Tag Archives: Ocean Conservation

“Escaping Extinction: Whale Sharks of the Maldives”

“Escaping Extinction: Whale Sharks of the Maldives” produced by Ashley Kelly, will premiere at the 2017 WCFF this October in New York, NY.

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For over 60 million years, the mysterious Whale Shark has traversed the open sea, but very little is known about the world’s largest fish, this docile shark. Maldivian communities are proud to celebrate the Whale /Sharks and their marine biodiversity.

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These days, Whale Sharks in the Maldives are safe from their number one predator, man…. but this has not always been the case.

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Join us for the 7th year anniversary of the WCFF. October 19-29 in New York. Ten days of film screenings, panel discussions, receptions, field trips, conference and weekend retreat with film producers and scientists. WCFF is the only film festival on the planet whose mission is to inform, engage and inspire wildlife conservation and the protection of global biodiversity.

“Oceanic Aliens”: Otherworldly Creatures of the Deep

“Oceanic Aliens”, produced by Mike Johnson, will be a World Premiere at the 2017 WCFF in New York, NY this October.

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More is known about outer space than our very own oceans. This short documentary illustrates just one example of little known class of marine species and their amazing attributes.

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“Oceanic Aliens” is a short documentary compiled from two Pelagic Black Water dives in Kona, Hawaii. Johnson was able to research and identify many of the creatures that appeared in such startling beauty in the film.

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Join us for the 7th year anniversary of the WCFF. October 19-29 in New York. Ten days of film screenings, panel discussions, receptions, field trips, conference and weekend retreat with film producers and scientists. WCFF is the only film festival on the planet whose mission is to inform, engage and inspire wildlife conservation and the protection of global biodiversity.

The Epic Battle Against Invasive Lionfish

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First reported near Florida in the 1980s, lionfish have since spread throughout southeastern U.S. waters, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, taking over coasts from New York to Brazil. These brightly-striped ornamental fish, native to the Indo-Pacific, were believed to have been let loose in U.S. waters by the aquarium trade.The problem: with insatiable appetites (they’ve been found to eat over 70 fish/invertebrate species) these invasive creatures have since wreaked havoc on coral reefs and fisheries, eating both other species’ prey and grazers that clean algae from reefs. Plus, no predators have stepped in to gobble up the strange species, allowing the fish to reproduce relatively unchecked.

Still, scientists and environmentally-minded entrepreneurs alike have been taking action against ballooning lionfish populations, creating and testing everything from underwater robots to fish traps loaded with special recognition software, all designed to drastically lower the lionfish headcount. “It’s the inverse of every fisheries management plan you’ve ever heard of,” says marine biologist Corey Eddy, who focuses on lionfish near Bermuda. “Usually we’re trying to minimize the pressure on fish populations so they can rebound. Now we’re saying, let’s start wiping them out.”

Though strategies like hosting spearfishing tournaments and giving out special lionfish culling permits can help individuals nab hundreds of lionfish in a day, this is nothing compared with the two million eggs a female lionfish could spawn every year. Add that to the fact that they can lurk below 130 feet, too deep for average divers, and scientists have speculated that robots may be better than humans at controlling lionfish populations.

Colin Angle, cofounder of iRobot, had this same thought while diving in Bermuda, only natural since his company has created robots from the Roomba to radioactive nuclear waste cleaners. Inspired by the idea to employ robots in lionsih control, Angle and his wife, biochemist Erika Ebbel, began nonprofit Robots in Service of the Environment (RISE), with the goal of creating an affordable autonomous underwater robot that lethally shocks lionfish by early next year. RISE members feel that lionfish could ultimately become the next popular delicacy, a demand that would vastly help limit lionfish populations. “Ultimately the way this becomes a success is by creating a market and the interest of consumers in eating lionfish,” says John Rizzi, executive director of RISE. “The best way to challenge the sustainability of a species is for humans to eat it. Whether that’s good or bad, in this case that will benefit the environment.”

Similarly, recreational divers Bryan and Anna Clark were inspired to start a nonprofit environmental group called Coast Watch Alliance, which works to simultaneously protect reefs and battle lionfish. Bryan Clark is working on a prototype to suck up the fish with a vacuum-like gulp. He’s also developing a “hunting ROV” (remote-operated vehicle) with a camera to seek out the fish before diving down. He feels that both technology and financial motives will help decimate the lionfish. “Some people are going to harvest lionfish because it’s great for the environment, others will do it because it’s fun to do while they’re diving. But a lot of people are going to do it because they’re going to make some money taking lionfish to the market,” he says.

It just so happens that lionfish have already unwittingly stepped into the spiny lobster fishery commercial market, as 20 percent of lobster traps end up catching lionfish as well. “lf the lionfish are showing up in those traps, uninvited and unintended, then why not get them to show up intentionally?” notes diver Bob Hickerson, who’s putting his contractor skills to good use by designing a better lionfish trap. The “Frapper Trap” (from the French word meaning “to strike down”) will implement a pattern recognition program to seize lionfish, and let other species free. Along with his wife, Maria, his father-in-law, and volunteers from Team Frapper, he hopes to have a trap ready to test in the next six months. “We can’t stand back and watch our reefs being taken over by lionfish,” he says.

Nevertheless, even with such a broad range of arsenals being developed, experts believe that total destruction of lionfish is impossible, though creating a strong commercial market for selling the species to diners could prevent them from devastating entire ecosystems.

“I think commercial incentive will be a big part of the solution, supplemented by spearfishing in shallow water and some of these other things,” says Stephen Gittings, science coordinator at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Some of these might sound like crazy ideas, but you never know until you try.”

Source: Gaworecki, Mike. “The lionfish invasion: a call to arms?” Mongabay. 14 December 2016.

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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
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www.WCFF.org

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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.

 

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

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Twitter: @WCFF_org
Twitter: @CJGERVAIS
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Are Animal-Friendly Films Actually Harming Our Animals?

The long awaited sequel to Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo is finally here, but many are questioning whether Finding Dory will pose the same threat to exotic fish as happened after the release of Finding Nemo.

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Finding Nemo, released in 2003, followed the story of a young fish named Nemo who was captured by divers and separated from his Dad. The mega-popular film’s main message focused on the danger and cruelty of keeping animals in captivity and separating them from their natural habitats. Ironically, that message did not reach many viewers who were so fascinated by the beauty and color of the clownfish that they wanted a “Nemo” of their own for their home aquarium. The movie even created the memorable line “fish are friends, not food.” Pet and aquarium stores everywhere saw the sale of exotic fish, especially the clownfish, skyrocket following the popularity of the movie. Sales grew an estimated 40% as a result of the film, and clownfish became the fifth most important species into the United States.

Many other animal-friendly films, including The Wild Thornberrys and Free Willy emphasize important lessons about the cruelty of captivity and harm of keeping animals in small, enclosed tanks. However, somehow these messages are getting lost. Just like with the sale of clownfish following Finding Nemo, there was an increase in sales at parks like SeaWorld that held captive Killer Whales, and an increase in popularity of having monkeys as pets.

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So, while it is entertaining and exciting to catch the animal-friendly, heart-warming movie that is Finding Dory, it is also important to keep in mind that these fish are wild animals and they need to be protected. Wild, exotic fish like the clowfish and the blue tang fish are not meant to be aquarium fish. The increasing demand for these fish is even starting to affect their role in their natural environments. The capturing of blue tang fish is even more dangerous than clownfish because blue tangs cannot be bred in captivity. This means capturing these fish could completely eliminate their role in the environment, and have an extreme threat to their population size.    

As a precaution to this threat, Disney has worked with animal-rights groups, pet stores such as PetSmart and Petco, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to advise people on home aquariums in hopes of conserving blue tangs.

Source: Lang, Brent. “Finding Dory Could Lead to Dangerous Demand for Blue Tangs as Pets.” June 22, 2016.

Bardroff, Jenna. “ Why Animal-Friendly Fiction Films Might Not Be Friendly to Real Animals.” October 9, 2014. 

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Twitter: @CJGERVAIS
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How Sunscreen is Killing the Coral Reefs

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Beautiful, complex, and fragile, coral reefs house close to one million species of fish, algae, and invertebrates and play an integral role in the richness of our coeans. However, these hotspots for biodiversity are in critical danger (80% of Caribbean reefs were lost in the past 50 years) and sunscreen play a huge role in their destruction. In fact, researchers estimate that the chemicals sunscreen-wearing swimmers bring into the oceans have placed 60% of the planet’s coral reefs at risk.

Reefs, which cover around one percent of the ocean’s floor, are highly sensitive to their environments. Coral reefs consist of many small soft-bodied polyps, which are kept alive by colorful algae plants living inside them. When algae undergoes photosynthesis, the process create food for the polyps and allows them to form entire attached communities, branching out into structures that coat the ocean’s bottom and house unique forms of life found nowhere else.

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Oxybenzone, a UV-blocking ingredient in many sunscreen brands, weakens coral, which then expels the algae that keep it healthy and vibrant. This process, known as bleaching, often leads to death for reef populations. The chemical also deforms young coral, changing its DNA so that it encloses itself in its own skeleton, preventing algae from entering; this will have severe impacts on coral’s ability to replenish itself in future generations. With millions of global beachgoers slathering on even a small amount of sunscreen, the US National Park Service estimates that 4000-6000 tons of sunscreen reach coral reef areas each year, dangerous levels for the algae that sustains reefs.

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So what are the solutions? The National Park Service notes that checking your sunblock’s ingredients and switching out products with oxybenzone for those with titanium oxide and zinc oxide, which have not been found to endanger coral reefs, is one way to protect yourself from rays while protecting reefs from damage. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group has published a list of coral-friendly sunscreens for reference on its website. Finally, as an alternative to sunscreen, try a wetsuit that covers your full body on for size. Remember, it’s not just the reefs, but their impossibly numerous, fascinating, and dynamic inhabitants, at stake.

Source: Lima, Natalia. “Why is Sunscreen Bad for Coral Reefs?” Care2. 9 June 2016.

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Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference
Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
Christopher@WCFF.org
http://www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg
Twitter: @WCFF_org
Twitter: @CJGERVAIS
Instagram: @wcff_org
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NOISE POLLUTION THREATENS MARINE LIFE

We frequently hear about warming ocean temperatures, waste pollution, and habitat loss in marine environments, but little attention is given to another large issue affecting marine life: noise pollution. Noise pollution is beginning to show a major physical and behavioral affect on marine species ranging from whales, sea turtles, and sea birds to carbs, shrimp, and invertebrates. The pollution is mainly coming from the explosive sounds made by cargo ships, sonar guns, and air guns used by the U.S. Navy and during gas exploration. One species in particular, the Blue Whale, is drawing more attention to the issue because of how they’re affected by the noises.

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Noise pollution can be harmful in multiple ways. Species of whales and dolphins rely heavily on sounds while communicating with each other, hunting prey, escaping predators, and finding mates. The loud noises made during human activity can mask the sounds made by the marine organism, causing it to become lost or separated from its family, or interrupting its role in the food web. Noise pollution can also physically harm marine organisms depending on the size of the vibrations caused by the sound.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has attempted to eliminate this issue on a case-by-case basis, preventing the use of the sonar guns or cargo ships when an organism is present in the nearby distance to the source of the noise. NOAA has now spent 6 years drawing an Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap to deal with noise pollution and bring more attention to this issue. Not only are endangered species being watched closely, but also the entire effect from noise pollution is being researched to determine how whole marine environments are being altered.

Source: Goldman, Laura. “A Plan to Mute Ocean Noise for Marine Life.” Environmental News Network. 15 June 2016.

Wildlife Conservation Film Festival

Biodiversity & Wildlife Crime Conference

Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.

Founder & CEO

Christopher@WCFF.org

www.WCFF.org

Facebook.com/WCFForg

Twitter: @WCFF_org

Twitter: @CJGERVAIS

Instagram: @wcff_org

Vimeo.com/wcff

dailymotion.com/WCFF1

LinkedIn: Wildlife Conservation Film Festival