AmeriScan: March 12, 2007

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Commerce Secretary Opens Door to Aquaculture in Federal Waters

BOSTON, Massachusetts, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez today unveiled proposed federal legislation to promote aquaculture in order to meet the growing demand for seafood, help the U.S. industry better compete and reduce the need for seafood imports.

The National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007 will allow aquaculture in federal waters beyond three miles off the coast. Gutierrez says it will be regulated with stringent environmental provisions and is designed to complement efforts already underway in the states.

"Because we don't encourage aquaculture in federal waters, we're letting technology, investment and jobs go overseas," said Gutierrez, speaking at the International Boston Seafood Show. "This bill will provide a federal aquaculture framework that meets the long term needs of the seafood industry and the growing demand of U.S. consumers."

Aquaculture is currently a $1 billion U.S. industry, but with an $8 billion seafood trade deficit, the United States is largely dependent on farmed seafood imported from other nations to meet domestic market demand.

Last year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that half of global seafood production came from aquaculture.

"The United States accounts for only one percent of the global $70 billion per year aquaculture industry," said Gutierrez. "The U.S. is not in the game and this bill will help the U.S. compete in this highly profitable industry."

Development of this legislation was recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and prioritized in President George W. Bush's 2004 U.S. Ocean Action Plan. In 2005 and 2006, Congress held two hearings on a previous version of the bill. In November 2006, NOAA released its 10 year plan for aquaculture for public comment.

America's wild fish stocks are rebuilding to sustainable populations, and the nation has committed to stop overfishing by 2010. However, even fully restored wild fish stocks will not be able to fill the growing demand for seafood.

The aquaculture bill was developed in consultation with industry, conservation groups, states, the research community and others. Their collective input led to specific environmental protections, an opportunity for states to opt out of aquaculture within 12 miles of their coasts, streamlined permitting requirements and enhanced research focus.

"Today's action opens the door for close collaboration and partnerships between NOAA and our stakeholders as we work with Congress to enact the bill and later, as we develop an environmental impact statement and during rulemaking and permitting for aquaculture," said Bill Hogarth, director of the NOAA Fisheries Service. "We will be counting on public involvement every step of the way so the end product will be something we are all proud of."

Also at the Boston Seafood Show, the Pure Salmon Campaign today issued a warning that American consumers are being misled by farm-raised fish being sold with an "organic" label.

At issue are imported Norwegian, Irish and Scottish farmed salmon and also farmed cod certified as "organic" by various European bodies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, has not finalized an organic standard for farmed fish and yet is allowing imported seafood, such as farmed salmon and cod, to be sold in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants with an "organic" label.

"U.S. consumers cannot trust that imported farmed salmon sold as 'organic' is as pure as they expect," said Andrea Kavanagh, Director of the Pure Salmon Campaign. "The USDA should not allow use of this label until a U.S. organic standard is in place."

The USDA's National Organic Standards Board is in the process of developing an organic standard for farm-raised fish. Earlier this month, the NOSB Livestock Committee recommended that, without further dialogue, fish from open net cages and those that are fed fish should not be permitted in U.S. organic aquaculture standards.

While the Pure Salmon Campaign supports organic standards for non-carnivorous fish farmed in closed systems such as tilapia and catfish, it is not in support of organic certification for carnivorous fish such as salmon raised in open net cages in the marine environment. Open net cage systems allow untreated wastes, the spread of diseases and parasites to wild fish and escapes into the ocean.

The Pure Salmon Campaign is a global project of the National Environmental Trust. It has partners in the United States, Canada, Europe and Chile working to improve the way salmon is produced.

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Michigan Energy Company Sued for Mercury Pollution in Canada

SARNIA, Ontario, Canada, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - Michigan’s DTE Energy Company is being sued for its role in allegedly polluting the St. Clair River with mercury.

DTE Energy, the parent company of Detroit Edison, operates the St. Clair/Belle River coal-fired power plant complex in Michigan. On average, the facility emits 2,000 pounds of mercury each year.

Scott Edwards, a Canadian citizen and authority on mercury pollution, was in Sarnia court Wednesday charging that the St. Clair/Belle River generating station on the banks of the St. Clair River has been breaching Canada’s Fisheries Act for two years.

Edwards is the legal director for Waterkeeper Alliance, a global coalition of 150 grassroots environmental groups. He is being aided by three other affiliates of Waterkeeper Alliance, Mark Mattson, Doug Chapman and Doug Martz. Mattson is lead investigator and the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Doug Chapman is lead counsel and the Fraser Riverkeeper. Martz is the St. Clair Channelkeeper.

More than half of DTE Energy’s mercury emissions land in Canada. When the mercury enters the St. Clair River, it is altered by bacteria into methylmercury which spreads throughout the food chain, altering fish habitat and rendering fish unsafe for human consumption.

Edwards is alleging that DTE’s mercury deposits are illegal under Canada’s Fisheries Act and has launched a private prosecution.

Private prosecutions allow any Canadian citizen to independently prosecute offenses in the criminal courts. Fines under the Fisheries Act can range up to $1 million a day.

A test of pollution control technology in 2004 reduced mercury emissions at the St. Clair plant by 94 percent, but at the conclusion of the 30 day test, DTE Energy stopped using the mercury control technology.

“DTE has acted with a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of Canadian citizens and Canadian law,” says Edwards. “My hope is that this prosecution will result in significant reductions in DTE Energy’s mercury emissions and a cleaner and safer St. Clair River.”

The court will set a date for the initial hearing later this month.

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Invasive Quagga Mussels Have Pacific Northwest on High Alert

VANCOUVER, Washington, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - The discovery of invasive quagga mussels in Lake Mead on January 6, 2007 elevates the threat these species pose to the Pacific Northwest’s natural resources and economy.

Lake Mead is located on the Colorado River about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the states of Nevada and Arizona, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts fear the mussels could invade Pacific Northwest waterways such as the Columbia River.

In the event of a quagga or zebra mussel invasion, estimated maintenance and control costs to the federal Columbia River Power System could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, which would pass down to Pacific Northwest consumers, authorities warn.

A team of aquatic invasive species experts met last week in Vancouver to discuss this new concern and opportunities to enhance ongoing prevention, detection, and response planning efforts.

Like its cousin the zebra mussel, the freshwater quagga mussel forms dense colonies that clog water pipes, foul irrigation screens and fish ladders, restrict water recreation, harm native aquatic life, and result in costly maintenance.

They consume microscopic plants and animals that salmon and trout rely on for food, adding stress to native species already in peril and affecting recreational and commercial fisheries.

Native to Eastern Europe/Western Asia, quagga and zebra mussels invaded the Great Lakes region in the 1980s. Both species have since spread by attaching to boat hulls, engines and trailers, closing their shells, and then hitching a ride to a new water body. Boaters also can transport the mussels’ microscopic larvae in live wells, engine cooling systems, and other sources of standing water.

Cross-country transport on a recreational boat is the likely route that brought quagga mussels to Lake Mead.

Regional natural resource managers are also concerned about the possible movement of quagga mussels by fish stocking operations. After the discovery of quagga mussels in Lake Mead, biologists found the mussels growing in the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Lake Mead Fish Hatchery. That hatchery transported fish into Northeast Nevada’s Wild Horse Reservoir in April and May 2006. Wild Horse Reservoir drains into the Owhyee River, which flows into the Snake River.

“Invasion by quagga mussels would be a terrible blow to the Pacific Northwest,” said Ren Lohoefener, director of the Service's Pacific Region.

Under the national 100th Meridian Initiative, a partnership of organizations has been cooperating for years to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from entering the West across the line that bisects the United States - the 100th Meridian.

The program’s Columbia River Basin team includes state natural resource agencies, federal government, tribes, ports, universities, and nonprofit groups. This team collaborates to teach boaters how to recognize and prevent hitchhiking mussels, trains enforcement officers to detect infested watercraft, and surveys high risk water bodies for mussel adults and larvae.

This team has developed a zebra/quagga mussel rapid response plan, which was discussed at their February 28 meeting. An interagency response task force will guide the execution of the plan in the event of an invasion. A current version of the plan is available at http://100thmeridian.org/ColumbiaRT.asp.

"Stopping the quagga mussel from entering the waters of Columbia River Basin will require the cooperation and vigilance of the general public," says Randy Fisher of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. "We need everyone who might come in contact with boats to be our eyes and ears. Anglers, people at gas stations, and people using lakes, marinas, and beaches can all help by being lookouts for this invasive mussel."

It is illegal to possess and transport quagga and zebra mussels, and boat owners are responsible to remove mussels attached to their watercraft.

Quagga mussels and zebra mussels are similar in appearance. Adults look like a small clam with a D-shaped shell, usually with alternating dark and light stripes and about the size of a fingernail. Small juvenile mussels that have just attached to a surface look like black pepper and feel like sandpaper.

If you think you have spotted quagga or zebra mussels call 1-877-STOPANS or 1-877-786-7267. Additional information can be found at www.protectyourwaters.net and www.100thMeridian.org.

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Hexavalent Chromium + Vitamin C = Cancer

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - Even tiny amounts of hexavalent chromium can cause cancer, and Brown University researchers have found a connection between that effect and the nutrient vitamin C.

Naturally occurring vitamin C reacts inside human lung cells with chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium, and causes massive DNA damage, researchers found.

Low doses of chromium 6, combined with vitamin C, produce up to 15 times as many chromosomal breaks and up to 10 times more mutations – forms of genetic damage that lead to cancer – compared with cells that lacked vitamin C altogether.

This finding is startling, said Anatoly Zhitkovich, an associate professor of medical science at Brown who oversaw the experiments, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Outside cells, Zhitkovich said, vitamin C actually protects against the cellular damage caused by hexavalent chromium, the toxic chemical that starred as the villain in the Hollywood drama, "Erin Brockovich."

This is the toxic metal, found in drinking water in a small California town, that Erin Brockovich campaigned against, successfully winning residents a record settlement of $333 million in 1996.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, blocking cellular damage from free radicals. Specifically, the vitamin rapidly “reduces,” or adds electrons, to free radicals, converting them into harmless molecules. This electron transfer from vitamin C to chromium 6 produces chromium 3, a form of the compound that is unable to enter cells.

Vitamin C has been used as an antidote in industrial accidents and other instances when large amounts of chromium are ingested.

But when chromium and vitamin C come together inside cells Zhitkovich and his team found that vitamin C acted as a potent toxic amplifier, sparking more chromosomal breaks and cellular mutations.

“When we increased the concentration of vitamin C inside cells, we saw progressively more mutations and DNA breaks, showing how seemingly innocuous amounts of chromium can become toxic,” Zhitkovich said. “For years, scientists have wondered why exposure to small amounts of hexavalent chromium can cause such high rates of cancer. Now we know. It’s vitamin C.”

Hexavalent chromium is used to plate metals and to make paints, dyes, plastics and inks. As an anticorrosive agent, it is also added to stainless steel, which releases hexavalent chromium during welding.

Hexavalent chromium causes lung cancer and is found in 40 percent of Superfund sites nationwide.

Zhitkovich said his team’s research, published in "Nucleic Acids Research," might have policy implications.

When combined with vitamin C, chromium 6 caused genetic damage in cells in doses four times lower than current federal standards, Zhitkovich said. If additional research backs these findings, he said federal regulators might want to lower exposure standards.

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New Jersey Enforces Don't Feed the Bears Law

TRENTON, New Jersey, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - It is illegal to feed black bears in New Jersey, and state conservation officers, park police and environmental inspectors will fan out across five counties later this month to find out if residents and businesses are obeying the law, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson announced today.

"Feeding black bears either intentionally or unintentionally by carelessly leaving out food or garbage can have serious consequences for entire neighborhoods. It teaches bears to associate food with people and encourages them to become a nuisance," Jackson said. "We're working to prevent problems between bears and people by raising awareness about this law and enforcing it."

In the coming weeks, DEP environmental lawmen will canvass homes and businesses in Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Morris and Warren counties to determine if the public is doing all it should to avoid attracting bears.

Conservation officers, environmental inspectors and park police will ask residents and business owners a host of questions including how and where they store garbage, pet-feeding practices and their experiences with bear encounters.

Part of New Jersey's intensified effort to use non-lethal strategies to manage black bears, the enforcement sweep is being conducted toward the end of March, as the bears begin emerging from their winter dens to search for food.

Though the black-bear population is situated primarily in the northwestern portion of the state, sightings have been reported in all 21 counties.

The DEP recommends residents and businesses use bear-resistant garbage cans or containers with tight-fitting lids, properly store pet and livestock feed and thoroughly clean outdoor grills.

To spur compliance with the state's bear-feeding ban, the DEP is working in cooperation with municipal officials and local police departments in the five targeted counties.

Under a law enacted in 2002, people caught deliberately feeding bears could be fined up to $1,000. Violators receive a written warning for the first offense, but are subject to a civil penalty for every subsequent offense.

Because careless food storage and garbage disposal also attracts bears and increases the likelihood of encounters with people, the DEP is asking state legislators to strengthen the law by prohibiting unintentional bear feeding as well. The DEP's request for amendments to the law includes stricter penalties for feeding black bears.

Last November, Commissioner Jackson said the DEP would fully implement non-lethal bear-management methods and analyze their effectiveness before holding another hunt. To support the non-lethal initiative, Governor Jon Corzine has proposed an $850,000 state budget appropriation to fund expanded public education programs, aversive conditioning and bear research.

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ZAP Debuts New Solar Electric Truck

SACRAMENTO, California, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - Electric car manufacturer and distributor ZAP is introducing its new XEBRA truck featuring a solar panel at the Green California Summit and Exposition in Sacramento, March 13 and 14.

The XEBRA Sedan and Truck with a solar panel option puts out 90 percent fewer emissions than gasoline powered vehicles, including those from power plants used to generate the electricity that powers the XEBRA.

ZAP says the solar panel enables short commutes on sunlight alone. The XEBRA truck or sedan travels at up to 40 miles per hour and can go up to 25 miles per charge.

Classed as a three wheel motorcycle zero emission vehicle, the XEBRA seats two people.

"One of the best ways to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions is driving an electric car, and one of our main goals as a Californian green company is to make street-legal electric cars available and affordable," says ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. The XEBRA sells for $10,000 through a licensed dealer network.

Schneider cites studies showing that electric vehicles can offset about 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year in place of a 25 mile per gallon gasoline powered car.

Held at the Sacramento Convention Center, the exposition was created to support the state's goal to fight global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also highlights green services, products and solutions implemented by the community and a wide range of green companies like ZAP.

This April in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, ZAP is inviting the world to join its One Million Tree Campaign to fight global warming. For a $25 pledge, ZAP can plant 200 trees to help offset CO2 emissions. Learn more at www.zaptrees.org.

Since 1994, ZAP has delivered over 90,000 vehicles to consumers in more than 75 countries. The company recently launched a new recharge-it-all technology that provides power for mobile electronics, including cell phones, digital recorders and laptops. Visit http://www.zapworld.com.