Obama’s Comprehensive Ocean Plan – It’s A Winner For Whales

“With a clear National Policy and a revitalized, empowered, unified, and comprehensive framework to coordinate efforts set forth in these recommendations, we can achieve an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote the well-being, prosperity, and security of present and future generations.” Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

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Example of the Potential Benefits of CMSP: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Photo Courtesy NOAA)

The creation of a National Ocean Council, designed to weave together the various threads of ocean regulation into a coherent plan with established goals, is long overdue. For too long agencies have worked in a disjointed manner, hamstrung by jurisdiction issues and local governance, often ignoring the input of scientists and the general public. By signing this executive order, Obama shows once again that he prefers to see the ‘big picture’, then address the issues in a logical, orderly manner.

The Council is designed to build upon its successes, such as the example above – what the picture shows is that major shipping routes were altered to reduce ship strikes to baleen whales:

Comprehensive planning enabled NOAA, the United States Coast Guard, and several other government agencies and stakeholders to examine shipping needs, proposed deepwater liquefied natural gas port locations, and endangered whale distribution in a successful effort to reconfigure the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) to reduce the risk of whale mortality due to collisions with ships in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
The reconfigured TSS reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales. Industry TSS transit times increased by only 9 – 22 minutes (depending on speed) and conflict with deepwater ports was eliminated. In addition, the new route decreased the overlap between ships using the TSS, commercial fishing vessels, and whale watch vessels, thereby increasing maritime safety. CMSP has the significant potential of applying this integrated, multi-objective, multi-sector approach on a broader and sustained scale.
Diagram Courtesy of NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

For the Southern Resident orcas, this could mean an enhanced response to the environmental issues that impede their population’s recovery, because the bureaucrats will be more closely tied to scientific input. This might even mean fewer dams and more salmon, as well as focused environmental clean-up.

We all win.

Excerpted from The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

Obama Administration officials released the Final Recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force on July 19, 2010, which would establish a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts, and Great Lakes (National Policy) and create a National Ocean Council (NOC) to strengthen ocean governance and coordination. The Final Recommendations prioritize actions for the NOC to pursue, and call for a flexible framework for coastal and marine spatial planning to address conservation, economic activity, user conflict, and sustainable use of the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes.

The Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and resulting environmental crisis is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our marine environments are, and how much communities and our Nation rely on healthy and resilient ocean and coastal ecosystems. The ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes deeply impact the lives of all Americans, whether we live and work in the country’s heartland or along its shores. America’s rich and productive coastal regions and waters support tens of millions of jobs and contribute trillions of dollars to the national economy each year. They also host a growing number of important activities, including recreation, science, commerce, transportation, energy development, and national security and they provide a wealth of natural resources and ecological benefits.

Final Recommendations Of The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force

1. Support sustainable, safe, secure, efficient, and productive uses of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes, including those that contribute to the economy, commerce, recreation, conservation, homeland and national security, human health, safety, and welfare;

2. Protect, maintain, and restore the Nation’s ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources and ensure resilient ecosystems and their ability to provide sustained delivery of ecosystem services;

3. Provide for and maintain public access to the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes;

4. Promote compatibility among uses and reduce user conflicts and environmental impacts;

5. Improve the rigor, coherence, efficiency, and consistency of decision-making and
regulatory processes;

6. Increase certainty and predictability in planning for and implementing new investments
for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes uses; and

7. Enhance interagency, intergovernmental, and international communication and
collaboration.

Video Of Captive Orca “Lolita” Performing As A Calf Soon After Her Capture

How precious it is, to see this video of “Lolita” as a calf, yet how heart wrenching to think that she has been confined in the Miami Seaquarium for 40 years, doing the same tricks, two shows a day, day after day after day.

(The second orca that appeared briefly, “Hugo”, had been previously captured. He died in 1980 from a brain hemorrhage, believed to have been caused by his ramming his head into the side of the tank).

From the video’s author:

“This Super 8mm footage was shot while we were on vacation in Miami when I was 4 years old.

It’s hard to believe that this same whale is still there performing everyday.

I was so excited to visit this place because it was where they filmed a large portion of the show “Flipper” and I got to see him (or at least one of him, there were actually several dolphins who played the part).

“Cathy” the dolphin most thought of as THE “Flipper” was dying in an isolated tank while we visited. I will never forget being that close to “Flipper” but being sad at what I saw.

“Flipper” died just a few weeks after our visit.”

Here she is, 40 years later:

Please help bring her home! The following is excerpted from a letter written to officials by John Kielty. Please add your name, by clicking here to find the full context (along with contact information) to copy, sign, and send.

…Opponents of captivity for marine mammals have called for Lolita’s retirement and release from her pool at MSQ for years. Captured on August 8, 1970, from Penn Cove, Washington state and sent down to Florida to perform tricks for tourists, Lolita has resided in what is the smallest and oldest orca tank in the United States. The tank is merely one-and-a-half-times her size, has garnered numerous safety violations, and does not meet USDA/APHIS Regulations. Caring people have been trying to help Lolita for decades – writing letters, protesting, raising awareness – but Lolita’s captors are indifferent and uncaring, and they hide behind loopholes in the laws designed to protect our rare and valuable wild animals. Lolita, who is affectionately known as “Toki” (short for her true name, Tokitae – which means ‘shimmering water’ in Chinook), was captured right before implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act which now protects the rest of her family as endangered species. Lolita’s family, including her mother, now believed to be 82 years old, still swim freely in the open waters where Lolita was captured. Because she was caught ‘pre-act’, the powers-that-be excluded her from the status of endangered. It’s time to return Lolita home, where her family awaits.

There are many wonderful people and organizations willing to work with the Miami Seaquarium, the Unified Commands’ Response efforts, local, state and federal officials and are ready, willing and waiting to move forward with a rehabilitation, retirement and relocation plan for ALL their marine animals.

Please visit www.orcanetwork.org/news/oilhitslolita.html for an important press release from Marine Mammal Specialist Richard O’Barry and David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute. For more information about the organizations who are ready and willing to help visit www.orcanetwork.org , www.earthisland.org , www.earthisland.org/immp , www.whaleresearch.com and www.orcalab.org

I thank you for your support and prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Unbelievably, Orca Whale Lolita’s Captors Are Financing A New Aquatic Center, While Asking For Hand-outs From BP Oil!

While studying the ecology of Biscayne Bay, where the Miami Seaquarium takes in over 5 million gallons of water daily, I stumbled upon this story. Honestly, it turns my stomach when I think about how awful the conditions are for the whales and dolphins in the ‘care’ of Miami Seaquarium, while the corporation that holds them captive keeps getting richer off their backs. Add to that that the Seaquarium is hoping to take food out of the mouths of all the victims of the oil spill (both human and environmental) to line their own pockets and it just seems outrageous.

From Miami Today:

Awaiting aquatic center, Sunny Isles floats more project plans

By Meena Rupani Week of May 27, 2010

Sunny Isles Beach, waiting on Wometco Enterprises [aka Miami Seaquarium] to get both financing and a developer to build an aquatic center between east and west Sunny Isles Boulevard, is preparing to move ahead with a cluster of other city projects in the meanwhile.
The city has purchased four acres for the aquatic center and the other capital improvements.
The proposed Wometco Aquatic Center is to include a garage, restaurants, shops, two banquet halls and three-story aquarium where stingrays may be petted. The garage is to handle 140 to 150 cars and banquet halls are to accommodate 1,000, according to the initial site plan presented by Eduardo Castineira, president and CEO of Axioma3Architects, and Arthur Hertz, chairman of Wometco Enterprises. Wometco also owns and operates the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key.
“The initial site plan has not been altered. There may be slight changes as time goes on,” Mr. Castineira said. “For now, we have received the preliminary thumbs-up from the city. However, formal negotiations still need to be made.”
“Mr. Hertz has not yet indicated to the city that he will not be forward on this project,” said Hans Ottinot, Sunny Isles Beach city attorney. “If the financing for the aquatic center does not go through, then a park will definitely be built.”
Mr. Hertz did not return repeated phone calls.
“Wometco is in the process of negotiating with the banks,” Mr. Castineira said. Although the company has not yet hired a firm to evaluate costs of the aquatic center, Mr. Castineira estimates it to be at least $60 million.

Rick Conner, Sunny Isles Beach city manager, had a similar view regarding status of the aquatic center.
“Not only are we in the early stages of getting the finances for the aquatic center,” Mr. Conner said, “but also in the very early design stages. Wometco has also yet to hire a developer for the project.”
Sunny Isles expects to spend an additional $15 million building the park and a 350-car underground garage. The complex could open as early as 2013.
“There is nothing new happening with the aquatic center at the moment. No upcoming meetings have been planned as of yet,” said Mayor Norman S. Edelcup.
In addition to the park and aquatic center, the city has contracted with Calvin, Giordano and Associates to develop capital improvement projects that include the Heritage Parking Garage, currently under construction, a fishing pier and a bridge that are awaiting permits, and a skate park that is being designed at the moment, according to Chris Giordano, project administrator. The firm offers engineering, land planning, government regulatory compliance and data technologies and developmental issues.
At the May 20 city commission meeting, Mr. Conner and Calvin, Giordano and Associates agreed on contract length and amount for the capital improvement projects.
According to meeting minutes, the contract is not to exceed $130,000 and will be renewed automatically on a yearly basis. If the city wishes to pull out, the firm must be told at least 60 days in advance.
Completion dates for each project vary as they are all in different stages.
“If we are still under contract with the city at the time when the aquatic center is being built, we will become involved in that project as well,” Mr. Giordano said.
“The skate park, Heritage park and parking garage are expected to be open Oct. 1 in order for the residents to utilize them during the jazz festival, which occurs Oct. 7,” Mr. Conner said. The bridge has no estimated completion date yet and the pier is expected to open in four months.
Mr. Giordano said these projects would benefit the community.
“The current in-place pier is closed due to the unsafe nature of the existing pier. By demolishing the existing pier and rebuilding a new one, it will allow the citizens to once again utilize this great asset for sightseeing, fishing and people-watching,” he said.
“Having the finances for the aquatic center will be a major steppingstone in this project,” City Attorney Ottinot said. “Otherwise, the city will be creating a plan B.”
The city already has the finances to construct the park and the other capital improvements, Mr. Ottinot said. “In terms of the aquatic center, we are currently in the concept stage, and with the finances we could move into the implementation stage.”

Please add your voice to those who believe that Miami Seaquarium’s request is out of line:
No BP oil money for the Miami Seaquarium!

Orca Whale “Lolita” Is In Peril, And The Corporation That Keeps Her Captive Hopes To Profit From Her Situation

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The tank where an L-pod member (“Lolita”) is confined. Photo by Peter Pijpelink.

Recent efforts on the part of the Miami Seaquarium to obtain BP Gulf oil money to upgrade their water system has only served to point out that the seaquarium’s present system is woefully inadequate. The seawater intake for the aquarium is from the polluted area of Biscayne Bay, a fact which is ironic in that the Seaquarium, along with other “pro-captivity” advocates, have long claimed that Lolita lives in a clean environment, also stating or implying that Lolita’s native waters are toxic.

In reality, the waters where the Southern Resident orcas (which includes Lolita’s family) spend their time are exceptionally clean, according to U.S. government statistics: “Marine waters surrounding the [San Juan] islands are typically of high water quality and are rated class AA. Located at the intersection of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia [between Washington state and Canada], these waters are well flushed by the strong tidal currents flowing in from the Pacific Ocean.” http://www.nps.gov/sajh/naturescience/waterquality.htm.

On the other hand, the water in Florida’s Biscayne Bay where the Miami Seaquarium is located varies from poor quality in the north to marginal as you go farther south, and the seaquarium is located at the edge of what is considered to be the worst part of the area:
Biscayne Bay Conceptual Ecological Model

The main sources of pollution for this heavily urbanized watershed are the Miami River, the Port of Miami, and various canals. High levels of toxic metals, organic contaminants and pesticides have been found in the water and sediments of discharge sites. Altered salinity regimes, increased nutrient and contaminant loadings, and high water turbidity have all contributed to the decreased health and extent of biological communities within the northern section of Biscayne Bay.

The central portion of the Bay is better flushed than the North Bay and has extensive, healthy seagrass beds and other benthic communities. Nevertheless, industrial and agricultural discharges, as well as leachete from the South Dade landfill, are important sources of pollution to this area. A salinity gradient is found in the Central Bay, with lower, variable salinity occurring on the western margin of the Bay due to freshwater inflow from canal discharge and runoff, and higher, more stable salinities in the eastern margin,

Although the seaquarium’s filters will probably catch globs of oil, the seaquarium claims that their system can’t handle much, and the chemical dispersants are another matter entirely. The exact makeup of the dispersants is kept secret under trade laws, but a worker safety sheet for a dispersant called Corexit, says it includes 2-butoxyethanol, a compound associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems at high doses. And depending upon the sophistication of the filtering system, many contaminants slip right through – the water looks clear and clean because the biological matter – bacteria, algae and plankton – is gone, but most of the chemicals are not.

Andrew Hertz, general manager of the Miami Seaquarium, said the Virginia Key marine-life park could be devastated if oil reaches Biscayne Bay. The Seaquarium uses bay water to house its wildlife, and may have to take drastic and expensive measures — such as closing off its water system — to protect its assets.

”We don’t have it in our budget to make sea water like Sea World does,” Hertz said, estimating the cost of doing so at about $5 million.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/14/1680341/crist-pledges-oil-ads-for-south.html#ixzz0tOAdZgGA

And by the way, all kinds of marine animals are either impinged (caught onto a screen) or are sucked in with all the seawater in these older intake systems. From plankton to mammals, those antiquated water intake pipes can be disastrous.

So the Miami seaquarium, straddled with an inadequate, outdated system finds itself with no backup contingency plan, no way to protect the animals in its care, unable to sustain even the illegal standards it has gotten away with for decades. What does it do? It is looking for a bailout. “Whether it is digging a deep well here on property that hits salt water underground or whether it is burying a new intake under the seabed out there so the seabed turns into a filtration system for us, however it works it is going to cost money I don’t have in my budget right now,” Hertz said.

Initial estimates on putting a closed system in are between $3 million and $5 million, so the Seaquarium plans on submitting a claim to BP in the coming weeks. (Justnews.com)

There are many honest folks, such as fishermen and women who have lost their livelyhood, and many environmental catastrophes that need to be addressed, and it would be a gross injustice if the Miami seaquarium is allowed to profit from this disaster.

Please take a minute and send this letter, written by a concerned and dedicated individual, John Kielty (who initiated the previous letter campaign as well – great work John!!): John Kielty: Tell Fund Distributer Ken Feinberg: No BP money for Miami Seaquarium!

Whale Watching From Shore In The ‘Juans, It Keeps Getting Better

The newly established West Side Scenic Preserve provides public access to nearly 16 acres of prairie grassland, and protects over one-half mile of shoreline along the west side of San Juan Island. The views are spectacular, and you can watch for whales and other marine life while perched on the rocky bluffs that overlook Haro Strait.

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San Juan county residents taxed themselves to create the new West Side Preserve.

The preserve is accessed by designated pull-outs along Westside Road, and is not far from the stellar Lime Kiln Park. The preserve is not a developed park – you will need to keep going to Lime Kiln in order to find amenities such as water and bathrooms – instead it is open space, preserved from development by the visionary folks at the San Juan County Land Bank, for the enjoyment of everyone.

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There is limited parking in designated areas.
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If you don’t have time to hike down to the water, you can enjoy the view from in front of the parking area.
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A footpath leads down through prairie to the rocky shoreline.

There are several pull-outs on the road. The gravel paths that lead to the bluffs below are nicely laid out, and when you get to the shoreline you can sit on the rocks and just absorb the beauty of the place for a while. Even when the orcas pass nearby I have noticed that there is a serenity in those moments, excited though we all are. I think you feel fortunate to be there, and you just want to take it all in.

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On the 4th of July these orcas swam through the kelp beds close to shore, as thrilling as fireworks! (The photo is a bit overexposed)
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Enjoy the tranquil view, even when the orcas are not present.

I think we all owe an appreciation to the residents of the San Juan Islands, for taxing themselves to purchase and preserve the unique and beautiful land of the region, and also to the huge efforts of the San Juan County Land Bank. Without them, we would all see nothing but condos, resorts, and fast food – and the unique charm of the islands would be lost forever.

Stewardship at the Land Bank

The Land Bank’s mission is a reflection of the community’s broad values united by a powerful vision: Care of Place. It demonstrates how strongly connected islanders feel to the unique landscape of the San Juan islands, and a prevailing awareness that the mark we make on the land is what most profoundly influences the legacy we leave future generations.

Our stewardship program puts the values and vision of the Land Bank mission into action, with the goal of understanding and protecting the significant conservation values of each property entrusted to our care.

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The residents of San Juan County and the Land Bank are preserving the beauty of the islands.

Please take our poll on whale watching: http://whaleresearch.blogspot.com/

The Miami Seaquarium Is Unprepared To Protect Captive Orca Lolita And Dolphins From The Gulf Oil Spill.

This came my way via Orca Network, and was written by a guy named John Kielty. As a first time visitor to Seaworld, he happened to witness the events surrounding the death of trainer Dawn Bracheau, and resolved to make a difference to the whales in captivity. He has stepped up to the plate, and took it upon himself to write and distribute the following letter. And you too can make a difference; please take a minute to copy and send his letter of concern about Miami Seaquarium’s irresponsible lack of foresight and planning – a lack which is now putting the captive orca Lolita in extreme jeapordy.

From John’s Facebook page:

Please tell USDA & APHIS to enforce the Animal Welfare Act! Beyond allowing Miami Seaquarium to house orca Lolita in an undersized, illegal tank, MSQ has no plan to protect their marine mammals when the gulf oil spill contaminates their waters in August… and USDA & APHIS are doing nothing about it!

As we know, Miami Seaquarium has been permitted to operate utilizing a smaller than minimum size for Lolita’s pool due to being “grandfathered� under outdated regulations. We also know that Miami Seaquarium is pursuing a multi-million dollar claim against BP to upgrade/update their filtration system as water may become contaminated from the Gulf spill. Miami Seaquarium and its owners Andrew and Arthur Hertz have no plans for the wellbeing of Lolita or their other marine life, including 30 dolphins, 15 seals and sea lions, dozens of reptiles/fish, sea turtles, and at least eight manatees. They are merely interested in protecting their profits. It is time to tell United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) & Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to enforce the laws and regulations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Please cut and paste the following letter, sign your name and send to the email addresses shown below. Feel free to edit, personalize & share any way you see fit. Thank you for your support!… and a special THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this letter possible by providing me with the support, information and resources I needed! Thank you all!!!!!

John Kielty’s letter:

RE: Miami Seaquarium disaster contingency plan & safety for orca Lolita

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
Animal Care (AC)

To whom this may concern:

As you may be aware, Andrew Hertz, General Manager of Miami Seaquarium, Miami, FL has recently stated his intention to file a $3 to $5 million dollar claim against BP citing his requirement to upgrade the marine park’s filtration system should the waters of Biscayne Bay become contaminated from oil resulting from the Deep Water Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico (www.justnews.com/news/23910898/detail.html). By this action, the Hertz family has admittedly demonstrated that they are not prepared, equipped or otherwise capable of carrying out a disaster contingency plan to provide emergency sources of water and/or arrangements for relocating marine mammals as is required by APHIS Regulation 9 CFR section 3.101(b). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an 80% chance that the oil will hit the Miami area in August and I am deeply concerned the Miami Seaquarium wildlife is in jeopardy. In addition to Killer Whale Lolita the lives of 30 dolphins, 15 seals and sea lions, dozens of reptiles/fish, sea turtles, and at least eight manatees are in peril. Your immediate action is required to ensure their safety.

Should the Hertz family be successful in securing funds for this major reconstruction effort, it is my contention that Miami Seaquarium be required by USDA-APHIS to bring ALL provisions of animal welfare, including marine mammal housing size, into compliance with current APHIS Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act.

Since the brutal capture of killer whale (orca) Lolita in 1970, she has been kept in a tank that is illegal by current APHIS standards for space requirements as provided in Regulation 9 CFR section 3.104. Now 42 years old, Lolita (also known as Tokitae) is approximately 21 feet long and 7,000 pounds. Her tank is 20 feet deep at the deepest point, a mere 12 feet deep around the edges and 35 feet wide. Lolita’s life of misery in these substandard confines has continued long enough. The Hertz family has been profiting from Lolita’s exploitation for more than 40 years and the time has come to end her suffering and provide her the protection and quality of life she deserves. They should not be allowed to continue operating with no emergency contingency plans, under outdated regulations, and making piecemeal improvements aimed solely at protecting profits. Now is the time to act on Lolita’s behalf. Time is running out!

As a part of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at The US Department of Agriculture, I know that you are concerned with the future of marine mammals in captivity and the urgent crisis developing at the Miami Seaquarium. Please do your part and ensure immediate action is taken and provisions are provided that require Miami Seaquarium’s compliance with all current APHIS Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act for this emergency and any future construction and/or upgrades at their marine mammal park. If the Hertz family finds that complying with all current APHIS Regulations is not cost feasible, alternative viable solutions are under development to provide a safe retirement for Lolita in her native habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Details of this proposal can be found here: www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/2007proposaldraft.html. There are many wonderful people and organizations willing to work with the Miami Seaquarium and are ready, willing and waiting to move forward with a rehabilitation/retirement plan for Lolita.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Sincerely,

Send to:
USDA-APHIS-Animal Care: ace@aphis.usda.gov
USDA-APHIS-Animal Care East: aceast@aphis.usda.gov
USDA-APHIS-Policy & Programs: aphis.web@aphis.usda.gov
Abbey Shaffer- Legislative Teams Leader: abbey.l.shaffer@aphis.usda.gov
Christopher Needham- Legislative Affairs Specialist: christopher.needham@aphis.usda.gov
James Ivy- USDA-APHIS: james.c.ivy@aphis.usda.gov
Bethany Jones- Deputy Administrator of Legislative and Public Affairs: bethany.x.jones@aphis.usda.gov
Edward Avalos- Under Secretary for Marketing & Regulatory Programs: ed.avalos@usda.gov
Kathleen Merrigan- Deputy Secretary of Agriculture: kathleen.merrigan@usda.gov
Tom Vilsak- Secretary of Agriculture: agsec@usda.gov

Comma separated if you’d prefer a single bulk mailing:
ace@aphis.usda.gov,aceast@aphis.usda.gov,aphis.web@aphis.usda.gov,abbey.l.shaffer@aphis.usda.gov,christopher.needham@aphis.usda.gov,bethany.x.jones@aphis.usda.gov,ed.avalos@usda.gov,kathleen.merrigan@usda.gov,agsec@usda.gov,james.c.ivy@aphis.usda.gov

Also, please cut and paste this letter into the contact forms of these Senators:
Senator Maria Cantwell: http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/
Senator Patty Murray: http://murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactMe
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida: http://billnelson.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm