Ocean Currents » Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:12:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 9 Great California Coastal Birding Sites http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/16/9-great-california-coastal-birding-sites/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/09/16/9-great-california-coastal-birding-sites/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 18:00:08 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6662

This article originally appeared at Audubonmagazine.org.

Whether novice or expert, birdwatchers in California delight in the avian abundance along the state’s coast. California also boasts the nation’s only statewide network of marine protected areas, providing not only gorgeous places to seek out a stunning diversity of birds but insurance that their most important breeding and feeding grounds have extra protection.

Below is a list of the top bird-watching spots at these “ocean parks,” plus highlights. Additionally, there is information about visiting, plus a link to where you can learn more.

1. Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area

Crescent City
Viewing site, interpretive panel on Pebble Beach Drive, just south of Point St. George

Originally inhabited by the Tolowa Dee-ni’, California’s northernmost coast boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in the state and is dotted with Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas. A wide range of bird species live and migrate around nearby Lake Earl, and the profusion continues at sea, where exposed rocks and underwater ledges make up the St. George Reef. Reaching the protected area requires a boat, but visitors can experience similar conditions from the safety of the shoreline just south of the point, where Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge sits.

The refuge is a modest 14 acres, yet it supports several hundred thousand seabirds each year. Take a spotting scope to Pebble Drive from February to mid-April to catch the dawn fly-off of Aleutian cackling geese. Observe one of the largest breeding populations—100,000—of common murres making their nests along the island’s cliffs. Castle Rock is also home to three species of cormorants, pigeon guillemots, Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets, Leach’s and fork-tailed storm-petrels, and tufted puffins.

More info: fws.gov/humboldtbay/castlerock.html

2. South Humboldt Bay State Marine Recreation Management Area

Park along the South Spit or at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Visitors come from all over the world to watch the birds of Humboldt Bay. More than 250 species—and world-class views—make the bay, a global IBA, endlessly enjoyable. Peak season for most species of waterbirds and raptors is late fall through mid-spring. Aleutian cackling geese, Pacific brant, and migratory shorebirds have a shorter window, peaking from March to late April. In summer birders can find terns, cormorants, and pelicans as well as resident egrets, herons, and migratory songbirds, including various warblers, sparrows, and swallows.

The very best way to birdwatch on the bay is by kayak (for rentals, check with Hum-Boats, on Woodley Island). Close to the protected area is the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in southern Humboldt Bay, offering an interpretive center that describes local Humboldt Bay habitats and wildlife. Visitors can also view birds from the South Spit, one of the two peninsulas separating Humboldt Bay from the Pacific. Because tides have great influence on which birds are seen when, make sure to check the tides before going.

More info: blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata/south_spit.html and fws.gov/humboldtbay/

3. Point Reyes State Marine Reserve

Marin County, between Tomales Bay and Bolinas Lagoon
Travel via Highway 1, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard or Point Reyes/Petaluma Road

Guidebooks refer to Point Reyes as a little piece of “civilized wilderness.” The point, a global IBA, is just 35 miles north of San Francisco, but the sense of remoteness is a world away from the bustle of the city. Approximately 470 bird species have been noted in Point Reyes National Seashore, a unit of the National Park Service. Many of those have been very rare visitors, far off course during their spring or fall migrations, but the birding can be rewarding at any time of year. The Point Reyes Bird Observatory is located in the southern portion of the park and offers mist-netting demonstrations, a nature trail, and monthly trips to various locations around Marin County. Additionally, visitors can fish, kayak, ride horses, camp, or stay at the park hostel.

More info: nps.gov/pore/index.htm

Read about six more great birding sites on the California Coast at Audubonmagazine.org.

Photo credits for slideshow:

  1. Tufted Puffin: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  2. Wandering Tattler: Dominic Sherony via Creative Commons
  3. White-faced Ibis: Linda Tanner via Creative Commons
  4. Peregrine Falcon: Juan Lacruz via Creative Commons
  5. Cassin’s Auklet: Duncan Wright via Creative Commons
  6. Black Turnstone: Michael Baird via Creative Commons
  7. Storm Petrel: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  8. Yellow-billed Loon: Len Blumin via Creative Commons
  9. Black Oystercatcher: Dick Daniels via Creative Commons
  10. Long-eared Owl: Gregory Smith  via Creative Commons
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Kayaking in Humboldt Bay’s Newly Protected Area http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/28/kayaking-in-humboldt-bays-newly-protected-area/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/28/kayaking-in-humboldt-bays-newly-protected-area/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 19:08:16 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6208

Humboldt Bay invites exploration. From the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary on the north end to the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the south, animal life abounds.

In the middle of the bay, two islands stand tall: Indian Island, the traditional center of the Wiyot people’s world, and Woodley Island, home to a marina that includes HumBoats, where kayaks and stand-up paddleboard rentals provide means to discover the bay.

In the northern end, kayakers and rowers regularly glide between oyster farmers and fishermen. Down in the southern end, more mystery exists – especially where a square off the bay’s southern peninsula was designated as a marine protected area in December 2012.

Read more at California’s Redwood Coast Blog.


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Protecting the Ocean: How Does Your State Measure Up? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/30/protecting-the-ocean-how-does-your-state-measure-up/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/30/protecting-the-ocean-how-does-your-state-measure-up/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 20:27:37 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5932

Northern California’s Lost Coast boasts three no-take reserves. caloceans.org

How well is your state protecting the ocean? If you live in Hawaii, you’re far ahead of the rest of us. If you live in California or the U.S. Virgin Islands, at least you have something to point to. But overall, as a new scientific ranking of states’ ocean protection shows, most have not taken adequate measures to defend America’s marine life. The report was issued by two leading marine science and conservation organizations, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue, and is the first-ever quantitative ranking of states’ protection of their ocean waters.

SeaStates: How Well Does Your State Protect Your Coastal Waters? measures how much of a state’s waters have safeguards against overfishing, oil drilling and other extractive uses. No-take marine reserves, in particular, get high marks for allowing ecosystems and related marine life to prosper. According to many marine scientists, as much as 20 percent of state waters should be set aside for the best results – currently, Hawaii is the only state in the country to have met that goal.

Marine protected areas don’t just create a safe place for fish to thrive – they ensure that coastal economies have a chance of remaining strong and serve to strengthen resiliency to sea level rise. When looking at the numbers, it’s clear that failing to protect enough ocean isn’t just a problem for states along the county’s edge. According to SeaStates, coastal counties include only 5.71 percent of the area in the lower 48 states but generate 35.54 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

That means that the 15 coastal states that lack any no-take areas could better serve their marine ecosystems and their local economies by protecting some of their waters.

“Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for their fishes and marine mammals, or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected. But most states in this report get a score of zero and only a handful are protecting even 1%. That’s not good enough when our oceans are facing grave threats like overfishing and pollution. America’s oceans and people deserve better,” says Dr. Sylvia Earle, president of Mission Blue. “The United States has a long way to go if we want to be a world-leader in marine conservation.”

Full report here.

Popular support for marine protected areas in California helped fully protect over eight percent of state waters. Hawaii is currently the only state to meet the scientifically recommended goal of 20 percent – most coastal states have none.


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How Eating Fish Heads Helps Your Sex Life (and your Brain, Too!) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/28/how-eating-fish-heads-helps-your-sex-life-and-your-brain-too/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/28/how-eating-fish-heads-helps-your-sex-life-and-your-brain-too/#comments Thu, 28 Feb 2013 18:54:22 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4792


Americans today have a tendency to be squeamish about our food. We generally prefer our dinner to no longer resemble the animal it came from. We mentally and physically divide the “good” parts from the “gross” parts. A recent “This American Life” episode horrified listeners by suggesting that it is possible that some calamari may in fact be pig bung.

But what if we adjusted our thinking? What if we revisited the cultures whose food we’ve adapted into this great melting pot of a country and noted how they did it? What if we could taste more and waste less? Now, I’m not suggesting you make a run for pig bung (although you should check out the podcast). No, we’re looking at an easier leap: the whole fish. More specifically, “The Whole Fish: How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier and Help Save the Ocean“, a new TED e-book by Maria Finn. (TED books are published by the same group responsible for TED talks.)

In discussing her guidebook, Finn pointed out the inherent contradiction between the world’s hunger problem and the amount of food wasted daily. Furthermore, Finn discussed the dubious habit of chucking the most nutrient-rich parts – the very parts, she explains, that provide “mega doses of omega-3′s, serotonin highs, increased stamina and all sorts of other benefits to ramp up your sex life and vastly improve your health.”

All over the world, using all the bits and pieces of seafood is common. Finn talked about how the Italians distill the remnants of anchovies into a golden liquid that is delicious on pasta, especially tossed with a little lemon. Diners don’t have to stare fish heads in the eyes, but can use them to make stock. “It’s not as funky as people think it is,” she continued, pointing out the trend among “super hip” chefs to utilize as much of the animal as possible.

Finn’s passion stems from her own time spent on fishing boats and working for Alaska’s Dept. of Fish & Game. She’s seen salmon run – she’s snorkeled with them, seen them spawn and die. She’s since left Alaska behind, but is now based on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, appropriately staying connected to the sea.

The rapid expansion of fish farms over the past several years threatens wild fish populations as disease increases and biodiversity falls. To this end, in addition to greater efficiency of food use, the most sustainable fisheries tend to be the healthiest: for example, the aforementioned anchovies, sardines, herring and wild salmon all present very healthy food options to consumers.

Unsure what to do with sardines? Pop’em on some toasted bread with goat cheese and arugula, Finn suggests. You can make fish “bacon” out of salmon skin, fish “salt” out of bones – the more local the better. Buying tilapia from your neighborhood fisherman means cleaner water and healthier fish than buying it imported from China. Finn eschews anything that’s been vacuum-packed. “Freshest is best,” she says. “I virtually never eat shrimp.”

“The Whole Fish” offers recipes from 25 chefs along with Finn’s unique tales of adventure. Suggestions include really easy “starter” ideas and more labor-intensive ones as cooks graduate to using the whole fish with greater confidence. Less waste, more taste, plus better health, an improved environment and a sexier life overall? It really does sound like the whole deal.

More about Maria Finn and The Whole Fish.


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Ocean Conservancy’s “Hero of the Sea” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/24/ocean-conservancys-hero-of-the-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/24/ocean-conservancys-hero-of-the-sea/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 21:16:34 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4378

Kaitilin Gaffney at the Museum of Art and History during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup in Santa Cruz, California.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, our teams work hard to ensure protection of marine wildlife because that’s what we believe in doing – but being recognized for our successes is always a wonderful thing. In just-announced news, Blue Frontier Campaign has officially deemed our former Pacific Program Director Kaitilin Gaffney a “Hero of the Sea” for her accomplishments in helping establish California’s marine protected area network. Along with Karen Garrison, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s oceans program, Kaitilin will be honored at a May, 2013 ceremony at the Carnegie Institutionin Washington D.C.

Kaitilin and Karen’s dedication to ensuring implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, originally passed in 1999, resulted in 16 percent of the state’s waters – and the vast varieties of ocean wildlife within them – being protected for now and future generations. The process was never easy, but their dedication to it never wavered. John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources said of the pair, “They were incredibly successful in persuading others to their view because they listened to people’s concerns, and worked with them to find solutions that worked for all…their contribution to our blue ocean and to the communities that depend upon it is monumental.”

“Heroes of the Sea” is part of Blue Frontiers’ Peter Benchley awards, which celebrate outstanding achievements that lead to the protection of our coasts, oceans and the communities that depend on them. Benchley is most often remembered as the author of Jaws, but his passion for saving sharks and protecting ocean ecosystems is his true legacy. Read more about Peter Benchley, Kaitilin Gaffney and the other award winners on Blue Frontier’s website.

After 13 years with Ocean Conservancy, Kaitilin Gaffney, Pacific Program Director, left her position to pursue new career opportunities by joining Resources Law Group – but just as her championship of California’s coastal waters has provided long-lasting ecosystem protection, so her impact on her colleagues continues. We’re so proud!


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California Celebrates 19 New Underwater Parks, Completes First Statewide Network in Nation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/19/california-celebrates-19-new-underwater-parks-completes-first-statewide-network-in-nation/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/19/california-celebrates-19-new-underwater-parks-completes-first-statewide-network-in-nation/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2012 07:10:59 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3927

The brand spanking new Double Cone Rock State Marine Conservation Area. Photo Credit: Kip Evans/Ocean Conservancy

Each day, many of us do small things we hope will benefit the ocean. We bring our own coffee mug. We pack our groceries into cloth bags. We wash our cloth napkins in cold water and buy our detergent in bulk. We bring our own to-go containers to the sushi spot – and we always order our fish based on what’s sustainable.

But the ocean is in trouble, and needs more than individual efforts for deepened protection. In California, efforts to restore the state’s depleted fish populations resulted in the Marine Life Protection Act, which passed the legislature back in 1999.

Today, the California network – the first in our nation – finally becomes complete: The North Coast marine protected areas go into effect. From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, the fish, birds, mammals and plants that depend on the dynamic habitats of the California coast now have a series of reserves and conservation areas that will allow their populations to recover where needed and protect them from depletion in the future. Not only is this good for the sea creatures, but a thriving ocean benefits all of California, from the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries to all aspects of the state’s tourism-dependent economy – people come to California to see the ocean, be awed by the magnificence of migrating whales, explore the glowing tide pools along our beaches, delight in barbecuing lingcod, fresh-caught or bought off the docks.

The Central Coast was finished first in 2007 and includes gems such as Point Arguello, home to tunas and rockfish, and critical for the recovery of southern sea otters. The North Central Coast followed in 2010, establishing greater protection for remarkable places likePoint Reyes, home to 45 percent of North American bird species. South Coast marine protected areas went into effect in 2012, creating safe places for ocean wildlife to thrive in iconic places including Big Sur and La Jolla.

The journey from inception of the Marine Life Protection Act to completion of the state network wasn’t easy, but along the way, we learned. Scientific studies highlighted the importance and success of marine protected areas around the world. Economic analysis helped broker compromise, where necessary, between commercial fishermen and ocean advocates. The state’s relationship with tribal citizens evolved dramatically – particularly in the North Coast, where ensuring historical tribal gathering could continue uninterrupted was a focus of every discussion. Joint efforts between tribal representatives, state elected officials, regional stakeholders and California’s Department of Fish & Game resulted in tribal use being incorporated into marine protected area regulations.

The North Coast is also notable for being the only region where all stakeholders – commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, birders, tribal representatives, conservationists, educators and harbor masters – agreed on a single proposal. Again, along the way, we learned.

The 19 new North Coast underwater parks span from just south of Fort Bragg up to the Oregon border and cover about 13 percent of the region. They include Pyramid Point’s rugged coastline; Point St. George Reef, home to the second largest nesting seabird colony south of Alaska, and waters at the mouth of waterways such as Ten Mile River that are critical for salmon and steelhead populations.

Efforts to solve the ocean’s problems must include the big steps as well as the small – but all matter. Today and in the future, we can celebrate the great achievement of the Marine Life Protection Act by visiting California’s beaches – picnic foods packed in reusable containers, stainless steel water bottles filling our cloth tote bag. And as we relax, we can admire the birds, seals, anemones and other sea life that make our ocean so amazing, and rejoice in the greater protection they’re now provided.

Watch a slide show celebrating California’s new underwater parks.

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Sunset Magazine Calls California’s New Ocean Parks “A String of Pearls” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/16/sunset-magazine-calls-californias-new-ocean-parks-a-string-of-pearls/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/16/sunset-magazine-calls-californias-new-ocean-parks-a-string-of-pearls/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2012 18:56:47 +0000 Jennifer Savage http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3242

One of Southern California’s most renowned dive and snorkel sites, La Jolla Cove’s protected area has recently been expanded.

Globally, marine protected areas aren’t new — but they are news! And in California, the first state to adopt a network along its entire coastline, residents and visitors alike are exploring these fabulous ocean parks. Sunset magazine recently took note:

A new park system is being formed—but not where you think. It’s underwater. And in 100 years, this could be viewed the way the establishment of our national parks is seen today. In 2012, California will complete the nation’s first-ever statewide network of marine protected areas, which will preserve kelp forests, reefs, and tidepools in sanctuaries scattered down the coast like a string of pearls, maintaining them for divers and kayakers as well. Iconic spots like Cape Mendocino and the Point Reyes Headlands will get new safeguards, and docents are even being trained to give tours. Other states are catching on too—and we hope this means our entire coast will be protected in the years to come.

Download the Sunset Magazine PDF here.

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