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Blog Tags: Sea Turtles

Canary Islands Threatened by Oil Prospecting Plans

Yellow gorgonia coral  and red sea fan in the Canary Islands.  © Oceana/Carlos Minguell

The Canary Islands are in the oil industry’s crosshairs, and that spells danger for the area’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 Repsol’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 islands’ 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 islands’ high biodiversity—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!


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What Motivates You?

OH_motivation

To be an Ocean Hero, you have to have a strong commitment to your work—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 world’s oceans. Here’s what they told us keeps them working hard to achieve their goals:

Adults

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.

Juniors

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.

Don’t forget to visit oceana.org/heroes and vote for your favorite adult and junior finalists. There’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/Nemo’s Great Uncle (middle).


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Tuna Still Feeling the Effects of Fukushima

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna are carrying radiation from Japan to California. ©Oceana/Keith Ellenbogen

It might seem straight out of science fiction, but this story is real – radioactive tuna could be swimming in an ocean near you.

new study found that after last spring’s Fukushima nuclear accident, Pacific Bluefin tuna caught off of San Diego appear to have been contaminated by radioactive materials from last spring’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 – 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. They’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 Aquarium’s Seafood Watch already lists bluefin as a species to avoid due to severe overfishing and high mercury levels. They’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.


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CA Fish & Game Commission Endorses Sea Turtle Bill

leatherback sea turtle

Pacific leatherback sea turtles migrate to California waters to feed on jellyfish. © NOAA

Yesterday afternoon the California Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to support legislation to designate the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as the state’s official marine reptile.

The Commission often does not take a position on legislation, making yesterday’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 Governor’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 California’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!


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Angela Kinsey and Barton Seaver Head to Capitol Hill

Next Monday, actress and ocean activist Angela Kinsey will be here in Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass legislation to stop seafood fraud.

Kinsey is best known for her role as the tightly-wound head of accounting on “The Office,” and she also appeared in a video for Oceana’s sea turtle campaign alongside Rachael Harris (“The 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.


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Leatherbacks Closer to Becoming CA Symbol

© NOAA

More good news for sea turtles today: The endangered leatherback sea turtle swam one lap closer today to becoming California’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 California’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 California’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.

Stay tuned!


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A Big Win for Sea Turtles in the Atlantic

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

We’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 dredges— 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, there’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 harm’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 “Oceana is relieved that after 10 years of requests, NMFS has finally taken action to reduce the scallop fishery’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.”


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How Climate Change Affects Sea Turtles

Sea turtle hatchlings. © Houssine Kaddachi

Each of the six sea turtle species found in the United States are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Every day, sea turtles face a number of threats including pollution, boat strikes, hunting, accidental capture by fisheries, as well as the development of many coastal beaches that female sea turtles use for nesting sites.

But a growing threat to sea turtles is climate change. Rising sea levels and increased numbers of storms will likely limit the number of beaches that are suitable for nesting, and warmer temperatures could have a significant effect on sea turtle reproduction since the sex of sea turtle eggs is determined by the nest temperature. Warmer sands will result in more females, while cooler sands favor males. The magic temperature seems to be about 82°F, but this can vary depending on the species.

Temperatures are predicted to rise by 2.5-10°F in the next century, which could alter hatchling sex ratios especially in areas that are already warm like the Caribbean. In Florida, loggerhead nests are already producing more than 90% females, and further warming could mean that no males hatch from these nests at all.

In a new study, however, a group of researchers used screens to shade nests, and they found that it effectively reduced nest temperatures and produced a higher proportion of male hatchlings. By protecting beaches where males are more common and by applying artificial shading, if necessary, a healthy ratio of male and female sea turtles will be born.

Although shading may provide some relief to sea turtle populations already threatened with extinction, it is only a temporary solution to a much larger problem. To help take action against climate change, here are a few steps you can take at home and in your community.

 


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The Incredible Journeys of Sea Turtles

A green sea turtle munches on lettuce in rehab. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

When sea turtles are sick or injured, they can spend a few weeks or months recovering in sea turtle rehabilitation or research centers. The turtles are released back into the wild as soon as they have recovered enough so that they can live normally in the ocean.

But sometimes, sea turtles spend years or even decades away from the ocean. Still, even after sea turtles have spent long periods of time in captivity, they are able to return to the ocean and live like a wild turtle – even following complex migration routes.

Wild sea turtles migrate long distances to reproduce, as females return to the same beach where they hatched in order to lay their own eggs. Sometimes, these turtles cross entire oceans to get back to the beach where they were born. These long journeys inspired the Great Turtle Race, where leatherback sea turtles were tracked as they crossed the Pacific Ocean to nest.

Although not all sea turtles can be released from rehabilitation, healthy turtles that have spent a long time in captivity can still easily adapt back to ocean living. In 1996, researchers released a female loggerhead named Adelita, who had been raised in captivity for 10 years.

Researchers attached a satellite tracking device and were able to follow her incredible journey from Baja California to nesting sites in Sendai Bay, Japan – over 7,000 miles away! Even though she had spent her entire life in a research facility, she was still able to find her way to the area where she hatched.


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Another Victory: Protecting Sea Lions in the Pacific

A Steller sea lion. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

I’m pleased to report two victories this week for some of the oceans’ most threatened creatures.

First, Oceana and its allies won protections for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles with the establishment of the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks in the continental U.S. The area, nearly 42,000 square miles off the U.S. West Coast, protects the places where leatherbacks feed on jellyfish after swimming 6,000 miles across the ocean from Indonesia in one of the world’s greatest migrations.

Second, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of protections for endangered Steller sea lions. These majestic marine mammals compete with large-scale industrial fisheries for food and continue to struggle for survival in the western Aleutian Islands.

The court decision came after Oceana and our allies pressured the federal government to address the declining Steller sea lions’ population by limiting bottom trawling in important areas. In 2010, the government agreed that existing protections were not adequate and put in place new rules to allow more food for sea lions in the Aleutian Islands.

Naturally, the fishing industry was displeased and sued to invalidate the closure. Oceana, Greenpeace and Earthjustice teamed up with the government to uphold the protections, and we learned yesterday that we won.

Thanks to this decision, Steller sea lions will continue to have a chance to rebound. There is still more work to be done, though, because the court required the government to conduct a new analysis of the impacts of its decision. This process should help us better understand the effects of large-scale commercial fishing on sea lions and other ocean resources.

Thanks you for the support that makes these victories possible.


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