Ocean Currents » Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 We Did Something Bold http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:00:21 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13967

Today, Ocean Conservancy took a bold step.

I am proud to let you know my friend and colleague Janis Searles Jones has stepped into the role of Ocean Conservancy’s CEO as I assume the role of President. This mutual decision was unanimously endorsed by Ocean Conservancy’s Board of Directors.

Yes, this is unusual. But we live in unusual and uncertain times. The current U.S. political climate poses a challenge to the ocean and coastal communities, to put it mildly.  We need to be at our very best.  This move allows Janis and I to focus on what we do best. It builds on the extraordinary partnership that we have shared over the past four years here at Ocean Conservancy. Janis’s passion for our field work and conservation programs, extensive litigation and strategic experience, deep domestic policy knowledge and expansive networks makes her the best leader an organization could ask for as we navigate these uncharted waters.  I have had the privilege of leading the organization through a significant period of international growth. I will continue to prioritize this work in my new role with a focus on expanding Ocean Conservancy’s international climate work, cutting-edge fisheries management tools, and our global efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean.

Another change we have made to our senior leadership team is the promotion of Emily Woglom to Executive Vice President. Emily has been a key team member at Ocean Conservancy for seven years, first leading our government relations team, then expanding her role to provide strategic management of many of our programs—including growing our international plastics work.  Her domestic policy experience and ocean knowledge is vitally important as we respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.  In her new role Emily will apply those talents to help shape the decisions we need to make as we look to develop and add to our strengths in a new political reality.

The future belongs to the optimists. We have just passed the two-month marker on the Trump administration. We are witnessing significant rollbacks on hard-won progress made under several Republican and Democrat leaders. While the challenges may seem unsurmountable, we at Ocean Conservancy are optimistic and hopeful. We are part of a wide and deep movement that shares our values of fairness, community and environmental stewardship. Our work remains grounded in the belief that the ocean and the people that rely on it transcend political parties and partisanship. Our new leadership structure is going to enable us to meet the challenges ahead in the US political landscape and take advantage of the opportunities internationally to expand our work.

Together, we will face the challenges in our path with grit, integrity and optimism. We continue to be smart and strategic about the big picture and little details. And no matter who holds sway in Washington, D.C. at any moment in time, we know the real power lies with the people.

You—our ocean champion—are our greatest strength. As Ocean Conservancy starts this new chapter, we are going to need you more than ever. We will continue to rely on your passion and commitment to weather the storms. We are going to win some, and we are going to lose some. But we stand strong. We will adapt. We will invest in the future in every action we take.

I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve accomplished together over the past four years. I could not be more excited to work with Janis as CEO in my new role as president. I invite you to celebrate this new path with us, and join us as we advance our common mission of protecting our ocean.   

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We Are a United Front for Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/09/we-are-a-united-front-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/09/we-are-a-united-front-for-our-ocean/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2016 21:00:43 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13304

This is a hard post for me to write. Our country is exhausted after one of the most contentious campaign cycles in modern history. We now have a President-elect, Donald J. Trump, after an election season that leaves many Americans extremely unhappy and a nation deeply divided.

As a nonprofit organization, Ocean Conservancy does not support or oppose candidates for elected office. But now that the results are in, we can assess what it means for you as someone who loves the ocean, and what this means for Ocean Conservancy as an organization who works on your behalf.

The next four years will not be easy. It is going to be challenging to heal these rifts in order to move forward.

Personally, I was deeply troubled by the divisive tone and fearmongering that characterized the Trump campaign. There were attacks on people’s race, creed, color and religion. Those attacks are in sharp contrast to Ocean Conservancy’s core belief that we are all created equal and deserve respect, regardless of differing views.

I am also alarmed by the candidate’s track record on environmental issues. His false statement that climate change is a hoax is perhaps the most troubling indicator of how the new administration will approach one of the most critical challenges to our planet. In 2016 we should not have to persuade America’s leadership that climate change is real and happening all around our country and the world. We are already experiencing tremendous shifts in our ocean and particularly in places like the Arctic, as a direct result of climate change.

And I have grown increasingly concerned about many of the staffing choices being made by the Trump transition team on environmental issues. The Trump transition now includes key staffers who are widely known to believe that we should dramatically increase oil and gas drilling, and should roll back the bipartisan efforts of critical agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

What does this election outcome mean for our ocean?

As advocates that care passionately about our ocean and leaving a healthy planet for future generations, we must continue to speak up and present a united front in favor of smart, science-based solutions.

Let me assure you that Ocean Conservancy will continue to take the high road. Deep in our organizational DNA is the belief that protecting our ocean is truly nonpartisan. Despite the challenge ahead, we will work together with our partners and supporters to find solutions that protect people and our blue planet.

Some of our greatest accomplishments on behalf of our ocean took place under George W. Bush’s presidency—strengthening the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the establishment of the Northwest Hawaiian Marine National Monument, which was the world’s largest marine protected area at the time it was announced in 2006. Those legacies have, in large part, continued under President Obama.

While we will always strive to work with a new administration regardless of a President’s party affiliation, we also won’t back down from a fight if the health of our ocean is at risk. We will stand strong for our issues, stand strong for our causes and stand strong for our supporters who entrust us to work on these issues.

We will not back down. Ocean Conservancy reaffirms our commitment to protect what matters: thriving coastal communities, sustainable fisheries to feed America and the world, healthy productive marine life and our ocean that weathers this and future storms with strength, beauty and resilience.

We need you to stand strong too—with us.

Together, we are stronger.

Together, we are a united front for our ocean.


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Big Ocean Wins = Big Opportunities http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/28/trash-has-kept-us-busy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/28/trash-has-kept-us-busy/#comments Fri, 28 Oct 2016 14:41:56 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13218

This has been a busy season for ocean conservation. 

Last month, we celebrated when President Obama announced the world’s largest marine protected area in Hawaii, which was quickly followed by the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

We then hailed important announcements made at the 2016 Our Ocean conference, including a commitment by Ocean Conservancy and our Trash Free Seas Alliance® partners to raise an additional $2.75 million to improve waste management in rapidly developing economies in Asia Pacific, as well as Dow’s pledge to dedicate $2.8 million to tackle marine debris.

And thousands of you around the world took action to tackle this growing threat to our ocean by joining Ocean Conservancy’s 31st International Coastal Cleanup, where we also launched our new Clean Swell app.

We closed September with an exciting development to keep trash and plastic out of our ocean through a high-level session held in conjunction with an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Tokyo that focused on making waste management projects more financially attractive. The event was co-hosted by the Government of Japan and the U.S. State Department, with the support of China and Russia and additional support from Ocean Conservancy and the Trash Free Seas Alliance®. I was honored to participate in substantive discussions with representatives from major corporations, civil society organizations and government officials. Ocean Conservancy underscored the importance of seeking solutions to marine debris on land, acknowledging that comprehensive, modern waste management systems are critical if we are to succeed in stemming the tide of plastic entering our ocean.

Ocean Conservancy is thankful to have the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to further identify land-based solutions for marine plastic debris in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“It will take action on many fronts to deal with the growing menace of marine pollution,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of GEF. “In collaboration with UNEP, the GEF will invest some $2 million dollars for land-based solutions to ocean plastics as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance® and the New Plastics Economy initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This investment will inform an integrated approach of both upstream and downstream pathways for reducing marine debris across the entire plastics supply chain, moving toward a circular economy.”

All of this coupled with forthcoming research from the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, represents an important step toward the goal of reducing plastic waste leaking into the ocean annually by 50% by 2025.

It is important to find hope and celebrate progress. I hope you are as excited by these recent achievements as I am–all of which wouldn’t have been possible without your support. Thank you.

I’d like to end with these words from President Obama, who spoke about global conservation challenges at the Our Ocean conference: “We can solve this problem, we just have to have the will to take collective action.”

Ocean Conservancy has been at the forefront of this global challenge for more than 30 years. Together, we will find and solve the ocean plastic crisis. We’re committed to working with all of you to take action to get to a future of trash free seas.

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An Ocean Perspective for a Planet at the Crossroads http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/07/an-ocean-perspective-for-a-planet-at-the-crossroads/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/07/an-ocean-perspective-for-a-planet-at-the-crossroads/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 20:50:11 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12805

A conversation between Ocean Conservancy’s CEO Andreas Merkl and Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and navigator of the iconic Hōkūle‘a, as Hawaiʻi hosts the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

With a shared passion for our ocean, Merkl (@AndreasMerkl) and Thompson spoke about experiencing unparalleled beauty on the water, the plague of plastic pollution in our ocean and the importance of bringing people together to find solutions.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society and Ocean Conservancy will be part of an International Coastal Cleanup organized by the U.S. Department of State in James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on September 9, 2016. For over 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has rallied the world’s biggest single-day volunteer effort on behalf of the ocean through the International Coastal Cleanup. (Please click here if you’d like to sign-up to cleanup on September 17, 2016.)

The following was edited for clarity and length.

Andreas Merkl: We are both ocean people because we really want to be, but it is rare to see anybody who is as connected as you are. Being as deeply connected to the ocean as you are, how do you square both happiness and sadness when it comes to the issues it faces?

Nainoa Thompson: My draw to the ocean is because I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it because of just the infinite beauty of life itself. It was the definition for me.

Through my journey around the world, we’re recognizing how much we’ve hurt the earth. We made a trip to Palmyra, sailing eleven hundred miles, a number of years ago, and we didn’t even get a single [fish] bite. It was like an empty ocean. We get a sense of the life not just by what’s in the oceans but by what’s in the air, the seabirds. It’s just clearly diminished.

AM: You have that visceral sense that it has been degraded, that there’s fewer fish, fewer birds. I’ve heard this from other sailors as well, lifelong sailors with many crossings, that say that sometimes there’s a sense of dread and loneliness that they feel now, because it seems so depleted.

NT: Yet when we got to the southern tip of Madagascar and the coast of South Africa, oh my God, it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever had.

AM: It’s teeming?

NT: It was like “Avatar” truly. There was so much bioluminescence. You could see so much. You could actually see small fish pass through the waters at night. It was just amazing. Then you get up to Cape Town, and it’s just teeming with those super pods of whales. We’ve seen the brilliance of life, too. We’ve seen just the amazing, amazing power of the ocean in certain spaces. We’ve also seen the emptiness.

AM: Tell me about what you actually see out there in terms of plastic pollution.

NT: What’s good about the deck of the canoe, because we’re not sailing with instruments, it requires the navigator to constantly be observing. They’re looking at the surface of the oceans all the time. It depends really on the conditions of the ocean to see plastics. If it’s windy and rough, they could be there, you just can’t see them. I’ll tell you, when you come in close to some of these countries, and I don’t want to blame any of the countries, but it’s pretty appalling, the amount of stuff that’s just thrown into the ocean with no regard.

AM: The science shows about 8 million metric tons a year going into the ocean. We’re putting as much plastic in as we’re pulling tuna out. There is already one hundred and fifty million tons in there. In ten years or so there will be two hundred and fifty million tons unless we do something.               

You spend a lot of time talking to leaders. I know that you had Ban Ki-moon on your boat. You talk to senior officials in the countries that you go to, and heads of state. Do you also talk to them about really concrete action?

NT: Many times what I do, like with the United Nations, it’s really trying to make connections between organizations and working with the leaders to try to bring some kind of larger unity to the movement of things like the Pacific Islands and the health of the ocean,  climate change, and all these kinds of issues. I’m trying to convene, and I’m trying to bring people together. I think that’s part of the equation to really have success.

AM: What is your journey for the next eleven months?

NT: Once we reach Montreal, we will start heading south towards Florida, and once we are in the Caribbean, we’re looking for inspiring stories as we make our way toPanama. In the Pacific side of Panama, we’re going to go out to at least Cocos Island, Galapagos, probably Ecuador. From Ecuador we go down to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to Polynesia. Then we go to Pitcairns, Marquesas. Then down to Tahiti.

The voyage home from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi is really a mechanism to unify Pacific leadership around the key issue of protecting the oceans.

You need to come with us.

AM:  I would love to!


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On World Oceans Day, A View from the Top http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/07/on-world-oceans-day-a-view-from-the-top/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/07/on-world-oceans-day-a-view-from-the-top/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 01:29:18 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12225

A conversation with Bertrand Piccard, the scientist-adventurer currently on the American leg of his global solar flight on the Solar Impulse 2, on the view from 28,000 feet, how we nearly turned our ocean into a dump for nuclear waste and win-win solutions for a healthy planet. We spoke on the eve of World Oceans Day.

The following has been edited for clarity and length.

• The potential of innovation
• A critique of the environmental movement
• People have put plastics into our ocean
• An almost radioactive ocean

Andreas Merkl: I’m curious. When you’re up there flying, is it a perfectly quiet experience? Or is it the rumble that you get in a typical soaring airplane?

Bertrand Piccard: You have a little whistle of the electrical motors. The carbon fiber makes a little bit of cracks here and there. You feel a little bit of vibrations. But compared to a normal airplane, it’s really quiet. When I fly this plane, I have the impression to be in a story of science fiction. I look at the sun and I know it’s my only source of power, and it’s coming down to leave me energy to continue the flight. Each time I look outside and I say, “It’s really magical.” And I look the propellers turning, I see these huge wings on my left and my right, and I think, “I’m crossing oceans.” It’s reality, actually. It’s not science fiction. It’s magical. It’s like a fairy tale.

Read the entire blog at NationalGeographic.com

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An Ocean of Thanks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:00:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11105

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.

Join me in celebrating a few of the ocean successes we’ve seen over the past year:

  • Ocean plastic is now on the top of the international agenda, and we’re on the way towards an action plan to reduce ocean plastic by half.
  • The $20.8 billion BP settlement for their Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 is based on real science, on transparent governance and contains essential provisions for ocean health and science.  Things are looking good for the Gulf.
  • The Arctic regulatory environment is now configured in a way that post-Shell, new exploration in U.S. waters in the next decade is almost impossible. Things are looking better for the Arctic.
  • The International Coastal Cleanup celebrated 30 years. For three decades, Ocean Conservancy has inspired millions of volunteers around the world to clean up their coastlines. Last year, an astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash — equivalent to weight of 38 blue whales. Things are looking better for our beaches.
  • We have pioneered a far better way to make ocean planning decisions in New England and the mid-Atlantic, and the first wind farm is a direct beneficiary of that.
  • We’re blazing new trails in figuring out entirely new approaches on how to think about commercial fishing.

None of these remarkable victories could have happened without you. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean.

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We Can Solve the Ocean Plastic Problem http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/30/we-can-solve-the-ocean-plastic-problem/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/30/we-can-solve-the-ocean-plastic-problem/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:24:41 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10799

Today, Ocean Conservancy released a major report: Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean. We think it’s a big deal. It squarely addresses one of our biggest worries: the avalanche of plastic that cascades into the ocean every year.

It’s getting really bad. Practically every kind of animal, from plankton to whales, is now contaminated by plastic. It’s in the birds, in the turtles, in the fish. At the current rate, we could have 1 ton of plastics for every 3 tons of fish by 2025.

This is nobody’s plan. It’s not the plan of the plastics industry, it’s not the plan of the consumer goods industry and it’s certainly not the plan for those of us who love and need the ocean. Nobody wants this.

The problem is born on land. Most of the plastic originates in rapidly industrializing countries whose waste management infrastructure is lagging behind. This is a typical phase of development that all countries go through. The problem is simply that the enormous utility of plastic, combined with the explosive economic growth of Asia and Africa, combine to yield an enormous flow of unmanaged plastic waste into the ocean.

This was originally posted on Huffington Post. To read the rest of this blog, please click here.

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