- $50 Million Research Facility Opened in Florida
- Twin Grey Seals Born on Farne Islands May Be the First Recorded
- Controversy Over US Request to Import Beluga Whales From Russia
The brand new Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research is celebrating its first month in operation, since its grand opening at the end of September. The $50 million dollar facility, located in Hollywood, Florida, was funded in part by a $15 million dollar grant from the US Department of Commerce, after winning a nationwide competition held by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. Because coral reefs the world over are diminishing, research and immediate action are deemed a high priority by scientists to stop their degradation before they are wiped out entirely, a fate that some researchers claim is in danger of happening within a single human generation. Since its opening, the Center has preserved 22 existing academic jobs and created 22 more, hired 50 graduate students, and provided 300 in the construction industry with employment. Because much of southern Florida’s commerce depends on their coral reefs, the facility has been welcomed by the business community as a viable solution to reef degradation.
A National Trust ranger monitoring a lone, heavily pregnant grey seal cow on England’s Farnes Islands was astonished to discover that she had given birth to not one, but two pups. He noted that multiple births among grey seals were extremely rare, and that no record of multiple births currently exists for grey seals in the Farnes. Scotland’s Sea Mammal Research Institute has asked for DNA samples to be submitted before confirming the unusual births indeed came from the same mother. The acting head of the Institute went on to say that while it is biologically possible for grey seals to conceive twins, typically the female would abort one fetus before birth due to a lack of resources to care for more than one pup.
The Georgia Aquarium has found itself steeped in controversy over its recent request to the federal government to be allowed to import 8 male and 10 female beluga whales from holding facilities in Russia. The approval of the federal government is crucial to the action, as the take or import of marine mammals is banned in the US under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The Georgia Aquarium defends its decision to import the cetaceans, arguing that their presence educates the public about marine life and creates conservation awareness for belugas in the wild. Opponents of the importation insist that the high level of intelligence and social behavior of belugas makes keeping them captive in small tanks an act of cruelty, in addition to human shortcomings in accurately recreating their environment in the wild. The NOAA’s fisheries division is expected to announce its decision in early 2013.