Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


About Sarah van Schagen

As senior writer, Sarah is responsible for crafting inspiring stories about Ocean Conservancy’s work. Before moving to the nation’s capital, Sarah lived in Seattle, where she spent her weekdays writing bad puns for Grist.org and her weekends volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium. When she’s not wordsmithing and comma-wrangling, she can be found exploring D.C. and wishing it was closer to the ocean.


Ocean Conservancy Donor Henry Gorecki Plans for Legacy of Support

Posted On May 4, 2013 by

Lakeshore State Park, Wisconsin

Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin                                             Photo: Good Free Photos

As a certified financial planner who owns his own investment firm, Henry Gorecki is in a unique position to advocate for enduring support of the causes you care about. “You have to have a plan for what may happen to your assets when you die,” Gorecki explains. “If you don’t, the state and federal government have a plan for you.”

Gorecki’s own plan includes supporting Ocean Conservancy long after he’s gone; it’s a cause that’s always been close to his heart. Water has figured prominently in Gorecki’s life since boyhood, when he and his family spent idyllic days swimming and picnicking on Wisconsin’s inland lakes.

“Growing up in Milwaukee, there were many reminders of the importance of the lake in our lives,” Gorecki says. “My dad and I used to take long walks along the lake, and the beauty of the cliffs on the shoreline is vivid for me to this day.”

Gorecki also recognized early the connection between his beloved Lake Michigan—one of the largest freshwater bodies of water on the planet—and the ocean. “I used to see the big boats on the St. Lawrence Seaway with names that reflected their country of origin,” he recalls, “so I knew from a young age that my Lake Michigan was connected to the wider world.”

Henry Gorecki

Henry Gorecki

The idea of seeing the lake or the ocean polluted or full of trash moves Gorecki to act. He does his part globally, through his support of Ocean Conservancy, and also locally, spending occasional weekends picking up the trash in his neighborhood. His passion to eradicate trash stems from his boyhood memory of the first Earth Day and a Madison Avenue advertising campaign featuring Native Americans saddened at the idea of a beautiful landscape marred by litter.

“I’m a firm believer that if you respect yourself, you’ll respect the environment, too. I want my commitment to encompass the whole world. That’s why I support Ocean Conservancy.”

Still living near Lake Michigan, Gorecki, an avid runner, appreciates the famous “lake effect” weather. “Sometimes I’ll be running,” he says, “and there will be a fog curtain because the temperature drop near the lake is that dramatic. Near the lake, it’s warmer in winter and cooler in summer. With climate change, we risk losing that natural temperature adjustment.”

Gorecki is hopeful that others will follow in his footsteps and leave a legacy of support for causes that are important to them.

“I encourage people to do what I’ve done and include Ocean Conservancy as a beneficiary of their retirement plan assets, one of the most tax-wise gifts. As I tell my clients: ‘Think about your legacy and the causes that were important to you in life and include them in your plans.’”


“Midway” Film Tells Story of Plastics in Our Ocean Through Plight of Albatross

Posted On March 28, 2013 by

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Artist Chris Jordan is best known for his large-scale images that deconstruct huge numbers while making a statement about our mass consumption habits. For example, the tiny pieces of plastic in “Gyre” represent the pounds of plastic that enter the world’s ocean.

Jordan’s latest project, “Midway,” is a feature-length film that expands on the plastic pollution problem by focusing on the plastic fragments that fill up albatross stomachs as they try to feed in the open ocean. Scientists estimate that 4.5 metric tons of plastic arrive on Midway Atoll every year in the stomachs of the albatross.

The trailer includes some disturbing images of dead and dying birds, but as the narrator says, “Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?” We can only hope the answer is “yes.”


Re-Energize Your Home to Save Money, Energy and the Ocean

Posted On January 28, 2013 by

CFL lightbulb

Photo: derekGavey via Flickr

Whether you live on the beach or many miles from it, you can bring the ocean home by taking small steps to reduce your impact around the house. These tips to save energy, reduce waste and cut water usage will help keep the ocean healthy and may even save you money.

Here are four ways to re-energize your home:

  1. Use CFLs. When your old incandescent lightbulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (or CFLs), which use less power and last longer. These bulbs will also save you money over the long term by reducing your electricity bills. And don’t forget to recycle your old lightbulbs so they don’t end up in a landfill—or in the ocean.
  2. Slow the flow. Showers account for about 17 percent of in-home water usage. Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to keep water pressure up while cutting usage up to 70 percent and saving you money on your water bill.
  3. Use it, then defuse it. Did you know that some electronics continue to sap energy even when they’re not in use? Electronics like computers, printers, DVD players and even your microwave are common culprits—consuming power even in standby mode. You can save energy by unplugging these electronics when you’re done with them or when you’ll be away for an extended period of time. Installing a power strip is a great way to switch off multiple appliances at once.
  4. Tap it. Plastic beverage bottles are among the top three items found during beach cleanups around the world. You can help reduce that number by filling a reusable bottle instead. Use a filter to purify your tap water and save money in the process.

How to Keep the Ocean Healthy While Working Toward a Healthier You

Posted On January 14, 2013 by

a runner at the beach

Credit: puuikibeach via Flickr

Looking for some extra motivation to keep that resolution to go to the gym? How about saving the planet? It’s easy to incorporate small changes into your workout routine that will actually benefit our ocean’s health.

Here are four ways you can help keep the ocean healthy while working toward a healthier you:  Continue reading »


Celebrating a Big Week for California Coasts

Posted On December 21, 2012 by

Marin headlands shoreline and Golden Gate Bridge

Penny Harmeyer, Photo Contest 2011

California coasts—and all of the wildlife and people who enjoy them—are having “the best week ever.”

North Coast protected areas go into effect

Earlier this week, we celebrated the official completion of California’s statewide network of underwater parks—the first in the nation—as the North Coast marine protected areas went into effect.

As our own Jennifer Savage wrote, earlier in the week, this completed network marks the culmination of many years’ work, and protected areas will go a long way toward ensuring that ocean wildlife can thrive:

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 …

Continue reading »

From Fish Tank Sales to Wedding Favors, Our Donors Find a Way to Protect the Ocean They Love

Posted On November 13, 2012 by

R. Patrick Donston

For more than 40 years, Ocean Conservancy has been hard at work keeping the ocean healthy to keep us healthy. But none of that work would have been possible without the generous support of our many donors.

Who are the people who help us protect our valuable marine resources for generations to come? They’re people just like you.

Here are just a few of the Ocean Conservancy supporters who make our work possible:

Continue reading »


Plight of Albatross Inspires Scientist to Clean Up Beaches

Posted On October 10, 2012 by

Albatross on Midway Atoll

Credit: Nick Mallos

How do scientists choose their life’s work? For avid surfer Nick Mallos, a love of the ocean made marine biology an easy choice. But it was a black-and-white bird with a 6-foot wingspan that inspired him to focus his research on marine debris and clean up as many beaches as he can.

Nick first encountered the Laysan albatross during a grad school research trip to Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. With over 450,000 nesting pairs, Midway Atoll is home to the largest Laysan population in the world. The birds cover the 2.4 square-mile area, nesting in every available nook, from abandoned WWII gun turrets to grassy cracks in the pavement.

But once you look beyond those birds, “you realize there’s this scattering of plastic over the entire island,” Nick says. “It’s impossible to not see plastic – it’s just everywhere. The most perverse part of it is that it’s most heavily concentrated around every nest.”

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