Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Nearly two weeks after a ruptured pipeline spilled 105,000 gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara, hundreds of tired and oil-soaked workers are still on site working to scoop, boom and skim what they can of the 21,500 gallons estimated to have reached the ocean. As the slick spreads on the surface, and more oil sinks beneath the waves, a complicated environmental, chemical and biological process is unfolding in the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. While every oil spill differs depending on local conditions, science and past history allow us to anticipate some of the long-term impacts to marine wildlife, habitats and communities.
Oil produced offshore of Santa Barbara is particularly heavy and thick, likely worsening the effects of external exposure to marine birds, mammals and fish. These effects include smothering those animals that can’t move, and impairing the ability of some animals to insulate against cold water. Marine birds that become oiled may lose the ability to fly, forage and feed their young. Highly mobile birds and marine mammals that frequent the ocean surface, where spilled oil initially collects, are especially vulnerable. They may be exposed to oil in one location only to sicken or die elsewhere. The spill’s location in shallow, nearshore waters exposes a particularly rich array of wildlife and habitats to damage, including shorelines, sea grass, kelp beds, rocky reefs and kelp forests.
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At 1,400 miles in length, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on our planet and consists of more than 600 types of hard and soft corals. Thousands of varieties of fish and molluscs call this breathtaking maze home. And if that isn’t enough to impress you: the Great Barrier Reef is so massive it can be seen from outer space. Yes…outer space! Needless to say, visiting this special place has been on my bucket list since I was a kid and saw my first film chronicling the explorations of Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) also served as inspiration for California’s process to establish a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs), an effort I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working to support. So when I was invited to speak about these areas at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney this November, I jumped at the opportunity to attend, and to visit the Great Barrier Reef.
It was spectacular. I shared turquoise blue waters with blacktip reef and tawny nurse sharks, took flight with white-spotted eagle rays, and floated quietly in the presence of loggerhead sea turtles. Best of all, I got to rub elbows with the folks who make the GBRMP possible. And I learned that they spend a lot of time thinking about the same issues as we do: education and outreach, partnerships and local engagement, long-term monitoring, and best practices for enforcement.
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Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service
The world’s largest network of no-take marine reserves was announced today; 7 islands and atolls make up this vast area, and President Obama is taking action today to hugely expand the area protected around 3 of them. Here are 8 reasons why today’s announcement is a huge deal:
1) Protecting the ocean is bipartisan – Obama just built on President George W. Bush’s establishment of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in January of 2009 before he left office. Obama’s announcement today expands that network from nearly 83,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, or 370,000 square nautical miles.
2) This marine monument is so big, the states of Texas, California, and New York COMBINED could fit within its borders.
3) The monument spans the International Date Line; Wake Island inhabitants celebrate New Year before most people on Earth, and Johnston Atoll is one of the last places to sing Auld Lang Syne. It’s so big it can be in two days at once.
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Photo: cyclonebill via Flickr
I’ve recently returned from the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France. The experience of meeting so many different kinds of people, all equally passionate about the ocean, has inspired me. It’s planted a desire to follow up and exchange marine protected area stories—and recipes—from California with those from around the world.
To that end, please join me this Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 2-3 p.m. PST for a lively and fun Twitter Party, where you can share the global MPA stories you heard at IMPAC3. Missed the Congress? No problem—we’d like to hear your thoughts about MPAs, even if you weren’t there. Follow @ThePacificOcean, @OurOcean and @HealTheBay, or #MPAsWork to join the conversation (and win prizes!) this Wednesday.
Sarah Sikich (Heal the Bay) and I (Ocean Conservancy) will be leading the party, but it’s largely driven by participants. Topics will include: our evolving need to understand MPAs over the last decade, Sylvia Earle’s 50 Hope Spots, the value of urban MPAs, the issue of large MPAs and quantity versus quality, our shared MPA lessons from around the world and, of course, where we go from here.
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Photo: Kip Evans / Ocean Conservancy
The following is an excerpt from a post that originally appeared on National Geographic NewsWatch.
We may be from more than 80 countries, and we don’t all speak the same language, but after just two days, the 1,200 participants at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France, are bonding. We all believe marine protected areas (MPAs) play an important role in the future of our ocean. Throw in some shared awe over a bowl of bouillabaisse (so. much. fish!) and a few bottles of Provençal rosé, and we’ve got more than enough fodder to fill five days of conversation.
The best part of these conversations is their authenticity and substance. Like a secret handshake we all learned during our years spent advocating for, designing, monitoring or otherwise implementing MPAs, we’ve got a shorthand that—in spite of our differences—allows us to speak in a single language about protecting our global ocean. As a result, three things keep resonating in the presentations and conversations at IMPAC3: Continue reading »
Photo: Jonathan Hubbell / Photo Contest 2011
This blog originally appeared on Surfrider’s Coastal Blog and was authored by: Samantha Murray of Ocean Conservancy, Sarah Sikich of Heal the Bay and Stefanie Sekich-Quinn of Surfrider.
If you’ve been lucky enough to go for a dive, surf or kayak at the Channel Islands, it’s hard not to be captivated by the cathedral kelp forests, large fish cruising the reef and clean waves breaking under your surfboard. These islands, along with special places throughout the entire California coast, enjoy protections that allow the marine wildlife inside to thrive.
Like underwater parks, the marine protected areas (MPAs for short) here act as safe havens for marine life and giant kelp forests that call southern California’s coastline home. And the good news is that globally, MPAs are on the rise. There are over 6,000 MPAs worldwide, yet less than 2 percent of our ocean is protected.
Next week, ocean scientists, policymakers, leaders and conservation professionals will be convening in France to share ideas about how to foster MPA effectiveness around the world at the 2013 International Marine Protected Areas Congress. And California’s story will be among those in the fold.
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This article originally appeared at Audubonmagazine.org.
Whether novice or expert, birdwatchers in California delight in the avian abundance along the state’s coast. California also boasts the nation’s only statewide network of marine protected areas, providing not only gorgeous places to seek out a stunning diversity of birds but insurance that their most important breeding and feeding grounds have extra protection.
Below is a list of the top bird-watching spots at these “ocean parks,” plus highlights. Additionally, there is information about visiting, plus a link to where you can learn more.
1. Point St. George Reef Offshore State Marine Conservation Area
Viewing site, interpretive panel on Pebble Beach Drive, just south of Point St. George
Originally inhabited by the Tolowa Dee-ni’, California’s northernmost coast boasts some of the most dramatic scenery in the state and is dotted with Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas. A wide range of bird species live and migrate around nearby Lake Earl, and the profusion continues at sea, where exposed rocks and underwater ledges make up the St. George Reef. Reaching the protected area requires a boat, but visitors can experience similar conditions from the safety of the shoreline just south of the point, where Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge sits.
The refuge is a modest 14 acres, yet it supports several hundred thousand seabirds each year. Take a spotting scope to Pebble Drive from February to mid-April to catch the dawn fly-off of Aleutian cackling geese. Observe one of the largest breeding populations—100,000—of common murres making their nests along the island’s cliffs. Castle Rock is also home to three species of cormorants, pigeon guillemots, Cassin’s and rhinoceros auklets, Leach’s and fork-tailed storm-petrels, and tufted puffins.
More info: fws.gov/humboldtbay/castlerock.html
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