Below you will, find comments and observations on panel discussions
in the Saving Seas series and on marine resources in general. Anyone
is welcome to post comments on the topics and themes discussed in the
Saving Seas forums or website. If you would like to post a message to
the bulletin board, please email your post to Saving Seas instructor
Tora Johnson. Posts will
be screened and then added here with the date, topic, and poster's initials.
Please limit the text of your posts to 600 words or less.
To view past posts, you may use the menu below to find specific topics,
or simply browse the posts be scrolling down.
On the Sonar panel- VC- 5/27/06
Whaling- NS-P- 5/25/06
On the whaling panel- VC- 5/24/06
On the sonar and marine mammals panel-
Very brief thoughts along all topics,
but none in particular- RJ- 5/10/06
Oil exploration- NS-P- 5/14/06
Herring- NS-P- 4/29/06
Thoughts and Comments on Oil and Gas
Leasing on George’s Bank- RJ- 4/25/06
Navy Sonar Thoughts and Themes- RJ- 4/14/06
Re: Herring Fisheries- JMJ- 4/6/06
About bait, reflecting on the herring
session- SL- 3/31/06
Re: About bait, reflecting on the herring
session- TJ- 3/31/06
Here are some thoughts and themes for
the 2/28/06 session on Management.- RJ- 3/11/06
Themes from Right Whale & Groundfish
Panels- JMJ- 2/22/06
Getting NMFS to the Table- TJ-2/18/06
New Topic Pages now available- TJ- 2/18/06
Panel themes for Groundfish & Right
Whales now available- TJ- 2/17/06
On the Sonar panel
I am looking at my notes from the Navy Sonar panel and I remember being
quite interested in the panel's discussion. Most people would be very
surprised to know of the influence sonar has on the marine environment
and how it impacts the mammals living in shallow or deep water, close
together or over great distances. Navy explosives off the California
coast disrupted the rich biological environment living there. Mid-frequency
sonar used for tactical and operational exercises has resulted in the
highest marine mammal mortality by stranding. The navy denies the exercises
have any impact on marine mammal strandings in the operations area and
this has led to a loss of Navy credibility in the public's eye. Resulting
litigations on the behalf of the ocean system and marine mammals brings
the operational people to the surface and policy and political people
are pushed aside and as a result resolution is difficult. Panel members
questioned if it was the sonar itself causing mortality by way of strandings
or if it was the stress on the animals resulting from the sonar. About
70 percent of the marine mammal research is done by the navy in United
States waters and 50 percent of the research worldwide. Navy sonar exercises
are not the only ocean noise pollutant source but also shipping noises
and air guns used for oil exploration. Noise disrupts the communication
among marine mammals, particularly the vocalizations of the blue whales
across the water between Newfoundland and Puerto Rico over possible
migrations and foraging patterns.
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It appears IWC is another management body where incredible dysfunction
exists. After being asked, "Where would the whales be if there
were no IWC?" all members of the panel seemed to agree that they
would be right where they are right now. This certainly raises a question
about the effectiveness of the IWC. I was under the assumption that
most people on the panel were for the moratorium, except perhaps Mr.
Belmar. I found it most interesting that the panel believed the moratorium
distracted from more important issues at hand. I wonder, if given the
opportunity, if the panel would agree to lift the moratorium on whaling.
Furthermore they all seemed to agree this would not spark a renewed
interest in commercial whaling. Another point I found most interesting
is the universal agreement that the whales face greater threats other
than whaling i.e. global warming, pollution, noise etc. Until this discussion,
I never thought lifting the moratorium might help whales but now I wonder
about its effectiveness and question if the focus and energy should
be on other more harmful things. Excellent discussion! I wish there
were more time. Also, I would have loved to hear from some commercial
I enjoyed all the topics thoroughly!
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On the whaling panel
Wow, that was a powerful group of people on the whaling panel. I admire
their passion to resolve a very complex issue. As in previous panels,
education was identified as the key to defining the issue for the public
and replacing complacency with information. The project developed by
Ross, Sandra and myself is a good example of developing the skills in
students needed to become participating members of a global community.
As a global issue, the protection of cetaceans requires the willingness
of all nations to acknowledge the problem. The IWC was defined by the
panelists as a dysfunctional governing body and perhaps it is time for
it to be dismantled and a new bipartisan grouping of stakeholders be
established. Panel members defined the conflict as a lack of IWC leadership,
conservation vs. political and socio-economic concerns, whaling vs.
fisheries and security, and ethics vs. science. Each conflict has different
stakeholders and there is a lack of transparency and mistrust among
them which prevents forward momentum. Carol and Natalie both identified
the conflict as going well beyond the harvesting of whales for food
or the scientific whaling practices of Japan but the productivity of
the whale populations and the deteriorating condition of the oceans'
health. The health of the oceans is not determined by the geographic
basins they lay within but rather on the particulate matter contributed
via the rivers flowing into them, the air the flowing above them and
the traffic flowing within them. The solutions put forth by the panel
included fostering leadership through regional council memberships,
contributions of NGOs and using whale strandings as an effective means
of setting up dialogues within local communities.
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On the sonar and marine mammals panel
It appeared that if that assembled panel were asked to dialogue and
come to some sort of consensus with regard to the use of sonar, that
an agreement and decision would have been reached. Dick Pittenger had
said that if there were fewer stakeholders represented at the national
meetings that people would "meet halfway". This 'raised the
flag' for me, as I would be concerned about democratic process. Would
this be our goal? Would we sacrifice accepting the input of other groups
in order to facilitate a quicker solution to a problem or to write policy?
And if this were the case, how would the 'big players" (stakeholders)
be chosen and by whom?
These questions are 'food for thought'.
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Very brief thoughts along all topics, but
none in particular
A common theme that seems to run through all our discussions is the
lack of credible data. Thankfully, we aren’t the only ones that
have figured this out. There is a project called the Census of Marine
Life: at http://www.coml.org
“The Census of Marine Life is a growing global network of researchers
in more than 70 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and
explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in
the oceans -- past, present, and future.”
They are targeting specific places including: Near Shore, Coral Reefs,
Continental Shelves, Continental Margins, Abyssal Plains, Mid-Ocean
Ridges, Seamounts, Vents and Seeps, and the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans.
Hopefully, they will produce some useful, and undisputable, data on
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It’s truly a frightening issue in many aspects. It highlights
our county’s dependence on this dirty resource. It was only two
months ago that our president finally admitted it might be time to start
exploring other alternative energy resources. This is the president
who refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The US can claim responsibility
of producing 25 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions yet we make
up a very small percent of the world population. What's wrong with this
picture? This administration seems reluctant believe that Global Warming
is a reality. Exxon /Mobile has spent five million dollars over the
past five years on global warming studies, employing the few scientist
who are in the minority who dispute global warming. Perhaps if these
oil companies spent that money on alternative energy studies, our planet/
oceans would be a healthier place. The administration has to figure
out a way to reduce the profits of the oil companies and provide incentives
and make alternative energies more profitable. BP oil is a company working
hard to find alternatives. Not only is this oil polluting our air, land
and oceans, the effects on marine mammals have been documented. Decreased
photosynthesis by phytoplankton leads to a decrease in zooplankton and
has been has been linked the depleting ozone and global warming! We
are destroying the base of the food chain! What will it take for us
to realize the devastating effects of the burning of fossil fuels? If
the average person could understand these connections we might slowly
be able to make some important and necessary changes but until then,
it seems this oil exploration will continue.
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I had no idea how much herring was being harvested for the lobster
industry. It has opened my eyes to just how harmful the lobster fishery
is. Not only are the whales, basking sharks and turtles at risk of getting
caught in the lobster gear, but now this herring issue! For years I
have been sensitive to the livelihood of the local lobster guy, but
I feel that is slowly changing. Not only should they be modifying their
gear, but also they should be looking at an alternate source of bait.
I must agree with JMJ that I found it interesting how the tuna industry
representative seemed sensitive to the plight of the whale, yet the
behavior I have witnessed on the water is quite contradictory, having
personally filed whale harassment reports against them. It was interesting
to hear the description of how one can see the food web in action, (birds,
whales, fish) along with the whale watch and tuna boats and how it all
just stops and disappears once the trawlers come in.
Although I do believe the trawlers are wreaking havoc out there, I think
it's important to point out that we see this occur even in the absence
of the trawlers. These feeding frenzies can last for hours and then
just instantly stop. Suddenly whales and birds disperse and it appears
the fish do as well. The question is why? But the trawlers don't have
to be there for this to occur.
A recent issue of the Cape Cod Voice did a piece on the plight of the
river herring, the ocean herring's cousin. It suggested the trawlers
were also catching the river herring while they are in the ocean. This
was also mentioned in our discussion, but was quickly dismissed by the
trawlers. I have to wonder.
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Thoughts and Comments on Oil and Gas Leasing
on George’s Bank
1) Unlike other issues that have been debated by panelists before,
the issue of Oil and Gas Leasing on George's Bank has a central theme
that pervades every aspect of the issue: Money. Oil and gas leasing,
and the production of non-renewable energy for America, is dominated
by the largest and richest companies in the world: the oil companies.
They have more money at their disposal than any government agency for
lobbyists and such. They have more money for programs such as the one
in Newfoundland, where the oil company hired and educated any, and all,
out of work fishermen to work for them. They have more politicians in
Washington, D.C. that have direct (or indirect) ties to the oil companies
than any other industry.
2) MMS has the same mandates as most of the governmental offices: Develop
the resources first, and worry about any environmental issues at a much
later date. The MMS has a mandate from the Energy Policy Act of 2005:
"Identify what restricts or impedes the development of Identified
Recourses…" At least the NMFS and local policies recognize
that there are two sides to the issue. The NMFS may lean toward the
fisherman, but at least the NMFS recognizes that there needs to be some
effort put into ecological and habitat research to keep a sustainable
3) Even the advisory council for the MMS goes against the philosophy
of all the other panelists and agencies that we have had so far this
spring. The representatives on the advisory council are not chosen to
reflect a wide range of opinions, but rather a narrow viewpoint that
favors the MMS's mandate to develop and the oil companies hope that
they will be allowed to drill. An example is the advisory council had
representatives from all states in the leasing areas. Now they only
have representatives from the states that are in the leasing areas that
are actually producing oil. Unlike other agencies, and even NMFS, it
does not have, and appears not to want, a diverse set of people and
4) However, the MMS does suffer from the same problems as most of the
governmental policy makers: Lack of reliable data. Their policies and
instructions are based on "available data," of which there
are many gaps. Fortunately (or unfortunately), most oil companies will
not explore an area to collect data on oil, unless they think they will
be able to extract the oil very soon. It is just not economical. And
so MMS has very little data to use in its decisions on what areas are
opened for drilling, and what are not.
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Navy Sonar Thoughts and Themes
1) The “Not Enough Data” theme applies to this issue as
well. The Navy says that there is not a direct correlation between sonar
and strandings or other the plight of any other marine organisms. The
environmental groups say there is a direct correlation between the two.
The Navy wants to continue with operations, status quo until such time
as new data says otherwise. The environment groups want the Navy to
use a precautionary approach, and limit the use of sonar until new data
is collected. There is some documented evidence already for specific
incidences where there appears to be a direct correlation between sonar
and distress and strandings of marine mammals. But again, the correlation
is debatable depending on which side of the issue you are on. However,
all are in agreement that there needs to be more data collected before
the connection can be addressed.
2) There is also argument and debate about the problem as well. The
problem many be more wide spread due to the subtle nature of stress.
The marine organisms may be stressed by the sonar, which could lead
to problems in the future for the organisms. Again, the issue and impact
is polarized based on who you are.
3) Joel says that lawsuits help Navy and the public. Lawsuits allow
“operators” within the Navy to operate, and effectively
remove the “politicians” within the Navy. This allows the
“politicians” to save face, and to get out of the way, so
that the “operators” can make policy decisions that make
4) Navy is not opposed to helping to save “Willy” or other
marine organisms. However, the “politicians” within the
Navy are afraid that any statute that gets passed (in court) will be
broadly applied (again, through the court systems) to any and all future
5) Sonar and its impact on marine life is a small part of an overall,
much larger, ocean noise pollution problem. The sonar issue is highly
visible, given the fact that everyone loves whales. However, it seems
to me that there are much larger issues, such as “dolphin-safe”
tuna (and the three hundred thousand marine mammals dying in the Pacific),
or the use of ‘air-guns” for oil exploration that could
use the visibility and the public’s interests more than the sonar
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Re: Herring Fisheries
In several panels, comments were made that issues should not be taken
personally and that much of the source of initial conflict was the perception
of there being a personal attack. Once that was set aside, the conflict
could be resolved. Interestingly, in this panel, one of the panelists
specifically stated it was a personal issue because of his loss of money/income.
And not surprisingly, this was the same panelist that seemed to have
less respect for and from the other panelist. This also came through
with some of the eye rolling and lack of respect among the panelists.
Clearly, there were some personal "issues" among the panelists.
It seems until the personal attack or perception of such can be put
aside, the issue will be very difficult to resolve, as it is obviously
blurred by the perception of such. Something could be learned from the
process others have gone through and having to set aside the personal
issues to resolve the problem and work cooperatively and respectfully
with one another.
It was interesting to me to see whales used on behalf of the tuna fisheries
in the discussion of the herring fisheries. Whales are such an easy
sell, "save the whales," and that they are threatened by this
fishery. Yet, from a conservation perspective and to generalize, tuna
fishermen are known to and have been seen to run over the backs of whales
while the whales are coming up through bubble nets feeding, in attempt
to get tuna. Tuna fishermen are a sources of injury and harassment of
whales. Yet, they will use such as a pitch for why they are opposed
to this fishery. When in reality, I am not sure there is a sincere concern
for the species. Again, generalizing. With that very generalized statement
about tuna fishermen, it was ironic to hear them express concern about
whales. For most people, they would not see it's not the whale tuna
fishermen are concerned with, but the whale as an indicator of tuna
that is the issue. Which is an interesting note about the conservation
of the entire ecosystem which was noted in the Feb. 14 panel discussion.
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About bait, reflecting on the herring session
I am a true problem-solver by nature. I am still floored over the
fact that the majority of herring harvested is for bait for a creature
that does not have discriminating taste. I have taken many food science
courses and wish that I could design a synthetic, low cost product to
substitute for the herring. Has the idea of slaughterhouse byproducts
been completely exhausted, or the waste from fish processing plants?
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Re: About bait, reflecting on the herring
It is amazing how much the lobster fishery--and likely the lobsters
themselves via bait--rely on herring. There are several artificial bait
formulations out there right now, and some work fairly well, though
none as good as herring. Some people are using slaughterhouse waste,
and it works well, but there's growing opposition to the idea for lots
of reasons. Some say it changes the taste of the lobster, others are
worried about mad cow and all the chemicals they feed to cows, and others--probably
the most relevant--worry that having dead cow bits in
10 million Gulf of Maine traps will change the chemistry of the water
so it smells bad to fish and other important critters. Some people have
used fish processor waste in the past, and it works, but there is unfortunately
very little of that waste available right now with the groundfisheries
so diminished and so much of the US catch being processed outside the
US. Bait issues are looming larger on the horizon, and there is no easy
solution on the table yet. Stay tuned.
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Here are some thoughts and themes for the 2/28/06
session on Management.
1) It seemed that all three panelists agreed that public input was helpful,
critical, and sometimes the only motivation to making lawmakers change
or review policies. Ben's "mistake" in not investigating the
zones in Tortola was fine until the local experts pointed out his "mistake".
And so the zones were changed.
2) There was (is) a clear message that there needs to be more base-line
data collection. Policies and permits are made or given based on models
or theories that have no real data to support (or refute) them. And
so they permits and polices cannot be challenged. Vin pointed out that
we have "lots of data on fish, but not coastal impacts." Permits
for building coastal piers and docks are issued without a cumulative
impact study. There is simply no way to predict or measure change, because
there is not data to compare now to then.
3) Finally, I think that all three panelists agree that the resources
should be managed with all users in mind. Any time a decision is made,
half of the people are going to be unhappy. The job is to, as Vin said,
"minimize how many people are unhappy."
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Themes from Right Whale & Groundfish Panels
A common theme in both the right whale panel and groundfish panel is
NOAA Fisheries and their lack of successful resource management. There
seems to be a source of conflict in the larger management scheme with
the same agency (NOAA Fisheries) being charged with both protecting
whales, fish and fishermen. That in itself can be a major conflict of
interest. While there may be different branches (Division of Protected
Resources for whales) within the single agency, it is a conflict, one
that has played out in the process. And, of course, the placement of
NOAA Fisheries under the Department of Commerce is very odd.
In both panels, an interesting theme was the misconceptions and preconceived
notions of the players coming to the table. It is natural and often
happens in different areas of life, but clearly the players originally
came to the tables with strong and often negative views about who the
other players were. For example, initially fishermen saw conservationist
or environmentalist as the enemy, but later joined forces with them
based on a common goal. At the same time, many environementalist/convservationist
may not have seen fishermen as having an environmental ethic or concern
for habitat degradation and bycatch. Overtime, they learned many do.
This allowed for once seen as opposite sides to join forces and find
a solution together.
A very strong theme that came out of the right whale panel was the tremendous
support for and acknowledgment of the involvement of Dan McKiernan.
All sides agreed that he, personally, and as a representative for the
Mass Division of Marine Fisheries has played a very positive role in
the process, advocating for both sides--the whale and the fisheries.
With such a lack of support for NOAA Fisheries, it was unexpected to
see across the board support for a state agency.
Interestingly, it seems many of the successful negotiations take place
outside of the council/team meetings. Hours and hours can be spent in
formal meetings, but it seems what happens during a short lunch break,
may have a greater impact in moving the process and finding solutions.
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Getting NMFS to the Table
I’ve had a number of inquiries about whether we will be hearing
from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in our panels. I’ll
speak more about it at our next session, but I thought the bulletin
board would be a good place to share my response to these inquiries.
As several people have pointed out, failed management is a central
theme arising in our discussions, and NMFS should be at this table.
I have been trying to solicit participation by NMFS staff and haven't
yet gotten anyone willing to participate. I've invited them to have
their own panel during our April 8th session and/or to participate in
some of our topical panels.
The folks in the fisheries management divisions in NMFS have been responsive
and forthcoming, but they insist that the onus for fisheries management
is entirely on the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). The
people in the protected resources division (who deal with marine mammal
issues) have not responded to my request. I can only guess at the reasons
for that silence, and I can't force them to participate. In their defense,
I can say that the protected species folks are involved in at least
two rule-making processes right now and have a couple of lawsuits pending.
So they may actually be unable to participate and make comments in such
an open forum. I have offered NMFS employees in the fisheries and protected
species divisions an open invitation to attend any Saving Seas session
as our guest.
In the coming weeks we will be hearing from people who have played
a more direct role in the NEFMC, including everyone on the herring panel,
as well as John Williamson, our keynote on April 8th. Our next panel,
while not including anyone from NMFS, will deal directly with the challenges
facing government regulators at the federal, state and local levels.
Also, in the coming weeks we'll have panels where we will discuss other
agencies accused of similarly failed management (for instance, the Navy--no
success getting them to participate either, the US Mineral Management
Service, the International Whaling Commission, and various agencies
involved with the salmon dispute in OR & WA). So NMFS is the whipping
boy here in New England, but there are plenty of other management regimes
facing similar challenges. My hope is that, even if the feds won't participate
directly, we can still glean information that can be helpful (perhaps
even to the feds themselves) in the future.
Let's make sure these issues get raised in the coming weeks. I invite
any feedback or ideas for how to approach these questions and would
be happy to post your thoughts here.
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New Topic Pages now available
I have updated the Saving Seas website with new topic pages with links
and readings for the following sessions:
Managing for Multiple Uses: The thorny life of a marine resource regulator
on February 28: http://www.entanglements.net/saving_seas/topic_pages/multiple_uses.htm
Salmon & water rights in the Klamath River Basin of Oregon &
California on March 14: http://www.entanglements.net/saving_seas/topic_pages/klamath_salmon.htm
Herring and mackerel mid-water trawl fishery on March 28: http://www.entanglements.net/saving_seas/topic_pages/Herring.htm
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Panel themes for Groundfish & Right Whales
The themes recorded from our panels on groundfish and right whales
are now available online. To see them, visit the relevant topic page
on the saving seas website or click on these links:
Right Whale Themes:
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