Ocean Currents » Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Gulf Through the Eyes of a Child http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/#comments Sun, 16 Apr 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14170

We’re looking back on how the disaster has shaped our lives here on the Gulf Coast. We decided to revisit our 2015 interview with Calvin Love, my son, and one of the youngest contributors to our Postcards from the Gulf series. Calvin was six years old at the time of that first interview, and has since moved from his home on the bayous of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the salty air of the Alabama Gulf Coast where he is now able to more frequently enjoy the natural beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve invited him to share his story with us again, to understand how his perspective has changed over these years.

Matt Love: We last talked with you two years ago. What’s changed in your life since then?

Calvin Love: Now that I live in Fairhope, Alabama, I have friends nearby that I can play with without having to drive to go see them. I like biking to my friend’s house on my own. This summer I moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Fairhope so I can go to the beach whenever I want. The beach sand is really white here and I like to look for sand dollars and cool shells. I haven’t seen any sharks yet but I know they’re out there. For my seventh birthday we went fishing in the Gulf but we didn’t catch anything. I did see a sea turtle though, that was awesome!

ML: There’s a lot of money available to restore the Gulf after the oil disaster (over $20 billion, in fact). How would you spend that money?

CL: I would buy a bunch of fish and put them in little spots all around the ocean. I would buy clean water and put it in the ocean so the fish would have cleaner water. I would make all the people with boats put things on them so they didn’t leak oil into the water. I would have all the trash picked up that falls into the ocean.

ML: Describe one of your best memories of the Gulf.

CL: On my summer break I really liked going out with my aunt and uncle in the big boat with their dog Banzai. He is a big, hairy Golden Retriever. We went to Crab Island in Destin and swam with Banzai. There were a ton of boats all around with lots of people playing and swimming. On our way back we saw a dolphin from the boat and Banzai and the dolphin looked at each other. That was cool.

Calvin Love in 2015

ML: What gives you hope for the Gulf?

CL: I’m hopeful that people with the big boats will stop shipping oil across the Gulf. That people will stop catching too many animals and not kill whales and stuff like that. This gives me hope because people don’t want to keep cleaning up oil spills that’s not their mess.

ML: Thanks Calvin. I think you have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. You were two years old when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, and there is no question that your generation will be dealing with the trails left behind by decisions made before you. But now we are sitting together at a new beginning. We are embarking on one of the greatest scientific endeavors of our time, certainly for the ocean. It is our responsibility to help fix the things we’ve broken so you can thrive in a healthy, flourishing environment. It would be unfair to leave our mess for you to clean up. This broad Gulf restoration effort resulting from the oil disaster represents a contract between our generation and yours: to make the water cleaner, give nature a chance to provide more fish in the ocean and return those top predators you’re hoping to see out there. We are committing to provide that natural playground that supports your health and wellness for many years to come.

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Growing Up on the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/11/growing-up-on-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/11/growing-up-on-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14099

It’s been seven years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, and we’re looking back on how the disaster has shaped our lives here on the Gulf Coast. We decided to revisit our 2015 interview with Cole Kolasa, one of the youngest contributors to our Postcards from the Gulf series. At the age of 19, Cole has already been advocating for our ocean for nearly a decade. As a member of SCUBAnauts International in high school, Cole has studied corals on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and he has watched the BP oil disaster unfold as he grew up. We’ve invited him to share his story with us again.

Matt Love: We last talked with you two years ago. What’s changed in your life since then? What have you learned about the Gulf and/or the BP oil disaster since then?

Cole Kolasa: Since we last spoke I’ve made the transition into college and have been living on the opposite coast of Florida. Any time not spent at school is spent on the East Coast surfing or fishing wherever the conditions are good at the time. I’ve definitely picked up a few new favorite areas such as Matanzas Inlet and River, Mosquito Lagoon, and other various spots along the Indian River. I definitely miss the Gulf, and anytime I’m home I make sure I pay a visit to the “Nature Coast.”

Since we last spoke I haven’t heard too much about the oil spill. I did meet with some officials for our county’s water management system who told me that there were in fact dispersants added to the waters in our area meant to break down any oil that came into our area. At the same time there was a large decline in the coral population I was researching due to too much algae and invasive encrusting sponge growth. I’m not sure if the decline in coral health was due to the dispersants but it would’ve been useful information at the time of my research.

2015 Interview with Cole Kolasa

ML: There’s a lot of money available to restore the Gulf after the oil disaster (over $20 billion, in fact). How would you spend that money?

CK: I think I’d put it into making the coastal areas affected back to the way they were 100 years ago. “Re-Floridifying,” if you will. I hear stories from my dad and grandparents about the way things used to look like, and I wish I could see that today. So often now it seems that it’s hard to come by areas that haven’t been affected by development or other unnatural causes, and it’s been my goal to find those areas in the Gulf. That’s definitely one of my main goals for the upcoming kayak-packing trip I’m planning from Pensacola to South Florida. I know I’ll pass by some of the MOST developed areas along the Florida coast, but I’ll also see some of the least. I’m really looking forward to those moments.

ML: Describe one of your best memories of the Gulf.

CK: This past summer I was working a lifeguarding job close to the Gulf, and anytime I wasn’t working I was out fishing and exploring the nearby tidal creeks in my flats boat or kayak. There wasn’t a day I wasn’t on the water. I found some really interesting areas, met a lot of locals and new people, and really just felt like I was a part of these small coastal communities that dot the coastline. I really felt in touch with my surroundings and my little stretch of coastline I’ve grown up on.

ML: What gives you hope for the Gulf?

CK: Today you see a lot of people who are really starting to be interested in getting outdoors and exploring what’s around them. Maybe it’s just because I’m in college and meeting a lot of youthful people who are willing to take that initiative to get outside, but I really believe that more and more people are starting to pick up that kind of active lifestyle. That by itself will bring attention to the Gulf. More attention will mean more people will want to get involved and hopefully through that there will be more time and money put towards keeping our Gulf the way it should be, the old Florida way.

ML: Thank you Cole, for sharing your experiences over the last couple of years along the Gulf. I can’t help but think you represent a prominent cadre within your generation that recognizes and loves the quiet natural beauty still alive and well along the Gulf. I think you are right. There is a renewed interest and appreciation of the many benefits we now know these areas provide to our overall well-being. We owe it to all of you to emerge from the BP oil disaster with a path to provide long-lasting hope for sustaining a healthy future for the Gulf of Mexico.

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Why are Whales Stranding in the Gulf? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/10/why-are-whales-stranding-in-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/10/why-are-whales-stranding-in-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:00:56 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13592

In recent months, two young sperm whales stranded themselves along the coast of Louisiana. These events highlight the importance for quality health and diagnostic information for the marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. What could kill one of the greatest predators to ever exist on earth?

These animals are harmed by many of the same factors that harm us, like food scarcity, chronic exposure to pollutants, disease and a poor environment. For humans, we have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to control and prevent disease and injury. To operate effectively, the CDC relies on consistent and timely data gathered across the U.S. and beyond. Somewhat analogous to the CDC for marine mammals like dolphins and whales, the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program compiles data on diseases and the well-being of sick or injured animals.

However, there has been a long-standing problem with this program in the Gulf. Appropriately trained staff available to collect priceless data points to understand emerging health concerns, or who have the capacity to help recover a live whale or dolphin, have always been stretched thin. The limited support available to the diverse group of organizations that collect this information has caused problems with data consistency. Lack of consistency inhibits development of an effective database that enables detection of longer-term trends across the region.

But this situation is beginning to change in the Gulf. Much needed capacity is now growing thanks to investments resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and partnerships with aquariums in the region. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has provided grants to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to improve rehabilitation capacity and increase the ability to better assess long-term trends in Gulf populations from the condition of stranded animals. SeaWorld has formalized a partnership with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network to provide rehabilitation facilities in San Antonio along with providing additional diagnostic and veterinary capabilities.

Each of these investments is an important step in our ability to diagnose and solve problems that are harming these majestic creatures of the ocean. The Gulf of Mexico is blessed with a diversity of marine mammal species, and with the $144 million included in the BP settlement to help marine mammals recover from the BP oil disaster, we have a real opportunity to improve the health of these animals. However, we cannot claim to spend this money wisely to mitigate harm if we do not understand trends in their overall health. In other words, we can’t manage what we don’t know. To do this we must continue to capitalize on every opportunity to build a world-class network of trained response teams, diagnostic capabilities and epidemiology information systems. Without this capacity we severely hinder our ability to ensure these species are plying the oceans for generations to come.

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A Road Map for Ensuring BP Dollars are Well Spent in the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/01/a-road-map-for-ensuring-bp-dollars-are-well-spent-in-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/01/a-road-map-for-ensuring-bp-dollars-are-well-spent-in-the-gulf/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 13:56:56 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12541

For many people, buying a house or a car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. Which is why you hire an appraiser or mechanic to inspect that house or car before you sign the contract—you want peace of mind that it’s a good investment.

The principle is pretty much the same whether you’re spending $28,000 or $20 billion. Last year BP agreed to pay more than $20 billion to the American people to help recover from the impacts caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. This week the National Academy of Sciences published a report with recommendations that will help ensure the $20 billion is well spent.

The report walks through how to build a monitoring program that will ensure we are getting what we pay for when we invest in Gulf restoration projects, such as rebuilding important marsh and dune habitats that were devastated by the oil. Or, restoration projects that provide first responder services for bottlenose dolphins that are still exhibiting health problems from the oil. Or, projects that protect Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which were oiled in the disaster.

Just as auto manufacturers abide by industry standards of quality control to ensure automobile safety and efficiency, standards that have been developed over decades, so must scientists follow recommended standards for tracking the quality and effectiveness of restoration projects developed through decades of scientific research. This report provides those recommendations in a useful road map for the next 15 years of Gulf restoration.

It also acknowledges that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster was the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and we still have much to learn about how to restore the Gulf of Mexico from such a major disruption. The report’s recommendations ensure that we invest in a process of learning through these efforts and continue to improve as we go. This allows us to both track and account for the impact of investments we’re making now in the Gulf AND learn how to make smarter investments for the future. As the report describes, this is best accomplished by comparing a healthy part of the Gulf with areas that are currently under restoration and with impacted areas yet to be restored. This basic logic will allow scientists to figure out if what we’re doing to restore the Gulf is working, and if not, how to adjust.

While the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico happens to be much more complex than an automobile, it is the priceless engine for the health and economy of millions of people as well as the habitat and home of hundreds of species of marine wildlife. That’s why this investment in Gulf restoration is such an important one for the America, and we should do everything we can to make sure it is money well spent.

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Taking the Pulse of the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/01/taking-the-pulse-of-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/01/taking-the-pulse-of-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2015 20:08:12 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11135

Today Ocean Conservancy released a new report, Charting the Gulf: Analyzing the Gaps in Long-term Monitoring. As one of the authors of this report, I’ve had the privilege of collecting information and meeting with scientists from around the Gulf to compile a comprehensive view of their work, and it’s my hope that this will make the jobs of those scientists and other Gulf leaders much easier by providing a map of existing information for restoring the Gulf.

When the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in 2010, Ocean Conservancy recognized it was difficult to track the damage to our wildlife and wild places, because we lacked the baseline information to understand what a healthy Gulf looked like. From the biggest sperm whale to microscopic plankton, we have had a limited understanding of the patterns of marine life driving the Gulf ecosystem. Our new report highlights that missing information and outlines possible first steps in filling those gaps in our knowledge.

After compiling an inventory of nearly 700 monitoring efforts around the Gulf, we found some significant holes in the current system for tracking the status and trends of ecosystem health and integrity. First, the Gulf’s wildlife and habitats in the offshore environment are not monitored to the same degree as those in more coastal areas. And although we have a continuous forty-year record of satellite imagery available to track our changing shorelines, we have very limited data to understand the reasons why they are changing.

The most significant realization I experienced while creating this report was how little we currently invest in examining the health and vitality of the Gulf. The maps and timelines in our report outline the extensive monitoring that scientists do all around the Gulf and over many years, but in reality, across the 600,000 square miles of U.S. waters in the Gulf, there is little activity tracking trends in marine life. For example, a dot on a map like the one above may give the impression that we have a complete understanding of plankton at that location, but it may only represent a single net towed behind a boat for 30 minutes over the course of four months. That leaves a lot of time and area not surveyed for plankton, which are an important food source for the Gulf’s marine life. It’s crucial that we sustain a systematic approach to fill these gaps in our knowledge.

For successful restoration in the Gulf, we must invest a portion of the $26 billion available through settlements with BP and Transocean in long-term monitoring of this ecosystem that we rely on for our way of life. Just like a doctor needs a patient’s history to effectively prescribe treatment for an illness, we need a complete picture of the health of the Gulf of Mexico in order to restore this special place. If we take advantage of this opportunity now, we can better prepare to respond to future events like climate change and make more informed decisions about how we live with the Gulf. This report represents the positive direction we are heading in the Gulf, to enhance the network of science and data needed to understand this ecosystem that we depend on for work, fun and our way of life.

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Postcards from Florida http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:29 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10205

In honor of the 5-year memorial of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the next 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we will be releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the third of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards.  Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of months to see all of the postcards.

The headlines we often hear about the Gulf of Mexico can get you down, from oil disasters to ocean acidification and coastal pollution. But it gives me hope to see young leaders of the next generation recognize the value of sustaining a healthy Gulf. Cole Kolasa, a high school student on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is one of the young leaders of tomorrow, who I believe embodies the spirit of the next generation that will alter the course of history and begin to restore the actions of the past. This is what he has to say about his Gulf of Mexico. 

Cole Kolasa
Student at Hernando High School and Member of SCUBAnauts International
Brooksville, Florida

What do you love about the Gulf?

I have spent a lot of time on the Gulf, under the water and on the surface. I have done research on corals, sponges, small fish, collected lots of data on environmental parameters, and spent many hours in the water surveying and exploring the reefs.  The one thing I value the most about the Gulf is the education it has given me over the years. I don’t think I would be the same person without it.

How did you feel when the BP oil disaster began?

I remember feeling extremely surprised and helpless. I was shocked that there was a threat of such disastrous proportions towards our ecosystem that we really couldn’t control. I wondered what would happen to the corals, sea turtles, sponges, fish, and other marine organisms in my area. My father was put in charge for the preparations for if or when the oil threatened our area, and I remember watching the news and always discussing what we could do to defend our coastline and reefs from the invading oil. Fortunately for us it never affected our coast, however what if it were to happen again?

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

I think that there are endless opportunities for restoration in the Gulf. Over the past few years I have participated in coral restorations in the Keys, local cleanups on our coast, and I’ve even seen abandoned coastal areas turned into fully functioning estuaries blooming with life. Even though we avoided the oil spill in my area, we still are working to fix the damage that humans have done over the past several decades. I think that other communities can still do the same.

More blogs from this series:
Postcards from Alabama
Postcards from Louisiana

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BP: Return on Investment Includes Cost of Business http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/26/bp-return-on-investment-includes-cost-of-business/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/26/bp-return-on-investment-includes-cost-of-business/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:45:21 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9731

Every day we monitor the health of our economy through indicators such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ or S&P 500. We are able to understand the trends in our economy through the long-term values of these indicators. Decisions are made each day based on these trends and affect every aspect of our lives. Very few business leaders would dare conduct business without analyzing these indices.

The ocean is an important driver of our economy and a major player in our ability to thrive. It provides the oxygen we breathe. It controls the weather systems that produce our food and the marine systems that sustain much of the biological wealth of this planet. The health of the ocean is immensely important, yet we conduct business every day without knowing the changes or trends in the ocean’s health.

As the BP trial presses on this week, BP and other responsible parties should be on the hook for ensuring that the Gulf of Mexico recovers from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Gulf—like the global ocean—is critical to our economy. In order to track recovery, the resolution of this case should fund an monitoring system that tracks the health of the Gulf for at least 25 years.

When a disaster occurs like the financial crisis of 2008, we can understand its severity by looking at stock indices. When a disaster occurs in the ocean, like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we struggle to comprehend its severity, because we have no reliable indicators to recognize trends. Sadly, there are very few sustained, long-term monitoring programs  to track the health of our oceans.

Only by having a long-term, comprehensive monitoring system in place will we know if we are achieving desired goals. By tracking progress, we will be able to understand how restoration is performing, which allows for course corrections, and thereby reduces the risk of failed approaches. Any settlement intended to resolve BP’s penalty for harming the Gulf must recognize the requirement to monitor restoration in the context of the ecosystem.

Ocean Conservancy is working with scientists around the Gulf Coast, including members of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, the  Gulf Coastal Ocean Observing System and the National Academy of Science’s Gulf Research Program, to map out the current landscape of long-term monitoring programs that could serve as components to this comprehensive system. The goal is to help identify existing programs that maintain a long-term data record of resources that were ultimately injured by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. By incorporating existing programs, the cost and effort of monitoring the entire Gulf is much less daunting.

For a successful resolution of the BP trial, it’s critically important that funding is made available for this long-term monitoring.

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