Ocean Currents » ocean policy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:25:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 We Will Stand Up for the Ocean–and That Means Standing Up for Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/29/we-will-stand-up-for-the-ocean-and-that-means-standing-up-for-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/29/we-will-stand-up-for-the-ocean-and-that-means-standing-up-for-science/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:00:33 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13416

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s Ocean Views blog.

During this bruising presidential campaign, there was an eerie sense that we had moved into a post-truth world, with fake news circulating on Facebook and the veracity of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump continually called into question. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries just declared “post-truth” its 2016 international Word of the Year.

But for me personally, facts really matter.  It’s why I’m a scientist. 

It’s my job to ensure that an objective assessment of facts and data underpin Ocean Conservancy’s work. For over 40 years, we have worked on your behalf to advance science-based solutions to the many threats that plague our ocean, from pollution to overfishing to ocean acidification. These threats have real impacts on real people from cod fishermen in the Gulf of Maine to oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest, from coastal property owners in the Gulf of Mexico to indigenous peoples in the Arctic, and from sailors on the high seas in the Pacific Ocean to families enjoying a relaxing day at the beach in the Mediterranean.

At Ocean Conservancy, we believe that science must underpin durable ocean solutions, so that facts and data can be brought to bear to identify cost-effective ways that improve people’s lives.

While it is not yet clear whether the next Administration will be committed to evidence-based decision-making, Ocean Conservancy will stand up for robust, independent science as the foundation upon which the federal government makes public policy. We believe we can best stand up for you by holding the new Administration accountable if it willingly ignores what science identifies to be patently true.

Let me clarify: Ocean Conservancy is decidedly nonpartisan. We work with Democrats and Republicans alike who recognize the importance of healthy oceans to a livable planet. Over the course of four decades, this has resulted in tremendous gains for our ocean and for the people that most depend on it.

  • We helped secure an 1100-mile network of marine protected areas in California guided by insights from the scientific community that is expanding recreational and commercial opportunities throughout the state.
  • We crafted a vision for restoration in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster using science to identify the damage done and steer recovery efforts in ways that can best improve the coastal communities that were so dramatically impacted.

At the core of all of our work is respect for the scientific process, appreciation for the independence of scientists and a relentless pursuit of action based on what the weight of the science demonstrates.

And this brings me to climate change. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump called climate change a hoax and pledged to back out of the Paris Climate agreement. His action plan for the first 100 days in office commits to massively expanding fossil fuel production. He has already appointed a climate denier to head up the EPA transition team. This sends a dangerous message to the global community fighting to tackle the greatest challenge to a livable future.

Climate change is real. It is happening now.

It is impacting people. And a global community of scientists is documenting the many ways that carbon emissions are impacting our planet, our ocean and our people. 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record. Oceans are massively heating up, right alongside the atmosphere. The ocean’s chemistry is also fundamentally changing, impacting fishermen and shellfish growers’ livelihoods. Oxygen levels are declining. Global currents are slowing. Fish are moving toward the poles. Entire ecosystems are beginning to shift as a result.

Why does it matter? Our ocean is quite literally the life support system for the planet whether you live on the coast or in the heartland. Climate change impacts in our ocean will ripple out to touch all life on the planet. This is what science is telling us. The good news is that we can do something about it.

Last month, 192 countries met in Marrakesh to begin to implement the historic Paris Accord on climate change. They were buffeted by the news of the election back in the United States. U.S. leadership under President Obama was critical to securing the Paris deal last December and U.S. withdrawal could seriously undermine progress going forward. At present, the rest of the world is doggedly committed to moving forward with the Accord, with or without US engagement but the future is far from certain.

We don’t have a minute to waste. Science tells us that we only have a decade to get the world’s economies—including the United States—on a trajectory to a low carbon future to avoid massive climate disruption. We must muster every ounce of our strength to stay the course if we are to avoid that scenario.

Ocean Conservancy is working hard to ensure that the election does not mark the beginning of a new, post-truth world. We remain deeply committed to seeking solutions that benefit our ocean and all who depend on it, informed by robust, independent science.

By standing up for science, we can stand up for you.

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Senator Hirono Speaks Up for Coral Reefs http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/27/senator-hirono-speaks-up-for-coral-reefs/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/27/senator-hirono-speaks-up-for-coral-reefs/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 11:17:54 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12487

Written by Hawaiian Senator Mazie K. Hirono

Last month, 2,500 people from 97 countries flew to Hawaii–not for vacation, but to address the international crisis facing coral reefs around the world.

Participating in the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, these world leaders, scientists, activists and students issued a powerful call to action to address the growing threat of coral bleaching around the world.

Failing to take action now will have increasingly profound consequences in the future because the health of coral reef ecosystems are not only critical for the health of our environment, but also for our economy. And as we celebrate National Coral Week, we have the opportunity to amplify the voices of advocates like Dr. Robert Richmond and Dr. Ruth Gates in Hawaii to ensure these vital ecosystems receive the attention they deserve.

Coral reefs are essential to our oceans and environment, especially in island and coastal communities. In my home state of Hawaii, more than 640 square miles of coral reefs surround the main Hawaiian Islands–more than the total landmass of the island of Oahu. Our reefs are home to more than a quarter of the world’s marine life, including thousands of species that are only found in the Islands.

Protecting our reefs is not just an environmental issue. It is an economic imperative. When coral reef ecosystems are healthy, they drive a tremendous amount of economic activity. In Hawaii, our reefs generate nearly $800 million for local businesses every year. Worldwide, coral reefs generate more economic activity than any other type of ecosystem.

Unfortunately, our coral reefs are under severe stress from coral bleaching and other environmental threats. There have only been three major coral bleaching incidents recorded in history–and two of them occurred in the last two years. These rare events are likely to become only more common as ocean temperatures continue to rise.

As an island state, Hawaii is particularly susceptible to the economic impact of coral bleaching. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that last year’s bleaching event killed 90 percent of West Hawaii Island coral colonies.

We must work together to break this cycle and to promote healthy coral reef ecosystems both in Hawaii and around the world. It has recently been found that approximately a third of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef are also dead or dying as a result of the current bleaching event.

Unfortunately, there is a disconnect in Washington between what scientists know and what Congress is willing to do to address this environmental crisis. Too many of my colleagues in Congress deny basic science when making national policy. To them, global warming is a myth, and climate change and the rising temperature and acidity of our oceans have no impact on the lives of everyday Americans.

We know this is fundamentally untrue, but we can’t just count on these members coming to their senses. We have to dedicate ourselves to the hard work it will take to educate policymakers and other naysayers to change their views.

While there’s much we can do to address this problem, earlier this year I introduced legislation to spark innovation in coral reef health research. My bill would direct federal agencies and the private sector to team up in offering a competitive prize to stimulate innovative solutions to protect our reefs.

I’m also working to build consensus in both parties for additional action. For example, I led a bipartisan letter to the Obama Administration to make sure our nation’s leaders are paying attention to the crisis facing our coral reefs, and urge the Administration to take action on new solutions to preserve, sustain, and restore coral reef ecosystems.

As a member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources committee, I will continue to be a strong advocate for science-based policies that protect our environment, grow our economy, and address climate change. Protecting our coral reefs requires all of us to put our heads together–scientists, policymakers, technology developers, etc. to create solutions so that future generations can enjoy healthy, vibrant ocean environments.

Mazie K. Hirono was elected to the Senate in 2012 and sworn in as Hawaii’s first female senator and the country’s first Asian-American woman senator. Hirono’s priority is to ensure that every American family has the opportunity to work and succeed. 

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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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