— Florida: Explosion and fire at Turkey Point nuclear plant; emergency alert declared; possible “serious safety consequences”; steam vented outside (VIDEO)

From ENE News

March 23, 2017

WSVN, Mar 22, 2017 (emphasis added): Officials looking into explosion at Turkey Point that hurt 1an alert was issued following the “arc flash” explosion… A plant worker was hurt in the explosion and treated at a local hospital…

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mar 20, 2017: Facility: TURKEY POINT… Emergency Class: ALERT… EMERGENCY DECLAREDALERT DECLARED FOR INDICATIONS OF FIRE IN SAFETY RELATED SWITCHGEAR… “Alert declared at 1119 EDT 3/18/17 based on… Fire or Explosion affecting plant safety systems. Fire alarms in the Unit 3 4kV switchgear rooms resulting in a loss of the 3A 4kV bus and trip of all three Reactor Coolant Pumps… Decay heat is being removed using feedwater and steam generator atmospheric steam dumps. One person was injured with a minor burn and possible sprained ankle and was taken to a local hospital… Notified DHS SWO, DOE, FEMA, HHS, NICC, USDA, EPA, FDA (e-mail), NWC (e-mail), NNSA (e-mail), and NRCC SASC (e-mail)… [UPDATE] Emergency Plan personnel at the Technical Support Center and Emergency Operations Facility were no longer required for support, the Operations Support Center was staffed for recovery efforts, and plant personnel were sufficient and capable for continuing mitigation efforts.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mar 22, 2017: NRC To Conduct Special Inspection at Turkey Point Nuclear Plant… [A]n arc flash, or small explosion, also damaged a nearby fire door, which may have left other safety systems vulnerable had there been a fire. A plant worker who was in the room was injured and was treated at a local hospital. “This was an event that could have had serious safety consequences and we need to know more about what happened and why,” said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney…

The Citizen (Florida Keys), Mar 22, 2017: Turkey Point fire shuts down reactor

ABC 10 News, Mar 18, 2017: Firefighters respond to electrical fire at Turkey Point — Firefighters responded to reports of a fire inside the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station… according to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. Florida Power & Light reported there was an electrical fire… The incident didn’t… pose an immediate danger to the facility, according to FPL spokesman Peter Robbins…

Watch the ABC 10 broadcast here

http://enenews.com/tv-explosion-hits-us-nuclear-plant-officials-declare-emergency-alert-fire-shuts-down-reactor-govt-conducting-special-investigation-possible-serious-safety-consequences-video

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— California: Sardine fishing could be banned for 3rd year in a row; “nosedive” — 95% below 2006; anchovies decline, lack of zooplankton

Zooplankton are not overfished.

San Francisco Chronicle

by Peter Fimrite
March 24, 2017

The once-thriving sardine population — made famous in John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row” — has taken a nosedive along the West Coast, where regulators are considering a ban on reeling in the tiny bait fish for a third year in a row.

Sardine numbers have plummeted 95 percent since 2006, according to estimates released Friday by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The perilously low numbers give regulators little choice but to again close fishing starting July 1 from Mexico to the Canadian border.

If the initial estimate for this year remains in place, the fishery will be closed for the third straight year,” said Kerry Griffin, the staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which makes policy along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. “We all want a healthy ecosystem, sustainable fisheries and healthy coastal communities that depend on fishing opportunities.”

Fishery biologists blamed the collapse on natural fluctuations — which recent sediment studies show have been common throughout history — and changing ocean conditions. Conservationists, however, believe overfishing made a bad situation worse.

There would have been a decline anyway, but we made the decline worse by continuing to fish,” said Geoffrey Shester, senior scientist for Oceana, an international advocacy group that has been fighting to lower the annual sardine take and implement stricter regulations. “Scientists in the agency warned about a collapse, but the managers of the fishery didn’t pay attention to that and, in fact, took a much higher percentage of the existing stock.”

The 14 voting members of fishery council, which will meet April 10 to discuss the issue, are required by federal law to close ocean fishing if the number of fish do not reach conservation objectives.

Griffin defended management of the fishery, arguing that sardine populations were very high from 2005 through 2007, just before their numbers began to decline. Fishing is allowed under council rules until the population falls below a certain threshold, which didn’t happen until 2015.

Look, we have this harvest control rule that is quite conservative and protective of the stocks,” Griffin said. “When the numbers fall below the cutoff, we close the fishery.”

The dilemma harkens back to the mid-1950s when the Monterey Bay canneries of Steinbeck fame began failing, mostly as a result of overfishing. Stiff quotas and catch limits required by the federal 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act helped save the sardines.

The population of the tiny epipelagic fish increased throughout the 1990s and Monterey Bay once again became the Bay Area hub of sardine fishing, with a large population also thriving off the coast of San Francisco.

Huge quantities of the nutrient-rich fish were being hauled up at the Channel Islands in Southern California and along the Oregon coast, where fishermen were catching as much as 65 tons a day of the schooling pilchards and bringing in between $10 million and $20 million in annual revenue from sales, Shester said.

The sardine population peaked in 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But then sardine numbers — which can only be measured using their collective weight — dropped, from 1,037,000 metric tons in 2007 to the estimate of 86,586 metric tons scientists found this year. That’s well below the 150,000 metric ton threshold required for commercial fishing.

What’s most troubling to me is that you have this clear story where we’ve made the same mistakes we made during the cannery row days, and yet we have the unwillingness of the management bodies to reform and make changes that could have avoided this,” Shester said. “We have to change the way we manage these fish.”

The fishery collapse isn’t isolated to sardines. Anchovies, which thrive in cold water, have also declined over the past decade due largely to fluctuating ocean temperatures and a lack of zooplankton, their food of choice.

The result has been record numbers of starving sea lions washing up on beaches in California over the past few years because there haven’t been enough sardines and anchovies for pups to eat.

Brown pelicans, too, have suffered from mass reproductive failures and are turning up sick and dead in California and Oregon. A 2010 study found that many of the starving and emaciated pelicans are eating worms and other prey inconsistent with their normal diet of anchovies and sardines.

This does hurt coastal communities,” Griffin said. “Sardine fishermen can typically fish for other stocks like squid, mackerel and anchovy, but when one or more of those stocks is down, the impact is real.”

Despite some efforts, including among local Indian tribes, to promote the scaly creatures as a healthy local delicacy, sardines are mostly sold for bait. The fish are generally frozen in big blocks for use in commercial long-line fishing and for feed at Australian and Japanese blue fin tuna farms.

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: pfimrite@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @pfimrite

http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Sardine-fishing-could-be-banned-for-3rd-year-in-a-11026667.php

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— California: Yuba River salmon numbers drop again

No mention of ocean conditions.

From YubaNet.com

By South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL)

March 16, 2017,

Less than 4,000 salmon spawned in the Yuba River in 2016 according to a Monitoring Update from the Yuba Accord River Management Team. Such low numbers have not been seen since the California Salmon Stock Collapse of 2007 and 2008 when the estimated total for the Yuba River was 2,604 and 3,508 salmon, respectively. Over the last 30 years, the average annual estimate exceeds 15,000 salmon, with occasional runs above 30,000. No surveys precede the construction of Englebright Dam in 1941, which blocks access to historic spawning habitat in the watershed. However, fisheries historians have estimated that the salmon run in the Yuba River watershed originally comprised up to 15% of the historical abundance of Central Valley Chinook, or roughly 100,000 salmon.

The low salmon run size for the Yuba River appears to be part of another regional salmon collapse. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife point to preliminary data from the Sacramento River that indicates salmon runs have also dropped to record low levelsAccording to Dan Bacher’s reporting, last year’s salmon run on the Klamath River was a 38-year low, and estimates for the Sacramento River basin in 2016 suggest the need for fishing restrictions that would have a devastating impact on an already beleaguered salmon fishing industry. Salmon live a 3-4-year life cycle, and we are likely seeing just the beginning of a period of low returns resulting from five years of drought

Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s consulting salmon expert reports that “A new crash for the Central Valley Chinook salmon is not unexpected.” “Efforts to restore salmon habitat have been small compared to the ongoing impacts of water diversions, dams, invasive species and hatcheries. We need to really step up restoration efforts or else we are going to lose one of the most valuable components our watershed ecosystems and our natural heritage.”

There is also news in the Yuba River Monitoring Update from the Yuba Accord River Management Team regarding Spring-run Chinook salmon, the rarer form of Yuba Salmon that is officially threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act, and historically dependent on habitats in the upper watershed. Prior to August when the run shifts to predominantly fall-run salmon, only 148 salmon were found migrating up the Yuba River.  And yet some help for spring-run salmon is coming.  In the one-mile below Englebright Dam, 89 salmon redds or salmon nests were found in spawning gravel put in the river by the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate for the impacts from their dams, a program which only recently began, thanks in large part from SYRCL’s advocacy. And another spawning habitat project, near Timbuctoo Bend, is expected to begin in fall 2017. The spawning habitat created below Englebright supports Spring-run Chinook because those are the salmon which have the stronger urge to spawn further upstream.  Of course, the ultimate help for these imperiled fish would be passage and restored flows to habitats upstream of the dam.

The estimate for total salmon in 2016 (3565 total salmon with a 95% confidence interval of 3,136 – 3,897) was made by counting, marking and recapturing carcasses. Hatchery fish, likely originating from the Feather River hatchery, marked with clipped adipose fins comprised 24% of all carcasses inspected, however, the total proportion of hatchery fish that stray into the Yuba River is actually higher because most hatchery salmon are not marked. Hatchery practices that allow such rampant straying are a “Road to Salmon Collapse” as described by FishBio who conclude: “It is time to decide whether we want to base our salmon production goals on sheer numbers of genetically similar hatchery fish, or on diverse, wild fish naturally supported by our local rivers.”

Amidst ongoing impacts — dams, hatcheries, drought, stripped bass and poor habitat downstream – what can be done to help wild Yuba River salmon? SYRCL is working with local stakeholders to aggressively restore conditions in the Lower Yuba River so that juvenile salmon can leave the Yuba in the very best condition to survive their migration to the ocean and return. SYRCL is developing Lower Yuba River Restoration Action Plan that builds on work already underway – for example, the Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement Project and the Hallwood Side-Channel Project — to chart a restoration course and gather support for the large-scale restoration vision necessary to recover wild and self-sustaining Yuba River salmon.

SYRCL is also promoting a longer-term vision that would involve volitional fish passage to habitats in the upper Yuba River watershed currently above dams. SYRCL participates in the River Management Team (RMT) along with three other non-governmental organizations, the Yuba County Water Agency, PG&E and state and federal agencies. The purpose of the RMT is to both monitor and evaluate conditions in the Lower Yuba River and to identify and support enhancement actions. SYRCL is holding the Army Corps of Engineers accountable to an effective Ecosystem Restoration Program for the Yuba River. SYRCL also works in the regulatory process to ensure dam operators in the watershed are contributing to better conditions for salmon.

https://yubanet.com/regional/yuba-salmon-numbers-drop-again/

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— Worst Klamath chinook run on record forecast

From the Oregonian

March 15, 2017
by Bill Monroe

The worst run forecast on record for the Klamath River’s chinook salmon could close all salmon fishing along most of the Oregon Coast this summer.

That’s the most draconian of three season alternatives adopted Monday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, meeting in Vancouver, Wash.

All three, however, allow some coho and chinook fishing in the Pacific Ocean north of Cape Falcon, including popular fisheries off the mouth of the Columbia River. Seasons would be similar to 2016.

Fishery options

South of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, Sacramento and Klamath river chinook mix with other returning salmon, so to protect them, all salmon sportfishing might close after April 30.

(That alternative is similar to a closure proposal in 2008, spurred by a low run into the Sacramento River. However, there was a tightly limited coho fishery that year. The economic shock to the coast brought a state-of-emergency declaration from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and a release of $1 million to help the commercial and charter fishing industries.)

Two other 2017 alternatives allow for both coho and chinook fishing seasons similar to last summer (but only south to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford) and the most liberal allows for a September non-marked coho fishery.

 

— Klamath fall Chinook salmon forecast: “lowest on record, unprecedented, exceptionally difficult”; commercial fishing may be closed from Oregon to Mexico border; March, April hearings

From the Mendocino Beacon

Slim chance for commercial salmon season, sport season likely to be cut

3-16-17

Commercial salmon fishing grounds around Fort Bragg in 2017 will either be closed completely, or open only in the month of September, according to options published by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council this week. Sport fishing seasons are also likely to be shorter than in previous years, the PFMC said.

The council will hold a meeting at Fort Bragg’s Town Hall on March 28 to take public input on the proposed seasons.

The following is a PFMC statement on the proposed seasons:

The PFMC on March 13 adopted three public review alternatives for the 2017 salmon seasons off the West Coast of the United States. The Council will select a final alternative at its next meeting in Sacramento, California on April 6-11.

Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for all three alternatives are available on the council’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org or http://tinyurl.com/salmon2017. Fisheries south of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are limited by the need to protect Klamath River fall Chinook, and south of Point Arena (in northern California), they are also affected by the need to protect Sacramento River winter Chinook. Returns of spawning Klamath River fall Chinook are projected to be the lowest on record in 2017 due to drought, disease, poor ocean conditions, and other issues. At the same time, the Council must protect Sacramento winter-run Chinook, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Because both of these fish intermix with other stocks in the ocean, fisheries targeting more abundant stocks must be constrained.

The salmon runs this year will present a challenge for ocean fishermen and managers throughout the West Coast,” said Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “In the north, several coho runs will keep ocean quotas lower than normal. In the south, the low forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook is unprecedented, and the most restrictive alternative the council will consider allows no ocean fishing between Cape Falcon, Oregon and the U.S./Mexico border after April 30 this year.”

This year will be an exceptionally difficult year for ocean salmon fisheries, especially in Oregon and California. However, there are alternatives that may provide at least limited opportunity for both commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing along much of the coast,” said Council Chair Herb Pollard. Northern Oregon and Washington (north of Cape Falcon)

SPORT SEASON ALTERNATIVES

Ocean sport fishery options north of Cape Falcon in Oregon and off the Washington coast are focused on Chinook salmon this year. One alternative includes a mark-selective Chinook fishery in June, while all alternatives include Chinook fishing opportunity in June or July-September, which are not mark-selective. Chinook recreational quotas range from 40,000 to 54,500. For coho, two alternatives allow modest coastwide opportunity. One allows opportunity for 58,800 hatchery coho in late June through September; the other allows opportunity for 50,400 hatchery coho in late June through September. A third alternative permits limited coho fishing only in the Columbia River area between Cape Falcon and Leadbetter Point, with a coho quota of 18,900 hatchery coho that starts in July and runs into September.

Non-Indian ocean commercial fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon include traditional Chinook seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 40,000 to 50,000, compared to 35,000 in 2016. Two commercial fishery alternatives allow retention of coho, with quotas of 5,600 and 9,600 marked coho (compared to only one alternative in 2016 with a quota of 7,200 marked coho). A third alternative prohibits coho retention in the commercial fishery.

TRIBAL OCEAN FISHERIES NORTH OF CAPE FALCON

Chinook and coho quotas for tribal ocean fishery alternatives range from 30,000 to 50,000 for Chinook salmon, and from 12,500 to 40,000 for coho. Seasons open May 1 and run through September 15.

California and southern Oregon (south of Cape Falcon)

Sport season options

From the north, recreational season alternatives south of Cape Falcon are heavily constrained this year to protect Klamath River fall Chinook. Alternatives for Oregon Chinook fishing in the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas all open March 15 and run either continuously through October 31 or are closed May through August. Oregon ocean recreational alternatives include mark-selective coho fishing seasons starting in June or July, and running through July or into early August in the area between Cape Falcon and the Oregon/California border. Quotas range from 20,000 to 30,000 marked coho. In addition, a non-mark-selective fishery is proposed for the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mt. in September, with a quota of 10,000 coho.

Due to the poor status of Klamath River fall Chinook, none of the alternatives provide for chinook-directed fisheries in the Klamath Management Zone, which extends from Humbug Mt., Oregon to Horse Mt., California. One alternative does include a mark-selective coho fishery in the Oregon portion of the Klamath Management Zone and extending north to Cape Falcon.

California ocean sport fishing alternatives for areas south of Horse Mountain provide seasons that are fairly conservative in comparison to recent years to protect Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River winter Chinook. These protective measures include shortened seasons and mid-season closures.

COMMERCIAL SEASON OPTIONS

As with recreational seasons, commercial season alternatives south of Cape Falcon are heavily constrained this year to protect Klamath River fall Chinook. Chinook salmon seasons under Alternative 1 include an opening in the Tillamook and Newport areas from mid-April through October, with several closed periods. In Alternative 2, the Tillamook, Newport and Coos Bay area seasons would be open most days beginning in mid-April through early June and two days in August. Under Alternative 3, commercial salmon fishing would be closed in these areas. As in the sport fishery, commercial salmon fishing is not allowed in the Klamath Management Zone in any of the alternatives to protect Klamath River fall Chinook.

Commercial season alternatives south of the Klamath Management Zone are also heavily constrained this year to protect Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River winter Chinook. In the Fort Bragg management area (Horse Mt. to Pt. Arena), two of the alternatives are completely closed, and the third only provides for a September fishery. There is more opportunity south of Pt. Arena, but seasons are still constrained compared to recent years. Two of the alternatives include August-October fisheries in the San Francisco management area (Pt. Arena to Pigeon Pt.) and May-June fisheries in the Monterey management area (Pigeon Pt. to the U.S./Mexico border), but the third alternative has these areas closed for the whole season.

MANAGEMENT PROCESS

Public hearings to receive input on the alternatives are scheduled for March 27 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for March 28 in Fort Bragg, California. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, revise preliminary decisions and choose a final alternative at its meeting April 6-11 in Sacramento, California.

The Council will forward its final season recommendations to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for its approval and implementation by May 1. All Council meetings are open to the public.

http://www.mendocinobeacon.com/general-news/20170316/slim-chance-for-commercial-salmon-season-sport-season-likely-to-be-cut

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— San Diego: Leopard sharks wash ashore in Ocean Beach

From NBC Bay Area

March 8, 2017
By Jaspreet Kaur

Several dead leopard sharks washed ashore in Ocean Beach after the rain last week.

An NBC 7 viewer snapped pictures of the sharks at dog beach.

According to Andrew P. Nosal, Ph.D, a Visiting Assistant Researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the deaths may be related to the water quality but he could not say for sure.

Nosal said the area where the sharks were found was located near the mouth of the San Diego River. After the recent rainfall, the water quality could have caused the leopard sharks to die and wash ashore.

He added that this occurs every now and then in several locations across the state.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/california/Leopard-Sharks-Wash-Ashore-at-Ocean-Beach-After-Rain-415640763.html

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— Humpback whales are forming massive (and unusual) ‘super-groups’

From Slashgear

Brittany A. Roston – Mar 16, 2017

Humpback whales are forming massive (and unusual) ‘super-groups’

A new report out of PLOS reveals that humpback whales are congregating in very large (relatively speaking) super-groups near South Africa, in some cases comprising pods as large as 200 whales. These large whale collectives are said to be engaging in feeding behavior, something that itself is unusual for the species, as it typically feeds on Antarctic krill in the southern polar region.

Humpback whales are creatures of habit, tending to feed during certain times in cold waters and breed during other times in warmer waters. Their migration patterns partly dependent on ocean temperatures, and their typical congregations are small. Data on these migration patterns, and feeding and breeding habits, go back decades.

Lately, though, researchers have noticed that humpback whales are collecting together in larger than typical numbers in pods with between 20 and 200 whales. Together (loosely so), these whales are engaging in feeding behavior in regions near South Africa where they would typically be engaging in breeding behaviors. Researchers have observed these large feeding pods in the October/November months in 2011, 2014, and 2015.

According to the new report, no one is sure why these whales are forming such large numbers and why they’re deviating from their typical feeding habits. The report states the whales in these super-groups tend to be only about five body lengths away from their nearest whale neighbor, and that they’re engaging in ‘repetitive diving behavior’ indicative of feeding. All signs point toward some large scale prey being present in the region, though researchers haven’t been able to sample for it out of fear of entangling the whales in the sampling gear.

SOURCE: PLOS

https://www.slashgear.com/humpback-whales-are-forming-massive-and-unusual-super-groups-16478886/

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