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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Momentum Builds for Ocean Change

Posted On February 10, 2015 by

There’s been a recent spate of good news about people dealing with the global problem of ocean acidification at the local level.  Over the past month, the Maryland Ocean Acidification Task Force and Maine Ocean Acidification Commission have reported on what ocean acidification means for their states, and what each state can do to protect its local ocean.  These are the first comprehensive state reports on the east coast to put forth suggested actions addressing acidification.

Both commissions included scientists, fishermen, shellfish farmers, state agencies, elected representatives and community groups who are especially concerned about their shellfish farms and wild fisheries, especially blue crabs and American lobsters. I attended the Maryland Task Force meetings too.

During the meetings over the summer, we heard of shellfish farmers in Maryland seeing lower baby oyster production levels.  Even though the cause has remained a mystery, no one could rule out ocean acidification. This lower amount of oyster seed still remains unexplained, but everyone agreed that the marine resources and coastal communities of the state are too important to be left in such uncertain conditions.  In fact, the Maryland report includes recommendations for increasing ocean acidification research and monitoring so the state can understand just what is happening.

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BP Trial Highlights Lasting Offshore Impacts in the Gulf

Posted On February 2, 2015 by

Last week during the ongoing BP trial in New Orleans, the testimony of Donald Boesch, a professor of marine science at the University of Maryland, was a real call-to-arms for ocean-lovers. Much of the impact to marine fish, habitats and wildlife has been “out of sight, out of mind” and in many cases off limits to the public.

Through Boesch’s testimony, the U.S. prosecutors hope to highlight the seriousness of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster—one of eight factors that will determine the level of environmental fines the judge will set—and make the case for fines as high as $13.7 billion. Boesch painted an alarming picture of potential marine impacts, with deep-water corals and other living creatures on the seabed of the Gulf covered in oil.

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Breaking Arctic News

Posted On January 28, 2015 by

Yesterday, President Obama issued permanent protections from future oil and gas drilling for some of the Arctic Ocean’s most significant marine areas. The President’s action is an important and positive step to limit risky drilling, and will help protect the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, including vital walrus habitat at the Hanna Shoal.

At the same time, however, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a draft proposed program that calls for additional oil and gas lease sales in other areas of the Arctic, even though oil companies have not shown they are able to operate safely and responsibly in the Arctic. Extreme conditions like changing sea ice, fog, and high winds make meaningful cleanup all but impossible. A disaster like the Deepwater Horizon in the Arctic would devastate marine wildlife and jeopardize food security in Alaska Native communities.

Join us in sending a message to BOEM: No Arctic Ocean drilling.

Stand against reckless drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Tell BOEM not to sell Arctic oil and gas leases in the 2017-2022 program.

BP Back in Court

Posted On January 20, 2015 by

BP once again must appear in court today as the final phase of the BP trial begins in New Orleans. This is the third phase of a multiyear trial to determine how much BP and other responsible parties should pay for their role in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Just last Thursday, the Judge issued another ruling, finding that 3.19 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf. This means that the maximum fine BP will face is $13.7 billion. This final phase of the trial will focus on eight factors, as required by the Clean Water Act, including BP’s history of prior violations and the seriousness of this violation.

A key factor in court will be BP’s efforts to minimize the harm. In other words, did BP do enough in responding to the disaster to justify lowering their fine? Yes, BP took efforts to stop the flow from the well and the spread of oil, but BP also lied about the rate at which oil was spewing from the well.

The economic impact of the penalty on BP will be interesting to watch as well. The court will need to determine whether this inquiry focuses on BP (the parent company) as a whole or only on its subsidiary, BP Exploration & Production, known as BPXP. BP is expected to argue that the recent dip in oil prices should be factored into this inquiry. (This assertion, as you might expect, has been met with criticism.)

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Tasting Ocean Acidification

Posted On January 15, 2015 by

Photo: Russell Illig

Pink shrimp raised in tanks that simulate the more acidic ocean expected in the future just don’t taste right, according to a recently published research paper from Sweden.  For the first time, a scientific study has looked at the effects of future ocean conditions on the taste of seafood.

Teaming up with a professional chef, the researchers cooked and served local shrimp that had been raised for three weeks in high carbon dioxide conditions alongside shrimp raised in regular conditions. Volunteer taste testers then tried both kinds of shrimp and scored them on appearance, texture, and taste.

Ocean acidification didn’t affect texture at all, but it significantly hurt the shrimps’ appearance and taste scores.  Shrimp raised under regular conditions were more than three times as likely to be rated the best shrimp on the plate, and the shrimp raised with high carbon dioxide levels were about three times as likely to be rated the worst on the plate.

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A New Approach to Ocean Pollution

Posted On December 18, 2014 by

How much plastic do you think is in the ocean? Just last week, a paper was published that estimates 5.25 trillion plastic particles, weighing about 269,000 tons, are floating in the ocean. This news helps confirm what many scientists have been saying for years: that plastic pollution in the ocean isn’t just in the famous “garbage patches” – it’s everywhere.

This is very bad news for our ocean. Once in the water, plastic breaks into tiny pieces that collect harmful industrial pollutants. While this paper looks only at the plastic floating in the water, there is much more plastic in other parts of the ocean. Some of the plastic ends up the famous garbage patches – the rest is dispersed throughout the water, resting on the ocean floor and trapped in Arctic ice. This highly-polluted plastic is also ingested by animals.

Read more at Forbes.com >>

Stand Against Risky Oil Drilling in the Arctic Ocean

Posted On December 11, 2014 by

Arctic sea ice

© Corbis. All rights reserved.

If we don’t act now, the U.S. government could open up more Arctic waters to exploratory drilling as soon as this summer!

This after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) own report said there is a 75% — yes, 75% — chance of a large spill if companies like Shell are allowed to develop and produce in Arctic waters.

We can’t stand by and let that happen.

BOEM is holding a public comment period from now until December 23rd before making a critical decision about offshore drilling in the Arctic. They need to hear from you now.

Take action now: Tell the U.S. government to stop risky Arctic Ocean drilling.

With ever-changing sea ice, freezing temperatures, limited visibility, gale-force winds and no Coast Guard base for almost 1,000 miles, cleaning up a major oil spill in the Arctic would be incredibly difficult if not outright impossible.