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


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

Activists seek more protection for Coho salmon


Coho salmon, courtesy fishwatch.gov.

Lawsuit filed to force completion of recovery plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are going to court to try and boost protection for Oregon’s endangered Coho salmon. The species has been listed for seven years, but the National Marine Fisheries Service has yet to come up with a recovery plan.

The lawsuit filed last week by the  Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild seeks to move that process forward. A recovery plan is needed to address logging and other land uses seen as key threats to Coho salmon.

“Oregon coast coho need a recovery roadmap if they are to have any chance at surviving,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “A recovery plan is needed to address Oregon’s logging rules, which are badly out of date and allow practices that do real harm to coho salmon and the precious rivers and streams they depend on.” Continue reading

Speed limit set to protect North Atlantic right whales

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Lower speeds reduce deaths from collisions by 80 to 90 percent

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered North Atlantic right whales may have a little better chance of avoiding deadly collisions with ships, as the National Marine Fisheries Service this week set a permanent speed limit for large ships. Under the rule, ships longer than 65 feet have to slow to 10 knots (about 11 mph) when they’re around whales.

“This is really great news for Atlantic right whales and will help put this magnificent species on the road to recovery,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Speed limits for large ships are a simple and effective way to avoid deadly collisions that have been a significant threat to these whales’ survival.” Continue reading

Feds see more threats to Caribbean corals


Elkhorn corals in the Caribbean are feeling the heat of global warming. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Fisheries Service gets deadline for recovery plan under court settlement

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Two key coral species around Florida need even more TLC than previously thought, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which wants to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals from “threatened” to the even more serious category of “endangered” because of their rapid decline.

The agency also agree to speed up finalization of a recovery plan under a court settlement that sets a 2014 deadline. These corals were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2006 because of threats from global warming and ocean acidification but, before today’s settlement agreement, had still not received the legally required recovery plan needed to save them from extinction. Continue reading

Feds issue emergency rules to protect sperm whales



Activists seek to halt drift gillnet fishing altogether

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal officials this week enacted emergency regulations to try and protect Pacific Ocean sperm whale population from California’s drift gillnet fishery, which has been killing non-commercial fish and marine mammals at an alarming rate.

The practice of setting miles of floating nets may be one of the cheapest ways to fish for commercial species, but it’s also one of the most destructive to marine resources. Recent fishery observer data indicates that, for every two swordfish the fishery catches to sell, on average one blue shark, 15 ocean sunfish, and a long list of other fish are thrown overboard dead or injured.

The new regulations issues by the National Marine Fisheries Service will shut down California’s drift gillnet fishery if a single endangered sperm whale is caught dead or injured. Continue reading

Puget Sound orcas keep ESA protection


Puget Sound‘s orcas need Endangered Species Act protection. Photo courtesy NOAA/NMFS.

Feds reject argument by ultra- conservative property rights group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A tiny population of threatened killer whales in Puget Sound will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service this week rejected a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which had challenged the population’s status.

The fringe property rights advocacy group claimed, based in invalid science, that the Puget Sound  “southern resident” killer whales are not a distinct population. In response, the federal government conducted a year-long review of the status and eligibility of the orcas for Endangered Species Act protection and confirmed that the whale’s endangered listing remains warranted. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds propose critical habitat designations in marine areas for endangered loggerhead sea turtles

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy NOAA/Marco Giuliano.

Proposal would protect some breeding areas and migration routes

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with proposed critical habitat protection for nesting areas, loggerhead sea turtles may also get some open-ocean sanctuaries, including nearshore reproductive habitat, breeding areas, and migratory corridors.

The National Marine Fisheries Service this week proposed critical habitat designation for 36 occupied marine areas for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean population of loggerheads, and may consider additional areas with foraging habitat, as well as  two large areas that contain Sargassum habitat. The proposed areas span waters off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. See the full proposal here. Continue reading


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