Category Archives: Marine Protected Area

Obama announces Atlantic Ocean’s first national monument

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Water in the designated region is projected to warm three times faster than the global average, according to National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research, changes which will threaten species like salmon, lobster, and scallops. Recreational fishermen will still be permitted in the region, but red crab and lobster fisheries will have to end fishing in the monument area within seven years, and commercial fishermen will have two months to make the switch.

“We’re helping make oceans more resilient to climate change,” President Obama said. “And this will help fishermen better understand the changes that are taking place that will affect their livelihood, and we’re doing it in a way that respects the fishing industry’s unique role in New England’s economy and history.”

Nevertheless, New England fishermen claim the protected region will harm the fishing industry, and they feel Obama was wrong to implement the creation of protected areas under the Antiquities Act.  In August, Obama used the authorities given by this act to create the world’s largest marine national monument off the coast of Hawaii.

Said National Coalition for Fishing Communities spokesman Bob Vanasse, “We don’t normally create laws in this country by the stroke of an imperial pen. We anticipate the offshore lobster industry will be affected to the tune of about $10 million per year. On top of that, one of the most affected industries is going to be the Atlantic red crab industry. It is going to be very significantly impacted.”

However, the White House noted that NOAA will work with Congress to help New England fishermen, using programs that provide low-interest loans for ship rehabilitation, new ship acquisitions, aquaculture, shoreside fisheries, and fishing gear repair and upgrades.

Said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “We need sustainable fisheries and economically sustainable communities. This monument can help bring both forward.”

Source: Dasgupta, Shreya. “Obama creates Atlantic Ocean’s first marine national monument.” Mongabay. 19 September 19 2016.

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First Marine Protected Area in Cambodia Announced

schooling-fish-801x600M’Pai Bai jetty with school of fish. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recently declared a 156-square mile region of the Koh Rong Archipelago the nation’s first marine protected area. The Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA), located by the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, houses diverse species of sea turtles and seahorses and protects their fragile nursery and breeding sites.

In addition to preserving wildlife, the plan still allows for human activities in the area: “The MFMA will help to drive sustainable fishing activities of the community, protect biodiversity and promote ecotourism, all of which contribute to achieving the goal of the fisheries sector,” said Ouk Vibol, director of Cambodia’s Department of Fisheries Conservation, who pushed for creation of the protected area. “This is a good management model, as many stakeholders — including development partners, the private sector, local authorities and the local community — are working together to manage the fisheries resource for sustainable use.”

Blue-spotted-rays-902x600Blue-spotted ray. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

For the past five years, local groups such as the Song Saa Foundation and Save Cambodian Marine Life have worked alongside non-profit Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration to help the MFMA come to fruition. FFI’s Coastal and Marine Project Manager Kate West said that between 60 and 80% of local communities around the archipelago rely on fishing and tourism, making it critical that the new MFMA ensured “that the waters around Koh Rong can continue to support not only marine life but also local livelihoods long into the future.”

The Song Saa Foundation has further pushed the initiative forward by providing baseline research on the health of local coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses. “The establishment of this MFMA is a major step towards protecting biodiversity of key marine fauna and habitats in the archipelago, as well as the communities that rely upon them for their well being,” noted Ben Thorne, a Song Saa Foundation project director. “We are hugely proud of our collaborative efforts over the past five years to establish this protected area, ensuring successful conservation of fisheries resources, whilst supporting local communities, for many years to come.”

Source: Gaworecki, Mike. “Cambodia declares first-ever marine protected area.” Mongabay. 24 June 2016.

Flabellina-nudibranchFlabellina nudibranch, a colorful sea slug. Photo by Paul Colley / Fauna & Flora International.

 

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Manatees may lose Endangered status

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The West Indian Manatee will lose their status as endangered species under a proposal announced by federal wildlife managers, who say the marine mammals have made a robust recovery since first receiving protection in 1967.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened in response to a review initiated by a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a free-market legal advocacy group that represents property owners on the Gulf coast. The petition was submitted on behalf of Save Crystal River, a group of property owners concerned about boating restrictions in King’s Bay in Citrus County.

“It’s really a success story,” said Jim Valade, Florida Manatee Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on Thursday. “They still need our attention without a doubt, but they are no longer in intensive care per se.”

The agency said the species, one of the first in the nation to be classified as endangered, has increased in numbers over the past few decades and appears robust enough to face a very low risk of going extinct. “Current population estimates are 6,350 manatees in the southeastern continental United States and 532 manatees in Puerto Rico,” the wildlife service wrote in a notice to be officially published Friday. “These numbers reflect a very low percentage chance of this animal going extinct in the next 100 years.”

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A species classified as threatened retains virtually the same protection against being killed, harmed or harassed as one classified as endangered. Government agencies must take them into account in approving construction or other activities that could affect them. No-wake zones and fines for boaters who ignore them will remain in place.

The agency said the reclassification would not affect conservation measures that it credits with the manatee’s rebound, such as the establishment of more than 50 protected areas and restrictions on the construction of docks. But the reclassification would be a step toward removing the manatee altogether from the protected list, which would cost it much of its legal protection. Threatened means the species can become endangered in

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans a public hearing and will accept public comments before announcing a final decision. The 90-day comment period begins Friday. Conservation groups denounced the decision, saying the same threats that landed manatees on the endangered species list persist today.

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Manatee’s have come a long way, but is still threatened by boat strikes, cold stress and undiagnosed mass die-offs in the Indian River Lagoon. An estimated 60% of the state’s manatees rely on artificially warm water generated by power plants to survive.

There are fines for boaters that hit manatees and while these fines would remain  who speed through a “manatee protected area” , most are never caught. 87 manatees were killed in 2015, that is 14 more than in 2014. The record number of manatees killed by boats is 95 back in 2009.

This female manatee seemed to be checking on this young male manatee and having some social interaction. She isn't the mother, but possibly the young one's mother left him up in the springs while she went to feed. He looked bored and forlorn. Is this female manatee a friend of the family?

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NO Oil Exploration in Belize Barrier Reef

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The Belize government has approved a policy that will legally ban offshore exploration in all seven areas that make up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage area. The decision will effectively exclude the entire World Heritage area from any future oil exploration and make the site consistent with the World Heritage Committee’s position that oil exploration is incompatible with World Heritage status.

The decision is a major first step forward in the government’s efforts to remove Belize Barrier Reef from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Following an IUCN-WHC mission to Belize last January, the government of Belize agreed on an ambitious 3-year roadmap that sets out a Desired State of Conservation for removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger. A permanent ban on oil in the World Heritage area and its surrounding zones with a functional ecological connection to the property is anticipated by 31 January 2016.

_Belize Barrier Reef_

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef system in the world. In 2009, the site was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of concerns on the sale, lease and development of mangrove islands and the absence of a solid regulatory framework that can ensure the conservation of its exceptional values. In 2010, the World Heritage Committee expressed serious concern about the potential for oil developments within and immediately adjacent to the iconic World Heritage site.

The World Heritage Committee has taken a very clear position that oil and mining exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status. In recent months, a growing number of firms in the extractive sector recognize their shared responsibility in conserving the worlds’s most iconic places and subscribe to a no-go commitment in World Heritage sites.

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A Call for Saving Leviathan, for Saving the Whales, Part 1

Gray Whale

“From Hell’s Heart I stab at thee” decried Melville in “Moby Dick.” In the heyday of whaling, tens of thousands of sperm whales were destroyed for oil every year to light the cities of modern civilization. Advancing as the dominant force on earth, man slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the great mind of the oceans, the whales.

Is humanity capable of saving the seas? The ways the seas and the whales go, so does civilization. The seas are acidifying. Whales are key not just for their fecundation of the phytoplankton on which we depend for oxygen, but also for the entire immune system of the oceans. The oceans are being asked a reprieve. Without the life it sustains, humanity will drown. As Laurens van der Post wrote in “The Hunter and the Whale,” “Killing disproportionately was the last unforgiveable depravity.”

“Thinking Like a Dolphin,” National Geographic’s May issue cover story, confirms the urgency of the issue and underscores the supreme importance of cetaceans to humanity. I once heard Paul Watson speaking out for the cetaceans. He shared an anecdote from several decades ago, when he tried to stop a Russian whaler from harpooning a sperm whale. His words carried all the power of a fury decrying the modern Ahabs as he maneuvered with his zodiac trying to position himself between the long steel blade and the brain of one of the most remarkable beings on earth. Eventually the harpoon found its way into the body of the sperm whale causing untold agony.

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In the depths of its pain, surrounded by pools of blood, as the ocean turned crimson, the whale’s eye, reflecting the earth in miniature, shot a glance of what seemed like a depth charge of pity at Watson and his men. It was pity, full of loss of an enormous warrior who has battled giant squid and the ferocious crushing solitude of the fathoms below. It was pity not for itself, but for the entire human race! When Watson discovered that the whale oil of exceptional quality was being used to lubricate Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles by the Soviet Union, his voice rose and trembled because he felt the human species had gone completely mad.

The peak days of whaling are over, most whale populations have survived, but some like the southern right whales are exceptionally vulnerable. The ignominy of hundreds of years of slaughter and now industrial pollution is crucifying the cetacean mind.

In ancient Greece and even more recently off the coast of India there are many stories of dolphins saving humans from drowning. Arion who invented the dithyramb (a wild ancient Greek choral hymn) tells the story of the dolphin that saved the life of a singer who was thrown from a ship into the sea. Pliny the Elder, Cicero, Oppian in his long poem “Halieutica,” and the great historian Herodotus tell similar tales of the incomparable human cetacean bond.

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Korianos’ story as told by Plutarch is perhaps the most inspired. Some fishermen in Byzantium were to kill a group of dolphins. Korianos interceded, paid the fishermen and freed the dolphins from their net. The dolphins gave a long look at Korianos and then departed. A few weeks later, a storm raging off the coast capsized a boat on which Korianos was onboard. He alone survived and was saved by a dolphin that carried him to shore. Plutarch mentions that when Korianos died, a group of dolphins appeared before his funeral pyre with heads above water to mourn, as his human companions had done. When the smoke cleared, the dolphins disappeared and were never seen again! (from “The Dolphin, Cousin to Man“ by Robert Stenuit 1968).

* Reprinted from permission from the author, my good friend Cyril Christo.

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World Orca Day

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Today is World  Day. Keep these magnificent and majestic marine mammals where they belong, the world’s oceans, not in aquariums to perform in shows.

Surfing culture

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The Vaquita: Desert Porpoise of Mexico

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The vaquita, is the smallest members of the porpoise family and found only in the waters of Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. The marine mammal, whose name means “little cow” in Spanish is rapidly becoming extinct as they accidentally drown in the gill nets local fishers deploy for fish and shrimp. According to a new report, their numbers have declined by more than 40 percent in just a single year. Now, only around 50

Vaquitas are shy creatures, and rarely seen, except when they are pulled to the surface, usually dead in fishing nets. They have been known to science only since 1958, when three skulls were found on a beach. At the time, it was thought that they numbered in the low thousands. Scientists and fishers alike say the animals, with their pretty facial markings and sleek bodies, are endearing.

There’s danger now that the porpoises will become the second cetacean (the first was the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin) to succumb to human pressures, most likely disappearing forever by 2018.

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Indeed, the government of Mexico established a presidential commission on vaquita conservation in 2012, when scientists estimated the porpoise’s population at 200. In 2005 Mexico created a refuge for them, banned all commercial fishing in the refuge’s waters, beefed up enforcement, and invested more than $30 million (U.S.) to compensate fishers and encourage them to switch to other fishing methods.

It also established the international scientific team to monitor the porpoise’s population, reproductive rates, and habitat. Its members hail from such august conservation bodies as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Whaling Commission, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and Norway’s Institute of Marine Research.

All were optimistic then. “We thought we were going to see the vaquitas’ numbers increasing by 4 percent a year,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine biologist with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego, California, and a member of the team. “Instead, they’ve had a catastrophic decline of 18.5 percent per year.”

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The decline is due to illegal fishing that is out of control. In the past three years, illegal gillnetting for the totoaba, a critically endangered fish that can grow to more than six feet long (1.8 meters) and 300 pounds (136 kilograms), has surged. Unfortunately, the Vaquita and the similarly sized totoaba live in the same parts of the gulf.

The totoaba’s swim bladder, highly prized as a traditional health food and medicine in China, can fetch thousands of dollars. Few fishers can resist the temptation.

Scientists estimate that about 435 miles (700 kilometers) of legal nets are in the water every day during the fishing season, from mid-September to mid-June. That number is not counting the illegal nets for the totoaba,” Taylor says.

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Because of the vaquita’s timid nature (a sighting at 300 feet [90 meters] is considered close), scientists are not able to make visual counts of the animals. They rely instead on an array of special acoustic devices, deployed every year before the fishing season begins (they too are easily tangled in the nets), to record the sounds of the animals as they forage in the murky waters they favor. From these sounds, the researchers are able to estimate the vaquitas’ numbers.

Because the animal’s population is so low, the team says there is only one solution: Ban all gillnetting in the gulf’s upper regions, including the waters surrounding the vaquitas’ refuge. The ban must be strictly applied, even to the legal shrimp and fin fish fishery, and enforced with more police patrols on sea and land.

“It’s a hard choice,” Taylor acknowledges. Such a ban will hurt all the fishers, including those who aren’t engaged in the illegal fishery. But, she said, if Mexico doesn’t do that, it “will lose the vaquita.”

map-vaquita-range

Mexico, China, and the United States governments need to work together to control—if not end—the trade in totoaba swim bladders. The dried bladders are often smuggled across the U.S. border before ending up in the Chinese marketplace.

There is a modicum of hope. Even at only 50- 97 animals. the species can still be saved. Most marine mammals, including other cetaceans, that have been taken down through hunting have come back, so it’s not too late. But if nothing is done, they can also go extinct rapidly, as happened with the baiji. They can be gone before you know it.”

The commission will meet again at the end of August to discuss what to do next to save the vaquita.

greenpeace

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