World Animal Protection UK have commissioned the first ever assessment of the affects that ghost fishing gear is having on the coastline of Cornwall and threat it poses to marine life.
A key finding of the research is that when interaction and entanglement risks were combined, 26% of all ghost gear items recorded posed a serious threat to marine animals.
Abandoned and lost fishing gear, known as ghost gear, encompasses lines, nets, pots and ropes which are a huge threat to marine animals and coastal wildlife. Entanglement in ghost fishing gear causes huge suffering to animals and in many cases leads to a painful death. Ghost gear is known to travel long distances along ocean currents, with lost gear from the USA and Newfoundland being spotted on beaches across the UK.
A total of 4226 new ghost gear items were recorded by volunteers on land and by World Animal Protection funded boat-based surveys during the 12 month study period, amounting to 49,917 litres or 51 tonnes from 147 different locations. 30 tonnes can equate to the size of a 45ft sperm whale. The researchers were able to remove 14 tonnes of ghost gear during their research, reducing the immediate risk to marine animals in the area, particularly to seals (risk dropped from 47% to 24%).
The work was undertaken by Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust to support World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign and explored the severity of the ghost gear problem in Cornwall by looking at:
- The types and amount (volume and number of items) of ghost gear present along the coastline of Cornwall
- The spatial extent of, and seasonal changes in, ghost gear along the coast
- An assessment of the interaction and entanglement risks posed to marine animals
The research is a snapshot of the problem in UK waters and World Animal Protection are hoping this research inspires other researchers to undertake similar projects in their regions to build a more accurate global picture of the issue.
Risks to animals from all new ghost gear recorded
(likelihood of animals interacting with ghost gear)
- 40% of items identified posed an interaction risk.
- At established seal sites 82% (by items) posed an interaction risk to seals.
- Monofilament line, all types of net and pots posed the greatest risk to marine animals.
(likelihood of animals becoming entangled in ghost gear)
- 58% of items identified posed entanglement risks
- At established seal sites entanglement risks decreased to 54% (possibly because many items at seal sites were buoys and floats, posing a small entanglement risk specifically to seals).
- All types of net, line, rope and pots posed the greatest risk to marine animals.
Ghost gear directly affected 52 individual creatures from at least 12 different species which were recorded as entangled.
Data was collected between November 2014 and October 2015, along Cornwall’s entire coastline.
Boat based surveys
For each boat survey approximately 3000 photographs were taken and each item of ghost gear seen either in the field or from photos was recorded. Data included the number of ghost gear items, the type of ghost gear (for example buoys, floats, line, monofilament net, pots, rope, rubber or other), the length and/or volume of the material, whether the item had been previously reported and if it was removed.
A total of 1398 ‘new’ ghost gear items were recorded. This amounted to 19560 litres or 20 tonnes from 46 locations across the Cornwall coastline. On average this amounted to 26 new items a week, over the course of the year.
Land based surveys
A total of 360 surveys recorded 2828 ghost gear items were recorded by volunteers amounting to 30,352 litres or 30 tonnes from 147 different locations. This represented 54 new items being washed in each week.
Ghost gear is a trans-boundary problem, and it’s essential that efforts to address it are undertaken collaboratively across countries.
Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, Christina Dixon, said:
“While this research was being conducted we saw lobster pot tags travelling 3,000 miles from Newfoundland to Shetland and pieces of gear hitching a ride on the Gulf Stream from Canada to Cornwall but the lack of research meant finding the right solutions was a real challenge. Ghost gear is a trans-boundary problem, and it’s essential that efforts to address it are undertaken collaboratively across countries. We hope this study can be used as a model for other researchers to get a better idea of the impact of ghost gear in different regions.”
Sue Sayer from Cornwall Seal Group said:
“CSGRT were delighted with the huge effort volunteers contributed to this project. They were motivated by our desire to collect data and knowing that their information would be shared with World Animal Protection who would publicise this issue across a wide international audience enabling cross boundary solutions to be found. We all want to make a difference to reduce the suffering we witnessed during the project as along with partner organisations we rescued a live entangled sea bird being buffeted by waves whilst trapped in a gill net as well as rescuing entangled seals, one of which was choking itself as the net dragged under its body on a beach. We learned that even removing a small looped bit of net can save a marine creatures life and that together we can actually make a difference.”
Reference materials: Case summary of report and graphics illustrating the presence of varying ghost gear along the coastline. Please request the full report if required from: firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7239 0632 / 07814 695 298
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family
When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?
What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?
As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.
Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.
5 Good Options
As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:
1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country
Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.
2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.
3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.
4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.
5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel
If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?
Putting it All Together
You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.
You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.
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