Deep-sea coral: nicely done, BP

Scientists have found evidence of "dramatic" damage to deep-sea coral near the site of the Gulf oil disaster.

The sites lie seven miles southwest of the well, at a depth of about 4,500 feet, in an area where large plumes of dispersed oil were discovered drifting through the deep ocean last spring in the weeks after the spill.

The discovery of the dead corals offers the strongest evidence so far that oil from the BP well may have harmed marine life in the deep ocean, a concern raised by many biologists soon after the April 20 blowout that caused the spill.

Mentwai tsunami: your help is very important

A massive storm has moved into the Mentawai region making tsunami relief work even more difficult - and life more miserable for the local villagers who are living in makeshift shelters.

The storm is forecast to last up to four days and is creating hazardous ocean conditions - for both the 150-kilometre crossing from Padang and access to the isolated villages.

The latest report from the government command post in Sikakap, the main town in the Southern Mentawai, says that 23,087 people are now either displaced from their homes or affected by the tsunami.

The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is now more than 400 and it is rising with more than 300 people missing. A further 270 people are seriously injured.

Today SurfAid’s Emergency Response team in Padang made the decision to hire the largest boat in the Mentawai fleet, the Indies Trader IV, so that we can continue operations in the worsening ocean conditions.

SurfAid founder Dr Dave Jenkins said that the New Zealand Government has agreed to fund both the boat and the emergency supplies on board. And Indies Trader owner Martin Daly has donated the Indies Trader III to the relief operation.

Weather-permitting, both boats are due to leave Padang tonight. The Indies Trader III will head to Sipora Island and the villages of Gobik and Bosua, near the surf break Bintangs. Both villages were severely hit by the tsunami, which was reported there as being six metres (20 feet) high.

The villages lie at the bottom of the island, directly in the path of raging tsunami which struck in the darkness of Monday night at about 10pm - 20 minutes after the 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake.

The Indies Trader IV will travel to the east coast of North Pagai and the southwest and southeastern tip of South Pagai where SurfAid teams will deliver emergency supplies to villages. On board are 2000 large tarpaulins, 3000 mosquito nets, 1000 hygiene kits, 1000 building kits, 1 tonne of rice, 24,000 packets of noodles, and medical supplies. The boat will pick up SurfAid staff from Sikakap, including medical teams.

SurfAid founder Dr Dave Jenkins said today the organisation continues to escalate its response to the tsunami despite appalling and worsening conditions.

“The extremely isolated villages are surrounded by coral reefs with large Indian Ocean swells continuously washing over them. Behind the small villages is dense tropical jungle with no roads and no phones,” Dr Jenkins said.

Marine Protected Areas: congrats, Surfrider

After two years of planning, the Fish and Game Commission will adopt a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California.

MPAs areas act as refuges that allow marine life to replenish fish populations and healthy habitats.

Surfrider has spent the past two years working with diverse stakeholders to help establish MPAs in the region.

Last week, over 700 surfers, students, fishermen, divers, business owners, and elected officials turned out in record numbers to talk ocean protection.

This hearing was the last Fish and Game meeting before the Commission officially adopts a network of MPAs in December.