Shark-Saving Legislation Proposed During Discovery’s “Shark Week”

Just in time for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, a team of United States Senators, led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), has introduced legislation seeking to eliminate U.S. involvement in the global shark fin market.

The bipartisan Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016 aims to protect important shark populations by banning the commercial trade of fins in the United States and by increasing enforcement measures to the existing finning ban. The Senators hope these actions will provide a platform from which the United States can advocate for comprehensive global measures in the future.

The move to ban domestic shark finning began when President Bill Clinton signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act in 2000, which made it illegal for United States fishermen to engage in shark finning – but left a significant loophole by not discussing fin trading specifically. Since then, eleven states and three U.S. territories – including Massachusetts –have implemented comprehensive finning bans that close this loophole.

What is Shark Finning?

Shark finning is a brutal practice that occurs when the fins of a shark are cut from the animal and kept for sale while the rest of the shark is tossed back in the water, incapacitated and left to die or be eaten by a predator.

The fins are particularly valued for medicinal purposes as well as for the key ingredient of shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy and status symbol. The price for a single bowl of soup can cost up to $100, making the global fin trade highly profitable despite being increasingly controversial.

At Risk from a Daunting Predator: Humans

All shark species, including the highly endangered scalloped hammerhead, are at risk of falling prey to shark finning. To make matters worse, recent estimates say global shark populations are decreasing at a rate of between 6.4 to 7.9 percent annually. This startling decline is largely caused by finning, overfishing, and from the animals being accidentally caught as bycatch.

Massachusetts is among the U.S. states advocating against shark finning, where there has been a heightened interest in shark research and conservation in part due to the return of great white sharks during recent years.

Groups like the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries have been studying New England’s sharks for decades. The Massachusetts Shark Research Program’s shark-tagging research recently resurfaced in the news with the return of Scratchy, the Great White Shark, to Cape Cod’s shores.

Civic Interest in New England

During his tenure as a U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, Secretary John Kerry was a vocal supporter of the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, signed into law in 2011. The act gained bipartisan support and mandated that shark landings must be brought to shore with fins attached, thereby strengthening the Shark Finning Prohibition Act.

And in 2014, nine-year-old Sean Lesniak wrote to his State Representative, David M. Nangle, with a simple request: to allow him to share his passion for sharks with the Massachusetts House and tell them why they were worth saving. In doing so, Lesniak lent his young voice to a long-running conversation about why the Bay State should protect its marine resources. Gaining bipartisan support, the bill successfully banned the possession and sale of shark fins, and was signed by Governor Deval Patrick in July 2014.

Lesniak’s story is a good reminder that civic engagement and education are important conservation tools, and that when used effectively, can help ensure that shark populations are saved – and that events like Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” can continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

With the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2016, the United States Senate has the opportunity to elevate global awareness of this issue and make shark conservation a more concrete reality. Contact your Senator today to ask him or her to support this legislation.

 

 

See you at Sea Rovers 2016!

The Boston Sea Rovers dive show is coming up, March 5-6, 2016, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Danvers, MA.

Join us as we present our seminar on Saturday at 11 am – Cashes Ledge: The Yellowstone of the North Atlantic, led by Dr. Jon Witman, WHOI videographer Evan Kovacs, and CLF’s director of ocean conservation, Dr. Priscilla Brooks. At the seminar, we’ll share stunning film footage from a recent expedition to Cashes Ledge, as well as findings from new scientific research. Dive in with us as we explore this special place that needs permanent protection.

Boston Sea Rovers is a non-profit organization founded by SCUBA-lovers, dedicated to amplifying awareness and appreciation for the ocean. Each year, ocean lovers convene at the show to participate in a weekend of films, compelling seminars, useful workshops, and more.

For more information and to register to attend, visit the Sea Rovers website. (You can register for one or both days.)

And don’t forget to stop by our booth (#52) to check out Brian Skerry’s photographs of our beautiful New England ocean, get updates from our CLF oceans team, and take a photo with us to share your reasons for supporting our campaign to permanently protect Cashes Ledge and the New England Canyons and Seamounts. We can’t wait to see you there!

Celebrating New England Lobsters on National Lobster Day

Cashes Ledge Lobster
A lobster at Cashes Ledge. Photo courtesy Brett Seymour/CLF

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that New Englanders love lobster. It’s weaved into our culture and history, and it’s unimaginable to think of New England without this famed summer seafood.

Few know that lobsters were once so plentiful in New England that Native Americans used them as fertilizer for their fields, and as bait for fishing. And before trapping was common, “catching” a lobster meant picking one up along the shoreline!

During World War II, lobster was viewed as a delicacy, so it wasn’t rationed like other food sources. Lobster meat filled a demand for protein-rich sources, and continued to increase in popularity in post-war years, which encouraged more people to join the industry.

Popular ever since, now when most people are asked what comes to mind when they think of New England, seafood – especially lobster – is typically at the top of the list.

An industry under threat

We love our New England lobster, but there’s evidence suggesting they’re in danger of moving away from their longtime home. That’s because lobster is under threat from climate change, the effects of which can already be seen on this particular species.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of ocean areas. Until last winter’s uncharacteristically cold temperatures, the prior few years saw an increase in catchable lobster – as the warmer temperatures cause them to molt early, and they move toward inshore waters after molting. However, continued warming will ultimately encourage the lobsters to move north to find colder waters, where they spend the majority of their time.

This is already happening in southern New England, where the industry is already suffering, seeing lobsters migrating northward.

And we’re still learning about the potential for damage caused by ocean acidification, as well as how lobsters may be affected by an increase in colder than usual New England winters.

As we celebrate one of New England’s iconic species on National Lobster Day, let’s remember that slowing down climate change is an important priority for ensuring that future generations can enjoy not Canadian or Icelandic lobster, but New England lobster. Click here to support Conservation Law Foundation’s efforts on fighting climate change.

Puffin Project Coming to the New England Aquarium

Director of National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin Steve Kress and award-winning journalist/photographer Derrick Jackson will join the New England Aquarium Lecture Series Tuesday, May 5 to discuss their new book, Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock.

Project Puffin is the success story of how puffins were restored to their historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. In the early 1970s, young puffins from Newfoundland were transplanted to Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine, where hunters had previously wiped out the local population. Over the years, the number of puffins slowly increased, and now about 1,000 pairs nest on the Maine islands. Kress and volunteers regularly monitor the young puffins and their nesting success.

Kress and his team now struggle with new challenges, as when warming waters in the Gulf of Maine two years ago affected the amount of forage fish that adult puffins could bring back to the nest. Several nestlings starved and the nesting success for puffins plummeted. Kress is now studying how improvements to the management of fishing on forage species, especially for herring, might help puffins and other seabirds survive disruptions to the ocean food web.

You can read an excerpt from Kress and Jackson’s new book in the recent Boston Globe article, “What it takes to restore the puffin to Maine’s islands,” and be sure to attend the lecture next week to learn more.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Andreas Trepte 

Seafood Expo, a Free Sample Feeding Frenzy

Yesterday I got out of the office to spend the afternoon at the Seafood Expo of North America (formerly the International Boston Seafood Show). Having never been to an expo of any kind I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I never expected anything so huge! More than 1,100 exhibitors gathered at the expo to show off their products ranging from fresh seafood and aquaculture to the latest seafood processing technologies to food safety services. Some vendors were even dressed up to promote their products; I saw at least one mermaid and one catfish suit.

It was certainly an eye-opening experience to see firsthand the variety of products that are involved in seafood processing and not to mention the decisions that must be made! On top of choosing from a whole ocean of seafood, there’s the type of packaging, mechanized sorting methods, floor material for your processing plant – the list goes on and on. Left and right men and women dressed in suits were sitting in meetings trying to capture new business. I was even asked a couple times if I was in the seafood buying business, to which I would politely say no, grab a free sample, and move onto the next booth.

That’s right, free samples. For any seafood lover, it was like walking into a dream world. There was seafood of every variety from all different countries available to try: lobster mac & cheese, clam and calamari ceviche, seaweed salad, and smoked salmon (just to name a few). My favorite probably had to be the barbeque salmon sandwich.

In addition to all this excitement, NOAA made a big announcement at the expo on Sunday regarding illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Officials unveiled a 40-page plan that includes 15 new measures to curtail this global issue. Some of the measures include more detailed labeling on all seafood imports, improved tracing methods, and a crack down on pirate fishermen. NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said, “Illegal fishing and seafood fraud undermine economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks in the US and around the world. These actions aim to level the playing field for legitimate fishermen, increase consumer confidence in the sustainability of seafood sold in the US, and ensure the vitality of marine fish stocks.” You can read more about the plan here.

If you missed the expo this time around, it will be back again next year. And even if you are not in the seafood industry, it’s certainly worth checking out.

 

Image via www.seafoodexpo.com

Boston Sea Rovers 2015 – We Hope to See You There!

We are very excited to announce that we will once again have a booth at the Boston Sea Rovers dive show! The dive show is next weekend, March 7th and 8th, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Danvers, MA. You can register and find all the information you need on their website.

Founded by a group of people who shared a love for SCUBA diving and the ocean, Boston Sea Rovers is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ocean awareness and appreciation. Each year, ocean lovers convene at the Boston Sea Rovers dive show where they can participate in a weekend of underwater films, compelling seminars, hands-on workshops, and exhibits featuring dive clubs, travel destinations, and more.

You can come by our booth to view Brian Skerry’s photographs of our beautiful New England ocean, chat with members of CLF’s Ocean team, and get up to date on our campaign to permanently protect Cashes Ledge. We hope to see you there!

Happy National Seafood Month!

October is National Seafood Month—a great time to think about the sustainability of our seafood and how our personal choices can help keep our oceans healthy! According to NOAA Fisheries, the average American eats 14 to 16 pounds of seafood a year; with a U.S. population of 319 million people (U.S. Census), that’s 4,466 to 5,104 million pounds per year!

How can our oceans possibly sustain such a booming seafood market? NOAA Fisheries provides one simple answer: habitat protection. Over the summer, NOAA Fisheries released a video titled, “Healthy Habitat: The Foundation of America’s Seafood and Fisheries,” to address the importance of ocean habitat protection, not only for marine organisms, but for us as well!

When it comes to sustainable fisheries New England, unfortunately, has a pretty poor track record. The region is known for historic overfishing, disappointing fisheries management, and sadly, the recent collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery—the iconic fish of our region.

New England fisheries are far from perfect—very, very far. But, in the spirit of National Seafood Month you can educate yourself about sustainably-sourced fish and make smarter, more informed consumer choices. The New England Aquarium has its own list of “ocean friendly seafood species,” as well as delicious recipes that you can try.

Also, it is important now more than ever to take NOAA’s message to heart and protect precious marine habitat. Cashes Ledge—located in the center of our own Gulf of Maine— is one such habitat that we can help protect.

Cashes Ledge is an underwater mountain range whose unique environmental conditions produce a biodiversity hotspot for marine life. On Cashes Ledge, nutrient- and oxygen-rich water at the ledge’s peak give rise to the largest kelp forest on the Atlantic seaboard and a rich diversity of species ranging from bottom-dwelling sea stars, sea anemones, and purple sponges to highly endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Closed to destructive fishing practices for over a decade, Cashes Ledge and surrounding areas are in danger of being reopened to commercial bottom-trawling—a proposal that would ultimately destroy the habitat and further decimate the remaining cod population. National Seafood Month is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of sustainable fishing practices and its associated benefits associated. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is asking NOAA Fisheries to permanently protect Cashes Ledge and maintain it as an ecologically important area and healthy habitat for marine life.

You can help CLF to protect New England ocean habitat by signing our protection for Cashes Ledge petition here.

Photo credit: Ray Troll and Terry Pyles poster, NOAA Fisheries

“Snap the Shore, See the Future”

Living in the Gulf of Maine area, climate change and sea level rise are bound to affect our lives. According to the EPA, we could see a 2-foot rise in global sea level by 2100. For almost 50 years Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has worked to restore and protect the Gulf of Maine and surrounding waters, New England’s largest public trust resource. Our work includes cleaning up our harbors, protecting ocean wildlife and critical ocean habitats like Cashes Ledge, and working to create a region-wide plan to help coastal communities adapt to rising sea levels caused by climate change.

It can be difficult to imagine the effect climate change will have on our coastlines. That’s why CLF appreciates the work of the King Tides Project, a non-profit organization made up of local interest groups that strives to effectively explain to people just how climate change will impact our coasts and the people living there.

King tides are completely natural phenomena, occurring twice a year when the sun and moon align. And even though they are regular and predictable, king tides have a chance of damaging coastlines if they occur during poor weather conditions. These tides “give us a sneak preview of what higher sea levels could look like.”

The next king tide is tomorrow, October 9th at 12:30pm—this is where you come in. The King Tides Project is hosting a Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest! The organization wants local residents to visually document how the king tide—what may very well be “the new tidal norm” with sea level rise—is affecting Gulf of Maine coastal areas. So, CLF members and supporters, here is your chance to show us how you view the Gulf of Maine and why we should take action to reduce the effects of climate change! For more information, you can go to the Gulf of Maine King Tides website.

Photo credit: Austin Recio, Point Judith Sunset