The Beacon: Jessica Wiseman's blog
This Labor Day weekend, as Americans everywhere closed out the summer with barbeques and trips to the beach, Miranda Cosgrove had a different plan. She decided to save dolphins.
Taking advantage of her break from school at the University of Southern California, where she studies film, Miranda flew to Bimini Bahamas with Oceana to film a forthcoming Public Service Announcement about the need to protect dolphins. Accompanied by her mom, Miranda landed in South Bimini amidst a rain storm and braved the elements as she drove to Bimini Sands Resort in a golf cart—the main mode of transportation on this tiny island.
Yesterday, Belize’s Supreme Court declared offshore drilling contracts issued by the Government of Belize (in 2004 and 2007) null and void, providing a dramatic and potentially definitive setback to The Government of Belize and the petroleum prospecting companies issued the contracts.
The ruling, handed down by Justice Oswell Legall, was in response to a case brought by Oceana, COLA, and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. It effectively ends the Belizean government’s immediate effort to allow offshore oil drilling in the Meso American Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd Vice President of Oceana in Belize lauded the court’s decision:
“This is a great day for the people and country of Belize and its democratic process and it shows that we, as ordinary citizens, need not sit back and only complain about all the wrong decisions our Government makes, but that we can use the Judiciary system to settle them.”
The court overturned the contracts after determining that the government failed to assess the environmental impact on Belize’s ocean, as required by law, prior to issuing the contracts. The court also found that contracts were made to companies that did not demonstrate a proven ability to contribute the necessary funds, assets, machinery, equipment, tools and technical expertise to drill safely.
Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years. In 2011, after collecting the 20,000+ signatures required to trigger a national referendum that would allow the public to vote on whether or not to allow offshore oil drilling in Belize’s reef, the Government disqualified over 8,000 of these signatures effectively on the basis of poor penmanship - stopping the possibility of a vote. Oceana answered by quickly organizing the nation’s first ever “People’s Referendum” on February 29, 2012 in which 29,235 people (Belize’s entire population is approximately 350,000) came from all over the country to cast their votes.
In this historic vote, 96 percent of voters voted against offshore exploration and drilling.
The climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico have drawn to a close, and another year of trying to figure out what to do about climate change has come and gone.
On the bright side, ocean acidification seemed more prevalent than in past years, which is a great triumph for the oceans. Oceana has been working to incorporate ocean acidification into the UNFCCC process, and to gain wider acknowledgement of this consequence of carbon dioxide emissions. This year ocean acidification seemed to be more easily recognized and understood, which is a step in the right direction. Much work remains to be done.
As the first week of the sixteenth meeting of the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16) draws to a close, Oceana is releasing a new report on climate change's evil twin: ocean acidification.
Ocean Acidification: The Untold Stories details new findings for many different species of marine life that will be affected by a more acidic ocean. Coral reef ecosystems will be some of the first casualties of an acidified ocean; impacts to these beautiful and important habitats could have huge consequences for a quarter of the entire biological diversity of the oceans that depend on coral reefs for food and shelter.
Marine life ranging from the smallest plankton to the largest whale may be affected by ocean acidification. Shellfish such as sea urchins, lobsters, sea stars and brittle stars are some prime examples of creatures that could be affected. More acidic oceans are expected to lead to a shortage of carbonate, a key building block that these animals need to build their shells and skeletons.
In a huge victory for the oceans and Oceana, this afternoon Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that in the new five-year drilling plan, no new offshore drilling would be allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico will be protected from offshore oil and gas exploration for the next seven years.
These areas were being considered for oil and gas development, and the Administration had previously indicated support for exploration in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as in the Eastern Gulf, though Congressional action would be needed in that area. They also announced the start of a new process to reconsider drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still more on the table and more that must be done to protect the Arctic Ocean.
Oceana has been working for many years to ban offshore drilling, and this victory provides an important step in the right direction towards protecting our oceans from the dangers of offshore drilling, and moving towards cleaner and safer alternative sources of energy.
Last week in Belize, reef scientists, conservationists and managers gathered at the Belize Reef Summit to discuss the impacts of increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.
Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The 2010 Belize Reef Report Card, which was released at the meeting, reveals that 60% of this protected reef is in poor to critical condition with only 8% considered in good condition. This staggering statistic is unfortunately the case for many coral reefs worldwide.
On the final day of the summit, hundreds of Belizeans and international supporters gathered on an island on the Barrier Reef off of Belize City to create a living work of art to raise awareness about the effect of climate change on the oceans. This striking photograph was a call for world leaders to take strong action against climate change and ocean acidification at COP 16, the UN Climate Talks in Cancun that begin November 29th.
We’ve told you this before, but in case you need a reminder: If global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Only the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan emit more carbon dioxide than the world’s shipping fleet. Nevertheless, this country-sized amount of carbon dioxide remains unregulated.
Like all modes of transportation that use fossil fuels, ships produce carbon dioxide emissions that significantly contribute to global climate change and ocean acidification. Besides carbon dioxide, ships also release a handful of other pollutants that contribute to environmental degradation. More than three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to ocean-going ships, a number that can be greatly reduced if emission regulations were set.
Oceana recently released a new report called Shipping Solutions - just in time for the Sustainable Shipping meeting in October. At the meeting, Oceana’s senior campaign director Jackie Savitz spoke to a room full of shipping industry executives to call for increased shipping emission regulations, and present the many different ways these reductions can be achieved.
- Ocean News: Green Sea Turtle Makes Longest Migration Ever Recorded, Small Oil Spill Found off of Italy, and More Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- North Atlantic Great White Sharks are Rebounding, but that’s Not the Case for All Species Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- Video: Oceana Exposes Illegal Drift Gillnet Use in Italy Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- Ocean News: June 2014 Marked the Hottest on Record, Microplastics Worse for Crabs than Thought, and More Posted Tue, July 22, 2014
- Tackling Illegal Fishing in Italy: Behind the Scenes Posted Tue, July 22, 2014