Ocean Currents » noaa http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Congress Wants More Attention on Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 00:57:41 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10286

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, MassMatt

Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.

Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.

No one wants to be caught unprepared for acidification as the Pacific Northwest was when it dealt with the oyster baby die-offs of 2005-2009 in its hatcheries.  Right now important fisheries such as the salmon, Dungeness crab and lobster fisheries in the northwest and northeast parts of the country are in that particular proverbial boat, as they have little to no science on the impacts of acidification.

Funding this research and science to support local decision-makers with information is also critical in fighting ocean acidification, and in fact, Congress is deciding how much to spend on acidification research and monitoring right now.  For context, last year, Congress funded the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) at $8.5 million for the year.  So far this year, it looks like this figure will hold steady thanks to Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), and Representatives Bonamici (OR-1st) and Heck (WA-10th) who led letters to their colleagues on the committees who make these funding decisions in support of the NOAA OAP budget which had a total of 64 members of Congress sign on in bipartisan support.

With these proposed assessments to inform communities from H.R. 2553, and the consistent support of federal funding, we hope our communities, coasts and marine industries can defend themselves from ocean acidification and continue thriving into the future.


http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/feed/ 0
The Evidence Mounts: Another Study Links Dolphin Deaths in the Gulf to BP http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/21/the-evidence-mounts-another-study-links-dolphin-deaths-in-the-gulf-to-bp/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/21/the-evidence-mounts-another-study-links-dolphin-deaths-in-the-gulf-to-bp/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 12:30:38 +0000 Alexis Baldera http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10239

Yesterday, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published new results from a series of studies in which they have investigated the unusually high number of dolphin deaths occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. Since 2010, scientists have conducted autopsies on dead dolphins to try and understand why they are dying.

They found significantly higher numbers of dolphins with severe lung disease and lesions on their adrenal glands in oiled areas than in non-oiled areas. Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson described the adrenal disease as forcing dolphins to precariously balance on a ledge which cold temperatures, pregnancy and infection can push them off, resulting in death. The lesions observed in dolphins were “some of the most severe lung lesions ever seen in wild dolphins throughout the U.S.” according to lead Pathologist, Dr. Katie Colegrove. NOAA is decisive in concluding that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused the dolphin deaths in the Northern Gulf: “The timing, location, and nature of the detected lesions support that contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused these lesions and contributed to the high numbers of dolphin deaths within this oil spill’s footprint.”

These new findings are backed up by earlier studies. One publication reported dolphins in Barataria Bay had symptoms consistent with petroleum exposure that were threatening their survival. Another study analyzed where and when dolphins were stranding, and found areas contaminated with oil in 2010 and 2011 also had the highest numbers of dolphin deaths.

As researchers continue to publish the results of studies, we will further understand the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. We will also begin to understand if impacted animals and places are recovering. Bob Spies, former chief scientist for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, recently said “If we care enough to understand impacts, I hope we care enough to understand recovery.” This reminds me that understanding the impacts is only the first step in restoring the Gulf. The people who live in the Gulf will rely on it throughout their lifetimes, and long-term research and environmental monitoring will provide us with the tools we need to continue to not only hold BP accountable, but also restore the Gulf.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/21/the-evidence-mounts-another-study-links-dolphin-deaths-in-the-gulf-to-bp/feed/ 11
NOAA Says Shell Drilling Would Impact Thousands of Marine Mammals http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 19:28:33 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9986

Earlier this year, President Obama took executive action to protect some of the Arctic Ocean’s most significant marine areas from the threats posed by oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately, some areas of the Arctic Ocean were left open to oil companies, and oil giant Shell has been gearing up to make another attempt to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released an analysis that details how Shell’s proposed drilling operations may impact whales and seals. The results? Tens of thousands of of animals may be exposed to noise that could disrupt vital life activities like migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, and sheltering. NOAA’s analysis determined that more than 50,000 seals and more than 6,000 whales–including belugas, bowheads, grays, and humpbacks–could be affected by Shell’s proposed drilling activities.

Arctic whales and seals are already feeling the effects of climate change and the rapid loss of summer sea ice; the impacts associated with Shell’s proposed drilling activities would only add to their stress. Drilling activities also present the risk of a catastrophic oil spill, and extreme conditions like changing sea ice, fog, and high winds make meaningful cleanup all but impossible in the Arctic Ocean. A disaster like the Deepwater Horizon in the Chukchi Sea would devastate marine wildlife and jeopardize food security in Alaska Native communities.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will soon decide whether to approve Shell’s proposals to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer. Join us in taking a stand against reckless drilling: Tell the Secretary of the Interior to say “no” to Shell. Sign our petition, today.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/11/noaa-says-shell-drilling-would-impact-thousands-of-marine-mammals/feed/ 2
The President’s Budget… What’s at Stake for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/02/the-presidents-budget-whats-at-stake-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/02/the-presidents-budget-whats-at-stake-for-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 02:19:58 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9796

Photo: NOAA

Today, President Obama released his proposed federal budget for 2016, kicking off what will be a lengthy debate between the White House and Congress on how to fund the government for the next year.

It’s a big proposal, and inside-the-beltway fights over topics like sequestration and budget reconciliation often seem abstract and disconnected from what really matters on the ground. But things like budget sequestration DO matter. They matter a lot. And they matter for the ocean.

Back in 2011 Congress and the Obama Administration agreed to a series of harmful budget cuts called sequestration. The threat of sequestration was intended to force compromise by guaranteeing automatic, across-the-board budget cuts to the whole government if Congress couldn’t reach agreement on how to fund the government. These cuts were never meant to be implemented; they were put into place to force cooperation on a budget deal.

Since 2011, there have been a few times when Congress and the White House have reached comprehensive deals on federal funding. Just last year a budget deal led to important investments in programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Other years, however, failure to reach a government-wide budget agreement has had severe consequences for the ocean – in 2013 NOAA’s budget was cut by $160 million because a deal could not be made.

So for next year, here is the big question: Will Congress and the president reach a compromise that will protect investments in these important programs?

The president’s budget seems to indicate that he wants a deal. The proposed 2016 budget would reverse the harmful sequestration cuts, allowing the government to invest in programs that support a healthy ocean, coastal communities and livelihoods across the country.  That’s why in the president’s budget Obama proposes strong funding for NOAA, including the following

  • $50 million for regional coastal resilience grants – competitive grants from NOAA that support work to address changing ocean conditions such as chemistry and ecology, sea level rise and coastal inundation, weather hazard risks, new ocean uses, and increasing use conflicts.
  • $30 million for ocean acidification research – acidification is changing the very chemical nature of our ocean, harming many important species and the fishermen, shellfish farmers, coastal communities and tourists who depend on productive coastal areas for their livelihoods.
  • $163 million for fisheries data collections, surveys, and assessments that provide the basic information needed to sustainably manage our nation’s fisheries and end overfishing for good.

Today, the president is proposing to invest in ocean health, coastal resilience and people’s livelihoods. In the coming months, it will be up to Congress and the White House to come together and reach agreement so that scientists and ocean experts at NOAA can continue their important work.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/02/the-presidents-budget-whats-at-stake-for-the-ocean/feed/ 4
This is a First For Sharks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/13/this-is-a-first-for-sharks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/13/this-is-a-first-for-sharks/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8993

Happy Shark Week! We have some shark news to share with you — help is on the way for scalloped hammerhead sharks! Will you join us in thanking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for helping these sharks by granting them protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Thank NOAA today for protecting endangered scalloped hammerheads.

Scalloped hammerheads are the first sharks ever to receive this protection. They’re extremely vulnerable to shark finning and fishery bycatch throughout much of their range. This is a much-needed boost for this critically important and threatened species. In the last 20 years alone, the number of scalloped hammerheads has fallen by 75 percent. A loss like this has impacts throughout the rest of the ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks play a key role in controlling the abundance of prey they feed on.

Thank NOAA today for protecting endangered scalloped hammerheads.

I truly hope you’ll join us in thanking NOAA for protecting scalloped hammerheads. This is a great first step in the road to their recovery and to having a healthier ocean.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/13/this-is-a-first-for-sharks/feed/ 0
Toilets Are Scary, Sharks Are Not http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/12/toilets-are-scary-sharks-are-not/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/12/toilets-are-scary-sharks-are-not/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8982

Photo: Armando Jenik

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy’s Digital Communications Intern, Maggie Tehan. Maggie is a recent graduate from Clemson University where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in Writing. When she’s not working at Ocean Conservancy, you can find Maggie expressing her biting wit on social media (pun intended), cheering on her favorite football teams, and wishing she had a permanent ocean view. 

What emotion comes to your mind when you think about sharks? For many people around the world, that emotion is fear. But why is there so much fear surrounding the topic of sharks?

Unfortunately, sharks have a well-known negative image, instilled in us by movies and news stories that continue to terrify people. The media has introduced a sense of fear in us and because of this distorted framing; sharks have been branded as villains or “man-eaters,” and have been feared and hunted for centuries. But is the media really classifying the right group as villains?

Humans fear the unknown and assumed threats, but sharks fear the legitimate perils that they face everyday. I know what you are thinking, what should sharks be afraid of? Well, it’s us. Humans threaten sharks livelihood day in and day out.  Sharks are some of the most biologically vulnerable creatures in the ocean because they grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.

In the 400 million years that sharks have roamed the ocean, they have been hunted for their meat, fins, teeth and more. Every day, 250,000 sharks are pulled out of the ocean and killed for their fins, meat and liver oil or as bycatch when they are accidentally caught in fishing nets or on hook and line. Humans slaughter more than 100 million sharks every year. Recently, overfishing has caused severe declines in shark populations.  The spiny dogfish shark, previously one of the most ample shark species in the works is now depleted off the U.S. East Coast.

Additionally, sharks face the threat of finning, the practice of cutting off the shark’s fin and tossing the carcass back into the water where they face a certain death. Shark fins are highly prized ingredients to a so-called delicacy, shark fin soup.  While shark finning has been banned in all U.S. waters, it still occurs legally in many parts of the world.

The negative media spotlight continues to hinder shark conservation efforts. Sharks are apex predators, which means they play a vital role atop the ocean food web, balancing many trophic systems. Because of this, shark conservation is crucial. The absence of sharks would threaten to affect the balance of delicate marine ecosystems that we have come to know and love.

Every year, dogs, bees, snakes, and pigs kill more people than sharks do. And in a single year in the United States, 43,000 people were injured by toilets while only 13 were wounded by sharks. That’s right—your toilet is 3,000 times more likely to hurt you than a shark.  Don’t let your misguided fear hinder shark conservation efforts and instead be educated on the legitimate risks associated with sharks.

Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. government is now protecting scalloped hammerheads under the Endangered Species Act. Scalloped hammerheads are the first shark species to ever receive such federal protections. You can do your part too, let NOAA know that you appreciate and support what they have done to protect scalloped hammerheads.

Let’s all be informed, aid conservation efforts and avoid being another shark’s nightmare.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/12/toilets-are-scary-sharks-are-not/feed/ 13
Honoring the Women Who Fight for Our Ocean (Part 2) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/27/honoring-the-women-who-fight-for-our-ocean-part-2/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/27/honoring-the-women-who-fight-for-our-ocean-part-2/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:47:41 +0000 Jackie Yeary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7931 In honor of Women’s History Month, Ocean Conservancy will be publishing a three-part blog series highlighting some of the amazing female scientists who study and protect our ocean.

Kathryn Sullivan

We recently told you about Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the astronaut-turned-ocean champion who was just confirmed as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA aims to provide “science, service and stewardship” to the American people. It works to understand and predict changes in weather, climate, the ocean and coasts, and to conserve and manage marine ecosystems and resources.

If being the first American woman to walk in space isn’t impressive enough for you, she’s also earned her chops as an ocean explorer.

After working as an astronaut for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she served as an oceanographer in the U.S. Navy Reserve for 18 years, and became chief scientist for NOAA in 1993. She has also served as NOAA’s assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy administrator. Sullivan’s roles have given her experience in a variety of topics, including fisheries biology, climate change and marine biodiversity.

With such a lifelong passion for the ocean, we’re happy to see her leading NOAA. She has proven that she cares about protecting the ocean and the people who depend on it. After being approved as head of NOAA, Sullivan said, “NOAA provides the environmental intelligence that helps citizens, businesses and governments make smart choices. Mission first, people always—this is my commitment to the American people and to the NOAA workforce.”

Sue Moore

Dr. Sue Moore is a NOAA biological oceanographer who studies the ecology, bioacoustics and natural history of whales and dolphins living in the Arctic. She currently serves on a variety of boards and committees for which she uses her scientific expertise to protect marine mammals from the effects of man-made sounds, whaling and other threats.

Moore has served on the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission to push for the use of scientific data in the protection and management of vulnerable whale species. She’s also worked with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory and as an associate professor at the University of Washington.

Recently, some of her research has used acoustic sonobuoys and hydrophones (tools for recording underwater noises made by whales) to determine the number and distribution of whales, seals and other animals in the Arctic while seeing if sounds could be linked to behavioral patterns. As we continue to see changes in the Arctic, marine mammals are canaries in the coal mine. Scientists can gather insight into physical changes in their ecosystem through their behavior and response.

“Marine mammals can act as ecosystem sentinels because they respond to climate change through shifts in distribution, timing of their movements and feeding locations,” Moore said. “These long-lived mammals also reflect changes to the ecosystem in their shifts in diet, body condition and physical health.”

Sarah Cooley

Dr. Sarah Cooley is an earth scientist who currently works as the science outreach manager for Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Acidification program. She recently joined us from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts where she researched communities affected by ocean acidification.

At Ocean Conservancy, Cooley continues to work with oceanographers, fishery scientists, economists, geographers and policy specialists to collect data on how quickly ocean acidification is occurring, how it affects marine species, how humans use those species and the potential it has to impact society and the economy.

Cooley has already begun a number of projects, including attending the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu. She’s also active in the social media sphere, sharing her thoughts on all things related to ocean acidification.

Regarding her passion for developing solutions to ocean acidification, Cooley said, “My hunger for exploring people’s experiences of global change has now lured me into the policy world. I’m excited to distill technical knowledge into lessons that real people can use to plan ahead.”

To view part 1 of the series, please click here.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/27/honoring-the-women-who-fight-for-our-ocean-part-2/feed/ 0