Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Congress Schedules hearings on Marine Mammals in Captivity This Week

Prompted by the recent death of SeaWorld trainer, a Congressional committee will hold hearings that may lead to more oversight.

They've entertained millions at marine parks and aquariums — whales, dolphins and other sea mammals spinning and splashing to the delight of audiences for decades.

But the recent death of a SeaWorld trainer by a killer whale in Orlando and the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove," about dolphin captures in Japan, have cast unprecedented attention on the industry that brought us Shamu and Flipper.

A Congressional committee has scheduled an oversight hearing April 27 to hear testimony on marine mammals in captivity. The Sun Sentinel confirmed the hearing by the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife through federal officials who have been asked to testify.

Click Here to read more.....   OceansDefense

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alexandra Morton: A Success Story

Great news from Alexandra Morton! Received an email today which follows:

Department of Justice lays charges against fish farm company
Unlawful by-catch of wild salmon by Norwegian fish farm company

(April 20, 2010, Port Hardy) Today, Todd Gerhart of the Department of Justice, stayed charges laid by biologist Alexandra Morton against Marine Harvest, the largest Norwegian fish farm company in the world, for unlawful possession of wild salmon. In a landmark initiative Gerhart advised the Court that on April 16, 2010, DOJ filed a new indictment against Marine Harvest, including the original charges laid by Alexandra Morton as well as new charges for unlawful possession of herring reported in October 2009. Mr. Gerhart will be the prosecutor.

Morton and her lawyer Jeffery Jones are relieved. “It is my strong opinion,” says Mr. Jones, a former Crown Prosecutor for DOJ, “that this industry was given access to the BC coast and appears to have been conducting itself as if it were above the law. Today’s decision by Mr. Gerhart and the Department of Justice confirms that no corporation is above the law. This is why private prosecutions are important democratic safeguards. Ms. Morton’s prosecution has triggered enforcement action by DOJ. I am extremely pleased by Mr. Gerhart’s decision.”

In June of 2009, young wild salmon were observed falling from a load of farm salmon being off-loaded from Marine Harvest’s vessel Orca Warrior. Some of these fish were collected and Marine Harvest admitted in the newspaper to catching the wild salmon. “By-catch” is fish caught without a licence in the process of fishing for other species. By-catch is strictly controlled in all other fisheries and in some cases causes entire fisheries to be shut down.

“For decades we have heard reports of wild fish trapped in fish farms, eaten by the farm fish and destroyed during harvest,” says biologist Alexandra Morton, “but when DFO was informed of these offenses they would not, or could not, lay a charge. Canada cannot manage wild fish like this. You can’t regulate commercial and sport fishermen and then allow another group unlimited access to the same resource. BC will lose its wild fish.”

In 1993, the Pacific Fishery Regulations exempted salmon farms from virtually all fishing regulations. Unlike commercial fishermen, salmon farmers can use bright lights known to attract wild fish. The oily food pellets they use also attract fish and wildlife. Commercial fishermen are required to pay for observers and cameras on their vessels that record by-catch, so that fishing can be halted to preserve non-targeted stocks. No such enforcement has been applied to salmon farmers, despite regular reports of black cod, rock cod, herring, lingcod, wild salmon, Pollock, capelin and other species in the pens, in stomachs of the farmed fish and destroyed at harvest time….Until now.

“This is a ray of hope that we can work through the issue of Norwegian salmon farming in BC waters. I am thankful to hand this over to the Department of Justice. Aquaculture is not the problem. The problem is the reckless way government sited it, managed it and gave it priority over the public fisheries. I call on government to protect the families now dependant on this industry as it undergoes the long overdue scrutiny of the courts, the judicial inquiry and public opinion.“

Alexandra Morton 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Orca Update & News on the Struggling Salmon Stocks

Local orcas are having a baby boom, but will it last?

There's been a baby boom in the local orca population. Last year five orcas joined the pods that frequent Puget Sound and the waters around the San Juan and Gulf islands. And two more killer whales have been born so far in 2010.

Cascadia Research has posted a scorecard/ special series covering this topic as well as the plight of struggling salmon stocks in the region. See how closely the two are interdependent and read the rest of the story here