Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:30:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Swimming with Senators http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/24/swimming-with-senators/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/24/swimming-with-senators/#comments Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:30:37 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12979

Last week, Ocean Conservancy brought the ocean into the Senate.

You can imagine my confusion when I was asked to help.

It made sense once I learned Ocean Conservancy and the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab were teaming up to bring the issue of ocean acidification to the Capitol. We would use virtual reality–as in that over-the-face simulation technology you keep hearing about—to submerge Senators and staffers underwater. If policy makers couldn’t get to the ocean, we would bring the ocean to Washington D.C., in hopes of leveraging virtual reality’s immersive nature to inspire much-needed change for our ocean.

I arrived at the Capitol building at 3:00 pm, where I (naturally) volunteered for a test run. A mask-like contraption was placed over my eyes, accompanied by a sensor in each hand. I was underwater by 3:08 pm.

It was the first time I had been two places at once.

The experience began at a traffic light, watching carbon emissions spew from exhaust pipes. As I bent down and touched the vehicle in front of me, the scenery changed. Technically, I knew my feet were planted in the Capitol building, yet all I could see was ocean floor. To my sides were ocean beds and coral teeming with life. Above me, the sun’s rays broke through ripples in the water. The technology was tracking my movements, allowing me to interact, explore and feel the 360 degree environment.

The fun was short-lived. Suddenly, the lively reef was replaced by a desolate wasteland of dead coral, muted colors and empty waters—the devastation caused by ocean acidification, or the increased absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean, creating a more acidic environment.

We can’t all dive off the Italian coast. We can’t all experience coral reefs first hand. But what if you could swim through bleached reefs without leaving your home? What if you could see the devastation of ocean acidification for yourself? At the Senate, under those goggles, the problem was real. It was right there.

The Senators and staffers were up next. Seeing such astonished reactions reinforced the use of virtual reality to help decision-makers see the changes occurring in our ocean. It led me to wonder: What would happen if virtual reality was made accessible to public schools or afterschool programs? And what is its potential to change the minds of millions of Americans that don’t live on the coast?

At the end of the video, staring out into lifeless waters, a narrator’s voice cautions, “soon the ocean will look like this, unless we take action”. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we are taking action, like educating the public with new technology. We are pushing for science-based solutions and finding ways to take action at all governance scales. The Stanford Human Interaction lab is taking action by spreading awareness on the current and future state of the ocean. Will you join us?


Many thanks to Jeremy Bailenson, Shawnee Baughman, Elise Ogle and Tobin Asher from the Stanford VHI Lab, UC Santa Cruz scientist Kristy Kroeker and her team for the amazing footage and Senator Whitehouse for serving as honorary host for this wonderful event.

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Creating a Healthy Future for Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/23/creating-a-healthy-future-for-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/23/creating-a-healthy-future-for-sea-turtles/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 15:11:54 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12954

I wasn’t really awake until our all-terrain vehicle bumped its way to the beaches of the Alabama Gulf coast. I held on tight in the dark and wondered whether this adventure had been such a good idea after all.

Then a pop of orange and red burst across the Gulf of Mexico. All that had been asleep was now vivid and busy. Sea gulls and terns swooped above the waves scanning for breakfast. A pod of dolphins broke the surface offshore. Salty fishermen appeared as the mist lifted, persistent, patient. I remember being on the beach early each morning during the BP oil disaster. Even through all the chaos the mornings were always magical as the sun rose over the Gulf. Six years later it is reassuring to see so much is well, but we know that there is still work ahead to restore this environment to its natural state. As I took in all these sights, I reminded myself: I’m here to do a job.

I had signed up with Share the Beach, a volunteer conservation program that monitors and helps protect sea turtles as they are about to hatch. The Gulf is home to many sea turtle species, including: loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, green and Kemp’s ridley. Each of these five species is listed as threatened or endangered and could become extinct if measures aren’t taken to support their populations.

One way to help these iconic creatures is to protect their nests and give young turtles the best chance to survive and return to the sea. If we find a nest, we lay metal fencing on the sand to protect the eggs from predators and flag the area so people know it shouldn’t be disturbed. On rare occasions, mother turtles lay their eggs too close to the high tide mark. In those cases, we carefully move the nest and eggs to higher ground so the nest won’t be inundated with water, which might kill the hatchlings.

When the eggs have been incubating in the sand for 55 days, we begin to “nest sit.” Volunteer teams watch the nests around the clock until the babies hatch. Our goal is to make sure the baby turtles reach the Gulf waters without a hitch. Many times, the baby turtles become disoriented, confusing street lights and porch lights on the land with the horizon offshore. If they head to manmade lights, we redirect them to the water. This year, Alabama had a record nesting year, which means there is hope for recovery, resilience and restoration in spite of the many stressors on the environment.

Ocean Conservancy’s new video focuses on that hope. It begins with a sea turtle that hatched in 2010 during the height of the BP oil disaster. Skipping ahead to the year 2045, the sea turtle returns to the same beach where she hatched to lay her own eggs. But, thanks to the efforts of people like you to restore the Gulf, she doesn’t find an oil laden beach; she finds a pristine environment teeming with life. That’s the future Ocean Conservancy works to achieve each day.

Join Ocean Conservancy to help create a healthy future for sea turtles and all who rely on the Gulf.  Last month, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its updated plan to restore the Gulf of Mexico. Please join us in thanking the Council for their work and asking them to take the plan a step further. Help us generate 20,000 comments to the Council to ensure a healthy future for Gulf species like sea turtles.


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A League of Her Own http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:57:27 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12942

“The ocean is a major part of my life, all our lives.” – Representative Lois Capps

Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps of the 24th District visited Ocean Conservancy, to speak not only on her legacy in Congress, but also her incredible contribution to our ocean.

Like me, Representative Capps is a Cali girl. Although born in the Midwest, she spent fifty years living in Santa Barbara as a nurse, educator and congresswoman, elected to first represent the Central Coast in 1998. In fact, Representative Capps spoke about enrolling her children in the Junior Lifeguard program–the same program I did growing up, the one that formed my love for the ocean!

Representative Capps demonstrates a dedication to marine conservation like no other, including advocating for marine protected areas, marine life and environmental education. She supported the expansion of coastal and marine monuments off the California coast, prevented offshore drilling and is a leader on the issue of ocean acidification. She’s even co-sponsored a long list of legislation, including acts protecting sea turtles, sharks and sea otters. And who doesn’t love sea otters?

Before Representative Capps was a congresswoman, she was a nurse. Her background lies in public health, and she understands the ways in which human health and the ocean are inextricably tied. Better than anyone I’ve met, she was able to communicate how human health relies on the ocean, just as the health of the ocean relies on us. (Did you know the devastation of the 1969 Santa Barbara Union Oil’s spill brought about the concept of Earth Day?)

During her talk, all I could think was “preach Representative Capps, preach”. Her calls to transition away from the burning of fossil fuels, mitigate the effects of ocean acidification and promote ocean education resonated with many in the room. Perhaps most important was her motivation to keep fighting for positive ocean change.

With the work of people like Representative Capps, I was able to grow up in a healthy ocean, along the coast of Southern California. My time in the water and the sand inspired a love for the marine environment, which ultimately led me here, to Ocean Conservancy.

Congresswoman Capps is a true ocean champion, a leader in ocean policy and an inspiration to future generations.

Thank you, Representative Capps for your vision, leadership and inspiration. We can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful visit!

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Deep Dive: Eddie Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/21/deep-dive-eddie-love/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/21/deep-dive-eddie-love/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 13:25:25 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12887

An interest in the natural world can spring from unlikely places. For Eddie Love, a recent college graduate and current RAY Fellow at Ocean Conservancy, a love for the fastest land animal in the world inspired his decision to launch a career in conservation.

“I had an affinity for cheetahs at a very young age. I found myself watching Animal Planet instead of cartoons,” Eddie says. “I always wanted to be as fast as them. I play tennis so I try to channel my inner cheetah and get to every ball. They’ve always been sort of an underdog in the cat world. That’s how I felt growing up. I was small, so they motivated me to be better.”

A “southern boy at heart,” Eddie grew up in Auburn, Alabama, where trips to the zoo and television programs about African animals cemented his desire to study wildlife ecology and management. At Auburn University, Eddie was the only African American male in his major, which made him more aware of the lack of diversity that often exists in conservation-related fields.

It’s a problem that the RAY Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship seeks to address. The new program—named after Roger Arliner Young, the first African American woman to receive a doctorate degree in zoology in 1940—was designed to bring new, diverse voices to the forefront of conservation science, policy and action.

RAY Fellows like Eddie work with one of six partner organizations—Ocean Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Rare and Oceana—in a year-long paid fellowship position that provides professional development to help them launch careers in the conservation field. Fellows work with mentors and forge lasting relationships with conservation-minded peers.

At Ocean Conservancy, Eddie’s Ray Fellowship work has involved immersing himself in research for a new Indonesian Fish Reform Program, which hopes to address overfishing in the Southeast Asian nation. Focused on tuna and reef fish like snappers and groupers, the project is looking at economic infrastructure and developing a “simple model that could produce sustainable fisheries across Indonesia,” Eddie says.

The RAY fellowship has “definitely opened my eyes to how important the ocean is,” Eddie says. It has also given him important guidance and professional networks to support his conservation career. “I’ve made so many connections in the past few months that I wouldn’t have gained without this,” he says.

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When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Crabbing http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-go-crabbing/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-go-crabbing/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 17:00:36 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12897

What happens when feisty, tough Dungeness crabs meet an even tougher bunch of fishermen? We’ll find out this fall in Discovery Channel’s new series, Dungeon Cove. The show highlights how the Newport, Oregon Dungeness crab fleet and the local community handle the dangers, victories and worries of the fishing season.

It’s clear that Dungeness fishing isn’t for the weak. Not only are the crabs often hard to find, hiding cleverly from fishermen or avoiding cunningly placed traps, but the working conditions are also dangerous. Simply exiting the Newport harbor is difficult at times, when wind and sea state cause waves to pile up and challenge the best helmsmen. Family members on land worry about their seagoing loved ones every day. Layer physical danger on top of economic concerns—many Dungeness fishermen are owner-operators, or essentially small business owners—and you have one tough job.

This thriving fishery currently supports communities from California to Alaska. In 2014, the fishery brought in $212 million, even though the season is short, only lasting a few months per year. Those crabbing communities were hard hit last year when a toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae postponed the fishery opening for one month in Oregon and Washington, but five months in California. Dungeness crab and other West Coast shellfish had feasted on these algae, and domoic acid, an algal toxin, built up in the shellfish meats. Domoic acid does not harm shellfish, but it sickens people and other marine life. The fishing season delay put crabbers on uncertain hold, straining their bank accounts and chilling their business purchases.

The fishery is recovering today, but scientists and fishermen wonder what the future will bring. Early research shows that ocean acidification, a growing challenge facing West Coast fisheries and hatcheries, could affect the Dungeness fishery in a few ways. Ocean acidification may cause Pseudonitschia to produce more domoic acid. It also may cause fewer young Dungeness crabs to survive to adulthood, or it could force them to grow more slowly. In fisheries like this, where time is money, ocean acidification could cost coastal communities dearly.

West Coast states are mounting an aggressive response, though. Members of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, including California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, have developed a Call to Action on ocean acidification that invites new signatories to commit to taking actions that improve understanding of ocean acidification in their marine waters, to mitigate causes, and to adapt to unavoidable changes. Other nations, states, tribes and organizations are encouraged to sign the Call to Action and demonstrate their own commitment to meaningful actions that address ocean acidification. Members will be a part of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, a network poised to share action plans, knowledge and expand awareness on acidification. We are hopeful that this will lead to even more widespread and urgent action on acidification.

Josh Churchman, a San Francisco Bay area crabber explained recently that Dungeness crabs, too, are “really aggressive.” They’re so aggressive that “if they were 4 feet across, nobody would go swimming. You wouldn’t go wading! They would grab you by the leg and drag you out.” Sounds like it’ll be a fair fight between the crabbers and the crabs! Join us as we tune in to watch the action in Dungeon Cove on the Discovery Channel this fall!

Learn more with our video below:

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Thanks for a Fantastic International Coastal Cleanup! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:00:37 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12890

Thank YOU! This weekend, we wrapped up another spectacular International Coastal Cleanup. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers and supporters who came out to make a difference for our ocean.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out all over the world to clean up their local beaches and waterways.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the International Coastal Cleanup. I am so grateful to have allies like you joining me in the fight against marine debris. While beach cleanups alone can’t solve the ocean trash problem, they are an integral piece to the overall solution.

From all of us at Ocean Conservancy – Thank You! See photos from International Coastal Cleanups below:

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Arctic Sea Ice Hit the Second Lowest Minimum on Record http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/15/arctic-sea-ice-hit-the-second-lowest-minimum-on-record/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/15/arctic-sea-ice-hit-the-second-lowest-minimum-on-record/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 19:51:16 +0000 Becca Robbins Gisclair http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12878

Polar bears are highly dependent on sea ice.

Today, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean hit the second lowest minimum on record during the summer of 2016.

It matters.

This is why:

Sea ice is the foundation of the Arctic ecosystem. Wildlife like the iconic polar bear depends on sea ice to hunt prey such as ringed seals, forage and breed. As their sea ice habitat continues to diminish, it is estimated that by 2050, global polar bear populations will decrease by 30%.

Sea ice is tied to indigenous culture and the subsistence way of life. The Arctic is home to indigenous communities that depend on a healthy marine environment to survive. As sea ice diminishes, many communities are being forced to travel much further to hunt, and face new challenges like more frequent, more severe storms.

Sea ice loss makes the Arctic vulnerable to increasing vessel traffic — and the risks that come with it like higher risk of oil spills, impact of noise pollution on marine wildlife, possible whale strikes, and the introduction of invasive species. By 2025, vessel traffic through the Bering Strait is projected to increase anywhere from 100 – 500% from what it was in 2013. Recently, the luxury ship Crystal Serenity became yet another symbol of a changing Arctic as she cruised through the Northwest Passage.

As summer sea ice diminishes, ships like the Crystal Serenity will be increasingly able to navigate through the Arctic.

Sea ice plays a vital role in regulating heat on a rapidly warming planet. Melting snow and sea ice reduces the ability of the Arctic region to reflect sunlight.  While this phenomena accelerates global warming worldwide, the Arctic itself is warming two times faster than the rest of the planet.

What Ocean Conservancy is doing:

As a science-based conservation organization with a deep commitment to the Arctic, Ocean Conservancy is working to better understand and address the impacts of climate change and sea ice retreat. By promoting integrated Arctic management, working with indigenous  communities, and promoting vessel traffic measures like designated shipping routes, we hope to mitigate the causes and impacts of a rapidly warming Arctic.


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