Since a lot of what happens in the oceans is hidden from view, the issues we discuss here on the blog can often be abstract and hard to visualize.
Thatâ€™s why starting today, Iâ€™ll be featuring an ocean infographic by artist Don Foley each week. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Dansonâ€™s book, â€śOceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.â€ť
I thought Iâ€™d start with one of the most mysterious players in the ocean: fishing gear. I donâ€™t know about you, but Iâ€™ve never actually seen any of these in real life (have you?), so I find this infographic quite helpful:
Dredges catch scallops and fish by dragging across the seafloor. They can crush corals, catch sea turtles, and disÂturb all kinds of seafloor life.
Purse seine nets catch schooling fish like tuna by enÂcircling the school with a wall of netting. They can capÂture dolphins and other natural predators feeding on the school.
Trawl nets catch shrimp, cod, haddock, and other fish. Bottom trawls drag weighted nets across the seafloor, crushing corals or any other marine life in their path. BotÂtom trawls also discard more unwanted fish than almost any other form of fishing and are extremely destructive. Midwater trawls drag large nets through the water to catch pollock and other schooling fish, and when their nets are full, they may also drag on the bottom.
Gillnets are one of the most widely used methods in the world for catching salmon and sharks. When not closely tended, gillnets can entangle and drown sea turtles, seaÂbirds, and marine mammals. Some gillnets also snag large numbers of juvenile fish, which contributes to overfishing.
Read more about fishing weaponry and see a larger version of this infographic, and come back next week to ogle more ocean visuals!
Great news for the oceans: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has ruled in favor of Oceana in a suit that will require commercial fisheries from North Carolina to the Canadian border to monitor and report the amount of bycatch, or untargeted marine life, they discard.
This victory may seem like a small step, but it is a triumph against one of the biggest problems facing our oceans today. Bycatch is a major player in the destruction of marine ecosystems, and occurs when fishing gear indiscriminately traps marine life in nets, trawls, and fishing lines.
Tons of fish are wasted and thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks and sea birds are injured or killed every year as bycatch. While the new law does not place limits on bycatch, it represents a crucial and long-awaited step in increasing the transparency in commercial fishing.
â€śFor more than 15 years NMFS has violated the law, managing Americaâ€™s fisheries without reliable information about how much fish and other marine wildlife is being shoveled over the side of boats, often dead or dying,â€ť said Gilbert Brogan, northeast representative for Oceana. â€śThis ruling is a significant step towards improving the management of U.S. fisheries in the Atlantic.â€ť
Congratulations to everyone who helped win this victory for more abundant oceans!
Sea turtles have had a rough year. In 2010, more than 600 sea turtles were found either dead or injured on Gulf of Mexico shores, and 563 have already washed up just halfway into 2011.
This sudden spike in sea turtle mortality is due in part to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf in April, but Oceana has recently discovered that someone else may be to blame: the Gulf shrimp fishery.
Oceana recently found that the fishery is not currently required to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which spare most sea turtles from getting caught and drowning in their skimmer trawls used for catching shrimp. This lack of proper regulation, coupled with the fisheryâ€™s noncompliance or ignorance of TED requirements for other types of trawls, has led to the enormous number of recent sea turtle deaths.
What you might not know is that under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorizes fisheries to injure or kill a specific number of sea turtles. More than 98 percent of all sea turtle interactions authorized to U.S. fisheries are given to the shrimp fishery.
For millions of years, sea turtles have been a vital part of ocean ecosystems â€“ but today they are on the brink of extinction as a result of irresponsible fishing and habitat destruction, among other threats. Weâ€™re working our hardest to save them, but we need your support.
All six sea turtle species that swim in US waters threatened or endangered, but itâ€™s not too late to save them. Donate today and join Oceana in the fight to protect sea turtles and restore ocean balance. With your donation, we will continue pushing for stronger fishing regulations and legislation that will help protect and sustain turtle populations for years to come.
Our goal is to raise $40,000, and we still have a long way to go. Please donate today to help us in the fight to save sea turtles from extinction. And if youâ€™ve already given, thank you -- now pass the word on via Facebook, Twitter, and however else you can!
Ever visited a sea turtle sick ward? I have, and it's an enlightening, if sad, experience. Hereâ€™s your chance to do so virtually. Oceana supporter and actress Lauren Norman visited a Florida sea turtle hospital and science center and made the video below about what she learned.
Lauren discovers the main reasons sea turtles end up in rehab (fishing gear, boat propellers and cold stunning) and what can be done to protect sea turtles from ending up tangled in fishing gear, such as the use of turtle excluder devices.
Inspired by Laurenâ€™s video? Now take action to protect sea turtles by telling President Obama that the ancient mariners need comprehensive protections in U.S. waters. Thanks to Lauren and all of you for helping protect sea turtles!
All six species of sea turtles in U.S. waters are threatened with extinction -- and we want to know why more isnâ€™t being done to protect them. The U.S. government wants to charge us an arm and a leg for more information about it. So we filed a lawsuit.
Last March, Oceana submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asking for records relating to trawl gear modifications intended to prevent sea turtle bycatch in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. (The government has still not acted to modify trawl gear to protect sea turtles on much of the East Coast.) In response, NOAA asked Oceana to pay more than $16,000 for the documents.
The study found that 85,000 sea turtles were reported caught by commercial fisheries worldwide over the last 20 years, but the scientists estimate that the actual number is two orders of magnitude higher than that -- in the millions.
The 85,000 figure only accounts for sea turtle bycatch that was reported, but the actual number of turtles caught is significantly higher because typically less than 1% of fleets have fishing observed and many small scale fisheries have no observer coverage at all.
The study looked at sea turtles caught by gillnets, longlines and trawls, three of the most commonly used fishing gear types. The bottom line here is that the number of sea turtles caught as bycatch is enormous. Without additional bycatch reduction and better enforcement of established protections, many sea turtle populations may go extinct.