The Blog Aquatic » Science & Conservation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Talking Trash and Taking Action http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/27/talking-trash-and-taking-action/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/27/talking-trash-and-taking-action/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:00:40 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9096

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Education and Outreach Fellow, Emily Parker. Emily recently graduated from Elon University with a major in Environmental Studies. She joined the Trash Free Seas team as in intern earlier this year to assist in the development and distribution of the Talking Trash & Taking Action program and is now working to help educate the public on the issue of marine debris as a Fellow. While not at Ocean Conservancy, you can find her hunting down the best food in Washington, D.C. and escaping to saltwater and sand whenever she can.

No matter what the cause, empowering students and youth to make a difference in the world through volunteerism always inspires me. It has always been said that children are the future, and this couldn’t be truer when it comes to ocean conservation. They are the next generation of ocean stewards, and there is no better way to ignite passion than to engage students in the ocean problems of today.

One of the greatest threats our ocean faces is marine debris. While many ocean issues are extremely complex and multi-faceted, trash is a bit easier to wrap our heads around. So when Ocean Conservancy brought the problem to the attention of City Year students in Washington DC this summer, we were not disappointed. As we spoke to them about ocean trash—where it comes from and why we care about it—we were met with raised hands, impressive answers and creative ideas. Students responded with empathy and imagined innovative prevention methods that impressed even our seasoned educators. After taking students down to Anacostia National Park to get their hands dirty and participate in a trash cleanup, the enthusiasm was unprecedented. We finished, tired yet proud, posing around the 700 pounds of collected trash. The event convinced many students to swear off single-use plastic bottles forever.

It is this potential that has inspired Ocean Conservancy to develop a marine debris educational program entitled Talking Trash & Taking Action. This program, developed in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Marine Debris Program, combines concrete information along with engaging hands-on activities to teach students about marine debris and how it can be prevented. The program dives deep into the issue, covering marine debris composition and decomposition, the watershed and ocean current networks, ocean gyres and trash traps, environmental and economic impacts, and all types of prevention methods, from the individual and every day, the community-wide and unique.

Talking Trash & Taking Action is currently available for use by any and all formal and informal educators interested in teaching their students about marine debris. The program is designed so that educators can incorporate specific activities into existing curriculum or walk through the entire program step-by-step.

Join Ocean Conservancy in the fight against marine debris by leading your own educational program. Visit our website to download the Talking Trash & Taking Action program along with other helpful tools to engage youth and adults alike.

Interested in organizing a training program for the educators in your area? Contact Allison Schutes for more information. Together, we can all help to turn the tide on trash.

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Plastics Are a Whale of a Problem for Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/26/plastics-are-a-whale-of-a-problem-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/26/plastics-are-a-whale-of-a-problem-for-our-ocean/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 01:35:37 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9123

Photo: Eric Patey via Flickr Creative Commons

Sei whales are majestic animals and I’ve had the great fortune of witnessing their grace and splendor in the open ocean. Last week, however, a 45-foot sei whale washed up on the shores of the Elizabeth River in Virginia. An 11-foot bruise above her left jaw and two fractured vertebrae led the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team to believe she was killed by blunt force trauma following a collision with a ship.

However, a necropsy revealed that the whale also had “a large sharp piece of rigid, black plastic” roughly the size of a standard index card lodged in her stomach.

In the days leading up to her death, the Virginia Aquarium team said that she “was thin and its movements were not indicative of a healthy whale.” They believe that the plastic in the whale’s stomach prevented her from feeding normally. This likely weakened the whale and could explain why she swam up the Elizabeth River.


Unfortunately we cannot dismiss this as a tragic, isolated incident. Plastic pollution in the marine environment has become a persistent and proliferating threat to our ocean. Plastics pose a great threat to the animals that live in and around the ocean, and our fight for a clean ocean is just as much for them as it is for us.

While there is no “catch all” solution for ocean trash, you can join the fight for a healthy ocean. This September, Ocean Conservancy is hosting its 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup. The Cleanup will not eradicate the perils of plastics in the ocean, but it can eliminate the chance that items littering our beaches and waterways ever find their way into our marine environment.

Join us, and you can help make a difference for our ocean.

 

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Petition: Save the Vaquita http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/23/petition-save-the-vaquita/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/23/petition-save-the-vaquita/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 13:37:58 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9075

The smallest porpoise in the ocean is facing the biggest chance of extinction. With fewer than 100 remaining, the vaquita, a tiny porpoise found only off the coast of Mexico, is the most endangered marine mammal in the world.

The few remaining vaquitas need your help, now!

Sign the Petition: Save the vaquita from extinction!

Imagine losing this species, entirely. The tiny vaquita seems to always be seen smiling, but those smiles are depleting. This swift decline of the population is a direct result of fishing nets. These vaquitas are getting caught in nets, and dying completely preventable deaths.

The Mexican government is set to decide the fate of the vaquita this September. Be a big voice for the smallest porpoise in the ocean! Tell the US government to work with Mexico to ban the gillnets that threaten the future of the vaquita. If we don’t speak up now, the vaquita species could vanish completely this decade.

Help keep the smiling vaquitas roaming the ocean, today!

Take Action: Tell the US to protect the vaquita.

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Video: Ocean Acidification – A Threat to Economies and Cultures Around the World http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/video-ocean-acidification-a-threat-to-economies-and-cultures-around-the-world/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/video-ocean-acidification-a-threat-to-economies-and-cultures-around-the-world/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:37:16 +0000 Alexis Valauri-Orton http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9059

Over these past three months, my blog series has taken you around the world and into the lives of marine dependent communities at risk from ocean acidification.  Hopefully this journey did for you what it did for me: showed how ocean acidification has the power to alter whole communities, and how these communities are in dire need of research, guidance and infrastructure to prepare for the challenges ahead.

Before I leave Ocean Conservancy, I want to share one more thing.  I have prepared this video to help make the stories I’ve shared in my blog come alive.  Listen to Waiaria talk about the value of shellfish to the identity of people in New Zealand.  Watch fishermen in Peru celebrate El Dia de Pescadores. Tag along as a shellfish farmer in Thailand hand dredges the bay in the middle of the night.  See the faces and the places that continue to drive my conviction that we have more work to do.  And share them with your friends, so we can do good on what Peter, a cod-fisherman in Norway who can trace fishing back 1,000 years in his family, said to me:

“The whole world has to know. Not only in this small place, but the whole world has to know what is happening.”

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Ocean Acidification Wrecks Sharks’ Smellovision http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/20/ocean-acidification-wrecks-sharks-smellovision/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/20/ocean-acidification-wrecks-sharks-smellovision/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:06:23 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9054

Scarier than any movie shark that can smell a drop of blood miles away (they can’t, by the way) is this week’s news about sharks’ sense of smell. A team of Australian and American scientists has just shown that smooth dogfishes (also called dusky smooth-hound sharks) can’t smell food as well after living in ocean acidification conditions expected for the year 2100. These “future” sharks could correctly track food smells only 15% of the time, compared to a 60% accuracy rate for unexposed sharks.  In fact, the acidification-exposed sharks even avoided food smells!

This surprising result is also pretty sobering, when you consider how important sharks’ sense of smell is to nearly everything they do. Sharks have especially large, complex “nose” organs, which help them find food, mates, and predators, as well as find their way around the oceans. Many sharks, including the smooth dogfish, are very active at night and in the deep, dark ocean, so their sense of smell provides critical information about their surroundings. The researchers note that the sharks’ damaged sense of smell is probably due to the same changes in neurotransmitters reported in coral reef clownfish (yes, Nemo) that love the smell of predators in an acidifying ocean.

Despite their mighty reputation, sharks are under threat from overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss. Sharks that also can’t find food or avoid predators will probably not survive long, causing even more trouble for shark populations. They grow and reproduce slowly, too, meaning that sharks that die young aren’t replaced quickly. Scientists still don’t know yet if the smooth dogfish can adapt over several generations to improve their odds against the ocean acidification we will see over the coming decades, but it doesn’t look good.

Smooth dogfishes live along coasts from Maine to Florida, around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, and along the southeastern coast of South America. They might benefit somewhat from the actions that East Coast states like Maine and Maryland are taking against ocean acidification, but as species that migrate long distances, our best bet is to cut carbon dioxide emissions globally.

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How Do We Restore the Gulf Beyond the Shore? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/18/how-do-we-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/18/how-do-we-restore-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:19:54 +0000 Libby Fetherston http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9034

In the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, everyone’s talking about how we restore the Gulf Coast. But the Gulf of Mexico is more than what we can see from the shoreline. If we restore the coast without restoring the deep waters, we’re only addressing half the problem.

That’s why Ocean Conservancy has created Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore. It’s a short guide to the wildlife that lives in the Gulf’s waters and it explains why it is so important that we ensure the health and safety of our fish, dolphins, seabirds, and whales (yes, whales in the Gulf!).

With over 15,000 species that call these waters home, and dozens of migratory visitors – Atlantic bluefin tuna, sperm whales and northern gannets, to name a few of my favorites – the Gulf plays host to incredible creatures and complex dynamics connecting land and sea. Even before the BP oil disaster, the Gulf was struggling under the weight of dead zones, overfishing, coastal habitat loss and more. With much of this damage underwater and out of sight, restoration becomes even more difficult to define, because we must imagine what we cannot directly see and estimate what we cannot directly count.

Along the coastline, restoration is defined as replacing something that has been damaged. It is a tangible process that creates new oyster beds, marshes and barrier islands. Beyond where the eye can see, however, restoration must take a different shape. Restoring deep-water species and habitats means gathering knowledge through science and technology that we can then use to reduce human impacts and other sources of stress and give marine species the best opportunity to recover on their own. This approach is known as natural recovery and there are few other ways to restore fish, dolphins, turtles or deep-sea corals.

In an era of shrinking budgets, science and knowledge have been something of a luxury in the Gulf. And now restoration funds resulting from this disaster offer an unprecedented opportunity to repair what was damaged, fix chronic problems and enhance what remains. The decisions we make now will impact the region for decades to come, and the only question that remains is: how do we invest in successful and strategic restoration projects and processes that restore the Gulf, on which so much depends?

The long answer? Restoration must be comprehensive: from the rivers that feed the estuaries, to the deepest expanses of the seafloor, where the BP oil disaster began, to the communities that call the Gulf Coast home. We must make smart and immediate investments that address pressing needs in the Gulf, as well as foundational projects that support ongoing and future restoration efforts. If we are going to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect and enhance the Gulf and its unique culture, we must ensure that restoration of the marine environment is an integral part of our approach.

The short answer? Let’s make those decisions count.

Want to make a difference for the Gulf? Tell our Gulf leaders to include marine restoration projects as an essential component of Gulf restoration.

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Watch Our Google Hangout All About Sharks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/14/watch-our-google-hangout-all-about-sharks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/14/watch-our-google-hangout-all-about-sharks/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:19:43 +0000 Michelle Frey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9016 Did you miss Ocean Conservancy’s Google Hangout all about sharks? If so, don’t worry! We have a recording here to share with you. Enjoy.

Did you know that there are roughly 400 species of sharks? While many people fear sharks, the reality is that sharks have more to fear from humans than humans do from sharks. Watch our Google Hangout as we talk about the coolest (and often unknown) facts about sharks, the greatest threats facing sharks today, and our biggest hopes for shark conservation.

Moderator:

  • George Leonard, Chief Scientist at Ocean Conservancy

Speakers:

  • David Shiffman, Ph.D. student at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy
  • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post correspondent and author of “Demon Fish: Travels Through the World With Sharks”
  • Dr. Joe Quattro, professor of the Marine Science Program and Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina
  • Austin Gallagher, integrative conservation biologist fascinated with the adaptations of species
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