Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 05 May 2016 15:51:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 New Maps Highlight Where Fishing Communities Use the Mid-Atlantic Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/05/new-maps-highlight-where-fishing-communities-use-the-mid-atlantic-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/05/new-maps-highlight-where-fishing-communities-use-the-mid-atlantic-ocean/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:50:59 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12033

Exciting new data was recently released for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal that provides decision-makers and ocean users with a greater understanding of commercial fisheries.  Specifically, new maps show Communities at Sea that highlight specific ports, fisheries, and gear type that are important in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. These maps are based on the methodology developed by Dr. Kevin St. Martin of Rutgers University and are more than two years in the making.

A federal agency staffer or state decision-maker can now click on the Communities at Sea data layers to understand, for example, where gillnetters from a particular port location fish.  As any fisherman will tell you, the fish they follow don’t know or care about state boundaries. Fishermen, whose home port is in Newport News, Virginia, are also likely fishing in federal waters off the coast of New York.  That means the decisions made off the coast of New York also affect communities and ports in other locations.  This new tool developed to support the Mid-Atlantic regional ocean plan ensures fishermen, and the space they occupy on the water, are represented in the data and as part of the ocean plan.

As part of the ocean planning process, fishermen also requested that the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal include maps that highlight the fishery management zones including those for ocean quahogs, surf clams and scallops.

Additional datasets added to the Portal use the Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on board fishing vessels, which tracks vessel movement, to show where commercial fishing activity occurs. Datasets are grouped by specific categories such as scallops, herring, or monkfish.  This Mid-Atlantic VMS data is used courtesy of Northeast ocean planning colleagues and can be found on both the Northeast Ocean Data Portal and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal.

The collective value of these new maps is extensive. This data can help guide engagement with specific fishing communities when a potential management or permitting process occurs in the waters where they fish. This type of targeted engagement is a step to ensure fishermen have a voice in the development activity affecting their fishing grounds and a crucial step to avoid future ocean use conflicts.

Read the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal team’s blog for more information on the methods behind the Communities at Sea data.  A guided tour of the new datasets and other fishing-related maps available on the Portal is set for June 21, click here for more information.

Scallop Fishery Management Areas: These areas reflect the current fishery management areas protected by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Communities at Sea Data for Gillnet. Communities at Sea maps  link fishing communities to specific resource areas in the ocean. Communities at Sea data for bottom trawl Communities at Sea data set for pots and traps Vessel monitoring system data for scallops 2011-2014 ( MeghanBowling ]]>
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Update: Forage Fish Protection Begins on the West Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 12:00:55 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12008

I have another fin-tastic update for you, from the West Coast!

If you recall, about five weeks ago I wrote in gratitude over the outpouring of support from Ocean Conservancy activists, who together with other conservation supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking them to finalize protection for West Coast forage fish.

We said we’d get back to you on the final outcome and I’m happy to tell you about this victory! As of today, the final rule is complete and these fish will now be protected, and their immense importance to a range of predators from rockfish to whales to seabirds sustained.

The final rule will prohibit fishing for a list of 11 types of small, schooling marine species—including one that accounts for more than half of all deep-sea fish biomass—unless first reviewed and determined sustainable by federal fisheries managers.

In addition to the tremendous positive impact on the marine ecosystem, NMFS provided a big shout-out in support of the role of our activists in their decision, saying

Several letters from environmental organizations included petitions supporting the action, with signatures or comments from 91,966 people supporting the action… NMFS appreciates the broad public interest in this rulemaking and has taken the strong public support it received during the comment period into account in its approval of this final rule.

We’ll keep swimming forward to support corresponding forage protection in other West Coast areas such as California state waters, and keep you posted. Thanks again for helping make this historic conservation achievement possible!

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Taking on Plastic at the Met Gala http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/03/taking-on-plastic-at-the-met-gala/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/03/taking-on-plastic-at-the-met-gala/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 19:54:46 +0000 Jackie Yeary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12018

Photo: Emma Watson/Facebook

True confessions: I’m secretly a total Harry Potter nerd. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret… (#TeamHufflepuff anyone?) Which is why I did a literal happy dance in my living room when I saw Emma Watson’s gown for last night’s Met Gala.

Her look, designed by Calvin Klein with help from Eco-Age, incorporated recycled plastics into the body of the gown.  “Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants on the planet,” said Watson on Facebook. “Being able to repurpose this waste and incorporate it into my gown for the #MetGala proves the power that creativity, technology and fashion can have by working together.”

Emma’s point about the power of creativity is an important reminder. There are a lot of problems—big problems—facing our planet, and it’s going to require ingenuity and innovation to solve them. And if finding a sustainable way to create red carpet fashion brings more people to the table, then I say, “The more the merrier!”

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Photos: Life in the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/27/photos-life-in-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/27/photos-life-in-the-arctic/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:30:58 +0000 Sarah Bobbe http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11995

My name is Sarah Bobbe and I am Ocean Conservancy’s Arctic Program Specialist based in Anchorage, Alaska. TIn case you missed it, this week I took over the Ocean Conservancy Instagram account, and wanted to post the images here! I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to share my passion for the Arctic and the conservation of this region with you all.

While studying marine ecology in graduate school, I had the opportunity to live in the Norwegian Arctic on the island of Svalbard, located at 78 degrees north. In Svalbard, I was surrounding by the stark beauty of this region every day, and observed some of the Arctic’s most iconic species in their natural habitat, including polar bears, bearded seals (as shown in this image by my friend Vincent Carrier), polar cod and little auks. I also observed one of the lowest sea ice coverage years ever recorded, and saw for my own eyes how quickly the Arctic is warming. From 1979 to 2012, summer sea ice extent decreased 40 percent. Sea-ice dependent mammals like this bearded seal will face great challenges as sea ice continues to decrease in this region.

While in Svalbard, the changes occurring due to one of the lowest sea-ice years on record were made most apparent to me during our 10 days of fieldwork. Only two days before setting out, the logistics team concluded an abnormal warming cycle would prevent us from taking snowmobiles over sea ice to the site, and instead we needed to travel by boat (photo). Once at the field site, we observed the spring algal bloom had occurred several weeks prior than anticipated.

Indeed, climate change is having a profound impact on the Arctic, which is warming two times faster than the rest of the world. It is projected by 2037; summer sea ice will disappear completely.

I am extremely grateful for the time I spent living in the Norwegian Arctic. I feel privileged that I get to spend my career advocating for the conservation of this region, and to work alongside others so passionate about Arctic marine ecosystems that they must take swims through plankton sampling holes in sea ice.

My hope is that we find a way to communicate how special and how fragile this environment is to those who have not had the opportunity to see the Arctic in-person. As decreasing sea ice opens the region to potential resource extraction, tourism, and increased shipping, we must tread lightly in order to preserve this region for its current residents, and for generations to come.

Thank you for sharing in on my passion for the Arctic by following my Instagram takeover!

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10 Things to Know about Penguins http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/25/10-things-to-know-about-penguins/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/25/10-things-to-know-about-penguins/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 12:25:00 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11981

Adelie penguin

This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.

The tuxedo seems to have two separate origins. Why the fashion industry came up with the tux, and why it hasn’t vanished with the top hat, is tough to say. But why penguins evolved into tuxedo-wearing birds is pretty clear: The white belly makes them harder to spot when viewed in water from below against the surface of a sunlit sea, and the black back does the same against the dark ocean surface. It’s all about tricking predators. The survival of this monochromatic color scheme in all 17 penguin species is a measure of how well it has worked in nature’s often-unforgiving game of survival.

Here are ten other fun facts to know about penguins.

1. Penguins are birds designed by evolution for swimming rather than flying. Their wings have turned into flippers, and though they usually walk upright on land, some drop on to their bellies to scoot over ice. Most species cruise underwater at an average speed of 4-7 miles per hour, but the Gentoo can speed up to 22 miles per hour.

2. All penguins live south of the equator. Although we often associate them with Antarctic, they also occur farther north on beaches and rocky shores in coastal South America, the Galapagos Islands, Australia and South Africa.

3. The largest penguin you will ever see trundling around the Antarctic is the emperor, which can stand in excess of 3.5 feet tall and weigh nearly 80 pounds, roughly the weight of two or three Thanksgiving turkeys. The emperor is also the only bird species that nests in the Antarctic during the winter, when temperatures can drop below minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Emperor penguins

4. The smallest penguin is the little blue or fairy penguin, which grows barely more than two pounds and 16 inches tall and is found in Australia and New Zealand.

5. The largest known penguin of all time is Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi or giant penguin, which lived more than 37 million years ago, stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. Its rival in size, the New Zealand giant, dates from around 30 million years ago, stood 5 feet tall and weighed close to 130 pounds.

6. Small penguins usually feed at the surface of the sea, rarely diving for more than a couple minutes. The emperor, however, can dive for more than 20 minutes, reaching depths in excess of 1,800 feet to feed on fish, squid, krill and other crustaceans.

7. Penguins can drink sea water. Salt is filtered from the blood by special glands and the salt is secreted from the nasal passages.

Magellanic penguins

8. With the exception of yellow-eyed and Fiordland penguins, these birds are colonial nesters, gathering in breeding groups that range in number from 100 pairs among gentoo penguins to several hundred thousand in the king, macaroni and chinstrap species. In most species, each pair produces two eggs, though emperor and king penguins—the two largest living species—usually lay only one egg. Among emperors, males incubate the eggs, but in all other species mom and dad take turns. The little blue penguin lays the smallest eggs, about 2 ounces, and the emperor pops out the largest, which can weigh a full pound.

9. In the Antarctic, penguins have no land predators, though skuas—gull-like, predatory birds—may feed on eggs and hatchlings. Consequently, penguins have no fear of people and may approach to with a few feet of Antarctic visitors. This defenseless behavior might have proved fatal for penguin species, as it did for other flightless birds such as the dodo and the great auk, wiped out centuries ago by ship crews who took them for food. But Antarctic penguins got lucky. Surrounded by dangerously rough seas and harsh climate, the Antarctic proved a penguin haven. No human set foot there until the 1800s.

10. The oldest known penguin species, Waimanu manneringi, was found in New Zealand as a 62-million-year-old fossil. Looking something like a loon, it had short wings designed for diving but not flight.

The Ocean Conservancy is using science-based solutions to tackle the biggest threats to our ocean, including ones that threaten penguins and other wildlife. See how you can take action here.

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Introducing the National Aquarium’s 48 Days of Blue http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11970

Did you know that more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water? As we celebrate Earth Day today, we want to pay a special tribute to the ocean!

The ocean is almost 4 billion years old. More than just a pleasant attribute, the ocean is responsible for controlling our climate and supporting our continued survival here on Earth. Their mere existence is what separates us from every other planet in our solar system.

In the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8), help the National Aquarium give something back to our amazing, life-sustaining blue planet!

Every day, the National Aquarium will try to overcome an obstacle facing the ocean by asking us to complete smallconservation challenges.

Going a day without straws will keep 127 school buses worth of plastic from out of our natural spaces. Unplugging from our modern, electronic world for just 20 minutes can save enough energy to brew a cup of coffee.

Making these changes in our daily lives will benefit our own health, improve our communities AND help protect the ocean for future generations.

This movement is about more than just conservation; it’s about connecting a community of change-makers. Whether you’re down the street or continents away, our collective impact is equal, our challenges are similarly difficult and our successes will be felt and celebrated together, loudly!

Let’s not waste another minute. To join the 48 Days of Blue movement (and get your friends on board), click here!

Nabila Chami is the project lead for 48 Days of Blue. As the social media manager for the National Aquarium, she shares stories that connect the online world with our amazing blue planet every day. 


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5 Easy Ways to Keep Our Ocean Trash Free http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:00:09 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11960

Nothing ruins a sweeping ocean vista like…trash. Not only are piles of plastic an eyesore, they’re seriously harmful to the countless animals who call the ocean home. This Earth Day, take a minute to see how you can decrease your negative impacts on the ocean (and let’s be real, with 71% of the globe covered in water, shouldn’t we be calling this “Ocean Day”, anyway?).

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been working hard to keep trash off of our beaches and out of our oceans for three decades—but we can’t do it alone. Whether you’re a casual coastal visitor or frequent beach bum, here are five easy things you can do to keep our ocean trash free.

1. Stow it: Be a green boater with OC’s Good Mate program 

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary with support from the Brunswick Foundation, Ocean Conservancy created Good Mate, a public outreach program that gives you simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating. During this past Cleanup, almost 4,000 boaters traversed 416 miles of waterways removing nearly 83,000 pounds of trash. Check out our Good Mate Manual here.

2. Remove it: Clean up with the International Coastal Cleanup

For the past 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has worked with millions of volunteers all over the world to take action by removing and recording trash during our International Coastal Cleanup. An astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash in our 2014 cleanup, and the results from the 2015 Cleanup (to be published in May 2016) are even more staggering! Now, you can track your impact using out Clean Swell app, too!

3. Tap it: Drink water in a reusable bottle 

Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation worldwide, resulting in 29 billion water bottles consumed every year. And with only one out of every six water bottles ending up in the recycling bin, it’s no surprise that volunteers around the world found almost a million plastic beverage bottles during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup. Stay hydrated and be kind to the ocean by reaching for a reusable bottle instead.

4. Butt out: Use an ashtray so cigarette butts don’t reach waterways and the ocean  

In our 2014 clean up, cigarette butts were the top item collected: Volunteers picked up over 2 million of them around the world! These butts not only clog up our beaches, they also contain thousands of little plastic particles that end up in the ocean (and inside ocean animals!)

5. Recycle it: Go the extra mile to sort and separate items that can be recycled 

The first step to perfecting your recycling routine is understanding what’s what. Different plastic items are made of different kinds of plastic; some kinds can go in your kitchen’s recycling bin, others can be dropped off at a nearby store, while some are pretty tough to recycle period. Crack the code by looking at the number inside the recycling symbol on your label or container, and check with your local municipality on their respective recycling guidelines. Download our guide to help demystify the recycling process.

Have any more ideas for how to keep our ocean trash free? Tell us in the comments below! And don’t forget to learn more about our Trash Free Seas program here at Ocean Conservancy.


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