I know you are hearing a lot about the water… the rivers, the oceans, the water in the tap.. and that it all seems complicated and overwhelming. Indeed, there are gyres of plastic in the ocean the size of a city and there are drugs in the tap water in New York City and the coral reefs are dieing off from pollution.. but there’s another one. One that hits really close to home and should be a major concern for you.

Recent studies prove that chemicals in the water supply (from the ocean up the waterways to your kitchen sink) are bending genders in wildlife. These chemicals are what is known as endocrine disruptors, similar to the BPA everyone has been talking about, and they change the sex in organisms. Aquatic organisms are switching from male to female and back again as a result of exposure to these chemicals. But the stuff isn’t isolated to distant waterways where nothing but creeping anemones sprawl on rocks and in caves; this stuff is right out there, where you might even be swimming. For sure, they are moving into the water that is used to make our tap water. No kidding.

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I admit that I had not thought about this matter in a while and wasn’t planning to discuss it here on the seed. But when it came to my attention lately I recalled the problems we have had here in Florida with the sea turtles on the beach. It was a horrible thing that happened when people were leaving their lights on along the beach during the turtle hatches. The poor baby turtles were running backwards, up onto the sea oats, towards city lights instead of the light of the moon on the water, and getting lost in the sand rather than running towards the ocean. Since that time, years ago, it has been a common practice here to leave lights out along the beach during the hatches. I am not sure if it is a law, however I do know that everybody just does it.

Lately came this study from a group of ecologists, biologists and biophysicists that has since been published in the journal, “Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment”. In this study they came to the conclusion that manmade light sources alter the natural light cycle and can cause animals that rely on light cues to make dangerous mistakes when moving through their environment. Although I don’t think they really needed this study, seeing that we had come to this conclusion years back on the beaches as I just noted, but I am glad I saw it because it brought it back to my attention.

Also currently discovered is that, in addition to direct light sources, this same problem occurs with polarized light. In fact, polarized light can trigger animal behaviors that lead to injury and often death. What is commonly called “light pollution” is artificial light from whatever source that occurs at unnatural times or places. This can attract or repel animals, resulting in animals migrating in the wrong direction, choosing poorly placed nests, choosing the wrong mates, increasing predatory activity out of fear or disorientation. Also possible are collisions with structures as a result of light blindness and stopping the search for food in the belief that morning has come when it hasn’t. All of this confusion is deleterious to animal security and safety, making them vulnerable in places and under conditions where they normally would be safe.

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This has been a huge issue for quite awhile now, with attention drawn to the numbers of fish in decline and the habitual overfishing for profit. I can remember a time here in my hometown when we could fish for whatever we wanted to, no quotas, no questions asked. But there were Trout and Redfish in the rivers and canals. Today, you are hard pressed to find either fish that is longer than a few inches. All the big guys are gone and all that’s left are their babies. It’s questionable how many of the newborns survive.

Now, this issue has spread out onto the world stage. The EU Ministers have now agreed to some changes in the fishing quotas, expanding the Cod quotas by 30% on the one hand and then limiting catches for other species with the other. The quotas have come about as a compromise between environmental groups and fishermen. The environmental groups are alarmed as they watch fish just disappear from the oceans, rivers and lakes. But fishermen are suffering a mighty struggle for survival with reduced catches, competitive markets and shrinking quotas.

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Bluefin Tuna. You know what they are. They are delicious, they cherished, they are expensive. And in huge demand worldwide. The Japanese, in particular, prize them above all other fish for use in sushi and sashimi. But so great is the Japanese demand that it is driving fisherman to pursue catches that go well beyond what scientists consider to be safe limits. In this effort, they are also driving the Bluefin Tuna towards commercial extinction.

It is imperative that we make every effort to save this fish, however, a vital opportunity to pull the bluefin back from the brink was missed when the official body charged with preventing the stock from collapsing agreed to allow catch quotas for 2009 far higher than its own scientists recommended. Does this anger you? It should. Even with a chorus of protests and expressed dismay from conservationists, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas ( ICCAT), meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, endorsed a total allowable catch (TAC) of 22,000 tonnes for next year – while ICCAT’s own scientists had recommended a TAC ranging from 8,500 to 15,000 tonnes per year, warning there were real risks of the fishery collapsing otherwise.

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In a report from Barcelona, Spain, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the results of it’s study of Penguin colonies in the Antarctic. According to the study, 1/2 to 3/4 of major colonies could be damaged or wiped out if global temperatures are allowed to climb by more than 2C (3.6F). This hike in temperature would also threaten as much as 50% of breeding grounds of Emperor Penguins and as much as 75% of Adelie Penguin colonies. These results from their study were released at the World Conservation Congress, held this year in Spain.

Since the UN’s panel of climate change Scientists has already warned that the average temperature on Earth could increase even more than 2C by the end of the century, this threat to the Penguin population is serious and real. The UN claims this change will occur regardless of major efforts that may be made to curb greenhouse gases and would occur even faster if no changes were made. In other words, it’s way to late for the Penguins.

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The IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) is in the process of releasing the first of the 2008 assessments on how climate change is affecting species populations. The first results of that assessment have been published and these show that 35% of the worlds’ birds, 52% of amphibians and 71% of coral reefs in warm water areas are particularly susceptible to the vagaries of climate change.

The assessment is done every year and leads up to the yearly Review of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, long considered the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plants and animals. This years publication, entitled a “Review of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, was released this month in Barcelona, Spain.

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