The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

`Tis the season to be healthy!

It's hard to believe that the holiday season is already upon us. Despite the mall stampedes, fruitcake overload, never-ending traffic jams and hideous reindeer sweaters, I'm looking forward to spending the holiday's with my family. I can almost taste my mother's mince pie and am ready to play backyard soccer and touch football with my daughters and my nieces and nephews.

As you know, this is also a time to give back to those less fortunate. One popular way to do your part is by donating to canned food drives put on by organizations like Food and Friends and Second Harvest Food Bank . There's just one catch: if you plan to donate fish this year, consider donating canned wild salmon, instead of tuna. Salmon is not only lower in mercury but it is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, so it's a healthier choice for mothers and children who may receive your donation. To learn more about canned tuna v. canned wild salmon go here.

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Miami Vice

In September 2005, U.S. prosecutors brought criminal charges against Antonio Vidal Pego and the Uruguayan company, Fadilur, for trying to bring Chilean sea bass into Miami without the proper documentation. Although this case may have lacked the pizzazz necessary to inspire a Law & Order episode, it was, in fact, a very big deal. This indictment was the first ever for the illegal importation and sale of Chilean sea bass and yesterday was another groundbreaker, with the first ever guilty pleas for pirate fishing (coming from Vidal and Fadilur).

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The great (white) debate

A few days ago, I came across this blog, by Doctor Mark Hyman touting the medicinal properties of food. During his recent trip to China, the doctor was "treated" to the "delicacy" shark fin soup which he claims can help ease arthritis and possible fight cancer. Oceana responded to his blog, pointing out that shark fin soup can actually be detrimental to one's health, but I thought many of you would appreciate hearing the full story, as shark finning has been popping up in the news lately.

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15,023 days remain to save our oceans

For those of you that would rather get a root canal the read "Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services," consider this your Cliff's Notes.

This new report appearing in Science yesterday, shows that marine biodiversity loss is increasingly impairing the ocean's ability to provide food, maintain water quality and recover from perturbations. If these trends continue, they estimate that pretty much all the fish will be gone by 2048. In fact, according to the report, a whopping 30% of the world's commercial fisheries are already collapsed.

I'm not the only one that thinks this is a big deal. So does the BBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

But this story could still have a happy ending. The authors make it clear that we have time (but not a lot!) to change course and avoid an irreversible collapse. Their prescription is straightforward--we need to fish less and more carefully. We need to protect the habitat species on the ocean floor from destructive fishing methods like bottom trawls. We also need to make sure that fishermen fish more cleanly, so they don't kill and discard species that they don't want to catch. And we really need to stop paying fishermen to chase down the last fish.

Someone should really advocate for this stuff.

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Don't Let Turtles Go the Way of the Pink Flamingo

The sad news out of Florida is that the iconic pink plastic flamingo, resident of many Florida front lawns since the 1950s, is about to become extinct.

The last flamingo was produced in June, and the parent company is going out of business TODAY -- a mere 7 months before the icons were to celebrate their 50th birthday.

Only days before the flamingo announcement was made, Oceana released a report entitled Net Casualties, showing that the federal government authorizes commercial fishing operations to kill nearly 10,000 sea turtles and harm another 334,000 each year. Net Casualties based its findings on the government's own documents and data, and is the first time that anyone has tallied the number of sea turtles killed by commercial fishing operations each year.

Sea turtles are among the earth's oldest living creatures. They have been swimming the oceans since before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, more than 110 million years ago. While there may be no hope for the famous flamingos, it's not too late to do something for the sea turtles.

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Economics 101: Don't kill whales

Two weeks ago, Iceland announced it would defy the 20-year old worldwide whaling ban and resume its commercial whale hunt. They sure didn't waste any time! Two whales have already been caught, leaving 37 more kills to go.

Iceland claims this decision is all about business, so let's take a look at the business side of what they actually are doing. For those of you who slept through this lesson in high school, I'd like to tell you about a little thing I like to call "economics."

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When bad reports happen to good causes

Conservation groups are fired up about "Seafood Choices: Balancing Benefits and Risks," a new report released on Tuesday, by the Institute of Medicine. The report attempts to undermine government advice by downplaying the risks of mercury in seafood, especially with regard to children and America's number one most heavily consumed fish: tuna. On a completely unrelated note, the panel that wrote the report has multiple ties to the food industry, including the tuna industry ...

>>Read the report (if you don't mind paying $55)

>>Check out Oceana's response

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Take note Wes Craven: Fish are scary too

I've always been a fan of Halloween. Not so much for the costumes, but for the social acceptance of eating massive amounts of sugar for 24 hours and "fright night" marathons. In honor of this freaky holiday, the folks at my organization put together a freaky fish contest. Check it out.

One of my personal favorites is the fangtooth. Believe it or not, this fish is all bark and no bite. Despite its impressive set of choppers, the fangtooth is actually quite small and harmless to humans. But it sure isn't about to win any beauty contests ...

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A Whale of a Problem in Viking Country

The recent decision by Iceland to resume whaling and to blatantly ignore the nearly 2 decade old moratorium established by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is infuriating and puzzling. Iceland's Ministry of Fishing justified its decision by arguing that the "catches are clearly sustainable and therefore consistent with the principle of sustainable development," but conveniently left out the fact that the fin whales that are now on their whaler's list are also on the International Conservation Union's "red list" of endangered species. Within hours of the decision, the first harpooners were off, on their mission of "sustainability" and the first 2 fin whales have already been caught. Iceland's actions make the next IWC meeting all the more important. In the meantime, let's tell Iceland to call the fleet back in.

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Bush does it again!

Last Tuesday, the White House issued a statement calling for a halt to destructive bottom trawling on the high seas and promised that the US would work with other nations and international groups to change fishing practices and create international fishery regulatory groups if needed.

On Oct. 4-5, the United Nations met in NY, to debate banning bottom fishing on the high seas, especially where it's unregulated. The US joined Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa in supporting the moratorium. The UN will likely reach a decision in November.

And the good news doesn't end there. President Bush also called on Congress to pass the Magnuson Stevens Act reauthorization (for you non-fishheads, this is the constitution of ocean conservation). Of course, he neglected to mention what the MSA should include (nobody's perfect).

Fortunately, Oceana is more than happy to fill in the blanks and we'll be working with Congress to make sure deep-sea corals and sponges are protected through the MSA reauthorization.

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