The Blog Aquatic

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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Catherine Fox

Senior editor Catherine Fox has a keen ear for storytelling and seeks out the most compelling people, science and news to inspire fellow ocean conservationists. Her ocean connection began with a childhood spent fishing, kayaking and swimming along Virginia’s Rappahannock River, which flows to Chesapeake Bay and on to the Atlantic. Catherine lives in Herndon, Virginia, and her most recent saltwater adventures include learning to sail.

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Cleanup Volunteers Find Weird and Wacky Trash on Our Beaches

Posted On August 21, 2012 by

Volunteers found this chic wardrobe accessory during the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup in Washington, D.C., along the Anacostia River. Credit: Lucian Fox

A grand piano. A fifty-two-pound bag of dog hair. Chandeliers and kazoos, lawn chairs and lottery tickets. These are just a few of the crazy things discovered along lakes, rivers and the ocean’s shores over the past quarter-of-a-century during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Tracking trash
Volunteers tally every item they pick up during the Cleanup, and Ocean Conservancy publishes the results in the annual Ocean Trash Index.

That information helps identify which items are showing up where, so we can take steps to stop ocean trash at the source. The official data card includes space to record 52 different things, from small cigarette butts and balloons to big household appliances.

And then there’s the section where volunteers jot down their “weird finds.” Continue reading »

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Appreciation: Writer Jean Craighead George Shared Her Love of Wild Places, Including the Arctic

Posted On August 20, 2012 by

Writer Jean Craighead George immersed herself in nature. Photo courtesy of Wendell Minor.

Enthralling descriptive writing that brings wild places and creatures to life is one of the things that moves us to save them. It’s what’s made writers from Thoreau to Rachel Carson to E.O. Wilson so inspiring. As a 12-year-old growing up on a Virginia farm, I found that very inspiration in the writing of Jean Craighead George.

George, who passed away recently at the age of 92, has been called one of America’s greatest nature writers for children.  Her novel “Julie of the Wolves” let me see the Arctic through the eyes of a young girl lost in the frozen landscape who survives by joining a family of wolves.

The image of Julie and her wolf pack often comes to me as I contemplate how we can save the incredible place they called home. Recently, I opened this wondrous book yet again. It had helped spark my early fascination with wild things—and with the Arctic. George forged a connection for me with a place I’ve never been, a connection that has remained vivid for decades.

Continue reading »

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Dreaming of Swimming with Sharks? Start with “the Domino”

Posted On August 17, 2012 by

High on my bucket list: a swim with sharks. And if I’m going to be up-close-and-personal, my first pick is to be introduced to the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark.

Nicknamed “dominoes,” these guys may grow to more than 65 feet over their long lives. To give you some perspective, recall the feeling you get standing next to the bulk of a school bus, typically less than 40 feet long. Now imagine being in the water with a whale shark. I’m thinking the wow factor is huge, especially after viewing this video.

The IUCN lists these gentle giants as “vulnerable.” Long sought after for their fins, (finnning has caused many shark populations to plummet), the good news is that whale sharks are now a growing draw for tourists. And there’s quite an emphasis on responsible practices when it comes to tours that offer swimming with whale sharks.

Hopefully, increasing awareness and appreciation of both their role in the sea and their ecotourism value for many coastal communities will give a new meaning to the term “domino effect,” and these beauties will thrive long into the future rather than facing a cascading population decline from finning and other threats in their ocean home.

I have to admit that I’m attracted by the fact that they’re slow-moving in a dreamy sort of way. And that they live in beautiful warm waters like Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Besides, who can resist meeting a critter with polka dots? I think I’ll be moving this item up on my bucket list.

Video found on Sensory Ecology.

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Why We Need Aquanauts and Other Ocean Researchers

Posted On August 16, 2012 by

Imagine a space station built to explore the incredible universe beneath the sea: An underwater lab where marine scientists could literally immerse themselves in research on ocean life. How cool would that be?

As the many scientists who have worked at the Aquarius Reef Base can tell you, very cool. It’s a little known fact that the United States has been home to the only such research lab in the world for 50 years. You can experience life in Aquarius by watching the above video from One World One Ocean. Continue reading »

What’s Your Shark IQ?

Posted On August 15, 2012 by

These hammerheads may be easy to recognize, but our shark trivia questions below could stump you. Credit: Naomi Silver.

How much do you know about sharks? Test your knowledge with our short quiz:

Which shark is the fastest?
When it comes to speed, shortfin mako sharks are like the Roadrunner, clocked at more than 30 miles an hour in pursuit of prey but suspected of zooming along even faster.

True or false? Sharks have a sixth sense.
True. A network of small, jelly-filled pores along their snouts called the ampullae of Lorenzini pick up on the electrical fields created by the contracting muscles of a swimming fish or a beating heart. This helps sharks locate prey buried in sand. Continue reading »

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5 Questions with Cartoonist Jim Toomey

Posted On August 15, 2012 by

Jim Toomey says he works alone, but muses Sherman the shark and Fillmore the sea turtle beg to differ. Photo courtesy of Jim Toomey.

Jim Toomey, who says two of his favorite things to watch on television as a kid were “Peanuts” and Jacques Cousteau programs, offers up inspiring messages about ocean conservation along with plenty of quirky humor in the comic strip “Sherman’s Lagoon.”

Sherman, a great white shark, shares undersea adventures with his pals including camping in a kelp forest and surprising encounters with ocean trash.  Countering the traditional fear factor around sharks, Sherman is “Homer Simpson with fins,” says Toomey. We called the cartoonist to find out more. Continue reading »

Olympians of our Ocean: Check Out This Sea Turtle Marathon

Posted On August 13, 2012 by

Can’t see the video? Try refreshing your browser.

Thirteen competitors from six countries (USA, Costa Rica, Panama, Nevis, Mexico, Guyana). A race of hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles through the ocean. Crowds of spectators cheering for their favorites. The Tour de Turtles 2012 has begun!

Pearl, Shelldon and Lady Marmalade number among the marathoners, each massive creature swimming to raise awareness for a cause near and dear to a sea turtle’s heart, from turtle egg consumption to longline fishing and oil spills. This annual event by the Sea Turtle Conservancy and may partners may not be televised, but you can  meet the turtles, track their migration and root for turtle conservation online.

Most of what we know about sea turtles comes from studies on land. Thanks to satellite tracking and the Tour de Turtles, researchers are finding out a lot more about their life at sea. When it comes to sea turtle conservation, that’s a win worthy of a gold medal.