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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


New Report: The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries

Posted On May 6, 2013 by

A fisherman adds a red snapper to the pile on a dock in Destin, Florida. – Photo: Tom McCann

As fishermen, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean experts from around the country gather in Washington this week to discuss the future of fisheries in America, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are releasing a joint report highlighting many of the stories that show how fisheries management is succeeding.

The Washington Post covered the report over the weekend, focusing on our belief that while fisheries management is working, we must also let it keep on working if we’re going to face global challenges like ocean acidification and climate change:

More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.

The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” is a primer and collection of stories that highlight pioneers of American fishery management as well as innovators who are opening fishing frontiers, revealing:

  • How a salmon fishing pioneer’s courage in making sacrifices for long-term sustainability set the stage for Alaska’s success.
  • How successful fishermen from Alaska to Florida used discipline to turn around two decades of overfishing.
  • How West Coast fishermen found the flexibility to make a living within rebuilding programs.
  • How fishing entrepreneurs in Port Clyde, ME, turned leadership into opportunity.
  • Why rebuilding important recreational species such as summer flounder, bluefish, and lingcod provides economic as well as enjoyment payoffs.
  • What commercial and recreational fishermen believe we get from good stewardship.

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Make Way for Whales: Shifting California Shipping Lanes A “Win-Win”

Posted On April 9, 2013 by


Humpback whales stay near the surface of the ocean during migration and prefer shallow waters near the coastline.
Credit: NOAA

Few things beat the sight of whales migrating off the California coastline. And with increased research and recent changes in shipping practices, whales will be able to travel a bit more safely in 2013.

In a move that improves business and protects marine life, the International Maritime Organization has agreed to shift shipping lanes located off the California coastline and thereby reduce whale strikes. Findings published in this month’s issue of Conservation Biology emphasize the benefits of this agreement, which will enhance the protection of endangered whales and increase maritime safety.

These changes follow the plan announced last summer to reroute shipping lanes outside the San Francisco Bay and establish a real-time whale monitoring network to decrease whale strikes and improve shipping operations. With a spike in whale strikes outside the San Francisco Bay in 2010, researchers collaborated with NOAA, the US Coast Guard and the maritime industry to evaluate current shipping lanes and confirmed that the busy lanes overlapped critical feeding grounds and designated marine sanctuaries.

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Next Steps for Protecting Sea Turtles

Posted On March 27, 2013 by

Last year, my colleague Ivy wrote about a proposed rule by NOAA to make shrimping safer for sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you may know, all sea turtles in U.S. waters are on the Endangered Species List as either threatened or endangered. Since January 2010, NOAA has observed an increase in marine turtle deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtle deaths can occur for a number of reasons, including disease, exposure to biotoxins or pollutants, ingestion of marine debris, vessel collisions, and fishery interactions. The proposed rule would have required turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on all shrimp trawling vessels, including boats that fish in-shore and in shallower waters than those currently required to use TEDs. These in-shore boats, known in the fishing community as skimmer and butterfly trawlers instead have to comply with “tow-time” restrictions, or limits to how long they can keep their nets submerged under water while fishing. Turtles drown when trapped in the nets too long.

NOAA has since withdrawn this proposed rule for multiple reasons, but primarily because the current design of TEDs did not seem to protect turtles effectively.

How is that possible?

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Philippe Cousteau on CNN: Ocean is Source of Hope and Solutions

Posted On March 25, 2013 by


Credit: Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy’s Dennis Takahashi-Kelso and Board Member Philippe Cousteau tour Bay Jimmy, LA. and the surrounding marsh affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

This post originally appeared on from Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau. Explorer, social entrepreneur and environmental advocate, Philippe Cousteau is a special correspondent for CNN International. He is also the co-founder and president of the leading environmental education nonprofit EarthEcho International.

My grandfather Jacques Cousteau and my father Philippe dedicated their lives to revealing the ocean’s wonders and helping us understand our connection to this vast expanse of water. Their work inspired generations and filled people with awe.

Times have changed and so have circumstances and perceptions about the ocean. In recent years, the focus has been on the very serious challenges the ocean faces and the impact these challenges are already having on our daily lives.

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Boating Tips to Keep it Green While in the Blue

Posted On March 22, 2013 by

Boats in a marina. Credit / iStockphoto

With boating season around the corner, it’s hard to not get excited for all the fun and excitement you’ll have on the water this year! While boating can be loads of fun, it’s important to remember that you’re playing in someone else’s backyard. Ocean Conservancy and Good Mate have come up with a green boating guide that you can use as a reference point to make sure that you do your part to help keep our oceans (and the organisms that live in them) healthy.

Green boating is something that both boaters and marinas can take part in, which is why we’ve created two separate guides. They cover everything you need to know in order to make your boating ventures more ocean-friendly, including information on how to properly handle your trash, reduce oil pollution, maintain equipment safely, interact with wildlife, and how to prevent water contamination. Need some green boating literature to keep handy on your boat too? No problem, we’ve got you covered there too with a printable brochure.

Check out the guides and let us know if you have any other green boating tips or suggestions!


Create an Ocean-Friendly Organic Garden (Part 2)

Posted On March 21, 2013 by

After our first blog post about greening your garden practices, are you not yet convinced of the benefits to organic farming? That’s fine, because this second installment was written with the goal of illustrating all of the benefits that can come from gardening the organic way. Part 1 was designated for the “how” questions surrounding organic gardening, but in Part 2 we’ll tackle the “why” factor.

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Harp Seal: Lazy (Albeit Cute)?

Posted On March 20, 2013 by

I know what you’re thinking; are harp seals really that lazy? Well alright, you’re probably just thinking that this Parry Gripp song is pretty catchy, but I want to take a few minutes to write about the life history and behavior of this little dude.

Harp seals are named as such because their dorsal fin is shaped like the musical instrument, and while it might not be as majestic-sounding as a harp, young pups can make their own music. Observe:

You can find harp seals in the Arctic and north Atlantic oceans eating different kinds of fish, including but not limited to cod, herring and Greenland halibut. Common predators they have to watch out for are polar bears, sharks and killer whales.

Harp seals also do happen to have a cool yellow jacket…for a little while anyway! Their fur is actually yellow when pups are born, so they get the nickname “yellowcoats” for the first few days of their lives. They’ll then move onto a white coat, from there a silver-tinted coat, and a “ragged-jacket” look when molting in between phases. After the white fur is completely gone, they enter the “beater” phase, and by 15 months old the seals have some solid spots that qualify them as “bedlamers.” They’ll stay like that until they reach sexual maturity, where they’ll take on the long-term harp seal coat. Good to know that harp seals have more fashionable outerwear than some of us humans, eh?

The harp seal might not have a cool camera, but when everyone else is clamoring to take pictures of you, who needs one–right? As far as them being lazy goes, the world may never know; but in the spirit of laziness, here’s a picture of a harp seal casually napping so you can think about that question while you go back to laboring at work, class, etc…and generally not being a cute harp seal.