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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 745, Oct. 23, 2014

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Vaquitas on the Brink -- Take Action

VaquitaVaquitas are tiny, curious-looking porpoises that live only in Mexico's Gulf of California and are now teetering on the brink of extinction. A mere 97 of the animals remain, down from 200 in 2012; scientists say they may be extinct by 2018.

We need your help to stop the illegal fishing that's driving them into oblivion.

Vaquitas are getting caught in fishing gear and killed -- especially in nets set for another endangered species called the totoaba, a giant marine fish. It's illegal to fish or export totoaba, but there's a growing black market for the fish's bladder, which is used in China to make a purportedly fertility-boosting soup. A single totoaba bladder can sell for $14,000 -- a business so lucrative that Mexican drug cartels have joined the totoaba bladder trade.

Please take action now to support the Center for Biological Diversity's call to the Obama administration to use its full authority to sanction Mexico for failing to take strong and immediate enforcement action to save both species.

California Public Land Safe From Fracking for Two More Years

Fracking rigThe federal government will likely not issue new leases to oil companies for drilling and fracking on public lands in California for at least another two years, according to a legal document filed recently by the Bureau of Land Management following a Center lawsuit.

The BLM implemented a de facto moratorium on oil and gas lease sales in California last year in the wake of a Center legal victory; a federal judge ruled the agency had violated the law by leasing thousands of acres of public land in the Golden State for oil development without considering fracking's risks.

The agency now hopes to finish a new, legally mandated environmental review in October 2016. Since it can't lawfully issue new oil leases until that's done, the statewide moratorium should hold.

"It's a huge relief to see California's beautiful public lands get two more years of protection from fracking pollution," said the Center's Brendan Cummings. "Now we need a permanent ban on this toxic technique."

Read more in the Monterey Herald.

Lawsuit Launched to Save Rare Midwest Frog and Turtle

Blanding's turtleThe Center launched a suit last week over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to decide whether Blanding's turtles and Illinois chorus frogs -- which we petitioned to protect in 2012 -- qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.

Because of habitat destruction, pesticides, climate change and other human-driven causes, nearly 1 in 4 amphibians and reptiles globally is at risk of extinction. They've been around for hundreds of millions of years, but are now dying off at up to 10,000 times the historic rate. This loss is deeply alarming, not only for the sake of the creatures themselves but because they play important roles in the natural places where they evolved.

"Blanding's turtles and Illinois chorus frogs are dying out mostly because people are destroying their wetland homes," said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center biologist and lawyer focused on protecting amphibians and reptiles. "Endangered Species Act protection for these rare turtles and frogs will help protect these essential areas from destruction."

Read more in our press release.

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Frostpaw, Activists Greet Hillary Clinton With Anti-Keystone Message

FrostpawFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in downtown San Francisco on Monday to speak at a fundraiser, but was greeted by a group of women -- plus Frostpaw the Polar Bear -- calling on her to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that will exacerbate climate change.

The event was billed as the "Ultimate Women's Power Luncheon" and was a perfect chance for us to deliver a letter to Clinton, widely expected to be a presidential contender in 2016, signed by more than 30 environmental groups urging her to stand against Keystone XL.

"The decisions we make in the next few years will have a profound impact on the lives of generations to come," said the Center's Valerie Love. "We need Hillary Clinton to use her power for good and stand with us against Keystone XL and for clean energy solutions and a safe, livable climate."

Get more in The Sacramento Bee.

This Halloween Help Fight Meatstinction -- Watch Video

Meatstinction videoWith Halloween on the horizon, we'll soon be surrounded by ghosts and ghouls. But there's one monster that's often ignored even as it threatens the planet -- and it may be lurking on your plate.

The meat industry is responsible for frightening amounts of habitat destruction, water use, greenhouse gases, pollution and wildlife extinction. Livestock production already takes up 30 percent of the Earth's land mass and is a major contributor to climate change. If current dietary trends continue, cropland, primarily to feed livestock, could expand by another 42 percent by 2050; agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, driven by increased emissions from livestock production, could increase by another 77 percent.

The good news is, we have the weapons to fight this monster off. Watch this video and learn more about Meatstinction.

New Mexico's Last Free-flowing River Under Threat -- Take Action

Gila River, New MexicoWhen some people hear "southwest New Mexico," they may picture barren landscapes. But the area's gorgeous mountains are richly forested, and the Gila River -- which flows out of America's first designated wilderness area -- sustains a stunning array of rare species, including rare minnows and trout and yellow-billed cuckoos.

Now a few fat-cat bureaucrats are willing to topple this fragile ecosystem and destroy the last free-flowing river in the state. They want to build a billion-dollar diversion to suck precious water out of the Gila at the expense of the region's long-term health.

Act now to urge New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to say no to this billion-dollar boondoggle and yes to cost-effective alternatives that keep the Gila's water where it belongs -- in the river.

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Pacific Coast's Pinto Abalone Desperately Need Protection

Pinto abalonePinto abalone -- ocean snails with iridescent shells -- were once common along rocky coasts from Alaska to Baja California, but some populations along the West Coast have plummeted by up to 99 percent. The primary culprits are climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and poaching.

These animals are in desperate straits. With allies, we submitted our scientific petition to protect them in August 2013 -- and since the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to meet its deadline in the decision-making process, this week we notified the agency of our intent to sue over its delay.

"Overfishing nearly wiped out pinto abalone, and a warming and acidifying ocean now threatens to finish them off," said the Center's Kiersten Lippmann.

Without immediate federal protection, it's just a matter of time before the abalone disappears forever from our oceans.

Learn more in our press release.

California: Vote No on Prop 1

Chinook salmonOne of the most important issues on California's ballot this November is Proposition 1, the water bond meant to address the state's water crisis. The Center is opposed to the bond because it will not add a single drop of water in this drought and will push the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta closer to collapse, leaving little chance at survival for imperiled chinook salmon, smelt and steelhead.

California is no stranger to droughts -- this isn't the first, and it won't be the last. The state must deal with this reality and prioritize investing in long-term water conservation, efficiency and recycling strategies -- not expensive dams that cater to Big Ag or water exports that will dry up the delta. You can learn more about the top three reasons to oppose Prop 1 here.

If you're from California, act now to sign our pledge to vote no on Prop 1 and demand better solutions from our leaders to secure the state's water future. Then learn more about the Center's work to secure California's water supply.

Wild & Weird: Enjoy Sex? Thank a Fish

Microbrachius dickiAccording to new research published in the journal Nature, those who engage in sexual intercourse -- a method of reproduction preferred by humans over such alternative methods as spawning, cloning, budding or self-fertilization -- can thank two slightly unattractive fish for first evolving the process. Reportedly newly examined fossil records show that the world's original hookup took place between a male and female Microbrachius dicki in a Scottish lake 380 million years ago.

The male of the species boasted an L-shaped sex organ with "large bony claspers" to enter and grasp the female's "genital plates," which, according to the report were, "very rough like cheese graters," and acted like "Velcro, locking the male organ into position..."

Surprisingly, the study points out, internal reproduction didn't last long -- at least initially. As fish evolved they reverted to spawning. It would take a few million more years before copulation would make a comeback via the ancestors of sharks and rays.

Read more about the origins of sex and see an animation of M. dicki mating at the BBC.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Vaquita by Paula Olson, NOAA; fracking rig courtesy Wikimedia Commons/BLM; Blanding's turtle courtesy; wolves by John Pitcher; Frostpaw courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Meatstinction video screengrab courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; Gila River by Dennis O'Keefe; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; pinto abalone courtesy Alaska Department of Fish and Game; chinook salmon courtesy Flickr/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Microbrachius dicki sketch by B. Choo.

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