The Beacon: Emily Fisher's blog
Three-quarters of the highly migratory sharks that are caught in the Atlantic are classified as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but less than 1 percent are protected from overfishing by the organization that’s charged with that task.
That sad statistic is according to a new report we released today coinciding with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Although ICCAT is in charge of shark conservation in the Atlantic’s international waters, Oceana’s new report shows that the organization is not doing enough.
Oceana scientists are present at the ICCAT meeting this week, and they are calling on the 48 countries that fish in the Atlantic to adopt greater measures to protect these vulnerable sharks from going extinct.
Some sharks, like tunas, travel long distances across the oceans, so their populations can’t be effectively managed by any one country. Most shark species in the Atlantic are vulnerable to overfishing because of their exceptionally low reproductive rates. Currently, ICCAT only has protections in place for a few species including hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, although many other sharks are threatened with extinction, including porbeagle, silky, shortfin mako and blue sharks.
And as you know, sharks keep the ocean ecosystem in balance. When sharks disappear, the implications for the entire ocean food chain are dire. Here’s hoping that ICCAT takes further action this time around to protect the Atlantic’s top predators.
Cheyne Oglesby spends his days as a model with Ford Models, and we met him at Nautica’s Fashion Week presentation this fall. But when he’s not in front of the camera, he loves to be in the water – preferably surfing.
I asked him a few questions about his love for the oceans:
Tell me about your connection to the oceans.
CO: The ocean has always played an important role in my life. I feel like the ocean gives me sanity. My parents put me in the water at an early age and I've always loved it.
You travel a lot for photo shoots -- do you get to take time off in cool spots to surf?
CO: Whenever I'm fortunate enough to shoot at a location with surf, I try to take full advantage, usually by staying as long as possible when the job is over. Canary Islands were amazing! Beautiful black sand beaches, and dust blowing in the afternoon from the Sahara Desert, WILD!
What’s your favorite place to surf and why?
CO: My favorite coastal place to surf is a two-way tie between Hawaii and Australia. Hawaii has so many different breaks and the water is always warm, which I love, and Australia is just amazing all the way around, great breaks, amazing people and fun nightlife.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen out on the water?
CO: I would have to say the coolest thing I've seen/experienced in the water is sharing waves with dolphins. I love dolphins -- they are the best "surfers" in the world.
What about the saddest?
CO: It's really sad to see the beaches closed after a storm, due to storm drains over filling and run-off. I've found some pretty unsavory things on the beach like needles, garbage and plastics.
Do you have a particular ocean conservation issue you are passionate about? Why do you think it’s important to protect the oceans?
CO: I'm really concerned about the amount of plastic that's in the ocean, it's not just plastic you can see, it's also tiny particles that break down and tend to mimic krill and are being consumed by mass quantities of birds and fish. It's messing up the entire ecosystem. We need to protect the ocean not only for ourselves but for future generations to enjoy, the ocean gives life and is vital in the circle of life.
Over the past few months we’ve been reporting how sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico have been drowning in shrimp nets in appalling numbers.
Well, we have an update today – and the news is mixed.
In response to the revelation this summer that hundreds of sea turtles were dying, the government has stepped up its enforcement effort. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), between mid-April, the start of shrimping season, and late October, NOAA’s enforcement officers inspected more than 444 vessels to see if they were equipped with turtle escape hatches (also known as turtle excluder devices, or TEDs).
The verdict? 371 of the boats had TEDs in compliance with the law – leaving 73 of them either without TEDs or with the hatches tied shut or improperly installed.
While we’re happy to hear that NMFS is keeping up with TED enforcement efforts, these new numbers mean that only 83% of the boats are following the rules in place for the Gulf shrimp fishery to protect sea turtles from extinction. And that is simply not good enough.
Learn more about Oceana’s sea turtle campaign and stay tuned!
Ever heard of stand-up paddle boarding? We hadn’t either, until a passionate ocean activist clued us in to this ancient water sport that’s experiencing a revival.
Ocean activist Gina Bradley started Paddle Diva, a stand-up paddle board business in Long Island, New York. Bradley was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions.
Q: What is stand-up paddle boarding?
GB: Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (or SUP) is an ancient form of surfing from the Hawaiian Islands, and in about 2000 it reemerged as a way for people to enjoy oceans, lakes, rivers and bays using a one-bladed paddle and standing on a longer and wider surfboard with a bit more volume.
While it is a wonderful full body work-out for the most athletic to the least, SUP also does wonders for the mind as you paddle through gorgeous scenery, on your own or with a group of friends.
Q: How did you get the idea for Paddle Diva?
GB: I started paddling on my own in 2007 and found SUP to be such a great way to get out on the water and so easy to teach my friends how to do it. It seemed like a sport for woman, but was really marketed to men.
So finally in the summer of 2009, I created Paddle Diva based on the premise that women are completely underserved in the SUP market. Since I was once a fitness instructor, wind-surfing teacher, and PADI certified Scuba Instructor I had a lot of experience working on or above the water. We live on the East End of Long Island, where there are thousands of bays to paddle on and my passion for SUP grew. I knew that SUP for women was a trend that was going to catch on for women and I wanted to be the instrument to make it thrive.
Q: Tell me about your ocean activism.
GB: I have had a very strong connection to the ocean since I was a young girl, spending my summers on the beaches of Long Island and Fire Island. I lived in the Caribbean for five years and after that followed a passion to become a skilled Windsurfer. My passion about the ocean is mostly around keeping the waters clean, of debris, plastic pollutants and oils. I see the direct effects of these pollutants first hand.
Yesterday Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless joined members of Congress and other clean energy advocates in urging an end to oil industry tax breaks and subsidies.
The five biggest oil companies – including Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil -- took in 70 percent more profit this quarter than they did in the same quarter in 2010, and their earnings for 2011 are projected to go up by 74 percent to $132 billion. And yet U.S. policymakers have consistently voted to continue tax breaks and subsidies for these corporations.
In other words, we are essentially paying these companies to take big risks in our oceans. What’s wrong with this picture?
As Sharpless noted, ending these tax breaks will protect vital economic programs for hard working Americans and veterans, while reducing the federal deficit. “Ending giveaways to oil companies is a no-brainer,” Sharpless said. “Oil companies should pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us – they doggone sure have the money.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), one of the speakers at yesterday’s press conference, has been a longtime leader in the fight to close tax loopholes for Big Oil. Just last month, Sen. Menendez led a letter with 13 Senate colleagues to the The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, often called "the Supercommittee," urging consideration of his “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act.” The bill calls for the elimination of more than $21 billion in oil subsidies. The bill received a majority vote in the Senate but did not pass due to a Republican filibuster.
“Isn’t it time we asked Big Oil – the folks who made $100 billion in profits so far this year – to pay their fair share?” Menendez said.
We couldn’t agree more.
The Obama Administration has proposed cutting harmful oil and gas subsidies by $4 billion per year. The President’s proposal would net over $40 billion over 10 years.
We’ll continue the fight to end these harmful subsidies and promote investment in clean energy. Thanks as always for your support and stay tuned! (In the meantime, you can check out more photos from yesterday's presser.)
Hey ocean lovers, the fall issue of our digital magazine is now available! There's lots of fun stuff inside as usual; here are some of the gems this time around:
*A gorgeous video from our expedition in the Baltic Sea this summer
*A slideshow of photos from this year’s Hamptons Splash party – and a catchy tune by the Honey Brothers with Oceana ambassador Adrian Grenier
*Victory! Chile ends shark finning (warning: includes some gruesome footage)
*Stunning underwater video from this year’s expedition in the Mediterranean
*The 2011 Ocean Heroes – shark loving youngster Sophi Bromenshenkel and marine mammal rescuer Peter Wallerstein
Check out the full issue to see the videos, photos and stories, and spread the word!
The crown-of-thorns starfish is named for the brightly-colored spikes that coat its legs. This starfish can grow up to 16 inches across and has between 12 and 19 legs instead of the usual five -- that’s a lot of spikes!
These spikes hold poison that can cause temporary paralysis at the sting site and nausea in humans. Like other starfish, the crown-of-thorns can regrow arms. At the end of each of these arms is an eyespot that can detect light and darkness, although not color or shape.
Crown-of-thorns starfish are avid eaters of coral, and just one starfish can eat 13 square miles of coral each year. In order to eat the coral, the crown-of-thorns starfish pulls its stomach out of its body to cover the coral, then feeds through tiny hairs called cilia. All that remains of the coral is its white skeleton. Despite being voracious eaters, crown-of-thorn starfish can survive food shortages of up to six months by living off reserves.
Since the 1970s, plagues of crown-of-thorn starfish have been occurring more and more frequently, particularly in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Scientists are still debating whether these are natural or have been caused by overfishing crown-of-thorn predators.
There aren’t many creatures interested in such a prickly snack, but a few mollusks and fish like the giant triton and the titan triggerfish play important roles keeping crown-of-thorn starfish populations under control.
Learn more about the crown-of-thorns starfish and other fascinating animals at Oceana’s marine encyclopedia.
The next time you’re in the Boston area and craving some fresh Atlantic cod, beware. You might end up purchasing a completely different fish.
According to a new report released today, Oceana’s intrepid seafood fraud team found that fish shoppers are getting swindled in Boston-area supermarkets. Of the 88 fish samples that Oceana sent in for DNA testing, 16 were mislabeled – nearly one in five.
This spring, Oceana targeted 15 supermarkets in the Boston area and attempted to purchase two (frozen or fresh) fish fillets of three commonly mislabeled species – red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod. When these species were not available, other fish species were selected, such as grey sole and vermilion snapper.
The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada analyzed the samples using a DNA barcoding system, comparing the fish’s DNA sequence to a catalogue of more than 8,000 fish species that have been barcoded as part of their Fish Barcode of Life initiative. Our campaigners also found that Atlantic cod was the most commonly mislabeled fish species and overfished red snapper was often sold as vermilion snapper.
Our testing results show the need for improved measures to combat seafood fraud and improve fish traceability. Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority, including implementing existing laws, increasing inspections, and improving coordination and information sharing among federal agencies.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know when, where, and how your fish is caught? We think you should be able to make informed decisions about your seafood.
Just a few weeks after we celebrated a soaring victory for sharks on the U.S. West Coast, Colombian authorities have reported that as many as 2,000 hammerhead, Galápagos and silky sharks may have been slaughtered in Colombia's Pacific waters.
According to the Colombian president’s top environmental adviser, divers saw 10 Costa Rican trawlers illegally entering the Malpelo wildlife sanctuary. When the divers swam down to the ocean floor, they found a shocking amount of sharks without their fins.
The Malpelo sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides an ideal habitat for threatened sharks. Unfortunately, the high concentration of sharks in the sanctuary draws illegal fishing boats from nearby nations.
It’s sad day for sharks, but we'll continue working to stop illegal fishing and shark finning. You can help by supporting our campaign to protect our ocean’s top predators from extinction.
It’s our favorite sea turtle lover’s birthday today: Kate Walsh!
In lieu of gifts, her fans, also known as Walshies, have been sending donations to – you guessed it – Oceana. So far they’ve raised $400, and the deadline is midnight tonight. So there’s still time if you want to show Kate and sea turtles some love.
Per Kate’s blog: “All it takes is a dollar and a PayPal account. Just click on this link, hit the “Chipin” button, make your donation, and leave a personalised message for Kate! Yup – it’s that easy!”
A huge thanks to everyone who has donated, and happy birthday, Kate!