Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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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.

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We Will Stand Up for the Ocean–and That Means Standing Up for Science

Posted On November 29, 2016 by

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog.

During this bruising presidential campaign, there was an eerie sense that we had moved into a post-truth world, with fake news circulating on Facebook and the veracity of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump continually called into question. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries just declared “post-truth” its 2016 international Word of the Year.

But for me personally, facts really matter.  It’s why I’m a scientist. 

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4 Reasons the California Bag Ban Makes Us Smile

Posted On November 16, 2016 by

Last week was a tough one for many around the nation. The 2016 election season reached a stressful conclusion last Tuesday night and considerable uncertainty remains about where our nation is headed and what the future holds. Last week my home state of sunny California gave me something to celebrate: voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, 52 percent to 48 percent. Here are four reasons I’m smiling over this news!

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Eelgrass and Ocean Acidification: California Takes Action

Posted On October 3, 2016 by

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.

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Entangled, Eaten, Contaminated

Posted On January 12, 2016 by

A comprehensive assessment of trash on marine wildlife 

There is a vast sea of trash in our oceans. For the first time, we now have a comprehensive picture of the toll it is taking on seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

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Concerns About Genetically Engineered Salmon

Posted On December 1, 2015 by

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.

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Inspiration at 30 Feet

Posted On November 20, 2015 by

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.

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Another Brick in the Wall: Plastics in the Seafood We Eat

Posted On September 24, 2015 by

Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

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.

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