It's Not on Porpoise


    It’s Not on Porpoise

    What’s Going On?

    The vaquita, the smallest and most endangered porpoise in the world, is in danger of becoming completely extinct by 2021. Researchers believe that only 12 remain in the northern Gulf of California, their only habitat. Mexican fishermen using gillnets to catch shrimp and the endangered totoaba fish have indirectly caused a 95% population decline of vaquita in the last two decades, as they get entangled in the gillnets and eventually drown when they nets prevent them from coming up for air. The Mexican government placed a two year ban on gillnet fishing in the vaquita habitat in 2015, but enforcement has been lax and fishing has continued as before. The U.S.’s Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 should prevent import of any seafood products that hurt marine mammals at a rate above US standards, but gillnet-caught seafood coming from the Gulf of California has not been banned yet.

    Why You Should Care

    The US imports 5.3 billion pounds of fish each year, but there is no way to tell whether the fish we eat is caught legally because our current laws are not strong enough to trace the supply chain. Illegal fishing undermines efforts to manage fisheries sustainably and conserve marine biodiversity. On a related note, here is an article about overfishing.

    What You Can Do

    Most commercial shrimp and a significant percentage of the fish caught in this part of Mexico are exported to and sold in the U.S., so U.S. government policy and your purchasing decisions have a significant effect on the survival of the vaquita and the habitat as a whole. Start by not buying shrimp from Mexico — you can learn more about how to boycott Mexican shrimp here. The Animal Welfare Institute provides a very simple way you can urge the Mexican government to take action as well.

    Don’t Have a Cow, But…

    What’s Going On?

    Research analyzing 40,000 farms across the world for their impact on land and water use, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions found that 60% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat and dairy industry. Americans are on track to eat record amounts of red meat and poultry in 2018 — over 222 pounds per person. In developing countries where meat is now an affordable option, meat consumption is also growing. Beef production has the largest footprint, accounting for 90% of the land used for livestock production and at least three times as much water and feed.

    Why You Should Care

    By eliminating the consumption of meat and dairy, we could reduce farmland by 75% and still have enough to eat. However, individual farms vary widely in their environmental impact and vilifying animal products as a whole is likely not the best approach.

    What You Can Do

    Eating meat is a nuanced issue many people struggle with — one fraught with sociopolitical, economic, and moral elements — and it deserves your attention and careful consideration. Start by reducing your consumption of animal products and educating yourself about the meat and dairy industry. Consider what it might mean to be a conscious carnivore. Pay attention to labels on animal products at the grocery store, and make an effort to buy from local farmers that you know raise their animals in an ethical and sustainable way.

    Good News, Time for a Guinness

    What’s Going On?

    Ireland will become the first country to completely divest from fossil fuels. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, passed in the lower house of the Irish parliament and expected to pass in the upper house, will require that the government sell off all investments in coal, oil, gas, and peat, amounting to $300 million of public money. Just last month, Ireland was ranked as the second worst performing country in the EU at combating climate change. Across the pond, California reached its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels ahead of schedule (state law required that it reach this level by 2020). The biggest reduction came from energy companies switching from coal and and natural gas to more renewable energy alternatives like solar and wind. Since the peak in 2004, emissions have dropped 13%, although the state’s goals for 2030 and 2050 are much more aggressive and will require much more significant cuts. Reducing emissions from the transportation sector will be biggest challenge in meeting these goals, as emissions from those sources have increased in the last few years.

    Why You Should Care

    Countries will not meet their goals under the Paris agreement on climate change unless they disentangle themselves from the fossil fuel industry. Other countries should follow Ireland’s lead and divest from the fossil fuel industry. California has cut its emissions by 25%, a goal which was once criticized as a “job killer” and something that would ruin the economy. California is still the fifth largest economy in the world.

    Weekly Scraps

    Help save the EPA!

    WeWork will no longer expense meat.

    Ben and Jerry’s sued over false eco-friendly claims.

    Three hundred foot iceberg looms over Greenland village.

    Sustainable concrete with coal waste.

    Eight black rhinos die in relocation efforts.

    Starbucks bans plastic straws (but ends up using more plastic).

    Environmental hazards behind fish oil supplements.

    Stay Informed...

    Subscribe to get the latest environmental news delivered weekly to your inbox.