Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of "We" to Save Species

Today is Blog Action Day (#powerofwe on Twitter) and the Endangered Species Coalition is honored to once again be a part. We are very excited that the day gives an opportunity for a conversation about the potential for positive change when we come together, or The Power of We.

One of the most important tools in worldwide species protection is the U.S. Endangered Species Act. It represents America's commitment to saving our plants, fish, and animals from extinction before it's too late.  It was created and passed on a bipartisan basis nearly four decades ago and has proven itself an invaluable piece of forward-thinking legislation.

What many people are not aware of, is the public's crucial role in carrying out the will of the Endangered Species Act. Species that are in trouble can be designated for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, they can also be nominated for protection by ordinary citizens like you and me, as well as by nongovernmental organizations. This method of deciding which species should be considered for protections under the Endangered Species Act has led to some of America's very iconic species being protected when they might otherwise have not. Species like the Northern spotted owl and the Canada lynx were originally nominated for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the public.

A recent article in Science Magazine examined the question of what species were receiving protections as a result of public action as opposed to being designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service. It found that not only is public input beneficial, but it's absolutely needed:
Contrary to criticisms of citizen involvement in the ESA, petitions and litigation are potentially very important in selecting species worthy of protection. In many cases, outside groups could serve as the only impetus for protection of biologically threatened taxa that would otherwise be ignored because they conflict with development projects and related political pressures or because they are low-profile subspecies.
The Endangered Species Act is an amazing and uniquely successful law. It has helped to prevent treasured species like bald eagles, California condors, whooping cranes, and gray wolves from disappearing from our landscape forever. But it's only able to continue to fill that crucial role with help from the public. Citizen and nongovernmental input is at the heart of what makes the Endangered Species Act the vital tool it has become four decades after its inception.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stop Seismic Airguns

We joined ESC Member Organizations Oceana and The Natural Resources Defense Council for a protest outside the Department of Interior on Tuesday to try to persuade Secretary Salazar that deafening marine species isn't good policy.

At issue is a proposal under consideration by DOI that would allow oil companies to utilize seismic airguns to attempt to locate pockets of oil deep beneath the ocean's floor.  These seismic airguns produce blasts in ten-second intervals that can exceed 235 decibels. That is nearly twice as loud as a jet airplane at takeoff. They use these seismic airguns around the clock, for days on end.
USGS graphic
You can see in the above USGS image that the blasts produced by these devices travel through the ocean's depths, through it's floor, and back up. On the way, they cross any marine life that is in those waters.

Among the impacted species would be migrating loggerhead sea turtles, and highly endangered North Atlantic right whales. There are less than 400 of these whales left on our planet. Whales rely on hearing, or echolocation, to navigate, identify their surroundings, and to communicate. Seismic airguns can disrupt their migration, breeding, and feeding activities if exposed at a distance. They can even cause permanent deafness or death in marine mammals at closer distances. 

By the DOI's own estimates, allowing this seismic testing would injure 138,500 dolphins and whales. As Oceana marine scientist Matthew Huelsenbeck said at the event:  
“There is only one word that I can use that sums up this proposal: unacceptable. The levels of impacts to protected dolphins and whales, including critically endangered species like the North Atlantic right whale are simply unacceptable.
Allowing seismic testing to go forward would be a high-stakes gamble with the future of a critically endangered species, and the other marine life it shares the oceans with. In addition, it would put a fishery that supports 200,000 jobs at real risk. All for the mere possibility of finding oil and gas. 

Please take action to prevent seismic testing by telling Secretary Salazar that you think we should protect endangered whales--not deafen them with seismic airgun blasts.