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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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A Major Sea Change: Ocean Acidification Becomes a Top Priority

Posted On September 26, 2013 by

Earlier this month, the Seattle Times unveiled their most ambitious multimedia project ever: Sea Change: The Pacific Ocean Takes a Perilous Turn.

After months of travel across the Pacific, journalists Craig Welch and Steve Ringman unveiled the thorough and striking series of videos, photographs and interviews that underline just what ocean acidification will mean for people. Welch and Ringman capture a changing ocean, focusing on how increasing acidification will impact communities along the Pacific Rim including American crab and shellfish industries.

The iconic oyster industries on both the East and West coasts have been coping with the effects of ocean acidification for almost a decade now—and research is showing that crabs and other shell-forming species may be seeing direct impacts soon.

The species in the crosshairs are not only culturally relevant, but also economically valuable—supporting jobs and feeding millions. This is serious business for the United States and other nations that depend on a healthy ocean.

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Harnessing the Power of Partnerships to Address Ocean Acidification

Posted On September 9, 2013 by

Today, the X Prize Foundation will announce something truly groundbreaking: a competition, sponsored by Wendy Schmidt, to address ocean acidification. Can I tell you how excited this makes me? There are people sitting up and paying attention to acidification, to the threat it poses to the ocean, and to the people and businesses that rely on a healthy ocean, in a way that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Ocean acidification is a big deal—some say it is one of the biggest challenges we face—an ever-changing ocean as a result of carbon pollution from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. This means that animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building the very shells needed for their survival.

So as we struggle to reduce carbon pollution, what can be done on ocean acidification? We must rely on monitoring and research to inform science and local responses.

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A Season of Hope for Progress on Ocean Acidification

Posted On September 5, 2013 by

Harvesting oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, California

Photo: Kathleen Hennessy / Ocean Conservancy

Fall is upon us, and with it comes a new season, new beginnings and new opportunities. The saying “hope springs eternal” evokes an entirely different season, but this autumn I’m feeling particularly excited and optimistic—and it has nothing to do with football. Great things are happening on ocean acidification, and this is an issue that I’m always happy to have something good to talk about.

Just last week, California announced a groundbreaking science panel comprised of world-class scientists from California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Long a leader on environmental issues, California is taking a page from Washington state’s excellent playbook in tackling ocean acidification at the state and local level.

State efforts to address this issue are essential. Ocean acidification is a global ocean health problem, caused by our increasing carbon emissions from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean—but its impacts are local. Ocean acidification is putting American jobs and livelihoods at risk.

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“Pacific Rim” Is Science Fiction Married With Marine Science

Posted On August 15, 2013 by

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Sage Melcer.

Need an excuse to beat the summer heat at the movies this month? Check out sci-fi thriller “Pacific Rim.” The summer blockbuster, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (director of “Pan’s Labyrinth”), marries science fiction with marine science for cinematic gold.

“Pacific Rim” takes place in 2020 when alien-like monsters, called the Kaiju, start emerging from an undersea volcano, destroying countless cities and millions of people. In order to defeat the Kaiju, global forces come together to create Jaegers, giant robots that are controlled by two neurologically synced pilots who take part in mind-blowing hand-to-hand combat with the invaders.

Seasoned pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is pulled back into the Jaeger program years after the loss of his co-pilot and brother during a Kaiju battle. He teams up with rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command the Jaeger Gypsy Danger, a nuclear-powered fighting legend. However Kaiju are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, and their occurrences are more frequent.

A scientist studying the Kaiju, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), discovers a way to connect with a Kaiju brain, stumbling upon a plan of attack that is more horrible than the human race could have possibly imagined.

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“Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change

Posted On August 12, 2013 by

Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

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Harbor Heroes: Little Oysters in the Big Apple

Posted On August 1, 2013 by

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Jaclyn Yeary.

After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last October, I read an op-ed by Paul Greenberg in the New York Times titled “An Oyster in the Storm” that inspired me. In his piece, he described how oysters can be used to protect the shorelines of our coastal cities while improving the water quality of America’s largest metropolis. The solution to two major issues seemed suddenly so obvious. I needed to learn more.

So I partnered with a friend to produce a short documentary titled “Harbor Heroes” about the importance of oysters to New York City. We interviewed an amazing group of individuals including students from the aquaculture program at the New York Harbor School, Philippe Cousteau and Paul Greenberg himself.

How do oysters help water quality?

The idea behind restoring New York’s oysters is this: oysters grow on top of one another, forming nurseries for baby fish and creating a base structure for reefs. Reefs act as natural surge protectors and reduce the size of waves during big storms. Like other mollusks, oysters are filter-feeders, which means they clean the water column as they eat. If the water quality improves enough, sea grass could grow and create a root network that would prevent the erosion of the shoreline.

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The Ocean: Our Greatest Natural Resource

Posted On June 27, 2013 by

I wrote recently for the State Department’s Our Planet blog about the importance of the ocean as a natural resource. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite the fact that our planet is 70 percent water, it’s easy to take for granted the many ways that the ocean keeps us alive. The ocean provides much of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the climate that surrounds us.

The complex ocean systems that produce these benefits—from currents and photosynthesis to food chains—are often chaotic and unpredictable at smaller scales, but at large scales they come together in a balanced way to ensure that life can thrive.

The ocean is resilient, and it will provide for us unless we forget about its vital role at the center of the biggest challenge of our time – how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us.

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