Group Seeks Federal Protection For New England's Undersea Paradise

And now, for some good news: The waters off the coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island are home to a beautiful and thriving aquatic Eden. To ensure that it stays that way, conservation organizations have petitioned the White House to designate the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts area the first National Marine Monument in the Atlantic. 

The area’s five enormous canyons and four seamounts support an astonishing diversity and quantity of marine habitats, from the East Coast’s largest kelp forest to thousand-year-old corals. Research expeditions to the area have found vibrant populations of not only corals, anemones, and sea turtles, but also seabirds, dolphins, and whales, as well as apex predators like tuna, cod, and sharks. You can see some of them in the above video, put together by the NRDC using footage from the NOAA's Okeanos Explorer

To date, the area has remained remarkably healthy, in part because there has been little fishing activity and no undersea mining or drilling. But that all could change unless the area is protected. 

That's what Protect New England's Ocean Treasures Coalition is after. The coalition, comprised of 12 different science and conservation organizations, aims to secure government protection for the site in the form of a National Marine Monument designation.

Why a monument? Because unlike marine sanctuaries and other types of protected spaces, national monuments are totally off-limits for fishing, mining, and drilling.

The members of the coalition aren’t the only ones hoping to protect the canyons and seamounts. A June 2016 poll [PDF] of 403 Rhode Island and 400 Massachusetts residents found that 80 percent supported the protection of marine areas, even when that meant a ban on fishing, mining, or drilling. 

Lisa Dropkin works for Edge Research, the market research firm that conducted the survey. “We often see strong support in polls for ocean conservation, and these results are among the most positive I have seen,” she said in a press statement.

Header image from YouTube //  NRDC

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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Has Died, But Could He Still Help Save the Species?
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

Following age-related complications, Sudan the northern white rhinoceros was euthanized by a team of vets in Kenya at 45 years old, CNN reports. He was one of only three northern white rhinos left on earth and the last male of his subspecies. For years, Sudan had represented the final hope for the survival of his kind, but now scientists have a back-up plan: Using Sudan's sperm, they may be able to continue his genetic line even after his death.

Northern white rhino numbers dwindled from 2000 in 1960 to only three in recent years. Those last survivors, Sudan, his daughter Najin, and granddaughter Fatu, lived together at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Each animal had physical issues making it difficult for them to breed, and now with Sudan gone, a new generation of northern white rhinos looks even less likely.

But there is one way the story of these animals doesn't end in extinction. Before Sudan died, researchers were able to save some of his genetic material, which means it's still possible for him to father offspring. Scientists may either use the sperm to artificially inseminate one of the surviving females (even though they're related) or, due to their age and ailments, fertilize one of their eggs and implant the embryo into a female of a similar subspecies, like the southern white rhino, using in vitro fertilization.

"We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species," Jan Stejskal, an official at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic where Sudan lived until 2009, told AFP. "It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring."

Poaching has been a major contributor to the northern white rhino's decline over the past century. Rhinos are often hunted for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian cultures. (Other people just view the horn as a sign of wealth and status.) Procreating is the biggest issue threatening the northern white rhinoceros at the moment. If such poaching continues, other rhino species in the wild could end up in the same situation.

[h/t CNN]

Tre' Packard
Artists Transform the Polar Bear Capital of the World Into Massive Mural Gallery
Tre' Packard
Tre' Packard

The freezing village of Churchill, Manitoba has just gotten a whole lot brighter. Sixteen “artivists” recently descended on the self-titled Polar Bear Capital of the World, leaving behind beautiful murals with a meaningful message.

The Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans initiative is an international art project by the nonprofit PangeaSeed Foundation, which melds culture and environmental activism to increase public interest in saving our oceans. From 2014 to 2017, the program sponsored more than 300 murals in 12 countries by 200-plus artists from around the world.

Churchill’s Sea Walls were created in collaboration with the Polar Bear Fund (PBF), a nonprofit that supports innovative projects to raise awareness about the polar bears’ plight.

Polar bear mural on the side of a building.

Polar bear mural on the side of a building.

Spending more than 80 percent of their time in the water, polar bears are technically sea creatures, PBF founder Kal Barteski said in a statement.

“Polar bears are directly affected by the unprecedented melting of sea ice and subsequent habitat destruction at an alarming rate, resulting in a big challenge for the species to survive.”

Polar bear mural on the side of a building.

Artist painting a polar bear mural on the side of a building.

Tre’ Packard is the founder and executive director of PangeaSeed. “Public art and activism can educate and inspire the global community to help save our seas,” he said.

“Regardless of your location – large metropolitan city or small seaside village like Churchill – the ocean supplies us with every second breath we take and life on Earth cannot exist without healthy oceans.”

All images courtesy of Tre’ Packard. Artists, top to bottom: Kal Barteski, Arlin, Dulk, Jason Botkin, and Charles Johnston.


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