Marine Biologist Prof. Callum Roberts explains the cost of dredging on the fragile marine environment of the Reef and the importance of looking after it for future generations.
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Consumers Can Take Action & U.S. Can Protect Endangered Marine Mammals by Cracking Down on Foreign Fisheries Supplying Some of America’s Favorite Wild-Caught Seafood Like Shrimp, Tuna, Crab, Lobster, and Salmon.
LOS ANGELES (January 7, 2014) – In order to put wild-caught seafood on dinner tables, more than 650,000 marine mammals are killed or seriously injured every year in foreign fisheries after being hooked, entangled or trapped in fishing gear, and enforcement of a U.S. law to protect marine mammals could help prevent tens of thousands of these deaths, according to a new report issued today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries finds that 91% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported and nearly every foreign fish product sold in the U.S. violates a federal marine mammal protection law. The wild-caught seafood most enjoyed by Americans – shrimp, tuna, crab, lobster, and salmon – present a particularly significant risk to marine mammals due to the dangerous fishing practices associated with them abroad. Until the U.S. enforces the law, which requires importing countries to prove they are meeting American standards, consumers can play a role in protecting whales, dolphins and sea lions by choosing American-caught seafood.
“No one wants their shrimp cocktail to come with a side of dolphin, but that’s essentially what’s happening when we eat imported fish that isn’t held to the same standard as American seafood,” said Zak Smith, attorney with NRDC and co-author of the report. “For 40 years, federal watchdogs have failed to enforce a law that could save thousands of whales and dolphins from negligent foreign fishing practices. At the same time, well-meaning U.S. fishermen are being undermined by their own government, which holds them accountable, but not their foreign counterparts.”
This report examines the failure of the U.S. government to enforce protections under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires countries exporting fish products to prove the fish were not caught in violation of U.S. standards that limit serious injury and death of marine mammals. It identifies the primary species and populations at risk of extinction that would be helped by enforcement of the U.S. import protections law, the key fishing practices that endanger marine mammals, and regions of the world where bycatch is a critical concern. The unintentional capture of animals in fishing gear, or bycatch, is pushing some marine mammal populations to the brink of extinction.
Species most affected by seafood exports for American markets:
· North Atlantic right whale: at risk from Canada’s lobster and crabbing practices
· New Zealand sea lion: at risk from New Zealand’s squid industry
· Mediterranean sperm whale: at risk from Italy & Turkey’s lack of enforcement
· Vaquita: at risk from shrimp fisheries not complying with Mexico’s regulations
· Spinner dolphins: at risk from India and Sri Lanka’s tuna industry
· Baltic and Black Sea harbor porpoises: at risk from inadequate regulatory measures
· J-Stock minke whale: at risk from a range of Japanese and South Korean fishing practices
· False killer whale: at risk from Pacific Ocean tuna, swordfish and marlin fishing practices
“Bycatch isn’t just a moral issue, it’s simple economics,” said Acy Cooper, vice president of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association. “Foreign fishing companies can undercut our prices because they don’t have to invest in ensuring that their exports to the U.S. were caught in a manner that protects marine mammals. Until foreign fleets see real consequences for failing to abide by the law, marine mammals will continue to be harmed around the world and American fishermen will be disadvantaged.”
The key types of fishing gear that threaten marine mammals around the world include:
· Gillnets: mesh nets that can be set on the sea floor or floated in the water column depending on the targeted species. Marine mammals that dive for food around gillnets tend to become entangled and drown when they are unable to surface for air.
· Purse seines: nets that hang vertically in the water column using weights at the bottom and buoys at the top. They can enclose marine mammals in the nets, along with fish.
· Trawls: funnel-
· Bottom-set traps: (commonly called “pots”) crustacean traps with ropes that connect them to surface buoys and to one another. Large whales are particularly prone to getting entangled in the ropes, which wrap around their bodies, making it difficult for them to move or feed.
· Longlines: baited hooks on lines varying in length from 15 to 100 kilometers set with floating buoys or sunk with weights depending on the targeted species. Sea lions, fur seals, toothed whales, and other marine mammals can get caught on the hooks or tangled in the lines.
However, there are smart and targeted methods that can be employed to reduce risk and harm to marine mammals from dangerous gear, including time and area exclusions, warning systems, and gear modifications that make escaping entanglement more likely. An aggressive, science-based plan adopted by the U.S. in 1994 has reduced marine mammal bycatch bynearly 30% over 20 years and put special measures in place to save populations at highest risk.
“In many parts of the world, poor fishing practices are driving populations and species of marine mammals to extinction,” said Dr. Andrew J. Read, Stephen Toth Professor of Marine Biology, Division of Marine Science & Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. “We have lost one species already and several others are in imminent danger. Most Americans would be shocked to learn of the hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, and porpoises killed each year in bringing wild seafood to our tables.”
For other countries to take action, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the federal agency with jurisdiction over the interpretation and enforcement of the MMPA, needs to hold other nations to the same bycatch standards. These include requiring all imported fish or fish products be accompanied by information on the status of affected marine mammal populations, proof that protective measures were utilized, and proof that fisheries were monitored for their compliance and are working towards a goal of zero marine mammal deaths. In response to petitions and comments filed years ago by NRDC and other environmental groups, the administration began preparing regulations to enforce the law, but has not released them.
Until the U.S. enforces the law, consumers can also play a role in protecting marine mammals by purchasing American-caught seafood that abides by U.S. safety standards. It is critical to identify wild-caught seafood as American, due to the significant threat posed to marine mammals by imported shrimp, tuna, crab, lobster, and salmon. Federal law requires seafood be clearly marked with the country of origin, but consumers should also ask the retailer, restaurant and producer for more information about where the fish was caught.
“It is time to enforce our laws protecting the world’s marine mammals,” said Smith. “American consumers and fishers as well as some of the world’s most unique and captivating creatures deserve no less. Fortunately, after years of neglect, the federal government is developing rules to enforce the provision. We need to hold them to it.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
By RYAN MILLS. www.naplesnews.com January 11, 2014 Former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham is part of an American contingent traveling to Cuba on Monday to explore the communist nation’s oil drilling plans.
Graham, the keynote speaker at the Everglades Coalition conference at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club on Saturday evening, said he will be joining about a dozen others, including prominent offshore oil industry experts, for the trip, which is being coordinated by the Council on Foreign Relations.
At least four exploratory wells drilled off Cuba’s northern shore over the last two years have come up dry, but the island nation’s goal is to attain energy self-sufficiency by tapping into the 4.6 billion to 9.3 billion barrels of oil believed to be offshore.
Sea level rise is a critical issue for Florida residents to pay attention to. The magnitude of its impacts on the state seem overwhelming if considered all at once, however, with a proper understanding of the issue and the ability to proactively plan, there is a great deal we can do to mitigate worst-case scenarios. We recently ran a blog series on sea level rise, which presented lots of helpful information, so I want to take the opportunity to distill some of the key concepts into a quick guide to sea level rise in Florida.
Let’s start with a few facts to illustrate why it is so important to take this issue seriously:
With just 9 inches of sea level rise, which is likely to happen by 2050, Southeast Florida could lose up to 70% of its gravity-powered stormwater drainage capacity. That means when it rains, communities will flood, even many miles away from the coast.
It is estimated that inundation of real estate and infrastructure from sea level rise may have an impact of $3.5 trillion dollars in damages in Miami alone by 2070.
According to estimates by city and county officials, with just 3 feet of sea level rise, 19 schools, 10 hospitals, 9 airports, 8 power plants, 2 ports, 8 water treatment plants, 4 landfills, and 6 emergency shelters would be inundated in just the four southeastern-most Florida counties.
The issue of sea level rise has inspired artists to visually and dramatically illustrate what the impacts of rising seas will mean for coastal communities – particularly in vulnerable cities like Miami and New York City.
Posted: 08 Jan 2014 09:05 AM PST
“On the heels of recent state and Congressional hearings on the dangerously poor water quality in our state, it is imperative that citizens contact all of their elected leaders right now, including President Obama, urging them to set numeric nutrient water quality standards for all flowing waters in Florida to control pollution at its source,” said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy of Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “This ruling, if not challenged, will reinforce the status quo of allowing too much pollution into our waterways, damaging our tourism- based economy and expecting taxpayers to pick of the tab for massively expensive clean-up projects.”
Ongoing greenhouse gas emissions can modify climate processes and induce shifts in ocean temperature, pH, oxygen concentration, and productivity, which in turn could alter biological and social systems. Here, we provide a synoptic global assessment of the simultaneous changes in future ocean biogeochemical variables over marine biota and their broader implications for people. We analyzed modern Earth System Models forced by greenhouse gas concentration pathways until 2100 and showed that the entire world's ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. In contrast, only a small fraction of the world's ocean surface, mostly in polar regions, will experience increased oxygenation and productivity, while almost nowhere will there be ocean cooling or pH elevation. We compiled the global distribution of 32 marine habitats and biodiversity hotspots and found that they would all experience simultaneous exposure to changes in multiple biogeochemical variables. This superposition highlights the high risk for synergistic ecosystem responses, the suite of physiological adaptations needed to cope with future climate change, and the potential for reorganization of global biodiversity patterns. If co-occurring biogeochemical changes influence the delivery of ocean goods and services, then they could also have a considerable effect on human welfare. Approximately 470 to 870 million of the poorest people in the world rely heavily on the ocean for food, jobs, and revenues and live in countries that will be most affected by simultaneous changes in ocean biogeochemistry. These results highlight the high risk of degradation of marine ecosystems and associated human hardship expected in a future following current trends in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change caused by human activity could damage biological and social systems. Here we gathered climate, biological, and socioeconomic data to describe some of the events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by ongoing greenhouse gas emissions could cascade through marine habitats and organisms, eventually influencing humans. Our results suggest that the entire world's ocean surface will be simultaneously impacted by varying intensities of ocean warming, acidification, oxygen depletion, or shortfalls in productivity. Only a very small fraction of the oceans, mostly in polar regions, will face the opposing effects of increases in oxygen or productivity, and almost nowhere will there be cooling or pH increase. The biological responses to such biogeochemical changes could be considerable since marine habitats and hotspots for several marine taxa will be simultaneously exposed to biogeochemical changes known to be deleterious. The social ramifications are also likely to be massive and challenging as some 470 to 870 million people – who can least afford dramatic changes to their livelihoods – live in areas where ocean goods and services could be compromised by substantial changes in ocean biogeochemistry. These results underline the need for urgent mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions if degradation of marine ecosystems and associated human hardship are to be prevented.
Congratulations to Celia and Todd Hitchins the winners of the Costa Rica Stay Raffle! Thanks to the Lazy Gecko for hosting Reef Relief's Holiday Raffle and thanks to the Pilates Studio of Key West, Marlene Koening, Key West Golf Course, Mimi Stafford, Tyler Oliver, Fury Water Adventures, Island Guitar, the Studios of Key West, Sebago Watersports and Michael's Restaurant. Special thanks to Dr. James Ong & Family for donating the stay at beautiful Casa Wasabi. Thanks everyone for support our work at Reef Relief!