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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Spotlight on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska: A Balanced Management Plan

Posted On March 11, 2013 by

Located in northwestern Alaska, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (or the “Reserve”) encompasses vast and pristine Arctic landscapes, lakes, rivers, coastal lagoons and barrier islands. The Reserve is the single biggest unit of public land in the country; covering nearly 23 million acres, it is roughly the size of Indiana.

The Reserve is home to caribou, wolves, wolverine and grizzly bears, and provides breeding habitat for birds from every continent. Its coastal areas provide important denning habitat for polar bears, while the lagoons and near-shore waters are used by beluga whales, walruses and several species of ice-dependent seals. Additionally, native subsistence communities rely on the Reserve’s fish and wildlife species.

There is no doubt that the Reserve contains world-class wildlife resources, but  as the name implies, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska also contains oil and gas resources. However, the energy resources are not as rich as was once believed. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a new analysis and estimated the volume of undiscovered oil resources in the Reserve to be just 10 percent of what was previously thought.

Regardless of how much oil the Reserve contains, federal law requires the Department of the Interior to balance energy exploration and development with “maximum protection” of fish, wildlife and other surface values. Late last month, the Department of the Interior approved a comprehensive management plan for the Reserve that achieves this balance.

The newly approved management plan is the first of its kind to cover the entire Reserve, and  will protect the environment while also allowing oil and gas companies to access the majority of economically recoverable oil. Furthermore, it allows for future pipelines and other infrastructure in the event that oil and gas development proceeds in offshore areas.

Simultaneously, the plan provides important protections for some of the Reserve’s most sensitive habitats. It expands the Teshekpuk Lake and Colville River special areas, and creates a new special area for Peard Bay on the Chukchi Sea coast. The management plan provides significant protections for key coastal areas, including polar bear habitat, walrus and spotted seal haul out areas, and coastal lagoons important to beluga whales. In all, the newly approved management plan withdraws approximately 11 million acres of the Reserve from oil and gas leasing.

Ocean Conservancy joined with many other conservation organizations to support the new management plan for the Reserve, and the Department of the Interior’s decision to approve the plan represents a major step forward. By placing meaningful restrictions on oil and gas development to protect vital onshore and coastal habitats, the new plan demonstrates that it is possible to balance responsible energy development with conservation objectives. That’s a lesson worth remembering.

This Week’s Top Tweets: March 2 – 8

Posted On March 8, 2013 by

This week’s top tweets ranges from endangered species to insightful ideas, with a little bit of humor thrown into the mix. Check them out and let us know which one was your favorite in the comments!

1. Shark Scarcity?

Our most popular tweet of the week deals with an updated report on the amount of sharks that are killed every year by humans, with the tally at a sobering 100 million. That’s 30 to 60 percent higher than sharks can sustain at their current population growth rates, which illustrates how large of a problem dwindling shark populations are becoming. With sharks being such a naturally powerful maintenance mechanism in the ocean, this is definitely a conservation issue worth looking into.

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This Week’s Top Tweets: February 16 – 22

Posted On February 22, 2013 by

We all know that the ocean is one of our original visions of beauty, and the top tweets of this week certainly lend some good reminders of that. From the majestic creatures that rule the ocean ecosystem, to the small animals that make up a colorful underwater community and to the small child that utilizes the power of the ocean to overcome difficult obstacles, we can see why the ocean is hugely important in so many different ways. And for good measure, we’ve also got a tweet that shows how badly our consumption of plastic harms one of the most coveted aspects of our planet. With quite the well-rounded week to look back on, let’s dive right in with number one:

1. An Oceanic Escape

Our most popular tweet of the week was one that illustrates how big of an impact the ocean can have on our lives. A young boy with cerebral palsy named Alex surfs regularly to help strengthen his muscles. The Orange County Register article quoted Alex’s father as saying that when he is in the water, “he’s just totally happy, he never wants to get out. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, how windy it is, how sloppy it is. For some reason, there’s this gravitation to the water.” While a specific example, the description of Alex’s affinity for being in the ocean speaks to many of our own personal experiences with and feelings toward the ocean.

2. Trash Talking with a Pro

This tweet was about pro surfer Mary Osborne‘s experience at the South Atlantic garbage patch. Osborne says that “it’s hard to go back and actually explain to people what we saw…The only way I can really describe it is this plastic soup, this confetti-like soup.” While seeing may be the most tangible way of believing the damage plastics have done to our oceans, she suggests that changes can be made in individual consumer behavior, in terms of purchasing power and recycling. We couldn’t agree more! In fact, we created our mobile app, Rippl, in order to help you make small choices and changes in your daily lifestyle to better the ocean’s health.

3. The Live Humpback Hunt

Our third top tweet links to a video of a humpback whale’s hunt for food, courtesy of the National Geographic “critter cam” team. Cool view, eh?

4. Are Your Shark Senses Tingling?

If you weren’t excited about this tweet, you probably just don’t have a pulse. The video and photo progressions of shark conservationist Ocean Ramsey’s peaceful swim with a great white shark had us on the edge of our seats. Well actually, it wasn’t just a swim, but more of an underwater piggyback ride; Ramsey first maintained a calm composure as to not frighten the shark, then eventually grabbed its dorsal fin and went for a short ride. Amazing!

5. Baja Beauty

Our last on the list of top tweets for the week is a video made by Erick Higuera that showcases the beauty which can be found in the ocean. In the video’s description, Higuera says that “the gruesome and cruel destruction of these creatures is unnecessary, tragic and extremely alarming. It is imperative to act quickly to protect marine species populations that still prevail before it’s too late.” Indeed, our last tweet this week is another shining reminder of why we all need to continue the fight for a healthy ocean.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @OurOcean so that you can get all your ocean-related news as it happens, along with funny and interesting ocean-based content. Until next time, have a great weekend!

This Week’s Top Tweets: February 2 – 8

Posted On February 8, 2013 by

This week’s top tweets include a mix of cute videos and important scientific finds–a great combination, if you ask me.

1. We Keep Getting Older, They Stay the Same Size–Or Do They?!

Our most popular tweet of the week was definitely worth talking about. The news that suggests fish do not grow as large or mature as quickly as they used to is troubling at the very least. Some scientists claim that the size restrictions for catching fish is actually inducing this problem by encouraging fish to adapt via earlier maturation. This is a long-term issue that scientists will continue to monitor over time.

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Ocean Conservancy’s “Hero of the Sea”

Posted On January 24, 2013 by

Kaitilin Gaffney at the Museum of Art and History during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup in Santa Cruz, California.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, our teams work hard to ensure protection of marine wildlife because that’s what we believe in doing – but being recognized for our successes is always a wonderful thing. In just-announced news, Blue Frontier Campaign has officially deemed our former Pacific Program Director Kaitilin Gaffney a “Hero of the Sea” for her accomplishments in helping establish California’s marine protected area network. Along with Karen Garrison, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s oceans program, Kaitilin will be honored at a May, 2013 ceremony at the Carnegie Institutionin Washington D.C.

Kaitilin and Karen’s dedication to ensuring implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, originally passed in 1999, resulted in 16 percent of the state’s waters – and the vast varieties of ocean wildlife within them – being protected for now and future generations. The process was never easy, but their dedication to it never wavered. John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources said of the pair, “They were incredibly successful in persuading others to their view because they listened to people’s concerns, and worked with them to find solutions that worked for all…their contribution to our blue ocean and to the communities that depend upon it is monumental.” Continue reading »

This Week’s Top Tweets: January 13 – 18

Posted On January 19, 2013 by

From insightful blog posts to huge pollution headlines, this week’s top tweets are full of information on ocean-related events. Here we go!

1. New Developments About the Cleaning Agent Used to Cleanup the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster

Hearing that a dispersant is just as harmful as oil to corals is a hard pill to swallow, especially when it’s used to cleanup a whopping 200 million gallons of oil. To make matters worse, some types of coral were not able to survive in laboratory tests with the smallest amount of the dispersant Corexit 9500–.86 parts per million. Continue reading »