Photo: Thomas Jones
Plastic in our ocean — I think we can all agree this isn’t a good combination. The question is what do we do about it? This year, Ocean Conservancy and our partners collected the largest amount of trash in the 28-year history of our International Coastal Cleanup. In that time, volunteers have removed more than 175 million pounds of trash, much of it plastic, from beaches and waterways around the world. From this first-hand experience, we know the problem is getting worse, and it goes deeper than you might think. The good news is this is a problem we can fix. It will require a new approach to how we deal with plastic pollution, but it is a global issue we can and must solve. Let’s consider the facts. In the next 25 years, ocean plastics could grow to 300-500 million tons, or about one pound of plastics for every two pounds of fish in the sea. So where does it all go? We can’t yet say for sure, but when plastic fragments into smaller, bite-sized pieces, we do know that it is being ingested by fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and a host of other ocean creatures. Because plastic particles adsorb pollutants in concentrations that can be 100,000 to 1 million times greater than that found in surrounding seawater, the implications to the health of marine life are profound and deeply troubling.
Read more at the Huffington Post
Last month, I was invited to speak at the Camden Conference in Maine. This conference brings experts from a number of disciplines together with policymakers, industry leaders and college students to discuss some of the biggest issues facing our world today. This year’s theme was “The Global Politics of Food and Water,” and I spoke about how the ocean sits at the nexus of these issues.
Right now, the ocean is in a period of uncertainty. Climate change and a growing population are changing the chemistry of the ocean and the life that calls it home. But instead of viewing the ocean’s changes in a negative light, I think we have an incredible opportunity to become better problem-solvers. We can break free from old resource management models to find new solutions for our changing ocean. We can effectively address these new complexities; it’s not too late.
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Terrapin Beach Park in Stevenson, Maryland
There was a time when the water of Chesapeake Bay would appear to boil, but it was actually millions of oysters ejecting filtered water. The bay’s waters, the old timers tell us, were crystal clear. But agricultural run-off and untreated wastewater flowed into the Chesapeake for years, fouling the water and making our nation’s largest estuary a shadow of its former self.
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) organized the cleanup efforts of six states within the bay’s watershed, including Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The efforts to limit pollution going into the bay included improving municipal wastewater treatment systems (known as point source pollution) and reducing agricultural runoff (known as nonpoint source pollution). Plans were in place, actions were being taken, and traction was being made.
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It’s a brand new year and I wanted to take just a moment to acknowledge YOU and all you have done to keep our ocean healthy. Without you, Ocean Conservancy wouldn’t have achieved all that we did in 2013, from the International Coastal Cleanup to Arctic protection and restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. We owe you an ocean of thanks for all you do.
You and I both know that our ocean faces increasing changes and pressures every day, from climate change and plastic pollution to fishing and increased oil and gas exploration. This year, Ocean Conservancy will tackle the most pressing issues to find new solutions for a changing ocean. I hope I can count on you to join me in these efforts.
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Photo: Kris Krug via Flickr
The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on Huffington Post:
It’s been more than three years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster grabbed worldwide attention. The explosive blowout that tragically claimed the lives of 11 workers on board the rig in April 2010 also unleashed an unprecedented amount of oil that flowed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The impacts have been staggering and ongoing.
BP’s actions to stop the oil, as well as how much actually spewed into the Gulf, were the subject of the second phase of BP’s trial in New Orleans, which concluded last week. The final phase of the trial will take place next year, after which the judge will determine the penalties. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know.
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Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy
The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views:
If we hope to meet the future resource demands of a growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us, we must put the ocean at the center of what we do. The ocean provides us with food, energy, transportation, carbon storage and more—it is truly our greatest natural resource.
Nowhere is this more true than in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is a national treasure and a significant driver of the U.S. economy, providing resources for food, recreation and livelihoods.
But the Gulf is still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster as well as decades of ecosystem decline. Restoring this region to health is the only way to ensure that we can enjoy its many benefits for generations to come.
That task lies in the hands of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which just released its “Initial Comprehensive Plan: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy.” This plan is intended to serve as a framework to implement a coordinated, Gulf-wide restoration effort using RESTORE Act funding. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something great for the Gulf.
The Gulf Council’s plan is another small but important step forward in Gulf recovery, but we aren’t there yet.
Click here to read the full post, including Ocean Conservancy’s recommendations for next steps.
Credit: Phil Wrobel / Photo Contest
It was just three years ago yesterday that President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing the National Ocean Policy. We’ve come a long way so far, and we are starting to realize the policy’s considerable promise.
As I’ve written about before, the National Ocean Policy and the subsequent Implementation Plan are historically significant. President Obama recognized that a healthy ocean is a productive ocean and thus established the policy to ensure that we work together to balance use and conservation.
This policy directly addresses the key challenge of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. The ocean, of course, is at the center of every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources.
Our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make a crucial difference in making this planet work for 9 billion people. As the ocean is asked to provide in so many ways, it is inevitable that we need to prioritize, coordinate and optimize. That’s where the National Ocean Policy—a set of common-sense principles to help protect our ocean resources—comes in.
This anniversary offers an opportunity to look ahead. Read more at National Geographic’s News Watch blog.