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Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’

From Alana:

From “Hawai’i has a lot to gain from open ocean aquaculture” in today’s Honolulu Advertiser:

Just as we need to be off imported oil, we need to be off imported seafood. This opportunity can be an economic engine for Hawai’i, and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.Let’s not stand in our own way. There’s  a lot to gain for everyone.

Absolutely.

The amount of seafood that we import is really astounding. It is upsetting, though, that in the wake of a very large aquaculture operation, which would export up to 90% of its ahi products, statements like the above, are used to defend it.

The article, by Jay Fidell of ThinkTech Hawaii, goes on to say that:

There are anti-aquaculture groups who don’t want “greedy” corportations to make a profit and export aquaculture products to outside markets. Those groups don’t acknowledge andvancements in the technology, and regularly diseminate disinformation about the industry. They’ve been pulling out all the stops, apparently bent on wiping out open ocean aquaculture in Hawai’i. Theyre’re completely wrong. Without open ocean aquaculture, Hawai’i would have to depend on foreign unregulated producers and overfished wild stocks. Those options are not nearly as secure or sustainable as the development of homegrown open ocean aquaculture.

I do not think of myself as entirely “anti-aquaculture”, I just think it should be done right. My cause is not to “diseminate disinformation”, it is to let people know that there are serious implications that multiple aquaculture ventures could have on Hawaii’s marine ecosystems. It is also to open peoples eyes to aquaculture in other parts of the world, and to how it has affected those places. This article makes it seem like there is some hidden agenda beneath fighting these giant open ocean aquaculture projects. But really, I have nothing to gain from this. I have neither read nor heard anything pro-open ocean aquaculture, aside from the people who would benefit direcly from it.

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From Alana:

Instead of having a limit of 2,120 sets of fishing gear deployments annually, Wespac thinks it’s a better idea to just catch swordfish until a sea turtle gets tangled in the net… WHAT?

Green sea turtles, loggerhead turtles, and leatherback turles are all endangered species that live in Hawaii. This new rule puts all three of these species at an even higher risk, along with dolphins, sharks, seabird, and whales.

There is a lot to lose when less stringent rules are introduced in commercial fishing:

Hawaiian longliners have historically hooked two to 10 sharks for every swordfish. At least 60,000 sharks–and more often around 100,000–are caught each year by swordfish crews, who often cut off the fins from live animals and then allow them to slide off the deck and drown…[furthermore] If this proposal goes forward, Fisheries is estimating a humpback will be killed every year.

Mahalo to everyone who took action on this issue in our last e-newsletter.

Click here to read the entire article from the Honolulu Weekly : Swordfight!

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From Alana:

On Thursday night, a film entitled A Sea Change, was shown at the Bishop Museum. It addressed the much ignored by-product of climate change, ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is, arguably, the most dire consequence of adding ridiculous amounts of carbon dioxide to the air. 

For years, the ocean has been absorbing extra CO2 from the air, a total of 118 billion metric tons of it. Adding 22 billion pounds of CO2 to the ocean each day is severely changing the chemistry of the water. But what is wrong with the pH of the ocean lowering by .1, or .01, or even .001? It may not seem like much to us, but any change affects what all life depends on most: the creatures at the bottom of the ocean food chain, namely pteropods. Pteropods are moth-like, transparent creatures, that seem to fly in the deep ocean. They are the food for a myriad of creatures, which in turn are the food source for hundreds of other creatures, that humans then feed on. Increased amounts of CO2, though, are causing the pteropods’ calciferous shells to disintegrate. This threatens the entire food chain.

Scientists have underestimated the magnitude and haste of climate change. They  assert that we are past the point where we can stop the extinctions that will come with the disappearance of pteropods and coral. This situation is so extreme that within a few centuries humans could be all but extinct as well. As one scientist simply exclaims, “we’re screwed”.

 The thing that disgusts me most about all of this, though, is that we could have solved it by now. It would only cost TWO PERCENT  of our GDP to solve the energy crisis. It can be argued that 2% of GDP is a lot of money, but I think it might be a good asking price for ensuring the continuation of our survival as a species, and the survival of the animals we depend on. To put this in perspective, enough photovoltaic cells could have been built to power the entire United States with only $420 billion–HALF of the Iraq war budget.

A big hurdle that the public has to face is simply realizing how much we rely on the ocean, and that it is in fact possible for us to change something that big. Most people accept the fact that the ice is melting, but continually deny that life is endangered because of human activity. One woman in the film says,

“We are a very visual species. What is below water is invisible to us. What we can’t see, we pollute… because it doesn’t exist to us.”

So what can we do about this? The main thing to do is just analyze your lifestyle and make sure that what you do doesn’t add to this serious problem. Venture capitalists have the choice of going down the alley of exploitation as easily as the alley of sustainability. The government owes it to everyone to do something about this. This type of problem will threaten national security, the world food supply, etc, so when is anyone going to do something about this in terms of strong legislation– or creating an actual plan of action?? Depending on your age, you may not see the effects, but it is real. It is not going away. I know that there will not only be a sea change in my lifetime, but a world of change.sea_change_a

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From:  Andrea

Last night at the public hearing on the Draft Science Plan for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, held at the monument office in Hawaii Kai, a troubling consequence of the lack of environmental review was elucidated.

One of the Science Plan authors stated that research activities that have already been permitted are assumed to have gone through a “rigorous” review by management.  The problem?

Actually, there could be quite a few from this muddy statement.  For one, this statement suggests that research activities that have already been permitted will not be scrutinized- nor, certainly, environmentally assessed- in the future.  It sounds like grandfathering-in existing and previous permits, meaning some activities that have been permitted in the past will be continuously assumed to pass muster, despite never actually being environmentally reviewed.

Clearly, grandfathering-in research activities so that they never undergo environmental review creates informational ravines that make cumulative impact analysis impossible.  Cumulative impacts, the incremental impacts of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future action, must be assessed.  The managers need to understand the big picture, especially when making seemingly small decisions like permitting.

Secondly, what is this “rigorous” review that the manager mentioned?  There has been no environmental assessment on any permits nor the entire permitting system nor the Science Plan, so it clearly was not environmental review.  If this rigorous review were undertaken via the prioritization system of the Science Plan, that, too, is problematic.

As I have blogged before, the Science Plan has two tragic flaws:  (1)  the prioritization scheme that doesn’t actually prioritize permit activities (To prioritize permit activities, it asks, pros and…pros?, leading to 97% of potential research activities to be ranked as “critical” or “high” in importance.) and (2)  the lack of environmental review.

But, the environmental assessment did not come with the Science Plan.  The managers argue that this is the draft plan, so environmental assessment is not appropriate now.  However, they also proclaim the plan to be an evolving document- not problematic necessarily.  The evolving nature of the plan is problematic, however, for lack of environmental review because, if it is meant to evolve, when would the managers consider environmental review appropriate? There could always be an argument that it is not truly finalized yet if it’s an “evolving” document.

On the other side, if the monument managers, in fact, conduct an environmental assessment for the Final Science Plan, which is the next step after last night’s public hearing, the decision on permitting prioritization will have been made.  And, environmental assessment is legally required to take place prior to decision-making.  The whole point of environmental review is for decision-makers to be informed of environmental impacts before they make final decisions.

So, either the Science Plan truly is an evolving document, in which case an environmental review is likely to be put off forever.  Or, the Science Plan will be finalized in the next step, the Final Science Plan, which frustrates the point of environmental review taking place before decisions are made.

Confusing?  Yes.  But it need not be.

KAHEA urges the monument managers to take the straightforward approach by conducting environmental review of the Science Plan, which guides the entire permitting process, prior to finalization of the plan.  KAHEA also urges environmental review of all permits- no grandfathering-in.  Each proposed permit should be looked at with a fresh eye, through the lens of cumulative impacts, which inherently change over time.

Let’s hope that public comments are indeed incorporated into the Final Science Plan, whenever that may be.  Otherwise, the one-sided prioritization system will continue to rank most activities high, leading to excessive access and impact in a fragile, irreplaceable ecosystem.

What can you do?  Speak up!

Last public hearing on the Science Plan  is in Hilo tomorrow:

Hawai‘i, July 23th, 6-8 p.m.
Mokupapapa Discovery Center,
308 Kamehameha Ave, Suite 203, Hilo, HI, 96720.

All written public comments must be received by the monument managers by or before August 10.

• U.S. Mail:
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Attn: Science Plan Comments, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy, Suite 300, Honolulu HI, 96825

• E-mail: nwhicomments@noaa.gov.

To read the plan:

http://papahanaumokuakea.gov/research/plans/draft_natressciplan.pdf

(It takes a few minutes to download, but once you’re there, skip to page 10 for the prioritization chart.)

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From:  Andrea

Most people are familiar with our inalienable natural rights, as John Locke summed up as life, liberty, and property.  But what about nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve?

These are the inalienable legal rights that the town of Shapleigh, Maine, voted to grant to nature last February.  Now, in the town of Shapleigh, population 2,326, natural communities and ecosystems are endowed with these inalienable, fundamental rights, and any town resident has “standing” to bring a lawsuit on behalf of natural communities and ecoystems.

Read the Boston Globe article here:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/07/19/should_nature_be_able_to_take_you_to_court/?page=1

Shapleigh is on the right track.  While critics may argue there are too many potential litigants, ranging from the Kukui tree to the Waimea River, there exists an entire planet of species and ecosystems deserving of the right to exist.  And, sadly, counts of these potential litigants are diminishing.  See:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N01296862.htm

The above article, published July 2, reports that more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the last five-hundred years, with almost 17,000 threatened with extinction now, according to a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature report.  The track record shows that we are failing at conservation.  Endowing nature with the right to exist may bolster our efforts at conserving biodiversity.

Apparent in many facets of our social structure, we have consistently valued profit above nature.  After all, corporations have long had the legal status of a “person” and the corresponding rights, including ability to sue.  If corporations are “persons” in the sense of legal status and rights, then what is the problem with nature possessing rights to exist?  Nature is fundamental to our own existence, quite unlike corporations.

We are behind the time in recognizing nature’s rights.  Notwithstanding the dire situation of lost biodiversity, concepts of an ethical relationship with nature have been around for at least 100 years.  Aldo Leopold, an early environmentalist, wrote about his “land ethic” in A Sand County Almanac.  Based on the idea that ethics should be expanded to encompass nonhuman members of the biotic community, Leopold summed up his land ethic as follows:  “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  If we humans were on board with this profoundly simple land ethic- and had been during our last couple hundred years of pillaging-, then perhaps we would not be in the situation of having to pass town ordinances to grant nature the right to exist.

But, alas, so is human nature.  Our attempts at control have led us to a precarious precipice:  here, at the edge of continuing to diminish biodiversity, we have a choice.  The town of Shapleigh recognized this watershed moment and stepped in the direction of preservation.

If my town votes for a similar ordinance, you bet I’ll holler aye.  And, when critics question, “how do we know what nature wants?” and argue that the interest is actually ours, I’ll have my response.

Sure, we humans may be the ones instituting this groundbreaking regime of granting legal rights to biota.  But in reality, the idea of humans bringing these suits on behalf of nature is not so far-fetched.  After all, people serve as trustees to bring suits on behalf of incompetent people and trust beneficiaries.  Human implementation of nature’s rights is requisite:  the law is our system, and our impacts and attempts to control ecosystems thus far have led to the gross loss in biodiversity.

Humans- but not corporations- are a part of the planetary ecosystem.  We are not the operators behind an enormous control panel, like we have long been masquerading.  As a single species, we should make room in our legal and socioeconomic structures for the other species to survive, lest we deprive them all of their right to exist.

We should be celebrating and wholeheartedly codifying nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.  Without nature, without Earth, homo sapiens would not exist.

Ho’okahi No Ka ‘Aina A Me Na Kanaka.

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http://www.fws.gov/news/newsreleases/showNews.cfm?newsId=1681C409-BE1D-830E-087C0B90C82C782C

Rare Molokai mint plant was officially listed today!

From Jan TenBruggencate at his Raising Islands blog:

This little plant isn’t the kind of mint you put in a julep, and it doesn’t have a minty smell, but it’s a relative of the fragrant mints. It’s a vine with lots of branches—kind of sprawling and messy. It has floppy, rough-haired leaves and clusters of white flowers, according to the proposed listing notice last year in the Federal Register. The listing notice contains virtually all the information known about the plant.

In 2005, botanists searching Kamakou, a preserve operated by The Nature Conservancy, found two of them growing in the wild. And in the last two years, a total of 24 of them have been found, all but one in Kamakou Preserve, and the remaining plant in the state’s Pu’u Ali’i Natural Area Reserve.

Cuttings were taken and carefully rooted, and the plantlets were re-established in Kamakou.

There are now 238 plants growing in the wild.

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On Friday, in response to a petition from KAHEA, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it will consider designating additional critical habitat for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal in the Northwestern as well as Main Hawaiian Islands. This is an important first step! Hawaiian monk seals are today one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.

The petition seeks to have beaches and surrounding waters throughout Hawai’i protected as critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals under the Endangered Species Act.

What will more critical habitat for monk seals do? More critical habitat will require the federal government to limit federal activities that could harm the beaches and nearshore waters used by monk seals. It will prevent the federal government from permitting a private development or constructing a federal highway that might harm protected critical habitat.  It would also give the State access to federal funds to support state efforts to encourage monk seal recovery.

What does it NOT do? This would not in any way limit public access to beaches or give the federal government any new control over our beaches or add any new restrictions on fishing.

Why do we need more critical habitat?The monk seal currently has critical habitat designated only in areas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where monk seals are dying of starvation and populations of monk seals are plummeting. Seal pups have only about a one-in-five chance of surviving to adulthood. Other threats include becoming entangled and drowning in abandoned fishing gear, shark predation, and disease.

At the same time, the main islands are becoming increasingly important habitat for the monk seals.  Monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands are thriving and giving birth to healthy pups. Hawaiian monk seals are present on each of the main islands, and their numbers are steadily increasing.

“This government finding that it will consider designating critical habitat for monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands marks an important step toward preventing the extinction of the Hawaiian monk seal,” said Miyoko Sakashita, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition. “Habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands is essential for the survival of the imperiled monk seals.”

Habitat in the main islands will also provide a refuge for monk seals as sea-level rise floods the low-lying Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Global warming is an overarching threat to the Hawaiian monk seal and its habitat. Already, important beaches where seal pups are born and raised have been lost due to sea-level rise and erosion.

“We have already seen the extinction of the Caribbean monk seal–a relative of the Hawaiian monk seal. The threat is real and we must act now,” said Vicki Cornish, vice president of marine wildlife conservation at Ocean Conservancy.  “We are greatly encouraged by this consideration to extend critical habitat designation in the main Hawaiian Islands. It is a necessary step in making sure Hawaiian monk seals do not suffer the same fate as their relatives.”

Critical habitat designation will mean greater protection of Hawaiian monk seal habitat under the Endangered Species Act. Once designated, any federal activities that may affect the critical habitat must undergo review to ensure that those activities do not harm the Hawaiian monk seal or its habitat.

In passing the Endangered Species Act, Congress emphasized the importance of critical habitat, stating that “the ultimate effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act will depend on the designation of critical habitat.” Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to recover as species without it.

“What happens in the coming few years will determine the survival of this species,” according to Marti Townsend, Program Director of KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance.   “We cannot afford the extinction of a creature so sacred in Hawaiian culture and endemic to these islands. And we cannot expect to save this species without engaging in the hard task of meaningfully protecting habitat.”

more info at www.kahea.org.

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