Final Push to Ban Shark Fins in California, Victory is Near!
Posted by Ming Ong, STRP Intern on September 8th, 2011
I was thrilled to learn of the latest victory in the campaign to halt the cruel practice of shark finning. As an intern with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network, one of my assignments has been to work to support AB 376, which bans the sale, purchase or possession of shark fins in the state of California. Yesterday, it passed the Senate floor on a bipartisan 25-9 vote, and now goes to the Governor Jerry Brown’s office for a signature. Brown has 12 days from the time it reaches his desk to sign or veto the measure. Since he has not indicated publicly whether he intends to sign the bill or not, I am now focusing my efforts on outreach to his office and encouraging our members to join me.
Click here to take action now and send an email to Governor Jerry Brown urging him to sign AB 376 into law!
STRP members sent 817 email messages and made countless phone calls directly to their Senators in support of AB 376. In our office we made many phone calls to Sacramento and sent a hand-written letter to our Senator via overnight mail last week prior to the final vote. It is always encouraging to see this hard work pay off.
The AB 376 bill was supported by many ocean conservation groups, including the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, as a way to help end the cruel practice of shark finning, which is largely the cause of the drastic decline of shark populations worldwide. AB 376 supporters, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Bo Derek, emphasize that our ocean’s apex predators play a crucial role in the health of our ecosystems and are thus, important to conserve and protect. Time Magazine describes the practice of shark finning to be “wasteful, cruel and, most significantly unsustainable for the ocean ecosystems as it threatens to deplete the numbers of these top predators and spoils the natural balance of the seas. According to The Washington Post, activists have begun pushing for shark fin bans across the U.S. in an effort to combat the global shark fin trade, which scientists estimate kills between 26 million and 73 million sharks each year.
Many of those that opposed the bill claimed that it is an attack on Asian culture and cuisine, as shark fins are the key ingredient for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. But, when one of China’s most famous celebrities, Yao Ming, is also in support of banning shark finning and ending the cultural use of shark fin soup, it is clear that not all Chinese are heartless shark-killers.
There were several key provisions added to the bill during its evolution in Sacramento this summer, including an exemption allowing taxidermists to possess shark fins and letting licensed fishermen donate shark fins to research institutions. Also, a companion bill was introduced and passed that allows for a longer grace period until July 2013 for retailers to sell in-stock shark fins and requires the California Ocean Protection Council to submit a yearly report on any sustainable shark fisheries operating.
California, home to approximately 1.1 million Chinese-Americans, is one of the largest importers of shark fins outside Asia. As quoted in Reuters, state Senator Christine Kehoe, a San Diego Democrat who was one of the bill’s chief proponents, said, “(This bill) addresses an important environmental threat to our oceans’ health. It’s our market here that drives the slaughter.” She further cited in The Huffington Post estimates that 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States come through California, giving the bill an impact beyond efforts to restrict the practice in the U.S. and abroad. This is why I am especially excited that the state may soon join Washington, Oregon and Hawaii by passing this ban on shark fins. Passing this strict law banning the possession of shark fins, will put an end to the legal shark fin trade in California. Hopefully we can use California as an example to ban shark finning in international waters. In January, President Obama signed federal legislation tightening an 11-year-old ban on shark finning in U.S. waters. While that law prohibits finning, it does not prohibit the possession and sale of shark fins, like the new California law would.
This shark fin ban is representative of the passion and collaboration of diverse individuals that can come together around a unified goal. Unwavering determination and grassroots outreach by organizations such as ours and the local non-profit Sea Stewards helped gain momentum and enormous support of those who wanted to put an end to the inhumane practice of shark finning. We can now celebrate another victory for sharks and a victory for everyone who helped make this ban come to life. Just one more signature is needed from Governor Brown before the true celebration begins!
One Step Closer to Shark Fin Ban in California
Posted by Ming Ong on August 16th, 2011
August 15, 2011 was Shark Day at the Capitol Building in Sacramento, California. Representing the Turtle Island Restoration Network as a new intern, I joined supporters of the bill to ban the practice of shark finning, AB 376. We gathered outside the Capitol, with a big blow-up shark, tents filled with organizations in favor of the ban, and posters with shark statistics to raise awareness about sharks and to show our support for AB 376. This bill would make it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin in the state of California. Click here to learn more and take action in support of AB 376!
Sharks around the world are in grave danger, and the practice of shark finning is causing the decimation of shark populations. Shark finning involves hacking off the fins of live sharks, then leaving the crippled bodies to die in the ocean. This gruesome practice is often combined with longline fishing, which is largely contributing to the major decline in many sea turtle and shark species.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature, some 30 percent of shark species are threatened or nearly threatened with extinction, and up to 73 million sharks are killed each year. Sharks are apex predators and their demise has a cascading effect on other marine species. Their fate is of particular importance as sharks play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and balanced marine ecosystem. A scientific study showed that when 11 species of sharks were nearly eliminated, 12 of the 14 prey species those sharks once fed on became so plentiful that they damaged the ecosystem, including wiping out the species farther down the food chain.
California is a large part of this unsustainable practice of shark finning, serving as the main entry point for shark fin distribution in the US. By passing AB 376, California would strengthen the U.S. West Coast bans against shark fin trade by enacting the strongest of the regional shark fin laws, a significant step towards reducing pressure on rapidly declining shark populations.
When I entered the crowded room of the hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee, co-authors Huffman and Fong were in the process of introducing the bill to the Appropriations committee. They were followed by three witnesses, including actress Bo Derek.
“Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, and yet many stocks may be wiped out in a single human generation due to the increasing demand for shark fins,” Bo Derek told the Senate Appropriations Committee. Derek, who is a U.S. secretary of state special envoy opposing wildlife trafficking, highlighted the importance for California to pass this ban as 85 percent of dried shark fin imports to the United States come through California, a total of at least 30 tons of dried fins annually. According to ABC News, the actress called the process, which may sell for up to $400 per pound, “deplorable."
Once the witnesses were heard, supporters of the ban, including myself on behalf of TIRN, were given the opportunity to introduce themselves at the microphone and state that they support the ban. We filtered through after one another and the diversity of the individuals and organizations was inspiring. Some individuals made a point to ask for the ban to pass with no amendments, others were cut off for expanding on their thoughts.
When I turned away from the podium, I paused for a moment and scanned the room. Lined up behind me was an unending row of supporters for AB 376 who had each added some flair to their outfits with shark costumes, stickers, or shark backpacks. Meanwhile, the opposition, who were seated in the center of the room, was largely represented by an older generation of Chinese restaurant owners. Knowing that individuals were traveling from all along the California coast to show their support for the ban, I was honored to be part of this historic day.
I was pleased to represent not only the majority of the Californian population, but also a large proportion of the Asian-American population that are in favor of the ban. Like others who have shown their support for the ban, I believe that I have to do my part as I not only know that it is extremely unsustainable, but is also entirely inhumane. Support from not only celebrities, but everyday members of the society are what helps put an end to practices such as shark finning.
Alongside Bo Derek, a host of Hollywood celebrities are lending their names (and popularity) to awareness campaigns. NBA star Yao Ming has joined the crusade against shark fin soup in China to help discourage people from eating shark fin soup and reduce the demand for the product.
TIRN is proud to stand behind this legislation, and is actively working to support it.
My STRP Internship Fueled My Passion for Helping All Sea Creatures!
Posted by Kayla Friedrichson on August 10th, 2011
My time as an STRP intern has made me realize that there is so much to be done regarding conservation. I knew I wanted to be involved in this field before coming here, but being in the midst of such an influential organization made me realize that this is really the kind of work I want to be doing with my life. STRP made me realize that every person can make a difference.
The event that that spoke to me the most during my time here was the Chevron Annual Shareholders Meeting. This event attracted people from all over the world, and it made me more aware of how a lot of issues really are universal problems that need to be addressed. At this event, I participated with other volunteers to protect endangered flatback sea turtles by protesting the proposed oil drilling off the Kimberly, the Western coast of Austrailia.
Another event that I was very interested in was the World Ocean’s Day event held in San Francisco. In this event, I tabled with another intern to provide information about STRP, and help get signatures for our petitions.
I was very proud when and two other interns and I were able to build a small scale replica of a shrimp trawl net with a turtle excluder device for Cal Academy Nightlife. The Event was for World Sea Turtle Day, and it meant a lot to know that something I helped to make would be used to educate the public.
I am extremely grateful towards my supervisor and the other people in the STRP office for making me feel welcomed and mentoring me in my first interning position.
Overall, interning with STRP has been an experience I won’t soon forget. This experience has definitely solidified my passion for helping all marine creatures!
Chevron Bites in Turtle Country
Posted by Teri Shore on July 1st, 2011
Dow Jones reported this afternoon that California-based Chevron is appealing the weak environmental conditions imposed by the compliant environmental authority in Western Australia on its massive Wheatstone LNG mega-project. Seems that big, bad Chevron can't even meet the lowest environmental bar without kicking and screaming. Read the story.
The project is getting green-lighted all the way even though it is being built on top of sea turtle and whale habitat, not to mention destroying dugong habitat, polluting the air, and trouncing on small coastal communities that are already suffering from years of oil company abuse.
I guess since Chevron didn't have to do diddly-squat to protect anything at the nearby Barrow Island nature reserve where it is squatting its Gorgon project, why should it have to lift a finger onshore?
What's even worse is that no reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area or the U.S. for that matter will cover Chevron's mid-deeds and bullying in Australia, not to mention the company's involvement in human rights abuses in the U.S., Nigeria, Ecudor, Angola, Burma, and dozens of other countries.
I think I'll contact Earth First Journal.
Reflections on My STRP Internship
Posted by Maddy McKenna on June 24th, 2011
When I was in elementary school I absolutely loved visiting aquariums, learning about the different kinds of fish and snorkeling in the ocean. Even at that age I hoped that someday I would make a difference working with the oceans in some way. This past January I finally made this dream a reality and began my internship with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project as a part of a cooperative education program through Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Looking back over the past six months I have been fortunate enough to participate in a handful of intriguing and inspiring campaigns. From the very beginning I was very passionate about contributing to STRP’s Bag the Plastics campaign. As a part of this campaign, I was heavily involved in sending out letters of support for plastic bag bans in cities across California, I wrote a short article about plastic for STRP’s Viva La Tortuga newsletter, and I made three short videos about plastics and sea turtles for STRP’s YouTube channel. Ultimately, the most rewarding effort I put into the Bag the Plastics campaign—and the most memorable time spent with STRP—was attending the 31st International Sea Turtle Symposium (ISTS) in San Diego and presenting a poster I put together about plastic bag ban advocacy. Attending this symposium was the greatest experience I could have asked for: I was able to connect with individuals from all over the world and expand my limited knowledge of sea turtle biology and conservation efforts happening around the globe—all while spreading the word of plastic’s harmfulness to sea turtles to those who were unaware.
I was also involved in a few other projects, such as the distribution and promotion of STRP’s newest documentary The Heartbreak Turtle Today, communicating with ocean supporters through social networking, creating and uploading posts about sea turtle conservation to Google Oceans, creating short videos for the STRP YouTube channel, initiating contact with members of our Leatherback Watch Program, and tabling at several events including the March 29th screening of The Heartbreak Turtle Today, ISTS from April 11th through 15th, and World Sea Turtle Day at Cal Academy’s Nightlife on June 16th. Another memorable event was the Chevron annual shareholder’s meeting rally where myself and other sea turtle supporters donned large sea turtle costumes and protested on behalf of the Australian flatback sea turtles along the Kimberley Coast in Western Australia.
In the end I am so glad that I made the decision to intern with STRP, and I am exceptionally grateful for all the guidance, support, and mentoring received from my dedicated supervisor and colleagues. I will never forget my time spent with STRP, and for the rest of my life I will be dedicated to marine conservation wherever I am!
World Sea Turtle Day at the Cal Academy of Sciences
Posted by Deb Castellana on June 20th, 2011
This fantastic blog post was originally published on Deb's Planet Ocean News blog:
The Cal Academy of Science was packed on Thursday night with an
estimated 2,400 people who came to celebrate sea turtles on World Sea
Turtle Day. They came to enjoy demonstrations, interactive exhibits and
an amazing show using the Planetarium’s dome showing how these gentle
and endangered creatures migrate thousands of miles across the vast
ocean as they travel from their nesting beaches to faraway foraging
grounds. The evening won’t soon be forgotten, it was pure blue magic.
Staff & volunteers from The Sea Turtle Restoration Project,
SPAWN, and Got Mercury.org, along with supporters from Sea Stewards and
The Center for Biological Diversity transformed African Hall into a
teaching hospital about everything from ‘what does a turtle egg look
like’ to international threats such as commercial fisheries, poaching
and big oil interests. On the central piazza stage was a model of a TED
(Turtle Extruder Device) required by Federal Law to be installed on
commercial shrimping boats to give sea turtles an escape hatch from
their nets to avoid drowning. It was clear that many were surprised to
learn about the consequences to marine life caused by their appetite for
seafood, especially shrimp.
Scott Benson from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science
Center’s leatherback turtle program took us on a grand tour across the
Pacific using the biggest computer monitor at the Cal Academy of Science
– the planetarium’s dome itself - to demonstrate the incomprehensibly
large distances covered by these turtles as they migrate from Indonesia
& Papua New Guinea to Northern California, Oregon & Washington
in search of their favorite eats, the Brown Sea Nettle. Little did the
audience know that just 20 minutes before the show, there had been a
malfunction in the dome. No problema, the CAS geniuses crossed a few
wires and fixed it in plenty of time for the World Turtle Day
Sadly this year has been a tough one for sea turtles. Between the
Deepwater Horizon Disaster and an international community that still
doesn’t ‘get it’ about how many ways we compromise wildlife, it’s been
hard for endangered turtles to rebound. All we can hope is that by
continuing to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and
educating the public, life will get better for our sea turtle friends in
years to come.
Kimberley protesters block road to controversial gas hub site
Posted by Teri Shore on June 8th, 2011
Photo: An environmental protestor waves an Aboriginal flag atop a camel next to a grader that has been blockaded from reaching James Price Point. (ABC Local: Ben Collins)
Protesters have blockaded the road to a controversial gas hub site in Western Australia's Kimberley.
About 25 people gathered on a dirt track north of Broome to stop Woodside contractors from accessing the site at James Price Point.
They set up banners early this morning and one protester called Shaun chained himself to a bulldozer.
He agreed to free himself in exchange for seeing a document giving Woodside permission to clear the land.
Another man has since chained himself to the bulldozer and protester Dave Mann says they are holding their ground.
"We don't want to see them do their business so we're here to make it difficult for them," he said.
Inspector Geoff Stewart says while the police respect the protesters' right to have their say, it is illegal to block traffic.
"Certainly people can't impede the vehicles, even by standing or by vehicles, and we're just negotiating with them to move," he said.
A convoy, including the bulldozer, several cars and a truck, was prevented from accessing the site.
Organiser Will Thomas says even though the police will try to move them on, the protesters will not let the Woodside convoy through today.
The blockades come as the Australian Heritage Council officially recommends 20 million hectares of the West Kimberley be declared a national heritage site.
In its final report to the Government, the Australian Heritage Council has expanded the recommended boundary to include the gas hub site.
The Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson says the new report contradicts the State Government's claims that the area is not significant.
"The Government's proposal pretty much dismissed the significance of the dinosaur footprints, especially in the James Price Point area," he said.
"This report and these recommendations contradict that dismissive appraisal and it will definitely force the federal minister to focus his mind much more clearly on the significance of that coastal environment."
Mr Robertson says the inclusion of the site will create problems for supporters of the development.
"It will certainly make it more difficult for the federal government to approve it and it will also make it more difficult for the joint venture partners like Woodside to argue what they are doing is environmentally responsible," he said.
In a statement, Woodside said the site was preferred over others because the WA Environmental Protection Authority recommended that heritage and environment issues at James Price Point could be managed.
It also said that any sites of heritage value at the precinct will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the environmental and heritage approvals the project requires to proceed.
Tags: environment, conservation, wa, broome-6725
First posted Tue Jun 7, 2011 12:30pm AEST
Follow Satellite Tracked Sea Turtles from Cocos Island National Park
Posted by Todd Steiner, Executive Director on April 24th, 2011
Almost six weeks after releasing an adult male Pacific green turtle, captured at Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica, the turtle, equipped with a satellite transmitter, has traveled 1,062 miles NE (1,709 km) and is currently offshore of El Salvador.
His name is Back Country, and you can watch Back Country’s daily tracks on our website.
The second adult male we have satellite tagged at Cocos, “Yuri,” also headed east toward the Central American coast, then south, traveling all the way to the coast of Panama before we lost transmission. See his old tracks at the C-MAR Project page.
All of the other tagged turtles, most of them sub-adults, are seen in and around Cocos, including Adrienne who was also tagged last month and is still transmitting! She preferred to stay around Cocos, indicating the importance of Cocos Island National Park as a foraging area for young turtles where they can grow to maturity before migrating to their nesting grounds. We don’t yet know where that is—the Central American coast or the Galapagos Islands, or ???. Stay tuned.
You can see the tracks of all the turtles we have satellite tagged at the C-MAR Project page.
To learn more about our work at Cocos Island, click here.
Kemp's Ridley Discarded in Houston!
Posted by Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director on April 23rd, 2011
Dr. Joe Flanagan, senior veterinarian at the Houston Zoo, had a call Tuesday from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Houston SPCA. Someone had brought in a small Kemp's ridley sea turtle that had been found crossing a street in Northeast Houston. It had a hook in its mouth and x-rays showed it had pneumonia. Dr. Flanagan removed the hook, treated the turtle's pneumonia and took it to the National Marine Fisheries Service sea turtle facility in Galveston. One lucky turtle! The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been notified of this illegal capture of an endangered sea turtle.
The Kemp's ridley is endangered and should never be taken home as a souvenir from a fishing trip.
One Year After BP -- From Greenwashing to Bluewashing
Posted by Teri Shore on April 20th, 2011
Ocean conservationist David Helvarg posted this timely and insightful piece on the Huffington Post today.
The National Ocean Policy Coalition has one aim -- to undermine America's National Ocean Policy. Why am I not surprised?
by David Helvarg
In 1994 I wrote a book called, The War Against the Greens, about how industries created anti-environmental front groups and nurtured a 'Wise Use' movement that, along with traditional rallies and protests used threats, intimidation and violence to achieve its ends. These ends were mostly to promote the agenda of their extractive industry backers and protect federal subsidies for mining, logging and cattle companies operating on public lands. With support from Western politicians like Congressman Dick Cheney of Wyoming and Senator Larry Craig of Idaho they managed, among other things, to keep the Clinton administration from following through on its early pledge to reform public lands management.
Another corporate strategy was known as greenwashing, giving an environmental spin to environmentally destructive practices, taking credit for restoration work that the industry was forced to do as a result of lawsuits and regulations they'd fought against or creating green sounding front groups.
Some industry folks I talked to were quite proud of the names they'd come up with like the Alliance for Environment and Resources (a pro-logging group run out of a Forestry Association office), the Greening Earth Society (a coal and utility backed group claiming increased carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is good for plant growth and so could solve the problem of world hunger) and the National Wetlands Coalition, put together by contractors and developers opposed to Clean Water Act provisions that protect wetlands.
Which brings us to today's National Ocean Policy Coalition. In the wake of last summer's BP blowout disaster in the Gulf, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the nation's first National Ocean Policy to try and coordinate competing uses of our public seas in ways that will assure their continued health. The oil industry, which has generated a trillion dollars in offshore revenues since 1946, was not pleased. They formed the National Ocean Policy Coalition with the aim of promoting, "a sound, balanced ocean policy that... enhances commercial and recreational activities, such as oil and gas development," in other words, business as usual.
NOPC's membership includes the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, U.S. Oil & Gas Association, National Ocean Industries Association (offshore oil & gas) and Consumer Energy Alliance, an outfit formed by a D.C. lobbyist to fight against climate regulation. Among a handful of non-oil members is a sport fishing industry trade association that is leading the fight against the establishment of wilderness parks in the sea (known as Marine Protected Areas) where neither fishing nor drilling are allowed.
Just as the mining and timber industries in the West looked to use cowboy ranchers to front their Wise Use agenda in the 1990s, the oil industry is hoping to mobilize recreational fishermen as the visible face of opposition to public planning on our public seas. Despite pushback from some outdoor writers and conservation-oriented sportfishing groups they've had some success. Towards the end of the public hearings process that led to the new ocean policy an article appeared in ESPN Outdoors.com claiming the President was about to ban recreational fishing in large parts of the ocean. The story quickly went viral and was touted by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others on the right. Signs started showing up at Tea Party rallies reading, "Obama, get your hands off my fishing pole." In its final report the President's Ocean Policy Taskforce included language specifically reassuring recreational fishermen and women that they were an important element of the ocean stakeholder community and no one was out to take their poles away.
A little background might help: In 2003 and 2004 two blue ribbon ocean panels (a federal one appointed by President Bush, another led by now-CIA chief Leon Panetta) put out reports both stating that the ecological decline of U.S. waters posed a threat to our economy, security and environment and recommending better coordination and oversight of America's blue frontier. U.S. federal waters are presently run by 24 different agencies operating under 140 laws with little or no coordination among them. The result has been decades of overfishing, pollution, sprawl, oil spills and beach closures.
In 2009 President Obama established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to review the recommendations of the two commissions and examine new and changed realities. There followed a long process of public hearings by the taskforce attended by thousands of citizen stakeholders who were in the great majority supportive of their effort. The ocean policy's operating principle, now incorporated into the President's executive order, is called ecosystem-based coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP).
The CMSP idea is to take a more unified and mapped out approach to ocean management. Ultimately, if done correctly, it could involve cleaning up our coastal watersheds, greening our ports and designating offshore waters not only for shipping but also energy, fishing, national defense, wildlife and wilderness in a dynamic and regionally responsive manner (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California have taken the lead).
For the oil industry, having to operate on a level playing field is not an attractive option however. One of their key allies on Capitol Hill, House Natural Resources Committee Chair "Doc" Hastings (R. WA) doesn't even pretend to want to work with the new ocean policy, calling the president's approach "irrational zoning" and pushing bills through the House to speed up offshore oil and gas permitting in federal waters. Not surprisingly the oil & gas industry was his largest campaign contributor last year.
Our public seas deserve better. They deserve well-coordinated management from all levels of government: federal, state, local and tribal to try and resolve user conflicts rather than simply respond to the demands of a single powerful industry lobby. Hopefully, despite big oil's "bluewashing," efforts citizens who work on, live by or enjoy the ocean will begin to engage more actively in determining its future and work for good ocean policies and practices that can help assure healthy waters and coastal communities from Maine to Hawaii and from sea to shining sea.
Link to Huffington Post.
“TECHNO-FIXES ALONE WON’T SOLVE BYCATCH ISSUES ON AN OVERFISHED PLANET: Finding ‘Common Ground’ Requires Everyone Accepting Their Role in the Problem
Posted by Todd Steiner, Executive Director on April 17th, 2011
I was invited to participate on a panel called “Finding Common Ground in Fisheries Management” at the International Sea Turtle Symposium this week, and I entitled my opening statement,
“TECHNO-FIXES ALONE WON’T SOLVE BYCATCH ISSUES ON AN OVERFISHED PLANET: Finding ‘Common Ground’ Requires Everyone Accepting Their Role in the Problem
Here is part of what I had to say…
For fisheries, sea turtles are the “canary in the coal mine” that we ignore at our own peril. In order to find common ground (between fishers and the environmental community) all of us must recognize and accept our individual and collective role in the problem. In my experience, the fishing industry often fails to accept, and the general public is generally unaware of the following well-established facts:
A. Overfishing by humans is one of the fundamental causes of the decline of marine species;
B. Global fish stocks are in major decline and current levels of global fisheries are not sustainable.
C. There are “too many vessels chasing too few fish.” The lost economic benefit to fishers (and society) caused by overfishing (calculated for yr. 2004 by the World Bank) was estimated at ~$50 billion.
Solutions to bycatch reduction must seek to secure healthy marine ecosystems. In addition to using all the best available bycatch reduction “devices,” the solutions must include:
(1) significant reduction of global fishing effort;
(2) no-fishing marine preserves;
(3) time-area closures;
(4) banning the use of the most destructive fishing technology; and
(5) adequate enforcement.
You can read my entire abstract at: http://www.seaturtles.org/downloads/Steiner%20ISTS%20Panel%20abstractV-Fin2.pdf
Offshore Oil Impacts Deadlier than We Know to Sea Turtles
Posted by on April 12th, 2011
The one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill is drawing close and we are still learning the deadly impacts to sea turtles from the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Today, at the International Sea Turtle Society's annual meeting I presented on my experiences being kept "out of the box" while on a mission to save sea turtles and I learned some startling new facts about the oil impacts just released at the conference.
At least two critically endangered leatherback sea turtles were spotted in the oil slicks! During our negotiations with the U.S. Coast Guard following our successful legal action June 30, 2010 I specifically advised the rescue unit that they must have the ability to rescue an adult leatherback weighing 800 pounds or more. The technology exists, BP must pay to use it for the benefit of the leatherback.
Work is progressing towards improving rescue and response for sea turtles in the next oil spill. Our work is joined by work underway at the Oiled Wildlife Care Network who is taking lessons learned from the BP spill and updating their protocols for rehabilitation care.
The 2011 nesting season for Kemp's ridley sea turtles in the Gulf has begun, and at this same time a wave of dead Kemp's are washing ashore on Gulf beaches, especially in Mississippi. Already 87 dead sea turtle have been found, and the numbers increase almost every day. Click here for an update on the recent wave of dead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. At least 50 dead sea turtles have washed ashore in April on Mississippi beaches alone!
This year and many more to come will tell the true tale of the deadly impacts from the BP oil spill to our endangered sea turtle populations. Knowing the chronic, long-term effects from oil exposure can cause cancer before death, it could be a long and painful road for the Gulf sea turtles who still forage in oily sands left by BP.
Sea Turtle Nesting Time in Texas!
Posted by Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director, Sea Turtle Restoration Project on April 7th, 2011
The Kemp's ridley nesting season has begun all along the Texas coast. The first ridley nest in Mexico was found on March 30 and nestings usually begin in Texas two to three weeks later. The patrol teams along the Upper Texas Coast have started looking for telltale tracks indicating a sea turtle has left the water looking for a suitable place to lay eggs.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has sent a detailed news release on what to do if a sea turtle is seen on the beach. The public is encouraged to immediately call 1-866-TURTLE-5. This toll-free number sponsored by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project is answered by federal and state agencies that will provide information or try to reach the site.
"The steady increase in the turtles' nesting success is in large part due to the ongoing efforts by members of the public to protect them," said Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D., the Service's Southwest Regional Director. "This is the kind of cooperative effort that will eventually lead to success in saving these sea turtles as well as other imperiled species."
In addition, the public is asked to drive slowly and look out for sea turtles as they sometimes blend with the sand. If a camera is handy, photos are always welcome should the turtle finish the nest and returns to the water before a federal or state official arrives.
This year will be different for all those who patrol the beaches or follow the news about the Kemp's ridleys. Many of those that laid eggs on the Texas coast last spring migrated to the east only to find water covered with oil, beaches ruined by sludge and perhaps contaminated food such as shrimp and crabs. Between April 20 and July 15, millions of gallons of oil poured from the BP well followed by over flights dropping dispersants that might also be deadly.
What will be the effect on Kemp's ridley sea turtles that nested in Texas? One such turtle is named Kathy and was discovered on May 19 last year at Surfside Beach, west of Galveston. She left 102 eggs which were excavated by biologists from Texas A&M University at Galveston and moved to the Padre Island National Seashore for incubation. The movement of the eggs is necessary because there is no incubation facility or corral in Galveston.
Kathy was outfitted with a satellite transmitter as part of a study assessing the impact of Hurricane Ike on sea turtle nesting activity on the upper Texas coast. She was released at Stewart Beach on Galveston Island on the same day. Kathy has been named in honor of Katherine McGovern, President of the John P. McGovern Foundation, who donated funds enabling the 2010 nesting patrols.
But, will we see Kathy again? Maybe so. On April 4, her satellite transmitter indicated she was near southeast Louisiana, hopefully on her way back to Surfside to leave another nest of eggs.
Another 2010 Kemp's ridley nester named Karen was tracked to waters west of Florida but her transmitter is no longer sending a signal. She had migrated along the Gulf Coast when the BP well was spewing our millions of gallons of oil, maybe into her path. We hope the lack of a signal from Karen's transmitter is because it simply quit working but we won't know unless she returns to the Texas coast. She was named for the late Karen Stockton who educated thousands in the Houston area through her songs about sea turtles and nature. It's sea turtle nesting time again, but this year, let's watch for Kathy and hope for Karen to return to the Upper Texas Coast.
Captive B.C. green turtles must be spared
Posted by on March 8th, 2011
|Green sea turtle, Doug Perrine photo/SeaPics.com|
Turtle Island Restoration Network has joined the international call to spare the captive-bred green sea turtles that are being held at the University of British Columbia for research purposes. While these seven sea turtles are not part of the wild population and will not make a difference to the survival of the species, the university should do all it can to ensure that they live out their lives in the best way possible.
Our wish is that people around the world would be as outraged about the plan to kill these poor sea turtles as for the tens of thousands of wild sea turtles killed in the U.S. every year in fisheries for shrimp, swordfish and tuna! By not eating this fish and telling others about the harm, people can make a real difference in protecting sea turtles from extinction!
We sent a letter today to the president of the university. Download the letter here or read the text below.
March 8, 2011
Office of the President
The University of British Columbia
6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada
Dear UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Stephen J. Toope:
Turtle Island Restoration Network is writing to urge you to immediately cease invasive experimentation on the seven remaining endangered green sea turtles housed at the University of British Columbia and to allow for a team of independent veterinarians to assess the health of the turtles to determine if the animals can be placed in a sanctuary or other protective facility. If an assessment shows the animals can be moved to such a facility where they can live out their remaining days, we request UBC move forward with the rehousing of the turtles as quickly as possible.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is a nonprofit organization based in California that empowers individuals and communities throughout the world to protect marine wildlife.
As you may be aware, all seven species of sea turtles are at high risk of extinction. Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, sea turtles face a host of threats. Those threats include: pollution, especially from oil spills, beach front development, ingestion of marine debris, such as plastic bags, the illegal turtle shell trade, incidental capture in fishing nets, and turtle egg and meat consumption. In addition, artificial lighting along beaches often discourages female turtles from nesting and disorients hatchlings who may mistakenly wander inland, exposing them to predation.
At a time when the international community is undertaking efforts to protect and restore sea turtle populations, it makes little sense for an educational institution of UBC’s esteem to kill members of an imperiled species. By permitting a team of independent veterinarians to evaluate the condition of the seven turtles and, if appropriate, placing the animals in a sanctuary, UBC would be showing the world it is committed to conserving one of the planet’s most vulnerable species.
To our understanding, the University of British Columbia conducts extensive research on a variety of animals. Much of this research is funded by the public through taxpayer dollars, student fees, alumni gifts, and private donations. UBC promotes critical thinking, debate, transparency, and freedom of speech; however, the university has been less than forthcoming about its research on animals.
The public has the right to know about such research being conducted. Information about UBC's animal research and decisions by its Animal Care Committee should be made widely available. Information, data, and reports about animal research in the United States are posted at website databases through the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture. With that in mind, I urge UBC to post the following information online:
Assessment reports of UBC by the Canadian Council on Animal Care from 2000-2009, including records of non-compliance and violations issued by the CCAC to UBC, as well as UBC's responses to those assessment reports
Veterinary care and necropsy reports on animals at UBC for 2000-2009
Data on the number of animals used annually in research, teaching, and testing at UBC for 2000-2009. Data should include numbers of animals used by species, category of invasiveness, and purpose of use.
Copies of animal use protocols by UBC animal researchers and instructors for 2000-2009
Photos, videos, and other recordings of experiments conducted on animals by UBC researchers and instructors for 2000-2009
Finally, we urge UBC to pursue alternatives to research on animals as other universities have done.
I look forward to your response. Thank you.
Teri Shore, Program Director
Delays plague Kemp's ridley sea turtle recovery
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on February 17th, 2011
One year ago today a petition was filed seeking a long-overdue critical habitat designation for the endangered Kemp' ridley sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico. These sea turtles were included in the Endangered Species Act in 1970, and now in 2011, over 40 years later, the habitat vital to their survival has yet to be given protections. Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service are to blame, as they manage the Kemp ridley's U.S. ocean and beach habitats, respectively. Years of data show Louisiana barrier islands are a critical feeding area and Texas nesting beaches are now part of the healthy Kemp's ridley population.
Ironically, the petition is challenging the federal delays. Why the delays on habitat protections, and the delay in the lawsuit over the delay? I wish I knew. It seems the smallest sea turtle species on the planet is the smallest of priorities for the public agencies that could take action to protect them.
I applaud the efforts of the WildEarth Guardians, who filed the petition last year in February and then brought the issue back to court in August with a plea to end the endless delays and take action in the wake of the horrific BP oil spill. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project and its allies work every day to overcome these and many other delays in our fight to keep sea turtles from being pushed to extinction by offshore oil operations, commercial fishing, and continued habitat destruction.
Tuna the Wonderfish is Mercury Laden
Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on January 25th, 2011
The three big tuna companies - Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea - have joined forces to peddle mercury laden tuna to mothers and children who are the most vulnerable to mercury exposure. Tuna the Wonderfish should really be Tuna the Toxic Fish. All tuna contains mercury; and even "light skipjack" tuna is mercury contaminated. The risk to a woman or child's health from mercury is directly related to how much tuna they eat and their weight. The tuna industry is selling them on eating lots and lots!
The tuna fantasy campaign features a woman clearly of child-bearing age surrounded by attractive, athletic young men in a dream kitchen reminiscent of the 1950s when women were supposedly content to stay home and please their men with food and sex. Another fantasy. Who wrote these ads anyway? Charlie the Tuna?
The tuna fantasy website is offering misleading and potentially harmful advice when it FAILS TO MENTION MERCURY AT ALL OR THE FDA ADVISORY WHICH TELLS WOMEN AND CHILDREN TO LIMIT CONSUMPTION OF MERCURY LADEN FISH INCLUDING ALBACORE TUNA.
The tuna fantasy campaign blatantly urges women to eat at least two servings of fish each week and recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women eat two to three meals each week, including high-mercury albacore tuna. Nowhere is mercury mentioned. So what happens if they follow this advice and they or their child becomes ill? Will Tuna the Wonderfish come to the rescue?
The tuna fantasy conflicts with ample and recent scientific tuna testing and advice from numerous sources that women and children SHOULD SEVERELY LIMIT OR NOT EAT CANNED TUNA. (Consumers Union, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Good Housekeeping).
It seems that the tuna companies are so desperate to sell fish that they will put at risk both women and children to make profits. Gee that sounds familiar . . tobacco . . .alcohol . . . lead . . .
At best this ad campaign is irresponsible or a clear case of false and misleading advertising. At worst it could be making women and children sick. In case, the ad campaign is outrageous and wrong and should be removed.
Read more about mercury in tuna at www.gotmercury.org.
Oprah - Help Save the Kimberley!
Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on January 19th, 2011
Oprah's Australian shows are now airing and everyone is going ga-ga for the wonders of Down Under! But not all is well in Oz! We need Oprah and her fans to help Save the Kimberley.
Oprah never made it to the red rock country in the remote Northwest, but the town of Broome and the huge expanse of this wild and sacred land is a major destination for adventurers from around the world. Not to mention it is one of the world's last untouched havens for sea turtles, whales and rare corals and undiscovered marine life.
Please go on Oprah's Facebook page and post a short comment to Save the Kimberley, even if it gets taken down. Then go to her website and submit a comment through a form asking her to help Save the Kimberley and link to our action alert.
Hawaiian Locals Active Protecting their Honu
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on January 3rd, 2011
On the Hawaiian Islands the green sea turtles that frequent local beaches and reefs are known affectionately as honu. The honu in Hawaii have a rich history, experienced dramatic declines in recent decades, and have been recovering slowly thanks to many local efforts to protect them and their beach habitats. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has been fighting for many years to ensure the main threat to their survival, deadly industrial fisheries, increase sea turtle protections and decrease their allowable killings of these endangered species. Whether they are cavorting among coral reefs or sunning on the beach, the honu have many caring individuals looking out for them.
On the north shore of Oahu, the honu regularly come ashore at Laniakea Beach to sun themselves after filling their bellies with the lush green algae covering the rocky reefs. When they arrive on the beach, they are greeted by throngs of curious tourists and a group of dedicated local volunteers that protect the turtles from harassment.
It is quite a site to watch! With each lunge forward, cheers and screams emit from the dozens of tourists from across the globe that are drawn to this spot in the hopes of seeing sea turtles. The Japanese are especially vocal! The volunteer honu protectors can quickly identify the individual sea turtles by markings on their shells, and adjust their protective barriers and informational signs as each one arrives, creating a safe and educational zone for all. Their love for the honu is apparent with each caring adjustment and in each thoughtful conversation they have with onlookers.
Since SCUBA diving is one of my passions, I always try to spend as much time underwater on each trip to Hawaii, and a regular partner for these adventures are the great folks at Deep Ecology in Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu. This trip, we headed to Turtle Canyon! Known as a regular hangout and cleaning station for several honu, Turtle Canyon delivered a fantastic experience once again. Reaching the bottom at this relatively shallow dive spot took only 5 minutes, and finding a peaceful honu resting under a coral outcropping took another 1 minute. I kept my distance and snapped a few photos before the honu woke up and swam up for air.
My dive buddy and several others followed the expert Deep Ecology dive master to the end of the reef to a regular sea turtle cleaning station. On our way there, we were passed by another honu, swimming gracefully by us. The sea turtle settled in the sand and we all watched from a distance as it covered itself in a light coat of sand. The camera came out again, and those memories will last a lifetime.
Longline fishing in and around Hawaii has deadly consequences to the sea turtles that live and migrate through the central Pacific. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has taken legal action on several fronts to close the deadly longline fisheries due to their unacceptable deadly bycatch of sea turtles and marine mammals. We will continue to fight these battles with your support to ensure the honu are protected and all Pacific sea turtles are safeguarded from extinction.
photos: Chris Pincetich, Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Gulf of Mexico Seafood Safety Estimates by FDA Flawed
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on December 19th, 2010
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network is signed-on to a coalition with other concerned non-profit organizations in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve its flawed seafood safety calculations which may be putting Gulf of Mexico residents consuming their average amount of seafood at risk. Click here to download the coalition letter to the FDA.
Contamination of Gulf seafood has been a concern in the wake of the horrific BP oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal agencies moved rapidly to re-open fishing grounds weeks after the areas were dotted with oil slicks. Shrimp trawlers, which have killed over 100 sea turtles during the summer disaster, were found guilty of trawling in areas closed during the oil spill. An excellent summary of concerns was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Download and read the commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association "Health Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill."
Recently, more evidence on the flawed risk assessment calculations performed by the FDA has made news headlines, see below for the full story.
Groups skeptical of federal seafood-safety testing
12/17/2010, Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter
Environmental groups are stressing the need for more independent data on the safety of Gulf Coast seafood after a study released last week found flaws in the federal methods for determining the region's seafood consumption levels.
Several Gulf groups are conducting their own testing of seafood from regions hit by the oil spill, saying that they do not trust the data federal agencies have used in declaring areas safe for fishing.
Groups also say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration moved too hastily to open up fishing areas, pointing to the recent reclosing of 4,213 square miles of an 8,403-square-mile royal red shrimp fishing area after a fisherman caught tarballs in his shrimp trawler.
"The rush to say that seafood is safe is premature and hurts the brand more than if we all just waited a little bit and gave the science the time to tell us what's really happening out there," said Casey DeMoss Roberts, assistant director of science and water policy at the Gulf Restoration Network.
In the study released last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that FDA underestimated the amount of seafood that the typical Gulf Coast resident consumes. That information was used in calculations for safe levels of contamination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in seafood, chemicals that remain from the BP PLC oil spill.
FDA, according to the study, based its estimates of consumption on national data and used the average American male adult weighing 175 pounds as its basis for its calculations. It assumed that a Gulf resident eats seafood about twice a week and shrimp once a week. One serving of shrimp, according to the FDA, consists of about four jumbo shrimp.
The Natural Resources Defense Council surveyed 547 Gulf Coast residents on their seafood eating habits and found that their consumption rates were from 3.6 to 12.1 times higher than FDA estimates. The survey also found that Vietnamese-Americans had especially high seafood consumption rates in fish, shrimp, oyster and crab.
"Four shrimp a week is not even an appetizer for some folks around here," said Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
Roberts said the NRDC's results were not surprising.
"As soon as we saw the consumption rates FDA had determined, it was laughable. They didn't even pass the straight-face test," she said.
The NRDC and more than 30 environmental and public interest groups sent a letter last week to FDA complaining of the discrepancy in consumption rates.
"We've been requesting that they adapt their standards for months and months and months now. This letter isn't the first time they've heard an outcry from people," said Peter Brabeck, environmental monitor for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
FDA defended its use of national data on seafood consumption.
"FDA is not aware of any published data upon which we can rely for seafood consumption figures other than what we used," said Sebastian Cianci, a spokesman for FDA, in an e-mail to Greenwire. He said the agency is reviewing the NRDC study to see if it is a suitable source of consumption data
Beyond seafood consumption rates, Gulf environmental groups say FDA's testing and monitoring methods are inadequate and rely on too few samples. When NOAA opened up 5,130 square miles of Gulf waters for fishing in September, it based the opening on sensory tests of 123 samples and chemical analyses of 183 specimens composited into 27 samples.
Since it is difficult to statistically represent the entire Gulf of Mexico, FDA "adopted a sampling strategy that gave us great confidence that the samples collected were adequately representative of the worst-case scenario for oil spill and dispersant residues," Cianci said.
FDA and NOAA continue to monitor the Gulf, and Cianci said they have not found merit in any reports of tainted seafood. But many environmental groups are carrying out their own sampling and gathering results from independent labs, citing stories of fishermen finding tarballs in fishing nets.
Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Paul Orr, working with technical adviser and chemist Wilma Subra and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, has collected samples from the west edge of the oil spill's damage all the way to the Louisiana-Mississippi border. On Monday, Orr released data on oysters, blue crab, mussels, shrimp and other seafood showing levels of PAHs and petroleum hydrocarbons.
He has not compared the data to any standards of safe levels because he said just finding any standards on total petroleum hydrocarbons has proved difficult. According to Subra, FDA has no established level of concern for total petroleum hydrocarbons.
"I don't think we've really had to deal with having very much petroleum contamination in seafood before," Orr said. "I don't think [FDA was] prepared for dealing with something like this. I don't think many of us were prepared for something like this."
Orr said the seafood looked "perfect" when collected. Because of this, environmental groups say they want federal agencies to abandon the practice of performing a sensory test, or what Brabeck calls a "sniff test," as a first step to test for contamination.
"It's crazy to me that that's actually considered the legitimate form of testing," Brabeck said.
A panel of NOAA experts observes and sniffs the seafood samples sent in from states, and if the samples pass the test, they are sent off to an FDA lab for chemical analyses of composite tissue samples. If the samples pass those chemical tests, the area from which they came can be reopened for fishing.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has taken a different strategy with its sampling. Started 10 years ago to test pollution from refineries, the brigade is now handing out sampling kits to residents to test seafood, air and water. Residents collect samples, wrap them in foil or put them in a nonreactive container, and ship them off in bags to a certified lab. The Bucket Brigade then interprets the data for residents.
"It's trying to get the community ... to sample what they think needs to be sampled," Brabeck said, adding that it also gives a voice to the communities that have been affected by the spill.
The local knowledge is key, Brabeck said.
"These people have been there for generations, a lot of these people six generations of fishing," he said. "These guys, they know what their environment looks like. They know what their water looks like before and after the spill."