”We must hold to the irreplaceables, to the species delicately interbalanced, to the endangered and threatened animals, to the sanctity of life here on our shores”
–Margaret Owings, Founder, Friends of the Sea Otter.
This year, Friends of the Sea Otter celebrates its 46th year of sea otter conservation and the twelfth anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week. Throughout the history of the organization, Friends of the Sea Otter has dealt with many critical issues facing sea otters on their road to population recovery. Now is no different.
In a couple of weeks, the U.S. Geological Survey will release the results of the Spring 2014 California sea otter census. Last year, the news was encouraging and gives us some hope about the future recovery of this population. The 3-year average (population index) in 2013 was listed as 2,941 sea otters. This was an increase in the average from the previous year’s population index. As we eagerly await the results for 2014, we realize that there is still much work to be done.
We’re still struggling to understand how disease, shark attacks, food limitations and other threats have kept this charismatic marine mammal on the brink over the last three and a half decades.
The saga involving the legal battles to eliminate the No Otter Zone in Southern California continue. The No Otter Zone is an impediment to sea otter recovery. For decades, Friends of the Sea Otter and others have fought to rid the California coastline of this road block,that is keeping sea otters from returning to historic habitat in Southern California. A coalition of fishing groups, represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the lawsuit aims to uphold the decades old No-Otter Zone. Their lawsuit challenges the elimination of the No Otter Zone that was finalized in January of 2013 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Friends of the Sea Otter along with colleague organizations, all represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene on the lawsuit on August 12, 2013. This was granted on October 2, 2013. On October 23, 2013, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the court to throw out the case based on the theory that the fishing groups were challenging the 1987 regulation that set up the No Otter Zone in the first place, and the legal time period for filing such a challenge has passed. On March 27, 2014, the court ruled in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s favor and dismissed the case. The fishing groups appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Ninth Circuit rules in the fishing industry’s favor, the case will be sent back to the district court to decide the central issue of whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had the authority to end the No Otter Zone. We are tracking the situation while we wait for the Ninth Circuit decision and stand ready to fight, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure that the government is not forced to revive the failed No Otter Zone and translocation program.
Friends of the Sea Otter continues to monitor the battle up north. The state of Alaska, its fishing industry, and elected officials have been trying to turn back the clock on marine mammal conservation more than 40 years by advocating for the management of sea otters. How are they suggesting they do this? Their answer: by killing sea otters for the sake of small commercial interest groups.
All sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This makes it illegal to hunt a sea otter or sell any products made from the body of a sea otter, Native Alaskans are permitted to do so, however. In this case, they must sufficiently alter a sea otter pelt into some kind of traditional artifact or handicraft before selling anything made from a sea otter. It is currently illegal for anyone, including Alaskan Natives, to sell unaltered sea otter pelts to non-Alaskan Natives.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a proposal last year to clarify some terms under the MMPA and Friends of the Sea Otter is focusing on their clarification of “significantly altered”. The proposed revised definition for “significantly altered” raised some serious concerns. The definition of “significantly altered” is too broad and at odds with the MMPA and is being conducted without any environmental impact analysis. It isn’t as restrictive as it needs to be and could potentially result in blankets and rugs being made from sea otter pelts without “significantly altering” the pelt as is the intention of the MMPA. This would be devastating for sea otters and increase the market for their pelts.
While U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared in their final documents last year that this exercise of clarifying definitions is in no way a means to allow predator control of sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska, Friends of the Sea Otter is monitoring this closely. Through a grant, we are planning some outreach to native communities, hunters, fishers, and others to remind them about the laws that exist and that sea otters can not be hunted as a means to ease conflicts with fisheries.
With all of these emerging issues, it is even more important to highlight the need to protect and conserve sea otter populations. Sea Otter Awareness Week once again shines the big spotlight on the need for everyone to understand the plight of this species and help where you can. Friends of the Sea Otter continues to do our part. Please help us help sea otters!
You can follow Friends of the Sea Otter on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheseaotter ) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/friendsseaotter ) and learn more about what Friends of the Sea Otter is doing and how you can help at http://www.seaotters.org
Article by guest blogger, Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director and Frank Reynolds, Program Manager for Friends of the Sea Otter
Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), founded in 1968, is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, and the public to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws and having two populations on the Endangered Species list.
Friday, May 16th is Endangered Species Day – a day to recognize conservation efforts to save at-risk species and habitats. Let’s celebrate the fact that over the past three years, you’ve helped us raise over $855,000 for conservation groups! Take a closer look at specific programs your Endangered Species Chocolate purchases and our 10% Promise are funding.
Partner: African Wildlife Foundation | Program: African Apes Initiative
“Endangered Species Chocolate’s 10% GiveBack program is making a demonstrable difference in helping AWF to conserve the natural resources and heritage that are vital to Africa’s environmental and economic prosperity.” – Kurt Redenbo, Director, Foundation & Corporate Relations, African Wildlife Foundation
Africa is home to 4 of the world’s 5 great ape species. Unfortunately, all 4 are endangered or critically endangered. Through the newly launched African Apes Initiative, AWF works throughout West and Central Africa to protect great apes and their habitats.
- AWF prioritizes those great ape habitats most in need of conservation intervention;
- They work with park authorities and other on-the-ground partners to identify gaps in local conservation support;
- This program provides seed grants and technical support for critical interventions;
- AWF implements long term conservation strategies. Learn much more here.
Partner: The Xerces Society | Program: Bumble Bee Watch
“[Endangered Species Chocolate's 10% donation] allows us to expand our work to protect pollinators in all landscapes across the U.S.” – Scott Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society
Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. This citizen science project allows for individuals to:
- Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;
- Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;
- Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;
- Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and
- Connect with other citizen scientists.
Partner: SEE Turtles | Program: Billion Baby Turtles
“Over the past 3 years, Endangered Species Chocolate grew to be the single largest supporter of SEE Turtles and SEEtheWILD, support that has been critical to the success of our programs.” – SEE Turtles 10% Promise Report
6 out of 7 species of sea turtles around the world are endangered or threatened. SEE Turtle program, Billion Baby Turtles, is helping reverse this decline by saving one billion baby turtles over the next decade. For every $1 raised, SEE Turtles saves at least 1 hatchling. Funds support vital nesting beach patrols across Latin America:
- Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative
- Las Tortugas Research Station
- Paso Pacifico
- WILDCAST Costa Rica
- Cuba Marine Research & Conservation
- Flora, Fauna y Cultura
Be sure to join us on Facebook, May 12-16 2014, for a chocolate giveaway to celebrate Endangered Species Day! “Like” our 10% GiveBack Partners, XXX, XXX, XXX for additional opportunities to win.
Join people around the planet celebrate and honor the body of water which links us all! Visit World Oceans Day’s website to find an event in your area to connect you to saving the sea. Or set off on your own to make a difference; 5 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean, written by Brad Nahill, Co-Founder of SEE Turtles, can get you started Want more ways to help? Check out our post on ways you can protect the ocean while on your next beach visit.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history. Friday, May 17, 2013 is the 8th annual Endangered Species Day – a day to spread awareness of species at-risk and to share success stories of species that have recovered. Join us in raising awareness!
- Attend an Endangered Specie Day event. Find one here!
- Spread the word on social media. Mention @savespecies in a tweet to help Endangered Species Coalition gain supporters (be sure to hashtag #ESDay). Or share a wildlife message with your Facebook friends (include @Endangered Species Coalition in your post so they can see your support).
- Learn about conservation efforts in your state! U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s interactive map can help you discover which species are being protected in your area.
- Use Endangered Species Coalition’s 10 Things You Can Do list to make simple changes that can have a big impact on species conservation.
On April 22, 2013, more than one billion people around the world will take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. Communities everywhere will voice their concerns for the planet, and take action to protect it. Here are some ways to connect and participate:
The History of Earth Day| Get a quick overview of the how and why behind Earth Day with this short WatchMojo video.
5 Ways That You Can Help Protect the Ocean
World Ocean Day is June 8th and what better way to celebrate than by helping to protect the ocean and the creatures that call it home? Most of the news we hear these days about the ocean is bad; giant islands of trash, sharks being killed for their fins, and more. But there is still hope to save the oceans and everyone can help no matter how far you live from a coast.
1. USE LESS PLASTIC
Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch out north of Hawaii; not many people know that all five of the world’s oceans have currents (called “gyres”) that collect plastic waste. This waste endangers sea turtles, birds, seals, and other wildlife.
How to help: First, avoid plastic whenever possible. You can support local bans on plastic bags (congratulations, Los Angeles)) and take the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Pledge to refuse disposable plastic. You can also volunteer in the International Coastal Cleanup and help keep trash out of the oceans.
2. EAT LESS FISH OR MORE SUSTAINABLE FISH
Many of the world’s major fish stocks are overfished and collapsing. This is more than a food issue; these fish make the marine food web survive and many coastal communities depend on the industry. The good news is that there are alternatives for those who don’t want to completely give up seafood.
How to help: First, avoid the most damaging seafood such as shrimp. In some places, fishermen catch up to 10 lbs. of other fish and animals for every pound of shrimp. Also, print out a Seafood Watch Guide or download their smart phone app that tells you which fish are being caught sustainably and which ones can have high levels of toxins.
3. USE YOUR VOICE (OR YOUR EMAIL)
There are many opportunities to speak up for ocean conservation. For example, you can participate in the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s campaign to enforce the use of turtle excluder devises on shrimp boats in Louisiana by emailing your Senator. You can also speak up for a strong National Ocean Policy here.
4. VOLUNTEER WITH A SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION PROJECT
Ever wanted to see what the life of a marine biologist is like? Our SEE Turtles project helps connect volunteers with sea turtle conservation programs in Latin America at no charge. Patrol a turtle nesting beach, helping measure and tag sea turtles and move their eggs to a protected hatchery. Volunteers pay from $15-50 per day for food and lodging, which is a critical source of income for many small projects.
5. TAKE AN OCEAN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION TOUR
SEEtheWILD is the world’s first non-profit wildlife conservation travel project and our website promotes tours where you can get up close to ocean wildlife including sea turtles, sharks, and whales. Every trip benefits conservation programs through donations, education, and volunteer opportunities.
BONUS ACTION: SHARE A BLUE MARBLE
The Blue Marbles Project is a simple experiment in showing gratitude for the ocean. Millions of these marbles are passing around the planet, from hand to hand. The premise is simple, give a marble to someone doing good things for the ocean. Pick up some marbles here and share the stories of the people you give them to on Facebook.
- Brad Nahill
Guest blogger, Brad Nahill is Director & Co-Founder of SEEtheWILD, a wildlife conservation travel project. He launched SEE Turtles, a sea turtle conservation travel project with Dr. Wallace J. Nichols that has generated more than $300,000 in support for community-based turtle conservation projects in Latin America.
The Endangered Species Act is one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history and is America’s primary tool for protecting biodiversity. Its purpose is to prevent the extinction of our most at-risk plants and animals, increase their numbers, and restore them to a full recovery. Currently, the Act protects more than 1,900 species.
STRENGHT OF THE ACT
Very few species have gone extinct once granted protection under the Act.
The longer a species is listed under the Act, the more likely it is to be recovering.
Species with “critical habitat” designation under the Act are twice as likely to recover than those without this designation.
Bald Eagle – increased from 416 to 9,789 pairs between 1963 and 2006
Whooping Crane – increased from 54 to 513 birds between 1967 and 2006
Kirtland’s Warbler – increased from 210 to 1,415 pairs between 1981 and 2005
Peregrine Falcon – increased from 324 to 1,700 pairs between 1975 and 2000
Gray Whale - increased from 13,000 to 26,635 whales between 1968 and 1998
Grizzly Bear – increased from 224 to 500+ bears between 1975 and 2005
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
May 18th is Endangered Species Day. What endangered species are you most passionate about saving?
Better late than never
My mind is continously wrapped around chocolate and species conservation. It’s my job and I love it. And you’d THINK that I’d be totally keyed in to all the conservation-minded holidays out there – but they always sneak up on me. Usually, I become aware of these obscure observances the day after the fact. Like World Water Day (March 22) and International Migratory Bird Day (May 14). And wouldn’t you know it – World Turtle Day was May 23rd. I’ve given up too many good writing ideas for fear of being untimely. Watch me now as I bravely and belatedly post about World Turtle Day!
Soft spot for hard-shelled creatures
Turtles and tortoises have been around for more than 200 million years. They obviously are creatures that are meant to stand the test of time. However, over the past 20 years, almost 50% of all turtle species have been listed as threatened. And six out of seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered. Since learning these deporable facts, I aim to seek out ways to help.
SEE Turtles saves sea turtles
Combining conservation tourism and volunteerism, SEE Turtles works in Costa Rica, Baja California Sur and Trinidad – vital nessting habitats for endangered sea turtles – to support community-based turtle protection efforts.
You can get involved in a small, meaningful way by purchasing Endangered Species Chocolate’s Save the Sea Turtle Gift Pack. Or you can go big and plan an adventure vacation with SEE Turtles and have a hands on sea turtle saving experience!
Be aware of baby turtles
The U.S. Humane Society urges people to beware of fairs, carnivals, flea markets and pet shops that sell baby turtles. In 1975, FDA’s Public Health and Services Act banned the sale/distribution of turtles less than four inches in length. Despite the ban, baby turtles continue to be sold – an illegal practice that is destructive to both turtles and humans. A practice I recently witnessed at a tourist shop while on a beach getaway weekend. You can bet when I return to the beach this month, I am going to be asking the store owner some hard questions and reporting them. Click here to learn how to report these types of violations to the FDA.
Many turtle species are declining due to the pet trade. Children often lose interest in pet animals obtained on impulse and parents may not be prepared to care for a turtle who can live for decades and grow to be a foot long. Turtles need proper light and temperature, a water filtration system and room to grow. Countless pet turtles die from being kept in inadequate conditions.
Humans, especially young children, are also put at risk by close contact with pet turtles. A major Salmonella outbreak in 2007 that sickened 107 people (mostly children) in 37 states was attributed to pet turtles.
World Turtle Day
May is a busy time for turtles (yes, yes…I know it is now JUNE!). Many have recently emerged from winter hibernation and are beginning their search for mates and nesting areas. May 23rd was designated World Turtle Day in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue. The day is used to highlight the threats to turtles’ survival and educate about what we can do to protect these quiet creatures. Just like this post, caring and spreading the word is better late than never.
Share your turtle stories! Join me in celebrating a belated World Turtle Day by commenting below.
Mark your calendar. Friday, May 20th marks the 6th year of national Endangered Species Day. This day presents an opportunity to really focus on the importance of protecting plant and animal life. From the downright adorable to the wonderfully weird, each species has a place and purpose on our planet. Thousands of plant and animal species across the world are endangered and on the brink of extinction. Over the years, the Endangered Species Act has provided a much needed helping hand to our natural neighbors.
America enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973, one of dozens of U.S. environmental laws that were passed in the 1970s. The Act was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction – to protect and nurture populations back to full health. It is not a perfect law but it has been hugely successful to many species on the brink. Critical habitats are given a fighting chance under the Act too. Millions of acres of ancient forests, wild beaches, open meadows and sparkling rivers – treasured places that would have otherwise been long since logged out, paved over or built up had it not been for the Endangered Species Act.
Put endangered species and conservation groups in the forefront of your mind this month. Extinction is forever. Protecting our world’s disappearing wildlife and open spaces is a responsibility that needs our focus, compassion and action.
Which endangered species speaks to your heart the most? Let us know by sharing the species you are most passionate about my commenting below.