U.S. pushes Mexico to strengthen sea turtle protection

A loggerhead sea turtle off the coast of New England. Photo courtesy NOAA/Matthew Weeks.

Loggerhead sea turtles need more protection from gillnet and longline fishing off the coast of Baja. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Failure to protect loggerhead sea turtles could lead to seafood sanctions

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Mexico isn’t doing enough to protect sea turtles, U.S. officials said last week, issuing a formal warning that could ultimately lead to a ban on seafood imports from Mexico.

At issue are endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa. Mexico earlier this year adopted new regulations aimed at protecting the sea turtles with a fishery reserve, a mortality limit and  fishing gear restrictions.

But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service, those regulations don’t go far enough to address the bycatch of loggerhead turtles. As a result, the U.S. for the first time ever has issued a “negative certification” for bycatch of a protected living marine resource under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act. Continue reading

Observers say Mexico is not enforcing a gillnet ban meant to save vaquitas from extinction

gillnet

Despite a ban that started April 10, some Mexican fishermen are still using gillnets in the northern Gulf of Mexico to the detriment of critically endangered endemic porpoises. Photo via Greenpeace.

Illegal international wildlife trade presents a related threat

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say some Mexican fishermen are ignoring a ban on gillnets in the northern Gulf of California, driving a porpoise species even closer to extinction.

Biologists say there are less than 100 vaquitas left in the area, and perhaps as few as 50, and despite Mexico’s stated intention to enforce the gillnet ban, Greenpeace observers reported this week that the now-illegal nets are still being widely used. Continue reading

Mexico sets ambitious goal for greenhouse gas cuts

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A snapshot of per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate pledge includes a 2026 peak for emissions

Staff Report

FRISCO — Climate activists today hailed Mexico’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as an important milestone leading up to a hoped-for global climate deal later this year.

On the path to that agreement, a March 31 deadline looms for individual countries to make their emissions reductions targets known, and Mexico became the first emerging economy to commit to reducing greenhouse gases after 2020. Read Mexico’s pledge here. Continue reading

Oceans: Proposed gillnet ban may be too little, too late for critically endangered Gulf of California vaquitas

Lack of enforcement seen as stumbling block to recovery

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A vaquita in the Gulf of California. Photo courtesy NOAA/Paula Olsen.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mexico has launched a last-ditch effort to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise by banning the use of gillnets in the northern Gulf of California. Conservation advocates said the ban is a step in the right direction, but expressed concern that Mexico won’t follow through with enforcement.

Vaquitas, the smallest members of the porpoise family, live only in the northern Gulf of California, generally in the vicinity of the Colorado River delta. The species has been on the Endangered Species List since 1985. Scientists say less than 100 individuals remain. Vaquitas could be extinct by 2018 without drastic conservation and recovery actions.

According to conservation biologists, the biggest threat by far to vaquitas is drowning in fishing nets. Environmental pollution, habitat degradation and inbreeding are also factors in their decline. Continue reading

Mexico – U.S. deal a hopeful sign for the Colorado River

This icy trickle of water in North Tenmile Creek has a better chance of making it to the Gulf of California, thanks to a new agreement between the U.S. and Mexico on Colorado River flows.

Temporary treaty amendment includes innovative water banking

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A landmark  water agreement between the U.S. and Mexico on Colorado River flows is winning acclaim as a true win-win — a rarity in an era of perpetual water shortages and rising concerns over allocation of the Southwest’s great river.

But even though the deal is getting good reviews, it’s important to remember that the Colorado River is not healthy.

Massive diversions and storage projects have choked off native flows that helped maintain riparian habitat. Those same projects have pushed four native fish species to the brink of extinction. The agreement will help resolve some long-standing issues in the lower Colorado Basin, but doesn’t do anything to alleviate the extreme pressure on the river’s upper reaches. Continue reading

Hurricane Miriam headed toward Baja

Major Pacific storm with winds of 120 mph expected to weaken before reaching Baja coast

Hurricane Miriam is generating winds of 120 mph off the coast of Baja, Mexico. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the strongest hurricanes of the year has formed in the eastern Pacific and could affect the weather in the southwestern U.S. late in the week, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Miriam, southwest of the Baja Peninsula, is generating sustained winds of 120 mph and could strengthen a bit more in the next couple of days before weakening as it encounters strong winds from the west.

The storm is forecast to track northward, and even northeastward, which would put the system on track for a landfall along the Baja coast next weekend or early next week, potentially with tropical storm force winds.

Miriam’s outflow is already streaming over the southern tip of Baja. No coastal watches or warning have  been issued for the storm, but the system will likely soon pump up the surf along the Baja Coast.

Maya may have intensified drought by clearing forests

The Tikal temple represents one of the pinnacles of Maya civilization. Photo courtesy Raymond Ostertag via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Clear-cutting may have reduced rainfall by as much as 15 percent

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The decline of Maya civilization has often been linked with drought by climate researchers and archaeologists. Now, a new study suggests the Maya may have hastened their own demise by clearing forests.

Based on climate modeling, Mayan land-clearing may have reduced rainfall by as much as 15 percent in the heavily logged Yucatan Peninsula, and by up to 5 percent in other parts of southern Mexico. Overall, the researchers said as much as 60 percent of the regional drying may have been caused by deforestation.

“We’re not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to have occurred,” said the study’s lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Continue reading

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