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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Collaborations Put California on the Path to Combat Ocean Acidification

Posted On November 27, 2013 by

Hog Island Oyster Company has been in business for more than 30 years. Run by John Finger and Terry Sawyer, it is a family-owned business in Tomales Bay, Calif., that produces more than 3 million oysters annually, along with manila clams and mussels. John and Terry have the standard stresses and worries that come with operating a business, but when they talk about ocean acidification, you can tell their concern goes beyond the usual. Ocean acidification happens when carbon pollution from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, turning the water more acidic. Animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building their shells in increasingly acidic water, and this spells trouble for California oyster growers like John and Terry. Luckily, just down the road from Hog Island is Bodega Bay Marine Lab. John and Terry have partnered with ocean acidification scientists like Dr. Tessa Hill to help them monitor the coastal water where they grow their oysters. This allows Hog Island to respond to changing ocean chemistry in a way that doesn’t hurt their business.

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Beyond the Scary Statistic: Real People and Places Impacted by Ocean Acidification

Posted On November 18, 2013 by

fisherman holding Alaska king crab

Photo: Boris Kasimov via Flickr

There’s another big story out today about ocean acidification. Scientists are saying acidification could increase by 170 percent by 2100; another headline reads “ocean acidification set to spiral out of control.” These stories are from a new report released today at the climate talks happening this week in Warsaw, Poland. Big numbers, big meetings. But are there stories behind these scary headlines?

Let’s break it down:

  • The report says that the ocean is already 26 percent more acidic than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. So what? Well, this increase in acidity has resulted in major losses at oyster farms, particularly in the Northwest. Taylor Shellfish and Whiskey Creek Hatchery had losses of up to 80 percent at their operations, before scientists figured out it was ocean acidification that made baby oysters (scientists would correct me and call it larvae) unable to grow their shells. Continue reading »

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“Pacific Rim” Is Science Fiction Married With Marine Science

Posted On August 15, 2013 by

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Sage Melcer.

Need an excuse to beat the summer heat at the movies this month? Check out sci-fi thriller “Pacific Rim.” The summer blockbuster, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (director of “Pan’s Labyrinth”), marries science fiction with marine science for cinematic gold.

“Pacific Rim” takes place in 2020 when alien-like monsters, called the Kaiju, start emerging from an undersea volcano, destroying countless cities and millions of people. In order to defeat the Kaiju, global forces come together to create Jaegers, giant robots that are controlled by two neurologically synced pilots who take part in mind-blowing hand-to-hand combat with the invaders.

Seasoned pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is pulled back into the Jaeger program years after the loss of his co-pilot and brother during a Kaiju battle. He teams up with rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command the Jaeger Gypsy Danger, a nuclear-powered fighting legend. However Kaiju are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, and their occurrences are more frequent.

A scientist studying the Kaiju, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), discovers a way to connect with a Kaiju brain, stumbling upon a plan of attack that is more horrible than the human race could have possibly imagined.

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“Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change

Posted On August 12, 2013 by

Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

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How Rhode Island Wind Can Help Take Us Far, Quickly

Posted On June 13, 2013 by

I had the opportunity to meet with former Vice President Al Gore to discuss the impacts of climate change on Rhode Island. This included the marine impacts, such as warming bay waters, and increased intensity of storms.

The winds on Rhode Island’s waters made them the location of choice for the America’s Cup sailing races for over a century. While harnessing that wind for energy may be only a small piece of the global picture, it can contribute to broader efforts to mitigate climate change.

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New Report: The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries

Posted On May 6, 2013 by

A fisherman adds a red snapper to the pile on a dock in Destin, Florida. – Photo: Tom McCann

As fishermen, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean experts from around the country gather in Washington this week to discuss the future of fisheries in America, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are releasing a joint report highlighting many of the stories that show how fisheries management is succeeding.

The Washington Post covered the report over the weekend, focusing on our belief that while fisheries management is working, we must also let it keep on working if we’re going to face global challenges like ocean acidification and climate change:

More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.

The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” is a primer and collection of stories that highlight pioneers of American fishery management as well as innovators who are opening fishing frontiers, revealing:

  • How a salmon fishing pioneer’s courage in making sacrifices for long-term sustainability set the stage for Alaska’s success.
  • How successful fishermen from Alaska to Florida used discipline to turn around two decades of overfishing.
  • How West Coast fishermen found the flexibility to make a living within rebuilding programs.
  • How fishing entrepreneurs in Port Clyde, ME, turned leadership into opportunity.
  • Why rebuilding important recreational species such as summer flounder, bluefish, and lingcod provides economic as well as enjoyment payoffs.
  • What commercial and recreational fishermen believe we get from good stewardship.

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What Does More Carbon Pollution Mean for the Ocean?

Posted On April 16, 2013 by

oil pipeline in Texas

The path to healthy ocean does not lie in drilling and pipeline-building for this dirty fuel, but in exploring alternatives. Photo: Ray Bodden via Flickr

“Where do we start?” It’s a question that I’m asked every day in relation to the opportunities we have to put the ocean at the center of the most pressing issues of our time.

One of our readers, who is very concerned about increasing CO2 emissions, asked that question in a comment on my last blog, where I detailed how rising carbon pollution is the greatest risk to the ocean and the resources—food, water, air, energy—it provides to sustain us.

The first step we need to take is to find out more about the species, people and places that are already feeling the effects of increased carbon pollution. The ocean is absorbing more and more of our carbon emissions, and its waters are becoming more acidic as a result. Ocean acidity has already increased 30 percent in the past few decades, and we are starting to see real impacts on species that depend on calcium for their shells.

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