Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
This is what you get when you create a marine protected area - a beautiful and vibrant coral reef. Check out this video of Cuba's most spectacular MPA - the Gardens of the Queen. Around a chain of islands 50 miles off the coast of Cuba, these waters are home to some of the most spectacular coral reefs on earth. Teaming with sharks, Goliath grouper, and coral galore, this is what a healthy coral reef should look like. Since protection, the number of fish has increased 20 - 30%, proof that MPAs really do work.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
On the opening day of the Summit, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, created by President Obama in response to the spill, released its strategy for addressing Gulf-wide restoration. It establishes four goals: to restore and conserve habitats; restore water quality; enhance community resilience; and replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources. This last goal includes conserving and protecting offshore environments, which Marine Conservation Institute views as an essential component of any restoration blueprint.
Apparently we’re not the only ones who think so. During her Wednesday luncheon speech, former First Lady Laura Bush supported the concept of a national marine monument or sanctuary along what some call the “Islands of the Stream,” a string of underwater hard-bottom habitats running along the outer Gulf shelf from Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary to the Florida Keys Sanctuary, and up along the southeast coast of the United States.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Marine Conservation Institute Board members Sylvia Earle and Phillippe Cousteau were joined by former President Bill Clinton and Dr. Jane Goodall as featured speakers at this week's Eye on Earth Summit, an international conference to address the crucial importance of environmental decision-making.
In addition to these notable speakers, the Eye on Earth Summit is bringing together more than 1,000 leaders from around the world to collaborate on gathering the information and the data necessary to understand the ocean's processes so that we can better protect our ocean while still maintaining the economic benefits the ocean provides to society.
The goal of the summit is to reach a consensus and make recommendations as to what should be the priorities and focus at Rio+20, The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which Marine Conservation Institute will be attending in 2012. To follow the progress of the Eye on Earth summit, follow the developments on twitter, and be sure to stay tuned to hear more about their conclusions, special initiatives and a declaration towards Rio+20 which should be announced tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
On December 1, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing regarding several bills aimed at amending the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA for short, was originally passed in 1976, and its goal was to prevent overfishing and effectively manage fish stocks in the US by creating regional fishery management councils. It has been amended many times, most notably in 1996 and 2006, every time in the effort to increase conservation efforts of our natural resources in the fishing industry. While the efforts are applauded, some fish stocks are still depleting, habitats are disintegrating, and many fishermen are losing their jobs. The MSA is due for reauthorization in 2013, which is one reason why it has come to the foreground recently. The bills discussed at this hearing all address these issues.
Rep. Pallone’s (D-NJ) bills, H.R. 594 and H.R. 3061, both are an attempt to help the fishing industry. The goal of H.R. 594, known as the “Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011,” is to address coastal economies by providing grants to help fishermen and coastal businesses, help rid our ocean and beaches of marine debris, and invest in updates to current technology. H.R. 3061, or the “Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011,” is meant to amend the MSA to grant better access to the public regarding the fish stock assessments, and to use improved data when making stock assessments.
Rep. Frank’s (D-MA) bill, H.R. 2610, the “Asset Forfeiture Fund Reform and Distribution Act of 2011,” aims to amend the MSA so that money collected from fishing penalties goes back to the states, rather than the federal agency which issued the penalties (NOAA).
Rep. Jones (R-NC) discussed his bill, H.R. 2753, the “Fishery Management Transparency and Accountability Act,” whose purpose is to allow Regional Fishery Management Council meetings and records to be publically accessible.
Rep. Wittman’s (R-VA) bill is H.R. 2304, the “Fishery Science Improvement Act of 2011.” Its goal is to provide NOAA with more time to properly assess fish stocks before implementing annual catch limits (ACLs) to fisheries.
Rep. Runyan (R-NJ) discussed two bills he introduced, H.R. 1646, the “American Angler Preservation Act,” and H.R. 2772, the “Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011.” Rep. Runyan stressed that in both these bills, the goal is to ensure sound science before imposing regulations.
Finally, Rep. Keating (D-MA) discussed his bill, H.R. 1013, the “Strengthen Fisheries Management in New England Act of 2011.” As the title implies, the bill requires increased research and proper oversight of collected funds for penalties in New England fisheries.
The hearing began with each Representative discussing his own bill(s), and the importance of voting on (and passing) said legislation. Next, a panel of fishery managers, recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, and lawyers from firms that address fishery issues, all spoke about their impressions of these bills, and potential implications were the bills to pass through Congress. Everyone had a different opinion: some felt that the current legislation was unfair, while others thought it was based on sound science and thus was important to pay attention to (regardless of the current job situation in our country), and other panelists expressed that they could understand both sides, and felt more discussion was needed before arriving at a final conclusion. Finally, a third panel consisting of the Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Eric Schwaab, spoke. Mr. Schwaab expressed the need for understanding, and assured the committee members that NOAA was doing its best to ensure that fish stocks were rebuilt before it’s too late. He reiterated that while it seems bad at the moment for fishermen, it would be worse without the regulations NOAA has set, because the stocks would be further depleted, and it would lead to complete desolation of fish stocks around US waters.
Marine Conservation Institute will continue to monitor these bills as they move along the legislative process.