U.S. District Court Ruling Could Allow the Killing of 460 Federally Protected Sea Lions
There is a court case currently taking place which could have a serious impact on the future protection of endangered and threatened species in the U.S. The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Wild Fish Conservancy have filed a complaint and a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS). This action follows a decision by the NMFS to allow State Wildlife Agencies to kill up to 460 federally protected California sea lions over the next five years. The restraining order was denied on March 22 in U.S. District Court. The court will allow the NMFS to kill California Sea Lions while waiting for the full case to be heard.
The Humane Society shared these main points from the court proceedings this morning:
- The court denied the temporary restraining order
- The number of sea lions which can be killed has been temporarily lowered from 90 to 30
- The court requires the sea lions to be killed by euthanasia
- The court felt the issues raised were important and the case will continue on all merits
- The Humane Society is confident they will prevail
These are the facts surrounding this issue:
- The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects sea lions in the U.S.
- Some California Sea Lions have chosen the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River as their feeding grounds. The dam is located about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon.
- Several groups of people in Washington, Oregon and Idaho want to blame sea lions for “taking their fish,” and have used the sea lion as a scapegoat, even though the amount of salmon caught by sea lions equals approximately only 1 percent.
- On behalf of these groups, the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho petitioned the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to grant them authority to kill the sea lions. This group has lost prior cases in court, but managed to kill sea lions before the rulings took place. A new application was submitted on their behalf on August 18, 2011, once again requesting authority to lethally remove individually identifiable California sea lions seen eating salmon at Bonneville Dam. On March 15, 2012, NMFS again granted the states’ request, authorizing state agents to kill as many as 92 federally protected California sea lions each year for 5 years—a total of 460 animals.
- The slaughter was set to begin on March 19, however, the Humane Society, the Wild Fish Conservancy and two individuals filed for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Scott West, director of intelligence and investigations for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said:
“The fact is that human activity is destroying fish populations. The construction of dams, the activity of fish farming, the introduction of non-native species, the discharge of pollutants, sport fishing, rigid treaty fishing rights and mechanized commercial fishing operations contribute to catastrophic failure of fish species. These are all human activities and have been increasing in recent years along with the human population on the planet. What is normal is the predation of fish by other fish, by birds, by sharks and by marine mammals. Predation is far older than the presence of humans on the planet. Subsistence and artisanal fishing (predation) by humans has been around a long time and for the most part has been able to coexist with the natural order. Pinning the blame elsewhere and drawing attention away from the real culprit(s) are common human behaviors. The scapegoat is nothing new. Seals, sea lions and dolphins have been blamed the world over through ignorance and greed for the collapse of fish stocks when the real reasons (human activity) are ignored. Using marine mammals as scapegoats knows no race, cultural or nationalistic limits. Canadians, Chileans, Japanese and yes, even folks in the U.S. participate.”
Although sea lions do eat fish, they only consume between 0.4 and 4.2 percent of the 80,000 to 300,000 salmon that spawn in the Columbia River each year. The following list based on NMFS estimates shows the percentages for salmon takes in the Columbia River:
- The dams along the Columbia River take up to 60 percent of juvenile salmon and up to 17 percent of adult salmon.
- Human fishing activity takes approximately 16 percent of the adult salmon from the river.
- Non-native, introduced sport-fishing species consume up to 3 million young salmon a year.
- Birds eat up to 18 percent.
- Sea lions take roughly 1 percent.
- In addition, by-catch of Columbia River salmon in open ocean fisheries contributes to the loss of Columbia River salmon.
Salmon runs vary on a yearly basis and scientists are predicting a large run this year in the Columbia River. Yet the states still want to kill the scapegoat. “Few people want to look for the real reasons fish populations are declining because doing so will require them to look in the mirror,” said West.
There is a war being waged against U.S. environmental protection efforts. There are groups and forces that are attempting to dismantle the very laws that have been put in place to improve and protect the quality of the air, water and soil in the U.S. and against the laws that have allowed several species to return from the brink of extinction. This issue could very well be a starting point to return the U.S. to a time when it was common and legal to kill marine mammals (and other creatures) which “get in the way” of human enterprise. This is a critical time for our world’s ecosystems and many of animal species. Our laws should be providing extra protection for our environment, not diminishing the small amount of safeguards which already exist.
Sea Shepherd cannot ignore this slaughter—which might soon occur on the U.S.’s doorstep. We are currently offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for shooting sea lions in the Puget Sound. With the Bonneville Dam temporary restraining order not being granted and the full lawsuit coming up, we will need to bring this issue to the forefront. The Humane Society has been in this fight for some time and we are happy to offer help. We have experience with documenting senseless slaughter. Perhaps we will need to institute a “Dam Guardian” campaign at the Bonneville Dam. How many volunteers would be willing to come to the dam and help? Stay tuned.
Click here to sign and share our petition.
For more information, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
- The U.S. Isn't in a Second Wave of Coronavirus – The First Wave ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million as All 50 States Start ... ›
By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
- Drone Footage Captures Rare Finless Porpoises in Hong Kong ... ›
- Brazil's Amazon River Dolphin Faces Extinction After Fishing ... ›
- 10 Surprising Dolphin 'Superpowers' - EcoWatch ›
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
- Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreens - EcoWatch ›
- Hundreds of Sunscreens Don't Work or Have Unsafe Ingredients ... ›
- FDA Study: Sunscreen Chemicals Seep Into the Bloodstream ... ›
By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
- Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free? - EcoWatch ›
- What Nutritionists Think About Starbucks' Three New Plant-Based ... ›
- 6 Alternatives to Milk: Which Is the Healthiest? - EcoWatch ›
"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images
Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.
- No Social Distancing or Mask Requirement at Trump's Mt ... ›
- Trump's Fireworks Show at Mt. Rushmore Is a Dangerous Idea, Fire ... ›
By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
- Dangerous Chemicals From E-Waste Found in Black Plastics From ... ›
- Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials ... ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›
- COVID-19 Masks Are Polluting Beaches and Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Plastic Packaging Use Increases During the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›