Saturday, October 19, 2013

Email from EarthJustice ~ October 19.2013
Dear Heidi,

We just won another huge victory for whales and other marine mammals and we wanted to share in case you missed the news!

In response to an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court just ruled that the government must better protect endangered whales and other marine mammals from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington by employing the best available science.


The sound level that whales and other marine mammals experience during the Navy's mid-frequency sonar training can disrupt migration, breeding, nursing, breathing, and feeding, and in some cases, cause internal hemorrhaging and ruptured eardrums.

Earthjustice sued in court to protect whales and other marine mammals from these dangerous training exercises--and we won!

According to Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda, who led the effort:

"This is a victory for dozens of protected species of marine mammals, including critically endangered southern resident orcas, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises.The National Marine Fisheries Service must now employ the best science and require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to avoid and minimize harm from its training activities."

Earthjustice has been fighting for the protection of marine wildlife for years, but our work to safeguard our ocean ecosystems and the species that depend on them is far from over.

Heidi, because helped us win a victory to protect northwest orcas earlier this year, I also wanted to encourage you to take action to protect other imperiled marine species--including Atlantic bluefin tuna, sharks, and sea turtles--from being unnecessarily slaughtered by longline fishing.

We couldn't do our work, and win, without you!


Steve Mashuda
Attorney, Earthjustice

P.S. Earthjustice has been working tirelessly to protect our oceans, but we need your help. Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to improve its management plan for fisheries that unnecessarily harm bluefin tuna and other imperiled species.


Below is the petition authoring and background on damage caused by longline vessels:


Action: Public Comments
Issue: Bluefin Tuna
Deadline: Dec. 10, 2013 Proposed Rule

Speak Up To Protect Bluefin Tuna

Atlantic bluefin tuna are one of the ocean’s most impressive predators. Weighing as much as 1,500 pounds, these giants can still accelerate faster than a sports car. But they haven’t been able to outswim commercial fishing pressure.

Unfortunately, bluefin tuna are being harmed by Atlantic longline vessels that snag the fish while trying to catch swordfish and other tuna species. Bluefin cannot withstand this assault. Their numbers are so low that they have been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The waste is not limited to bluefin tuna. Pelagic longlines injure and kill high numbers of billfish, sharks, sea turtles, whales, and other animals every year in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This doesn’t have to happen. Better types of fishing gear are now available to target swordfish, and prohibitions on fishing in ecologically critical areas are a proven method to protect multiple species from fishing impacts.
Tell the government to improve its management plan for fisheries that unnecessarily harm this and other imperiled species.
Earthjustice has fought for years to protect bluefin tuna spawning grounds in the Gulf and reduce the death toll of pelagic longline fisheries. Most recently, Earthjustice has partnered with conservation groups and others concerned about the fate of bluefin tuna to identify ways to better protect these amazing fish.
NMFS’s proposed rule takes some important steps towards conserving and rebuilding bluefin tuna. However, more remains to be done to protect bluefin tuna, as well as the many other species that get snared by pelagic longline vessels.
Please tell NMFS to take the necessary actions to end bluefin tuna overfishing, encourage a transition to safer fishing methods, and protect other species like sharks, sea turtles, and marine mammals from unnecessary harm.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Make your voice heard! To send your letter, enter your information below and click on the "Send Message" button.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON PRIVACY: This is an official government request for public comments. All information submitted with your comment (name, address, etc.) may be placed in the public record for this proceeding. Do NOT submit confidential or sensitive information. To submit an anonymous comment, visit and enter "Anonymous" in the name fields.

Comments on Amendment 7 to the HMS FMP

Dear National Marine Fisheries Service,

I encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to adopt strong measures in proposed Amendment 7 to the Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan in order to conserve and rebuild Atlantic bluefin tuna, as well as protect the many other species of fish and wildlife that are injured or killed by encounters with pelagic longline gear. 

Atlantic bluefin tuna have been fished to dangerously low levels. Strong measures are necessary to end overfishing of bluefin tuna and put the species on the path to recovery. Protecting spawning grounds and other areas where bluefin congregate is critical to achieving these requirements. Therefore, I request that NMFS adopt a final rule prohibiting all pelagic longline fishing in the entire Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone during the entire bluefin spawning period, and in the Cape Hatteras Restricted Gear Area from December through April.

Past experience has shown that time-area closures are highly effective in protecting bluefin, billfish, and other incidentally caught species. I oppose NMFS's proposal to open Charleston Bump, DeSoto Canyon, and the Florida East Coast to pelagic longlining. NMFS may not move forward with this proposal without conducting a thorough analysis of the impacts of reintroducing pelagic longlining to closed areas on bluefin, billfish, sharks, marine mammals, and threatened and endangered species. The analysis NMFS has offered to support its proposal falls far short of meeting the agency's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, or Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The pelagic longline sector of the HMS fishery kills and discards more bluefin tuna than any other sector of the fishery, and regularly exceeds its annual bluefin tuna quota. Last year, dead discards caused by the pelagic longline sector accounted for one quarter of the entire U.S. Atlantic bluefin quota. NMFS's proposal to take quota from other sectors of the fishery and reallocate it to the pelagic longline sector -- increasing pelagic longline quota by over 85% -- unfairly penalizes cleaner sectors of the fishery and unlawfully facilitates continued high rates of bycatch and dead discards by the pelagic longline sector. I request that NMFS instead adopt a final rule that requires the pelagic longline sector to account for its own dead discards within its own, fairly allocated portion of the overall bluefin quota.

There are several aspects of NMFS's rule that I strongly support. The proposed strict annual cap for bluefin catch, implemented via an individual bluefin quota system for active longline vessels, increases accountability and encourages fishermen to adopt more selective practices. Similarly, requiring vessels to retain all dead bluefin tuna instead of discarding them will reduce waste of bluefin and foster more accurate accounting of fishing mortality. 

Finally, NMFS should adopt measures requiring enhance at-sea monitoring to help enforce the cap on bluefin catch and better track interactions with other marine life, including measures requiring electronic monitoring and increased observer coverage. 

NMFS now has a valuable opportunity to rebuild bluefin tuna and protect numerous other marine species by implementing measures to increase accountability within the pelagic longline sector and foster transitions to more selective fishing gear. Please take this opportunity by strengthening the proposed rule in the ways described above. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Monday, October 14, 2013

This ROCKS!!!
Please meet these folks at 
World Cetacean Alliance.
#LoveOceans #SaveOceans

Without collaboration we will achieve nothing more than a drop in the ocean. 
~ Jean-Michel Cousteau

Introducing the World Cetacean Alliance


Marine parks fund annual Japanese massacre of thousands of dolphins and porpoises by paying $150,000 a time for young dolphins – 250 times the value of those killed for their meat.

“The time has come to view captivity of whales and dolphins as a part of our history – not a tragic part of our future,” says Jean-Michel Cousteau, Honorary President of the World Cetacean Alliance.

Members of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), including WhaleFest and Dolphin Connection Experience in the UK, are calling for a mass public protest against the slaughter of dolphins and porpoises that is about to start in Japan.

From this September to next March, a dolphin drive hunt made famous by the film ‘The Cove’ will see thousands of dolphins and porpoises hunted or trapped by nets and then bloodily slaughtered, either by harpooning or by having a metal stake driven into their head.

WCA members help specialists to document the cruelty of the drive, track the captive displays whose purchases motivate the fishermen involved, and support Japanese nationals who oppose the drives most effectively in ways appropriate to the culture.

“The World Cetacean Alliance urges everybody who cares not only for the health and wellbeing of these animals, but also for the way in which humankind relates to nature, to take action over the massacre that is about to happen in Japan,” says Ian Rowlands of WhaleFest. “Lodge an objection with your local Japanese embassy or with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. And help to make sure the world’s marine parks also oppose the slaughter.”

Younger dolphins taken from the pods that are trapped in the killing cove at Taiji are sold to aquatic parks across the world. These sales – at around $150,000 per dolphin – help to fund the drive and contribute significantly to its continuation.

Some of the world’s zoos, aquariums and marine attractions directly support the drive by paying the hunters for these live show dolphins. Many others are conveniently ignoring it.

“A dead dolphin is worth around $600 for its meat. A live one sold to a marine park is worth up to 250 times that figure,” says Amanda Stafford of Dolphin Connection Experience. “Cutting off that demand could have a big impact on future culls. That’s why – in addition to directing our protests at Japan – we also need to tell the marine park industry that we will not tolerate their use of these animals for entertainment purposes any more and that we expect them to actively oppose this annual outrage.”

Ongoing legal cases in the USA, combined with the publicity surrounding the book ‘Death At SeaWorld’ and the documentary film ‘Blackfish’ have highlighted the plight of captive orcas and other cetaceans at marine parks.

“Recent events have opened the public’s eyes to the realities of incarcerating intelligent, sociable, sentient beings in cramped conditions and forcing them to perform for ‘entertainment’ purposes,” says Dylan Walker, WCA Secretariat.

“The WCA urges everyone to boycott parks using cetaceans for entertainment that do not actively and publicly oppose the Taiji hunt. We live in a global community, where every one of us can influence what is happening, even if it is on the other side of the world. Now is the time to act. Now is our chance to make a difference.”

WCA Honorary President Jean-Michel Cousteau agrees. “The time has come to view captivity of whales and dolphins as a part of our history – not a tragic part of our future,” he says.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Please take action here to 
Thank you!


by Joshua Keeting for Slate 
October 2. 2013 4:14 P.M.

At least 14 of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested after trying to scale a Russian oil platform in the Arctic last month have been charged with piracy by the country’ federal Investigative Committee. The charge, against the crew of the ship Arctic Sunrise, from countries including Argentina, Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Britain, as well as a U.S.-Swedish citizen, could carry a jail term of up to 15 years.

Northwestern law professor Eugene Kontorovich, explained a few days ago why this charges fails to meet the traditional definition of piracy under international law:

First, piracy requires an attack against a “ship.” The Greenpeace incident involved an oil rig, which is not a ship because it is not navigable. (The 1988 SUA Convention dealing with maritime violence beyond piracy required a separate protocol to apply to oil platforms).

Second, piracy requires “acts of violence or detention.” Here the Greenpeace activist merely put a poster on the platform. This does not constitute violence. In the Ninth Circuit case, by contrast, the Sea Shepherd vessels allegedly attempted to ram Japanese whalers, hurled projectiles at them, and so forth. While the defendants argued this did not amount to violence, it is certainly more colorable than a poster. The Greenpeace activists certainly committed trespass, but not piracy.

Interestingly, as Julian Ku writes at Opinio Juris, it’s possible that a U.S. court decision might actually bolster Russia’s case here. Traditionally, only people who have actually stolen or held property for ransom at sea have been charged with piracy. But in February, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the anti-whaling activists best known from the TV series "Whale Wars," arguing that their attacks on Japanese ships constituted piracy even though they had no intention of profiting monetarily from them. 

"When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be,"  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in his opinion. 

Even so, the Greenpeace activists hadn't done anything that drastic and despite this precedent, the charges are obviously a stretch by international standards. Even President Vladimir Putin has said “it's completely obvious they aren't pirates."

The better parallel in this case may be the “hooliganism” and “religious hatred” charges filed against the members of Pussy Riot, whose actions would normally be defined at worst as trespassing or vandalism, but are currently serving two-year jail terms. And indeed, according to the Washington Post, “some activists have begun referring to the Greenpeace ship as the Pussy Sunrise.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013



Learn more about what you can do to help stop the seal hunt here.

By Kristina Pepelk via One Green Planet < Animal Advocate 
October 7, 2013

Canada’s seal fur trade industry has tried its best to overturn the European Union’s (EU) ban on seal products. Thankfully, the EU remains impervious to such attacks and is committed to its four-year-old ban of seal products.

Just this past week, the EU’s top court, based in Luxembourg, rejected yet another appeal to overturn the ban—an appeal submitted by 17 organizations including Inuit seal hunters and fur traders, reports AFP via Yahoo News.

The ban does exempt products that come from traditional hunts by indigenous communities, which is one of the reasons why this recent appeal was dismissed. According to Courthouse News, Inuit Tapiritt Kanatami, a Canadian nonprofit representing over 50,000 Inuit, has challenged the ban since 2011, citing that their economy has been decimated by its approval back in 2009.

The nonprofit’s appeal was rejected first in a lower court and then in the EU’s high court on the grounds that the ban can only be challenged by those directly affected by the legislation (i.e. those who are not exempt), reports Courthouse News.

Yet the group’s appeal was supported by non-exempt fur traders, which shows that the EU is quite intent on upholding its ban.

“We applaud the court for rejecting this senseless challenge and upholding the right of the EU to prohibit commercial trade in seal products,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Humane Society International/Canada via Courthouse News.

“The EU’s decision was the result of a complex, democratic process that involved substantial consultations with the commercial sealing industry, Canadian government and other stakeholders. The applicants simply do not have the legal standing to challenge this decision,” said Aldworth.

Since its approval in 2009, the EU’s seal product ban has been very effective in reducing the number of seals killed commercially. In 2006, 354,000 harp seals were slaughtered for their fur, and by 2011, that number was reduced to 40,000. The price of seal pelts have also gone down from about $118 to just $12 in the same time frame, reports AFP.

While thousands of seals are still clubbed to death in Canada each year, the industry’s diminishing profitability is a good sign. If this trend continues and the Canadian government eventually stops subsidizing it, we may see the end of this cruel industry sooner than we thought.


Image source: CaroLa / Flickr

Monday, October 7, 2013


A recent Japanese Ministry of Defense report stated that Dugongs had been seen eating seagrass in Oura Bay off the island of Okinawa last year. The bay is the proposed site for a new runway for the U.S. military. Its unclear how the new report on the endangered species might affect decisions on whether to build the runway. 

A recent Japanese Ministry of Defense report stated that Dugongs had been seen eating seagrass in Oura Bay off the island of Okinawa last year. The bay is the proposed site for a new runway for the U.S. military. It's unclear how the new report on the endangered species might affect decisions on whether to build the runway.
By Travis J. Tritten and Chiyomi Sumida
Stars and Stripes

Published: October 7, 2013

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — It’s unclear if recent evidence of endangered dugong activity would add fresh ammunition to a debate over allowing Marine Corps runways to be built in an Okinawa bay, according to the island’s prefectural government.

The Japan Ministry of Defense confirmed this week the protected marine mammals were eating seagrass in Oura Bay last year, but that information was not included the findings in a landmark environmental assessment of the runways filed with Okinawa prefecture in December.

Okinawa has been weighing the ministry assessment for months and is expected to make a decision this winter on whether to allow Tokyo to fill a section of the bay for the new U.S. air facility, which will expand Camp Schwab and create a replacement for controversial Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The Futenma move to Oura Bay has long been part of U.S.-Japan plans to realign forces in the Pacific, though the relocation has been stalled for years due to local opposition.

A ministry survey showing dugongs — a relative of the manatee considered critically endangered by Japan — grazed on seagrass in the bay between April and June of 2012 was released following a records request by Japanese media and was confirmed by Stars and Stripes.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima declined to comment this week on whether the survey may affect his decision on Tokyo’s application to reclaim land for the runways. But a spokesman said his office had already been considering the dugong activity recorded by the Ministry of Defense in and around Oura Bay in recent years.

“Traces of dugongs eating seaweed were confirmed in 2009 and it is believed to be the same site that the recent traces were found,” said the governor’s spokesman, Satoru Matsuda.

The dugong, which has deep cultural and historic significance to the Japanese, was at the center of an environmental struggle over the controversy-riddled Futenma relocation project for years.

A U.S. court ruled in favor of Okinawans in 2008 and compelled the military and Japan to assess the potential impact of V-shaped offshore runways on the wildlife and habitats in the bay and along the island’s eastern coast.

A 7,000-page environmental study compiled by the Ministry of Defense and delivered to Okinawa last year was applauded by the United States as progress toward the Futenma move. It found that three dugongs were spotted in the area in recent years but sparse evidence of activity in Oura Bay where the runways will be located.

Overall, the ministry reported that the runway fill project could be done without significant harm to the coastal environment, including the slow-moving mammals and their habitat in the bay. A panel of Okinawa scientists and experts that advises Gov. Nakaima disputed that claim last year, saying the runway construction could cause irreparable harm to many animals and plants in the area.

The ministry assessment given to Okinawa will not be reconsidered, a Ministry of Defense spokesman told Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, the ministry will continue dugong monitoring in Oura Bay and the surrounding coast.

“We intend to give full consideration to the dugongs and avoid and minimize impacts of the project as much as possible,” the spokesman said.

The recently released findings on dugong feeding in 2012 were part of an annual ministry survey that was wrapped up in May.