Ocean Currents » conservation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Vote Walrus for 2017 Favorite Unloved Species http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/27/vote-walrus-for-2017-favorite-unloved-species/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/27/vote-walrus-for-2017-favorite-unloved-species/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 15:01:31 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13654

This year, Ocean Conservancy is proud to be a part of the 2017 Wildscreen World’s Favourite Unloved Species Campaign, dedicated to showing love for endangered and unloved species. We’ve nominated the walrus as our favorite unloved species, but we need your help! Vote now, check out our campaign page, and together let’s raise the profile of this incredible species.

What’s to love?

When you think of the walrus, you might picture large, prominent tusks and handsome, bristly whiskers, but there’s so much more to these Arctic giants. Walruses are social animals, often found bellowing and snorting in herds up to a thousand large. Like us, walruses live complex social lives, thriving off interactions with one another. And even more like us, walrus truly love to eat. When not lounging on Arctic sea ice, or resting on dry land for breeding season, walruses can be found diving for food. They scan the ocean floor with their whiskers, in search of shellfish, cephalopods and pretty much anything else. The walrus, capable of living in some of the coldest places on Earth, is an iconic and essential piece of the Arctic marine ecosystem. We think the walrus is an incredible, social and misunderstood species that deserves some well needed time in the spotlight, and we hope you agree!

What are the threats to the walrus?

Perhaps the greatest threat to the walrus is the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic, due to rising global temperatures. Not only do walrus depend on sea ice as a crucial habitat and resting platform, but retreating sea ice also opens the Arctic to potentially harmful industrial activity, like commercial shipping and risky oil and gas drilling. Increased activity in this fragile ocean space could result in added pollution, more frequent ship strikes on marine mammals and an increased risk of chronic and catastrophic oil spills that could cause irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem that walruses depend on.

What are we doing to save them?

Everything we can! For years, Ocean Conservancy has worked to protect the vital Arctic habitats of the walrus. From protecting Hanna Shoal—a vital walrus habitat—from oil and gas leasing, to working to ensure that Arctic leasing was not included in the five-year leasing program, Ocean Conservancy has long been active in the fight against risky offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Most recently, our initiatives included supporting tribal efforts to secure important protections for the Bering Sea and the Bering Strait through the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. However, our work is far from done, and we will continue to work with government leaders, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders to advocate for sustainable solutions to ensure a healthy and prosperous environment in the Arctic.

Remember to click here and vote walrus for 2017 Favorite Unloved Species!

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Congresswoman Bonamici Delivers Optimism for Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/12/congresswoman-bonamici-delivers-optimism-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/12/congresswoman-bonamici-delivers-optimism-for-our-ocean/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 06:07:30 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13485

In the month since the election, I have had so many questions. What will it be like to work at an ocean nonprofit under the new Administration? Will we be able to move forward towards sustainable ocean policies or will we spend the next few years fighting? Or both? We simply don’t have the answers right now.

A conversation with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), who came to speak at Ocean Conservancy last week, left me more optimistic than I have felt in quite a while.

When asked about the election results, she reminded us: “It’s going to be important for all of us to hold our heads up, not back down. As much as some of us want to pull the covers over our heads and wake up in four years, we can’t do that. There’s too much at stake.”

The congresswoman is a champion of environmental issues on the Hill. A member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, she is also the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the Environment. She’s a staunch proponent of using science to influence conservation policy—a foundation of our work here at Ocean Conservancy.

We heard about her priorities as the next Ocean Caucus Co-Chair. She is passionate about environmental issues that impact her home state and cares as deeply about how threats like ocean acidification and marine debris impacts the health of our ocean and the planet. The congresswoman was optimistic yet realistic about the challenges ahead.

“I keep trying to find common ground. I may not agree on everything with some people, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a respectful exchange,” she said.

I needed this reminder as a climate of uncertainty and tension sweeps our nation. The road ahead won’t be easy and I am grateful that there are dedicated members of Congress like Representative Bonamici who show up to work every day ready to make this country a better place.

“Most people want the same thing—we just have different ideas of how to accomplish it,” she said. “We need to work together and start with small steps and work towards the larger steps later.”

I’ll be taking those small steps for our ocean. And hope you will be part of that journey too.  

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From Sea to Shining Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/04/from-sea-to-shining-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/04/from-sea-to-shining-sea/#comments Fri, 04 Nov 2016 13:49:57 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13288

“We the People of the United States, in order to form more perfect protection of our ocean…”

Let’s take a break from election coverage and come together as one nation in love with the ocean.

Regardless of our politics, we can all agree that the ocean is important. From sea to shining sea, we depend on the ocean for our food supply, the air we breathe, our economy and our ability to protect our shores against storms. That’s why I’m asking you to show your ocean pride and vote for the future of the ocean today.

Our Founding Fathers established the Constitution as a vision for the future of our great nation. Today, I’m asking you to be part of a vision for the future of our ocean. Add your signature now and be a founding member in the promise to protect our ocean.

We need local and national leaders across the country to make ocean health a priority. Pledge your support for our ocean today.

There is strength in numbers. Help us deliver 20,000 signatures to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to tell the next Administration to make ocean acidification a priority.

Our ocean faces a number of serious threats, including marine debris, overfishing and ocean acidification. Ocean acidification happens when carbon emissions from factories, cars, power plants are absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic, threatening shellfish like oyster, clams and mussels and the communities who rely on them.

There’s no time to waste: we need to take action. The U.S. has already been a leader on ocean acidification research and monitoring. Recently, Oregon, Washington and California, along with the Premier of British Columbia, came together to form the International Alliance to Combat Acidification. We want to make sure the next Administration continues our strong leadership on tackling this critical problem!

By pledging your support to combat ocean acidification, you’re standing up for the communities whose livelihoods depend on a healthy ocean.

In the United States, we take pride in the hard work of our citizens, the strength of our communities and the promise of our future. Will you stand with me today to protect our country from the threat of ocean acidification?

We’ve pledged our support for the Land of the Free. Let’s do the same for our ocean.

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6 Reasons to LOVE Arctic Important Marine Areas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/29/6-reasons-to-love-arctic-important-marine-areas/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/29/6-reasons-to-love-arctic-important-marine-areas/#comments Sat, 29 Oct 2016 13:21:00 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13245

This was originally posted as part of the Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog series. See all posts here

This summer we were fortunate to share a blog series brought to us by Arctic scientists — experts working to study and understand the habitat, species and ecological changes happening at the top of the world. It’s rare for those of us who live a ways away to see a glimpse of this vibrant, and beautiful place, but our blog series aimed to bring YOU into the Arctic Ocean. We shared scientist stories about how truly special this place is. And how important the Arctic is, not only to the animals and people that thrive there, but to the overall health of our ocean. If you missed reading the blogs, we encourage you to check them out now. Here are just a few of the reasons we think you’ll enjoy reading the series.

1. Sustaining life

Both year-round and seasonal residents of the Arctic Ocean rely on a remarkable burst of productivity driven by sunlight that occurs during the brief summer months. During this short ice-free season, nutrient-rich waters provide fuel and sustenance for an amazing variety of species. This incredible abundance makes the Arctic Ocean critically important to whales, seals, walruses, birds, and fish, and other creatures. Read more…

2. More than meets the eye

Amazing creatures live beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean! You may not want to dive into the icy waters to explore — but scientists have braved the cold to discover an ecologically diverse abundance of fish and invertebrates. In some of the most important marine areas, millions of microalgae coat the underside of ice floes, and a universe of crabs, snails, brittle stars, sea stars and polar cod live around and amid the sea ice. Read more…



3. It’s truly for the birds! 

Birds from all over the world flock to the Arctic. Seabirds big and small fly to the Arctic Ocean region to nest, lay their eggs and raise their chicks. Millions of birds take advantage of the richness of the Arctic summer to fill up and refuel before continuing their migratory journeys. It would take too long to list all the birds that use some of the more unique and bird-friendly places in the Arctic, but a few include: Black-legged Kittiwakes, Thick-billed and Common Murres, Horned and Tufted Puffins — King, Common, Steller’s, and Spectacled Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and Arctic, Yellow-billed and Red-throated Loons. Read more…

4. Abundant wildlife

There is an abundance of wildlife in the Arctic Ocean — including some of the most iconic animals in the world. Polar bears prowl the ice looking for ringed seals. Other Arctic seals include ringed seals and massive bearded seals. Pacific walruses, too, call the Arctic home. They dive from ice floes and use their sensitive whiskers (called vibrissae) to locate mollusks on the ocean floor. A variety of whales swim in much of these waters, including communicative beluga whales and enormous bowhead whales, some of which can live over 200 years. And gray whales undertake an epic migration — up to 12,000 miles round-trip — to spend summers to take advantage of some of the richest areas of Arctic marine habitat. Read more…

5. The importance of durability during times of change

While the entire Arctic Ocean is important, some key areas have persistent sea ice or notable levels of primary productivity that fuel the food chain. Scientists in our blogs are finding that this is often tied to geophysical features in the ocean. Even in the Arctic where temperatures are warming twice as fast as those elsewhere on Earth, the areas that are productive today are likely to be for many years to come. That’s why it’s so important to protect the vital marine areas — because of their durability. Keeping these areas healthy will have enduring benefits for the larger Arctic marine ecosystem. Read more…

6. So much left to discover

Scientists and researchers still have more to learn and explore. We are only beginning to understand how rich and diverse the Arctic Ocean region is and how important this area of the world is to communities who live there, the rest of the U.S., and the planet. We need to continue to study and learn more about this varied and rapidly changing ocean ecosystem as well as learn from the expertise of Alaska Native residents of the Arctic. Only then, will we truly know how to preserve an intact Arctic ecosystem — and what’s at stake if its most valuable habitat is compromised or harmed. Read more…

The Vital Arctic Ocean Areas blog features posts by scientists about important marine areas in the U.S. Arctic identified by science. Based on the Arctic Marine Science Synthesis.

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5 Weird Facts about Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/21/5-weird-facts-about-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/21/5-weird-facts-about-sea-turtles/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:12:45 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13146

It’s no surprise that sea turtles are some of the most iconic and lovable animals in the ocean. To celebrate Reptile Awareness Day, we’re pulling out some of the strangest facts about these enchanting vertebrates. Brush up on your turtle trivia with the five fun facts below!

Some (baby turtles) like it hot.

Surrounding temperatures play a big role in determining the sex of a baby sea turtle. During incubation, warmer temperatures (above 85 degrees Fahrenheit) result in more female hatchlings, while cooler temperatures (below 85 degrees Fahrenheit) produce more males. It’s a delicate balance, though—too-high temperatures can kill the eggs.

The type of sand used to make the nests seems to make a difference, too. According to a 2013 study, light-colored sand beaches produce about 70% females, while dark-colored beaches that absorb more of the sun’s rays produce over 90% females. To keep the sex ratios as natural as possible, conservationists and sea-turtle managers avoid moving the nests whenever they can.

Some sea turtles are vegetarians.

Depending on the species, sea turtles have a broad diet that includes jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, snails, mollusks and sponges. But green turtles like their greens: adult greens are the only herbivorous sea turtles and eat seagrass and algae to survive. Special serrated jaws make it easy for them to rip and chew their food. As juveniles, green turtles are omnivorous, and eat a variety of insects, crustaceans, worms and seagrasses.

Turtles have a built-in GPS.

Sea turtles will migrate thousands of miles over their lifetimes to eat, breed and lay their eggs. One female leatherback even clocked a 12,000-mile roundtrip journey across the Pacific! Turtles have a special tool to navigate these epic voyages—an internal GPS using the earth’s magnetic field. Just as sailors use latitude and longitude to navigate the high seas, turtles sense slight variations in the planet’s magnetic field and are able to pinpoint specific coastlines based on their magnetic signature. That’s how many females are able to return to the exact beach where they were born to lay their eggs.

Sea turtles are some of the few marine reptiles.

Sea turtles are part of an exclusive club of living marine reptiles. When it comes to reptile species, very few are found in the ocean: out of 12,000 extant species and subspecies of reptiles, about 100 are found in marine habitats. Other members include crocodiles, marine iguanas and sea snakes. Sea snakes are the most prolific of the marine reptiles, with around 80 species and subspecies present in different marine habitats around the world.

Sea turtles can’t duck into their shells.

The sea turtle’s iconic shell evolved from the ribs into a box of bone covered in tough skin. The shell is part of the turtle’s spine and forms a sort of outer skeleton reminiscent of the exoskeletons of insects and spiders. Unlike their land turtle relatives, sea turtles cannot retract their head and flippers into their shell. This makes them more vulnerable to predators and other threats like entanglement in marine debris.

Have a favorite sea turtle fun fact? Share it in the comments below!

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Whale Sharks Move onto the Endangered List http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/30/whale-sharks-move-onto-the-endangered-list/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/30/whale-sharks-move-onto-the-endangered-list/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:30:51 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12718

Written by Dr. Alistair Dove

You may have seen in the press the recent announcement from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, that whale sharks (along with the enigmatic wing head shark) have been downgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  I thought it might help to explain exactly what that means, so I’ve done it as a sort of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What’s “the IUCN Red List”?
The Red List is a sort of master-file about the conservation status of different species.  As you can see from the screen capture below, the ranking goes from Least Concern (LC) for really common species, all the way down to Extinct (EX), with a couple of other categories for species that haven’t been evaluated (Not Evaluated NE) or that were evaluated but there wasn’t enough scientific data to decide on a status (Data Deficient DD).  All of these levels are recoverable, except for Extinct (EX); there ain’t no coming back from gone.


How are these changes decided?
In all cases, a Red List decision is made by a group of experts on the species in question, who usually get together in person and bring as much information as they can about where the animal lives and how many there are, as well as population trends (up or down) and data about the threats that the species faces; IUCN produces guidelines to assist in the evaluation process.  In this case, the committee of whale shark experts gathered right here, at Georgia Aquarium, in late 2013 as part of the 3rd International Whale Shark Conference.  The committee was chaired by Dr. Simon Pierce, one of our collaborators from Marine Megafauna Foundation, and I was on the committee too.  Because these things are important, it took a while to verify, review and revise the committee’s report and for IUCN to make the formal recommendation.

What does it mean to be Endangered?
This is actually a really important question because there are at least two types of “endangered”.  In both types the word “endangered” is used to imply that a species is in danger of going extinct in all or a large part of its natural range.  The IUCN Red List type is non-binding, by which I mean that it carries no legal responsibilities and triggers no automatic protections.  It’s solely an internationally-recognized agreement about conservation status.  It’s not trivial, though; on the contrary, it’s kind of the gold standard of conservation status.  The other type of “endangered” is listing on the United States Endangered Species Act (1973).  That one has legislative teeth.  When a species is listed under ESA, Federal Government agencies (in the case of marine animals, that’s NOAA Fisheries) have to take responsibility for conservation actions that will reverse the decline, by putting in place recovery plans and overseeing their implementation.

What does this all mean for whale sharks?
Put simply, what it means is that whale sharks need our help.  The population of whale sharks is doing OK in parts of the range, including the West Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico, but other parts are in real trouble, including much of the Indian Ocean.  Given that we don’t know for sure whether whale sharks are all one big population or divided into subpopulations, or how changes in one geographic area affect another, it’s more important than ever that we work to understand this species better.  We have to answer some really basic important questions like “Where are they born?” “Where are all the little ones?”, “Where do they mate?”, and “Where are all the big males?”, because we don’t know any of these things.  We need to put all that together and come up with a better estimate of the global population size.  At the same time, we need to raise awareness of the threats that illegal fishing, bycatch, ship strike and under-regulated ecotourism pose, and wherever possible take steps to reduce these threats.

We should strive towards a goal that at the next International Whale Shark Conference in 2019, we can have another Red List workshop, at which we can conclude that whale sharks can pull back from Endangered to one of the less concerned categories.  That’s the kind of ocean I want to swim in.  Who’s with me?

 Dr. Alistair Dove is the Director of Research and Conservation at the Georgia Aquarium. This post was originally published on the Georgia Aquarium website on August 16, 2016. 

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Obama Announces the World’s Largest Protected Marine Area http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/26/obama-announces-the-worlds-largest-protected-marine-area/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/26/obama-announces-the-worlds-largest-protected-marine-area/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:52:53 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12742

This is HUGE! I’m so excited to share with you that President Obama just announced that he will quadruple the Hawaii Monument—creating the world’s largest protected marine area.

It literally doesn’t get any bigger than this!

Thank YOU to the more than 20,000 ocean supporters who took action this summer—asking President Obama to go big for ocean conservation. Our voices were heard!

Take Action: Please take a moment to say Mahalo (thank you) to President Obama, too.

If you’re wondering just how HUGE this news is…try to wrap your head around this: At 582,578 square miles, Papahānaumokuākea will be:

      • Nearly four times the size of California
      • 105 times larger than Connecticut
      • Ten times larger than Iowa

Did you know that Papahānaumokuākea is home to endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, sharks and more? Now, even more of their home—and this uniquely biodiverse seascape —will be protected.

President Obama deserves our thanks for expanding Papahānaumokuākea.

And you have my thanks for speaking up on behalf the ocean to make this happen. We did it!

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