Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:25:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Victory in the North http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/09/victory-in-the-north/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/09/victory-in-the-north/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:25:08 +0000 Becca Robbins Gisclair http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13479

Celebrate with me—I have some incredibly exciting news! President Obama just declared important protections for the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait by establishing the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.

The Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait is like no place on Earth. It is home to indigenous communities  who have relied on the rich resources of the area for millennia. The traditional subsistence way of life is inextricably tied to this rich marine ecosystem. President Obama responded to requests from over 70 tribes in the region to create the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.

The Executive Order issued by President Obama establishes comprehensive management for the region that establishes a role for Alaska Native tribes and traditional knowledge into federal management. The order also provides important safeguards against threats from increased vessel traffic and oil and gas development, and maintains the current closure to bottom trawl fishing, while allowing existing commercial fishing and sustainable economic development to continue.

The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience area is one of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally significant places on our planet. It sustains one of the largest marine migrations on the planet. Bowhead and beluga whales, walruses, seals and over 12 million birds from all over the world pass through the waters of the Bering Strait every summer on their way to and from the productive Arctic feeding and breeding grounds. There are now crucial protections in place that will preserve this amazing region of our entire planet.

Will you join me in saying THANK YOU to President Obama?

Here are five reasons I’m applauding the President’s recent declaration! The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area is:

  1. One of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally significant places on our planet.
  2. A cultural and food security stronghold for the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Saint Lawrence Island Yupik, and Inupiat peoples who have lived in the region and depended on its rich marine resources for thousands of years.
  3. Home to one of the largest marine mammal migrations in the world, as millions of animals, including beluga and bowhead whales, walruses, and seals, travel through the funnel of the Bering Strait every year on their way to and from feeding and breeding grounds in the Arctic.
  4. A critical seabird migration corridor where millions of seabirds, from multiple continents, make their way to the Arctic each spring to take advantage of the seasonal burst of productivity, which also supports invertebrates and fish.
  5. A key source for vibrant small-scale local fisheries. Communities along the coast engage in small-scale fisheries for salmon, crab, herring, and halibut. These commercial fisheries provide an important source of jobs and income in the mixed subsistence-cash economy. The protections in President Obama’s order will help ensure that these fisheries can endure.
  6. On the frontline of climate change. Climate change and the rapid depletion of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean are altering the ecology of the area, as the ice melts earlier in the year and freezes later. This impacts fish and wildlife populations, and traditional hunting and fishing practices. As Arctic sea ice melts, the area also becomes more accessible for ship traffic, industrial fishing and oil drilling, posing a threat to Arctic wildlife and the subsistence way of life.

This is such wonderful news! On behalf of the Arctic wildlife, and the entire planet, please join me in taking action and saying THANK YOU to President Obama and his administration.


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Victory for New York Waters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/08/victory-for-new-york-waters/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 13:55:59 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13452

This piece was written by Mike Martinsen, Co-founder and Co-president of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc.

For forty years, I have worked as a bayman in New York’s rich waters. You could find me bullraking hard clams, sail dredging oysters, dredging bay scallops and potting lobster. I have earned a living from these waters my whole life. Declines—and the occasional full crash—in  shellfish stocks, however, have forced me to look at other occupations.

Once upon a time, billions upon billions of bivalve shellfish carpeted the bottoms of New York’s bays, harbors, rivers and sounds. But, through unlimited fossil fuel consumption, poor septic planning and a lack of regulation on pesticide and fertilizer purchase and application, we have created a void in the water. The population of bivalve shellfish has declined precipitously.

There is good news on the horizon for me, my fellow baymen and all of you who love our seafood. Last week, New York enacted legislation forming a task force which will identify any sources of acidification in New York waters, and recommend how to address them. Using best available science to fix this problem is written into the law, and this first step to protect the local ocean is a milestone victory in my eyes. This is how smart, comprehensive restoration of our historic oyster reefs, eelgrass beds and coastal ecosystems starts.

Since the beginning of Montauk Shellfish Company Inc., a company I co-founded in 2009, which farms our exclusive Montauk Pearl Oysters, I found that shellfish aquaculture is very important.  Bivalve shellfish in the New York estuaries are probably the most underappreciated living creatures. As filter feeders, they are responsible for maintaining balance with regard to water quality. The beauty of our operation is that each mature oyster will filter approximately 50 gallons of water per day. That means last year our farm filtered approximately 75,000,000 gallons of water each day! Also, the mature oysters had successful reproduction and the spat (tiny little babies) has landed at distant locales helping to promote the wild population growth.

As an aquaculturist, I can take pride in knowing that I am helping to rebuild the wild stock of shellfish in the marine environment. Without those filter feeders, water quality does not stand a chance. Nitrogen has become problematic and algal blooms have wreaked havoc on water quality.

There are things we can do to help mitigate the problems in our local waters. Awareness of how our consumption of fossil fuels and usage of household items can harm the estuary is key. Additionally, promoting shellfish aquaculture and protecting wild stocks will allow balance to be restored. A thriving shellfish stock allows the crucial roles of the natural filtration system, habitat source for juvenile fish and reef-like shoreline structure, to be enjoyed.  All are paramount to the wellness of the estuary.

Monitoring water quality and creating legislation that reduces nitrogen input into the waters will be very important. However there is a very large monster out there that is just beginning to rear its ugly head. Ocean acidification has decimated juvenile shellfish in other places in the world. We know that larval shellfish are strongly affected by ocean acidification and that they cannot form the necessary shell to survive in an acidic environment. Many wonder if this could be as big a factor as nitrogen induced algal blooms in the system collapses we’ve seen.

It’s imperative that we begin to understand the impacts of our current fossil fuel emissions on the ocean. It’s imperative that we take responsibility for the damages that we have caused. And it’s imperative that we begin to act more responsibly toward life as a whole and especially the ocean—the mother of all life, the mother we all share. If the world is your oyster, why not work toward pristine water quality?

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Nation’s First Regional Ocean Plans http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/nations-first-regional-ocean-plans/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/nations-first-regional-ocean-plans/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:41:30 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13440

Ocean Conservancy congratulates the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for finalizing the first regional ocean plans in the nation. From Virginia to Maine, state and regional ocean users, decision-makers, tribes and the fisheries management councils came together to plan for the future of the ocean in a coordinated way. These plans are the culmination of years of work, bringing both regions towards a more holistic, science-based and stakeholder informed ocean management process that will ensure the ocean economy remains strong while ocean ecosystems remain healthy.

These plans are full of incredible information, detailed coordination objectives and future goals for the states and regions. We’ve provided a quick refresher on the basic ingredients of an ocean plan that you can read before diving into exactly what the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast plans say.

A tool for coordination, reducing conflict and finding balance

Unique ecosystems, marine mammals and fish species are found off the Atlantic coast. This region is also home to some of the most rapidly-shifting ocean conditions in the world. Our ocean is one of the major drivers of the U.S. economy and is a very busy place as a result. Both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic contribute significantly to the local, national and international economy, through robust and historic ocean uses like commercial and recreational fishing, recreation and tourism, shipping, maritime trades and more. Both regions are also leading the nation in offshore renewable energy, thus contributing to the new clean energy economy.

We work and live in a blue economy; yet, how do we balance all these uses in a smart and effective way?

The solution to this is quite simple—good data and better coordination. That is where the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ocean plans come in.

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Plans

Both the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ocean plans take data and information on human uses coupled with cutting-edge ecological data to help managers have a better perspective of all the ocean uses and needs offshore. A key element of both ocean plans is a series of non-regulatory commitments from federal and state agencies, tribes and the fishery management councils to use the data, coordinate more effectively and talk to people who use the ocean earlier in the decision-making process. This collaborative process takes us from the theoretical foundations of ecosystem-based management to real world application, revolutionizing ocean management along the way.

Each ocean plan is developed in a way that reflects the needs, management issues and future trends relevant to the region. Overarching principles of both plans include:

  • Science-Based Approach: The Northeast and Mid-Atlanticocean data portals are a critical component of these plans, incorporating multiple data sources in one central location. The planning process was one of the first comprehensive attempts to collect, analyze and synthesize information, including:
    • Revolutionary ecological data characterizing populations of marine fish, sea turtles, whales and seabirds with data ranging from seasonal trends of marine species to important whale migration routes.
    • 150 marine life species characterized from scientific, peer-reviewed data.
    • 10 ocean use sectors reflected in the plan including commercial and recreational fishing, ports and maritime, recreational boating, surfers, as well as undersea cable and offshore energy developers.
  • A Unique Discussion Forum: Both ocean plans allow relevant governmental, non-governmental, stakeholders and the public to coordinate among themselves and to involve ocean user groups early in the decision-making process, coming together to address difficult issues. The coordination commitments by managers to have early dialogues and gather information with those who use the ocean is invaluable and a huge step toward making better, more informed decisions.

Diving Deeper: Understanding Key Components of the Ocean Plans

The Northeast Regional Ocean Plan is over a decade in the making with the formal planning process beginning in 2012. The Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan’s formal planning process began in 2013 using a similar approach as the Northeast ocean plan, with some regionally-relevant commitments like actions to address ocean acidification and marine debris.

To illustrate the types of data, information and commitments made in both of the newly approved ocean plans, I would like to use the Northeast Ocean Plan as a model.

The Northeast Ocean Plan contains five chapters, that build from a general description of the ocean ecosystem and history of ocean management in the region, to specific descriptions of ten ocean use sectors along with action items federal and state agencies, tribes and the fishery management council have agreed to.

Both plans address similar management issues ranging from economic to environmental. For example, the Northeast ocean plan characterizes the following ten management areas:

  • Marine Life and Habitat
  • Cultural Resources
  • Marine Transportation
  • National Security
  • Commercial and Recreational Fishing
  • Recreation
  • Energy and Infrastructure
  • Aquaculture
  • Offshore Sand Resources
  • Restoration

I will use examples from the “Marine Life and Habitat” and “Commercial and Recreational Fishing” sub-chapters to highlight some of the details contained in the plan.

Exploring the ocean plan: Marine Life and Habitat

An unprecedented amount of peer-reviewed data to characterize the distribution and abundance of marine life and habitat was collected and synthesized as part of the Northeast Ocean Plan. The plan, using information found on the data portal, begins defining more complex measures of ecosystems such as biodiversity and species richness. Over 80 regional scientists and managers informed data on 29 marine mammal, 40 bird and 82 fish species. Physical habitats such as oceanographic properties and sediment type coupled with biological habitats such as eelgrass, shellfish beds and primary producers essential to the marine food web are also found within the data portal and referenced within the plan.

Decision-makers made commitments in the plan to reference this extensive ecosystem data to inform management decisions, meaning as a potential project is proposed offshore, marine life and habitat are more fully considered. This approach ensures smarter, more informed conservation decisions that are in balance with the economy. In the end, management at a regional scale means science-based conservation gains and economic decisions are made that result in better outcomes overall.

Exploring the ocean plan: Commercial fishing

The plan characterizes the current economy of commercial fisheries in the Northeast and highlights the benefits it brings to the region. It also broadly addresses the dynamic nature of fisheries. Further, it highlights areas where future development may result in conflict with commercial fisheries, ranging from sand and gravel mining, offshore energy, routine activities like scientific studies, ship-based seafloor mapping projects and the dredging of port channels.

Action items reference a range of maps related to commercial fishing found on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, which depict the spatial footprint of fishing vessels operating in certain federally-managed fisheries and the geographic extent of certain federal fishery management areas. These data are intended to provide a regional perspective for agencies and project developers, giving insight into whether potential activities may impact fisheries. In the past, these data were not easily accessible to all agencies or ocean users. By increasing data accessibility, the plan will improve coordination among ocean managers and agencies and improve communication with fishermen much earlier than has happened in the past. In the end, this is meant to avoid and minimize impacts to fishermen and the habitats where they fish.

The Plan also identifies research priorities and data gaps that need to be filled to improve our understanding of commercial fisheries. Data gaps identified in the plan include: the need to monitor ocean chemistry changes such as ocean acidification; enhancing our understanding of biodiversity of marine species and the resilience of the ecosystem with changing conditions; and, understanding shifts in fish distribution and abundance and how that impacts commercial and recreational fisheries. Other data gaps include: the need to improve the characterization of commercial fishing activity for fisheries that do not use Vessel Monitoring Systems; better characterization of locally important fisheries like lobster; and, improved spatial data on where recreational and charter boating occurs.

What’s Next?

Now that both plans are finalized, the work will begin in the regions to put them into action. The Regional Planning Bodies will continue to meet with ocean users and the public to advance regional priorities.

These ocean plans are supported by a broad range of ocean users because of the extensive engagement throughout the development of these plans. They also have strong support from the congressional delegation, signaling the value decision-makers at all levels see in these plans.

Ocean Conservancy is excited about the finalization of the nation’s first regional ocean plans and will continue to work with a broad range of ocean users as future iterations of the plan are developed and data gaps are filled. Stay tuned for what’s next!

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The Ingredients to Make a Smart Ocean Plan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/the-ingredients-to-make-a-smart-ocean-plan/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/the-ingredients-to-make-a-smart-ocean-plan/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:39:51 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13437
Ocean Conservancy congratulates the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for finalizing the first smart ocean plans in the United States. As they move into implementation, we look forward to continuing our work in the regions to help coastal communities and our ocean continue to thrive!

This process has come full-circle since 2004 when a commission appointed by President George W. Bush released the “Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century,” which called for coordinated governance of offshore waters based on sound science and regional collaboration.

While we celebrate the success of these two ocean plans, we wanted to take a moment to look at what the main components of a smart ocean plan are. You can also take a deeper dive into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ocean plans.

Reaching this milestone moment made us realize that a smart ocean plan has a lot in common with a good apple pie.

For an apple pie, there are some basic ingredients you need like apples, sugar, flour and butter in addition to your own creative flavor preferences and a carefully tested process to end up with a delicious creation that is a unique showstopper.

That’s how it goes with smart planning. It requires a few specific ingredients that are important to use when making decisions about our ocean, that build the foundation for smart planning that benefits the ocean environment and ocean economy. And in order to make the plan really work, each region builds upon those ingredients to tailor it specifically to their unique preferences and needs.

Main Ingredients for an Ocean Plan

Meaningful public participation

The people who live near, or work on or around the ocean are the ones that know it the best. A smart ocean plan will seek to engage a broad and diverse range of ocean users—often called “stakeholders” because they are invested in having a healthy natural resource—through a wide variety of engagement strategies, including public sessions like webinars, local and state-based meetings, open forums and more. Experts on specific subjects like renewable energy and fisheries managers are often invited to share their experiences in order to lay the best foundation for important decisions about the future of our ocean.

By consulting with as broad a diversity of people as possible, these smart ocean plans build on a strong foundation of local knowledge and expert advice, leading to the creation of a robust decision-support tool.

You can learn more about some of the people who have been involved in ocean planning at  www.keeptheoceanworking.com

Based in sound science

Sound science has to be the cornerstone of decisions that impact our ocean, which is an important ecological and economic engine for our planet. Ocean planning relies upon a wealth of existing knowledge as well as new information that is collected after any gaps in knowledge are identified through stakeholder engagement process.

Ocean planning takes into account a complex web of information, such as species distribution and migratory routes, wind and wave speeds, fishing and commercial shipping, as well as social and cultural factors important to communities along the coast. It also takes into account when and where activities happen. By collecting information that already exists and bolstering it with new science and research priorities, ocean planning helps build a map of what, where and when activities are occurring. As a result, smart ocean plans can balance the needs of ocean users and the environment, and present win-win options.

Head on over to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast ocean data portals to explore some of that information!

Coordinated decision-making

Did you know there are over two dozen agencies and 140 laws and regulations that govern our ocean? A smart ocean plan encourages a coordinated approach to decision-making. States and federal agencies, tribes, fisheries management councils and other bodies can work together with the public to share common sources of data and information. It allows for decision-making that spans from the local to the federal level. In the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic for example, various agencies came together and agreed to increase coordination in a voluntary basis, which will lead to improved decision-making and better results for local communities!

Adaptive management

Nothing in life is ever certain. Plans must be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions—be it economic, environmental or social. A smart ocean plan will be a “living” document, which means it is periodically reviewed to assess if it meets the needs of the people and responding to changing priorities in the region. And as part of the unique regional flavor, there will be complementary processes that allow for changes that take into account the public and other stakeholders.

To ensure thriving coastal and ocean economies, smart ocean plans have embraced a locally-driven approach that raises the voice of ocean users supported by rigorous science to inform decisions. This is meant to be an adaptive process that can respond to changes in the environment and economy, thus ensuring decisions are made with respect to current and future needs.

We applaud the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for their work in developing these regionally-driven, locally-based smart ocean plans that will help strengthen coastal economies and conserve our ocean environment for generations to come. As other regions like the West Coast, begin to plan for the sustainable management of their offshore resources, they can use this basic ingredient list and add a bit of their own spice, to create a unique, beneficial document for their coastal and marine economies and environment!

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Happy Kids, Happy Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/30/happy-kids-happy-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/30/happy-kids-happy-ocean/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2016 14:00:01 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13426

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.

Ocean Conservancy has been fighting back against ocean plastic pollution for the past 30 years. Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about ocean plastic pollution. Our corporate partners are helping to bring attention to this immense problem.

One such partner is toy company Once Kids. Started by an industrial designer and a marketing entrepreneur following the birth of their son, Once Kids is a design group that offers a range of environmentally-conscious toys.

Once Kids strives to design creative toys inspired by the classics that the founders, Brad and Emmy, played with as children. The resulting line of toys includes craft kits, building blocks, action figures, vehicles, and more. All toys are made from wood, a biodegradable and renewable resource that contrasts the plastics used in many children’s toys today.

We’re happy to have Once Kids as a partner in ocean conservation.  In addition to helping drive awareness of Ocean Conservancy’s work, Once Kids will invest 1% of total sales, with a guaranteed minimum of $25,000,  in our efforts to stem the tide against ocean plastic.

Business models like this just go to show that there are many ways to join in the fight against ocean plastic pollution. Whether it’s skipping the straw, joining a local cleanup or purchasing products that support ocean conservation; every sustainable choice helps move us towards a healthier, happier ocean.

Want to see more ways you can shop to support our ocean? Check out our other partners here

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We Will Stand Up for the Ocean–and That Means Standing Up for Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/29/we-will-stand-up-for-the-ocean-and-that-means-standing-up-for-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/29/we-will-stand-up-for-the-ocean-and-that-means-standing-up-for-science/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:00:33 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13416

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog.

During this bruising presidential campaign, there was an eerie sense that we had moved into a post-truth world, with fake news circulating on Facebook and the veracity of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump continually called into question. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries just declared “post-truth” its 2016 international Word of the Year.

But for me personally, facts really matter.  It’s why I’m a scientist. 

It’s my job to ensure that an objective assessment of facts and data underpin Ocean Conservancy’s work. For over 40 years, we have worked on your behalf to advance science-based solutions to the many threats that plague our ocean, from pollution to overfishing to ocean acidification. These threats have real impacts on real people from cod fishermen in the Gulf of Maine to oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest, from coastal property owners in the Gulf of Mexico to indigenous peoples in the Arctic, and from sailors on the high seas in the Pacific Ocean to families enjoying a relaxing day at the beach in the Mediterranean.

At Ocean Conservancy, we believe that science must underpin durable ocean solutions, so that facts and data can be brought to bear to identify cost-effective ways that improve people’s lives.

While it is not yet clear whether the next Administration will be committed to evidence-based decision-making, Ocean Conservancy will stand up for robust, independent science as the foundation upon which the federal government makes public policy. We believe we can best stand up for you by holding the new Administration accountable if it willingly ignores what science identifies to be patently true.

Let me clarify: Ocean Conservancy is decidedly nonpartisan. We work with Democrats and Republicans alike who recognize the importance of healthy oceans to a livable planet. Over the course of four decades, this has resulted in tremendous gains for our ocean and for the people that most depend on it.

  • We helped secure an 1100-mile network of marine protected areas in California guided by insights from the scientific community that is expanding recreational and commercial opportunities throughout the state.
  • We crafted a vision for restoration in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster using science to identify the damage done and steer recovery efforts in ways that can best improve the coastal communities that were so dramatically impacted.

At the core of all of our work is respect for the scientific process, appreciation for the independence of scientists and a relentless pursuit of action based on what the weight of the science demonstrates.

And this brings me to climate change. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump called climate change a hoax and pledged to back out of the Paris Climate agreement. His action plan for the first 100 days in office commits to massively expanding fossil fuel production. He has already appointed a climate denier to head up the EPA transition team. This sends a dangerous message to the global community fighting to tackle the greatest challenge to a livable future.

Climate change is real. It is happening now.

It is impacting people. And a global community of scientists is documenting the many ways that carbon emissions are impacting our planet, our ocean and our people. 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record. Oceans are massively heating up, right alongside the atmosphere. The ocean’s chemistry is also fundamentally changing, impacting fishermen and shellfish growers’ livelihoods. Oxygen levels are declining. Global currents are slowing. Fish are moving toward the poles. Entire ecosystems are beginning to shift as a result.

Why does it matter? Our ocean is quite literally the life support system for the planet whether you live on the coast or in the heartland. Climate change impacts in our ocean will ripple out to touch all life on the planet. This is what science is telling us. The good news is that we can do something about it.

Last month, 192 countries met in Marrakesh to begin to implement the historic Paris Accord on climate change. They were buffeted by the news of the election back in the United States. U.S. leadership under President Obama was critical to securing the Paris deal last December and U.S. withdrawal could seriously undermine progress going forward. At present, the rest of the world is doggedly committed to moving forward with the Accord, with or without US engagement but the future is far from certain.

We don’t have a minute to waste. Science tells us that we only have a decade to get the world’s economies—including the United States—on a trajectory to a low carbon future to avoid massive climate disruption. We must muster every ounce of our strength to stay the course if we are to avoid that scenario.

Ocean Conservancy is working hard to ensure that the election does not mark the beginning of a new, post-truth world. We remain deeply committed to seeking solutions that benefit our ocean and all who depend on it, informed by robust, independent science.

By standing up for science, we can stand up for you.

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Preventing Marine Debris, One Straw at a Time http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/28/preventing-marine-debris-one-straw-at-a-time/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/28/preventing-marine-debris-one-straw-at-a-time/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:00:58 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13366

Over the past several weeks, Ocean Conservancy has received a wave of 2016 International Coastal Cleanup data. Thanks to volunteers from Idaho to Indonesia, data from the 2016 ICC and the Clean Swell app are pouring into our new ocean trash database. The trash by the numbers provides us with a year-by-year snapshot of the top items that plague our waterways and coastlines.

Lately, there’s been some buzz around one top ocean trash item in particular: plastic straws (over 211,000 already logged!). With a debris item that is so easily preventable, and a host of alternatives out there, individuals, organizations and whole communities are now taking action. The most recent success story: Chiles Restaurant Group of Anna Maria, Florida.

This group of three waterfront restaurants—Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant in Longboat Key, Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria—is concerned about plastic pollution and has turned its attention to reducing their own impact in a number of ways.

The Chiles Restaurant Group is making significant strides in its efforts to be “plastic-free” and have implemented Single Stream Recycling in all three locations. This includes the introduction of a plastic cup alternative made exclusively of a commercial food grade cornstarch product which is completely biodegradable, unlike many other industry options. Other eco-initiatives include the elimination of all foam containers, saltine cracker wrappers and other non-biodegradable products normally associated with Food Service operations. Next steps include the introduction of a complete line of eco-friendly “to-go” containers and reusable packing crates for produce and seafood.

Chiles’ restaurants will communicate its environmentally-responsible actions through local restaurant marketing in the form of green messages designed to engage, educate and encourage its customers to join in their sustainable efforts to “Skip the Straw.” Equipped with ICC data and an understanding of the issue, the restaurants are spreading the word about what individuals can do to prevent marine debris, one straw at a time.

“As we ramp up our efforts to reduce our plastic footprint, we hope we can encourage others to do the same,” said Restaurant Group owner Ed Chiles.

YOU can take action, too. Sign the pledge to Skip the Straw and consider other ways to reduce single-use plastic in your life.

We are thrilled to work with environmentally-conscious businesses like the Chiles Restaurant Group. For more information on their “Skip the Straw” movement and other eco-initiatives, check out: http://www.islanddining.com.

Don’t forget to download Clean Swell and keep the data coming!

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