By Emily Petsko
Update, Nov. 7: Brazilian authorities named a Greek-flagged vessel as the culprit of the oil spill, but backtracked on Wednesday when they announced that four other suspected tankers were also being investigated. Three of the crude-carrying vessels are owned by Greek companies, and the fourth suspect is owned by a Belgian company, according to Reuters.
Update, Nov. 4: Brazilian and international media are now reporting that fragments of oil have reached the Abrolhos Marine National Park. This story is still developing.
One by one, the golden beaches in northeastern Brazil have begun to turn black. Thick clumps of oil have been washing ashore since late August, killing marine animals, threatening the livelihoods of coastal communities and tainting 2,500 kilometers of coastline spanning nine Brazilian states. Once-pristine beaches now look like something resembling a Rorschach inkblot test. And the complex root systems of carbon sink mangrove forests have become polluted mazes.
A colorful coral within the Abrolhos Marine National Park. Shutterstock / Leo Francini<p>A report released by the Brazilian Navy says that over 1,000 tons of oil have already been removed from beaches in the region. Without a coordinated federal response, citizens have had no choice but to take action themselves, putting their own health at risk. Volunteers, some in their bare feet, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/brazil-oil-spill-2641078682.html">have been using</a> shovels and their gloved hands to scoop and remove oil deposits. In one <a href="https://www.straitstimes.com/world/americas/picture-of-oil-covered-boy-draws-worlds-eyes-to-brazil-spill" target="_blank">striking photograph</a>, a 13-year-old boy, coated in oil and wearing a plastic garbage bag, is seen wading through waist-high waters off the coast of Pernambuco. He said he and his relatives had just wanted to help.</p>
Volunteers remove oil from Jardim de Alah Beach in the state of Bahia. Shutterstock / Joa Souza<p>The problem extends far beyond the shore, too. "It is easy to clean up oil from beaches, but not from mangroves and rocky shores," Zamboni says. "And the longer it remains in these places, the worse the damage it causes. The main problem is that we do not know how much oil is yet to arrive. And it may last a long time."</p><p>This is exactly the type of disaster that Oceana and its allies have worked hard to prevent. Just weeks ago, environmental advocates successfully convinced companies that the risk of drilling for oil off the coast of Bahia, a state in northeastern Brazil, was too high. When the government attempted to auction off four oil fields near the Abrolhos Marine National Park, the would-be bidders fell silent. Oil industry analyst Adriano Pires <a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2019-10-10/companies-withhold-bids-for-fields-near-brazil-national-park" target="_blank">told</a> the Associated Press that companies "didn't want to get themselves in the middle of an environmental mess."</p>
A dead turtle on a beach in the Brazilian state of Ceará. © OCEANA / José Machado<p>Drilling in that area has been averted for now, but the fight continues to stop offshore drilling in Brazil and many other countries where Oceana works. Spills such as the one now coating Brazil's coast — and approaching the very area just spared from drilling — also prove that other steps must be taken to protect our oceans.</p><p>Better transparency at sea, for example, could help identify the individual ships responsible for oil spills. "If vessel tracking — useful for both fishing and oil — were in place all over the world, we could have more clear information," Zamboni says.</p><p>But until that happens, and until the Brazilian government takes decisive action to stem the spill, once-beautiful beaches will continue to turn black.</p>
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By Emily Petsko
For many, the end of October evokes images of falling leaves or Halloween's ghosts and ghouls. But those of us focused on oceans also know October as National Seafood Month.
1. Seafood can provide a healthy source of protein to a growing population.<p>Right now, 821 million people around the world are living in hunger. This problem isn't likely to disappear anytime soon, especially with the population projected to grow by 2 billion people over the next 30 years. But by ensuring that fisheries are managed sustainably, and within scientifically sound parameters, we can restore ocean abundance and put enough fish in our waters to feed a sizable portion of the planet. If we look after our oceans properly and avoid overexploiting their resources, they could provide a nutritious meal every day for 1 billion people.</p>
2. Seafood could fill the micronutrient void that exists in many developing countries.<p>Enough fish are caught in many developing countries to nourish their populations, and yet malnutrition remains a persistent problem. How can this be? A team of researchers, including Oceana Science Advisor Dr. Eddie Allison, found that the fish being caught in tropical countries are chock full of important micronutrients — including calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, omega-3 and vitamin A — but they don't always end up on local people's plates. That's because much of the catch is exported, sometimes for the sole purpose of being churned into fishmeal and fed to carnivorous farmed fish like salmon, which are ultimately consumed by people in higher-income countries.</p><p>This has consequences for both local people and the economy. "A lack of fish-derived nutrients has been found to have a large effect on public health, notably infant mortality and hence GDP," Oceana Board Member and fisheries scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly wrote in a <a href="https://oceana.org/blog/daniel-pauly-having-access-fish-good-us" target="_blank">response</a> to the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1592-6" target="_blank">study</a>, which was led by Dr. Christina Hicks. That's why, when we consider the benefits of seafood, it's important to also consider who has access to those benefits.</p>
3. Seafood tends to be a low-carbon food, so it reduces the strain on the environment.<p>Compared to land-based animal proteins like beef and pork, wild-caught seafood has a significantly lower carbon footprint (as long as it's not being carted around the planet by plane). Plus, it requires virtually no fresh water or arable land to harvest it. At a time when concerns over habitat destruction and <a href="https://oceana.org/blog/climate-change-and-oceans-what-you-need-know-united-nations%E2%80%99-new-report" target="_blank">climate change</a> are growing, it's more vital than ever to rethink our global food systems.</p><p>A recent <a href="http://dev-oceanpanel.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/2019-09/19_HLP_Report_Ocean_Solution_Climate_Change_final.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the High Level Panel for A Sustainable Ocean Economy suggested that climate change could be mitigated, in part, by shifting global diets towards plant- and ocean-based options. "Food from the sea, produced using best practices, can (with some notable exceptions) have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per unit of protein produced of all protein sources," the panel wrote.</p>
4. The fishing sector provides jobs to millions of people — half of whom are women.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA0NTkxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjQ1NzU4MX0.oXvmpilVB0-MJEhsqxKrSRD_AU855m0QPizlAXoIoe4/img.jpg?width=980" id="a29f6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2913e41194d8df4252bfc88b9adb73ed" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Women and children fish in Pemba, Mozambique. © OCEANA / Ana de la Torriente<p>Roughly 120 million people work in capture fisheries around the world. Over 95% of those people live in developing countries, and nearly half of them are women. Although fishing is typically viewed as a "masculine" occupation, many women make a living by spearing octopus, digging for clams, diving for abalone and packing and processing seafood. This industry is particularly important in small island nations. In Palau and Seychelles, for instance, 10% to 50% of their GDPs may be derived from fisheries, according to <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/01/26/rethinking-our-oceans-investing-in-the-blue-economy/#603e11983531" target="_blank"><em>Forbes</em></a>.</p>
5. Fisheries are vital to many Indigenous coastal communities.<p>Indigenous peoples eat roughly 2 percent of all the seafood caught annually around the world, according to a 2016 <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166681" target="_blank">study</a> written by Dr. Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor and co-authored by Dr. Pauly. Considering that Indigenous groups comprise just 5% of the global population, their seafood consumption works out to be 15 times higher than that of non-Indigenous peoples.</p><p>So what exactly does this mean? As the study's authors put it: "Marine resources are crucial to the continued existence of coastal Indigenous peoples, and their needs must be explicitly incorporated into management policies." Canada's revamped <em>Fisheries Act</em>, which was championed by Oceana and our allies, is a good example of how this can be achieved. The new version of the Act recognizes Indigenous knowledge and states that the Minster of Fisheries and Oceans has a duty to consider any adverse effects that decisions may have on Indigenous peoples.</p>
Fish at a market in Punta Gorda, Belize. © OCEANA / A. Ellis<p>From coastal communities to octopus fishers to people living in the tropics, it's clear that millions of people around the world depend on abundant oceans. Of course, when we talk about the benefits of seafood, sustainability is an important caveat. <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/overfishing" rel="noopener noreferrer">Overfishing</a> and destructive fishing methods are still ravaging marine habitats, rendering them less capable of providing for people's nutritional needs in the future. That's why, when you select a fish from a restaurant or your local supermarket's seafood counter, it's important to check the source. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a helpful tool called <a href="https://www.seafoodwatch.org/" target="_blank">Seafood Watch</a> that simplifies the process.</p><p><em>Want to learn more about how Oceana is helping to save the oceans and feed the world? Visit their campaign page <a href="https://oceana.org/feedtheworld" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from our media partner <a href="https://oceana.org/blog/5-ways-sustainable-seafood-can-benefit-people-and-environment" rel="noopener noreferrer">Oceana</a>.</em></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Amy McDermott
Canned tuna is a staple in my pantry, and probably in yours. Americans and Europeans buy more of the squat little cans than anyone else, importing almost a million tons in 2018. Supermarkets carry at least 20 brands.
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By Joshua Learn
Sharks, rays and chimaeras are some of the most threatened fish in the world. More than 50 percent of species in the Arabian Sea are at elevated risk of extinction due to coastal development, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. According to an expansive new study, spanning more than a dozen countries, species like sawfish are particularly hard hit with extinction or local extirpation.
By Amy McDermott
Last week, the White House released the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a dire warning on climate change risks and impacts across the U.S. The report does not mince words. In 29 chapters and five appendices, it outlines grave threats to life, livelihoods, national security and the U.S. economy, caused by sea level rise, extreme temperatures, severe storms, fires, flooding and other climatic changes.
Magnus Larsson / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Rachel Kaufman
Humans produce hundreds of millions of tons of plastic every year. As much as 12.7 million metric tons of it ends up in the ocean, where it can transport pathogens, or be mistaken for food by hungry animals.
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By Amy McDermott
Eels and anchovies don't look or act much alike. One is sinuous and shy, the other a bright flash of silver in a school of thousands. Yet the two fish are cousins, both loaded with zinc.
By Joshua Learn
Whether southern resident killer whales, North Atlantic right whales or Maui's dolphins, a handful of cetacean species are facing the prospect of a slow-motion extinction they can't breed their way out of.
By Allison Guy
When Hugo Arancibia Farías was a child, his mother, like most mothers in central Chile, visited the weekly market to buy common hake, a white-fleshed relative of cod. She usually served it fried, Arancibia recalled with relish. "It was very cheap," he said, "and very popular."
By Allison Guy
When Carlos Castro was young, he didn't plan on following his dad and granddad into fishing. Like a lot of teenagers in the 1970s, Castro dreamt of kung fu. Bruce Lee was more his style than the family business.
Castro swam laps to shape up back then, dodging boats in the bracingly cold bay of Valparaiso, a port city in central Chile. Forty years later, he still plies those waters, driving one of the boats he used to swim past. Castro, a youthful 56 in white trainers and Nike gear, became a fisherman after all.
By Amy McDermott
At the height of the Alaskan summer, a troupe of students hiked up the middle of a shallow creek. Undergraduates and grads from the University of Washington, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Kamchatka State Technical University in eastern Russia carried handheld clickers to count the multitudes of salmon thrashing upstream to spawn. Some of the students spoke English, others Russian, but they all came to see salmon: fish that their two countries share.