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News | April 19, 2019

Navy Promotes Education to 'Protect Our Species' on Earth Day

By USFFC Public Affairs and Outreach U.S. Fleet Forces Command

The U.S. Navy’s global presence provides numerous opportunities to positively affect the environment in their communities – not just on Earth Day, but throughout the year. This year’s theme is "Protect Our Species," which serves to promote awareness for the protection of endangered species and highlight everyday actions for Sailors, Marines, Department of the Navy civilians and their family members.

"In addition to department-level measures, we do all we can to protect marine species and natural resources by complying with laws," said Mike Jones, the environmental planning and resources section head at U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC). “This includes being proactive in our communities, regions and bases in the U.S., as well as overseas for a better, more sustainable environment.”

In partnership with federal agencies and with input from state government agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations, and in compliance with environmental laws, the Navy develops and implements appropriate science-based protective measures to protect species at sea and ashore. Sailors and Marines can use similar actions to safeguard both the species and the habitats they call home.

Mitigation Zones

When the Navy conducts training or testing activities, and a protected, threatened or endangered species is spotted in a mitigation zone, then the activity is stopped until the animal has cleared the zone. You too can protect them by avoiding them on land or water. 

Marine mammals – such as dolphins, whales, and seals – are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal to harass or harm these animals. It is important not to interact with them if you encounter these species when boating, jet-skiing, or swimming. Additionally, all sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, so do not approach them or disturb any nests you may find on your local beach. 

Proper Disposal of Waste

The Navy equips all warships with suites of solid waste processing equipment and provides recycling capabilities for shore installations. Ashore, items accepted for recycling include white paper, cardboard, metals, aluminum and glass. Ensure you understand what can and can’t be recycled in your area, and contact your local installation or community recycling centers for hours of operation.

To ensure that plastic is not discharged at sea, Sailors compress and melt shipboard-generated plastic waste that results from food preparation and everyday life aboard the ship so it can be stored for proper disposal in-port. Plastics can be devastating to marine species because they are sometimes mistaken as food (plastic bags can look like jellyfish in the water) or coastal wildlife can be harmed by becoming entangled in fishing gear or six-pack rings. You can protect wildlife by packing up all of your trash from a day at the beach or other coastal areas and not throwing anything overboard if you are on a recreational boat.

Avoiding Impacts to Essential Fish Habitats

All fish and marine species require quality habitat in order to live and reproduce, so the Navy analyzes the effects of training activities, consults with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and takes part in habitat restoration projects to ensure our potential impacts on essential fish habitats (EFH) are prevented or minimized. You can also help to protect EFH by being aware of where they are in your local waterways, turning in oyster shells to recycling programs and looking for sustainable seafood choices wherever you shop for seafood. To learn more on sustainable seafood choices, please visit https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/understanding-sustainable-seafood.

Protection of Migratory Birds

The majority of birds in the U.S. are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to shoot, wound, kill, capture or collect any migratory bird, as well as the parts, nests, or eggs of these birds – except under the terms of a valid federal permit. The Navy limits the trimming of trees on Navy property during spring nesting time to help reduce disturbance to active birds’ nests. You can help protect migratory birds by examining your trees, bushes, and tall grasses for nests before trimming trees or mowing your yard.

"Managing the balance between readiness activities and protecting wildlife is critical to ensure Sailors and Marines are prepared to defend the country, and that species thrive for future generations,” said Tom Olexa, the natural resource manager at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.

Each year on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated world-wide, but the Navy conducts related events throughout the entire month of April. These activities include fairs, beach and base cleanups, tree plantings, recycling contests, school and youth activities, fun runs, and more. The Navy also promotes its environmental stewardship efforts through the USFFC-sponsored ‘Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom, Protecting the Environment’ outreach program. Earth Day was founded in 1970 by former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin to promote community engagement and practices of environmental stewardship around the world. 

For more information and resources on Navy sustainability and environment, please visit https://navysustainability.dodlive.mil

Stay connected with the Stewards of the Sea program on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/usnavystewardsofthesea and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/usnavystewardsofthesea