This has been a heartbreaking month – a heartbreaking year – for our country and around the world.
Like you, I’m troubled and heartbroken by the racial inequality and violence that mars our great country. I’ve been thinking about the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minnesota almost constantly. And I am struggling with the fact that whatever I write will not adequately capture or convey my feelings. It certainly doesn’t represent all the conversations that Ocean Conservancy staffs have had as these events have unfolded.
The summer sizzle has arrived and I have some hot news to share with you: The nation’s first regional ocean plan was just released in New England! This plan is a huge win for the Atlantic Ocean and everything that lives in it.
Great news from the west coast! Last week, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban on the sale of polystyrene foam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting January 1, 2017. This is a major win for the health of our ocean and marine life!
As you may already know, the problems associated with expanded polystyrene (foam) products is that they often fragment into small pieces once in the ocean, where fish, sea turtles or seabirds can mistakenly eat the tiny plastic bits. Nearly 425,000 foam cups, plates and food containers were removed from beaches by volunteers during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup alone. And even more astounding are the more than 950,000 pieces of foam volunteers found on beaches around the globe during the 2015 Cleanup.
On July 5th, the Mid-Atlantic States become the second region in the nation to release an ocean action plan for their shared federal waters, an historic move that follows a similar release by the New England states in May.
Over the past 3 years, the Mid-Atlantic has been at the forefront of regional ocean planning in the United States. Along with the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic states chose to develop their ocean plan after President Obama’s National Ocean Policy was announced in 2010. Led by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body which is comprised of six states, two federally recognized tribes, multiple federal agencies and the Fisheries Management Council, the region is now poised to not only better manage its ocean resources, but to plan more comprehensively for its future. The release of this draft plan, in combination with the Northeast Plan, is a major step towards more coordinated, science-based and stakeholder-informed ocean management. Between the two regions, ocean plans now benefit ocean users and resources from Virginia to Maine.
So what does this plan mean for you as an ocean user?
As the state representative for the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade County, there are few things more important to our well-being than the health of our unique marine environment. We are home to the Everglades, the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world and the only living barrier reef in the continental United States. Since I took office, I have made it a priority to do everything I can to help raise awareness about our water issues in Tallahassee and we’ve made great progress in the last four years when it comes to improving water quality.
Despite this progress, there are still many stressors facing Florida’s oceans and ocean acidification (OA) is a particularly significant threat. Its impacts on our marine ecosystems are less visible so it has not been as widely discussed as other environmental threats, but that is starting to change, and I am excited to help bring further awareness to this issue. Side effects of acidification like decreases in coral reproduction, growth and calcification as well as slower shellfish growth mean that this is not an issue we can afford to ignore. Already, other fisheries across the country are seeing serious economic impacts from OA and if it continues unchecked, the impacts to Florida businesses and residents could be equally devastating.
This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.
Have you ever seen a cartoon or advertisement that showed penguins and polar bears cavorting together in the snow?
On the flip side, have you ever seen a documentary film that showed penguins and polar bears together in the wild? Didn’t think so, since they live poles apart. Nevertheless, not everyone (advertisers included) understands the difference between Antarctica and the Arctic. Here are eight ways to tell them apart.