DESTRUCTION OF THE SEA
Pollution, logging, dredging, draining of wetlands, and coastal development are all factors that lead to marine habitat destruction. The absence of cypress swamps, decimated by logging and saltwater intrusion from manmade canals, is among the factors that led to New Orleans' devastation during Hurricane Katrina.
Habitat destruction occurs when the conditions necessary for plants and animals to survive are significantly compromised or eliminated.
Most areas of the world's oceans are experiencing habitat loss. But coastal areas, with their closeness to human population centers, have suffered disproportionately and mainly from manmade stresses. Habitat loss here has far-reaching impacts on the entire ocean's biodiversity. These critical areas, which include estuaries, swamps, marshes, and wetlands, serve as breeding grounds or nurseries for nearly all marine species.
Causes of Ocean Habitat Loss
Humans and Mother Nature share blame in the destruction of ocean habitats, but not equally.
Hurricanes and typhoons, storm surges, tsunamis and the like can cause massive, though usually temporary, disruptions in the life cycles of ocean plants and animals. Human activities, however, are significantly more impactful and persistent.
Wetlands are dredged and filled in to accommodate urban, industrial, and agricultural development. Cities, factories, and farms create waste, pollution, and chemical effluent and runoff that can wreak havoc on reefs, sea grasses, birds, and fish.
Inland dams decrease natural nutrient-rich runoff, cut off fish migration routes, and curb freshwater flow, increasing the salinity of coastal waters. Deforestation far from shore creates erosion, sending silt into shallow waters that can block the sunlight coral reefs need to thrive.
Destructive fishing techniques like bottom trawling, dynamiting, and poisoning destroy habitats near shore as well as in the deep sea.
Tourism brings millions of boaters, snorkelers, and scuba divers into direct contact with fragile wetland and reef ecosystems. Container ships and tankers can damage habitat with their hulls and anchors. Spills of crude oil and other substances kill thousands of birds and fish and leave a toxic environment that can persist for years.
Perhaps the most devastating of all habitat-altering agents, however, is climate change. Scientists are still coming to grips with the consequences that excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide and Earth's rapid warming are having on ecosystems. But there is ample evidence indicating that the oceans are bearing the brunt of these changes.
As Earth's temperature rises, it is primarily the oceans that absorb the extra heat. Even small temperature changes can have far-reaching effects on the life cycles of marine animals from corals to whales.
In addition, warmer temperatures cause excess melting of ice caps and glaciers, raising sea levels and flooding estuaries.
High levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels, are absorbed by the oceans, where the gas dissolves into carbonic acid. This elevated acidity inhibits the ability of marine animals, including many plankton organisms, to create shells, disrupting life within the very foundation of the ocean's food web.
Ongoing efforts to safeguard ocean habitats include the creation of gigantic marine sanctuaries where development is curtailed and fishing is prohibited. Laws banning the dumping of sewage and chemicals into the ocean and policies that foster better stewardship of wetlands are having positive effects. But scientists agree that drastic measures will be needed to avert the ocean crises being created by climate change.
Despite the 1986 IWC ban on commercial whaling, some countries refuse to end their whaling operations.
Almost immediately after the 1986 whaling ban came into effect, Japan launched its scientific whaling programme, widely recognised as a cover for its ongoing commercial whaling operation.
Meat from these whales — supposedly killed for science — is then sold in food markets or given away free or at low costs to schools and hospitals in marketing drives to encourage the consumption of whale meat .
The Japanese whaling fleet departs twice a year. In the North Pacific, Japanese whalers can kill up to 200 minke whales, 50 Bryde's, 100 sei whales and 10 sperm whales under the guise of scientific research. Vessels had been killing up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales each year in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary before the International Court of Justice ruled that this was illegal.
Norway only respected the IWC's whaling ban until 1993. Using a loophole in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Norway objected to the whaling moratorium, and resumed hunting for minke whales.
Norway sets its own quota for the number of whales its whalers are permitted to kill for commercial reasons. This number has gone up and up, from being allowed to kill 671 minke whales in 2002 to more than 1,000 today. However, in recent years, less than half of this self-allocated catch limit has been taken.
Norway is now hunting a higher proportion of breeding females which could put the long-term survival of minke whales in the North Atlantic in severe danger.
Like Japan, Iceland initially conducted a 'scientific' whaling programme. Then, in 1992, it withdrew from the IWC. When Iceland re-joined in 2004, it included a clause in its re-entry that spoke out in objection to the whaling moratorium.
In 2006, Iceland resumed commercial whaling, targeting minke and fin whales. In 2010 alone, Icelandic whalers killed 148 endangered fin whales and 60 minke whales.
IFAW's "Meet Us Don't Eat Us!" campaign is currently trying to educate tourists about whales, hunting, and whale meat.
Every year, in Taiji, Japan, dolphins are chased into a small cove and butchered in the most horrific and cruel way imaginable. The hunts are subsidized by the dolphin captivity industry, which pays top dollar for a few “show quality” dolphins that are ripped from their families. The rest of the pod is killed for meat laden with mercury and PCBs. Most Japanese don’t even know the hunts exist. The Japanese government supports the dolphin killers and denies any health issues.
The Taiji dolphin slaughter continues. The government claims the kills are part of Japan’s traditional culture when, in fact, they only started in 1969. Many Japanese who oppose the hunts are afraid to speak out publicly because of threats from the government and the extremist anti-foreigners groups. We continue to work inside Japan with Japanese activists and organizations to fight the dolphin killing and spread the news about mercury contamination of dolphin meat. We also joined in filing the first-ever lawsuit in Japan against the Taiji Whale Museum, which brokers many of the live dolphins caught in Taiji during the slaughter.
Earlier this year, member aquariums of the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) decided to withdraw their memberships due to that association’s decision to ban members from acquiring dolphins through the annual Taiji dolphin drive hunts. On March 31, 2017, both the Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, withdrew from the organization in a strong statement of opposition to the ban.
Apparently, the annual 6 months-long slaughter of dolphins of seven different species isn’t enough blood for the town of Taiji. The town is now asking the national Japan Fisheries Agency for new quotas for two more species, according to the Yomiuri news service
The fishing industry in Denmark operates around the coastline, from western Jutland to Bornholm. While the overall contribution of the fisheries sector to the country's economy is only about 0.5 percent, Denmark is ranked fifth in the world in exports of fish and fish products. Approximately 20,000 Danish people are employed in fishing, aquaculture, and related industries.
Denmark's coastline measures about 7,300 kilometres (4,500 mi) in length, and supports three types of fishery industries: for fish meal and fish oil, pelagic fishery for human consumption, and the demersal fishery for white fish, lobster and deep water prawns. The key ports for demersal fishing are Esbjerg, Thyborøn, Hanstholm, Hirtshals, and Skagen. The North Sea and Skagen account for 80% of the catches.
The Danish fishing fleet is noted for its economic democracy: the value of the catch is shared by everyone on the ship according to a pre-set scale, and this system unites the whole crew's interest in returning the largest possible catch. Fish waste is sold to Danish mink farmers. The mink pelts are sold at the world's largest fur auctions, held annually in Copenhagen.
Every year a staggering 150 MILLION (plus) seahorses are used in the Traditional Medicine Trade, this is just not sustainable, they could be extinct in the wild within the next 20 to 30 years, unless we urgently address the problems facing them.
With a number of our friends around the world we are appealing to the people of China to take a lead and work in partnership with us to find alternatives to the exploitation of wild seahorses and other marine and terrestrial creatures.
You can help make a difference by reporting illegal trading of seahorses and other endangered species such as coral, sharks, crocodiles, starfish and shells to our Illegal Trade Officer affectionately known as 'Agent K' at ILLEGAL TRADE
The Traditional Medicine Trade
Seahorses and other creatures (land and sea) are used for supposed cures for many ailments; however scientific research shows there is no basis for any of the claims made in the Traditional Medicine Trade that seahorses can cure ailments.
The problem has got worse in the last 15 to 20 years as the users of natural cures such as seahorses have got wealthier, they no longer go to traditional markets and buy seahorses to take home and make their own medicines. These days commercially prepared seahorse pills are sold to save time; however these pills contain undersized seahorses that have not had a chance to grow to maturity and breed and so the species is not having a chance to be sustainable.
Added to this 90% of wild caught male seahorses that were mature, were pregnant and so it is not just one animal that dies but hundreds of babies (fry) as well. Instead of holding the male seahorses in a sea pen and giving them a chance to give birth these pregnant animals are taken, killed and sold. It is thought that pregnant male seahorses help with impotence.
There are 65 to 85 countries participating in the Traditional Medicine Trade and new countries are being added every year; especially when a countries resources have been depleted, new countries are sought to take their place.
The death of a seahorse to be used in the TCT is not pleasant; it is caught from the sea and hung in the sun until it dies, where it desiccates as it wriggles in its death. Once it is dead and dried it is sold by the indigenous fisher to a middleman. The fisher makes just a few cents whereas the middle man puts a big mark up on the cost of the seahorse and makes a large profit. The seahorses are then sold to markets or factories for preparation into medicines.
Not just seahorses
Seahorses are not the only species used in the Traditional Medicine Trade, the list is endless BUT the result is the same, depletion and eradication of the natural world.
The Aquarium Trade
Every year 1 million wild caught seahorses were being caught for the home aquarium trade with very few surviving more than a few weeks; slowly through education, this number has dropped considerably and now captive breeding is rapidly reducing this number by Conservation through Cultivation.
The Curio trade
The curio trade is still a major problem worldwide where in excess of 1 million seahorses are collected as mementos of seaside visits.
It is not just seahorses that are sold as so called environmentally friendly products; Seashells, Starfish, Sponges and even highly protected corals are still sold in tacky seaside shops, often labelled as ‘from a sustainable source’. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is nothing sustainable about this exploitation of the seas, you can make change by not buying them. If there was no market there would be no trade.
Human impact on coral reefs is significant. Coral reefs are dying around the world. In particular, coral mining, pollution (organic and non-organic), overfishing, blast fishing and the digging of canals and access into islands and bays are serious threats to these ecosystems. Coral reefs also face high dangers such as diseases, destructive fishing practices and warming oceans. In order to find answers for these problems, researchers study the various factors that impact reefs. The list of factors is long, including the ocean's role as a carbon dioxide sink, atmospheric changes, ultraviolet light, ocean acidification, viruses, impacts of dust storms carrying agents to far-flung reefs, pollutants, algal blooms and others. Reefs are threatened well beyond coastal areas.
In 2008 estimates assembled from coral reef specialists from around the world indicated that 19% of the existing area of coral reefs has already been lost, and that a further 17% is likely to be lost over the subsequent 10–20 years. Only 46% of the world’s reefs could be currently regarded as in good health. About 60% of the world's reefs may be at risk due to destructive, human-related activities. The threat to the health of reefs is particularly strong in Southeast Asia, where 80% of reefs are endangered. By the 2030s, 90% of reefs are expected to be at risk from both human activities and climate change; by 2050, all coral reefs will be in danger.
Drift netting is a fishing technique where nets, called drift nets, hang vertically in the water column without being anchored to the bottom. The nets are kept vertical in the water by floats attached to a rope along the top of the net and weights attached to another rope along the bottom of the net. Drift nets generally rely on the entanglement properties of loosely affixed netting. Folds of loose netting, much like a window drapery, snag on a fish's tail and fins and wrap the fish up in loose netting as it struggles to escape. However the nets can also function as gill nets if fish are captured when their gills get stuck in the net. The size of the mesh varies depending on the fish being targeted. These nets usually target schools of pelagic fish.
Traditionally drift nets were made of organic materials, such as hemp, which were biodegradable. Prior to 1950, nets tended to have a larger mesh size. The larger mesh only caught the larger fish, allowing the smaller, younger ones to slip through. When drift net fishing grew in scale during the 1950s, the industry changed to synthetic materials with smaller mesh size. Synthetic nets last longer, are odourless and may be nearly invisible in the water, and do not biodegrade. Most countries regulate drift net fisheries within their territories. Such fisheries are also often regulated by international agreements.
Drift net fishing became a commercial fishing practice because it is cost effective. Nets can be placed by low-powered vessels making it fuel efficient. Drift nets are also effective at bringing in large amounts of fish in one catch.
Prior to the 1960s net size was not limited, and commercially produced nets were commonly as long as 50 kilometres (31 mi). In 1987 the U.S. enacted the Driftnet Impact, Monitoring, Assessment and Control Act limiting the length of nets used in American waters to 1.5 nautical miles (~1.7 miles, ~2.778 km). In 1989 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) placed a moratorium on the practice of drift net fishing. In 1992 the UN banned the use of drift nets longer than 2.5 km long in international waters.
"In heaven there's a sea in the 'Upper Level' and it is a Coral Reef that you can swim in. Everyone when they arrive in heaven aims to get to that sea, because it is stunningly beautiful"