We’re one step closer to keeping trash and plastic out of our oceans

The United States took an important step forward in the global fight to tackle trash in our oceans.

Nearly 124,000 WWF activists from 49 states reached out to their member of Congress to support a bipartisan bill to take a stand on ocean plastic, and their impressive efforts paid off. The Save Our Seas Act means less trash, more research, and a brighter future for both wildlife and people who depend on healthy oceans.

Scientists estimate that more than 8.8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Without action, experts predict that there could be a pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean within the next decade.

Ocean trash affects everything from the smallest plankton to the biggest whales. Sea turtles, for instance, often confuse plastic bags for food. And dolphins and other marine life can become entangled in old fishing gear.

That’s why it’s so important that tens of thousands of our activists spoke up.

“WWF’s ambitious goal is for nature to be plastic-free by 2030,” said Erin Simon, WWF’s director of private sector engagement, sustainability R&D. “This will require fixing what’s broken across complex waste management systems. Government action and good public policy are critical to enabling the solutions we need, and the passage of the Save Our Seas Act is a welcome step in the right direction.”   

Learn more about protecting our oceans.

Looking for a New Year’s resolution? Put your food waste on a diet

When that ball drops, we all start thinking, how can I be a little better this year? Many of us go straight to food resolutions: eating healthier, joining a gym, dropping a few pounds. How about a food resolution that will protect the planet and your wallet? Why not put your food waste on a diet?

Around the world, a third of the food we grow and process to feed people never reaches our plates (or our bellies). That has serious impacts on the planet’s water, energy, and wildlife!  Just think about it: if we make better use of the food already out there, we wouldn’t need to produce so much—and we could protect more habitats and feed more hungry people.

Plus, it’s the gift that keeps on giving—it will save you money! The average family of four loses between $1,365 to $2,275 each year on wasted food.

Originally posted 2017-12-28 13:00:00.

Tuna Needs a Lifeline—Let’s Find Innovations That Throw It One

For a fish that evokes comforting simplicity—whether in a classic lunchbox sandwich or on a pristine sashimi platter—tuna exists in a complex and often troubling reality.

It’s one of the species we eat the most: tuna is the third-largest seafood commodity in the world. It’s fished in international waters and most species are migratory, which together make fisheries management a challenge. Several major species are overfished or maxed out (though Skipjack and Albacore stocks are healthy). And the most common fishing methods can create unacceptable by-catch levels. At the same time, tuna is important culturally, nutritionally, and economically to communities around the world—especially small island nations.

Add all this up, and the result is that we have to get to sustainability but there are no easy fixes. That makes the tuna sector ripe for innovation.

Frozen Tuna ready to ship

In search of consensus

Tuna fishing is managed by a tangle of international regulatory bodies, in a process often marked by tilted power dynamics and the jockeying for advantage that comes with a product that fetches $6.2 billion at the dock and $28.5 billion at the cash register.

Five regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) oversee tuna stocks within international legal frameworks. Statutes demand decision-making by consensus among up to 40 parties with divergent interests, so scientifically set limits sometimes can’t survive the highly politicized negotiations. In 2017, an estimated 22 percent of tuna came from unhealthy stocks. And illegal and unregulated fishing may account for more than half the total catch volume, adding to the problem.

Groups of Pacific Island states have been working around this complex management system by banding to together to create sub-management groups that improve sustainability along with the islands’ bargaining power. Still, illegal practices like ship-to-ship transfers that get around dockside compliance measures remain common. Change is happening, but regulatory management fixes are unlikely to work without business and technology innovations alongside them.

The tuna innovation opportunity

Better technology that brings transparency to the oceans may lead to a quicker fix. Monitoring and detection tools that can catch illegal and unregulated fishing; data capture, analysis, and visibility tools that allow boats to provide real traceability information; waste reduction processes; and gear that cuts down on by-catch are all needed.

Don’t be fooled by “dolphin friendly” labels—they don’t mean “zero by-catch.” Unintentional capture of marine life is still a serious byproduct of the two main methods for catching tuna. Long-line fishing has a by-catch rate of 28 percent globally and particularly affects vulnerable seabirds, turtles, and sharks. Purse seining, which nets an entire school of fish at once, uses floating devices (FADs) to attract tuna. But FADs attract other species too, and while many are edible or necessary for balanced ocean ecosystems, they often end up as marine trash.

Even a quick survey brings up a range of ideas for solving these problems. Just a few examples: Researchers propose coordinating data on by-catch species’ locations by using geospatial information from boats’ automatic identification signals, so fishers can place FADs away from hot spots. Open data platforms that allow tracking and visualization of vessel movements, like Global Fishing Watch, can help identify illegal fishing activity. Fishing gear modifications—often developed by fishers themselves—can help select out non-target species, as can changing where and how bait and gear are placed. Improved tuna canning methods, coupled with traceability systems and sustainability criteria, can allow commodity tuna factories to move into higher-end markets, improve profitability, and increase benefits to surrounding communities.

Bringing home the value

Capturing more value for the communities where tuna are caught is a necessary fix. Doing so would strengthen the hand of regional fisheries managers and empower island states to better guard their largest natural resource: 66 percent of tuna is caught in the Pacific, Pacific Island countries get up to 40 percent of their GDP from fishing licenses alone, and tuna is a major food source. But more than 90 percent of the fisheries’ value leaves the region with foreign fleets that take their catch away. Investment in local processing facilities and value-added product creation is key to ending that dynamic, along with giving higher-value, sustainable products access to global markets.

Tuna is an iconic species, and ubiquitous in stores and restaurants, which leads many to imagine it will always be here. That’s true only if we act to make it so. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait to untangle the management knot—there are plenty of investable ideas that could increase the value of tuna fisheries without increasing the catch, and reduce the impact on ocean health. (This Fish 2.0 investor briefing on tuna digests the details.)

I encourage ventures working on these ideas to apply to the Global Tuna track in the Fish 2.0 competition, where they can bring their ideas to the world, refine their business models, and meet investors and partners who can help them give the tuna business new life.

Climate change could imperil half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas

The best way to protect against loss of wildlife and plant life is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible. The Paris Agreement pledges to reduce the expected level of global warming from 4.5°C to around 3°C, which reduces the impacts. But we see even greater improvements at 2°C. And if we can limit that even more, to a 1.5°C rise, we could protect even more life.

Although the US government has signaled its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, America’s cities, states, businesses, and others are working with world leaders to turn the promise of that agreement into concrete action through the We Are Still In movement.

In the immediate, WWF is working to better understand how a changing climate impacts wildlife and developing and implementing adaptation solutions. We are assessing various species to determine traits that can make them resilient or vulnerable to changes in climate; crowdsourcing data on climate impacts; and funding projects which have potential to reduce the vulnerability of species to changes in climate through our Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund.

WWF hopes to use lessons learned from this research and testing to provide useful guidance that moves conservation beyond business-as-usual approaches and scale up promising efforts to help wildlife endure under conditions of rapid change.

The faster and more effectively we act, the better chance we have of saving invaluable species around the world in the face of climate change.

Read the study, completed by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University, and WWF.

 

Originally posted 2018-03-13 12:00:00.

Sumatran tiger caught on camera

The camera traps are part of a collaboration between WWF and the Riau Forestry Department to help determine which species abound in the region. An important conservation tool, the cameras are equipped with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.  Around 18 cameras were strategically installed back in March of 2017 to support WWF’s intensive tiger monitoring in central Sumatra.

“This is the first time we have caught such a beautiful image of a tiger here. I feel our hard work has paid off just by seeing this majestic creature roaming on the island,” said Febri Anggriawan, WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Research Coordinator leading this study.

The smallest in size of all wild tigers, the Sumatran tiger faces threats from rampant poaching and deforestation for palm oil and pulp and paper. Today, less than 400 of these tigers hold on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. WWF works with the government of Indonesia and conservation partners to strengthen law enforcement and antipoaching efforts and slow deforestation in their remaining habitat.

Originally posted 2018-07-29 12:00:00.

Caught on Camera: A Male Sumatran Tiger

The camera traps are part of a collaboration between WWF and the Riau Forestry Department to help determine which species abound in the region. An important conservation tool, the cameras are equipped with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.  Around 18 cameras were strategically installed back in March of 2017 to support WWF’s intensive tiger monitoring in central Sumatra.

“This is the first time we have caught such a beautiful image of a tiger here. I feel our hard work has paid off just by seeing this majestic creature roaming on the island,” said Febri Anggriawan, WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Research Coordinator leading this study.

The smallest in size of all wild tigers, the Sumatran tiger faces threats from rampant poaching and deforestation for palm oil and pulp and paper. Today, less than 400 of these tigers hold on for survival in the remaining patches of forests on the island of Sumatra. WWF works with the government of Indonesia and conservation partners to strengthen law enforcement and antipoaching efforts and slow deforestation in their remaining habitat.

Originally posted 2018-07-29 12:00:00.

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