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The Problem

Over half the air we breathe, much of the food we eat and an amazing amount of the shipped goods we rely on, depend on  the ocean.  Yet our oceans and the species that live in and on them are in serious trouble due to us humans (the world's most invasive species!)  Some of these include: global warming; oil spills; PCBs*, arsenic and other chemical pollutants from manufacturing plants and from the toxic things humans dump from their lawns, toilets, sinks and boats; fertilizer, pesticide and insecticide run-off; raw sewage accidents as well as the intentional dumping of raw sewage and hazardous waste from cruise and other recreational ships (and guess what? they're now allowed to do it only 3 miles from the beach you and your kids swim in when you come ashore!)  Why? Because even though rules and regulations are in place, the resources to enforce them simply don't exist; over-fishing; the careless dumping of gill nets, fishing line and other fishing gear that tangle and drown marine life or is ingested and kills marine life; commercial whaling (yes, despite whales being hunted nearly to extinction and plentiful alternative food sources, Japan, Norway and Iceland still kill lots of them for food, oil and other uses as do indigenous peoples who continue to live in the traditional ways of their forefathers; Navy sonar blasting, which kills and injures marine mammals, especially those dependent on echolocation such as whales and dolphins (they die, by the way, from cerebral hemmhoraging); coastal overpopulation and the consequent degradation due to development; oceanic missile testing; marine parks and aquariums; and recreational boating accidents that maim and/or kill marine life and pollute the water. 

(*PCBs are an organic, industrial by-product that are highly toxic, have an incredibly long biological half-life (2-6 years or more),  are soluble in media such as fish tissue and sediments, and are stored in lipid (fat) cells.  Let's use the resident San Juan orca population of northern Puget Sound as an example.  Because these guys are at the top of the food chain, they end up consuming huge quantities of PCBs.  And because these animals have a large body mass and lots of fat to keep them warm, the PCBs are stored in their fat cells for years, including mother's milk, where they're passed on to their calves for generations.  The "gift" that keeps on giving.  Dead orcas' bodies' are treated and disposed of as toxic waste.

You're Either Part of the Problem or You're Part of the Solution

You may be saying something like, "It's all very tragic, but it's not my problem.  I can't change the world.  Hell, I have trouble just trying to change myself!"  The truth is that this is EVERYONE's problem unless you're an E.T. and plan to returning to your home planet soon.  You actually have a lot more power than you think, and small changes in your habits can have dramatic and synergistic effects.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  If you don't already, start reading labels.  And then eliminate as many hazardous chemicals from your household as possible, replacing them with the many readily available environmentally friendly alternatives.  They're much cheaper too!  You'd be amazed by how toxic most of the stuff under your kitchen sink is .  For example, instead of ammonia-based glass cleaners, use a solution of half vinegar/half warm water to wash your windows and mirrors and then buff them with a newspaper.  Use Bon Ami instead of Comet or other bleach containing products for sinks, showers, tubs and tiles.  Scrub your toilet with a few drops of plant-based dish liquid rather than all those nasty commercial alternatives.  Use oxygen bleaches (OxyClean) rather than chlorine bleaches. (works great for cleaning toilets too!)  Use Murphy's Oil Soap for cleaning cupboards and floors.  To unclog sinks, instead of using products such as Liquid Plumber (VERY nasty!), pour 1/4 c. baking soda down, followed by 2 c. vinegar.  Let it stand for 15 minutes, then let the hot tap run for a while to wash it down.  

The same thing goes for your lawn.  Throw away those toxic products such as Round Up and Weed 'n Feed and take care of your lawn in an environmentally responsible way.  You can call your local Health Department's Environmental Health Division for instructions on what to use, or you can use nothing (wow- what a concept!).  Instead, spend $10 for a hand weeder.  Your earthworms and frogs may return,  and  you'll get some upper body exercise in the process.  Also, think about letting your lawn "brown out" in the summer months.  I promise you it will come back green when the rains return. Not only will you have a lot less yard work to do, but you'll save money on your water bill as well.  

The same thing holds true for your flowers and other foliage.  Keeping your plants healthy will offer them natural protection.  Short of that, use insecticidal soaps, neem oil (sparingly, or it will kill your bees, even though it's not supposed to), aphids, slug pellets, boric acid for ants, etc.  These products are available at most garden sections of major supermarkets.  Just tell the salesperson that you want to use environmentally-safe products.  Remember: if people stop buying those toxic products, the manufacturers will be forced to stop making them.

2.  Never pour chemicals down your sink or into your toilet!  This includes kitty litter.  Dispose of them responsibly.  Otherwise they end up in the sewer, then in the nearest river and then in the ocean, killing fish, such as salmon, along the way.

3.  You may want to re-think supporting the cruise industry.  They are some of the worst offenders of ocean pollution because they're not monitored and dump waste at sea.  At the very least, let them know how you feel.

4.  Eat less seafood.  It's regulated for biological contaminants, but not chemical ones.  You're also competing with marine mammals who have nothing else on the menu to choose from.

5.  When you go to the beach, bring a bag or two with you and pick up trash.  Make sure you pick up any loose fishing line, net remains or plastic/styrofoam debris.  These things can get back into the water and suffocate,  starve and/or drown marine life.

6.  Let your views be known.  Write or call the chemical companies on the back of the jar, can or box label and let them know that you will no longer be buying their product and why.  Write to your local and national representatives and let them know how you feel.  Your local ones will be in your phone book.  

To find your U.S. Senator, click here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
To find your U.S. Representative, click here:
http://www.house.gov/

*This is especially useful for protesting the navy's sonar blasting activities and commercial whaling.  

Contacts for protesting commercial whaling: 

IWC: www.iwcoffice.org
Dr. William Hogarth at National Marine Fisheries, NOAA: bill.hogarth@noaa.gov or 
his assistant, Gloria Thompson: Gloria.thompson@noaa.gov 
Phone: (301) 713-2239 (Note: Don't expect a prompt reply if any by email.)
or Cheri McCarty, International Relations Rep., Phone: 301-713-9090
1315 E. West Hwy., 12th Floor, SilverSprings, MD 20910

Submit letters to your local newspapers/associations/journals/radio, etc.

7.  Don't support or patronize marine parks and aquariums.  These places are making big profits off having imprisoned highly intelligent, wild animals.  Remember, dolphins (and Shamu is a dolphin too!) are social critters like us with what some would argue an even higher intelligence than ours.  How would you like to be aggressively captured, scared to death, taken from your family and friends forever, put in a small cell and forced to perform for strangers just so you can eat?

8.  Help educate others, not only by talking about what's going wrong, but by SHARING your love and enthusiasm for the marine world with them.  There's no better or more contagious form of learning than through direct experience.  Take them to a favorite beach, reef, bay, mooring spot,  whale watch (one that's environmentally responsible).  Let them experience first-hand the joy of what we could all be losing if we don't take immediate steps.  This list includes your family (esp. your kids because - hey, they're the future), your relatives, your friends, your co-workers, your school, your church or temple group, your health club members, the guy who fixes your car, the gang you hang out with after your AA meeting, whatever it is.  Word of mouth is POWERFUL! Direct experience is even more powerful.

9.  If you are someone who believes in the power of prayer, do it regularly and with great feeling.  Send your prayers and blessings for healing out into the world.  They're a form of positive thought and energy that can only uplift everyone and everything, including you, because we're all connected in the great web of life.  Remember, nurtured intention can move mountains.  Just ask Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King.

Reef Etiquette

NOTE: Although some of the following is specific to Hawai'i reefs, it can be learned from and applied to ALL reefs.

1.  Don't touch, stand or walk on coral with ANY of your body parts or your fins; THIS IS HOW IT"S KILLED!  Coral is actually a colony of tiny animals too fragile for human touch. Adjust your mask before entering the water.  Be aware of your fins at all times.  (I put them on AFTER I get in the water).  If you can't move without kicking coral, you shouldn't be there.

2.  Pick up plastic.  Sea turtles see plastic bags as jellyfish.  Some try to eat them and choke to death.

3.  Remove monofilament line and net from the beach and water.  Turtles and others get tangled and drown.

4.  Don't use lay gill nets and oppose them unless, again, your Native Hawaiian.  While any fishing method used inappropriately can lead to overfishing, some forms pose greater threats than others.  Gill nets are known to: harvest huge numbers of finfish; harvest fish out of season; take babies spawning as well as the larger, older fishes critical to fish replenishment; remove species that play a key role in the health of the reef system; damage coral and seagrass beds if not set or removed with care; remove critical nursery, foraging, spawning and refuge areas for fish and shellfish; catch marine turtles coming to rest, feed and nest; catch monk seals, which are susceptible to entrapment in torn nets or "ghost" nets that float freely in the waters; become lost or abandoned, continuing to wastefully catch and kill in the open ocean.

5.  Don't feed fish or any other marine life; it disrupts the natural balance and makes those critters dependent on humans.

6.  Sunscreen kills coral.  Use a sun block T- shirt for your upper-body, leggings for your legs and a swim cap for your head for UV protection.

7.  Don't touch or pursue sea turtles.  Turtles are returning after decades of being hunted.  Human contact may alter their behavior and make them wary.  Many green sea turtles show the fibropapilloma (FP) virus (which can be transmitted to humans) with white tumors on the eyes, mouth or flippers.  Also, pursuing or touching a turtle may lead to citation, court appearance, fine and custody.  By the way, I personally know of someone who did this and got caught; he's still paying off fines.

8.  Blow the whistle.  Maiming fish, touching turtles or fishing in a preserve should be reported.  In Hawai'i, call the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at 808-984-8110.  Nights & weekends, dial the operator & ask for Enterprise 5469.

9.  Don't buy coral or shells - they were taken live and  killed for novelty.  Advise shell vendors to STOP!  This crime against nature cannot continue.  Also, refuse shell leis common to most luaus.

10. Saltwater aquarists should get a new hobby.  Short of that, buy only captive-bred fish.  Mortality rates in shipment are gross - fish collectors are decimating our reefs.

11. Unless you're Native Hawaiian (they have been granted subsistence rights), don't eat reef fish.  Toxins are transmitted, including the ciguatera neurotoxin that inhibits a pulmonary enzyme in humans causing slow death by asphyxiation, and it itches.  

12. Assume stewardship.  All humans have a cultural heritage to the reef, with its social order and family groups.  

13. Spearguns are for deep water only.  Slurpguns are not allowed on most reefs.  Fish collecting is not sustainable and on most reefs, illegal.  

Hawaii's Reef Fish

Hawaii's reef fish are in decline.  There are approximately 75% less fish than in 1900.  The fish caught today are smaller and are often less desirable.

Hawaii has the worst "catch per unit" of all the nation's fisheries.  This means that Hawaii fishermen must work harder and longer for fewer and smaller fish than any other fishermen in the U.S.

Reasons for the decline include: 

Wasteful fishing practices - catching everything and anything, even if it is unwanted.  

Habitat destruction - coastal development, toxic pollutants, illegal fishing techniques, irresponsible divers and boat captains.  All these things destroy the coral reef;

Increased human population - more people, more fishermen, more people at the shoreline and in the ocean;

Fewer larger fish - larger fish produce more and healthier eggs and spawn more frequently.  They make up 90% of our future fish;

Alien species - introduced fish and algae compete with native species.

Common-sense, Responsible Practices:

Check your nets and traps often.  Release unwanted fish.  Use nets with a loose enough mesh that will allow the babies to escape so they can grow up and reproduce;

Take only what you can eat, and don't kill any fish that you won't; 

Make sure your boat and car engines aren't leaking oil;

Anchor ONLY IN THE SAND or use permanent moorings;

Do NOT dump anything but water in storm drains;

Again, don't step on coral reefs or break coral - it's A LIVING THING;

Don't touch turtles, fish or dolphins when swimming.  Your hands may have bacteria that may be harmful to them and vice versa;

Pick up trash on the beach or out in the ocean.  It's the "gift" that keeps on giving, killing marine birds and mammals that choke, get ensnarled in it, or fill their bellies with it and die of starvation;

Educate yourself and others about fishing regulations and common sense practices.

ALL REEFS ARE UNDER EXTREME PRESSURE FROM HUMANS.  HELP SAVE OUR REEFS!

 

Commercial Whaling and the International Whaling Commission (IWC)

In response to centuries of many whale species being hunted to near extinction, the IWC implemented zero catch limits for all commercial whaling that became effective in 1986.  The United States and many other countries continues to maintain its policy of opposing commercial whaling.  The United States has been a vocal opponent of the Norwegian and Japanese whaling programs.  Iceland continues to hunt whales as well.  The United States, along with other like-minded countries, insists upon compliance with the moratorium on commercial whaling and intends to continue its diplomatic efforts in this regard.


The 58th annual meeting of the IWC  occurred in St. Kitts & Nevis June 16-20, 2006.  The moratorium passed, but by a narrow margin.  
Contacts: 
IWC : www.iwcoffice.org
Dr. William Hogarth at National Marine Fisheries, NOAA): bill.hogarth@noaa.gov or 
his assistant, Gloria Thompson: Gloria.thompson@noaa.gov 
Phone: (301) 713-2239 Note: Don't expect a prompt reply if any by email.
or Cheri McCarty, International Relations Rep., Phone: 301-713-9090
1315 E. West Hwy., 12th Floor, SilverSprings, MD 20910

A Word on the Navy's (ours and other countries') Use of Low- and Mid-frequency Sonar 

Many countries, including the U.S., Norway, Korea, and the new militaristic Japan, are using mid- and low-frequency sonar as part of their naval military operations.  This has been demonstrated to injure and kill marine mammals, including hundreds of whales.  Necropsies done on these beached whales revealed cerebral hemmhorraging (bleeding from the brain and ears) as the cause of death.  Imagine an animal whose hearing is so sensitive that it can hear and recognize the song of a pod member from many miles away.  Now imagine what it must be like to have something as loud as a 747 taking off blasting at it from close-range.  Upon hearing the blast animals panic and head for the surface too quickly which causes hemmhorraging and death.

Although less harmful sonar frequencies are available and less damaging operations are easy to employ (e.g., turning the sonar off when in transit or between exercises), the U.S. Navy, for one, has been highly resistant to doing this.  Many whales, including calves, have died from these activities.  Hawaii and the Puget Sound are a couple of places I know of where this has occurred.  The actual number of casualties is not known because many die at sea where their bodies aren't found.

Environmental groups such as the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace have been very active on this issue, have sued the U.S. Navy, providing cogent arguments of detriment to the marine environment, and have won temporary restraining orders.  But those orders are very brief - sometimes just a week or two - and the Navy prevails with a few, very inadequate and probably unenforceable restrictions.

The mounting death toll is not only preventable, it is illegal. The Navy is violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other laws by refusing to protect whales during training and testing.  In fact, the Navy had the audacity to ask the Secretary of Defense to declare it exempt from the Marine Mammal Protection Act! I'm sure you agree: whales shouldn't have to die for military practice. And the Navy must NOT be placed above our nation's laws.

Proposed Rule for Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Navy Operations of Navy SURTASS LFA:
http://www.surtass-lfa-eis.com/

A few general environmental contacts:

NRDC: www.nrdc.com

Greenpeace: www.greenpeace.org

The Nature Conservancy: www.nature.org