Ocean Currents http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Northeast Ocean Plan Sails towards a New Era for Ocean Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/27/the-northeast-ocean-plan-sails-towards-a-new-era-for-ocean-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/27/the-northeast-ocean-plan-sails-towards-a-new-era-for-ocean-management/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12166

The Northeast Ocean Plan, the nation’s first regional ocean plan was released this week and is now open for public comment through July 25. See Ocean Conservancy’s press release here.

This plan is the culmination of four years of work by state and federal agencies, tribes, the Fishery Management Council, stakeholders and the public.  New England has led the nation on collaborative ocean management since 2005 when it formed the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC), the country’s first regional ocean partnership.  In 2010, the issuance of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy opened the door for New England to create the Northeast Regional Planning Body (whose work NROC supports), and to move forward with regional ocean planning.   The release of the draft plan this week is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based, and stakeholder-informed ocean management.  It results in better data and information on a wide range of ocean uses and resources, improved communication and coordination amongst the twenty plus state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in the ocean, and decision-making processes that better engage stakeholders and ocean users.  All with the goal of advancing ocean health and growing local economies.

So what does this plan mean for you as an ocean user?  Traditionally, ocean management was done on a sector-by-sector basis, with scant attention paid to the impacts a project would have on other uses until well into the project development process.  Too often, it was up to an ocean user, such as a recreational fisherman or a conservationist, to keep abreast of proposed developments like wind farms and dredging projects and to ensure new projects wouldn’t have a negative impact on the things they care about.  Essentially, the onus was on the ocean user to make sure that federal and state agencies knew about them, to put themselves ‘in the room’.  Ocean planning inverts that.

Thanks to the plan’s stakeholder-driven approach, the development of a public data portal with unique information describing how and where people and animals use the ocean, plus agency commitments to involve stakeholders and use their data, the responsibility is on the agency and decision-makers to make sure that what they’re doing has the least amount of impact to the interests and livelihoods of ocean users and the environment. With the Regional Ocean Plan and the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, ocean users like you are automatically put in the room.

We’ll continue to post more information about the specifics of the plan over the coming weeks.  A sneak peak: we’ll be talking about the revolutionary marine life data the plan contains, and how it can help better protect the ocean environment.  As we continue to review this plan, we invite you to do the same. Follow the links below for more information:

Read and comment on the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan here

Consider attending one of nine public meetings, if you’re in New England.

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18 Million Fewer Pounds of Trash in Our Ocean: This Year’s Ocean Trash Index Has Arrived http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/26/18-million-fewer-pounds-of-trash-in-our-ocean-this-years-ocean-trash-index-has-arrived/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/26/18-million-fewer-pounds-of-trash-in-our-ocean-this-years-ocean-trash-index-has-arrived/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 14:11:22 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12157

Once again, the time has come to share the results of last year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)! This is an especially exciting year for the Ocean Trash Index because we’re celebrating the Cleanup’s 30th anniversary!

Each year, I’m amazed by the number of people who care about the health of our ocean. During the 2015 ICC, 791,336 people removed 18,062,911 pounds of trash from 25,188 miles of coast around the world. These volunteers collected trash on their local beaches and waterways and provided Ocean Conservancy with a snapshot of the most persistent forms of trash found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.

Volunteers part of the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup joined  the ranks of more than 11.5 million people who’ve joined the Cleanup over the last 30 years. I’m so grateful for the hard work of our volunteers, cleanup coordinators and local partners who help make the Cleanup a reality. We couldn’t do our work without their tremendous support.

This year—as in years past—one of the most commonly found items of trash were plastic drinking straws. These straws pose a real danger to animals like sea turtles, albatross and fish, who can eat them. That’s why we’re asking large, national restaurant chains make a difference for our ocean! You can help us take action by signing our petition asking restaurants to skip the straw.

Keeping straws out of our ocean, one drink at a time, will have a huge impact on the health of our ocean and the animals who call it home. Looking for more great ways to help create Trash Free Seas®? Try our suggestions below:

  • Check out the 2015 Ocean Trash Index and our infographics from the report  to learn more about the most pervasive types of trash.
  • Download Clean Swell, our newest app, and let us know what types of trash you’re collecting from your local beach. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
  • Reduce your purchases of single-use disposable goods. Going reusable ensures throwaway plastics never have the chance to make it to beaches, waterways, or the ocean.
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5 Must-Reads for Ocean Lovers http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/25/5-must-reads-for-ocean-lovers/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/25/5-must-reads-for-ocean-lovers/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 17:06:02 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12146

Warm weather is upon us! Whether you are jetting off to a tropical beach or are soaking up the rays in your backyard, it’s time to stock up on your summer reads. If you need some suggestions, don’t fear: We’ve pulled together some of the most informative (and entertaining!) books for ocean lovers. Happy reading!

1. Four Fish — Paul Greenberg

A livelong waterman, Paul Greenberg knows fish. Influenced by Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire and Omnivore’s Dilemma, Greenberg decided to dive headfirst into the changing landscape of seafood. He found that the processes of gathering food from the ocean is rapidly changing: Consequences of overfishing and advancements in bio technology have created a confusing new world of both wild and farmed seafood.

Pollan travels from Alaska to the South Pacific and beyond to bring stories of the “big four” seafood species — cod, salmon, sea bass and tuna — in an attempt to unravel the complicated state of our fisheries. His research explores the impact of our current fishing practices and how we can adapt to work towards a healthier, more sustainable ocean. Trust me, you’ll never look at seafood the same.

2. “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do” — Wallace J Nichols

The fact that beaches are consistently a top vacation destination is no coincidence. Just ask Wallace J Nichols, who has dedicated his research to learning more about human’s connection with the ocean. Nichols turns to science to explain why we feel so relaxed when we spend time in, around and under the water.

It turns out that our ties to the water are much greater than personal preferences: Nichols delves into the emotional, behavioral, psychological and physical connections we feel with the big blue. He also argues how our “blue mind”, or the meditative state that occurs in our brains when we’re around water, can be connected to larger public healthy issues.

3. The World is Blue — Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle didn’t land the title “Her Deepness” for nothing: Dr. Earle’s extensive experience and knowledge of the ocean is legendary. In The World is Blue, Dr. Earle combines her personal observations with top science to explore the many challenges facing our ocean today. From pollution to overfishing, dead zones to die-offs, she explains the complexity and severity of these issues—and why we still have reason to hope.

Earle argues for strategies that allow us to interact with the ocean sustainably and help undo some of the damage already done. Coined “a Silent Spring for our era”, The World is Blue is a staple for any ocean conservation-lover’s bookcase.

4. Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea — Katherine Harmon Courage

The octopus has long held the imagination of scientists and storytellers alike. It’s strange, snaking arms combined with its spectacular intelligence has made it one of the most intriguing invertebrates in the sea. It’s likeness can be found all over the world, from restaurants to research labs, to art and stories.

Katherine Harmon Courage unravels the cultural and scientific significance behind this mysterious cephalopod. Peppered with little-known facts (the oldest know fossilized octopus lived before the first dinosaurs! Octopuses can open childproof bottles), this book is guaranteed to capture the attention of curious readers everywhere.

5. Voyage of the Turtle — Carl Safina

Leatherback turtles are massive, ancient, iconic — and in trouble. Although this species’ roots run back 125 million years, anthropogenic pressures have led them to become critically endangered. Carl Safina’s account dives into the natural history of this animal (describing it as “an evolutionary marvel: a “reptile” that behaves like a warm-blooded dinosaur, an ocean animal able to withstand colder water than most fishes and dive deeper than any whale”), and what we can do to save them.

Safina takes us on a journey all over the world as he and his colleagues track leatherbacks. He also compares lessons learned after their sharp decline in the Pacific and their unexpected recover in the Atlantic. His take-home message? The fate of this spectacular creature rests on our hands.

Any books we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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Join the Fight for Trash Free Seas with Clean Swell http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/24/join-the-fight-for-trash-free-seas-with-clean-swell/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/24/join-the-fight-for-trash-free-seas-with-clean-swell/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 13:30:32 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12132

Beach season is finally upon us! This Memorial Day, people all over the country (myself included) will flock to the coasts to soak up some much-needed sunshine. But nothing ruins a good vacation day like a beach covered in trash—especially because  trash poses a huge threat to our ocean and the animals that call it home.

Ocean Conservancy is committed to keeping our beaches and ocean trash free. For 30 years we have sponsored the International Coastal Cleanup, where 11.5 million volunteers from 153 countries have collected 220 million pounds of trash. And we’re not the only ones who care about ocean trash: Every day, all over the world, concerned people take the problem into their own hands by cleaning up their local waterways.

Now we have a way to make your beach cleanups more exciting than ever (as if protecting our ocean wasn’t enough!). Introducing our brand-new Clean Swell app: a fun and easy way to keep track of the trash you collect. The app is free and available to download on both iOS and Android systems.

With Clean Swell, simply “Start Collecting” wherever you are around the world and record every item of trash you pick up. The data you collect will instantaneously upload to Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database. This delivers a global snapshot of the ocean trash problem and provides researchers and policy-makers insight to inform solutions. You can even check your “Cleanup History”, so anytime, anywhere, you can see the impact you’ve had on making our ocean a cleaner and healthier ecosystem.

Here are some of the app highlights:

  • Track your progress: We’re making it easier than ever to see the long-term impact your cleanups have on the ocean. See the total distance cleaned, the total weight of the trash you collect and a historical record of your cleanup efforts.
  • Contribute to science: When you add to Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database, you’re helping to create ocean trash solutions by identifying trends. The app also provides scientific facts about the impact of trash on ocean animals and shares tips on how you can help.
  • Share your results: You can share your cleanup results and photos with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email right from the app.

Join us in a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. This weekend, while you’re enjoying some quality beach time, don’t forget to collect any trash you may see and use Clean Swell to record your efforts! The ocean, and the people and animals that rely on it, will thank you.

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Caring for Crabs is Caring for the Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:40:15 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12140

San Franciso Bay Area Dungeness crabber Captain John Mellor

“We’re like the Giants. We’re your hometown team,” said Captain John Mellor last week as he described the San Francisco Bay Dungeness crab fishing fleet. Capt. Mellor’s pride in his work as a crabber is paired with a love for what he does. But, his feelings are mixed with fear for the future. A West-Coast wide toxic algae bloom shut down the fishery last year, leaving him out of work for five months. Fishermen and researchers are also worried that ocean acidification could represent a looming threat to the fishery that could cause future fishing disruptions.

Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) pointed out that understanding ocean acidification’s effects on Dungeness crab is “an economic imperative” as he introduced Thursday’s briefing, which he co-hosted with Rep. Don Young (R-AK). He underscored the need to know more about how Dungeness will respond, because the commercial fishery and the recreational activities around the crabs are a particularly important financial engine for the West Coast.

After a screening of the new short film “High Hopes,” which offers a five-minute look at the concerns of scientists and Dungeness crabbers about the fishery, NOAA scientist. Dr. Paul McElhany and Capt. Mellor participated in a question-and-answer session with about 50 attendees. McElhany described his new research, which shows that young Dungeness crabs grow slowly under ocean acidification conditions simulated in the lab, and many don’t survive to adulthood. He explained, “It’s important to think about ocean acidification now, while the fishery is healthy,” to get ahead of any lasting problems that may arise in the water.

Mellor and McElhany both agreed that developing partnerships between scientists and the industry could go a long way towards providing data critical for understanding what Dungeness face. Mellor reminded attendees that seafood, including Dungeness, is “a public trust, but ultimately it’s the lifeblood of San Francisco Harbor.” So it’s important for us to take care of that. Continued strong research funding for ocean acidification’s research on species like Dungeness crab will go a long way towards caring for the family-owned fishing businesses and coastal communities on the West Coast.

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10 Things to Know About the Walrus http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/19/10-things-to-know-about-the-walrus/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/19/10-things-to-know-about-the-walrus/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 13:30:41 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12079

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

When you think of walruses, you may picture their tusks—the huge pinniped’s most familiar characteristic. But there is so much more to these “elephants of the sea”! Here are some less-obvious facts about these ice-dwelling creatures.

1. Biologists classify the walrus as a carnivore, or meat eater, which puts the animal in the same broad category as wolves, foxes and lions.

2. The polar bear, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds, is often touted as North America’s largest terrestrial carnivore. But it’s a mere wisp compared to the ocean-going male walrus, which can tip the scales in excess of 3,700 pounds.

3. Walruses depend on sea ice, and spend much of the summer on flows from which they dive into relatively shallow waters in search of food. In winter, the walruses go to shore and feed in near-shore waters. They communicate with grunting and roaring sounds.

4. Despite their size and their ability to stay underwater for up to half an hour, walruses are not deep divers—they usually feed at depths of less than 300 feet.

5. Walruses find much of their food by poking around on the ocean floor. When a walrus finds a tasty crab or clam buried in sand, it creates powerful suction with its mouth to vacuum it up. Walruses are not picky eaters—they feed mainly on mollusks, but will also eat worms, cephalopods, crustaceans and more. They even nosh on an occasional seal, though observations of walruses hunting their close relatives are rare.

6. Walruses are able to locate buried food thanks to the 400-700 stiff bristles, or vibrissae, which grow on their muzzles. Like a cat’s whiskers, vibrissae are sensitive to touch, telling the walrus when it has come in contact with an appropriate food. Vibrissae can grow up to a foot long, but scraping against sand and rock usually keeps them shorter.

7. Adult walruses have few enemies, mostly due to their massive size and sharp tusks, which can grow to more than three feet long. Bears sometimes attack young walruses, as do orcas. A bear attack on a beached walrus herd can make the pinnipeds rush headlong for the safety of water, causing injuries to adult walruses in the general crush and making them vulnerable to bear attacks.

8. The scientific name for the walrus genus is Odobenus, which is Greek for “tooth walker,” so-called because walruses sometimes use their tusks to haul themselves onto ice.

9. The brownish, heavily seamed skin of the walrus is over 1.5 inches thick and covers a layer of blubber that can get to 3.9 inches thick.  The skin grows paler as the animals age, until the dark brown of the young fades to cinnamon in mature animals. The color depends partly on blood flow to the skin; when in cold water, blood flow to the skin reduces, so the skin of a pink walrus can turn nearly white.

10. Walruses breed from January to March while winter is in full swing, and females give birth about 16 months later. A newborn calf can weigh 100 to 165 pounds and may stay with the mother for two years or more, though usually weaned after a year.

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

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Will Ocean Acidification Affect Dungeness Crabs? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/will-ocean-acidification-affect-dungeness-crabs/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/will-ocean-acidification-affect-dungeness-crabs/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 18:55:45 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12122

2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014  – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”

Both fishermen and scientists are asking what’s next for this fishery. It’s possible that ocean acidification could be the next big challenge it faces. NOAA research shows that Dungeness crab larvae exposed to ocean acidification in the laboratory develop slowly, and more of them die before adulthood. In addition, research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows that Pseudonitschia (toxic algae) produce more domoic acid under simulated ocean acidification conditions in the laboratory. But, the science is still young.

We need to know more about how Dungeness crab will respond to ocean acidification and all the overlapping environmental changes happening in our waters. Bay area crabber Josh Churchman agrees, “We could use a little more information and education about [ocean acidification], I would say.” Our new short film, “High Hopes,” takes a 5-minute look at the concerns of scientists and Dungeness crabbers about the fishery. The recent NOAA research promises to be just the first of many studies that will help us shield Dungeness crabs, certainly one of our staff’s favorite seafoods, from ocean acidification.

 

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