Protect cetaceans from bycatch before they've all vanished!
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Disclaimer: The video above pictures the truth. If you can't handle the truth, don't watch it. Also, turn down your volume! Sorry for the volume. Credits goes to the WWF for the video (and the loud, almost scary music),Thanks!
Cetaceans, (more commonly known as) whales and dolphins. Household animal names we hear constantly. Whales and dolphins are amazing, insanely intelligent creatures. They are all over the world in the oceans and seas; they are also disappearing. Bycatch. This, unlike the names of these wonderful animals, is not a household name. Honestly, this was unheard of to me before starting this petition. Bycatching is the accidental catching of the wrong species of animals. This is a horrific issue that affects all species of whale, dolphins, and porpoises, and it needs to be stopped. These animals are constantly being caught in fishing nets while fishermen are catching tuna and shrimp. Either these animals are injured attempting to escape, or submerged for multitudinous amounts of minutes, causing the mammals to drown. Off the coast of Mexico and Central America, schools of large yellowfin tuna and many species of dolphins swim together. While fishermen are looking to catch those tuna, since the dolphins swim so near to the schools of tuna, the fishermen accidentally catch those dolphins. In defense of the fishermen, they mean no harm to the dolphins, but they do cause them harm. Many dolphins, whales, and porpoises are caught, injured, or killed. Those that escape are usually badly injured, and separated from their families.
Modern fishing gear is so effective, right? It covers such a large area and catches so many fish. It is also so unselective, multiple whales, dolphins, and porpoises are caught in the unselective nets. Trawling, longlines, and using gillnets are fishing methods most commonly resulting in bycatch. The unselective nets result in the successful catch of the targeted species; the nets also successfully catch so many species of marine life that were untargeted.Widespread pirate fishing constantly ignores regulations on net mesh sizes, and permitted environmentally safe fishing areas. Trawling is when boats drag large nets along the seabed, and they catch almost everything in their destructive path. Trawling is so damaging to not only marine animals, but also to the reefs and food sources of these animals. Dolphins and porpoises use echolocation to communicate and sense what is surrounding them. The nets are nearly impossible to detect through echolocation and are difficult to see. So many animals are left helpless and defenseless against these nearly invisible nets.
Effects on the Environment
An estimate was made that 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been killed from becoming entangled in these nets. Bycatch has become the single largest cause of mortality for numerous amounts small cetaceans, which is just a fancy word for whale, dolphin and porpoise species. The Vaquita from the Gulf of California and Maui’s dolphin from New Zealand are facing their impending extinction if the threat of unselective fishing gear is not phased out. Elucidating more on the species mentioned, the Vaquita are the smallest species of porpoise in the world. They are currently the rarest marine mammal and daily becoming rarer than the unicorn everyday. Now, becoming rarer than the unicorn is definitely a stretch, but the numbers of Vaquita left in the wild is steadily dropping. It is estimated that there are as little as 30 of these little guys left in the wild. It is going to seriously suck when a species barely anyone knew is gone. Vanished. They are now known as the vanishing vaquita. You wanna change that? Alright, let's do something about it.
How is it affecting us?
Alright, here’s a slap in the face: this caption probaly got more attention than any of the other ones. That’s an opinion, but maybe it’s true. Maybe it was the bold, or maybe it was the question mark. Maybe humans are just a little bit selfish and want to know what bycatch does to us. No matter, bycatch affects humans too. In very little ways, not in life altering, earth shattering ways, and that is probably why it goes unnoticed. Tuna and shrimp are big sellers all over, especially in the U.S. As a fisherman, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to haul up the catch of the day along with busted nets, damaged equipment, and bycatch. It’s gotta suck to see a dead dolphin, it would probably screw up your whole day. Next up, us. Dolphin-safe tuna labels are everywhere. They’re on your average Bumble bee, Starkist, Chicken of the Sea cans. You can rest easy right? Rethink that my friend. The dolphin-safe label is loosely slapped onto the can. Although no dolphins were killed many were chased, or injured in the process. We aren’t very well informed of this fact. I mean, who sits down before eating their tuna fish sandwich and thinks “I hope no dolphins were harmed in the making of this sandwich”. The real question is: what can you stop this? What are we going to do to stop this?
Bycatch mortalities can often be lessened by modifying and updating fishing gear so that less not targeted species are caught or so that not targeted species can escape the nets. For example, WWF advertised the International Smart Gear Competition. This competition promotes the development of more innovative technology to stop bycatch fatalities from happening. Back to that tuna fish sandwich, laws are being enforced to make sure that NO harm was brought to any dolphins or any other cetaceans. The dolphins. Now, due to new laws reinforced, the dolphin-safe label can’t just be slapped onto the can or package of tuna. To earn that label, no dolphins could have been circled, chased, injured, caught or killed. Go on, rest easy and eat your sandwich with a clear conscience.Also, back to the vanishing vaquita, in the Gulf of California, the WWF have been working with various partners on different solutions to diminish the threat of the accidental capture of vaquitas. So far, a different type of trawl net has been pilot tested and introduced. It accommodates an excluder accessory to reduce vaquita bycatch while still adequately catching shrimp.
What can we do?
To stop bycatch there are definitely multiple thing we can do. Just look down at the list, take baby-steps and try your best to complete at least three. That is my challenge to you and myself. Are you ready?
1) Check your shrimp and tuna packages for that dolphin safe label. Easy enough, right? One more thing, do some research on that company and whether they earned that label or not. We got this.
2) Donate to funds such as the WWF to help get that fishing gear updated. Better yet, enter the International Smart Gear Competition. Click the link to get more information.
3) Start your own petition against bycatch, get people to back you and follow you through this.
4) Even though you might think it’s dorky or whatever, get your friends and family in on this.
5) Probably the easiest task on this list, don’t forget about this. If you want dolphins and whales to stay a household names instead of distant memories, keep this in your mind and complete some of these tasks.
Goslinger, Michael L. “The Tuna-Dolphin Issue.” The Tuna-Dolphin Issue , NOAA Fisheries, 2 Sept. 2016, swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock Accessed 17 May 2017.
“Campaigning for Better Protection of UK Whales and Dolphins.” WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation,campaigning-for-better-protection-of-uk-whales-and-dolphins. Accessed 17 May 2017.
"Rules on Dolphin-safe Tuna Just Got Tougher." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 20 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017.
"Fishing Problems: Bycatch." WWF. N.p., 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 May 2017.
"Bycatch." WWF. World Wildlife Fund, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 15 May 2017.
I leave you with this question: How do you want to be remembered?
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