The Blog Aquatic » ocean conservation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:21:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: There’s a Map for That http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/24/the-gulf-of-mexico-ecosystem-theres-a-map-for-that/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/24/the-gulf-of-mexico-ecosystem-theres-a-map-for-that/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 12:53:35 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6148 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.

Not only is this atlas a great resource for everyone to learn about the Gulf ecosystem, but it can also serve as an important decision-making tool for resource managers who are charged with balancing the ever-increasing demands on the ocean with conserving a vibrant and resilient ecosystem.

These maps and their related descriptions are also important tools to use as we plan for the unprecedented restoration programs that are beginning to develop in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. These restoration programs are an amazing opportunity to help improve the health of the Gulf.

It is important that the critical resources illustrated in the atlas are taken into account in order to develop the most effective and comprehensive Gulf-wide restoration projects.

Check out the atlas now!

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A Small Boy’s Example: Anyone Can Make a Difference for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/22/a-small-boys-example-anyone-can-make-a-difference-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/22/a-small-boys-example-anyone-can-make-a-difference-for-the-ocean/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 14:34:28 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2256

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.

This truly is a family affair. Ryan had the idea to create the magnets and the desire to help the ocean, Dad created the artwork and Mom found a local boutique to sell them.

Love of ocean knowledge
As I talked with Ryan, I was amazed by his knowledge at such a young age. He walked around Ocean Conservancy’s St. Petersburg, Florida, office and easily identified the various marine animals in pictures on our walls.

He spouted fun facts, such as, “comb jellies are not related to jellyfish…they’re bioluminescent.” After seeing a kelp forest poster, he informed me that “they get kelp to make ice cream and paint.”

Witnessing trash hurting wildlife
I was curious about what motivated Ryan to protect the ocean and its creatures. He told me, “I want to help them because I felt bad when pollution like bags got in the water… I saw a bird picking at garbage and a garbage bag almost on a shark’s gills.”

I asked Ryan what he would tell people about trash in the ocean. He earnestly hopes people will dispose of trash properly.

You can make a difference
Often when I’m discussing taking action for a cause with people, they relay the sentiment, “I’m just one person, I can’t possibly have that big of an impact on the world.”
Ryan proves that you can.

To follow your heart like Ryan does and help protect clean water, you can make simple changes in your daily life such as becoming a recycling ninja, being a green boater and making educated decisions about your seafood.

You can also participate in local waterway cleanups such as Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Ryan will be there this fall, will you? Sign up to Cleanup!

Learn more about Ryan and his cause The Fishes Wishes on his Facebook page.

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Dreaming of Swimming with Sharks? Start with “the Domino” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/17/dreaming-of-swimming-with-sharks-start-with-the-domino/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/17/dreaming-of-swimming-with-sharks-start-with-the-domino/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 19:35:46 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2309

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 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/16/why-we-need-aquanauts-and-other-ocean-researchers/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/16/why-we-need-aquanauts-and-other-ocean-researchers/#comments Thu, 16 Aug 2012 15:12:21 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2229

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.

Three-and-a-half miles from shore and 60 feet down, the base sits right next to a spectacular coral reef in the Florida Keyes National Marine Sanctuary. It’s owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and run by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The base has allowed scientists to study the ocean much like astronauts study space.

Here today, gone tomorrow
But now its hatches are slated to be closed in December.  That’s right, Aquarius is a victim of the federal budget crunch. Just recently, renowned oceanographer and former Ocean Conservancy board member Sylvia Earle  led a team of “aquanauts” on the last Aquarius expedition. That’s not a good sign for the future of ocean conservation.

“As the inevitable budget cuts hit, ocean science and education will be battered,” says Dr. Ellen Prager, former chief scientist at the Aquarius Research Base.  “Let’s hope we are still left with programs that allow humans a real presence in the sea and the ability to observe the ocean firsthand.”

While NOAA has increased funding requests for national weather satellites,  ocean programs are the poor cousins. And growing poorer.

A frontier filled with benefits
Ocean research and conservation budgets are shrinking, yet we’ve explored only a fraction of this frontier that is essential to life on Earth—our planet’s life-support system. The ocean gives us so much, including:

  • air to breathe,
  • clean water,
  • economic support for countless communities, and
  • food for a hungry and growing world population.

We need more knowledge to better protect the ocean and all it offers—and to discover invaluable benefits we don’t even know about yet.

For example, scientists have only just begun to inventory the potential of ocean life for improving human health. Cancer and pain medications from the sea that make human lives better today could be followed by many more—if studies are funded.

“Research about ocean life and habitats may take place below the surface of the sea, but shouldn’t be at the bottom of the budgeting priority list,” says my colleague Emily Woglom, director of government relations here at Ocean Conservancy.

Conservation efforts like protecting the fragile Arctic from possible oil drilling impacts or restoring the Gulf of Mexico’s health require a foundation of robust scientific research on our coasts and in the sea.  We need funding for aquanauts and other researchers so we can count on the best possible future for our ocean—and ourselves.

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