Archive for April, 2011

Posted by: ahowland | 22nd Apr, 2011

Final One

I can’t believe that I am already writing my final blog for this class. It seems like just a few weeks ago I just started writing them. I have learned an incredible amount in this class and refamiliarized myself with a substantial amount too. I truly enjoyed this class and highly recommend it to future students. I definitely wish more classes like this one were taught at Mary Washington when I was an underclassmen and not graduating in two weeks. I really wish I had time to do the sustainability minor, but I am very happy Mary Wash added it for future students to do. I think it will hopefully spread awareness about the many global environmental problems that we learned in this class to students who aren’t even an environmental science major. And yes, while this class was pretty depressing and overwhelming at times, I think it was good to show that there are so many ways to help out the environment since there are so many problems. And we just didn’t talk about the problems over and over but we also discussed ways to solve these problems too, which is an important aspect to focus on-solving them! I really enjoyed this class and am very happy I was able to take before graduating. Thanks for a great class!

Happy Earth Day!!

Posted by: ahowland | 14th Apr, 2011


This week we have focused a lot on biodiversity all over the world. We have talked about Costa Rica’s and the Amazon Rainforest’s tremendous biodiversity, which offer some of the most diverse areas in the world. Costa Rica, whose land area is only 0.03% of the entire planet’s surface, contains some 500,000 species which represent nearly 4% of the total species estimated worldwide. The Amazon Rainforest contains millions of animals, and has about 2.5 million species of insects alone.


Learning about other place’s diversity of plants and animals, we never actually talk about the biodiversity right on our backyard. While Virginia or even the United States cannot compete with the biodiversity in the rainforest, Virginia does contain its fair share of plants and animals. According to LandScope, Virginia contains 2,546 species of plants and 737 species of vertebrates that are native to the state. There is also an estimated 30,000 terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates species living in Virginia as well, although there is no accurate count. Compared to the rest of the United States and the world for overall native species diversity, Virginia ranks 10th for vertebrates and 13th for vascular plants in the US. Virginia also ranks 8th in the US for globally rare animals and 14th for globally rare plants. Another interesting fact is that Virginia also contains a few endemic species, or species that are only found in Virginia. These include nine vertebrate species and five vascular plant species, and a more numerous invertebrate species list. This all is great and shows that we have a pretty diverse state right here in Virginia. This is due to Virginia’s rich range of habitats in it- from the coastal areas to the mountains, and everything in between, the state offers a wide range of different habitats to support a very diverse group of plants and animals.

Posted by: ahowland | 7th Apr, 2011

Pirate Fishing

         Today in class we briefly touched on the subject of pirate fishing, but I think it is something that deserves further spotlight on because it is so bad and not a lot of people know much about it or that it is even occurring. First, pirate fishing is the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of the oceans from shallow waters to the deep ocean. Illegal fishing is fishing that occurs in violation of national laws or international obligation, and/or without permission of that State to fish there. Unreported fishing refers to fishing activities that haven’t been reported or are misreported to the State that the fishing occurred in, and unregulated fishing refers to fishing on a boat without a nationality- no flag- or in an area that there is no applicable conservation. These definitions are found on Greenpeace’s website.

Illegal ‘pirate’ fishing from Environmental Justice Foundation on Vimeo.

        Pirate fishing is the scourge of the oceans. It leaves communities without much needed food and income and the marine environment destroyed and empty. For example, the United Nations estimates that Somalia loses roughly $300 million a year to pirate fishing, which is the nation that is hit the hardest by pirate fishing. Globally, more than $4 billion is lost each year to it. This seems like a lot, because there are a lot of illegal fishing vessels: in 2001, Greenpeace estimated there were at least 1,300 industrial scale pirate fishing ships at sea. These 1,300 vessels are capturing thousands of fish, disrupting the fragile sea life and ecosystem. Since pirate fishing occurs “off the radar” pirate fishermen can do pretty much whatever they want, and what they want results in destroying ocean life. “Tuna stocks around Tanzania, Somalia, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu are targeted each year with giant nets that scoop up entire shoals, including the young fish vital for breeding and future stock growth. Those that won’t make money on the market, but could still provide food and income for others, are thrown back dead” (Greenpeace). They also use longlining, and shrimp trawling. “For every kilo of shrimp landed, over 3 kilos of tropical marine life is caught and dies. Shrimp fishing accounts for between 3 and 4 percent of the world fishing industry, but is responsible for over 27 percent of the unnecessary destruction of marine life” (Greenpeace).
        The people responsible for this: mostly Chinese, European and Latin American companies. This situation is particularly bad in African waters where the developing country can’t afford to police their waters. It is estimated that pirate fishing occurring off the coast of Africa takes nearly 30% of the fish local fishermen could catch. Rich, developed countries can police their waters, but it is very expensive and a lot of times the pirate fishermen try to escape if stumbled upon. For example, in 2003, the Australian navy chased an illegal trawler for 21 days across the Southern ocean when it eventually caught it and found its illegal catch of Patagonian toothfish amounting to over $1 million.
        This illegal fishing isn’t helping anyone. While it may put temporary profit into some people’s pocket, it if continues, pretty soon there won’t be any good fish to catch in the ocean. Already, up to 75% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, which is ridiculously high. But fortunately, pirate fishing is something that can be stopped. Governments can outlaw flags of convenience and police all waters. Pirate fishing is something that needs to be stopped, and there are plenty of organizations such as the Environmental Justice Foundation to help.

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