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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

A New Ocean Champion in the Senate

Posted On July 17, 2013 by

Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio

Few members of Congress past or present have done more for ocean conservation than Ed Markey. During four decades in the House of Representatives, then-Congressman Markey fought for and achieved significant environmental victories.

Following his recent win in the Massachusetts special election, we wanted to highlight how the Bay State Democrat, and the newest senator, has been an ocean champion throughout his career: Continue reading »

NOAA Funding Bill Gets Poor Grades When It Comes to Supporting a Healthy Ocean

Posted On July 16, 2013 by

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Last week, I wrote about what to look for in the about-to-be released bills for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including three questions to ask to determine whether the bill will support a healthy ocean. Now the House of Representatives has released its funding bill for NOAA.

As a former high school math and physics teacher, I thought grades were in order.

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Vanishing Arctic: How Less Research Could Eliminate The Last Frontier

Posted On April 29, 2013 by

Credit: Jarred Sutton

In a recently published paper, climate scientists predicted that seasonal temperature patterns in the Arctic could shift the equivalent of 20 degrees latitude toward the equator by the end of the century. Roughly, this shift would be like the difference between the extreme northern tip of Quebec and New York City.

While such rapid changes would have significant effects on Arctic food webs, scientists don’t know exactly how these changes will play out or the extent to which they will alter Arctic ecosystems. While the recent paper focused on Arctic lands, the need for additional research and monitoring is even more acute in the offshore environment.

That’s why legislation introduced earlier this year by Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is so important. Senator Begich’s legislation proposes to establish a permanent program to support research, monitoring and observation of processes vital to the Arctic Ocean’s ecosystem. Such a program could lead to significant advances in Arctic marine science. The better we understand rapidly changing marine ecosystems, the more likely it is that we will make smart conservation and management choices in the region.

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How the Sequestration is Bad for the Ocean

Posted On March 5, 2013 by

In recent years, federal budgetary concerns have loomed over almost every legislative battle in Congress. However, the sequestration that began on March 1st presents a uniquely ominous challenge by imposing drastic, across the board cuts on almost every government program.  With an ongoing debate on how to avoid the full implementation of the sweeping cuts, here are some impacts that such a steep drop in federal funding could have on marine conservation and ocean ecosystems.

The cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in particular could present significant harm to longstanding ocean conservation programs. In an immediate sense, they will force NOAA to furlough, or temporarily put on unpaid leave, up to 2,600 agency employees; amounting to almost 20% of the agency’s workforce. Furthermore, NOAA may need to cut 1,400 existing contractor jobs, while leaving an additional 2,700 positions unfilled.

These workforce reductions would leave NOAA tremendously understaffed to implement items like fishery stock assessments, which are essential to support effective fisheries management and the fishing industry at large. As fishermen throughout the nation rely on the accurate reports of NOAA scientists to avoid overfishing, this isn’t only an issue for marine ecosystems, but is a jobs issue that will negatively impact families nationwide.

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Senate Shouldn’t Limit Tools for Sandy Recovery

Posted On January 18, 2013 by

Jones Beach State Park after Sandy — Nicholas Mallos

Playing politics is nothing new in Washington, D.C.  But earlier this week, while watching the debate on the Superstorm Sandy disaster relief package, after weeks of previous negotiation, I was reminded of a common phrase – it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or in this case, $150 million of badly needed assistance.

Part of the House’s relief package included funding through NOAA for important tools that coastal states and regions can use to rebuild smarter and stronger – money for shoreline mapping, assessments of coastal flooding vulnerability, strategic restoration of habitat that provides protection from storms and flooding and assistance for state and local decision-makers to plan better for future disaster reduction. In such a divided Congress, this measure not only garnered bipartisan support, but the backing from groups like the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA).

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FDA Misses the Boat in Signaling Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Posted On December 28, 2012 by

Just as I was getting ready to head out for my Christmas break last week, my email Inbox signals that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its recommendation to approve the first-ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. For those who track the FDA, they know this isn’t unusual – the agency often makes controversial rulings right before the holidays, when decision makers, media and the public are trying to have some well-deserved downtime with their families. It was a kind of an unwelcome, fishy Christmas surprise, nestled among the garland and mistletoe.

My latest piece for National Geographic explains just how dangerous this recommendation is and what Congress needs to do in the new year to make sure these controversial fish do not make it to the ocean. The U.S. is simply not equipped to deal with this scenario.

Read my blog post on National Geographic News Watch here.

Note to Congress: Sandy Won’t Be the Last Super Storm So Please Plan Accordingly

Posted On December 13, 2012 by

President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with citizens who are recovering from Hurricane Sandy, while surveying storm damage in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Senate is considering, as early as today, the bill to fund emergency relief related to Super Storm Sandy and other recent disasters.  The good news is that this could give the East Coast a chance to do more than just rebuild homes and communities — it can leave a lasting legacy that makes communities more resilient to future disasters, ensuring that the next storm less harmful and less costly.

The pattern is clear. In coastal areas that had natural or enhanced buffer habitats, communities were protected and lives and property were spared. Planning and mitigation worked. And in areas that lacked mitigation planning and protective natural buffer zones, communities suffered more.

In the Arverne by the Sea development – a 1,000 family New York development lying in the heart of the storm’s evacuation zone and right on the Atlantic coast – natural buffers of sandy beach, dunes and grasses (combined with smart planning such as underground utilities and a sophisticated drainage system) helped the community emerge from Sandy with considerably less damage than neighborhoods just a few blocks to the west that lacked the beach habitat buffer and were much more significantly impacted.

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