Thursday, November 15, 2012

Conservation Victories: government steps up to help whales, sharks, and birds

Well, how about some good news for a change?  Conservation and protection of species and the environment got a bit of a boost from the machinations of government today in several areas.  Some of these advances are moving through cyberspace as I write this, while others are more quiet victories.

No Sonic Tests Off California for Utility
The California Coastal Commission today unanimously agreed to deny a permit to Pacific Gas & Electric, who had requested to begin a series of seismic tests using sonic air cannons to determine fault lines in and around the seafloor near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Now checking for faults that could potentially threaten a nuclear power plant isn't a bad idea (nuclear power plants themselves are another controversial subject for another day) and PG&E officials claimed that the multiple sonic blasts would be ramped up in intensity to warm or scare off any marine mammals that could be at risk.

However, those same officials also stated that the tests would induce short-term disruption.  And given the number of beachings and deaths that have been documented regarding whales, porpoises, and dolphins, long-term effects can not be definitively ruled out.

According to the Associated Press, the coastal commission's staff recommended to the coastal regulators to reject the utilityy company's plan. "In a report this month, the staff said sonic blasts would cause 'significant and unavoidable impacts to marine resources.' More than 7,000 sea mammals would be disturbed by the ear-piercing noise, including fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales, and harbor porpoises."

PG&E has not yet said what it plans to do next, but should they appeal, they will find stiff resistance from many of the regulators.

Win one for the cetaceans!

American Samoa Bans Shark Fishing
In the South Pacific, the United States' unincorporated territory of American Samoa has initiated a ban on all shark fishing that will go into effect this week.  The ban will extend three miles from the shoreline and also include three reef fish species.

What is most encouraging with this news is that it was not an island nation like Palau or Kiribati that has imposed these restrictions; it was the U.S. government.  The Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources is the agency that has imposed the ban, recognizing the decline of shark populations throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Dog Fenner, who monitors sharks for the department, claims that these new regulations are the strongest ever imposed by the U.S.  About bloody time.

Win one for the sharks!

Animal Lead Poisoning Amendments
Getting a little less attention are two amendments to S.B. 3525, known as the "Sportsman's Act."  Filed by California's Senator Barbara Boxer, the amendments would 1.) eliminate an NRA-supported provision in the Sportsman's Act that banned the Environmental Protection Agency from doing anything regarding lead poisoning from lead ammunition and fishing tackle (originally supported by, and 2.) require the EPA to conduct a potential threat study of human health, wildlife, and the environment regarding lead ammunition and tackle.

According to the Conservation for Biological Diversity, which has been prodding the EPA regarding this issue for years, "Lead poisons and kills millions of eagles, loons, endangered California condors and other birds and wildlife each year." 

Win one (hopefully) for a lead-free wilderness!

The common thread in all of these encouraging developments is that it represents government, in one form or another, getting of its butt and doing something about the environment.  One can only hope that as the U.S. economy improves, attention will once again be turned toward solving long-term environmental issues with decisive action in the here-and-now. 

Source: Associated Press (Cetacea)
Source: Washington Post (Sharks)
Source: Center for Biological Diversity (Lead)

2 comments:

Juan Bacigalupi said...

Hey there. First and most importantly great news. Second of all for anyone out there who is interested in sound and marine mammals, specifically sonar and marine mammals please check out the blog I recently started about the issue. http://deafeningsoundoffreedom.wordpress.com/.

RTSea said...

Glad to pass your blog information along, Juan. Best of success.