Top 10 Ocean Conservation Posts of 2017

2017 has been a year of ups and downs for boots-on-the-ground and online activists. We’re not going to kid ourselves by thinking 2018 will be easy. There are challenges ahead and we’re ready to face them and fight for more protections for sea turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and all ocean wildlife. We want to close out this year by focusing on the good things: the victories, the realizations, the turtle pics that brightened our days. Please join us in looking back on our most popular social media posts of 2017.

1. Everyone loves #TurtleTuesday.

Happy #TurtleTuesday!

Photo by Sean Scott Photography.

Posted by Turtle Island Restoration Network on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

2. Reducing plastic bags in the ocean.

One big thing we can do to help sea turtles and other wildlife is ban plastic bags in our cities.

What else can we…

Posted by Turtle Island Restoration Network on Tuesday, November 14, 2017

3. Saving the ocean can seem like a daunting task, but we’re up for the challenge!

“Saving the ocean” can seem like a daunting task. We’ve compiled a list of ten things you can do today that will actually help coral reefs and marine species.

Posted by Turtle Island Restoration Network on Thursday, October 26, 2017

4. We just love sea turtles.

5. For over 10 years, we’ve sponsored a sea turtle hotline in Texas.

6. We added an office in Hawai’i this year!

Aloha from our Hawai’i office!⠀ ⠀ A Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu, glides in the water.

A post shared by TIRN (@turtleislandrestorationnetwork) on

7. Protecting sea turtles is actually good for our economy.

8. We’re trying to shut down the California drift gillnet fishery.

9. We showed off this mural in Texas.

10. And of course, ringing in 2017 with you all was amazing!

Happy New Year!

Posted by Turtle Island Restoration Network on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thank you so much for your support. To help us in our efforts to protect the ocean and the wildlife that inhabit it, please consider donating. Happy 2018!

Court: Feds Unlawfully Allowed Hawai‘i Fishery to Kill Protected Sea Turtles, Birds

Ruling Confirms Trump Administration’s New Interpretation of Bird Protection Law Is Wrong

HONOLULU—The National Marine Fisheries Service failed to properly analyze the Hawai‘i-based swordfish longline fishery’s impacts on the endangered loggerhead sea turtles it kills and injures before permitting an expansion of that fishery in 2012, a federal court has ruled. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by allowing the longline fishery to kill albatrosses and other protected seabirds in the course of fishing operations.

The ruling refutes the Trump administration’s new opinion that the Act does not prohibit incidental killing of migratory birds by the energy and fishing industries. Consistent with the findings of numerous federal courts, the decision undermines the legal reasoning behind the administration’s Dec. 22 announcement that it will no longer prosecute industries that accidentally kill birds.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity, after the National Marine Fisheries Service allowed the fishery to double the number of sea turtles it hooks or entangles. Hawai‘i’s swordfish industry uses longlines up to 60 miles long, with nearly 1,000 baited hooks, that often catch endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, as well as protected migratory birds such as black-footed and Laysan albatrosses. The court found the agency improperly ignored that the Hawai’i fishery kills sea turtles that are already heading toward extinction and must now study the consequences of contributing to that problem.

The court also held that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — one of the nation’s oldest conservation laws — does not allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give commercial operations like the longline fishery, which provides no conservation benefits to birds, a free pass to kill them, even accidentally. Methods to minimize such accidental bird deaths have been studied and are available, but the longline industry has refused to adopt them.

“Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which are supposed to be protecting our wildlife, have instead been illegally helping the longliners push them to the brink of extinction,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “We won’t allow it. And we won’t stand by while the Trump administration turns its back on our children’s natural heritage.”

“The Hawai‘i longline fishery has gotten away with murder for years, killing and injuring seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals, and this is only one of many court rulings trying to rein in their carnage,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “This ruling is also another black eye for the Trump administration, which is trying to dismantle the very laws that protect these defenseless animals.”

Sea turtles become hooked while trying to take longline bait, or become entangled while swimming through the walls of nearly invisible lines and hooks — encounters that can drown the turtles or leave them fatally injured. Seabirds such as Laysan and black-footed albatrosses also dive for the bait and become hooked; worldwide, longline fishing has caused precipitous declines in most albatross populations.

“Sea turtles could go extinct if these deadly longlines aren’t better regulated. We’re happy to see the court reject the reckless expansion of this fishery’s lethal impact on sea turtles and seabirds,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it’s disappointing that the Trump administration is trying to give the energy and fishing industries a free pass to indiscriminately slaughter migratory birds.”

Redwoods: A Vault for the World’s Carbon

First off, what do forests and oceans have to do with each other?  

When we burn fossil fuels, the oceans take a big hit from our actions, absorbing roughly one-third of that additional carbon dioxide. This process ends up making the seas more acidic, reducing the ability of reef-building corals, crucial habitat for many marine species that we’re trying to protect.

Forests play a major role in reducing the negative effects of ocean acidification, by absorbing and tying up carbon. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen through photosynthesis. They transfer the carbon part of the CO2 equation to their trunks, limbs, roots, and leaves as they grow.

Located just north of San Francisco, four-inch tall redwood seedlings are transplanted from small, narrow pots, into gallon-size deep pots. These trees grow in Turtle Island Restoration Network’s native plant nursery and will eventually fight climate change and protect an endangered species. The redwoods are planted under the 10,000 Redwoods Project, which helps individuals, schools and businesses directly engage in the climate change challenge through the simple act of planting trees to sequester carbon. Our goal is to plant 10,000 redwoods to create a local carbon sink.

Redwood trees growing in our native plant nursery. They will one day fight climate change.

Redwoods are important trees. They shade the creeks and streams of Marin County in California where endangered coho salmon are clinging to life in the urban fringes of the Bay Area. They protect streambanks from erosion, and create complex habitat in the form of log “jams” that coho salmon and other wildlife depend on. Redwoods also store carbon, seemingly tremendous amounts of carbon.

CO2 is increasing the Earth’s average temperature and warming the planet. A warmer planet means more intense rainfall, more floods and droughts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise. Redwoods however, are an incredible carbon “sink”. They store more above and below ground carbon than any other terrestrial tree on Earth.

Carbon is stored in all parts of a redwood tree, including the roots, bark, branches, and growing tissue, but most of all in the dense inner layers of the trunk, also known as “heartwood”. Year after year, mature redwoods pack on the pounds, storing more and more carbon. As the tree gets older, that layer becomes dense and entombed within the tree, locking up the atmospheric carbon in rigid cells. That carbon is only released when the wood decomposes or burns. Luckily, redwoods are incredibly resistant to rot, fire, and insects, making them perfectly equipped at storing carbon and holding onto it for centuries.

According to foresters, the old-growth redwood forests of Northern California can store on average 48 tons of carbon per acre, per year. With nearly two-million acres of redwoods between California and Oregon, that’s nearly 97 million tons of carbon per year!

A lot of the old growth redwoods have been logged, but many areas, including where our headquarters is in Marin County, still have old-growth ancient trees that are fighting climate change every day.

Turtle Island Restoration Network staff measures baby redwood trees that will grow up to fight climate change.

The 2,000 tiny redwood seedlings we started earlier this year in our native plant nursery will someday be hundreds of feet tall, fighting climate change by sequestering carbon, all the while providing critical habitat for salmon and countless other wildlife that reside in their shade.

To learn more about the 10,000 Redwoods Project or to adopt a tree of your own, visit our website, 10000redwoods.org. To get involved and help us grow and plant thousands of trees, please contact Preston Brown, preston@tirn.net.

 

Stranded sea turtle? Call 1-866-TURTLE-5.

Photo: Cold stunned sea turtles found by one of our volunteers. 

For over 10 years Turtle Island Restoration Network has sponsored the 1-866-TURTLE-5 sea turtle hotline for the Texas coast, and we have continued to work to raise awareness of the need to report any nesting, injured or deceased sea turtle to the hotline along the entire Texas coast.

The Houston Chronicle published a letter to the editor from our Gulf of Mexico Program Director Joanie Steinhaus:

Sea turtles and cold temps

Regarding “Wintry conditions stun 18 sea turtles in Christmas Bay” (Page A3, Friday), thank you for raising awareness of cold-stunned sea turtles and the 866-turtle5 sea turtle hotline.

Sea turtles are reptiles and their body temperature is determined by external sources of heat, so when sea turtles are exposed to a rapid drop in the air and water temperature, they become sluggish and not able to move well, making them vulnerable to predators and other threats.

Threats to sea turtles include entanglement in recreational and commercial fishing gear, ingestion of marine debris and collision with boat propellers.

Sea turtles that are sick or injured may not be able to continue swimming, escape from predators or dive for food, and eventually may be washed ashore with the waves and tides.

If you spot a stranded sea turtle on the beach, report it to the Texas coast-wide sea turtle hotline 1-866-TURTLE-5, and as springtime approaches, be on the lookout for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on our beaches.

Help us protect sea turtles with a gift to Turtle Island Restoration Network.

10 Ways To Keep Plastic Out of the Ocean

Plastics are one of the most common pollutants found in our oceans. Plastics are found in or on our clothes, body wash and nearly everything else we touch (or even consume) on a daily basis. Plastic pollutants are not only crowding our seas, they are hurting sea turtles and other ocean wildlife. There are many things we can do to keep plastics out of our oceans. Here are ten easy things you can do today!

1. Bring the bag.

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Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags as jellyfish and ingest them which may lead to blockage or starvation. Take our challenge, bring a reusable bag when you shop and keep plastic bags out of the ocean. Instead of bagging fruits and vegetables at grocery stores, leave them loose in your basket or bring your own cloth bags. (Photo credit: Torrie Sessions)

2. Go straw-free.

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This is an easy one. Say “no straw please” at restaurants, bars and cafes. Try to get your favorite spots to only offer straws to customers who ask for them, or better yet, not offer them at all. (Photo credit: Katherine Kartis)

3. Avoid products that contain microplastics.

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It’s important that we read labels carefully. Everything from cosmetics, body washes, face scrubs, household cleaning and car products can contain microplastics that will eventually be found in oceans and inside marine life. We’re studying microplastics in the Gulf of Mexico, sign up for our newsletter to stay updated!

4. Bring a reusable water bottle.

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It’s time to kick that plastic bottle/single-use coffee cup habit and carry a reusable bottle or mug. Ask your favorite coffee shop to fill your reusable to-go mug and you might even get a discount.

5. Say “no” to balloons.

What goes up, must come down and it will end up in our rivers, streams and ultimately our ocean. A party without balloons is still a party! The sea turtle on the right was found entangled in balloon strings by one of our volunteers. (Photo on left: © Ron Wooten)

6. Properly dispose of fishing line.

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Dispose of fishing line properly by recycling it. By recycling your fishing line, your giving it new life. It will be made into fish habitats, plastic benches or even plastic flooring.

7. Look for alternatives.

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We can wean ourselves off plastic by looking for alternatives like glass, ceramic, stainless steel or wood.

8. Buy in bulk.

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Take your own containers or cloth bags to your favorite store and purchase in bulk.

9. Go plastic-free at the dry cleaners.

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Tell your dry cleaner you will take your clothes home without the plastic bag, thank you.

10. To-go food without the extra junk.71SCF4ymLgL._SL1500_

Dining out? Bring your own containers from home for any leftovers or to-go orders. Skip the plastic silverware too!

Consider the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

In the wake of the Trump administration scaling back national monuments and gutting protections for America’s wildlife, Turtle Island Restoration Network, an ocean and coastal watersheds conservation group, is petitioning the U.S. National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to designate critical habitat for the Kemp’s ridley, the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle, in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We work with volunteers and partners every year to monitor nesting beaches and protect nests of sea turtles like the Kemp’s ridley,” said Joanie Steinhaus, TIRN’s Gulf of Mexico program director. “The Kemp’s ridley is the world’s most endangered, and most vulnerable sea turtle species. We need to protect their nesting beaches for them now before we lose these incredible creatures forever.”

According to FWS, a critical habitat designation is “a reminder to federal agencies that they must make special efforts to protect the important characteristics of these areas.” The designation also ensures that federal projects that may affect critical habitat will be reviewed and modified to minimize harm to the species.

TIRN’s Petition requests designation of critical habitat for nesting beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast where Kemp’s ridley sea turtles currently lay their eggs, protection in other Gulf states to protect beaches where they will likely nest as warmer temperatures drive them northward and requests protection for near-shore Gulf coastal waters where the sea turtles migrate and forage.

“As we are all witnessing, the Trump administration is undermining the very premise of protected public lands and waters,” said Peter Fugazzotto, strategic programs director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. “To fight against this backsliding, we must put common sense measures into place like critical habitat to fight against the extinction of sea turtles and other endangered species.”

The Kemp’s ridley population had suffered a devastating decline after 1947 due to near-total exploitation of eggs, slaughter of adults for meat and bycatch during commercial fishing. Since then, their population began to rebound in the 1970’s due to bi-national recovery efforts by Mexico and the United States, which protected nesting beaches in Mexico and addressed bycatch in the shrimp fishing industry. The sea turtles’ path to recovery was then disrupted in 2010, the year of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil spill. In addition to existing threats from fishing and oil spills, Kemp’s ridley nesting beaches face threats from the frequency and intensity of hurricanes due to climate change. The sea turtles also face threats from increased debris like plastic bags in the ocean and microplastics from cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.

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The Petition was prepared by Student Attorneys (also known as “Team Turtle”) at the Getches-Green Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Boulder. Prof. Karin Sheldon supervised and guided the Student Attorneys in their research and preparation of the Petition and most recent scientific research supporting its request.

Shop Online. Save Sea Turtles.

The holiday’s are just around the corner and if you are like me you are starting to think about what gifts to give to loved ones during winter celebrations.

This year, as you prepare your gift list, consider making purchases online from smile.amazon.com.

Doing so will not only make your life easier, i.e. no dreaded trips to the crowded mall or sitting in traffic, it will also allow you to easily (and without added cost) give back to our world’s oceans and marine wildlife!

► One great way to support Turtle Island Restoration Network is to shop online using AmazonSmile.  Once you are signed up, Turtle Island Island Restoration Network will receive half a percent of the price of all your purchases on Amazon – at no cost to you!

If all our members and supporters use this on all their Amazon purchases, it will really add up. To sign up, go to AmazonSmile.

Get Started

1. Visit smile.amazon.com.

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2. Search for “Turtle Island Restoration Network” and click the  gray ‘search’ button.

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3. Click the yellow ‘select’ button..

 

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Now, when you shop on smile.amazon.com, every purchase you make will also be a gift for the worlds oceans and marine wildlife.

Turtle Island Restoration Network encourages simple living in a sustainable manner that does not harm our environment, a goal that is important to hold in mind during this consumerism-focused holiday season.

If you are going to buy gifts this year, doing so online from Amazon Smile is a step in the right direction, as your gifts will help fund our campaigns to save endangered sea turtles, salmon, sharks and other marine wildlife species worldwide.

Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Among Endangered Species Decisions Undercut By Politics

Olema, CA – A new report out today shows that the best available science in imperiled plant and wildlife decisions isn’t always followed, despite the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Pressure from politically-powerful special interests often unduly influences these decisions, undermining science and wildlife conservation, according to the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC). Now, under the Trump Administration, that pressure is worsening.

The report, “Suppressed: How Politics Drowned out Science for Ten Endangered Species” highlights ten imperiled fish, plant and wildlife conservation decisions over the last decade in which the science was either ignored or suppressed as a result of intense special interest lobbying and influence.

The report includes the imperiled Pacific leatherback sea turtles, whose populations face danger from California drift gillnets and longlines in Hawaii, fishing methods used to catch swordfish. This past June, the Trump administration withdrew a proposed regulation on drift gillnets (used to catch swordfish) in response to persistent lobbying from the commercial fishing industry.

“The Pacific leatherback is on the verge of extinction because they are drowning in alarming numbers in industrial drift gillnets and longline fishing gear– just to keep swordfish on the menu. These barbaric fishing methods must stop,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Pacific leatherback sea turtles are “the largest, deepest diving, and most migratory and wide ranging of all sea turtles,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Adults can reach eight feet in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Leatherbacks travel more than 6,000 miles across the ocean from Indonesian nesting beaches to feed on jellyfish along the California coast. They also face threats from plastic pollution in the oceans.

“Plastic bags are known to be ingested by leatherback sea turtles,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy and policy director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. “They mistake them for their favorite food: jellyfish. Underwater it’s very hard to tell the difference between a jellyfish and a plastic bag.”

The stifling of science has been widespread under the Trump Administration this past year, as it slashed science budgets at NASA, NOAA, EPA, and other agencies. The Administration has also hired industry representatives to run its agencies, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and deemed a scientific background unnecessary for positions that require scientific knowledge. Agency scientists have been silenced, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has consistently rolled back science-based rules in favor of polluters.

Turtle Island Restoration Network nominated the Pacific leatherback sea turtle for the report due to the rapid decline in their population. In the past three generations, the population of Pacific leatherback sea turtles has dramatically plummeted by 83 percent according to the IUCN Red List.

“Our native fish, plants and wildlife aren’t just a critically valuable part of the legacy we leave for future generations of Americans, they’re key to providing a good quality of life for all humans right now,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “But we are concerned that the prevalence of special interest, industry representatives inside the Trump Administration is intensifying the suppression of science in endangered species decisions.”

Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the final report. The full report, along with a slideshow and additional species information can be viewed and downloaded at http://suppressedscience.org.

The Endangered Species Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.

Endangered Species Protections Thwarted

Four species in the report – the wolverine, greater sage grouse, dunes sagebrush lizard and the Hermes copper butterfly – were denied protection under the Endangered Species Act, in spite of massive, historic population declines and severe threats to the species. And just last week, the Trump Administration denied listing for four more imperiled species (on top of the 29 others denied protection under the Act this past year).

Another, the North Atlantic right whale – threatened by ship strikes, fishing gear entanglement, and seismic energy exploration – would have benefited from a decision to deny six seismic oil exploration permits. However, the Trump Administration has reversed that decision in an effort to expand drilling in the Atlantic.

Late last month, the Trump Administration finalized a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, one of the most endangered mammals in North America. The plan ignored the scientific recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’ own Mexican Wolf Recovery Team, calling for a minimum population of only half the number of wolves that the scientists recommended.

Another rare and endangered Southwest U.S. species in the report – the ocelot – is threatened with increased habitat fragmentation as a result of President Trump’s proposed border wall. The border wall would obstruct essential migration routes, not only for the ocelot, but for an estimated 90 other imperiled species.

Two other water-dwelling species in the report were also victims of science suppression, including the pallid sturgeon and the Pacific leatherback sea turtle. One of the largest reptiles in the world, the leatherback can journey more than 10,000 miles between habitats. This past June, the Trump administration withdrew a proposed regulation on drift gillnets (used to catch swordfish) in response to persistent lobbying from the commercial fishing industry.

In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list the greater sage grouse as endangered, citing an unprecedented region-wide habitat conservation effort, tied to state and federal conservation plans. However, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is threatening to undo even these modest, bi-partisan conservation measures. Meanwhile, sage grouse numbers have declined by 90 percent from historic levels. Protecting umbrella species like sage grouse conserves habitats on which many other species rely, like mule deer and pronghorn.

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Pacific Habitat for Humpback Whales Threatened by Fishing Gear, Ship Strikes, Oil Spills

“California’s industrial fisheries, ship traffic and oil spills are contributing to the decline of humpback whale populations,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “If we don’t protect humpback habitat now, we’re ultimately advancing the clock toward their extinction.”

SAN FRANCISCO— Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Center for Biological Diversity  and Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation today filed a notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for failing to protect humpback whale habitat in the Pacific Ocean, where the animals face threats from fisheries, ship strikes and oil spills.

“West Coast humpback whales face growing threats that the Trump administration’s ignoring. Record numbers of whales are getting tangled in nets and lines while federal officials just stand back and tally the carnage,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center attorney. “At the very least, the feds have to protect the critical habitat along the West Coast that’s now prone to oil spills, busy with shipping traffic, and dangerously dense with fishing gear.”

One population of endangered humpback whales that feeds off California’s coast numbers barely more than 400 individuals, meaning any death or injury from entanglement could hurt the entire population’s recovery. At least 54 humpback whales were found tangled up in fishing gear off the West Coast last year. Entanglements cause injuries and death as the ropes cut into animals’ flesh, sap their strength and lead to drowning. Many of last year’s incidents were clustered around the biologically rich Monterey Bay, where migrating whales come to feed.

“California’s industrial fisheries, ship traffic and oil spills are contributing to the decline of humpback whale populations,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “If we don’t protect humpback habitat now, we’re ultimately advancing the clock toward their extinction.”

Ship strikes and oil spills are the other major threats to West Coast humpback whales. A new study found that an estimated 22 humpback whales off California, Oregon and Washington die each year after being hit by ships. In 2015 endangered humpback whales were observed swimming in the Refugio oil spill, which dumped at least 21,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean. The spill killed hundreds of marine mammals and birds, including dolphins and sea lions. The company responsible recently applied for a permit to rebuild the pipelines.

“Since time immemorial, Chumash people have shared our home waters of the Santa Barbara Channel with the Paxat Nation, California’s humpback whales. They have a deeply respected role in our culture, guiding and protecting our maritime people as we navigate through the channel. In reciprocity, the Chumash people play a strong role in protecting our magnificent relatives as they face increasing threats from ship strikes, entanglement, and gas and oil development,” said Alicia Cordero, First Nations program officer for the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation. “Ensuring proper designation of critical habitat for these populations of endangered humpback whales is a core responsibility for Chumash people, keeping our millennia-old commitment to All Our Relations.”

Critical habitat protection would help safeguard ocean areas essential for migrating and feeding. The designation would ensure that federally permitted activities do not continue to drive humpback whales to the brink of extinction by destroying important areas. Evidence shows that endangered or threatened species that have protected critical habitat are twice as likely to show signs of recovery as those without it.

Humpback whale populations that need critical habitat were identified in 2016 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, including the threatened Mexico population that feeds off the U.S. West Coast and Alaska and the endangered Central America population that feeds almost exclusively off California and Oregon.