Marine animals are suffering from the decimation of their food sources from overfishing and from assaults by destructive fishing gear, military sonar, oil drilling and pollution. An additional stressor is climate change, which warms the sea and makes it more acidic.
Up to 80 percent of the world’s primary catch species like cod and tuna are exploited beyond or close to their harvest capacity.
Earthjustice is protecting marine animals by:
- Preserving the marine food web by protecting forage fish, which keystone predators such as tuna, sharks, turtles, whales and seabirds rely upon for sustenance. We also work to preserve the marine prey base for species like Steller sea lions and orcas, which rely on large amounts of salmon and other fish for sustenance.
- Curbing pollution into our estuaries and oceans. Land-based sources of pollution (e.g. untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, toxic chemicals, herbicides and pesticides) flow into estuaries and affect marine ecosystems. As the climate changes, it’s critical that we keep pollution out of our marine habitats so that they are more resilient.
- Preventing offshore drilling and oil spills from oil shipping. Our litigation helps hold governments accountable for curbing the impacts of coastal and off-shore development, which can harm fish, marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and key underwater ecosystems. For many years, we’ve kept drilling at bay in the Arctic Ocean, which is home to imperiled species like bowhead whales, polar bears, and walruses.
- Mitigating noise and disruption from military and sonar training. We filed suit to protect the Pacific Northwest’s Southern Resident orcas from the U.S. Navy’s underwater sonar and training exercises in Washington’s coastal waters. We also have filed a case challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s approval of a 5-year plan by the U.S. Navy for testing and training activities off Hawaiʻi and Southern California. The Navy and Fisheries Service estimate this training will cause 9.6 million instances of harm to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The operations will include active sonar and explosives, which are known to cause permanent injuries and deaths to marine mammals.
- Building marine resilience by preserving “ecosystem engineers”—species that create or maintain habitat for other species, either by building physical structures (like a bed of mussels) or by suppressing prey abundance (i.e. a healthy population of otters keeps urchins, which can deplete kelp forests, in check.)
- Partnering with local fishing associations to curb harmful practices like bottom trawling and longline fishing, which destroy marine habitats and fragment species. In the North Pacific, the factory trawl and longline vessels take important prey, including Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and pollock, that would otherwise be available as food for other animals. We are also working to ban trawlers in key spawning grounds and advocating science-based catch limits to help recover dwindling populations. Finally, our work has sought to protect sea turtles from being caught in longlines.