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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Restoring Endangered Coral Reefs

Posted On July 28, 2016 by

With mass coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef making headlines all over the world this summer, we wanted to check in with Tripp Funderburk of Coral Restoration Foundation to learn how corals in our part of the ocean are faring.

First, what is the big deal about coral reefs?  

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. They provide three-dimensional habitat for an astonishing variety of plants and animals. While they occupy less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs support more than 25% of all marine life. They also shelter shorelines from storms and erosion, and provide food and jobs for coastal communities dependent on tourism and fishing.

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Senator Hirono Speaks Up for Coral Reefs

Posted On July 27, 2016 by

Written by Hawaiian Senator Mazie K. Hirono

Last month, 2,500 people from 97 countries flew to Hawaii–not for vacation, but to address the international crisis facing coral reefs around the world.

Participating in the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, these world leaders, scientists, activists and students issued a powerful call to action to address the growing threat of coral bleaching around the world.

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Corals are Like… What?!

Posted On July 25, 2016 by

This week we’re celebrating all things coral! It’s no secret that coral reefs are spectacular ecosystems, but we wanted to do a deep dive into what exactly makes corals so special. Check out nine ways corals are even cooler than you thought:

1)  Corals are like speed bumps. They slow down waves and lessen wave energy. This protects coastlines from hurricanes, cyclones and tsunamis. Coral reefs protect the shoreline in 81 countries around the world, sheltering the 200 million people living along those coasts.

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Eight Generations

Posted On July 21, 2016 by

Can you imagine a family in the same business for eight generations?  Talk about dedication and deep expertise! That is what struck me when I met the Haward family, who has been farming oysters since the 1700s.  Last month in West Mersea, England, I had the privilege of visiting Richard Haward’s Oysters. I was hosted by Richard himself, along with his son Bram. These men have inherited a craft honed by their great, great, great, great grandparents, but they are living in a time of unprecedented environmental change. And that is precisely why I was there, along with four American shellfish farmers. Specifically, we traveled to the United Kingdom to talk about ocean acidification and how it threatens the livelihoods and traditions of people who rely on the sea.

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Oysters and Beer

Posted On July 19, 2016 by

I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I drink it while eating oysters. Or at least that’s what I did in London a few weeks ago, with oyster farmers shucking local oysters right on the pub tables.

One of the perks of my job is to talk with oyster farmers, and oftentimes the most productive conversations and connections happen over drinks. In this instance, I was with American farmers Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms, Dan Grosse of Toby Island Bay Oyster Farm, Mike Martinsen of Montauk Shellfish Company and Terry Sawyer of Hog Island Oyster Company to talk about ocean acidification with shellfish farmers, scientists and government policy staff from the United Kingdom. After a long day of meetings we went to a pub in London to continue the discussion, and one of the UK farmers, Tristan Hugh-Jones of Rossmore Oysters, actually brought native oysters from his farm to share right in the pub. I’m not sure how much the pub employees appreciated it, but seeing all the growers compete for quickest and cleanest shucking job was entertaining for everyone.

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Tackling Ocean Acidification in Florida

Posted On July 6, 2016 by

As the state representative for the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade County, there are few things more important to our well-being than the health of our unique marine environment. We are home to the Everglades, the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world and the only living barrier reef in the continental United States. Since I took office, I have made it a priority to do everything I can to help raise awareness about our water issues in Tallahassee and we’ve made great progress in the last four years when it comes to improving water quality.

Despite this progress, there are still many stressors facing Florida’s oceans and ocean acidification (OA) is a particularly significant threat. Its impacts on our marine ecosystems are less visible so it has not been as widely discussed as other environmental threats, but that is starting to change, and I am excited to help bring further awareness to this issue. Side effects of acidification like decreases in coral reproduction, growth and calcification as well as slower shellfish growth mean that this is not an issue we can afford to ignore. Already, other fisheries across the country are seeing serious economic impacts from OA and if it continues unchecked, the impacts to Florida businesses and residents could be equally devastating.

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How Ocean Acidification Impacts Florida’s Ecosystems

Posted On June 15, 2016 by

Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Dr. Kimberly Yates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!

OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?

Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.

Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.

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