U.S. takes huge step to boost global marine mammal protection

Proposes fishery rule could prevent tens of thousands of unnecessary whale and dolphin deaths

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Porpoises and other marine mammals could benefit from a new rule that would require other countries to meet protective U.S. marine mammal standards. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to boost global efforts to protect marine mammals with a new set of proposed rules that would require commercial fishing operations in other countries to meet U.S. standards.

As proposed, seafood imports from other countries could be banned if they don’t meet those requirements. Scientists estimate that each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries. Continue reading

Greenpeace activists help stop illegal gillnet fishing in the race to save vaquitas

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Will we let the vaquita vanish? Photo courtesy NOAA.

More enforcement, support for sustainable fishing practices needed to protect world’s most endangered marine mammal

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Marine mammal conservation advocates with Greenpeace last week said that their patrols in the northern Gulf of California found 10 illegal gillnets, which were removed by Mexico’s environmental authorities.

The patrols by the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza are aimed at protecting vaquitas, the world’s smallest and most critically endangered porpoise species. Based on the latest scientific surveys, there are less than 100 vaquitas remaining. Continue reading

Study: Subtle climate shifts boost Galapagos penguins

"Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2" by putneymark - originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Galapagos_penguin_(Spheniscus_mendiculus)_-Isabela2.jpg#/media/File:Galapagos_penguin_(Spheniscus_mendiculus)_-Isabela2.jpg

“Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2”  by putneymark – originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Research shows how climate shifts can play out in local ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rare Galápagos penguins may be benefiting from shifts in trade winds and ocean currents, researchers said after tracking subtle climate shifts that have enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding.

The trend could continue during the coming decades, helping to bolster northern hemisphere’s only penguin population, which has doubled from just a few hundred to about 1,000 in the last 30 years, the scientists said in paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union journal.

“The penguins are the innocent bystanders experiencing feast or famine depending on what the Equatorial Undercurrent is doing from year to year,” said Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist who performed the research while at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates question federal sage grouse maps

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Proposed federal conservation plans for greater sage-grouse have sliced and diced important habitat, conservation advocates say. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Report says fragmented habitat isn’t adequate for protection of species

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a detailed mapping analysis maps, wildlife conservation advocates say the federal government downsized important habitat for sage grouse.

The findings are outlined in a new report released by WildEarth Guardians. It compares protected areas to remaining key population hotspots. Almost 20 million acres designated as Priority Areas for Conservation disappeared from the Priority Habitat areas proposed in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management sage grouse plans. Continue reading

Report: Australia’s humpback whales are thriving

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A humpback whale near Hawaii. Photo courtesy NOAA.

FRISCO — While many Australian animal species are being pushed toward extinction, humpback whales off both the country’s east and west coasts are making a strong comeback from the whaling era.

Recent research suggests humpback populations are growing at about 10 percent annually, and that populations have recovered to between 60 and 90 percent of pre-whaling numbers, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Policy. Continue reading

Environment: Feds extend comment period on controversial Endangered Species Act changes

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Can the Endangered Species Act be improved?

Proposed changes would make it harder for citizen groups to petition for protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — The feds will give the public an extra two months to weigh in on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, with a new comment deadline set for mid-September.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service published draft regulations, saying that the changes are aimed at improving transparency and inclusiveness. The move to freshen up the Endangered Species Act reflects “advances in conservation biology and genetics, as well as recent court decisions interpreting the Act’s provisions.” Continue reading

Feds seek near-total ban on ivory trade to protect elephants

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Greed is pushing elephants toward extinction.

Booming Asian economies fuel huge poaching and wildlife trafficking issues

Staff Report

FRISCO —Federal wildlife managers hope that a near-total ban on the U.S. ivory trade will help slow the slaughter of elephants poached for their tusks.

By some estimates, as many as 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 — about one every 15 minutes. Elephants are threatened in formerly safe areas, and some of Africa’s most famous wildlife parks are littered with carcasses. Continue reading

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