Stronger Rules Needed to Save Endangered Right Whales
Migrating off the U.S. Southeast coast up to New England and the Canadian Maritimes, North Atlantic right whales pass through some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and most exploited commercial fishing grounds in the two countries. Vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements frequently kill or severely injure these animals—which is why fewer than 400 of them remain.
To help this critically endangered species avoid extinction, the Canadian government in late February announced updated measures to reduce risks to right whales in national waters. Under the plan, which the government revises annually, its fisheries and maritime agencies will continue to use real-time visual and acoustic monitoring to dynamically manage whale presence—for example, by implementing vessel speed and fishing restrictions when right whales are detected. New for 2021 is the use of real-time assessments to inform decisions on whether to reopen areas to fishing or extend these limits.
To minimize the effect of closures on lobster and crab fishermen, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to fund and permit the expanded use of ropeless fishing systems. This technology allows fishermen to remotely trigger their gear to come to the surface with fewer or even none of the vertical lines in the water column that entangle whales.
Pew is encouraging Canada to invest in staffing, equipment, and other resources for marine mammal emergency response teams, which investigate injured or dead whales and provide vital scientific information to inform management. Pew is also asking the U.S. government to follow Canada’s lead in taking swift, effective measures to reduce the risk of whale entanglement in U.S. waters and implement emergency fisheries closures.
The right whale population has declined by an estimated 100 animals since 2010, and today only 70 breeding females remain. That, coupled with increases in the deaths of females and injuries to their young, is pushing the species perilously close to extinction.
“The U.S. and Canada still have a chance to save North Atlantic right whales, but they must act quickly and decisively to do so,” says Peter Baker, who directs Pew’s ocean conservation work in Canada and New England. “Both governments should continue to raise the bar to help this imperiled species while it still has a chance to rebound.”
First Dental Therapist in Maine
The first licensed dental therapist was hired in Maine in October, seven years after the state’s law changed to allow this new category of dental professional. Claire Roesler, who has a master’s in dental therapy from the University of Minnesota, works at the Penobscot Community Health Care’s Dental Center in Bangor, which strives to increase access to health care for those who need it most.
Dental therapists are comparable to physician assistants in medicine and can undertake many of the most commonly needed dental procedures, such as fillings and placing temporary crowns, while freeing up dentists’ time to focus on more complex procedures like root canals. Dental therapists can help expand the number of professionals able to provide dental care to underserved communities, and today more than 100 organizations across the country support the practice of dental therapy.
For nearly a decade, Pew has promoted dental therapy as a sensible way to increase access to oral health care for people in need and has also supported licensing, practice requirements, and training standards for therapists. “Experiences across the country continue to demonstrate that dental therapy is a cost-effective way to increase access to dental care, and state legislatures continue to pass laws with bipartisan support acknowledging as much,” says Kristen Mizzi Angelone, senior manager for Pew’s dental campaign. “Dental therapists are a common-sense solution to expanding dental care, particularly across rural and other underserved areas.”
News Use Grows on Social Media
As social media companies struggle to deal with misleading information on their platforms about the election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and more, a large portion of Americans continue to rely on these sites for news. About half of U.S. adults (53%) say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes,” and this use is spread out across a number of different sites, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in September.
Among 11 social media sites asked about as a regular source of news, Facebook is at the top, with about a third (36%) of Americans getting news there regularly. YouTube comes next, with 23% of U.S. adults getting news there regularly. Twitter serves as a regular news source for 15% of U.S. adults.
Other social media sites are less likely to be regular sources of news. About 1 in 10 Americans or fewer report regularly getting news on Instagram (11%), Reddit (6%), Snapchat (4%), LinkedIn (4%), TikTok (3%), WhatsApp (3%), Tumblr (1%), and Twitch (1%).
These lower percentages for news use are in some cases related to the fact that fewer Americans report using them at all, compared with the shares who use Facebook and YouTube. Considering news users as a portion of a site’s overall users, some sites stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, is used by 25% of U.S. adults, but over half of those users get news on the site regularly. And 42% of Reddit users get news regularly on the site, though it overall has a very small user base (15% of U.S. adults say they use Reddit). On the other hand, YouTube, though widely used, sees a smaller portion of its users turning to the site for news regularly (32%).
White adults make up a majority of the regular news users of Facebook and Reddit, but fewer than half of those who turn to Instagram for news. Black and Hispanic adults make up about a quarter of Instagram’s regular news users (22% and 27%, respectively). People who regularly get news on Facebook are more likely to be women than men (63% vs. 35%), while two-thirds of Reddit’s regular news users are men.
The majority of regular news users of many sites—YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and LinkedIn—are Democrats or lean Democratic. This may be related to the relatively young age profile of the news user base of these social media sites. No social media site in the study has regular news users who are more likely to be Republican or lean Republican.