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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: There’s a Map for That

Posted On June 24, 2013 by

Blue crab map from Gulf AtlasDo you know the Gulf of Mexico? Do you really know the wildlife that lives in its waters or how we use its resources—for better or worse—to support our economy?

I thought I had a grasp on this before beginning a multi-year project that mapped important things in the Gulf. Now that the project is finished, I know there’s even more to see than I knew about! Ocean Conservancy’s new tool, “The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas,” can help you get a better view of the Gulf too.

The Gulf is a complex ecosystem full of an amazing diversity of wildlife and an abundance of resources. We need to know what lives in it and where it can all be found so we can protect, conserve and restore this beautiful natural treasure.

Gulf Atlas coverThe atlas is a unique collection of 54 maps and related descriptions that illustrate and describe where you will find many invertebrates, fish, birds and marine mammals in the Gulf. Among many other species, you can learn more about sperm whales, whale sharks, blue crabs (see map above) and black skimmers.

You can look at the physical characteristics, habitats and environmental stressors in the Gulf. Sea surface currents, bottom sediments, hurricane track density and all of the known locations of coral are shown in the atlas.

You will also be able to see how people use the Gulf for recreational fishing, shrimp trawling and major oil and gas development. The areas set aside for coastal and marine protection have been included as well. Continue reading »

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A Small Boy’s Example: Anyone Can Make a Difference for the Ocean

Posted On August 22, 2012 by

Instead of saying “cheese,” Ryan shouts “FISHIES!” The ocean is lucky to have this boy on its side.

You are never too old—or too young—to have an impact on the world.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a five-year-old with a big heart. Ryan, whose favorite fish is “the puffer fish ’cause he blows up into a big prickly ball,” wanted to help the ocean.

With his parents Angela and Matt, he came up with the idea of creating and selling ocean-themed magnets. And he generously decided to donate half the profits to Ocean Conservancy to help protect ocean life.

When Angela considered using starfish or sand dollars for the magnets, Ryan was the one who quickly nixed this idea because they are living creatures. Instead, he picked driftwood.

Continue reading »

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Dreaming of Swimming with Sharks? Start with “the Domino”

Posted On August 17, 2012 by

High on my bucket list: a swim with sharks. And if I’m going to be up-close-and-personal, my first pick is to be introduced to the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark.

Nicknamed “dominoes,” these guys may grow to more than 65 feet over their long lives. To give you some perspective, recall the feeling you get standing next to the bulk of a school bus, typically less than 40 feet long. Now imagine being in the water with a whale shark. I’m thinking the wow factor is huge, especially after viewing this video.

The IUCN lists these gentle giants as “vulnerable.” Long sought after for their fins, (finnning has caused many shark populations to plummet), the good news is that whale sharks are now a growing draw for tourists. And there’s quite an emphasis on responsible practices when it comes to tours that offer swimming with whale sharks.

Hopefully, increasing awareness and appreciation of both their role in the sea and their ecotourism value for many coastal communities will give a new meaning to the term “domino effect,” and these beauties will thrive long into the future rather than facing a cascading population decline from finning and other threats in their ocean home.

I have to admit that I’m attracted by the fact that they’re slow-moving in a dreamy sort of way. And that they live in beautiful warm waters like Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Besides, who can resist meeting a critter with polka dots? I think I’ll be moving this item up on my bucket list.

Video found on Sensory Ecology.

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Why We Need Aquanauts and Other Ocean Researchers

Posted On August 16, 2012 by

Imagine a space station built to explore the incredible universe beneath the sea: An underwater lab where marine scientists could literally immerse themselves in research on ocean life. How cool would that be?

As the many scientists who have worked at the Aquarius Reef Base can tell you, very cool. It’s a little known fact that the United States has been home to the only such research lab in the world for 50 years. You can experience life in Aquarius by watching the above video from One World One Ocean. Continue reading »