The Blog Aquatic » Uncategorized News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Watch LIVE: Our Ocean Conference Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:52:26 +0000 Michelle Frey Tune in Monday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 17 for the Our Ocean Conference hosted by Secretary of State, John Kerry.


value="AQ~~,AAAAAGWqYgE~,KxHPzbPALrGDV8e0pjstUOKGoH-E1SsL" />

]]> 2
EPA Helps Address Ocean Acidification Tue, 03 Jun 2014 01:04:46 +0000 Ryan Ono

Photo: Misti Weathersby

Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the agency is proposing new rules to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The new rules, which the EPA is calling their “Clean Power Plan,” would reduce carbon emission from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, an amount equal to the pollution emitted by more than 150 million cars. But what does all of this mean for the ocean? Many people may not realize it, but by proposing the Clean Power Plan, the United States took a significant step towards addressing ocean acidification. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants means there will be less carbon pollution in the atmosphere. And less carbon pollution in the atmosphere means less carbon pollution that is absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic.

Many marine species and the coastal communities dependent upon them are at risk of being harmed by the large amount of carbon pollution that has already been absorbed by the ocean. Oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest have already experienced major business losses due to increasingly acidic water. Scientists are worried about how lobsters, crabs and squid will respond to a more acidic ocean. A reduction in US carbon emissions from power plants is a much-needed step towards addressing ocean acidification on a larger scale.

We applaud the efforts of the EPA, the Obama administration, and the many other industry and community groups that have helped to create this proposed rule.  There is a long way to go, but this is a great step to address the root cause of ocean acidification.

]]> 8
Coast Guard Report Shows Shell Failed to Recognize Risk in the Arctic Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:46:47 +0000 Andrew Hartsig

Photo: Coast Guard

This past Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard released a report on its investigation into the grounding of Shell’s Arctic drilling rig Kulluk near Kodiak, Alaska on December 31, 2012. A tug lost control of the Kulluk in heavy weather on the way to Seattle after Shell’s failed attempt to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean in 2012.

The Coast Guard report provides a detailed account of the events before the Kulluk ran aground and identifies a number of causal factors, including lack of experience in Alaska waters, failure to recognize risks, use of inadequate equipment, insufficient planning and preparedness and major problems with the primary towing vessel.

Were there other factors at play? Shell was in a hurry to get its oil rig out of Alaska waters before the end of the year to avoid the possibility a paying taxes to the State of Alaska if the rig remained in Alaska on January 1. The Coast Guard report also found evidence to suggest that Shell’s contractors may have failed to comply with certain legal or regulatory standards and may have committed acts of negligence.

According to the Coast Guard report, Shell’s contractors knew that conditions would be challenging. In an email, the tug’s master wrote: “To be blunt I believe that this length of tow, at this time of year, in this location, with our current routing guarantees an ass kicking.”

Despite these concerns, the towing operation continued. Trouble started when the Kulluk’s towline gave way on December 27. As the situation grew more dangerous, the Coast Guard rescued the 18-member crew of the Kulluk. Although Shell and the Coast Guard made multiple attempts to regain control of the Kulluk, they were ultimately unsuccessful. Late in the day on December 31, the drilling rig ran aground on Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak, Alaska. Fortunately, salvage crews were able to pluck the Kulluk off the shore on January 6 and tow it to a safe harbor. Thankfully, there was no loss of life or major injuries, and the environmental damage was relatively minimal.

How did this happen? Why was one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies unable to carry out a routine towing operation safely? The Coast Guard’s investigation cites a number of causal factors, including:

Lack of experience in Alaska waters: Shell’s contractors lacked experience in the Gulf of Alaska waters, especially in the wintertime. This inexperience manifested as an inability to reduce stress on the towline in an effective manner.

Failure to recognize risk: Shell and its contractors “did not recognize the overall risks involved prior to commencement of the tow,” and did not conduct a formal risk assessment.

Inadequate equipment: Shell and its contractors selected and used towing equipment that was not sufficient for the rough conditions that they encountered.

Insufficient planning and preparedness: Shell’s towing plans “were not adequate for the winter towing operation across the Gulf of Alaska,” and were “not adequately reviewed,” and “lacked proper contingency planning.”

Problems with the primary towing vessel: Shell relied on the Aiviq—a purpose-built tug—as its primary towing vessel. But, according to the Coast Guard report, the Aiviq was plagued by design flaws and suffered from preexisting engine problems.

As I’ve written before, we need to make meaningful changes in the way that government agencies plan for and manage oil and gas operations in the Arctic. Fortunately, we’re starting to see some progress on that front.

Unfortunately, there’s bad news, too: the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is considering selling another round of oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea—a move in exactly the wrong direction, especially after a court recently found fault with the agency’s analysis of its last lease sale. Join me in telling the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to call a halt to this potential Chukchi Sea lease sale. Please sign our petition today

]]> 13
Presenting Our New Solutions at the Camden Conference Thu, 20 Mar 2014 11:01:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl

Last month, I was invited to speak at the Camden Conference in Maine. This conference brings experts from a number of disciplines together with policymakers, industry leaders and college students to discuss some of the biggest issues facing our world today. This year’s theme was “The Global Politics of Food and Water,” and I spoke about how the ocean sits at the nexus of these issues.

Right now, the ocean is in a period of uncertainty. Climate change and a growing population are changing the chemistry of the ocean and the life that calls it home. But instead of viewing the ocean’s changes in a negative light, I think we have an incredible opportunity to become better problem-solvers. We can break free from old resource management models to find new solutions for our changing ocean. We can effectively address these new complexities; it’s not too late.

You can watch my presentation, as well as those from others at the event, by clicking here.

]]> 0
A Crowded Ocean Needs a Coordinated Plan Fri, 07 Mar 2014 21:28:03 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen

Photo: Nick Harris via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, we wrote about how Congress’ 2014 budget compromise eliminated grant funding for Regional Ocean Partnerships. Following the release of the president’s budget earlier this week, we thought we’d revisit the issue of ocean-use planning and discuss why Congress should reinstate funding.

Everyone knows the ocean is a big place, but it sure is getting crowded these days. Commercial and recreational fishermen who have lived off the sea for generations are now competing with offshore wind farms that are getting so large they can be seen from space. Whales that have made a comeback from near extinction are once again threatened by increasing deadly interactions with large ships that cross into the whales’ migratory paths. If we aren’t careful, there will be a traffic jam off our coasts and a lot of unnecessary conflict.

Coastal and marine spatial planning, or ”smart ocean planning”, is a tool that brings all of those users together so that everyone can have a say in making smart, ecosystem-based management decisions. Smart ocean planning identifies areas in the ocean most suitable for various types or classes of activities in order to reduce conflicts among uses, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses and preserve critical ecosystem services.

The beauty of such a process is that an increase in coordinated ocean management decisions between state and local governments and stakeholders also leads to increased ocean health today and for future generations.

In the coming days, we’ll be explaining more of what goes into smart ocean planning and what we’ll need to make it succeed. For now though, watch this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, a marine biologist and senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy, for more information on the basics of ocean planning.

If you’re unable to see the video, you can go here to watch it.

]]> 0
Q&A with Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy’s New Science Outreach Manager Sat, 08 Feb 2014 19:25:03 +0000 Sarah Cooley

Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. joined Ocean Conservancy as a Science Outreach Manager in the Ocean Acidification program in January. Previously, she was a research scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Why did you become a scientist?

I always really liked science, and most of it just made sense to me. In college, I started feeling like there was always one more interesting science class over the horizon, so I decided to major in chemistry. Four years later, I still wanted to know more, but I wasn’t ready to face the real world, so I went to graduate school. I studied marine chemistry because I love the ocean and there seemed to be plenty of discoveries left to be made in that field.

What type of scientist are you?

I’m  an earth scientist,  meaning I look at natural systems on our planet. I trained as a marine chemist, and I started by studying the speed and intensity of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a progressive shift in ocean chemistry caused when the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon pollution from human activities. But my end goal for studying acidification was to figure out which human communities will be affected, and when.

Why do you think some people are wary/scared of scientists?

In the earth sciences, researchers often remind each other only half-jokingly that “there’s no room for adjectives in science.” When writing-up our research conclusions, we are supposed to be quantitative, explain everything and to stick to just the facts, ma’am. But what people don’t usually see is that behind the serious scientific papers, there are scientists who are really excited about the topic. It takes a lot of passion to see a project through all the stages – writing the grant, planning the experiment, doing the work, interpreting it and writing it all up to share.  Along the way we do have fun, though. The fullest sessions at conferences often feature funny scientists.

Do you have a scientist hero?

I can’t decide. There are so many scientists who have discovered amazing things, but more importantly, were interesting people, too.

You were a research scientist at an academic institution – what made you decide to join Ocean Conservancy? I’ve always been interested in why people do what they do and how they talk about their experiences just as much as my interest in science. In general, the earth sciences have tended to stay away from what’s called “human dimensions work”— research that deeply explores how humans respond to the physical processes under study. Human communities are messy. They behave unexpectedly, with unpredictable outcomes.

My hunger for exploring people’s experiences of global change has now lured me into the policy world. I’m excited to distill technical knowledge into lessons that real people can use to plan ahead. I’m eager to explain why decision-makers might need to think about ocean acidification. I’m also looking forward to doing that work here at Ocean Conservancy, which is filled with people who are passionate about the oceans, but who have very different skill sets. Here, it turns out, no matter what tools we use, we are all interdisciplinary earth scientists– we all ask hard questions about the Earth and people’s relationships with it, and we seek solutions every day.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the research you’ve been working on?

My research looks at which human communities or industries could feel a pinch from ocean acidification first. To do that, I collaborate with other oceanographers, fishery scientists, economists, geographers, policy specialists and more. We bring together data that shows how fast ocean acidification will change ocean chemistry, how it will affect specific marine species, how humans use those species, and how societies and economies could be harmed. Then, by looking at the effects of change in any of those links in the chain, we can come up with ideas about how human communities can take steps to avoid harm.

What’s your first project for Ocean Conservancy?

During the last week in February, I’ll be going to Honolulu, Hawaii to the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting. I’ll be presenting some of my own research, hearing about other people’s cutting edge results and talking with other scientists about new ideas. It’s kind of like going to camp because we get to hang out with old friends, focus only on research ideas and get excited about science all over again. I’ll be sharing pictures, tweets and blog entries about the meeting. Follow our feeds to learn about what a science meeting is actually like!

How do you explain to your son what you do? Do you think he’ll grow up to be a scientist?

My son is only two and a half, so right now he just thinks that Mama talks on the phone and types a lot on the computer. But when he’s ready, I’ll tell him that I’m working to keep the ocean healthy so it’s still nice for him and his friends when they grow-up. He might well grow-up to be a scientist – he’s already really into taking stuff apart with tools and asking big questions.

What’s your favorite sea creature?

I’ve got a couple winners. I love how colorful the poisonous nudibranchs (sea slugs) are. I love what marvels of engineering that diatoms (single celled algae) are – they’re like little powerhouse sugar factories inside a glass wall. And most of all, I love to eat blue crabs!

]]> 1
Ocean Conservancy Welcomes Eileen Sobeck to NOAA Fisheries Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:40:44 +0000 Ellen Bolen Granite Point, Point Lobos, California

© Feo Pitcairn

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) named Eileen Sobeck as the new assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, better known as the National Marine Fisheries Service. As assistant administrator, she will oversee the management and conservation of all marine life within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, from coastal habitat to bluefin tuna and everything in between. Given the breadth of her job, it’s a good thing that Ms. Sobeck is no stranger to NOAA or ocean issues. She worked in the NOAA Office of the General Counsel from 1979 to 1984, and she currently serves as the acting assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

Ms. Sobeck takes the helm at a critical time for U.S. fisheries. During the past decade, significant progress has been made to end overfishing and rebuild dwindling fish populations in the United States. This progress, important from both ecological and economic standpoints, resulted from the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act by fishery managers, regional officials and fishermen. But now that act is at risk as lawmakers attempt to weaken some of its key conservation provisions. Ms. Sobeck’s leadership within NOAA will be critical to ensure that we build upon the progress that we have made and prepare our fisheries and fishing communities for the impacts of a changing climate.

She will officially start in her new role on January 27. In the meantime, we thought you might like to get to know her a little better, especially her history with coastal and marine conservation:

  • She has an ocean sea slug species named after her! Two scientists named a species of nudibranch (a sea slug) in her honor after she assisted them with fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. The species is named Hallaxa hileenae. Hileen is the Papua New Guinea pidgin name for Eileen.
  • She was the co-chair of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. The task force worked to develop tools and methods to assess the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on coral reefs.
  • She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty for conservation. When she visited the Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project as the deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, Sobeck volunteered to take over the painstaking task of painting 200 decoys which were critical for waterbird nesting season and Chesapeake Bay restoration.
  • She likes to get up close with the marine environment. She is an avid scuba diver, having recently returned from a trip to Indonesia.
]]> 0