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Victory for Whales; Death Knell for Oceans


September 18, 2015
Rhea Suh / NRDC & Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams

We did it! After more than a decade of fighting us in and out of court, the US Navy has agreed to save whales, dolphins and other marine mammals by limiting deadly sonar and explosives during training exercises. At the same time, Human activity is pushing marine life to the brink of collapse. The international conservation group, World Wild Fund for Nature, is calling on world leaders to make 'profound' changes to way ocean is managed and protected.

Special to Environmentalists Against War

Victory for Whales
Whales got their day in court -- and WON

Rhea Suh, President, NRDC

(September 16, 2015) -- After more than a decade of fighting us in and out of court, the US Navy has agreed to save whales, dolphins and other marine mammals by limiting deadly sonar and explosives during training exercises.

We did it!

For a decade NRDC has been watchdogging the U.S. Navy and pursuing it through the courts on behalf of whales in the Pacific. Today the whales won! The Navy has finally agreed to meet its obligation under the law and end the needless sonic assault on whales, dolphins and other marine mammals -- agreeing for the first time to put vital ocean habitat around Southern California and Hawaii off-limits to destructive sonar use during training exercises.

Make no mistake: it wouldn't have happened without you. Together with high-profile advocates like Pierce Brosnan, we ignited a public outcry and flooded President Obama and the Secretary of Defense with hundreds of thousands of messages demanding action. And your generous financial support gave us the vital funds needed to keep our lawyers in court for as long as it took to win.

I can think of few movements with the energy, determination and above all, public support, to get this far against such a powerful adversary. Thank you, truly.

For marine mammals -- whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions -- hearing is essential. They use sound to communicate, to navigate, to feed and to find a mate. So when sonar occurs nearby, producing sound of extraordinary intensity, the effects on these acoustic creatures can be terrible.

The Navy's own Environmental Review concedes sonar could kill nearly 1,000 marine mammals over the next five years and cause more than 13,000 serious injuries, such as permanent hearing loss or lung damage. As you know, NRDC filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Navy's massive sonar and high explosives program off Southern California and Hawaii.

In March, a federal court ruled in our favor on every count. And now, that hard work has paid off in a strong settlement that protects both our naval security and our environment.

This victory is as massive as the animals we're protecting, including endangered blue whales -- the largest animal ever to have lived on the planet. Not to mention the array of small, resident whale and dolphin populations off Hawaii, for whom the islands are literally an oasis -- their only home.

Of course, as critical as this win is, it's a far cry from the end of our fight to protect marine mammals from Navy sonar. Our job now is to expand this victory to the Navy's other ranges, off the Pacific Northwest, in the Gulf of Alaska, off the southeast coast and elsewhere.

We'll need your strong support, as always, but for now -- you deserve to celebrate. Read my blog post for more on this exciting victory you made possible for whales. Thank you so much for being part of this work,

P.S. Right now, it's so important that we build on this fantastic momentum and escalate our campaign -- in and out of court -- to protect whales on both coasts from the Navy's deadly sonar. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift today that will help NRDC keep holding the Navy accountable to our environmental laws.

The mission of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

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Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 West 20th Street | New York, NY 10011
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Human Activity Pushing Marine Life to the Brink of Collapse
Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams

(September 16, 2015) -- Human activity is pushing marine life to the brink of collapse, warned a leading international conservation group, which found that overfishing, destruction of marine habitats, and climate change has led to the loss of almost half the world's marine mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish within a single generation.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on Wednesday released an emergency edition of its Living Blue Planet Report (pdf) to highlight this dangerous trend ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit later this month.

At the meeting, world leaders are expected to formally approve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and WWF is warning that without "profound changes" to the way the ocean is managed and protected the world may be facing an ecosystem "collapse."

Among the report's dire findings:

* Around one in four species of sharks, rays, and skates is now threatened with extinction, due primarily to overfishing.

* Tropical reefs have lost more than half their reef-building coral over the last 30 years.

* Marine vertebrate populations declined 49 percent between 1970 and 2012.

* If current rates of temperature rise continue, the ocean will become too warm for coral reefs by 2050.

Further, the study also highlights "an impending social and economic crisis" as fish and other marine life are critical for the food security of billions of people, a large sector of which live in developing countries.

Researchers found that "species essential to commercial and subsistence fishing—and therefore global food supply—may be suffering the greatest declines." Populations of fish species most utilized by humans have fallen by at least half, with the critical family consisting of tunas, mackerels, and bonitos decreased by 74 percent.

"Overfishing, destruction of marine habitats, and climate change have dire consequences for the entire human population, with the poorest communities that rely on the sea getting hit fastest and hardest," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. "The collapse of ocean ecosystems could trigger serious economic decline -- and undermine our fight to eradicate poverty and malnutrition."

WWF is also looking to the upcoming COP21 UN Climate Summit in Paris where negotiations by world leaders to limit global warming "will directly impact the future of ocean health."

"Current international commitments fall far short of the action needed to stop levels of warming and acidification that are proving catastrophic to the ocean systems all people depend on," the group notes.

"The fortunate news is that solutions do exist and we know what needs to be done. The ocean is a renewable resource that can provide for all future generations if the pressures are dealt with effectively," Lambertini added.

"If we live within sustainable limits, the ocean will contribute to food security, livelihoods, economies and our natural systems. The equation is that simple. We must take this opportunity to support the ocean and reverse the damage while we still can."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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