How Antiobiotic-Tainted Seafood Ends Up on Your Table: You May Want to Pass on the Shrimp Cocktail…

20150727-shrimp-cocktail-daniel-gritzer-8By Jason Gale, Lydia Mulvany, and Monte Reel, Bloomberg Businessweek

From the air, the Pearl River Delta in southern China’s Guangdong province resembles a mass of human cells under a microscope. Hundreds of thousands of tiny rectangular blocks, all of them shades of green, are clustered between cities and waterways. Livestock pens are scattered among the thousands of seafood farms that form the heart of the country’s aquaculture industry, the largest in the world.

“People eating their shrimp cocktails and paella may be getting more than they bargained for,” says Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology and an infectious diseases physician at New York University Langone Medical Center who chairs President Barack Obama’s advisory panel for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “The penetration of antibiotics through the food chain is a big problem.”

Research has found that as much as 90 percent of the antibiotics administered to pigs pass undegraded through their urine and feces. This has a direct impact on farmed seafood. The waste from the pigpens at the Jiangmen farm flowing into the ponds, for example, exposes the fish to almost the same doses of medicine the livestock get—and that’s in addition to the antibiotics added to the water to prevent and treat aquatic disease outbreaks. The fish pond drains into a canal connected to the West River, which eventually empties into the Pearl River estuary, on which sit Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Macau. The estuary receives 193 metric tons (213 tons) of antibiotics a year, Chinese scientists estimated in 2013.

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Don’t Let Your Vacation Ruin the Destination…



Millions of people take part in cruise vacations every single year. However, most travelers do not realize that cruises are more harmful to the environment (and to human health) than many other travel forms.

Cruise ships pollute air during transit and even when docked, contributing significantly to carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA estimates that an average cruise liner at sea emits more soot each day than 1 million cars.

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Life and death following the Great Barrier Reef mass bleaching…

Staghorn corals killed by bleaching on the Northern GBR, Nov 2016.jpg

Staghorn corals killed by coral bleaching on Bourke Reef, on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Credit: Greg Torda, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Scientists have recently finished surveying portions of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef which recently experienced the largest recorded die-off of corals. In the northern sections of the Great Barrier Reef, there was an average mortality of 67% of all shallow-water corals over the past 9 months due to high temperature-induced bleaching. Where once lush and colorful expanses of corals and other reef-inhabiting creatures could be seen, now only large expanses of algal mats smother the substrate. However, further south, scientists were surprised to find that the death toll was much lower.

“Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef. This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected,” says Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University, who undertook extensive aerial surveys at the height of the bleaching.


While the northern regions suffered, only a 6% and 1% mortality of corals was observed in the central and southern regions, respectively.


The map, detailing coral loss on Great Barrier Reef, shows how mortality varies enormously from north to south. Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Tourism along the Great Barrier Reef plays a major role in the culture and economy of Australia’s eastern coast. Over 70,000 people work in the tourism sector of the Great Barrier Reef and it generates upwards of $5 billion dollars each year. Given the patchy distribution of the worst damage along the reef, tourism can still thrive in the areas that weren’t hit as hard.


Healthy coral in the Capricorn Group of Islands, Southern Great Barrier Reef, November 2016. Credit: Tory Chase, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Researchers now expect that the northern, most devastated region could take at least 10-15 years to regain lost corals, if yet another future bleaching event doesn’t end up slowing the recovery.

The Biggest Environmental Problem You’ve Never Heard of…



The shedding of microfiber from synthetic clothing is actually contributing to microplastic pollution in waterways. Every time you wash that pair of leggings, athletic wear, fleece, or other synthetic article of clothing, tiny particles of plastic make their way into wastewater. However, microplastics are nearly impossible to filter out and eventually make their way into coastal waterways and the ocean. Microplastics can have detrimental effects on marine life and can be magnified up the food web, leading to toxic concentrations in many of our own sources of food. Studies have shown that nearly 80% of fish from the U.S. has been contaminated with plastics from textiles.

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The Election from a Perspective of Science…



Republican businessman and reality-television star Donald Trump will be the United States’ next president. Although science played only a bit part in this year’s dramatic, hard-fought campaign, many researchers expressed fear and disbelief as Trump defeated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on 8 November.

“Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had,” says Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC. “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.” […]

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From Threat to Thread…

Coming soon! Shoes made from ocean plastic!


Last year, Adidas proposed a concept shoe made from ocean plastic fibers. This fall 7,000 pairs of the shoe are being sold from the Adidas website. Each pair of shoes contains plastic material from roughly 11 plastic bottles and other recycled materials. The company’s goal is to make over a million pairs of shoes, with the first limited release happening later this month.

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