Navy Training Could Harm Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales
The new rule, published in the Federal Register Thursday, would allow the Navy to increase the number of Southern Resident killer whales it could "take"—or potentially harm—from two a year currently to 51 a year through 2027, The News Tribune reported.
"This plan allows Navy war games to harm and harass marine mammals from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska. Critically endangered orcas and right whales would be assaulted by sonar and explosions," Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) oceans program director Miyoko Sakashita said in a press release. "We understand the need for military training, but the Navy can do much more to balance that with its legal obligation to minimize harm to vulnerable marine life."
The plight of Southern Resident killer whales, the orcas that roam the waters between Washington and British Columbia, have attracted increased attention and urgency in recent years, especially after one mother carried her dead calf for 17 days. That mother finally gave birth to a healthy baby this summer, but there are still only 74 Southern Resident killer whales left, according to the Center for Whale Research. They have been harmed by a steep decline in their Chinook salmon prey, pollution and noise and disturbances below the waves.
It is the last threat that could be increased by the Navy activities, which include firing torpedoes, using sonar, detonating bombs and using underwater drones, according to The News Tribune. Sonar and explosions can make it harder for whales and orcas to hear, and can interrupt their feeding, reproduction and migration, the CBD pointed out. Underwater noise can also kill up to 50 percent of zooplankton, the basis of the marine food web.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that the Navy get permission for any activities that could harm marine mammals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The NMFS regulation governs the Navy's Northwest Training and Testing, which will take place off the Pacific Coast from Northern California to Alaska beginning Nov. 9 of this year and concluding in 2027.
In addition to orcas, the Navy's activities are expected to harm or bother more than 200 humpback whales, 300 minke whales and 10 blue whales every year, CBD reported. They could also harm 2,539 Cuvier's beaked whales every year, out of a population of just 3,274. NMFS did not even consider how the Navy's activities would impact North Pacific right whales, which have a population of only a couple dozen.
The proposal prompted concerns from Washington State officials over the threat posed to orcas, which rose from two to 51 animals bothered each year because the Navy realized the animals' population was more dense in the testing area than previous models had indicated, according to The News Tribune.
"The approval of such a high level of incidental take without requiring any additional mitigation measures represents gross neglect of the agency's management responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act to avoid or mitigate impacts to this highly endangered and iconic species," the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, the Puget Sound Partnership, State Office of Recreation and Conservation, the Governor's Office of Salmon Recovery and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz wrote in a joint letter to NMFS in July.
In the final rule, NMFS responded to concerns about the increased take by saying it had added new mitigation measures to the final rule, including introducing new mitigation measures during explosive mine countermeasures and neutralization testing, as well as mitigation measures aimed at certain areas of critical habitat. The Navy is only responsible for less than one percent of boat traffic in the Pacific Northwest, according to The News Tribune.
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Joe Biden's election is a huge positive in a year that has been extremely difficult across the globe. I speak for a vast number of people who watched anxiously from outside the United States when I heartily thank those who mobilized, campaigned and voted to make it happen. Your hard work affects us all.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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