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July 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the July, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Save Grand Cayman from Cruise-Ship Overload. Dive legend Sylvia Earle recently posted this comment on her Facebook page: "There's a struggle going on in Grand Cayman between the Ministry of Tourism, whose goal it is to build a new cruise ship pier in the middle of Georgetown Harbor, and locals who know it will destroy acres of coral reefs and coastal habitat. This scenario is repeating itself across the globe, and the big money usually wins. If you love Grand Cayman, please send your comments now. According to Dr. Ellen Prager, 'The local community is near panic as they believe that even though the Department of Environment is against the plan, the Minister of Tourism will push it through."Please stand with the people of Grand Cayman." You can send an email to doe@gov.ky; or sign this petition at https://www.change.org/p/save-cayman

Palau: If You Can't Beat Them, Burn Them. Because seizing boats and destroying fishing gear has been unsuccessful, Palau decided to send a stronger message to bad fishermen: We're going to burn you. The island nation set fire to four Vietnamese boats found off Kayangel Island last month that were carrying more than eight tons of sea cucumbers and reef fish. The 77 crew members were sent back to Vietnam aboard two fishing boats that weren't burned. "This message goes to the captain and crews of these vessels: Palau guarantees you will return with nothing," president Tommy Remengesau, Jr., said after the boats were burned. "Nothing will be gained from poaching in Palau. From one fisherman to another, respect Palau." Palau was the first nation to create a shark sanctuary, in 2009, and last year, it was the first to declare all its waters a no-take fishing zone.

Sawfish Resort to "Virgin Births" to Survive. In Florida, scientists have documented reproduction without mating in smalltooth sawfish, a species nearing extinction due to overfishing and habitat destruction. This marks the first time the phenomenon called parthenogenesis has been seen in a vertebrate in the wild. That process consists of a female's egg cell developing into four cells, with one becoming the egg cell and another acting as a sperm cell and fusing with the egg. Some females may be resorting to asexual reproduction because smalltooth sawfish numbers are so low, mating opportunities may not exist. After birth, smalltooth sawfish live for about three years in southwest Florida's estuaries before moving into ocean coastal habitats.

More Dive Shops Are Closing Than Opening. One way Dive Center Business magazine measures the dive industry's health is surveying how many dive retailers have opened and closed in recent years. The news isn't great. From 2010 to 2014, 51 new dive centers opened, but 106 closed. The average age of a closing dive shop was 14 years. Many more stores closed specifically in 2014 than in recent years, particularly sad when the economy is generally improving.

The State of Divers' Mental Health. The Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC) in Plymouth, England, has run the Health of Divers research project since 2008, looking at the effects of drugs and alcohol on divers, along with their cardiac and dental health. Now the project starts a new phase: evaluating divers' mental health. The DDRC says it's aiming for a "better understanding [of] the general mental fitness of divers, and any implications this may have on diving safety." To do this, they're asking divers to fill out a mental fitness questionnaire that takes just five minutes. Fill it out at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LSKYVT7

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