The Blog Aquatic » gulf of maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Gulf of Maine Cleanups Show Ocean Trash Is Global Problem With Local Impacts, Solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 21:50:18 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6565 Scientist aboard American Promise empties a net full of marine debris

Photo: Allison Schutes / Ocean Conservancy

200 miles, 7 beaches, 4 islands and over 7,500 pieces of trash: These numbers can be used to describe my time with Rozalia Project in the Gulf of Maine. But they don’t tell the whole story. Instead “inspiring” seems to capture most of my emotions.

Incredible scenery and wildlife served as the backdrop for the long days we spent collecting and removing trash while living aboard American Promise. Not only were we surrounded by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins as we sailed south from Hurricane Island, but we also had a finback whale come within 5 meters of the boat at sunset. We saw the spouts of another whale in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, and we observed harbor porpoises and seals, a pair of bald eagles and even an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, in Gosport Harbor.

Our crew of 10—eight people and two dogs—were united with one goal: to remove as much trash from the shoreline and ocean surface as possible while recording data about each and every item we removed. Sailing from Bar Harbor to Kittery, Maine, we conducted seven shoreline cleanups on four different islands, and aboard American Promise, we performed three Neuston net tows and multiple dip-net sessions—all resulting in the collection of a lot of trash.

Despite traveling to several remote islands off Maine’s rocky coast, we found many of the same items that top our list during the International Coastal Cleanup every year. Items like food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, foam cups and plates, and bottle caps were prevalent on almost every cleanup conducted while sailing through the Gulf of Maine.

These results are not incredibly surprising because we know that trash travels. Whether carried by the wind, current or human hands, everyday trash is able to make its way to even the most remote of places. For example, I pulled a food wrapper, a cigarette butt and a strap for sunglasses out of the water while sailing 50 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine.

Yet during this journey, single use plastic items were not our biggest finds. Fishing gear, including rope, monofilament line, fishing buoys, pots and traps, and lobster claw bands topped our list of items collected through the entire journey. We even found lobster bands, bleach and beverage bottles with French labels and markings, indicating these items may have started their journey in Canada.

All of these data are further indicative that ocean trash is a global problem with local impacts and local solutions. We all have a role to play in combating ocean trash, and joining us for the 28th International Coastal Cleanup is a great place to start.

Want to get started before the Cleanup? Take the pledge to help turn the tide on ocean trash.

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Setting Sail to Search for Marine Debris in the Gulf of Maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 22:10:09 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6521 American Promise sailboat

Photo: Rozalia Project

This week, I’m sailing with Rozalia Project as a guest scientist onboard American Promise. I joined the crew in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I’m spending seven days sailing south through the Gulf of Maine with our journey concluding at the ship’s home port of Kittery, Maine.

My home away from home is Rozalia Project’s “mother ship,” American Promise. Not originally meant to be a garbage-hunter, American Promise has a storied past. She was designed by America’s Cup champion Ted Hood to sail around the world in record time. From November 1985 to April 1986, American Promise did just that when Dodge Morgan became the first American to sail around the world alone in record-breaking time.

One of the main goals of this sail will be to remove as much trash from the water as possible. Much of our work regarding marine debris is centered around the items found along our coastlines and floating on the surface of coastal and inland waterways. However, we know marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes and is present throughout the water column.

In addition to using nets to gather debris, the Rozalia Project team is also equipped with two remotely operated vehicles that are able to reach depths of up to 1,000 feet. The ROVs will enable us to reach debris otherwise inaccessible to humans due to the depth, pressure or water temperature. The ROVs also allow for zero-impact trash removal, ensuring debris doesn’t drag along the seafloor or have an effect on marine life.

Removing trash from the water isn’t our only task. We will also be conducting beach cleanups on remote islands in the Gulf of Maine. Despite their location and the fact that the islands are relatively uninhabited, I expect to find many of the same trash items that we find during the annual International Coastal Cleanup.

How is that possible? Trash travels, and plastic items such as bottle caps, food wrappers and bags are easily carried by wind or storm water into local waterways and eventually to the ocean.

Throughout this entire journey, I will be collecting data on each item we collect, trying to find out more about that item and where it is from, and then hypothesizing on how exactly it made its way to the Gulf of Maine.

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“Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 21:00:14 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6502 Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

Ocean acidification is another issue fishermen are contending with today. This process is occurring because of excess carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, resulting in an increase in the ocean’s acidity, which spells trouble for shell-building animals. While not as immediate or visible as a swarm of invasive crabs, it also has the potential to seriously damage local industries and cripple economically important fish stocks.

We already know that ocean acidification has caused alarming losses in the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry, and the East Coast is becoming equally concerned about how acidification will impact commercially important fish species.

There is no easy answer, but there is agreement from industry, scientists and conservationists alike—we can and must do something to ensure a future for our iconic fishing and shellfish industries in the face of these threats.

Change can’t come from the waterfront alone though. Local, state and federal leadership is needed to tackle a problem of this proportion. The Maine legislature illustrated this in June, when it passed a resolution recognizing ocean acidification as “a threat to Maine’s coastal economy, communities and way of life.” The resolution cites reasons for action including the high susceptibility of the Gulf of Maine to ocean acidification and the value of fisheries to Maine’s economy (over $600 million in 2012 for those who are counting).

In light of all the challenges the New England fisheries are facing, it’s hard to even think about a future threat so dark and seemingly hard to address as climate change and ocean acidification. But the workshop was inspiring despite the dire predictions. It is clear that solutions are out there, members of the fishing community want to take action and management can respond.

In summing up the meeting that day, speaker Mike Fogarty said, “shifts happen.” The real question is how we respond to them.

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When Facing Ocean Acidification it’s Location, Location, Location http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/07/when-facing-ocean-acidification-its-location-location-location/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/07/when-facing-ocean-acidification-its-location-location-location/#comments Thu, 07 Mar 2013 22:24:47 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4980

© 2013 Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy All RIghts Reserved

For us landlubbers, it is obvious that place matters.  My home town in central California is a pretty different place than say, Washington DC, where I often travel to advocate on behalf of ocean conservation.  The weather is different, the food is different, and the culture – not to mention the politics – is certainly different.

It turns out that place really matters in the ocean too, especially as it relates to ocean acidification.  Never heard of ocean acidification?  Check out some of my earlier posts to learn more about the basics.  But what we learned from scientists last week is that the chemical characteristics of the ocean vary greatly from place to place, and as a result some areas may be especially sensitive to increases in carbon dioxide and other drivers of acidification.  A team of oceanographers led by Dr. Aleck Wang sampled seawater from Texas to New Hampshire and measured the total amount of carbon in the water as well as what scientists call “alkalinity.” The ratio of alkalinity to total carbon is a measure of the buffering capacity of the ocean, or in layman’s terms, the ocean’s ability to resist acidification. What the scientists found was that the Gulf of Maine is much more susceptible to acidification than the Gulf of Mexico or the southeastern coast. 

If you are a fisherman or fish farmer who makes a living from the Gulf of Maine, this is sobering news.  In fact, at last week’s Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland, Maine, our ocean acidification team heard from many in the fishing industry – lobstermen, clammers, and others – who are seeing major changes in the ocean environment and are deeply concerned.  Members of the Maine seafood industry are keen to do something to address these environmental challenges for they know their culture and livelihood depend on it.  Economically, a lot is riding on a healthy Maine coastline that will increasingly be undermined by ocean acidification and other effects of carbon on the ocean.

Other regions are rising to confront ocean acidification as well. The Pacific Northwest is under assault from rising acidity and the shellfish industry has been at the tip of the spear. Washington’s governor at the time, Christine Gregoire, established a Blue Ribbon Panel last year that recently released a series of regionally-specific recommendations on how the state can address this issue. Elected officials are now are now advancing concepts for state legislation to empower action. In part a response to Washington’s recent effort, California has now constituted an expert science panel to evaluate the extent of acidification in California’s ocean waters, identify ecological and socioeconomic research needs, and begin to identify private sector and public policy strategies to fight back.  As last week’s study by Dr. Wang shows, each region’s response needs to be grounded in a deep understanding of its local ocean.  But just as important, each regional response needs to be based upon a keen understanding of the local ocean industries and other local interests who depend on a healthy ocean.

It behooves other states to get out ahead of this impending challenge as well. Ocean acidification and the threat that carbon dioxide pose to the ocean may very well be the marine conservation challenge of our time. But all is not lost for people are now paying attention.  With a committed effort by scientists, ocean industries, private foundations, conservationists, policymakers and the general public, together we can help ensure the oceans continue to provide us with the goods and services upon which we depend, regardless of which place we call home.

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