Animal Welfare: Marine Life



Did you know?

Impact of Commercial Fishing on Dolphins

Even though the U.S. does not actively hunt dolphins for food, a large amount of dolphins inadvertently get caught in U.S. commercial fishing nets. In some parts of the world, dolphins are considered food and are hunted with harpoons and nets.


Whales, like all mammals, breathe air into lungs, are warm-blooded, feed their young milk, and have some hair.

Did you know?

Impact of Commercial Fisheries on Whales

Unfortunately, whale populations are decreasing for several reasons. Not only are several species of small whales caught as bycatch in fisheries for other species, some countries actually hunt whales for food. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission introduced a six-year moratorium of all commercial whaling. The moratorium has not yet been lifted, but for various reasons Norway, Iceland, Japan, and native communities of Siberia, Alaska, and northern Canada are excepted from the moratorium.

Whale populations are also decreasing because of the use of sonar. The U.S. Defense department has been ordered by the U.S. Courts to strictly limit use of its low frequency sonar during peacetime, as some researchers feel that higher frequencies of sonar harm whales. The European Parliament has requested that EU members refrain from using the powerful sonar system until an environmental impact study has been carried out.

Also, as global warming causes the Antarctic Ocean to warm, whale food sources are reducing dramatically which will inevitably have an effect on whale survival rates.

Sea Lions/Seals

While sea lions and seals look pretty much the same, both having long front flippers and long sleek bodies, they are different in two ways:

  1. Sea lions have small ear flaps on each side of the head, whereas seals just have tiny opening for their ears.
  2. Sea lions are able to rotate their hind flippers forward to help them move on land. Seals cannot do this, and must wriggle, roll, or slide to get out of the water and to move around on land.

Did you know?

Impact of Commercial Fisheries on Sea Lions and Seals

Unfortunately, not only do sea lions and seals get caught in fishing nets, in some areas, sea lions and seals are shot by fishermen who blame them for damaging their nets.


Did you know?

Impact of Commercial Fishing on Manatees

Though hunting manatees was banned in 1893 and manatees have few natural predators (sharks, crocodiles, killer whales and alligators) manatees are listed by the World Conservation Union as vulnerable to extinction. The current main threat to manatees in the United States is being struck with boats or slashed by propellers.

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are characterized by a large, streamlined shell and non-retractile head and limbs. They may be olive-green, yellow, greenish-brown, or black.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) protects all species of sea turtles. The U.S. and 115 other countries have banned the import or export of sea turtle products.

Sea turtles help sustain our ecosystem in two very important ways:

1) They fertilize it. Sea turtle eggs contribute nutrients to dune vegetation. As sea turtle numbers decline and fewer eggs are laid, less nutrients are deposited into the sand dunes which results in beach erosion due to lack of vegetation.

2) They maintain it. Sea turtles are one of the few creatures that eat sea grass. Sea grass must be kept short to remain healthy, and beds of healthy sea grass are essential breeding and development areas for many species of fish and other marine life.

Impact of Commercial Fishing on Sea Turtles

Thousands of sea turtles drown in shrimp nets each year because sea turtles forage in the same waters where commercial shrimpers trawl. Caught in a fisherman’s net, they are unable to go to the surface to breathe and suffocate to death in the net.

The good news is that since 1989, federal law requires that a Turtle Excluder Device (TED), a metal grid trapdoor inside a trawling net that allows turtles to escape nets, be installed on the nets of all U.S. fishing trawlers working in areas populated by sea turtles.


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