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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Spotted! It’s Whale Shark Season in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On July 29, 2013 by

whale shark

A whale shark swims at the West Flower Garden Bank in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Ryan Eckert / Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

It’s prime time for spotting whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico!

Whale shark sightings in the Gulf are recorded and tracked by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi. According to their data set, 85 percent of sightings in the Gulf since 2002 have occurred from June to October and peaked in July.

Take a look at the map below from our Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas to see where sightings have occurred in the past.

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The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: There’s a Map for That

Posted On June 24, 2013 by

Blue crab map from Gulf AtlasDo you know the Gulf of Mexico? Do you really know the wildlife that lives in its waters or how we use its resources—for better or worse—to support our economy?

I thought I had a grasp on this before beginning a multi-year project that mapped important things in the Gulf. Now that the project is finished, I know there’s even more to see than I knew about! Ocean Conservancy’s new tool, “The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas,” can help you get a better view of the Gulf too.

The Gulf is a complex ecosystem full of an amazing diversity of wildlife and an abundance of resources. We need to know what lives in it and where it can all be found so we can protect, conserve and restore this beautiful natural treasure.

Gulf Atlas coverThe atlas is a unique collection of 54 maps and related descriptions that illustrate and describe where you will find many invertebrates, fish, birds and marine mammals in the Gulf. Among many other species, you can learn more about sperm whales, whale sharks, blue crabs (see map above) and black skimmers.

You can look at the physical characteristics, habitats and environmental stressors in the Gulf. Sea surface currents, bottom sediments, hurricane track density and all of the known locations of coral are shown in the atlas.

You will also be able to see how people use the Gulf for recreational fishing, shrimp trawling and major oil and gas development. The areas set aside for coastal and marine protection have been included as well. Continue reading »

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Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Posted On May 29, 2013 by

Hurricane Katrina

Source: www.katrina.noaa.gov

As most ocean lovers know, June 1 marks the official start of hurricane season. With torrential rains, storm surges and substantial winds, hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland, but you can increase your chances of safety by being prepared.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture and relatively light winds. If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods we associate with hurricanes.

Hurricanes are an intense tropical weather system with well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher. Major hurricanes have maximum sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or higher, which corresponds to Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Here’s an animation that illustrates wind damage associated with increasing hurricane intensity.

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Video: America’s Ocean Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

Posted On May 24, 2013 by

This is a guest blog post from Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Coastal Resources Center and Director of Extension Programs for Rhode Island Sea Grant.

In Rhode Island and beyond, coastal communities are working on plans to manage the ocean’s resources in ways that generate new industries, support job creation, and provide food and services to an ever-increasing population.

This film is the first in a series that explores this effort with ocean practitioners from around the world and provides an overview of economic issues related to ocean planning. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share the remaining three films in the series, which focus on offshore renewable energy, fisheries and the environment.

The film series is supported by several funders and partners, including The URI Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Marine Affairs Research and Education (MARE), the team behind OpenChannels.org. Media firm Zygote Digital Films Inc. developed the series.

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Crowdsourcing the Ocean Floor: How Mariners Can Gather Valuable Information for Better Decision-Making

Posted On February 21, 2013 by

Sea Tow vessels in Coastal New Jersey (left) and expeditionary cruise ships in Antarctica (right) provide insights where survey data or official charts do not exist.

This is a guest post from Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA and John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

How is one sailboat captain helping improve maritime safety for all cargo ships and commercial fishermen?

By providing data to develop more detailed up-to-date, even up-to-the-minute, nautical charts.

As our demands for the use of the ocean increase, including for marine transportation, you might be surprised to learn that the most basic information for any mariner — bathymetry (or information about water depth and the sea floor) — is incomplete and outdated in many areas.

If a large metal object fell from a truck onto a road, we would notice it immediately. Yet if this occurred in a waterway, it might not be apparent until the object was struck by a ship, as happened in 2004 when a submerged anchor, not indicated on any charts, punctured the hull of the tanker Athos I and caused an oil spill in the Delaware River.

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