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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

My Labor of Love

Posted On May 21, 2014 by

Colleen Rankin is a debris cleanup veteran. She lives in Blue Fox Bay, Alaska. Colleen regularly hauls debris from miles away back to her home, where she re-uses whatever she can and stores the rest for eventual disposal.

I am fortunate to live in one of the most remote locations on Earth. I have one seasonal neighbor 5 miles away and another family 25 miles from there. The closest town is 40 miles from us. All of us live on different islands separated by the powerful waters of the Gulf of Alaska. To live here is to witness the rhythm of the interdependent cycles of life on these beaches  ̶  the sea depositing kelp and seashells on the shorelines, creating what I call the line of life. We see bears, birds and other animals foraging in them. We call it the ocean’s gift of nutrition.  I have felt a part of an ancient world. But that is changing. And even here on the coast of Alaska, I’m surrounded every day by reminders of people from far away places.

That’s because the beaches near my home are literally covered in plastic, trash and netting. I take my skiff out and fill it with debris, stopping only because the boat is full to capacity. The beaches are accumulating trash at an alarming rate, and I am giving back to this beautiful place that has enriched my life so much in the most obvious way I can. And that is cleaning the beaches, sometimes the same beach over and over.

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Four Years Out and Counting: Taking Stock of the BP Disaster Through the Lens of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Posted On March 24, 2014 by

This piece was co-authored by Chris Robbins, senior manager of restoration planning at Ocean Conservancy, and Bob Spies, former chief scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

The first and second phases of the BP trial involving the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are behind us. The judge is now deciding how to rule on the issues of gross negligence and amount of oil released into the ocean, while a third and final phase is set for January 2015. Yet, while the end of the courtroom drama is in sight, the genie BP let out of the bottle almost four years ago has not gone away, and questions abound. For example, how is lingering oil affecting the food web? Which impacts will remain hidden? And how long will recovery of the environment take? Answers to these questions are frustratingly elusive, especially since the results of government studies assessing environmental damage are still mostly confidential.

With the fourth anniversary of the BP disaster nearly upon us, we can look back to the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska for insight into the types of impacts seen four years after that oil spill and what they might mean for Gulf recovery. As Alaskans reach a significant milestone this spring – the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster – the successes and setbacks in coastal Alaska’s recovery are instructive. These insights put the Gulf’s recovery into perspective and tell us that science is the foundation of a decades-long restoration effort, and it must not be shortchanged.
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Challenges of a Changing Ocean: Can Congress Act in Time?

Posted On December 4, 2013 by

Credit: NOAA


The piece below was excerpted from an article by Tom Allen in Roll Call. Allen is the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and a Board member of Ocean Conservancy. He represented Maine’s 1st District in Congress for six terms and was a founding member of the House Oceans Caucus.


 

In a Congress marred by gridlock and partisan brinkmanship, a surprising opportunity has emerged to strengthen our nation’s ocean and coastal communities, businesses and environment. Congress should seize the moment and establish the long-recommended National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes.

Unless Congress acts now, the opportunity will slip away.

The House and Senate Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) bills currently in conference contain competing provisions — with competing visions — for the future of ocean and coastal management in America. This legislative conflict is part of our country’s broader ideological struggle, but with this difference: On the ocean, no state government, chamber of commerce or environmental group can exercise coordinated and effective leadership alone.

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Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar

Posted On December 2, 2013 by

Bret Barasch Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar

We’re excited to post this guest blog from Bret Barasch. He swam solo across the Strait of Gibraltar and chose Ocean Conservancy as the recipient of his fundraising efforts – thank you! Congrats to Bret on this amazing accomplishment. You can still donate to Bret’s fundraising efforts today.

This past October, I set out to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar. The strait connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain from Morocco (and Europe from Africa). It’s about 10 miles across, but the strong current that flows in from the Atlantic almost always ensures you’ll end up swimming farther.

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Ocean Planning Makes Sense

Posted On November 7, 2013 by

Two men fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo: Tom McCann / Ocean Conservancy

The piece below was excerpted from an article by Rip Cunningham on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Blog. Cunningham is the former chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council. He is also Conservation Editor for Saltwater Sportsman magazine, of which he was publisher and editor-in-chief for 31 years. 

While the piece expresses concern about some aspects of ocean-use planning, it makes a formidable case for the need to engage in it. Ocean Conservancy believes that smart ocean planning is important for balancing all of the interests in our ocean, so we welcome this kind of discussion.

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I know that some in the recreational fishing industry think that “ocean planning” is part of the great conspiracy to totally eliminate extractive activities like recreational or commercial fishing. They feel that this process is simply “ocean zoning” intent on removing fishing.

Maybe it is and I am just too naive to see it, but there are too many signs pointing in other directions. First, I don’t believe in the great conspiracy theory, and secondly, I think that doing some real planning makes a whole lot of sense, and I understand that in that process there will be winners and losers.

The best description, in my opinion, of how ocean planning should work is found on Sea Plan’s, an independent ocean planning policy group, website: “Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) aims to distribute and accommodate both traditional and emerging ocean activities to produce sustainable economic and social benefits while minimizing spatial conflicts and environmental impacts. CMSP is an iterative process that uses the best available science along with stakeholder input to support integrated, adaptable and forward-looking ocean management decision-making.”

The part of the process that I find objectionable is the building of more bureaucracy to complete this task. There are already agencies at the federal, regional and state level that deal with these issues. Do we need several layers of bureaucracy just to get these organizations to play in the sandbox together?

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“Pacific Rim” Is Science Fiction Married With Marine Science

Posted On August 15, 2013 by

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Sage Melcer.

Need an excuse to beat the summer heat at the movies this month? Check out sci-fi thriller “Pacific Rim.” The summer blockbuster, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (director of “Pan’s Labyrinth”), marries science fiction with marine science for cinematic gold.

“Pacific Rim” takes place in 2020 when alien-like monsters, called the Kaiju, start emerging from an undersea volcano, destroying countless cities and millions of people. In order to defeat the Kaiju, global forces come together to create Jaegers, giant robots that are controlled by two neurologically synced pilots who take part in mind-blowing hand-to-hand combat with the invaders.

Seasoned pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is pulled back into the Jaeger program years after the loss of his co-pilot and brother during a Kaiju battle. He teams up with rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command the Jaeger Gypsy Danger, a nuclear-powered fighting legend. However Kaiju are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, and their occurrences are more frequent.

A scientist studying the Kaiju, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), discovers a way to connect with a Kaiju brain, stumbling upon a plan of attack that is more horrible than the human race could have possibly imagined.

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Harbor Heroes: Little Oysters in the Big Apple

Posted On August 1, 2013 by

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Jaclyn Yeary.

After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last October, I read an op-ed by Paul Greenberg in the New York Times titled “An Oyster in the Storm” that inspired me. In his piece, he described how oysters can be used to protect the shorelines of our coastal cities while improving the water quality of America’s largest metropolis. The solution to two major issues seemed suddenly so obvious. I needed to learn more.

So I partnered with a friend to produce a short documentary titled “Harbor Heroes” about the importance of oysters to New York City. We interviewed an amazing group of individuals including students from the aquaculture program at the New York Harbor School, Philippe Cousteau and Paul Greenberg himself.

How do oysters help water quality?

The idea behind restoring New York’s oysters is this: oysters grow on top of one another, forming nurseries for baby fish and creating a base structure for reefs. Reefs act as natural surge protectors and reduce the size of waves during big storms. Like other mollusks, oysters are filter-feeders, which means they clean the water column as they eat. If the water quality improves enough, sea grass could grow and create a root network that would prevent the erosion of the shoreline.

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