Archive for 07/09/2011

Rob Almeida –

Three Somali men accused of hijacking a sailboat in the Indian Ocean and killing the four Americans on board could face the death penalty, rather than life imprisonment, if they are convicted.

A fresh indictment issued Friday by a grand jury in Norfolk, Va., now includes more than 20 charges making the Somalis eligible for the death penalty.

The three were captured in February shortly after allegedly gunning down the Americans aboard their yacht. Previously, the men had been charged with piracy and kidnapping, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The Somalis are accused of killing Scott Adam, Jean Adam, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle four days after seizing the Americans’ 58-foot sailboat. U.S. Navy forces trailed the hijacked vessel and were negotiating for the sailors’ release when the Americans were killed.

Navy SEALs stormed the boat, the S/V Quest, killed several pirates and captured 14 others. Eleven of the men have already pleaded guilty to piracy charges that carry mandatory life sentences.

Prosecutors said the new charges were meant to highlight the allegation that the three Somalis—Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nuraniu Shiekh Abrar—played a direct role in “summarily executing” the American sailors.

“Today’s charges underscore that we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to attacks on our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride.

Full story…

France 24 –

Massive piles of seaweed have washed ashore along Sierra Leone’s coastline, covering the white sand and raising fears for tourism and the fishing industry, officials said Monday.

“People should stay away until we determine through lab tests whether the weeds are toxic and harmful to human beings. We are now turning people away from the area,” warned Momodu Bah of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

About 15 miles (24 kilometres) of beach is affected.

Residents and hotel owners along the 4km-long Lumley Beach in the west of Freetown said they were startled by the appearance of the thick brown seaweed which started washing up early Sunday and by late Monday stretched across the beach, covering every inch of sand.

Bah said scientists from the Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography had taken samples for laboratory tests.

“We are now working to identify the source and whether it is as a result of a seismic survey for oil and gas exploration as Sierra Leone is within the West African Maritime eco-region and shares a border with Liberia where drilling for oil is also going on,” he said.

Full story…

Scot Mackay –

A top New Zealand marine scientist is concerned about the detrimental effect human activities are having on the environment and the scant resources used to combat it.

Otago University marine science head of department Professor Gary Wilson yesterday said more resources needed to be applied to research into the marine environment to protect the future of ecosystems.

New Zealand was a maritime nation with the fourth biggest marine estate in the world and relied heavily on it for everything from food to tourism, but there was limited funding put towards understanding the environment and the impact humans had on it, he said.

“It is frightening to think, considering the size of the marine realm and the influence it has on the terrestrial environment where we all live, how few people and what limited resources we have to understand it,” he said.

Some people were scared of what science could show but, by being able to build data and understand how one ecosystem relied on another, it could help increase productivity while also protecting the environment, he said.

“In some ways we are frightened to learn [what impacts we are having] … because of our reliance on the environment – but in reality science doesn’t prejudge the outcome, the outcome has the opportunity to be more helpful than not,” he said.

Mr Wilson’s comments echoed the concerns outlined by National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research principal scientist of coastal ecosystems Simon Thrush, who spoke before about 150 marine enthusiasts during the opening presentation of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society’s annual conference.

Dr Thrush said New Zealanders needed to recognize the true value of nature and marine biodiversity to sustain it for future generations and that management needed to come through an integrated scientific and political process.

Full story…

Jennifer Cooke –

One of the world’s leading experts on diving deaths believes Tina Watson, an American whose honeymoon death on the Great Barrier Reef seven years ago sparked a controversial murder case, was the victim of a simple diving accident.

Dr Carl Edmonds claims “a grave injustice may have been done” in relation to Tina’s husband of 11 days, Gabe Watson. He was charged with her murder by a Queensland coroner after a month-long inquest but served 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to her manslaughter.

Watson is now fighting fresh murder charges in Alabama related to his wife’s diving death, after he was deported to the US last year.

Sydney-based Dr Edmonds, who co-wrote Diving Medicine for Scuba Divers, and has written specialist journal articles on more than 100 diving deaths, told the Herald that Watson’s account to police of the events underwater on October 22, 2003, “all fits together very reasonably in a simple, straightforward diving accident”.

Tina Watson, 26, of slim build, was “grossly overweighted” with nine kilograms of weights for her first ocean dive – more than twice what she needed with the equipment she was using, he said.

After analysing her husband’s statements to police, together with other medical evidence and equipment reports given to the inquest into Tina’s death, Dr Edmonds believes the novice diver did not inflate her buoyancy compensator vest – as all experienced divers would have done automatically – while descending to about 15 metres, above the wreck of the SS Yongala, south-east of Townsville.

Full story…

Sarah Schulte

A snorkeler left behind by a tour boat in Australia is back in the Chicago area and telling his story.

Ian Cole was snorkeling in the waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when he was left behind by the tour boat.

Cole is from Michigan, but he used to live in Chicago. He had spent months Down Under working and traveling. His last trip before heading home was to the reef.

It was the first time Cole had snorkeled, and the 28-year-old Michigan native says it will be the last time he goes with the Passions of Paradise tour company.

Ian Cole knows the outcome could have been worse. Cole is back in Chicago after spending nine months in Australia. He capped off his trip with a first-time snorkeling excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. Cole says that after spending close to two or three hours in the water, he thought it was time to get back to the boat.

“I paddled out to deeper water, where I was expecting my boat to be, and when I lifted my head up to get my bearings, I look and there is no boat,” said Cole.

Cole says he began to panic, taking in water through his snorkel.

“This is a situation where you could drown, because you lose your composure, so after I was able to regain myself a little bit, I was able to see that there was another boat in the vicinity, so I made my way up to that,” said Cole.

Cole asked the people on the other boat if they had seen his tour boat, and they told him it had left 15 minutes ago.

“I honestly thought the person was joking when she first said it, because she had a little bit of a wry smile,” said Cole. “So I asked a second time… it wasn’t until she said it again with a straight face that I’m like: ‘Oh my goodness, it actually did leave me.'”

Cole later found out the Passions of Paradise employee responsible for checking off his name on the manifest had mistakenly done so without ever seeing Cole get back on the boat.

Cole says he immediately demanded an apology and a change of procedure from the company so it does not happen again. Instead, Cole received a form letter offering him a $200 gift certificate for fine dining and wines.

Full story…

David Blackmore –

It was once home to the “founder father” of global conservation and now the current owners of Sutton Bridge’s East Lighthouse want to open it up to the public.

Doug and Sue Hilton have submitted proposals to council planners to build a visitor centre and museum on the site of the historic lighthouse, once home to well-known conservationist and painter Sir Peter Scott.

They are also going to open the lighthouse to the public over weekends in August to help start raising money to fund the building work, if approved.

The couple bought the lighthouse, which stands at the mouth of the River Nene looking out on to the Wash, last November from Commander David Joel who spent 25 years reviving it.

Mr Hilton said: “We weren’t aiming to do anything with the lighthouse this year because getting this place was hard enough and we wanted to sort ourselves out before we did anything else.

“But people in the area started asking us what we wanted to do with it and after we told them our plans, we started getting phone calls of support and it started to snowball from there.

“We then decided to sit down and get our ideas on paper and get the plans in and so far everyone has been really helpful and given us some useful suggestions.”

Mr Hilton said the museum would be dedicated to Sir Peter Scott, who lived in the lighthouse from 1933 to 1939, and the developed site will allow people to engage with wildlife.

He continued: “Everyone loves to visit a lighthouse but this is so much more than just a lighthouse – it is the starting point of global conservation.

“We reckon we will need about £250,000 to build the visitor centre and museum, which is a huge amount to raise.

“It is therefore hard to know exactly when we will be able to turn our dream into a reality.

Full story…