The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

Protect Our Sharks, Protect Our Oceans

Humans kill something like 100 million sharks annually.  More humans are killed annually by dogs and by falling coconuts than are killed by sharks.  At such levels, humanity will certainly survive its encounter with dogs and coconuts.  The same cannot be confidently said of sharks and people.  

The U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act is, unfortunately, another law whose name overpromises.  The law carries a loophole that makes enforcement difficult.  Sharks are allowed to be landed after their fins have been cut off.  It's time to shut down that loophole and require that fishing companies prove that they are only killing the legal number and types of sharks for their fins by landing the creatures fully intact.

Sharks help to maintain an essential balance beneath the water's surface. Removing them from the ocean creates booms in prey species further down the food chain which in turn can create terribly destructive cascading effects on countless ocean creatures.

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One Small Step for Oceana, One Giant Leap for the Environment

Five down, four to go. ...

We told you a few months back about a meeting the Chlorine Institute held in which top-level executives discussed how best to deal with Oceana, since we'd been pressuring a number of chlorine-alkali plants to invest in mercury-free technology.

As it turns out, the best way to handle a tenacious conservation organization is to simply take their advice. Take ERCO Worldwide, for example, the most recent to announce it'll make the switch to mercury-free technology.

The largest mercury polluter in Wisconsin has agreed to convert to modern mercury-free technology, another big step in the effort to transition all chlorine-alkali factories to 21st century standards.

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Too Many Boats Fishing For Too Few Fish

Here's a remarkable fact: Global fishery collapse is being financed with tax money.

You already know that many nations are failing to enforce the laws that are essential to keeping our oceans healthy and abundant forever. Instead, they are presiding over a global ocean collapse. According to a report in Science, 29 percent of the world's commercial fisheries have already collapsed.

This is terrible news for the billion people who turn to the ocean for protein, the hundreds of millions of people who need the sea for a livelihood and the countless extraordinary marine creatures that don't deserve to go the way of the buffalo.

What you will be surprised to learn is that massive over-capacity in the world's fishing fleet is being paid for by taxes. A study by the University of British Columbia recently revealed that $30 to $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies are paid to the commercial fishing industry worldwide - $20 billion of which directly promotes the increase of fishing capacity. And the value of the world's catch at dockside is only $80 to $90 billion.

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News Bite: Shark Week on Discovery Channel

Did you know you're more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark bite? It's true.

Sharks kill an average of five people, annually, which is unfortunate to say the least. But when you think about the tens of millions of sharks that are killed each year for their fins, meat, liver oil, and hides, it's easy to see people are a bigger threat to sharks than sharks are to people.

All this week the Discovery Channel will broadcast special programming about these misunderstood masters of the underwater universe.  Some of the footage is extraordinarily compelling.   Viewers should remember that sharks need more protection from humans than the reverse.  

At Oceana, we're working so hard to help boost shark populations and prevent over-fishing.

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Cleaning It Up and Taking it to the Bank

Hot off the presses are new findings that show it's actually cheaper for chlorine plants to make their product using mercury-free technology.

Oceana says so in the most extensive report to date focusing on the conversion of mercury-cell chlorine factories to more environmentally and economically sound mercury-free technology.

What's more, the findings have prompted Sen. Barack Obama (D - Ill.) to re-introduce legislation that requires chlorine and caustic soda manufacturing plants to switch to mercury-free technology by 2012.

It's good to see politicians recognizing the need for this type of legislation. Shifting not only benefits the environment and our health, it benefits to the company pocketbooks, too - and that's the bottom line.

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Ranger crew encounters jellyfish swarm

Oceana divers documenting the state of ecolog

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Gillnetters Get the Boot

Endangered leatherback sea turtles migrating from an Indonesian beach to feed on jellyfish off the Pacific coast have one less obstacle to overcome.

NOAA has denied issuance of the special exempted fishing permit required for gillnet boats to operate in an area of coast stretching from Central California to Central Oregon, during the time critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are feeding there.

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Want some peanut butter with that jellyfish?

Just in time for the summer vacation season, the jellies are back, and their numbers are as big as ever.

Researchers aboard Oceana's Ranger have already spotted flocks of these slimy, easy going invertebrates drifting with the currents. A lack of coastal rain water running into the ocean has eliminated the usual buffer that keeps jellies away from swimming beaches.

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Frozen in Their Footprints

It's official - and unanimous. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to protect from bottom trawling some 180,000 square miles of previously unexploited ocean floor in the Bering Sea, particularly in the North.

The area is home to 26 species of marine mammals, including whales and walruses, as well as 450 species of fish and million of seabirds that flock to region from all seven continents.

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The Real McCoy

Playing hard-nosed Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, actor Sam Waterston has thrown the book at the bad guys for years on TV's Law & Order.

Bad guys on boats and beaches better watch out now, too, because Waterston recently joined Oceana's Ocean Council, a panel of academic, business and philanthropic leaders who represent and support Oceana's efforts on the global stage. Also on the Ocean Council are actors Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammar.

We are very grateful for Sam's help. He gets it. He has closely followed the drumbeat of scientific reports about the rapid depletion of life in our oceans. Everyone recognizes and trusts him. He will be a huge help in the fight to bring the world's oceans back from the brink of irreversible collapse.

As big a fans as we are of Jack McCoy and Waterston, it turns out Sam is also a big fan of us: "The time to act is now, which is why I'm very happy to be working with an organization as effective as Oceana."

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