Scientists have recently made critical new discoveries about some of the most ecologically significant waters in the United States: the Bering Sea canyons. With new information in hand, the case for Bering Sea conservation has never been stronger.
In more good news for ocean conservation, scientists have recently made critical new discoveries about some of the most ecologically significant waters in the United States: the Bering Sea canyons. Two new studies have mapped the area and its teeming “Green Belt” like never before, pinpointing the locations of fragile coral and sponge habitat in need of protection.
With this new information in hand, the case for protecting these key regions in the Bering Sea has never been stronger.
Two Studies Confirm Importance of the Green Belt
The first new study, by the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Greenpeace, found that the Pribilof canyon is the most significant location for deep-sea corals and sponges along the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf. It also found that restricting destructive bottom-contact fishing methods in Bering Sea canyons would not have significant negative impacts on the fishing industry. With protections in place for coral and sponge habitat, Bering Sea fish and king crab populations could increase, as well.
“Despite comprising a very small percentage of the total study area, Pribilof canyon contains roughly half of the soft corals and sponge habitat in the entire region we examined,” said Robert Miller, a research biologist at UCSB and the paper’s lead author. “It’s clear that this remarkable habitat warrants protections to ensure the health of the surrounding ecosystem into the future.”
Shortraker rockfish, crinoids, brittle stars, basket stars, anenones and more, seen on the sea floor by a manned submersible, during undersea research of Zhemchug Canyon in the Bering Sea, off the Greenpeace support vessel M/V Esperanza.
Days earlier, NOAA scientists released another report with the results of their camera-drop survey of the Bering Sea slope—the highly productive zone known as the Green Belt. The study, requested by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, found that Pribilof canyon appears to contain half of the region’s coral, despite making up just 10 percent of the Green Belt zone. The habitat makes the canyon an important home for rockfish and king crab. Parts of Zhemchug canyon also stood out for their high amounts of sponge habitat.
All of this confirms the unique nature of the Green Belt area: nearly all of the coral and sponge habitat in the Bering Sea is found here, yet none of it has been protected.
Inside the Battle to Protect the Bering Sea
Managing America’s fisheries is big business—in 2011 the U.S. landed over 10 billion pounds of fish, worth more than 5 billion dollars. It’s also critical to the health of our oceans. If we take too many fish, the whole population can crash. If we destroy fish habitats, the ecosystem that wildlife and people alike depend upon could be irreversibly altered.
In Alaska’s Bering Sea, which accounts more than half of the seafood caught in the U.S., conservation groups have been urging protection for the Bering Sea canyons for more than a dozen years. In 2006, fishery managers concluded that little was known about the area, so they upheld status quo fishing and made learning more about the area a high priority for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
For the first time in 2007, and again in 2012, Greenpeace led the first in-situ exploration of the canyons. The results of those studies should play an important role in informing the Council on this issue.
But it wasn’t until more than 200,000 individuals, indigenous organizations, NGOs and businesses urged the Council to do more that it called for additional government research.
Significantly, the Council heard from a group of stakeholders that have everything to gain from ensuring the conservation of our most valuable fishery resources—supermarkets. Eleven of our nation’s largest supermarket chains have called on the Council to address protections for the area, including Ahold, Costco, Giant Eagle, Hy-Vee, Roundy’s, Safeway, Southeastern Grocers, SUPERVALU, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, and Whole Foods Market. Bon Appétit recently brought the issue to Huffington Post readers, and arguably the largest purchaser of Alaskan pollock for filet-o-fish fare—McDonald’s—is the most recent company to call for action.
Now that fishery managers have the science they were waiting for, will they finally put conservation measures in place?
What Are We Waiting For? Protect the Bering Sea Canyons
Alaska’s fisheries hold a stellar reputation for being some of the best-managed resources in the world and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council prides itself on using the best available science to guide its decisions.
Well, the science is in. We know where the coral and sponge habitat is in the Bering Sea and we know it is extremely vulnerable to destructive fishing methods. The public—for whom these resources are managed—has spoken.
Now, the Council needs to listen to the people and to our government. NOAA’s strategic guidance instructs it to “protect areas containing known deep-sea coral and sponge communities from impacts of bottom-tending fishing gear.” The Mid-Atlantic Council took the lead on conserving corals and sponges in its canyons last month.
Now all eyes are on the North Pacific to do the same.
Jackie Dragon is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. Jackie has been campaigning to protect important places in the ocean since 2008. Her current focus is on the Bering Sea, where she fights to conserve the largest submarine canyons in the world from destructive industrial fishing practices.
Stop the Voyages to Hell: Whale-Friendly Tourists are not Welcome in the Danish Faroe Islands
Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson
The ‘special’ new Grind Laws of the Faroe Islands make it a criminal offense for anybody to not report a pod of whales to the whalers. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Rosie KunnekeOne of the pods of pilot whales exterminated by the Faroese whalers earlier this summer was spotted and reported by a tourist because the “special” new Grind Laws of the Faroe Islands make it a criminal offense for anybody to not report a pod of whales to the whalers.
When tourists have been recruited into being accessories to the slaughter, it is time to discourage more tourists from being recruited.
The issue of cruise ships calling into the Faroes is fast becoming international news and now even the trade publications are pointing out the bad publicity for the cruise ship industry if they continue to call into the Faroe Islands.
Basically it’s, “Come to the Faroe Islands and help us kill whales and if your ship is opposed to whaling, you are not welcome in the Faroe Islands.”
The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker is an EU Dutch-flagged ship that has arrived in the Faroe Islands from an EU Germany port with EU crew, but was denied entry. Never before has a ship from an EU nation been denied clearance by an EU nation (Danish Immigration).
What the Faroese are saying with this denial is that any ship opposed to the slaughter of the pilot whales is not welcome in the Faroe Islands, and this automatically makes any cruise ship that arrives in the Faroe Islands to be understood to support the horrific slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins.
In the Faroes, a ship now has no choice. Support the Grindadráp (murder of whales) or else. And if the cruise ships continue to stop at Faroese ports the public will begin to equate them with supporting this murderous Faroese obscenity.
AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd, P & O and Disney have already decided to avoid the Faroe Islands. We now have to convince the other cruise ship lines, and considering that Faroese law now makes tourists and cruise ship lines complicit in the slaughter it should not be hard to convince these corporations that docking in the Faroes is not a wise business move.
The text below is from the most recent newsletter by Jim Walker of Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News.
“There is a widespread and well-organized movement to boycott the Faroe Islands for its barbaric and heart-wrenching slaughter of pilot whales. Trouble is that most cruise lines tout the Faroes as a key port of call for their cruise ships. But an international coalition of mammal lovers, environmentalists and decent-hearted concerned citizens, organized by non-profits and the powerful and media-savvy Sea Shepherd organization, is making a change. Disney abandoned its plans to go there and three other lines, all European companies, announced that they will no longer support the Faroes in response to social media campaigns geared toward educating the public about the despicable whale slaughter.
But U.S.-based cruise lines are still sailing there regularly. Royal Caribbean, Azamara, NCL, Oceania, and Carnival-owned HAL and Princess all still plan on calling on the Faroe Islands. I have written about the deadly and disgusting practice here. The Faroese locals slit the throats of the little whales and rip the babies from their mothers. Don’t read the article if you are squeamish.
Disney was smart enough to get out of the way of the oncoming media blitz. It will maintain its reputation because of its awareness, just like it wisely assigned lifeguards to its pools and installed automatic man-overboard systems on its ships. But the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans and NCLs are too CEO-egocentric and arrogant to figure out to avoid the train of public opinion coming their way.”
We need to make all the cruise ship lines that go or plan to go to the Faroes aware that there is a powerful movement to save the whales from being cruelly butchered on the beaches of the Faroe Islands.
This is not your usual story of going to the jungle to try Ayahuasca.
Instead, I was bringing a Hopi elder to meet with the ancient Q’ero People.
Few people realize that the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona have clans that are descendants of tribes from the northernmost to southernmost tips of the Americas (and quite possibly beyond that). The Q’ero are believed to be descendants of the Inca, who fled high into the Andes where they successfully hid from outsiders until recent decades. Kenosis Spirit Keepers had created the cultural exchange program, and Don Americo Yabar was playing a central role in translating between cultural leaders. I was brought along by Carla Woody to help document and assist my Hopi friend, Harold Joseph.
The giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman
Our first destination after reaching Cusco was the giant stone remnants of Sacsayhuaman, the historical capital of the Inca. An architectural marvel and modern day mystery, the walls are made of impossibly large stones that are beveled and stacked perfectly without mortar. Upon entering the site, my Hopi friend who had never been there before pointed and said, “We must go there and find a snake carving to make an offering before we explore the site.” He said that the structure was built to correspond to the tallest mountain and is oriented the same way they oriented the Hopi Villages on the Mesas. To my surprise he walked us directly to a a giant snake that had been built into the wall that fit his description where we made an offering of Hopi Corn.
Sacred sites and ceremony
Days later we had our first meeting with the Q’ero and Don Americo Yabar outside of Cusco. From here we all traveled together to sacred sites for ceremony and stories around the fire. I particularly enjoyed tagging along with Don Americo who is playful and poetic in his words, mannerisms and way of life. Being with him in nature reminded me of being a child, where the landscape surrounding us was alive and filled with stories.
Above: Harold Joseph (left), and Don Americo Yabar
Standing by a river he told me how the Inca had so much energy. He said that they never drew their energy from their own internal battery, instead they drew it from the stars, the land, all of the universe. He demonstrated, with eyes closed and palms open towards the raging white-water of the river:
“Breathe this power in through every pour in your body, through the palms of your hands, and the breath that enters your lungs. That is the power of the Inca, the power of the Andes.”
To this day I use this practice and feel that I have increased my ability to absorb energies from the land. Give it a try at a power spot near you. In our modern society based on individualism, we have cut ourself off from the greater source of life that surrounds us.
Chucuito fertility shrine
Another profound experience was visiting the ancient Chucuito fertility shrine with giant stone penises. I had seen the overtly sexual Inca carvings and artwork at gift shops along my travels and thought they were humorously perverse. Yabar looked at us as we stood in the shrine and said:
You’re bodies are very angry… 500 years of being told by the church that your natural urge for pleasure, connection, and procreation is sinful. Inca knew that there is no spiritual knowledge without first having a clear connection to nature and sexuality.
Standing behind us at the shrine was a church with a steeple that had penises on the top instead of a cross. Some say that the site is a hoax put there for tourists but the Inca were clearly uninhibited about sexuality.
Q’ero and Hopi Spirit Keepers Share Traditions
We are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we believe, and the stories our culture tells us. Undoubtedly the Church, commercialism, and colonialism have influenced our thinking and our culture even if we are not actively religious. What would our society look like if we were taught to connect with the energies of nature, if pleasure and connection were considered sacred instead of sinful? Well I guess that sounds pretty ‘Pagan’ and I’m okay with that…
What a brilliantly playful way to advance equal rights and birth a body positive/sex positive culture. On August 23rd in a march on the Venice Boardwalk, we celebrated the 95th anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote with a parade to ##Free the Nip, 2 square inches of female human anatomy. It was the 8th annual Go Topless Day in Venice organized by Raelian Lara Terstenjak and her team.
Male shirtlessness is ‘officially’ referred to as ‘barechestedness.’ The female equivalent of barechestedness is toplessness. For some strange reason these two states of shirtlessness have two different legal meanings – female shirtlessness is considered erogenous and obscene.
Apparently men in New York won their nipple freedom in the 60s sometime–according to Wikipedia: “…rules relaxed only for men on beaches and swimming pools (in New York City, a man could be fined for removing his shirt in Central Park as late as 1960) but permissiveness gradually grew and crossed gender lines.”
Suppression+Oppression=Obsession. And in some places even Possession and total loss of rights for women. Let’s End the Obsession with female body parts as sex objects for suppression and exploitation leading to sexual violence across the globe.
In California, it is legal for anyone to be shirtless in public, however, Los Angeles city and county rules prohibit topless sunbathing for females only. In April 2014, after a 40-year ban, the Venice Beach Council voted 12-2 to “support women being afforded the same rights as men to sunbathe topless.” Still, the measure hasn’t become ‘official’ so everyone had to cover their nipples with something.
Hundreds of barechested, courageous men and women marched to end the suppression inherent in body negative culture. Many men wore bikini tops and bras to illustrate the silliness of nipple fear. The parade was led by a fanciful group of nipple adorned men and women, a mermaid, King Neptune, and a beauty queen towering above the crowd on stilts. Imagine playful, happy people comfortable in their own skin, delighting in a beautiful sunny day at the beach.
And imagine gawkers. Lots of them. The Body Positive/Sex Positive model respects the innate sanctity and unique beauty of every one of us. Our bodies are shame free!
So I ask you, is it erogenous to bare a nipple? I’ll confess, nipples are erogenous and interesting, of any gender. To me, a sexy nipple is a sexy nipple. So what. Let’s be honest–a shirtless man isn’t ‘promiscuous’ and obscene, and ‘asking for it.’ Men just like the feeling of being shirtless and are comfortable with their chests. I feel the same way.
Is Custodianship a possible way forward in creating reconciliation between settlers and indigenous people?
The colonisation of indigenous lands worldwide has created many conflicts and frustrations about the use and abuse of traditional lands. The consequences of this have also been that much traditional knowledge for the management and maintenance of lands has been ignored, or dismissed. On the other side of the equation, many settlers are suffering from a sense of disconnection and increasing unease at the dominant culture’s treatment of both the land they inhabit, as well as the original inhabitants. Is a sense of shared custodianship potentially a way forward?
Jarmbi Githabul is a Ngarakwal / Githabul man living in the Byron Bay area of New South Wales. A community activist, traditional ceremonialist and land custodian, he is one of the founders of the R.E.A.C.H. project ‘Radical Empowerment of Australia’s Cultural Heart’. One of the principle goals of R.E.A.C.H. and its Rise Up Wise Up program is ‘to awaken the birth right role of Custodianship in all indigenous peoples, connecting them to Source and Country, recognising ceremony and connection, standing tall and proud in heritage and honouring our ancestors, to create a better, abundant world for all.’
What is your perspective on how custodianship works in the R.E.A.C.H. Model?
‘In the Reach ‘business model’ – I suppose it is, we bring in the understanding of custodianship as not just being board members to a company but being responsible for everything that company does; being responsible for everything your people do; for everything that comes out of your tribe. That’s how it works for us in the real world. When you’re responsible for something you take care of it. We’re responsible for our country even. Like the elders say in Uluru, if you fall off that mountain they feel bad, because their country is them, and they’re responsible; as if they did it themselves. As if it doesn’t matter that someone was silly and made an error in judgement and hurt themselves. The fact is that someone died on their country.
Then you should be responsible for your own actions, but not responsible to the point where it gets handed onto a government or a legal system to sort out your matters. It’s up to you. It’s too easy to lay blame or pass the buck. In today’s society there’s always someone else who can fix it up, there’s insurance companies that can patch up your accidents or whatever, you don’t have to take it personally. Anything that you do you can lay it down to the corporate structure and don’t have any personal hardship out of it.’
The real law of the land is that you are responsible for yourself and when you are recognised as being someone that is responsible it means something.
Jarmbi looking towards Uluru
What do you think about the role of custodianship in creating some reconciliation between the settlers of Australia and the Original Peoples?
‘We have that understanding that the Spirit of the Earth is being born into our youth, into everybody’s youth, everybody here today. Everyone who’s born in this country inherently comes with a bit of that spirit. The only thing I feel that gets in the way of them making something of it, or taking responsibility for it, is that they’re not supported to think that way. They’re supported to dig it up, to put it quite bluntly. They’re not supported to think of it as something that we should be taking care of. It basically comes down to people seeing indigenous people and the understandings and wisdom, and connection to spirit is not just something they go and watch a little show on – ‘someone’s playing a didgeridoo, let’s go and have a look’, like a little bit of entertainment.
Our culture is the key to the future; without it – everything is going to shit. It’s going right along the track that it’s going and everybody that stops and looks can tell it’s going to shit. But we’re sitting here, we’re waiting for people to come and talk. People like the climate council, (when) the government booted the climate council, the climate council shoulda went straight to the indigenous elders and said ‘right, let’s start linking up’. Let’s put the wisdom behind the science and we’ll start showing the world exactly what’s going on. There’s all the stories, all the star lore and all that sort of stuff that comes into the climate and everything to do with everything. We engender all parts of life.’
That sort of understanding needs to come in. Let’s have a look underneath our feet for the answers. There’s plenty of answers there, it’s all there. We’ve just gotta look. People have got to be supported to look.
A Welcome to Country ceremony at Limmen National Park in Western Australia
What is the relationship between sovereignty and custodianship?
‘As sovereign beings we know our connection to the Earth. We know that we are custodians because we are born of the mother and the father. So we know. We know where we are, we know where we stand, we know our responsibility here and we also know our responsibility to each other. So for custodianship to be fully recognised your sovereignty does need to be recognised as well.
Where were you born, you were born in that area, that’s where you’re a custodian from. Where’s your bloodline, where’s your heritage? All of that comes in to making you who you are. There you go, you’re recognised, we receive you. Are you a respectful person, can we have a look? Yes, we see what you do. You do good things, you don’t talk bad about people. If you have an issue with someone you go straight up to them. There’s no need to run anyone down or do anything stupid because you know yourself, you know what you’re about. There’s no need to lash out, no craziness. You’re responsible for yourself and everything around you.
People get that from an understanding of sovereignty, that you are that. When we had our initiation stages, it was recognising that you are a sovereign spirit. That you are respectful, you are someone who looks after their own affairs. We can proudly send you out into the world to go walk-about and know that you can carry our name and you’re not going to dirty our name up. When you walk through someone else’s country you’re not going to do something stupid. You’re not going to do something stupid, you’re not going to steal their women. Or if you do you’re going to take responsibility, you’re not going to lie about. That’s the thing, you stand there and you say ‘yeah I did it, I mucked up – I’m gonna get boondy, I’m gonna get speared in the leg, yeah’. Take responsibility.
If someone’s thinking about custodianship for the first time, what would do you say to them. What’s the first step that you need to take?’
Who are you, or what are you? Sovereign spirit, born between a mother and father. put here on this place to learn and to take care of it as you go through. So taking care of this Earth, sacred sites. You know, doing the ceremonies that it takes in order to put back in. It’s just the basic stuff.
‘Connect in. Figure out who you are first and then walk it. Walk as you, and other people who walk as themselves and have respect in themselves will find it easy to respect you. Otherwise, if people who are giving you respect don’t respect themselves, it’s not true respect. Because true respect can only be given by someone who is respectful.’
You can find out more about R.E.A.C.H. and Jarmbi’s work at their website: R.E.A.C.H.
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