Bad news from the Gulf

Several outbreaks of ciguatera fish poisoning have been confirmed in consumers who ate fish harvested in the northern Gulf of Mexico according to the Food and Drug Administration. Fish that pose the largest risk to consumers include grouper, snapper, amberjack, and barracuda. These species feed on smaller fish that eat toxic marine algae. The larger the predator, the higher the concentration of the toxin. Continue reading

Good news for the Gulf

There’s something about the Gulf Coast on the Florida panhandle that feels like home to me. Though there’s not much to see underwater, at least not compared to coral reef habitats, I can still snorkel there for hours. I generally only see mostly sand, water, blue crabs, and an occasional stingray or juvenile jack, but there’s something about snorkeling those waters that makes me (almost) as happy as I feel when scuba diving a teeming reef. I once snorkeled out to the sandbar, roughly 50 yards offshore, and encountered a turtle. That was darn near a religious experience for me. Continue reading

The 11th Hour

“The 11th Hour”, Leonardo DiCaprio’s film on the human impact on the environment opened nationwide Friday. I’ve been looking forward to this film and appreciate DiCaprio’s efforts to raise awareness on these issues. I also had the pleasure of meeting with one of the film’s participants, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, and I worked on deforestation with her daughter during my career days at The Carter Center. Wangari is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. She’s been fearlessly fighting for the environment and for human rights for decades in Kenya. She is the founder of The Greenbelt Movement, an organization responsible for planting more than 30 million trees across Kenya to preserve the environment and fight erosion. Continue reading

Save the Whales!?

Japan has threatened to defy a 21-year-old moratorium on commercial whaling after it failed to overturn the ban at the International Whaling Commission’s annual conference this week in Anchorage, Alaska.

humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Japan added that it is considering pulling out of the 77-nation commission in protest and may “unilaterally” hold whale hunts along its exclusive economic zone.

“There is a real possibility we will review, at a fundamental level, our role in the IWC and this would include withdrawing,” said Japan’s top delegate, Akira Nakamae, at the end of the four-day conference Thursday. Continue reading

Can you hear me now?

dolphins.jpgWhen David was diving in southeast Florida almost exactly 2 years ago, he was thrilled to see a pod of dolphins, which he was told were a rare sight in the area in February. A few days later he was disturbed to see a more common sight — a submarine conducting sonar testing. After he returned home, we learned that a number of dolphins had stranded in the Florida Keys, a relatively short distance from where he was diving, a few days after he saw them. Continue reading

Interview with Erich Hoyt

Erich HoytThe following is a very informative interview with our very own Director of Marine Mammals, Erich Hoyt about Marine Protected Areas

(written by Elsa Cabrera for La Tercera, Santiago, Chile January 2007)

1. We tend to assume that effective marine protected areas for cetaceans alone guarantee the conservation of these marine mammals. Is this true or are there other actions/instruments that should also be considered?

A marine protected area (MPA) alone cannot guarantee the conservation of any whale, dolphin or for that matter, any species or ecosystem. Continue reading

Amazon comes through for sharks

Great white shark

To update my post on Amazon’s sale of shark fin soup, and to give credit where credit is due, I’m pleased to announce that is no longer selling shark fin soup.

Many of us who complained to Amazon received responses that indicated they did not plan to ask its 3rd party sellers to discontinue selling shark fin soup; however Amazon responded to public pressure after just a few days and removed the products. Wise decision.

Shark fin soup being sold on Amazon

A new Plankton Forums member recently posted that Amazon is selling two brands of shark fin soup. Here is the information he posted:

It seems that is carrying shark fin soup through two third-party vendors, Dragonfly Shark and American Roland Food Corp. With all the controversy surrounding shark fins and the horrible practices used to harvest fins, Amazon should be ashamed to be carrying shark fin soup and should rectify the problem immediately by pulling all shark fin products from their catalog.

What you can do: Continue reading

The Case of Animals versus Man

David recently posted a thought provoking article in the Plankton Forums that was written by David W. Orr and published in Conservation Biology. I thought I’d post it here as well for your entertainment and for some food for thought for the end of the year.

The Society for Conservation Biology is an excellent organization and their publications are top notch. I highly encourage those of you unfamiliar with them to check out their work.

The Trial

I once asked the students in my introductory environmental studies class to assume they were the attorneys representing Homo sapiens before a Congress of all Beings as once described by Joanna Macy and Jonathan Seed.*

The charge against us reads something like the following: Continue reading

Mother Jones devoted to marine conservation

Mother Jones has a section devoted to marine conservation that includes a number of excellent articles and FAQs on critical issues such as:

* Not Enough Fish in the Sea: The causes and consequences of overfishing
* How to Catch a Fish: Modern methods are more efficient than ever–and more destructive
* Catch as Catch Can: Millions of marine animals are killed “incidentally” every year
* Aquaculture: Fish farming offers a solution to overfishing; but is the environmental cost too high?
* Who’s In Charge Here? Government and the ocean
* Marine Pollution: How the ocean became a toxic waste dump
* Development: Are we loving our coasts to death?
* Coral Reefs: There’s still time to save some reefs, but just barely

For these articles and more see:

Be a Seafood Steward

Monterey Bay Aquarium has an excellent library of resources available on its website to help you get on board with the sustainable seafood movement through its Seafood Watch Program. They offer a variety of multimedia training materials including a DVD Seafood Watch Training Presentation and other materials that you can use to help educate your friends and colleagues about marine conservation and the importance of sustainable seafood.

This time of year is an excellent opportunity to spread the word as you gather with friends and family over the holidays. Use your holiday menus as an opportunity to prepare dishes with sustainability in mind. Your buffet can serve as a visual aid! Continue reading

Response from Iceland to an anti-whaling letter

I and other Plankton Forums members got this form letter in response to an action letter sent through the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website. What this letter says to me is that Iceland’s policy makers put their hands over their ears and chant “la la la la… I can’t hear you….” in response to pleas from environmentalists to stop commercial whaling. They, like Japan, claim their whaling activities are in the name of “science” – I have another name for their letter and their whaling activities. I won’t repeat it here as it’s not appropriate language to use in this blog.

I truly don’t understand Iceland and Japan’s insistence on commercial whaling given that the market for whale meat is reportedly weak.

Here is the letter: Continue reading

Small step toward shark conservation

World’s First International Catch Limit for Sharks Adopted

The Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) decided recently to halt targeted fishing of vulnerable sharks in the Southern Ocean. France proposed the action to the CCAMLR based on its concern over increased shark finning and fishing for the slow-reproducing deepwater sharks in Antarctica. Shark fishing will be prohibited until shark populations can be assessed and the impact of fishing quantified. The CCAMLR is also encouraging fisheries to release sharks caught as bycatch.

“This responsible yet bold action by CCAMLR establishes the world’s first limit on the amount of sharks that can be taken from international waters and is therefore a landmark agreement in global shark conservation,” said Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for The Ocean Conservancy’s shark program and the Shark Alliance. “We congratulate CCAMLR for affording sharks the precautionary protection they so urgently warrant yet rarely receive.” Continue reading

Just one reason why you should vote tomorrow

This is from the Center for Biological Diversity’s newsletter: Endangered Earth

Humpback WhalesOn October 30, 2006, the Washington Post ran a major expose on Julie MacDonald, the Bush administration’s point person for squelching scientific decision-making within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Post described MacDonald’s efforts as “the latest in a series of controversies in which government officials and outside scientists have accused the Bush administration of overriding or setting aside scientific findings that clashed with its political agenda on such issues as global warming, the Plan B emergency contraceptive and stem cell research … Hundreds of pages of records, obtained by environmental groups through the Freedom of Information Act, chronicle the long-running battle between MacDonald and Fish and Wildlife Service employees over decisions whether to safeguard plants and animals from oil and gas drilling, power lines, and real estate development, spiced by her mocking comments on their work and their frequently expressed resentment.” Continue reading


This is a great numeric illustration of the 2048 article from yesterday’s blog post about the impact of marine species loss:

2048: The estimated date at which stocks of commercial fishing species will collapse due to overfishing. “Biodiversity is a finite resource,” says Professor Boris Worm, who led the Dalhousie study. “We can predict when we are going to run out of species.”

29: The percentage of seafood species that have collapsed (i.e. their catch has declined by 90 percent or more) in the last 50 years.

13: The percentage decline in global fishing yields since 1994.

145.7: The annual per capita consumption (in lbs) of fish and shellfish in Japan, the world’s biggest fish-eating nation. The average per capita consumption in the U.S. is 16.6 lbs. Continue reading

The Future of Marine Animal Populations

While browsing through some of the fascinating work of the Census of Marine Life (CoML) and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), I came across the Future of Marine Animal Populations (FMAP). What interesting and important work. CoML is a global research organization with a goal to assess the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine species worldwide. CoML oversees a number of regional research efforts designed to census ocean habitats. As mentioned previously in MarineBio’s newsletter article on CoML, the organization seeks answers to three questions: What lived in the oceans? What lives in the oceans? What will live in the oceans? Continue reading