The Blog Aquatic News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:20:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Reasons You Depend on Healthy Fisheries Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:20:55 +0000 Ellen Bolen

Happy World Fisheries Day! Today we celebrate the fish and fishermen who are vital to a healthy ocean and thriving coastal economies. Whether we live near the water or not, we all depend on healthy fish populations for a healthy ocean and economy.

Fish are truly amazing – coming in all different shapes and sizes and living in nearly every corner of the ocean.

In honor of World Fisheries Day, we’re paying tribute to our gilled friends of the sea. Here are five fin-tastic ways that we all depend on healthy fish populations:

1) Healthy fish create a healthy environment.
We all know that little fish are eaten by big fish, and big fish are eaten by bigger fish—all the way up the food chain. But fish can serve other roles in their environment, too. In some instances, fish literally shape the environment around them. Fish contribute nutrients to their local ecosystems—helping algae and seagrasses to grow and become abundant for all ocean critters to feast upon.

2) Healthy fish support a strong economy.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2013 report on the status of Fisheries of the United States, 11 million anglers took 71 million recreational fishing trips and commercial fishermen brought in a total of $5.5 billion in revenue to the United States!

3) Healthy fish feed hungry people.
Do you enjoy a good sushi dinner? So do lots of other people. The United States is the world’s third largest consumer of seafood after China and Japan. With such a taste for seafood, it’s important that we carefully manage our fisheries so future generations can enjoy it too!

4) Healthy fish attract sightseers.
Fishing is isn’t the only industry contributing to a healthy economy. Scuba divers, snorkelers and other recreationists bring in lots of money to coastal communities’ tourism industries.

5) Healthy fish make healthy people.
Believe it or not, fish are an important part of our medical industry. While 77% of fish caught in the commercial sector was used for human consumption, fish are used for more than just food.  An ocean commission report lists chemicals and biological materials from marine organisms now in use or development, including 10 anti-cancer drugs, drugs to fight inflammation, fungus, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria and dengue.

Ocean Conservancy has worked for more than 22 years to support sustainable U.S. fisheries. Thanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the United States has made great strides in rebuilding domestic stocks and ending overfishing in U.S. waters.

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Gulf Leaders Hit the Mark on Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore Tue, 18 Nov 2014 02:10:20 +0000 Kara Lankford

Photo: NOAA

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we blog about many issues—some are calls to action, some are educational, but this one is a call to celebrate! Today, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced more than $99.2 million for 25 restoration projects across the Gulf of Mexico.

The best part of this news is that Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have chosen to invest in projects that will restore the Gulf beyond the shore. These projects will provide much-needed funding to:

As detailed in Ocean Conservancy’s booklet Restoring the Gulf Beyond the Shore, we are a major champion for projects that restore the offshore species in the Gulf, as well as the underwater habitats that they call home.

We believe it is important to invest in the recovery of these animals that spend much of their lives offshore because the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in the deep water of the Gulf. The coastal and marine environments are two halves of a single whole, and restoration of one will be incomplete without the other.

We extend a hearty handshake to the folks at NFWF and to our state leaders for recognizing this intrinsic connection. We also commend NFWF and the states for taking a regional, ecosystem approach by funding restoration projects across multiple states and funding streams, so that these projects build on each other to create a comprehensive, integrated restoration effort. It’s so important to leverage the fines from BP and other responsible partners so that restoration of the Gulf is larger than the sum of its parts.

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of the Ocean Fri, 14 Nov 2014 19:30:42 +0000 Andrew Hartsig

Photo: Steven Dingeldein

Good news! The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just dismissed a case in which Shell sued Ocean Conservancy and several other conservation and Alaska Native organizations.

That’s right. Shell sued us. And not just once—three times.

Several years ago, federal agencies issued a series of permits that Shell needed to carry out drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean. Shell was worried that conservation organizations like Ocean Conservancy would challenge the validity of those permits, which might hinder its ability to drill. In response, Shell initiated a series of highly unusual preemptive lawsuits, naming Ocean Conservancy and others as defendants and asking the court to declare that the federal permits were lawful in all respects.

We felt strongly that Shell’s unconventional preemptive lawsuits were improper under the law. And we were concerned that Shell’s lawsuits were an attempt to intimidate nonprofit organizations and discourage them from opposing risky Arctic drilling. As a result, we and the other organizations moved to dismiss Shell’s preemptive lawsuits.

And this past Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us.

The dismissal of Shell’s preemptive lawsuit sends a strong signal to Shell and other oil and gas companies:  Intimidation will not work and conservation organizations have a right to question and challenge federal permits that authorize risky Arctic drilling. Arctic wildlife and people who live in coastal communities in the Arctic depend on a clean and healthy ocean. We won’t stand by while Shell puts them all in danger, even if it means having to go to the courts to defend our—and all U.S. citizens’ —rights to ensure that our Arctic resources are protected.

And make no mistake, Shell’s proposals to drill in the Arctic Ocean pose a significant threat. In fact, a new federal analysis determined that there is a 75% chance of a large oil spill if oil and gas development and production goes forward in the offshore Arctic. A large spill could be catastrophic for the wildlife and the people who depend on the Arctic ocean—and cleaning up a spill would be all but impossible given the remoteness of the region, sea ice, severe weather, and lack of infrastructure.

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U.S. Announces Ambitious Program to Save the Arctic Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:00:08 +0000 Whit Sheard

Photo: USFWS

At this month’s Arctic Council meeting in Yellowknife, Canada, the U.S. Department of State announced key initiatives that it plans on pursuing when it assumes the two year Chair of the eight-nation council in April 2015.

These initiatives, presented under the theme of “One Arctic:  Shared Opportunities, Challenges, and Responsibilities,” will focus largely on reducing the causes of and impacts from climate change and will include projects ranging from reducing emissions of short lived climate pollutants to developing a circumpolar Arctic network of Marine Protected Areas.

The U.S. announced their priority programs in three distinct thematic areas:

  1. Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change in the Arctic,
  2. Stewardship of the Arctic Ocean, and
  3. Improving Economic and Living Conditions in the Arctic.

As climate change is causing the remote Arctic ecosystems to change more rapidly than any other region on the planet, Ocean Conservancy applauds the ambitious and comprehensive nature of these initiatives.

Ocean Conservancy previously undertook an in-depth review of the current state of Arctic science and management. We recommended that the U.S. take this opportunity to begin the difficult but urgent process of marine spatial planning and conservation by developing a regional seas program for the Arctic Ocean, protecting important ecological areas, and addressing climate pollutants that are the underlying cause of wildlife and habitat declines in the globally unique Arctic marine environment.  We are proud to report that all of these components were prominent in the U.S. plans.

The U.S. priorities represent a significant move forward from the Economic Development focus of the conservative Canadian government – the current Chair – and were well received by the eight Arctic nations and six indigenous Permanent Participant organizations who sit at the table. While we cannot solve the multitude of issues confronting the Arctic during the two-year U.S. Chair, we can continue our progress in 2017 and beyond when the conservation-minded Finnish government assumes the Chair.

There will still be a focus on improving living conditions and encouraging sustainable development in remote Arctic communities through programs such as renewable energy initiatives and protecting freshwater resources. The U.S. conservation priorities, however, will help the Council, which was founded in the 1990s as an outgrowth of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, get back to its roots and address the ecological changes in the rapidly melting Arctic.  This will occur with management and coordination through a regional seas agreement and program, and at site specific levels, including enacting protections for important ecological areas and habitat for Arctic wildlife.

The U.S. focus on climate change is particularly important now that other large emitters, including China, the European Union, and India, have been admitted to the Arctic Council as Observers.  This means that the Arctic Council will be another venue for collaborative work on reducing emissions of climate pollutants. With the recent announcement of a bilateral U.S. and China program to reduce emissions, Ocean Conservancy has high hopes that this work will continue and expand through focused dialogue at the Arctic Council.

Further signaling the U.S. commitment to using the two year Chair of the Arctic Council to achieve real progress in saving the Arctic was the announcement that Secretary of State John Kerry himself will act as the Chair of the Council and that the U.S. will undertake both public outreach and scientific initiatives to help us better understand the Arctic and the challenges that wildlife and communities are confronting with the impacts of climate change.

As one of only two conservation organizations accredited to work at the Arctic Council,  Ocean Conservancy looks forward to using our unique access to this high level intergovernmental forum to ensure that these ambitious initiatives to save the Arctic and its wildlife are achieved.

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Kids Show How to Fight (and Win!) Against Ocean Trash Thu, 13 Nov 2014 15:25:44 +0000 Sarah Kollar

November 1 was a cold, dreary morning in Boston and when I arrived at Wollaston Beach to take part in a beach cleanup, the rain and wind grew more intense. I questioned whether we could even have a cleanup, but all doubt was swiftly wiped away when I met the staff and students from Park School.

I should have known that these fourth, fifth and now sixth graders, who successfully campaigned for Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using Styrofoam cups, weren’t going to let the weather get them down.  As part of their school’s Green Club, these kids are seriously passionate about the environment. When they learned that expanded polystyrene (EPS)—the material used in foam-style cups—virtually never breaks down in the environment and often winds up in our oceans, they decided to act.

Their petition on landed them a meeting at Dunkin’ Donuts’ Corporate Headquarters where they expressed their concerns about the 1.7 billion coffees served a year in disposable EPS cups, which could have major consequences for the ocean. As a result of this and the 280,000-plus signatures the campaign has garnered, Dunkin’ agreed to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to meet these students who are true ocean heroes that are tackling trash at the source, one item at a time. Their enthusiasm and dedication motivated our group to hit the beach in the rain and collect all the trash we could find. We found the regular trash culprits including cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps, and plastic pieces. The experience came full circle though when we found Dunkin’s iconic pink and orange straws, foam pieces and Dunkin’ Donuts cups in their entirety!

Chatting with the students and their teacher and club advisor Mr. Ted Wells, I learned that their advocacy efforts for the ocean and environment in general are far from over. While Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be completely EPS free by the students’ goal of Earth Day 2015, the Park School Green Club promises to see the effort through. And they are sure to be involved in many more environmental projects and campaigns to come.

After making a difference on the beach, we retreated indoors for some well-deserved hot cocoa.  The students and volunteers were pleased to enjoy their drinks in reusable Ocean Conservancy mugs, which were a thank you for their hard work and for being active ocean advocates. Besides, trash free champions would never want to drink their cocoa from disposable cups!


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Bicoastal State Action on Ocean Acidification Tue, 11 Nov 2014 14:24:07 +0000 Guest Blogger

By Guest Authors Mick Devin, Jay Manning and Eric Schwaab

Last week at the Restore America’s Estuaries Summit hundreds of people gathered near the nation’s capital to talk about coastal restoration and management practices. We were invited to lend a voice to a significant new coastal threat – - ocean acidification.  Acidification threats have been recognized by coastal communities and businesses as not just a concern for restoration practitioners, but to the fishing and aquaculture businesses that support the economies of many coastal communities. Ocean acidification threatens fish and wildlife around the world, but also jobs and livelihoods in coastal communities throughout the US.

The most well-known example of acidification impacting coastal businesses and communities happened in 2007 and 2008 with the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest. Hatchery owners, working closely with scientists, found that acidification was killing billions of baby oysters. As a result, shellfish farms and hatcheries along the West Coast faced serious financial losses. These businesses have been able to take steps to respond to the continued threat of acidification, and bounce back.  But there are many more businesses and sectors around the US, and in our states in particular, that are at risk due to acidification.

Up to a third of all carbon pollution in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, causing a chemical change in seawater that turns it more acidic.  This makes it harder for shell-building animals to survive.

Based on community concerns, our states have taken recent action to better understand and respond to ocean acidification.  As chairs of the Maine, Washington and Maryland state panels on ocean acidification, we spoke alongside NOAA Ocean Acidification Program Director Libby Jewett about better monitoring, enhanced coordination, mitigation opportunities and other specific actions planned or underway.

Our three states contribute billions of dollars to the national economy through our coastal communities and fisheries, yet our iconic lobster, blue crab and shellfish fisheries may be vulnerable to acidification impacts.  We are taking steps now to respond and are committed to doing even more. Washington has already established research and policy centers to work on this issue, and Maine and Maryland are issuing reports for legislative actions in the coming months.

It was great to share experiences and discuss how to collaborate and tackle a problem that is inherently bigger than all of our states combined.  However, we are encouraged and hopeful that with each state that takes action, we will find ways to roll back acidification and its negative impacts.

About the Guest Authors:

Mick Devin is co-chair of the Maine Commission on Ocean Acidification, and was recently re-elected as a member of the Maine State House of Representatives, representing Maine’s 51st District.

Jay Manning is the former Chief of Staff to Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, and Co-chair of the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification.  He is currently an environmental lawyer and consultant based out of Olympia, Washington.

Eric Schwaab is the chair of the Maryland Ocean Acidification Task Force, and former US Department of Commerce acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management, and Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA.  He is currently the Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Shop AmazonSmile and Save the Ocean Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:22:19 +0000 Michelle Frey

Photo: Barry Gutradt

Smile! Now you can help save the ocean every time you shop online with It’s easy! All you have to do is designate Ocean Conservancy as your favorite charitable organization and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your purchases to Ocean Conservancy. To get started all you have to do is use this link!

Amazon’s charitable program is called AmazonSmile. It costs you nothing, and it’s just like shopping on Amazon normally, but you get to do a world of good (for the ocean).

When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.

To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You use the same account on and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same.

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