Ocean Currents » congress http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 24 Jun 2016 18:59:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Ocean Planning Brings a Taste of New England to Washington, D.C. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 11:00:43 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12093

What do lobster fishermen, recreational boaters, research scientists, family aquaculture businesses and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all pulled up a chair at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean, through a process called ocean planning.

Last week, nearly 30 ocean users from five coastal, New England states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the Northeast regional ocean plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.

These stakeholders came to D.C. with a simple message: with the Northeast on the cusp of releasing the nation’s first ocean plan on May 25, ocean planning is moving forward and provides real benefits to our ocean, the states and ocean industries. It offers a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic.

Over the course of two days, these ocean users met with 27 members of Congress and the National Ocean Council to talk about the benefits smart ocean planning has brought to the region and will continue to bring. This visit was a celebration of the hard work the region has put in to the planning process, and also a chance to discuss with federal leaders the significance of this ocean plan. They requested support for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and the efforts of ocean users like themselves who have been invested in this collaborative process with the goal of making better, more informed ocean use decisions.

The Experience

What were some of the takeaways for the people who came down from the region, and what does planning mean to different ocean sectors? Check out what three of the individuals that attended the D.C. fly-in last week had to say:

“My job is to empower students in engaging with their community’s greatest asset: the ocean. What excited me about meeting with the Connecticut delegation was seeing shipping, commerce, fishing, and government all working together on ocean planning. Now I can honestly tell my students: our government and ocean users work together! There are possibilities out there for you!”

— Mary Horrigan, New England Science and Sailing (Connecticut)

“We had a diversity of stakeholders attend these meetings with Congress. Did we have differences of opinion? Of course, we weren’t 100% in agreement, but that’s the whole point. The key thing with ocean planning is that we have multiple stakeholders involved and a transparent process. Commercial fishing is everything to the economy of New Bedford. But it’s important to keep in mind that offshore wind and boating are also important opportunities.

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, Port of New Bedford (Massachusetts)

“We really all came together—recreational boaters, shipping, seafood farmers, offshore wind—we are all different, but by working together we provided a unified front. It’s a really exciting thing. The support from the Representatives and Senators from Rhode Island has been huge! We appreciate their rallying for this worthy cause.”

— Greg Silkes, American Mussel Harvesters, Inc. (Rhode Island)

What’s Next?

On May 25, the Northeast Regional Planning Body will release the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and will welcome comments for 60 days. A webinar will be held from noon-2p.m. EST, during which the Northeast Regional Planning Body will provide an overview of the draft and describe the public comment period.

The Mid-Atlantic is not far behind either—we expect to see the draft Regional Ocean Action Plan, spanning the waters from New York to Virginia in July! Learn more about the Northeast ocean planning process at their website, and learn more about ocean planning at our website.

Ocean Users Gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, which will be released in draft form on May 25th Ocean Users from New Hampshire met with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Senator Ed Markey (MA) stopped by to talk about ocean planning at a reception for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, and met with ocean users from across New England Greg and Mason Silkes stand with the Rhode Island oysters their family business supplied for a reception on the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speaks about ocean planning at a reception celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Representative Jim Langevin met with Rhode Islanders to talk about ocean planning in New England Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Chellie Pingree (ME) Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Bruce Poliquin (ME) Representative David Cicilline poses with ocean users at a reception on Capitol Hill celebrating the upcoming release of the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Rhode Island Oysters supplied by American Mussel Harvesters for an event celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Capitol Building, Washington, DC ]]>
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Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Advocates to Leave Their Mark http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:39:07 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11937

Most college students like me are familiar with the all-too-common rollercoaster: late nights spent pondering the future, deciding how to leave our proverbial mark on the world. We feel weightless as the pieces of one puzzle seem to fall into place, but then watch miserably as those visions crumble, battered by new uncertainties.

But I have known of my purpose for years: to save the ocean.

Ever since I was little, I have found the ocean’s vast complexities intriguing. The ocean influences almost every aspect of life on our fragile planet—an awe-inspiring fact that is underscored as I learn more as a student of environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland.

Despite my passion to fight for the ocean, I have occasionally ridden that rollercoaster, questioning my capacity to make a difference. How can one individual really make a difference in saving the biggest entity on our planet?

I needed a healthy dose of inspiration, and quickly.

And inspiration is exactly what I received today at Ocean Conservancy, where I work as an intern with the government relations team. It was delivered by Representative Sam Farr of the 20th District of California, who has been a true champion of our ocean during his decorated Congressional career.

I listened in fascination as the Representative eloquently reflected on his ocean conservation journey. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, the Representative works to inform Members of Congress about topics from marine debris to ocean acidification. He has introduced robust ocean legislation and initiated the B-WET education program, nurturing the next generation of budding ocean enthusiasts.

The Representative stressed the importance of the individual activist’s voice, noting that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease…so we gotta keep on squeaking.” I am inspired to “keep on squeaking,” because the Representative’s tenure has taught me two significant lessons:

1. My generation is not starting from scratch–we are building on the strong foundation laid by Representative Farr and other ocean advocates. Ocean conservation is gaining ground due to the collaboration of Members of Congress, environmental nonprofits and other marine champions. Even whilst economic and international security issues dominate the political sphere, these trailblazers secure funding for ocean research, strengthen marine policy and expand environmental outreach: effectively giving ocean issues a vital seat at the table. Their dedication is lighting the way for others like me to follow.

2. Saving the ocean is in the best interest of all life on Earth. The beautiful thing about the ocean is that amid our growing differences, the ocean remains, reminding us that we are all intrinsically connected to everyone and everything. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and live on the same globe–vital resources that are provided by the intricacies of ocean processes. There is no option to be or not to be a steward of the blue, because without it, we would be lost.

Congressman Farr retires at the end of 2016, but leaves a powerful message: “We need grassroots support to say our ocean is important. It starts with you.”

These are words that inspire me–and should inspire us all–to never doubt one individual’s capacity to make change. Rather, they are the words that keep us up at night, pondering not the uncertainties of the ocean, but the possibilities of saving it.

Thank you, Congressman Farr, for your inspiring legacy!

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Samantha Bingaman is an intern with the government relations team at Ocean Conservancy. She is a junior environmental science and policy major with a concentration in marine and coastal management at the University of Maryland, and loves to study and spend time on the coast.

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An Interview with Coral Reef Expert Danielle Dixson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2016 20:58:16 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11714

There are some new champions for corals in the nation’s capital. Hawaii’s Senator Hirono and Representative Takai have proposed legislation supporting competitions that encourage innovation among scientists, engineers and coastal managers to develop new and effective ways to keep U.S. coral ecosystems and their neighboring human communities healthy and sustainably managed. We asked tropical reef ecosystem expert Danielle Dixson from the University of Delaware to share her thoughts on what this legislation means for coral reefs, the animals living there, and the people who rely on them.

OC: Tell us about your coral reef research and what inspires you to spend your days studying the ocean.

DD: My research seeks to understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they are able to use this information to make decisions on optimal habitat choice or predator avoidance, and the consequences these behavior changes have on marine conservation and management in a changing world. My research group has a particular interest in ocean acidification’s impacts on the behavior of marine organisms.

OC: Senator Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Takai (D-HI) have just introduced bills in Congress that establish prize competitions aimed at finding creative management solutions for coral reefs facing ocean acidification and the communities that depend on them. How might this legislation benefit reefs like the ones you study?

DD: Ocean acidification is a global problem, and therefore any measure that supports understanding future conditions or reducing the impact expected to happen in the future will benefits reefs worldwide. The bill’s specific emphasis on ocean acidification is particularly important as coral reefs are threatened by a number of human-induced changes such as overfishing, pollutants and rising water temperatures. Many of these threats can be understood and experimentally tested fairly easily; however, ocean acidification is happening slowly with large impacts expected in the future. If we wait for the future conditions to arrive before actually understanding what is happening and what impacts may occur, it may be too late.

OC: How might prize competitions help push research and conservation?

DD: The inclusion of prize competitions will help research and conservation immensely. U.S. educational institutions are producing bright scientists. Advancements in technology have allowed a number of innovative ideas, once thought to be impossible, become a reality. However, funding for research programs remains a limiting factor in experimentally testing research theories.  The emphasis of conservation through the prize competitions included here will provide the funding needed to evaluate important ideas. Prize competitions also often attract thinkers from unusual backgrounds, which can lead to unexpected solutions and collaborations.

OC: What else could Congress do to protect coral reefs, and how can concerned citizens help?

DD: There are a number of things that can be done to protect coral reefs; I think one of the most important steps Congress can take is continue supporting the advancement of research understanding underwater ecosystems. This can be done through funding research programs, and consulting with experts to help inform better policy initiatives.  Concerned citizens can impact coral reefs as well, regardless of whether they live near a reef or not. Making smart choices in terms of energy use, transportation and consuming local foods are things that can be easily incorporated into someone’s lifestyle. When consuming seafood, shoppers can choose organisms that are sustainably caught and managed. Voters can choose politicians that support the environment. Many people vacation near tropical reefs, and they can support sustainable tourism by making smart choices in their vacation plans.

OC: As you’ve spent your career studying coral reefs, tell us about your most memorable ocean moment.

DD: It is hard to decide on one moment, but I would have to say one of my favorite memories was the first time I went diving on a coral reef. Being from Minnesota I was trained to dive in a lake, with low visibility and very cold water. My first reef dive was done in Hawaii during my undergraduate studies. The colors and diversity of the fish, corals and other marine organisms had me hooked…I had to become a coral reef ecologist.

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Lionfish: A Crash Course http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/lionfish-a-crash-course/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/17/lionfish-a-crash-course/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 22:29:28 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11680

There’s big news in the fight against invasive lionfish. This week, Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th District introduced a bill that would make more funding available for researchers studying lionfish in their invaded range. The bill directs the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to award $1,500,000 in higher education grants to combat lionfish, including projects that help us learn about lionfish impacts and how to mitigate them.

In honor of this newly-introduced bill, we pulled together a refresher course on the lionfish invasion. Read on to see how lionfish are impacting the ecosystem (and what people are doing about it!)

Where are lionfish from?

Originally from the Indo-Pacific, lionfish were introduced off the coast of South Florida in the mid-1980s and have since become one of the most prolific invasive marine species in the world. They can now be found on coral reefs, shipwrecks, mangroves, seagrass beds and hard ocean bottoms throughout the western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Why are lionfish a problem?

Lionfish are the “Hoover vacuums of the sea”, and dense lionfish populations can consume up to 460,000 prey fish per acre per year. Lionfish consume over 70 different species of fish and invertebrates, some of which are ecologically and economically important in the invaded range, including juvenile grouper and snapper. With no natural predators in the invaded range and very high breeding rates (one female can spawn over 2 million eggs per year!), lionfish have spread rapidly and their range continues to expand.

Distinguished by their bold stripes and spines, lionfish are a favorite in the aquarium industry. But be careful — their spines are venomous, and contain a strong neurotoxin that can cause extreme pain and swelling if injected.

What are people doing about lionfish?

Fortunately, people are fighting back. Consistent local removal efforts can greatly reduce lionfish populations, allowing native fish to rebound. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) launched a series of lionfish derbies, or all-day fishing competitions, to help decrease numbers while raising awareness about the problem. This model has been replicated in many places throughout the invaded range, and also helps provide samples for research by bringing in large amounts of fish.

Lionfish are also delicious, and many people are adopting the “gotta eat ‘em to beat ‘em” mentality. Their white, buttery meat lends itself to any number of different recipes, and many restaurants throughout the Caribbean and southern United States are featuring lionfish on their menus to promote awareness while satisfying customers.

There is still much we can learn about lionfish to help research efforts. Representative Curbelo’s bill will help us mitigate the impacts of lionfish and work towards a healthier ocean.

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Victory! Microbeads Banned in the U.S. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:00:54 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11315

2016 has barely started, and we can already share a huge win for our ocean. Thanks to the support of ocean advocates like you, Congress has backed a bill banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. And just this week, President Obama signed this bill into law.

Microbeads might be tiny, but this legislation is huge. The new law means companies will phase out the sale of products containing microbeads over the next two years, and stop making personal care products with microbeads altogether by July 1, 2017.

These small plastic particles have been a staple ingredient in everyday products we use like body washes, facial scrubs and toothpastes. Since they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants, they flow straight from our sinks to the ocean and into the mouths and gills of sea creatures around the world.

The ban on microbeads is a big step towards stopping plastics from entering our ocean.

This new legislation shows a growing bipartisan dedication of lawmakers to create a more sustainable ocean—a mission we can all get behind. We are proud of those who served as a voice for our ocean in Congress, and we hope this is just the start of more ocean legislation to come.

Let’s take this opportunity to thank our lawmakers for their support of this bill, and remind them how important it is to keep pushing for a healthier, more resilient ocean.

Thank you for your support. Here’s to many more ocean victories in 2016!

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How Our Ocean Scored in the Omnibus Spending Bill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/18/how-our-ocean-scored-in-the-omnibus-spending-bill/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 20:20:08 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11243

This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.

Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today. 

How our ocean scored in the omnibus spending bill:

  • More funds to tackle ocean acidification – The budget for NOAA’s ocean acidification program increased from $8.5 million to $10 million dollars annually. This will help fund science to better understand how acidification will impact coastal communities across the U.S. Acidification is impacting coastal jobs and communities as increasingly acidic water dissolves the shells of animals, spelling trouble for oysters, clams and mussels as well as the people that grow them. Increased funding in a tough political environment is a testament to the hard work of all the stakeholders, including you, that weighed in with Congress on the critical importance of addressing this threat.
  • First-ever Ocean Trust Fund – This is something that the ocean conservation community has been working towards for well over a decade. It finally happened thanks to the work of some tenacious champions on Capitol Hill and your support over the years. The existence of this fund has the potential to help work on virtually all ocean issues ranging from protecting marine mammals to climate change resilience. We need to find money to fill the coffers but this is a moment to savor. We achieved something that has taken our community a very long time to get across the finish line.
  • Stronger National Ocean Policy – We are celebrating that all of the anti-National Ocean Policy riders were struck from the final budget deal. The NOP encompasses dozens of programs across the federal government and enables agencies that focus on the ocean to work together. It makes no sense to weaken a policy that helps the government do its work.
  • Marine Mammal Stranding Network – Remember our action alert highlighting this program? Well, the good news is that we know that it was funded in the final deal, despite a risk that it could have been cut.
  • Red snapper disaster averted The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “Scott amendment” that would have defunded and upended red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico was struck from the final budget deal. This is a major win, especially for the red snapper fishermen who worked tirelessly to defeat an amendment that would have been devastating for both fish and fishermen.

One area that raises concern is state boundary for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The omnibus spending bill did include some language changing the state maritime boundary for management of reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. This means big confusion and uncertainty for federally-permitted fishermen. And it means big challenges for those responsible for rebuilding this iconic fishery. The Ocean Conservancy team is already working on how to turn that loss around. Expect to see more on that in 2016.

All in all, we should be happy with the outcomes for our ocean. Of course our work is never done, but for this rather wonderful moment in time, please join me in celebrating what we have been able to achieve together.

What a great way to end the year – thank you!

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Thank you Congressman Sam Farr! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/13/thank-you-congressman-sam-farr/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/13/thank-you-congressman-sam-farr/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:47:11 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11037

A young boy who loved exploring the tidal pools along the shores of California’s Monterey Bay grew up to become a fierce defender of America’s greatest natural resource — our ocean. Yesterday, after more than two decades as California’s Central Coast’s longest-serving member, Congressman Sam Farr announced that he would retire at the end of the current Congress.

We are deeply grateful to Congressman Farr for his leadership in protecting our ocean.

Congressman Farr is a founding member co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, whose 67 members from both sides of the aisle work to educate the House about issues facing our world’s ocean.

His support for science and observation has helped us identify threats and actively seek solutions. From marine debris to ocean acidification to protected areas, Congressman Farr sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to tackle some of the most pressing ocean issues of our time.

Congressman Farr’s tenure and position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee made him a formidable protector of vital funding for our oceans.

He has a rare understanding of the link between healthy oceans and a robust national economy—one that he shared with members on both side of the aisle.

His approach embraces the needs of his constituents with common-sense and solid science rooted in a vision for a future where oceans continue to benefit us all. He has been an outspoken champion for ocean planning and the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

And his legacy includes nurturing the next generation of ocean champions.

In his long and illustrious career, Congressman Farr was also a champion for the B-WET program, which for many young Americans is their first and often only exposure to how they can protect our bays, watersheds and oceans.

That’s a love that can last a lifetime, as Congressman Farr knows.

Join Ocean Conservancy in thanking Congressman Farr!

Tweet: Thank you @RepSamFarr for being a true champion for #OurOcean

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