The Blog Aquatic » coral reefs News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This Week’s Top Tweets: January 19 – 25 Sat, 26 Jan 2013 16:42:11 +0000 Guest Blogger It’s time to recap the Ocean Conservancy tweets that made the most waves (get it?) in the past week. Check out our top five and let us know which one piqued your interest the most!

1. Would You Like Some Fish with Your Plastic?

This was our top tweet of the week and it’s no wonder why–finding out that over one third of a given sample of fish have plastic in their bellies is downright creepy. This study by Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association illustrates the tangible effects that trash has on our ocean. If you’re looking for ways to lessen your impact and to keep the ocean healthy, try downloading our mobile app, Rippl. You’ll get weekly ocean-friendly tips and be able to track your progress!

2. Welcome to the Plastic Beach

While this isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the Gorillaz song “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” news about the amount of plastic at Kamilo Point in Hawaii certainly gave it a realistic perspective in the Twittersphere this week. Our expert Nick Mallos reported that the so-called “Junk Beach” was the most plastic-laden one he’s ever seen–and that’s after 240,000 lbs. of microplastics have been removed by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund since 2003.

3. Skip the Landfill–Donate Instead!

Our five suggestions for donating those random things hanging around your home that you’ll never use resonated well with our followers, ranking third on our top tweets list this week. Another helpful addition (courtesy of one of our Facebook friends): donate your time!

4. Forget About Last Year’s Tsunami? The Ocean Hasn’t

Our field guide for tsunami debris tells you what the most common forms of debris are–and what you should do if and when you find it.

5. Colorful Corals–But Why?

This tweet got a lot of attention largely because it asks a question we’ve all probably wondered at one point or another, but never really knew the answer. In this case, there’s more to beauty than meets the eye!

As always, we’ll be tweeting on a daily basis from @OurOcean, so make sure to follow us for all the latest ocean news, Ocean Conservancy blog posts, fun trivia and more!

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An Island of Hope for Coral Reefs Tue, 08 Jan 2013 16:33:55 +0000 Carmen Yeung

Dr. Stephen Palumbi checks transplanted corals during climate change studies. Credit:

I’m accustomed to getting bad news about the state of the world’s coral reefs, but this week there’s some good news for a change.

Scientists have just released findings from their research in American Samoa on especially tough species of corals that are adapting to warming waters and may be resisting climate change.

In a new paper published by Ocean Conservancy board member Dr. Stephen Palumbi and other scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the scientists found that some reef-building corals are resistant to the stress of warmer waters that cause coral bleaching.

While studying corals in American Samoa, researchers found heat-resistant corals can survive damaging temperature increases by switching on a set of 60 genes before the stress has occurred. Heat-sensitive corals switch these genes on after stress has already occurred. This means that some corals have the ability to withstand future increase in ocean temperature.

DNA sequencing can offer broad insights into the differences that may allow some organisms to persist longer amid future changes to global climate.

“If we can find populations most likely to resist climate change and map where they are, then we can protect them,” said Dr. Palumbi, a renowned marine biologist and director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station. “It’s of paramount importance, because climate change is here.”

Coral reefs are vital homes for commercially and recreationally important fish, aquaculture and storm protection for approximately 1 billion people worldwide. Over the last 20 years, half of the world’s corals have been destroyed by a number of factors: overfishing, pollution, disease and rising temperatures and ocean acidification.

Even the strongest corals need our help. Heat-resistant corals still need protection since they are not immune to all stressors, especially human-made stressors such as pollution, overfishing, and damage from ships. Protection such as NOAA’s proposed listing of 66 corals species under the Endangered Species Act is incredibly important.

Watch and share Dr. Palumbi’s video to learn more about how protecting resilient corals gives us the best chance to save them in the face of warming temperatures. You can also learn more about the researchers involved in the study at the Institute of Marine Science, NOAA Fisheries at UC Santa Cruz and the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University.

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NOAA Moves to Protect Corals Fri, 07 Dec 2012 18:21:12 +0000 Carmen Yeung

Credit: Mario Chow

Corals are in trouble, but they could soon receive the help they need.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) proposed listing 66 species of reef-building corals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is a step in the right direction for coral conservation. Being added to the Endangered Species list is more than a title upgrade (or downgrade, really). Listing species as endangered would prohibit harming, wounding or killing the species. It also prohibits the extraction of listed species, which includes importing or exporting the corals.

What has made these corals candidates for the list? A number of things: pollution, warming waters, overfishing and ocean acidification threaten the survival of corals. These threats can make corals more susceptible to disease and mortality. Protections like endangered species listing are vital to preserving coral from threats and helping them cope with changing environmental conditions.

Corals are tremendously important economically and environmentally. Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; create jobs and income for coastal economies through tourism, recreation and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storm damage. One independent study found that coral reefs provided about $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economic from recreation and tourism activities. Marine life, such as fish, crustaceans and sea turtles rely on corals for food, shelter and nursery grounds. Over 25% of fish in the ocean and up to two million marine species use coral reefs as their home. Because of their significance, supporting NOAA’s proposed ESA listing for 66 coral species is incredibly important to their survival and our local economies.

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Can 500 Underwater Statues Help The Ocean? Thu, 23 Aug 2012 18:23:15 +0000 Carmen Yeung

Underwater statues are fun to look at, but can they really function as an artificial reef? Credit: Jim Bahn flickr stream

Two of my favorite pastimes are visiting art museums and exploring new underwater habitats. But combining the two can be environmentally risky. That’s why there are a couple of things that concern me about Jason deCaires Taylor’s project in Cancun, Mexico, that has placed 500 statues as an underwater tourist attraction. Here are a couple questions I asked myself after hearing about the site.

1. How does it help ocean health?

The artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, mentions that his statues at Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) are being covered with coral and algae, but this does not necessarily mean his statues are helping the ocean. When implementing artificial reefs, the placement of human-made structures onto the seafloor, you need to have biological goals in place. This ensures that your artificial reef, or 500 statues in this case, contains organisms that can co-exist in a way that mimics the natural food web over time instead of throwing it out of balance.

2. Are the statues secure?

Artificial reefs can unintentionally damage surrounding sensitive marine habitats during storms. In the U.S., strong storms can move old, sunken naval ships across the seafloor, creating deep scour depressions and plowing through live bottom habitat. Mr. Taylor’s work has been damaged by storms and part of it collapsed. What happened to those collapsed pieces? Did they move or, worse, damage a nearby sensitive habitat? Without proper monitoring, you won’t know if you’re making progress towards your biological goals or if you’ve accidently damaged nearby habitats.

3. What is the conservation goal, and is it actually being fulfilled?

Currently, about 750,000 people visit MUSA annually. Mr. Taylor states that his exhibit serves as a conservation effort by drawing divers and snorkelers away from the Mesoamerican Reef. This is Mr. Taylor’s assumption since there’s no mention of monitoring or surveys to gauge if visitors are linking their visit to his statues with a visit to the Mesoamerican Reef. Without some type of monitoring, it is difficult, if not impossible, to say with certainty that few of MUSA’s visitors are swimming in the Mesoamerican Reef. MUSA could even be drawing more people to the Mesoamerican Reef.

Artificial reefs must have carefully thought-out objectives over a long timespan and be designed appropriately to achieve those objective. Additionally, there must be monitoring in place to measure progress towards the set of objectives. Otherwise, artificial reefs could inadvertently further damage the ocean that we love.

The main threats affecting the Mesoamerican Reef are climate change, fishing, shipping traffic of oil tankers, pollution from municipal waste contamination, sedimentation from inland deforestation, agricultural runoff, growing coastal development, tourism and aquaculture.

I think tourism will continue to grow in the Mesoamerican Reef, which is why our business choices are extremely important. Tourists can reduce impacts to the reef by supporting environmentally friendly businesses. This requires doing your research, which can be time consuming, but very rewarding when you’re helping the ocean you love. Check out these resources to get you started in planning an ocean-friendly exploration to the Mesoamerican Reef:

Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance

Sustainable Travel & Ecotourism in Mexico at Frommer’s

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CE SiaK)

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Pearls of Wisdom: Medicine of the Sea Answer Mon, 04 Jun 2012 00:23:04 +0000 Guest Blogger

Credit: USFWS Pacific

TRUE: Ancient Greek dentists used the venom from the stingray’s spine as anesthetic.
TRUE: Doctors once used Asian carp as a test for pregnancy.
FALSE: Amazon explorers took a medicine derived from coral to fight off malaria.

Coral has not been used to fight off malaria, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have real medicinal promise. In fact, coral reefs are often called “the medicine cabinet of the 21st century.” Coral reef-based medicines are being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, heart disease, viruses, and more–yet another reason to protect these delicate ecosystems. You can learn more about why coral reefs are so important from NOAA here.

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