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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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How Ocean Acidification Impacts Florida’s Ecosystems

Posted On June 15, 2016 by

Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Dr. Kimberly Yates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!

OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?

Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.

Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.

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What Inspires a Spear Fisherman to go to Capitol Hill?

Posted On June 10, 2016 by

Captain Scott Childress owns and navigates a commercial spear fishing vessel located in Hudson, Florida.

When Ocean Conservancy asked me to join them to visit elected officials on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), I was quick to say a resounding “yes,” but a little nervous about my new role.

What the heck would I—a commercial spear fisherman—say to congressmen? As it turned out, quite a lot. I have a unique perspective on fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and on the U.S. law that has served as “tough love” for America’s fisheries.

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The Northeast Ocean Plan Sails towards a New Era for Ocean Management

Posted On May 27, 2016 by

The Northeast Ocean Plan, the nation’s first regional ocean plan was released this week and is now open for public comment through July 25. See Ocean Conservancy’s press release here.

This plan is the culmination of four years of work by state and federal agencies, tribes, the Fishery Management Council, stakeholders and the public.  New England has led the nation on collaborative ocean management since 2005 when it formed the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), the country’s first regional ocean partnership.  In 2010, the issuance of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy opened the door for New England to create the Northeast Regional Planning Body (whose work NROC supports), and to move forward with regional ocean planning.   The release of the draft plan this week is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based, and stakeholder-informed ocean management.  It results in better data and information on a wide range of ocean uses and resources, improved communication and coordination amongst the twenty plus state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in the ocean, and decision-making processes that better engage stakeholders and ocean users.  All with the goal of advancing ocean health and growing local economies.

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Caring for Crabs is Caring for the Coast

Posted On May 23, 2016 by

San Franciso Bay Area Dungeness crabber Captain John Mellor

“We’re like the Giants. We’re your hometown team,” said Captain John Mellor last week as he described the San Francisco Bay Dungeness crab fishing fleet. Capt. Mellor’s pride in his work as a crabber is paired with a love for what he does. But, his feelings are mixed with fear for the future. A West-Coast wide toxic algae bloom shut down the fishery last year, leaving him out of work for five months. Fishermen and researchers are also worried that ocean acidification could represent a looming threat to the fishery that could cause future fishing disruptions.

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Will Ocean Acidification Affect Dungeness Crabs?

Posted On May 18, 2016 by

2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014  – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”

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Ocean Planning Brings a Taste of New England to Washington, D.C.

Posted On May 18, 2016 by

What do lobster fishermen, recreational boaters, research scientists, family aquaculture businesses and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all pulled up a chair at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean, through a process called ocean planning.

Last week, nearly 30 ocean users from five coastal, New England states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the Northeast regional ocean plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.

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Standing Before the Senate to Address the Ocean Plastics Problem

Posted On May 17, 2016 by

Earlier today, I testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the problem of ocean plastics and how it negatively affects ocean animals. Ocean plastics are a problem that affects us all. From our fisheries to our beaches to our protected environments—ocean plastics are a cause of concern for all Americans.

The growing tide of ocean pollution is a problem for sea turtles that ingest plastic, sea birds that get tangled in fishing lines and marine mammals that wash ashore with belly’s full of trash.

I’m grateful to the Senate for passing the U.S. Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act of 2006, which authorized the creation of the Marine Debris Program (MDP) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA MDP has been instrumental in informing and catalyzing marine debris research and solutions in the United States and abroad.

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