Posts tagged: oceans

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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
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.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
17 November 2011, 3:27 PM
“A lot of people have no idea that many of these ocean species are so badly depleted.”
Steve Roady speaks about Earthjustice's oceans litigation.

Intro: This is the first 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’s Oceans Program Director Steve Roady has been litigating cases that help protect our oceans for more than a decade. Check out for more information.

Jessica Knoblauch: What first drew you to oceans management work?
Steve Roady: I was first exposed to the oceans while growing up on Florida’s Gulf coast. I spent a lot of time on the beaches as a child and was always fascinated by the shrimpers. But I really first became aware of the key problems in the environment in middle school where we were all forced to read Rachel Carson’s classic book, Silent Spring. The idea that birds were dying because of DDT was just amazing to me and it really got me thinking about environmental issues.
JK: How does Earthjustice use the law to protect oceans?
SR: Earthjustice is one of the leading groups to begin looking at oceans’ problems through the lens of potential federal litigation. Basically, we work with three or four of your standard environmental laws. There’s the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the main federal fisheries act, which directs the federal government to prevent overfishing and to minimize bycatch, to protect habitat and to rebuild overfished fish populations. There’s also the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates the federal government to carefully study the environmental effects of their actions before they take them. And we also invoke the Endangered Species Act to protect species like sea turtles, which are protected under the ESA but often killed as so-called bycatch in trawl fisheries around the country.
We invoke all of these statutes in an effort to try to curb the unrestrained fishing practices going on in federal fisheries and do our best to make sure the federal government is complying with the basic thrust of the laws that protect the ocean resource. Since we started the Ocean Law Project back in 1998, we’ve had a number of significant wins in the courts that set some significant precedents with respect to how the federal government manages ocean resources in a sustainable way. And typically we’ll have a case that we’ll bring on behalf of other groups, so if a case is won the precedent goes to everybody’s benefit.

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View Jessica Goddard's blog posts
26 October 2011, 10:10 AM
Climate change effect on oceans

If ancient Greek polytheism defined our belief system, we would be well into an era of ritual sacrifices seeking to pacify the sea god, Poseidon.

Island and coastal cities fear full submersion as oscillating and extreme weather patterns take headlines more than ever. Hurricanes and tropical storms are growing in size and destructiveness. Costal reefs are in peril as calcium carbonate (“food” for coral reef skeletons) disappears with rises in ocean acidity and sea pollution. Sea ice is melting and receding in the Arctic and Argentina. And land ice (frozen fresh water) continues to melt at an accelerated rate in Antarctica. Climate change and increased surface temperatures are impacting our oceans as you read.

We at Earthjustice are leaving the skeptics behind. Let’s consider the facts: the average reach of ice in the Arctic in September 2011 (yearly minimum) was 4.61 million square kilometers. That’s 2.43 million square kilometers below the average from 1979 to 2000. This reflects an average monthly decline of 11.5 percent per decade. In Antarctica, NASA satellites show an annual decrease in ice coverage of more than 100 cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) since 2002.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
12 October 2011, 1:26 PM
Fish kill off coast linked to uncontrolled nutrient runoff
Red tide victims in Florida

<The Earthjustice office in Florida just released this statement on a major fish kill off the state's coastline>

It’s ironic that, on the very day the Florida Chamber announces it wants to fight limits on sewage, fertilizer and manure pollution, there’s a massive fish kill off Sarasota, Sanibel Island and Charlotte County caused by red tide—red tide that’s fueled by sewage, manure, and fertilizer pollution.

"The Florida Chamber is playing politics with our public health, and that’s really sad,” said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer.” The Chamber is ignoring the horrible reality in the water today. We’ve got hundreds of dead fish going belly up in a prime tourist area, off Sanibel Island. The Florida Chamber ought to be looking after all the tourism business affected by toxic algae outbreaks and fish kills like this one. Instead, they are once again doing the bidding of corporate polluters who use our public waters as their free, private sewers."

View Jessica Goddard's blog posts
07 October 2011, 10:07 AM
Illegal fishing practices in the Gulf of Mexico lead to death of 3,000 sharks
Texas game wardens pull in miles of netting filled with killed sharks. Source:

It was the largest shark kill the Texas game wardens had ever seen. Last week, wildlife officials discovered an estimated 3,000 sharks caught and killed in an illegal gill net off South Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gill nets hang underwater from floats to a lead-weighted bottom line like mesh curtains, often extending up to 5 miles in length and 25 feet in depth. Notorious for their bycatch threat to sea turtles, marine mammals (such as, sea otters, dolphins and whales), sea birds, and other non-target fish, gill net possession has been illegal in Texas since 1981.
"This is by far the most sharks I have ever gotten in one load. Myself and my deck hand have been working on this boat for 15 years and have never seen this many sharks in one net,” said Sgt. James Dunks. Indeed, Texas Parks and Wildlife regulations prohibit licensed fishers from catching more than one shark per day.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
24 September 2011, 8:13 PM
Earthjustice will defend fragile environment, Native communities
Caribou form large herds on the coastal plains north of the Brooks Range, one of the most splendid stretches of wilderness left in America. Arctic Refuge, Alaska. (Florian Schulz /

The Palmyra Atoll is a tropical coral reef island in the heart of the Pacific Ocean. It’s warm, tiny and far from the vast, frigid Arctic. And yet these distant, disparate places are as alike in one sense as any two places on Earth.

Each is an early victim of humankind’s addiction to fossil fuels and our constantly affirmed determination to stay addicted.

Like other low-lying communities around the world, the Palmyra Atoll, only a few feet from sea level, is quietly disappearing under rising ocean waters. As the Arctic melts—at a near-record pace—the ocean is warming and expanding. These islands and their inhabitants are literally at the water’s edge of global climate disaster.

But, while the evidence of global warming is clear and the science overwhelming, the unwillingness of nations to address this shared problem is perplexing. Even the Obama administration has taken actions that keep us tethered to the oil dependency that contributes so much to climate change.

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
20 September 2011, 12:44 PM
Shell secures permits to drill for oil in America's Arctic waters in 2012.
A Coast Guard crew conducts research in the Alaskan Arctic's waters in July 2011. Photo courtesy NASA/Kathryn Hansen

A massive oil spill announced this week off the coast of western Sweden feels like an ominous harbinger for America’s Arctic Ocean.

Just days following the spill near the Swedish island of Tjörn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued air permits for Shell Oil’s plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. EPA issued the permits despite the fact that Shell’s oil spill response plan for the region’s icy, remote waters is totally inadequate.

Sweden’s disaster serves as a cautionary tale for America’s Arctic Ocean.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 September 2011, 2:10 PM
EJ90 brings you the latest news in Earthjustice litigation
Photo courtesy of derrickkwa

Hello, unEarthed readers! I’d like to introduce you to a new Earthjustice production designed to keep you up-to-date on the latest Earthjustice litigation news. It’s a podcast called EJ90. And the best part is that it’s only 90 seconds, so you can quickly get updates on wildlife protection, natural resource conservation, and environmental health and safety news, all before you start your day. You can also subscribe to EJ90 on iTunes and make it part of your daily podcast listening routine. 

So far, EJ90 has covered everything from Arctic drilling to Obama’s decision to undermine the EPA’s ozone standards.  Here’s a roundup of the latest EJ90 podcasts:

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
16 September 2011, 9:38 AM
BP cheapos, dirty air downplays, climate change illness
Coral reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

UN top scientist predicts coral reefs' demise by end of century
Coral reefs, often called the “rain forests of the oceans” due to their rich biodiversity, have been around for millions of years, but these ecosystems may be experiencing their last century, reports The Independent. Climate change and ocean acidification are the main factors causing coral reefs’ demise, says University of Sydney professor Peter Sale, who studied Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for 20 years. And though humans are no strangers to wiping out species, Sale points out that this will be the first time that we’ve actually eliminated an entire ecosystem, one that is home to 25 percent of the ocean’s marine life. In addition, coral reefs support people, about 275 million in fact, who depend on reef ecosystems for food and livelihood. Even more alarming than losing these beautiful, bio diverse hotspots is the fact that reef disappearance tends to precede wider mass extinctions. Says Sale, "People have been talking about current biodiversity loss as the Holocene mass extinction, meaning that the losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past. I think there is every possibility that is what we are seeing."

Report finds BP’s cheapness, greed contributed to oil spill
There are a lot of consequences of being cheap: alienating friends, missing out on amazing experiences, wasting time pilfering through shoddy clothes in bargain bins. But recently, a 16-month investigation found that frugality has a dark side with the conclusion that BP’s efforts to limit costs on its deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico contributed to a blowout that killed 11 people and tipped off the largest oil spill in U.S. history, reports the Washington Post. The report from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement lists “dozens of mistakes, misapprehensions, risky decisions and failures of communication” that led to the BP disaster. In other words, BP put profits before safety. In a statement released on Wednesday, BP agreed with the report’s conclusions, adding that “the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton,” At least BP is generous in sharing the blame. 

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
30 August 2011, 3:25 PM
Exxon signs $3.2 billion deal with Rosneft
Oil development in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Photo by Florian Schulz

Environmentalist author Chellis Glendinning’s 2002 work of nonfiction, Off the Map, is an indictment of maps and cartography. Glendinning asserts that maps have historically served as tools of conquest that define the territory which is to be exploited.

With that in mind, Exxon’s announcement on Monday that the company inked a deal to drill for oil in Russia’s Arctic waters should be of concern to every American and indeed every human on Earth. See, the thing is, Russia’s Arctic waters don’t stay put within the imaginary lines drawn on a map. So if there is an oil spill as a result of Exxon’s activities, the oil that leaks from the ocean floor will cross all sorts of these imaginary boundaries and threaten the overall health of the Arctic ecosystem.

The $3.2-billion deal between Exxon and Russia’s state-run Rosneft in turn gives the Russian company access to drill oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and in Texas. A deal was in the works earlier this year between Rosneft and BP for the Arctic contract, but it fell through, opening the door for Exxon.

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