Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:30:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 7,000 Species, 200 Nautical Miles and YOU http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/23/7000-species-200-nautical-miles-and-you/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/23/7000-species-200-nautical-miles-and-you/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:30:42 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12698

Let’s create the world’s largest protected marine area, ever.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most remote and fragile ecological areas in the world, called Papahānaumokuāke. Four years ago, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuāke Marine National Monument to protect 50 nautical miles that provide sanctuary to sea turtles, sharks, coral and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Today, we’re asking the President to make Papahānaumokuāke the largest protected marine area in the world, by expanding the monument to 200 nautical miles—four times larger than its current size. That’s where you come in.

Tell President Obama that Papahānaumokuāke is worth protecting.

Our goal is to send 20,000 signatures to President Obama before the World Conservation Congress meets in Hawai’i in two weeks! President Obama needs to hear from people like you: Tell him to stand with native Hawaiians, senators, scientists and local government in supporting the expansion of Papahānaumokuāke (and yes, we are still having trouble pronouncing it). Powerful lobbyists stand in the way of expanding and preserving this magical seascape, which is why we need people power to make a difference. Please, take action now and help us reach our goal of sending 20,000 signatures to President Obama in just two weeks.

Papahānaumokuāke is home to over 7,000 species—a quarter of which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. It also protects an area larger than all our national parks combined (1.6 million square kilometers)! Less than one percent of the world’s ocean is protected, and expanding Papahānaumokuāke is a critical step to preserving the genetic diversity unique to its waters, supporting more productive fisheries outside the monument and protecting a cultural seascape important to native Hawaiians.

Take action. Join me in asking President Obama to expand this national treasure.

All we need is Obama’s signature. Will you help make this a reality?

When Papahānaumokuāke was first established in 2006, it was a huge win for our environment. Let’s make that happen again.

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The Problem of Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/22/the-problem-of-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/22/the-problem-of-ocean-trash/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:04:36 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12665

Written by Tori Glascock

Each year an estimated 8 million metric tons, or 17 billion pounds, of plastic flows into the ocean. Enough is enough.

First and foremost, an endless flow of trash into the ocean will affect the health of humans and wildlife alike as well as compromise the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean. Trash and debris such as fishing gear, straws, and plastic bags pose a deadly threat to marine life. Fishing gear can trap helpless sea turtles and cut through flesh of whales, while plastic bags are easily mistaken as food and consumed by animals. Straws can be hazardous in that they can get stuck in a nostril, a blowhole, an eye, or even a throat.

80% of ocean trash is a product of land based sources (trash coming from activities on land) including the items listed above—plastic bags, straws, bottles—plastics that are used once and then discarded can end up in the ocean. Marine based pollution (trash reaching the ocean by activities done in the ocean) accounts for 20% of ocean trash, coming from marine vessels, cruise ships, and ocean-based industry such as oil rigs. Not surprisingly, 75% of land based ocean plastic is from uncollected waste that makes its way to waterways eventually reaching the ocean. The other 25% comes from waste that was collected but escaped the system, suggesting that there is work to be done on our waste management system. A complete overview of these statistics can be found in our Stemming the Tide report. If we don’t change our lifestyles soon, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in the ocean by 2025.

The idea of trash in the ocean is intrinsically associated with giant islands of trash floating in remote places, never reaching life-forms again. Contrary to popular belief this is entirely not the case. Not only does ocean plastic and debris span from the water’s surface all the way to the sea floor, but it fragments into small microplastics—plastic particles smaller than five mm in diameter. Think of microplastics like a posting to the web. Once you put something on the internet it is there forever, no matter how buried it may seem to get. Plastic that reaches the ocean is the same. Although it may seem to have disappeared, it has really only continued to breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces that will infiltrate the marine ecosystem for the foreseeable future.

Take a deep dive into the problem of ocean trash in the infographic below! It is interactive so click on something to learn more!

Tori Glascock is a 2016 Ocean Conservancy Summer Intern. 

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Fight Back Against Marine Debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/18/fight-back-against-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/18/fight-back-against-marine-debris/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 13:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12635

Written by Senator Cory Booker

Every 60 seconds, what amounts to roughly a garbage truck full of plastic makes its way into the ocean.  That means that over the next year about 8 million tons of plastic will enter the ocean, creating a massive amount of marine pollution.

It’s estimated that if we don’t do anything to address this source of pollution, there will be one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean by 2025.

Preventing further damage to our oceans will require a coordinated global effort, and the United States has a vital role to play in leading this charge.

Here at home, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is responsible for the Marine Debris Program, which leads the government effort to address, research and prevent waste pollution in our oceans. But the congressional authorization for this program expired back in 2015, and it now faces uncertain prospects. What’s more, while marine debris is a global issue, current law doesn’t recognize the authority of the Marine Debris Program to work collaboratively with international partners. Empowering program staff to engage in international collaboration will allow the Marine Debris Program to share its expertise and further its impact here in the U.S. and around the world.

Recognizing the need for an updated law, I recently introduced the Marine Debris Act of 2016, a bill that if passed will extend the authorization of the Marine Debris Program until 2021. The bill also recognizes the authority of the program’s staff to work with a coalition of international partners, making it easier for the United States to help develop and lead a coordinated response to the global problem of marine debris.

Passing this bill won’t solve our global marine debris problem, but it will mark a renewed commitment by the United States to leading the effort to clean up our oceans.

When it comes to making our oceans cleaner and healthier, we don’t have a minute to waste.

Take Action: Join Senator Booker and show your support for the Marine Debris Act of 2016 today!

Cory Booker was elected to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate in 2013. 

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Cruising the Northwest Passage: A Symbol of a Rapidly Changing Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/cruising-the-northwest-passage-a-symbol-of-a-rapidly-changing-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/cruising-the-northwest-passage-a-symbol-of-a-rapidly-changing-arctic/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 18:28:05 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12643

Photo: Ocean Conservancy / Sarah Bobbe

SEWARD, ALASKA – Small only in comparison to the rocky peaks surrounding the city, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity easily dwarfed every other structure in Seward, Alaska. On August 16, she slipped her moorings and started a month-long voyage through the Northwest Passage with over 1,700 passengers and crew onboard. 

This is an important milestone to us. The impact of climate change has now ushered in an era where a luxury cruise ship is able to sail from the North Pacific to the Atlantic via the fabled Northwest Passage—a route that once defeated even the most intrepid explorers. While other vessels have made the transit, this is the first time a tour ship of this size—almost the length of three football fields—has attempted the passage. Crystal Serenity’s journey is yet another symbol of a rapidly changing Arctic.

Bowhead whale and calf in the Arctic Ocean
Photo: NOAA / National Ocean Service

For those onboard, this could well be the trip of a lifetime. After all, the Arctic inspires awe and wonder around the world with its wild beauty, unparalleled wildlife and resilient peoples. Passengers will likely see a variety of wildlife including  walruses, gray whales and millions of migratory birds that summer here. During their shore excursions, they will have the opportunity to interact with remote Arctic communities. Wherever they go, we hope they tread lightly.

This journey is not without risk.  The Crystal Serenity has taken careful measures to prepare for its voyage but the Arctic is a harsh, punishing environment. Extreme distances and unpredictable weather conditions will pose a challenge if there in an emergency or accident. As more cruise ships attempt the Northwest Passage in the future, they may be less prepared. This will put a high degree of responsibility on small local communities and services. And it’s not just cruise ships. Other commercial vessels have started to make greater use of Arctic waters too.

While increased access means more opportunities, it also could put wildlife, local communities and an already fragile ecosystem at grave risk.

  • Disruption to marine life: Some species of the Arctic marine ecosystem, particularly marine mammals, could be lethally impacted by vessel traffic-related ship strikes and noise—especially through the narrow Bering Strait, the only marine passage between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Additionally, increase ocean noise can result in habitat displacement, behavioral changes and alterations in the intensity, frequency and intervals of whale calls.
  • Threat of an oil spill: An oil spill could have devastating consequences in Arctic waters. What’s more, most large seagoing vessels use heavy fuel oil (HFO), also known as residual fuel or bunker fuel, due to its low cost. which is up to 50 times more toxic to fish than medium and light crude oil spills.  It also produces significantly higher emissions of toxic sulfur, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter than other fuel alternatives. Fortunately, the Crystal Serenity is not using HFO—but future operators may not take this precaution.

Crewmembers aboard the cruise ship Crystal Serenity plan and react during a fire drill while members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division monitor their performance in Juneau, Alaska, June 22, 2016.
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard / Jon-Paul Rios

  • Extreme distances and unpredictable weather: In the event of an emergency or accident like an oil spill, the lack of effective response techniques and extremely limited response capacity will be very challenging. If a spill were to occur near Barrow, Alaska, the nearest major port of Dutch Harbor would be 1,300 miles away by boat. The nearest Coast Guard station at Kodiak is a 950-mile flight.
  • Uncharted waters: Although the Arctic summer sea ice will be near its seasonal minimum during the next few weeks, the Northwest Passage is not entirely ice-free. Sea-ice forecasting is limited, and traveling in Arctic waters demands cautious and prudent navigation, which becomes even more challenging given that less than 2 percent (about 4,300 square nautical miles) of the U.S. Arctic waters has been surveyed with modern multibeam technology.

Photo: NOAA National Ocean Service

As part of a science-based conservation organization with a deep commitment to the Arctic, our team has been calling for measures that will improve ship safety and minimize threats to the Arctic wildlife:

  • Improving navigational safety by using ship routing measures, such as recommended traffic lanes and Areas to be Avoided.
  • Removing the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters by working with partners to influence the International Maritime Organization, the body that governs international shipping.
  • Supporting efforts to reduce ship strikes on marine mammals, improve vessel communications systems, enhance spill response preparedness, and reduce discharge from large, ocean-going vessels traveling in Arctic waters.

We will be following the journey of the Crystal Serenity closely until it docks in New York in September, wishing her a safe passage.

 

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An Olympic-sized Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/an-olympic-sized-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/an-olympic-sized-cleanup/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 14:00:32 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12629

The Olympics is a special time when people from all over the world gather together to cheer on their country’s top athletes in an amazing array of sports.

I can’t help but think of the similarities between the Olympics and Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. They both span the globe in participation, bring people together, and are very competitive (I always try to pick up more trash than my friends, and I know you do too!)

Will you join us for this year’s Cleanup on Saturday, September 17? The Cleanup is only one month away—and we promise that you don’t have to train or be an athlete to participate.

The Cleanup is truly Olympic in size! Each year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers gather in countries around the globe to remove millions of pounds of trash from our coasts. I’m proud to be part of the amazing team that ensures the Cleanup occurs year after year.

But, we can’t do it alone. We need champions like YOU to dive in and join us this year.

We have an easy-to-use map where you can search the globe and find a Cleanup near you!

And, this year we have “upped our game” by having a new way to make your Cleanup more exciting than ever. Earn your own medals by tracking the trash you collect with our new app, Clean Swell. The more trash you collect, the more badges you earn. The app is free and available to download on both iOS and Android systems.

Go for GOLD by downloading Clean Swell AND joining a Cleanup near you!

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Today is Alaska’s first Wild Salmon Day! Join us as we celebrate this iconic species with some unusual facts about salmon.

1. There are five species of wild salmon found in Alaska, King (Chinook) salmon, Red (sockeye) salmon, Silver (coho) salmon, chum (keta) salmon and pink salmon.

2. Wild salmon are anadromous, which means they start their lives in freshwater, then migrate out river to the ocean. The different types of salmon spend different lengths of time in the ocean, with King salmon spending the longest period in the marine environment. At the end of their lives, wild salmon migrate back into freshwater to reproduce (spawn). After laying or fertilizing eggs, they die, providing important nutrients back into the system. Salmon rely on clean, healthy marine and freshwater habitat to thrive.

3. Yukon River Chinook salmon migrate over 1,800 miles from the Bering Sea through Alaska to their spawning grounds in Canada. That’s like driving distance between Miami, Florida all the way up to Minneapolis, Minnesota!!

4.  Today, the Alaskan salmon fishery is a sustainable fishery largely due to a stringent fishery management system. The value of Alaskan commercial salmon catches peaked in 2014 at $900 million.

5. Recreational fishers come from around the world to Alaska for a chance to reel in salmon. The world-record largest King salmon caught on rod and reel goes to Les Anderson who caught a 97-pounder caught by on the world-renowned Kenai River.

6. Salmon are a critical source of food and culture for Alaska Native peoples throughout Alaska. Traditional preparation methods as well as modern day freezers provide a delicious and nutritious source of sustenance through the long Alaska winters.

 

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New Leadership for Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/08/new-leadership-for-ocean-conservancys-gulf-restoration-program/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/08/new-leadership-for-ocean-conservancys-gulf-restoration-program/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 19:22:30 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12596

Gulf Restoration Program staff Kara Lankford and Bethany Carl Kraft on Monterey Bay in California. Credit: Rachel Guillory

Bethany Carl Kraft has been the eloquent voice and thought leader of Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program for the past five years. Her leadership has taken our team through milestones such as the implementation of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act), a global settlement with BP that includes over $1 billion dedicated to restoration in the open ocean, and a Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan that lays out the strategy for restoring the Gulf in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

We have accomplished so much as a team, and it is with a heavy heart that I announce Bethany’s departure as the director of our Gulf Restoration Program. Anyone who has spent five minutes with Bethany understands her love for the Gulf of Mexico and her passion for restoring it. This passion has led her to her new position as the Senior Project Manager, Gulf Coast for Volkert & Associates which she begins this week. In this role, she will be getting her feet muddy once again managing on-the-ground restoration projects across the Gulf region.

As the Ocean Conservancy Gulf Restoration team goes through this leadership transition, we remain strong and ready to tackle the important work that lies ahead. We are committed to ensuring monitoring programs and protocols are in place, maintaining the integrity of the open ocean funding and advocating for coordination among the different restoration programs to avoid duplication and encourage leveraging.

I’ll be taking over as interim director of our program and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this dedicated team. I’ve been with Ocean Conservancy for almost six years and I can say throughout every transition this team has stayed the course and kept the end goal of comprehensive restoration of the Gulf at the forefront.

Ocean Conservancy would like to thank Bethany Carl Kraft for her outstanding leadership of the Gulf Restoration Program. She leaves behind a legacy of enthusiasm for restoring the Gulf for future generations and an ecosystem focus that will continue on in her absence.

 

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