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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

I'm Thankful for Quality Science: A Roadmap for Polar Bear Conservation

Posted November 26, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled “40% decline in polar bears in Alaska, western Canada heightens concerns,” detailing a population study of the southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population from 2001 to 2010. Why am...continued

This Week in Whales Focus: NGOs Petition the Mexican President to Save the Vaquita in Advance of Major Decision

Posted November 21, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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For years, people have been working furiously to save the vaquita—a small porpoise species found only in the northernmost part of the Gulf of California. Today, fewer than 100 individuals remain and they are declining at a rate of 18.5...continued

European Union and Norway Promise Additional Actions to Protect Polar Bears

Posted November 11, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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On Sunday, November 9, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals adopted a Norwegian proposal to list polar bears on Appendix II of the Convention, which requires Norway and other members to enter into agreements that...continued

This Week in Whales: Obama Creates Largest Marine Reserve; IWC Votes Against Japan's Antarctic Hunt; Newborn Killer Whale Spotted in WA...

Posted September 25, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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This week marks more than just the return of This Week in Whales. We’re also cheering President Obama’s creation of the largest fully protected marine reserve in the world and the birth of the first killer whale in Washington waters...continued

We Need President Obama to Save Whales from Navy Exercises

Posted July 25, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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This week, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched a petition drive asking President Obama to protect whales from deadly sonar and explosives. It’s action the world’s marine mammals desperately need. At home, the Navy is engaged in exercises that...continued

Navy War Games May Be Disrupting More than Just Animals in Hawaii

Posted July 21, 2014 by Zak Smith in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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The Navy’s day-to-day training activities wreak havoc on the marine life unfortunate enough to be nearby. This is doubly true for their war games. And now, whales and dolphins may not be the only mammals impacted, as the latest...continued

We've Waited Long Enough: The US Must Act to Save Whales and Dolphins from Dying in Foreign Fishing Gear

Posted July 2, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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  Each year, more than 650,000 whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals are caught or seriously injured in fishing gear around the world. Entangled in nets, wrapped in fishing lines, or snagged on fishing hooks, these animals either drown or...continued

Polar Bears Candidate for International Protection as a Migratory Species

Posted June 12, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Last week, Norway submitted a proposal to give polar bears greater protection through the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (known as “CMS”). If the members to the convention accept Norway’s proposal at their 11th...continued

Serious Questions about Canada's Trade in Polar Bear Skins Trigger Review by International Body

Posted May 8, 2014 by Zak Smith in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Last week I was in Veracruz Mexico for an Animals Committee meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)—the international organization tasked with managing trade in endangered species. At the meeting, the Animals Committee decided to open...continued

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

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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