A wild name, and an amazing, vast, new marine sanctuary

By on August 26, 2016 with 1 Comment

Today, in an exhilarating lead-up to next week’s gathering of dozens of nations at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, President Obama announced his intention to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, which will make it the largest marine protected area in the world. President George W. Bush declared Papahānaumokuākea a federal monument in 2006, and in 2010, it became the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage site in the United States.

Today’s action amounts to a vast expansion on the original, excellent idea.

The announcement, which happened thanks to a great assist from U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, will provide quite a statement of leadership as representatives of the IUCN member nations gather in Honolulu – the first time the Congress has been held in the United States in its 60-year history.

Papahānaumokuākea is a vast and isolated linear cluster of small, low lying islands and atolls, and surrounding ocean, roughly 250 km to the northwest of the main Hawaiian Archipelago and extending over some 1,931 km. The area has deep cosmological and traditional importance, as an ancestral environment, as an embodiment of the Native Hawaiian concept of kinship between people and the natural world, and as the place where it is believed that life originates and to which the spirits return after death. On two of the islands, Nihoa and Makumanamana, there are archaeological remains relating to pre-European settlement and use.

The island of Mokumanamana has the highest concentration of cultural sites in Hawaii with 34 document heiau, or sacred sites, most of similar design and whose purpose is yet to be determined.

On two of the islands, Nihoa and Makumanamana (pictured above), there are sacred sites and archaeological remains. Photo by Andy Collins/NOAA

Much of the monument is made up of pelagic and deepwater habitats, with notable features such as seamounts and submerged banks, extensive coral reefs, and lagoons. The monument is home to more than 7,000 marine species, including sharks, whales, turtles, dolphins, monk seals, seabirds, thousands of fish species, and many other animals found nowhere else in the world. Scientists recently discovered the oldest living coral, estimated to be 4,600 years old, the largest sea sponge (the size of an SUV), and a new species of octopus referred to as “Casper” for his translucent, white, ghost-like appearance.

Scientists estimate that a minimum of 30 percent of our world’s oceans must be protected just to mitigate the effects of climate change, but currently less than five percent are protected. Further, our oceans face new, destructive industries such as ocean mining, and the continued impacts of industrialized commercial fisheries where, in Hawaii alone, more than 10,000 marine animals, primarily sharks, become victims of bycatch every year. Banning commercial fishing in this vast area has tremendous regenerative potential for our oceans and for all marine life, and will save a lot of lives.

We commend President Obama, Senator Schatz and the thousands of policymakers, organizations, and Hawaii residents who have been part of this remarkable ocean protection initiative.

P.S. This was a remarkable week for the President, who is seeking to cement his environmental legacy in the very week that the United States celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Using his authority under the Antiquities Act, President Obama also designated more than 87,500 acres of Maine lands, donated by a founder of the Burt’s Bees natural care products company, as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, to be administered by the NPS. This approach falls short of what some activists want, and amounts to a transfer of Roxanne Quimby’s private land holding to the National Park Service, yet it’s an important protection. While bear hunting will be prohibited, some forms of hunting will be allowed, which is an adverse precedent for national monuments. Nonetheless, it is a move we celebrate, one that protects a vast territory of significant wildlife habitat and natural areas in the American Northeast. Much of this land abuts Baxter State Park, created through the largesse and wisdom of one of the early 20th century’s greatest animal advocates, Governor Percival Baxter.

P.S.S. I couldn’t help but link the president’s actions under the Antiquities Act to protect these natural areas with another bit of news from Hawaii: the announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service that it would prohibit swimming with or approaching within 50 yards of Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Such interactions are stressful to the animals and we need to exercise greater restraint, given the evidence now available. We’re in a struggle to save the planet, its ecosystems, and its nonhuman inhabitants, as well as ourselves. What could be more important than these kinds of actions that promise to protect both habitat and imperiled species in a broader interest?

USDA may give us a different kind of Celebration

By on August 25, 2016 with 9 Comments
USDA may give us a different kind of Celebration

The annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration begins in Shelbyville, Tennessee, today — the high point of a months-long show season of torture and pain for walking horses subjected to the despicable practice of soring. The good news is, this may be the last year where abused horses are put on show with the blessing . . . 

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Grizzly bears under the gun in Yellowstone region

By on August 24, 2016 with 3 Comments
Grizzly bears under the gun in Yellowstone region

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are aligned on the idea of removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears, and we could be looking at a federal delisting as early as this autumn. This, despite the fact that most of the American . . . 

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Oprah says ‘yes’ to Meatless Mondays

By on August 23, 2016 with 13 Comments
Oprah says ‘yes’ to Meatless Mondays

Arguably, no other animal advocate has the platform, the followers, and the influence of Oprah Winfrey. I was on her widely syndicated talk show years ago to speak on puppy mills and then again about Proposition 2 in California. But this past Sunday, it was a special privilege to appear on “Super Soul Sunday” to . . . 

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Merci to France for saying ‘non!’ to wildlife traffickers

By on August 22, 2016 with 1 Comment
Merci to France for saying ‘non!’ to wildlife traffickers

France has become the first European country to ban the domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn. This lifesaving policy, announced by Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, goes far beyond the European Union’s current wildlife trade regulations and follows a series of progressive steps that Royal has already taken to combat wildlife trafficking since 2014. Royal . . . 

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Breaking news: No spearing, says Under Armour—but an underwhelming response on trophy hunting

By on August 19, 2016 with 31 Comments
Breaking news: No spearing, says Under Armour—but an underwhelming response on trophy hunting

“Under Armour and the Bowmars broke up today,” Sarah Bowmar declared in a tweet yesterday. “I’ll do a blog post in a few days when I am no longer crying. #AntisWon.” Yes, that’s Sarah Bowmar, who shot a black bear with a crossbow this spring in Alberta the day before her husband Josh impaled a . . . 

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New York sends lifeline to lab animals

By on August 18, 2016 with 11 Comments
New York sends lifeline to lab animals

In The Humane Economy, I muse about the life of my dog Lily—a mixed breed whose beagle background yowls most prominently—before a rescue group pulled her from a rural shelter that had her on a euthanasia list. A veterinarian with Lost Dog and Cat Rescue said she was four or five when she came into . . . 

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Preventing all creatures great and small from perishing in Louisiana’s parishes

By on August 17, 2016 with 5 Comments
Preventing all creatures great and small from perishing in Louisiana’s parishes

Right in the middle of the 2016 hurricane season, a slow-moving low-pressure weather system has dumped as much as two feet of rain on numerous Louisiana parishes in just a 48-hour period causing massive flooding, homelessness, and an endless series of crises for people and animals. The HSUS, along with a number of regional and . . . 

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Alberta says it will ban spearing as a hunting method as global furor grows over bear killing

By on August 16, 2016 with 23 Comments
Alberta says it will ban spearing as a hunting method as global furor grows over bear killing

Less than 24 hours after the news broke, the government of Alberta has spoken out about the depravity of the sick, self-filming, and unrepentant Josh Bowmar, the Ohio man who killed a bear with a homemade spear at a bait site in this western province of Canada. “The type of archaic hunting seen in the . . . 

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Ohio trophy hunter’s appalling conduct reminds us why the law must speak

By on August 15, 2016 with 35 Comments
Ohio trophy hunter’s appalling conduct reminds us why the law must speak

I’ve been devoted to animal protection for 30 years, and while I’ve seen extraordinary cases of heroism and sacrifice, I’ve also seen so many unconscionable acts of cruelty—so much pain and disregard for the value of life. While I often think I’ve seen everything, there are times when I see a level and expression of . . . 

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