Ocean Currents » Florida http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Aug 2015 12:36:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Postcards from Florida http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/15/postcards-from-florida/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:29 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10205

In honor of the 5-year memorial of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Ocean Conservancy interviewed residents about the spill, its impacts and what the Gulf means to them. Over the next 87 days—the length of the spill itself—we will be releasing “postcards from the Gulf” to share their stories. This blog is the third of a four-part series featuring some of the full-length interviews from our postcards.  Be sure to follow Ocean Conservancy on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of months to see all of the postcards.

The headlines we often hear about the Gulf of Mexico can get you down, from oil disasters to ocean acidification and coastal pollution. But it gives me hope to see young leaders of the next generation recognize the value of sustaining a healthy Gulf. Cole Kolasa, a high school student on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is one of the young leaders of tomorrow, who I believe embodies the spirit of the next generation that will alter the course of history and begin to restore the actions of the past. This is what he has to say about his Gulf of Mexico. 

Cole Kolasa
Student at Hernando High School and Member of SCUBAnauts International
Brooksville, Florida

What do you love about the Gulf?

I have spent a lot of time on the Gulf, under the water and on the surface. I have done research on corals, sponges, small fish, collected lots of data on environmental parameters, and spent many hours in the water surveying and exploring the reefs.  The one thing I value the most about the Gulf is the education it has given me over the years. I don’t think I would be the same person without it.

How did you feel when the BP oil disaster began?

I remember feeling extremely surprised and helpless. I was shocked that there was a threat of such disastrous proportions towards our ecosystem that we really couldn’t control. I wondered what would happen to the corals, sea turtles, sponges, fish, and other marine organisms in my area. My father was put in charge for the preparations for if or when the oil threatened our area, and I remember watching the news and always discussing what we could do to defend our coastline and reefs from the invading oil. Fortunately for us it never affected our coast, however what if it were to happen again?

What is your hope for restoring the Gulf?

I think that there are endless opportunities for restoration in the Gulf. Over the past few years I have participated in coral restorations in the Keys, local cleanups on our coast, and I’ve even seen abandoned coastal areas turned into fully functioning estuaries blooming with life. Even though we avoided the oil spill in my area, we still are working to fix the damage that humans have done over the past several decades. I think that other communities can still do the same.

More blogs from this series:
Postcards from Alabama
Postcards from Louisiana

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It Doesn’t Need to be Earth Day to Help Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/22/it-doesnt-need-to-be-earth-day-to-help-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/22/it-doesnt-need-to-be-earth-day-to-help-our-ocean/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 18:19:59 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10139

Happy Earth Day! Today is the one day of the year where people all over the world come together to do something good for the Earth. However, we see extraordinary people dedicate their lives to helping our water planet.

With today being Earth Day and April being Florida Volunteer Month, we wanted to highlight SCUBAnauts International. This is an organization dedicated to teaching bright, energetic teenagers about marine science using scuba diving in Southeast Florida.  Representative “SCUBAnauts” visit us once a year in DC to talk about marine policy and tell us about their research and conservation work in the water. Their stories are inspirational, and we can’t help but share them with you.

The SCUBAnauts been the envy of our office since reporting that, in addition to scuba diving in tropical locations, they’ve been helping Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory restore coral reefs in the Keys.

Hear from the SCUBAnauts themselves:

“Many people take up jobs that require them to work with their hands, multi-task, and complete certain tasks while working to achieve some goal. Working with MOTE Marine laboratories in their coral nursery fits this description and much more, as you have to contribute your diving skills to complete your assigned task.  As SCUBAnauts, we receive top-notch dive training that gives us the ability to complete our assignments and most importantly, to do them safely.  A job ‘well done’ with MOTE is very gratifying due to the fact that you actually know you are contributing to real research and that you are making a difference.

On our last expedition, I was a team leader with three other SCUBAnauts and we were able to move and secure approximately 100 corals in 20 minutes to their ‘trees’ where they will grow and mature over the next year.

These corals will begin to grow and provide the essential structure to reefs that is so essential for life of many different reef-fish and crustaceans. This was the SCUBAnauts’ first year that we transplanted coral to hard-bottom reefs, and it will be very exciting and interesting to see what MOTE has planned for us this summer.”  – Cole Kolasa, SCUBAnaut – Senior First Class, AAUS D-100, DAN Diving First Aid Pro Provider

“I am proud to be a SCUBAnaut and equally proud to be part of a team trying to restore our coral habitat, by carefully hanging fragments on the PVC trees and attaching them to reefs. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth of the coral transplants from last summer and I am ready to work even harder this summer.” -Taylor Rejsek, SCUBAnaut- Junior First Class, AAUS-D60, DAN Diving First Aid Pro Provider

“The SCUBAnauts also had the opportunity to go on a night dive. We had two thirty minute dives and they were filled with so much fun and beautiful creatures. On the second dive, I saw two massive eagle rays that came right under me. I know that this dive will stick with me for the rest of my diving career. I hope that I will have more dives similar to this one!! This is an amazing trip and I will keep many memories from it!!!” – Sofia Alaniz, SCUBAnaut- Senior First Class, Master Diver, AAUS D-100, DAN Diving First Aid Pro Provider

“MOTE’s coral work is so important because it will help restore the amount of coral being lost each year. Their work also helps find out why these corals are being lost. These findings can lead to different discoveries with the corals and how certain problems can affect them. Being given the opportunity to work with MOTE to transplant these corals is amazing. It makes me feel like I am making a difference, helping them complete their work in one day, which could take them weeks to do without us. Personally it means a lot to me, allowing me to have the opportunity to help the ocean get its coral back.” Kaedon Hamm, SCUBAnaut- Junior Second Class, AAUS-D30, DAN Diving First Aid Pro Provider

Thank you, SCUBAnauts, for helping the ocean get its coral back and for all you do for our earth!

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Florida to Receive $10 million from Settlement Related to BP Oil Disaster http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/07/florida-to-receive-10-million-from-settlementrelated-to-bp-oil-disaster/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/07/florida-to-receive-10-million-from-settlementrelated-to-bp-oil-disaster/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 22:07:18 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3811

Oiled beach at the Pensacola, Florida pier during the BP oil disaster.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will receive $10 million from a settlement between the US Department of Justice and MOEX Offshore, which resolves civil penalty claims against the Macondo well investor for their role in the BP oil disaster. The Sunshine State will use $5 million to reduce urban stormwater runoff and nonpoint source pollution, and the other $5 million will be used to provide conservation easements for lands around the panhandle of Florida.

Florida’s Governor Scott said “millions will go into clean water projects, so Florida continues its progress in protecting and restoring our state’s natural waterbodies.”

Ocean Conservancy knows the importance of taking the entire ecosystem into account during restoration and supports the State of Florida’s $10 million investment in conservations easements and improving water quality. The culture and the economy of the Gulf Coast depend as much on the health of the ecosystem as the wildlife that thrives there does, and this decision will not only provide relief for citizens, but also for oysters and other wildlife in Pensacola Bay and other areas of the Panhandle.

The Gulf sustains a robust seafood industry as well as recreational fishing and tourism activities. The five Gulf states have a gross domestic product of over $2.3 trillion a year. This is a place where the culture and the economy depend on the health of the ecosystem—as does the wildlife that thrives there.

Despite this abundance, the region faces significant challenges from not only the recent BP oil disaster but decades of degradation from coastal erosion, pollution, overfishing and excessive nutrient runoff that has produced a dead zone of depleted oxygen. These problems threaten fish, wildlife, the places where they live and the people who depend on a healthy ocean for jobs and business.

The BP oil disaster demonstrated how every part of the Gulf, from far offshore waters and fisheries to coastal wetlands and communities, are connected and interdependent. The region needs science-based restoration that takes the entire ecosystem into account. This includes both coastal and marine (offshore) environments. Ocean Conservancy is pleased science-based restoration, which includes the entire ecosystem from the coastal and open water environments, is a focus for the State of Florida.

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:38:52 +0000 Denny Takahashi Kelso http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1807 sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration.

No doubt, other projects could have been included, but the point is to start a conversation about how we collectively fulfill our vision of a healthy and prosperous Gulf. This portfolio is more than a mosaic of projects; it also initiates an ongoing dialogue about how to most effectively restore the damage to the Gulf from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Here are a few examples from the portfolio:

  • Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Conservation: The five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are all either endangered or threatened. This project would protect their nesting habitat and nearby waters as well as provide for rehabilitation and care of injured sea turtles.
  • Large-scale Seagrass Restoration and Protection: Seagrass beds are essential components of healthy, productive and biodiverse aquatic ecosystems. This project aims to restore those areas damaged by vessel traffic, boom placement and other response and recovery efforts in ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Monitoring Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Bluefin Tuna: Additional observation and biological sampling in the Gulf will help scientists understand any lingering oil-exposure effects on these species.
  • Oyster Reef Restoration: Rebuilding reefs for juvenile oysters to colonize also provides nursery habitat for fish and nesting area for birds while protecting shorelines from erosion.
  • Threatened Coral Recovery: Restoration of shallow-water corals will provide critical habitat for fishes and other reef inhabitants, improving the health and resilience of this unique reef community.
  • Rebuilding Marsh and Barrier Islands: Marsh areas provide nursery habitat and help prevent dead zones by absorbing excess nutrients; barrier islands provide critical habitat for nesting birds. By restoring these ecosystems, a wide range of Gulf species benefit.
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Don’t Miss This Major Step Toward Gulf Restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/dont-miss-this-major-step-toward-gulf-restoration/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/dont-miss-this-major-step-toward-gulf-restoration/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 20:35:33 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1360

Shrimp boats outfitted to skim oil head out of Grand Isle to clean up the massive oil before it hits the Louisiana shore, Wed., June 9, 2010. Credit: Cheryl Gerber

No question it’s a big news day in Washington.  One big thing we want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the mix is the inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation bill that Congress will vote on this week.  Directing the fines BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster have to pay back to the Gulf for restoration has been a key priority of ours since the early days of this ordeal.

Thanks are in order to Senator Boxer for her leadership in the negotiations and the Senators and Representatives from the Gulf States, particularly Senators Landrieu, Nelson, and Shelby, and Representative Scalise for their work in shepherding the bill to final passage.  We’d like to thank Senator Nelson of Florida specifically for making sure the bill includes a science and monitoring program, which is always a crucial issue for Ocean Conservancy.

As our press statement says, “The Transportation bill is far from perfect, but passing the RESTORE Act is a big win for the people and waters of the Gulf. The RESTORE Act will direct funding toward the places where it’s needed most — to execute a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan and to ensure the future health of the birds, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and, of course, the local communities that greatly depend on our oceans.”

In the coming days and weeks we’ll talk more about the good, and not so good, parts of the bill and what needs to happen next (like resolving the legal case against BP so that the money can actually start flowing).

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Sanibel Sea School Aims to Transform, Not Just Teach http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/09/sanibel-sea-school-aims-to-transform-not-just-teach/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/09/sanibel-sea-school-aims-to-transform-not-just-teach/#comments Mon, 09 Apr 2012 17:58:58 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=105 Child examining a seawall at low tide

Photo by Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School

People fall in love with the ocean in many different ways: surfing, boating, scuba diving, beach-walking. Sanibel Sea School, a day-school program on Sanibel Island, Florida, aims to help young people fall in the love with the ocean through intellectual discovery.

The school is the brain-child of marine biology professor J. Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn, who have high hopes that some day all people will value, understand and care for the ocean. It’s a “broad-reaching, idyllic goal,” Bruce says, which is why they’re focused on a much more manageable mission to “improve the ocean’s future one person at a time.”

Or in this case, up to 30 young people at a time. Called “college for 8-year-olds,” Sanibel Sea School offers students aged 6 to 13 two half-day courses a day focused on topics like gastropod mollusks and mangrove forests.

But instructors at Sanibel Sea School don’t just lecture students about mangroves; they take them out on field trips to experience them firsthand. “We taste them, we smell them, we slog around in the mud,” Bruce says. “We get extraordinarily lost in a giant jungle of mangroves.”

This experiential learning helps solidify in the students’ minds what they’ve seen and heard. “When we discover things out there in nature that we didn’t know existed, it changes who we are,” Bruce says. “It becomes transformative.”

When class is over, students receive a diploma that not only certifies that they’ve completed the course but highlights the five most important facts they learned that day. These take-home messages are an important launching pad for a parent-child conversation once the students have left Sanibel, Bruce says. And it’s a great way to educate parents too.

Kids in snorkel gear examining an ocean critter

Photo by Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School

“What we’re really trying to instill in kids is a passion for discovery and knowledge,” Bruce says. “We want them to go away knowing that there’s more to discover about the ocean and that they’re the ones that can do it – all they have to do is wade out into it.”

One of the group’s frequent outdoor activities involves paddling surfboards out to a buoy offshore. But the paddlers get much more than a chance at winning the coveted “golden coconut” award in this relay race; they get an intimate experience with a vast, deep ocean that for many of them is a source of fear before it becomes something they want to protect.

Conservation messages are an important part of Sanibel’s curriculum. During field trips, students are asked to take five minutes of their time to collect trash from the natural environment. Instructors use this as a learning tool, measuring and quantifying the litter to allow the students to see the impact they made by cleaning up and helping them understand what types of materials are commonly left behind.

“Our goal is to do transformative education,” Bruce says, “where it really changes who you are and how you see yourself fitting in to the rest of the environment, to the rest of the world, to the rest of the community.”

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