Posts tagged: oceans

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.


unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 January 2012, 12:50 PM
Olympic air challenge, Nemo’s CO2 problem, NYC trashes trash
Bacon cheeseburger (Like_the_Grand_Canyon)

Ag industry takes beef with Americans eating less meat
Americans are eating less meat, which means the U.S. obsession with double-bacon cheeseburgers and chicken-fried sandwiches may one day be a thing of the past, reports Grist. According to the USDA, beef, chicken and pork sales are all down, prompting the meat industry to accuse the U.S. government of being anti-meat by “wag[ing] a war on protein.” This claim, though meaty, is full of holes considering that the U.S. gives the agriculture industry a number of economic freebies to support meat consumption in the form of farm subsidies, lax regulations and school lunch programs fueled by surplus chicken supplies. The real reasons that Americans aren’t eating as much meat are much more multi-faceted and include everything from cutting grocery bill costs and eating healthier to preserving the environment by lessoning carbon footprints. What’s your beef with that?    

Olympic athletes race against London’s air quality
London’s habitually bad air quality may negatively affect Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, reports The Independent. Since the European Union’s limits for particulate matter—extremely small particles of smoke, soot, metals and other chemical compounds emitted from sources like power plants, factories, and diesel trucks—were first put in place a few years back, London has continually exceeded its limits, potentially putting people at risk of negative human health affects like lung and heart disease. Athletes, especially, are at risk due to their need to inhale large amounts of oxygen, which unfortunately also means inhaling unsafe quantities of particulates, nitrogen dioxide and ozone that could give them chest pains and decrease their lung capacity. Though the city has introduced long-term air quality improvement measures in London, currently there is no short term plan to clear the air before July, when the Olympic games begin.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
13 January 2012, 12:22 PM
The oceans' acid test, playing with wildfire, raising a glass to climate change
Napa Valley vineyards in autumn. (tibchris)

Transit riders run over by reduced tax breaks
Thanks to a lack of action by Congress before the holidays, mass transit commuters will have to pay an additional $550 in taxes this year, reports the New York Times, while those who commute by car will benefit from an increase in pre-tax benefit for monthly parking. In addition to encouraging the number of cars with single occupants, the move will no doubt clog already congested streets and increase carbon emissions. It also takes a jab at people who, for the most part, already deal with enough aggravation (think late bus arrivals, screaming babies and the person who insists on practically sitting on your lap despite the availability of other seats.) Maybe when Congress gets back in session, they’ll consider making the tax benefit, at the very least, apply equally to car and transit users.

Acidic oceans threaten entire food chain
Sharks are already stressed by the public’s taste for shark fin soup and warmer weather meddling with their dating habits. Now it looks like they will have to add acidic oceans to their list of worries. Increasingly acidic waters thin the shells of their main food source, tiny marine creatures, reports MSN. But it’s not just sharks that rely on these species for food. Virtually every creature from salmon to seals to even humans will be affected, thanks to a little thing we like to call the marine food web. Scientists already know that as oceans absorb more carbon, the waters acidify, which makes living conditions very uncomfortable for any animal with a shell, and creates food scarcity for everyone else. Add this to the already overwhelming threats of pollution, habitat loss and overfishing, and it’s clear to see that the oceans—and the people who work to save them-- including Earthjustice—have their work cut out just trying to keep their heads above water. 

View Shirley Hao's blog posts
09 January 2012, 5:01 PM
Genetically distinct species make a strong, surprising hybrid showing
A hybrid black-tip shark comes in for a camera close up. (University of Queensland)

Climate change has been accused of being many things, from Imposter to Glacier National Park Name-killer. And now to the list we can add...Interspecies Dating Matchmaker?

A study published last month in Conservation Genetics documented no fewer than 57 instances of hybrid common black-tip (Carcharhinus limbatus) and Australian black-tip (Carcharhinus tilstoni) sharks off the eastern coast of Australia. The number of hybrid sharks previously uncovered in the wild or at your friendly neighborhood aquarium? Zero.

The concept of hybridization between distinct species is not a new one. (Who can forget the wholphin? The pizzly bear?) But what makes this case interesting is the sudden abundance of hybrids in species who, until this time, have (as far as we know) diligently remained within their predefined mating circles.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
12 December 2011, 4:34 PM
Oil spill would be diastrous and there's no way to clean a spill up

It’s not easy to get the President’s attention. He’s a busy guy, and despite sending him thousands of comment letters and making hundreds of phone calls, he just doesn’t seem to understand that Americans don’t want oil drilling in the fragile waters of the Arctic Ocean. These waters are home to polar bears, walrus, bowhead whales and other endangered species. They provide bounty for Native subsistence communities. A spill in these waters would be an environmental disaster unlike any other. The nearest coast guard station is over a thousand miles away, and the frozen seas are battered with heavy winds and ice floes dozens of feet wide.

Well, we’re turning up the volume on our call for Arctic Ocean protections. This week, we’re running an ad in the New York Times and another in Politico, along with radio ads on local talk news stations in Washington, D.C. that ask President Obama, “Why would you allow unsafe drilling in the Arctic Ocean?”

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
01 December 2011, 12:33 PM
A loggerhead sea turtle gets a second chance at life
Sea turtles like Karsten often mistakenly swallow fishhooks, which can result in entanglement, choking and even death. (Jessica Knoblauch)

It’s not every day that a wild animal gets a lucky break, but a few months back that’s exactly what happened to Karsten, a peaceful loggerhead sea turtle that was released off of Sombrero Beach in the Florida Keys after months of rehabilitation.

Karsten was found back in May with a fishhook in his jaw and another in his esophagus. His painful plight is unfortunately all too common for countless numbers of sea turtles who mistake baited fishhooks for harmless food and then drown because they are unable to surface for air. Though turtles have charted the seven seas for more than 100 million years, over the past few decades these ancient and resilient creatures have seen their numbers plunge due to destructive human activities. Florida, for example, has seen its nesting loggerhead population plummet by more than 40 percent in the last decade, in part because of longline fishing.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
27 November 2011, 10:19 AM
“Your whole being is intensified right down through the viewfinder of the camera.”
David Doubilet on assignment. (Jennifer Hayes)

This is the sixth in a series of Q and As on Earthjustice’s oceans work, which works to prevent habitat loss and overfishing, as well as to reduce the impacts of climate change on the ocean. David Doubilet, an acclaimed underwater photographer for National Geographic, talks about his experiences as an underwater photographer and provides tips for budding underwater photographers. View a slideshow of Doubilet's underwater photographs and learn more about Earthjustice's oceans work at

Jessica Knoblauch: In your biography, you mention that you try to redefine photographic boundaries each time you enter the water. What did you mean by that?

David Doubilet: Here's a good example of a photographic boundary. For years, as long as I worked for National Geographic, I would or somebody else would propose a story on nudibranchs. These are basically sea-going snails without a shell that develop the most incredible colors in the world as a matter of survival. They feed on very toxic things and then advertise the fact that they are toxic by incorporating this toxicity into their flesh, changing their color.
There are so many ways that these creatures are able to survive, but they're snails. And if you want to do a story on these things, you have to first understand what they look like and you have to have some kind of intimacy to them. In other words, you have to be eye to eye with them. Because they live on the ocean bottom, most photographers photograph them looking down on them. It's a little like taking pictures of children and photographing only the tops of their heads.


So I thought for a long while and said, "Let's build a tiny studio underwater and treat these creatures like fashion models because the colors they create are more robust and incredibly vibrant than any piece of fashion I've ever seen, and that includes Haight-Ashbury in 1968." So I built a tiny, 10-inch square studio with a curved back wall made out of Plexiglas mounted on a tri-pod. We took it underwater, we took it to the nudibranchs, and with the help of a nudibranch expert we moved the nudibranchs off the sea floor and into the studio momentarily and photographed them in a studio setting.
So there are a lot of stories that we always try to add one more step, one more piece of vision, one more piece of technology. Where technology meets dreams, you make photographs.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
25 November 2011, 9:21 AM
“I'm afraid that a lot of the images that I've made underwater are going to be documents of a time passed.”
David Doubilet, on assignment. (Jennifer Hayes)

This is the fifth in a series of Q and As on Earthjustice’s oceans work, which works to prevent habitat loss and overfishing, as well as reduce the impacts of climate change on the ocean. David Doubilet, an acclaimed underwater photographer for National Geographic, has spent decades photographing underwater images and has seen firsthand how ocean stressors have negatively impacted the aquatic environment he loves. Check out to learn more about our oceans work. 

Jessica Knoblauch: What made you first want to document the underwater world?
David Doubilet: I began to go underwater not very far away from where I live now in a small lake in the Adirondack Mountains. I was at summer camp. I was a terrible camper. I hated the horse; I hated the mountains; I didn't like to hike. And the counselor said, "Why don't you try this mask and go underwater? Put your head underwater and look under the dock." I put on a French blue rubber mask, I put my head underwater, and everything that I knew about in life completely changed. Here was an entire world completely different than the world we live in. It was mind-altering, even for an eight year old, and I knew this was the direction that I wanted to go in.
There's a certain amount of hypnotic quality to being underwater. You're in a world that's weightless. You're in a world of blues and greens. And what you see underwater is most of the life on the planet. You have to think of this planet as a water planet, not as a land planet. So Earthjustice may have to change its name in some ways to OceanJustice to really cover our planet as best as possible. It really is the heart and soul of what life is. In this very, very empty, very, very dark universe, here's this one tiny orb that glows blue. And the color of life as we know it is blue.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
23 November 2011, 8:48 AM
“Trawl fishing is like clear-cutting on land, but just in the bottom of the ocean.”
Earthjustice attorney Andrea Treece (Brian Treece)

This is the fourth in a series of Q and As on Earthjustice’s oceans work, which works to prevent habitat loss and overfishing, as well as reduce the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Earthjustice attorney Andrea Treece is part of a core oceans litigation team whose work helps protect forage fish species like herring, anchovies and sardines, which serve as the building blocks of the ocean food web.

Jessica Knoblauch: You focus specifically on west coast ocean issues at Earthjustice. Are there issues in ocean management that are unique to the Pacific?
Andrea Treece: The west coast faces a lot of issues that are prevalent across the nation. That actually is a great advantage because we can as an organization get a bigger picture of what’s going on in ocean resource management. We can apply the law in a way that will hopefully set a beneficial precedent for management in the rest of the nation.
JK: Earthjustice has litigated heavily against industrial fishing in the Alaska pollock fishery. Why?
AT: It’s really one of the first cases that highlighted the ecosystem effects of fishing and how important it is to consider not just how much fish we’re consuming, but whether we’re leaving enough in the ecosystem for everything else to keep on sustaining themselves, including seals and sea lions and a lot of other key predators in the ocean. So it was a great case to try and bring that issue to the forefront and change the way that major fishery was managed.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 November 2011, 5:12 PM
“If we can make changes that will work in New England, it helps lead the nation on fisheries policy.”
Roger Fleming, with Gompers and Scout, on the Maine coast. (Amy Mills)

Jessica Knoblauch: What first interested you in oceans issues?

Roger Fleming: The ocean was always something that interested me. It was mysterious. It was far away. I’m from the Midwest, so I never even saw the ocean until I was a senior in high school. But I always read about it and I always dreamed of working on ocean-related issues, so I focused on environmental law in law school and took all of the ocean-related law classes that I could. Our planet is a blue planet and yet the oceans receive relatively little attention from an environmental perspective. It’s been a lifelong interest of mine, but it’s also an area where I think there’s a significant need for attorneys to work on the issues and a significant need for conservation.
JK: Are there ocean-management issues unique to the east coast?
RF: The east coast presents some unique circumstances in that it contains our nation’s oldest fishery. The European settlers came to New England and arguably settled here because of the fisheries’ resources available around the Gulf of Maine. Given that we have had organized commercial fisheries here for literally hundreds of years it brings with it a lot of unique challenges. There’s just that history and that culture engrained in the fabric of New England. There’s even a wooden sculpture of a codfish that hangs over the statehouse in Massachusetts. But that history can make change very difficult. New England is often referred to as the poster child for bad fisheries management, and I think that in part is because the history.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
21 November 2011, 7:33 AM
“The orcas are just so magical. They’re very much a part of the region.”

This is the second in a series of Q and As on Earthjustice’s oceans work, which works to prevent habitat loss and overfishing as well as reduce the impacts of climate change on the ocean. In early 2000, Patti Goldman, Earthjustice’s VP of Litigation, spearheaded efforts to protect the Puget Sound’s threatened orca whale population. Learn more at

Jessica Knoblauch: Earthjustice has been working to protect a unique population of orcas in Washington State’s Puget Sound for almost a decade. Why?
Patti Goldman: Well, the orca whales in this region are hugely important to the people. They are so much part of the fabric here. There are three pods and each year when they come back to the Haro Straits in July, they do a ritual where they line up by pods and welcome each other. It’s just so magical. And there are no other orcas that really concentrate here in the same way, so they are unique and really special to this region.
The problem is that these orcas are further south than a lot of other orcas, so they are more accessible to where people are. In the 1960s and 1970s, about a third of the population was targeted for live capture by Sea World. Live capture ended when one of our clients, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, was out on a boat with his wife and they found themselves in the middle of a live capture operation where they could hear the babies squealing as their mothers were captured. That was a very pivotal moment because he was then a member of the state legislature and was the lead proponent of banning live capture in Washington waters.