The Blog Aquatic » Science & Conservation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:50:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Trash-Talking On Our 42nd Birthday http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 12:00:43 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9177  

Photo: Kanyarat Kosavisutte

Ocean Conservancy is turning 42 today – that makes us one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US.  But 42 is the new 17, and we’re feeling anything but settled these days.  Sure, we are delighted at our successes (none more so than the complete turnaround of US fisheries).  There are definitely a few things that really frost our cookies – and none more so than that disgusting and dangerous mess that is clinically known as “marine debris.”

Let’s call it what it is:  trash in the ocean. The ocean contains a staggering amount of it.  There’s enough to fill more than 200 professional football stadiums. In ten years or so, there will be one ton of trash for every 2-3 tons of fish.  If you love the ocean, that’s just completely unacceptable.

And it’s not like that trash just bobs around on the surface (about 70 percent of plastics produced float), looking ugly but doing little harm.  Quite the opposite – we have report after report coming in that most of the plastic degrades into tiny pieces, which, if you’re an anchovy or a sardine or a turtle, look a lot like food.  Much of it is eaten and is inside the animals.  And to makes things worse, these tiny plastic pellets have the nasty property of adsorbing and concentrating the low-level industrial pollution that is ubiquitous in seawater, effectively turning plastic fragments into toxic pellets.  So what we get is a slow contamination of the entire ocean biota.

The majority of ocean trash hails from rapidly industrializing countries where plastics consumption is exploding and waste management infrastructure lags far behind.  Eventually, these countries will implement waste systems, but by then it will be too late – plastics stick around the ocean for hundreds of years.  Unfortunately, there are no silver bullet solutions – plastics are unlikely to be banned or replaced in time to avoid the avalanche over the next ten years. To address the systemic problem, what is needed is for plastic and consumer product industries to step to the forefront and put their enormous resources to work.  We can’t do it without them.  Nobody knows logistics better.  Nobody is more skilled at social marketing.  And certainly, nobody has more financial resources.

We are starting a major campaign on ocean trash that goes far beyond the scope of our traditional International Coastal Cleanup.  In the years to come, we will lead the development of an entirely new approach to financing and establishing critically needed infrastructure in those places which spew the most plastic into the ocean.  Stay close, stay tuned in, and become involved.  We can do this.

Forty-two has never looked better. And our biggest birthday wish is to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean.  But before we can achieve that reality, the best gift you can give us for our birthday is to join us on September 20 for the International Coastal Cleanup.

We thank you. And the ocean thanks you.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/feed/ 0
New Data on Coastal Recreation Along the Atlantic to Help Guide Planning http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/new-data-on-coastal-recreation-along-the-atlantic-to-help-guide-planning/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/new-data-on-coastal-recreation-along-the-atlantic-to-help-guide-planning/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 15:15:11 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9168

The Surfrider Foundation, in partnership with Point 97, The Nature Conservancy and Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute, has published the results of a recreational use study conducted along the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Almost 1,500 completed surveys were collected, which provided insight on where and how people spend their time along the Mid-Atlantic coast. This information, which is represented by the above image, shows just how extensively the region’s coastlines are used by surfers, hikers, swimmers, and other beachgoers, and these activities are not only a common pastime for many Mid-Atlantic residents, but also generate significant economic benefits for coastal communities and the region.

The study helps fill a longstanding data gap on recreational activities along the Mid-Atlantic coast.  This information will contribute to the ongoing regional ocean planning effort in the Mid-Atlantic, where the first iteration of a Mid-Atlantic ocean plan is on track to be completed by 2016.  The survey was done in coordination with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and will be integrated into the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal and available for use by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) to create a plan for regional ocean management.

For more information, including the full report and state by state fact sheets, please click here.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/new-data-on-coastal-recreation-along-the-atlantic-to-help-guide-planning/feed/ 1
Judge Finds BP “Grossly Negligent” in Latest Deepwater Horizon Ruling http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/05/judge-finds-bp-grossly-negligent-in-latest-deepwater-horizon-ruling/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/05/judge-finds-bp-grossly-negligent-in-latest-deepwater-horizon-ruling/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 14:33:19 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9161

Yesterday, Judge Barbier, the judge presiding over a multi-phase trial related to the BP oil disaster, ruled that BP was grossly negligent and demonstrated willful misconduct for its role in  the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill.  Judge Barbier went even further, stating that BP, in fact, acted “recklessly”.  The ruling gave me, and hopefully other citizens of the Gulf, a sense of justice. We’ve known for four years now that BP was responsible for this disaster and quite possibly could have prevented it had they taken into account the risks involved in deep water drilling and planned accordingly. Their reckless behavior caused this spill and the citizens and natural resources of the Gulf will be dealing with the devastating impacts for many years to come.

Speculation about the amount of Clean Water Act (CWA) fines BP may have to pay is once again a hot topic of conversation with this latest announcement. BP’s profits are in the billions of dollars and the fines should be sufficient to make them and other companies vigilant about safety compliance and disaster preparation. Still unsettled is the amount of oil that was spilled during the 87 days before the well was finally capped. Ultimately, most of the CWA fines will be coming back to the Gulf region to restore the environment and economy. In addition to CWA fines, BP must be held accountable for direct environmental damage done by the spill, as required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). As scientific data on oil spill impacts continues to pour in, it is crucial to hold BP accountable not just for violating the CWA but also for ecological damage through NRDA.

Federal, state and local decision makers are faced with the immensely important task of deciding where and how these monies are ultimately spent. The top priority should be to make sure that those funds are invested in restoration projects that restore the bays, marshes, wetlands, world-class fisheries and ocean habitat that are the backbone of our region’s economy.

This is likely our generation’s only opportunity to restore an ecosystem so vital to our way of life here on the Gulf coast and so economically important to the nation. Unfortunately, funding on this scale often brings many temptations for unwise or inappropriate spending. Rather than random acts of restoration, we need comprehensive, meaningful environmental restoration, and we need to invest in the science that will allow us to take the pulse of the Gulf and better understand its health.

Getting restoration right requires local citizens, decision makers, and community leaders to commit to a comprehensive approach and a reliance on science—not politics—to drive the process.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/05/judge-finds-bp-grossly-negligent-in-latest-deepwater-horizon-ruling/feed/ 8
Breaking: Great News For the Gulf of Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/breaking-great-news-for-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/breaking-great-news-for-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:59:00 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9153

Today, a judge found  that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster was the direct result of BP’s “’gross negligence’ and ‘willful misconduct’” under the Clean Water Act. What does this mean for the Gulf? It means more funding available for restoring the Gulf.

Funding for restoration projects via the RESTORE Act comes from Clean Water Act fines. And a finding of “gross negligence,” rather than ordinary negligence, means that fines can be as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, instead of $1,100. The result of today’s court decision could mean a fine as high as $17.6 billion, 80% of which will be used to repair and restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the communities and economies that depend on it.

Over the past four years, BP has spent inordinate amounts of time and money shirking responsibility, pointing fingers at others and downplaying the seriousness of the disaster. Today, the court is holding BP responsible.

The judge still must rule on the amount of oil spilled – a major factor determining the ultimate amount of fines. The third stage of the trial will begin in January 2015.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/breaking-great-news-for-the-gulf-of-mexico/feed/ 2
Help is on the Way for the Nassau Grouper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/help-is-on-the-way-for-the-nassau-grouper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/help-is-on-the-way-for-the-nassau-grouper/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 14:44:06 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9146

The Nassau grouper can be found all over the Americas, but it’s facing extinction in nearly all of its habitats.  After years of hard work and outreach, the U.S. government is stepping up to the plate to help this critically important species. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced that the Nassau grouper will be protected under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

Nassau grouper are large reef dwelling fish, historically found in the Western North Atlantic from Bermuda, Florida, Bahamas, Yucatan Peninsula, and throughout the Caribbean to southern Brazil, including coral reef habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast to North Carolina. However, the species is imperiled due to human exploitation and inadequate regulatory protection. The primary threat to Nassau grouper is overfishing from gill nets, long-lines, bottom trawls, and other fishing activities, both intentionally and as by-catch. Despite a fishing ban in U.S. waters for decades, Nassau grouper are commercially extinct in the U.S.

Federal ESA listing is a tool of last resort. Ideally, species would never get to the low point of needing ESA protection. However, ESA listing will provide tools that can aid this species’ survival and recovery. We commend NMFS for taking action.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/help-is-on-the-way-for-the-nassau-grouper/feed/ 1
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.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/27/talking-trash-and-taking-action/feed/ 0
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.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/26/plastics-are-a-whale-of-a-problem-for-our-ocean/feed/ 103