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As economic concerns mounted
over the depletion of valuable fish stocks under ineffective traditional
fishery management systems that were seriously threatening national
economies, a
new approach to managing fisheries emerged in Iceland,
New Zealand and Australia
the 1970s through the development of the individual transferable quota
fisheries management system, also known as the catch share program.

These early ITQ programs were
originally designed to improve economic performance, but it has since
discovered that the ITQ fishery management system enables the
rehabilitation of
the entire marine environment including marine habitats as well as fish
populations, while at the same time it significantly increases
revenue, profits, safety, compliance with fisheries regulations and
stability. The ITQ system also reduces bycatch which is the unintended
of non-targeted marine life such as turtles, sharks, dolphins and seals
allowing these animals to continue living and contributing to balanced
healthy marine ecosystems of which they have historically been a part.

The ITQ system became so
successful that Canada
the U.S.
soon followed with their ITQ programs. By 2010, the U.S.
had developed ITQ fishery management systems for fisheries that
represent one
quarter of the total U.S.
commercial fisheries value that was reported to be annually worth US$4.1
billion in dockside value in 2009. Equally as important, the National
and Atmospheric Administration responsible for the nation’s fisheries
a report for the U.S. Congress recommending the conversion of all
remaining U.S.
fisheries to the ITQ system as a means to
maximize the efficiency, profitability and long term sustainability of
the U.S.

Within an ITQ fishery management
system, the total annual catch of a commercial species is subdivided
portions, or shares, each of which represents a fixed percentage of the
annual catch that the holder of the share is guaranteed the right to
catch each
year. Initial shares are usually allocated by the regional governing
authority to professional fishermen who have a history of fishing the
in question. Share allocations may be given in exchange for a price
corresponding to the value of the share or for little or no cost,
depending on
the decision of the governing fisheries authority. The value of a
depends on a number of factors including the population size,
reproductive capability,
health and distribution of the species that comprise the fishery. If the
fishery value increases, the fishermen’s share values correspondingly
while the converse is true as well. It therefore inures to the
long term benefit to conduct their business in a manner that protects
natural marine resources on which their livelihoods are entirely

One of the many benefits of this
system is the ability of a shareholder to sell or lease his shares. If
fishery value increases, then the value of the shares increases. This is
particular interest to fishermen who understand that the value of their
decreases with age; however, if they contribute to enhanced fishery and,
therefore, share values, their reduced boat value can be offset by an
share value. And share transferability means that the ITQ system is open
than closed to new participants. 

One reason why the ITQ system is
becoming more widely used in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is
that the
ITQ system can be implemented in any type of fishery (e.g. single and
multi-species fisheries, fish, crustacean, etc.) in any region (i.e.
temperate, sub-polar and polar) with all types of vessels (e.g.
mid-size, small-scale).

Yet despite its universal
appeal, the ITQ system is not a one-size-fits-all system. On the
contrary, the
ITQ system is tailored to the needs of each region that it serves. For
Aegean fishermen regularly fall victim to net damage and fish losses
dolphins and seals that intrude on fishermen’s catches in impoverished
areas that are suffering from the reduced availability of prey due to
overfishing. Under the ITQ system, a management provision could be made
for the
replacement of verifiably damaged nets if the regional ITQ framework
reserved a
portion of the management fee for such an approved use. 

One of the most distinguishing
features of this unique fisheries management system, which embodies a
new and
more reliable dimension of enforcement that does not exist under
fisheries management, is that ITQ management includes enforcement of
regulations to ensure shareholder compliance and reduce illegal fishing
serves to protect share values and the marine environment. This
underlies the
prospect of greater profitability as fishermen acquire a direct stake in
overall health of the fishery which prompts them to shift their
incentives from
maximizing short term volume to maximizing long term value. 

The Secretary General of the
Nordic Council of Ministers (who is also a former Prime Minister of
the Secretary General of Cepesca (the Spanish Fishing Association) and
with extensive economic experience in the fisheries industry have
advocated the introduction of the ITQ fisheries management system in
Europe as
a means of reversing the spiraling downfall of a once-proud industry
that has
impoverished the oceans which once served as cradles of life rather than
of extinction.

My partner and I joined in this
effort through our preparation and February 2010 delivery of a
Fisheries Reform Proposal to EU Commission President Barosso, EU
Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki, Members of the
European Parliament Fishery and Environment Committees, Hellenic
Ministers of
Agriculture and the Environment, the Chairman of the Environment
Committee of
the Union of Cycladic Municipalities and the President of the
Fishermen’s Union
of the Southern Aegean.  Based on
remarkably positive statistical evidence from fisheries that converted
to ITQs
following dismal economic performance due to overfishing, this document
demonstrates each of the ways in which the ITQ system can satisfy the
aims of
EU Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki outlined during her 19 January 2010
confirmation hearing, including the reduction of overfishing as well as
overcapacity, increased fishing revenues and profitability, protection
of the
small-scale fishing industry, and the preservation of marine resources
on which
the fishermen exclusively depend for their future livelihoods.   

The European Commission and its
advisors have already recognized the benefits of the ITQ system in the
Commission’s publication “Fisheries and Aquaculture in Europe”
(No. 47 April 2010) in which the Commission acknowledged that ITQs are
serious consideration as a framework for the new Common Fisheries
Policy. As
many European Member States have already fallen very far behind other
nations in modernizing their fisheries for a profitable and sustainable
it becomes increasingly important that we, as European citizens, inform
ourselves about the best way to protect our irreplaceable natural marine
resources, participate in the Common Fisheries Policy debate and thereby
make a
difference in our own future for which we as citizens, and not the
are entirely responsible.  

To receive a copy of the
Socio-Economic Fisheries Reform Study, please contact:
Constantine Alexander

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Bald eagle diet shift enhances conservation

An unprecedented study of bald eagle diet, from about 20,000 to
30,000 years ago to the present, will provide wildlife managers with
unique information for reintroducing Bald Eagles to the Channel Islands
off California. The scientists, including researchers from the Carnegie
Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory, found that eagles fed mainly on
seabirds from about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago to the 1840s and 50s,
when humans introduced sheep. The seabirds provided an abundant source
of carrion for the local eagle population until the pesticide DDT wiped
out the eagles in the 1960s. The results are published in the online
early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
USA the week of May 3, 2010.

"Reintroducing bald eagles to the Channel Islands has had mixed
results," remarked lead author Seth Newsome, a postdoctoral researcher
at Carnegie at the time of the study.* "An understanding of their diet
is critical to successful reintroduction, so we looked for chemical
traces of the foods the eagles consumed over many millennia. Since bald
eagles are extremely opportunistic, they can quickly adapt to changes in
the prey base of the diverse ecosystems they inhabit. Because there are
no sheep on the islands today and the seabird populations are
diminished, we think that the introduced eagles could scavenge seal or
seal lion carrion, exert predation pressure on a threatened but
recovering local seabird population, or even prey on the endangered
island fox."

"Each of these sources has its challenges for wildlife managers,"
Newsome continued. "Several studies have shown that seals and sea lions
are contaminated with pollutants, and a growing bald eagle population
could potentially exert significant predation pressure on the fragile
fox and seabird populations."

The scientists used a technique called stable isotope analysis of
eagle bone and feather remains primarily from a historic nest on San Miguel Island that has been occupied for over 100 years before its
abandonment in the mid-20th century. The also examined prehistoric
material from paleontological sites from the late Pleistocene on San
Miguel Island and material collected during the historic period
(1850-1950) from other Channel Islands and the southern California

Atoms of elements such as carbon and nitrogen, which cycle through
the food chain, come in different forms, or isotopes that have the same
number of protons, but different numbers of neutrons. Scientists can
distinguish them by the tiny differences in their masses.

As it turns out, marine and terrestrial prey have different amounts
of the isotopes carbon-13 (13C) and nitrogen-15 (15N). The coastal
marine ecosystems in California have higher amounts of 13C and 15N than
adjacent terrestrial ecosystems. The marine ecosystems also have more
steps in the food chain than the terrestrial ecosystems, resulting in
higher amounts of 15N. Since sheep and fox have different isotope ratios
compared to seabirds and fish, the researchers could determine the
diets of bald eagles by analyzing the isotopes found in their remains.

Contact: Seth Newsome
Carnegie Institution

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Plumage-color traits more extreme over time

Ever since Darwin, researchers have tried to explain the enormous
diversity of plumage colour traits in birds. Now researchers at the
University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are adding something new to this
particular field of research, which is so rich in tradition, by
demonstrating how a bird can become red instead of yellow.

Sixteen years ago, Malte Andersson, a professor at the University of
Gothenburg, published the book Sexual Selection, which analysed how
animals use behavioural signals, colours and other ornamentation to
compete for a mate. Based on, among other things, a famous experiment
involving a long-tailed widowbird published in Nature in 1982, and is
now a standard zoological work that has been cited in around 5,000
scientific articles and innumerable textbooks.

Next generation

The third generation of ecological researchers at the Department of
Zoology at the University of Gothenburg are now publishing their
findings in this field. Together with colleagues and project leader
Staffan Andersson, postgraduate student Maria Prager has studied how
sexual signals in widowbirds and bishops (Euplectes spp.) are produced
and change during the evolutionary process.

Enormous range

In the past, the function of signals was much disputed but is now
well-known: it has to do with attracting a mate for reproduction and
deterring rivals. But why the animal kingdom displays such an enormous
range of signals and traits has still not been explained. The African
widowbirds and bishops are an excellent illustration of this phenomenon:
despite being closely related and using classic avian signals
elongated tail feathers and bright colours there is a fascinating
amount of variation in the traits of these species.

More extreme

Maria Prager’s thesis follows on from field studies that indicate a
general pattern amongst these and many other birds: females prefer males
with the longest tail feathers, while males with larger and redder colour signals are able to occupy
larger breeding territories. Maria Prager’s hypothesis was that the
signals of widowbirds and bishops thus have become ever more extreme
during evolution.


A lack of fossil feathers means she has studied modern DNA in order
to reconstruct the evolution of colours and plumage in the genealogical
trees of these species. The results show that today’s species of
widowbirds and bishops are descended from birds with short tails and
yellow colour signals.

Genetic imitations

The current red colour has evolved through several means: the birds
store large amounts of yellow dietary pigments in their feathers, which
produce a red hue, or they convert some of the dietary yellow pigment to
red with the aid of an enzyme. As yellow widowbirds and bishops seem to
lack this enzyme, colour diversification may be due in part to
physiological or genetic limitations in some species.

Evolution of colour

Malte Andersson was a pioneer in work to test and further develop
Darwin’s concept that the reproductive success of males often depends on
eye-catching ornamentation. Maria Prager’s research now clarifies three
new aspects of colour signalling: the pigment mechanisms behind
colours, the development of colours in individuals, and the evolution of
colour signals over time.

"Our combined research provides a unique and complete picture of
colour evolution in birds, and there are few other animals for which we
now have so much knowledge of the various aspects of these signals."

Contact: Maria Prager


University of

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The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill could have been avoided!

According to an environmental lawyer whose interview on Ed Schultz
last week is getting a lot of circulation, that this leak may well be
traceable in part to…Dick Cheney.

How? It’s hardly as
far-fetched as it sounds. From
the Wall Street Journal

The oil well spewing
crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn’t have a remote-control shut-off
switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort
protection against underwater spills.

The lack of the device,
called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental
impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the
Deepwater Horizon rig last week…

… regulators in two major
oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them.
Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since

The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off
mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost
and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling.
The agency, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, says
it decided the remote device wasn’t needed because rigs had other
back-up plans to cut off a well.

The U.K., where BP is
headquartered, doesn’t require the use of acoustic triggers.

Journal’s report doesn’t come out and say this, but the environmental
lawyer, Mike Papantonio, said on the Schultz show in an interview you
can watch here
that it was Cheney’s energy task force – the secretive one that he
wouldn’t say much about publicly – that decided that the switches, which
cost $500,000, were too much a burden on the industry. The Papantonio
segment starts at around 5:00 in and lasts three minutes or so.

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EU Environment Policy Brief, Issue37, April 2010

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