Oceans help feed the world, provide a living for millions of people, and are home to most of the life on the planet.
NRDC works to protect our seas from pollution and exploitation. We help implement laws that allow overfished species to rebound, and we fight to protect coastal communities from offshore drilling. We work to ban destructive fishing practices, conserve ocean treasures, and improve stewardship of the world’s shared oceans, which generate trillions of dollars in economic activity.
Oceans are threatened by overfishing, oil and gas drilling, mining, and other industrial activities.
WASHINGTON – The Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit today challenging President Trump's executive order of April 27 that aims to open the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and potentially other areas, to oil and gas leasing.
SAN FRANCISCO – In a unanimous rebuke, the Ninth Circuit court ruled Friday that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had illegally approved a permit authorizing the Navy to use its high-intensity long-range sonar – called low-frequency active sonar (or LFA) – in more than 70 percent of t
A victory for Alaska’s forests—but further threats on the state's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, plus more pipelines and ongoing attacks on our national monuments.
In his debut speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump dropped 4,580 words on the heads of state and ministers from nearly every country on earth.
He thought it appropriate to talk about America’s prosperity, military prowess, and pummeling by hurricanes. He called on the world community to stand up to “rogue regimes” like North Korea and Iran, which he called “the scourge of our planet.”
Yet he couldn’t squeeze in a couple of words about an issue that the world has already united on: the true scourge of our planet, climate change.
Indeed, the president failed to discuss the growing dangers from our changing climate or his plans to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement, which leaves―with Nicaragua joining the accord this week—America and Syria as the only two nations refusing to support the world’s most significant global climate action ever.
“Given that he’s abdicated his responsibility, it’s now on the leaders of other nations to rally the will of the people to leave our children a livable world,” Rhea Suh, NRDC’s president, wrote in the New York Daily News. “It’s on our state and local officials, investors, and businesses to press forward with the progress we need. And, more than even that, it’s on us, as American citizens, to demand better of our leaders.”
In other ways, Trump and his team kept up the assault on our health and environment, although there was one important victory for wilderness protection.
On September 20, a federal judge upheld the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued by the Clinton administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture to limit the number of roads built in national forests. It’s an important win because it protects 50 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands for the public and future generations.
“This rule has weathered endless attacks by corporate interests and their allies. But it’s as enduring as the old-growth forest it protects,” said Niel Lawrence, NRDC’s Alaska director. “No rule has saved as much federal forestland from destruction. Now it has itself been saved, once again.”
Groups Outline Opposition to Trump Nominee for Clean Air Office
NRDC and allies sent a letter to key senators on September 19 with supporting documentation outlining their strong opposition to the nomination of Bill Wehrum, Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation—enforcers of the Clean Air Act and protectors of clean air.
In 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Wehrum, a lobbyist who has represented coal, oil, gas, and chemical companies, for the same post, but Wehrum withdrew when it became clear the Senate wouldn’t confirm him.
And it shouldn’t this time around, either, NRDC and allies say. “In private practice with corporate law firms,” they wrote, “Mr. Wehrum has represented industrial interests in nearly 35 lawsuits that sought to weaken or void EPA clean air and public health safeguards. Americans deserve better for the nation’s chief clean air official.”
Will FERC Greenlight More Gas Pipelines?
With Trump nominee Neil Chatterjee now at its helm, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave a green light this past week to a natural gas pipeline that had been rejected by the state of New York.
FERC has rejected only two pipelines in three decades, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and StateImpact Pennsylvania. But to John Moore, senior attorney for the Sustainable FERC Project at NRDC, the commission appears to break new ground. “Historically, FERC has been careful not to tread over state decisions and state prerogatives,” Moore said, adding a concern that future “close calls” could go more pipeline companies’ way.
Zinke Puts 10 National Monuments at Risk of Being Opened for Mining, Drilling, and Hunting
Back in August, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he’d recommended changes to just a handful of our national monuments in a monument review he sent to the president. Now we know from a leaked memo that Zinke actually targeted 10 to be carved up for private profit.
Zinke’s memo called for downsizing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, both in Utah; Cascade Siskiyou in Oregon; and Gold Butte in Nevada—but didn’t say by how much the boundaries should change. He also urged change in the use and/or management of six other monuments: Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine; Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks and Rio Grande, both in New Mexico; Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument; Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument; and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument.
If Trump accepts Zinke’s recommendations, he’ll have a fight on his hands. “We will stand up for the nearly three million people who urged the administration to protect these monuments—in court, if necessary,” NRDC’s Rhea Suh warned.
Trump Moves to Open the Pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Energy Exploitation
The Washington Postreported on September 15 that the Trump administration is moving to try to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in three decades to oil and gas drilling. “This is a really big deal,” said NRDC’s Niel Lawrence. “This is a frontal attack in an ideological battle. The Arctic is the Holy Grail.”
That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.
Trump Watch: NRDC tracks the Trump administration’s assaults on the environment.
Big Win in the Fight to End Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud
If we want healthy oceans, we need to know more about the seafood we eat. A lot more.
That’s why we are celebrating news about the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, also known as the seafood traceability rule. This week, a federal court rejected a challenge to the rule by commercial seafood industry interests.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued the rule last December. It is a key first step in the U.S. government’s efforts to combat the influx of illegal seafood coming into our borders.
The seafood traceability rule was developed out of recommendations by a multi-agency Task Force in 2014. With this week’s ruling, NMFS has the green light to forge ahead with implementing this critical safeguard.
As you may recall from my earlier blogs, the seafood traceability rule is all about requiring more data disclosure from importers. The purpose is to uncover elusive illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud practices. IUU fishing is a leading cause of overfishing, marine habitat destruction, and bycatch of ocean wildlife, and it is pushing our oceans to the brink. By creating unfair competition, IUU also impairs the global seafood economy and hurts our law-abiding fishermen at home. This is one reason why the seafood traceability rule has a history of strong bipartisan support from key decision makers and the broader public.
The rule will make the seafood supply chain more traceable by establishing a data reporting procedure for imports of a number of “priority” species—including tuna, Atlantic and Pacific cod, and red snapper. The data will make them traceable from the point of harvest to the point of entry into U.S. commerce. At the border, importers will need to report what kind of fish they are importing, the quantity, and how and where it was caught or farmed. NMFS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will oversee this process, beginning in January 2018.
By shedding light on illicit activities along seafood supply chains and empowering agencies to take enforcement action, the seafood traceability rule will protect our oceans, along with U.S. and international fishermen who play by the rules.
As I described in an earlier post, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and a handful of commercial seafood businesses filed a lawsuit challenging the rule in January. They argued, among other things, that NMFS lacked authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our primary federal fisheries law, to regulate seafood fraud. NRDC, along with Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity, and with co-counsel from Earthjustice, filed an amicus brief in support of the rule—specifically, supporting NMFS’s authority to issue it under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
In a thorough, 67-page opinion, the Court drew on an extensive administrative record, technical studies, and legislative history. It concluded that NMFS followed both the procedural and substantive requirements of the law when it adopted the rule. While its discussion on each claim is interesting and robust enough to warrant its own blog post, I will highlight here two key points:
First, the Court recognized the gravity of the problem and the importance of traceability as a means to address it. It acknowledged the “profound” economic and environmental impacts of IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and highlighted how complex supply chains have allowed these problems to persist. Pointing to the work of the IUU Task Force and several independent studies, the Court found ample support to conclude that improving supply chain traceability is critical to deterring these pervasive practices.
Second, the Court made it clear that NMFS has authority to tackle this issue head-on by regulating both IUU fishing and seafood fraud under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This is crucial because seafood fraud overlaps closely with IUU fishing and is often used to conceal illegal product. In other words, to get at one issue, NMFS must be able to address the other. That’s what the traceability rule seeks to do. The Court recognized this, finding that IUU fishing and seafood fraud are “inextricably intertwined.” The Court considered previous amendments to the law, and determined that Congress had “gradually expanded” NMFS’s authority to address IUU fishing under Magnuson-Stevens. While Magnuson does not explicitly grant authority to regulate seafood fraud, the Court said, such regulations are appropriate when needed to combat IUU fishing, and it was reasonable for NMFS to interpret the law this way. The Court also found plaintiffs’ argument that Food and Drug Administration has exclusive authority to regulate seafood fraud unpersuasive.
The Court’s ruling is a huge win. But our work is not over.
Our next priorities are lifting the administrative stay on shrimp imports—which account for 29% of U.S. imports by value and are known to be at high risk for IUU—and eventually expanding the rule to cover more species.
As the Court stated, the scourge of IUU fishing is a problem of global concern. To protect our oceans and give our fishermen a fair shot, we need strong policies to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. This rule will be a real step forward in detecting and thwarting these practices at the border, and we are hopeful that NMFS can now move forward with robust implementation in January.