AtlanticOcean

Air Guns Threaten Right Whale Extinction

In June 2017, NOAA Fisheries published proposed whale protections for the surveys. By winter the division’s biologists saw a problem: The protections for the North Atlantic right whale were too weak and put airguns in their direct path.

The agency had proposed a seasonal ban on using airguns up to 47 kilometers (about 29 miles) from shore between November and April, when the whales were known to migrate and give birth along the mid- and south-Atlantic coast.

But peer-reviewed research led by a NOAA Fisheries analyst concluded the whales were traveling farther from shore than ever before — and directly into the path of the proposed survey activity. A draft report for the Navy reached a similar conclusion.

Catch Limits Set on Atlantic Herring

Herring are important economically because they serve as key bait for the lobster and tuna industries. They’re also used as food for human consumption. But perhaps most important, the fish is a critical part of the marine ecosystem because it serves as food for whales, seals and large fish.

Data Show Ocean Monuments Make a Positive Difference for Fishing

The commercial fishing industry had opposed the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, saying that prohibiting commercial fishing in the two areas would cripple the industry. But according to Brad Sewell, oceans attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, two years after designating those protected areas, the numbers tell a different story.

Less than 500 North Atlantic Right Whales Remain

Last year saw an alarming dieoff of North Atlantic right whales, something researchers refer as an “unusual mortality event.” Their carcasses littered the shores of the east coast—12 in Canada and 5 in the United States. Necropsies revealed that most of the animals died from blunt force trauma or entanglement issues. This brings the North Atlantic right whale’s fragile population to an estimated fewer than 500.

Can Seismic Blasts for Oil Open Pandora’s Radioactive Box?

For decades, the U.S. military routinely dumped thousands of tons of obsolete, excess and captured munitions into U.S. coastal waters, thinking the high seas were the best place for the materials to safely decompose. The Atomic Energy Commission likewise oversaw the ocean dumping of untold thousands of drums of low-level radioactive waste from the nation’s manufacturing, research, medical and military sectors.

Marine Monuments Remain at Risk

The three-million-acre monument was designated in September 2016 by former-president Barrack Obama under authority granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act. Since then, commercial fishing, with the exception of lobster and red crab fishing, has been banned within the monuments boundaries. 

In Zinke’s report, he recommends the authority for regulating fishing in the area be returned to the New England Fishery Management Council, which was established under the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.