This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for the dedicated champions of ocean conservation.
Two of them—Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—will receive Presidential Medals of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House today.
Maryland native Senator Mikulski has always been committed to ocean and coastal issues, especially in efforts supporting the Chesapeake Bay. She has served in Congress since 1977 and in her long and storied career, has always been elevated ocean conservation, taking a strong stance on issues like sustainable seafood and fighting for federal investments to support ocean conservation, science and research. Senator Mikulski was a powerful ally for the ocean as the first female Senator to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. We do not doubt that her service will inspire the next generation of champions.
This has been a good year for the ocean. The hard work of ocean advocates — like you —has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it.
A couple of weeks ago I went on a mackerel fishing trip out of St. Petersburg, Florida, with a 35-year commercial fishing veteran. It was a beautiful day and there was the slightest tinge of autumn out on the Gulf of Mexico, and we quickly caught the day’s order of Spanish and King mackerel. Heading back through John’s Pass I asked my friend, who also fishes for Gulf snapper and grouper, how business has been and without missing a beat he said “The last two years have been the best of my career.”
We did it! You asked our Gulf leaders to restore the Gulf beyond the shore, and they heard you! When the details of the $20.8 billion settlement were released last month, more than $1 billion was set aside to restore the open ocean.
But there’s a catch…the Trustees charged with restoring the Gulf have proposed to take ALL of their federal overhead expenses for the next 15 years out of the open ocean fund. That funding is critical for restoring Gulf wildlife in the deep sea, where an area 20 times the size of Manhattan remains polluted with BP oil!
I looked up just as the water above me darkened. Within an arm’s length, a massive whale shark passed over my head, its tail methodically propelling it forward. I caught its improbably small eye looking intently at me as it glided past. Directly behind came a second whale shark and then another.
But I wasn’t swimming in the ocean – I was 30 feet below the surface, at the bottom of the 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium. As a marine scientist, I’ve logged a lot of dives in places from tropical reefs to temperate kelp forests. But I’d never been this up close and personal with the world’s biggest fish. In the wild, whale sharks can grow to 40 feet and nearly 50,000 pounds; those at the Georgia Aquarium are a relatively “small” 25 feet in length.
Ocean Conservancy spoke with Claudine Hauri about her publication this week in Nature Climate Change on the future impacts of ocean acidification on the Southern Ocean, the body of water surrounding Antarctica and the southern tip of South America. Claudine is a postdoctoral fellow at the International Pacific Research Center of the University of Hawaii and Research Assistant Professor at the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and focuses on how physical, chemical and biological systems influence variability of ocean acidification and carbon cycling in the ocean.
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began over five years ago, various settlements with BP and Transocean have given way to a veritable alphabet soup of restoration processes: NFWF, NRDA, RESTORE, NAS and so on. Each process has its own set of funding and restrictions, which can exhaust the many dedicated people who are engaged in restoration with multiple sets of public meetings and comment periods. But the fish and crabs and wetlands in the Gulf don’t care where the money comes from to restore their health and their habitats.