Tag: Endangered

Breaking! U.S. Congress Is Urged To Increase Funding For Endangered Species Conservation By $300 Million Beginning In 2022

More than 170 groups urged the United States Congress to significantly increase the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget for endangered species conservation from $291.7 million to $592.1 million. This marks an increase of approximately $300 million from last year’s budget.

According to the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service’s data, hundreds of endangered species receive less than $1,000 per year for their recovery. Many species receive no funding at all from the agency.

“We can’t possibly begin to combat, let alone reverse, the global extinction crisis if our nation’s strongest conservation law is operating on a shoestring budget,” Stephanie Kurose, a senior policy specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. 

As yesterday’s letter notes, to make up for lost ground and support the Biden administration’s commitment to address the threat of climate change to biodiversity, the Service requires a budget of $592.1 million, distributed across five programs, starting in fiscal year 2022. The critical move includes ensuring that every listed species receives a minimum of $50,000 per year for recovery.

“The science is clear: Species are being lost faster than ever before in human history,” noted Dr. Jacob Malcom, Director of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife. “The science also shows what works to save species: funding. We urge Congress to fully fund the Endangered Species Act so that the most vulnerable species have a fighting chance at survival and recovery.”

Scientists have sounded the alarm that unless urgent action is taken, one million animal and plant species may become threatened with extinction in the coming decades due to habitat loss, climate change, wildlife exploitation, pollution, and other human activities.

Today’s letter, joined by groups including Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sierra Club, notes that “The Endangered Species Act is one of the best tools we have to stem the current wildlife extinction crisis.”

For more than 45 years, despite being chronically and severely underfunded, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected, and worked to recover, many of the most imperiled species in the United States.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! Whale Entanglement Prevention Act Aims To End The Suffering & Death Of Endangered Marine Life Off The Coast Of California

This week, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, along with co-sponsors Social Compassion in Legislation and The Center for Biological Diversity introduced AB 534, The Whale Entanglement Prevention Act.

The measure was created because of changing ocean conditions and the fact that while California has long been a leader in wildlife conservation and sustainable fishing operations, the crabbing industry continues to use antiquated trapping gear that needlessly kills and injures critically endangered whales, sea turtles, and other marine species.

This critical bill will require the California Dungeness crabbing industry, and other trap fisheries, to use ropeless gear by November 1, 2025, effectively making California a leader in whale protection.

“California is a global leader in technology and innovation, yet we continue to trap crabs with archaic technology that puts our cherished marine wildlife at risk,” Assemblymember Bonta said in a statement sent to WAN. “As we move into the future, we can have both productive crabbing operations and oceans that are safe for whales and sea turtles. Whale-safe ropeless crabbing gear is already available; now we’re just implementing a deadline that crabbers can work with to make the necessary transition.”

Ropeless gear is the only way to eliminate the risk of entanglement while permitting crabbing to continue. The gear allows traps on the seafloor to be remotely called to the surface and removes the static vertical lines in the water column that entangle whales, sea turtles, and other marine animals.

Either a stowed rope and buoy, or a lift bag, sits on the seafloor attached to a trap which contains an acoustic modem and GPS that records its location. When fishers return to that location, a signal from a second paired modem on their boat using high-frequency sound waves triggers the buoy or lift bag to come to the surface. The traps can then be hauled up using traditional crabbing practices.

“It is heartbreaking that so many whale entanglements are happening off the coast of California,” stated Leah Sturgis, Vice President of Wildlife Protection, Social Compassion in Legislation. “It’s unbelievable that we have tolerated the loss of so much marine life, in particular the endangered pacific blue whale, of which there are only a few thousand left. So many lives could be saved with the use of this technology.”

Following several years of record-breaking numbers of entanglements reported off the coast of California, the Department of Fish and Wildlife recently enacted regulations to reduce the number of endangered blue whales, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles becoming entangled in commercial Dungeness crabbing gear.

However, the regulations have not eliminated entanglement risk and rely heavily on constant data collection and analysis to inform the implementation of potential risk-reduction measures. This may only trigger management actions after entanglements occur, and also rely on closures, including delaying the start of the season or ending it early, as the primary way to reduce risk which creates uncertainty for crabbers about where and when they will be able to crab.

“Whales and other marine life have long been exploited by humans, nearing the point of extinction,” said Judie Mancuso, CEO and Founder of Social Compassion in Legislation. “It’s time we prioritize and protect our most magnificent ocean creatures and put whale entanglements in the past.”

Various types of ropeless crabbing gear are currently being tested in Canada and on the East and West Coasts of the United States, and such gear is currently being used in a lobster fishery in Australia.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! Dallas Safari Club Holds Vile Ego-Driven Trophy Hunting Convention Virtually February 10-14 Auctioning Off Threatened & Endangered Species

Photos by: Katie Cleary

Tragically, despite the pandemic, Dallas Safari Club’s annual trophy hunting convention is taking place again this year February 10-14, but this time virtually. The notorious trophy hunting organization is once again auctioning off hunts of some of the most beautiful, rare, and endangered species on the planet, all to raise an estimated 3.5 million dollars for their organization. The Safari Club promotes the ruthless killing of defenseless animals, with guns, as well as bows and arrows, for so-called ‘sport,’ putting the future of our wildlife in jeopardy.

In 2017, WAN went undercover at the Safari Club Convention in Las Vegas and saw shocking displays of endangered dead animals, deplorably deemed ‘trophies’ by some; a wide array of easily accessible guns and ammunition; fur coats with the faces and feet of animals still attached; and wildlife outfitters that target hunters wanting ‘opportunities’ to kill wildlife for obscene amounts of money. Making matters worse, the promotion of the senseless violence associated with trophy hunting, took place amidst a flurry of men, women, and horrifically, some children.

“While walking into the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas, the feeling of horror and anxiety was overwhelming,” said Katie Cleary, President and Founder of Peace 4 Animals and WAN. The glorification of killing some of the world’s most endangered and threatened species on the planet was on display in such a shocking and heartless manner, it is a wonder how any human being can participate in such a cruel and selfish industry. We must do something to end the travesty of trophy hunting once and for all.”


“As we looked around at the massive crowd of 20,000 plus attendees, we couldn’t help but wonder what the method to the madness was,” continued Cleary. “There seemed to be a common thread throughout the convention with many trophy hunters justifying their actions based on what they claim to be ‘conservation,’ saying that if there wasn’t a value or price put on these animals, then there would be no incentive to protect them in the wild. The incentive to protect these animals lies in eco-tourism and photo safaris which brings in more money per year than trophy hunting ever will.

“Many of the species that were on display at the convention are listed on Appendix I of CITES, including: Snow Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, and others like African Leopards, Polar Bears, Wolves, and African Lions. Many other imperiled species were stuffed and put on display, others were said to be realistic replicas.”

As noted by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Society International (HSI) in a new shocking analysis of the 2021 Dallas Safari Club annual convention, beginning tomorrow, trophy hunters, hunting outfitters, and other businesses from around the world will gather online to buy, sell, and auction the opportunity to kill iconic animals, including canned hunts in the U.S., South Africa, and Argentina. Canned hunts involve the victimization of captive animals who live inside a fenced in area and have no way to escape the hunter. They are also refereed to as captive hunts, estate hunts or high fence hunts.

 

  • 849 exhibitors from 32 countries will participate virtually.

  • 351 of those exhibitors will offer hunting trips to kill 319 species, including critically endangered black rhinos, cheetahs, brown bears, and kangaroos, in 70 countries.

  • 183 hunts in 24 countries were donated for auction to kill over 200 animals from leopards to bears.

“The pandemic is not slowing down the vile trophy hunting industry and the shameless conventions that celebrate the violent, needless slaughter of wild animals,” said Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement. “As millions of people struggle to survive the pandemic, trophy hunters spend millions of dollars on grim globe-trotting trips to shoot beloved, iconic animals for bragging rights and collections of heads to hang on their wall.”

The HSUS/HSI analysis shows that the over 800 exhibitors registered to participate in the convention will also sell wildlife body parts and products such as taxidermies, knives made of giraffe bones, furniture made of ostrich skin, boots and belts made of shark skin, and elephant leather, as well as other home décor and fashion accessories made from animals.

The 185 items that are expected to be auctioned off include donated hunts to kill at least 205 animals in 24 countries, among them: elephants, giraffes, hippos, Cape buffalos, and crocodiles. There are at least 16 U.S. canned hunts being auctioned off. Eight are in Texas. The remainder which include the hunting of elk, exotic sheep, and various antelope and deer species, are in Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania,

Among the most expensive hunts for auction are a $70,000 excursion for desert bighorn sheep in Mexico and a $52,850 brown bear hunt in Alaska.  Other deplorable hunts include killing elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia, giraffes in South Africa, and leopards in Namibia. Items like firearms; apparel made of beaver, mink, and lynx fur; Swarovski Optik equipment such as a riflescope; and an $80,000 diamond necklace are up for auction as well.

“When WAN witnessed the disconnect to our natural world and the lack of compassion while undercover at the SCI convention, we realized that there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done to create and enforce laws to protect our most threatened species in every country and continent around the world. Most of us are born with compassion in our hearts but it has to be nurtured. We can help foster compassion by educating others about the plight of these incredible species and spread knowledge to have respect for all living beings. If we work together in a collective effort, we have the ability to change the hearts and minds of those who do not share the same love for animals. But, it has to be done with compassion first,” said Cleary.

A summary of progress made in 2020 to stop the trophy hunting industry is posted HERE!

Members of the public who are opposed to this senseless cruelty can sign the pledge against the trophy hunting of wildlife HERE!

The post Breaking! Dallas Safari Club Holds Vile Ego-Driven Trophy Hunting Convention Virtually February 10-14 Auctioning Off Threatened & Endangered Species appeared first on World Animal News.

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Peace 4 Animals, SCIL, NRDC & FOE Introduce California Anti-Deforestation Bill To Protect Critical Rainforest Habitat & Endangered Species

Following a year of devastating fires throughout the Amazon rainforest and the forests throughout Indonesia, as well as continued degradation of boreal forests throughout North America, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and bill co-sponsors, Peace 4 Animals, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Counciland Social Compassion in Legislation, announced the introduction of Bill AB 416, The California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act.

“By introducing this bill, we’re giving California the opportunity to take real leadership in the fight against tropical and boreal deforestation and primary forest degradation by making our purchases – and our global impact – more transparent, more sustainable, and more ethical,” Assemblymember Kalra, said in a statement sent to WAN. “AB 416 asserts our California values and extends environmental leadership to the protection of tropical and boreal forests, sending a powerful signal to global markets that illegal and destructive commodity-driven deforestation will no longer be tolerated.”

If passed, all California state contracts involving commodities that put tropical and primary boreal forests at risk, such as palm oil, soy, cattle, rubber, paper/pulp and timber, would require contractors to maintain a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy, and provide evidence that their operations in sensitive tropical and boreal regions are not linked to forest destruction and degradation or abuses of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Environmental advocates and industry leaders alike agree that such policies are the best way to prevent ongoing forest destruction. A version of the bill introduced in 2019 achieved strong bi-partisan support but failed to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The world’s forests are in crisis. Tropical forests cover roughly 7% of the Earth’s surface but harbor close to half of all species on Earth. An estimated 18 million acres of forestan area one-fifth the size of California—is lost every year, largely due to the expansion of agribusiness plantations. Tropical deforestation and related land-use changes are responsible for nearly a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions, and are a major contributor to the global biodiversity crisis.

Boreal forests account for one-third of the world’s forested areas and, after mangroves, are the most carbon-dense forests on earth. The Canadian boreal forest alone stores twice as much carbon as the world’s oil reserves and is the nesting ground for billions of migratory birds. Logging in primary forests is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions and the decline of critical species. In North America, only 15 of 51 boreal caribou herds have sufficient habitat to survive long-term, primarily due to industrial logging, while 33% of boreal birds have declined in the last 50 years.

“I have seen first-hand the heartbreaking effects of tropical deforestation while traveling and filming throughout Indonesia,” stated Katie Cleary, Founder and President of Peace 4 Animals. “We will lose vital species such as endangered orangutans, tigers, and rhinos if we do not take meaningful action to end the destruction of our rainforests. The Deforestation-Free Procurement Act will help to aid in the protection of critical habitat thus preserving species and forests for future generations.”

“The loss of our forests is not just damaging for us, it’s also a loss of habitat for countless species of animals,” stated Judie Mancuso, CEO and Founder of Social Compassion in Legislation. “We caused the devastation, which means we need to do everything in our power to protect all the vulnerable and endangered species. The Deforestation-Free Procurement Act is a powerful step forward to begin the healing and end the destruction.”

“California’s Deforestation-Free Procurement Act is a visionary but extremely pragmatic and direct contribution to halting the global deforestation crisis,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “This bill is not merely timely, it’s long overdue.”

“The actions of the marketplace in California and across the U.S. will critically define the fate of forests around the world, from the lush tropical rainforests to the majestic boreal,” explained Jennifer Skene, an Attorney with the Canada Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This Act recognizes that interconnectedness and moves toward ending the wasteful destruction of the forests that are the ancestral homelands of many Indigenous Peoples and play such a vital role in protecting our climate and the world’s biodiversity for future generations.”

The principal co-authors of AB 416 are Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), and Alex Lee (D-San Jose), and Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), and Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles). The bill is also co-authored by Assemblymembers Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), and Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), and Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz).

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! Qatar Airways Cargo Saves Wildlife With ‘WeQare’ Initiative By Flying Endangered Species Back To Their Natural Habitat

As an inaugural signatory to the Buckingham Palace Declaration in March 2016, and a founding member of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, Qatar Airways has a zero tolerance policy towards the illegal trade of endangered species. The cargo carrier’s initiative to bring wildlife back to their natural habitat is consistent with the airline’s commitment to fight wildlife trafficking and the illegal trade of wild animals.

Wildlife trafficking is the world’s fourth-largest illegal trade, estimated to be worth $19 billion per year. The trade in endangered species and plants, fueled by demand for jewelry, ornaments, and unproven medical treatments, is needless and has disastrous consequences for global conservation efforts.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! Court Rules That The Last Seven Critically Endangered Captive Red Wolves In North Carolina Must Be Released Into The Wild

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled in a case brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must develop a plan by March 1, 2021, to resume its longstanding and successful practice of releasing captive red wolves into the Red Wolf Recovery Area in North Carolina. The case was brought on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute.

As reported by WAN last month, there are tragically as few as seven red wolves remaining in the wild today. The court order temporarily prohibits the agency from implementing its recent policy change that would prevent the release of captive wolves into the wild.

On November 16, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for violations of the Endangered Species Act. This was caused by new, illegal agency policies that bar the use of proven management measures to save wild red wolves on behalf of Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute. It filed for a motion for preliminary injunction in the case on November 19, 2020.

“With only seven known red wolves left in the wild, it is past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to resume conservation measures that it used successfully for decades,” Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the conservation organizations, said in a statement. “The court was clear that the agency has to stop managing red wolves into extinction and instead take meaningful action to rebuild the wild red wolf population in North Carolina.”

“We are grateful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will finally abide by its responsibility to protect this critically endangered wolf,” stated Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Releasing wolves into the wild is a common sense, science-backed approach to boost this population and stave off the red wolf’s extinction. While the species has a long way to go, this is a major step in the right direction.”

“This is a vital ruling that will breathe new life into the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” noted Johanna Hamburger, director and senior staff attorney for AWI’s terrestrial wildlife program. “The Court held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s passive efforts to manage the wild red wolf population are woefully inadequate to recover the species. By ordering the agency to once again release wolves from captivity into the wild population, the Court is requiring much-needed action to prevent the continued downward spiral of this species.”

“The Red Wolf Coalition is grateful that the court saw the importance of releasing captive red wolves to the wild population,” said Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of Red Wolf Coalition. “These additional red wolves will add genetic diversity and breeding opportunities to the wild population in northeastern North Carolina.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! Compassionate City In New Zealand Closes Busy Road To Protect An Endangered Nesting Sea Lion & Her Pup

A city in South Island, New Zealand, is closing a busy road for a month to allow an endangered sea lion to nest safely with her pup.The heartwarming news was recently shared by the Dunedin City Council.

“We’ve closed John Wilson Ocean Drive to vehicles for the next month to allow some special residents to use the road safely. A New Zealand sea lion and her pup have taken up residence at the golf course next door and are regularly crossing the road to get to the beach,” the Dunedin City Council noted in a post on its Facebook page.

While people are still able to visit the area by foot or bicycle, they must stay at least 20m away from the New Zealand sea lions which are endangered, and one of the world’s rarest species of sea lions on earth. The Dunedin City Council also advised people walking their dogs in the area to keep them on a leash.

According to the New Zealand Department of Conservation, there are only an estimated 12,000 New Zealand sea lions left. Sadly, their main breeding population remains in decline due to numerous threats including: fisheries interactions, pup mortality, diseases, and food availability. Human impacts also threaten the sea lions. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists often encroached on the sea lions beach habitat for selfies and photographs.

A Threat Management Plan which was published in 2017 aims to stop the decline of the New Zealand sea lion population within five years and ensure the population is stable or increasing within 20 years. It is an offense of the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a New Zealand sea lion. Under local law, anyone who kills a sea lion could receive up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000 in New Zealand which equates to $178,000 in the United States.

Local residents are applauding the Dunedin City Council’s decision to protect the sea lions, with many wanting the temporary closure to become permanent.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! WAN Talks With Endangered Habitats League After Judge Blocks L.A. Development That Would Have Threatened Imperiled Mountain Lions

In a victory against a destructive project threatening local mountain lions in northern Los Angeles County, a judge issued a ruling Monday blocking a 1,300-acre Northlake development.

The development was planned to be constructed on fire-prone wildlands, and would have imperiled rare species of wildlife and buried 3.5 miles of Grasshopper Creek, a pristine stream that feeds into Southern California’s last free-flowing river, the Santa Clara.

In response to a lawsuit brought by conservation organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Endangered Habitats League, Judge Richard L. Fruin, Jr. found that the development’s environmental review failed to consider less harmful plans. One that would have avoided destruction of Grasshopper Creek, which western spadefoot toads call home, and the surrounding habitat of vulnerable wildlife including mountian lions.

“When a water system is removed, it pulls the plug on the whole ecosystem,” Dan Silver, Executive Director of the Endangered Habitats League told WAN, while providing a bit of background on the project he calls archaic. According to Silver, the project was probably bad planning in 1992 when it was first created and introduced. Now, however, it is completely unacceptable.

The Northlake development would also block a wildlife corridor that is being used by imperiled mountian lions as documented in recent photos taken by The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Roads and developments like Northlake are causing genetic isolation among local mountain lions, which are now a “candidate species” under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

Northlake mountain lion crossing photo by Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority

The court also found that key portions of the development’s environmental approvals were “fatally flawed” under the California Environmental Quality Act and determined that the project approvals must be voided.

“The project is outdated in terms of current issues and conditions that were much different in 1992, such as: climate change, gas emissions, fire threats, vulnerable habitats, and the need for affordable housing, among others,” said Silver.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2019 by the Center for Biological Diversity, which also represents the Endangered Habitats League. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy filed an administrative appeal against the development, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted a letter to the county concluding that the environmental review was deficient.

As noted by the Center, Los Angeles County Supervisors Janice Hahn, Kathryn Barger, and Hilda A. Solis voted in favor of the development last year, while Supervisor Sheila Kuehl opposed it.

“Our elected officials should never have approved this outdated proposal to bulldoze a stream to build sprawl development in fire-prone wildlands,” J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. Communities and local wildlife deserve better.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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Breaking! U.S. Government Signs Off On Seismic Airgun Blasting In The Gulf Threatening The Survival Of Endangered Whales & Marine Life

The National Marine Fisheries Service has broadly authorized seismic airgun oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. The long-awaited final rule comes in response to a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups.

The move promotes the expansion of oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico as the Trump administration leaves office. President-elect Biden promised to end fossil fuel leasing on federal lands and waters during his presidential campaign.

“We need better protections for wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, not more oil exploration that will deafen whales and deepen our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels,” Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “President-elect Biden needs to put an end to offshore oil leasing because we are in a climate emergency.”

The rule authorizes oil and gas companies to explore for fossil fuels using seismic airguns that are harmful to whales and dolphins. It allows seismic surveys to harm and harass marine mammals up to 8.7 million times in the Gulf of Mexico over five years.

“This decision ignores years of science on the harms of seismic testing,” stated Michael Jasny, Director of Marine Mammal Protection at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s galling but not surprising that the Trump administration, with one foot out the door, would sign off on continually harming endangered whales for the benefit of polluters.”

The rule estimates that seismic blasting will disturb and harass the Gulf’s Bryde’s whales more times than its entire population of just 33 remaining individuals.

As previously reported by WAN, seismic exploration surveys use extensive arrays of high-powered airguns to search for oil. These generate the loudest human sounds in the ocean, short of explosives. The blasts, which can effectively reach more than 250 decibels, can cause hearing loss in marine mammals, disturb essential behaviors such as feeding and breeding over vast distances, mask communications among whales and dolphins, as well as injure and kill a diversity of fish and invertebrates.

Prior to the lawsuit, the oil and gas industry conducted seismic surveys for decades without the permits required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. During the lawsuit’s pendency, a settlement compelled mitigation for seismic surveys, avoiding duplicative surveys and certain area restrictions, and required consideration of additional measures to protect the Gulf from future surveys.

The new rule ends that mitigation, adopts less stringent measures, and rejects alternatives designed to reduce harm to marine life. Although the rule improves upon the lawless history of seismic activities, the plaintiffs say it justifies the harm it anticipates only by ignoring the standards in our wildlife protection statutes.

“We need to be phasing out oil and gas activity in the Gulf, not increasing it,” said Brettny Hardy, attorney for Earthjustice. “This rule will allow unlimited and overlapping seismic activity in the Gulf in sensitive areas, like coastal waters. Why are we harming our already imperiled marine mammals to allow thousands of harmful air gun surveys to take place when we are supposed to be heading toward a cleaner future? We need laws to take on the scope and scale of biodiversity loss and harm to communities that depend on healthy ecosystems, not regulations that propagate the destruction of those systems. The only viable answer for our wildlife and our communities is to put an end to offshore drilling for good.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit that are calling for the marine mammal protection and environmental review include NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, Healthy Gulf, and Sierra Club. They are represented by Earthjustice.

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Six Trafficking Arrests Made In Mexico For The Illegal Poaching Of Protected Totoaba; The Main Reason For The Decline Of The Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise

In a precedent-setting legal development, Mexican authorities have arrested six suspected totoaba traffickers under charges of Organized Crime and Crimes Against the Environment.

A press release issued by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office states that the arrests were made during a series of coordinated raids on November 11, carried out to enforce warrants issued earlier in the year.

The six individuals arrested are suspected members of a transnational criminal organization involved in the trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. The court has granted authorities two months to continue the investigation, during which time the suspects will remain in jail.

This case marks the first time these charges, which carry a possible prison sentence, have been applied in Mexico.

The totoaba is a large species of sea bass endemic to the waters of Mexico and protected under international law. Poachers catch totoabas for their swim bladders, which are often referred to as “the cocaine of the sea” due to the high price they demand on the Chinese black market.

Totoaba poaching is the primary cause of the decline of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, which exists only in a small region in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.

There are sadly fewer than 20 vaquitas remaining in the wild. 

The gillnets poachers use to catch totoabas often span several hundred feet in length and form invisible barriers under the sea. Vaquitas, which are approximately the same size as totoabas, become entangled in the deadly illegal nets and drown. Whales, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles also fall victim to these illegal nets.

Sea Shepherd has been working with Mexican authorities to deter poaching and remove the illegal gillnets that threaten the survival of the vaquita since 2015.

To-date, Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”), has removed over 1,200 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the Vaquita Refuge, a UNESCO-recognized and federally-protected area in which gillnet fishing is banned.

“Sea Shepherd applauds the vision and leadership of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office and other authorities for investigating and prosecuting the environmental crime of smuggling totoaba bladders as transnational organized crime,” said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Campaigns, in a statement. “While Sea Shepherd ships and crew work to confiscate illegal gillnets at sea, Mexican prosecutors are using every tool in the legal toolbox to successfully net suspected poaching ringleaders on land.”

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Sea Shepherd Carries Out Critical Operation Retrieving Ghost Nets To Save Less Than 10 Vaquita Remaining In The Wild; The World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal

Last week marked the completion of a collaborative effort aimed at removing abandoned fishing gear from the habitat of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

The program, which is funded by the Government of Mexico, has been operating since 2016. Every year, a group of small-scale fishers from the community of San Felipe in the Upper Gulf of California undertakes seasonal ghost net removal operations in the Vaquita Refuge. Sea Shepherd provides support by recovering the nets located by the fishers, ensuring that they never find their way back into the marine ecosystem.

“Ghost nets” are abandoned fishing nets that have been discarded or lost at sea. These inactive nets pose a deadly threat by continuing to kill marine wildlife for as long as the nets remain in the ocean. Whales, turtles, dolphins, and vaquitas are all vulnerable to entanglement in these ​deserted nets.

A group of 35 local fishers, working from 17 small boats, systematically search the Vaquita Refuge in a grid pattern to locate discarded fishing gear. Following GPS coordinates, the boats drag modified hooks under the water to detect submerged nets. As the vessels move over the nets, the hooks become entangled in the fishing gear. Once a net is detected, the fishermen mark the area, and Sea Shepherd’s Sharpie moves in to retrieve the gear.

This season, the operation successfully retrieved 20 nets from the Vaquita Refuge between September 12th and October 31st, 2020.

“There are many more nets in the water than vaquitas,” said Andrea Bonilla, Sea Shepherd’s Ghost Net Project Coordinator in a statement.

Scientists estimate that only 6-19 vaquitas remain in the wild, and the primary threat to the survival of the critically endangered species is entanglement in fishing gear. The rare species of porpoise is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California, an area rife with poaching due to the illegal totoaba trade.

The Vaquita Refuge is a UNESCO-recognized and federally-protected area in which gillnet fishing is banned.

Sea Shepherd’s Sharpie remains in the Vaquita Refuge upon completion of this operation and is working with Mexican authorities to monitor the area, prevent poaching, and remove both active gillnets and ghost nets from the region.

“The last days of the Ghost Net Project turned up no nets, which means that the area has been effectively cleared of these abandoned, invisible curtains of death,” said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Campaigns. “Thanks to the work of local fishermen, the Museo de la Ballena and Sharpie crew, we are starting Operation Milagro VII with a blank slate, ready to confiscate any new illegal fishing gear set to target the totoaba – and indirectly, the vaquita.”

The post Sea Shepherd Carries Out Critical Operation Retrieving Ghost Nets To Save Less Than 10 Vaquita Remaining In The Wild; The World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal appeared first on World Animal News.

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Breaking! U.S. Senate Increases Funding For The Protection Of Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales By $2 Million Dollars

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