Quantcast
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) on Hikkaduwa coral reef, Sri Lanka. danilovi / E+ / Getty Images

Endangered green turtles are having a problem. They're mistaking plastic pollution for the seaweed they survive on, according to new research from the University of Exeter in the UK and the Society for the Protection of Turtles in Cyprus, as Newsweek reported.

Read More

The entangled North Atlantic right whale in this photo was spotted approximately one mile off Crescent Beach, Florida; researchers were able to disentangle the whale the next day.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit # 594-1759

Many fish, marine mammals and seabirds that inhabit the world's oceans are critically endangered, but few are as close to the brink as the North Atlantic right whale ( Eubalaena glacialis). Only about 411 of these whales exist today, and at their current rate of decline, they could become extinct within our lifetimes.

From 1980 through about 2010, conservation efforts focused mainly on protecting whales from being struck by ships. Federal regulations helped reduce vessel collisions and supported a slight rebound in right whale numbers.

Read More

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A red wolf. Taya Johnston / iStock / Getty Images

EcoWatch has long documented attempts by the Trump administration's Interior Department to weaken Endangered Species Act protections, but what does that mean for individual species? That is the question the Endangered Species Coalition set out to answer in a new report, which outlines how President Donald Trump's proposed policies could impact 10 vulnerable animal species.

Read More

Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, released draft legislation Monday to significantly overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Under Barrasso's proposal, individual states would be given key authority over the federal program to conserve threatened and endangered species.

Read More
A Kemp's ridley hatchling makes its way to the water on Padre Island, Texas. Terry Ross, CC BY-SA

By Pamela T. Plotkin

On beaches from North Carolina to Texas and throughout the wider Caribbean, one of nature's great seasonal events is underway. Adult female sea turtles are crawling out of the ocean, digging deep holes in the sand and laying eggs. After about 60 days turtle hatchlings will emerge and head for the water's edge, fending for themselves from their first moments.

Read More
Whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium. Zac Wolf / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

A team of scientists has tracked a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) across more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) of ocean, the longest migration ever recorded for the species.

In 2011, the researchers attached a transmitting tag to a shark they named "Anne" in the Pacific Ocean near Panama's Coiba Island. Over the next 841 days, Anne's transmitter would ping the ARGOS satellite whenever she swam near the surface. Those data points allowed the team to follow her movements south to the Galapagos Islands and clear across the Pacific to the Marianas Trench south of Japan and east of the Philippines—a distance of 20,142 kilometers (12,516 miles).

Read More
Sponsored
A short-finned pilot whale hangs lifelessly in a California drift gillnet. NOAA

The Trump administration proposed a rule Tuesday to federalize regulation of drift gillnets used to catch swordfish on the West Coast. The rule would end California's right to prevent the deadly entanglements of sea turtles, whales and dolphins in these underwater, mile-long nets.

The Obama administration last year proposed a rule that would shut down the fishery for two years if two large whales or sea turtles were harmed by the nets, but the Trump administration withdrew that proposed rule in June. Legislation to phase out drift gillnets was introduced in California in 2014 and 2016, and the new federal rule would preempt such efforts in the future.

Read More
A seagull pecks at a plastic bag on Jan. 30, 2017, in Venice Beach, California. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

By Lorraine Chow

The world's plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That's an astonishing figure, but it's also one that's hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw.

Read More
Bald Eagle, Alaska. Wikimedia Commons

By Rebecca Bowe

A small yet vocal group of congressmen are gearing up this summer to dismantle the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Campaign finance records of these lawmakers reveal that they have all taken significant money from extractive industries frustrated by the law's protection of critical habitat for endangered species.

The ESA has proven to be a powerful, effective conservation safeguard. More than 99 percent of species that have been designated for federal protection continue to exist in the wild today, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear, the leatherback sea turtle and the Florida manatee.

Read More
The endangered gray wolf. Wikimedia Commons

The Republican-controlled 115th Congress has introduced at least 63 separate pieces of legislation that would strip federal protections for specific threatened species or undermine the U.S. Endangered Species Act, according to a new analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity. That's one such bill every six days in 2017 alone.

The majority of these bills were introduced by Republicans, the Center for Biological Diversity noted. Gray wolves, greater sage grouse and elephants were targeted the most.

Read More

Over a decade ago, Bird's Head Seascape was just another example of the damage overfishing and destructive fishing practices can cause on coral reefs. But, the community stepped in, and the region is now thriving.

Diver with Schooling Scads at Arborek Jetty.Photo credit: Jeff Yonover, Bird's Head Seascape

Valen's Reef, a virtual reality movie shot in 360-degrees, explores the Raja Ampat Islands in the Coral Triangle and the progress Bird's Head Seascape has made. Local-fisherman-turned-reef-scientist Ronald Mambrasar narrates the movie, recounting the history of the region and the Bird's Head Seascape initiative to his son, Valen:

"When the illegal fishermen came, we welcomed them at first. They brought us gifts. After they dropped bombs and poison, we would scoop up the fish for them. The fish and coral started to be lost. We knew it was not right."

Mambrasar was one of the locals who joined Conservation International and a group of international non-governmental organizations, local and national governments, universities, local organizations and coastal communities when the initiative started in 2004. The goal of the initiative was to balance the needs of the human population while protecting natural resources in the region. So far, the project has developed 12 multiple-use marine protected areas in the Bird's Head Seascape.

The red box marks the Bird's Head Seascape and the islands it incorporates.Photo credit: Bird's Head Seascape

Thanks to these efforts, the reef had rebounded: fish populations have recovered; sharks, whales and rays have returned; poaching has decreased by 90 percent; and coral is regrowing.

Mambrasar tells his son: "I want to be able to give you all of the nature that is here now."

The Bird's Head Seascape is home to the highest coral reef biodiversity in the world. Covering 22.5 million hectares, it is home to 1,711 species of fish, more than 600 species of coral, and 17 species of whales and dolphins. It also claims to have the most extensive mangrove forest and sea grass beds, and the world's largest pacific leatherback sea turtle nesting beaches.

Mobula feeding frenzy of the coast of southern Raja Ampat. The mobula, species of eagle ray, are swarming baitfish.Photo credit: Jeff Lemelin, Bird's Head Seascape

Almost 4 million hectares are protected by the 12 marine protected areas. The seascape also contains the coral triangle's first shark and ray sanctuary.

Take a tour of the seascape and listen to Mambrasar's story in the video below. Use the arrows in upper left corner to explore the views in 360-degrees:

Sponsored
South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E) unearthed three baby loggerheads after a nest inventory at Pawleys Island beach. Lorraine Chow

A new study published in Science Advances has found that most global sea turtles populations are recovering after historical declines.

The results from the analysis suggest that conservation programs actually work, and why we must defend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that protects vulnerable plants and animals, and is currently under attack by political and business interests.

Read More

Citing the use of hazardous hydraulic fracturing chemicals and the release of oil industry wastewater off California’s coast, the Center for Biological Diversity yesterday called on the Coastal Commission to halt fracking for oil and gas in state waters and press for tighter regulation of fracking in federal waters.

Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge their wastewater directly to the ocean. Photo credit: AP Photo/ The Santa Barbara News-Press, Steve Malone

In a letter delivered as commissioners meet this week in Newport Beach, CA, the center says hundreds of recently revealed frack jobs in state waters violate the Coastal Act. Some oil platforms are discharging wastewater directly into the Santa Barbara Channel, according to a government document.

“The Coastal Commission has the right and the responsibility to step in when oil companies use dangerous chemicals to frack California’s ocean waters,” said Emily Jeffers, a center attorney. “Our beaches, our wildlife and our entire coastal ecosystem are at risk until the state reins in this dangerous practice.”

After noting seven risky chemicals used by oil companies fracking in California waters, the letter describes the duties of the Coastal Commission to protect wildlife, marine fisheries and the environment. “Because the risk of many of the harms from fracking cannot be eliminated, a complete prohibition on fracking is the best way to protect human health and the environment,” the letter says.

At minimum, the Coastal Commission must take action under the Coastal Act to regulate the practice, including requiring oil and gas operators fracking in state waters to obtain a coastal development permit.

The letter also contains the center’s analysis of chemicals used in 12 recent frack jobs in state waters near Long Beach,CA. Drawing on data disclosed by oil companies, the center found that at least one-third of chemicals used in these fracking operations are suspected ecological hazards. More than one-third of these chemicals are suspected of affecting the human developmental and nervous systems.

X-Cide, one of the toxic chemicals used during fracking is listed as hazardous to fish and marine wildlife—including Blue whales, sea otters and Leatherback turtles. Photo credit: AP Photo/ The Santa Barbara News-Press, Mike Eliason

The chemical X-Cide, used in all 12 offshore frack jobs examined by the center, is classified as a hazardous substance by the federal agency that manages cleanup at Superfund sites. X-Cide is also listed as hazardous to fish and wildlife.

Oil companies have used fracking at least 200 times in waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, as well as in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking involves blasting massive amounts of water and industrial chemicals into the earth at pressures high enough to crack geologic formations and release oil and gas.

Approximately half the oil platforms in federal waters in the Santa Barbara Channel discharge all or a portion of their wastewater directly to the ocean, according to a Coastal Commission document. This produced wastewater contains all of the chemicals injected originally into the fracked wells, with the addition of toxins gathered from the subsurface environment.

The center’s letter says that water pollution from fracking and oil operations in California’s waters poses risks to a wide range of threatened and endangered species, including Blue whales, sea otters and Leatherback turtles.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

Environment California

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The El Cerrito, CA, city council voted last night to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam. The plastic bag ordinance applies to all stores except restaurants and certain charities, while the Styrofoam law affects restaurants and city vendors. Both bans take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

“This important step forward for El Cerrito shows yet again that we can achieve lasting victories for the ocean and our environment,” said Nathan Weaver with Environment California. “Banning plastic bags is the right choice to protect our rivers, beaches and the Pacific Ocean. I applaud the city council members for their leadership on this issue.”

Single-use plastic bags and food packaging, including Styrofoam, are two of the most common garbage items removed from California’s beaches by Ocean Conservancy volunteers. Plastic bags are a direct threat to ocean wildlife, like the sea turtles that mistake them for edible jellyfish. One in three leatherback sea turtles studied had plastic in their stomachs, most often a plastic bag, according to an analysis of over 370 autopsies. A study by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association found that plastic shopping bags alone make up as much as eight percent of the garbage that reaches the San Francisco Bay.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute the ocean for hundreds of years,” commented Weaver.

Plastic bag bans have enjoyed tremendous success across California. El Cerrito is the eighty-first California local government to ban single-use plastic bags, joining San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Oakland and others. Together, these local governments represent nearly one in three Californians. More than 70 California cities and counties have banned Styrofoam food containers.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

——–