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Write A Letter for the Eastern Reef inhabitants, and for the Whales

NRDC's EARTH ACTION:
The Bulletin for Environmental Activists

July 21, 2004
Earth Action, 7/21/04

In This Issue:

--Action Alerts--

1. Speak out to protect fragile underwater
canyons and marine life

2. Tell the Navy to stop harming whales with
high-intensity sonar

--Updates on Previous Alerts--

1. Judicial nominations
2. Global warming legislation

======================================================
You will also find these alerts in NRDC'S Earth
Action Center, which includes
tools for taking action easily online, at
 http://www.nrdc.org/action/

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Action Alerts
=============

1. Speak out to protect fragile underwater
canyons and marine life

Off the coast of southern New England, underwater
canyons plummeting thousands
of feet to the ocean floor are home to deepwater
corals (some of which have
taken hundreds of years to grow), rare anemones
and unique fish such as the
tilefish, which burrows "pueblo village"-like
homes into the canyons' walls.
The canyons have been formally designated as
"essential fish habitat" for
deepwater species like white hake, witch flounder
and red deep-sea crab, and
their remote location several hundred miles
offshore has thus far helped keep
their various inhabitants safe from the
destructive impacts of bottom-trawling
fishing nets and dredges.

But the New England Fishery Management Council
and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery
Management Council have proposed expanding a
monkfish fishery from overfished
inshore areas into areas further offshore
encompassing the underwater canyons.
One pass with a monkfish bottom trawler could
destroy a canyon's unique and
sensitive corals, plants and other marine life.
The good news is that the two
councils have proposed keeping from two to twelve
of the canyons off-limits to
monkfish fishing (we would of course prefer that
as many of these fragile
canyons as possible remain protected).

The National Marine Fisheries Service is now
starting to review the councils'
proposals and is accepting public comments
through July 28th. The councils are
comprised almost entirely of state officials and
fishing industry
representatives, and the Fisheries Service weighs
their recommendations
heavily, so it is critical that people who care
about preserving the canyons'
unique beauty speak up during the public comment
period.

== What to do ==
Send a message, before the July 28th comment
deadline, urging the National
Marine Fisheries Service to choose the strongest
possible protections for
southern New England's magnificent underwater
canyons.

== For background ==
Underwater Worlds: Oceanographer Canyon
 http://www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/worlds/page5.asp

== Contact information ==
You can send an official comment directly from
NRDC's Earth Action Center at
 http://www.nrdc.org/action/ (we'll send a copy of
your comments to the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Or use
the contact information and
sample letter below to send your own message.

Patricia Kurkul, Northeast Regional Administrator
National Marine Fisheries Service
One Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2298
Email:  MonkfishDSEIS@noaa.gov

== Sample letter ==

Subject: Monkfish Amendment 2 DSEIS - Choose
5C-Option 2

Dear Ms. Kurkul,

I support the closure of submarine canyons to
monkfish trawling proposed in the
draft Amendment 2 to the Monkfish Fishery
Management Plan and urge you to
choose the "Essential Fish Habitat" alternative
designated "5C-Option 2." This
alternative would close up to 12 of the deepwater
canyons in areas below 200
meters to trawl and gillnet monkfish fishing.
Closing these canyons would
protect designated essential fish habitat for
multiple fish species, as well as
protect the eastern seaboard's most significant
assemblages of deepwater corals
and other marine life. The canyons are also
important nursery areas for a
number of fish populations that are overfished,
such as halibut, white hake and
witch flounder, and the proposed closures would
help rebuild depleted stocks
and prevent further overfishing.

If you do not choose Alternative 5C-Option 2, I
urge that you at least support
Alternative 5AB-Option 2, which would close
Oceanographer Canyon and Lydonia
Canyon to trawl and gillnet monkfish fishing.

Please support these components of Amendment 2 to
the monkfish plan and
preserve our ocean environment for this
generation and beyond.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]

2. Tell the Navy to stop harming whales with
high-intensity sonar

In the last several years, thousands of you have
taken action to help stop the
Navy from deploying harmful low-frequency sonar,
and last year NRDC reached a
landmark agreement with the Navy limiting the use
of this particular type of
sonar. But the Navy continues to use
mid-frequency sonar, another form of high-
intensity sonar, to blast large expanses of the
ocean with sound. This
technology has been implicated in a growing
number of whale strandings and even
deaths around the world, from the state of
Washington to the Bahamas to Greece.

Most recently, Navy training exercises off the
coast of Kauai, Hawaii, earlier
this month coincided with a stampede to shallow
water by a pod of up to 200
melon-headed whales. Melon-headed whales (which
resemble dolphins) usually stay
in deep water and are not known to beach
themselves. Although concerned locals
in kayaks and canoes were eventually able to herd
most of the whales back out
to sea, one young whale did become stranded and
die. It's too soon to know for
certain whether the sonar was the direct cause of
the pod's distress, but the
incident was similar enough to previous
strandings caused by sonar that it
warrants a full investigation by the Navy.

NRDC has sent a letter to the Navy, demanding
that it stop using high-
intensity, mid-frequency sonar in a way that
harms whales. You can help by
sending the Navy your own letter.

== What to do ==
Send a message telling the Navy to protect whales
from mid-frequency sonar.

== For background ==
Protecting Whales from Dangerous Sonar
 http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/marine/nlfa.asp

== Contact information ==
You can send a message to the secretary of the
Navy directly from NRDC's Earth
Action Center at  http://www.nrdc.org/action/. Or
use the contact information
and sample letter below to send your own message.

Hon. Gordon R. England
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350
Fax: 703-697-3991

== Sample letter ==

Subject: Protect whales from mid-frequency sonar

Dear Secretary England,

I urge the U.S. Navy to stop needlessly
inflicting harm on whales and other
ocean life with its use of high-intensity,
mid-frequency sonar in its training
exercises.

Whales, dolphins and other marine mammals depend
on sound to navigate, find
food, locate mates, avoid predators and
communicate with each other. Blasting
their environment with intense sound over large
expanses of ocean disrupts
these critical behaviors and threatens their
survival.

Sonar also harms whales more directly: Navy
exercises using mid-frequency
sonar have resulted in whale strandings across
the globe, including along the
coasts of Washington State, the Canary Islands,
the Bahamas, Madeira, the U.S.
Virgin Islands and Greece. A recent whale
stranding death in Hawaii, which
occurred when a large pod of whales was driven in
panic to shallow waters, took
place with Navy sonar exercises nearby and may be
the latest in this string of
sonar casualties.

Whales should not have to die for military
training. The Navy can no longer
ignore the unnecessary harm inflicted by this
technology. I urge the Navy to
immediately adopt common-sense measures to keep
whales safe.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address]

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