Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:08:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Next Chapter in Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/29/the-next-chapter-in-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/29/the-next-chapter-in-restoring-the-gulf-beyond-the-shore/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 13:00:38 +0000 Andrea Dell'Apa http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14026

Almost seven years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, spilling 210 million gallons of oil and killing 11 people. An unprecedented $20.8 billion settlement between the U.S. government and BP was finalized in April 2016. But until now, the full amount of funding has not been available to restore the wildlife and habitats affected by the BP oil disaster.  Payments from this settlement begin next month, including $1 billion set aside to restore the Gulf’s open ocean environment such as corals, fish, dolphins, turtles and more.

To highlight the importance of open ocean restoration, Ocean Conservancy has developed Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore – Part II. This informative guide includes what we consider the most effective, practical and innovative approaches to achieve successful Gulf-wide restoration beyond the shore in the next few years. A valuable resource to decision-makers, this guide is a natural evolution of the broad set of projects that we proposed in 2014. Part II focuses specifically on fish populations, as well as corals and deep-water communities, as these resources were severely injured by the oil disaster. Corals and fish also represent the marine resources for which the majority of available funding to restore the open ocean is allocated.

The Gulf is home to various species of fish, including tunas, billfish, red snapper and other reef fishes that are important for commercial and recreational fisheries. These species play a crucial role as top predators in coastal and offshore waters, and support a healthy food chain and ecosystem. The Gulf seafloor also hosts many corals, ranging from shallow to deeper waters. Coral reefs serve as the foundation of the Gulf food web, provide essential habitat and shelter for many of the fish species that support the local and national fishing economy and represent a natural wonder for all who get a glimpse of them.

In a nutshell, restoration is the process of repairing and rebuilding what has been damaged. Many lessons have been learned worldwide on how to effectively restore coastal resources. When stepping into the deep blue sea, restoration is much more challenging as the costs and complexity of any approach increase dramatically. Restoring deep-water species and habitats demands innovative approaches and the gathering of new scientific information that can help us reduce human impacts and other sources of stress on marine wildlife and accelerate their recovery. To attain this goal, we should also recognize that restoration of fish, corals and deep-water communities needs to be integrated, because these resources are ultimately connected. After all, it’s hard to imagine healthy coral reefs without lots of different fishes and other marine life swimming around them, right?

We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair and rebuild what was damaged, and support the Gulf and its unique culture. Restoration at this scale has never been attempted before, and we must ensure that ongoing and future restoration efforts in the open ocean utilize the most effective approaches that can allow resources to recover faster and thrive for generations to come.

With this $1 billion fund, we finally have a chance to restore the Gulf beyond the shore. It’s now the time to make wise investments for the Gulf’s open ocean.

Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore Part II

Download as PDF

 

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Action After Tragedy: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/22/action-after-tragedy-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/22/action-after-tragedy-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:06:01 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13996

This is one anniversary that I don’t like celebrating.

Friday will be the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil spewed into the ocean over the course of three days. Even today, there are still some places in Prince William Sound where you can find oil that is as toxic as it was 28 years ago.

But, I’m optimistic that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and work together to make sure another Exxon Valdez doesn’t occur off the coast of Alaska. We saw first-hand what happens when we don’t take preparedness seriously.

Will you join me in taking action to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Now, nearly three decades after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, the Arctic Ocean is facing threats from increasing vessel traffic in the Bering Strait.

As Arctic sea ice continues to melt, the Bering Sea—including the narrow Bering Strait—is experiencing more and more ship traffic. As ship traffic increases, so do the risks, including oil spills, vessel strikes on marine mammals, air pollution, discharge of waste into the water and production of underwater noise. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect the Arctic.

Take action today by asking the U.S. Coast Guard to take steps to reduce the risks of increasing vessel traffic in the Bering Sea. This can’t wait—we need to put in place key measures to increase safety and reduce risk in the Arctic waters.

The Bering Sea is used by millions of seabirds and an array of marine mammals including whales, seals, walruses and polar bears. Alaska Native communities rely on these resources for food security and cultural practices that date back millennia.

There’s no doubt that the Arctic Ocean is unique and important—there is a lot at stake if we don’t work together to do all we can to protect this region. Please take action today by asking the U.S. Coast Guard to reduce the risks from increasing vessel traffic in the Bering Sea.

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We Did Something Bold http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/21/we-did-something-bold/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 19:00:21 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13967

Today, Ocean Conservancy took a bold step.

I am proud to let you know my friend and colleague Janis Searles Jones has stepped into the role of Ocean Conservancy’s CEO as I assume the role of President. This mutual decision was unanimously endorsed by Ocean Conservancy’s Board of Directors.

Yes, this is unusual. But we live in unusual and uncertain times. The current U.S. political climate poses a challenge to the ocean and coastal communities, to put it mildly.  We need to be at our very best.  This move allows Janis and I to focus on what we do best. It builds on the extraordinary partnership that we have shared over the past four years here at Ocean Conservancy. Janis’s passion for our field work and conservation programs, extensive litigation and strategic experience, deep domestic policy knowledge and expansive networks makes her the best leader an organization could ask for as we navigate these uncharted waters.  I have had the privilege of leading the organization through a significant period of international growth. I will continue to prioritize this work in my new role with a focus on expanding Ocean Conservancy’s international climate work, cutting-edge fisheries management tools, and our global efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean.

Another change we have made to our senior leadership team is the promotion of Emily Woglom to Executive Vice President. Emily has been a key team member at Ocean Conservancy for seven years, first leading our government relations team, then expanding her role to provide strategic management of many of our programs—including growing our international plastics work.  Her domestic policy experience and ocean knowledge is vitally important as we respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.  In her new role Emily will apply those talents to help shape the decisions we need to make as we look to develop and add to our strengths in a new political reality.

The future belongs to the optimists. We have just passed the two-month marker on the Trump administration. We are witnessing significant rollbacks on hard-won progress made under several Republican and Democrat leaders. While the challenges may seem unsurmountable, we at Ocean Conservancy are optimistic and hopeful. We are part of a wide and deep movement that shares our values of fairness, community and environmental stewardship. Our work remains grounded in the belief that the ocean and the people that rely on it transcend political parties and partisanship. Our new leadership structure is going to enable us to meet the challenges ahead in the US political landscape and take advantage of the opportunities internationally to expand our work.

Together, we will face the challenges in our path with grit, integrity and optimism. We continue to be smart and strategic about the big picture and little details. And no matter who holds sway in Washington, D.C. at any moment in time, we know the real power lies with the people.

You—our ocean champion—are our greatest strength. As Ocean Conservancy starts this new chapter, we are going to need you more than ever. We will continue to rely on your passion and commitment to weather the storms. We are going to win some, and we are going to lose some. But we stand strong. We will adapt. We will invest in the future in every action we take.

I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve accomplished together over the past four years. I could not be more excited to work with Janis as CEO in my new role as president. I invite you to celebrate this new path with us, and join us as we advance our common mission of protecting our ocean.   

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Trump Proposed Slashing NOAA’s Budget—Something Amazing is Happening in Response http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:02:19 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13954

We know that the Trump administration wants to cut NOAA’s budget bone-deep, proposing a nearly one-billion-dollar budget cut for America’s world-class ocean agency. But something amazing has been happening in the days since those devastating cuts were leaked to the Washington Post: People are saying “No!”

Americans are making clear that they’re not willing to stand by and let NOAA get gutted. The agency’s work is just too important. And our friends and neighbors are starting to fight back.

Today, in a massive show of support for NOAA and the world-class scientists that predict our weather, explore our oceans, and protect our marine fish and wildlife, 371 organizations and community leaders from across America sent a letter asking Congress to just say no. The letter expresses “extreme dismay” at the proposed cuts, and asks Congress to block the Trump administration’s NOAA cuts from becoming a reality.

The organizations and community leaders who signed this letter come from every corner of America and every walk of life, from oyster farmers and state legislators to bird watchers:

  • Organizations and individuals from 29 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have added their voices to this letter. It got signatures from Montana and South Dakota to California and Florida.
  • It includes signatures from than 100 prominent researchers and scientists.
  • More than 50 national and regional organizations joined the letter, ranging from environmental groups to business and industry interests.
  • 22 members of the Maine’s State Legislature signed on, ensuring an especially strong shout-out of support for the importance of NOAA for the state of Maine and its coastal economy.

When the Washington Post reported on the devastating cuts that might befall NOAA, it was a major wake-up call. But the good news is, people are showing up and speaking out against it.

We asked you to send a letter to your Senator asking Congress to block these budget cuts and we are blown away by the response. Tens of thousands of people across America have sent letters to their Senators so far. And we’ve had hundreds more calling their members of Congress, too!

And you know what? It’s starting to work. A bipartisan group of Senators from Maine, Hawaii and Alaska have sent a letter to the Trump administration expressing deep concerns about the proposed NOAA budget cuts. If members of Congress keep getting more emails and phone calls each day from concerned citizens, those six senators will just be the beginning.

What happens next depends on all of us, and the chorus of voices supporting NOAA is growing.

Will you be a part of it?

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Why We Can’t Let Congress Dismantle the Endangered Species Act http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/why-we-cant-let-congress-dismantle-the-endangered-species-act/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/why-we-cant-let-congress-dismantle-the-endangered-species-act/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:35:03 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13927

One of my favorite conservation success stories happened in the ocean.

In my home state of California—southern sea otters were hunted to near extinction for their fur coats in the early 1900’s. But miraculously, a small population of fifty animals survived, hidden from hunters on the Big Sur Coast. They were placed on the Endangered Species list in 1977, and this small population has made an unbelievable comeback.

Can you imagine an ocean without sea otters, manatees or coral? Right now, some members of Congress are planning to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, and we simply can’t let this happen.

Please take action now. Hold Congress accountable for the protection of our ocean species.

We owe the presence of species like humpback whales and Steller sea lions to the Endangered Species Act. For almost 45 years, this law has been a vital champion for saving and protecting some of our favorite ocean animals. Out of the 2,270 species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, about 650 are found only in areas outside of the U.S. and our national waters. Without the ESA, many of these would have gone extinct by now.

Today, the ESA continues to protect endangered sea otters, in addition to a host of other species. And we can’t risk backtracking on these important protections. Please tell Congress to continue the success of the Endangered Species Act and support ocean wildlife.

Thanks to the ESA, our kids will be able to hear a humpback whale call, enjoy a tasty meal of wild Salmon and know that monk seals still swim off the coast of Hawaii.  From safeguarding habitat to ensuring essential protections, here are some species being helped right now:

  • Beluga whale
  • Whaleshark
  • North Atlantic right whale
  • Loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles
  • 184 species of fish
  • 22 species of coral

If Congress succeeds in dismantling the Endangered Species Act we could completely lose many of these species in the near future—animals vital to healthy marine food chains and productive ecosystems. That’s why we need you to take action.

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George Leonard: I am a Scientist http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/15/george-leonard-i-am-a-scientist/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/15/george-leonard-i-am-a-scientist/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 18:26:57 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13913

As the buzz around alternative facts gets louder and research budgets are slashed, the importance of highlighting the role of science in our lives and the people behind it becomes even more important. Ocean Conservancy is proud to introduce you to our best and brightest scientists through the “I am scientist” series. We hope you will be inspired by people that have an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, a sharp mind that is dogged in its pursuit of facts and a tenacity to find solutions to tackle some of the biggest ocean challenges of our time.

In this kickoff interview, we invite you to get to know George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy’s Chief Scientist, who spoke to Erin Spencer.

Erin: What science experiment most fascinated you as a kid?

George:  As I kid in the 70’s, I watched every episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau that came out. One of the most memorable experiments for me took place in the “Sleeping Sharks of Yucatan” where 6-foot-long sharks appeared to sleep in underwater caves with no apparent water flow. Scientists knew at the time that sharks generally had to swim to stay alive. Cousteau and his crew released nontoxic dye in the water near the sharks and observed that these sharks could actually pump water across their gills where no apparent current was present. I thought it was so cool that scientists could do simple experiments like this to learn something new about how the natural undersea world worked. I was hooked by bedtime! And I vowed to get my scuba license as soon as possible, one year later at the age of 13.

Erin:  Who is your scientific hero and why?

George: Nowadays my scientific heroes are marine biologists who play an active and impactful role in society to help people understand and tackle the challenges that our ocean faces.

In many respects, Dr. Jane Lubchenco (former NOAA Administrator) is solely responsible for giving academic scientists the confidence to play leadership roles outside the classroom. She realized that coastal communities and ocean-dependent industries could benefit from a closer relationship between scientists and the people whose livelihoods depend on the very ecosystems that scientists study every day. Seventeen years ago, I worked with her to launch an effort called COMPASS. It was a novel partnership between scientists, a communication agency, a book publisher, and a public aquarium to help scientists step out of what is often called the “ivory tower.” It played a critical role in making marine science more accessible and relevant to people’s lives.

Erin: When did you decide you want to be a scientist?

George: I was always interested in math and science but it took me until I was 23, two years out of college, and working at a financial company in Boston to get to that realization. One day I was at New England Aquarium, looking up at the giant ocean tank when I whispered to myself “This is what I really want to do—I want to study the ocean, how it works, and why it matters.” I went home that night and started looking up information on graduate programs. Within a year, I had moved to California and was diving in the kelp forests off Cannery Row in Monterey, learning how these incredibly beautiful ecosystems functioned and uncovering why a healthy Monterey Bay remains so important to the coastal communities of California today.

Erin: Why, personally, does science matter to you?

George: Science is personal because I see it in nearly everything.  I am writing this from the doctor’s office, where I am picking up a prescription for antibiotics that will beat back an infection which generations ago might have killed me. I drive a car smart enough to sense an impending collision and avert disaster, an engineering marvel founded on a deep appreciation of the fundamental laws of physics. I am able to buy sustainable wild-caught fish at my local fishmonger. Its availability is a direct result of resource managers adhering to a scientifically-determined estimate of how many fish are in the sea and how many can be sustainably caught. I live in a state that is prone to natural disasters, from drought and fire to flood and landslides. Over 200,000 of my fellow residents narrowly averted disaster when flood control engineers took emergency measures to reduce water levels in the Oroville dam last month. High level math and engineering was needed to keep my neighbors safe. And I am proud to say I am part of a community of thoughtful and committed scientists across the West Coast that is working to understand how our changing climate will impact our communities, from residents high in the Sierra Nevada, to farm workers in the agricultural fields of the central valley to the fishermen and coastal residents along the shores of San Francisco Bay. Many aspects of my life wouldn’t be the same without the hard, honest, committed work of scientists. For them, I am deeply grateful.

Erin: What’s the hardest thing about choosing science as a profession?

George: Choosing a career in science isn’t easy but it can deeply rewarding. You need to have a passion for learning and applying that learning from school and through research to solve problems to make the world a better place for all of us. This takes drive, diligence and perseverance. You likely won’t get rich doing it but in many ways, you will live a life of service, which is pretty noble.

Erin: How does your science help people and communities?

George: As Chief Scientist at Ocean Conservancy, I work with a team of experts to develop new knowledge and insights on problems that matter to the oceans and to people and use this information to develop actions that improve the ocean and people at the same time. Everything we do at Ocean Conservancy is founded on a deep understanding of science and respect for the independence of the scientific process, for if we don’t understand the problem objectively, we can’t develop solutions that will work for the long haul.  One of the best examples for me is our work on the establishment of a 1,000 mile long string of marine protected areas (MPAs) in California that is the envy of the rest of the world. Science was the foundation of this work, but it was designed to improve people’s lives too, whether they were a commercial fisherman or a recreational scuba diver. Ten years in the making, California’s MPAs are now delivering: the fish and fishermen are more abundant than ever.

Erin: What is the one thing you would tell a kid interested in science as a career?

George: Ask questions: science is a journey of discovery and the only way to learn new things is to ask questions.  If you find out asking (and answering) questions related to the natural world is fun, then science just might be a career path to you.

Erin: What is your favorite science joke?

George: There isn’t just one; there are books and books of them published by the one and only Gary Larson, who wrote The Far Side for 15 years from 1980 to 1995. You can flip to any page of his books and find yourself having laughed yourself right out of your chair. I didn’t generally think science was humorous until I came across his cartoons in the mid 1980’s when I was in college. While Gary Larson hasn’t published a Far Side cartoon for over 20 years, his work still causes scientists everywhere—including me—to laugh right alongside him.

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The Blue-Ringed Octopus: Small but Deadly http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/13/the-blue-ringed-octopus-small-but-deadly/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/13/the-blue-ringed-octopus-small-but-deadly/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:21:34 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13905

At first glance, the blue-ringed octopus looks perfectly innocuous. Its psychedelic coloring and pint-sized packaging make it seem more adorable than alarming. But don’t let its cuddly exterior fool you: this tiny octopus can kill you. And quickly.

Native to the Pacific Ocean, the blue-ringed octopus can be found in the soft, sandy bottom of shallow tide pools and coral reefs. When not seeking food or a mate, blue-ringed octopuses often hide in crevices, shells or marine debris. If you catch them outside of their cozy hiding spots, it’s easy to see how the animal gets its name: when threatened, bright blue rings appear all over its body as a warning signal to potential predators.

Although all octopuses (as well as cuttlefish and some squid) are venomous, the blue-ringed octopus is in a league of its own. Its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide, and this golf-ball sized powerhouse packs enough venom to kill 26 humans within minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s recognized as one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean.

Blue-ringed octopuses produce a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, a potentially-deadly substance also found in pufferfish. The venom is produced by symbiotic bacteria in the animal’s salivary glands and is more toxic than that of any land mammals. It’s primarily used when hunting: the octopus captures crabs, shrimp and small fish by pecking through its prey’s exoskeleton with its beak and inserting the venom. Then it will use its beak to pick off meat while its prey remains helplessly paralyzed. In the end, only the tough outer shell of its prey remains.

So, what happens if you’re bitten by a blue-ringed octopus? First, the venom blocks nerve signals throughout the body, causing muscle numbness. Other symptoms include nausea, vision loss or blindness, loss of senses and loss of motor skills. Ultimately, it will cause muscle paralysis—including the muscles needed for humans to breathe, leading to respiratory arrest. There is no known antidote, but victims can be saved if artificial respiration is started immediately.

If you ever encounter this blue and yellow beauty, back away in a hurry—its bite is usually painless, so you might not know you’ve been bitten until it’s too late. Fortunately, the blue-ringed octopus isn’t aggressive; it’s only likely to bite humans if cornered or handled. In fact, there have been no known deaths from its bite since the 1960s. As long as you keep your hands to yourself, you should be fine.

 

 

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