Ocean Currents » Ocean Life http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 AT RISK: The 8 Ocean Parks Threatened by Trump’s Executive Orders http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/at-risk-the-8-ocean-parks-threatened-by-trumps-executive-orders/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/at-risk-the-8-ocean-parks-threatened-by-trumps-executive-orders/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:48:43 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14272

In his first 100 days, President Trump announced two separate Executive Orders that put at risk special places on land and in the sea.

On April 28, 2017, he announced the Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, which takes aim at America’s marine monuments and sanctuaries.

All marine monuments and sanctuaries established or expanded in the last 10 years are under review:

Greater Farallones (California) and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (California) are two distinct sanctuaries but adjoin each other and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

  • They were established more than 10 years ago and were expanded westward and northward  in 2015. Under President Trump’s Executive Order, the sizeable expansion of both of these monuments in 2015 could be at risk. The expansions were not small. Gulf of Farallones went from approximately 1,282 square miles to approximately 3,295 square miles. Cordell Bank went from approximately 529 square miles to approximately 1,286 square miles.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Hawaii)

  • Under two separate Executive Orders from this week, both the original creation in 2006 and a significant expansion from 2016 are both under threat.Originally covering 140,000 square miles when first created by President George W. Bush, President Obama later “more than quadrupled Papahānaumokuākea’s size, to 582,578 square miles, an area larger than all the national parks combined.”

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve (Michigan)

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (Northeast)

  • Established in September 2016 and the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (Mariana Islands)

  • Created in January 2009 just before President Bush left office.

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (US minor Outlying Islands)

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument (South Pacific, Samoa)

Americans care deeply about public lands and water. Conserving the special places in our ocean is not about a political party, it is about what we value as Americans. Please join us in speaking up for the ocean and taking action today.


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Different Pole, Same Problem: Plastic Pollution in Antarctica’s Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/different-pole-same-problem-plastic-pollution-in-antarcticas-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/different-pole-same-problem-plastic-pollution-in-antarcticas-ocean/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:52:34 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14267

Another study has just come out—revealing that plastic pollution has been discovered in deep-sea sediments and surface waters in the Antarctic marine ecosystem. The similarities between this research and the study I wrote about earlier in the week on plastics in the Arctic are very troubling.

Plastic pollution has now been documented in both Polar Regions on Earth. In addition to being the most remote, least populated areas on the planet, the Arctic and Antarctic are critically sensitive regions, currently being affected by increasing water temperatures and decreasing sea ice due to climate change.

Like in the Arctic, microplastics found in the Southern Ocean aren’t originating in Antarctica—they drift on ocean currents, potentially for for thousands of miles, and meet this relative dead-end where they can accumulate and harm ocean wildlife. This study shows us, once again, that we must support continued ocean plastics research and monitoring in order to understand the full extent of the problem and come up with solutions commensurate in scope and scale.

You can support these efforts and join the fight for trash free seas by taking action and volunteering at a local cleanup.

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These Quilters Have Sew Much Love for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/these-quilters-have-sew-much-love-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/these-quilters-have-sew-much-love-for-the-ocean/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:30:20 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14242

Photo courtesy of Luana Rubin

As a young boy, Luana and Paul Rubin’s son Mason, now 27, was in love with the ocean. He decided for his eighth birthday party to eschew gifts and instead have his guests make contributions to the Jacques Cousteau Society.

“He raised a nice little sum of money,” Luana says, and even received a thank you letter from Mrs. Cousteau.

“I’ve always been an environmentalist, but sometimes your children lead you further down a path,” Luana says. “He started saying, ‘By the time I grow up, the Great Barrier Reef will be dying off, along with all of these ocean animals. We’ve got to do something.’”

The Rubins did do something. When Luana, a textile artist, and Paul started eQuilter in 1999, they decided to devote two percent of their sales to charity. Their Boulder, Colorado-based mail-order company specializes in high quality quilt fabrics and related products. When customers buy from the eQuilter website, they can choose which of seven charities receive their support.

“Our customers responded so passionately and wholeheartedly,” Luana says. “It became an integral part of our business model. Our customers feel invested.”

Since then, eQuilter has donated over $1.4 million to philanthropic organizations. The company has supported Ocean Conservancy for over 12 years, giving nearly $70,000 and helping to educate their customers about threats to our ocean.

“I love having very personal relationships with the organizations we give to—we choose them very carefully,” Luana says. “We did some very thorough vetting and research and Ocean Conservancy kept coming up as the most effective ocean organization.

“We feel the ocean is critical in so many ways,” she adds. “We’re very concerned by poisoning and contamination going on in the ocean and how that effects not only the health of the ocean but the eco-balance of the entire world.”

In addition to Ocean Conservancy, eQuilter supports breast cancer research, rainforest conservation and humanitarian aid to those in need throughout the world, especially children and refugees. They also collect donated quilts and ship them to places reeling from disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Luana feels strongly that being charitably minded makes good business sense—and encourages other companies to support the causes they are passionate about. “I’ve found customers are really hungry to make a positive impact if given the opportunity,” she says. “This is a great way to market your company that also makes a difference for the planet.”

This piece, authored by Kirsten Ferguson, originally appeared in the summer issue of Ocean Conservancy’s newsletter, Splash.

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Seven Gulf Animals Worth Protecting http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/14/seven-gulf-animals-worth-protecting/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/14/seven-gulf-animals-worth-protecting/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:03:32 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14151

It goes without saying that all Gulf animals are worth protecting. But we couldn’t share them all. So like a mother’s abundant, yet somewhat hierarchical, love for her batch of offspring, our list of seven Gulf animals exists with a twinge of favoritism.

In recognition of next week’s seven-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, we’ve compiled a list of seven incredible Gulf animals. From ocean Einsteins to bus-sized carnivores, here are seven Gulf animals worth protecting:

1. Whale Shark

Visuals of whale sharks are breathtaking. These gigantic yet gentle globs of mass can live up to 150 years, and are often found gliding with mouths wide open—mouths as wide as five feet. As the largest fish in the world, whale sharks can reach up to 40 feet long and weigh up to 20,000 pounds.

While primarily solitary animals, whale sharks rely on a sixth sense (not the one you’re thinking) to detect the presence of other animals through electromagnetic fields. However, whale sharks are relatively harmless, choosing to feed on plankton instead.

As for the official debate of whale versus shark? Whale sharks are just plain sharks. This means they are fish, and not mammals—the classification of whales. The name “whale” simply comes from a denomination of its enormous size.

2. Bottlenose Dolphin

Fun fact: humans aren’t the only species on a first name basis.

Researchers discovered that, like us, dolphins have unique ways of addressing individual members of a pod. In the way that we use first names to call each other’s attention, dolphins use signature whistles to call specific members of their pod.

As Einsteins of the sea, dolphins are some of the smartest mammals around, known for their craft, cunning and social skills.

3. Sperm Whale

Perhaps best known for the role of “whale” in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, sperm whales didn’t have the best reputation in the past. These carnivores are known for their massive size (longer than the average transit bus) and gigantic heads—holding the largest brain of any living mammal on earth! While brain size does not equal intelligence, they are relatively vocal and communicative animals.

Sperm whales often travel in groups, up to twenty large, and even practice communal childcare! Pods are typically made up of female and their young, while males tent to travel solo, or drift between groups.

Finally, their heads account for one third of their body and are filled with a curious substance called spermaceti. Although scientists still aren’t 100% sure of its use, some believe the spermaceti help these toothed whales regulate their buoyancy, helping them to dive down to 3,000 feet deep.

4. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

When you think of tuna, whether in the context of small metal cans on store shelves or gripping tales from tanned fisherman, these apex predators play a major role in a balanced Gulf ecosystem. Prized by recreational and commercial fisheries, bluefin tuna are the largest of the tuna species, reaching up to 6.5 feet and swimming at speeds up to 45 mph. Oddly enough, these top predators are warm-blooded, meaning they can regulate their own body temperature.

5. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is one of the smallest turtles in the sea, weighing in at about 100 pounds. These stalwart swimmers will travel hundreds of miles to reach their nesting grounds, and often return to the same beach where they hatched.  Sadly, many of their nesting areas on the Gulf Coast are threatened by urban development and sea level rise, and the lives of these reptiles have become increasingly difficult since the BP oil disaster. Today, their female nesting population is estimated at only 1,000 individuals.

6. Brown Pelican

Brown pelicans are both stunning flyers and impressive divers. While relatively clumsy on firm ground, they spend their time between water and air, plunge diving into the ocean to stun small fish upon impact and scooping them up into their extendable throat pouch. They can also hold up to three gallons of water in their pouch.

Although pelicans were once placed on the Endangered Species List due to pesticide pollution such as DDT, they’ve since become a recovery success story.

7. Manatee

Everyone’s favorite sea cow comes in at number seven as a staple of the Gulf ecosystem. These warm water drifters can eat about 120 pounds, or 10% of their body weight, each day. As a distant relative of the elephant, these buoyant animals have thick, wrinkled skin that often hosts growing algae.  Finally, despite their small eyes and tiny ear holes, manatees can see and hear very well!

As we approach the seven-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster, we are seven years closer to fully restoring the Gulf and better understanding the ecosystem and wildlife that speeds, drifts and thrives off its shores. This month, the first payments of the $20.8 billion BP settlement are being issued—something we’re lucky to have seven years after the disaster began. The Exxon Valdez oil spill case dragged on for 20 years in court, resulting in a much lower penalty. This seven-year anniversary is an opportunity, and we are lucky to continue improving our Gulf ecosystem for the incredible wildlife beyond its shores.

Looking for more information on ocean animals? Check out our wildlife fact sheets.

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Support Research to Stop Ocean Pollution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/03/support-research-to-stop-ocean-pollution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/03/support-research-to-stop-ocean-pollution/#comments Mon, 03 Apr 2017 14:00:56 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14070

Science does not lie. It’s unbiased and based on what is. And the science shows there’s no doubt about it: ocean pollution is a big problem.

Scientists have recorded nearly 700 species of marine wildlife that have been affected by marine debris. With an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean every year from land, that means marine species will be living in an ocean that could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025!

And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five millimeters) now circulate in the ocean. The sources of these microplastics are diverse, resulting from large products breaking into smaller pieces or the shedding of microfibers from tires and even yoga pants.

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about ocean plastic pollution. Just this week, four leading senators introduced bi-partisan legislation to help solve this problem. The Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2017 was introduced by Senator Sullivan (R-AK), Sen. Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) and Sen. Booker (D-NJ).

This legislation will support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research to better understand the impacts of this growing threat and identify solutions to stop the flow of plastic waste into our ocean, including reducing and better managing solid municipal waste.

Take action today by telling your Senators to support this important piece of legislation.

For more than 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has been at the forefront of solutions targeting marine debris with partner organizations and individuals around the world. Starting with our first International Coastal Cleanup on the beach of South Padre Island, Texas, we have helped mobilize nearly 12 million volunteers in support of preventing marine debris.

No American wants to visit a polluted beach this summer and this legislation will support NOAA’s continued efforts to help stop the marine debris crisis.

Taking action and working together will help us move towards a healthier, more resilient ocean for ourselves and for future generations.

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The Best Underwater Pranksters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/31/the-best-underwater-pranksters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/31/the-best-underwater-pranksters/#comments Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:05:56 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14057

Amidst all the beauty and serenity in our ocean, people often forget the level of cunning and stealth that exists beneath the waves. The pursuit of survival breeds some of the sneakiest critters and talented pranksters in our world. So in honor of this April Fool’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of the ocean’s ultimate pranksters—from which you might even learn a thing or two when it comes to making the most of this famed holiday.

From playing dead to faux body parts and camouflage, here are some of our ocean’s finest:

Master of Surprise: The Reef Stonefish

If you took Ashton Kutcher, and put him under the waves, you’d have the stonefish.

This underwater Punk’d star is a master of camouflage. Stonefish lurk among coral and rocky reefs, so perfectly camouflaged with their surrounding habitats that often predator and prey alike don’t recognize their presence. They remain hidden, sometimes for hours at a time, until an unsuspecting prey swims by in close proximity. Without warning, the stonefish will strike—very much like Ashton Kutcher in a bad episode of MTV’s Punk’d—using their giant mouths and powerful jaws to suck in and gobble their prey whole.

It’s fortunate that stonefish are so talented, as they rely on the element of surprise to upkeep their carnivorous diet. Oh, and they also happen to be the most venomous fish in the world. So…don’t try sneaking up behind this one.

Master of Disguise: The Mimic Octopus

The mimic octopus is revered for their ability to transform into another ocean animal in a moment’s notice.

Footage of these incredible creatures went viral a few years back: An octopus developing black and white stripped patterns, flaring its body into a replica of venomous spines—a lionfish. Then, suddenly flatting its core to hover and undulate along the ocean floor—a flatfish! Unlike other cephalopods, octopuses don’t have rigid skeletal elements, allowing an atypical amount of flexibility.

Depending on their appraisal of any situation, the mimic octopus can impersonate a host of underwater animals including lionfish, crabs, brittle stars and venomous sea snakes. While some imitations are to ward off predators, other disguises are used to advance on prey. For example, by impersonating a crab’s potential mate, it can confuse the poor crab into becoming dinner.

Livingstone’s Cichlids (Aka your dog isn’t the only one who can play dead)

Like the stonefish, Livingstone’s cichlids are the ambush predators of freshwater. However, instead of lying low and hidden like a stonefish, these fish take it six-feet lower (so to speak). They remain limp and immobile on the lake floor. In a perfect mockery of a dead fish, they await the approach of unsuspecting prey and lunge suddenly when within range.  For this, they’ve even earned the local name of Kolingono, or “sleeper”.

Now… rollover?

Cross-Dressing Cuttlefish

Vying for female mates can be tough for a small cuttlefish. Fortunately, some have developed a sneaky way to use size to their advantage. By tucking in their tentacles and changing colors, a male cuttlefish can disguise himself as a female to sneak right by the competition. While the larger male assumes he’s in luck with two females, the smaller male can mate with the female right under his nose. And the best part? The female’s eggs will now contain a mixture of sperm from both fathers, ensuring more genetic variation for her offspring.

We have a lot to learn from ocean animals—especially, apparently, when it comes to disguise, ambush and tactic. Rumor has it the U.S. military is studying the cuttlefish in hopes of improving their camouflage techniques, meanwhile it’s taken me almost twenty-two years to master eye shadow.

Regardless of your level on the prankster scale, have a wonderful April Fool’s and be safe out there!

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Trump Proposed Slashing NOAA’s Budget—Something Amazing is Happening in Response http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:02:19 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13954

We know that the Trump administration wants to cut NOAA’s budget bone-deep, proposing a nearly one-billion-dollar budget cut for America’s world-class ocean agency. But something amazing has been happening in the days since those devastating cuts were leaked to the Washington Post: People are saying “No!”

Americans are making clear that they’re not willing to stand by and let NOAA get gutted. The agency’s work is just too important. And our friends and neighbors are starting to fight back.

Today, in a massive show of support for NOAA and the world-class scientists that predict our weather, explore our oceans, and protect our marine fish and wildlife, 371 organizations and community leaders from across America sent a letter asking Congress to just say no. The letter expresses “extreme dismay” at the proposed cuts, and asks Congress to block the Trump administration’s NOAA cuts from becoming a reality.

The organizations and community leaders who signed this letter come from every corner of America and every walk of life, from oyster farmers and state legislators to bird watchers:

  • Organizations and individuals from 29 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have added their voices to this letter. It got signatures from Montana and South Dakota to California and Florida.
  • It includes signatures from than 100 prominent researchers and scientists.
  • More than 50 national and regional organizations joined the letter, ranging from environmental groups to business and industry interests.
  • 22 members of the Maine’s State Legislature signed on, ensuring an especially strong shout-out of support for the importance of NOAA for the state of Maine and its coastal economy.

When the Washington Post reported on the devastating cuts that might befall NOAA, it was a major wake-up call. But the good news is, people are showing up and speaking out against it.

We asked you to send a letter to your Senator asking Congress to block these budget cuts and we are blown away by the response. Tens of thousands of people across America have sent letters to their Senators so far. And we’ve had hundreds more calling their members of Congress, too!

And you know what? It’s starting to work. A bipartisan group of Senators from Maine, Hawaii and Alaska have sent a letter to the Trump administration expressing deep concerns about the proposed NOAA budget cuts. If members of Congress keep getting more emails and phone calls each day from concerned citizens, those six senators will just be the beginning.

What happens next depends on all of us, and the chorus of voices supporting NOAA is growing.

Will you be a part of it?

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