When I was a young child, we didn’t have to worry about wildlife
getting strangled by six-pack rings, because these plastic binders
for cans had not been invented yet. I was 9 years old in 1961 when
this simple, convenient form of packaging was invented, so I
clearly remember the transition. (See Hi-Cone
At the time, nobody predicted the conservation consternation
that would be created by such a simple piece of plastic. During the
1970s and up to present, pictures of entrapped birds and other sea
creatures became common, suggesting that we at least cut the
plastic to save the animals. The first video provides a story of
Before the invention of six-pack rings, people bought soft
drinks and beer in cardboard packages, which sort of wrapped around
the cans. Pabst Blue Ribbon may have been the first beer sold in
cardboard cartons (second video), although Coca Cola may have
started the phase. The Coke
company claims to be the first to take its bottles out of
wooden crates and begin offering cardboard packaging for consumers
as early as 1923.
So we went from reusable wooden crates to biodegradable
cardboard to ever-lasting plastic six-pack rings, officially called
“yokes” in the industry. Concern about wildlife entrapment
eventually forced manufacturers of the plastic rings to use a
material that would degrade when exposed to light, but degradation
can be slow in a marine environment.
What really prompted me to write this piece about six-pack rings
was a new invention — edible six-pack rings made of wheat and
barley, the byproducts of brewing. It’s a product that “feeds
animals instead of killing them,” according to a promotional video
(third on this page).
Saltwater Brewing, a 3-year-old microbrewery in Delray Beach,
Fla., came up with the concept and is now waiting for patent
approval, according to the company website.
Nowhere does the company suggest throwing these things out for the
birds, but the company implies that it would not be a bad
I don’t know enough about marketing to know if there is any
chance of this gaining widespread acceptance. Initial reports say
these new rings could raise the cost of a six pack by 10 or 15
cents, but mass production could eventually bring down the
I also don’t know how these edible rings taste, and I’m not sure
I want to know. But, as one the commenters said on the YouTube website,
“Sweet, but if I’m REALLY hammered, can I eat it? Or will my head
get stuck in the plastic like what happens to sea turtles?”
Are people really worried about six-pack rings? My wife Sue
insists that I cut up any ringlike attachment devices, including
those used for all sorts of juices and other products sold at
Costco. I do it, knowing full well that I am going to put this
plastic thing into a kitchen trash bag, which will go into a larger
trash bag, which will go into a dumpster, which will eventually go
into a landfill in Oregon. Not much chance to entrap a seagull.
The story would be different if I was going to take a six pack
to the beach, but we normally pull the cans apart and put them into
a cooler before we leave the house.
Maybe these new grain-based rings would be worthwhile for those
who throw their trash at the beach. Maybe they would save the poor
animals that might get trapped or eat the plastic. I’m thinking of
Peanut, the turtle that grew up with a plastic ring crimping her
shell. As described by Stephen Messenger of
“The Dodo,” Peanut became a poster child for Missouri’s
No More Trash
As an example of problems caused by plastic trash getting into
the oceans, the six-pack ring may remain Public Enemy Number 1. But
I tend to agree with Cecil Adams of
“The Straight Dope” that a much more productive effort would be
for everyone to pick up any plastic trash they see at the beach —
or anywhere else — before it gets into the water. That is the same
message delivered by Seattle scuba diver Laura James following our
local rain and wind storms over the past week. (See video
Thanks go to Kitsap Sun reporter Tristan Baurick,
who offered the idea for this blog post.
As a product purchased by consumers, beer has a long history of
generating funny television commercials. Hahn, an Australian brand
of beer, is responsible for some of the funniest commercials ever
seen in that country, according to Duncan McLeod in “The
Inspiration Room,” a blog that comments on media
Because I write about water issues, I thought it would be
amusing to share three related videos that show how men and women
sometimes see water recreation in different ways. I won’t spoil the
surprises, since you can watch all three videos on this page.
The first television commercial, from 2003, was directed by Paul
Middleditch for Clemenger
BBDO in Melbourne. The ad won the award for “Outstanding Funny
TV Commercial” at the 2003 Australian Comedy Awards.
The second commercial, released in 2004, also was directed by
Paul Middleditch for Clemenger BBDO. It seems to follow a theme of
sophistication, like the first video. While the ad appears to be
filmed at a Mediterranean resort, it was actually performed in
Sydney over a two-day period, according to Duncan
The third Hahn video, involving a gondola and a fish, was
created two years later and released in November 2005. The same
team of creators and filmmakers was involved.
“Clemenger’s TV Producer De Giorgio says that the commercial was
shot on location in Venice in freezing temperatures surrounded by
snow, rain and fog. It was quite a production feat to pull it off
and make it look hot and summery. A model fish was used for the
stunt shot, but a real fish, purchased from the Venice Fish
Markets, was used for the close ups.”
Another more controversial video was first released in 2006 and
later morphed into a commercial that depicted a stronger backlash
against immature men. The original video showed a romantic
couple on a beach, where the woman draws a heart in the sand with a
stick. The man turns the drawing into a pair of breasts by
supplementing the picture with the heel of his foot. As in the
other videos, the man notices the woman’s look of exasperation, and
blurts out, “What?”
The revised backlash
video ends in a significantly different way. It shows the woman
eviscerating various phallic symbols as the man looks on.
I’m not sure how many times, if any, either of these videos
appeared on broadcast television. They did become the source of an
official complaint for their depiction of women as sexual objects.
Australia’s Advertising Standards Board found no fault with the
ads, however. The board said the ads, if anything, poked fun at
men. Read an account in
Duncan McLeod’s blog in December 2006.
A European green crab, one of the most dreaded invasive species
in the world, has finally arrived in Puget Sound.
A single adult green crab was caught in a trap deployed on San
Juan Island by a team of volunteers involved in a regionwide effort
to locate the invasive crabs before they become an established
Until now, green crabs have never been found in Puget Sound,
although they have managed to establish breeding populations along
the West Coast — including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in
Washington and the western side of Vancouver Island in British
Here’s what I wrote: “Puget Sound has so far avoided an
invasion of European green crabs — at least none have been found —
but the threat could be just around the corner….
“Green crabs are but one of the invasive species threatening
Washington state, but they are getting special attention because of
fears they could seriously affect the economy and ecosystem of
Puget Sound. Besides devouring young native crabs and shellfish,
they compete for food with a variety of species, including fish and
In Canada, one breeding population has been identified in Sooke
Inlet near the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island. That’s about
40 miles away from Westcott Bay, where Puget Sound’s first green
crab was found on Tuesday.
It is likely that the crab traveled to San Juan Island in its
early free-swimming larval form by drifting with the currents, said
Jeff Adams, a marine ecologist for Washington Sea Grant who manages
the Crab Team of volunteers. This crab likely settled down in
suitable habitat and located enough food to grow into an adult.
Based on the crab’s size, it probably arrived last year, Jeff told
Finding a green crab in Puget Sound is alarming, Jeff said, but
it is a good sign that the first crab was found by the volunteer
monitors. That suggests that the trapping program is working. If
this first crab turns out to be a single individual without a mate,
then the threat would die out, at least for now.
The concern is that if one crab can survive in Puget Sound, then
others may also be lurking around, increasing the chance of
male-female pairing. The next step is to conduct a more extensive
trapping effort in the area where the first green crab was found,
then branch out to other suitable habitats in the San Juan Islands,
Jeff said. The expanded effort is planned for the week of Sept. 11
and will include a search for molts — the shells left behind when
crabs outgrow their exoskeletons and enter a new stage of
Researchers and others who work with invasive species quickly
recovered from their initial surprise at finding a green crab in
Puget Sound, then got down to business in planning how to survey
for crabs and manage their potential impacts.
Allen Pleus, coordinator of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program
at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told me several
weeks ago that if green crabs show up in Puget Sound, one idea
would be to conduct an extensive trapping program to eradicate or
at least reduce their population. First, however, the extent of the
infestation must be identified. I expect that more extensive
trapping will be planned next spring and summer to look for
offspring from any successful mating in the San Juan Islands.
This video shows a green crab found in Willapa Bay on the
Typically, green crabs are found in marshy areas, which are
habitats extensively used by our native hairy shore crab. But Jeff
tells me that some populations of green crabs seem to be expanding
their habitat into more exposed rocky areas.
With roughly 400 suitable sites for the crabs in Puget Sound,
invasive species experts are calling for everyone who visits a
beach to look for green crabs and their molts. One can learn to
identify green crabs from the
Washington Sea Grant website. The volunteer trapping program is
funded by the Environmental Protection Agency with a grant to Fish
A public discussion about green crabs and how people can help
protect Puget Sound from an invasion is scheduled for Sept. 13 at
Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. See Crab
Team Public Presentation.
An organization called Sea Shepherd Global
announced yesterday that it will take up the cause of battling
Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean of Antarctica later
The announcement comes just days after court approval of a legal
settlement, a deal that will forever block Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society from confronting Japanese whalers on the high
Sea Shepherd Global, based in The Netherlands, apparently is out
of reach of the U.S. courts, which sanctioned the original Sea
Shepherd group for its sometimes violent actions against the
whalers. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the U.S. group, is led
by its founder, Capt. Paul Watson, who had stepped down for a
Sea Shepherd Global has mobilized its forces for what it calls
the “11th direct-action whale defense campaign.” The group has
built a new ship it claims can keep up with and surpass the
Japanese harpoon ships. Anyone who has watched “Whales
Wars,” the reality television series, probably knows that Sea
Shepherd’s ships have suffered from a lack of speed and were often
left in wake of the whaling vessels.
Sea Shepherd, with its fierce opposition to killing marine
mammals, has always claimed to be on the right side of
international law when it comes to whaling. Now its members are
inspired by a 2014 ruling in the International Court of Justice,
which found that whaling — at least as practiced by Japanese
whalers — is not a scientific endeavor. The Japanese government has
lost its only justification for whaling until it develops new
scientific protocols acceptable to the International Whaling
Commission. Review a discussion of these issues in Water Ways,
March 31, 2014, with an update on
Dec. 14, 2015.
Sea Shepherd Global also justifies its plans with a
contempt-of-court citation filed by the Australian Federal Court
against the Japanese whalers for killing protected whales within
the Australia Whale Sanctuary. Japan, however, does not recognize
the sanctuary nor the Australian jurisdiction.
“If we cannot stop whaling in an established whale sanctuary, in
breach of both Australian Federal and international laws, then what
hope do we have for the protection of the world’s oceans?” asked
Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia in a
news release. “We must make a stand and defend whales with
everything we’ve got.”
After the International Court of Justice ruling, the Japanese
took a year off from whaling before submitting a new whaling plan,
which was questioned by a scientific committee at the International
Whaling Commission. Without waiting for approval, the whalers
returned to the Southern Ocean last December. A limited Sea
Shepherd fleet followed, but the whalers killed 333 minke whales —
a quota approved by the Japanese government but nobody else.
Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) has been
engaged in a legal battle with the Japanese-sponsored Institute of
Cetacean Research in the U.S. courts. Initially, a U.S. district
judge dismissed the Japanese claims. On appeal, however, the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals called Sea Shepherd a “pirate”
organization, ordered the group to stay away from the Japanese
ships and eventually found Sea Shepherd in contempt of court for a
peripheral involvement in the anti-whaling effort. Initial appeals
Water Ways, Feb. 26, 2013.
SSCS agreed to pay $2.55 million to settle a damage claim from
Japan in light of the contempt ruling. The group had been hoping
that Japan’s lawsuit in the U.S. courts would open the door for a
countersuit, in which the illegality of Japanese whaling would
spelled out and confirmed.
All legal claims and counterclaims were dropped in the
settlement agreement (PDF 410 kb) between SSCS and the
Institute of Cetacean Research. The agreement, approved last week
by U.S. District Judge James Robart, says SSCS cannot approach
Japanese whaling ships closer than 500 yards. SSCS cannot provide
financial support to anyone else who would approach the Japanese
ships in an aggressive way, including “any entity that is part of
the worldwide ‘Sea Shepherd’ movement and/or uses or has used some
version of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ name.”
The agreement mentions a “settlement consideration to be paid to
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,” although the amount has not
The Institute of Cetacean Research immediately issued a news release
about the settlement. Paul Watson offered a three-pronged post on
page. One part was his own message, saying Sea Shepherd would
remain opposed to whaling but would comply with the settlement
Another part was a statement from Capt. Alex Cornelissen,
director of Sea Shepherd Global:
“The ruling in the US courts affects ONLY the US entity. All the
other Sea Shepherd entities in the Global movement are not bound by
the US legal system, the mere assumption that it does clearly
demonstrates a lack of understanding of Sea Shepherd Global’s
structure. Sea Shepherd Global and all other entities around the
world, other than the USA, will continue to oppose the illegal
Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.”
“Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, told
the BBC the U.S. ruling would ‘absolutely not’ affect its own
operations. He said if the ICC (sic, ICR?) were to pursue Sea
Shepherd in Australia ‘they would be entering into a court system
they’re in contempt of, and we would welcome that.’”
statement yesterday, Sea Shepherd Global said it was
disappointed that the international community has not taken more
steps to protect whales in the Southern Ocean. Still, Sea Shepherd
Global will be there with a new fast ship, the Ocean Warrior, built
with the financial support of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the
British People’s Postcode Lottery and the Svenska
“For the first time, we will have the speed to catch and outrun
the Japanese harpoon ships, knowing speed can be the deciding
factor when saving the lives of whales in the Southern Ocean,” said
The Ocean Warrior will undergo final preparations in Australia
at the end of the year, about the time that Japanese whaling ships
arrive for their anticipated harvest of marine mammals. And so the
whale wars will go on but without any involvement from Paul Watson
and his U.S. contingent.
By the way, Paul, who had been living in exile in France, has
returned to the U.S., according to a
news release from Sea Shepherd that recounts Paul’s history of
fleeing from prosecutors in Japan and Costa Rica. Paul, 65, and his
wife, Yanina Rusinovich, a Russian-born opera singer, are now
living in Woodstock, Vermont, and expecting a baby in October.
I have trouble balancing on a log that is lying flat on the
ground, so standing on a floating log seems like an impossible
feat. I guess that’s why I’m impressed with the old-fashioned sport
of log rolling, an activity that is catching on across the
I have always been amused by log rolling, but I realize that
this is very serious activity, comparable to Olympic sports for
many people. The first video on this page shows the skill of
professionals, while the last one offers a bit of silliness in the
world of commercial television.
Log rolling was once a sport of lumberjacks, since walking on
floating logs was part of the job for many. But now the activity
seems to be attracting all ages of boys and girls, who enjoy the
challenge of balancing as well as getting soaked in the process — a
nice hot-weather sport. Some folks really are pushing to get log
rolling approved for an upcoming summer Olympics.
One of the sport’s many supporters is Pat Foster, director of
Camp Corey on Keuka Lake near
Rochester, NY. For three years, the summer camp has been offering
classes in log rolling using a special training log created by
Rolling, a family-owned business in Golden Valley, Minn. In the
second video on this page, Jennifer Johnson, a reporter for WUHF-TV
in Rochester interviews Foster then goes for a spin on the log
“Tug of War was in the Olympics until 1920,” Caple writes.
“There are movements to get squash, ballroom dance and chess in the
Olympics, as well as log-rolling. Yes, log-rolling. While I would
much rather see baseball back in the Olympics, I definitely would
choose log-rolling over ballroom dance or chess.”
For information about the sport, Caple calls on Abby Hoeschler,
a champion log-roller and instructor who plays a leading role in
the family business.
“It’s such an intense sport; it’s a sparring sport,” Hoeschler
said. “You’re on this log in the water with an opponent, and you
can’t touch them. There’s a center line you can’t cross. It’s sort
of like boxing with your feet.
“You’re doing maneuvers to dislodge your opponent. As a female,
there aren’t many opportunities where you can compete in sports
that are intense like that. You step on the log, and if you make
one wrong move, you’ve lost.”
Jeff Ozimek, outdoor program manager for Bainbridge Island Metro
Park and Recreation District, got involved in log rolling while he
attended college at the University of Montana in Missoula.
The competition, loosely associated with the College of
Forestry, involved all the lumberjack sports — from pole-climbing
to crosscut sawing to axe-throwing. Jeff says these logging-type
sports help people to celebrate the history of the Northwest. Check
out the video of the 2015 Montana log
rolling competition, also called Birling.
When I told Jeff about how kids could learn to do log rolling by
using the training fins on the Key Log, he was impressed, recalling
how difficult it is to stay on a log the first few times. He said
he would look into the Key Log and would like to know if local
residents would be interesting in classes or activities around log
rolling. Email him with your interest and ideas, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was reading about all the logging-related events at Crosby
Days this past weekend and wanted to know if anyone had ever
considered holding a log-rolling competition. (See Tristan
Baurick’s story in the
“Actually, my husband was talking about that this year, but we
didn’t have time to get it going,” said Jessica Dukes, secretary of
the Crosby Community Club and an organizer of Crosby Days. “It is
something we want to consider for next year.”
Competitions in log rolling are held throughout the country by
Log Rolling Association, but the only event I could find in
Washington state was this past weekend in Morton. I think an event
that brings in skilled log-rollers would be popular, all the more
so if kids could get involved.
Although adults should have an advantage in log rolling because
of their weight, it appears that many kids can hold their own
against their parents, especially in the beginning when both are
The long-running controversy over Washington state’s water
quality standards for toxic chemicals is nearly over. We will soon
know just how pure the water must be to get a clean bill of
We still don’t know whether the Environmental Protection Agency
will approve the new state standards adopted this week or impose
more stringent standards that EPA developed for several key
pollutants. The EPA has already taken public comments on its
“We believe our new rule is strong, yet reasonable,” said Maia
Bellon, director of the Washington Department of Ecology, in a
release. “It sets standards that are protective and achievable.
With this rule now complete, we will continue to press forward to
reduce and eliminate toxics from every-day sources.”
For more than two years, much of the controversy focused on the
fish-consumption rate — an assumption about how much fish that
people eat. The FCR is a major factor in the equation used to set
the concentration of chemicals allowed in water before the waterway
is declared impaired. (See early discussions in
Water Ways, Nov. 11, 2010.)
Initially, after plenty of debate, the state proposed increasing
the FCR from 6.5 grams per day to 175 grams per day — a 27-fold
increase. The initial proposal counter-balanced the effect somewhat
by increasing the cancer-risk rate from one in a million to one in
100,000 — a 10-fold shift. Eventually, the state agreed to retain
the one-in-a-million rate.
As I described in
Water Ways last October, some key differences remain between
the state and EPA proposals. Factors used by the EPA result in more
stringent standards. The state also proposes a different approach
for PCBs, mercury and arsenic, which are not easily controlled by
regulating industrial facilities and sewage-treatment plants — the
primary point sources of pollution.
PCB standards proposed by the EPA make representatives of
industry and sewage-treatment systems very nervous. Water-quality
standards are the starting points for placing legal limits on
discharges, and EPA’s standard of 7.6 picograms per liter cannot be
attained in many cases without much higher levels of treatment,
Entities in Eastern Washington are in the midst of planning
efforts to control pollution in the Spokane River, and major sewer
upgrades are under consideration, the letter says.
“If Ecology were to follow the same approach on Puget Sound that
it has on the Spokane River, this would amount to a range of
compliance costs from nearly $6 billion to over $11 billion for
just the major permits identified by EPA,” the letter continues. “A
more stringent PCB criterion is also likely to impact how
stormwater is managed, as PCB concentrations have been detected in
stormwater throughout the state.”
For pulp and paper mills using recycled paper, the primary
source of PCBs is the ink containing the toxic compounds at
EPA-allowed concentrations, the letter says. Other major sources
are neighborhoods, where PCBs are used in construction materials,
and fish hatcheries, where PCBs come from fishmeal.
The letter points out similar problems for EPA’s proposed
mercury standard, calling the level “overly conservative and
unattainable in Washington (and the rest of the United States), as
the levels of mercury in fish are consistently higher than the
When water-quality criteria cannot be attained for certain
chemicals using existing water-treatment technology, facilities may
be granted a variance or placed under a compliance schedule. Both
environmentalists and facility owners have expressed concern over
uncertainties about how the agencies might use these
Despite the uncertainties, environmentalists and Indian tribes
in Washington state generally support the more stringent standards
proposed by the EPA.
“Tribes concur that water quality discharge standards are only a
part of the toxic chemical problem in the state of Washington and
that more efforts toward source control and toxic cleanup are
needed,” writes Lorraine Loomis of the
Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “However, the standards
are an essential anchor for determining where and how to deploy
toxic reduction efforts and monitor enforcement.”
When I said this controversy is nearly over, I was referring to
a time schedule imposed this week by U.S. District Judge Barbara
Rothstein, who ruled that the EPA missed its own deadlines for
updating water quality criteria.
Rothstein, responding to claims from five environmental groups,
imposed a new deadline based on EPA’s own suggested dates. Because
the state has finalized its rule, the EPA now has until Nov. 15 to
either approve the state’s criteria or sign a notice imposing its
own standards. Checkout the
judge’s ruling (PDF 494 kb).
The new criteria won’t have any practical effect until applied
to federal discharge permits for specific facilities or in
developing cleanup plans for specific bodies of water — although
state inspectors could use the new state criteria for enforcing
state laws if they discover illegal discharges.
Congress is on the verge of passing a law that would open a door
for invasive species to sneak into Puget Sound from San Francisco
Bay — known as the most infested waterway in the country.
The proposed legislation, supported by the shipping industry, is
focused on reducing regulations surrounding the release of ballast
water, which large ships use to maintain stability. Environmental
groups and officials from at least nine states have voiced their
opposition to the proposal, saying it could result in long-term
damage to coastal and Great
Ballast water doesn’t get much attention in the media, but it
has been associated with the transfer of invasive species
throughout the world. Ships often take on ballast water at ports
where they unload their cargo before moving to their next
destination for a new load. As ships take on cargo, they discharge
ballast water from the previous location — along with any organisms
that hitched a ride.
Introduced species may multiply, displace native species and
disrupt the food web. Lacking natural predators, some invasive
species have been known to grow out of control, taking over beaches
or underwater areas.
Rules and more rules
To reduce the risk of invasive species, the U.S. Coast Guard
requires vessels from foreign countries to exchange their ballast
water at sea before entering U.S. waters. Studies have shown that
most organisms living out in the ocean don’t survive in coastal
waters, and vice versa. So it is less risky for Puget Sound to
receive ballast water picked up well off the coast than from
another coastal inlet.
Ships that don’t discharge ballast water don’t need to comply
with the Coast Guard’s ballast-exchange rule, nor do any ships
transiting the U.S. coast, such as those coming into Puget Sound
For years, fears have been growing that Puget Sound will become
invaded by species that could alter sea life as we know it today.
San Francisco Bay is dominated by more than 200 non-native species,
including the European
green crab and the Asian
clam — both of which have caused enormous economic losses to
the shellfish industry in various locations.
In contrast, Puget Sound has become home to an identified 74
non-native marine species, although early introductions of exotic
plankton — including some that produce toxins — could have gone
In reaction to growing concerns about invasive species, the
Washington Legislature passed a law in 2000 that requires ballast
exchange for ships arriving from anywhere outside a “common waters”
zone. That’s an area from the Columbia River to just north of
Vancouver, B.C. Consequently, ships from California that intend to
release ballast water into Puget Sound must first exchange their
ballast water at least 50 miles off the coast.
While the exchange of ballast water has been relatively
effective in controlling the release of non-native species, the
technique has always been considered an interim measure. Treating
ballast water to kill organisms has been the long-term goal — and
that’s where the confusion and frustration begins.
The International Maritime Organization has one treatment
standard nearing final adoption for ships throughout the world. The
Coast Guard says the IMO requirement to eliminate “viable”
organisms — those able to reproduce — is too risky. The Coast Guard
requires that organisms be killed. States may choose to issue their
own standards, and California has proposed the most stringent
treatment standards of all. Still, most of these standards are
essentially on hold pending testing and certification of specific
Shipping companies say all these costly and conflicting rules
are too difficult to navigate for businesses dealing in interstate
and international commerce. But that’s not all the rules they may
The Environmental Protection Agency became involved in ballast
water in 2008, after federal courts ruled that the shipping
industry is not exempt from the Clean Water Act. The EPA then came
up with a “vessel general permit” for ballast water and other
discharges from ships, a permit that was challenged twice by
environmental groups. Each time, the courts ruled against the
The latest EPA permit failed to require the “best available
technology” for ballast water treatment, failed to set numerical
standards, failed to require monitoring, and failed to meet other
provisions of the Clean Water Act, according to a ruling
handed down in October (PDF 6.4 mb) by the Second Circuit Court
of Appeals in New York. A revised permit is now in the works.
Legislation and politics
That brings us to the controversial legislation, called the
Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA. The essence of the bill
is to eliminate state jurisdiction and any oversight by the EPA.
Upon enactment, only Coast Guard rules would apply, and ships from
San Francisco would no longer need to exchange their ballast water
before coming into Washington or Oregon. For an in-depth
understanding of the bill, read the
Congressional Research Service report (PDF 3.5 mb).
The lack of coastwise ballast exchange is the biggest concern of
officials along the West Coast, where similar state requirements
are in effect. In California, the problem is that VIDA would allow
the spread of invasive species from San Francisco Bay to more
pristine bays, such as Humboldt Bay. While the bill allows states
to petition for regulations to deal with local conditions, nobody
knows how that would work. The petition would need scientific proof
that the local regulations are needed and feasible, and the Coast
Guard would have 90 days to make a decision.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, VIDA became attached to
the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved. NDAA is
a “must-pass” bill to authorize military funding and many other
things associated with national defense.
The Senate version of the defense bill does not contain the VIDA
provision. While the two bills are technically in a conference
committee, insiders tell me that top leaders in the House and
Senate must engage in political battles over the critical defense
bill and try to work out a compromise to gain approval in both
The shipping industry is lobbying hard for VIDA to stay in the
compromise bill, while environmentalists want to take it out. We
may not know which of the related and unrelated riders on the bill
will survive until the bill is ready for congressional action.
In the Senate, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio was the original
sponsor of the legislation when it was a stand-alone bill.
Republicans would like him to get a win for the folks back home,
where Rubio is engaged in a tight election race. (See Dan
Friedman’s story in Fortune.)
President Obama, threatening a veto, lists VIDA as one of many
provisions that he opposes in the House version of the National
Defense Authorization Act. See
Statement of Administration Policy (PDF 1.2 mb). Nobody thinks
he would veto the bill over ballast water alone.
Many shipping industry officials say they don’t object to
stringent treatment standards. They only wish to avoid multiple,
confusing standards. They also would like some assurance that the
standards are technically feasible and won’t require ongoing costly
changes to equipment.
Environmentalists say they don’t want to lose the authority of
the Clean Water Act, which allows average citizens to bring
lawsuits to protect the environment.
“The Clean Water Act is a tried and true approach for
controlling water pollution problems,” said Nina Bell of Northwest
Environmental Advocates in Portland. Her group was among those that
brought the lawsuit
against the EPA (PDF 6.8 mb).
“I think we are poised to make some real progress,” Nina told
me. “VIDA opts instead to take away authority from the
Environmental Protection Agency and give it to the Coast Guard,
which has no environmental expertise. The Coast Guard has a lot of
priorities, such as keeping people safe on ships and protecting our
waters, but this is not one of them.”
The EPA has clear authority to regulate ballast water and limit
the spread of invasive species, she said. If the EPA were to issue
strong requirements, the states would not need their own
Country music star Blake Shelton thought his cup of sake tasted
like “Easter egg coloring,” but he kept on asking for more of the
rice wine at the Japanese sushi restaurant he was visiting.
“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon convinced Blake to go with him
to the restaurant, because Blake had never tried sushi. With
cameras rolling, Jimmy demonstrated the finer points of eating the
various offerings, but at times Blake seemed to have the upper
Blake’s enjoyment of the experience appears somewhat mixed, as
you can see in the first video, but the situation was amusing.
The second video describes a practical joke that the Japanese
people have allegedly been pulling on Australians, although they
are not the only people in the world to have fallen for this
long-running practical joke. I was unable to locate the original
producer of the video, but it has been posted numerous times the
past few years. I’ve posted the earliest version I could find.
The Japanese people apparently can find amusement in some of
their own cultural traditions. Numerous videos called “The Japanese
Tradition” were created by the comedy duo of Jin Katagirl and
Kentaro Kobayashi, who call themselves the Rahmens. In their short
videos, they make light of customs from chopsticks to games.
Frank Prins collected a bunch of these videos and posted them
on his YouTube channel.
I’ve posted one of videos with English subtitles called “The
Japanese Tradition — Sushi,” which covers the entire experience at
a Sushi bar. Another amusing
version of this video comes with an English voice narrating the
piece. The narrator writes on YouTube that he re-edited the video
and tweaked the humor to make it more appealing to a Western
“The Japanese culture is something I have absolutely fallen in
love with, and I intend no disrespect by any of the jokes used in
the video,” states the unidentified narrator. The reviews were
mixed about whether it was appropriate to alter the original.
On this Earth Day, I would like to share some “environmental
victories” at the national level, take note of advancements in
environmental education at the state and local levels, recognize a
global climate accomplishment at the international level and
celebrate the birthday of John Muir, a giant in the conservation
Sometimes, amid the environmental battles of today, it is good
to step back and look at the changes that our country has gone
through since the first Earth Day in 1970. Brian Clark Howard does
just that for
National Geographic by calling out 46 milestones in
The events he describes include various environmental laws,
starting off with the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970;
international agreements, such at the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species in 1975; corporate responsibility, such
as McDonald’s move to biodegradable packaging; community outrage,
such as in Love Canal; and books and movies, including Al Gore’s
call to climate action in “An Inconvenient Truth.”
This is not a comprehensive history of the environmental
movement, but it is a strong reminder about how advancements come
about in the efforts to improve our environment.
Six years ago on Earth Day, I wrote a story titled
The Evolution of Environmental Education (Kitsap Sun, April 17,
2010) about how environmental education became ingrained in
learning through the primary grades — in contrast to the very
limited discussions outside of college up until the 1980s.
In 1990, the Legislature mandated that environmental education
be part of public instruction at all grade levels, then in 2009 new
statewide standards brought a focus to not only ecology but also
social and economic systems.
My story describes the struggle to integrate these additional
studies into overall classroom learning, rather than teaching
separate units on each topic. That effort at integration has
continued, as teachers work together to share information about
what works in the classroom. See
Education for Environment and Sustainability at the Office of
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Climate change agreement
More than 150 world leaders gathered at United Nations
Headquarters in New York City today to sign an agreement designed
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. This is the
formal signing of an accord reached in Paris by more than 170
countries four months ago.
“Today is a day to mark and celebrate the hard work done by so
many to win the battle in securing the Paris agreement,” Secretary
of State John Kerry said this morning, as quoted in a
Newsweek article. “Knowing what we know, this is also a day to
recommit ourselves to actually win this war… Nature is changing at
an increasingly rapid pace due to our own choices.”
Hannah Hickey of
University of Washington News and Information rounded up
comments from UW experts on the topic. Some were hopeful that the
international pact will mean substantial reductions in greenhouse
gases before ever more drastic climate change comes about. Others
seemed to be saying that the agreement is too little too late.
John Muir, whose name is synonymous with the conservation
movement in the U.S., had much to say about the need to protect
special places. Muir’s birthday was yesterday, and I appreciated
10 inspirational quotes about the outdoors that was pulled
together by the Department of Interior.
One of my favorites: “Between every two pine trees there is a
door leading to a new way of life.”
John Muir has been called “the father of the national parks,”
and I think it is fitting that we take time to recognize his
contributions this year, on the 100th anniversary of the National
Park Service. I’ve posted the first of two videos produced for the
park service. Both can be found on YouTube:
Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
has condemned the Humane Society of the U.S. for forming an
alliance with SeaWorld, saying SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby “has found
his Judas,” and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle “single-handedly put the
brakes on the movement inspired by Blackfish.” Read the full
Sea Shepherd’s website.
SeaWorld and the Humane Society of the U.S. are urging President
Obama to take a stronger stand against whaling by the Japanese
harpoon fleet, which recently returned to Japan with 333 dead minke
whales, all killed in the Antarctic.
“The United States is well-positioned to lead a comprehensive
effort to persuade Japan to abandon commercial whaling as an
anachronism that is imprudent, unnecessary for food security, cruel
and economically unsound,” states the
letter to Obama (PDF 464 kb), signed by Joel Manby, president
and CEO of SeaWorld, and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of
Combining forces to oppose commercial hunting of marine mammals
throughout the world is one element of a negotiated agreement
between SeaWorld and HSUS. Of course, the most notable parts of
that agreement specified that SeaWorld would discontinue its
breeding program for killer whales and halt all theatrical
Water Ways, March 17.
This year’s whale hunt in the Antarctic was endorsed by the
Japanese government, which considers dead whales to be lethal
samples of tissue collected during an annual “research” trip, which
ultimately puts whale meat on the commercial market.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the whale
hunt, as carried out at that time, failed to meet scientific
standards. As a result, the Japanese government took a year off
from whaling, altered its plan and continued the whale hunt at the
end of last year going into this year. This time, Japanese
officials declared that they would no longer be subject to
international law on this issue, so a new lawsuit would be
Meanwhile, an expert panel of the International Whaling
Commission took a look at the new “research” plan and concluded
that Japan still had not shown how killing whales conforms to the
requirements of research, given options for nonlethal research. See
of the Expert Panel …”
Last week’s report by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean
Research said the whalers were able to obtain all 333 minke whales
proposed in the plan. It was the first time in seven years that the
full sampling was completed, because Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society was not there to interfere, according to the report on the New
Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean.
Of the 333 whales, males numbered 103 and females 230. Of the
females, 76 percent were sexually mature, and 90 percent of the
mature females were pregnant, suggesting a healthy population of
minke whales, according to the report.
The letter from Manby and Pacelle acknowledged that the U.S.
government had joined with 30 nations in December to write a letter
voicing concerns about Japan’s decision to resume whaling. But the
Manby-Pacelle letter also complains that the U.S. has given up its
leadership role on the issue, ceding to New Zealand and Australia
for the legal battles.
“In the United Kingdom, in Latin America, and elsewhere, whale
welfare is high on the diplomatic agenda with Japan and other
whaling nations,” the letter states. “We believe that it is time
for the United States to re-assert itself as a champion for whales,
and to take a stronger hand in pressing Japan to relinquish
Among the steps that should be considered, according to the
The U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission
should be empowered to threaten Japan with sanctions, though
details were not specified in the letter.
The U.S. government should include provisions against whaling
in international trade agreements.
Japan’s potential assets should be surveyed as a prelude to
invoking the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Protective Act of
1967. The amendment allows a ban on imports of fishing products
from a country that violates international fishery conservation
rules — including those of the IWC.
Meanwhile, the successful Japanese whale hunt has motivated
environmental groups throughout the world to call on their national
governments to confront Japan directly, at least in diplomatic
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has confronted the
Japanese whaling ships on the high seas in years past, is
rethinking its plans for the future, according to Capt. Peter
Hammarstedt, chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia’s Board of
“Sea Shepherd was handicapped by the new ICR strategy of
expanding their area of operations and reducing their quota,
meaning that the time to locate them within the expanded zone made
intervention extremely difficult with the ships that Sea Shepherd
is able to deploy,” Hammarstedt said in a
This past season was an opportunity for world governments to
find the resolve to uphold international conservation law, he said.
The Australian and New Zealand governments could have sent patrols
to protect declared sanctuaries, but they failed to do so, “and
this has served to illustrate that the only thing that has proven
effective against the illegal Japanese whaling fleet has been the
interventions by Sea Shepherd,” he added.
Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australia’s managing director, said
the Australian and New Zealand governments have offered false
“The majority of Australians wanted the Australian government to
send a vessel to oppose the slaughter,” Hansen said. “They did not.
Sea Shepherd requested that the Australian government release the
location of the whalers. They refused. Instead, the governments
responsible for protecting these magnificent creatures stood by, in
the complete knowledge that both federal and international crimes
were taking place. This empty response from authorities in the wake
of the ICJ ruling is a disgrace.”
Hammarstedt hinted that Sea Shepherd might be back later this
year when the Japanese ships take off for another season of
“Sea Shepherd will soon have a fast long-range ship,” he said.
“More importantly, Sea Shepherd has something that the Australian
and New Zealand governments lack — and that is the courage, the
passion and the resolve to uphold the law.”