ICCAT Must Do More to Protect our Oceans’ Top Predators

Published on: November, 18 2011 by January Jones – Huff Post Green

According to a new report released this week by Oceana , less than 1% of the highly migratory sharks reported caught in the Atlantic Ocean are protected from overfishing by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the group that’s charged with protecting them.

Hammerhead Shark imageAnd what’s more, the report indicates that three-quarters of the highly migratory shark species being caught in ICCAT fisheries are classified as threatened in parts of the Atlantic by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

That’s a heck of a lot of neglected sharks.

Some sharks, like tunas, travel long distances across the oceans, so their populations can’t be effectively managed by any one country. That’s where ICCAT comes in. Although ICCAT is the appropriate body to manage sharks in the Atlantic, Oceana’s new report shows that current efforts are grossly insufficient.

Most shark species in the Atlantic are vulnerable to overfishing because of their exceptionally low reproductive rates. Currently, ICCAT only has protections in place for a few species including hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, although many other sharks are threatened, including porbeagle, silky, and shortfin mako sharks.

And these sharks are far from man-eating monsters, mind you they are top predators that keep the ecosystem in balance. When these sharks are overfished, it affects the entire the ocean food chain  and most likely not in a good way. Oceana scientists are present at the ICCAT meeting this week, and they are calling on the 48 countries that fish in the Atlantic to adopt greater measures to protect these vulnerable sharks.

The fishing countries of the Atlantic can no longer ignore the shark populations they are responsible for protecting. We should be scared for sharks – not of them – and ICCAT must do more to protect our oceans’ top predators.

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Study Shows Best Places to Protect Marine Mammals

From sea otters to blue whales, marine mammals are under stress from climate change, ocean acidification, hunting and other threats. Researchers have identified 20 important sites around the world where they say conservation efforts should concentrate.

A surfacing vaquita porpoiseMarine mammals are widely distributed in the oceans and some freshwater  locations, but 11 of the conservation sites are home to creatures found nowhere else, according to the study led by Sandra Pompa of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Researchers dubbed those sites “irreplaceable” and added that the nine others selected include representatives of 84 percent of all marine mammals.

Currently the most endangered marine mammal is the vaquita, a porpoise that lives in the northern section of the Gulf of California, Pompa said.

The 11 sites deemed irreplaceable were the Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, Amazon River, San Felix and Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal in Russia, Yangtze River, Indus River, Ganges River and the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

In addition, the nine sites picked for their species richness were along the coasts of Baja California, much of the eastern coast of the Americas (the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and including coastal areas of Cuba, Hispaniola, Colombia and Venezuela), Peru, Argentina, Northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The findings in the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will be valuable as a conservation tool for organizations and governments that want to focus on endangered species, Pompa said.

At least three species — the Caribbean monk seal, Atlantic gray whale and Steller’s sea cow — became extinct because of hunting for their fur, blubber and meat during the 19th and 20th centuries, the researchers noted. The most recent extinction, declared in 2008, was the baiji, a type of porpoise, from the Yangtze River in China.

Published on: August, 01 2011 by Randolph E. Schmid AP Science Writer – ABCNews TechnologyStudy Shows Best Places to Protect Marine Mammals

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