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Natural Resource News, Information and Resources from Around the World

Washington Official: Cooke ‘Negligence’ Caused Salmon Escape

Washington state officials have fined a unit of Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for allegedly breaching water quality rules with the August 2017 salmon escape. In a Jan. 30 press conference, state officials charged with investigating the escape of several thousand salmon blasted the company for its actions prior to the incident, which they claimed, could have been prevented.  “What we can now confirm is that Cooke Aquaculture was negligent,” Maia Bellon, director of Washington state’s Department of Ecology, said during a press conference. “Cooke Aquaculture’s negligence led directly to the Atlantic salmon pen failure in August of 2017. What’s even...

EPA Ends Clean Air Policy

A decades-old air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies that is being done away with by the Trump administration was announced Thursday, a move that environmental groups say will result in more pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency said it was withdrawing the “once-in always-in” air policy under the Clean Air Act, which dictated how major sources of hazardous air pollutants are regulated. Under the EPA’s new interpretation, such “major sources” as coal-fired power plants can be reclassified as “area sources” when their emissions fall below mandated limits, subjecting them to differing standards. Though formal notice of the reversal has...

Poacher Gets Busted With 1,088 Sea Urchins

Sea urchins, those spiny creatures beach goers carefully avoid stepping on, are a hot commodity. Sometimes too hot. A sea urchin poacher was caught Jan. 7 when he pulled into Tacoma’s Breakwater Marina just east of Point Defiance Park. Officer Jake Greshock with the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s Central Sound Marine Detachment was watching the commercial diver from shore as he harvested green sea urchins north of the Tacoma Narrows bridges. When Greshock checked the diver’s 1,500 pounds of sea urchins at the marina he found several under the minimum 2 1/4-inch size limit. He called in three other officers and Sgt....

Dramatic Decline in Genetic Diversity of Northwest Salmon

Columbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found. The researchers reached this conclusion after extracting DNA from scores of bone samples, some harvested as many as 7,000 years ago, and comparing them to the DNA of Chinook salmon currently swimming in the Snake and Columbia rivers. Preserving genetic diversity is a central goal of the Endangered Species Act, in part because it helps a species adapt to changing environments. Yet it is rarely measured to this degree. Writing in the journal PLOS One, the researchers say their analysis...

How Much Do Climate Risks Cost?

Climate risks are pushing the Trump administration, and its allies in Congress, to fight a losing war. They continue to press forward for the development of oil, gas, coal, when the rest of the world understands the implication of that folly. Global warming is the most pressing issue for our time. Period. The thing is governments really have two choices when it comes to managing the impact on its peoples from global warming: Spend money on trying to reduce the problem; or spend money on cleaning up the catastrophes. Administration on the Hook for Climate Risks  The Trump administration...

Dead Trees Are Alive With Fungi

Fungi that live on trees perform an important function in the forest ecosystem by breaking down dead wood. This is no easy feat, because wood is very resilient. It is held together by a biopolymer known as lignin, which together with cellulose and hemicellulose form the cell wall of woody plants and give the wood its stability. Fungi are able to break down the robust lignin and the flexible cellulose fibres by releasing enzymes that cause the polymers to degrade and become mineralised. As part of the ecosystem’s cycle, the leftover material becomes part of the humus layer, which...

Diminished Oxygen Concentrations at Sea Due to Global Warming

Oxygen is a baseline necessity when it comes to animal life on Earth. From humans and house cats to gorillas and great white sharks, the simple diatomic molecule is essential to the success of cellular respiration, which breaks down complex carbohydrates to produce the energy required for survival. A recently published article in Science magazine reports that all across the globe, oxygen content in our oceans is dropping rapidly. The synthesis piece, titled “Declining Oxygen in the Global Ocean and Coastal Waters,” is the collaborative work of nearly two dozen authors, each bringing to the table specific research expertise. The international organization UNESCO...

QIN Receives Grant to Fund Oil Spill Response

In an effort to reduce the impacts of an oil spill when it happens, the Department of Ecology is helping fund emergency response equipment for 11 communities. The Quinault Indian Nation will receive $11,000 to fund trailer tires, training, and spill response kits. In 2016, the Tyee Marina fire in Tacoma and the Port Orchard Yacht Club fire each had a leg up because local emergency responders had a stash of state-funded oil spill response equipment nearby to quickly deploy while Ecology spill responders headed their way. Responders to the 2015 Mosier, Ore., oil train derailment also got a boost...

Crabber Sentenced for Stealing Crab Pots

Because of stealing crab pots offshore of Westport, a Grays Harbor County judge has sentenced a commercial crab fisherman to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and fined him $5,000, concluding a case that began with an investigation last year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Larrin Breitsprecher, 57, of Westport, was sentenced Dec. 1 by Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley after a jury found him guilty of possessing stolen property and related charges. Beginning May 1, Breitsprecher will be required to remain at home for three months unless he requires medical attention. Employee...

Forests are the Key to Freshwater Resources

Freshwater resources are critical to both human civilization and natural ecosystems, but UBC researchers have discovered that changes to ground vegetation can have as much of an impact on global freshwater resources as climate change. UBC Okanagan Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences Professor Adam Wei, PhD candidate Qiang Li and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Forestry recently published a study examining the impacts of how changes in forest vegetation affect water supplies. Using several decades worth of data, their work examined how freshwater resources are responsive to vegetation ground cover and climate change. “As we urbanize land and...