Antarctic Peninsula wildlife conservation needed

This 14 October 2020 video says about itself:

“The Antarctic Peninsula” showcases the breathtaking beauty and biodiversity hidden at the end of the Earth. Following the binational expedition conducted by the governments of Argentina and Chile in collaboration with National Geographic Pristine Seas, “The Antarctic Peninsula” documents the work and findings of the team of scientists and conservationists who explored the incredible ecosystem above and below the waters of Antarctica. With stunning underwater footage captured by diving in sub-zero temperatures, learn about one of the most unknown and fragile marine ecosystems which is home to incredible sea creatures that are facing the challenges of climate change and fishing pressure.

Introduced by National Geographic Pristine Seas Director for Latin America Alex Muñoz, dive into this unique ecosystem and learn about the international efforts to protect one of the most spectacular wild places on Earth.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Marine protected area urged for Antarctica Peninsula

October 18, 2020

Summary: Species on the Antarctic Peninsula are threatened by climate change and human activities including commercial fishing, tourism, and research infrastructure.

The Western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on earth. It is also home to threatened humpback and minke whales, chinstrap, Adélie and gentoo penguin colonies, leopard seals, killer whales, seabirds like skuas and giant petrels, and krill — the bedrock of the Antarctic food chain.

With sea ice covering ever-smaller areas and melting more rapidly due to climate change, many species’ habitats have decreased. The ecosystem’s delicate balance is consequently tilted, leaving species in danger of extinction.

Cumulative threats from a range of human activities including commercial fishing, research activities and tourism combined with climate change is exacerbating this imbalance, and a tipping point is fast approaching.

Dr Carolyn Hogg, from the University of Sydney School of Life and Environmental Sciences, was part of the largest ever all-female expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula, with the women in STEMM initiative, Homeward Bound, in late 2019. There, she witnessed the beauty and fragility of the area, and the negative impacts of climate change and human activity on native species, first-hand. As part of the Homeward Bound program she learnt about the science, conservation and governance of Antarctica.

In a new commentary piece published in Nature, Dr Hogg and her colleagues from the expedition outline these threats, and importantly, offer ways to counter them. More than 280 women in STEMM who have participated in the Homeward Bound initiative are co-signatories to the piece.

A global initiative, Homeward Bound ‘aims to elevate the voices of women in science, technology, engineering mathematics and medicine in leading for positive outcomes for our planet’.

Women are noticeably absent in Antarctica’s human history, which is steeped in tales of male heroism. Female scientists are still a minority in the region’s research stations.

“Now, more than ever, a broad range of perspectives is essential in global decision-making, if we are to mitigate the many threats our planet faces,” said Dr Hogg.

“Solutions include the ratification of a Marine Protected Area around the Peninsula, set to be discussed on 19 October, at a meeting of a group of governments that collectively manage the Southern Ocean’s resources,” said Dr Hogg. “The region is impacted by a number of threats, each potentially problematic in their own right, but cumulated together they will be catastrophic.”

Decreasing krill affects whole ecosystem

The Peninsula’s waters are home to 70 percent of Antarctic krill. In addition to climate change, these krill populations are threatened by commercial fishing. Last year marked the third-largest krill catch on record. Nearly 400,000 tonnes of this animal were harvested, to be used for omega-3 dietary supplements and fishmeal.

“Even relatively small krill catches can be harmful if they occur in a particular region, at a sensitive time for the species that live there,” said Dr Cassandra Brooks, a co-author on the comment from the University of Colorado, Boulder. “For example, fishing when penguins are breeding lowers their food intake, and affects their subsequent breeding success. A Marine Protected Area will conserve and protect this unique ecosystem and its wildlife, and we need to implement it now.”

Climate change is fundamentally altering the Western Antarctic Peninsula:

  • temperatures reached a record 20.75°C in February 2020
  • the average daily temperature that month was two degrees higher than the mean over the past 70 years
  • almost 90 percent of the region’s glaciers are receding rapidly
  • in spring 2016, sea-ice levels reached their lowest since records began
  • if carbon emissions keep climbing, within 50 years the area of sea-ice will almost halve, and the volume of ice-shelves will decrease by one quarter

As sea ice recedes, populations of larval and juvenile krill, which use the ice for shelter and to feed off the algae it attracts, decline.

A warmer climate and less sea-ice cover will also give opportunities to invasive species, which can enter the territory via international ships, including those carrying tourists.

The lasting tourism and research footprint

Tourism’s footprint is growing. The Peninsula is the most-visited region in Antarctica, owing to its proximity to South America, dramatic beauty and rich marine ecosystem.

Tourist numbers have more than doubled in the past decade, with 74,000 visiting last year compared to 33,000 in 2009.

“Ships can pollute the ocean with micro-plastics, oils and ship noise,” said Dr Justine Shaw, another co-author from the University of Queensland.

While the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a self-regulating association that advocates for safe and environmentally responsible travel, provides guidelines for cruise ships and tourists, “an increasing number of vessels that are not IAATO members and that carry up to about 500 passengers have begun visiting the region, and this is concerning as it adds greater pressure,” Dr Shaw said.

While the collection of data and knowledge is important, research activities can also potentially damage the Antarctic Peninsula’s sensitive environment, the team stated.

The Peninsula hosts science facilities belonging to 18 nations — the highest concentration on the continent. New stations and expansions are ever-present.

While these scientific endeavours can increase our understanding of native species’, there can be negative impacts on the region if not properly managed. Dr Shaw explained: “Buildings and infrastructure displace wildlife and vegetation.”

Three ways to protect the Peninsula

1. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation for the watersThe authors endorse a proposed MPA for the western Antarctic Peninsula. Led by Chile and Argentina, this is due to be discussed during a two-week meeting commencing 19 October by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a group of governments that collectively manage the Southern Ocean’s resources.

The MPA would reduce commercial fishing in ecologically sensitive areas, helping preserve the food chain and ensuring greater sustainability for the future in surrounding areas.

A comparable MPA for the Ross Sea, in southern Antarctica, was agreed to in October 2016 to global celebration.

2. Protect land areas

Only 1.5 percent of Antarctica’s ice-free terrain enjoys formal protected status. Much unprotected land is adjacent to research and tourist areas and is therefore vulnerable to human-generated risks like pollution and invasive species.

The authors call for a greater extent and variety of landscapes to be protected.

“Globally, parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity have agreed that 17 percent of land should be protected to ensure conservation of biodiversity. This is a good starting point for Antarctica,” Dr Hogg said.

3. Integrate conservation efforts

For conservation efforts to be effective, they have to be collaborative. Dr Shaw furnished examples: “The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) must work to limit the expansion of research infrastructure. Tour operators’ body IAATO and parties to the Antarctic Treaty System should cooperate to better manage tourist activity — ensuring all tour operators abide by IAATO regulations regardless of whether they are IAATO members.”

Pandemic and human rights in Donald Trump’s USA

This 21 October 2120 video about the USA says about itself:

In the early months of the pandemic, meatpacking plants emerged as deadly hot spots for COVID-19.

In the poultry industry, workers describe conditions that make physical distancing impossible inside plants – above all, the fast line speeds.

Chicken companies have reduced calls to slow the line speeds and space workers further apart. Federal regulators responsible for safety at the plants have issued optional guidance during the pandemic, not enforceable rules.

Fault Lines follows meatpacking workers and families who lost loved ones to the virus and asks what sacrifices have been made to keep poultry plants open.

BORDER HORROR: 500+ KIDS’ PARENTS MISSING UNDER TRUMP Lawyers tasked with identifying and reuniting families separated in 2017 and 2018 under the Trump administration’s so-called zero-tolerance border policy say they still haven’t been able to locate the parents of at least 545 migrant children. “Approximately two-thirds” of these parents, according to an ACLU court filing, are believed to have been deported to Central America without their children, some of whom were “just babies” at the time of the separation, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said. [HuffPost]

‘WHITE HOUSE KNEW’ OF COVID SPIKE AS TRUMP DOWNPLAYED CRISIS The White House has been aware for more than a month that coronavirus cases have been surging nationwide as Trump has publicly downplayed the virus and held crowded campaign events, according to private documents obtained Tuesday by a key House committee. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, released six weekly White House coronavirus task force reports showing that the White House has known since just after Labor Day that COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing and that there is a serious need for more testing and mask mandates. [HuffPost]

BREONNA TAYLOR GRAND JURY NEVER PRESENTED WITH HOMICIDE CHARGES A juror in the Breonna Taylor case said prosecutors never presented the grand jury with homicide charges against the three police officers involved in Taylor’s killing. The new allegations raise additional questions over how prosecutors handled the killing of Taylor, who was shot to death by police in her home during a botched drug raid. Only one detective, Brett Hankison, was ultimately charged, and it wasn’t even for her death; he was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for shots fired into a neighboring apartment. [HuffPost]

IF TRUMP LOSES, HE MAY GO TO PRISON Trump’s activities in recent years ― from paying hush money to a porn star to his claiming of a massive tax refund ― combined with a ticking statute of limitations clock potentially make Election Day far more consequential for him than it had been for his predecessors. If Trump wins a second term, the time limit for starting a prosecution would run out in the next four years for a number of those activities, given Justice Department guidelines not to prosecute a sitting president. If Trump loses, indictments could quickly follow. [HuffPost]

NEW BILL SEEKS TO REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS Four years ago, the neighbors of 66-year-old Deborah Danner, a Black woman with schizophrenia, called the police to report that she had been behaving erratically. Minutes after arriving at her New York City apartment, a police officer fatally shot Donner. The officer claimed he acted in self-defense and was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges. A new bill introduced by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) seeks to reduce the risk disabled people may face in police encounters by allowing trained mental health professionals to respond to such calls instead of law enforcement. [HuffPost]

Women-hating Saudi regime´s cynical ´feminism washing´

Imprisoned Saudi Arabian women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul

Polluting corporations and governments do ´greenwashing´.

Similarly, misogynistic regimes do ´feminism washing´.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 20 October 2020:

Rights groups dismayed by Saudi‘s hosting of a women’s rights summit while activists remain behind bars

RIGHTS organisations expressed their dismay today at Saudi Arabia’s hosting of an international women’s summit while women’s rights activists remain locked up there.

The Women 20 summit (W20) had its virtual launch in the autocratic kingdom today and will run until Thursday, ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit next month.

According to its website, W20 aims to “share and scale solutions to women’s empowerment through (financial, digital inclusion and labour) inclusion, inclusive decision-making and entrepreneurship.”

But campaigners called out the hypocrisy of the Saudi government’s claims to be securing gender equality while women such as Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sadah, Samar Badawi and Nouf Abdulaziz are imprisoned — for advocating women’s rights.

“While courageous women are subjected to torture for peaceful activities, the Saudi government seeks to assert itself on the international stage as a ‘reforming’ power”, said Human Rights Watch researcher Hiba Zayadin.

In an open letter penned last week, Amnesty called on attendees not to help the Saudi government whitewash its international reputation.

“Amnesty International urges you to use your leverage at the W20 meetings … to call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all Saudi women human rights defenders in detention,” the letter said.