Pick/Protect 21: Whales (all of them)

Filed Under (Activism, Pick/Protect 21, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 25-05-2010

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Today’s Pick/Protect 21 candidate comes in all shapes and sizes, and even boasts the largest living animal on the planet: the blue whale.

We’ve been talking about cetaceans a lot lately, and with good reason – they’re a fascinating order of animal – rolling, flipping and diving through our seas, exemplifying the energy, majesty and mystery of ocean life.

But it’s with heavy hearts that we are including ALL species of whales in today’s Pick/Protect choice.

In 1986, a moratorium was adopted to stop the commercial hunting of whales, which has helped protect them from extinction since.

Next month, however, whales’ protection could vanish, as President Obama is considering lifting the moratorium on whale hunting, and granting some countries limits for the number of whales they kill. The biggest whaling nations, Japan, Iceland and Norway, could see rewards if they stay within their killing quotas under the new proposal.

In June, the International Whaling comission (IWC) will meet to discuss this proposal in Morocco. You can read more about it and the proposal in this April 23rd article on MSNBC.

Should whales be left hanging out in the wind? Here are several places you can go to learn more and make your voice heard to stop the lifting of the moratorium:

  • Anti-whaling Crusaders on Facebook has a petition you can sign AGAINST lifting the moratorium.
  • Visit Save the Whales to find out ways you can help protect these creatures – from daily conservation habits to letter writing and helping to raise awareness among your family, friends and in your community. 
  • If you live near or can get to the California coast this weekend, Sunday, May 23rd is a Save the Whales rally day – here is a list of rally locations up and down the California coast.
  • Sign the International Anti-Whaling petition.

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Pick/Protect 21: The West Indian Manatee

Filed Under (Pick/Protect 21, Uncategorized, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 24-05-2010

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Today is Manatee Monday for Pick/Protect 21.

This is a very special post, because the endangered Manatee is my favorite sea creature. I love all sea creatures, but I encourage you to Pick/Protect this one.

Try and watch this without your heart melting:

Why you should pick them

  • I already said it’s my favorite ocean creature, but here are some additional reasons to pick the manatee:
  • Their only enemy: boat propellers (in other words, man).
  • Manatees stay and travel near the coastline of the ocean, but they like to live in rivers near the ocean.
  • They are noisy plant eaters, and eat up to 60-plus pounds of water plants per day.
  • They usually give birth to one calf per year (sometimes they even have twins). It’s also been said that they make great parents.
  • Now here’s a really weird fact: manatees used to be called mermaids. Looking at manatees in the video, they don’t look like mermaids AT ALL. Hundreds of years ago, when sailors first saw Manatees (including one famous sailor named Christopher Columbus), they somehow thought, with their wacky imaginations, that they were mermaids.
  • Manatees grow to be between 800 and 1200 pounds, and 8.2-9.8 feet long. They have paddle-shaped tails, and shorter snouts than their cousins, the dugongs.
  • They spend their days eating, sleeping and travelling, and they swim very slowly.
  • Manatees are nicknamed “sea cows,” because when you look at a manatee grazing under water, they look a lot like a cow grazing on land. They’re messy and noisy eaters!
  • The land animal the manatee is most closely related to is the elephant.
  • Thousands of years ago, Manatees used to graze on land with cows, but over time, they entered the water, and their front legs evolved into flippers, their back legs into a paddle-shaped tail, and they became water animals. But, they still have fingernails on their flippers to prove that they were once land animals.

Why they need protecting

Once again, their main enemies are boat propellers. While in the water, a Manatee might hear the buzzing noise of a boat propeller and get curious. As Manatees have literally NO fear, one might swim up to the propeller out of curiosity, and BAM! The boat propeller hits the Manatee. Some drown, some are badly injured as a result.

In 2009, a record number of Manatees were recorded in Florida (3809), but unfortunately, a record number were also killed in the same year (419), most by humans, and 30% of those deaths from boat strikes. That equals 12.5% of the whole population killed, which is not good.

How you can protect them

Spread the word to boaters you know to pay attention to Manatee zones in the water. That means turn off your engine.

You can also donate to the Manatee cause. One way is to join the Save the Manatee Club. You can click on the ad in the sidebar here on O4E to find out how you can adopt one for your dad for father’s day, or for yourself or someone you love, anytime.

You can also help the STMC by voting for them in the Pepsi Refresh Project as they compete for a grant to study Manatees in Florida (vote now – the contest ends May 31st).

I encourage you to find all you can about the Manatee and tell ME some ways you can protect it – unless I already know. ;-)


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Pick/Protect 21: the Vaquita

Filed Under (Pick/Protect 21, conservation) by Alexa & Cindy on 22-05-2010

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Ocean Lovers, we hope your are enjoying your weekend.

Day 18  of our backwards countdown to World Oceans Day called Pick/Protect 21 is here (we realized we started a day early, so we took yesterday off!) and we want to introduce you to the smallest member of the cetacean family of marine mammals:

the Vaquita.

Vaquita - The Search for the Desert Porpoise from Chris Johnson on Vimeo.

Why you should pick them:

Pint-sized Vaquitas (Phonoceona sinus) are the smallest of the six porpoise species, and live only in the northern parts of the Gulf of California, Mexico.

Vaquita is Spanish for “little cow,” and this porpoise is so rarely seen that scientists first recognized it by discovering some skulls in 1958. Vaquita was not even sighted by scientists and fully described until 1985.

Vaquitas grow to only about 4′11″ in length and average 90-110 pounds at full maturity. Their flippers are larger than those of their porpoise cousins, and their dorsal fins are taller.

Vaquitas are also quite different looking than any of the five other porpoises: their skin is dark grey on their backs, fading to light grey on the sides and white on the belly. They also have black rings around their eyes, a black stripe from chin to flipper, and a black-lipped “smile.”

They live in groups of 2 to 10, and females give birth about every two years.

Very little is factually known about the Vaquita, because it’s hard to spot and hard to track.

They hate boats, do not often do the aerial acrobatics their fellow cetaceans (especially dolphins) are well-known for, and they rise slowly to the surface to breath, almost rolling with the waves before disappearing beneath the surface again, almost invisible.

Why they need protecting:

Simple – there are only about 200 left. And that’s it.

As cute, mysterious and elusive as they are, the Vaquita can’t hide from man’s perils – mainly gillnets, put out by fisherman trying to catch the United States’ most popular seafood: shrimp. 

It’s estimated that between 39 and 84 Vaquitas a year die in gillnets. The Vaquita need 50 animals a year to maintain a healthy population that can reproduce itself. The math obviously isn’t good.

How you can protect them:

Vaquitas are not hunted or purposely targeted, but they are being destroyed by a serious problem for all cetaceans and many other forms of sea life: bycatch.

More people need to be educated about the dangers of bycatch in commercial fishing, and Chris Johnson, the filmmaker behind the documentary “Vaquita: Search for the Desert Porpoise” highlights this problem both in the film and on the web. Check out his website for more on the Vaquita, what’s being done, and what you can do to get involved.

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