Top Agribusiness Food Companies Dumping Waste in our Waters

Originally posted on

Top Agribusiness Food Companies Dumping Waste in our Waters

By Elizabeth Renter

Article image

Companies like Tyson Foods, Cargill, Inc., and Perdue Farms Inc. dump their garbage—more than 206 million pounds of it—into our water almost every year and leave others to worry about the clean-up. Now, as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a rule to restore the Clean Water Act, these companies are pulling out all the stops to maintain their freedom to dump and pollute, regardless of the toxic outcomes.
Tyson Foods, who primarily produces chicken, sends over 18 million pounds of toxic chemicals into U.S. waterways every single year, according to a new report from Environment America. They account for 9 percent of the nationwide total, and they share their top spot with other similar corporate agribusiness and food producing companies who are sending waste into the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, and Puget Sound, among…

View original 224 more words

Could This Penalty Spell the End of Killer Whales Swimming With Trainers?

Could This Penalty Spell the End of Killer Whales Swimming With Trainers?

Miami Seaquarium, the last U.S. aquatic park to let employees work in the water with whales, was hit with a fine for putting workers at risk of death.

(Photo: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)




July 25, 2014

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued the Miami Seaquarium a citation for allowing killer whale trainers to come into dangerously close contact with its sole orca, Lolita.

OSHA made a similar move against SeaWorld Florida after the 2010 killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau by the 12,000-pound whale Tilikum.

Though Miami Seaquarium could challenge the violation in court, the penalty could herald the end of trainers performing water shows with killer whales in the U.S.

“The employer did not furnish (a workplace) free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm (from) struck-by and drowning hazards,” OSHA said in the citation, which was issued July 10.

OSHA gave Miami Seaquarium until Aug. 26 to fix the violation by prohibiting trainers from getting into the water with the orca. The water park also must install physical barriers or require that a minimum distance be maintained between trainers on land and Lolita. The agency proposed a fine of $7,000.

The citation sprang from a complaint filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund  last January.

“OSHA has enforced [orca safety protocols] against only one such facility, SeaWorld of Florida, and only then after a trainer there was killed by an orca,” ALDF said in a June 11 letter to OSHA’s Enforcement Department.

“Enforcement, which came too late for the deceased trainer, is still denied employees of other marine entertainment facilities,” ALDF wrote. “Rather than wait for the next fatality, OSHA should intervene now.”

Neither OSHA nor Miami Seaquarium has responded to interview requests.

The news heartened captivity opponents because it could deal a significant blow to Miami Seaquarium’s business model. When SeaWorld halted all “waterwork” with killer whales in 2010, Miami Seaquarium remained the only U.S. facility where visitors could watch trainers swimming with, riding on, or leaping from the body of an orca.

According to ALDF, Lolita “has given numerous indications that she could similarly physically injure or kill her trainers. A video posted to YouTube on December 20, 2012, shows Lolita lunging out of the tank and snapping her mouth at visitors.” Another video showed Lolita nearly heaving a trainer into the wall of her small tank. In the 1970s, Lolita grabbed a trainer and pried off his wetsuit.

ALDF said Lolita might be even more dangerous than Tilikum, who has been involved in the deaths of three people, because she performs in a far smaller pool, with fewer escape routes for trainers. “She lives in a less stimulating environment than Tilikum, deprived of both space and companionship,” according to ALDF’s complaint.

In 2010, OSHA hit SeaWorld with a “willful” violation in Brancheau’s death and mandated safety abatements identical to those being imposed on Miami Seaquarium. SeaWorld has unsuccessfully appealed that decision.

“After SeaWorld lost their appeal, we confirmed that trainers were still treating Lolita like a surfboard—risking their lives in the process—and sent a fresh complaint to OSHA,” said Jenni James, a litigation fellow at ALDF. “We didn’t want Lolita and her trainer to star in a Blackfish sequel,” she said, referring to the 2013 documentary about orca captivity.

Lolita, who was taken from her pod in Puget Sound 40 years ago, has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle to secure her release back into the wild.

“It makes sense that the OSHA standards should be the same across this misguided (and hopefully dying) industry,” former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg said in an email. “On the other hand, I can’t help but hurt for Lolita, confined for almost 44 years in that small, miserable pool. Human contact is about the only thing she’s got. All the more reason to push for her release.”–hit-with-fine-mishandling-killer-whales?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2014-07-25uld This Penalty Spell the End of Killer Whales Swimming With Trainers?


Microplastics worse for crabs and other marine life than previously thought


Microplastics worse for crabs and other marine life than previously thought
by Staff Writers
Exeter, UK (SPX) Jul 21, 2014

This image depicts polystyrene microspheres inside the gills of a shore crab. Image courtesy Andrew Watts.

The tiny plastic particles polluting our seas are not only orally ingested by marine creatures, but also enter their systems through their gills, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter.

Scientists also discovered that when microplastics are drawn in through this method they take over six times longer to leave the body compared with standard digestion.

Lead author Dr Andrew Watts of the University of Exeter said: “Many studies on microplastics only consider ingestion as a route of uptake into animals. The results we have just published stress other routes such as ventilation. We have shown this for crabs, but the same could apply for other crustaceans, molluscs and fish – simply any animal which draws water into a gill-like structure to carry out gas exchange.

“This is highly important from an ecological point of view, as if these plastics are retained longer within the animal there is more chance of them being passed up the food chain.”

The researchers used fluorescently labelled polystyrene microspheres to show how ingested microplastics were retained within the body tissues of the common shore crab, Carcinus maenas. Multiphoton imaging suggested that most microspheres were retained in the foregut after sticking to hair-like ‘setae’ structures within the crabs.

Plastic is part of our everyday lives and has grown in use substantially over the past seven decades – from 1.7 million tonnes in 1950 to an estimated 288 million tonnes in 2013. Around 40 per cent of this is believed to come from packaging material, most of which is single use and therefore disposed of.

It has been suggested that 10 per cent of plastic which is thrown away ends up in the marine environment. At 2013 production levels this equates to 11 million tonnes of packaging ending up in the marine environment every year. This plastic is then degraded by wave action, heat or UV damage and is created into microplastic (particles smaller than 5mm).

Dr Watts added: “This is a human issue. We have put this plastic there, mostly accidently, but it is our problem to solve. The best way to do this is to reduce our dependency on plastic. It comes back to the old phrase: reduce, reuse and recycle.”

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, was funded by CleanSeas, a multidisciplinary and collaborative research project addressing marine litter from different perspectives.

It aims at providing Member States and other stakeholders with improved knowledge, methods and tools to be able to better define, monitor and achieve a marine environment free of harmful litter levels by 2020 (Good Environmental Status -GES- as required by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive -MSFD).

In doing so, it will deliver a set of integrated results that will provide transparent and useful guidance to policy makers and stakeholders dealing with marine litter mitigation

The company is exporting a seriously limited resource with no oversight

The company is exporting a seriously limited resource with no oversight


As residents of California are urged to conserve water and the state considers placing a mandatory restriction on outdoor water usage, Nestlé is trucking away undisclosed amounts of the precious resource in the form of bottled water.

The Desert Sun has an in-depth report of controversy brewing around the company’s bottling plant, which draws water from a drought-stricken area for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brand water. Because the plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, it’s exempt from oversight by local water agencies and is able to keep confidential information — such as the amount of groundwater it’s pumping and water levels in its wells — that other plants would be required to disclose. As a result, critics contend, it’s impossible to know just how much of the limited resource the plant is extracting to send elsewhere.

Here’s more from the Desert Sun:

“They’re entitled to use the groundwater basin, too. Everyone is. But it’s just a shame that this water is not being used locally. It’s being exported,” said David Luker, general manager of the Desert Water Agency. He said DWA’s position has been that the Morongo tribe should have to report its water use just like other entities.

“I don’t believe there’s any way to force them to fork over groundwater pumping information unless there’s discovery in a lawsuit,” Luker said. But he said the level of concern about the bottling plant in the area doesn’t seem to have grown to a degree that leads to such action.

Other concerns are raised by people who live in a neighborhood of mobile homes near the bottling factory. Some say they wish the plant would provide more jobs because many are unemployed. Others say despite living next to the Arrowhead plant, their local water service is poor, with sputtering faucets and frequent breaks in water lines.

“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” Peter Gleick, who wrote the book on bottled water, told the Desert Sun. “If you had the same bottling plant in a water-rich area, then the amount of water bottled and diverted would be a small fraction of the total water available. But this is a desert ecosystem. Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else.”

Nestlé refused to let the Desert Sun tour the Morongo facilities or release any data about water levels in its wells, but in an emailed statement stood by its operations. “We proudly conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner that focuses on water and energy conservation,” the company said. “Our sustainable operations are specifically designed and managed to prevent adverse impacts to local area groundwater resources, particularly in light of California’s drought conditions over the past three years.” What that ignores, however, is the basic fact that bottled water is anathema to the concept of environmental responsibility: we’re talking about a process that uses multiple times the amount of water bottled just to produce its packaging. Drought aside, the controversy highlights some of the basic contradictions of the $12.2 billion industry — and if there’s anything that’s going to open our eyes to its wastefulness, this should be it.


Lindsay Abrams Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email

English Channel Fishermen scraping the Bottom of the Barrel



English Channel fisherman scraping the bottom of the barrel
by Staff Writers
Plymouth, UK (SPX) Jul 11, 2014

The discards from a prawn trawl in the Irish Sea are shown. Image courtesy Johnny Woodlock, Sea Fishery adisory Group, Irish Seal Sanctuary.

Decades of overfishing in the English Channel has resulted in the removal of many top predators from the sea and left fishermen ‘scraping the barrel’ for increasing amounts of shellfish to make up their catch. Sharks, rays, cod, haddock and many other species at the head of the food chain are at historic lows with many removed from the area completely.

These are some of the findings of a study led by marine biologists at Plymouth University, in association with international non-profit research organization WorldFish. They analysed catches over the past 90 years and found significant evidence of the practice of ‘fishing down the food web’.

The report, published in the PLOS ONE journal, used catch statistics from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas to establish a ‘mean trophic level’ for catches – an average for how far up the food chain the fish are located.

Professor Jason Hall Spencer, of the School of Marine Science and Engineering, and the Marine Institute, said: “It is clear from our analyses that fishing pressure has caused significant changes to food webs of the English Channel over the past 90 years.

The mean Trophic Level of English Channel landings has fallen by 0.1 unit per decade, one of the fastest rates reported among other heavily fished regions of the world, providing yet more evidence that ‘fishing down food webs’ is a worldwide phenomenon.”

Today, the UK and France land around 150,000 tonnes of seabed fish and shellfish per year from the 75,000 km2 Channel – a huge increase from the 9,000 tonnes recorded in 1920 and the 51,000t in 1950. During that time, the composition of landings has altered dramatically, with sharks and rays declining from 34% of catch in 1920 to 6% in 2010. The contribution of ‘cods, haddocks and hakes’ similarly fell from 48% to just 4% over the same timeframe.

Spurdogs, tope sharks, thornback rays, Atlantic cod, ling and European hake show the most remarkable decline, while flounders, halibut and soles have changed relatively little during the time-series.

The falling levels of finfish has been counterbalanced by increased landings of shellfish such as scallops, and of squid, octopus and cuttlefish. This has in turn raised concerns over long-term sustainability, and the potential damage done to the marine environment as a result of dredging and trawling for these invertebrates.

Plymouth researcher Carlotta Molfese said: “Fisheries typically remove top predators first and as a result their direct competitors and prey are able to prosper, affecting the overall productivity and ecological stability of the ecosystem. Severe declines in the populations of major predator species have now been reported around the world.”

“WorldFish research has shown that a decline of finfish species has been followed by an increase in their invertebrate prey, and although new and economically viable fisheries have developed for these new target species, concerns have been raised about their long-term sustainability,” added Doug Beare of WorldFish.

“We promote a sustainable approach to fisheries that will help to protect our natural resources and ensure that fish stocks are available for future generations. Solid global and regional governance of these vital resources will ensure that we can produce enough fish for everyone.”

The researchers say that far from being a modern phenomenon, overfishing can be traced as far back as the 19th century, with declining stocks reported in 1863. But geographic expansion into new fishing grounds and improved technology combined to maintain increased landings.

Professor Hall-Spencer added: “All around the UK we are scraping the barrel, destructively dredging the seabed for scallops and prawns as fish have disappeared. When destructive fishing practices are banned, marine life soon recovers. So we urgently need a network of recovery zones in the English Channel to allow marine life to bounce back.”

Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge: Water Molecule

Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge
by Lynn Yarris for LBNL
Berkeley CA (SPX) Jul 11, 2014

Photosytem II utilizes a water-splitting manganese-calcium enzyme that when energized by sunlight catalyzes a four photon-step cycle of oxidation states (S0-to-S3). When S3 absorbs a photon, molecular oxygen (O2) is released and S0 is generated. S4 is a transient state on the way to S0. Image courtesy of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. For a larger version of this image please go here.

A crucial piece of the puzzle behind nature’s ability to split the water molecule during photosynthesis that could help advance the development of artificial photosynthesis for clean, green and renewable energy has been provided by an international collaboration of scientists led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Working at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the world’s most powerful x-ray laser, the researchers were able to take detailed “snapshots” of the four photon-step cycle for water oxidation in photosystem II, a large protein complex in green plants. Photosystem II is the only known biological system able to harness sunlight for the oxidation of water into molecular oxygen.

“An effective method of solar-based water-splitting is essential for artificial photosynthesis to succeed but developing such a method has proven elusive,” says Vittal Yachandra, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and one of the leaders of this study.

“Using femtosecond x-ray pulses for the simultaneous collection of both x-ray diffraction (XRD) and x-ray emission spectroscopy (XES) data at room temperature, we have gone around the four-step catalytic cycle of photosynthetic water oxidation in photosystem II.

“This represents a major advance towards the real time characterization of the formation of the oxygen molecule in photosystem II, and has yielded information that should prove useful for designing artificial solar-energy based devices to split water.”

Photo-oxidation of water by photosystem II is responsible for most of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere. At the core of photosystem II is a manganese-calcium (Mn4Ca) metalloenzyme complex that when energized by solar photons catalyzes a four photon-step cycle of oxidation states (S0-to-S3) that ultimately yields molecular oxygen. Scientists need to observe intact x-ray crystallography of the Mn4Ca ion in action but the molecule is highly sensitive to radiation.

The LCLS is the world’s only source of x-rays capable of providing femtosecond pulses at the high intensities that allow intact photosystem II crystals to be imaged before they are destroyed by exposure to the x-ray beams.

“In an earlier study at the LCLS, we reported combined XRD and XES data from photosystem II samples in the dark S1 state and the one visible-flash illuminated S2 (1-flash) state,” says Junko Yano, a chemist also with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and also a leader of this research.

“In this new study we report data from the S3 (2-flash) and S0 (3-flash) states, which are the intermediate states directly before and after the evolution of the oxygen molecule. In addition, we report data for the first time from a light-induced transient state between the S3 and S0 states, which opens the window for elucidating the mechanism of oxygen-oxygen bond formation that occurs between these two states.”

XRD data of all the flash states studied revealed an anomalous diffraction signal from Mn that is not complicated by signals from the overall protein matrix of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other metals, or even by the Ca atom, which is a part of the five atom Mn4Ca metalloenzyme complex.

“The detection of this anomalous Mn scattering signal not only validates the quality of our data, but also the procedures used for analyzing the data,” says computational scientist Nicholas Sauter. Sauter and Paul Adams, both with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and both contributors to this study, are leading an effort to develop new and better methods for analyzing data from the LCLS.

Yachandra and Yano believe that the detection of an anomalous Mn scattering signal opens up the possibility for detecting changes pertaining only to the Mn cluster as it advances through the S-state cycles and the oxygen-oxygen bond formation, which is where the catalytic action is taking place.

“Knowing how this happens is important for understanding the design principles used in natural photosynthesis,” Yachandra says.

Results of this study have been published in Nature Communications. The paper is titled “Taking snapshots of photosynthetic water oxidation using femtosecond X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy.” Yachandra, Yano and Uwe Bergmann, a physicist with SLAC, are the corresponding authors.

The lead author is Jan Kern, a chemist with joint appointments at Berkeley Lab and SLAC. In addition to Berkeley Lab and SLAC, the international collaboration also included scientists from Umea University in Sweden, Humboldt University in Germany, and the ESRF in France. (See additional information for a link to the paper, and a full list of co-authors and

Canadian Tar Sands Pipeline Threatens Endangered Whales

Canadian Tar Sands Pipeline Threatens Endangered Whales

Environmentalists are fighting plans to send an armada of oil tankers through whale feeding grounds.

(Photo: Giles Martin/Getty Images)


July 09, 2014


Canadian tar sands oil are bad for whales too.

That’s what environmentalists are arguing as they fight energy giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of a $5.4 billon pipeline that would carry tar sands oil to a coastal terminal in Vancouver to be shipped overseas. The number of oil tankers traversing the feeding grounds of endangered whales—such as the blue whale, the North Pacific right whale, and the Southern resident whale—would jump 600 percent, according to estimates by environmental groups.

The fear: As more huge tankers ply the marine mammals’ habitat, the risk of oil spills and whale deaths from ship collisions will rise.

Last Friday, Living Oceans and EcoJustice, First Nation tribes, and Canadian municipalities filed motions with Canada’s National Energy Board seeking a temporary halt to the 18-month review process for the pipeline expansion.

The groups say the environmental review of the proposed pipeline has not adequately considered the impact of the project on half a dozen whale species.

If approved, the new pipeline would nearly triple the amount of oil exported from Canada, from 300,000 barrels a day to about 890,000, according to Mint Press News.

But the real impact on marine life would come from tanker traffic. Not only would the pipeline result in larger tankers that are potentially more lethal to whales, it would increase shipping in the region from five or six tankers a month to between 30 and 34.

Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans, said that the additional ships would harm whale populations along the coast of British Columbia and Washington state and would pass through parts of the ocean designated as critical habitat for the endangered Southern resident whale.

Once an area has been designated a critical habitat, Canadian law is supposed to protect whales from threats such as shipping and oil spills, Wristen said.

Spills from tankers, while rare, can have effects that last decades, Wristen said. More worrisome is that most of the tar sands to be shipped through the new pipeline would be diluted with chemicals to make a highly toxic liquid known as bitumen. “It sinks to the bottom instead of floating to the surface,” Wristen said, making cleanup after a spill all the more difficult.

Other concerns are ship noise, which can stress and disorient whales, and the potential for ship strikes, which are estimated to kill 80 percent to 90 percent of all whales hit.

Officials at Kinder Morgan in Canada did not return emails seeking comment.

Last January, environmentalists filed suit in Canadian court to block the Kinder Morgan expansion as well as another pipeline project proposed by Enbridge Inc. that would be located farther north.

Wristen said now is the time for concerned citizens on both sides of the border to intervene. “They should ask the government how it can defend the viability of sending oil across the fourth-most-dangerous waters in the world,” she said, adding that spills in northern British Columbia could easily reach Alaska, and spills in the south could affect Washington.

“There is not enough room on the Canadian side for all those tankers to pass in and out of the strait,” Wristen noted. The ships will need permission from the U.S. government to traverse the American portion of the waterway.

“A few years ago, an American oil company was looking for permission to run liquefied natural gas tankers through Canadian waters, and the Canadians denied it because it was too dangerous,” Wristen said. “America could respond the same way in this case. …


Injured Dolphin asks Diver Help



As if there isn’t already enough proof that dolphins are remarkably intelligent, Keller Laros was doing a night dive in Hawaii when he was approached by a bottlenose dolphin. As it turned out, a hooked fishing line had entangled one of the dolphin’s pectoral fins. Fortunately, Laros had a pair of shears to help free the mammal and Martina Wing was present with a camera to capture the epic rescue. We salute you, Keller Laros!






An urgent threat to the Great Barrier Reef

An urgent threat to the Great Barrier Reef

sign the petition

To Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Environment Minister Greg Hunt and potential investors in Abbot Point:

As concerned citizens around the world, we urge you to protect the Great Barrier Reef by saying no to hugely damaging dredging and dumping. The Abbot Point port extension and other similar projects would endanger this World Heritage Site and its magnificent marine life and we call on you to oppose such projects.


1,220,932 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500,000

Update: 31 January 2014
The Australian government is turning its back on the Reef, and decided to open the door to dredging and dumping in the Marine Protected area. But right now the main investor can’t finance for these projects — let’s keep upping the pressure on them to make sure they never do and keep the reef safe despite the terrible government decision!
Update: 15 August  2013
Round one to the people! After over a million Avaaz members joined the campaign, the Australia government has delayed its decision and announced a public consultation. Let’s use this momentum to ramp up the pressure, beat the industry lobbyists, and kill the project for good  — sign and share this with everyone now! 

Posted: 26 July 2013
It would be hard to make this stuff up. Australia’s legendarily irresponsible mining industry has a new plan: while the planet faces catastrophic climate change, build the world’s largest coal mining complex, and then build a shipping lane to that port straight through the greatest ecological treasure we have – the Great Barrier Reef!

This is a terrible idea with devastating consequences, and the investor group Aurizon that’s backing it know it. They’re getting cold feet, and we might be able to push them over the edge, and kill the project. One of the main potential funders has even donated to climate activism!

If one million of us express our head-shaking disbelief at this crazy project in the next few days, we can help get Aurizon to pull funding and maybe even persuade the Australian PM to step in. This is what Avaaz is for, let’s raise a voice for common sense!

World’s Oceans Face “Irreparable Damage” Rashid Sumaila: Global Ocean Commission gives world leaders a five-year window for intervention before overfishing and climate change negatively impact the world’s food supply, clean air, and climate

World’s Oceans Face “Irreparable Damage”
Rashid Sumaila: Global Ocean Commission gives world leaders a five-year window for intervention before overfishing and climate change negatively impact the world’s food supply, clean air, and climate stability –   July 6, 14


Dr. Rashid Sumaila is professor and director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit in theFisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia. Sumaila has authored over 150 journal articles; including in Science and Nature and won awards including the 2013 American Fisheries Society Excellence in Public Outreach, the Stanford Leopold Leadership Fellowship and the Pew Marine Fellowship; and has given talks at the UN Rio+20, the WTO, the White House, the Canadian Parliament and the British House of Lords. He is the lead author on the ‘High Seas and Us’ report, commissioned by the Global Ocean Commission.