Magnitude-7.6 earthquake strikes far off Tonga in South Pacific

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga — A strong earthquake struck far off the South Pacific island nation of Tonga on Saturday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-7.6 quake struck at 5:57 a.m. (1757 GMT Friday), about 541 miles (870 kilometers) south of Nuku’Alofa on Tonga. The quake struck at a depth of 24 miles (39 kilometers).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a tsunami alert, but its report on the quake said sea level readings indicated that a tsunami was generated.

The quake hit 112 miles (180 kilometers) from New Zealand’s remote, volcanic Kermadec Islands. The remote outpost is generally uninhabited aside from a weather station and a hostel for visiting New Zealand scientists and staff.

New Zealand Civil Defense officials issued but then quickly canceled a tsunami warning.

Another magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck the region in July, but the eight New Zealand staffers at the Raoul Island outpost at the northern end of the Kermadecs were unharmed.

The region lies on the “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim. About 90 percent of the world’s quakes occur in the region.

By Associated Press, Saturday, October 22, 2:27 AM

Rena oil spill an unfortunate lesson

Blogpost by Nathan Argent – October 7, 2011 at 16:40

The Container ship Rena inexplicably crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about seven kilometres north of Motiti Island, near Tauranga early on Wednesday. It is carrying 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, some of which has already started to leak into the sea.

Since then, fears of a potential environment disaster have grown as the leaking oil has spread threatening wildlife, including whales, birds and seals. Indeed, Environment Minister Nick Smith was quoted as saying that the spill from the ship “had the potential to be New Zealand’s most significant maritime pollution disaster in decades”. This is very disturbing news.

Oiled seabirds have already been found dead close to the Rena and more birds have been spotted in the water, covered in oil. It is also potentially disastrous for the blue whales and dolphins presently calving in the area, as well as numerous other marine species.

Response teams have so far been unable to deploy oil booms to contain the spill. The response so far as been to use a dispersant called Corexit  9500 – which is being sprayed on the water to disperse the oil. Corexit is the same chemical used in the Gulf of Mexico to deal with the oil from BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill.

Unfortunately ‘dispersal’ essentially means never cleaning up the oil. It will just stay out there and continue to pollute the marine environment. The reason being that Corexit acts like a surfactant and attracts the oil. The oil then forms globules and sinks to the bottom.

Some studies have shown that Corexit 9500 is four times as toxic as the oil itself.  Both are now going into the ocean water. It’s not a good situation.

As the authorities battle to get the spill under control and mitigate against the worst environmental effects, we also hope that this incident gives the Government pause for thought with regards to it’s deepwater oil drilling plans. This accident is an unfortunate reminder of just how difficult it is to deal with oil spills at sea. It’s a slow spill in a relatively accessible place, and the weather and sea conditions have been favourable yet even so, it is testing NZ’s response capability to the limits.

It’s shaping up to be a significant disaster but, bad as it is, it will be a walk in the park compared to what would happen if we had a Deepwater Horizon type spill.

Greenpeace has offered Maritime NZ the support of our inflatable boats, experienced drivers and volunteers to assist in the oil clean up and the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre is calling for volunteers to assist in the recovery and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife but as yet there is little anyone can do.

Despite the best intentions, the oil spill response team in Tauranga will not be able to do enough. There is no ‘enough’.

The tools we have to respond to oil spills are orders of magnitude too small to combat the damage they do. We can’t fix oil spills; we can only prevent them. And we can only prevent the really catastrophic spills by saying no to deep sea oil drilling.

Sign the no deep sea oil petition here

http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/news/blog/rena-oil-spill-an-unfortunate-lesson/blog/37226/

Fears bee colony collapse has arrived

Beekeepers fear an alarming phenomenon that is wiping out bees and leading to
reduced food crops around the world has reached New Zealand.

Colony collapse disorder has caused American beekeepers to report losses of
up to 90 per cent in some cases, prompting fears of crop shortages.

Honeybees are the planet’s most effective pollinators, and industry leaders
in New Zealand are calling for an investigation into the problem.

National Beekeepers Association joint chief executive Daniel Paul said
reports coming in to the group were causing concern.

In the past six months, it had received reports of significant bee losses –
up to 30 per cent in some places.

“It’s significant enough to make us sit up and take notice.”

The reports had come from both islands, with big losses in Canterbury and
Poverty Bay.

The value of bees to the economy is estimated at about $4 billion a year
because of New Zealand’s reliance on fruit, vegetable, dairy and meat, and fibre
exports, all of which rely to some extent on pollination by bees.

Although the varroa bee mite has been blamed for losses in the past 11 years,
the use of chemical treatments has been helping bee numbers recover.

Now, concern has arisen about a new family of insecticides, neonicotinoids,
which are used to coat seeds and control pests.

They are neurotoxins and are believed to interfere with a bee’s nervous
system.

Association vice-president Barry Foster said international studies had shown
neonicotinoids induced chronic mortality in bees.

They had been identified as a potential cause of colony collapse disorder,
which could decimate a bee population with devastating consequences.

“It is estimated that without bees to pollinate crops and pastures,
supermarket shelves would be largely empty of many foodstuffs that Kiwis expect
to pile into grocery trolleys during their weekly shop.”

Some uses of the chemical had been banned in Italy, Germany and France, and
Mr Foster said it was time for the Environmental Risk Management Authority to
consider reassessing its use.

“If bees are responsible for $4 billion of New Zealand’s economy, and we
allow bee death rates to reach levels found in other parts of the world, we’re
essentially playing Russian roulette with some of the biggest industries on
which this country relies.”

Mr Paul said the association was surveying members to try to get an estimate
of bee losses.

Recent New Zealand Earthquakes: last 24hrs

This is a list of the latest  New Zealand earthquakes.

Map of New Zealand showing earthquake location.