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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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About Greg Helms

Greg Helms works on fisheries, ecosystem protection and marine protected areas for Ocean Conservancy. A lifelong passion for water sports such as surfing and diving on both US coasts helped form Greg’s strong ocean conservation ethic. These two commitments result in terribly kinked phone cords and not-quite dry wetsuits around Ocean Conservancy’s Santa Barbara field office.

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Update: Forage Fish Protection Begins on the West Coast

Posted On May 4, 2016 by

I have another fin-tastic update for you, from the West Coast!

If you recall, about five weeks ago I wrote in gratitude over the outpouring of support from Ocean Conservancy activists, who together with other conservation supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking them to finalize protection for West Coast forage fish.

We said we’d get back to you on the final outcome and I’m happy to tell you about this victory! As of today, the final rule is complete and these fish will now be protected, and their immense importance to a range of predators from rockfish to whales to seabirds sustained.

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Thanks to YOU, Fish Conservation Swims Forward

Posted On February 19, 2016 by

Late last month, ocean advocates and supporters took action to help protect the base of the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystem by supporting a ban on commercial fishing on unmanaged forage fish in federal waters.  And, I was so excited to see that a tidal wave of Ocean Conservancy’s supporters took action, sending more than 17,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking for final approval of this important measure!

Since this campaign is joined by a number of ocean conservation groups around the country, NMFS has received nearly 100,000 total public comments on the issue.  WOW—that’s a big amount of support for such little (but important fish). So, thanks to YOU!

I bet you’re wondering about the outcome—did all of these messages have a BIG impact? Am I writing to tell you about a victory? Well, not quite yet! We won’t know the final outcome until perhaps springtime whether this measure will become law. Stay tuned—I promise to report back, when we have more information.

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UPDATE: California’s Refugio Oil Spill Larger Than Estimated

Posted On February 19, 2016 by

It’s like 16 trucks pulling up to the beach and dumping every drop of oil into the Pacific Ocean.

Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Controversy is brewing over just how much crude oil fouled pristine beaches and ocean waters in the Golden State as a result of the Refugio oil spill in May 2015.

On February 17, a preliminary factual report issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicates an additional 1,000 barrels of oil may have ended up in our ocean. This puts the total spill volume at an estimated 3,400 barrels or 142,800 gallons.

That’s like having 16 trucks pull up to the beach and dumping every drop of oil into the Pacific Ocean to spread towards unique and irreplaceable places like the Naples Reef State Marine Conservation Area and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Area, which was established to protect and celebrate the coastal culture practiced by Chumash Indians for millennia.

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Little Fish. Big Deal.

Posted On January 24, 2016 by

We’re making a very big deal about very little fish on the U.S. West Coast—and we hope you’ll do the same! These little fish, called forage fish, are crucial to the overall health of the marine ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean. These fish are important for the survival of seabirds, marine mammals, and bigger fish like salmon, halibut and tuna.

Little Fish. Big Deal. Take action today and let NOAA Fisheries know you support protections for forage fish.

Federal fishery managers are considering a proposed rule to protect seven groups of forage fish species in federal waters off the U.S. West Coast. This action would culminate a years-long process in which environmental organizations, fishery managers and ocean lovers have voiced support for safeguarding forage fish because of their importance to a healthy ocean.

Take action: A little bit of your time would make a big difference for the ocean food web.

Make your voice heard! NOAA Fisheries is only accepting comments for the next week, so please take action today, before the comment period closes!

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Aftermath of Santa Barbara’s Oil Spill: What’s Happening in the Marine Environment?

Posted On June 4, 2015 by

Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Nearly two weeks after a ruptured pipeline spilled 105,000 gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara, hundreds of tired and oil-soaked workers are still on site working to scoop, boom and skim what they can of the 21,500 gallons estimated to have reached the ocean. As the slick spreads on the surface, and more oil sinks beneath the waves, a complicated environmental, chemical and biological process is unfolding in the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. While every oil spill differs depending on local conditions, science and past history allow us to anticipate some of the long-term impacts to marine wildlife, habitats and communities.

Oil produced offshore of Santa Barbara is particularly heavy and thick, likely worsening the effects of external exposure to marine birds, mammals and fish.  These effects include smothering those animals that can’t move, and impairing the ability of some animals to insulate against cold water.  Marine birds that become oiled may lose the ability to fly, forage and feed their young. Highly mobile birds and marine mammals that frequent the ocean surface, where spilled oil initially collects, are especially vulnerable. They may be exposed to oil in one location only to sicken or die elsewhere.  The spill’s location in shallow, nearshore waters exposes a particularly rich array of wildlife and habitats to damage, including shorelines, sea grass, kelp beds, rocky reefs and kelp forests.

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Santa Barbara Oil Spill Jeopardizes the Golden Beaches of Our Golden State

Posted On May 21, 2015 by

When oil began flowing from a ruptured pipeline along the wild and scenic shoreline up the coast from Santa Barbara, California, the community’s coastal life flashed before its eyes:  thriving fisheries, popular and pristine beaches, teeming populations of whales and marine mammals, and a new network of protected areas set up to safeguard these coastal treasures.  The awful images of oiled beaches and sea life are appearing on our screens at a time when visitors are flocking to the coast for Memorial Day weekend.

Recreational and commercial fishing have been ordered closed in the wake of the spill. Fishing grounds along the rural coast west of Santa Barbara support a good deal of the harvest of some of California’s highest-value fisheries. Spiny lobster, red sea urchin and market squid are harvested along this coastline, and are among the top five commercial fisheries in California, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of fish and providing healthy seafood for local and distant consumers. Recreational fishermen ply these waters for calico bass, white seabass and halibut while enjoying the scenic surroundings and spending dollars locally. Surfers, scuba divers, beachgoers and whale watchers explore, play and spend in even greater numbers.

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California Ocean Day, A Little Day with a Big Message: Take Pride in the Ocean!

Posted On March 21, 2014 by

March 24, 2014, marks the seventh annual California Ocean Day, when Californians from all corners of the state flood the capital, Sacramento, to send a unified message: take pride in our ocean! Ocean Conservancy and numerous other organizations – along with dozens of volunteers, college students and passionate citizens – will spend the day meeting with legislators to discuss key ocean-related issues. The goal is to inspire decision-makers to support policies that protect and restore California’s 1,100-mile coastline, the state’s most recognized attraction and home to its richest natural resources.
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