Priorty Projects


Robert Y. George Ph.D., F.L.S.

  I was in Qingdao, China not too long ago and at the top floor of the tall hotel, I was in a rotating restaurant where I was served ‘Shark-Fin Soup’ (SFS). I politely told the waitress, please take this away and as a conservation advocate, I cannot drink SFS.

I was told during my visit to the Oceanographic Center in the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg where my good friend Dr. Bill Hogarth (former chief of US National Marine Fisheries Service) invited me to give a seminar to the faculty and graduate students. I spoke on “Our Declining Marine fisheries in the United States and the world Oceans” and appealed for stopping human cruelty in mass-removal of fins from sharks to ship to China for serving SFS in Chinese restaurants. One of the Chinese postdoctoral fellows in the audience told loud and clear at the Q & A period; “Dr. George, the SAFS is made from grains and not from shark-fins. I told him: “No, it is like elephants in Africa are hunted to remove the ivory tusks and in the same manner, sharks are hunted in the Ocean to chop off the fins to make SFS. This is a sad story.

Poor shark mutilated and swimming finless!!!

Shark fins from slaughtered sharks

Deep-sea great white shark, as the one above, have livers that produce concentrated amounts of the omega-2 oil “squalene”, a lighter-than-water compound that helps it to float. Therefore, these poor sharks are hunted for extracting “squalene” for commercial use! Like the fins, this omega-2 oil threatens this species.

Forty years ago Stephen Spielberg released ‘JAWS’ that became a box-office success. Jaws had a mechanical shark but its impact stems from not from the suspense but from the fierce scenes when the monster shark attacks human victims. We heard about the sharks attacks in the beaches of western Australia and also in the beaches of the outer bank of North Carolina. Should swimmers o to sea with a riffle and kill these powerful predators? Or is the ocean the home of the sharks? These questions are debated today!

For years omega-2 squalene has been harvested from the deep-sea shark livers because of its health properties and commercial significance. Now a North Carolina Biotechnology Center and SynShark (located in College Station, Texas) have discovered that you cam extract the same omega-2 squalne from tobacco that grows abundantly in the rural areas of the Tar Heel state. In May 2015 SynShark’s production of squalene grown in tobacco plants won the $ 10,000 first prize from the third annual North Carolina Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase!

Squalene is one of our natural defense against free radicals such as UV, and extremely healthy for us to use internally or topically, according to SynShark director Jason Ornstein. Squalene, lighter than water, makes the sharks to float. More than 3 million sharks are killed each year for the contents of their liver. After removing the liver, the shark carcasses were discarded at sea. Let us divert our efforts to extract squlalne from tobacco in North Carolina farms rather than mercilessly slaughtering the poor sharks! This, in essence, is the message of this newsletter.


Author: Dr Robert George





Threat to Marine Life in Northeast Pacific Ocean

By Prof. Robert Y. George
CEO & President , George Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability

   As a postdoctoral research scholar at Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington, (1965) I was intrigued by the colorful sea stars and vast variety of colorful marine invertebrates along the coast of San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. I worked with Swedish scientist Dr. Jarle-Ove Stromberg, and we both discovered numerous new species of isopod crustaceans (George and Stromberg, 1968). I was also amazed at the abundance of coho and chipnook salmons in the waters off Washington coast.

     The northeast Pacific Ocean is known well for the Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO) when there is a flipping of cold water to warm water phase. Dr. Billie J. Swalla, Director of the Friday Harbor Laboratories, will serve with me on the proposed SCOR WG on Ocean Acidification (SEAFOAM) and we both, along with other international oceanographers, are deeply concerned about the threats that we are now facing globally with increasing oceanic CO2/decreasing carbonate saturation state and increasing water temperature. Several years ago, I coauthored a paper with Dr. John Guinotte of Marine Conservation Institute in Seattle and published a paper in ‘Frontiers in Ecology & Environment Vol 4(1): 141-146, (Guinotte et al, 2006) to prove that aragonite-shelled scleractian corals disappeared off Washington coast due to ASH phenomenon that occurred over thousands of years and wiped out hard coral species offshore along the Washington coast. Now in 2015 we have another huge threat to coastal marine life, as Dr. Swalla wrote to me in an e-mail about the so-called BLOB posing a huge problem for marine life Let us first understand the BLOB.

     In the autumn of 2013, Dr. Nicholas Bond of the Washington State Climatologic Office in their monthly newsletter reported the BLOB as a large body of water about 500 miles wide and 91 m deep off Washington coast in the Northeast Pacific. By 2015 this BLOB grew to 1000 miles wide and 91 m deep. Quite frankly, the warm water mass extends about 2000 miles from Mexico coast to Alaskan coast, as huge disjunct patches offshore as if these master-water masses came as a curse!.

        There are different theories for the origin and growth of the BLOBS. It is possibly produced as a consequence of relatively lower heat loss to atmosphere. This phenomenon can be related to reduced surface current and circulation.  There appears to be a prolonged high-pressure regime off the coast of US west coast.  These ocean processes lead to the lack of wind-formed currents. When I attended the 2nd Large Marine Ecosystems Conference in Qindao in China as a US NOAA delegate on September 11-14, 2007, I heard Dr. Kenneth Sherman of NOAA speaking on the impacts of climate-induced warming on biological productivity in the LMEs, including the Northeast Pacific LME where the ‘Pacific Decadal Oscillation’ (PDO) is very pronounced. Perhaps what we witness today with the BLOB is the commencement of a gearshift from cold to warm decadal phase. We need to superimpose on this phenomenon the so-called El-Nino event and its global impacts.

         NASA climatologic Dr. William Patzert tends to think that the BLOB is directly linked to “Global Warming.” However, Scripps oceanographer Dr. Dan Cayan attribute this warming as still unexplainable but the biological consequences are already apparent. Evidently, planktonic communities are stressed and the food for salmon is disappearing. Off California coast Sea lions are suffering from lack of food. Off Oregon coast, Casson’s Auklets are also affected due to inadequate food availability. I recall photographing large squids off Peru and these species are showing up off California. Warm water thresher sharks Alopias sp. And Sunfish Mola mola are extending their northern zoogeographic boundary northward by more than 200 or more miles. Tropical skipper jack Tuna Katsuwonus petanus show off Copper River, Alaska Blob is undoubtedly disrupting the food web! BLOB as a result of PDO is a “double edged sword along with OA (Ocean Acdification) resulting from upwellings on US west coast (not East Coast where upwellings do not occur).

       I am sharing this new information with fellow members of the proposed SEAFOAM WG OF SCOR and other oceanographic colleagues since we will discuss these in relation to OA threats both in the upcoming 14th DSBS (August 30 to Sept. 4, 2015) in Portugal and the 3rd Ocean in High Carbon World Conference in Hobart (May, 2-7, 2016)

Bond, Nicholas et al. 2015. Causes and Impacts of  the 2014 Warm Anamoly off NE Pacific. DOI 10.1002/2015.GLO 63306

Author: Dr Robert George


2. The first and foremost priority project of GIBS revolves around faith-based collaborative work with Pastor Dr. Dwayne Milioni, Lead Pastor of Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina to promote to the glory of God christian stewardship of Falls Lake, Neuse River, and Pamlico-Albermarle Sounds both in the Inner Banks and Outer Banks of North Carolina, involving the church communities and their pastors. The goal here is to make the church a "stake-holder" in the decision-making of the NC government and legislature by holding workshops and symposia.

3. Deep-Sea Coral Reefs Project (DESCOR): GIBS has an ongoing research project for conservation and protection of deep-coral reefs on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean, with research on Lophelia reefs on Blake Plateau off US Southeastern coast and Lophelia reefs in the Archipelago south of Norway in Skagerrak in the Northeastern Atlantic Ocean. Research on Blake Plateau deep-sea coral reefs is done in collaboration with John Reed of Harbor Branch Oceanography Institute and research on Scandinavian Lophelia reefs is done in the summers in collaboration with Tomas Lundalv of the Tjarnoe Marine Biology Laboratories in Sweden.

4. Presently GIBS is developing projects with US National Science foundation for conduction research on marine acid rains and its impact on growth and calcification.

5. In addition, with Prof. Bruce Little, Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for faith and Culture of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina we seek to promote christian stewardship of ecosystems (public parks, lakes, etc) in land, river, coast, and ocean that are currently abused by human exploitations. GIBS is taking seriously the written appeals in books by Christian scientists like Dr. Francis Collins, Harvard conservation scientist Edward O. Wilson, late theologian Francis Schaffer and late biology professors Dixy Lee Ray (my former mentor at the University of Washington) an late Prof. Garrett Hardin who wrote the famous appeal in an article in SCIENCE on the "Tragedy of Commons."