Ocean Currents » hawaii http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Big Ocean Wins = Big Opportunities http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/28/trash-has-kept-us-busy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/28/trash-has-kept-us-busy/#comments Fri, 28 Oct 2016 14:41:56 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13218

This has been a busy season for ocean conservation. 

Last month, we celebrated when President Obama announced the world’s largest marine protected area in Hawaii, which was quickly followed by the first marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

We then hailed important announcements made at the 2016 Our Ocean conference, including a commitment by Ocean Conservancy and our Trash Free Seas Alliance® partners to raise an additional $2.75 million to improve waste management in rapidly developing economies in Asia Pacific, as well as Dow’s pledge to dedicate $2.8 million to tackle marine debris.

And thousands of you around the world took action to tackle this growing threat to our ocean by joining Ocean Conservancy’s 31st International Coastal Cleanup, where we also launched our new Clean Swell app.

We closed September with an exciting development to keep trash and plastic out of our ocean through a high-level session held in conjunction with an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Tokyo that focused on making waste management projects more financially attractive. The event was co-hosted by the Government of Japan and the U.S. State Department, with the support of China and Russia and additional support from Ocean Conservancy and the Trash Free Seas Alliance®. I was honored to participate in substantive discussions with representatives from major corporations, civil society organizations and government officials. Ocean Conservancy underscored the importance of seeking solutions to marine debris on land, acknowledging that comprehensive, modern waste management systems are critical if we are to succeed in stemming the tide of plastic entering our ocean.

Ocean Conservancy is thankful to have the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to further identify land-based solutions for marine plastic debris in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“It will take action on many fronts to deal with the growing menace of marine pollution,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of GEF. “In collaboration with UNEP, the GEF will invest some $2 million dollars for land-based solutions to ocean plastics as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance® and the New Plastics Economy initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This investment will inform an integrated approach of both upstream and downstream pathways for reducing marine debris across the entire plastics supply chain, moving toward a circular economy.”

All of this coupled with forthcoming research from the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, represents an important step toward the goal of reducing plastic waste leaking into the ocean annually by 50% by 2025.

It is important to find hope and celebrate progress. I hope you are as excited by these recent achievements as I am–all of which wouldn’t have been possible without your support. Thank you.

I’d like to end with these words from President Obama, who spoke about global conservation challenges at the Our Ocean conference: “We can solve this problem, we just have to have the will to take collective action.”

Ocean Conservancy has been at the forefront of this global challenge for more than 30 years. Together, we will find and solve the ocean plastic crisis. We’re committed to working with all of you to take action to get to a future of trash free seas.

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Exploring the Remote Midway Atoll http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/02/exploring-hawaiis-midway-atoll/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/02/exploring-hawaiis-midway-atoll/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2016 13:00:29 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12761

Just last week, President Obama announced that he will quadruple the Papahānaumokuākea Hawaii Monument—creating the world’s largest protected marine area. At 582,578 square miles, Papahānaumokuākea will be nearly four times the size of California and 105 times larger than Connecticut. This is huge news for the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, sharks and more that call this uniquely biodiverse seascape home.

Nicholas Mallos, Director of our Trash Free Seas program, traveled to Papahānaumokuākea in 2010 to see first-hand the beauty—and the dangers—in this spectacular ecosystem.

Setting foot on land more than 1,000 miles from your nearest neighbor, one might suspect to find themselves in an unspoiled environment with little or no sign of human presence. Unfortunately, on Midway Atoll, this is not the case. Part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Midway is at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, roughly equidistant from Asia and North America.

Midway is truly “out there.” The atoll’s nearest population center is Honolulu, which is 1,311 miles to the southeast and a five-hour trip by plane. Having reviewed the literature, perused the photos and watched the films, I thought I was prepared for my 2010 research trip to the Atoll. But I was not.

Lying literally in the middle of nowhere, Midway is a beautiful and deeply surreal place, mystical and transformative. At night, Bonin petrels, small nocturnal seabirds, flock the skies in the hundreds of thousands, emitting shrieks eerily synonymous with their avian counterparts in Alfred Hitchcock’s, “The Birds.” During the day, petrel shrills are replaced by the relentless chatter of more than one million Laysan and black-footed albatross. Midway is the largest nesting colony for Laysans and the second largest for black-foots. Offshore, the roar of the ocean is equally sonorous with a monster swell that breaks over the atoll’s fringing reefs.

Seventy years ago, Japanese and U.S. military forces pummeled these islands with artillery during the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. But despite decades without troops or thunderous artillery, these islands remain endangered by a far more persistent threat manufactured by humankind: plastics.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands act like a filter in the North Pacific, ensnaring large amounts of drifting fishing gear and debris on its fringing reefs and sandy shores. The daily accumulation of large debris on Midway’s shores—almost entirely plastics—threatens the monk seals and sea turtles that haul out on its beaches and forage in the atoll’s shallow waters. With only 1,200 monk seals remaining, the loss of even a single animal can substantially impact the species. Entanglement in debris and ingestion of plastics is also a serious concern for Hawaiian green turtles, a subspecies that is genetically distinct from all other green sea turtles found throughout the world.

But seabirds, most notably albatross, incur the greatest impact from plastic debris. Each year, approximately 4.5 tons (nearly 10,000 pounds) of plastics are brought to Midway not by currents or wind, but in the stomachs of the birds themselves. Mothers and fathers forage at sea for weeks in search of fish eggs, squid and other prey in hopes of nourishing their newly hatched chicks that wait anxiously hundreds or even thousands of miles away. All too often, adult albatross return to Midway and regurgitate offerings more reminiscent of a convenience store than that of a natural albatross diet. Plastic bottle caps, cigarette lighters, fishing floats and great quantities of plastic fragments are now part of the albatross diet. Unlike their parents, Laysan chicks do not possess the ability to regurgitate; once consumed, these plastics are often fatal to chicks through a variety of mechanisms including starvation, stomach rupture or asphyxiation.

I witnessed the unintended consequences of plastics on Laysan and black-footed albatross firsthand during a two week stay on Midway in 2010, where my colleagues and I completed a preliminary assessment of plastics’ impacts on marine wildlife. Trekking around the islands, it was impossible to avoid plastics—colorful shapes and sizes speckled the ground while other types of plastic protruded from the guts of recently perished albatross chicks.

By analyzing the stomach contents of a deceased chick found lying on the old airstrip amid the sprouting grass, I further deconstructed the plastics-albatross relationship. Finding a specimen was not difficult; hundreds of options were available on that same runway. The stomach contents of my single albatross included nine plastic bottle caps, two strands of dental floss, one five-inch orange fishing float, 103 miscellaneous plastic pieces, six pumice stones and 60 squid beaks—the latter two items being the only naturally occurring components of a Laysan’s diet. While this was only a single sample, the total mass of the synthetic stomach contents was roughly 100 grams, about the same as a quarter-pound hamburger.

The magnificent albatross on Midway Island are more than just birds. As part of our natural world, they are an object lesson in how we are treating our planet. Albatross, along with the other inhabitants of Midway, are the recipients of the collective impacts of the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that permeates our global society. While I have been fortunate to visit these animals in this far off world, one need not travel to Midway to witness the persistence and proliferation of marine debris. The ocean plastics crisis is just down the road or over the nearest sand dune.

Take a moment to say mahalo (thank you) to President Obama for creating the world’s largest protected marine area.

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5 Amazing Reasons to Love Papahānaumokuākea, Even More http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/01/5-amazing-reasons-to-love-papahanaumokuakea-even-more/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/01/5-amazing-reasons-to-love-papahanaumokuakea-even-more/#comments Thu, 01 Sep 2016 11:55:33 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12777

Last week, we learned President Obama is creating the world’s largest marine protected area by expanding the Hawaiian national monument of Papahānaumokuākea! We’re excited. Seriously excited. In honor of that announcement, here are five reasons we love Papahānaumokuākea, and how its expansion just means more to love.

1. The name

While we (still) might be struggling with the pronunciation, the name Papahānaumokuākea holds rich cultural significance, meaning the union of two native ancestors in Hawaiian mythology. The name itself is a combination of the Earth Mother, Papahānaumoku, and the Sky Father, Wakea, who together created the islands and its people.

Say it with me, PAH-pa-ha-NOW-muh-kua-kay-yah.

(We’ll keep working on it)

2. It’s more than a home

7,ooo species call Papahānaumokuākea home, almost a third of which can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. We’re talking about endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, black coral, sharks, birds and so many more. Many of these species need a place to grow, flourish and thrive—Papahānaumokuākea gives them that space.

3. It’s HUGE.

The reserve is so large that, with the expansion, Papahānaumokuākea will be roughly four times the size of California—the equivalent of ten Iowas or 105 Connecticuts.

4. More ahi tuna

Strengthening Papahānaumokuāke gives species like tuna and swordfish time and space to replenish. More fish in the ocean will in turn support more productive fisheries outside the marine monument, even supporting economic growth! And who doesn’t love ahi tuna?

5. It can combat climate change

Conserving genetic diversity across the full seascape of Papahānaumokuāke is vital for promoting species resilience against climate change. Not only are the reserve’s pristine waters and flourishing life a scientist’s gold mine, but they can be a useful carbon sink. Just like forests, healthy ocean ecosystems can take in carbon dioxide, lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere!

Papahānaumokuāke is a safe haven for endangered species, a combatant against climate change and a cultural seascape important to native Hawaiians—essentially the Disney World of marine ecosystems. We’re crazy about Papahānaumokuākea, and even more excited about its expansion.

Will you join us in saying  “Mahalo Obama?We want to thank President Obama for creating the world’s largest marine protected area. Please thank Obama today.

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7,000 Species, 200 Nautical Miles and YOU http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/23/7000-species-200-nautical-miles-and-you/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/23/7000-species-200-nautical-miles-and-you/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:30:42 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12698

Let’s create the world’s largest protected marine area, ever.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to one of the most remote and fragile ecological areas in the world, called Papahānaumokuāke. Four years ago, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuāke Marine National Monument to protect 50 nautical miles that provide sanctuary to sea turtles, sharks, coral and critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Today, we’re asking the President to make Papahānaumokuāke the largest protected marine area in the world, by expanding the monument to 200 nautical miles—four times larger than its current size. That’s where you come in.

Tell President Obama that Papahānaumokuāke is worth protecting.

Our goal is to send 20,000 signatures to President Obama before the World Conservation Congress meets in Hawai’i in two weeks! President Obama needs to hear from people like you: Tell him to stand with native Hawaiians, senators, scientists and local government in supporting the expansion of Papahānaumokuāke (and yes, we are still having trouble pronouncing it). Powerful lobbyists stand in the way of expanding and preserving this magical seascape, which is why we need people power to make a difference. Please, take action now and help us reach our goal of sending 20,000 signatures to President Obama in just two weeks.

Papahānaumokuāke is home to over 7,000 species—a quarter of which can’t be found anywhere else on Earth. It also protects an area larger than all our national parks combined (1.6 million square kilometers)! Less than one percent of the world’s ocean is protected, and expanding Papahānaumokuāke is a critical step to preserving the genetic diversity unique to its waters, supporting more productive fisheries outside the monument and protecting a cultural seascape important to native Hawaiians.

Take action. Join me in asking President Obama to expand this national treasure.

All we need is Obama’s signature. Will you help make this a reality?

When Papahānaumokuāke was first established in 2006, it was a huge win for our environment. Let’s make that happen again.

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Implementing Solutions in our “Plasticene Epoch” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/16/implementing-solutions-in-our-plasticene-epoch/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/16/implementing-solutions-in-our-plasticene-epoch/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 18:22:33 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8547

Photo: Nick Mallos

Plastics are everywhere. And by that I don’t just mean in the physical sense, but also in terms of the media. Everywhere I look lately newspaper and blog headlines are focused on the increased pervasiveness of plastic pollution in our ocean.

In the New York Times’ Sunday Review, the Editorial Board highlighted the plasticization that’s taking place “From Beach to Ocean” around the world. Their focus was Kamilo Point, Hawaii. For the past decade, the Hawaii Wildlife Fund has worked tirelessly to keep Kamilo clean from the onslaught of plastic pollution that washes ashore daily by removing almost 350,000 pounds of debris. I’ve had the personal (mis)fortune of working at Kamilo and in some places I measured plastics densities upwards of 84,000 pieces per square meter of beach. These plastics are not in the form of bottles or caps or bags but rather the fragmented, millimeter-sized version of their original consumer product form. And on a nearby beach at Kamilo, geologists have identified a new kind of plastic-infused rock that will NEVER break down.


It’s not just about the beaches of Hawaii though. Scientists participating in a NCEAS Working Group, sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, reported to National Geographic that “…we’re going to have millions of tons of plastic going into the ocean.”  And we know the pathway to harm associated with plastics is very real:  plastics enter the ocean, marine wildlife ingests or becomes entangled in these plastics, and then many of these animals suffer mortality due to either the physical or toxicological effect of these interactions. The only question remaining is how big of impact are these plastics having and should we, as humans, be worried about the threat of these plastics via seafood on our dinner plate? Personally, I’m concerned.

News reports have focused on solutions too. Concepts of an ocean cleanup solution have captivated the public and media alike while Baltimore’s Water Wheel is seeking to keep trash from ever reaching the ocean in the first place. Waste management expert, Ted Siegler, told National Geographic that abating ocean plastic pollution is largely a problem of insufficient infrastructure. “In many ways, this is really simple. This is putting trucks on the road and picking up the garbage and bringing it to a proper place…But none of that is occurring in almost all of the places that I’ve been working in the last 20 years.” We agree strongly with Mr. Siegler’s perspective on the issue.

Cleanups are an important part of the solution, but we believe that in order to truly stop the plastics crisis from progressing, we must stop plastics from reaching the ocean in the first place. This is not a vote against the longer term re-think that needs to happen in terms of a circular economy or regenerative consumption, but it is a way to stop the avalanche of plastics from doing very serious and systemic damage in the decade (or two) to come. This means looking to developing nations where increasing populations and affluence are fueling a desire for the single use disposable plastics that have been a part of our society for decades, but where even the most basic of waste management infrastructure does not yet exist. Doing so will require working with the most capable and sophisticated corporations on this planet to partner with governments to remedy these basic waste management needs.

I encourage everyone to tune in today and tomorrow for the Our Ocean Conference hosted by Secretary of State, John Kerry. Our CEO, Andreas Merkl, will present our long term plan to stem the tide of ocean plastics and asking the many governments, industry members and leading NGOs in the room to join us in this endeavor. We must embrace a shared responsibility to manage the world’s waste. If we don’t, the oceans will continue to suffer.

 

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This Week’s Top Tweets: January 19 – 25 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/26/this-weeks-top-tweets-january-19-25/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/26/this-weeks-top-tweets-january-19-25/#comments Sat, 26 Jan 2013 16:42:11 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4420 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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Aloha, Plastics: Ocean Trash Adventures in Hawaii http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/15/aloha-plastics-ocean-trash-adventures-in-hawaii/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/15/aloha-plastics-ocean-trash-adventures-in-hawaii/#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 20:15:40 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4225

Neither tsunami debris nor marine debris is going away any time soon. Following an August 2012 NGO tsunami meeting and increasing reports of tsunami debris on the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii, concern and interest about tsunami debris in Japan continues to increase. Responding to this interest, the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency of Japan has funded a series of beach site investigations in the United States to convey the present situation of both tsunami and marine debris to Japan officials and the Japanese people. The first stop for these surveys:  Hawaii.

I teamed up with members from Japan Environmental Action Network (JEAN), the Oceanic Wildlife Society and the Japan Ministry of Environment tobegin surveys on O’ahu beaches where confirmed and suspected tsunami debris has recently been found . During our first inspection at Hanauma Bay, we examined a rusted Japanese refrigerator that washed ashore on December 20th, 2012, several days before a second fridge was found on Waimanalo Beach. Cleanup volunteers commonly found refrigerator pieces on Kaua’i beaches during this past summer.

Dr. Nikolai Maximenko of the University of Hawaii International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) explained that these different ‘waves’ of alike debris (e.g., oyster buoys, refrigerators, etc.) are a result of how tsunami debris is affected by wind. Because the tsunami debris entered the ocean at the same time, similar items travel at the same speed and will appear on Hawaiian and West Coast beaches around the same time.

Chris Woolaway, Hawaii’s International Coastal Cleanup State Coordinator, stated that since 2012 “Our volunteers and other members of the community have noticed larger debris that is less degraded coming in with the more chronic debris. This debris, as predicted by the IPRC, has shown up on sites already identified by long standing observations and monitoring.”

Our second shoreline inspection took place at Ki’I Dunes Beach, a 1,100 acre stretch of natural coastline, dunes and wetland on O’ahu’s North Shore that is part of the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. We assessed debris abundance and composition at Ki’I Dunes by removing and cataloging all marine debris inside a 25 m2 quadrat; these data will be compared to historical data collected at the same site during past Cleanups. The most notable items on this stretch of beach include  oyster spacers, hagfish traps, fishing net and rope, and of course an immesurable amount of mircoplastics. Atypical debris findings have been reported at Ki’i over the past 6 months, and Chris noted that the items we found match debris trends on other beaches across the Islands.

We conducted visual surveys as well and removed debris from the Refuge’s jagged coastline. These surveys revealed two items that had never been seen prior to the tsunami—half of a black oyster buoy and a 1 m2 piece of framed housing insulation. Large quantities of insulation foam were found on other parts of the beach as well, but only the buoy and framed insulation will be analyzed to confirm they’re of tsunami origin.

Our survey at Ki’I Dunes highlighted the serious debris problem that plagues all of Hawaii’s coastlines. Dissimilar to many beaches, much of Hawaii’s debris is not left by beachgoers. Instead, it washes ashore originating from faraway lands.

Tsunami debris or not, unfortunately the world’s trash problem has become Hawaii’s unavoidable plastic debris problem. And I assure you in response to this unnatural “plastics” disaster, no Hawaiian is saying, Mahalo.

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