Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. They provide three-dimensional habitat for an astonishing variety of plants and animals. While they occupy less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs support more than 25% of all marine life. They also shelter shorelines from storms and erosion, and provide food and jobs for coastal communities dependent on tourism and fishing.
Last month, 2,500 people from 97 countries flew to Hawaii–not for vacation, but to address the international crisis facing coral reefs around the world.
Participating in the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, these world leaders, scientists, activists and students issued a powerful call to action to address the growing threat of coral bleaching around the world.
What do recreational fishermen, research scientists, commercial shipping representatives, conservationists and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all come together at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean thanks to ocean planning.
Two weeks ago, over 20 ocean users from the five Mid-Atlantic states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the recently released Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.
These individuals came to D.C. with a simple message: the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan was released July 5th, and it will provide real benefits to our ocean, the states, and ocean industries. It offers a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic. They asked members of Congress to support the plan, and to support their respective industries’ roles in the planning process.
Can you imagine a family in the same business for eight generations? Talk about dedication and deep expertise! That is what struck me when I met the Haward family, who has been farming oysters since the 1700s. Last month in West Mersea, England, I had the privilege of visiting Richard Haward’s Oysters. I was hosted by Richard himself, along with his son Bram. These men have inherited a craft honed by their great, great, great, great grandparents, but they are living in a time of unprecedented environmental change. And that is precisely why I was there, along with four American shellfish farmers. Specifically, we traveled to the United Kingdom to talk about ocean acidification and how it threatens the livelihoods and traditions of people who rely on the sea.
The summer sizzle has arrived and I have some hot news to share with you: The nation’s first regional ocean plan was just released in New England! This plan is a huge win for the Atlantic Ocean and everything that lives in it.
Great news from the west coast! Last week, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban on the sale of polystyrene foam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting January 1, 2017. This is a major win for the health of our ocean and marine life!
As you may already know, the problems associated with expanded polystyrene (foam) products is that they often fragment into small pieces once in the ocean, where fish, sea turtles or seabirds can mistakenly eat the tiny plastic bits. Nearly 425,000 foam cups, plates and food containers were removed from beaches by volunteers during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup alone. And even more astounding are the more than 950,000 pieces of foam volunteers found on beaches around the globe during the 2015 Cleanup.
On July 5th, the Mid-Atlantic States become the second region in the nation to release an ocean action plan for their shared federal waters, an historic move that follows a similar release by the New England states in May.
Over the past 3 years, the Mid-Atlantic has been at the forefront of regional ocean planning in the United States. Along with the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic states chose to develop their ocean plan after President Obama’s National Ocean Policy was announced in 2010. Led by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body which is comprised of six states, two federally recognized tribes, multiple federal agencies and the Fisheries Management Council, the region is now poised to not only better manage its ocean resources, but to plan more comprehensively for its future. The release of this draft plan, in combination with the Northeast Plan, is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based and stakeholder-informed ocean management. Between the two regions, ocean plans now benefit ocean users and resources from Virginia to Maine.
So what does this plan mean for you as an ocean user?