Fog Horn (A Call to Action)
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
Fig 3. Temporal sequence of landscape at/around Hole D/E. From Nakajima et al. 2015.
A longtime submariner I know tells the story of a most unusual dive. On this particular plunge, they went down into the briny deep to place what can best be described as a giant manhole cover on the seafloor. There was a hole, and, by all accounts, the sea was draining in to it.
For more than half-a-century, we’ve been drilling holes in the bottom of the sea. Some reveal the buried history of the evolution of our oceans. Others uncover vast wells of crude oil. Science, exploration, and exploitation have all benefited from ocean drilling programs. But what happens to the seafloor when you punch a hole in the ocean? In my friend’s case, the drilling program opened a sub-sea cavern, resulting in changes to local current regimes, potentially disturbing the surrounding benthic community. The most practical solution was to simply plug the hole.
We’ve punched a lot of holes in the seafloor, but despite a few anecdotes and scant research, we know precious little about how these holes actually alter the marine environment. This is particularly worrying, as deep-sea mining at hydrothermal vents, manganese nodule fields, and oceanic crusts are slowly creeping out of the realm of science fiction and into our oceans. Ocean drilling in the deep sea is perhaps the closest analog to industrial-scale deep-sea mining. Understanding the potential impacts is critical to designing management and mitigation regimes that protect the delicate deep seafloor.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is back in the news, with recent reports of continued leaks. Coming on the heels of these new reports is a viral blog post entitled 28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima. The article is a paranoid, poorly reasoned attempt to link the tragedy of the Fukushima disaster to just about every environmental issue facing the US west coast in the last few months. At its best, it’s an illogical piece of post-modern absurdism. At its worst, its empirically false and intentionally misleading, rife with out-of-context quotes and cherry-picked data. The author had 28 chances to make a single reasonable point, and every single one rang hollow.
Of course it went viral.
Last week, I previewed the annual NAFO meeting. Two elasmobranch conservation measures (reducing the Total Allowable Catch for thorny skates to the level that the scientific council recommended and requiring fishermen to report the species of the sharks they catch) were to be discussed. That meeting is now concluded, and the results, while not surprising, are disappointing. The Total Allowable Catch for thorny skates was reduced to 8500 metric tons, but is still higher than the 5000 metric tons recommended by the scientific council. Fishermen will now be required to report the “broad category” of sharks they catch, but not species.
“Although we are pleased that the NAFO skate quota will no longer be twice as high as scientists advise, it is still deeply disappointing to witness another year of the European Union and Canada putting the interests of their fishermen above their conservation commitments and the long-term health of exceptionally vulnerable populations,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.
Grading the players
The U.S. proposed and supported both policy changes. A
The European Union was only willing to support a 5,000 metric ton TAC if the fishery changed to free-for-all derby style fishing (which could result in EU fishermen getting the entire quota and not just a share of it). C-
Canada suggested slowly phasing in the new quota over the course of 2 years. C-
Bonus player grade: Japan was the only party that objected to fishermen having to report the species of shark that they caught. F.
Palau’s new shark sanctuary covers 600,000 square kilometers of almost all open ocean, making patrolling for outlaws a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. In addition, Palau is attempting to make its new sanctuary a model for marine conservation for other small island nations, many of which are more water than land. So the eyes of the Pacific, if not the world, are on Palau to set a model. And they’re going to need help – but the big question is from whom?
…was a hoax.
A report that the Japanese government will scrap all research whaling has been dismissed as a hoax.
So please, stop e-mailing me this:
“Effective immediately, Japan will no longer conduct scientific research on whale populations which require capture and dissection,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Makoto Inoue, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo. “The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has revoked all permits for whaling research.”
Asked about the motivation behind the sudden announcement, Inoue said, “It cannot be denied that that whaling severely and unnecessarily damages the image of Japan in the international community, due to the strong sentiment against whaling in many countries,” speaking through an interpreter. “There is no longer any economic need for Japan to obtain protein from the whales, so it would be irrational and pointless to continue catching whales.”
We sparked a good debate over the effectiveness of direct action conservation movements over at the post “Is Sea Shepherd really saving whales?” One of the most difficult questions raised was if Sea Shepherd wasn’t there, would the Japanese make their full quota? The data presented in that post was inconclusive, because the quota increase corresponded to the beginning of SSCS’s Southern Ocean campaign, so we have no time period in which the Japanese quota was increased while Sea Shepherd was absent.
Sea Shepherd claims that their actions in the Southern Ocean opposing Japanese whaling fleets has effectively reduced the number of whales killed. What always rubbed me the wrong way about these claims is that they always compare their success against the Institute for Cetacean Research (the Japanese organization that oversees ‘scientific whaling’) Quotas. So at some point you have to ask the question, in absolute numbers, has Sea Shepherd really reduced the number of whales killed?
To answer that we need three pieces of information:
- When did Sea Shepherd begin it’s campaign against Japanese ‘scientific whaling’?
- What are the ICR quotas for that time frame?
- What are the absolute catches for that time frame?
Sea Shepherd provides a comprehensive timeline for their whaling campaigns that indicates serious opposition in the Southern Ocean began in December 2002. For the two other questions, we turn to Whale and Dolphin Conservation International, who have produced a truly exceptional interactive graph of the history of whaling since the inception of the International Whaling Convention by the numbers. The relevant figure is reproduced below:
We have been and continue to be critical of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Although their goals are admirable their methods are not only ineffective, but in some cases impair the achievement of those goals. With the premier of Whale Wars season 3 tomorrow evening, we’d like to take a moment to highlight the issues we’ve raised concerning the SSCS. Over the last two years we’ve written a number of post summarizing our problems with Sea Shepherd:
Our friends at Deep Sea News and Underwater Thrills have been critical of SSCS, too:
The above links cover many of the issues we have with this organization. The New York Times recently published an excellent breakdown of the Japanese Whaling Industry. Below are our main criticisms of SSCS: