Court finds fatal flaws in U.S. Navy training plan

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A federal court ruling may help protect marine mammals from harmful military activities in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental study for Pacific Ocean military exercises violates several federal laws

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal court this week rejected a U.S. Navy plan for training activities off the coast of California and around the Hawaiian Islands after finding that the naval exercises would harm multiple species of marine mammals — in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The plan, sanctioned by the National Marine Fisheries Service, fails to meet basic requirements of federal environmental laws, said  Judge Susan Oki Mollway, of the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, calling the government’s documents so fundamentally flawed that they need to be totally rewritten. Continue reading

Conservation groups seek to rebuild New England cod fishery

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway. PHOTO BY HANS-PETTER FJELD.

Petition would end targeted fishing, lower incidental take limit

Staff Report

FRISCO — After decades of short-sighted exploitation by commercial fishing outfits, Gulf of Maine cod are at the brink of “commercial extinction,” according to conservation advocates who this month petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service today to end targeted fishing of the species.

The petition also seeks to cap the incidental catch limit at 200 metric tons. The once-plentiful fish have declined 90 percent since 1982, when monitoring began, and 77 percent in the past five years. Currently Gulf of Maine cod are at 3 percent to 4 percent of what a well-managed stock should be, the petition asserts. Continue reading

Science team maps key ocean areas for marine mammals

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Marine mammals are under pressure from human activities in the oceans around the U.S. bberwyn photo.

With more offshore drilling on tap, regulators need more information to protect marine life

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with a few small pockets of ocean already protected for marine mammals, biologists say there are hundreds of other areas that should be considered biologically important when making management and regulatory decisions about human activities that could affect whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The creation of Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) are described in a special issue of the journal Aquatic Mammals. Expert judgment was combined with published and unpublished data to identify 131 BIAs covering 24 species, stocks or populations in seven regions of the U.S. Continue reading

Environment: Plastic debris takes toll on endangered species

A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado.

A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado.

Whales and sea turtles hit especially hard 

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not long after researchers managed to quantify the unbelievable amounts of plastic waste going into the world’s oceans, another team of scientists at Plymouth University said they’ve traced how many species are affected by the debris.

In all, nearly 700 species of marine animals have been recorded as having encountered man-made debris such as plastic and glass, the scientists said after looking at records of 44,000 animals and organisms that became entangled in, or swallowed debris. Continue reading

Trade court deal to help marine mammals worldwide

I've always thought of dolphins as being all curves.

A court-ordered settlement will protect marine mammals.

Seafood imports to U.S. must meet high marine mammal protection standards

Staff Report

FRISCO — In what conservation advocates are calling a landmark settlement, the U.S. government this week agreed to implement a long-ignored provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that will require foreign fisheries to meet the same standards required of U.S. fishermen or be denied import privileges. Continue reading

Environment: Plastic microfibers building up in deep sea sediments

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

Do you know where your plastic shopping bag ends up?

‘It is alarming to find such high levels of contamination, especially when the full effect of these plastics on the delicate balance of deep sea ecosystems is unknown’

Staff Report

FRISCO — After researchers found plastic litter even in some of the remote reaches of the Arctic Ocean a few years ago, it’s probably not surprising to learn that the deep sea is becoming a collecting ground for plastic waste.

Floating mats of plastic have become a breeding ground for bacteria that could bring invasive pathogens to the open sea, and in another study, researchers documented how crabs are ingesting plastic through their gills.

A new study, published this week in Royal Society Open Science, shows how plastic debris breaks down into microfibers that are piling up in the deepest parts of the sea. The scientists with the Plymouth University and Natural History Museum say there could be around four billion microscopic plastic fibers could be littering each square kilometer of deep sea sediment around the world. Continue reading

Activists seek Aleutian Islands marine sanctuary

Climate change, fossil fuel exploitation seen as key threats

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A satellite view of the Aleutian Islands. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A marine sanctuary designation could help protect Alaska’s Aleutian Islands from a series of growing threats, including overfishing, oil and gas development and increasing commercial shipping.

Those threats are being aggravated by climate change, rising sea-level and ocean acidification, according to a formal nomination for sanctuary status. The conservation push is being led by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and several other national marine conservation organizations. Continue reading

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