News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About George Leonard
George Leonard is Chief Scientist at Ocean Conservancy. With a PhD in marine ecology, he works to advance science-based solutions to the big challenges facing the future of our oceans. A long-time scuba diver, George knew he wanted to be a marine biologist at the age of 12. During his graduate work, he logged over 600 dives studying the undersea world off California and the East Coast. You can follow George on Twitter at @GeorgeHLeonard.
What do eelgrass, the California state legislature, crabbers, and Ocean Conservancy have in common? They are all part of the solution in California’s remarkable actions this past week to address the threats that ocean acidification presents to California’s healthy fisheries, marine habitat and coastal jobs.
Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a pair of bills that will address the concerns over ocean acidification raised by oyster growers, crabbers and others who make a living off of the ocean.
Genetically engineered salmon: a turning point for the future of seafood?
If you care about your food and its environmental sustainability, you should be concerned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval, on Nov. 19, of a faster growing, farmed Atlantic salmon—the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. This new “GE” salmon presents significant environmental, policy, and consumer rights concerns, and the FDA’s action has potentially profound implications for the future of fish and sustainability of our oceans.The FDA approved an application by U.S.-based AquaBounty Technologies to commercialize its genetically modified salmon, a fish touted as growing twice as fast as regular farmed Atlantic salmon. This approval allows the company to produce genetically engineered salmon eggs in Canada, fly them to a land-based facility in Panama to grow the fish to market size, and then transport the resulting processed fish back to the United States for sale to consumers. This circuitous process is not the company’s long-term business model, however, as AquaBounty has signaled it would like to farm its GE salmon close to population centers in the U.S. and indeed throughout the world.
This post originally appeared on Vox Populi, the opinion department of Dartmouth Now. To read the rest of this article, please click here.
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.
Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
If you have been reading my recent posts, you have noticed that I have been discussing the emerging science on plastic pollution in the ocean and exploring what we need to do to stem the tide. It started in February, when a groundbreaking study showed that 8 million tons (nearly 17 billion pounds) of plastic flows into the ocean each year, mostly from a small number of Asian nations where local waste management can’t keep up with rapidly growing plastic use. Then scientists estimated that nearly all the worlds’ seabirds will be contaminated by plastics by 2050 unless conditions don’t change. And a study published only days later showed that half the globe’s sea turtles are likely to suffer the same fate. Today, we need to think carefully about the latest study, showing that plastics can be found in many of the fish that we eat. We don’t yet know if eating plastic-laden fish negatively impacts our health, but today’s study is another brick in the growing wall of scientific evidence that demonstrates that plastics are a major threat to the global ocean and ultimately, ourselves.
Olive Ridley sea turtle. Photo by: Matthew Dolkas.
I got a kick out of Groundhog Day, the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that was released in 1993. With Murray waking each day to relive Groundhog Day alongside Punxsutawney Phil and his co-anchor, the movie was lighthearted and fun. But the science of ocean plastic pollution is starting to feel a lot like Groundhog Day. And the storyline is becoming much more troubling with each new publication.
This week a new study in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology calculates that over half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic; this follows on the heels of a publication last month by some of the same scientists that predicted that nearly all of the world’s seabirds would be contaminated with plastics by 2050 unless action is taken soon. With each new publication, the case for a global strategy to stem the tide of plastics into the world’s oceans becomes ever more vital.
You have likely seen the pictures of albatross chicks chocking on plastics. These images are tough to look at and the death these birds suffer from ingesting plastics is gruesome and painful. Albatross consume a whole range of plastics that float in the ocean, from cigarette lighters, to toothbrushes to shards of plastics from a huge variety of other plastic products. As a conservation organization, Ocean Conservancy is deeply troubled by the impact of plastics on these magnificent birds. But how pervasive is this problem, really? A new paper in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS gives us a disturbing answer. It turns out plastics in seabirds is a very big deal. It is global, pervasive and increasing. And it has to be stopped.