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Animals

Gillnet Fishing Blamed for Killing Up to 100 Baby Hammerhead Sharks in Honolulu

Up to 100 hammerhead shark pups were found dead Tuesday morning near Keehi Lagoon in Honolulu. Experts suggested that gillnet fishing could be the culprit.

Authorities at the state's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement have opened an investigation after the baby sharks were discovered by the La Mariana Sailing Club, according to local media.

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Taiwanese humpback dolphins. Center for Biological Diversity

Taiwanese Humpback Dolphin Gets Protected Under U.S. Endangered Species Act

The National Marine Fisheries Service protected rare Taiwanese humpback dolphins on Tuesday, listing the species as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a March 2016 petition from the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians seeking U.S. protections to help prevent the extinction of a population that now numbers fewer than 100 individuals.

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'Unprecedented Rescue Operation': Sea Shepherd Saves 25 Critically Endangered Totoabas at the Height of Spawning Season

At 7:45 p.m. PST Monday, the Sea Shepherd vessel M/V SHARPIE came upon an illegal gillnet within the Vaquita Refuge in the Northern Sea of Cortez, Mexico. The gillnet was entangled in a longline. As the ship's crew began to separate the illegal fishing gear, they noticed live totoaba bass in the net, embarking on an unprecedented rescue operation.

It is the height of totoaba bass spawning season in the Upper Gulf of California, when the endangered fish migrate directly to an area inhabited by the vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is currently the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and continues to be threatened as bycatch in the illegal totoaba trade.

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A manta ray in the South China Sea. Greg Asner / Divephoto.org

Top 10 Ocean News Stories of 2017

By Douglas McCauley and Paul DeSalles

(The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.)

1. U.S. Drops Out of Paris

In our 2015 ocean top 10 list, we celebrated the adoption of the Paris agreement as a monumental achievement for slowing the warming, acidification and deoxygenation of our global oceans. In 2017, remaining nations like Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Syria ratified the agreement, bringing the total number of ratifying nations to 171. But in a radical about-face of global leadership on climate action, the Trump administration officially declared that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, citing unfair impacts on the American economy.

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Christy Williams / WWF

Celebrating the Biggest Conservation Wins of 2017

It's been a big year for conservation.

Together we assured the world that the U.S. is still an ally in the fight against climate change through the We Are Still In movement, a coalition of more than 2,500 American leaders outside of the federal government who are still committed to meeting climate goals. WWF's activists met with legislators to voice their support for international conservation funding. And we ensured that Bhutan's vast and wildlife-rich areas remain protected forever through long-term funding.

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Floating sea pen designed to hold captured vaquitas. Kerry Coughlin / National Marine Mammal Foundation

Endangered Mexican Vaquita Dies After Rescue Effort

By Mike Gaworecki

Last month, the government of Mexico launched a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered vaquita, a small porpoise known to reside only in the Gulf of California.

A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery (VaquitaCPR) that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating "sea pens" until the species' survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade and fishing activities that have driven them to the brink of extinction.

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

Whales, Sea Turtles Threatened by Trump Administration Proposal

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.

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Scientists releasing the calf back into the wild. VaquitaCPR

First Vaquita Rescued in Bid to Save the Porpoise From Extinction

A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October.

Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen.

The project's leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.

For the first time, a team of scientists has captured and then released a vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare porpoise in the Gulf of California, as part of a project called VaquitaCPR aimed at hauling the critically endangered species back from the edge of extinction.

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Trader Joe's Stops Buying Mexican Shrimp After Pressure to Protect Vaquita

Conservation organizations announced Wednesday that Trader Joe's has declared it will stop buying shrimp from Mexico. The popular grocery store chain's decision follows pressure from organizations behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, launched earlier this year to save the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, from decades of decline due to entanglement in shrimp fishing gear.

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