Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released its annual report detailing progress toward ending overfishing and recovering overfished stocks. Each year, NMFS reports on the number of stocks where overfishing is occurring (mortality is above sustainable levels), the number of stocks that are overfished (populations have not yet recovered from past overfishing), and the number of stocks that are no longer depleted, or are considered “rebuilt.” In 2012, NMFS reported continued progress, which is good news in light of controversial decisions to follow scientific recommendations to further cut quotas of key New England stocks. According to the report, ten stocks are no longer subject to overfishing, including short-fin mako, Caribbean grouper, and Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Additionally, six stocks are now considered “rebuilt,” including southern Tanner crabs, Washington coast Coho salmon, south Atlantic pink shrimp, and southern New England/Mid-Atlantic windowpane and yellowtail flounder.
A new study published earlier this year in Marine Policy put the number of sharks slaughtered each year at 100 million, or roughly three sharks caught per second. Outraged by these shocking numbers, Joe Chernov and Robin Richards created an infographic to put the figures in perspective. While shark attacks on humans do happen (there were 12 fatal ones last year) the existential threat humans pose to the future of sharks is far graver. While there's a lot to be said about the horrors of shark finning, we'll let this graphic do the talking.
This morning the government announced a decision, long in the making, to designate 739 miles of Atlantic and Gulf coastline as critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.
Loggerheads face threats from all sides, including from pollution, degradation of foraging areas, and serious injury and death from entanglement in fishing gear. They’re also faced with the loss of their nesting habitat due to coastal development as well as sea level rise.
Loggerheads, which make some of the longest journeys of any sea turtle—across entire ocean basins—nest on beaches from Texas to Virginia, but 90 percent of U.S. loggerhead nesting occurs in Florida. This new protection means that any new beachside hotels, homes or commercial construction built on protected beaches that require federal permits would need to be reviewed to prevent harm to nesting areas.
Oceana marine scientist Amanda Keledjian explained why the protections are crucial:
“Turtles are often caught in fishing gear, struck by moving vessels, or risk ingesting debris such as plastic bags. The National Marine Fisheries Service must follow up on this action and designate off-shore areas as well as waters directly adjacent to nesting beaches if they want these vulnerable populations to recover.”
The new protections came about as a result of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Turtle Island Restoration Network, after the government failed to respond to previous petitions filed by the groups dating back to 2007. In 2011, loggerhead sea turtles worldwide were protected as nine separate populations under the Endangered Species Act, triggering the requirement to designate critical habitat.
The government will now accept public comments about the proposal and the protections are expected to take effect in 2014. Stay tuned to hear about ways that you can help ensure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not withdraw many of these proposed beaches when these protections are finalized.
Earlier this year Oceana made a splash with its National Seafood Fraud Report, a landmark investigation which found that a third of the seafood it tested nationwide had been mislabeled. While we encourage you to read the report in full, for those of you on the go this infographic (click to enlarge) boils it down to its most shocking findings.
Learn more about seafood fraud.
After a 60-day review of what could charitably be described as a disastrous Arctic drilling season, the Department of the Interior has released a critical assessment of Shell's offshore activities in the far north. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Tommy Beaudreau acknowledged that the company was unprepared for work in such an unforgiving environment:
“Shell simply did not maintain strong, direct oversight of some of its key contractors. Working in the Arctic requires thorough advance planning and preparation, rigorous management focus, a close watch over contractors, and reliance on experienced, specialized operators who are familiar with the uniquely challenging conditions of the Alaskan offshore. In some areas Shell performed well, but in other areas they did not, and Alaska’s harsh environment was unforgiving.”
Oceana Deputy Vice President, Pacific, Susan Murray responded to the DOI's review. While echoing the criticism of Shell, she argued that the government must reassess its own role in allowing such an unprepared organization flirt with environmental catastrophe:
“By and large, the review told us two things we already knew—companies are woefully unprepared for the remote and unforgiving Alaskan waters, and our government improperly awarded Shell approvals to operate there. The Arctic Ocean is unique and important. Americans deserve better care and stewardship than oil companies or the government have provided.
Shell’s lack of respect and lack of attention to detail repeatedly put lives and our oceans at risk; and the company has violated the most basic protections for clean air and clean water. Holding Shell accountable is necessary, but it is not sufficient.
Somehow this video escaped our notice a few months back, but it's never too late to share with you the Mystery of the Mangled Mola, which comes to us courtesy of the precocious students of Mrs. Osorio's second grade class at Carmel River school in Carmel, California.
In the video above, these sleuthing, future marine biologists investigate the unusual number of mola (or mola-mola or sunfish) that have been washing ashore on their beaches in Monetery Bay and its environs, without fins and often with their eyes gouged out. The video also includes a Kinks-inspired ode to the mola as well as a mola-inspired hand dance that is sure to become a craze. Great work guys!
Special thanks to the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary System for bringing this video to our attention.
Rowers take your mark! This lagoon will be the site of the rowing competition at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics, but yesterday this was the scene, as thousands of fish died and had to be removed after oxygen levels in the water plummeted due to heavy pollution.
Learn about what Oceana is doing to combat pollution in the ocean and what you can do to help.
Generally you should keep your distance from wild animals, especially in the case of marine mammals, as the failure to do so can result in a hefty fine. But there are those rare times when wild animals won't leave you be. In that case, having a camera rolling can make for some amazing scenes, like the above.
Sea lions and seals are pinnipeds, carnivorous mammals with fin-like flippers that come ashore to breed, give birth, and nurse their young. It's a group that also includes walruses and is more closely related to such land animals as bears, dogs, raccoons, and weasels (all belonging to the order Carnivora) than to cetaceans like whales and dolphins, which took the plunge millions of years earlier in evolutionary history.
Like all animals though, sometimes they're just looking for a free ride.
In a preview of the National Geographic series Kingdom of the Oceans airing on March 10, ABC News spoke with Oceana senior vice president for North America and chief scientist Mike Hirshfield about, well, everything. In this whirlwind video, viewers whip from the deep sea to kelp forests to coral reefs and encounter creatures as varied as cuttlefish, spanish dancers and the truly bizarre blanket octopus. Mike gives both economic and intrinsic reasons for caring about the health of the oceans.
"So many economies are absolutely dependent on healthy oceans. 15 percent of the world's protein comes from fish produced by the oceans. That's a nontrivial amount of food. If you care about living creatures, the wonder and magic and beauty of the oceans are something you should care about."
The four-part National Geographic series begins March 10 on the Nat Geo Wild channel and features Oceana Senior Advisor Alexandra Cousteau as narrator. Check it out!
On the heels of a sweeping Oceana investigation that found that 33 percent of 1,215 seafood samples tested nationwide were mislabeled, Congress has taken action. On Wednesday Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act to ensure that seafood is traceable "from sea to sale".
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office only 2 percent of seafood imported to the United States is inspected at all, and only .001 percent is inspected for fraud.
Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell lauded the new legislation:
"Americans deserve to know more about the seafood they purchase, including the species name, where, when, and how it was caught, if it was farmed or previously frozen, and if any additives were used during processing.
By requiring fish to be tracked from boat to plate, the SAFE Seafood Act will protect our wallets, our health and our oceans.”
Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL). Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in the coming days.
Learn more about Oceana's seafood fraud investigation.