Two and a half hours west of Key West by boat is lonely Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fort marooned in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and encrusted in coral reefs. Here the color of the water ranges from cerulean to toothpaste-aquamarine as magnificent frigatebirds, masked boobies, and sooty terns haunt the coral-white beaches of this unfinished garrison, a former prison for union army deserters.
One of seven islands that make up the Dry Tortugas (so named for their lack of water and wealth of turtles at the time of Ponce de Leonâ€™s discovery in 1513) Fort Jefferson is a monument to the ingenuity and industry of engineers and masons who slogged bricks from as far as Brewer, Maine, to the middle of the ocean to construct a fort that has survived in the crosshairs of two centuries of hurricanes. Now, the park is also a monument to the scientific principles of ecosystem management, proof that protecting habitat benefits allâ€”environmentalists and fishermen alike.
In 2001, over the objections of local fishermen, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that it would establish a 151-square nautical mile no-take zone in the areaâ€”the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. It was assumed that closing the well-known grouper and snapper spawning grounds of the Dry Tortugas to fishing would hurt the industryâ€™s bottom line.
But that didnâ€™t happen. The fish got bigger. And there were more of them.
How would you feel if you found out the red snapper on your plate wasnâ€™t red snapper at all, but instead something illegally fished or potentially unhealthy? A new Oceana study found that 31% of seafood we tested in South Florida is mislabeled, keeping consumers in the dark about what theyâ€™re really eating.
Our campaigners used DNA testing on seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi venues in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas. Weâ€™ve conducted studies like this in other cities, and the results from Los Angeles and Boston were even more strikingâ€”55% of seafood in L.A. was mislabeled and 48% in Boston.
But just because the numbers are lower in South Florida doesnâ€™t mean that seafood fraud is any more acceptable. Some of the fish being served under a different name pose risks to health and sustainability. The study found that king mackerel, a high mercury fish with a health warning for sensitive groups, was being marketed as â€˜grouper.â€™
Sushi restaurants were the biggest offenders, with 58% of samples found to be mislabeled. All the samples of white tuna collected from sushi vendors were actually escolar, a fish species that can make people sick.
The large amount of seafood coming into the U.S. market can make it difficult to trace each item to its source. Oceana is calling on the federal government to ensure that the seafood we find in our markets is safe, legal, and honestly labeled. By implementing a traceability system, consumers can make informed decisions about what they put on their plate.
Sign the petition to fight seafood fraud and ensure youâ€™re getting what you order.
In the latest update from the Latitude, Oceana scientist Jon Warrenchuk describes the ROVâ€™s dive near Key West.
The underwater ridge looked promising: South of Key West, 10 miles offshore and 200 meters deep. The bathymetric lines piled up steeply on the chart, indicating some steep relief in some otherwise flat habitat. As far as I knew, no one had ever seen what the seafloor looked like in that area. We deployed the ROV some distance from the site, trying to take into account the drift of the boat.
The federal government has closed commercial and recreational fishing in a wide swath of the Gulf as a result of the oil spill, which is a serious economic blow to the region.
While oil-covered birds have become an emblematic image of catastrophic oil spills, sea birds arenâ€™t the only ones affected. Oil is extremely toxic to all wildlife, and the toxic effects on marine life begins as soon as the oil hits the water.
Here are 10 examples of how marine life may be affected by the Gulf spill in the coming days, weeks and years