Blog Tags: Bycatch
Great news for the oceans: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in favor of Oceana in a suit that will require commercial fisheries from North Carolina to the Canadian border to monitor and report the amount of bycatch, or untargeted marine life, they discard.
This victory may seem like a small step, but it is a triumph against one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today. Bycatch is a major player in the destruction of marine ecosystems, and occurs when fishing gear indiscriminately traps marine life in nets, trawls, and fishing lines.
Tons of fish are wasted and thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds are injured or killed every year as bycatch. While the new law does not place limits on bycatch, it represents a crucial and long-awaited step in increasing the transparency in commercial fishing.
“For more than 15 years NMFS has violated the law, managing America’s fisheries without reliable information about how much fish and other marine wildlife is being shoveled over the side of boats, often dead or dying,” said Gilbert Brogan, northeast representative for Oceana. “This ruling is a significant step towards improving the management of U.S. fisheries in the Atlantic.”
Congratulations to everyone who helped win this victory for more abundant oceans!
While the U.S. government continues to dawdle, loggerhead sea turtles continue to suffer. (Yes, they need your help!)
Yesterday the U.S. government failed to meet its legal deadline for issuing a final rule providing additional protections for loggerhead sea turtles, whose populations have faced severe declines over the last decade.
Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed legal petitions in 2007 urging the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to uplist North Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerheads from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
Then, a year ago, the government proposed to list loggerheads as endangered in response to a court-ordered settlement over prior delays. It has now failed to take timely action by missing the legal deadline to issue a final rule within one year.
Here’s a story to make you smile: the oldest wild bird in the country is a new mom -- again.
The United States Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that 60-year-old Wisdom, a Laysan albatross and the oldest known wild bird in the United States, is a new mother. Wisdom lives in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific northwest of the main Hawaiian island.
Albatrosses lay just one egg a year, and after a year in which they have successfully raised a chick, the birds may take a year off from breeding. Not Wisdom. She also nested in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Officials said she probably has raised 30 to 35 babies in her lifetime.
Wisdom’s longevity is a hopeful sign amid otherwise distressing trends for the seabirds. Nineteen of the 21 species of albatross are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN. Major threats to the birds include plastic pollution in the ocean and capture in long-line fisheries. The birds ingest marine debris, mostly plastic, and feed it to their chicks, lessening their chance of survival.
Let’s hope more birds live as long as Wisdom. Help their chances: take our pledge to reduce your plastic use if you haven’t already.
For millions of years, sea turtles have been a vital part of ocean ecosystems – but today they are on the brink of extinction as a result of irresponsible fishing and habitat destruction, among other threats. We’re working our hardest to save them, but we need your support.
All six sea turtle species that swim in US waters threatened or endangered, but it’s not too late to save them. Donate today and join Oceana in the fight to protect sea turtles and restore ocean balance. With your donation, we will continue pushing for stronger fishing regulations and legislation that will help protect and sustain turtle populations for years to come.
Our goal is to raise $40,000, and we still have a long way to go. Please donate today to help us in the fight to save sea turtles from extinction. And if you’ve already given, thank you -- now pass the word on via Facebook, Twitter, and however else you can!
The Latest NYT “Scientist at Work” blog follows a sea turtle researcher, Lekelia “Kiki” Jenkins, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, as she travels to Ecuador to study factors in the cross-cultural adoption of sea turtle conservation technologies like turtle excluder devices and circle hooks.
Here’s an excerpt from her first post, including a great explanation of how circle hooks help sea turtles, and why turtles are like 40-year-old virgins:
“Some scientists estimate that a quarter of a million sea turtles are ensnared in fishing lines each year. This is truly a problem for sea turtles, which are the “40-year-old virgins” of the oceans. Turtles have a life span similar to humans, but might not start having young until they are several decades old. Dehookers and circle hooks are part of a suite of solutions that help longline fishers protect sea turtles, allowing them to mature and bear young while helping fishers continue to catch profitable tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi.
All six species of sea turtles in U.S. waters are threatened with extinction -- and we want to know why more isn’t being done to protect them. The U.S. government wants to charge us an arm and a leg for more information about it. So we filed a lawsuit.
Last March, Oceana submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asking for records relating to trawl gear modifications intended to prevent sea turtle bycatch in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. (The government has still not acted to modify trawl gear to protect sea turtles on much of the East Coast.) In response, NOAA asked Oceana to pay more than $16,000 for the documents.
Guest blogger Angela Kinsey ("The Office") recently joined Oceana in Mexico to swim with sea turtles and film a PSA.
Sea turtle nesting in the U.S. is still a couple months away, but I just couldn’t wait to write something about my new RBFF (reptilian best friend forever) – the sea turtle.
How’d we get so close? It was actually on a trip to the Mexican Riviera last May with Oceana and my good friend Rachael Harris. There, Oceana took us to swim with sea turtles in the wild and visit injured turtles at Mexico’s only sea turtle hospital – it was a wonderful, moving experience.
We went to Akumal Bay to snorkel with green sea turtles (and a one slightly scary barracuda) and I was struck by how lucky I felt to be able to see them in the wild, eating seagrass and going about their day. Then at the sea turtle hospital, seeing turtles injured by fishing gear, boat propellers and other animals was incredibly emotional.
I grew up overseas and had seen sea turtles before, but swimming with them up close and personal changed my perspective in a powerful way. I’m overwhelmed by how much humans are affecting marine life and in the case of sea turtles, which are very susceptible to impacts from climate change too, I worry that my daughter won’t be able to see them and have the same experience swimming with them that I did. Playing at the beach and in the ocean was such big part of my childhood and I hope it can be for her too. And folks...our oceans and the marine life livng in them need someone to start looking out for them.
Great news in the battle against illegal fishing: Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets.
Known as “curtains of death,” driftnets are a type of illegal fishing gear that can be nearly 100 feet high and 12 miles long. Because they are so passive and indiscriminate, driftnets snag whatever’s in their path, including many marine mammals and other endangered species.
The UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets 15 years ago, and the EU instituted a ban seven years ago, but many French, Italian and Moroccan vessels have continued using them.
We often tell you about the threats facing sharks globally -- finning, bycatch, overfishing -- but we don’t regularly shine a spotlight on the individual species affected.
To continue our ongoing shark-themed posts in honor of Shark Week, here are 10 of the most threatened shark species in the world:
1. Basking sharks are the second largest shark, easily distinguished by their huge, filter-feeding mouths. Basking sharks are caught in target fisheries around the world for their oil, meat and fins, and they are also caught as bycatch in other fisheries.
2. Blue sharks are one of the most previously abundant shark species. Now they are the most heavily fished shark in the world. An estimated 10-20 million individuals are killed by fisheries annually, mostly as bycatch. Blue shark meat is beginning to replace swordfish in many Mediterranean countries and the fins are commonly used in shark fin soup.
3. Deep-sea sharks have huge livers that contain high amounts of oil to regulate their buoyancy at depths. As a result, they are caught by deep-sea trawls, gillnets and longlines for an oily substance found in their livers called squalene. Squalene, or its derivative squalane, is found in many cosmetic products.
Warning: what follows isn’t exactly light reading.
The New York Times reported yesterday on the complicated task of performing necropsies -- i.e., animal autopsies -- on sea turtles and other creatures that have been found dead in the Gulf of Mexico since the spill started.
It’s not easy to determine the cause of death of these creatures. Of the 1,978 birds, 463 turtles and 59 marine mammals found dead in the Gulf since April 20th, few show visible signs of oil contamination.
And in the case of sea turtles, a more familiar culprit may be at fault: shrimp trawls and other commercial fishing gear that scoop up turtles as bycatch and prevent them from going to the surface to breathe.
Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the veterinary investigators begin to determine the cause of death:
- Creature Feature: Harp Seal Posted Mon, December 2, 2013
- Rashida Jones Talks Up Oceana and Belize on Jimmy Fallon Posted Tue, December 3, 2013
- Support Renewable Energy - Opinion in Florida's Sun Sentinel Posted Tue, December 3, 2013
- Creature Feature: Clownfish Posted Wed, December 4, 2013
- CEO Note: Conservation Needs Strong International Trade Laws Posted Thu, December 5, 2013