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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Paul Hobi

Paul Hobi is Ocean Conservancy's Pacific Outreach Coordinator based in San Francisco, California. As an avid surfer and scuba diver, Paul enjoys the special sense of camaraderie shared between ocean goers. This year, he has dedicated to learn how to make jam at his mother's home in California's central valley.

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Slideshow: Yesterday’s Ocean: A History of Marine Life on California’s Central Coast

Posted On August 19, 2013 by

Prolific underwater photographer Marc Shargel has released a new publication on California’s sea life: “Yesterday’s Ocean: A History of Marine Life on California’s Central Coast.” Using present-day images and archival photographs, this booklet tells the story of Central California’s boom-and-bust relationship with ocean fisheries over the past three centuries.

As fishermen in the past discovered, the ocean is not without its limits. In “Yesterday’s Ocean,” Shargel shows that after short, intense periods of exploitation, stocks of otters, abalone and sardines became much harder to find. As one species was depleted, another was targeted.

Continue reading »

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Good News: Protecting the Ocean Pays Off

Posted On April 23, 2013 by

Bait ball around kelp in Channel Islands

Around the world, people are discovering that protection of the ocean in coastal areas makes sense both for the environment and the economy. Marine reserves, much like the network that was just completed off of the coast of California have been highly beneficial to local economies, sometimes in as little as five years.

Evidence of these positive results was recently published by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and Ocean Conservancy Board Member, Enric Sala and seven colleagues in a study entitled, “A General Business Model for Marine Reserves.” The study shows that protecting biodiversity can create economic benefits through increased tourism, enhanced fisheries value and/or maintenance of ecosystem services.

Among the numerous findings, Sala noted that “what we showed with the modeling is that a reserve’s value can be greater than its pre-reserve value in as little as five years. So reserves not only have ecological benefits in terms of protecting biodiversity, but they are also a good business.”

Continue reading »

Fishing for Data: How a Day on the Water is Aiding Scientific Success

Posted On February 28, 2013 by

Credit — Kip Evans

When volunteer anglers aboard the Huli Cat bait a hook trying to catch a rockfish, they’re not just fishing – they’re helping researchers learn more about California’s underwater parks. Recreational fishermen, SCUBA divers, PhD scientists and graduate students are working together to study California’s marine protected areas (MPAs), and results from their studies are being presented this week in Monterey.

Five years ago, California completed its network of MPAs on California’s central coast. This anniversary is being marked with the State of the California Central Coast Symposium, which brings together scientists, resource managers, policy makers, fishermen and conservationists to learn about new findings from dozens of monitoring efforts and discuss perspectives on MPA management.

Early results suggest that the reserves are on track, allowing fish like cabezon and lingcod to grow larger and more abundant inside MPAs, with habitats that are more biologically productive. This, along with steadily increasing revenues for fishermen, is good news for the Central Coast MPAs. However, researchers stress that these first five years of study are meant to create a baseline: a barometer of ecological health against which future MPA performance can be measured. So, how exactly are these reserves being studied? It turns out that monitoring is both sophisticated and wonderfully simple.

One great example of this is Dr. Rick Starr’s California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP), which uses local charter fishing boats to monitor four MPAs. Volunteer anglers from the local fishing community team up with graduate students by fishing for rockfish while painstakingly recording the weight and species of every fish they catch and release. They’ve caught over 40,000 fish in the past five years, and have noted how great the fishing is by the relative abundance of some species inside the MPAs.

Another monitoring project is Reef Check, which teams PhD researchers up with citizen scientists who strap on SCUBA gear to survey shallow and deep rocky habitats, kelp forests, rocky shores, estuaries, beaches and other key ecosystems along the central coast. They monitor ecologically and economically important species of fishes and invertebrates, and human activities including fishing and recreational use.

One consistent theme in these studies is that citizens of the coast are vital to the success of the marine reserves. Volunteers have been involved in scores of monitoring and outreach projects. Citizen science efforts like MPA Watch have trained hundreds of volunteers to monitor beach and coastal use in and around protected areas like Natural Bridges and Año Nuevo.

Save Our Shores’ Dockwalker program is another great example of an organization working with coastal citizens to help the MPAs. The Dockwalker program shares information with boaters and fishermen about MPAs, and conducts ocean protection workshops in local schools. In turn, schools are making visits to the underwater parks part of their outdoor education program, because in addition to enabling kids to watch wildlife in nature, many now feature full-color educational interpretive displays and instructor programs.

From school children looking to learn more about marine life to fishermen looking to catch more fish, California’s new marine protected areas are an investment in the future. By studying them with the assistance of citizen volunteers, we are learning about the full range of benefits they provide to marine ecosystems, and becoming better stewards of these places in the process.

California Underwater Parks Day is January 19th

Posted On January 17, 2013 by

Credit: NOAA

The first month of the year is perhaps the best time to experience California’s ocean at its finest – which is why the 5th Annual Underwater Parks Day on Saturday, January 19th is a great reason to hit the coast and enjoy one of over 100 new underwater parks, which protect entire ecosystems at iconic coastal areas such as La Jolla, Point Reyes, and Point Lobos. To find an event near you, we’ve included a full schedule of events by region linked below.

It’s already been a busy month for California’s new underwater parks. Grey whales are traveling south along the coast to lagoons in Baja, California where they will give birth to calves. Some preemies and their mothers are already showing up off the coast of Los Angeles and San Diego, delighting whale watchers.

Further north, in Piedras Blancas and Año Nuevo State Park’s marine protected areas, male elephant seals are engaging in their spectacular, violent mating rituals, while females are giving birth to a new generation of pups. Continue reading »

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Slide Show: Exploring California’s New Underwater Parks

Posted On December 20, 2012 by

Dive in above for a closer look at California’s recently completed statewide network of underwater parks, some of the species they protect, and the people that are enjoying them.

Over 120 new parks now dot the California coast, protecting habitat-rich areas and iconic locations like Point Reyes, La Jolla, Point Lobos, and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. These parks have the potential to restore abundance to depleted areas, and ensure a healthy ocean full of fish for the future.

Read our in-depth look at the nation’s first statewide network of underwater parks here.

Researchers Find Resilience Inside Marine Reserves

Posted On July 27, 2012 by

After a die-off, pink abalone populations inside of the Isla Natividad marine reserve in Mexico bounced back faster than abalone outside of the marine reserve. Credit: Channel Islands NMS

An exciting new study of pink abalone in Isla Natividad, Mexico sheds light on the ability of marine reserves to make the ocean more resilient to disasters.

Scientists from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station teamed up with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad to study a patch of ocean that was hard hit by two large die-offs related to recent hypoxic events, periods of low dissolved oxygen in the water. They compared fished areas to nearby marine reserves, with startling results: Continue reading »

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Momentum builds for shark conservation

Posted On July 3, 2012 by

Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year to fuel the global fin trade, but recent developments suggest momentum is building for shark conservation. Credit: hermanusbackpackers flickr stream

This week has been full of good news for sharks. Today, the Chinese government announced a prohibition on serving shark fin soup at official state banquets. Though the ban will take up to three years to implement, it marks China’s first official proclamation against the delicacy that claims tens of millions of sharks annually.

Yesterday, Illinois became the first inland state in the US to prohibit the shark fin trade. Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and California have all recently enacted bans on the fin trade, showing that attitudes towards shark fin are quickly changing. Far from protesting this shift, Illinois’ Chinese community is embracing it:

Tony Hu, owner of five restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood…is one of many people in the restaurant industry that are in favor of the Illinois General Assembly’s move to ban the possession of shark fins. Hu only serves it at one of his five Chinatown restaurants, but has already prepared new menus that leave the dish off.

These two recent developments show a crucial shift in consciousness, coming after a string of victories for shark conservation in 2011. We will continue to keep you updated as the fight against shark finning continues.