Ocean Currents » anniversary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Beyond BP: Restoring Our Gulf of Mexico in the Era of Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/20/beyond-bp-restoring-our-gulf-of-mexico-in-the-era-of-climate-change/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 14:27:25 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11951

Photo: NOAA

The future of the Gulf is being shaped everyday. Six years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which took the lives of 11 workers, the grand experiment in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold in a unique crucible of complex science and complicated politics.

Over $25 billion in settlements finalized from BP and other parties is earmarked for environmental and economic recovery in the Gulf . While it not nearly enough to fully restore the Gulf, if invested wisely, it is enough to catalyze a transformation in working with nature to enable coastal communities to thrive.

The Gulf of Mexico became an immense emergency room during the hours, days and weeks following the explosion on April 20, 2010. Unprepared for the previously unthinkable worst case, first responders triaged the situation with the controversial use of dispersants applied a mile below the sea’s surface. Scientists grappled with the appallingly large knowledge gaps about the Gulf environment and how it would respond to a huge volume of oil. Across the coast, we rallied with coastal communities to respond to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, straining the capacity of our nation’s disaster response system.

Six years on, we recognize a unique opportunity born from tragedy that is much bigger than the Gulf itself. It is the nation’s first real test case for whether and how we can best restore natural resources at a scale large enough to slow or even reverse the rate of environmental decline. Many places around the country and the globe struggle with environmental degradation exacerbated by development, loss of ecological connectivity and function, and the expected impacts of sea level rise. These places can benefit from the hard lessons we have learned in the Gulf.

By using the restoration funds as a down payment on the larger goal of ecosystem resilience, the Gulf can serve as an example to others grappling with climate change and restoration. This funding represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ecosystem restoration in a region that has suffered decades of degradation without major federal investments, earning it the name “the national sacrifice zone.” The reality is that 31 states across the U.S. send their pollution downstream into the Gulf, including “dead zone”-causing pollution from farms in the Midwest. Yet the Gulf provides a large part of the seafood we eat, as well as the oil and gas we use. For all that we as a nation rely on the Gulf, we fail to invest the resources to fix it.

The Gulf of Mexico is now on course, for better or worse, to be the leading example of restoring a large ecosystem and the resulting economies that are based on often conflicting uses. However, our needs in the Gulf of Mexico, like many other regions of the world, far outstrip the available resources. We will have to work smarter rather than harder, and adopt a creative and innovative approach to defining the problem and implementing the solution. For ecosystem restoration to fulfill its promise as a key component of responding to climate change, we need a far more comprehensive approach to designing, funding and implementing restoration.

As restoration work gets underway in the Gulf, a number of guiding principles are critically important in driving the successful investment of billions of dollars. Some of these lessons are being learned the hard way, as state and federal officials grapple with requirements to think comprehensively while being responsive to both local needs and political pressures.

These principles include: transparency and public engagement, the consolidation of multiple restoration activities under one governing body, restoration objectives that take into account the anticipated impacts of climate change, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptation, and recognizing that restoration must be coupled with better policy decisions around development and extractive activities. Collectively, these efforts represent a replicable, scalable structure that can be adapted to restoration efforts in different ecosystems and management frameworks.

If the previous century was characterized by the loss of habitat and ecosystem services that communities rely on to thrive, then the next must be defined by a commitment to working with nature. This partnership will restore ecological functions, stabilize our fisheries and our shorelines and help us adapt to a changing climate.

This journey can and should start in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The National Ocean Policy Turns Five! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/19/the-national-ocean-policy-turns-five/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 12:30:25 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10513

Photo: NOAA

Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), which aims to protect, maintain and restore ocean health while supporting sustainable uses in our oceans.

Healthy, productive oceans and coasts contribute significantly to our quality of life and to our economy. To maintain ecosystems that flourish, we are faced with complex challenges that the NOP is working to address. Across the nation, traditional industries, such as shipping, are expanding and new industries, such as offshore wind energy, are emerging where existing industries, like fishing, have been active for generations. In addition, stressors such as increased development along our coasts, ocean acidification, and sea level rise threaten ocean health.

Traditionally, the way we manage our ocean and address these concerns is through a single species, single sector or single-issue approach. We are often reactive to an individual conflict or development rather than being proactive about where certain ocean uses are appropriate. Making matters more complicated, there are over 140 laws managed by over 20 federal entities with jurisdiction over the ocean. The NOP seeks to address this challenge through ocean planning.

Ocean planning is a science-based process that gathers information on ocean uses and the environment and brings together stakeholders to plan for our future in a holistic manner.  This approach allows us to move away from the species by species and sector by sector management into considering the needs of ecosystems – the biological, chemical and physical needs of our ocean environment. For example, we can now start asking questions such as how do we account for all our ocean uses and their cumulative impacts on the environment? With ocean-related commerce generating $282 billion a year, how do we balance economic industries with the health and needs of our ocean? And, how do we ensure environmental resilience for long-term sustainability?

As you can tell, we have a lot of questions. Ocean planning is the key to answering them.

The NOP calls for better coordination of research and data to achieve our ocean management objectives in federal waters (out to 200 miles off our coasts).  However, each region has the flexibility to coordinate with the states and local citizens on its unique needs.

The regions currently conducting ocean planning are the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, Caribbean and Pacific Islands. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are leading the pack on planning, and by the end of next year, they will finalize their first-ever ocean plans.

In fact, the Northeast recently released a draft outline for its ocean plan along with groundbreaking scientific data that will characterize the region’s ocean resources and marine life, and how humans interact with them. Additionally, an assessment that characterizes the natural resources, infrastructure, economy, cultural resources and future trends of the Northeast will soon be released and a similar assessment will be mirrored in the Mid-Atlantic. Also of interest to industry and conservation alike is the practical work being conducted to outline best practices for gathering public input to guide development in marine waters, an important concern for many citizens and businesses.

These are new and exciting times for our ocean. We hope you will continue to follow and engage in the ocean planning processes as they progress around the country.

Join Ocean Conservancy in wishing the National Ocean Policy a Happy 5th Birthday!

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42 Years of the Marine Mammal Protection Act http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/21/42-years-of-the-marine-mammal-protection-act/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/21/42-years-of-the-marine-mammal-protection-act/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:10:37 +0000 Jackie Yeary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9358

Marine mammals are some of the most beloved animals in our ocean. Whether you have a soft spot for majestic whales, playful seals or adorable sea otters, you have reason to celebrate. Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an important piece of legislation that protects all marine mammal species found in U.S. waters.

The Act protects whales, dolphins, polar bears, walruses and many other marine mammals (approximately 125 species). This Act “prohibits, with certain exceptions, the ‘take’ of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the US.” This means any attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill marine mammals is illegal without special permits.

Some threats faced by marine mammals face come from boaters and tourists. You can reduce these threats by following the guidelines developed by NOAA for responsible marine wildlife viewing. The guidelines may differ slightly by region or species, but there are also general rules to follow if you encounter a marine mammal in the wild—such as keep a respectful distance, and never attempt to touch or feed the animal.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act has given threatened and endangered species a chance to rebound. Hopefully, with increased awareness and continued protection, the marine mammals we love will continue to thrive in our ocean, and people will enjoy these amazing animals for generations to come.

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Happy Anniversary to Vital Ocean Policy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/20/happy-anniversary-to-vital-ocean-policy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/20/happy-anniversary-to-vital-ocean-policy/#comments Sat, 20 Jul 2013 14:00:45 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6333 humpback whale breach

Credit: Phil Wrobel / Photo Contest

It was just three years ago yesterday that President Obama signed the Executive Order establishing the National Ocean Policy. We’ve come a long way so far, and we are starting to realize the policy’s considerable promise.

As I’ve written about before, the National Ocean Policy and the subsequent Implementation Plan are historically significant. President Obama recognized that a healthy ocean is a productive ocean and thus established the policy to ensure that we work together to balance use and conservation.

This policy directly addresses the key challenge of our time: how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. The ocean, of course, is at the center of every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate and protection of our natural resources.

Our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make a crucial difference in making this planet work for 9 billion people. As the ocean is asked to provide in so many ways, it is inevitable that we need to prioritize, coordinate and optimize. That’s where the National Ocean Policy—a set of common-sense principles to help protect our ocean resources—comes in.

This anniversary offers an opportunity to look ahead. Read more at National Geographic’s News Watch blog.

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Japan Tsunami Anniversary: the Journey So Far and What’s to Come http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/11/japan-tsunami-anniversary-the-journey-so-far-and-whats-to-come/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/11/japan-tsunami-anniversary-the-journey-so-far-and-whats-to-come/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 16:06:45 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5047

Credit: NOAA

Tokyo. Sendai. Kamaishi City. Portland. Honolulu. Hilo. Kahului. Lincoln City. Newport Beach. These are places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit over the past year – for a very unfortunate reason. Two years ago on this very day, the ocean reminded the world of its astounding power when the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the country’s northern coast. While significant recovery work remains to rebuild Japan, an increased focus has been placed on the exorbitant quantity of marine debris generated by the tsunami’s receding waters. At the same time, international entities are collaborating on tsunami debris response measures, while researchers learn a great deal about marine debris in general.

Because we know the precise time at which debris was deposited into the ocean, researchers have had an unparalleled opportunity to examine how debris moves in the marine environment. With each confirmation of tsunami debris washing ashore, oceanographers at University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center have refined their models and are predicting when and where large volumes of tsunami debris will wash ashore with greater levels of confidence. Current predictions indicate significant debris accumulations will commence in June. However, these models are merely predictions and no one can say for certain what we will see or when we will see it. This uncertainty further underscores the importance of remaining vigilant for potential tsunami debris in the coming months.

Last summer in Alaska, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, “waves” of similar debris items began washing ashore. This wave was followed by an unusually large number of appliances found on Hawaiian beaches. The three segments of docks that were swept out of Misawa came to rest on the Oregon and Washington coasts over a span of six months. By studying these events, oceanographers were able to determine that the amount of wind affecting debris — better known as “windage” — largely determines the speed at which debris drifts across the ocean. This phenomenon largely explains why we’ve seen these waves of debris.

In November, the Japanese government announced it would donate $6 million to the United States and Canada to help mitigate the costs of tsunami debris response efforts and debris clean up.

This tragic event has engaged a broad network of dedicated responders from both sides of the Pacific, including government representatives at NOAA and the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, NGOs like the Japanese Environmental Action Network and Ocean Conservancy and passionate volunteers. Ocean Conservancy has developed a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that serves as an educational tool for those volunteers along the West Coast.

Today, on the two year anniversary of the tsunami, I board a plane destined for Tokyo where I will meet with the Japanese Ministry of Environment and Japanese and U.S. NGOs to discuss tsunami response efforts to date, and preparations moving forward. During my stay, I will again have the opportunity to tour the coastal towns near Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. And while in my mind I am optimistic that the recovery effort will be near completion, I know the reality is that Sendai — and much of Japan — has a long road to recovery, but physical recovery is only step one. In Sendai, many elementary and middle-aged students have not returned to the beach or ocean since 3/11 because the emotional trauma is too great. For many of them, these places have become synonymous with terror, destruction and death.

The ensuing threat of tsunami debris is great, but we must never forget that the tsunami was first and foremost a human tragedy — unpreventable, unpredictable and unavoidable.

So today, March 11th, 2013, honor the people of Japan with a moment of silence and ask the simple question, “How can we help Japan?”

 

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