I wasn’t really awake until our all-terrain vehicle bumped its way to the beaches of the Alabama Gulf coast. I held on tight in the dark and wondered whether this adventure had been such a good idea after all.
Then a pop of orange and red burst across the Gulf of Mexico. All that had been asleep was now vivid and busy. Sea gulls and terns swooped above the waves scanning for breakfast. A pod of dolphins broke the surface offshore. Salty fishermen appeared as the mist lifted, persistent, patient. I remember being on the beach early each morning during the BP oil disaster. Even through all the chaos the mornings were always magical as the sun rose over the Gulf. Six years later it is reassuring to see so much is well, but we know that there is still work ahead to restore this environment to its natural state. As I took in all these sights, I reminded myself: I’m here to do a job.
Today, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean hit the second lowest minimum on record during the summer of 2016.
This is why:
Sea ice is the foundation of the Arctic ecosystem. Wildlife like the iconic polar bear depends on sea ice to hunt prey such as ringed seals, forage and breed. As their sea ice habitat continues to diminish, it is estimated that by 2050, global polar bear populations will decrease by 30%.
Sea ice is tied to indigenous culture and the subsistence way of life. The Arctic is home to indigenous communities that depend on a healthy marine environment to survive. As sea ice diminishes, many communities are being forced to travel much further to hunt, and face new challenges like more frequent, more severe storms.
Last month, President Obama made history by establishing the largest protected marine area ever in Hawaii.
Now, he’s at it again.
Today, President Obama announced the protection of a new marine area in New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. That means that in just a matter of weeks, Obama has protected more U.S. waters than any other president.
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.
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.
A conversation between Ocean Conservancy’s CEO Andreas Merkl and Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and navigator of the iconic Hōkūle‘a, as Hawaiʻi hosts the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
With a shared passion for our ocean, Merkl (@AndreasMerkl) and Thompson spoke about experiencing unparalleled beauty on the water, the plague of plastic pollution in our ocean and the importance of bringing people together to find solutions.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society and Ocean Conservancy will be part of an International Coastal Cleanup organized by the U.S. Department of State in James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on September 9, 2016. For over 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has rallied the world’s biggest single-day volunteer effort on behalf of the ocean through the International Coastal Cleanup. (Please click here if you’d like to sign-up to cleanup on September 17, 2016.)
Last week, we learned President Obama is creating the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding the Hawaiian national monument of Papahānaumokuākea! We’re excited. Seriously excited. In honor of that announcement, here are five reasons we love Papahānaumokuākea, and how its expansion just means more to love.
1. The name
While we (still) might be struggling with the pronunciation, the name Papahānaumokuākea holds rich cultural significance, meaning the union of two native ancestors in Hawaiian mythology. The name itself is a combination of the Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and the Sky Father, Wakea, who together created the islands and its people.