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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Trashing the Ocean: New Study Provides First Estimate of How Much Plastic Flows into the Ocean

Posted On February 13, 2015 by

8 million metric tons. That’s 17 billion pounds. That’s a big number. It’s also the amount of plastics that scientists have now estimated flow into the ocean every year from 192 countries with coastal access.

A groundbreaking study was published yesterday in the international journal Science and released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement for Science in San Jose, California. This work is part of an ongoing international collaboration among scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara to determine the scale, scope and impacts of marine debris – including plastics – on the health of the global ocean. Spearheaded by Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer from the University of Georgia, and other experts in oceanography, waste management and materials science, this is the first study to rigorously estimate the flow of plastic materials into the global ocean.

For the last decade, scientific evidence has been mounting that once plastic enters the ocean it can threaten a wide diversity of marine life (from the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales) through entanglement, ingestion or contamination. The images of how plastics kill wildlife aren’t pretty. But if we are going to stop this onslaught we must know how much material is entering and from where.

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What’s Lurking in the Ocean’s Depths?

Posted On October 29, 2014 by

Trick or treating in the ocean can be a matter of life or death. Meet four ocean creatures who might just surprise you!

Vampire Squid

You’ve no doubt heard of the famous vampire bat, but did you know that there’s a vampire squid? Don’t worry. It won’t fly out of the ocean to suck your blood. These cephalopods don’t even spray ink like other squids. They produce a bioluminescent mucus cloud that can glow for up to 10 minutes. They were given their names due to their blood red eyes, which can also look blue depending the lighting. Their bodies definitely reflect the gothic nature of vampires by being black or red. A web like material connects their tentacles. They can even envelop their bodies in their tentacles and webbing to shield themselves from predators.

Vampire squids live in really cold depths of the ocean with very little oxygen. This makes them far less threatening to humans than their name suggests. In order to conserve energy, they simply drift along the ocean currents and only eat dead plankton and fecal matter. Instead of fangs, vampire squids eat with their beaks.

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Happy World Octopus Day!

Posted On October 8, 2014 by

Photo: Jonas Gozjak

It’s impossible not to love octopuses. These cephalopods seem to have every evolutionary advantage you could imagine. Here are six of our favorites:

  1. The first and most obvious (it’s even in their name) is that octopuses have eight arms. Their arms are for much more than just reaching a difficult itch. If threatened, an octopus can sever one of its own arms to get away. The lost limb will grow back completely with all of its function. Because of its nine brains and more than half of its neurons being in its arms, individual arms can solve problems—like opening a jar—independently from the rest of the body. Octopuses also taste things by feeling them with their arms and skin.
  2. The beak is the only hard part of an octopus’ body, making it an extremely flexible animal. They can fit through anything as long as their beak can. Octopuses use their beaks to crack into their favorite shellfish meals. They can also produce a neurotoxin that paralyzes their prey and enzymes that help break down their food. The only octopus in the world with venom dangerous to humans is the blue-ringed octopus found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
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