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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Arctic Wildlife: Get to Know the Insect of the Sea, Arctic Copepods

Posted On April 7, 2016 by

Our blog series on the lesser known (but just as cool) species of the Arctic continues with Arctic copepods. Read our other blogs from the series: polar cod and brittle stars.

I’ve always loved ribbon seals, narwhals and ringed seals to name a few cute Arctic creatures. While these beautiful animals get all the glory, they wouldn’t be around for these important little guys at the base of the food chain: meet the copepod!

“Copepod” means oar-footed, and that is how these aquatic crustaceans, often called “insects of the sea” move around. They use their four to five pairs of legs as well as their mouth and tail to swim. In the Arctic, copepods live on the seafloor, in the water column and on the sea ice. In the water column, there are more copepods than any other multi-cellular organism.

Copepods come in many forms—some are filter feeders, some are predators. Copepods have two major life forms and grow by shedding their shell. They go through 12 stages after hatching—that’s a lot of wardrobe changes! By our standards, copepods are tiny, measuring in at 0.3 to 2cm long at full size.

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Arctic Wildlife: Get to Know Brittle Stars

Posted On March 30, 2016 by

Our blog series on the lesser known (but just as cool) species of the Arctic continues with brittle stars. Read our other blogs from the series: polar cod and Arctic copepods.

Brittle stars are seafloor dwelling organisms that appear to be a quirkier, more slender version of a starfish. Although they are closely related to starfish—brittle stars differ in many ways.

Brittle stars have a distinct central disc and (usually) five skinny, flexible arms. The central disk (approximately 2.5 cm in diameter in the species Ophiura sarsii) consists of a skeleton of calcium carbonate and contains all the brittle stars’ internal organs. The disk’s appending five arms (circa 9 cm long in Ophiura sarsii) twist and coil to enable movement across the seafloor. Not only do their arms enable locomotion: brittle stars can purposely release on or move arms to evade a predator! As long as its central disk remains, the brittle star will continue to function, and its limbs will regenerate.

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Arctic Wildlife: Get to Know the Polar Cod

Posted On March 23, 2016 by

Join us as we dive into the chilly waters of the Arctic. Our blog series explores the magnificent (and often overlooked) species living in the Arctic—which you need to know! Read our other blogs from the series: brittle stars and Arctic copepods.

When most of us think of important Arctic marine species, we generally think of walrus, narwhal, seal, beluga and others. Although those species capture our imagination and are special to the Arctic, there are a number of lesser known species that may not have the same charisma but are equally, if not more, important for helping maintain the Arctic marine ecosystem. As a person who has always loved marine fishes, I’ve long thought polar cod (Boreogadus saida) are an exceptionally fascinating Arctic fish that just does not receive the attention it should.

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Breaking News: Offshore Drilling Moves Forward in Arctic; Atlantic Spared

Posted On March 15, 2016 by

Today, the Obama Administration issued a proposed offshore leasing program that contains some good news and some bad news.

First the good news: the Administration’s proposed program will protect the Atlantic Ocean from oil and gas leasing until 2022.

Last year, the Administration signaled that it was considering opening the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Virginia to risky offshore oil drilling. Federal waters in the Atlantic provide vital habitat for marine mammals and fish, and support thousands of coastal communities and billions of dollars in business from fishing, tourism and more. Allowing oil leasing in the Atlantic would have opened a new frontier for drilling and jeopardized these existing uses and values. Today’s proposed program precludes leasing in the Atlantic Ocean and eliminates the threat of Atlantic drilling for years to come—a big step in the right direction for the whales and sea turtles that call the Atlantic home.

However, not all the news is good: the proposed five-year leasing program would still allow risky oil and gas leasing to go forward in the Arctic Ocean.

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Happy International Polar Bear Day!

Posted On February 27, 2016 by


We love polar bears! And, when we saw that today was International Polar Bear Day—we jumped for joy. While you sit here reading this fascinating blog, polar bear moms are busy caring for their newborn cubs in their Arctic dens.

If you didn’t love these Arctic bears enough already, we’re giving you six more reasons to love them. Join us in celebrating polar bears today!

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Why More Research is Crucial for Protecting the Arctic

Posted On February 12, 2016 by

The Pacific walrus inhabit many important marine areas across the Arctic and feed at relatively shallow depths on bivalves. Historically walrus have used sea ice as haulout platforms to rest near feeding grounds, but as the Arctic warms and causes sea ice to recede, they are forced to haulout on coastal habitats in unprecedented numbers that has resulted in mass mortality events and higher levels of disease exposure from overcrowding.

Last month I was fortunate to participate in the annual Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway. The Arctic Frontiers is a leading venue for showcasing relevant research on sustainable growth and environmental sustainability in the region.

The conference attracts influential policymakers and leading scholars from the region and beyond. This year, participants presented their work on a variety of subjects, including climate change, environmental stewardship, fisheries, oil and gas, indigenous people’s rights, pollution and many others.

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5 Reasons to Protect the Bering Strait

Posted On January 25, 2016 by

The Bering Strait is worth fighting for.

Located between Alaska and Russia, the Bering Strait is the only marine gateway between the icy Arctic and the Pacific Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is only 55 miles wide.

The Bering Strait may be narrow, but it is teaming with wildlife. It is both a bottleneck and a pathway, home to species superbly adapted to this dynamic environment. It’s a place like nowhere else on earth, and one that we must fight to protect.

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