Human behavior is the single most serious issue facing our oceans. Healthy oceans are essential for economic growth, food security and life on the planet. Yet, we overfish species faster than they can reproduce and dump the ocean full of waste including pesticides, mercury, fossil fuels and plastic. Behavior change is difficult. Awareness is the first step, but to make a timely impact we'll need to ask our governments to regulate better, thereby bringing conservation from the fringe to center stage. We need to make the Ocean Lobby more powerful than big business and partner when appropriate to advance a common conservation goal. Current laws are inadequate. Contacting the government and partnering with organizations that are taking the fight to the government will make a huge difference. -Marc Chafiian
Do you live in New York? Support S6431 and A.7707a which would protect global shark populations by banning the possession, sale, offering for sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins in the state of New York.
Because sharks are top predators, removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and lead to negative environmental and economic effects.
The fins from up to 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each year.
Shark fin is served simply as a symbol of status. It has no nutritional value and is the main driver of the multi-billion dollar international shark fin trade.
This bill will reduce pressure on shark populations globally by ending the demand for shark fins in New York
Similar bans have already been enacted in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and California
Awesome job, everyone! The CA Senate passed the shark fin soup ban in early September. It’s now on its way to Governor Brown’s desk. Please flood his office with calls today at 916.445.2841. The next few days are critical. Let him know you want your reefs and sharks to remain healthy and want him to sign AB 376 into law! The survival of sharks and the ocean depend on bills like this getting signed. The press has reported that the opposition has enlisted former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to veto AB 376, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen. You can also send Governor Brown an email at the form below.
Despite their reputation, sharks are not man-eaters. Need proof? Here are the facts:
How Many Attacks Are There?
Over the past five years (2006-2010), an average of 4.2 fatal shark attacks have taken place each year world-wide. Between 2006 and 2010, a total of 179 shark attacks occurred in the U.S., resulting in three fatalities.
Which Species Attack?
Only about a dozen of the approximately 500 shark species should be considered potentially dangerous to humans. White, tiger and bull sharks are responsible for more than half of all shark attacks.
True Risk of Attack:
Considering that more than 200 million people visit U.S. beaches each year, the number of shark attacks is relatively small. Of those millions of beach goers each year, about 36 are attacked by sharks, while more than 30,000 need to be rescued from surfing accidents. One is 3-4x times more likely to drown at the beach then to be a victim of a non fatal shark attack.
Where Do U.S. Attacks Occur?
In the past five years, shark attacks have occurred in eight states. The majority of attacks occurred in Florida, but attacks are possible in any of the U.S. coastal states.
Risk of Beach Injuries and Fatalities:
Drowning and other beach-related fatalities:
1 in 2 million
1 in 3.5 million
1 in 11.5 million
Shark attack fatalities:
0 in 264.1 million
The real threat is humans. For every one human killed by a shark, there are approximately 25 million sharks killed by humans.
Japan’s Deputy Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Joji Morishita, made it official this week that the Japanese whaling fleet will return to the Southern Ocean to resume the whaling operations later this year.
Facing massive international condemnation over whaling, what would seem to be a disappearing whale meat market and national struggle to cope with the tsunami aftermath, it would seem that the Japanese are focused on acting out their perceived ‘right’ to kill whales for scientific purposes.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been battling hard against this barbarism by the Japanese whalers and sees this as simply one more battle to be fought. So with the Japanese announcing they are preparing to return to the Southern Ocean, The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has also begun their own preparations. This will be the eighth Antarctic Whale Defense campaign and has been nick-named ‘Operation Divine Wind’. Their efforts will also be filmed as part of the fifth season of the ‘Whale Wars’, screened on the TV channel Animal Planet.
The BBC reported earlier this week that whilst the official target for Japan was around 850 whales, the eventual haul for this last season was only about 170 because the anti-whaling protestors were able to bring an early halt to the season. In an interview with the BCC, Morishita said that the Sea Shepherd was one of the main obstacles for Japan in this coming season: “Simply put, the attack from the Sea Shepherd organization is the one we have to consider how we prevent that to happen again. The attack this past year became so severe that we didn’t have any choice to try to prevent this from happening”.
Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson says that they have invested much time in defending the whales and intend to do the same this year: “Japan wants to push it for another year. We will return to the Southern Ocean and demonstrate that our resolve and determination to save the whales remains stronger than the whaler’s greedy lust for illegal slaughter”. Sea Shepherd are hoping to expand their fleet of vessels so they are stronger, bigger and faster than last year.
Today, 80% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted
Pirate fishing undermines attempts at sustainable fisheries management, causing massive damage to the marine environment and jeopardizing the food security and livelihoods of poor coastal communities in developing countries
Pirate fishermen are looting an estimated $1 billion worth of fish from African waters each year
Up to 16% of EU imports came from illegal sources in 2009
Help eliminate the use of Flags of Convenience by Fisheries vesselsthat give a perfect cover for illegal activities by helping the beneficiaries of pirate fishing to avoid detection and penalties.
The Ross Sea, Antarctica, is regarded by scientists as the last intact open-ocean marine ecosystem on Earth*.
It is the most biologically productive marine habitat in the Southern Ocean, and home to many rare and unique animals, many found nowhere else on earth. Species living in the Ross Sea include Adelie and Emperor penguins, Weddell and Crabeater seals, and unique ecotype-C killer whales. The Ross Sea ecosystem is important as a living laboratory for scientists to understand how a healthy marine ecosystem functions.
The natural balance of the Ross Sea ecosystem is now under threat from commercial fishing. Since 1996 the New Zealand Government has endorsed fishing for Antarctic toothfish in the Ross Sea, despite little being known about the lifecycle of toothfish or the impact that fishing could have for other species. The commercial harvest of Antarctic toothfish (sold as Chilean sea bass) undermines the ecological viability and intact qualities of this ecosystem.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has made a commitment to designate a network of Marine Protected Areas around Antarctica by November 2012. The Ross Sea has already been identified by CCAMLR as warranting protection; the proposal now requires support from key nations.
As the nearest neighbor to the Ross Sea, New Zealand has strong historical ties and a responsibility to care for this special part of the world.
This petition will be presented to the New Zealand House of Representatives requesting that the New Zealand Government prohibit further commercial fishing in the Ross Sea and endorse the establishment of a comprehensive Marine Protected Area, in order to preserve the biodiversity and pristine qualities of the Ross Sea marine ecosystem.
*Halpern et al. (2008) A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319: 948
Cut into the continental shelf off the Atlantic coast of the United States is a series of undersea canyons, starting just north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and running up past Cape Cod. The canyons plummet down thousands of feet over clay and stone cliffs before reaching the deep ocean bottom. Off the northern end of the canyons’ range, four massive seamounts rise off the ocean floor, part of a chain of extinct drowned volcanoes that stretches down to Bermuda.
Watch the Video » Ocean explorer Philippe Cousteau narrates this short video about the urgent need to protect the precious and mysterious underwater canyons and seamounts of the Atlantic Coast.
Teeming with an astonishing variety and abundance of marine life, these canyons and seamounts are ocean oases. Their hard foundations make possible their most vibrant and vulnerable feature: a living seafloor of deep sea corals, rare sponges, and vivid anemones. Even as such deep sea coral ecosystems dwindle around the world, here there are tree-like Lophelia corals, gorgonian corals the color of bubblegum, and stony corals that have been growing for hundreds of years.
Lobsters, crabs, flounders, hakes, skates, monkfish, and countless other fish species find food and shelter in these complex and dynamic environments. Tilefish and various crustaceans construct burrows in clay canyon walls, giving them the appearance of miniature, underwater versions of the pueblo villages of the American Southwest. Endangered sperm whales, beaked whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals feed on congregating schools of squid and small fish.
Humans share in this bounty. Commercial fishermen troll the waters around the canyons for squid, mackerel, summer flounder, and tilefish, among others. The closer canyons are visited by adventurous recreational fishermen seeking marlin, tuna, and other trophy gamefish. The types of coral and sponge communities in the seamounts and canyons have even yielded scientific and technological advances, including compounds for cancer treatments, models for artificial synthesis of human bone, and elements for constructing more durable optic cables.
Out at Sea, But Not Out of Harm’s Way
The Atlantic canyons and seamounts remain largely unscathed by humans. Because of their depth and ruggedness, they have been off limits to destructive bottom trawling, a type of fishing using heavily-weighted nets to target bottom-dwelling fish, crushing, ripping, and ultimately destroying fragile bottom habitats in the process. And the oil and gas industry has not been allowed in these areas since drilling dozens of exploratory wells near several of the canyons from the late 1950s to the early 1980s.
But that could change. Elsewhere, so-called “canyon buster” and “rock hopper” trawl gear is opening up challenging seascapes to fishermen seeking out new populations or species to catch. A bottom trawl net could remove in minutes what took nature centuries to build, leaving barren, scarred clay, mud, and rock where rich gardens of corals, sponges and anemones once were.
Renewed oil and gas exploration has also been approved for the Atlantic, threatening the canyons with sound pollution and the prospect of future drilling. Seismic surveys, using high-decibel acoustic energy pulses blasted from ships, can damage or kill fish and fish larvae and have been implicated in whale beaching and stranding incidents. And while Interior Secretary Salazar has said that areas off the east coast will not be leased for offshore drilling—at least until 2017—seismic testing to assess potential oil and gas deposits will proceed.
NRDC is fighting to protect the unique and vulnerable resources of the Atlantic canyons and seamounts from these threats. To date, four canyons have been protected from bottom-trawling, and NRDC is working with regional fishery management councils and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) to protect the others. Swift action is needed to defend these ancient ecosystems now, before they suffer irreparable harm.
Last July, President Obama established America’s first-ever National Ocean Policy. Like a Clean Air Act for our air or a Clean Water Act for our water, we finally have a bedrock environmental policy for our oceans. This is a huge victory for everyone who treasures the wonder of the seas, who values ocean life, who flocks to the beach, who loves seafood and who makes a living on or from the water.
As part of this effort, a new National Ocean Council (made up of existing federal agencies) was tasked with developing strategies to fix some of the most pressing challenges facing our oceans’ health. The council just released outlines of the steps that federal agencies plan to take to address these priority issues, and is accepting public comments on these outlines through July 2nd.
We need to ensure that the final plans developed from the outlines prioritize protection, maintenance and restoration of ocean ecosystems and include specific, short-term actions that agencies will take to improve ocean health. Further, the plans should require that important ocean areas like the mid-Atlantic canyons and seamounts will be protected from harmful activities. Certain areas of the ocean host important habitat for endangered species or serve as critical areas for spawning, breeding and feeding; these places must be protected.
What to do: Before the July 2nd comment deadline, urging the National Ocean Council to develop robust strategic action plans that protect, maintain and restore our oceans’ health.