Business as usual for marine mammal deterrence

first_imgSea lions nap on a buoy in Frederick sound. (Nora Saks, KFSK – Petersburg)In Southeast Alaska, populations of some marine mammals, like humpback whales and Stellar sea lions, are on the rise. Some subgroups of these species have recently been removed from the Endangered Species list, leaving many commercial fisherman wondering what this means for them.Listen nowBut it’s still business as usual when it comes to dealing with protected marine mammals in Southeast waters.On June 7, NOAA Fisheries representatives held a virtual “community roundtable” in Petersburg to update fishermen and the public on marine mammal policies and clear up confusion.Aleria Jensen is the Deputy of Alaska’s Protected Resources Division for the agency. She was visiting via Google Hangout.“One of the questions I know has been on people’s minds is the pretty monumental change that happened last year for humpback whale,” Jensen said.Three different groups of humpbacks migrate to coastal Alaska. Last September, one was delisted, one was reclassified as threatened, and one, from the Western North Pacific, remains endangered. It’s a similar story with Stellar sea lions. Two populations can be found in the area. One is endangered, and one isn’t.Since it’s impossible to tell these genetically distinct populations apart by sight, Jensen said they all have to be treated the same and afforded full protection under the Endangered Species Act.“So for you it’s essentially, that means business as usual,” Jensen said. “That’s really the status quo of how we’ve been operating. Nothing is changing. In terms of a vessel’s behavior around a whale.”Sea lions can steal salmon from commercial nets or become a harbor nuisance, while whales can get tangled in nets and crab gear. There are devices like noisemakers, visual repellents, and exclusion barriers on the market intended to keep these animals away.But there’s currently no list of agency approved or prohibited deterrence methods to guide fishermen.Which means there isn’t a clear answer to the million dollar question of whether or not fishermen can use deterrents to protect their gear and catch, or which ones. It’s a situation which seemed to frustrate NOAA Fisheries staff as much as fishermen.“We want to be able to help you avoid violations,” Jensen said. “We want a win-win. Nobody wants whales and gear in the same place. We have really looked to our national program to provide that guidance, and it certainly has been long in coming.”A draft list is in the works, and should come out sometime next year. Even when the list is finalized, likely in 2019, it will only address the impact of each deterrent on marine mammals, not its effectiveness.And, while the Marine Mammal Protection Act allows fishermen to use deterrents to protect their property as long as no animals are hurt, the Endangered Species Act does not contain the same explicit exemption.While NOAA officials wait for better standards and clearer regulations, Jensen said that right now, they need the fishing industry’s help to come up with creative solutions.“It’s really fundamentally such a challenging issue. How do we protect gear, catch, and how do we account for human safety, and not use something that has that injurious or negative effect to marine mammals?” Jensen asked the crowd.NOAA Fisheries plans to hold listening sessions to gather more input from commercial fisherman, and a few stuck around to chat after the meeting.Julianne Curry is on the board of the Petersburg Marine Mammal Center, and a long time seiner.“People will keep fishing. People will keep boating. People will keep coming to Alaska on cruises. And we’re just gonna have to cautiously figure out how to operate in this world where marine mammal populations are exploding to levels we’ve never seen in generations,” Curry said.Gillnetter Max Worhatch said he hasn’t seen very many humpbacks so far this year, but when he does, he tries to stay away.“I’ve got an aluminum boat, so I just take a stick and beat on the boat when they get close to the boat,” Worhatch said. “Humpbacks don’t use echolocation, they just use their ears and their eyes, so it kind of makes them aware. I’ve had minimal incidents with whales. So, it seems like it works for me.”For now, NOAA Fisheries representatives recommend avoiding marine mammals as much as possible, and not doing anything that could cause more interactions, like dumping fish waste near boats.last_img read more

Obama administration refuses to rule out drone strikes on US soil

first_imgNo related posts. WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. forces could launch a deadly drone strike against a target on United States soil if there was an “extraordinary circumstance,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter seen Tuesday.The nation’s top Justice Department official, in a letter to Republican Senator Rand Paul, who released it, stressed that U.S. military and intelligence agencies currently have “no intention” of carrying out such an attack.Paul branded Holder’s refusal to comprehensively rule out such a drone strike “more than frightening.”Three U.S. citizens are known to have been killed in U.S. drone strikes, including Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. They were targeted in Yemen, not on U.S. soil, but questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the tactic.Paul had sought information on the president’s authority to authorize lethal drone strikes as part of the confirmation process for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s pick to head the CIA.“The question you have posed is … entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” Holder wrote, in a later dated Monday.“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”Holder cited the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941 as examples where use of such force might be justified.Brennan, a 25-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran, is known as the chief architect of the drone war, and he faced repeated questions at his confirmation hearing over the “targeted killings.”His nomination passed a key hurdle Tuesday with the Senate Intelligence Committee voting by 12 votes to three to approve Brennan to head the CIA. A full Senate vote is expected this week.The approval followed a White House decision to turn over to Congress several secret Justice Department memos that may have been used to justify the president’s ability to authorize the targeted killing of U.S. citizens.Paul, who has long questioned the legality of the government’s use of lethal force – including strikes by unmanned drones – against U.S. citizens, expressed alarm at Holder’s response.“The U.S. attorney general’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening,” he declared.“It is an affront [to] the constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” he said.Paul had also sought Brennan’s views on drone strikes, and the nominee wrote back that the CIA has no authority to launch such attacks on U.S. soil. Facebook Commentslast_img read more