In 2010, as many as sixteen sperm whales drowned in drift gillnets intended for swordfish off the coast of California. In the recent issue of Oceana magazine, we cover Oceana’s efforts to protect Pacific sperm whales from this fate. Read an excerpt below, or visit the full article here.
August 20, 2013
Pacific Important Ecological Area Expedition
Kicking off our 2013 Pacific Expedition, our Oceana crew arrived yesterday in Portland, Oregon, from Chile, California, and Alaska and united with our Oregon expedition leader, Ben Enticknap. Today in Newport, the Port was bustling with activity.
We’re already gearing up for this year’s first official Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day on October 15! When Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1776 into law last year, he declared an official celebratory day for the Pacific leatherback sea turtle and made it the state’s marine reptile, in order to increase awareness and conservation of this endangered species. With the support of the state of California, we are working with state and federal agencies and other conservation organizations here and abroad to facilitate an official California-Indonesia leatherback partnership to better protect this amazing sea turtle at every stage of its lifecycle, from hatchling to adult.
As 2013 rapidly approaches, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year at Oceana. Thanks to your support, we were able to achieve more than a dozen major victories for the oceans! You signed petitions to lawmakers and companies, submitted seafood samples and participated in rallies and events, and it made a difference. Here are five of the major victories we won in 2012 as a result:
1. Alibaba.com stops selling manta ray products
When Oceana discovered that the online international marketplace Alibaba.com was selling manta ray products, we asked for your help in stopping it. Nearly 40,000 of you responded by signing our petition, and Alibaba listened, removing manta ray leather products from the website.
2. Victories for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle
2012 was a good year for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles. We helped establish the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in continental U.S. waters this year. The government designated nearly 42,000 square miles of critical habitat off the West Coast. The Pacific leatherback was also designated as California’s official state reptile following a bill sponsored and supported by Oceana with the support of thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation groups.
Shortly after John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row was published in 1945 the sardine fishery he immortalized collapsed, taking with it the ramshackle seaside villages of canners that sprouted up in Monterey to accommodate the once booming industry. Now it seems regulators are determined to return to those grim days after the Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a 2013 catch level of 66,495 metric tons of sardines for a fishery that is once again careening towards collapse.
They’re the stars of Shark Week, one of the most iconic creatures in the ocean. But how well do you really know the great white shark?
White sharks are known by many names—great white, white pointer, Carcharodon carcharias, even white death. They’re the largest existing predatory fish in the ocean, and they’ve been around for about 16 million years. They’re found in coastal waters in all of the world’s major oceans.
The average great white measures in around 14 feet long (the females are generally a few feet longer than the males). An average individual weighs between 1,500 and 2,400 pounds. The largest white sharks ever measured came in around 20 feet long and weighed nearly 5,000 pounds.
All that size makes these sharks powerful predators. Their bite force is an estimated 1.8 tons—that’s 20 times the bite force of the average human! This powerful bite is coupled with multiple rows of sharp, serrated teeth that help the shark saw off pieces of fish.
Great whites also have an additional sense that allows them to detect the electromagnetic field emitted by the movement of living animals. By searching for these tiny electromagnetic pulses and using their excellent sense of smell, sharks can seek out prey from miles away.
In the social structure of white sharks, females dominate males, and size matters. They resolve conflict through rituals and displays of power, and rarely attack one another. Some sharks have even shown behavior that appears playful!
Great whites have earned a bad reputation as ferocious man-eaters due to movies like Jaws and stories about rogue sharks attacking humans. Truth is, great whites aren’t all that interested in humans. They would rather eat a fish or a seal than a human. While a significant proportion of shark accidents around the world involve white sharks, most are not fatal. Great whites are curious sharks, and will give an unknown object a sample bite, then release it.
These powerful creatures may be at the top of the food chain, but their biggest predator is humans. Only a few hundred great whites are left in the population off the coasts of California and Mexico, and they’re not getting the protection they need. Sign today to help get great whites covered by the Endangered Species Act.
In a sweeping 5-0 vote, the Carmel-by-the-Sea City Council took action yesterday evening to ban single-use plastic bags in the quaint and beautiful coastal city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
Oceana, as part of the Central Coast Sanctuary Alliance of local businesses and conservation organizations, has been advocating to the Council for months to take action to rid this source of pollution in the area and today invite you to celebrate this victory with us. This rides on the heels of similar bans put in place by neighboring Monterey and dozens of other California cities and counties.
Several other cities around Monterey Bay are currently discussing banning single-use plastic bags as well. Oceana will continue the effort to eliminate these plastic bags across the Bay, ultimately moving toward the goal of a statewide ban.
California distributes 19 billion plastic bags per year, many which end up littering our beautiful rivers and beaches and causing undue harm to wildlife.
Lucas visited picturesque Yaquina Head, a promontory southwest of Portland known for its views of the gray whale migration route and seabird nesting areas. Here he is on the water:
“We were all inside a landscape that was electrifying and it made you understand why the conservation movement is so profound and important,” Lucas told GQ. “That’s the thing I’ve learned working with Oceana: If you deplete one little place like the ocean waters off Cascade Head—which is so magnificent and so lush with life—that depletion begins this domino effect that rings true across a large area.”
You can read more about Lucas’s journey at the GQ Gentlemen’s Fund. Needless to say, we’re thrilled that he has joined the cause to protect the world’s oceans.
Josh Lucas appeared in the Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind," and will also appear in NBC’s forthcoming drama “The Firm.” Catch him as Charles Lindbergh in “J.Edgar,” opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Judi Dench, in theaters this fall.