Archive for the 'Animal' Category

Oct 17 2012

First Public Hearing on Menhaden Regulation in Virginia: Competing Anecdotes and Common Ground

Published by under Animal

Atlantic Menhaden, via wikimedia

There’s a battle brewing in Virginia over a mostly inedible, oily little fish: the menhaden. The first volleys were fired on Monday at a public hearing in Newport News about proposed interstate fishing regulations for menhaden.

First, a bit of background. Menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea,” mostly because of the role they play in the food chain. They eat phytoplankton (which causes algae blooms) and are in turn eaten by a wide range of animals, including striped bass, crabs, and various bird species. There’s also a range of human uses for menhaden; you can find them in everything from fish oil tablets to fertilizer to bait. Accordingly, an industry has arisen whose main goal is to harvest the menhaden, grind them up, and sell to other industries. On the east coast, this industry’s sole member is Omega Protein, based in Reedville, Virginia. Because other states on the east coast have banned or limited purse seining, the primary method Omega uses to capture menhaden, Omega Protein only operates out of Virginia.

Notably, menhaden is also the only fish in Virginia (and the entire east coast) to be regulated directly by the General Assembly and not by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The General Assembly has exclusive authority to pass regulations for the menhaden fishery in Virginia.  However, menhaden is also regulated by an interstate organization called the Atlantic Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) which has the federally-backed power to pass fishery regulations for the entire eastern seaboard. If Virginia does not implement ASMFC regulations in the state, the federal government has the power to shut down the entire menhaden fishery until Virginia comes into compliance. Continue Reading »

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Apr 18 2011

De-Listing for Gray Wolf Sneaks Into Budget Compromise

Published by under Animal

Adult wolf howling, via wikimedia

Though the budget compromise may have staved off a government shut down and the upcoming fight over raising the debt ceiling may stave it off again, the proposals that have resulted from the fray have alarmed environmentalists.  Some were expected to anyone who followed politics, like the $1.6 billion reduction in funding for the EPA (incorporating a $49 million cut to climate change programs and a $149 million cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund) and removing the position of “climate czar” entirely, which was recently vacated. However, another proposal was quietly slipped in and ended up surviving into the final compromise: delisting for the gray wolf.  The proposal nullified years of progress in court battles and a recent ruling from a Montana federal judge rejecting a settlement plan, saying that it provided too little protection for the species. Previous court rulings have found that the states’ management proposals were insufficient to support the population and that the decision for delisting “amounted to wrongfully removing of ESA protections.” Groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife argue that this provision in the budget amounts to a circumvention of the court’s decision. Continue Reading »

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Mar 02 2011

Alien Invaders: Drawing Awareness to the Problem of Invasive Species

Published by under Animal,Land Use

Kudzu on trees in Atlanta, Georgia, via wikimedia

Most of the time, environmentalists work to protect species from things that threaten their existence.  However, in certain instances those threats can come from other species that have been imported into the area. The problem is big enough to warrant a whole week devoted to promoting awareness of invasive species. Invasive species can come in many shapes and sizes and types.  There are plants that are invasive such as the Kudzu vine, which is sometimes called “the vine that ate the South”.  Native to China and Japan, it grows over any stationary object, including other plants, choking them of sunlight and air.

Another invasive species that is causing a lot of concern recently is the Asian Carp. This large, prolific fish has already become the most prevalent fish in some areas of the Mississippi River and was recently found in the Illinois River, which connects to the Great Lakes. This has created a lot of concern in the region that the Asian Carp and its voracious appetite could devastate the already fragile Great Lakes ecosystem. To learn about other invasive species being fought across the country, see this list of the 100 most disruptive invasive species or check out some of the articles below. Continue Reading »

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Dec 01 2010

Keepin’ Cool: Determining Critical Habitat for the Polar Bear

Published by under Animal,Climate Change

Polar bear on ice, via wikimedia common

One of the most controversial animals being pushed for inclusion on the endangered species list is the polar bear.  Living in the Arctic, the most significant threat to its habitat is climate change, a controversial subject on its own, and so the polar bear was listed as threatened, a step down from the “endangered” designation.  Recently, the Interior Department designated a large swath of offshore sea ice and other areas as “critical habitat” for the bear.  This created problems for Shell, who has been trying to get permission to drill offshore in Alaska.  A key area, the Chukchi Sea, is home to one of the two largest polar bear populations in the U.S.  Below is some more information about the new habitat designation and the controversy surrounding it.

Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Deems Polar-Bear Habitat Critical, Posing Issue for Shell”

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday designated 187,000 square miles of offshore sea ice and other areas as critical habitat for polar bears, a move that could make it harder for Royal Dutch Shell PLC to begin drilling in Alaskan waters next summer.

The Interior Department issued the final rules as Shell has been lobbying the Obama administration to by the end of the year approve its plans to drill in Alaska waters, especially the Chukchi Sea. The Chukchi and the Beaufort seas are home to the nation’s two big polar-bear populations, the Interior Department said, and thus provide critical habitat for species that the U.S. government has listed as threatened.

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Nov 26 2010

Update on the Tiger Summit

Published by under Animal,International

Bengal Tiger, via wikimedia commons

On October 25, I first wrote about an international summit to save the tiger.  That summit, the highest-level gathering ever held on behalf of a single species, has been completed, with some significant success.  The leaders of the 13 nations that make up the tiger’s range came to St. Petersburg to discuss measures that could be taken to bring the tiger back from the brink of extinction.  The most significant goal reached was for doubling the tiger population by 2022, a plan which was approved by Russia and China on Tuesday.  Tigers, which only have about 3,200 individuals in the wild and three subspecies that have already gone extinct, are threatened by habitat loss and poaching.  Both problems are very hard to stop police.  Pressure is also being placed on private actors such as Apple who uses the iconic animals on their software.  Below are more articles regarding this historical step toward saving the tiger.

Scientific American: “Russia, China Pledge to Save the Tigers”

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday agreed with other Asian nations to try to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022 and save it from extinction.

Just 3,200 tigers now live in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago, and those that remain face a losing battle with poachers who supply traders in India and China with tiger parts for traditional medicines and purported aphrodisiacs.

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Nov 08 2010

Hot Topics This Week

Published by under Animal,Energy

Nuclear Reactor (from

A nuclear reactor planned to go up in Maryland and funded by a French company has experienced a major setback when its American partner pulled out.

Constellation Energy has pulled out of a project that would have added a third reactor to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland.  This decision comes in the wake of Constellation announcing an impasse regarding a $880 million dollar fee on the federal loan for funding the reactor.  The French company, Electricité de France, says it has bought Constellation’s share and isn’t going to scrap the plan entirely, though according to United States law it will need an American majority partner in the project before moving forward.  Nuclear power has had a hard time getting off the ground in the past 30 or so years.  1973 was the last time ground was broken for a nuclear reactor despite various attempts to promote nuclear as an alternate energy source.  For example, in 2007, Congress passed a measure that would provide loan guarantees to nuclear reactor projects, but only one has actually been given out since then.  In Vermont, Entergy Nuclear has put their Yankee nuclear station up for sale as well, another sign that nuclear power has a long way to go before it’s a prominent source of energy. Continue Reading »

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