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National Marine Fisheries Service

A U.S. Navy vessel, with a research ship and pod of orcas in the foreground.

Echolocation, the location of objects by reflected sound, is a mouthful. It is also something of a miracle.

For marine mammals, it’s how they communicate with each other, how they avoid perils, and how they locate food. Without healthy, functioning ears and sound-making systems, they are lost.

A blueback herring.

River herring spend most of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. They are anadromous fish species, which means they return to spawn in coastal rivers in the spring. But these small fish are in big trouble. Based on analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service, their populations have declined more than 98 percent from their historic level.

A pod of southern resident orcas in Boundary Pass, north of San Juan Island, WA.

(An infant orca was captured in 1970, named Lolita, and has lived ever since in a tiny pool at the Miami Seaquarium. The following is about her life and a growing movement supported by Earthjustice to have Lolita reintroduced to her native waters and possibly rejoined with her family pod in Washington state waters.)

In November, whales and other marine mammals along the Pacific Coast from Northern California to the Canadian border got a little help from a federal court. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas set a deadline of August 1, 2014 for the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a plan that will ensure Navy sonar and live-fire training doesn’t violate the Endangered Species Act.

Pity the lowly herring, an essential species getting little love these days from the government agencies that are supposed to protect them.

Everything eats herring—from whales to striped bass to seabirds. Without abundant herring stocks, the Atlantic food web doesn’t work. That’s why herring protection brings together a diverse coalition of interests that includes recreational and commercial fishermen, conservation groups and whale-watching businesses.

Earthjustice received some superb video today from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, of Shell’s beat up Arctic drilling rig, the Kulluk, as it was lifted onto a huge dry haul ship to be carried to Asia for repairs:

This comes on the heels of a report from the Department of Interior, which summarized  a 60-day investigation into Shell’s 2012 Arctic Ocean drilling season and was highly critical of the oil giant’s operations.

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