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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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We Will Stand Up for the Ocean–and That Means Standing Up for Science

Posted On November 29, 2016 by

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog.

During this bruising presidential campaign, there was an eerie sense that we had moved into a post-truth world, with fake news circulating on Facebook and the veracity of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump continually called into question. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries just declared “post-truth” its 2016 international Word of the Year.

But for me personally, facts really matter.  It’s why I’m a scientist. 

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4 Reasons the California Bag Ban Makes Us Smile

Posted On November 16, 2016 by

Last week was a tough one for many around the nation. The 2016 election season reached a stressful conclusion last Tuesday night and considerable uncertainty remains about where our nation is headed and what the future holds. Last week my home state of sunny California gave me something to celebrate: voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, 52 percent to 48 percent. Here are four reasons I’m smiling over this news!

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#OCchat: Join Us on Twitter for World Oceans Day

Posted On June 1, 2016 by

Calling all ocean lovers: In honor of World Ocean’s Day, we’re celebrating all things ocean conservation. Join us next Wednesday, June 8th to hear insights from marine enthusiasts around the world, including our own Chief Scientist George Leonard, and contribute your own thoughts, too. Tune in Wednesday as we share questions throughout the day about reasons to love the ocean and what we can do to protect it.

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How Dangerous is Ocean Plastic? Insights From Global Experts on the Greatest Threat to Marine Wildlife

Posted On January 12, 2016 by

By George H. Leonard, PhD and Nicholas J. Mallos MEM

Over the course of the 30-year history of the International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers have removed over 200 million items from beaches and waterways around the world.  The top-ten list of items removed includes items like plastics bottles, plastic bottle caps, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, derelict fishing gear and a range of disposable plastic goods and food packaging. The scientific literature is replete with anecdotal information of marine wildlife impacted by these marine debris items. Indeed, over 690 species (from the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales) have been documented to be negatively impacted by marine debris.

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Inspiration at 30 Feet

Posted On November 20, 2015 by

I looked up just as the water above me darkened. Within an arm’s length, a massive whale shark passed over my head, its tail methodically propelling it forward. I caught its improbably small eye looking intently at me as it glided past. Directly behind came a second whale shark and then another.

But I wasn’t swimming in the ocean – I was 30 feet below the surface, at the bottom of the 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium. As a marine scientist, I’ve logged a lot of dives in places from tropical reefs to temperate kelp forests. But I’d never been this up close and personal with the world’s biggest fish. In the wild, whale sharks can grow to 40 feet and nearly 50,000 pounds; those at the Georgia Aquarium are a relatively “small” 25 feet in length.

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Another Brick in the Wall: Plastics in the Seafood We Eat

Posted On September 24, 2015 by

Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

If you have been reading my recent posts, you have noticed that I have been discussing the emerging science on plastic pollution in the ocean and exploring what we need to do to stem the tide. It started in February, when a groundbreaking study showed that 8 million tons (nearly 17 billion pounds) of plastic flows into the ocean each year, mostly from a small number of Asian nations where local waste management can’t keep up with rapidly growing plastic use. Then scientists estimated that nearly all the worlds’ seabirds will be contaminated by plastics by 2050 unless conditions don’t change.  And a study published only days later showed that half the globe’s sea turtles are likely to suffer the same fate. Today, we need to think carefully about the latest study, showing that plastics can be found in many of the fish that we eat. We don’t yet know if eating plastic-laden fish negatively impacts our health, but today’s study is another brick in the growing wall of scientific evidence that demonstrates that plastics are a major threat to the global ocean and ultimately, ourselves.

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Ocean Plastic Pollution: Groundhog Day, But This Time with Sea Turtles

Posted On September 15, 2015 by

Olive Ridley sea turtle. Photo by: Matthew Dolkas.

I got a kick out of Groundhog Day, the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that was released in 1993. With Murray waking each day to relive Groundhog Day alongside Punxsutawney Phil and his co-anchor, the movie was lighthearted and fun. But the science of ocean plastic pollution is starting to feel a lot like Groundhog Day. And the storyline is becoming much more troubling with each new publication.

This week a new study in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology calculates that over half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic; this follows on the heels of a publication last month by some of the same scientists that predicted that nearly all of the world’s seabirds would be contaminated with plastics by 2050 unless action is taken soon. With each new publication, the case for a global strategy to stem the tide of plastics into the world’s oceans becomes ever more vital.

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