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Zak Smith, Attorney, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Santa Monica

Zak Smith

I grew up in two areas that have a lot in common but couldn’t be more different: Whitefish, Montana, and Yucca Valley, California. Whitefish is a small town, nestled in the northwest corner of Montana, next to Glacier National Park. It sits on a beautiful lake at the base of Big Mountain Ski Resort. I spent my teenage years in another small town, Yucca Valley, at the southern border of the Mojave Desert, next to Joshua Tree National Park. While both towns are small and rural, next to beautiful national parks, their environments are stark contrasts – forested mountains with rivers and streams in Montana and cactus-filled valleys and arroyos in southern California.

College (UC Berkeley – Go Bears!), grad school (Johns Hopkins), and law school (UCLA) brought me to urban environments, where I explored history, international economics, and environmental law. Along the way, I found my way to NRDC and enjoy working on issues that make a difference, from saving endangered wildlife and wild places, keeping all of our footprints (not only carbon) as small as possible, and being smart about our limited resources. I do my part by working to protect whales and dolphins from dangerous noise pollution (including sonar) and polar bears from extinction.

Recent Posts

This Week in Whales: Monday Victory for Anti-Whaling in the Antarctic; Tuesday Sanctions Against Iceland for Whaling; Wednesday US Navy Implicated in Mass Stranding of Whales in Greece; Thursday Noise Guidelines for Shipping Industry; What a Week!

Posted March 31, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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The best way to start a week is with a victory—on Monday, the ICJ ruled that Japan’s whaling program in the Antarctic is illegal. Despite the ICJ’s lack of enforcement power, Japan has already indicated that it will abide...continued

This Week in Whales: Video of Conflict Between Sea Shepherd and Japanese Whalers; Manitoba May Protect Belugas from Shipping; Dolphin Megapod Migration Filmed by Drone...

Posted March 7, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Video has been released of the frightening run-in last week between crew members aboard a Sea Shepherd ship and two Japanese whaling vessels. The confrontation comes as Japan’s whaling season draws to a close and just weeks before the...continued

This Week in Whales: Sea Shepard Toes Off Against Japanese Whaling Fleet, Killer Whales Peacefully Surround Kayaker, Romanian Politician Proposes Equal Rights for Dolphins...

Posted February 26, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Two Japanese harpoon ships spent hours aggressively intimidating a crew of conservationists earlier this week. This is a repeat offense by Japanese whalers, one of which I mentioned in a post at the beginning of the month. The Sea...continued

This Week in Whales: Another Mass Dolphin Die-Off in Peru; Ice Age Was Bad for Killer Whales; Sea Shepherd Proclaims 2014 Best Year Ever...

Posted February 6, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Around 400 dolphins washed up dead on Peruvian beaches last month—officials are conducting necropsies, but the cause of death remains unconfirmed. A similar mass stranding occurred in Peru in 2012, with over 800 dolphins washing up in the north...continued

This Week in Whales: Oh Snap! NRDC Takes NMFS and the Navy to Court; Japan Still Embracing Tradition of Killing Dolphins; New Amazonian River Dolphin...

Posted January 30, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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On Monday, NRDC filed suit challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Navy for their authorization of Navy training and testing activities over the next five years in Southern California and Hawaii. The Navy is authorized to inflict about...continued

Seafood Choices: Lots to Consider, Many Tools

Posted January 15, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Last week, NRDC released a report on how whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are killed or seriously injured around the world after getting entangled, trapped, or hooked in commercial fishing gear, Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals...continued

A Side of Dolphin with Your Shrimp Cocktail

Posted January 7, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Researchers estimate that around the world more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine mammals are killed or seriously injured every year after getting trapped, entangled, or hooked in commercial fishing gear. While U.S. fishers and foreign fishers...continued

Whales and Dolphins in Southern California and Hawaii Are Put on Notice by Feds

Posted December 16, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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The federal government has given the U.S. Navy the final green light to inflict millions of instances of harm on marine mammals in Southern California and Hawaii over the next five years, including thousands of instances of permanent injury...continued

This Week in Whales: Pilot Whale Stranding in Florida Everglades; Mass Dolphin Die-Off on East Coast Continues; New Zealand Shafts Maui's Dolphins; Obama Administration Does Something Good...

Posted December 11, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Eleven short-finned pilot whales have died after stranding in the shallow waters of the Florida Everglades—necropsies showed that they were emaciated and suffering from malnutrition. Pilot whale pods are notoriously tight-knit—often if one whale gets stranded, the other whales...continued

Feds Give Navy Green Light to Kill Whales and Dolphins

Posted November 14, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS aka NOAA Fisheries) has announced the finalization of rules governing the Navy’s activities along the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico for the next five years. In a Bizzaro-World move, with...continued

This Week in Whales: Japan is Hunting Some Dolphin Species to Extinction; Canadians Say No to Greenwashing; Wild Killer Whales Captured for Export to Sea Parks

Posted November 7, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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News in the world of whales this week (or close to it), presented by guest blogger Lauren Packard: The Japanese tradition of killing around 17,000 small cetaceans each year in Japan's coastal waters--made infamous by The Cove's depiction of the...continued

This Week in Whales: Peru Promises Crackdown on Dolphin Slaughter; Researchers Identify New Humpback Dolphin Species; Dolphins as Muses for Innovation...

Posted October 30, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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News in the world of whales this week (or close to it): The recent release of horrifying, graphic footage of Peruvian fishermen slaughtering dolphins to use as shark bait has prompted promises from  Peruvian officials to crackdown on the inhumane,...continued

This Week in Whales: Dolphin Carnage in Peruvian Shark Fishery; Female Killer Whales Get Menopause; Shipping Noise Threatens Whales in British Columbia...

Posted October 24, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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This week in whales (or close to it): There are two layers of wrong with this story. First, an undercover journalist has released footage he shot on a Peruvian shark fishing boat showing fishers harpooning, slaughtering, and butchering dolphins to...continued

This Week in Whales Focus: Have Some Dolphins Reached a Breaking Point?

Posted October 17, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Something bad is happening in the ocean. No one's certain what's causing it, but in the past three months more than 550 bottlenose dolphins have stranded along the Atlantic Coast and there's no indication that the strandings are letting...continued

This Week in Whales: Why We Love Whales; Dangerous Oil and Gas Exploration Planned Off Coast of South Africa; Humpbacks Are a No Show After British Columbia Sardine Fishery Collapses...

Posted October 16, 2013 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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My colleague Joel Reynolds recently wrote a poignant response to the oft-asked question: why do people care so much about whales? The answer is complicated, and essential to everything I, along with NRDC's entire Marine Mammals team, do every...continued

About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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