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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 774, May 14, 2015

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Landmark Lawsuit Challenges Destructive Deep-sea Mining

SharkThe Center for Biological Diversity this week filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's approval of large-scale, exploratory deep-sea mining. The focus of the suit is a destructive project involving Hawaii and Mexico that would damage important habitat for whales, sharks and sea turtles and obliterate seafloor ecosystems.

Deep-sea mining is an emerging market for companies around the world hoping to tear apart the ocean floor in search of gold, nickel, copper and other valuable metals, mostly for consumer electronics. There are a lot of things wrong with deep-sea mining -- not least that scientists are just beginning to fathom the mysteries of life in the far reaches of deep-ocean floors. But we do know this much: The project we're fighting is in a biologically rich underwater world that's home to hundreds of species.

Said the Center's Emily Jeffers, "Like mountaintop-removal coal mining, deep-sea mining involves massive cutting machines that will leave behind a barren landscape devoid of life."

Read more in our press release.

International Help Sought for Mexico's Vanishing Porpoise

VaquitaThe Center and allies yesterday petitioned the World Heritage Committee to designate more than 6,900 square miles of ocean and islands in northern Mexico as "in danger" because of the urgent threat of extinction for a rare porpoise and fish in the Gulf of California.

The committee designated Mexico's "Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California" as a World Heritage Area in 2005. But two of the site's most renowned species -- the tiny vaquita porpoise and a massive fish called the totoaba -- face extinction as a result of fishing activities. An "in danger" designation will focus international attention on these species' plight and may garner much-needed funds for their habitat's conservation.

The vaquita is the world's smallest porpoise and exists only in the Gulf of California. It has suffered a dramatic and alarming decline. Fewer than 100 remain in the wild -- and without help this modest marine mammal could be extinct by 2018.

Get details in our press release.

Tell Obama: Lead the Pack to Save America's Wolves -- Join Our Thunderclap

#LeadThePackAfter decades of persecution America's wolves are at a critical point -- they've been brought back from the brink of extinction, but in the lower 48 states today they occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range. Yet politicians are gunning for wolves once again, eager to abandon 40 years of recovery and return to an era of hunting, trapping and poisoning.

That's why for tomorrow, Endangered Species Day, we're mobilizing our supporters to send President Obama a clear message on social media -- it's time for him to #LeadThePack and keep wolf protections in place.

Join our Thunderclap to tell the president to do right by our wolves. On Friday the message will be broadcast loud and clear across the Center's social media channels with a petition and tweets that you can send directly to Obama telling him to reject any plan to strip wolves of Endangered Species Act protections.

Become a Monthly Sustainer

Suit Filed to Halt Illegal Dumping of Toxic Oil Waste Into California's Water

Fracking mapThe Center and allies have filed suit to halt illegal oil-industry operations that are dumping millions of gallons of toxic oil waste a day into California's dwindling underground water supplies -- in the midst of the worst water shortage in the state's history.

State regulators pushed through rules that would continue the practice till 2017, characterizing the inconvenience to Big Oil from interrupting its illegal injections as a public "emergency." Our lawsuit asks the court to force California officials to halt injection operations that are contaminating underground water in scores of aquifers across the state, from Monterey to Kern and Los Angeles counties. Oil wastewater often contains high levels of cancer-causing benzene, as well as fracking fluid, linked to cancer and birth defects.

"It's inexcusable that state regulators are letting oil companies dump toxic wastewater into California's water supplies during the worst drought in 1,200 years," said Hollin Kretzmann, a Center staff attorney.

Get more from NBC News and check out our interactive map of injections.

"What Climate Crisis?" Obama Administration Approves Arctic Drilling

Polar bearHere's the latest troubling evidence of President Obama's climate disconnect: This week the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Shell's plan for exploratory oil drilling in Alaska's Chukchi Sea, which could begin this summer.

Not only does this plan put the Arctic's pristine landscapes at huge risk for oil spills and industrial development; it's also utterly incompatible with President Obama's rhetoric about the need to tackle the climate crisis.

"It's deeply troubling to see the Obama administration give the oil industry the green light to drill in the Arctic," said Rebecca Noblin, the Center's Alaska director. "The Interior Department bent over backward to rush Shell's permit through the regulatory process so it could move its drillships into the Arctic this summer. Considering Shell ran its drillship aground in Alaska in 2012, it's hard to fathom how the federal government can rationalize rubber-stamping Shell's second try at Arctic drilling."

Here's The Onion's take on the latest developments -- and, if you're in Seattle this weekend, we'd love to see you at this rally against Arctic drilling. Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

$15,000 Reward Sought for Killer of Florida Panther

Florida pantherThe Center is contributing to a $15,000 reward to find whoever shot and killed an endangered Florida panther. A motorist found the dead panther March 22 and state wildlife officials later determined it died from a gunshot wound. Since 2014, 51 Florida panthers have been found dead out of a population of fewer than 180. Most of the deaths have been human caused, typically by vehicle strikes.

Harming a Florida panther is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The Center teamed with The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust in putting up a $10,000 reward leading to an arrest and conviction in the latest death; that pledge, along with a $5,000 reward offered by state and federal agencies, pushes the total reward to $15,000.

"Florida panthers have overcome so much, surviving near-extinction mere decades ago," said the Center's Jaclyn Lopez. "It's unimaginable that someone would gun down this incredible animal."

Learn more about our work to save panthers and consider a donation to our Predator Defense Fund.

Take Action

150k People Call for Less Meat, More Plants in U.S. Diet Guidelines -- Thank You

Dietary guidelines petition deliveryMore than 150,000 Americans signed a petition to the federal government urging adoption of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendations for less meat and more plant-based food in the final guidelines coming out later this year.

The petition -- delivered last week, led by the Center and Friends of the Earth -- was supported by more than a dozen environmental, public health and food advocacy organizations as part of a larger effort showing widespread support among experts and the public for a science-based dietary model that promotes health and sustainability. We also signed onto a formal joint statement in favor of the recommendations for less meat and more plant-based foods that originally appeared as a full-page ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post -- which is now supported by more than 150 organizations and experts.

Thanks to all of you who joined us in this important petition.

Read more in our press release and see our New York Times ad.

Wild & Weird: Bird Mimics the Sound of the Destruction of Its Forest

LyrebirdMale lyrebirds, found in Australia, are gorgeous showoffs that strut and fan their plumes like peacocks in fanciful courtship rituals. But the male lyrebird can one-up most other winged dandies: It has an unbelievable set of pipes that let it sing throughout the night, mixing an uncanny array of mimicked sounds into its song. With great fidelity to the original producers, the lyrebird mimics the songs of other birds -- both individuals and entire flocks -- as well as the sounds of koalas, dingos, people and their machines.

In a sad twist of mimicry, the BBC has also captured recordings of the lyrebird mimicking the handsaws and chainsaws cutting down its forest.

Watch and listen to this clip from a BBCWorldwide video as a lyrebird reproduces the sounds of the destruction of his own home.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Shark courtesy Flickr/Kevin Bryant; vaquita image courtesy USFWS; Barack Obama image courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; fracking map courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; polar bear courtesy Flickr/Greg Hounslow; Florida panther courtesy USFWS; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; family delivering dietary guidelines petition courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; lyrebird courtesy Flickr/Brian Ralphs.

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