How deep are the problems that face Earth’s oceans?


Seattle Post-Intelligencer
August 17, 2002

The Aug. 10 front-page story “U.S. works to restrict protection of oceans” alongside the picture of the freighter at the Port of Seattle that struck an endangered fin whale highlights the shallowness of the Bush administration’s appreciation for the depth of the problems facing our oceans.

The Justice Department’s claim that the National Environmental Policy Act doesn’t apply to the evaluation of human activities if they occur beyond 12 miles offshore is indicative of the administration’s anti-ocean initiatives.

The administration appeared to have succumbed to public pressure we helped generate to return the orphaned orca, Springer, to her natal pod in British Columbia, in order to use the media attention to mask its ulterior motives.

Shortly after the success with Springer, the National Marine Fisheries Service chose not to protect the Southern Resident Orca Community and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act, despite its unique genetic and cultural distinction and well-documented plight. The NMFS then granted the Navy a “small-take” permit to bombard more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans and their inhabitants with life-threatening noise in the name of national security.

If the Navy needs to be affecting the world’s oceans for our protection, it’s time for Congress to see that the Navy’s impacts are minimized and that they be required to contribute to our understanding and protection of this life-giving resource. Helping to track our resident orca population in the winter and positioning one of its uniquely capable tugs in Neah Bay would be good places to start.

However, the Navy is not the only ship in the sea. With more than 10,000 commercial vessels carrying more than 15 billion gallons of oil through our waters every year, it is time to take a harder look at their effect on the marine environment as well. This goes beyond the risk of ship strikes to include a more critical review of pollution, both acoustic and toxic.

This is especially important as the Port of Seattle solicits unmitigated expansion of cruise ships and other commercial vessels through our waters while opposing enhanced environmental safeguards.

Fred Felleman
Board Member
Ocean Advocates & Orca Conservancy

~ by fredfelleman on August 11, 2002.

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