Japan to resume commercial whaling after IWC withdrawal

by Shingo ITO / Miwa SUZUKI Agence France-Presse TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan said Wednesday it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling next year, sparking criticism from activists and anti-whaling countries including Australia. The announcement comes after Japan failed earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling. Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the commercial hunts would be limited to Japan’s territorial waters. […]

2018 hottest year for a century in France

PARIS, France (AFP) — 2018 was the hottest year in France since modern records began in 1900, the French meteorological service said Friday. “This year was the hottest France has known since modern meteorological measures came into use in 1900,” Meteo-France said. The average temperature of 14 degrees centigrade (57.2 Fahrenheit) was 1.4 degrees above the average recorded between 1981 and 2010, it said in a statement. That put it ahead of two other remarkably […]

Protected Chilean sea lions are the ‘enemy’ of fishermen

by Miguel SANCHEZ Agence France Presse VALPARAISO, Chile (AFP) — Off the coast of Chile, fisherman face competition from a cunning carnivorous hunter that has decimated their industry due to its voracious appetite. For Chile’s fishermen, sea lions are a “plague.” “They’re an enemy!” complained Mario Rojas to AFP. “We try to make them go away but it’s impossible!” Part of the wider seal family that was once hunted mercilessly all over the world, leaving […]

Rare albino orangutan released back into the wild

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — The world’s only known albino orangutan has been released back into the jungle more than a year after she was found emaciated and bloody in a remote corner of Borneo, an Indonesian NGO said Friday. Environmentalists rescued “Alba” from a cage where she was being kept as a pet by villagers in Central Kalimantan in April last year. She was found with dry blood smeared around her nose — the result […]

Scallops: Peru’s ‘golden nuggets’ of the sea

by Carlos MANDUJANO Agence France Presse SECHURA, Peru (AFP) — Peruvian fishermen need only dive down a few meters to find the scallops considered the “golden nuggets” of the country’s seas — and cherished in European and North American kitchens. Sechura Bay, off northwest Peru’s Pacific coast near Ecuador, is the source of 80 percent of Peru’s exports of the seafood to France, Spain, the United States and Canada. “God blessed us with this bay, […]

Smiling at danger, China’s finless porpoise fights to survive

by Kelly WANG Agence France-Presse WUHAN, China (AFP) — In an oxbow lake along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, a breathy sigh pierces the surface stillness as one of China’s most endangered animals comes up for a gulp of hazy air. A slick black back with no dorsal fin arches briefly above the water line before plunging back down. Such glimpses of the shy Yangtze finless porpoise, the only aquatic mammal left in […]

Moroccan saffron farmers battle knockoff spices

MOROCCAN (AFP)- Saffron farmers in southern Morocco have long taken pride in the coveted spice they produce from the purple-petalled Crocus sativus, but some are worried knockoff versions are threatening their business. “The pure saffron of Taliouine is the best in the world, according to experts,” local grower Barhim Afezzaa boasted, proudly noting his spice’s designation of origin (PDO) label. But the 51-year-old is worried that “counterfeit” crops are tarnishing Taliouine’s reputation and its PDO […]

Virgin Galactic reaches space for first time

by Gene Blevins Agence France Presse MOJAVE, United States (AFP) — Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, flew higher than it ever has before on Thursday, surpassing what the US Air Force considers the boundary of space, and marking the first manned flight to space from US soil since 2011. The brief, suborbital flight — with two pilots on board — was a key milestone for the company headed by British tycoon Richard Branson, who is […]

Climate talks must be rescued, warns UN chief

by Marlowe HOOD Agence France-Presse KATOWICE, Poland (AFP) — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought to rescue deeply troubled climate talks in Poland on Wednesday, warning the battle against global warming is a “matter of life and death today.” The two-week talks are tasked with breathing life into the 2015 Paris Agreement, which vows to cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and 1.5C if possible. But efforts to elaborate a […]

Permafrost thaw threatens 70 percent of Arctic infrastructure: study

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — A warming climate is thawing permafrost and up to 70 percent of infrastructure in the Arctic region is at risk, including key oil and gas fields, a new study said Wednesday. Researchers used detailed information on infrastructure across the Northern Hemisphere permafrost zone to model with unprecedented detail just how many buildings, roads, railways and other construction could be at risk by 2050. “The magnitude of the threat was in a […]

Fighting climate change in the shadow of Mount Everest

by Paavan MATHEMA Agence France Presse NEPAL (AFP) — Formed in the shadow of Mount Everest, the turquoise depths of Nepal’s Imja glacial lake would be a breathtaking miracle of nature to behold — were they not a portent of catastrophic floods. Scientists warn that as climate change causes Himalayan glaciers to melt at an alarming rate, lakes like Imja could swell further and eventually collapse, triggering a terrifying deluge in Nepal, an impoverished nation […]

Surviving bleached Barrier Reef coral ‘more resilient to heat’

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef that survived bleaching from rising sea temperatures were more resistant to another bout of hot conditions the following year, scientists said Tuesday, a “silver lining” for the embattled ecosystem. The 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) long UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef off Australia’s northeastern coast was hit by back-to-back bleaching in 2016 and 2017. Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel […]