Ocean Issues

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.

If you care about ocean issues, here are some things you can do:
Protect the world’s last greatest salmon run from certain destruction
Stop supporting Icelandic whale hunts
Prevent plastic trash from getting into the oceans

Protect the world’s last greatest salmon runs from certain destruction
ACT BY: June 29, 2019
Despite years of funding setbacks and legal questions, the US Army Corps of Engineers is now moving forward in deciding the fate of Pebble Limited Partnership’s application to construct Pebble Mine. A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has just been released and an extended public comment period is open until June 29, 2019.

What’s the issue? The open-pit Pebble Mine would likely span three miles across and involve construction of an associated 270-megawatt power generating plant, extension of a 188-mile natural gas pipeline across Cook Inlet, a port facility on Cook Inlet, and extensive road development. Another major concern is the need for 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.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–the regulating agency tasked with deciding whether or not to give the mine a go-ahead–has been plagued by management problems in the past. It’s been found to have not adequately assessed the environmental impact of deleterious and exploitative projects, including Pebble Mine. We have asked you here to make public comments throughout the decision-making process, in the hopes it would persuade the Army Corps to seriously consider the environmental impacts of giving this enormously destructive project the go-ahead and that’s helped delay the project and force the Army Corps to reevaluate it over and over again. The latest Draft EIS, released in early 2019, includes a “no action” alternative, which would result in NO Pebble Mine project. This is the option we should support.

You can send your comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers here, through its Pebble Mine page. Here’s a sample comment:

To Whom It May Concern:

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the Army Corps of Engineers in February 2019 for the proposed Pebble Mine includes a “no action” alternative to any construction. Due to the overwhelmingly negative consequences of building the mine and its associated infrastructure, I sincerely hope the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers realizes this is the only sound and logical way forward, and that any mining development in Bristol Bay will cause major environmental damage.

The Army Corps is required to look at the consequences of carrying out a project on all levels. This includes not just the probable impacts, but also the possibility of unlikely–but foreseeable–catastrophic events. One of the most likely impacts of an open-pit mine is failure of the tailings dam holding back massive amounts of toxic mine waste. Pebble Partnership Limited proposes an earthen tailings dam. Yet, more than ten percent of earthen tailings dams have failed globally and a tailings dam failure in Bristol Bay would permanently alter the landscape and life in the region. There is no way to prevent such a catastrophe other than not building Pebble Mine.

I also push for an extension of this comment period, as it’s incredibly short and does not necessarily allow for all stakeholders–particularly Alaskan residents, many of whom live in very rural places–to comment before May 31, 2019. Please consider extending the comment period to give all stakeholders a chance to review all the information in the Draft EIS and then meaningfully comment on the proposed alternatives, including the “no action” alternative. It’s bad timing for a comment period, particularly for the residents of Bristol Bay, who live a web of towns and villages arrayed around the coast, lakes, and rivers. These communities are connected by air and water in this roadless region, so it takes a long time to get together and pass along information in Bristol Bay than elsewhere in the U.S.. This comment period is scheduled to occur primarily during the spring ice breakup period, when the rivers are difficult to impossible to travel. We need more time so more people who will be affected by Pebble Mine can speak out about their concerns.

Thank you for your attention, and I hope you will understand that the only alternative to Pebble Mine is no action. I also hope you will consider extending the public comment period so that the people who would be most affected by Pebble Mine–Bristol Bay residents–can give you their input.

[your name here]

The Safina Center strongly opposes Pebble Mine, and has spoken out against the project in the media, most recently in The New York Times. Learn more about Pebble Mine on the Army Corps’ website.

Stop supporting Icelandic whale hunts
Iceland, with its beautiful nature and wildlife, has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. However, Iceland continues to hunt whales despite belonging to the International Whaling Commission, which placed a ban on commercial whaling in 1986 to try to bring an end to the practice worldwide. What’s more, the Icelandic government just announced it will allow for around 2,000 whales to be killed over the next five years.

Much of the meat from the whales caught ends up on the dinner plates of tourists–there is no longer a strong local demand for whale meat. You can help make a change by refusing to eat any whale meat offered to you if you visit Iceland. And maybe you will reconsider visiting Iceland all together. Show your support for keeping whales alive by going whale watching in countries that do not participate in whaling. Japan, Norway and Iceland have continued whaling despite international efforts to conserve–rather than hunt–whales.

CALL OR WRITE Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir asking that her country adhere to international agreements to stop commercial whaling. Here’s the number to her office: Tel. +354 545 8400. And the address: Stjornarradshusid vid Laekjartorg, 101, Reykjavik, Iceland and the telephone for the minister of Environment and Natural Resources: Tel. +354 545 8600. And the address: Skuggasund 1, 101, Reykjavik, Iceland. Email for Ministry of Env:, and email for prime minister’s office is Call and write!

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.

(cover photo: Short-beaked common dolphins in the Great South Channel, off Martha’s Vineyard. ©Carl Safina)