May 17th is the day to show your love for endangered sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and all sorts of marine creatures. Why? Because itâ€™s Endangered Species Day! Today is the day to learn and share information about your favorite endangered animals and rally support around the creatures that need it most.
After a victory for Pacific sea turtles last week, hereâ€™s some not so good news.
Two endangered species of sea turtle are facing an increased threat after the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) approved a plan allowing a Hawaii-based shallow-set longline swordfish fishery to catch more endangered sea turtles while hunting for swordfish in the North Pacific Ocean.
Currently, regulations allow a capture, or â€śtake,â€ť of 16 endangered leatherback sea turtles and 17 endangered loggerhead sea turtles per fishery per year. If and when turtle catch limits are reached, the fishery must close for the year. However, the new rule, set to take effect November 5, will allow a 62 percent increase in allowable takes of leatherbacks for a total of 26 per year, and a 100 percent increase in the catch of loggerheads for a total of 34 per year.
The timing for this approval is particularly paradoxical, as NMFS upgraded the status of the Pacific loggerhead sea turtle from â€śthreatenedâ€ť to â€śendangeredâ€ť little more than a year ago, and designated almost 42,000 square miles of ocean waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington as critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles earlier this year. The leatherback sea turtle was also recently designated as the official state marine reptile of California.
Ben Enticknap, Pacific Project Manager for Oceana, said:
â€śThis decision is outrageous. On the one hand the federal government acknowledges Pacific leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles are endangered and that more needs to be done to protect them. At the same time they say it is okay for U.S. fishermen to kill more of them.â€ť
We agree, itâ€™s outrageous â€“ and our campaigners are examining the available options in a plan to stop these measures before they take effect on November 5. Weâ€™ll keep you posted!
Great news from Chile: A planned coal-fired plant, located dangerously close to several biodiverse marine habitats, was shot down by the Chilean Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Coal-powered thermoelectric power plants are notoriously dangerous to the environment. This plant was planned for the Punta Cachos area off of Chileâ€™s northern coast, just a few kilometers from important habitats for Humboldt penguins, sea turtles, and one of Chileâ€™s few seagrass meadows. As part of its operations, the plant would have released warm water into the ocean. This change in temperature could have affected the entire ecosystem, reducing the numbers of mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, algae, and sea grasses, all of which are food for the local sea turtle colony.
Despite initial approval by the local environmental commission, this power plant is opposed by the local community of Totoral and various other organizations, including Oceana. The community of Totoral fought against the plan and won a victory, getting their approval revoked, but the company appealed, bringing the case to the Supreme Court. We are pleased that, in the end, the Supreme Court sided with the community, and the oceans.
Oceanaâ€™s team in Chile has been working hard to fight against the pollution caused by plants and factories like this one, which affect the coastal ecosystems as well the safety of the local air and water. Congrats to all who helped win this victory for Chile's oceans!
The Canary Islands are in the oil industryâ€™s crosshairs, and that spells danger for the areaâ€™s marine habitats and wildlife.
In a new report, Oceana has denounced oil prospecting plans in the Canary Islands, highlighting the dangerous impact of these activities on cold-water coral reefs, deep sponge fields, hydrothermal vents, and nearly 100 protected species.
Spanish oil company Repsol is planning to prospect in the Canary Islands Channel, located off the northwest coast of Africa. The channel contains gas-based habitats that are protected under the Habitats Directive. These habitats support coral and sponge communities that would be destroyed by oil prospecting activity.
A total of 25 protected areas and 82 endangered species would be threatened by Repsolâ€™s prospecting activities. These include sea turtles, short finned pilot whales, angel sharks, bottlenose dolphins, and a variety of fish.
The International Maritime Organization has declared the Canary Islands a Particularly Sensitive Area for its biological wealth and its economic dependence. This status affords the islandsâ€™ strict protection in terms of waste and pollution.
The Canary Islands is an archipelago supported by fishing and tourism. Both of these industries rely on the islandsâ€™ high biodiversityâ€”more than 600 species and 350 communities and habitats. Oil prospecting would interfere with fishing and tourism, and reduce the biodiversity of the area.
We'll be sure to keep you posted!
To be an Ocean Hero, you have to have a strong commitment to your workâ€”so what keeps our finalists going when the going gets tough?
The voting is open for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Awards, but if you're having a hard time deciding who your favorite finalist is, here's a chance to get to know them better.
Each of our finalists has their own unique story about just what it is that motivates them to protect the worldâ€™s oceans. Hereâ€™s what they told us keeps them working hard to achieve their goals:
Michele Hunter Sometimes it's witnessing the small steps a critical patient will take because of the dutiful care and treatment we provide to our patients. Knowing that all those hours of care made a difference. Being able to stand on the beach with your team and release an animal that you helped save is motivation enough!
Hardy Jones Frankly, what motivates me is the undeniable need for reform of the way we view and deal with the oceans. There is real danger of a collapse of the ocean ecosystem. Other motivation comes from direct contact with the magnificence of the ocean realm. Finally, I am motivated by the knowledge that I can make a difference if I put out the energy and intention to accomplish important goals.
Kristofor Lofgren I want to live in a healthy and beautiful world. I also want to do all I can to share that wonderful world with others. I am motived each and every day to help make the world a better place for everyone I never meet, simply because it is the right thing to do. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and share the same earth. I choose each day to bring passion to simple, good work...and that is enough.
Dave Rauschkolb The unapologetic grip the dirty fuel and nuclear industries have on our world, and seeing that clean energy and renewables are beginning to break that grip.
Rick Steiner I'm motivated by knowing the desperate state of the oceans, seeing my favorite seas and coasts lost to human ignorance and greed, and facilitating the successes I've been involved with. There is simply no other option but to ramp up the science-based advocacy for ocean protection -- and that is a powerful motivator. It is urgent to act, not just talk about the problem. Knowing we can, and must, succeed.
Don Voss I am motivated by the thousands of kids I talk to each year who are interested and react to this project. I help at least 25 new divers a year get started and into this sport and debris collection. I am motivated by the progress in removal and changes in water quality we are finding just this year. I am motivated when others notice what we do and want to participate and/or learn more. I am motivated when we continue to release thousands of snagged and trapped aquatic animals. I am spiritually motivated when I visit our Turtle rescue hospital and visit the critters we have sent there. Turtles are awesome and send me home an activist.
Sara Brenes I am so passionate about my belief and my drive to make a difference. I feel like I breathe, eat, sleep, and dream about sharks and our oceans. I think it is just hard wired in to me to not give up and to fight and fight and fight and reach another person and another person and another one. Just don't stop!
The Calvineers The North Atlantic right whale is the most endangered large whale in the world. Their population has grown little in the last thirty years (from about 300 to about 450), way below the estimated 2-3,000 needed for recovery. Until the whales recover, the Calvineers will keep up their work of educating the public.
Sam Harris I do it for the sharks. I love them.
James Hemphill My love of the ocean keeps me going. This is a problem that will not go away. As long as there is a large human population, there will be conflicts with the environment that need solutions. I want to be a part of those solutions. I have a stubborn determination to see cleaner oceans. This is where I play, swim, surf, fish, and kayak. I want my children to experience the same beautiful environment that I have.
Teakahla WhiteCloud Knowing that I am saving hatchlings so that the ocean will continue to live so that I will have a future to live.
Donâ€™t forget to visit oceana.org/heroes and vote for your favorite adult and junior finalists. Thereâ€™s less than a week until the voting period is over!
Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Courtesy Hardy Jones, Oceana/Dustin Cranor, zeroXTE.com, Oceana/Carlos Minguell, Courtesy James Hemphill, Oceana/Eduardo Sorenson, Courtesy Sara Brenes, NOAA, Courtesy Michele Hunter, Courtesy Kristofor Lofgren, Flickr/Nemoâ€™s Great Uncle (middle).
It might seem straight out of science fiction, but this story is real â€“ radioactive tuna could be swimming in an ocean near you.
A new study found that after last springâ€™s Fukushima nuclear accident, Pacific Bluefin tuna caught off of San Diego appear to have been contaminated by radioactive materials from last springâ€™s nuclear accident in Japan.
The March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in central Japan. Even now, the only way to enter the zone 20 kilometers around the plant is with special government permission. After the accident, tests showed that concentrations of radioactive Cesium in coastal waters increased up to 10,000-fold.
This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found the same radioactive Cesium in 15 Bluefin tuna specimens caught outside of San Diego. The fish tested showed a 10-fold increase from normal Cesium concentrations, well below the safety limit established by Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishes.
Bluefin are a highly migratory species â€“ they spawn in the West Pacific near Japan, then, once they have matured, may travel more than 9,000 miles to the East Pacific and the California coast. Theyâ€™re such strong swimmers that the trip only takes a few months.
During the course of this trip, the radioactive concentration fell as the fish grew and the Cesium decayed. If they had tested tuna from Japan, the radiation would be expected to be up to 15 times more concentrated, according to Daniel Madigan, Zofia Baumann, and Nicholas Fisher, the co-authors of the study.
Monterey Bay Aquariumâ€™s Seafood Watch already lists bluefin as a species to avoid due to severe overfishing and high mercury levels. Theyâ€™re highly valued as sushi fish, which has led to a steep decline in their populations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Bluefin tuna are slow to mature, and are often caught before they have a chance to reproduce. Oceana is currently working to protect bluefin tuna from overfishing.
Yesterday afternoon the California Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to support legislation to designate the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as the stateâ€™s official marine reptile.
The Commission often does not take a position on legislation, making yesterdayâ€™s decision an even stronger statement as to the importance of California waters to leatherback sea turtles.
Support from the Commission is expected to help push the legislation (Assembly Bill 1776) through the Senate and eventually to the Governorâ€™s desk, where Jerry Brown has until September 30th to sign new bills into law.
The largest of six species of sea turtles in US waters, the leatherback makes an impressive migration from its nesting beaches in Papua, Indonesia to California waters to feed on jellyfish. Its 12,000 mile, round-trip journey is the longest of any marine reptile.
Pacific leatherbacks are listed on the Endangered Species List with as few as 2,100 adult female leatherback sea turtles remaining in the Pacific Ocean population. In January, 16,910 square miles off Californiaâ€™s coast were designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service as critical habitat for the leatherback.
AB 1776 will be heard next in the Senate Committee on Governmental Organization. Stay tuned!
Kinsey is best known for her role as the tightly-wound head of accounting on â€śThe Office,â€ť and she also appeared in a video for Oceanaâ€™s sea turtle campaign alongside Rachael Harris (â€śThe Hangover.) Kinsey will be joined by sustainable chef and author Barton Seaver and Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell. Their stops will include a briefing on Capitol Hill and a reception at National Aquarium.
Oceana has found mislabeling of nearly one in five fish fillets sampled in Boston-area supermarkets, as well as the mislabeling of more than half of the seafood sampled in the Los Angeles-area. Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority as well as for traceability of seafood sold in the United States.
More good news for sea turtles today: The endangered leatherback sea turtle swam one lap closer today to becoming Californiaâ€™s official marine reptile.
The California Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife voted unanimously today that this ocean ambassador should be an additional state symbol. This is exciting news as the bill heads next to the Assembly floor where all 80 Assemblymembers will vote to determine if the bill moves to the state Senate.
Leatherbacks are truly an impressive species and an important part of the marine ecosystem. Once they reach maturity, leatherback sea turtles swim over 6,000 miles from their nesting beaches in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to waters off Californiaâ€™s coast to feed on jellyfish.
California waters are a globally important foraging area for leatherbacks and these endangered species are an ecologically important part of the marine ecosystem. In recognition of new scientific information demonstrating the importance of California waters to the survival of Pacific leatherbacks, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently designated nearly 42,000 square miles off the US West Coast as critical habitat, including 16,910 square miles off Californiaâ€™s coast.
Oceana co-authored the petition and weighed in heavily during this 5 year process leading to the final designation to help ensure ensure these awe-inspiring animals are not wiped out by human impacts to their key feeding areas.
Thank you to all of you California Wavemakers who signed the letter of support to your local representative letting them know your support for this legislation. This is truly a time to celebrate the leatherback.
Weâ€™re happy to announce a victory for sea turtles in the Atlantic this week.
The scallop fishery has long been a threat to sea turtles, who get caught up and drowned in the heavy equipment. Scallops are often collected by dredgesâ€” heavy metal nets attached to a flat scoop that drags along the ground, collecting everything large enough to fit in the net. These dredges are hazards in sea turtle habitats, where they catch, drag, and drown sea turtles along with the desired scallops.
All six sea turtle species in the United States are threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, making these deaths all the more tragic.
Fortunately, thereâ€™s a new type of gear that includes something called a Turtle Deflector Device (TDD). With a TDD, dredges can push sea turtles out of harmâ€™s way instead of pulling them into the nets.
This week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced new regulations for the Atlantic scallop fishery that will require TDDs in areas and during times when sea turtles are known to be present.
We are excited about these new rules, which will save many sea turtle lives.
Gib Brogan, our Northeast representative, said that â€śOceana is relieved that after 10 years of requests, NMFS has finally taken action to reduce the scallop fisheryâ€™s deadly interaction with threatened sea turtles. We support TDDs as a solution to sea turtle bycatch in the scallop fishery and commend the industry and its research partners for their work to develop this new gear.â€ť