Ocean Currents » Uncategorized http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Victory for New York Waters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:55:59 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13452

This piece was written by Mike Martinsen, Co-founder and Co-president of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc.

For forty years, I have worked as a bayman in New York’s rich waters. You could find me bullraking hard clams, sail dredging oysters, dredging bay scallops and potting lobster. I have earned a living from these waters my whole life. Declines—and the occasional full crash—in  shellfish stocks, however, have forced me to look at other occupations.

Once upon a time, billions upon billions of bivalve shellfish carpeted the bottoms of New York’s bays, harbors, rivers and sounds. But, through unlimited fossil fuel consumption, poor septic planning and a lack of regulation on pesticide and fertilizer purchase and application, we have created a void in the water. The population of bivalve shellfish has declined precipitously.

There is good news on the horizon for me, my fellow baymen and all of you who love our seafood. Last week, New York enacted legislation forming a task force which will identify any sources of acidification in New York waters, and recommend how to address them. Using best available science to fix this problem is written into the law, and this first step to protect the local ocean is a milestone victory in my eyes. This is how smart, comprehensive restoration of our historic oyster reefs, eelgrass beds and coastal ecosystems starts.

Since the beginning of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc., a company I co-founded in 2009, which farms our exclusive Montauk Pearl Oysters, I found that shellfish aquaculture is very important.  Bivalve shellfish in the New York estuaries are probably the most underappreciated living creatures. As filter feeders, they are responsible for maintaining balance with regard to water quality. The beauty of our operation is that each mature oyster will filter approximately 50 gallons of water per day. That means last year our farm filtered approximately 75,000,000 gallons of water each day! Also, the mature oysters had successful reproduction and the spat (tiny little babies) has landed at distant locales helping to promote the wild population growth.

As an aquaculturist, I can take pride in knowing that I am helping to rebuild the wild stock of shellfish in the marine environment. Without those filter feeders, water quality does not stand a chance. Nitrogen has become problematic and algal blooms have wreaked havoc on water quality.

There are things we can do to help mitigate the problems in our local waters. Awareness of how our consumption of fossil fuels and usage of household items can harm the estuary is key. Additionally, promoting shellfish aquaculture and protecting wild stocks will allow balance to be restored. A thriving shellfish stock allows the crucial roles of the natural filtration system, habitat source for juvenile fish and reef-like shoreline structure, to be enjoyed.  All are paramount to the wellness of the estuary.

Monitoring water quality and creating legislation that reduces nitrogen input into the waters will be very important. However there is a very large monster out there that is just beginning to rear its ugly head. Ocean acidification has decimated juvenile shellfish in other places in the world. We know that larval shellfish are strongly affected by ocean acidification and that they cannot form the necessary shell to survive in an acidic environment. Many wonder if this could be as big a factor as nitrogen induced algal blooms in the system collapses we’ve seen.

It’s imperative that we begin to understand the impacts of our current fossil fuel emissions on the ocean. It’s imperative that we take responsibility for the damages that we have caused. And it’s imperative that we begin to act more responsibly toward life as a whole and especially the ocean—the mother of all life, the mother we all share. If the world is your oyster, why not work toward pristine water quality?

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5 Things You Didn’t Already Know About Polar Bears http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/30/5-things-you-didnt-already-know-about-polar-bears/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/30/5-things-you-didnt-already-know-about-polar-bears/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2016 14:00:24 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13202

Polar bears are the best. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already a fan. Regardless of your affinity for these incredible animals, there’s always more to learn.

Today marks the beginning of Polar Bear Week, and to celebrate the occasion we’ve tracked down five new facts about Ursus maritimus. Ready to brush up on some trivia?

1.      Polar bears wag their heads when it’s time to play

Polar bears communicate through body language, and will often wag their heads from side to side to signal that it’s time to play. Playtime is ritualistic of mock fighting, and the perfect opportunity for polar bears to brush up on their best moves. To initiate play, polar bears will stand up on their hind legs with their front paws at their sides and chins lowered to their chest.

2.      Pregnant polar bears are the ultimate metabolizers

Polar bears have the unique ability to change their metabolic rate depending on the availability of food. This means they can devour enormous amounts of food when times are good, but can also go into a hibernation-like digestion state when there’s no food around. In fact, pregnant mothers in Hudson Bay have been found to fast for up to eight months! In Hudson Bay during the months of July through November, there often isn’t enough sea ice to hunt—forcing polar bears to conserve fat and energy.

Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to meet a hungry momma bear come winter.

3.      Polar bears aren’t actually white

Polar bears have a thick, under layer of fur which is transparent, not white! Much like the ice and snow, polar bear fur reflects light, causing them to appear white or yellow. Underneath their translucent fur, polar bears have black skin to better absorb the sun’s rays.

4.      Polar bears overheat—a lot

You would think that in their icy, arctic environment, polar bears spend most of their time shivering with cold! However, polar bears struggle more with overheating than they do fending off sub-zero temperatures. Since polar bears have evolved to thrive in a cold climate, they can overheat quickly when running—which explains why polar bears are notoriously leisurely walkers. A polar bear’s body temperature runs around 98.6º Fahrenheit, typical for most mammals, but their adaptation to cold weather means they have an unfortunate propensity to overheat.

5.      Polar bears are apex predators

Polar bears sit at the top of the Arctic food chain. As incredibly intelligent and opportunistic hunters, polar bears have even been found to feed on bigger mammals such as walruses, belugas and narwhals when given the chance.

Although polar bears have no natural predators in the animal kingdom, they still face major challenges. Today, polar bears confront increasing habitat loss as the Arctic continues to warm and sea ice continues to melt. In addition to climate change, pollutants from vessel traffic and potential offshore drilling threaten the species. Take some time this week to speak up for polar bears. Will you join us in asking the Obama Administration to keep the Arctic safe from risky drilling for the next five years?

For more insight into all things polar bear, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We’ll be sharing more fun facts and images throughout the week—and be sure to check out Polar Bears International for even more!





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5 Tricks for a Fin-tastic Underwater Halloween http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/25/5-tricks-for-a-fin-tastic-underwater-halloween/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/25/5-tricks-for-a-fin-tastic-underwater-halloween/#comments Tue, 25 Oct 2016 12:30:51 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13155 Ocean Sunset
It’s that time of year again: jack-o-lanterns are stacking front porches, you’re craving candy a little more than usual and cobwebs are finally fashionable. It’s Halloween.

This year, we’re sharing some inspiration to transform your Halloween into a Pinterest-perfect ocean event. From costumes, to party treats and décor, here are five ideas to get you started. (And be sure to follow us on Pinterest for even more!)

1. Coastal Pumpkin Décor

Let’s start with the basics. Not quite sure how to carve your pumpkins this year? Costal Living has got you covered. Our favorites are the skeleton fish and octopus tentacles. We’ve seen a pretty good Angler fish pumpkin, too.  Check out this link for carving templates and more ideas!

What you’ll need:

  • Pumpkin
  • Zester Scorer or Carving Kit

2. Left Shark

It’s hard to forget the infamous Left Shark who stole the show during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX halftime show (mostly because the internet won’t let us). So this Halloween, expect to see quite a few Left Shark costumes. We found a good DIY costume on eHow in case you’re willing to jump on the trend.

3. Group Costume

Alternatively, if you’re scrambling for a group costume this Halloween, consider a shark attack. All you’ll need is one person with a shark costume, and the rest can be surfers. This costume is a good excuse to bring out your wetsuit in October, or simply reach for some plaid, pooka shells and surf trunks. To complete the look, throw some fake blood over the surfers from your local drugstore!

4. All Things Food

If you are throwing a Halloween party, chances are food is the number one priority.


This year, our go-to Halloween snacks are these octopus hot dogs. As a great finger-food, they require little work.


Ocean water, also known as blue lemon-lime soda, makes the perfect festive beverage. Serve in a clear cup or mason jar, with a Swedish fish thrown in the top, for the full effect. Check out the recipe here!

What you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Lemon-lime soda mix
  • Blue food coloring
  • Coconut extract
  • Swedish fish

Healthy Option:

In addition to the mounds of candy you are guaranteed to collect this Halloween, we’re throwing in a simple healthy hack idea for Bell pepper crabs.

5. Mermaid Makeup

Take your mermaid, merman or all-things scaly costume to the next level with this easy makeup hack. We even suggest turning this into an activity station for your next Halloween get-together!

What you’ll need:

  • Blue or green eye shadow
  • Makeup brush
  • Fishnet stockings (can substitute with plastic netting from a bag of potatoes)
  • Suggested: Concealer or primer


Slide a pair of fishnets stockings over the top half of your face – this will be the foundation for the scales.  Spread your concealer or primer over your temples and cheekbones, or any area of skin where you’ll want scales.

Next, paint over the same area with your eyeshadow, and be generous with the spread! For an extra flair, add sparkles or shimmer on top. Carefully remove the fishnets, and voilà – fish scales!

For a more dramatic look, replicate the same process along your neck, shoulders and hands!


Eat, drink and be scary.

Happy Halloween!


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Meet Chloe: Teen Advocate for our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/07/meet-chloe-teen-advocate-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/07/meet-chloe-teen-advocate-for-our-ocean/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:00:04 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13053  

by Nelle Crossan

Meet Chloe—a 14 year old from Colorado, working to bring awareness and advocate for the ocean by encouraging other teens to get involved in their local communities!

Ocean Conservancy: When did you first find your passion for the ocean?

Chloe: Every year we would visit my great grandmother in Florida and I always found the ocean both calming and empowering. The ocean is so unique—we still don’t know exactly what is out there. I remember finding butterfly shells (coquina clams) on the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back to sea. Also, my grandparents, Carol and Michael Altman have always encouraged my love of the ocean and are donors to OC! I have continued to love the ocean even though I live in Colorado. I am part of a club at school that works with the organizationTeens4Oceans, which has been a great way to learn more about ocean health and what teens can be doing to advocate, protect and preserve it.

Ocean Conservancy: Teens4Oceans sounds like an awesome organization! Tell us more about your involvement.

Chloe: I knew I wanted to learn more about the ocean and give back, so I started researching organizations with my mom. We heard about Teens4Oceans and two friends of mine approached me about starting a club at our school. We were able to have someone come out and visit my school with a mobile lab from Teens4Oceans, and it was so cool. We got to do different experiments that showed the effects of coral bleaching. We learned more about the plastic gyres in the Pacific Ocean, endangered fish species and how our actions affect the ocean, even from a landlocked state like Colorado.  As a club we also held bake sales and raised enough money for two water bottle refilling stations in our middle school!

Ocean Conservancy: Wow! What a great way to bring the ocean to teens! In your opinion, what do you think teens could be doing in their daily lives to make an impact on ocean issues?

Chloe: If teens and kids my age are really passionate there is so much they can do! Teens can create groups that meet monthly, go to coastal clean ups, or go online and learn more about ocean issues. Other ideas are having bake sales with informational handouts about the ocean and using reusable water bottles so not as much plastic ends up in the water. I think the biggest problem for people our age is that we don’t know what our impact is on the ocean and I want to make sure teens are informed about their actions.

Ocean Conservancy: Thank you so much, Chloe for all of your work to engage teens on this issue and for being a supporter of our work. We need more teens like you!

Nelle Crossan is the Individual Giving Specialist at Ocean Conservancy, based in Washington, DC. Nelle grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts and spent her summers at the beach, soaking up all the ocean has to offer. When she’s not advocating for ocean health you can find her singing, watercolor painting or swimming. Follow her @nellecrossan.

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Talk to the Water http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/05/talk-to-the-water/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/05/talk-to-the-water/#comments Wed, 05 Oct 2016 13:15:47 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13088

by Sarah Quintana, sarahquintana.com

Sarah Quintana is a New Orleans musician who lent her voice and music to our newest video. Inspired by the forces that shape the Gulf Coast, Sarah explores the themes of rivers and water in her latest album, “Miss River.” Using an underwater microphone typically used to record dolphin and whale sounds, she incorporates the sound of the Mississippi River and other water bodies into her music.

On any pretty day in spring, Gulf Coast folks are quick to say, “Let’s head for the shore and enjoy the big, beautiful Gulf of Mexico! Canoe along the shore, catch some fish and soak up the culture that is our Southern home.”

But now it’s October. We’re smack in the middle of hurricane season and two months ago Louisiana flooded so bad it was deemed the worst national disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

It’s difficult. The Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River are both my best friends, but also bullies.

Growing up in New Orleans, I’ve been flooded more than once. Climate change is driving our rivers and lakes to flood larger and larger areas. The map of Louisiana looks very different now than when I was in high school. It’s gone from something like a chunky space boot to a worn and torn sneaker.

Add to this the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which we’re still living with, and you can see people are struggling here.

To be honest, I’ve become afraid of water. I have panic attacks when it rains; and I’m not alone in this. Living on the Gulf, we’ve seen water do terrible things: destroy homes, drown people and pets and separate loved ones.

In the wake of the latest hurricanes, I started searching for meaning. I decided to go to the source and ask the water itself for answers. I went to the banks of the Mississippi River and cast a microphone into the water and put on headphones to take a closer listen. I asked: how can the same water that has such adverse effects on me—terror—also be a messenger of joy?

As I listened to the deep tones of the river, I heard the truth. The Mississippi River boomed and droned. It spoke of its muscle in moving water, glaciers, sediment, people, history, flowing, always flowing from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river spoke of the twin forces in our lives: life and death. I realized that nature gives us all, yet also takes away. When I heard a chorus of fish at sunset on Lake Martin I finally got the answers I was looking for. Life is change, but love holds us together so we can endure.

I pulled the microphone out and wrote down these answers the way I do, as music. My band and I recorded an album, “Miss River,” to share our stories about love and loss in Louisiana, cycles of life and death and the importance of protecting our land and each other. These answers I carry close to my heart, but one response rings most clear.

Hope . . .

For me, this hope is replacing fear. I see now the mighty Mississippi and the surrounding waters flooded my heart and my home to become the medium of my music. Thus, although we live in a place that is literally sinking, I have great hope for our future together. I stand with my community and sing for the precious Gulf Coast, re-imagining a happy ending of our own in 2045, hoping we will see the coast revived.


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Exploring the First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/28/exploring-the-first-u-s-offshore-wind-farm/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/28/exploring-the-first-u-s-offshore-wind-farm/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:07:59 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13019

It was a grey and rainy day, the seas were choppy and I had my seasick medicine at the ready.

“Hope you ladies are in for a bumpy ride” shouted the captain of the small vessel that would be our next mode of transportation. “We might only make it halfway out before we need to turn around, it’s rough out there today!”

Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

The Block Island Wind Farm

The wind was gusty—a positive sign, considering we were on our way to visit America’s first offshore wind farm. In the distance, our destination was clear. Three turbines were standing at the ready, towering over the remaining two platforms under construction. These engineering wonders were tall and thin, with yellow foundations and bright white towers; a stark contrast to the dark and turbulent sea that swirled around them.

However, our purpose that day was not to gaze at these novel giants in the ocean. We were there to view another process, one that was not visible to the eye. For those who work to coordinate all the different uses of the ocean with an eye towards environmental sustainability, this project is an example of what the future of ocean management may look like in the coming years—one that balances human uses while ensuring our environment is considered equally.

The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan

The Block Island Wind Farm, which is what we were heading out to see, was partly spurred by the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Act of 2004. Offshore wind, which was included in the Act, would be a novel industry for Rhode Island. To deal with it, the state identified the need for smart ocean planning in the waters off the coast. In 2006, Rhode Island began an ambitious effort to plan for the future of their ocean, understanding there are many interests vying for a constrained three-dimensional space.

Thus, the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (OSAMP) process was born. Over the course of two years, the state Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC), brought together scientists, academics, industry and fisheries management representatives, the general public, project developers and more to collect data, share their visions over the current and projected uses of the state’s marine resources, and chart a path forward the enables all ocean users, new and old, to co-exist and thrive with a healthy ocean. The Ocean SAMP developed valuable information that improved the understanding and management of state and federal waters off Rhode Island’s coast—everything from who uses the waters and how, to the importance of the area for marine mammals, fish and bird populations.

By 2010, the plan was approved. An area for offshore wind was identified through consultation with myriad ocean users, and coordination with conservation groups helped lead to a project that had broad support. The project was placed in a location that nearly everyone agreed on: Conservationists ensured areas that were important for seabirds weren’t disturbed, and that during construction, pile driving would be scheduled to protect sound-sensitive endangered whales; sailors ensured their race routes weren’t affected; and lobstermen got tweaks to the project location to protect their fishing grounds along with ongoing research commitments.

The Future of Our Ocean

As states across the country develop their own renewable energy goals, advancing more comprehensive ocean planning efforts is fundamentally important. For example, the Governor of Massachusetts recently signed an energy bill which may lead the state towards an offshore wind generating capacity of roughly 1,600MW—an enormous amount, considering the Block Island Wind Farm has a capacity of just 30MW. New York just unveiled its own blueprint for offshore renewable development in an effort to curb emissions and power the state’s electricity hungry population. In addition, the Department of Interior (DOI) just released their National Offshore Wind Strategy, where they laid out the United States’ potential for offshore wind development along its coastlines. DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased 11 offshore wind areas up and down the eastern seaboard, including offshore Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, all of which could soon see projects moving forward.

What this all means is offshore wind in the U.S. is primed for rapid growth. Ocean managers must plan and prepare for it now and well in to the future. Thankfully, ocean planning is occurring in both state waters (0-3 miles offshore) and federal waters (3-200 miles offshore) across the United States. Some states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Washington and Oregon, are already creating ocean plans for their state waters with goals similar to those of Rhode Island, and federal ocean planning efforts are underway in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast and around the Pacific Islands. The processes differ from place to place, but the methods are the same: Bringing sound science and stakeholder engagement together to decrease conflict and secure a sustainable and healthy ocean environment.

The future is bright with Ocean Planning

I’ll be honest—the seas were not as monstrous as they could have been, but for a mildly stormy day and a very small boat, we had a pretty choppy ride. Most importantly, we were able to see with our own eyes what the outcome of a collaborative process can look like.

We should all be able to agree that there is a way in which we can enable multiple ocean uses to co-exist in harmony while protecting the environment and the species (ourselves included) that depend upon it for their survival. We can start by having open conversations with ocean users, decision-makers and the public, gathering data and trying to find areas of common interest through the ocean planning process. By working together, we can help drive outcomes that work for everyone.

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Why I’m Interested in Ocean Issues http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/13/why-im-interested-in-ocean-issues/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/13/why-im-interested-in-ocean-issues/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2016 14:00:19 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12842

This week, Ocean Conservancy is focusing on the Our Ocean conference here in Washington, D.C. As a parallel to this conference, Crystle Wee will be attending the Our Ocean, One Future Leadership Summit at Georgetown University.

By Crystle Wee

My earliest memories of the sea were when my grandmother showed my sister and I how to dig for colorful, butterfly-shaped remis clams at a beach near my home. As a child, the ocean was a place of wonder—the waves never stopped playing with us, and we tried to grab fistfuls of sand before the waves hid the clams from us again and again. We spent hours at the surf, on the edge of the sea digging for them, racing to see who could fill their pail first so we could fry them in garlic for dinner. Little did I know that this was the start of my lifelong fascination with the sea.

I live in Singapore, a small island at the tip of a long tail that is the Malay Peninsula. Ask anyone in my country why the ocean is important and they are bound to mention that it enables trade. Traders in the past have exchanged goods from crates full of intoxicating opium to pungent spices and dried tea leaves, sailing between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Needless to say, modern Singapore still has one of the busiest ports in the world. I guess you could say that the ocean has and will always be our gateway to the rest of the world. How the ocean is governed, who can pass through it and how it is used has a direct impact on my country.

The ocean is intriguing as a global channel, but what fascinates me far more than its waters are the creatures that live in it. The ocean has so much undiscovered life. We know a lot more about life on land, but that is barely representative of the type of life that exists in our ocean. 32 out of 33 animal phyla live in the ocean, while only 12 out of 33 animal phyla live on land. In fact, some scientists estimate that there are around 300,000 different species of marine creatures.

There is no better way to study these amazing creatures than by immersing myself in their environment—literally. My passion for the ocean sparked a love affair for diving and snorkeling in the sea. The water calls out to me for numerous reasons, but largely because it is a space of the unknown that begs to be explored. Exploration is second nature to me, and I will readily climb rocks, kayak, trek and swim to get closer to understanding the complexities of the marine environment.

This love for the sea and other natural environments has been and will always be my motivation for taking on difficult academic pursuits, challenging myself in physical conditions I never thought I could and speaking up about issues I never knew people would take me seriously about. Like my younger self, searching for “remis” on the beach, I will continue digging for knowledge and understanding about life on earth and how we can protect it for the generations to come.

Crystle Wee is an avid diver and student from the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Biology) program at the National University of Singapore. She is currently doing her thesis on coral reefs in Singapore.

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