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.
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The post Breaking! Whale Entanglement Prevention Act Aims To End The Suffering & Death Of Endangered Marine Life Off The Coast Of California appeared first on World Animal News.
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.”
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In a report released yesterday, Oceana reveals data on marine mammals and sea turtles becoming entangled and swallowing plastic off the coast of the United States. After surveying dozens of government agencies, organizations, and institutions that collect data on the impact of plastic on marine animals, Oceana found evidence of nearly 1,800 animals from 40 different species swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic since 2009.
Of those, a staggering 88% were species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act. Perhaps even more concerning, Oceana says that the animals reflected in this report are far fewer than the true number of sea turtles and marine mammals that consume or become entangled in plastic in U.S. waters.
“Before now, the evidence that many U.S. marine mammals and sea turtles were being harmed by plastic was not compiled in one place. While there may never be a complete account of the fate of all marine animals impacted by plastic, this report paints a grim picture. The world is hooked on plastic because the industry continues to find more ways to force this persistent pollutant into our everyday routines, and it is choking, strangling, and drowning marine life,” Dr. Kimberly Warner, report author and senior scientist at Oceana, said in a statement. “This report shows a wide range of single-use plastic jeopardizing marine animals, and it is not just the items that first come to mind, like bags, balloons, and bottle caps. These animals are consuming or being entangled in everything from zip ties and dental flossers to mesh onion bags people use at the grocery store. We can only expect these cases to increase as the industry continues to push single-use plastic into consumers’ hands.”
Oceana’s report found that plastics affected animals at all life stages, from recently hatched sea turtles to seal mothers with nursing pups. Plastic consumption was the most prevalent problem in the animal cases reviewed, comprising 90% of the total animals affected. Entanglement also affected a significant number of marine mammals and sea turtles, with some animals so constricted that they sadly lost limbs as a result.
The following are some of the key points from the report:
Most of the species that consumed or became entangled in plastic are endangered or threatened, including: Hawaiian monk seals, manatees, Steller sea lions, and all six species of sea turtles in the United States.
In the cases where plastic ingestion was likely the cause of or contributor to death, seven cases involved just one piece of plastic.
Bags, balloons, recreational fishing line, plastic sheeting, and food wrappers were the most common types of identifiable plastics consumed by these animals.
Plastic packing straps, bags, balloons with strings, and sheeting were the most common items entangling the marine animals.
Some sea turtle groups consumed plastic up to three times more often than average for their species.
Some marine mammals, such as the northern fur seal, consumed plastic up to 50 times more often than average for eared seals.
Additional items involving entanglement or ingestion included: bottle caps, water bottles, straws, plastic chairs, plastic forks, toothbrushes, children’s toys, buckets, bubble wrap, sponges, swim goggles, plastic holiday grass, sandwich bags, and polystyrene cups.
The report features case studies from around the U.S., including:
In Florida, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found entangled in a plastic bag that had become filled with sand. The plastic bag had wrapped around the animal’s neck, and scientists believe the animal drowned due to the weight of the bag, or it suffocated from the entanglement.
A Florida manatee likely died from a plastic bag, straw, string, pantyhose, and fishing line that had all filled its stomach and colon.
In Virginia, a female sei whale swallowed a DVD case, which lacerated her stomach and led to gastric ulcers, harming her ability to find food.
In New Jersey, a plastic bag was the only item found in the stomach of a dead pygmy sperm whale.
In California, a northern elephant seal nursing a dependent pup was found with a packing strap around her neck.
In South Carolina, a sea turtle center found almost 60 pieces of plastic that a loggerhead sea turtle defecated during its rehabilitation.
“This report is merely a snapshot of what’s happening to the animals inhabiting plastic-polluted waters around the United States, imagine how great the numbers would be if they included the animals not observed or documented by humans,” stated Christy Leavitt, report author and plastics campaign director at Oceana. “Plastic production is expected to quadruple in the coming decades, and if nothing changes, the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean is projected to triple by 2040. The only way to turn off the tap and protect our oceans is for companies to stop producing unnecessary single-use plastic, and that will require national, state, and local governments to pass policies ensuring they do.”
Marine animals swallow plastic when they mistake it for food, or inadvertently swallow it while feeding or swimming. Once swallowed, it can obstruct their digestion or lacerate their intestines, and all of this can interfere with their ability to feed and obtain nourishment. These problems can result in starvation and death. When animals become entangled in plastics, they can drown, choke to death or suffer physical trauma, such as amputation and infection. Entanglement can also cause malnutrition when it prevents their ability to feed properly.
Scientists now estimate that 15 million metric tons of plastic floods into our oceans every year. That equates to about two garbage trucks’ worth of plastic entering the ocean every minute. The U.S. generates more plastic waste than any other country, according to a 2020 study. Plastic has been found in every corner of the world and has turned up in our drinking water, beer, salt, honey, and more. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our planet with devastating consequences.
Tell your members of Congress to protect oceans and marine life from plastic pollution by voting in favor of a first-of-its-kind recently introduced bill that would phase out certain single-use plastics and shift the burden of plastic waste to the companies producing it. Please sign in support of The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, HERE!
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The post Breaking! New Report By Oceana Finds That Plastic Pollution Is Responsible For Entangling & Choking 1,800 Marine Animals In U.S. Waters appeared first on World Animal News.
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.”
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House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) unveiled the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, along with House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), and original cosponsors, and supporters. This landmark legislation was introduced by more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives to address the ocean impacts of climate change and reform federal ocean management to better account for climate mitigation.
“A healthy ocean is key to fighting the climate crisis,” Grijalva said in a statement. “This bill provides a roadmap for ocean and coastal climate resilience, and uses them to curb the pollution that is intensifying the climate crisis. We must stop the ongoing damage to our oceans to protect the food, jobs, and coastlines that millions of Americans depend on.”
“The ocean is a powerful ally in the climate fight, and unleashing its potential will help us reach our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier,” noted Castor. “The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act incorporates many of the recommendations in our Climate Crisis Action Plan, which gives Congress a roadmap for creating a healthier, more resilient, and more just America. It will unleash the incredible power of the ocean and address the threat that offshore drilling poses to America’s coastal communities, including my own community in Tampa Bay.”
Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The bill supports the transition to a clean energy economy by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with ocean sectors and increasing ocean-based renewable energy; helping to move away from fossil fuels and protect the ocean and coastal habitats that are important to healthy fish, marine wildlife, and coastal economies.
Increases Carbon Storage in Blue Carbon Ecosystems. The bill recognizes the carbon storage potential and other co-benefits provided by “blue carbon” ecosystems like salt marshes, sea grasses, and mangroves. These ecosystems absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and safely store it at a rate of up to four times that of forests on land. They also protect coastal communities by limiting the impacts of coastal erosion, flooding, and storms; all while providing habitat for marine wildlife.
Promotes Coastal Resiliency and Adaptation. This is necessary to protect the coasts and communities from the climate impacts that cannot be avoided. It authorizes investment in coastal restoration and resilience that is a win-win for the economy, frontline communities, and the environment.
Improves Ocean Protection. This is done by promoting and protecting healthy ocean systems and wildlife populations, which are better able to adapt to the effects of climate change. Marine protected areas, like protected areas on land, are a key part of protecting biodiversity while tackling climate change, which is more critical than ever due to the current biodiversity crisis.
Restores U.S. Leadership in International Ocean Governance. The bill aims to strengthen U.S. leadership in international ocean governance at a time when transboundary pressures on the ocean demand a coordinated response. These actions would both strengthen U.S. security and promote a resilient global ocean for the 21st century.
The newly introduced legislation enjoys enthusiastic support from environmental groups and ocean experts.
“Our ocean is often portrayed as a victim of climate change, but the reality is that it offers a wealth of powerful solutions to fight the climate crisis, from spurring offshore renewable energy and banning new offshore drilling, to protecting blue carbon ecosystems, and creating new marine protected areas in order to conserve 30% of the ocean by 2030,” stated Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director for the League of Conservation Voters.
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The post The Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act Was Introduced To Tackle The Climate Crisis & Protect Marine Life In The U.S. appeared first on World Animal News.
Annual data just released on the deaths of iconic marine life in New South Wales reveals shark nets as the cause of many species becoming entangled including dolphins and turtles. The data is from two leading marine conservation groups, Humane Society International (HSI) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). A total of 480 animals were caught in 51 shark nets in the past year (September to April), of which a shocking 284 sharks, dolphins, turtles, and rays were killed in the nets, according to data published on July 31st by the Department of Primary Industries.
HSI/Australia and AMCS are calling for the Berejiklian Government to end the NSW Shark Meshing Program, particularly as shark nets don’t reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. Many threatened and protected species were caught in the nets, including: 7 dolphins, 10 turtles, and 31 critically endangered grey nurse sharks.
“NSW DPI has made great progress in developing a suite of effective tools to manage the inherently low risk of shark bites, including drone surveillance, personal shark deterrents, and education—all of which are much more effective at protecting ocean users than nets,” said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner with HSI/Australia in an email sent to WAN. “This includes the recent commitment to expand drone surveillance across additional NSW beaches. All of this is building to an end to shark nets, and this new wildlife death tally should surely be the last straw for the NSW Government.”
“Shark nets are a relic of the past having been introduced in the 1930s when little was known about shark behaviour and their importance in the ecosystem. The truth is that shark nets don’t make swimmers safer and they take a terrible toll on marine life—costing the lives of turtles, dolphins, sharks, and rays. It is high time the NSW Government consigns shark nets to the history books where they belong,” continued Chlebeck.
“The only guarantee we have from these nets, are the drownings of iconic wildlife like dolphins and turtles. For over 80 years in NSW, tens of thousands of animals have drowned at netted beaches,” said Dr. Leonardo Guida, shark scientist at the AMCS. “Shark nets were removed along the North Coast of NSW because the local communities opposed the unacceptable wildlife death toll. Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong need to do the same. We ask the NSW Government to continue their progress and bring an end to the nets. This must be the last meshing season.”
The NSW Shark meshing program runs annually from September 1st to April 30 from Newcastle to Wollongong. Of the 395 animals reported caught in the nets during the 2018-2019 period, 372 were non-target species and 179 were either threatened or protected under NSW or Federal law, or listed on international threatened species lists.
Even those animals released alive are not guaranteed survival as the stress and injury of entanglement can cause death soon after.
Originally meant as a means to “fish-down” shark populations, the nets are culling devices. Contrary to popular belief, reducing shark populations does not reduce the already small risk of shark bites, as recently confirmed in HSI vs GBRMPA and QDAF at the Queensland Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In its decision, the Tribunal stated “the lethal component of the Shark Control Program does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark interactions. The scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard.”
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