eco-briefs

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Jim Maragos/Wikimedia Commons

REPORT FINDS 50 PERCENT DECLINE IN GLOBAL MARINE LIFE SINCE 1970 

Population sizes of fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians in the world’s oceans have declined by almost 50 percent since 1970, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) annual Living Blue Planet report. Species hardest hit in the decline include tuna and mackerel, who have experienced a decline of almost 75 percent. Coral reefs, which house more than 25 percent of all marine species, have also dipped by more than half in the last 30 years.

“In the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce while also destroying their nurseries,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, in a press release.

The report cites human stresses on the globe’s oceans, such as ocean acidification, habitat destruction, climate change and overfishing as the main drivers of these declines.

The world’s oceans are a crucial resource for human populations, with more than 3 billion people consuming fish as a main source of protein and 10-12 percent of the global population relying on the oceans for their livelihoods The report also stresses the potential for the oceans to rebound from the deficits if efforts are quickly made to protect marine wildlife and curb rising carbon dioxide emissions.

“Stopping black market fishing, protecting coral reefs, mangroves and other critical ocean habitats, and striking a deal in Paris to slash carbon pollution are all good for the ocean, the economy and people,” said Brad Ack, WWF’s senior vice president for oceans, in a statement. “Now is the time for the U.S. and other world players to lead on these important opportunities.”

—Grant Stringer

COLORADO SUPREME COURT TO WEIGH IN ON CITY FRACKING BANS 

The highest court in Colorado has agreed to hear cases that may allow Colorado cities to ban fracking within their city limits.

The Colorado Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on the legitimacy of city fracking bans — like those imposed by Longmont in 2012 and Fort Collins in 2013 — that have been legally challenged by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Local courts have ruled in favor of energy interests, arguing that economic regulation is the domain of the state, and that city law cannot supersede state law. The cities’ appeals, along with those of several environmental groups, have been accepted by the state Supreme Court.

“I would say this is pretty huge,” said Tanya Heikkila, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, to the Associated Press. “Local governments obviously still want some say in the ‘whether.’ The Supreme Court decision will clarify that issue.”

Hydraulic fracturing has been the subject of intense debate between community and environmental groups and energy interests. Critics of fracking have argued that it poses public health issues and challenges property rights, among other grievances. Proponents believe that fracking, when done safely, strengthens the local economy and U.S. energy security.

The ruling could have major implications for each side of the debate. Activists like Kaye Fissinger, president of the antifracking organization Our Longmont, emphasize the importance of the Court’s ruling.

“This is an issue with profound consequences for our community and its residents,” Fissinger told AP.

Colorado ranks seventh in national energy production, in part because of the fracking boom between 2007 and 2012. 

— Grant Stringer