Yes, there are ghosts in the ocean. Not your typical ghouls, goblins or gremlins; but there are innumerous inanimate creatures posing far greater danger to the underwater realm: ghost nets.
Ghost nets are just one component of the larger issue of derelict fishing gear, which comprises nets, lines, crab, lobster and shrimp pots, and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned or discarded in the marine environment. With the introduction of synthetic gear following WWII, the effectiveness of fishing gear to snag and capture fish has become extraordinary.
Unfortunately, too often this gear becomes lost, abandoned or discarded in the marine environment where it can remain intact for hundreds of years. The same characteristics that make fishing nets incredibly effective at catching fish also create an extraordinary hazard when they go afloat. Once adrift in the ocean, derelict gear can remain intact for years destroying habitat, threatening navigation and entangling fishes, sea turtles, whales and other marine animals; this latter consequence is known as “ghost fishing.”
At the Ocean Conservancy, we’re working to ensure a healthy ocean because we know that the ocean sustains us. The oxygen we breathe, the protein we eat, the moderate climates we enjoy, the joys of fishing, boating, diving and surfing, the easy global transfer of goods, and even the water we drink—all of this is thanks to the ocean. If the ocean is healthy, so are we.
Keeping it healthy is not easy, however. The only thing growing faster than our population—2 billion more people by 2040—is our consumption. The world’s population is becoming richer, and our demand for protein, energy, minerals and more, is exploding. The ocean holds the key to satisfying much of that demand, and it is thus at the very center of the most pressing challenge of our time: how do we create prosperity for all without destroying the natural world that sustains us?
We can do this, but we must first awaken to what is truly needed. In the old days, being an environmentalist meant that we sought to clean up very specific messes. As a child, I witnessed this when the first attempts were made to clean up the Rhine River, which was a cesspool at the time—and, against all odds, we succeeded to the point that salmon were re-introduced.
But now our job is much bigger, because the distinctions we once had in the environmental movement—among people working on the ocean, on air pollution, on biodiversity, on climate change, on land use, on natural resources—are increasingly meaningless. We know that the ocean sustains us at a very existential level and that all of these natural systems are interconnected.
Americans today have a tendency to be squeamish about our food. We generally prefer our dinner to no longer resemble the animal it came from. We mentally and physically divide the “good” parts from the “gross” parts. A recent “This American Life” episode horrified listeners by suggesting that it is possible that some calamari may in fact be pig bung.
But what if we adjusted our thinking? What if we revisited the cultures whose food we’ve adapted into this great melting pot of a country and noted how they did it? What if we could taste more and waste less? Now, I’m not suggesting you make a run for pig bung (although you should check out the podcast). No, we’re looking at an easier leap: the whole fish. More specifically, “The Whole Fish: How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier and Help Save the Ocean“, a new TED e-book by Maria Finn. (TED books are published by the same group responsible for TED talks.)
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up a crew of ocean companions for you to check out–which ones are fickle lovers and which ones are lifers–the players and the player-haters, as it were. So whether you’re celebrating the notorious day of love with a pint of ice cream or with your favorite spouse, we’ve got a resident of the aquatic world that has a love life similar to yours! Read on to find out who you most align with.
I’ve been saying for years there aren’t enough popular songs about octopuses. Now all that is changing with a catchy new tune from Parry Gripp called “Little Octopus Climbing Over Rock.” The best line of the song: “Do you think you’re Neil Armstrong / Do you think you’re Mr. Spock?” You’ll be singing along in no time.
And before you correct me for calling a group of eight-legged cephalopods “octopuses” instead of “octopi,” check out this admirably thorough linguistic romp through the history of octopus pluralization from Merriam-Webster’s YouTube channel after the jump.
It’s been a busy year so far, and we’re only finishing the first full week of 2013. To start off the new year, here are the top five tweets that attracted the most attention in the Twittersphere over the last week:
1. Trapped killer whales freed by shifting ice
BREAKING: Multiple reports say the 12 killer whales trapped in sea ice in Quebec have been freed by shifting ice: ocean.ly/UPKPtR
A group of killer whales surrounded by ice off the coast of Canada were deemed to have a grim future, but an unexpected shift in wind current moved the ice in a way that allowed them to escape. This surprise happy ending garnered the most attention of our ocean followers this week. This tweet also took away the most favorites.
As we approach the end of 2012, we’re reflecting on our exciting victories of the past year. From helping pass the RESTORE Act (which guarantees funding for Gulf of Mexico restoration) to pushing for a time-out on oil and gas activity in the Arctic, 2012 was an important year for ocean conservation. It was also the year we launched The Blog Aquatic, and now we’re celebrating by counting down our most popular posts since our April debut. Let us know your favorite in the comments section.