Friday, January 2, 2009

Nature and the Seas: steps forward and challenges in 2009

Covering a range of conservation and environmental issues, here are a few success from 2008, compliments of the World Wildlife Fund:
  • Sumatran elephant and tiger habitat protected in Indonesia, doubling the size of Sumatra's Tesso Nilo National Park.
  • U.S. Congress extended tax incentives for individuals and businesses to install renewable energy systems and build energy-efficient buildings.
  • United States became first country to prohibit import and sale of illegally-sourced woods - the loss of which has impacted forest animal habitats.
  • U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, to protect lions, leopards, cheetahs and other imperiled species.
  • The House also passed important legislation to protect tropical forests and coral reefs. Similar legislation passed a key senate committee.
Now, turning to our oceans, here are some challenges we face in 2009:
  • Overfishing - We are still faced with losing most commercial fish species within 40 years (swordfish and tuna populations have already been reduced by a whopping 90%). The Magnuson-Stevens Act must be implemented. (Info on the M-S Act.)
  • Bycatch - Commercial fishing still discards up to one million tons of fish each year, not to mention the countless numbers of marine mammals, turtles, and more. (Previous post on subject.)
  • Sea Turtles - Even though listed as endangered or threatened in U.S. waters, sea turtles are still exposed to harm from fisheries and loss of nesting and foraging habitat. (More info on sea turtles.)
  • Sharks - The slaughter continues, up to 100 million sharks per year. While governments need to exercise greater effort in management and/or prohibition of species, continued efforts must be made to enhance public awareness and reduce demand for shark products. (Previous post on subject.)
  • Seafood Contamination - Mercury levels in many types of seafood is increasing. Government efforts must be increased to curb industry's use or disposal of this dangerous neurotoxin. (Mercury calculator for seafood.)
  • Climate Change - We are continually learning more about the man-made effects of global warming, not only in terms of increased temperatures, but in its many byproducts like ocean acidification. And we are finding that the effects, like changes in Arctic, are accelerating faster than previous models predicted. (Previous post on subject.)
  • Offshore Drilling - Many moratoriums on offshore drilling are set to expire soon. Before billions of dollars are spent to extract a diminishing resource, governments need to pressure the energy industries in refocusing their efforts. The U.S. needs a coherent energy policy based on long-term, not short-term, goals. (Previous post on subject.)
Time to roll up our sleeves, everyone.

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