Ocean Issues

(above photo: Great South Channel, off Martha’s Vineyard. ©Carl Safina. Common dolphins.)

The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, and yet they’re one of the least-understood habitats on the planet. And unfortunately, they’re one of the most threatened–by things like climate change, overfishing, bycatch, plastic pollution, and more. More and greater efforts to protect the oceans and the life they contain are vital. Learn more about what you can do to help here:

SPECIAL ACTION ALERT: Protect the world’s last greatest salmon run from certain destruction!

Currently, the US Army Corps of Engineers is deciding whether or not to move forward with Pebble Limited Partnership’s application to construct Pebble Mine. The mine would likely span  three miles across and would require a huge tailings dam and containment pond to “hold” the 2.5-10 billion gallons of mine waste produced over the mine’s lifetime. Accidents could destroy the existing values of the whole region. Chronic leaks and a near-eternal poison drip seem virtually guaranteed.

You can help stop Pebble Mine by making your voice heard! There is only a short period to make your comment: until April 30, 2018. Find out  more about the project, and how to take action, in our recent blog post about the project here.

Access the Army Corps’ public commenting page hereHere’s a sample comment you could send to the Army Corps:

To U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

We must safeguard Bristol Bay from ecological destruction in order for Alaska’s economy, environment, and culture to survive. Your agency should protect Bristol Bay, and the people and businesses these highly productive waters support. Please considering the following when reviewing the Pebble Mine project:

1. The Pebble Mine application is incomplete. Your agency should not release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement without more information from Pebble Limited Partnership. Foundational information for major parts of Pebble’s proposal, including the proposed transportation corridor, port or use of Lake Iliamna, are lacking from their application. The data Pebble did supplied is more than 10 years old and thus is not reliable for analyzing project impacts. Pebble Limited Partnership should also give you an independently prepared economic feasibility analysis, which is usually done for other mines like Donlin. Without the economic feasibility analysis, the Corps could be analyzing and the public could be commenting on a mine that will never be built due to a lack of funds. To move forward with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process under these conditions is a waste of government resources and of the people’s time.

2 . The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that a mine smaller than what Pebble is currently proposing would pose “significant and irreversible harm” to Bristol Bay’s waters and would result in “a complete loss of fish habitat.” The current plans outlined by the Pebble Limited Partnership will permanently destroy 4,000 acres of wetlands and more than 5 miles of anadromous streams vital to the region’s salmon and many other kinds of fish. Pebble Mine’s pollution levels exceed EPA’s proposed restrictions on the mine. The Army Corps needs to compare the plans of Pebble Limited Partnership to the EPA’s analysis before moving the project forward.

3. The Army Corps needs to examine a range of possible alternatives beyond Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed mine site and include alternatives for mining copper and gold somewhere other than Bristol Bay.

4. The Army Corps needs to take a realistic look at Pebble Mine to accurately assess its impacts. Pebble Limited Partnership asks the Corps to limit the review to an unreasonably small 20-year mine, while it tells its potential investors that the mine can operate for 200 years and produce 11 billion tons of ore. The Army Corps needs to look at the full extent of mining the Pebble deposit, and not ask the public to participate in a process that is founded on a permit application that is missing such basic components.

Please stand with the lives and livelihoods of the people of Bristol Bay, and the millions of Americans that understand the enormous ecological value of these waters. Please reject Pebble Limited Partnership’s mine permit application as incomplete, missing key environmental and economic foundational data, and missing information needed for government agencies to accurately assess the extent of the impacts mining the Pebble Deposit will have on local economics, ecology and cultures.


[Your Name]

Help save Florida’s critically endangered Goliath groupers from being killed off!

On April 26, 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will vote on a “limited take” proposal to kill the critically endangered Goliath Grouper. If approved it will permit fishers to kill 400 breeding adult Goliath groupers. This action would reverse 28 years of protection because it will kill off most of the breeding population in Florida that are needed to restore the population in the first place.

You can help by attending the FWC public meeting on April 26, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The meeting on the 26th starts at 8:30 AM, and you need to sign up for your public comment before the start of the meeting. So getting there at 8:00 AM should give you enough time to do so. You can find more information about the meeting here.

In the meantime, you can call the FWC Commissioners (850-487-0554), or write them an email ( Here’s a sample of what you might say:

Dear Florida FWC,

Goliath groupers are the gentle giants of Florida’s marine ecosystem. They are a critically endangered species still recovering from years of exploitation. I urge you to reconsider the “limited take” proposal now on the table, which would severely deplete the still-recovering Florida Goliath grouper population. There is no reason to fish for Goliath groupers while there are many other more populous fish species living in Florida’s waters. Please think of the long-term conservation of this extraordinary species instead of the short-term pleasure of fishers.

Thank you,

[your name]

Tell NOAA to enact stronger protections for Bluefin tuna!

Help shape NOAA’s Bluefin tuna fisheries regulations to ensure the species’ survival into the future. But you must act by 5/1/18!

Bluefin tuna are at risk of extinction unless stronger fishing regulations are enacted. Regulations are in place to help protect Bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico from interactions with the pelagic longline fishery targeting swordfish and smaller yellowfin tuna. Longline fisheries can release over 30 miles of fishing line into the ocean staggered with hundreds, sometimes thousands of hooks allowing for any passerby to bite down. Bycatch in this fishery is extensive. Currently, Gulf of Mexico longline fishermen are required to use “weak hooks” year round that straighten or break when a larger fish, such as a Bluefin tuna, bites down. A second regulation protecting Bluefin tuna sets Gear Restricted Areas simply prohibiting long line fishing activity in a designated area for a portion of the year. Closures in this case are due to peak spawning activity of Bluefin tuna thus decreasing the potential of fishing gear interactions and stressors during this sensitive time.

  • Weak Hook Regulation: In 2011, NOAA mandated the use of weak hooks for all longline fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Since this regulation was implemented, the total amount of dead Bluefin tuna associated with this fishery has been reduced by 75%. A compromise for six month use of weak hooks (January to June) modifies the current year round regulation protecting Bluefin during their spawning season and eliminating the mandate during less sensitive months.
  • Gear Restricted Area Regulation: The Highly Migratory Species Fisheries Management Plan was put into place in 2006 and works to protect multiple species, Bluefin tuna included. In 2014, Amendment 7 was incorporated creating Gear Restricted Areas, closing nearly 27,000 square miles to longline fishing activity in the Gulf of Mexico from April through May during Bluefin peak spawning season. Since Amendment 7 was implemented, an 82% reduction of Bluefin tuna fishing interactions has resulted from this small window of closed fishery access. Any modification to this regulation could prove detrimental to the improved Bluefin tuna population status. We cannot allow for NOAA to reduce or eliminate this current closure.

Arguments to modify regulations are weak. In particular, complaints of decreased target species catch, both yellowfin tuna and swordfish and concerns of a declining longline fishing fleet.

  • Decreased catch: In 2015 and 2016, landings of both yellowfin tuna and swordfish were only reduced by a few hundred fish each during the closed area months, a negligible amount. Additionally, several longline fishermen are paid not to fish from January to June post the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.  This is part of a larger effort to restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Alternative gear, such as greenstick or buoy gear can also be used year round to fish for target species, even in longline-restricted areas.
  • Declining fleet: The pelagic longline fishing fleet has been in decline over the years; this was the case prior to Amendment 7 being implemented and Gear Restricted Areas being determined.

(Above information excerpted from a blog post by Safina Center Research Scientist and Sustainable Seafood Program Director Shelley Dearhart)

Let NOAA know the only acceptable modification to weak hook regulations in the Gulf of Mexico longline fishery is mandating a six-month use from January through June and that there are NO acceptable modifications to Gear Restricted Area regulations. Comment here until May 1, 2018.

Stop Trump from opening US waters to offshore oil and gas drilling! 

America’s coastlines are among the most amazing and ecologically important places on Earth. But Donald Trump and his administration have announced their plans to sell drilling rights off the Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf and Arctic coasts. Giving these places to the world’s biggest polluters–oil and gas companies–would harm marine life, destroy beaches and reefs, and put the wellbeing and economies of coastal communities in peril.

The best way to prevent climate change from worsening is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Drilling for more oil and gas is an environmental injustice to the world. What’s more, Trump’s promise of more long-term jobs and energy security are unfounded. Help block the plan to exploit these beautiful places for a very dirty and dangerous energy source and instead invest in clean renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, which would create lasting jobs and energy security.

The US Department of Interior has recently opened up a public commenting period on Trump’s plan. Make your voice heard by commenting here today before the period closes!

Help protect the most important fish in the sea. Click here to download and read our Menhaden Action Paper

Humpback whale eating menhaden in waters off New York City. Photo: Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

Support Senate Bill S-203 in Canada. Canada’s legislature is currently hearing a bill that would end whale captivity in the country. If the legislature does not pass the bill, 1) the unrestricted import of wild caught whales and dolphins into Canada can continue; (2) the export of calves from Marineland can continue; (3) the bill could be easily amended to clarify it does not derogate from Aboriginal rights in relation to carved narwhal tusks or other products; (4) the Senate will be taking no responsibility for the fact that self-aware, intelligent, social, emotional creatures are being kept in cruel confined and isolated conditions in Canada. Tell the senators on this bill’s committee that it’s time to take action to help prevent more whales from being brought into captivity. Contact them at:

The Clerk is Max Hollings:

The best way to address a senator in an email is simply “Senator _________” so ‘Senator’ then their last name.

Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans. Here are some tips to help you reduce your use of plastic products, so less of it ends up in the oceans:

  • Avoid purchasing food and products wrapped in plastic
  • Use a reusable water bottle. Don’t buy bottled water or other drinks
  • Don’t use products that contain microbeads. (Check by using the Beat the Microbead website and app)
  • Cook at home more often; eat takeout less
  • Buy secondhand items since they usually don’t come in packaging
  • Recycle the plastic items you do use (instead of throwing them away in the trash)
  • Support legislation banning or taxing plastic bags, styrofoam and other plastic products
  • Buy things in bulk to cut down on plastic packaging
  • Bring a reusable garment bag to your dry cleaner
  • Support campaigns that encourage less use, or an end to the use, of plastic. We encourage you to check out the OneLessStraw Campaign, organized by conservation nonprofit One More Generation (OMG), which was founded in 2009 by then 8.5-and-7-year-old brother and sister duo Carter and Olivia Ries.

Support marine protected areas. Marine protected areas serve as refuges for marine life. They’re places where fish, marine mammals, corals and other creatures can live without being exploited for human use. Nominate a marine area you want to see protected through Mission Blue’s Hope Spot program, here.

You can also help by advocating for America’s investment in its national marine sanctuaries.  Sign the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s petition here.

Help keep the oceans as quiet as possible. It’s well known that human-created noises from ships, oil and gas exploration and military exercises are harmful to marine creatures. You can help keep the oceans as quiet as possible by:

  • Buying locally (so you’re not supporting trans-ocean shipment of goods
  • Avoiding engine-powered recreation in sensitive ocean areas
  • Keeping your boat engine in good order, reducing the amount  of noise it emits
  • Commenting on proposals and legislation that affects marine noise
    • There are two major military exercises that would cause large amounts of ocean noise that are currently under NOAA review. While NOAA’s public commenting period remains open, you can write letters to NOAA here. A sample letter might read: “I oppose NOAA authorization of these military exercises because they would cause harmful ocean noise. Scientists are aware that increased background noise in the oceans–caused by ships, military exercises and energy exploration–can cause marine animals to change their natural behavior and experience hearing loss, prevent them from hearing important sounds, and can make it more difficult to communicate with other animals. To prevent potential deaths of marine mammals, I call on NOAA to halt the approval of these military exercises.”

Take part in a beach cleanup. Beach cleanups are a good way to remove trash from marine ecosystems, preventing harm to marine and coastal creatures. Look for cleanup locations near you through the Ocean Conservancy.