Ocean Currents » Atlantic Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 2016: A Year of Hope for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/30/2016-a-year-of-hope-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/30/2016-a-year-of-hope-for-the-ocean/#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2016 14:24:08 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13545 For many of us, the ocean is a place of hope—it inspires us and supports us and in turn, we work hard to protect it. 2016 has been quite a year, full of ups and downs. But when it comes to the ocean, 2016 was a year of fantastic victories that remind us what is possible when we come together in support of our ocean, and give us hope for our ocean’s future.

Every day, we wake up ready to fight for the health of our ocean, and thanks to the support of advocates—like you—we’ve celebrated some big wins. While we have plenty of work ahead of us to defend these victories, these are some of the wonderful things that happened in 2016 that give us hope for our ocean’s future:

The Arctic is a safer place (for now)

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration took action to protect the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas—as well as the Atlantic Ocean—from risky offshore drilling until 2022. The just last week, President Obama took an even bolder action, furthering his legacy as a leader in protecting the Arctic from the threats of climate change, by protecting 115 million acres of federal waters in the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas drilling (and an additional 3.8 million acres in the Atlantic Ocean). We’ll need your continued support to keep this fragile area protected in the coming years.

In the same announcement, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau committed to working together to make Arctic shipping safer, moving forward with a plan to phase out heavy fuel oil and reaffirming a science-based approach fishery management in the Arctic. These bilateral promises between two Arctic nations give us hope for the future of this area, and a clear path for forward progress in the future.

But the good news for the Arctic doesn’t stop there—earlier in December, President Obama declared important protections for the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait by establishing the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, in direct response to requests from Alaska Native tribes. Home to a number of Alaska Native tribes and one of the largest marine animals migrations, this region is one of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally significant places on our planet. This action is significant in that it establishes a clear role for local tribes in the management of the resources on which their culture depends—another ray of hope in 2016.

The U.S. made big (ocean) plans

Just this month, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic finalized the first smart ocean plans in the United States. These revolutionary new ocean plans made history by bringing together the needs of many, many stakeholders and paved the way for smart ocean management around the region—and the country. These plans are the culmination of years of work, bringing both regions towards a more holistic, science-based and stakeholder informed ocean management process that will ensure the ocean economy remains strong while ocean ecosystems remain healthy. With your help, we’ll work toward implementing these plans and expanding them to other regions.

We just kept swimming…towards sustainable fisheries

This year, the U.S. celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a fisheries management act that is largely responsible for the strong state of our nation’s fish stocks. NOAA Fisheries also released the ““Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management Road Map,” a comprehensive, science-based plan that looks at the broader ecosystem when managing fisheries, rather than looking at one fish at a time. It’s a good step forward to help end overfishing and rebuild vulnerable stocks. We’re not out of the woods, though, and we will keep working with policymakers, fishermen and scientists to make sure we don’t lose any of our progress towards sustainable fisheries.

Obama left his marine mark

Thanks to the support of ocean advocates (like you!), President Obama protected important places on the far east and west of our country: expanding Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—now the world’s largest marine sanctuary—in Hawaii, and establishing the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in New England. In just the span of a few weeks, Obama protected more U.S. waters than any other president in history. Together, we can ensure that these areas remain protected for years to come.

As 2016 comes to a close, let’s toast to the fantastic strides that have been made in the world of ocean conservation this year, and hold on to this hope as we look ahead to the work still to be done. As advocates that care passionately about our ocean and leaving a healthy planet for future generations, we will continue our commitment to using smart, science-based solutions to protect coastal communities and healthy marine ecosystems, and hope you’ll join us on this important journey!

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New Ocean Plan is History in the Making http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/new-ocean-plan-is-history-in-the-making/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/18/new-ocean-plan-is-history-in-the-making/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:32:37 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12410

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.

I couldn’t be more excited about this news!! But, I need your help to make sure the plan turns into real action on the water and not just words on a paper. Will you take action today?

I depend on an organized plan to help me get through a busy day—it’s the same with the ocean (and quite a bit more important)! We need a smart ocean plan to help organize and balance the many ocean uses like shipping, fishing and recreation—all while keeping marine ecosystems healthy and in balance. It’s a lot to organize!! But, this ocean plan is more than up to the task.

But time is running out! The comment period is only open until July 25, so you must add your voice now!

From its sandy beaches to kelp forests, New England is a beautiful and diverse environment home to thousands of marine species. But there are changes occurring; some we can see, and some we can’t. As our natural ecosystem changes, how we use the ocean changes, too. That makes this ocean plan and sound management more critical than ever.

Summer is slipping by fast—and so is this comment period! Don’t miss out. Can I count on your help today to tell the Regional Planning Body that you support their work on smart ocean planning.

The plan is a huge stride towards smarter ocean planning—a process that benefits both the ocean environment and communities that rely on a healthy ocean for enjoyment and their livelihoods.

Thank you so much for your help.

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Take Action for the Arctic and Atlantic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/07/take-action-for-the-arctic-and-atlantic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/07/take-action-for-the-arctic-and-atlantic/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2015 14:30:25 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11187

I know I’ve shared a lot of good news about the Arctic with you lately, but the Arctic isn’t safe yet—and now the Atlantic Ocean is also at risk of being opened up to new offshore oil drilling.

That’s because the Obama Administration will soon roll out a new five-year plan that could open up offshore drilling in both the Arctic and the Atlantic—we can’t let that happen.

Take Action: Tell the Administration to leave Arctic and Atlantic offshore drilling OUT of their upcoming plan.

I want to protect Arctic and Atlantic waters from risky offshore drilling not one year at a time, but for many years to come.

We have a great opportunity to do just that: The Administration’s draft of a five-year program will guide decisions about offshore drilling until the year 2022.

The Administration has signaled that the five-year program will include new oil and gas lease sales in both the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. I need your help once again, to help safeguard the polar bears and walruses that call the Arctic home, as well as the whales and sea turtles that call the Atlantic home.

Here’s how you can help:

Take action and tell the Secretary of the Interior to exclude Arctic and Atlantic leasing when they issue the new draft of the five-year program early next year.

We have less than two months to persuade the Administration before the new plan is rolled out, so please take action today.

It’s time to say no to risky Arctic and Atlantic leasing.

Will you please take a minute to speak up for the Arctic and Atlantic?

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Why The Nassau Grouper Needs Endangered Species Protection http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/13/why-the-nassau-grouper-needs-endangered-species-protection/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/13/why-the-nassau-grouper-needs-endangered-species-protection/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 14:59:22 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3862
Nothing exemplifies the challenges of managing reef fish quite like the woeful tale of Nassau grouper. Once an iconic emblem of healthy Caribbean reefs (see Carmen Yeung’s recent post on endangered corals) and a staple of subsistence fisheries, this shallow water grouper is now threatened with extinction throughout most of its natural range.

Despite its large range — and area through the Caribbean and some of North and South America’s Atlantic Ocean — several characteristics of this grouper species make it particularly vulnerable to depletion:

  • These fish grow slowly,
  • don’t reproduce until later in life,
  • appear in shallow waters close to shore and thus human populations, and
  • they are popular at the dinner table.

While these things don’t necessarily condemn a fish to threatened or endangered status, one particular trait of the Nassau grouper does: They reproduce only once per year at the same place, at the same time and they do so by the tens of thousands. Or they did.

Fishermen, islanders and visitors of the Caribbean in the 1960’s and 1970’s tell stories of swarms of spawning Nassau grouper so large and dense they filled your entire underwater view — every year, once per year, at the same time, in the same place.

But the same behavior that makes for one incredible scuba dive also makes for one profitable and easy fishing trip, and one by one the seemingly endless aggregations of spawning Nassau grouper were fished out of Caribbean waters. Those same locations that were filled with fish in the 1960’s now have one or two lonely fish coming back to them on their annual pilgrimage. Even with some protections against fishing, the aggregations have never returned and fishermen and fishery managers alike learned all too late that sometimes you can’t unring the bell.

Here in the United States, the Nassau grouper has been protected from directed fishing effort for years and we still have yet to see a measurable recovery. Maybe we never will. The federal government recently announced it will conduct a review of all the available information on Nassau grouper and determine if listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted. This is a long process that may be able to help bring an iconic population back to health.

ESA listing is – by its very definition – a management and recovery tool of last resort. Ideally, we would like to see Nassau grouper populations managed responsibly and rebuilt to healthy levels so the species doesn’t need to be listed under the ESA. Letting fish populations dip so low that they require this last resort action is bad for all involved: the fish, the fishermen, the tourists and local economies. For the sake of Nassau grouper, let us hope that ESA listing works and that we do not have to contemplate its use for any of our other reef fish species.

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Generations Connected to the Sea, Washed Away by Sandy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/19/generation-connected-to-the-sea-washed-away-by-sandy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/19/generation-connected-to-the-sea-washed-away-by-sandy/#comments Mon, 19 Nov 2012 21:06:47 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3510

Aerial photo of Mantoloking, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS. Used under a Creative Commons license.

This is a guest post from Pam Weiant. Pam is a marine scientist with Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. She is founder of a Strategic Environmental Planning (StEP), a consulting company that focuses on natural resource planning and management, and works as a watershed specialist for Malama Maunalua, a community non-profit organization in Hawaii. Previously, she advised the marine program of The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii.

The sea soaked and the winds pounded our family home on the Jersey Shore for hours and hours on October 29, just as numerous hurricanes and Nor’easter storms had for decades. But Hurricane Sandy was different. At some point, under the cloak of darkness that night, Sandy’s punishing power brought our house down.

The neighbors’ homes on both sides of ours in Mantoloking are scarred but still standing. Where our house once stood and hosted five generations of our family, there is now only sand and debris. Everything is gone, including the giant antique stove where my grandmother used to prepare the catch of the day.

The house in Mantoloking was a constant part of my childhood, and I’m still finding it hard to believe we won’t be returning. The town, about one-mile long and four blocks wide, is situated on a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Barnegat Bay to the west.

I attribute my decision to become a marine scientist to my childhood years spent in Mantoloking. Through my work, I have spent time studying in many coastal areas such as the Gulf of California, Coral Sea, Southeastern Atlantic Ocean, Eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.  Yet, in my mind, no place compares with the Jersey Shore.

It was a welcome respite from the “real” world of the city, offering time to reconnect with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Feet and bikes were the main mode of transportation, and entertainment came in the form of crabbing in Barnegat Bay, trips to Meullers bakery and swimming in the ocean. And many years later, it’s brought me such joy to share the house with my own children — now 8 and 5 — whose smiles are never bigger than upon arrival at “The Aquarium,” our nickname for the home.

Even with the house gone, I feel that the sea and the shore are deeply a part of me. Perhaps it is the expansive beaches that are unobstructed for miles, or the perfect sand that is not too fine and not too coarse, or the glow of the light at sunrise and sunset, or the miles and miles of Atlantic Ocean.  Every day the ocean is different: One day, low tides with a huge sandbar ideal for body surfing; another day, rough waters excellent for drifting with the current; or, perfect conditions with gentle, rolling waves.  Every day brought new surprises: Whales breaching, pods of dolphins, schools of skates, runs of fish, and mysterious fins.

With the exception of new windows and a fresh coat of paint, our house remained pretty much the same as when my great-grandfather bought it decades ago.  As such, it was full of memorabilia from a previous era. My grandfather’s taxidermied collection of prize fish decorated the walls on the first floor, and prints of fishermen and shore birds lined the upstairs hall and bedroom walls, all a testament to a time when larger fish could be caught from our ocean.

The house’s lifetime witnessed other changes. Parts of Barnegat Bay were dredged and filled or armored for houses, and East Avenue became developed with more and bigger houses, leaving less open space and less natural habitat. Mantoloking did its best to keep the natural charm of high dunes and seagrass as the main strategy to protect the houses. But this was too much of a storm.

As scientists learn more about how climate change may have made Hurricane Sandy’s impacts worse, I hope we will take heed of the advice they offer to minimize the chance that a storm of this magnitude will wreak havoc like this again. I hope officials up and down the coast will plan for better coastal protection together, so there can be a coordinated effort to strengthen our coast’s natural defenses to protect natural resources and livelihoods.

It is tragic what has been lost. My heart goes out to the other victims of the storm who have experienced even greater losses.

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An Ocean Louisiana Purchase in the Making http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/an-ocean-louisiana-purchase-in-the-making/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/22/an-ocean-louisiana-purchase-in-the-making/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 18:41:34 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=721 Louisiana Purchase map

Credit: Library of Congress

Imagine if the United States could lay claim over vast stretches of pristine open ocean and coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. What if we could expand our nation’s control over the marine environments in the Arctic, the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea? And how might it benefit our country if we could extend our existing maritime borders along the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico?

It would be like a giant ocean Louisiana Purchase. Except this time, the United States wouldn’t have to pay a dime.

Expansion of U.S. borders may seem like the stuff of history books. But what I’m talking about here isn’t history. And it isn’t fantasy. It’s a very real choice facing the U.S. Senate right at this very moment.

Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin considering ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, a U.S.-initiated agreement that the United States has abided by since the Reagan Administration and yet to this day the Senate has failed to approve.

The treaty is the set of global “rules of the road” for the world’s ocean, and yet the United States – which controls more ocean area than any other single nation – has been sitting on the sidelines unable to reap the treaty’s benefits because of the Senate’s inaction.

Hopefully, that will soon change. At the urging of a vast and non-traditional alliance of environmental, business, labor and national security groups, the Senate is poised to finally consider doing what it has failed to do for so long – ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty.

And the benefits of doing so could be enormous.

Under the treaty, nations can lay claim to the seafloor outside of the traditional 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone if they can demonstrate that the continental shelf extends beyond the limit. The United States has many areas where this shallow coastal environment extends beyond 200 miles, meaning that ratification of the treaty could bring a massive expansion of our country’s ocean borders – and exclusive access to those ocean seabed resources.

Preliminary studies indicate that the United States may be able to lay claim to another million square kilometers of ocean. This would be an expansion of U.S. waters roughly twice the size of California or nearly half the size of the Louisiana Purchase.

Throughout America’s growth as a nation, many of our expansions – from the Louisiana Purchase to the purchase of Alaska – were controversial in the moment. But looking back through the lens of history, each one has proven to be vital to the success of our nation.

As the Senate considers the Law of the Sea Treaty, there will undoubtedly be naysayers, but this is history in the making. By expanding our maritime borders now, we’ll be able to reap the benefits long into the future.

Update: Just to be clear, the expansion of U.S. jurisdiction over additional ocean talked about here is just one part of what is a very comprehensive treaty. The Law of the Sea Treaty also contains extensive provisions on protecting the ocean environment – one of the reasons so many environmental groups support the treaty.

If the U.S. finally became a signatory to the treaty, it would not only help ensure that the U.S. followed the common-sense rules of the road for protecting the ocean, but it would also give the U.S. the international credibility and leverage to ensure that other nations also did their part to help protect the ocean environment. For those who are interested in learning more, you can take a look at Part XII of the treaty on protection and preservation of the marine environment.

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