The Blog Aquatic » Sarah van Schagen News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ocean Conservancy Donor Henry Gorecki Plans for Legacy of Support Sat, 04 May 2013 14:30:50 +0000 Sarah van Schagen 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.’”

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“Midway” Film Tells Story of Plastics in Our Ocean Through Plight of Albatross Thu, 28 Mar 2013 20:23:35 +0000 Sarah van Schagen

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.”

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Re-Energize Your Home to Save Money, Energy and the Ocean Mon, 28 Jan 2013 16:00:26 +0000 Sarah van Schagen 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.
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How to Keep the Ocean Healthy While Working Toward a Healthier You Mon, 14 Jan 2013 15:00:47 +0000 Sarah van Schagen 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: 

  1. Take a reusable water bottle to the gym. The average American uses 167 plastic bottles per year, and these long-lived disposables are among the top debris items littering coastlines and waterways around the world. You can help keep plastic beverage bottles out of our ocean by keeping a refillable water bottle in your gym bag. You’ll be able to stay hydrated and save money.
  1. Rethink your commute. Cars are the largest component of a typical household’s carbon footprint, burning lots of fossil fuels but not a lot of calories. Try walking, biking or incorporating public transportation into your commuting routine to increase your daily activity level while helping keep our air and water cleaner and healthier.
  1. Carry a trash bag when you head out for a hike. No matter how far you live from the coast, trash can travel via storm drains, streams and waterways out to the open ocean. If your workout takes you outdoors, pick up any litter you find along the way. Each time you squat to collect debris, you’ll be working your lower body—and depending how much you haul away, you may get an upper-body workout as well.
  1. Be a responsible boater. If your workout takes you out on the water, make sure you know how to keep the ocean clean and healthy while on the water and at the dock. Follow Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate tips to help protect shallow reefs, keep pollutants out of the water and ensure you maintain a safe distance from aquatic wildlife.


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Celebrating a Big Week for California Coasts Fri, 21 Dec 2012 17:59:20 +0000 Sarah van Schagen 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 …

Sea otter restrictions lifted in California waters

California’s conservation victories continued this week with news that the “otter-free zone” off the coast of California is being eliminated, allowing sea otters to swim freely throughout the region.

Allowing these important predators to expand into and migrate through the nearshore environment will result in real ecosystem benefits, says Lilian Carswell of the National Fish and Wildlife Service. “It gives a richness and integrity to our natural system.”

President Obama to expand national marine sanctuaries

And finally, in a triple-win for the coastal state, President Obama announced plans to expand two of California’s national marine sanctuaries and permanently ban oil drilling along more than 50 miles of Northern California coast.

The proposed expansion will more than double the size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, enlarging them by 2,771 square miles.

“This area is a national treasure,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who led sanctuary expansion efforts. “It needs and it deserves permanent protection from oil and gas exploration.”

The sanctuary expansion effort is expected to take up to two years to complete.

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From Fish Tank Sales to Wedding Favors, Our Donors Find a Way to Protect the Ocean They Love Tue, 13 Nov 2012 19:38:09 +0000 Sarah van Schagen

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:

R. Patrick Donston, Clifton, NJ, owner of Absolutely Fish

R Patrick Donston raised $5,000 for Ocean Conservancy during an Earth Day promotion at his store Absolutely Fish.

What moves you to act for the ocean?

Very simply – the animals. For all the hours I’ve spent on aquariums, I have experienced nothing by admiration for the creatures. It’s pure freedom, joy and love. It’s a spellbinding wilderness in our homes. It’s a great educational tool, too. I bring people closer to a world they may never know.

R. Patrick Donston

R. Patrick Donston

What is your hope for the ocean?

Sustainability. Humans need the ocean. We have to share, care for it and understand it.

Why do you support Ocean Conservancy?

I feel Ocean Conservancy has the experience and respect of government to resolve conservation issues.


Catherine Grace, The Episcopal Community of the Holy Spirit, Brewster, New York

The Episcopal Community of the Holy Spirit has supported Ocean Conservancy for more than 20 years. 

What motivates you to speak for the ocean?

The Episcopal Community of the Holy Spirit

The Episcopal Community of the Holy Spirit

On a practical level, we cannot live without the ocean – it regulates the fragile balance of our atmospheric temperature and provides critical nourishment for the building blocks of our food system. But its health is also critical for our spiritual well-being; its beauty and wonder stills our souls and humbles us.

What do you wish for the ocean of the future?

That it remains whole, wholesome, healthy and holy, respected and enjoyed by all creatures.

Why do you support Ocean Conservancy?

Your mission statement says it all: you conduct scientific research and educational projects leading to the protection and conservation of our ocean. An individual cannot provide all the wisdom and effort needed to heal our precious planet.


Ian MacDonald and Lindsey Davis, Rochester, Minnesota

Ian MacDonald and Lindsey Davis donated to Ocean Conservancy in lieu of favors at their wedding in Hawaii.

Ian MacDonald and Lindsey Davis

Ian MacDonald and Lindsey Davis

What moves you to speak for the ocean?

We feel that the ocean is a very critical part of our planet’s ecosystem, and it is rapidly deteriorating. We are strong advocates against overfishing, destruction of coral reefs and the overall abuse our ocean is currently undergoing.

What do you wish for the ocean of the future?

We hope that in the future our children will be able to appreciate the ocean as we have. We want them to know the beauty and power that it holds.

Why do you support Ocean Conservancy?

We know that Ocean Conservancy is a strong voice in the preservation of the ocean and its wildlife. We want to support an organization that has the same beliefs, vision and goals we have for the ocean ourselves.

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Plight of Albatross Inspires Scientist to Clean Up Beaches Wed, 10 Oct 2012 20:09:59 +0000 Sarah van Schagen 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.”

Plastic fragments in a dead albatross skeleton

Credit: Nick Mallos

That’s because most of the plastic on the island arrives in the gullets of the adult albatross who accidentally ingest it while fishing at sea. Then they regurgitate that food-and-plastic mixture when feeding their chicks. Scientists estimate that some 4.5 metric tons of plastic arrive on the island every year in the stomachs of the albatross.

“It’s just very surreal being in this beautiful environment where the waters are as turquoise blue as you can imagine and the beaches are pure white, and then you see this array of unnatural color across the island, which is all plastics,” Mallos says.

The inner core of the island is littered with small, fragmented plastics like bottle caps, toothbrushes and cigarette lighters – all carried there by the birds.

“I was 1,200 miles from Oahu, the nearest urban center, and there were consumer products everywhere,” Mallos says. “I could have outfitted an entire bathroom cabinet with what I saw there.”

That realization really got him thinking about the full scale of the ocean trash issue. Six months later, he joined Ocean Conservancy as a marine debris specialist and has since worked to better understand how trash affects our ocean and how we can prevent it from reaching our beaches in the first place.

What motivates you to participate in beach cleanups?

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