SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The survivors of 33 sailors may finally get some answers into why the El Faro cargo ship sank in the Atlantic last October. Investigators say they located the critical data recorder early Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board says crews located the recorder 15,000 feet beneath the surface. Officials are figuring out how to recover the device, which records conversations, among other things.
Officials resumed the search last week with advanced sonar and imaging systems.
“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart said.
Given that the data recorder has been submerged for seven months, value of the data is in question. The so-called “black box” may help answer many lingering questions about what happened to the ship during the final hours before it sank.
The 40-year-old U.S.-flagged El Faro was headed to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, and went missing near the Bahamas on October 1 with 33 people on board. The ship’s 28 American crew members and five Polish nationals are presumed dead.
The owners of El Faro said the captain had a “sound plan” to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, but the ship’s main propulsion failed, stranding the crew in the path of the Category 4 storm.
The wreckage of the nearly 800-foot container ship was located in late October. It was in 15,000 feet of water near its last known position near Crooked Island.
According to the NTSB, it was found in an upright position with the stern buried in about 30 feet of sediment. The bridge and the deck below, however, had separated and were not with the rest of the vessel.
The fact that the bridge separated was a chilling scenario to those in the industry.
“I’m pretty sure it happened very quickly and very violently,” Larry Legere, a ship captain based in Portland, Maine, said of the El Faro’s sinking. “If it was enough to rip the bridge right off that ship, it was a very violent end, and probably why they didn’t recover any survivors.”
The U.S. Coast Guard in February opened public hearings into the disaster.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Last Friday, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard donated a vessel to the Sea Rescue Foundation (SRF).
The boat, a RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) was previously used as the fast interceptor of the cutter Poema and was transported with the HNLMS Pelikaan from the Dutch Navy from Curaçao.
The director of SRF, mr. Frans Nieuwenhoven received the vessel from the Coast Guard Substation on St. Maarten.
SRF is a volunteer organization that works with the Coast Guard in Search and Rescue operations.
BELIZE CITY, Belize – The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) this week sealed an agreement with a UN agency to strengthen governance arrangements for the flyingfish fishery in the Caribbean, with special emphasis on maximising the long-term potential of the fishery, which employs several thousands in the region and feeds many more.
Milton Haughton, Executive Director of the CRFM, signed the Memorandum of Agreement for Caribbean States; while Kirk Bayabos, Senior Cluster Manager, signed on behalf of the project executing agency, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), a subsidiary of the UN.
The agreement is under a five-year umbrella project, the UNDP/GEF Catalysing Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of shared Living Marine Resources in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+) Project, designed to catalyse the implementation of a 10-year Strategic Action Programme (SAP), focused on the sustainable management of shared living marine resources harnessed from the large marine ecosystems in both the Caribbean and the North Brazil Shelf. The SAP was endorsed by the ministers of CARICOM responsible for fisheries and/or environment in 2014.
The Caribbean Sea is described as a semi-enclosed sea adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, south to the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the largest salt water seas with a diverse marine life that is fundamental to the livelihoods of coastal communities, project documents detail.
It is within this expansive marine space – spanning more than a million square miles – that the flyingfish, a species of fish which has a life-span of less than one year, but which spawns as many as 7,000 eggs several times between November and July, is known to thrive in a zone spanning from Dominica to Trinidad and Tobago.
Due to its vast socio-economic value, the CLME+ buttresses two of the re pillars: tourism and fisheries. However, these ecosystems are today being adversely impacted by pollution, habitat degradation and unsustainable fisheries and fishing practices. The 10-year SAP created under a forerunner CLME Project is aimed at tackling those threats, while also combating the threats which climate change poses to sustainable fisheries.
ORANJESTAD, Aruba - The Dutch Caribbean Coastguard (KWCARIB) detected on Tuesday during the late evening a suspect vessel during a patrol.
Their efforts to control the vessel led to a high speed chase towards the harbor of Barcadera.
A Super-RHIB from the Coast Guard Station on Aruba was supported by the Rescue and Coordination Centre (RCC) in Barcelona, right on down to the point when the vessel was intercepted.
The high speed chase ended on a beach near the port of Barcadera. The crew tried to flee but were quickly stopped by the quick response of the Coast Guard personnel.
At this point the close cooperation between the Coast Guard and the Police Corps of Aruba (KPA) was launched and came to bear on the suspects. Upon further investigation, a large quantity of narcotics was found on the boat.
The two occupants, both who are Venezuelan nationals, were arrested and transferred together with the drugs to the police. The case is being further investigated.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Federal authorities in Puerto Rico have detained eight Cuban migrants and a small Pekingese dog found on an uninhabited island near the U.S. territory.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday that the group landed on Mona Island just west of Puerto Rico. Officials say that a child was part of the group and that the federal agency is temporarily caring for the dog.
Cubans are increasingly leaving their island amid fears they might lose a special status that gives Cubans automatic residency in the United States if they reach U.S. soil.
Federal agents have detained more than 150 Cuban migrants in the region so far this fiscal year. (AP)
MARIGOT, St. Martin - On Sunday, April 10, 2016 in the late morning, the Marine Department of the gendarmerie of Saint Martin uncovered on the Eastern coast the illegal underwater fishing of Queen Conchs.
Surprised by the intervention, the boater tried dump overboard much of the conchs caught illegally: several dozen kilos of conch.
After questioning the boater must now answer to justice for his crime.
Reminder of the regulations: the conch is a mollusk protected by the Washington Agreement and its fishing is regulated.
It is prohibited for recreational fishermen at any time and any place. However, it is permitted for professional fishermen, out of the nature reserve, from 01 September to 31 March each year for the northern islands on the condition that they respect the size limitations.
BRISBANE, Australia – A study by the University of Queensland (UQ) has found that new science-based fishery regulations are needed if coral reefs are to have a future in the face of climate change.
The study shows that Caribbean coral reefs are experiencing mounting pressure from global warming, local pollution and over-fishing of herbivorous fish. An international team, led by University of Queensland researchers, has found that tighter fishery regulations are needed to preserve corals of the Caribbean.
Researcher Dr Yves-Marie Bozec, from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said herbivorous parrotfish were needed because they eat seaweed, which can smother coral and prevent corals from recovering.
“While several countries in the Caribbean have taken the bold step of banning the fishing of parrotfish (including Belize, Bonaire, Turks and Caicos Islands), parrotfish fisheries remain in much of the region,” Dr Bozec said.
The research team analysed the effects of fishing on parrotfish and combined this with an analysis of the role of parrotfish on coral reefs.
“We conclude that unregulated fisheries will seriously reduce the resilience of coral reefs,” Dr Bozec said.
“However, implementation of size limits and catch limits to less than 10 percent of the fishable stock provide a far better outlook for reefs, while also allowing the fishery to persist.”
Study co-author Professor Peter Mumby from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences said a number of countries wanted to modify their fisheries to reduce impacts on reefs. “What we’ve done is identify fisheries’ policies that might help achieve this,” Professor Mumby said.
The new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, argues that science should be used to revise current fisheries practices for herbivorous fish in the Caribbean.
The authors have provided tools to help fisheries managers make such changes.
“Ultimately, the more we do to maintain healthy coral reefs, the more likely it is that fishers’ livelihoods will be sustained into the future,” Professor Mumby said.
“We already know that failure to maintain coral habitats will lead to at least a threefold reduction in future fish catches.”
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On March 29, 2016 the Minister Of VROMI Honorable Minister A. Meyers was given a tour of the Simpson Bay Lagoon by Mr Tadzio Beervoets of the St. Maarten Nature Foundation.
The Minister got a first-hand look at areas that are mostly affected by sewage especially in the southern part of the lagoon which, is in the vicinity of Pineapple Pete towards Tropicana Casino due to insufficient water circulation.
In addition, the Minister indicated that the ministry is busy with an assessment to determine whether the various Marina's constructed or under construction are in compliance with the lease agreement.
Furthermore, various shipwrecks were observed which would inquire the input of various ministries.
In closing, the Minister expressed that working collaboratively with the Nature Foundation is fundamental especially moving forward with the location and construction of the sewage/ water treatment facility for the Cole Bay district that is vital for the community and residents in the area.
COLE BAY, St. Maarten - As part of the Save our Shark Project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has uncovered numerous shark related products, including shark fin soup, being sold at various establishments around Sint Maarten.
Over the past few weeks, the Foundation conducted an inventory about shark products being sold at restaurants, supermarkets and individual stores at various locations on the island. “Unfortunately, we have found different products containing shark being sold on our island, including shark fin soup, shark steaks, shark liver oil, shark cartilage pills, ray wings and shark oil.
There is no accepted scientific evidence showing any positive health benefits of shark fin soup or shark products, like liver oil and cartilage pills. The promotion of these products is a marketing strategy; in fact studies show that shark has among the highest levels of the toxic methyl-mercury and other dangerous toxins which can cause serious health effects.
Even small quantities of shark meat can contain large quantities of poisonous methyl mercury. Warnings are issued especially for pregnant women and young children,” read a Nature Foundation Statement.
Globally, human pressure has resulted in 100 million sharks being killed annually, primarily for products such as the ones uncovered by the Nature Foundation.
The cruel act of finning sharks, which often involves cutting the fins off of live sharks, and selling shark products, is pushing sharks to the brink of extinction, including in the waters surrounding Sint Maarten:
“We have been partnering with the prestigious Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and the Pew Charitable Trust to find out whether or not the products are made from local St. Maarten Sharks.
This is very important because since October the 12th of 2011, it is prohibited to wound, catch, land, or kill sharks, rays and skates in the territorial waters of St Maarten. So if Genetic Results come back positive for Sharks caught in local waters, laws were broken,” continued a Nature Foundation statement.
Sharks are not frightening or dangerous but an important contributor to the ecosystem and important to the local community as they attract valuable dive tourism. Sharks also keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish, keeping the ecosystem in balance. “If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem and everything which depends on that such as fisheries, dive tourism, beach tourism and the very things which make us a unique island in the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, of the thirty three shark species living in the Dutch Caribbean, a third is categorized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable to extinction, another third is near threatened, and four species are already (critically) endangered with extinction.
The Nature Foundation therefore advises the public to not purchase any shark product and requests stores and restaurants to stop selling any shark product.
The Nature Foundation will be issuing official letters to stores and restaurants in this regard.
As part of the Save our Sharks Project there is also an online petition running, encouraging local decision-makers to increase conservation measures for local sharks and to ban the selling of shark products. The petition can be signed at http://saveoursharks.nl/en/events/petition/
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