4/15/10 Researchers are warning of a new blight at sea: a swirl of confetti-like plastic debris stretching over a remote expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

The floating garbage - hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents - was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between scenic Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands.

The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say is likely to exist in other places around the globe.

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4/19/10  The Census of Marine Life, which is scheduled to be reported Oct. 4 in London, has involved more than 2,000 scientists from more than 80 nations. The decade-long census has discovered more than 5,000 new forms of marine life. Researchers think there may be several times that many yet to be found.

Previous updates have focused on larger creatures, such as a city of brittle stars off the coast of New Zealand, an Antarctic expressway where octopuses ride along in a flow of extra salty water, the deepest comb jellyfish ever found and The White Shark Cafe, a deep Pacific Ocean site where sharks congregate in winter.

Now the researchers have turned to the tiniest of things, some of which burrow in the sea floor.

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4/15/10 The standard that new drugs be safe for human consumption was first enshrined in U.S. regulations in 1938, after an antibacterial drug dissolved in a poisonous solvent killed 100 children. Now, armed with a range of evidence suggesting that wildlife and human health may be threatened by pharmaceutical residues that escape into waterways and elsewhere, a growing band of concerned ecotoxicologists and environmental chemists are calling for yet another standard for new medications: that they be designed to be safe for the environment.

The movement for “green pharmacy,” as it has been dubbed, has grown as new technology has allowed scientists to discern the presence of chemicals in the environment at minute concentrations, revealing the wide dispersal of human and veterinary drugs across the planet. In recent years, scientists have detected trace amounts of more than 150 different human and veterinary medicines in environments as far afield as the Arctic. Eighty percent of the U.S.’s streams and nearly a quarter of the nation’s groundwater sampled by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been found to be contaminated with a variety of medications. Read Full Article

4/8/10 Once, on both sides of the Atlantic, fish such as salmon, eels, and, shad were abundant and played an important role in society, feeding millions and providing a livelihood for tens of thousands. But as these fish have steadily dwindled, humans have lost sight of their significance, with each generation accepting a diminished environment as the new norm.

Today, most people in the U.S. and Europe are scarcely aware that eels, wild Atlantic salmon, shad, and alewives — once-vital sources of food and employment — are no longer a part of their ordinary experience.

Eels were widely consumed by Europeans and Americans in the 1800s and were often featured on holiday tables. And salmon once ran inland in countless numbers, providing sport and food; today, only a few hundred wild salmon remain in the eastern U.S., migrating up a handful of rivers in Maine to spawn. 

Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines” or “inter-generational amnesia,” and it is part of a larger and more nebulous reality — the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social relevancy of declining and disappearing species.

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4/12/10

Q. Why do ecologists seem to give the nod to farmed catfish and tilapia but not salmon?

A. The ecological issues related to fish farming vary from freshwater to saltwater fish; from carnivorous species to noncarnivores; and from open pens to closed ponds and tanks, among many other factors.

Farmed salmon, often raised in pens that are permeable by surrounding ocean waters and fed a diet rich in fish meal and fish oil, have been of special concern to critics...Read Full Article