Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:57:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 How to Tell the Difference Between a Seal and a Sea Lion http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/24/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-a-seal-and-a-sea-lion/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/24/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-a-seal-and-a-sea-lion/#comments Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:57:56 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13794

They’re two of the ocean’s most recognizable—and adorable—residents. But can you tell seals and sea lions apart?

Let’s start with the basics. Seals and sea lions are both in the suborder pinnipedia, a group of fin-footed mammals that also includes walruses. All pinnipeds have broad torsos and narrow hips that help them remain streamlined underwater. You can find pinnipeds all over the world, from walruses in the chilly Arctic to Hawaiian monk seals in the balmy Pacific.

But here is where the differences begin to arise. Although the term “seal” can technically apply to the 32 species we refer to as seals and as sea lions, the family Otariidae includes fur seals and sea lions, where family Phicodae includes “true” seals. Yes, it’s confusing.

The easiest way to tell them apart is to look at the ears. True seals have ear holes, where sea lions have small flaps covering their ears.

You can also look at their feet. Seals have short, stubby front feet and generally scoot along land on their bellies. Sea lions, on the other hand, have elongated front flippers that help propel them through the water and allow them to “walk” on land. If you look closely, you’ll also be able to see the different in their claws: seals have long claws and fur on their front flippers, while sea lions’ front flippers have short claws and are covered in skin.

Still having trouble telling them apart? Check out their behavior. Seals are more solitary and spend most of their time alone in the water, only coming ashore to mate. On the flip side, sea lions are a rowdy bunch. They can gather in rambunctious groups called rafts or herds of up to 1,500 animals. And they are loud: where seals make soft grunts, sea lions have sharp barks to communicate.

There you go! The next time you’re faced with an unidentified pinniped, you’ll be able to tell exactly which kind it is.

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Celebrating the First Black Female Zoologist http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/23/celebrating-the-first-black-female-zoologist/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/23/celebrating-the-first-black-female-zoologist/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2017 22:19:44 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13783

Howard University is just down the street. As a historically black college in Washington D.C., Howard’s been churning out incredible role models like Kamala Harris (Attorney General of California), Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize for literature) and Taraji P. Henson (star of Hidden Figures, and also your favorite character on Empire).

Besides releasing class upon class of bad-ass black alumnus, Howard was also home to a trailblazer in the conservation field:  Roger Arliner Young, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in Zoology.

I may be a bit biased, considering her name graces the title of my fellowship, the same one dedicated to increasing diversity in the rapidly changing face of conservation. Regardless, Young is an inspiration, because being the first is hard. But it can be even harder as a woman, and a woman of African American decent, pursuing a zoology degree in the 1920’s.

So who exactly was Ms. Young?

Roger Arliner Young grew up in Pennsylvania, earning her way into Howard University in 1916 to study music. However, under the wing of a prominent black biologist named Ernest Everett Just, she pursued animal biology.

Like any true underdog story, her time there was not easy. She struggled with grades, dealt with mental health problems and later became the sole supporter of her ailing mother. But Young faced her demons and graduated in 1923 with a B.S. in Zoology, went on to teach at Howard and even earned a Master’s in Zoology from the University of Chicago. Although she worked and researched with Just for many years at Howard, her name never appeared as a coauthor on any of his publications.

Then, in 1924 she published her first article, “On the excretory apparatus in Paramecium” in the journal Science (still one of the most revered journals today), making her the first African-American woman to research and publish in this field.

Her Ph.D. came later, and Young earned a doctorate in Zoology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. Throughout her time as a scientist, she focused on marine organisms, conducting research on everything from radiation effects on sea urchin eggs to hydration and dehydration of living cells.

In honor of Black History Month, it’s important to both celebrate the accomplishments of pioneers like Young, and acknowledge the difficulties in their paths that paved the way for ours. And although this progress continues, there is still much work to be done in diversifying the field of conservation.

Today, climate change and increasing environmental stressors disproportionately affect communities of color. From Standing Rock to continued coastal flooding in Louisiana, we see climate change, sea level rise and pollution hurting communities we should be fighting with and for to protect.

Issues like these highlight the need for leaders of color in conservation. And to ensure that regardless of gender, race, class, religion or background everyone’s voices are heard equally.

Fortunately, organizations like Ocean Conservancy are committed to this change, working to increase diversity throughout environmental organizations with the RAY—Roger Arliner Young—Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship, a program dedicated to supporting emerging leaders in marine conservation.

As a woman of color amidst the end of black history month and the rapidly approaching kickoff of International Women’s Day in March, I couldn’t be more proud to celebrate Roger Arliner Young, and the slew of diverse leaders headed this way.

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Ocean Trash: It’s Not OK http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:25:02 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13761

“It’s not ok to destroy our ocean. It’s not one person’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.” — Kelly Slater, world champion surfer and Outerknown founder

Kelly Slater knows something about a healthy ocean. As an 11-time World Surf League Champion, Slater has spent countless hours in marine environments all over the world and seen how beautiful—and damaged—the ocean can be. He has seen first-hand the massive amounts of marine debris and plastic that end up in our ocean, threatening wildlife from whales to plankton. And that, says Slater, is not OK.

When Slater joined menswear designer John Moore to found the Outerknown clothing brand, their mission was simple, yet monumental: to view every aspect of the business through the lens of responsibility. By developing stylish yet sustainable products, their goal was to help protect our natural resources, empower the people crafting the clothes and inspire positive change within the industry.

Now, Outerknown is joining forces with Ocean Conservancy to launch the #ITSNOTOK program to raise awareness about the massive environmental problem of marine trash and inspire people to take action and clean up our ocean.

There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish. And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been fighting back against ocean pollution for over 30 years. Our annual International Coastal Cleanup has mobilized nearly 12 million volunteers all around the world and has prevented 220 million pounds of trash from flowing into the ocean. But it’s going to take a coordinated effort from all types of stakeholders, including industry, to truly tackle the massive problem of ocean trash.

Outerknown’s new #ITSNOTOK collection includes products developed from sustainable materials like organic cotton. 100% of the profits from the sale of these products will be donated to Ocean Conservancy to support our work to conserve our ocean.

“We’re thrilled to be the first recipients of Outerknown’s #ITSNOTOK campaign to tackle the crisis of marine debris,” said Andreas Merkl, CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The ocean is part of all of us and every single person can help make a positive difference to our ocean and coastal communities.”

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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Whales http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/18/5-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-whales/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/18/5-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-whales/#comments Sat, 18 Feb 2017 12:00:35 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13764

There’s no question that whales are some of the most iconic animals in the sea. From the massive blue whale to the quirky narwhal, these charismatic mammals have captivated people for centuries.

For World Whale Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the ocean’s most recognizable residents with five little-known facts about whales.

1. It’s all in the family. Whales are in the order cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are all mammals, meaning they breathe air, produce milk for their young and grow hair. They’re also highly specialized for marine environments, and have streamlined bodies with nimble dorsal fins and tails, and compressed neck vertebrae. There are nearly 80 species of cetacea, nearly all of them marine, except for some species of river dolphin.

2. You’re krill’n me. There are two suborders, or types, of whales. Baleen whales (called mysticeti) filter their food through huge baleen plates made of flexible keratin (the same material that makes up your hair and fingernails). They move slowly through the ocean with their mouths open to filter shrimp, krill and other small animals through the baleen to eat. Baleen whales include humpback whales, blue whales, North Atlantic right whales and bowhead whales. The other type is called odonotoceti whales, or toothed whales. Unsurprisingly, toothed whales have teeth that they use to sense, capture and/or eat prey. Whales in this category include narwhals, belugas and sperm whales.

3. Go big or go home. Whales have a big record to their name: The blue whale is the largest animal that ever lived (yes, including dinosaurs). They can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh up to 200 tons. Their heart alone is the size of a small car! Despite their size, they keep their eyes low on the food chain: they eat krill, or small crustaceans that grow to about three inches in size. A blue whale can eat up to four tons of krill in a day.

4. Cold never bothered whales anyway. You can find a few whale species in the chilly waters of the Arctic. To survive, they have specific adaptations that help them eat, mate and live in frigid conditions. Bowhead whales, for example, have massive skulls that can be over 16.5 feet long—or about 30-40 percent of their entire body length—that they use to break through the ice. Beluga whales have a five-inch-thick layer of blubber and dorsal ridge that help them navigate through the harsh icy waters, too.

5. Olympic-level divers. Whales are among the world’s deepest divers. When hunting squid, a sperm whale may spend as much as an hour on a dive to more than 3,000 feet, where the temperature hovers at 36 degrees F and the pressure is more than 1,400 pounds per square inch. Impressive, but not if you happen to be a Cuvier’s beaked whale—scientists recently observed one diving to about 10,000 feet (nearly two miles) and staying under for 138 minutes, a record for both length and depth.

Any impressive whale trivia we missed? Or just want to post some love about your favorite whale species? Let us know in the comments

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It’s Time to Have a New Conversation About the EPA http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/17/its-time-to-have-a-new-conversation-about-the-epa/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/17/its-time-to-have-a-new-conversation-about-the-epa/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 22:28:12 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13758

Despite grave concerns from all corners about his ability to lead an agency that protects the health and quality of life of Americans, Scott Pruitt is the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

His nomination raised red flags from concerned citizens to worried coastal businesses. His past track record had given us at Ocean Conservancy plenty of cause for concern, made even more acute during his confirmation hearing by his lack of understanding of fundamental threats to Americans’ health and the quality of our communities. Consider his dance around the issue of ocean acidification. He refused to acknowledge carbon emissions’ impact on our coastal communities, despite the millions of dollars it has cost oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest.

But Pruitt’s confirmation isn’t where the story ends. In fact, this is where it begins.

Because all of us, regardless of our political affiliations, value clean air and clean water. Thanks to the very same agency that Pruitt has sought to discredit and dismantle, we expect and assume we will have clean air and water. As former EPA administrator Bill Ruckelshaus reminded us in a recent interview, the EPA could easily have been called the Public Health Protection Agency.

Now is the time for a new conversation.

We have an opportunity to go back to basics, and to throw out the partisanship. A Republican president created the EPA. The landmark Clean Air Act was passed with overwhelming support from both parties. The Clean Water Act passed Congress with veto-proof majorities.  Today, America’s EPA helps each one of us, every single day, by ensuing that our air and water is clean and safe.

Now it’s our turn to step up and make sure the EPA can continue to protect Americans and our environment.

This is about healthy coastal communities. This is about our families. This is about all Americans’ right to clean air and clean water.  The time for this conversation is now.

If we see any effort by Pruitt to undermine the protections that keep us safe and healthy, we will fight. We are here to hold Pruitt accountable.

From my perspective, Scott Pruitt is now beholden to all 318 million of us that call this nation home.

That’s a powerful place to start. 

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Our Next Wave in Tackling Marine Debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/14/our-next-wave-in-tackling-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/14/our-next-wave-in-tackling-marine-debris/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 17:46:44 +0000 Susan Ruffo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13744

Trash and plastic waste is unfortunately everywhere in our ocean. From our coasts to the Arctic, to the deepest part of the ocean, marine debris is a growing, global problem. Without concerted efforts to combat marine debris now, the volume of plastic waste entering our ocean will only grow.

Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our ocean each year. Most of that is trash that is never collected, but instead is thrown into city streets or rural areas, or even directly into our rivers and seas. Clearly, the lack of effective waste management is one of the greatest challenges we face in tackling this global issue. Our research in 2015 revealed that if key countries in Asia Pacific improve their waste management, we could halve the flow of plastic into our ocean by 2025. Good waste management—including effectively picking up and sorting trash—is also essential for a future in which waste can be recovered and repurposed. Effective waste management can also deliver public health, economic development and climate benefits. But, what can we do to ensure this becomes reality?

Ocean Conservancy has been working with partners around the world to identify the barriers to effective waste management, including financing, and to provide a roadmap for how businesses, governments and nonprofits can come together around this issue as a key piece of solving the ocean plastic problem. When paired with efforts to reduce and reuse waste, these efforts will allow us to take a great leap forward in protecting the ocean, the climate and public health.

An initiative of the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, The Next Wave: Investment Strategies for Plastic Free Seas presents thoughtful, thorough analysis designed to lay out options to more easily attract investment to effective waste management in key regions. The report outlines the challenges associated with financing effective waste management and identifies options to attract new investments for it in developing Asia-Pacific economies. Building off the work in Stemming the Tide, our hope is that The Next Wave will help to change the way municipal waste systems can be designed to attract more public, entrepreneurial and private sector interest.

Connecting funds to waste management projects in areas where the need is greatest has proven to be a great challenge. With a multi-sector approach, enduring and innovative waste management systems can be realized, and these systems will help stem the tide of plastic waste into our ocean while also improving the health and prosperity of local communities.

No one organization or sector can solve this problem alone, but with combined efforts and renewed thinking, we can remove a key barrier to preventing marine debris.

Please join us on this next wave forward, and together we’ll move even closer to a future of trash free seas.

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How Good Data Keeps America Fishing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/13/how-good-data-keeps-america-fishing/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/13/how-good-data-keeps-america-fishing/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2017 18:19:43 +0000 Meredith Moore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13733

A system upgrade that will help ensure there are plenty of fish in the sea. 

There are many ways to have a good day out on the water. The ocean gives us endless opportunities to find joy, exhilaration and happiness—playing on the beach, snorkeling, diving and fishing. Most recreational fishermen I know measure their good days by the number and size of fish they’ve reeled in. But it turns out those numbers are important for another reason, too—that’s critical data that ensures there are plenty of fish left for not just for your next trip but also for your kids’ and their grandkids’ trips.

Recreational fishing is a big deal in areas like the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. That means a lot of folks are out on the water and those coolers of fish start to add up. In 2015, 8.9 million saltwater anglers took 61 million fishing trips in U.S. waters. This industry is responsible for driving $60 billion in sales impacts into coastal communities through purchases like fishing trips and equipment, spending in hotels and restaurants.

With so much riding on the line, it’s important that we manage our fish sustainably, which means having reliable, accurate data of how many fish we’re taking out our ocean each year. That task falls on the Marine Recreational Information Program or MRIP (em-rip). It is housed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) but works closely with state and local wildlife programs.

You’ve probably even met a few of the “fish counters” they work with at the docks. They’re the folks that ask how your trip went and collect data on what sorts of fish were caught, how many were taken and how large they were or in what areas you caught them. Whether you fish from the beach, a boat or a pier, MRIP is collecting the information that fishery scientists and managers need to set season lengths, bag limits and catch quotas. The ultimate goal is preventing overfishing so that fish populations are healthy and resilient.

As you can imagine, this is no easy task and there have been problems in the past. Back in 2006, a panel of experts from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) said the four-decade-old program needed to improve its scientific survey methods. It left a lot of fishermen concerned that the data being used for management wasn’t good enough.

This January, the academy released a follow-up analysis that found the MRIP report card has improved dramatically. It stated that, “Work to redesign [MRIP] has yielded impressive progress over the past decade in providing more reliable catch data to fisheries managers.” It recognized “major improvements” in the statistical design of the survey with reduced bias and better sampling. And some of the findings make for funny dinner conversations—did you know that a snail mail survey is more accurate than a phone survey? We have stopped using land lines but we still use our mailboxes! The NAS also highlighted some room for further improvements, especially in harnessing the utility of mobile devices like tablets and cell phones. Ocean Conservancy agrees that this is an area of great opportunity. We have been working at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to implement electronic reporting in the charter for-hire fishery.

Improving data collection will result in better science, better policy and a healthier fishery, which means we can all look forward to more good days on the water!

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