Andy Sharpless's blog

Who's Watching the Watchdog?

Posted Thu, Sep 6, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

In just one year, attacks have doubled on government observers contracted to collect catch and bycatch information from commercial fishing fleets.

Observers are the only independent source of data we have for tracking catches, monitoring quotas and recording harmful activity. They're contracted under NOAA, an agency within the Department of Commerce that conducts environmental research.

But the agency has ceased collecting data on reports of harassment or interference supposedly because it lacks resources to investigate these matters.

Without observers, we truly have no way of knowing laws implemented to protect sea life and habitat are followed. So we've got observers in place to protect marine life, but who's protecting the observers?


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Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

Posted Wed, Sep 5, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

Four hooks in the throat and belly, three hooks embedded in the skin, two feet of fishing line in the stomach - one happy ending for a lucky loggerhead sea turtle.

After months of rehabilitation, rescuers in Florida finally released a female sea turtle, estimated between 40 and 50 years of age. She took off quickly, according to witnesses, hopefully never to again to be so hooked and entangled.

That's an optimistic point of view. Trouble is all the commercial fishing gear floating in our oceans creates a sort of gauntlet for sea turtles to swim through. It's one of the main factors contributing to sea turtles' endangered status. In fact, it is estimated that half of all adult loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean are likely to be caught on longline fishing hooks every year.  

So while rescuers may never again encounter the sea turtle that affectionately became known as "Eve," chances are they will meet many more turtles. Maybe they'll name the next one Adam ... or better yet, how `bout Andy?

Click on the pic to watch a sea turtles video!


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Dolphins in Danger

Posted Thu, Aug 30, 2007 by Andy Sharpless to dolphins, striped dolphins

Striped dolphins in the Spanish Mediterranean are under attack from a virus similar to measles that could kill roughly 75,000 of the creatures before the disease loses steam.

Authorities confirmed the disease, Morbillivirus, was also responsible for a plague that killed hundreds of thousands of dolphins in the early 1990s and also recently affected the Canary Island right whale population.


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Possible New Species Discovered

Posted Fri, Aug 24, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

Scientists encountered what may be a new species of seed shrimp, a translucent crustacean that swims at a depth of 50 to 200 meters. On a seamount in the Northern Atlantic, remote operated vehicles shed light on what one researcher referred to as an underwater "continent."

Clutching to the rocky cliffs was a menagerie of corals and sponges, as well as brittle stars and starfish, sea cucumbers and worms. Some of the creatures are quite rare, not found anywhere else in the world - all the more reason to be mindful of the brilliant life thriving below the surface.


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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Posted Wed, Aug 22, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

In the last few weeks, the U.S. has been kicking itself for not thinking to place a flag on the sea floor at the North Pole. But Russia is not the only country to have laid claim to the oil-rich area; other competitors include Canada, Denmark, and a pack of Siberian huskies that have been peeing there for ages.



However, all of them are certainly in for a disappointment, because on Friday the U.S. struck back, by sending out a team of scientists to map the area. Just as Lewis and Clark did before, the U.S. hopes to use the survey data as a foundation for political and economic expansion into the explored regions. Rock beats scissors, map beats flag.



Of course, the U.S. Senate has not ratified the UN Law of the Sea Convention treaty, which took force in 1994 (despite years of urging from Presidents Clinton and Bush). So technically the U.S. doesn't have a seat at the table as critical decisions are made on how to divvy up the ocean bottom.



As Grist reported, U.S. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey scoffed, "I'm not sure of whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag, or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim." Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay went on to add, "You can't go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere -- this isn't the 14th or 15th century."



No kidding. When was the last time that happened?


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Protect Our Sharks, Protect Our Oceans

Posted Mon, Aug 13, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

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

Posted Thu, Aug 9, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

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

Posted Fri, Aug 3, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

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

Posted Tue, Jul 31, 2007 by Andy Sharpless

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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