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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy



Celebrating a Big Week for California Coasts

Posted On December 21, 2012 by

Marin headlands shoreline and Golden Gate Bridge

Penny Harmeyer, Photo Contest 2011

California coasts—and all of the wildlife and people who enjoy them—are having “the best week ever.”

North Coast protected areas go into effect

Earlier this week, we celebrated the official completion of California’s statewide network of underwater parks—the first in the nation—as the North Coast marine protected areas went into effect.

As our own Jennifer Savage wrote, earlier in the week, this completed network marks the culmination of many years’ work, and protected areas will go a long way toward ensuring that ocean wildlife can thrive:

From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, the fish, birds, mammals and plants that depend on the dynamic habitats of the California coast now have a series of reserves and conservation areas that will allow their populations to recover where needed and protect them from depletion in the future. Not only is this good for the sea creatures, but a thriving ocean benefits all of California, from the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries to all aspects of the state’s tourism-dependent economy …

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Plight of Albatross Inspires Scientist to Clean Up Beaches

Posted On October 10, 2012 by

Albatross on Midway Atoll

Credit: Nick Mallos

How do scientists choose their life’s work? For avid surfer Nick Mallos, a love of the ocean made marine biology an easy choice. But it was a black-and-white bird with a 6-foot wingspan that inspired him to focus his research on marine debris and clean up as many beaches as he can.

Nick first encountered the Laysan albatross during a grad school research trip to Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. With over 450,000 nesting pairs, Midway Atoll is home to the largest Laysan population in the world. The birds cover the 2.4 square-mile area, nesting in every available nook, from abandoned WWII gun turrets to grassy cracks in the pavement.

But once you look beyond those birds, “you realize there’s this scattering of plastic over the entire island,” Nick says. “It’s impossible to not see plastic – it’s just everywhere. The most perverse part of it is that it’s most heavily concentrated around every nest.”

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Surfonomics: How Much Money Is a Wave Worth?

Posted On September 14, 2012 by

A priceless moment? Maybe, but effective ocean protection demands we quantify it via “surfonomics.”

The title and author are long forgotten, but I remember the story I used to read to my children. Mom and Dad didn’t have a lot of money, but they lived in a beautiful place and spent as much time as possible outdoors. When their children complained, the parents pointed out that while the family didn’t have a new car or the latest gadgets, they were able to watch the sunset almost every evening. They could stroll along the river at leisure. “How much is a morning on the beach worth?” Mom would ask. “What’s the value of watching the blackberries blossom and ripen?” Dad would say, gathering said berries for the family’s pancake breakfast.

The questions were rhetorical, the point being that nature’s “value” transcends that of mere money. A wonderful point – and one I could relate to while raising a family on a combination of student loans and part-time jobs as I worked on my degree – but when fighting political battles, awe and intrinsic value take a back seat to modern day economics.

Enter Chad Nelsen, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation. Nelsen recently earned a doctorate of environmental science from UCLA and his work on surf economics was written about in the Washington Post last month.

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Potential Tsunami Debris Found During Alaska Beach Cleanup

Posted On September 6, 2012 by

Cleaning up on a beach outside Sitka, AlaskaThe coast of southeast Alaska is renowned for its stunning beauty, and the pocket beach outside the town of Sitka was no exception: dark sand piled with tangles of storm-tossed logs and fringed with emerald grass. From a distance, the beach looked pristine.

But as our boat pulled closer, we began to see what we had come for: trash. Chunks of polystyrene foam, plastic bottles, lengths of line, bits of faded blue tarp and pieces of netting were wedged in the piles of driftwood and strewn in the beach grass. It was time to get to work.

I was in Sitka to take part in a series of beach cleanups that brought together staff from Ocean Conservancy, the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation and the Sitka Sound Science Center, along with volunteers from Allen Marine and Holland America Line. Together, we set out to find and remove marine debris that had washed up on the shores of nearby islands.

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5 Questions with Underwater Photographer Feo Pitcairn

Posted On August 25, 2012 by

© Feo Pitcairn

Much has changed since a teenaged Feo Pitcairn took his first wildlife photographs and developed them in his parent’s cellar.

For one thing, he’s no longer using that darkroom; his equipment now includes high-definition digital cameras that produce images with up to 40 million pixels.

His work has been showcased at the Smithsonian, on PBS and in countless books, magazines and calendars. And his film “Ocean Voyagers,” narrated by Meryl Streep, has been converted to 3-D and nominated for an award at the upcoming BLUE Ocean Film Festival.

Most recently, he’s transitioned from natural-history filmmaking back to his first love, still photography, and he’s launching an online gallery to share his work with the world.

A former Ocean Conservancy board member and long-time supporter of the organization, Feo has also witnessed a great deal of change in the health of our ocean during his many years as a photographer. He shares his experiences and insights—as well as a slideshow of beautiful ocean images—after the jump.

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Wallpaper Wednesday: Smartphone Wallpapers

Posted On August 1, 2012 by

Keep the wonders of the ocean at your fingertips with one of this week’s new smartphone wallpapers. Click on one of the images below and save it to your phone or click here for further downloading instructions and other wallpaper selections.


Download Wallpaper

Bottlenose Dolphin

Download Wallpaper

Harp Seal

Download Wallpaper

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What We Can Learn From Recent Bulldozing of Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles

Posted On July 20, 2012 by

A tiny leatherback hatchling on its way to the sea. Credit: Daniel Evans, www.conserveturtles.org

There was shocking news last week from Trinidad’s Grande Riviere beach, probably the densest nesting site for endangered leatherback sea turtles on the planet.

A long wet season had diverted a river’s flow, threatening turtle nesting areas as well as a hotel that hosts ecotourists who come to witness nesting season.

Government efforts to bulldoze the river back to its usual path, a move meant to save nesting areas, crushed sea turtle eggs and hatchlings. Early reports ranged to upwards of 20,000 small turtles lost, but revised numbers are much lower. Continue reading »