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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Marine Debris and Unforgettable Humpbacks in Wonder Bay

Posted On June 25, 2013 by

humpback whale breach

Credit: Nick Mallos/Ocean Conservancy

One of the most amazing experiences from my time with the GYRE Expedition occurred in Wonder Bay—a name that each locale in Alaska is rightly deserving of as the beauty and tranquility of the landscape here never ceases. Although Wonder Bay is aptly named, the debris problem here was much bigger than we expected considering its relatively small wrack line roughly 100 meters from the tide line, much higher than the other beaches we’ve surveyed.

My morning objective was to search for bottle caps along the wrack lines of each of the three pocket beaches lining Wonder Bay. I plucked 227 caps from the three beaches, some requiring far greater effort than others to collect.

A red bottle cap sticking out of a dense area of sedge grass quickly revealed another eight PET bottles, each with a colorful cap. With only a quick glance none of these items were visible, causing me to ponder how many other bottles and caps were hidden among the grasses or tucked into the various crevices among the rocks.

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Fly Swatters, a Whale Skull and Sore Feet

Posted On June 18, 2013 by

This is the third update from Ocean Conservancy Conservation Biologist and Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos, writing from the GYRE Expedition in Alaska.  Read his first update here, and his second here

Motivating oneself to work on minimal sleep is not difficult after spending an hour watching humpback and fin whales surface-feed. Graced yet again with sunny skies and calm seas, we deployed Jubatus after fueling up on coffee and assembling our gear. We skimmed across the water’s glassy surface and landed on a small pocket beach at Perevalnie Point on Shuyak Island just after 9 a.m.

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GYRE Expedition Provides Opportunity for Marine Debris Research, Wildlife Sightings

Posted On June 11, 2013 by

Nick Mallos and Norseman

Getting ready to board the Norseman


Most people visit the small town of Seward, Alaska, to take a half-day glacier and wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. I arrived in Seward to board the R/V Norseman to depart for Expedition GYRE.

Organized by the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum, our 14-member team comprised of scientists, artists and filmmakers has a shared vision: We want to establish a new dialogue on marine debris from the nexus of science, art and education and devise strategies for disseminating information to broad audiences, globally.

The scale and magnitude of Alaska’s marine debris problem is unlike any other I’ve experienced. The state’s 45,000-mile coastline has myriad coves and pocket beaches that capture massive quantities of debris, underscoring the fact that even the most isolated areas of our planet are not immune to the problems of ocean trash.

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“These Things Are Fun and Fun Is Good”: Dr. Seuss Stamps Celebrate World Oceans Day

Posted On June 7, 2013 by

Trio of World Oceans Day stampsLast week, I had the incredible honor of participating in the NAPEX First Day of Issue Ceremony for the United Nations Postal Administration’s stamp commemorating World Oceans Day 2013.

The U.N. partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to develop the stamps, which showcase the timeless characters of Dr. Seuss’ book, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Celebrating our connection with the ocean, the stamps remind us of how important it is to protect it.

The stamps—issued in three different currencies: U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and euros—are a further representation of the central role the ocean plays in our lives, regardless of what city, state or country we call home. From near to far, from here to there,” as the stamps say, our ocean is everywhere.

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Volunteers Help Protect Baby Sea Turtles From Ocean Trash

Posted On May 1, 2013 by

baby sea turtle heads toward the surf

Credit: nps.gov

Starting today, hundreds of volunteers will begin heading to the beach every morning just before sunrise in search of tracks left by some exciting visitors: female sea turtles coming ashore under the cloak of darkness to lay their eggs.

May 1 marks the start of sea turtle nesting season in the southeast United States; it’s the only time of year when these animals return to dry sand after spending almost their entire lives in the ocean. Female sea turtles tend to return to the same stretch of beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. After hatching, baby sea turtles must dig their way out of the sand and sprint to the surf while avoiding predators ranging from foxes and raccoons to sea birds and ghost crabs.

The dedicated volunteers who walk these beaches every morning look for signs of new sea turtle nests so that they can monitor and protect the nest sites and track how many turtles hatch. Yet on most walks, these volunteers find more trash on the beach than sea turtle tracks.

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“Midway” Film Tells Story of Plastics in Our Ocean Through Plight of Albatross

Posted On March 28, 2013 by

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Artist Chris Jordan is best known for his large-scale images that deconstruct huge numbers while making a statement about our mass consumption habits. For example, the tiny pieces of plastic in “Gyre” represent the pounds of plastic that enter the world’s ocean.

Jordan’s latest project, “Midway,” is a feature-length film that expands on the plastic pollution problem by focusing on the plastic fragments that fill up albatross stomachs as they try to feed in the open ocean. Scientists estimate that 4.5 metric tons of plastic arrive on Midway Atoll every year in the stomachs of the albatross.

The trailer includes some disturbing images of dead and dying birds, but as the narrator says, “Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?” We can only hope the answer is “yes.”

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This Week’s Top Tweets: March 9 – 15

Posted On March 17, 2013 by

Our top tweets of the week range from innovations and milestones in scientific study of the ocean to the tangible impacts of trash and pollution we’ve seen recently–and a little hope for a lot of sharks, manta rays and sawfish. With the BP trial continuing in the midst of all this, losing that hour from daylight savings has definitely been noticeable in ocean news this week! Read on for more details.

1. Manatees in Danger

Our most popular tweet this week brings sad news from the coast of Florida, where record numbers of manatees have been killed from the red tide. The total is up to 184, and with an already endangered population, this is a terribly heartbreaking problem. The manatees ingest the red tide that has settled on sea grass (their main food source), then the toxins essentially paralyze the victim, causing it to drown. For more information, check out this infographic from naplesnews.com.

2. Death by Garbage

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/311197334727958528

This tweet is about a sperm whale that fatally ate a total of 37 pounds of garbage and beached itself on the coast of Spain. Incidents like these show that some of the ocean’s largest creatures are not immune to our crippling habits of not disposing trash properly, and are perhaps some of the most illustrative reasons that can spur people to change their daily routines to be more ocean-wary. If you’re looking to do the same, try using the tips we’ve suggested in our mobile app, Rippl, to make an easy transition to bettering the environment.

3. Protection from Finning–Finally!

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312172453227032576

The ocean world got some fantastic news this week! The shark finning industry which has decimated populations of this indicator animal has finally been put on a leash, with several species now under international protection. Any further exports of these animals will require a permit that certifies sustainable and legal fishing.

4. Studying Climate Change on the Largest Scale Yet

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312261910865264640

Using plastic bags to study the effects of ocean acidification is definitely a perplexing story. Research concludes in June, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye peeled to let you know about the scientists’ findings!

5. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Ocean

https://twitter.com/OurOcean/status/312292084658864128

An interview in this article says that studying on a ship for longer than a month can yield a high price tag–the $50,000 per day kind of price tag. Scientists can skirt around those prices, though, if they find a commercial cargo ship that’s willing to take them on. Many ships are eager to have scientists do research aboard, as it continues a long tradition of “Ships of Opportunity.” When the only expense is for food along a journey, scientists can worry a lot less about how it will be funded and a lot more about their research.

That rounds out the top tweets from this week! Leave a comment and tell us which story you liked the most, and don’t forget to follow our Twitter handle, @OurOcean, in order to get updates as soon as they come out!