Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shark-Free Marinas Initiative, Bahamas

I'm pleased and honored to assist SharkDivers.com with this new program they just recently devised to help promote the conservation of sharks. It's one way to encourage commerce to get on board and make a difference, realizing the long-term benefits for Bahamian tourism.

Shark-Free Marinas Initiative

In the spring of 2008,
Shark Diver was alerted to a female Tiger shark that was taken off Freeport, Bahamas. The animal was caught by a sport fisherman and displayed at a local marina where it was cut open to reveal several half-dead pups inside, some of which were dropped into the marina and struggled to survive for a few days.

We have decided to act. The Government of the Bahamas allows sport fishing for sharks and we fully support sustainable catch-and-release fisheries. However, the taking of gravid female sharks for a one-time photo op and a set of jaws is a senseless waste of a valuable resource.

The Shark-Free Marinas Initiative is a way to work with existing resort marinas in the Bahamas that cater to sport fishing vessels, seeking their cooperation in asking them not to allow sharks to be taken and displayed at their marinas. This initiative, in turn, encourages the use of catch-and-release programs and promotes sustainable fisheries.

Each marina and resort that supports this initiative will receive both, a metal sign and logo we have created to post in their marina office and the following information for posting on their marina websites:

(Name of resort and marina) supports the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative in the Bahamas region. The Bahamas is home to many shark species and the healthy reef systems that support these sharks. We feel the one-time harvesting of sharks for photo images or souvenir jaws is not in the best interests of the Bahamian people or Bahamian tourism.

Worldwide, sharks are being decimated for fins and jaws at a completely unsustainable rate. An estimated 60 million sharks per year are taken in this manner. By asking vessels not to arrive at our facilities with sharks, we hope to encourage responsible sport fishing, thereby ensuring a lasting and healthy population of sharks in Bahamian waters for future generations and contributing to the overall health of the Caribbean.

Please practice catch-and-release with all sharks and enjoy our facilities.

Welcome to the Bahamas.

SharkDivers' Note: This initiative is not only limited to the Bahamas and the several marinas who have expressed an interest in joining it (press release to follow). As a concept we will allow and help promote any organization or group to use this logo to enact their own regional Shark-Free Marinas. In places like Florida and the East coast this could conceivably help redirect shark kills and weigh ins. It offers the opportunity for marinas to claim the "Green Card" while at the same time redirecting fishermen into sustainable fisheries. Special thanks to Richard Theiss RTSea Productions.

One blog, one website, one person at a time.

White Shark in the Marketplace: Mexico drops the ball

Here is a prime example of dropping the ball - or maybe it's a case of turning a blind eye. The above picture was taken at an Ensenada fish market in Baja, Mexico. What you see is juvenile white shark being marketed as marlin or swordfish. Local Mexican fishermen having been illegally catching juvenile white sharks along the Baja coast - disastrous not only because of the loss of the shark but its reproductive potential is also lost for good.

So why "dropping the ball"? Because just a few minutes away from this market are the offices of the governmental agency that oversees the environmental Biosphere program, not to mention other marine-related academic organizations - and not to mention local law enforcement agencies.

Some of the fish markets are now removing the tell-tale shark skin to help further disguise their illegal catch. According to SharkDiver, this has been going on for some time without any government intervention or enforcement. When governments pay lip service by instituting regulations without the required support and enforcement, the sharks lose . . . and we lose.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: needed expansion to protect seamount

It was announced this past Friday that the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary will be expanded to include a 585 sq. nautical mile area to safeguard Davidson Seamount, one of the largest underwater mountains in U.S. waters. The expansion will be finalized on November 1 and managed by NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries agencies.

Davidson Seamount, 70 miles off the California coast, is 4,120 feet below the surface but extends another 7,784 feet to the ocean floor. It is home to a variety of deep, cold water animals and its location attracts a variety of sealife in the waters above the peak, providing nourishment for other fish, sea birds, and whales. The seamount and its slow growing/slow reproducing inhabitants are susceptible to the ravaging effects of commercial bottom-trawling, where weighted nets are dragged across the seafloor.

There are several state and federal marine sanctuaries or protected areas along the California coast and, through effective government agency enforcement and overall public and commercial cooperation, they have proven to be successful in not only just providing protection but in improving the health of the marine ecosystems that have in the past been threatened or damaged by commercial fishing, oil exploration, and pollution.

Good news. Put a check in the win column.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Science Debate 2008: pushing scientific research to the forefront

Science Debate 2008, a coalition of scientists, journalists, and concerned citizens, has formed an initiative to promote scientific research in the determination of public policy in the United States. It's an excellent forum for voicing opinions and concerns and for hearing the positions of politicians regarding policies for which science can or should play a key role.

As an example, here are portions of the responses from the U.S. presidential candidates to a question on ocean health, submitted by Science Debate 2008 (#9 of 14 questions of a scientific nature were submitted):

McCain: Ocean health and policy requires better management focus; however, we also need a better scientific understanding of the oceans. In no area is this truer than in obtaining a better understanding of the interaction of climate change and the oceans . . . Ocean science and engineering deserves greater attention and focus. (Click here to read entire response.)

Obama: The oceans are a global resource and a global responsibility for which the U.S. can and should take a more active role. I will work actively to ensure that the U.S. ratifies the Law of the Sea Convention - an agreement supported by more than 150 countries that will protect our economic and security interests while providing an important international collaboration to protect the oceans and its resources. (Click here to read entire response.)

All sounds very nice but, as the candidates are fond of saying, they have to "walk the talk." Personally, I have found that there is a considerable amount of scientific data regarding a host of ecological, environmental, and marine issues that unfortunately gets buried in the academic world and does not get sufficiently communicated to the general public in easily understandable terms - issues, implications and solutions. The more the public is "in the know" - the more pressure these constituents can put on their political leaders.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Whatta week we've been having . . . let's take a break

Here in the U.S., we have been enduring a lot of bad news (on the economic front) and a lot of bull (from the politicians) this past week. For marine conservationists struggling to get their voices heard amongst these issues that are impacting the day-to-day lives of the average Americans, it can be a bit frustrating. I know it gets me bouncing off the walls at times.

So, in the interests of sanity, let's take a moment and settle back into some of our favorite oceanic images. Here are some of mine. Pull out your favorite photos, slides, videos, or books and let's all take a collective sigh, relax a bit . . .

. . . now, back to work.

New Data on Greenhouse Gases: time to act . . . now

Many of you who read this blog are already concerned and committed marine conservationists and so you are familiar with issues regarding greenhouse gas output and the effect it has on our climate. Here's some more disconcerting news . . .

Yesterday, international researchers from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released new numbers indicating that the level of carbon emissions/greenhouse gases is increasing ahead of projected levels. It was anticipated that levels might decrease due to the economic downturn's impact on energy use over the past few years. Unfortunately, data shows that carbon dioxide output rose 3% from 2006 to 2007.

"Things are happening very, very fast," Professor Corrine Le Quere, University of Anglia, told the Associated Press. "It's scary." "We should be worried - really worried," Richard Moss, World Wildlife Fund, told the Washington Post. "This is happening in the context of trying to reduce emissions."

The new data also shows that the forest and oceans, which absorb carbon dioxide, are having less impact. The rising level of emissions is exceeding the ability of these ecosystems to take in carbon dioxide - they are simply being overloaded. The trees and oceans can't do it all; they can't save us from ourselves.

China is currently the largest polluter, with the U.S. in second. Developing countries like India and Indonesia are rapidly increasing their emissions as these nations develop more energy-intensive industries. New data continues to come in and with it the situation continues to become more dire. We need to take more decisive action - all of us, consumers, industry, and governments.

Here's a start: the Ocean Conservancy has a form you can fill out online and send a message to your government officials. Just a first step but we all have to start somewhere.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Betting On Sharks: barbarians at the gate

Here is a posting from my good friends at SharkDivers regarding the Oak Bluff's Monster Shark Tournament at Martha's Vineyard. A disturbing video produced by the Humane Society shows some of the activities going on behind the scenes of this event. Okay, during the heyday of "Jaws" this event may have been tolerated, but one would hope today's public climate would be more enlightened. Come on, Massachusetts, you can do better than this.

Betting on sharks-Barbarians at the gate

We're not sure what is more repugnant a pastime. Shark finning or illegal betting on dead shark "weigh ins" like a recent expose at the Martha's Vinyard Monster Shark Tournament.

One thing we are sure about. Media is a powerful tool. With the advent of You Tube you can get your message across to millions. As far as shark conservation goes the next time you see an online save-the-sharks petition...shut down your computer and go pick up a camcorder:

Kudo's to the Humane Society for this kind of direct action.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Turtles and TED: Oceana pushes for broader regulations

Know about TED? No, I'm not talking about the think tank, Technology, Entertainment, Design, That's a group worth a visit but I'm referring to "Turtle Excluder Device" - it's an escape hatch for sea turtles caught in trawling nets. TEDs are required for all trawling fisheries in U.S. waters looking for shrimp. But that doesn't protect all of the turtles, and all six species found in U.S. waters are listed as endangered.

Once again, Oceana.org is on the case and is pushing for government action to extend the TED requirements to all trawling fisheries, not just shrimp. Life is tough enough on sea turtles from poaching and decimation of their nesting grounds through pollution and building development. Case in point:
"July 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the loggerhead sea turtle's addition to the Endangered Species Act. But not only have loggerhead populations failed to recover in the last three decades, they continue to decline. Disturbingly, loggerhead nesting in Florida has declined by 50 percent during the past 10 years." - Elizabeth Griffin, Oceana.org

Losing more sea turtles as injured or killed by-catch when there is an effective solution that will not have a major impact on the fisheries bottom line - well, that's just tragic. Check out how you can send a message to our government officials.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ecotoursim: making a personal connection with Nature

Shark diving, whale watching, safari tours, mountain gorilla expeditions - all fall under a single heading: Ecotourism. It's a complex activity that brings together conservation, education, and economic development - all for good or for evil depending on the motivations of the operators.

Many conservation organizations or NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are turning to ecotourism as a new strategic direction. In many parts of the world, conservation legislation and regulations which have been put in place - but unsupported logistically or economically - have proven less than effective. Ecotourism has the potential for both enlightening the public and providing economic incentive to governments or local economies. But it must be structured in a way that insures safety to the animals, safety for the participants, and minimizes it's ecological footprint while at the same time remaining economically viable.

There will always be an element of adventure associated with ecotourism - the thrill of seeing an elusive, endangered, or even potentially dangerous animal in the wild, and that will remain a major component as to its allure. See this online video promo I produced on shark diving for SharkDiver.com, emphasizing the mystique of these incredible animals (as opposed to promoting some macho, life-threatening experience).

Once participants are attracted to this unique opportunity, then it is imperative that the operators stress the concepts of education, conservation and protection. If not, then they are just profiteering and that greed can lead to lax policies that endanger people and animals.
Shark Divers.com, for which I am an on-call consultant, provides professional services to help advance the future of responsible shark eco-tourism by assessing potential sites and recommending detailed safety and environmental procedures that require strict compliance on the part of the operators.

Ecotourism is no "silver bullet" solution or panacea. It can be abused by unscrupulous operators just like any other commercial venture. But many in the conservation and ecology movement are finding that a greater level of awareness - a more personal connection - is in order and ecotourism may be one way to help reach that goal.

Friday, September 19, 2008

U.S. Commercial Fishing Regulations: new proposal needs strengthening

Following up on yesterday's posting, here's some information I just received from Oceana.org about a proposed U.S. commercial fishing regulation that needs some strengthening:

Our high demand for seafood has changed the way we fish. There are more ships at sea, there is more money fueling the fleets and advances in technology have brought about new gear and practices. Ironically, these "advances" have resulted in inefficient and irresponsible fishing. Bottom trawlers, longlines, and gillnets allow fishermen to catch unsustainably huge amounts of fish and other marine life, destroying the very resource they depend on. After years and years of overfishing, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has finally proposed a rule to combat this unsustainable and damaging practice. Unfortunately, the rule falls dangerously short in a number of ways. This rule is long overdue and has the potential to change the face of our fisheries management. The solution to the overfishing crisis can be summed up in three words: count, cap and control. These principles are noticeably absent from the Administration's proposed rule.

This rule is long overdue and has the potential to change the face of our fisheries management. The solution to the overfishing crisis can be summed up in three words: count, cap and control. These principles are noticeably absent from the Administration's proposed rule.

Count - count all of the fish caught, including the ones discarded at sea.
Cap - set a limit on mortality amount for all populations
Control - actively manage fisheries to end and prevent overfishing. This control must be paired with enforcement to ensure that management is truly effective.
Not only are the three C's missing, the rule also fails to set limits on domestic fishing of international species and it does not call for a full assessment of the rule's environmental impacts.

This rule will affect every fish stock and fishery in the United States. It's vitally important to get this rule right the first time around. Now that Congress has finally mandated an end to the problem, let's not waste the opportunity with a flawed proposal. Please take action today.

For the oceans,

Buffy Baumann
Fisheries Advocate

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aquaculture: the key to true "sustainable" seafood

I was having a discussion with some people the other night about marine conservation issues and commercial overfishing. These folks were quite convinced that even sticking with "sustainable seafood species" was ultimately a lost cause - by removing fish without giving something back, you are upsetting the natural marine order and depletion of any species is inevitable.

That may or may not be true in every case, but it certainly is one reason why I support the aquaculture or aquafarming efforts taking place around the world. The logic behind these activities is pretty simple: we are giving something back.
  • We raise cattle to insure we have a supply of beef.
  • We raise chickens to insure we have a supply of poultry.
  • And we do the same for fruits and vegetables.
But when it comes to the sea, for centuries we have just taken. Aquaculture can reverse that approach. But it's not without its challenges. Whether on land or at sea, there are issues of potential pollution from feed or animal waste, introduction of diseases or parasites, logistical challenges because of the required size of the facilities, and so on.

These are challenges that must be conquered and there are some definite strides being made. I have mentioned some in past postings regarding the Indian Ocean's bluefin tuna, Chesapeake Bay's blue crab, and more. I would strongly recommend that you support the companies and organizations involved in aquaculture. As the demand for seafood increases, it's the only logical answer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WildAid's Shark PSAs: getting the word out worldwide

You can go to YouTube, Flickr, and many other video posting sites, type in "shark" and see literally thousands of video clips (some of them are even mine). Most are from home videographers wanting to share their shark diving experiences.

WildAid realizes that not everyone watches those online sites, that traditional broadcast avenues still have some clout, so they have a series of shark conservation PSAs (public service announcements) that have run worldwide. However, you can also see them grouped together online at their website.

This one, in particular, got to me. It succinctly shows the irrationality of shark fin soup - bleached of all nutritional value and flavor, the fin is really just for "show" - to the tune of at least 40 million sharks per year.

It was also encouraging to see WildAid using Asian and foreign celebrities to promote shark conservation, since most of the shark products are destined for Asian markets worldwide. Take a look.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Contaminated Seafood: how to find the "good stuff"

Seafood contamination - primarily in the form of mercury poisoning - is serious business. It has moved beyond the early contaminated species of tuna to other pelagics like swordfish and sharks and continues to spread to other species. But since uncontaminated fish (from sustainable species, of course) can be a healthy component of our diet, how can we be sure we're purchasing seafood that is safe? Where's a good safe place to buy safe seafood?

Oceana.org has assembled a great interactive mapping service: Interactive Grocery Store Map. With this map you can drill down to your local neighborhood and find stores that are on Oceana's "Green List."

This is a big help to the conscientious shopper but, of course, we need to also address the reasons for seafood contamination in the first place. Industrial processes that put mercury vapor into the air or through industrial discharge must be eliminated both in the U.S. and worldwide. The "liquid metal" was fun to play with when I was a child but in the 50+ years since, we've learned it's no plaything.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Frank Mundus: the end of an era

A legend in the world of shark sport fishing, Frank Mundus passed away recently at the age of 82. In the early 50's, Frank came to Montauk, at the east end of Long Island, New York, and built a reputation as a leader in shark sport fishing - catching blues, makos and, with the popularity of Jaws in the 70's - great white sharks. With a blunt, salty Northeasterner's personality, Frank was considered the model for the Jaws character, Quint, although author Peter Benchley was said to deny it. While shark conservationists might rightfully abhor his legacy for catching so many sharks, in the end he was a reflection of the times.

In later years, he came to view sharks differently but, befitting his personality, he made no regrets for the life he lead.
And that's fine. He was a colorful character and we have since learned more about the critical importance of sharks in the ensuing years, so let us just wish him a safe voyage and hope that we are saying farewell to the passing of any era.

Endangered Species Act: one more shot at weakening it

From time to time, I bring up political issues that are affecting the environment but I always do so reluctantly. I have this naive need to mobilize the general populace, hoping that our leadership will respond to the will of the people. But sometimes the machinations of the political machine must be pointed out. The Endangered Species Act is one of the foundations of our national environmental policy but it is under attack from the outgoing administration. One of the key provisions of the act is the requirement that any federal agency wishing to take action that may impact a protected species must first consult with federal wildlife scientists to ensure their actions will not have any negative effects. In essence, this independent review prevents the foxes from guarding the hen house.

The current administration has proposed changing this requirement, allowing federal agencies to consult with themselves and not with the independent scientific reviewers. In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management tried this approach and the end result, according to the departments of Interior and Commerce, was that they made the wrong call 62% of the time.

The current administration has made several attempts to undermine various environmental policies and procedures (see previous postings on July 9th and July 14th). And in this case, the executive branch can make the change without congressional approval. But . . . congress controls the purse strings to implement the changes. If you are one who is proactive enough to write or email your congressional leaders, be sure to make them aware of this potential change in the Endangered Species Act and urge them to not appropriate the funds for its implementation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

International Coastal Cleanup Day: September 20th

Saturday, September 20th marks the date for Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. This is when we can all chip in - above and below the waves - to help clean up our local coastlines. More than a beautification project, it can also have a profound effect on the overall health of our local marine eco-systems.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, last year over six million pounds was cleared from the oceans and waterways - all documented. SIX MILLION POUNDS!

Check out the Ocean Conservancy web site to see where and how you can sign up to assist with collecting and documenting your efforts. I will be diving in Orange County, California waters with my good friend from PADI, Budd Riker, on behalf of Project AWARE.

Here's a perfect opportunity to make a direct contribution to cleaning up our water planet. Join in!

It's Not Easy Being Green: beware of "greenwashing"

Kermit the Frog is not the only one now who must struggle with being green. As more and more people become (hopefully) more environmentally aware and focus on "green" products that have less impact on the environment, companies are beginning to respond. But are their claims accurate or outright misleading?

"Greenwashing" is the term used to describe misleading environmental benefits and its something that consumers will need to be aware of more and more. Many nations are beginning to respond with demands for more exacting definitions as to what is truly "green" just as was done in the past for benefits like "low calorie" or "nonfat
" (Ex: Norway has banned the terms green, environmentally friendly, and clean from car ads.). The United States has been slow to respond but the FTC is preparing to update its consumer Green Guide.

In the meantime, check out EnviroMedia's Greenwashing Index, a site where consumers can rate ads as to their "green" truthfulness. Also, take a look at the TerraChoice web site which lists its Six Sins of Greenwashing. Here are a couple:

  • Hidden trade-off: Like Ethanol - possibly a cleaner-burning fuel but more environmental harm is done to produce it thereby outweighing any benefits.
  • Irrelevance: Promoting an environmental benefit that is already dictated by law.

I have always said that companies can find "gold in going green". But they need to be doing it for the right reasons and with honesty and integrity.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Island of the Great White Shark: a documentary or an epitaph?

Each year, from September to early December, a population of great white sharks inhabits the waters of Isla Guadalupe, 150 miles of the west coast of Baja, Mexico. It has become a popular destination for eco-tourism (shark diving) operations and film crews, in addition to Mexican shark researchers, because of the island's clear water conditions and reliable shark sightings.

In my documentary, Island of the Great White Shark, I document the dedicated efforts of Mauricio Hoyos, a young dedicated researcher from Baja's leading marine institute, as he compiles behavioral data on these magnificent apex predators.
Over the years his efforts have been supported logistically and financially by the eco-tourism operators. The film also presents an accurate, close-up portrait of white sharks, in deference to the typical "malevolent man-eater" image, and delves into the important issues of commercial shark fishing and finning that threatens all sharks worldwide.

Unfortunately, it appears that these activities at Isla Guadalupe may be drawing to a close and with that the possibility that these animals will be exposed to poachers and renegade commercial fishermen. Isla Guadalupe is a protected "biosphere", administered by a Mexican government agency. Through a series of dubious political machinations, it seems this agency is on a course to ban the island to all shark eco-tourism.

Now, on the surface, that might seem a good thing to those who have reservations about the ecological impact of shark diving activities. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows there is little if any detrimental effect on the behavior of these large migratory predators. More importantly, the eco-tourisim operators have actively acted as watch guards for these sharks during their migratory stay at the island - something that the Mexican government does not have the resources to continue in the future.

My concern is that an unknown future awaits the majestic great white sharks of Isla Guadalupe and my documentary could ultimately serve as an epitaph to what once was and what could have been for years to come.

Island of the Great White Shark is available on DVD at Amazon.com and can be seen at these upcoming screening events:
  • 9/19-21/08 - Gray's Reef Ocean Film Festival, Savannah, GA
  • 10/22/08 - Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1/06/09 - Birch Aquarium at Scripp's Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cetacean Conservation: a renewal of new strategies needed

It seemed in the 70's that cetaceans (whales) were quite the darlings of the conservation movement. A groundswell of respect and sympathy for these great oceanic mammals that were commercially hunted reached its zenith with the adoption of whaling restrictions and moratoriums for several species by the International Whaling Commission. Over the decades, whale eco-tourism has flourished and the populations of some species have improved. But there are still critical issues that require changes in strategies.

With whale eco-tourism, the need exists for greater scrutiny of procedures to better insure whale safety. A recent report cited in SeaWeb's Marine Science Review - 227, showed that in the northeast region of the U.S. where whale watching boats adhere to a voluntary program of "speed zones" regarding speed and distance from migrating whales, an alarmingly high number of boats were not in compliance and most operators approached the maximum speed limits routinely.

Of greater importance is the overall change in attitudes between the pro- and anti-whaling communities over the years. Another report cited in the same SeaWeb review, assessed the new "norm" that sprang from the anti-whaling movement. It was a fragile peace that has become weaker in recent years - culminating in Japan's recent definition of whaling for "scientific research" involving Humpback Whales.

One of the great challenges conservationists face is in dealing with commercial enterprises that have a strong cultural component. When you criticize the industry, the community takes it personally. It's not just black and white, dollars and cents - there's a definite emotional component that has to be considered. The anti-whaling strategies of the past have not fully won over public opinion in the pro-whaling countries and, according to the report, have even produced a boomerang effect. If you attack something with a strong cultural base without providing an alternative or substitute, or some sort of cultural "compensation", you face slow-building resistance and resentment. Which we are now seeing with Japan's recent actions and those of other nations who have a long history in commercial whaling.

Not to give up, but there needs to be a renewal in strategies, clever approaches in public relations, and diplomacy that rivals Middle East negotiations.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Decision 2008: The conventions are over; now comes the hard part

I don't wax political too often, but as we enter the last 8 weeks of our U.S. presidential election, I'll throw in my two cents worth. No, I won't tell you my choice; my opinion is my vote and you're smart enough to make your own call. Just be sure to get the facts.

Having finished their convention speeches, right now both candidates are talking a similar game: change. And when it comes to the environment, they're both throwing out pretty much the same promises. So, you're going to have to do some homework. We have a lot of important national issues to address, but in the big picture (something politicians are notoriously unable to deal with), Nature - the environment, conservation, climate change - will trump them all.

Former Vice President Al Gore has chosen to focus his efforts towards environmental issues, specifically global warming. Okay, cynics, it has brought him fame and some fortune, but he does realize that in the end, environmental issues make all other problems look like small potatoes.

So think hard about your choices: Who can bring together the people in a common purpose regarding the environment? Who can move the forces of politics and commerce in the right direction? Who is determined to set us on a new course beyond our 100-year old fossil fuel industrial model?

After all the cheers, balloons and confetti have subsided, where will we be? What happens in the next 4 to 8 years can have a lasting impact for decades or longer. Think hard. It's only the planet's future at stake.

This is Nuts: Shock value that misses the mark

The following post is from my friend, Patric Douglas, at SharkDivers.com (here's his blog). This is nuts. . .

Shark protestor hangs own skin on hooks-Tasteless

And THIS will save sharks?

No-it will not.

As the months grind on for the seemingly rudderless Sea Shepherd organization they continue to resort to more frantic, ill timed, ill advised "stunts" to raise awareness and ultimately collect money from donors.

The litany of outright fabricated news and bad eco theatre goes back a few years but the desperation in this latest stunt set in London is sadly almost palatable. This is an organization whose messaging has become more important than affecting actual change.

Darwin was right and Sea Shepherd is proving, in a most spectacular manner, that evolution is a fickle mistress. What you are seeing here is the death throes of an Eco Dinosaur who's time on this planet is coming to an inglorious end. Like the reign of the dinosaurs Sea Shepherds demise will be slow and sad to watch, but the first coughs, staggers and sputters are here.

Suffice to say the final days will not be pretty.

Story here

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Breaking News: Swiss goldfish saved from the flush!

Here's some news from Switzerland - encouraging, but it also struck me as oddly amusing: Now, if you tire of your pet goldfish, you can no longer flush it down the toilet . . . unless it is dead. (Well, who is going to kill their pet goldfish, once they tire of the little fella?)

Seems the Swiss have other strict laws regarding small animals:
  • If you wish to own a hamster, llama, or sheep, it must be in visual contact with its own kind. In other words, buy at least two.
  • Recreational fishing is also prohibited - no catch-and-release, no live bait.
  • And there are compulsory classes if you want to own a puppy.
All commendable examples of humane animal legislation. It's just when you spend so much time focused on the big issues, the small ones can seem quaint. But every little bit helps.

From LiveNews.com.au

Commercial Fishing By-Catch: discarding up to 80% in EU

In commercial fishing, "by-catch" has come to mean any sealife that is unintentionally caught. Depending on the fishing or netting techniques used, this can include a wide variety of sealife - from non-commercial species to prohibited or endangered species to commercial species that do not have a lucrative enough sales value (known as "highgrading").

By-catch is typically discarded and that discarded percentage of the boat's total catch can range from 4% to a staggering 80%, depending on the prevailing regulations for a particular country's territorial waters. As an example, Norway has regulations in place that favor the lower percentages and generally induces fisherman to better utilize their catch commercially or use more effective netting techniques to reduce the overall level of by-catch.

However, the European Union (EU) has less restrictive regulations, allowing fisherman to dump enormous percentages of their catch - as much as 80% has been recorded (see video) - with very little chance of survival for the discarded animals. In fact, due to co-operative fishing rights, UE fisherman can fish in Norwegian waters, then sail back into UE waters and dump their by-catch!

Organizations like Oceana.org are pressuring EU governments to adopt regulations like Norway's but are getting resistance from the EU commercial fishing industry. The fact that Norway's regulations are effective and help support the conservation of commercially viable species, thereby protecting the longevity of the Norwegian fishing industry, seems to escape the EU's abilities of comprehension. According to Ricardo Aguilar, Oceana Europe's Research Director,
"Wasting fishing resources is a global problem. However, the magnitude it reaches in European waters is unacceptable, especially when 88% of EU stocks are overfished."

Read Oceana.org press release