The spread of the Dead Zones
YESTERDAY I just happened to tune in to the radio news. Now, this isn’t something I normally do, for I find news programmes a little on the despondent side, with plenty of doom and gloom and very little good reported. Perhaps there should be two news programmes - The Bad News, followed by an undoubtedly much shorter slot entitled The Good News. I listened to the Bad News, and I want to pass a bit of it on. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is currently holding its annual conference in Jeju, South Korea. (Bad news for the taxpayer, straight away.) One of the key issues being debated is the rapid spread of so-called Dead Zones in the world's oceans. These Dead Zones are areas where life-giving oxygen has been severely depleted from seawater. Where this happens, local extinction of virtually all life forms, both plant and animal, takes place. In 1995, around fifty dead zones were reported. There are presently almost 150 such areas. Some of them are small, less than one square kilometre. Others are a little larger. Some exceed 70,000 square kilometres. Most of them appear to be spreading. So what causes large areas of the ocean to become lifeless? At first, back in the 1960's, when the phenomenon was first noted, this was something of a mystery. Suspicion soon fell upon the influx of nutrients into the sea, mostly from agricultural sources. Now scientists appear to be more certain. Environment ministers and experts from more than 100 countries attending the UNEP conference were told that pollution, and particularly the overuse of nitrogen as a fertilising agent, is responsible. Nitrogen causes plant growth. The top layers of the world’s seas are full of microscopic plant life. When excessive nutrients are available, these tiny plants, or phytoplankton, are able to reproduce in vast numbers extremely quickly. Then, when the plants die off, they sink to the bottom where they decompose. The bacteria that work to rot them away take oxygen from the water, and suddenly nothing else can survive.
I enjoy Michael Lewis nature column in the Connaught each week and this week’s is definitely apropos in the light of the current interest in the EU Nitrates Directive. When we read about dying oceans it sounds like science fiction but unfortunately it’s science fact. The Irish Government is finally being dragged kicking and screaming into the position of having to implement this directive which came into force in 1991. It is quite likely that Irish farmers (for which read the taxpayer) will be required to pay penalties due to the unfair commercial advantage gained by Irish farmers over the past 13 years through not implementing it. The fisherman too refuse to accept scientific evidence that they are devastating fish populations. A recent report suggests that the largest fish being caught today are some ten times smaller than the largest fish of 50 years ago. Scientists now believe that these big fish were crucial for the survival of populations simply because of the massive number of young they produce. Once these sea monsters are gone even total bans on fishing like that in the Cod fisheries of Newfoundland will fail to have any impact. When the commercial catch collapses and it becomes obvious to everyone that really drastic measures are needed it is way too late. Scientists now believe that it’s unlikely that we can save Irish cod fisheries even if fishing for cod stopped tomorrow. But the politicians know better of course. Just like the nitrate build-up and the ongoing pressure by fertiliser manufacturers to keep pushing their wares regardless of whether they cause seas and lakes to shrivel up and die due to lack of oxygenation.
Publicans advised to dispel the fog – ban herbal cigarettes
SMOKERS who are going herbal are casting a fog over the new smoking legislation but the Principal Environmental Health Officer (P.E.H.O.) for Mayo has advised publicans in the region to rid themselves of any possible confusion by imposing their own in-house ban on the alternative cigarettes. Mr. Cathal Kearney, who has reported high compliance rates and co-operation from bar staff and the public in implementing the new rules about smoking in the workplace, said some difficulties had surfaced as regards herbal cigarettes. One customers who smoked herbal cigarettes in a central Mayo pub led to complaints from other customers that he was "stinking the place out". Another customer who went herbal in a south Mayo establishment so incensed the licensee that she refused him further drink until he desisted. Customers can legally smoke herbal cigarettes in public places but now Mr. Kearney says that any uncertainty or tension over the situation can easily be resolved if pubs impose their own in-house rules on the alternative cigarettes and implement them. "A blanket rule on all smoking makes the situation simpler", Mr. Kearney stated. "An in-house rule would hardly affect trade as the number of people smoking herbal cigarettes is very low".
I liked the herbal loophole April fool on castlebar.ie. But the reality is that the ban on smoking in the workplace has gone through peacefully and successfully on the whole. Finally the power of the publican has been broken? And hopefully the successful outcome of the smoking ban will put an end to all the hot air that was vented over the past year. Do you remember the hysteria from the pub owners – "60,000 jobs will be lost"? Well we are still waiting for the prices of public houses to come crashing down – you will be able to pick them up for a song – yes any day now….. soon I’m sure. Yeah! Right!
Elverys to create 30 new jobs in Castlebar
ELVERYS SPORTS, Ireland’s longest established sports retailer, are relocating to a new state-of-the-art centralised distribution centre at Moneen, Castlebar. Castlebar born brothers, John and James Staunton, who own Elverys Sport, have based their group’s headquarters and warehousing operations in Galway for the last 15 years. Due to exceptional growth over the past three years, the distribution centre will house a next generation picking and packing system which will service future requirements. Elverys currently have 32 stores nationwide and employ in excess of 400 staff throughout the country. Almost 70 employees are based at the Galway headquarters and warehouse, which will be moved to Castlebar over the coming months. ………
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It’s good to sea Castlebar businessmen bringing business to Castlebar and good luck to the Stauntons on this venture.