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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Honoring the Women Who Fight for Our Ocean (Part 2)

Posted On March 27, 2014 by

In honor of Women’s History Month, Ocean Conservancy will be publishing a three-part blog series highlighting some of the amazing female scientists who study and protect our ocean.

Kathryn Sullivan

We recently told you about Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the astronaut-turned-ocean champion who was just confirmed as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA aims to provide “science, service and stewardship” to the American people. It works to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, the ocean and coasts, and to conserve and manage marine ecosystems and resources.

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Four Reasons Why an Arctic Oil Spill Could be Catastrophic

Posted On March 25, 2014 by

Photo: NOAA

Just after midnight on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. In the days that followed, the tanker spilled approximately 11 million gallons of oil into the sound. Oil from the tanker eventually affected roughly 1,300 miles of coastline, some of it more than 450 miles away from the site of the spill. Experts estimate that the spill killed roughly 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales. Although the Exxon Valdez oil spill was not the biggest oil spill in the world, it is still widely considered to have caused more environmental damage than any other.

The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is a good opportunity to evaluate the threat of an oil spill in the Arctic. In recent years, oil companies have expressed great interest in drilling in Arctic waters off the north and northwest coasts of Alaska. In addition, decreasing levels of summer sea ice mean that Arctic waters are experiencing more vessel traffic. Both drilling and shipping activities have the potential to cause a catastrophic oil spill in the Arctic region. What lessons from the Exxon Valdez spill can be applied to the Arctic?

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Four Years Out and Counting: Taking Stock of the BP Disaster Through the Lens of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Posted On March 24, 2014 by

This piece was co-authored by Chris Robbins, senior manager of restoration planning at Ocean Conservancy, and Bob Spies, former chief scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

The first and second phases of the BP trial involving the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are behind us. The judge is now deciding how to rule on the issues of gross negligence and amount of oil released into the ocean, while a third and final phase is set for January 2015. Yet, while the end of the courtroom drama is in sight, the genie BP let out of the bottle almost four years ago has not gone away, and questions abound. For example, how is lingering oil affecting the food web? Which impacts will remain hidden? And how long will recovery of the environment take? Answers to these questions are frustratingly elusive, especially since the results of government studies assessing environmental damage are still mostly confidential.

With the fourth anniversary of the BP disaster nearly upon us, we can look back to the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska for insight into the types of impacts seen four years after that oil spill and what they might mean for Gulf recovery. As Alaskans reach a significant milestone this spring – the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster – the successes and setbacks in coastal Alaska’s recovery are instructive. These insights put the Gulf’s recovery into perspective and tell us that science is the foundation of a decades-long restoration effort, and it must not be shortchanged.
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Exxon Valdez Oil Disaster 25 Years Later

Posted On March 23, 2014 by

Photo: Valdez-Cordova Census Area County, Alaska/Creative Commons

On March 24, 1989, a few hours after the Exxon Valdez spill began, Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper and I boarded the tanker. At the time I was serving as Alaska’s commissioner of environmental conservation. We flew on a single-engine floatplane from the town of Valdez to a cove near the tanker, hitched a ride on a Coast Guard boat, climbed a long rope ladder dangling from the deck, and found our way up to the bridge. From there, we could see that there was hardly any response activity underway.

After several hours, we flew back to Valdez, where we went directly into a community meeting—still wearing our oily boots—to report on what we had seen on the water. Already on the stage of the community hall were Exxon officials, who had arrived from Houston. The auditorium crackled with tension; the audience, including many fishermen—who for years had opposed the shipping of oil by tanker and who felt that their livelihoods were at stake—were angry and frightened. It reminded me that a big oil spill is always a human crisis, not just an environmental disaster.

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California Ocean Day, A Little Day with a Big Message: Take Pride in the Ocean!

Posted On March 21, 2014 by

March 24, 2014, marks the seventh annual California Ocean Day, when Californians from all corners of the state flood the capital, Sacramento, to send a unified message: take pride in our ocean! Ocean Conservancy and numerous other organizations – along with dozens of volunteers, college students and passionate citizens – will spend the day meeting with legislators to discuss key ocean-related issues. The goal is to inspire decision-makers to support policies that protect and restore California’s 1,100-mile coastline, the state’s most recognized attraction and home to its richest natural resources.
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Keep Boating Practices Shipshape with Good Mate

Posted On March 20, 2014 by

As much of the country shakes off the cold of winter, newly budding trees, blooming flowers and balmy temperatures all signal spring’s imminent arrival. The warmer weather also means that boating season is right around the corner.

Just in time, Ocean Conservancy has released its updated Good Mate Manual for green boating. So, while you’re getting your vessel shipshape for its return to the water, take a moment to ensure that your boating practices are in good order as well.

Boaters and marinas are in unique positions to stop trash and other pollution from entering the water. The Good Mate program offers informative and useful tips to help these important user groups be leaders in water protection.

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Presenting Our New Solutions at the Camden Conference

Posted On March 20, 2014 by

Last month, I was invited to speak at the Camden Conference in Maine. This conference brings experts from a number of disciplines together with policymakers, industry leaders and college students to discuss some of the biggest issues facing our world today. This year’s theme was “The Global Politics of Food and Water,” and I spoke about how the ocean sits at the nexus of these issues.

Right now, the ocean is in a period of uncertainty. Climate change and a growing population are changing the chemistry of the ocean and the life that calls it home. But instead of viewing the ocean’s changes in a negative light, I think we have an incredible opportunity to become better problem-solvers. We can break free from old resource management models to find new solutions for our changing ocean. We can effectively address these new complexities; it’s not too late.

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