Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BP burning endangered turtles and other wildlife

BP is killing endangered sea turtles in its careless clean-up operations. Wildlife rescuers and fishermen have reported that turtles and other wildlife are being burned alive in the Gulf oil spill. 

According to the New York Times, "so-called burn boxes are torching oil from the water's surface at the sacrifice of turtles, crabs, sea slugs and other sea life."

A shrimp boat captain in Louisiana hired by BP was blocked from rescuing juvenile Kemp's ridleys that were covered in oil in the Gulf waters. He was captured on video saying that the turtles are being collected in the clean-up efforts and burned up like so much ocean debris with other marine life gathering along tide lines where oil also congregates. He witnessed BP workers burning turtles caught in the oil booms. Turtle rescuer Mike Ellis was interviewed by conservation biologist Catherine Craig and was posted on YouTube.com.

The BP oil spill disaster has already killed thousands of turtles, dophins, fish, birds and other wildlife. According to NOAA Fisheries, 494 turtles have been found stranded, 377 of which were found dead. Rescuers have also found a dead endangered sperm whale, 49 stranded dolphins, and over 1,600 oiled birds.

Now, we find out that BP's response operations are killing more wildlife. Turtle researchers from NOAA Fisheries, state wildlife agencies, and local boat captains are searching the Gulf waters for oil covered turtles. Unfortunately, before they can find them, many turtles are being captured by boom and caught in the fires to remove the oil. Kemp's ridley sea turtles are endangered species with legal protections, harming them is an illegal act and subject to prosecution and penalties. BP must be held accountable for killing endangered species and destroying their habitats.

BP must do more to rescue endangered species. They must increase the number of boats and personnel on the water rescuing all sea turtles encountered in oil spill operations and transport them immediately to one of the many rehabilitation centers available. The Endangered Species Coalition is calling on  President Obama and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco to order BP to stop the practice of burning oil without first looking for wildlife.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Western Wolf Update

By Derek Goldman
Northern Rockies Field Representative
Endangered Species Coalition

There are two wolf policy events this week.

On Monday, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) wrapped up the public comment period on its proposed expansion of wolf hunting. The public had been asked to comment on a proposal to increase the hunting quota this year, as well as some changes to the hunting regulations. The Department is considering three options for a quota: 153, 186 or 216 wolves, all which would represent a significant increase over the 2009 quota of 75 wolves. (According to FWP there are at least 525 wolves currently living in the state.)

Some of the proposed regulations slightly increase protection for wolves, such as a proposal for a 5-day waiting period between purchase of a wolf hunting license and the use of that license. (Last year, someone allegedly shot a wolf illegally, drove back to town and bought a hunting license, then went back out to retrieve the wolf.)

The Endangered Species Coalition hopes that many people commented to FWP, and urged them to manage wolves as native wildlife with important ecological value, rather than as pests to be reduced to minimum numbers.

The second event this week occurred in U.S. District Court in Missoula, where environmental groups (including several ESC member groups) argued their case for reinstating endangered species protection for wolves in the N. Rockies. Approximately 50-100 anti-wolf protesters gathered outside the courthouse to voice their support for keeping wolves off the Endangered Species list and continuing to allow Montana and Idaho to manage wolves.The is expected to issue a ruling some time this year.

Finally, I was interviewed for television news story that aired last week on KECI, the NBC affiliate in Missoula, Montana.

Friday, June 11, 2010

International Year of Biodiversity Highlights Urgent Need for Action

By Leda Huta
Executive Director
Endangered Species Coalition

In this "International Year of Biodiversity," we need to recommit our attention and action on saving life on planet Earth. With all of us naturally drawn to the continually unfolding disaster of the BP Oil Spill, an important assessment of how the world is doing on protecting wildlife slipped under the radar screen for most of us.

The United Nations recently released report, the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 that updates us on the state of wildlife across the planet. In 2002, world leaders came together and set goals for themselves in reducing the rate of loss of our tremendous biological resources. This Global Biodiversity Outlook is an assessment of how far we've come in meeting those goals. In scientific speak, none of the countries "met their targets."

What does that mean? Basically, we have failed wildlife and equally frightening, we have failed ourselves. As the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, put it, "Without biodiversity there would be no life on the planet Earth. And biodiversity is dependent on species..." According to the report, if we do not take action soon to change this trend, we are putting in jeopardy "the livelihoods and food security of hundreds of millions of people."

According to the report, endangered species are on average moving closer to extinction across the globe. Amphibians--the proverbial canaries in a coal mine, because they depend on clean air, water and land--face the greatest risk. Meanwhile corals are deteriorating most rapidly as a group. Plants--the bedrocks of our ecosystems--are equally in danger, with nearly one quarter now threatened with extinction.

Around the world, endangered species are only growing more rare. And, even the United States with its endangered species program, doesn't have a great track record in the international arena. For instance, the United States has still not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty "to sustain the diversity of life on Earth." To do so, the signatories have three objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Virtually every country has ratified to the treaty. But, in addition to Andorra and the Holy See, the United States has not.

The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties--the governing body of the Convention will take place in Japan in October 2010 (COP 10). Given the lack of success at the recent climate change summit and the virtual shut out of U.S. proposals to strengthen protections for endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), there is certainly reason for concern for COP 10. And, Industry groups are gearing up for the meeting. Those factors don't bode well for endangered species.

The United States also falls short in protecting endangered species from our investments and installations overseas. In the past, United States activities overseas needed to be analyzed for their impacts to endangered species. But, in the days of President Reagan, these regulations were overturned, and have yet to be reinstated. So, while we make investments in protecting migrating species here at home, we may be killing them with our activities overseas.

The news from the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 is sobering. Combine that with the disaster of the BP oil spill and 2010 has gotten off to an incredibly rocky start for endangered wildlife. There is still some time to change course--by ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity, by strengthening protections for endangered species at the COP 10, and by reinstating regulations to protect endangered wildlife in our overseas operations. That may sound like a tall order until we remember Achim Steiner's words, "Without biodiversity there would be no life on the planet earth."