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Wiley D.N.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Thompson M.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Pace R.M.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Levenson J.,International Fund for Animal Welfare
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Collision with ships is a significant cause of mortality among endangered whales. Collision lethality increases with vessel speed and mitigation includes slowing ships in whale dense areas. The 2181km 2 Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is a site of numerous whale/ship collisions. To understand how speed reduction measures reduce lethal collisions, we used GIS to apply hypothetical speed reductions to observed ship traffic within SBNMS. During 2006, we collected complete AIS data from SBNMS vessel traffic. We created 1.85km 2 (N=810) grid cells covering SBNMS and determined each cell's predicted probability of lethality (PLETH) from the cell's mean speed and a mortality curve. We calculated average PLETH for the entire sanctuary (SPLETH), and used SPLETH to index status quo risk. We applied speed limits of 16, 14, 12, and 10knots on transits and recalculated SPLETH for each scenario. Our analysis included 2,079,867 AIS points to derive 74,638 cell transits by 502 ships (>295t). Sanctuary mean ship speed, by cell transit, was 13.5knots (SD4.3, range 0.1-42.2). The choice of speed restriction had a major impact on SPLETH: 16knots=-3.7%, 14knots=-11%, 12knots=-29.4%, 10knots=-56.7%. The conservation benefit of speed restrictions is influenced by the status quo speed of ships from which risk must be reduced. As most areas lack such data our results can provide managers with a better understanding of how speed restrictions might reduce risk in their waters. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

News Article | September 6, 2016
Site: phys.org

The joint report by IUCN-International Union for Conservation for Nature, WWF and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) examines the results of the work of an IUCN-led independent panel of scientists, which has been advising Sakhalin Energy - one of the largest companies operating in the area - as part of an innovative loan deal. Over the last 12 years, Sakhalin Energy has made important efforts to limit the impact of its operations on whales and the fragile environment. During this period, the western gray whale population has grown 3-4% annually, from an estimated 115 animals in 2004 to 174 in 2015.

A whale is captured by the Yushin Maru, a Japanese harpoon vessel. This image was taken by Australian customs agents in 2008, under a surveillance effort to collect evidence of indiscriminate harvesting, which is contrary to Japan's claim that More Japan sent two whaling ships back to Antarctica's Southern Ocean today (Dec. 1) after a one-year hiatus, resuming seasonal whale hunts that have come under increasing scrutiny and censure from the international community. Under a revised whaling plan, Japan proposes to kill 333 minke whales this year for research purposes — significantly fewer than past years' annual kill limit of 935 whales. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which oversees the country's whaling program, stated on its website that researchers will study the whales' fish consumption and measure their competition with fisheries, creating ecosystem models for managing marine resources. "The purpose of Japan's research is science — science that will ensure that when commercial whaling is resumed, it will be sustainable," ICR claimed on its website. However, statements from environmental officials in Australia and the United States express skepticism that killing any whales is necessary for data collection. Greg Hunt, Australia's minister for the environment, said in a statement that the Australian government "strongly opposes" Japan's decision to return to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales. He added that the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) Scientific Committee put forward "significant questions about the science underpinning Japan's new whaling plan, [called] NEWREP-A, which are yet to be satisfactorily addressed." [To Protect Whales, US Diplomacy Needs Teeth (Op-Ed)] From the U.S., Russell F. Smith III, deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. commissioner to the IWC, expressed similar concerns. "Japan had not justified the need for lethal whaling to carry out its research," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, rather than giving itself time to modify its research program to fully address these issues, Japan has decided to restart its program now." Commercial whaling conducted by most countries ended decades ago, following a 1986 ban issued by the IWC, a global organization empowered to manage whaling industries, evaluate threats to whale populations and oversee conservation. But the IWC permits whaling in international waters if the hunt is conducted for research purposes. Soon after the 1986 ban, Japan launched its scientific whaling program, conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research. According to the IWC's guidelines for the research permits, the Institute of Cetacean Research is allowed to process byproducts of the whaling program, such as whale meat, and sell it for consumption. In 1994, the IWC designated the Southern Ocean as a whale sanctuary, but Japanese officials claimed that their research program provided exemption, even in the newly protected area. The hunts continued, and approximately 14,000 whales were killed between 1986 and 2014, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Australia has long been a vocal critic of Japanese whaling, and in 2008, the country successfully banned Japan's whaling fleets from the Australian Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica. In 2010, Australia went even further, bringing action against Japan in the International Court of Justice to halt the scientific whaling program in its entirety. In 2014, Australia appeared to win a significant victory, as the International Court of Justice found that Japan's "scientific" research failed to meet the standards laid out by the IWC, and the court ordered a halt to the whaling. In spite of the ruling, Japanese whaling vessels Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 2 departed from Shimonoseki Port for the Southern Ocean. Two more ships are scheduled to join them, bringing the total number of crewmembers on the whaling mission to 160. Their work is scheduled to begin later this month, though not without close scrutiny on the global stage. "The United States will continue to engage with the Government of Japan in an effort to address U.S. concerns with Japan's new lethal research program," Smith said. "We believe all of Japan's primary research objectives can be met through nonlethal activities and continue to oppose their scientific whaling programs." Follow Mindy Weisberger on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

News Article | March 11, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Can you tell the difference between an antique ivory carving and one that came from an elephant poached just last month? How about a real ivory carving from one made out of bone? These questions are at the heart of a perennial debate over the legal ivory trade that once again came to a head after an antiques dealer pleaded guilty to trafficking poach wildlife and pawning them off as fakes. Earlier this week, federal prosecutors revealed that a prominent auction house official had pleaded guilty to helping traffic elephant ivory, rhino horn, and coral through his auction house: I.M. Chait Gallery/Auctioneers. Joseph Chait could face 10 years in prison for allegedly falsifying customs forms to disguise the poached animal parts as “bone” and underrepresent their value. Chait is accused of reporting on customs forms that a rhino horn carving that sold for $230,000 at auction was worth $108.75 and made of plastic. Prosecutors also say Chait helped supply smugglers with packing material, and shipping wildlife products without declaring them. It’s a troubling case that highlights how entangled the illegal, poached ivory market is with the legal, antique ivory trade. “This case demonstrates the insidious nature of wildlife trafficking, showing how these activities permeate our society in many social, economic and cultural areas,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a press release. For wildlife conservation groups, the news wasn’t particularly surprising. The antiques world has long had an ivory problem, though how pervasive the problem is is a major point of debate. It’s illegal to buy, sell, import, and export poached ivory in the US, and most countries around the world, ever since the 1990 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) ban on the international trade of ivory. But it’s still legal to trade old ivory—such as antique instruments, artworks, and objects like billiard balls—as long as it was already in the US before January 18, 1990 (when the CITES ban went into effect) or has a certificate verifying it was taken from the wild prior to 1976 (when elephants were first listed by CITES). An Asian elephant on the roadside in India. Image: Kaleigh Rogers/Motherboard Many pieces that were in the country before the ban don’t have any documentation proving they’re antiques, and they don’t legally need any. With an estimated 96 elephants killed every day by poachers, the illegal trade is still alive and well, and many wildlife conservation groups argue that as long as the legal trade exists, poached ivory will be able to circulate. You might think it’s easy to tell the difference between recently poached ivory and a family heirloom chess set, but that’s often not true. Because of this, in 2013, President Obama signed an executive order to significantly crackdown on the wildlife trade in the US. The Fish and Wildlife Services have been trying to sort out the best way to do that—new regulations are expected later this year—while lawmakers have started to take steps at the state level. New Jersey has outright banned the sale of any ivory (antique or otherwise), as has California, where a lawsuit has been filed challenging the law. Though often regarded as a problem restricted to Asia, the US has the second biggest ivory market in the world, and a lot of that ivory is traded at auction. A 2014 audit by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found 4,186 ivory lots offered for sale by US online auctions in a nine-week period, for an average of 465 lots per week and an estimated 24,186 lots per year. In a previous investigation, IFAW learned there were nearly 1,000 illegal ivory imports seized at the border from 2009 to 2012, and another 250 exports were seized. Since INTERPOL estimates seized contraband only represents about 10 percent of what’s actually smuggled across borders, much more poached ivory is likely entering the US each year. And where does all that ivory go? “We do have a very, very large ivory market, but most people assume because we have such a strong rule of law that it’s all legal,” said Beth Allgood, campaigns manager at IFAW. “If poached ivory is getting into our market, then we could be contributing to the current poaching crisis.” This isn’t to say there are lots of unscrupulous auction houses knowingly hawking poached animal parts, but without requirements for proper documentation, can they really know for sure what’s antique? Yes, they can, said Scott Defrin, an expert in antique European ivory carvings and a spokesperson for the Art and Antique Dealers League of America, a trade organization that has actively opposed stricter legislation on ivory trade. “It takes years of experience to be able to distinguish between something that’s old and something that’s recently manufactured,” Defrin said. “It’s the same methodology curators use to tell the difference between what’s an old bronze and a new bronze. The same thing goes for marbles and paintings that are unsigned and undated.” Defrin pointed out that in the Chait case, the accused seems to have known the piece was old because he allegedly lied about it. It’s not as if the auctioneer was tricked. While illegal ivory may be making its way into commercial markets, Defrin said it’s not a major issue in the world of antiques. “The demand for antique ivory carvings comes from collectors who are interested in old things. They’re not interested in new things,” Defrin said. Still, he said the AADLA would like to work with lawmakers to build legislation that can improve regulations without snuffing out dealers working in good faith. Defrin suggested a committee that could vet each individual piece of ivory listed for auction and issue permits, we could require fees that could then be directed to elephant conservation. But the problem is that any regulation would apply not just to high-end art dealers, but anyone selling ivory, and that leaves gaps where illegal ivory can still circulate, according to Allgood. She commended members of the industry actively working to root out illegal ivory, including LiveAuctioneers.com—an aggregator of online antiques auction listings that came to IFAW to find out how the site could improve. The site now enforces strict requirements for all animal part auctions, including posted documentation on the listing indicating the item is indeed an antique. Ultimately, though, Allgood said the only way to really close the door on illegal wildlife trade is to remove the cloak provided by the legal trade. “Yes, it’s unfortunate that you’re stuck with your family heirloom, but there always comes a time in history when you just have to make a decision,” Allgood said. “It’s cheaper to make things with child labor, but we made a decision that that just wasn’t okay anymore. That’s just a time where you need to decide that the continued existence of elephants is actually more important than being able to sell a family heirloom.”

US-Canadian actress and animal rights activist Pamela Anderson gives a press conference on the problems of protecting wildlife in Moscow on December 7, 2015 (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov) More Moscow (AFP) - Actress Pamela Anderson on Monday urged Russia to step up the fight to protect rare animals as she met President Vladimir Putin's powerful chief of staff at the Kremlin. The Canadian-born former Baywatch star, 48, raised issues from the conservation of endangered Amur Tigers to a legal ban on killing baby seals and stopping aquariums from keeping killer whales in captivity in a televised meeting with top official Sergei Ivanov. "I think Russia could really win over some hearts and minds in the West if Russia were to take a leadership position on defending wildlife and the rights of animals," Anderson said, sitting at a round table with Ivanov and activists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "Millions of people around the world are looking for world leaders that have compassion for defending nature, biodiversity and the rights of animals," she said. "Russia has proven to be a nation unafraid to take undaunted action where action is needed." Playboy model Anderson was given a private tour of the historic Kremlin fortress in central Moscow and was warmly welcomed by Ivanov. "For me, today's meeting is very unusual and interesting since I can discuss with beautiful women the problems of protecting wildlife and very beautiful animals," Ivanov, a former KGB agent, said. Anderson came to Moscow after writing to President Vladimir Putin asking him to support her environmental causes, particularly her fight against whale hunting. She did not, however, get to meet the Kremlin strongman, who has previously darted an endangered tiger and flown with cranes in Siberia in highly choreographed publicity stunts aimed at boosting his ratings. "He's very busy and that time will come when it needs to come," Anderson said at a press conference. "I didn't want to be just a celebrity coming to meet President Putin, I wanted to come as an environmentalist and talk more about real issues, so I'm not ready yet to meet him." The actress -- who also starred in the 1996 film Barb Wire -- did criticise the Russian leader for opening a new oceanarium in Moscow in August where orca whales are being kept. "I don't think any whales should be in captivity," she said. "I'm very surprised that they have captured these animals and hopefully they will be set free into the wild." The visit to Moscow is not Anderson's first to Russia. In September she attended an economic forum in the far eastern city of Vladivostok to urge Russia to do more to protect wildlife. Anderson attended a charity auction to raise money to protect endangered species and sold off a bright red float used in the 1990s US television show Baywatch for 3 million rubles ($45,000). At the press conference in the Russian capital the model addressed a wide range of issues from how wearing fur makes women look fat to her recent shoot for the last "nude" edition of Playboy magazine. Anderson is not the only Hollywood star involved in environmental activism in Russia -- but others have faced varying degrees of success. Earlier this year a Russian environmental group was forced to return a grant from actor Leanardo DiCaprio to help protect wild salmon after it fell foul of a controversial law that brands organisations receiving funding from abroad as "foreign agents."

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