Category: Conservation


Fantastic Frog Art!

save the frogs

Amazing frog art from Kara Timmons.

This amazing piece of frog art from Kara Timmons won the Save the Frogs art contest. Depicted on the frogs’ backs are some of the problems that are leading our amphibian friends to crazy levels of extinction including invasive species, climate change, deforestation, harvesting and shipping for school dissections, frogs legs and the pet trade (spreads the chytrid fungus), and pollution and deformities. Find out what you can do to help frogs at savethefrogs.com. Check out more cool frog art here. You can also purchase awesome amphibian art like this in the form of postcards, posters, totes, t-shirts and other goodies at the Save the Frogs gift center.

Another one of my favorite pieces:

Gastric brooding frog

yay! Frog art by Ana-Maria Maximencu.

Of course, I am biased; this is clearly my favorite frog species, the gastric brooding frog, that went extinct in my life time.

Another favorite:

Froggy Lisa

Brayden Brown, age 14, showing a lot of imagination in this piece.

There are many more like this, so check it out! Also, if you are feeling so inclined, Save the Frogs is working hard to get Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco to rescind a veto on legislation that is allowing one of the few remaining wetland areas in California to be a golf course. These wetlands are also home to the endangered red-legged frog and the endangered San Francisco garter snake. You can help Save the Frogs on this important mission by letting Mayor Ed Lee know what you think about his decision to veto this important legislation by calling him at (415) 554-6141 or e-mailing him at mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org. Cheers!

Okay, one more:

frog piper

Fantastic! by Bhavya Dhami


Senate Bill SB766

Well, nature lovers, at the moment there is a bill being sneaked through that will have some pretty negative environmental consequences and will significantly limit public options for resisting industrial projects. Here is what the Audubon Society of Portland has to say about it and obviously if this is something you disapprove of, I hope you will help the fight against it:

“Two weeks ago we wrote to you about Senate Bill 766—a bill we consider to be one of the most significant threats to emerge to urban conservation efforts and our communities in a decade. SB 766 would prevent new environmental regulations on “regionally significant industrial lands” and would dramatically reduce opportunities for public involvement in  the permitting process for industrial projects. It would severely reduce our community’s ability to protect places like the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and West Hayden Island

Since that time there has been a huge outpouring of opposition and your letters and phone calls have been having a real impact. Previously strong supporters now admit that the bill has significant flaws. This once “unstoppable” bill is now one of the most controversial bills of the legislative session. However they are still trying to ram this thing through!!!

Check out Steve Duin’s Oregonian Article: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2011/03/losing_our_way_in_the_reckless/5489/comments-4.html

We need your support to kill this bill. This is going to take a sustained effort. Please keep writing and keep calling!

We just learned this morning that the Senate Sub-committee on Business, Transportation and Economic Development has scheduled a hearing and work session for SB 766 for this coming Monday at 3:00 PM.

  • They gave the public less than two working days notice about what may well be the last senate sub-committee hearing on one of the most controversial bills on this session!
  • They have continued to exclude conservation groups from the behind the industry dominated working group!
  • They have not released the amendments that will be brought forward on Monday so the public doesn’t even know what it will be commenting on!

We will share specific comments on the amended version of SB 766 as soon as the public is allowed to review it.  However given that the hearing is only two business days away it is important that our legislators again hear that we want transparent, fair and inclusive public process. Everything about SB 766 from the way it was drafted to what it will do if it passes flies directly in the face of those principles.

Key Points to Make:

  • The recession should not be used as an excuse to reduce public process and prevent new environmental protections on industrial lands;
  • Holding a hearing on one of the most controversial bills in the legislative session with only two days notice and without giving the public an opportunity to review amendments in advance is unacceptable;
  • Working behind closed doors with industry and excluding environmental groups is unacceptable.

It should come as no surprise that the only way to pass a bill which guts public process is to sneak it through the legislative process. Please tell the Governor and the Senate Democrats that SB 766 is an attack on our communities and our environment.

Governor John Kitzhaber (Text can be pasted into and sent via this webpage)

http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact.shtml

Phone: 503-378-4582 (This is a message line)

Senator Contact Information (Senators can be directly emailed–just paste the whole list into an email)

sen.alanbates@state.or.us

sen.leebeyer@state.or.us

sen.suzannebonamici@state.or.us

sen.petercourtney@state.or.us

sen.richarddevlin@state.or.us

sen.jackiedingfelder@state.or.us

sen.chrisedwards@state.or.us

sen.lauriemonnesanderson@state.or.us

sen.rodmonroe@state.or.us

sen.floydprozanski@state.or.us

sen.dianerosenbaum@state.or.us

sen.chipshields@state.or.us

sen.joanneverger@state.or.us

sen.ginnyburdick@state.or.us

Phone numbers and additional contact information can be found at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/senate/

Thanks for your continued opposition to SB 766.”

 

 

MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide

Seafood Watch Cards distributed by Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 

Earlier on, I began a 5 part discussion on the hows and whys of choosing sustainable seafood. Part 1 defined sustainable seafood as seafood that:

1. Was not overfished

2. Was harvested in a manner that minimized bycatch and

3. Was harvested in a manner that minimized other negative environmental impacts

and examples were given of fisheries that have met these criteria and of those that haven’t. Now I would like to move on and discuss the second question raised. How does a consumer know which seafood in the market is harvested sustainably?

I wish this question had a simple, easy answer. But the fact is, sometimes it’s not easy to tell. And sometimes it is. The Monterey Bay Aquarium pocket guides and apps are a really good place to start. These guides, down-loadable free on their website, are regional guides that place fisheries into one of 3 different categories. The green category indicates “best choice” seafood, or seafood that is harvested sustainably. The yellow category indicates fisheries that are not the worst, but still have room for improvement and they are labeled as a “good alternative.” Lastly, there is the red “avoid” column, indicating fisheries that are not using sustainable practices and are not meeting one or more of the criteria listed above. An asterisk located by a particular seafood indicates an excess of contaminants, such as mercury, and consumption should be limited for your health.

 

MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide copy

Seafood Watch guide distributed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can get this guide at any AZA facility or free from their website.

 

As a side note- it is not a coincidence that the seafood listed in the avoid column tends to have more contaminants than those listed in the other columns. Contaminants, such as mercury and PCB’s accumulate in fish that live a really long time, or that are at the top of the food chain. These same fish are the ones that reproduce slower and take a long time to reach reproductive maturity and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of overfishing.

Anyway, with a straightforward guide like this, how can it be difficult to know if seafood is harvested sustainably or not? Well, there are a few reasons. First off, not all seafood types offered in an area are listed on this guide. Secondly, some types of fish are listed in multiple columns. This is because the same type of fish might be harvested in a number of different ways, and how the fish is caught can make a big difference in terms of the amount of bycatch caught by the fishery, so you have to investigate to find out which method was used. Lastly, some types of seafood is marketed under different names (often names that sound more appealing).

So, what to do about these issues. Well, you can find out about fish not listed on this guide and find what other names a fish is marketed under at the Seafood Watch website.  Also, if you have an iphone, itouch or blackberry, you can download the seafood watch pocket guide apps, for free, which also list other common market names for different types of seafood.

Another thing you can do is to look for this symbol:

 

marine stewardship logo

The marine stewardship logo, indicating that the seafood in question was harvested sustainably. Image taken from the Marine Stewardship Councils website.

 

If you see this symbol, you know that the seafood in question was independently assessed and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and met minimum standards of sustainability.

In terms of what to do if a type of seafood is listed in multiple columns and you’re not sure where it is from, all you can really do is ask. I have been surprised more than once by simply asking. My first thoughts were that no waitress in a chain restaurant is going to know how their seafood was harvested or where it was from. But often they can find out for you if you simply ask. If they can’t, then maybe (usually) there is another seafood option that is not listed in multiple columns to be sure.

Another thing you can do is patronize stores and restaurants that sell only certified sustainable seafood, or clearly indicate which seafood they have that is sustainable, to make it easier for you. For example, I have seen the Marine Stewardship Council’s logo printed on some menus next to the seafood options they have that are sustainable. There are many good restaurants that are doing this now.

These are some of the ways you can find out if the seafood you’re eating is harvested sustainably. Stay tuned for part 3, which will discuss why choosing sustainable seafood is important.

Victory Will Be Ours!

savethefrogs

Children gather to protest the selling of frog legs at Uncle Julio's restaurant. Image from savethefrogs.com.

Here’s a rather cheerful story that made my day. First a little background information.  Frog legs imported for consumption are coming from just a few places and are known carries of the chytrid fungus, which is the amphibian killing fungus that has been moving around our planet. Since 1979, 200 amphibian species have gone extinct (you might remember my gastric brooding frog post), which is not a normal rate of extinction by any means. 100 of these extinctions are thought to have been caused by the chytrid fungus. The exportation/importation of frogs for food allows for the spread of this amphibian killing fungus, as some 62% of the bullfrogs imported to the US are known to be infected with it. Even the water they are housed in can spread the fungus. Furthermore, importing frogs  has led to an abundance of escapees, which are invasive and compete with and consume other amphibians.

Given these facts, having frog legs on menus is not exactly sustainable. So much so that the California Fish and Game banned the importation of non-native frogs for food in March of this year. (yay!) Still, the rest of the country continues to import frogs. However, save the frogs has been working to eliminate the demand for frog legs by putting pressure on restaurants and grocery stores to stop carrying them. They had a huge win recently, when Wegmans 76 store supermarket chain announced that they will remove frog legs from their store for environmental reasons. They are the first supermarket chain to do so! Yay for them!

Also, they have had a few successful protests at Uncle Julio’s restaurants, including the one pictured above in which elementary and middle school students educated Uncle Julio’s potential customers about the harmful effects of importing frogs and Uncle Julio’s contribution to it. It truly makes me happy to see kids speaking up for the world they will have to clean up.

For the record, I’m not a fan of Uncle Julio’s, as they not only sell frog legs, but in previous protests have even impersonated cops to try to get rid of people simply using their first amendment rights in a public space.

If you are feeling so inclined and wish to aid these kids without flying to the east coast, you can e-mail Uncle Julio’s CEO Todd Conger at todd.conger@unclejulios.com or call him at 972-554-6886 and let him know how you feel!

And once again, I would highly recommend checking out save the frogs, which continues to work for the frogs and all amphibians through research, education and legislation. You can even sign up for their e-mail list, which will send you wonderful happy little victories like this one and cool frog art.

oiled pelicans

Oiled pelicans wait for their chance to be cleaned at the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Image credit to the IBBRC.

As the oil spreads continuously and thoroughly through the gulf of Mexico, which is just one of the recent oil spills torturing our oceans, it seems almost impossible to focus on doing what we can to help and trying to remain constructive. The destruction hits hard and acts as a constant reminder that we are fighting an up-hill battle. Unfortunately, it’s times like this, when the temptation is to just throw our hands up and call it quits that we most need to work to minimize the damage. This post is about what we can do to help and the previous relative success of such efforts in the past.

Right now, working like crazy, employees and volunteers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research have set up a triage and are working to get the toxic sludge off of seabirds in the gulf of Mexico.

Brown Pelican before and after cleaning

A Brown Pelican before and after being cleaned. Image credit to the IBBRC.

I have seen the IBBRC in action and they are wonderfully capable and effective. I want to point out that, while BP is paying for this entire clean-up and any donations to IBBRC would not go toward the clean-up effort in the gulf, they have been training people for just such an event on their own dime for years and have taken on projects with no party claiming responsibility as well. So, if you would like to help, you can give a donation, adopt a bird or go to your nearest IBBRC and volunteer or get yourself trained to clean, feed and care for birds for the next time such a disaster happens in your area. Once there is already a crisis, they’re in action and they don’t have the time to stop and train someone new on dealing directly with the birds and all of the associated government regulations. If you are interested in volunteering in the gulf right now, here is the site for more information.

So does cleaning and releasing birds help? Do they survive? Do they reproduce normally? The results vary quite a bit depending on many factors. Here is just one study that shows that oiled birds can and do survive and their rehabilitation is successful. Here is a fantastic blog with many more studies discussed and linked to about the same. Don’t follow the oiled bird links unless you have a strong stomach. A lot of research has been done, mostly with penguins, as they are easy to locate and keep track of, that has shown that the birds can survive and reproduce at normal rates compared to birds that were never oiled. Even birds that were oiled two separate times.

For weekly updates on this rescue mission, check in with Tri-state bird rescue and research here.

I understand that this is just birds and that there is a lot more wildlife to consider. However, if I continue research for this post I may just vomit and fall into a spiral of depression, so this will have to do. My apologies. And my love and thanks for the very special people who are strong enough to deal with this mess and who are working their asses off to save what wildlife they can.

 

MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide

Seafood watch pocket guide.

 

The seafood watch program was started in 1999 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and has now spread throughout the United States and Canada, as it has been supported by every AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facility and other environmental organizations. The idea behind it is that as major consumers of seafood, if we support only fisheries that are harvesting their food in a sustainable manner, then we can direct the market towards more ocean-friendly fishing practices.

This is a pretty important conservation concern right now, so I am going to occasionally write a post about sustainable seafood.  I’ll be discussing the following topics:

1. What is sustainable seafood?

2. How do I know which seafood is sustainable?

3. Why is choosing sustainable seafood important right now?

4. What are some ways seafood can be harvested sustainably? How does this effect fisheries?

5. What progress have we made?

Today I will discuss number 1: What is sustainable seafood?

Three criteria have to be met for a fishery to be deemed sustainable.  This first is that they cannot overfish a particular fish or population.  Overfishing specifically means that we are harvesting substantially more of a particular type of fish than is being replaced by reproduction.  An example of a type of fish caught in a manner that does not meet this criterion is the Chilean Seabass, also known as a toothfish.  Chilean Seabass grow slowly and take a long time to reach reproductive maturity, so these fish can take a long time to recover population size from the effects of overfishing.  An example of a fishery that does meet this criterion is the wild-caught Alaskan Salmon fishery.  Fish-populations and the fishery are closely monitored and managed and the results are astounding (I will discuss this more in later posts.)

The second important factor in fishing sustainably is limiting the amount of bycatch. Bycatch refers to animals that are accidentally caught in fishing gear, but are not the target seafood of the fishery and because the they either lack the permits or space, they simply throw the dead or dying seafood back into the ocean.  Bycatch represents 40.4 percent of global marine catches, according to this study published by Marine Policy. They estimate that 38,505,242 tonnes of fish are discarded annually-and I mean fish, this estimate does not include invertebrates, mammals, sea turtles or seabirds. These estimates are considered to be low, given that fishers being observed are more likely to follow better fishing practices than those not being observed.

An example of seafood caught with high amounts of bycatch is imported wild-caught shrimp.  Outside of the United States, shrimp trawls drag along the bottom of the ocean to find the lovely crustaceans.  However, they end up finding a lot more than that. They catch fish (including sharks), sea turtles and other invertebrates.

 

bycatch from a shrimp trawl

Bycatch from a shrimp trawl. Image taken by Elliot Norse.

 

On average, outside of the United States shrimp trawls catch 5-6 pounds of bycatch for every 1 pound of shrimp they collect and the range is from between 3 pounds of bycatch to 15 pounds of bycatch for every pound of shrimp. But, notice how I keep saying outside of the United States. An example of a shrimp fishery that limits the amount of bycatch is the Oregon Pink Shrimp fishery. The trawls they use are fitted with bycatch reduction devices (which have been shown to reduce bycatch by up to 40 percent) and are designed to be less damaging to the bottom of the sea floor. All shrimp trawls from the United States must meet higher environmental standards than shrimp trawls from other nations, so therefore if Oregon pink shrimp is not available, non-imported shrimp is still much better than imported shrimp.

Last but not least, the third criterion for sustainable fishing is limiting other detrimental impacts to the environment. An example of seafood that does not meet this criterion is imported farmed shrimp. Farmed shrimp has a wide range of environmental problems, including clearing acres of mangrove forests to make room for shrimp farms to not treating waste water and dumping shrimp waste into local peoples’ waterways. Again, shrimp farms in the United States have to adhere to stricter environmental standards than most foreign countries, so non-imported farmed shrimp is considered better than imported farmed shrimp.

Alright, so that is how we define sustainable seafood.  There are many good examples of seafood that is harvested in a sustainable manner, so we don’t have to destroy our oceans to get our healthy, tasty seafood.

For more information, please check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch information and download a free seafood watch pocket guide or get a free seafood watch app in your iPhone, iTouch or blackberry. Also, you can look for future posts on this topic on this blog.