Ocean Currents » Guest Blogger 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 It’s Time to Do the Right Thing for Summer Flounder http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/10/its-time-to-do-the-right-thing-for-summer-flounder/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/10/its-time-to-do-the-right-thing-for-summer-flounder/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 21:12:54 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13899

Charles A. Witek, III is an attorney, salt water angler and blogger.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ successful rebuilding of the summer flounder stock was one of the mid-Atlantic region’s greatest conservation success stories.

By 1989, summer flounder had become severely overfished. The total spawning stock was estimated at a mere 5,521 metric tons, and biologists were able to find very few fish that were more than two years old. After that, a very slow rebuilding process began, which was badly hindered by managers who subordinated the needs of the recovering stock to the short-term economic concerns of the fishing industry.

The rebuilding effort got a big boost in 2000, when a federal appellate court, in a case titled Natural Resources Defense Council v. Daley, slammed the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to adopt a rebuilding plan that had a realistic chance to end overfishing. Faced with a plan that had only an 18% chance of avoiding overfishing, the court observed that “Only in Superman Comics’ Bizarro world, where reality is turned upside down, could [the National Marine Fisheries] Service reasonably conclude that a measure that is at least four times as likely to fail as succeed offers a ‘fairly high level of confidence.’”

Such court found that, in order to comply with applicable federal law, a fisheries management plan must have at least a 50% chance of achieving its goals.

After that decision, the pace of the summer flounder recovery increased. Although elements of both the commercial and recreational fisheries were unhappy with the more restrictive regulations that were imposed, no one complained when the spawning stock increased nearly tenfold, to 53,156 metric tons, by 2010. Regulations were relaxed and, buoyed by an abundance of fish, both the recreational and commercial fishing industries thrived.

Unfortunately, some things are beyond human control. Beginning in 2010, the recruitment of young flounder into the population declined sharply. Although fishery managers have yet to determine a reason, such recruitment has remained below average for six consecutive years, and no one can predict when it will improve.

As a result, the spawning stock biomass has been steadily shrinking. In 2016, biologists completed an update to the summer flounder stock assessment and advised that “the stock biomass is dangerously close to being overfished, which could happen as early as next year if increased efforts to curb fishing mortality are not undertaken.”

In response to that advice, NOAA Fisheries determined that the annual catch limit for summer flounder had to be reduced by 30%.

Despite the clear need for such reduction, it was not well received in the recreational fishing community. Magazine editors, fishing tackle dealers and party boat captains were quick to condemn NOAA’s action, arguing that it was not based on good science, and would cause severe economic harm. NOAA Fisheries disagreed, with a spokeswoman for its Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office pointing out that the reduction is based on “the best scientific information available” and “is necessary to end overfishing and ensure that the stock does not become overfished.”

Despite such reassurances, two New Jersey congressmen, Rep. Frank Pallone and Rep. Frank LoBiondo are threatening to introduce legislation that would block the harvest reduction and extend the 2016 annual catch limit through the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Passing such legislation, should it be introduced, would be a grave error. The science underlying the current summer flounder stock assessment has undergone peer review by a panel of internationally-recognized fisheries experts. The need for the harvest reduction has been endorsed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Science and Statistics Committee, composed of eighteen PhD-level scientists. When that many experts agree that summer flounder need help, it is prudent to listen.

The fishing industry is focused on the short-term impacts of the harvest reduction, while fishery managers are focused on the long-term health of the stock. A short-term focus may prove more profitable for a year or two, but will soon lead to an overfished stock unable to support a thriving recreational fishery. On the other hand, by focusing on the summer flounder’s long-term health, managers can best assure that a healthy stock and a healthy fishery will survive well into the future.

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Victory for New York Waters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:55:59 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13452

This piece was written by Mike Martinsen, Co-founder and Co-president of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc.

For forty years, I have worked as a bayman in New York’s rich waters. You could find me bullraking hard clams, sail dredging oysters, dredging bay scallops and potting lobster. I have earned a living from these waters my whole life. Declines—and the occasional full crash—in  shellfish stocks, however, have forced me to look at other occupations.

Once upon a time, billions upon billions of bivalve shellfish carpeted the bottoms of New York’s bays, harbors, rivers and sounds. But, through unlimited fossil fuel consumption, poor septic planning and a lack of regulation on pesticide and fertilizer purchase and application, we have created a void in the water. The population of bivalve shellfish has declined precipitously.

There is good news on the horizon for me, my fellow baymen and all of you who love our seafood. Last week, New York enacted legislation forming a task force which will identify any sources of acidification in New York waters, and recommend how to address them. Using best available science to fix this problem is written into the law, and this first step to protect the local ocean is a milestone victory in my eyes. This is how smart, comprehensive restoration of our historic oyster reefs, eelgrass beds and coastal ecosystems starts.

Since the beginning of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc., a company I co-founded in 2009, which farms our exclusive Montauk Pearl Oysters, I found that shellfish aquaculture is very important.  Bivalve shellfish in the New York estuaries are probably the most underappreciated living creatures. As filter feeders, they are responsible for maintaining balance with regard to water quality. The beauty of our operation is that each mature oyster will filter approximately 50 gallons of water per day. That means last year our farm filtered approximately 75,000,000 gallons of water each day! Also, the mature oysters had successful reproduction and the spat (tiny little babies) has landed at distant locales helping to promote the wild population growth.

As an aquaculturist, I can take pride in knowing that I am helping to rebuild the wild stock of shellfish in the marine environment. Without those filter feeders, water quality does not stand a chance. Nitrogen has become problematic and algal blooms have wreaked havoc on water quality.

There are things we can do to help mitigate the problems in our local waters. Awareness of how our consumption of fossil fuels and usage of household items can harm the estuary is key. Additionally, promoting shellfish aquaculture and protecting wild stocks will allow balance to be restored. A thriving shellfish stock allows the crucial roles of the natural filtration system, habitat source for juvenile fish and reef-like shoreline structure, to be enjoyed.  All are paramount to the wellness of the estuary.

Monitoring water quality and creating legislation that reduces nitrogen input into the waters will be very important. However there is a very large monster out there that is just beginning to rear its ugly head. Ocean acidification has decimated juvenile shellfish in other places in the world. We know that larval shellfish are strongly affected by ocean acidification and that they cannot form the necessary shell to survive in an acidic environment. Many wonder if this could be as big a factor as nitrogen induced algal blooms in the system collapses we’ve seen.

It’s imperative that we begin to understand the impacts of our current fossil fuel emissions on the ocean. It’s imperative that we take responsibility for the damages that we have caused. And it’s imperative that we begin to act more responsibly toward life as a whole and especially the ocean—the mother of all life, the mother we all share. If the world is your oyster, why not work toward pristine water quality?

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From Marrakech, Where The Winds of Change also Blow  http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/12/from-marrakech-where-the-winds-of-change-also-blow/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/12/from-marrakech-where-the-winds-of-change-also-blow/#comments Sat, 12 Nov 2016 14:30:55 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13333

This guest blog was written by Jay Manning. Mr. Manning is a Partner at Cascadia Law Group, an environmental firm in Washington state. He was formerly the Director of Washington’s Department of Ecology and Governor Christine Gregoire’s Chief of Staff.

A funny thing happened at a meeting this week in Marrakech. Countries from around the world are meeting to decide how they will implement the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. In December last year, 195 countries agreed to aggressive targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and limit global warming. As the COP22 meeting began, our country, which has been a crucial player and leader in the fight against climate change, elected Donald J. Trump as President.

While U.S. elections are always followed with interest from other countries, Marrakech COP22 attendees struggled this week to understand what happened with regard to the U.S. election and what it means for global efforts to tackle the already formidable challenge to reduce emissions, transition to a clean energy economy and maintain the health of our ocean and marine life. The president-elect has said that global warming is a hoax, has promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, and has appointed a climate change skeptic to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team.  But despite these worrying signs, a true rainbow coalition of attendees from every corner of the planet quickly rallied and moved to a mindset of determination to unite, move forward and make progress.

I am attending as a representative from the Pacific Coast Collaborative, representing the states of Washington, Oregon, California and the Canadian province of British Columbia. I am talking with representatives from countries all around the world, as well as the many states and cities sending delegations here about an exciting initiative that we are undertaking, in partnership with Ocean Conservancy—the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification. We are at Marrakech calling on our peers for more action and leadership to tackle the increasingly urgent challenge of ocean acidification and related impacts on our world’s ocean.

The conversations I am having with people here give me much hope that we will continue to make progress. Yesterday, for example, I was buoyed by four amazing ocean scientists from Egypt, South Africa, Namibia and our host country Morocco with whom I spoke on a panel. They are studying ocean acidification and what it means to marine ecosystems and coastal communities and economies on parts of the African coast.  Their sense of optimism and their conviction that the world will move forward with science-based actions to protect our communities, our ocean and our species was contagious and a welcome antidote to my most negative of mindsets this week.

Now is not the time to give up.  The imperative to come together to protect our planet, including its incredible ocean is no less important today than it was yesterday.

Yours in solidarity in Marrakech.


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6 Reasons to LOVE Arctic Important Marine Areas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/29/6-reasons-to-love-arctic-important-marine-areas/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/29/6-reasons-to-love-arctic-important-marine-areas/#comments Sat, 29 Oct 2016 13:21:00 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13245

This was originally posted as part of the Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog series. See all posts here

This summer we were fortunate to share a blog series brought to us by Arctic scientists — experts working to study and understand the habitat, species and ecological changes happening at the top of the world. It’s rare for those of us who live a ways away to see a glimpse of this vibrant, and beautiful place, but our blog series aimed to bring YOU into the Arctic Ocean. We shared scientist stories about how truly special this place is. And how important the Arctic is, not only to the animals and people that thrive there, but to the overall health of our ocean. If you missed reading the blogs, we encourage you to check them out now. Here are just a few of the reasons we think you’ll enjoy reading the series.

1. Sustaining life

Both year-round and seasonal residents of the Arctic Ocean rely on a remarkable burst of productivity driven by sunlight that occurs during the brief summer months. During this short ice-free season, nutrient-rich waters provide fuel and sustenance for an amazing variety of species. This incredible abundance makes the Arctic Ocean critically important to whales, seals, walruses, birds, and fish, and other creatures. Read more…

2. More than meets the eye

Amazing creatures live beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean! You may not want to dive into the icy waters to explore — but scientists have braved the cold to discover an ecologically diverse abundance of fish and invertebrates. In some of the most important marine areas, millions of microalgae coat the underside of ice floes, and a universe of crabs, snails, brittle stars, sea stars and polar cod live around and amid the sea ice. Read more…



3. It’s truly for the birds! 

Birds from all over the world flock to the Arctic. Seabirds big and small fly to the Arctic Ocean region to nest, lay their eggs and raise their chicks. Millions of birds take advantage of the richness of the Arctic summer to fill up and refuel before continuing their migratory journeys. It would take too long to list all the birds that use some of the more unique and bird-friendly places in the Arctic, but a few include: Black-legged Kittiwakes, Thick-billed and Common Murres, Horned and Tufted Puffins — King, Common, Steller’s, and Spectacled Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and Arctic, Yellow-billed and Red-throated Loons. Read more…

4. Abundant wildlife

There is an abundance of wildlife in the Arctic Ocean — including some of the most iconic animals in the world. Polar bears prowl the ice looking for ringed seals. Other Arctic seals include ringed seals and massive bearded seals. Pacific walruses, too, call the Arctic home. They dive from ice floes and use their sensitive whiskers (called vibrissae) to locate mollusks on the ocean floor. A variety of whales swim in much of these waters, including communicative beluga whales and enormous bowhead whales, some of which can live over 200 years. And gray whales undertake an epic migration — up to 12,000 miles round-trip — to spend summers to take advantage of some of the richest areas of Arctic marine habitat. Read more…

5. The importance of durability during times of change

While the entire Arctic Ocean is important, some key areas have persistent sea ice or notable levels of primary productivity that fuel the food chain. Scientists in our blogs are finding that this is often tied to geophysical features in the ocean. Even in the Arctic where temperatures are warming twice as fast as those elsewhere on Earth, the areas that are productive today are likely to be for many years to come. That’s why it’s so important to protect the vital marine areas — because of their durability. Keeping these areas healthy will have enduring benefits for the larger Arctic marine ecosystem. Read more…

6. So much left to discover

Scientists and researchers still have more to learn and explore. We are only beginning to understand how rich and diverse the Arctic Ocean region is and how important this area of the world is to communities who live there, the rest of the U.S., and the planet. We need to continue to study and learn more about this varied and rapidly changing ocean ecosystem as well as learn from the expertise of Alaska Native residents of the Arctic. Only then, will we truly know how to preserve an intact Arctic ecosystem — and what’s at stake if its most valuable habitat is compromised or harmed. Read more…

The Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog features posts by scientists about important marine areas in the U.S. Arctic identified by science. Based on the Arctic Marine Science Synthesis.

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Meet Chloe: Teen Advocate for our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/07/meet-chloe-teen-advocate-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/07/meet-chloe-teen-advocate-for-our-ocean/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:00:04 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13053  

by Nelle Crossan

Meet Chloe—a 14 year old from Colorado, working to bring awareness and advocate for the ocean by encouraging other teens to get involved in their local communities!

Ocean Conservancy: When did you first find your passion for the ocean?

Chloe: Every year we would visit my great grandmother in Florida and I always found the ocean both calming and empowering. The ocean is so unique—we still don’t know exactly what is out there. I remember finding butterfly shells (coquina clams) on the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back to sea. Also, my grandparents, Carol and Michael Altman have always encouraged my love of the ocean and are donors to OC! I have continued to love the ocean even though I live in Colorado. I am part of a club at school that works with the organizationTeens4Oceans, which has been a great way to learn more about ocean health and what teens can be doing to advocate, protect and preserve it.

Ocean Conservancy: Teens4Oceans sounds like an awesome organization! Tell us more about your involvement.

Chloe: I knew I wanted to learn more about the ocean and give back, so I started researching organizations with my mom. We heard about Teens4Oceans and two friends of mine approached me about starting a club at our school. We were able to have someone come out and visit my school with a mobile lab from Teens4Oceans, and it was so cool. We got to do different experiments that showed the effects of coral bleaching. We learned more about the plastic gyres in the Pacific Ocean, endangered fish species and how our actions affect the ocean, even from a landlocked state like Colorado.  As a club we also held bake sales and raised enough money for two water bottle refilling stations in our middle school!

Ocean Conservancy: Wow! What a great way to bring the ocean to teens! In your opinion, what do you think teens could be doing in their daily lives to make an impact on ocean issues?

Chloe: If teens and kids my age are really passionate there is so much they can do! Teens can create groups that meet monthly, go to coastal clean ups, or go online and learn more about ocean issues. Other ideas are having bake sales with informational handouts about the ocean and using reusable water bottles so not as much plastic ends up in the water. I think the biggest problem for people our age is that we don’t know what our impact is on the ocean and I want to make sure teens are informed about their actions.

Ocean Conservancy: Thank you so much, Chloe for all of your work to engage teens on this issue and for being a supporter of our work. We need more teens like you!

Nelle Crossan is the Individual Giving Specialist at Ocean Conservancy, based in Washington, DC. Nelle grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts and spent her summers at the beach, soaking up all the ocean has to offer. When she’s not advocating for ocean health you can find her singing, watercolor painting or swimming. Follow her @nellecrossan.

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Talk to the Water http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/05/talk-to-the-water/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/05/talk-to-the-water/#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2016 13:15:47 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13088

by Sarah Quintana, sarahquintana.com

Sarah Quintana is a New Orleans musician who lent her voice and music to our newest video. Inspired by the forces that shape the Gulf Coast, Sarah explores the themes of rivers and water in her latest album, “Miss River.” Using an underwater microphone typically used to record dolphin and whale sounds, she incorporates the sound of the Mississippi River and other water bodies into her music.

On any pretty day in spring, Gulf Coast folks are quick to say, “Let’s head for the shore and enjoy the big, beautiful Gulf of Mexico! Canoe along the shore, catch some fish and soak up the culture that is our Southern home.”

But now it’s October. We’re smack in the middle of hurricane season and two months ago Louisiana flooded so bad it was deemed the worst national disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

It’s difficult. The Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River are both my best friends, but also bullies.

Growing up in New Orleans, I’ve been flooded more than once. Climate change is driving our rivers and lakes to flood larger and larger areas. The map of Louisiana looks very different now than when I was in high school. It’s gone from something like a chunky space boot to a worn and torn sneaker.

Add to this the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which we’re still living with, and you can see people are struggling here.

To be honest, I’ve become afraid of water. I have panic attacks when it rains; and I’m not alone in this. Living on the Gulf, we’ve seen water do terrible things: destroy homes, drown people and pets and separate loved ones.

In the wake of the latest hurricanes, I started searching for meaning. I decided to go to the source and ask the water itself for answers. I went to the banks of the Mississippi River and cast a microphone into the water and put on headphones to take a closer listen. I asked: how can the same water that has such adverse effects on me—terror—also be a messenger of joy?

As I listened to the deep tones of the river, I heard the truth. The Mississippi River boomed and droned. It spoke of its muscle in moving water, glaciers, sediment, people, history, flowing, always flowing from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river spoke of the twin forces in our lives: life and death. I realized that nature gives us all, yet also takes away. When I heard a chorus of fish at sunset on Lake Martin I finally got the answers I was looking for. Life is change, but love holds us together so we can endure.

I pulled the microphone out and wrote down these answers the way I do, as music. My band and I recorded an album, “Miss River,” to share our stories about love and loss in Louisiana, cycles of life and death and the importance of protecting our land and each other. These answers I carry close to my heart, but one response rings most clear.

Hope . . .

For me, this hope is replacing fear. I see now the mighty Mississippi and the surrounding waters flooded my heart and my home to become the medium of my music. Thus, although we live in a place that is literally sinking, I have great hope for our future together. I stand with my community and sing for the precious Gulf Coast, re-imagining a happy ending of our own in 2045, hoping we will see the coast revived.


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Meet Keila: A 5th Grader with a Passion for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/27/meet-keila-a-5th-grader-with-a-passion-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/27/meet-keila-a-5th-grader-with-a-passion-for-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:42:48 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12991

By Megan Swanson

Keila reached out to Ocean Conservancy concerned about the pollution plaguing our ocean and eager to make a difference. Growing up alongside the Pacific Ocean, she developed a deep respect for the ocean and its inhabitants from an early age and considers it as part of her home. After learning more about the problem of ocean trash in one of her classes, she decided to take action. This summer, she delivered cookies and talked with friends and family to bring awareness to the issue while raising money for Ocean Conservancy. Keila also participated in the 31st annual International Coastal Cleanup on September 17th at her local beach in California. I had the privilege to talk to Keila about why she loves the ocean and what drove her to do this work.

Ocean Conservancy:  What’s your favorite sea creature?

Keila: Some of my favorite animals are sea turtles, dolphins and sea lions because they are cute and graceful animals. I visited the Bahamas this summer and I got to swim with dolphins and sea lions and that just made me love them even more.

OC: What’s your favorite way to spend time in the ocean?

Keila: I love to enjoy the ocean by walking in the waves as they as they come up onto the sand and to watch pods of dolphins and whales as they swim by, whenever I can.

OC: How did you become aware of the problem of trash entering our waterways and negatively affecting ocean health and wildlife?

Keila: In my fourth grade class, my teacher read us information on fifty ways to heal the earth. She read us an article on ways that human trash hurts sea animals. Also, I remember my Grandma and I were traveling to Hawaii and I looked out the window of the airplane and saw a lot of debris floating in the ocean and it really bothered me.

OC: What inspired you to raise money for Ocean Conservancy?

Keila: I chose Ocean Conservancy because it not only helps the ocean but it helps the animals in the ocean and both are close to my heart.

OC: What do you do in your everyday life to prevent marine debris?

Keila:  If I see the plastic rings that carry soda cans, I will bring them home and cut the rings and then recycle them. And when I see trash wash up on the beach, I throw it away.

Through Keila’s hard work this summer, she raised $1,300 to support Ocean Conservancy’s fight for a healthier, more sustainable ocean. From all of us here at Ocean Conservancy, thank you Keila for your dedication to keeping our ocean trash-free!

Megan Swanson is a Trash Free Seas intern at Ocean Conservancy. 

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