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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Surfers Find a Way and So Will Japan

Posted On June 1, 2012 by

Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos

A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.

Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.

Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.

The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.

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Living in a Connected World: Lessons from Radioactivity in Tuna

Posted On June 1, 2012 by

Bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, credit: NOAA

In the arc of human history, it is only very recently that we have begun to live in a connected world. Long before Facebook and Twitter, human populations were separated by continents — and oceans — in ways that limited cultural and information exchange. It turns out the oceans are much more connected. This was brought home this week in a new scientific publication – and subsequent blog by my colleague Carl Safina – that unequivocally showed that Pacific bluefin tuna had transported radiation from the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan to the shores of California.

For many, this news will beg the question: “Should I avoid eating bluefin tuna?” The answer is unequivocally, “yes,” but not because of the radiation – which is at levels low enough that it won’t have an effect on humans – but because of sustainability. The Monterey Bay Aquarium rates bluefin as “avoid” because because they are being caught faster than they can reproduce. Attention sushi lovers: Bluefin is also known as hon maguro or toro (tuna belly). If you see it on the menu, and you care about the future of fish, you should avoid it. If conservation concerns don’t motivate you, the high price alone may steer you away. Continue reading »

Follow Me on a Journey to the Center of the Ocean

Posted On May 29, 2012 by

Nick Mallos

Nick Mallos

I’ve been in Japan for a week now, witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by the tsunami 15 months ago and helping with ongoing cleanup efforts as much as I can. At the end of the week, I set sail on the Algalita/5 Gyres Japanese Tsunami Expedition that will take me out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean in search of tsunami debris that was washed out to sea.

National Geographic has asked me to share updates about the expedition on their News Watch blog, so I posted my first entry while still on dry land.

Here’s an excerpt: Continue reading »

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Tsunami’s devastation still evident in Tohoku region of Japan

Posted On May 25, 2012 by

Tohoku building covered in tsunami debris

A fishing net hangs from a building in the Tohoku region of Japan. -- Credit: Nick Mallos

At 3:11 p.m. on March 11, 2011, 156 homes made up the village of Ryoishi in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. Five minutes later, six homes remained.

More than 15 months have elapsed since 100+ foot waves swept over the Tohoku region of Japan. Most of the world—along with many Japanese outside the region—assumes recovery and rebuilding efforts are almost complete. I assure you they are not.

I’ve spent the past two days walking the streets and shorelines of Kamaishi, Ryoishi and other villages in Iwate Prefecture, and the damage is indescribable.

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With sincere thanks: Guest post from JEAN

Posted On May 14, 2012 by

Credit: Izzy Schwartz

This is a guest post from Japan Environmental Action Network.

No matter where we live, we are united in our effort to leave a beautiful ocean for future generations. And with your support, we know this to be true now more than ever.

To all those who gave, thank you. We are so grateful for your donations to help JEAN continue working with the issue of marine debris in Japan.

Last year, Japan faced such a devastating disaster with the earthquake followed by the tsunami. Helping hands were lent from all over the world with encouragements and prayers. Together with site captains and volunteers who carry out or participate in the International Coastal Cleanup held through out Japan, we kept feeling sympathy for the rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas. During this time, we carried out actions of support in the way each of us are able to. At the same time, we’ve been able to continue having the Cleanup as we have been doing in years past.

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What’s on your beach? Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Trash Index

Posted On March 27, 2012 by

Today we release our latest data from our International Coastal Cleanup, a tsunami ghost ship appears and BP is still responsible for damage to the Gulf of Mexico.

Volunteers from the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup picked up enough food packaging for a person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years. At the same time, if all the butts that have been picked up by volunteers over the last 26 years were stacked up, they would be as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings. That’s a lot of trash.