Obama to create world’s largest ocean preserve

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is looking to create the largest marine preserve in the world by protecting a massive stretch of the Pacific Ocean from drilling, fishing and other actions that could threaten wildlife, the White House said.

Aiming to protect marine wildlife, Obama will also direct the government to create a program to deter illegal fishing. The executive steps come as Obama is searching for ways to leave his second-term mark on the environment despite opposition from many Republicans in Congress.

Obama was to announce the steps Tuesday in a video message to those participating in an “Our Ocean” conference that the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry are hosting.

Officials said Obama is considering a massive expansion to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The protected waters surround a group of mostly uninhabited islands, controlled by the U.S., that sit between Hawaii and American Samoa.

Read more…

Pink corals on the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific. Part of three  island chains designated as protected areas by President George W. Bush.

Pink corals on the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific. Part of three island chains designated as protected areas by President George W. Bush.

Celebrate World Sea Turtle Day!

There’s World Turtle Day (May 23) then there’s World SEA Turtle Day, which is today! green sea turtleWhy is June 16th World Sea Turtle Day? It is the birthday of Dr. Archie Carr who is widely known as “the father of sea turtle biology.” Dr. Carr focused his entire career on sea turtle research and conservation. According to The Sea Turtle Conservancy:

Archie Carr was a great biologist. His early descriptive studies of turtles set the standard of quality in the field of natural history. Later on, as he focused on sea turtles, he moved toward ecology and behavior, although his work always retained a taxonomic and evolutionary perspective. For decades the National Science Foundation (and the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Office of Naval Research) supported his research at Tortuguero, enabling him to mount one of the longest lasting and most intensive studies of an animal population that has ever been done. To date, more than 35,000 adult female green turtles have been tagged at the research station at Tortuguero. From this effort have come papers by Archie Carr, his students, and other investigators on orientation, migration, nesting behavior, nest physiology, sensory physiology, nutrition, demography, and other subjects. Almost all of the studies have significance for conservation — Archie Carr was a conservation biologist long before the field was recognized.

Of the seven sea turtle species, five are listed on the IUCN Red List as either vulnerable, endangered, or cirtically endangered. They are: leatherbacks (vulnerable), loggerheads (endangered), hawksbills (critically endangered), green sea turtles (endangered), Kemp’s Ridley (critically endangered), Olive Ridley (vulnerable), and flatback sea turtles (data deficient). What can you do to protect sea turtles?

  1. At night, keep bright lights off the beach to encourage sea turtles to nest and to ensure hatchlings can find their way to the sea.
  2. Keep beaches trash free to avoid turtles mistaking it for food or getting caught in plastic loops. Single use plastic bags are often mistaken by sea turtles for their favorite food, jellyfish. Consumption can cause them to suffocate.
  3. Join a coastal conservation effort working to protect sea turtle nests from predators.
  4. Of course you can always donate to MarineBio or join the MarineBio Conservation Society to help us share species information and raise awareness about the plight of endangered sea turtles. Whether you can spare $5 or $50, it will help us continue bringing the world a vast source of information on all things ocean.

Saving Sharks in Indonesia

blacktip shark

From our friends at the Gili Shark Foundation:

Indonesia is the largest exporter of shark fins in the world. There is no current (or planned) legislation for the protection of reef sharks in Indonesia and CITES Appendix II (which only covers international fisheries) does not cover them either. This means that the fishermen around Indonesia are acting totally within the law by catching, killing and finning these animals. The animals are sold at the local fish markets for a small price in huge numbers. Ideally we would be able to use legislation to ban all fishing of sharks, however, this isn’t realistically going to happen any time soon. The local Indonesian fishermen will land anything they can from the sea in order to make some money. When we were at Tanjung Luar Market the array of reef fish, eels, sharks, rays and pelagics was unbelievable. They will take anything they can. Continue reading

Whale Wars in Seattle: A U.S. Court Discusses Antarctic Whaling

By Timothy G. Nelson*

This March, a Seattle-based federal judge issued a decision dealing with the continued practice of whaling in Antarctic waters. The court’s ruling, arising from a dispute between whalers and the activists depicted on the TV show, “Whale Wars,” stopped short of declaring whaling to be a violation of international law, but nevertheless declared it to be against the public interest of the United States as reflected in U.S. marine environmental legislation. The court also highlighted the potential importance of a dispute concerning this issue between Australia and Japan, currently pending before the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”).

The International Ban on Commercial Whaling

The hunting of whales, once a major industry in several maritime states, became subject to international regulation in 1946, through the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (“ICRW”). By that treaty, which gained widespread adherence, an International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) was established, with power to set annual catch quotas for each member state. Continue reading

It’s turtle time!

Sea turtles have been making it to the top of the headlines recently, all positive for a change and I thought I would use this blog to draw attention to this. Additionally, I feel it’s always nice to give some attention to the turtles.

So the first piece of news, the secrets of the sea turtle migration have been uncovered. It turns out that the reproduction migration (females returning to their nesting beaches) is not the longest migration that sea turtles carry out. It has been found from the compilation of long term capture programs that the migration of immature turtles, termed “developmental migration”, is longer than the reproductive migration. Also this migration is only carried out once in their life time rather than every few years. On the migration topic as well, a study was carried out to determine the migration of juvenile leatherback sea turtles. However, due to the size and the weight of the juveniles it is impossible to attach a satellite tag to their shells without them sinking. So instead of following the hatchlings the scientists followed the currents. The “lost years” of a turtle’s life, the age between hatching and returning to foraging grounds can be anywhere between 3 to 5 years after they hatch. These years are the least understood part of a turtle’s life. Knowing more about where the turtles swim before they reach adulthood could be critical in protecting the species. Continue reading

iPhone fish identification app

iPhone fish identification applicationThe Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has released a free iPhone app, for the identification of Pacific fish species. The species covered spans from Baja California to Ecuador, including the Galapagos.

The app evolved from the book, “Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific” published in 1994. However, the app covers over 1,300 species allowing the identification of 10% of the world’s tropical fish species whereas the book only has 700. The app is free on iTunes: here and is potentially one of three apps according to iTunes descriptions.

Having downloaded and played around with this app it is very easy to use. It has a clear lay out containing a notebook section where you can compile your own lists and each page comes with a glossary section for any words used that aren’t understood. When you click on one fish you will also see other members of the family before it goes directly to the profile page, allowing for a perfect match. I like the feature of being able to find out the IUCN red list status which is available on each profile page. A useful little app that I would recommend to anyone needing to identify any pacific fish species!

So You Want to Free Willy, Too

Written by Nate Green

After watching Ric O’Barry in The Cove, it’s hard not to want to free any dolphin you come across in captivity. O’Barry has been at the forefront of dolphin rescue since the ‘70’s, after watching Kathy, one of the five dolphins who played Flipper, commit suicide in his arms. O’Barry is now working to free the largest member of the dolphin family: the orca. Along with a former SeaWorld trainer, two other marine mammal experts, and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), O’Barry is listed as a “near friend” of Tilikum and Katina from SeaWorld Orlando; and Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises from SeaWorld San Diego. The five orcas are named as plaintiffs in PETA’s lawsuit against SeaWorld. Tilikum is the orca that grabbed and killed his trainer in 2010.


PETA is asserting that the whales are, in effect, involuntary servants: held in captivity, ripped from their families in the wild, subject to sperm collection and artificial insemination, and forced to perform; all for SeaWorld’s profit. PETA is arguing that this is illegal… under the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1864. PETA claims this is the first suit of its kind: seeking to apply constitutional rights to animals. Continue reading

Interview with Erich Hoyt on his new book

Reading the new 2nd edition of Erich Hoyt’s MPAs for Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises gave me a lot to think about. What a fascinating topic and the book is… I’m not sure I have words. It is an impressive volume packed with information on cetacean species, highly detailed information on their habitat and migratory patterns, and lots of background on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

1. MPAs are a complex, but critical strategy to protect whales, dolphins, porpoises and other marine species. What are some of the biggest constraints to the success of MPAs and what are some steps to help overcome them?

EH: One constraint is getting them implemented. All MPAs start out on paper. It can be in the interests of government, industry or certain stakeholders in keeping them only on paper. There is inertia of course, too. Many areas stay as paper MPAs for years. I always say that all MPAs start out on paper but it is up to the stakeholders — the local communities, researchers, government ministries, conservation groups and those who care — to work separately and jointly to make them real MPAs that function to help protect marine wildlife and ecosystems. It is also important to realize that once effective protection is put in place, it is necessary to monitor and review the situation from time to time and make changes as needed to keep the MPA functioning and, indeed, improving. Continue reading

Review: MPAs for Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

MarineBio’s director of all things cetacean and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society’s Senior Research Fellow and Global Critical Habitat/ Marine Protected Area Programme Leader, Erich Hoyt, has just published the fully expanded and updated 2nd edition of his book on marine protected areas (MPAs) and cetacean habitats.

For your FREE copy, join MarineBio with a minimum $100 donation. If you would also like a small (23.41 x 33.11 inches) or large (32.7 x 45.4 inches) map of cetacean MPAs around the world (also created by Erich) to go with the book, we ask that you donate a minimum of $150. Please add $25 for postage for orders outside the US. Continue reading

A FALL FROM FREEDOM

A powerful and factual documentary on the often emotional issue of keeping cetaceans (whales & dolphins) in captivity.

A FALL FROM FREEDOM is the first film to expose the long and sordid history of the captive whale and dolphin business; a history that continues to this day. The illegal capture and transport of killer whales, the thousands of dolphins that are killed in order to provide marine parks and aquariums with replacement animals, and the ability of these facilities to miseducate the public about these animals.

These, and many other issues, are covered in graphic detail in this 80 minute film.

Visit the A FALL FROM FREEDOM website @ http://afallfromfreedom.org for more information about the film including screenings, interviews and how to get a copy.

The Focus is on Marine Mammal Protected Areas

Hoyt mpas bookThe July-August 2011 issue of the influential MPA News features several articles about marine mammal protected areas with interviews and articles exploring the issue featuring Brad Barr, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Kristina Gjerde, Erich Hoyt and the International Committee on Marine Mammal Protected Areas (ICMMPA). The ICMMPA is planning its second conference 7-11 November 2011 and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is one of the sponsors (more information at www.icmmpa.org).

The WDCS “Homes for Whales” campaign is mentioned in MPA News. Free subscriptions are offered to this monthly newsletter which currently is sent out to marine protected area scientists, conservationists, managers and government departments in more than 120 countries. It is also available for download at http://depts.washington.edu/mpanews/MPA121.pdf.

Erich Hoyt’s new Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises is available in the US Friday, August 5th. MarineBio will be giving copies of the book FREE with your $150 donation. See our donations page for details.

Sustainable seafood – there’s an app for that

Sustainable Seafood apps bring seafood consumption with a conscience right to your phone!

I’m notoriously behind the times when it comes to mobile technology. When I finally got a “smart” phone I had fun playing Tetris for a few hours, then stupidly went back to using it as just a phone.

So I’m a little late to the party on this – but in case you are too – sustainable seafood apps. What fantastic apps! I can now tossrecycle my crinkled, waterlogged wallet card from Monterrey Bay Aquarium/Seafood Watch. Continue reading

MPAs for Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises

Hot off the press!

Erich Hoyt, MarineBio’s Director of all things cetacean and Senior Research Fellow with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in the UK has just published a fully-revised 2nd edition of his book Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. The new edition features 477 pages, 12-pages of color plates, 100+ maps, figures, tables, case studies…a wealth of information on this important topic that spans the globe. Continue reading