This is the first in a series of posts from CITES. Read the rest of the dispatches here.
CITES is now in session in Doha, Qatar. Our team will be there for the next 10 days pushing for further trade restrictions on corals, sharks and the Atlantic bluefin tuna. They sent us this video dispatch of campaign director Dave Allison from the airport en route. Stay tuned for more!
As we speak, an Oceana team is headed to the CITES conference in Doha, Qatar, which begins tomorrow. We will be bringing you updates from the conference as we push for trade restrictions for bluefin tuna, corals and sharks.
CITES wasn't the only thing on the ocean radar this week, though. Check out the rest of this week's stories:
…Scientists have found that oxygen-starved pockets of the ocean, known as dead zones, can contribute to climate change. The increased amount of nitrous oxide produced in low-oxygen waters can elevate concentrations in the atmosphere, exacerbating the impacts of global warming and contributing to holes in the ozone layer.
… OK, this one’s a little gross -- but also really cool. Forensic researchers recently dropped several dead pigs into an ocean dead zone off Vancouver Island to gain insight into how fast cadavers in an ocean can disappear thanks to scavengers. Marine researchers took advantage of the study to do their own by using an underwater camera to see what kinds of animals fed on the disintegrating dead pigs -- and how long they could tolerate low-oxygen zones. While crabs, shrimp and starfish normally stay at shallower depths (where there’s more oxygen), the scavengers pushed their limits for the pig pickin’. Who knew swine could be such a boon for ocean science?
On this hump day, a few cetaceous stories for your perusal:
As you've probably heard, the team behind Sunday’s Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” exposed Santa Monica sushi restaurant The Hump for serving illegal whale meat. The possession or sale of marine mammals -- in this case, the endangered sei whale -- is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can lead to a year in prison and a fine of $20,000.
And on the brighter side, the BBC has a remarkable slideshow of images showing a sperm whale surface feeding off the coast of New Zealand. Surface feeding is uncommon for sperm whales, who usually hunt many meters below the sea’s surface -- this individual must have been pretty hungry.
Happy Friday, ocean lovers! Lots of juicy ocean news to review this week.
...The big ocean story of this week was a positive one: the U.S. backed the bluefin tuna trade ban at the upcoming CITES meeting. The Washington Post published a great slideshow of bluefin photos and the New York Times ran an editorial urging the U.S. to convince the EU and others to follow their lead.
...Chile's fishing industry, which produces 4 percent of the world's annual catch of seafood, was hit hard by the recent earthquake. Meanwhile, the country's salmon farms, which are located hundreds of miles south of the quake's epicenter, suffered minimal damage, but have been affected by the slowdown in transportation.
...Turns out the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has a cousin in the Atlantic, hundreds of miles off the North American coast, roughly in the latitudes between Cuba and Virginia. Researchers from Woods Hole found more than 520,000 bits of trash per square mile in some areas.
Some great news for the imperiled bluefin tuna: Today the U.S. announced that it supports a total ban on the international trade of the tigers of the sea, which could make a big difference in the two weeks leading up to the CITES meeting in Doha.
Thanks to all of you who have taken action leading up to CITES. Now let's hope the European Union follows suit.
Things could be looking up for the tigers of the sea.
Next month, 175 nations will meet in Doha, Qatar to discuss whether bluefin tuna will join the likes of pandas and elephants as endangered species under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
While France has joined Monaco in declaring its support for the ban, Spain’s position remains in doubt.
Spain currently holds the EU presidency and the dubious honor of catching much of the Mediterranean's bluefin tuna. Yesterday, Oceana held an event along with Greenpeace, MarViva, Pew, WWF and Ecologistas en Acción urging Spain to support the ban.
Kofi Annan, Michael Douglas and Colin Firth, among many other public personalities, have signed on in support of the listing.
Oceana will be in Doha in March voicing our support for bluefin. Here’s hoping -- and stay tuned.
As you know, Wednesdays are normally devoted to blogging about the latest whale news. But I’ve redubbed today’s post in honor of yesterday's news about a certain sleek giant of the sea who continues to fetch exorbitant auction prices as it heads toward extinction. It makes you go, “Wha?”
Yesterday, a 513-pound bluefin tuna sold for $177,000 -- the most since 2001 -- in an auction at Tokyo’s famous fish market.
Ironically, the sale took place amid a decline in Japanese tuna consumption due to the nation’s worst recession since World War II.
So as Tokyo’s fish market representatives fret over how to keep c
Happy Friday, everyone! Hopefully by now you've had a chance to fully digest your Thanksgiving leftovers, because I've got some ocean goodies for you to devour:
This week in ocean news,
...Wired Science pondered why blue whales' voices are growing deeper and deeper. Hypotheses revolve around increased noise pollution and the physics of sounds in increasingly warmer waters. Barry White Whale, anyone?
...For the first time, scientists were able to use DNA tools to trace the geographic origin of scalloped hammerhead shark fins in a Hong Kong fish market to their original location thousands of miles away. NPR ran a story about the DNA tool's potential to monitor endangered species trafficking several months ago.
...The Washington Post reported on the international efforts required to stop the overfishing of important marine species such as bluefin tuna and sharks. The article quotes Oceana's Courtney Sakai: "Shark fins are today's ivory tusks," Sakai said. "Like elephants, the world is realizing that sharks are more valuable alive than dead."
...Yesterday, after years of work by Oceana, federal regulations protecting 200,000 square miles of U.S. Arctic waters from industrial fishing went into effect.
...Conservation groups pled with the Obama Administration to protect the Okinawa dugong and other endangered wildlife -- including three species of sea turtle -- by cancelling plans to expand a U.S. military base near Henoko in Okinawa, Japan. There are only around 50 Okinawa dugong remaining in the world.
...Deep Sea News conducted an interesting thought experiment on why the largest animals in the sea, whales, aren't even larger.
I'm a little disappointed in this New York Times story about Dave Lamoureux, a fisherman who battles bluefin tuna from his unmotorized sea kayak. On the one hand, it reinforces the mythos around bluefin, that they are majestic creatures worthy of being considered alongside terrestrial predators like tigers or lions. On the other hand, it presents the fish as just a critter to be caught because someone can. Much like big game hunting in Africa fell out of favor as the giant cats and elephants became endangered, bluefin tuna fishing should also be pursued only with the understanding that these are critically endangered animals.
It's disappointing since Andrew Revkin has done a terrific job chronicling the massive overfishing of bluefin tuna in the very same newspaper. The population of bluefin that Lamoureux pursues from his kayak is among the most devastasted in the world, already reduced to less than 20 percent of their historic levels, and there are already strict rules in place to keep the fish from disappearing entirely.
Given that the story is floating near the top of the NYT's most-emailed list right now, I see this as a missed opportunity to both celebrate the bluefin's impressive power, fight and speed as well as warn about losing it to overfishing.
This week in ocean news,
...the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas approved next year's Atlantic tuna quotas, disappointing conservationists who say that only a complete closure of the fishery will allow the great fish to avoid collapse.
...scientists recommended a lower pollock quota this year in the North Pacific fishery, the largest in the U.S., as the population still struggles to rebound. Spawning levels are at their lowest in 30 years.
...in Japan, scientists photographed a juvenile coelacanth for the first time. Long thought to be extinct, these ancient creatures were rediscovered in the early 20th century and little is known about them.
...the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transporation Committee passed the Shark Conservation Act of 2009, which would require all sharks be landed whole in the U.S. and eliminate loopholes that allowed the transfer of fins at sea in order to get around shark finning laws. The vote brought the Act one major step closer to becoming law.