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Couple Build Eco Resort to Protect and Conserve Marine Life

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Hidden deep within an archipelago of uninhabited islands in Indonesia lies a resort that combines private enterprise with conservation. Misool Eco Resort is a special kind of paradise, doubling as a luxurious beach getaway and a marine reserve that’s home to one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

The featured documentary, “The Last Resort,” tells the story of how Andrew and Marit Miner succeeded in building an eco-diving resort designed to halt destructive fishing practices and protect and preserve marine life.

The resort is surrounded by a large “No Take Zone” that prohibits fishing and the collection and removal of marine life, including marine invertebrates such as sea cucumbers and tortoise shells and eggs. The desire to build an eco-diving resort began when the Miners first visited Batbitim island, located in southern Raja Ampat, Indonesia, on their third date.

The couple were captivated by the island’s natural beauty, but their admiration turned to horror when they discovered the remnants of an abandoned shark finning camp. The bodies of dead sharks, brutally killed for their fins, littered the beach’s shallow waters.

Disturbed by what they saw, the couple embarked on a mission to transform the area, once terrorized by shark finning and dynamite fishing — practices that destroy fragile reef systems and deplete local food supplies — into an eco-resort and center for marine conservation.

The resort is different from other so-called “eco-resorts,” as it’s not just “eco” in the sense of greenwashing, notes Andrew in the film. The concept of Misool Eco Resort is not just about generating profit, it’s about protecting the environment and the principles of conservation.

Misool Eco Resort Connects People With Nature

Andrew believes that humans are interconnected with nature, even at times when we often feel detached.

“It’s the environment around us that nurtures us. We’re completely linked to it. We sort of feel, as humans, that we’re more detached from the environment but it’s a fallacy, we’re not. The more you learn about the marine environment or the land environment, the more you realize that actually we’re completely linked to it.

For me it was never an option to just build a resort. For me, it had to be a result that protected and nourished and nurtured the environment, because I don’t see another way. That’s just the way to do it.”

In the film, Andrew discusses some of the great challenges in bringing his dream to fruition. Raising the money to build the resort was the hardest part, he says. The couple had no experience or education in conservation, architecture, construction or small island politics, and no money for what expanded into a much bigger project than anticipated. But they did have heart, energy and a lot of enthusiasm.

Eventually, the couple were able to find investors who shared their vision and passion for marine conservation, leading to the development of “a private island resort that would leverage pristine reefs as its central asset, and ultimately become the funding vehicle for the conservation work that urgently needed to be done.”1

Construction began in 2005 and lasted for about two and a half years before the resort opened its doors in 2008. Incredibly, not a single tree was cut down to build the resort. Misool Eco Resort was built entirely with reclaimed wood, using driftwood that had washed up on the island’s beaches. “We cleaned the beaches, and we had perfect wood,” said Thorben Niemann, a German carpenter who helped the Miners build the resort.

The couple slowly built up investment all the way through the building period, which meant they never had a reserve of money, and therefore couldn’t stock up on the things they needed. They had to build as the money came in. “It made for a difficult way to build and was very stressful,” says Andrew, adding that it meant sleeping underneath plastic tarps, subsisting on soggy rice and eggs, and occasionally breaking out in boils from malnutrition.

Another major challenge the couple faced was the island’s limited supply of fresh water. Batbitim island did not have a well or river, which meant they had to fetch water from a nearby island and transport it back to the build site. This was a tedious task that resulted in having little water for personal use for things like cooking and showering.

The Resort’s Most Important Feature Is Its ‘No Take Zone’

Since its opening, Misool Eco Resort has “welcomed a diverse array of visitors, from conservationists and nature nerds to weary city folk looking to get away from it all, snorkeling enthusiasts, devoted kayak and paddle boarders, celebrities in search of a hash tag-free oasis, parents looking to bring their kids to a gorgeous, safe series of beaches and lagoons, and scuba divers in search of the perfect reef,” according to its website.

One of the most important aspects of the resort is its “No Take Zone.” Andrew worked with the local community in the early stages of development to negotiate a no-fishing zone around the island. After witnessing firsthand the damage caused by shark finning, the Miners understood the No Take Zone would be key in bringing their vision to life.

The No Take Zone initially negotiated by Andrew stretched 425 square kilometers, or 164 square miles, around the island and several nearby islands.

However, Andrew realized the No Take Zone needed to be extended after he went diving in a group of islands called the Daram Islands, about 25 miles east of Batbitim, and discovered several large shark finning camps and witnessed fisherman mutilating live turtles for shark bait. He also found unexploded bombs on the island, indicating that fisherman had been practicing dynamite or blast fishing.

Dynamite Fishing

Dynamite fishing is incredibly destructive as it involves the use of explosives to kill or stun fish. This method destroys the fish and shatters all of the coral in the area, leaving behind a lifeless dead zone. According to Reef Resilience Network:2

“Because blast fishing is limited to shallower parts of the reef, these vulnerable zones can be reduced to rubble by repeated blasts, making recovery difficult or impossible and destroying large sections of reef.”

No one likes dynamite fishing, says Andrew, adding that blasting an entire area may permanently destroy its productivity, eliminating future harvests for local islanders. According to The New York Times:3

“Dynamite fishing destroys both the food chain and the corals where the fish nest and grow. Blast fishing kills the entire food chain, including plankton, fish both large and small, and the juveniles that do not grow old enough to spawn. Without healthy corals, the ecosystem and the fish that live within it begin to die off.”

Dynamite fishing is so destructive that global fish supplies could be significantly decimated in the coming decades, scientists warn. The practice is so prevalent in the Philippines that the average daily catch has declined from 45 pounds in 1970 to 4.5 pounds in the year 2000, according to a report by the Philippine national statistics board.

Shark Finning

Sadly, more than 100 million sharks are killed each year worldwide for their fins,4 which are sold for shark fin soup, a delicacy that costs up to a $100 per bowl and is considered a symbol of wealth and status in cities such as Tokyo. The fins are the only part of the shark that has commercial value. As a result, hundreds of shark bodies are discarded around shark finning camps. According to the Smithsonian Institution:

“Many fishermen prefer to practice shark finning instead of bringing whole sharks to the market because the fins are far more valuable than the rest of the body, sometimes selling for as much as $500 a pound ($1,100 a kilogram).

Instead, fishermen choose to keep just the shark fins — only 1 to 5 percent of a shark’s weight — and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat.

The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive, where they do not die peacefully: Unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.”

Aside from being incredibly cruel and inhumane, shark finning puts sharks at risk for extinction due to their slow growth and low reproduction rates, which makes it difficult for sharks to replenish their populations as quickly as they are being diminished. Scientists estimate that shark populations have decreased by 60 to 70 percent due to shark fishing by humans.

Misool Eco Resort Extends Its No Take Zone to an Area Twice the Size of Singapore

Intent on eliminating shark finning camps and dynamite fishing occurring on nearby islands, the Miners worked closely with native islanders and community leaders to extend the No Take Zone, creating a protected area 1,220 square kilometers, or 471 square miles, in size, equivalent to an area twice the size of Singapore.

The extension of the No Take Zone was endorsed by the Bupati of Raja Ampat and ratified by the area’s community leaders. The Walton Family Foundation and Wild Aid donated $200,000 to fund the first year’s startup costs and operation of the Daram patrol, according to the film.

In order to protect the No Take Zone, Misool Eco Resort employs local islanders to patrol the area and look for fisherman invading the zone. The resort works closely with the local community’s traditional system to deal with violators.

If it’s someone from the local community who’s fishing, the resort patrol makes a report and hands it over the island’s traditional leader, who deals with the fisherman through their own traditional village sanctions.

It wasn’t difficult to convince the island’s older generation to support the No Take Zone, says Andrew, adding that they understand that if you close off an area for fishing for a certain period of time, there are more fish when you reopen it. The locals say fishing used to be good, but has declined over time.

One of the locals who helps patrol the No Take Zone says fisherman used to ask him why he was stopping them from fishing there, but after two years of patrolling, they see that the harvest in Batbitim has greatly improved. “We aren’t anti-fishing; we’re protecting the resource for local fisherman and the community,” says Andrew.

The No Take Zone also prevents outsiders from coming in and stealing the native islanders’ harvest. If it weren’t for Misool Eco Resort, there may not be a future harvest, said one of the locals in the film.

Raja Ampat Is the Epicenter of Earth’s Marine Biodiversity

The film also features Mark Erdmann, Ph.D., a senior adviser to Conservation International’s Indonesian Marine Program,5 who helps manage six marine parks. Over the last decade, scientists have shown that Raja Ampat is the epicenter of marine biodiversity for the planet, and is home to more species of coral, fish, crustaceans and snail than anywhere else in the world.

Thanks to the area’s conservation efforts, fish populations have bounced back and are thriving, especially the sharks, as it’s now illegal to fish for sharks in Raja Ampat.

The bay of Missol Eco Resort, once home to a shark finning camp, is now a breeding group for blacktip sharks and home to over 30 juveniles. Remarkably, two dozen new species of fish have been discovered here in the last five years. It’s essentially a species factory, says Erdmann, adding that over time it will disperse outward.

Raja Ampat’s network of seven marine protected areas, which together protect 1.2 million hectares (close to 3 million acres) of the most biodiverse reefs on the planet, are the first such network in Indonesia, and the largest network of marine protected areas in Southeast Asia. According to Erdmann:

“Another reason Raja Ampat is really important is that it has a very low human population density overall, still relatively intact reefs, and the community here actually own these reefs, which is a unique situation on the planet that allows us to do some very interesting things conservation-wise.

We’re working with these communities to set these reefs aside, much like Misool Eco Resort has done, and in doing that you are actually creating a model that could potentially be applied to the rest of the planet, where people typically look at the ocean as a commons, where you can do whatever you want.

If we can get it right here where people actually own the reefs, that theoretically could inform the way we manage the oceans in the rest of the world.”

Tourism Helps Fund Eco Conservation Efforts

Marine tourism in Raja Ampat has been growing at a rate of 30 to 45 percent in the past five years, notes the film. As a marine protected area, tourists are charged a fee to enter. In 2010, this generated $230,000 for conservation and community programs, the latter of which is another major focus on Misool Eco Resort.

In the film, Andrew makes it clear that he’s aware he has never been anything more than a guest on Batbitim island, which is why he allocates resort and tourism profits to support community-led projects, such as job training and new employment opportunities designed to help former shark finners and illegal fisherman transition into fruitful careers centered on conservation.

Batbitim island has five teachers, three of which are funded by Misool Eco Resort. The resort also launched a floating library that visits three nearby schools and supplies local children with books on conservation.

Misool Eco Resort has an orchard on the island where it grows some of its own food, including bananas and papayas, and raises chickens. It also has wastewater gardens that naturally filter waste.

The resort buys all of its fish from local fisherman who sell their catch from small canoes. The resort avoids buying reef fish (due to the species’ threatened status) and instead buys only blue water fish such as tuna and mackerel.

Balancing the demands of investors and conservation is no easy task, says Andrew. Some of the investors disagree with the amount of money spent on patrolling the resort’s No Take Zone, as they think it should go toward the business side of things.

“It’s a nightmare sometimes,” says Andrew, adding that unless you live and work here, you have no idea how difficult it is to preserve and protect the No Take Zone. “We constantly have to convince people it’s worth putting money into.”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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