Ocean Currents » ocean policy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Advocates to Leave Their Mark http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:39:07 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11937

Most college students like me are familiar with the all-too-common rollercoaster: late nights spent pondering the future, deciding how to leave our proverbial mark on the world. We feel weightless as the pieces of one puzzle seem to fall into place, but then watch miserably as those visions crumble, battered by new uncertainties.

But I have known of my purpose for years: to save the ocean.

Ever since I was little, I have found the ocean’s vast complexities intriguing. The ocean influences almost every aspect of life on our fragile planet—an awe-inspiring fact that is underscored as I learn more as a student of environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland.

Despite my passion to fight for the ocean, I have occasionally ridden that rollercoaster, questioning my capacity to make a difference. How can one individual really make a difference in saving the biggest entity on our planet?

I needed a healthy dose of inspiration, and quickly.

And inspiration is exactly what I received today at Ocean Conservancy, where I work as an intern with the government relations team. It was delivered by Representative Sam Farr of the 20th District of California, who has been a true champion of our ocean during his decorated Congressional career.

I listened in fascination as the Representative eloquently reflected on his ocean conservation journey. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, the Representative works to inform Members of Congress about topics from marine debris to ocean acidification. He has introduced robust ocean legislation and initiated the B-WET education program, nurturing the next generation of budding ocean enthusiasts.

The Representative stressed the importance of the individual activist’s voice, noting that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease…so we gotta keep on squeaking.” I am inspired to “keep on squeaking,” because the Representative’s tenure has taught me two significant lessons:

1. My generation is not starting from scratch–we are building on the strong foundation laid by Representative Farr and other ocean advocates. Ocean conservation is gaining ground due to the collaboration of Members of Congress, environmental nonprofits and other marine champions. Even whilst economic and international security issues dominate the political sphere, these trailblazers secure funding for ocean research, strengthen marine policy and expand environmental outreach: effectively giving ocean issues a vital seat at the table. Their dedication is lighting the way for others like me to follow.

2. Saving the ocean is in the best interest of all life on Earth. The beautiful thing about the ocean is that amid our growing differences, the ocean remains, reminding us that we are all intrinsically connected to everyone and everything. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and live on the same globe–vital resources that are provided by the intricacies of ocean processes. There is no option to be or not to be a steward of the blue, because without it, we would be lost.

Congressman Farr retires at the end of 2016, but leaves a powerful message: “We need grassroots support to say our ocean is important. It starts with you.”

These are words that inspire me–and should inspire us all–to never doubt one individual’s capacity to make change. Rather, they are the words that keep us up at night, pondering not the uncertainties of the ocean, but the possibilities of saving it.

Thank you, Congressman Farr, for your inspiring legacy!

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Samantha Bingaman is an intern with the government relations team at Ocean Conservancy. She is a junior environmental science and policy major with a concentration in marine and coastal management at the University of Maryland, and loves to study and spend time on the coast.

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Our Ocean Remains a Presidential Priority http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:41:11 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11450

Strong funding proposed for ocean conservation in President Obama’s final budget proposal.

Today, President Obama laid out his final “to-do list” in the form of his proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year. Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see this administration continue to prioritize the ocean, not least because it contributes more than $343 billion annually to the nation’s GDP and supports 2.9 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

You’d be right in thinking President Obama’s proposed budget is a big deal for our ocean.

Of course it’s not a done deal but we should still take a moment to celebrate that our ocean remains a significant priority as we work together to tackle huge challenges like climate change through science-based solutions and effective policies.

The president has proposed $5.8 billion in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our nation’s premier ocean agency. This would include $1 billion for the National Marine Fisheries Service and $570 million for the National Ocean Service – two key parts of NOAA that protect, restore, and manage our ocean and coasts. NOAA’s mission is to make sure that we have a healthy ocean that can support the economy and the communities that depend on it.

Ocean Conservancy is encouraged to note these three recommendations made today:

  1. A $12 million increase for investments in finding solutions to the challenge of ocean acidification. NOAA’s ocean acidification program coordinates research, maintains a water quality monitoring program to track acidification, develops strategies and techniques for business and communities to adapt, and provides critical research grants to improve understanding of ocean acidification’s environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
  2. An initial investment of $10 million for the first-ever federal ocean trust fund. The National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund was created by Congress late last year in a major victory for ocean champions on Capitol Hill, who have pushed for such a fund since it was first recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004. This initial investment will allow the new fund to begin its important work, providing grants that improve our understanding of the ocean and support sustainable ocean uses.
  3. A four-fold increase in grants to support ocean resilience in regions across the country. Building resilience is critical for communities and economies that are facing major changes in the ocean, from climate change to emerging ocean industries like offshore wind. Resilience can only be achieved at the regional level, with communities, states, and federal agencies working together to share their collective knowledge and experience and establish a unified direction. NOAA’s innovative grant program supports this approach.

What next?

There is a long way to go before the budget is finalized.  The President’s budget is just the first step in a multi-month process in Congress to arrive at a final budget for next year. In the coming months both the House and the Senate will respond to the President’s budget with proposals of their own.

I know that you will work with Ocean Conservancy to advocate for the best investments to ensure our ocean, and the people that most depend on it, continue to thrive.  You can help President Obama make this vision a reality for the ocean next year by reaching out to your Member of Congress to express your support for a healthy ocean.

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Victory! Microbeads Banned in the U.S. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:00:54 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11315

2016 has barely started, and we can already share a huge win for our ocean. Thanks to the support of ocean advocates like you, Congress has backed a bill banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. And just this week, President Obama signed this bill into law.

Microbeads might be tiny, but this legislation is huge. The new law means companies will phase out the sale of products containing microbeads over the next two years, and stop making personal care products with microbeads altogether by July 1, 2017.

These small plastic particles have been a staple ingredient in everyday products we use like body washes, facial scrubs and toothpastes. Since they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants, they flow straight from our sinks to the ocean and into the mouths and gills of sea creatures around the world.

The ban on microbeads is a big step towards stopping plastics from entering our ocean.

This new legislation shows a growing bipartisan dedication of lawmakers to create a more sustainable ocean—a mission we can all get behind. We are proud of those who served as a voice for our ocean in Congress, and we hope this is just the start of more ocean legislation to come.

Let’s take this opportunity to thank our lawmakers for their support of this bill, and remind them how important it is to keep pushing for a healthier, more resilient ocean.

Thank you for your support. Here’s to many more ocean victories in 2016!

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How Members of Congress are Taking Action on Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/23/how-members-of-congress-are-taking-action-on-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/23/how-members-of-congress-are-taking-action-on-ocean-acidification/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 18:20:46 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8396

Photo: Brian Kusko

There was a flurry of activity on ocean acidification this week in, of all places, the Halls of Congress. Not one, but two different bills on ocean acidification were introduced in the House of Representatives. And more importantly, these bills were written by a new generation of members of Congress anxious to tackle the threat that ocean acidification poses to the people, businesses, and communities that they represent.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced legislation, the Coastal Communities Acidification Act of 2014, that would require federal officials to analyze the risks ocean acidification poses to coastal and island communities around the United States. The Congresswoman’s home state of Maine has hundreds of rural coastal communities that rely heavily on fisheries, shellfish, lobsters, and other ocean resources – communities that may stand to lose a lot in the face of ocean acidification. Congresswoman Pingree’s bill comes on the heels of action by the Maine State Legislature, which passed a law earlier this month to establish a commission to study ocean acidification in Maine. But Pingree’s federal bill goes much further, calling for officials to examine the very real economic and social risks that ocean acidification could pose to all coastal communities across the country.

Then on Thursday, Congressman Derek Kilmer from Washington state introduced a bipartisan bill to help spur new technologies and scientific innovations in ocean acidification research. Titled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, Kilmer’s bill would give federal ocean acidification research programs the ability to run prize competitions, much like the X-Prize. Congressman Kilmer announced last week that he would be introducing the bill, and yesterday a bipartisan group of cosponsors joined him in fulfilling that promise: Representatives Capps (D-CA-24), Heck (D-WA-10), Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-3), Huffman (D-CA-2), Peters (D-CA-52), and Reichert (R-WA-8).

Ocean acidification is a very real threat to both the ocean environment and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods.  These bills are a step in the right direction and we need to see more action like this. The more members of Congress we have who are willing to support creative solutions and develop a vision for how to address this problem, the better. We applaud Representatives Pingree and Kilmer for their leadership, and we hope to see many more members of Congress doing the same in the future.

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Presenting Our New Solutions at the Camden Conference http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/20/presenting-our-new-solutions-at-the-camden-conference/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/20/presenting-our-new-solutions-at-the-camden-conference/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 11:01:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7857

Last month, I was invited to speak at the Camden Conference in Maine. This conference brings experts from a number of disciplines together with policymakers, industry leaders and college students to discuss some of the biggest issues facing our world today. This year’s theme was “The Global Politics of Food and Water,” and I spoke about how the ocean sits at the nexus of these issues.

Right now, the ocean is in a period of uncertainty. Climate change and a growing population are changing the chemistry of the ocean and the life that calls it home. But instead of viewing the ocean’s changes in a negative light, I think we have an incredible opportunity to become better problem-solvers. We can break free from old resource management models to find new solutions for our changing ocean. We can effectively address these new complexities; it’s not too late.

You can watch my presentation, as well as those from others at the event, by clicking here.

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The Ocean: Our Greatest Natural Resource http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/27/the-ocean-our-greatest-natural-resource/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/27/the-ocean-our-greatest-natural-resource/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:45:54 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6181

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.

Click here to read the full post.

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When It Comes to the Ocean’s Health Report Card, Let’s Set the Curve! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/when-it-comes-to-the-oceans-health-report-card-lets-set-the-curve/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/28/when-it-comes-to-the-oceans-health-report-card-lets-set-the-curve/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 16:47:16 +0000 Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2511

What does a healthy ocean look like? The Ocean Index brings together scientific data on everything from coral to the economics of coastal communities to answer this critical question. Credit: Arthur Koch

At Ocean Conservancy, we often get asked “How is the ocean doing?” That straightforward question is actually quite difficult to answer. This vast resource, our planet’s life support system, faces many complex challenges. Quantifying them is no easy matter.

The new Ocean Index  announced in Nature is one way to assess and compare the health of ocean ecosystems across different countries. To date, there’s been no comprehensive source that brings together all manner of ocean-related research in one place. The Index is a good starting point.

Sixty-five scientists and other experts worked together to create this tool. They use a series of indicators to measure ten goals important to us all, including

The Index looks at the current status for each, as well as the likely scenario for sustainability into the future. Overall, the health of the ocean received a score of 60 out of 100. The United States is in the middle of the pack with a score of 63. 

Obviously, that leaves lots of room for improvement. On the other hand, it also means that there are several things that the U.S. is doing well. In fact, the paper calls out the National Ocean Policy for focusing on “…using comprehensive ecosystem-based management to address the needs of both humans and nature.”

The Index provides a solid basis for discussion, helping demonstrate how the decisions we make matter to our health and wellbeing, and showing us where to focus on solutions.

For instance, the goal of clean waters gets a global score of 78. The Ocean Index takes into account research on all kinds of impacts on water quality, from excess nutrients to oil spills and ocean trash.

Or take a look at coastal protection, which covers habitats like mangroves that protect our shores from storms: 73. Not so bad, but not where we want to be, either.
Putting together scientific information about concerns like habitat destruction and chemical pollution alongside key information like the cost of storm damage to coastal communities can boost the success of ocean conservation work.

The Ocean Index also shows how crowded the ocean really is, and how many different sectors rely on its resources, which is why we need smart ocean planning, (among other objectives listed in the National Ocean Policy), to help make smart choices when it comes to how our ocean is used.

As we move forward with the National Ocean Policy, we can use this collective scientific information in the Ocean Index to help make better decisions for the health of our coasts, ocean and communities. Working together, we can move to the head of the class.

Check back on The Blog Aquatic tomorrow for further analysis of the Ocean Health index from my colleague George Leonard.

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