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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Why I’m Interested in Ocean Issues

Posted On September 13, 2016 by

This week, Ocean Conservancy is focusing on the Our Ocean conference here in Washington, D.C. As a parallel to this conference, Crystle Wee will be attending the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at Georgetown University.

By Crystle Wee

My earliest memories of the sea were when my grandmother showed my sister and I how to dig for colorful, butterfly-shaped remis clams at a beach near my home. As a child, the ocean was a place of wonder—the waves never stopped playing with us, and we tried to grab fistfuls of sand before the waves hid the clams from us again and again. We spent hours at the surf, on the edge of the sea digging for them, racing to see who could fill their pail first so we could fry them in garlic for dinner. Little did I know that this was the start of my lifelong fascination with the sea.

I live in Singapore, a small island at the tip of a long tail that is the Malay Peninsula. Ask anyone in my country why the ocean is important and they are bound to mention that it enables trade. Traders in the past have exchanged goods from crates full of intoxicating opium to pungent spices and dried tea leaves, sailing between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Needless to say, modern Singapore still has one of the busiest ports in the world. I guess you could say that the ocean has and will always be our gateway to the rest of the world. How the ocean is governed, who can pass through it and how it is used has a direct impact on my country.

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Recreational Fishing: Protecting a Way of Life

Posted On September 8, 2016 by

By Dennis McKay

All my life, I’ve measured the “good life” with days on the water fishing. Escaping work, shunning worry and forgoing the pressures of daily life to enjoy the elemental world of water, weather and a fish has defined the happiest moments of my life. Actually, it’s a natural inheritance since my family has called Alabama and these Gulf waters home for several hundred years.

As with any natural inheritance, I tend to be protective of my roots. Supporting my protective bent, the United States has some of the best fisheries management practices in the world. The overall law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, is effective because it is implemented using science-based rules, such as annual catch limits and rebuilding timelines, as currently defined by National Standard 1 (NS1). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is responsible for establishing and assessing these rules, and the nation’s eight regional fisheries management councils are mandated to execute them.

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Local Concerns of Opening the Arctic and the Crystal Serenity

Posted On September 8, 2016 by

Guest blog by: Austin Ahmasuk

Last month the Crystal Serenity set sail from the Alaskan port of Seward on a voyage through the Northwest Passage to New York City, making it the first cruise ship of its size to attempt this journey. The luxury liner stopped at ports of call along the Alaskan coast, including the town of Nome (population 3,850). Thanks to Nome resident Austin Ahmasuk for sharing his perspective with us.

Peering seaward south of River Street at 7:57 am, I saw the ship climb over the horizon as it materialized out of the fog. The P/V Crystal Serenity, with 1,700 passengers and crew aboard, arrived on time as predicted and slowly made its way shoreward. My eyes were glued to its deliberate movements. I knew it was big and, as the largest cruise ship to visit Nome got closer, its size towered in contrast to Nome’s normally modest waterfront.

I scanned for signs of its escort vessel, the RRS Ernest Shackleton. It surely must be near to provide assistance in case something went wrong. But the Ernest Shackleton was nowhere to be seen. The website showed that it was in Baffin Bay, Canada several thousand miles distant!

If something were to go wrong—an oil spill or shipwreck—our small town’s local volunteers and handful of response vessels would be the ones expected to answer the call.

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The Impact of Ocean Trash

Posted On September 3, 2016 by

Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Written by Tori Glascock

Before there was a waste collection system in place on land, trash was left in the streets and disease was rampant. Similarly, the trash we are dumping into the ocean is having catastrophic effects on the animals that call the ocean home and the people who rely on oceanic ecosystems to sustain their livelihood.

Chief among the problems that ocean trash presents is the inability of ocean animals like sea turtles, seabirds and seals to distinguish what is food and what is trash. First and foremost, these animals should not have to make this distinction as there should not be such an abundance of our trash in the ocean—but we are passed that point and now must find ways to combat this issue.

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Whale Sharks Move onto the Endangered List

Posted On August 30, 2016 by

Written by Dr. Alistair Dove

You may have seen in the press the recent announcement from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, that whale sharks (along with the enigmatic wing head shark) have been downgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  I thought it might help to explain exactly what that means, so I’ve done it as a sort of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What’s “the IUCN Red List”?
The Red List is a sort of master-file about the conservation status of different species.  As you can see from the screen capture below, the ranking goes from Least Concern (LC) for really common species, all the way down to Extinct (EX), with a couple of other categories for species that haven’t been evaluated (Not Evaluated NE) or that were evaluated but there wasn’t enough scientific data to decide on a status (Data Deficient DD).  All of these levels are recoverable, except for Extinct (EX); there ain’t no coming back from gone.

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When Doing the Right Thing is Also Fun!

Posted On August 29, 2016 by

By Chef Kyle Bailey

Doing the right thing can also be fun. For chefs like me, working within the limits required under U.S. sustainable fisheries management law these last ten years hasn’t been a burden, it’s been a bonanza.

Prior to 2006, when overfishing was still rampant in U.S. waters, the fishermen I buy from would often bemoan the fact that they didn’t have Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna or swordfish—the fish species American cuisine had grown to rely on. In other words, no fish and chips, no tuna sushi and no swordfish steak would be on the menu that night.

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The Problem of Ocean Trash

Posted On August 22, 2016 by

Written by Tori Glascock

Each year an estimated 8 million metric tons, or 17 billion pounds, of plastic flows into the ocean. Enough is enough.

First and foremost, an endless flow of trash into the ocean will affect the health of humans and wildlife alike as well as compromise the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean. Trash and debris such as fishing gear, straws, and plastic bags pose a deadly threat to marine life. Fishing gear can trap helpless sea turtles and cut through flesh of whales, while plastic bags are easily mistaken as food and consumed by animals. Straws can be hazardous in that they can get stuck in a nostril, a blowhole, an eye, or even a throat.

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