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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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UPDATE: The Ocean in a High CO2 World

Posted On June 25, 2013 by

polar bearsPresident Obama’s plan to address climate change is a step in the right direction on the long road toward making real progress in reducing carbon pollution. There is no greater threat to the life on our planet than the effects of putting too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we are already seeing the impacts. It’s urgent, and we must act now.

The Arctic is experiencing the effects of climate change more than anywhere else, with air temperatures warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Water temperatures are rising and seasonal sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace.

As we have increased the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air, the ocean has absorbed more and more of it, becoming 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This has a ripple effect up the food web and across livelihoods.

There is something we can do about it. The ocean should be at the center of our solutions to the rising threat of carbon pollution. You can learn more about Ocean Conservancy’s work on this issue in my blog, The Ocean in a High CO2 World:

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SCUBAnauts: Underwater Ambassadors of the Next Generation

Posted On June 17, 2013 by

I did not grow up with one foot in the ocean, like so many of my colleagues in ocean conservation. I am unequivocally from the mountains of western North Carolina. As a kid, the body of water I was most familiar with was a mountain stream. My family vacations consisted mainly of camping trips to places with names like Cataloochee, with a few beach trips here and there. I always saw the ocean as something “else” – something beyond my reach, however big and amazing and awesome it was.

But all that changed about a decade ago when I started working in marine conservation. I haven’t really looked back since – the more I’ve learned about the ocean and its diverse life, the more I want to learn. And the more I want to help other people see and understand how so much of what we depend on – health, food, air, enjoyment, inspiration – comes from this body of water that can be equally amazing and terrifying, depending on the day, hour or minute.

That’s why I was so excited and honored to meet the Tarpon Springs, FL Chapter of SCUBAnauts International while they were visiting Washington, DC for Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Young people 12-18 learn to scuba dive, conduct scientific research and develop conservation projects — all with the goal of fostering a greater understanding of our underwater world through hands-on experience and personal development. The SCUBAnauts have been diving for years – most of them since they were 12. I just learned to dive two months ago in Australia, and my first thought as I went underwater was, ‘why did I wait so long?’ (I could see this same question in the ‘nauts’ faces as I relayed this information). Even though I know, logically, that there is a whole other world beneath the waves, seeing it up close and personal brought it home for me in a way I can’t describe. These young people are experiencing that underwater magic at an age that can influence their entire view of the world.

The SCUBAnauts and I talked about ocean acidification, a growing problem that is putting what they care about at risk. As we emit more and more carbon pollution into the atmosphere, from factories, cars, power plants, the ocean absorbs roughly a quarter of those emissions. When this much carbon is being absorbed by the ocean, a chemical process occurs, turning the ocean more acidic. Oysters, clams, mussels, coral and other animals have trouble building the shells necessary for their survival. It’s a problem that is already impacting coastal communities and businesses. The SCUBAnauts asked what they can do about ocean acidification. My response: “talk about it to your friends and family. Learn about it. Share stories about acidification on facebook, twitter. Make it the topic of your research.” To solve the problem, people first need to know about the problem.

There are so many huge challenges facing our ocean – acidification, overfishing, pollution. The root of many of these problems is a lack of understanding of how much we all rely on the ocean. From those of us who grow up in the mountains, to the Midwest, to the coast – we all need a healthy ocean. It provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, the places nearest and dearest to our heart. The SCUBAnauts give me hope that we can tackle these problems. They are ocean ambassadors for the next generation.

Why Exploring the Ocean is More than Cool, it’s Vital

Posted On June 11, 2013 by

The submersible Deepsea Challenger which James Cameron piloted to the deepest parts of the ocean floor, on display outside Senate office buildings in Washington, DC — credit Julia Roberson

Later today filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron will be headlining a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee about the importance of funding ocean science and exploration. Also on display outside the hearing is the Deepsea Challenger, the submersible Cameron piloted in a historic solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench.

Fantastic voyages like the one taken by James Cameron are truly inspiring for the sheer physical accomplishment. But they are also a stark reminder of how little we still know and understand about the ocean. In a world where the chemistry of the ocean is now changing faster than life can adapt, it’s vitally important that we learn as much as we can about the ocean to better prepare for the future.

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Senator Lautenberg: A Hero for Our Ocean

Posted On June 3, 2013 by

Ocean Conservancy expresses condolences to the family and friends of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for their loss at his passing.  Senator Lautenberg was a tireless protector of not just New Jersey, but all of our waters and coastlines.  He was a true environmental champion who will be sorely missed by all those who care about our ocean.  During his long career, he built an incredible legacy of conservation.  Here are just few key highlights:

  • He introduced and passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act so that the government could be begin coordinating research on the changing chemistry of the ocean.
  • He successfully fought to improve water quality and curb ocean dumping of sewage and plastics.
  • He wrote and passed the BEACH Act, a law to improve water quality monitoring standards and make sure the public is informed about the safety of their beaches.
  • He was a strong advocate for action to reduce pollution and tackle climate change, pushing for a clean energy future, reducing carbon pollution and promoting renewable energy.
  • He was a tireless advocate for the prevention of oil spills, and was part of congressional efforts to put in place tighter regulations, and to get companies to use stronger “double-hulled tankers” to prevent oil spills. He worked to prevent offshore oil drilling along the Atlantic coast.
  • As the Chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the regulation of toxic chemicals, Senator Lautenberg  held hearings and introduced legislation to put the burden on chemical companies to provide data to the EPA so that Americans can be assured the chemicals they are exposed to are safe. He was a champion for the public’s right to know more about the pollution being released into their neighborhoods and created the Toxic Release Inventory.
  • He introduced and passed the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act to awards grants to states with approved coastal management programs to protect environmentally sensitive lands.

Senator Lautenberg stands on the Asbury Park Boardwalk with Rep. Frank Pallone and others to call for full funding for BEACH Act grants and push new federal legislation that would strengthen existing water quality protection programs.(August 23, 2012) www.lautenberg.senate.gov

 

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Ocean Acidification: A Pain in the Arctic

Posted On May 17, 2013 by

credit – Ocean Conservancy

No matter where you live, if you go outside and start walking north, at some point you’ll reach the Arctic Ocean. A vast expanse at the northern reaches of the planet, the Arctic Ocean supports a dizzying array of ocean wildldife, including the charismatic – and much threatened – polar bear. Most readers of The Blog Aquatic know that summer sea ice has been rapidly melting, caused by human-induced climate change from our ever rising global carbon emissions. Indeed, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere just broke a new record high.

But more poorly understood is that carbon dioxide is beginning to undermine the Arctic ocean itself through a process called ocean acidification. No less than 10 key scientific findings  can be found in a just-released assessment of ocean acidification undertaken by an international group of independent scientists.

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New Report: The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries

Posted On May 6, 2013 by

A fisherman adds a red snapper to the pile on a dock in Destin, Florida. – Photo: Tom McCann

As fishermen, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean experts from around the country gather in Washington this week to discuss the future of fisheries in America, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are releasing a joint report highlighting many of the stories that show how fisheries management is succeeding.

The Washington Post covered the report over the weekend, focusing on our belief that while fisheries management is working, we must also let it keep on working if we’re going to face global challenges like ocean acidification and climate change:

More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.

The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act” is a primer and collection of stories that highlight pioneers of American fishery management as well as innovators who are opening fishing frontiers, revealing:

  • How a salmon fishing pioneer’s courage in making sacrifices for long-term sustainability set the stage for Alaska’s success.
  • How successful fishermen from Alaska to Florida used discipline to turn around two decades of overfishing.
  • How West Coast fishermen found the flexibility to make a living within rebuilding programs.
  • How fishing entrepreneurs in Port Clyde, ME, turned leadership into opportunity.
  • Why rebuilding important recreational species such as summer flounder, bluefish, and lingcod provides economic as well as enjoyment payoffs.
  • What commercial and recreational fishermen believe we get from good stewardship.

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Ocean Acidification is About What We Eat

Posted On May 2, 2013 by

A Seattle Chef prepares crisp smelt while learning about the local impacts of ocean acidification – credit Zach Lyons

Earlier this April, Ocean Conservancy and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative co- hosted an event featuring what was probably the most delicious seafood in the world. The Seattle Chef’s Collaborative is a local chapter of a national organization that brings chefs together to meet, learn, and advocate. They are not a traditional conservation organization, but in this case were gathered to talk about little-known local species, a problem called ocean acidification, and to enjoy their colleagues’ creations featuring the very species discussed.

Ocean acidification, caused by rising CO₂ emissions being absorbed by the ocean can be a pretty daunting topic.  We are always asking ourselves, “how do we move this conversation from small groups of scientists and managers to the bus stops and dinner tables where most of us hang out”

Well, everyone has to eat, and for the most part, they enjoy doing so.

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