block the shorter route, but as of a few days ago the Northeast Passage is ice-free according to Christian Melsheimer of the University of Bremen. Scientists at the university use data from the NASA satellite “Aqua” to cobble together up-to-date maps of sea ice. Still, it will likely be a while until the first ships sail through the passage. Russian authorities have still not issued the necessary permits allowing shipping companies like Beluga to take advantage of the Arctic shortcut this year.

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Dead Water, Selfish Species

As you may know I have a bit of a thing for submarines, this is part of my liking for water, both as drink and all its other fabulous myriad uses, (but I’ll leave the water sports joke for now). So… industrial farming has downsides and here, it is killing parts of the ocean-

Coastal oceans are being starved of oxygen at an alarming rate, researchers are reporting, with vast stretches of water along the seafloor depleted of oxygen to the point that they can barely sustain marine life.

The main culprit, scientists say, is nitrogen-rich nutrients from crop fertilizers that spill into coastal waters by way of rivers and streams.

In a study to be published Friday in the journal Science, researchers say the number of marine “dead zones” around the world has doubled about every 10 years since the 1960s. At the same time, the zones along many coastlines have been growing in size and intensity. About 400 coastal areas now have periodically or permanently oxygen-starved bottom waters. Combined, they constitute an area larger than the state of Oregon.

“What’s happened in the last 40, 50 years is that human activity has made the water quality conditions worse,” Robert Diaz, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, said in an interview. “Dead zones tend to occur in areas that are historically prime fishing grounds.”

While the size of dead zones is small relative to the total surface of the earth covered by oceans, scientists say they represent a significant portion of the ocean waters that support commercial fish and shellfish species.

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