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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


Lessons From the Mediterranean About Ocean Acidification

Posted On August 26, 2015 by

Today’s guest blog comes from Jason Hall-Spencer — a Professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. His research spans seamount ecology, fisheries , ocean acidification, aquaculture and conservation. He’s also working on marine protected area design using satellite vessel monitoring for fisheries management. He does his fieldwork all over the world, at volcanic CO2 vents in the Mediterranean, coral reefs in the Arctic, the NE Atlantic, and off Papua New Guinea. Follow him on Twitter at @jhallspencer.

In 2006, when I first heard about ocean acidification, I started running expeditions near underwater volcanoes in the Mediterranean where CO2 bubbles up through the sea floor, acidifying large areas for centuries. We have found similar ecosystem shifts at all the seeps, so I am now convinced that ocean acidification will bring change.  In a recent article I attempt to put this topic into context, focusing on two major causes of change – the corrosive effects of CO2, and the way the extra carbon is used as a resource.

Here’s what we’ve noticed about the sea life around those natural CO2 seeps in the Mediterranean: algae seems to thrive, whereas animals with calcium carbonate shells—like plankton—dissolve away. We see a lot of brown seaweeds on the seafloor, and they often overwhelm slower-growing competitors like corals. Although life is abundant at CO2 seeps, there is far less diversity than we see elsewhere.

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Thanks to the Ocean… It’s Like a Mother to Us!

Posted On May 10, 2015 by

Let’s take a moment on Mother’s Day to remember the ocean. Like mothers everywhere, the ocean looks out for us in the most basic ways. It’s easy to take those things for granted. Thanks, Mother Ocean, because you:

Gave us life. Earth scientists believe that the first life on Earth arose in the ocean, which brought together chemicals in a rich “soup” that gave rise to primitive cells. These early life forms evolved and diversified into the myriad organisms that exist today.

Keep us warm. The ocean stores a tremendous amount of heat that regulates the planet’s overall temperature. Ocean currents redistribute heat around the Earth to keep temperatures relatively stable. Not too hot and not too cold, the Earth’s small overall temperature range is critical for our survival.

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Little Footprints in the Sand—A First Trip to the Ocean

Posted On April 15, 2015 by

A successful trip for Grandma, introducing her newest love Maggie, to her oldest love, the ocean.

This is a story about family, but also about love and nature and tradition. My mother was raised in Iowa, more than 1,000 miles from the nearest coast. Yet, she was always fascinated by the ocean—studying biology at a time when women were told they couldn’t be scientists and moving to the Caribbean as a young biology teacher—spending all her free time bumming rides on scuba diving trips.

Life took her back up to the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but she did her best to instill her love of the ocean in myself and my brother. My first experience in the sea was as a six-year-old—swimming after stingrays, angelfish and sea turtles—marveling at the coral right at my fingertips. Continued exposure to nature—whether snorkeling in the ocean, hiking in the deserts or camping in the north woods—predictably led me to a career in conservation science and policy.

When my niece, Maggie, was born 18 months ago, Mom started planning her introduction to the sea. In January, Grandma and Granddaughter trudged through the snow for weekly swimming lessons. In February, the flights were booked and miniature sunglasses were purchased. Stepping out of the Fort Meyers airport in March, Mom declared she could already smell the salt in the air.

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Celebrating 2014’s Ocean Victories

Posted On December 29, 2014 by

Photo: Tony Prince

This year was a great year for the ocean! We were able to make waves and accomplish some truly amazing things thanks to supporters and ocean lovers like you. From saving baby sea turtles to protecting the Arctic from reckless oil drilling, here are just a few of the major victories our ocean saw this year.

Gulf Leaders Protect the Gulf’s Deep Water

It’s been nearly 5 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and Gulf leaders have proven they’re dedicated to restoring the Gulf’s shore as well as the Gulf’s deep water.  Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will invest in projects that protect dolphins and manatees, track the recovery of fish species like red snapper, and map the seafloor to inform sustainable fishing practices.

The U.S. Has Ambitious Plans to Protect the Arctic

In 2014, the eight-nation Arctic Council announced that the U.S. would assume the Council’s  Chair position for the next two years beginning in April 2015. As Chair, the U.S. hopes to focus on the impacts of climate change on the Arctic, encourage sustainable development in remote Arctic communities, and improve stewardship of the Arctic Ocean.

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It’s Your Last Chance! Donate to Get an Ocean Conservancy Calendar

Posted On October 23, 2014 by

Photo: Ken Shew

Get your free 2015 Ocean Wildlife calendar in time for the holidays! If you donate by October 23, we’ll send you a free calendar featuring your favorite marine animals like whales, seals and sea turtles.

What are you waiting for? Today is your last day to donate and get this exclusive 2015 Ocean Wildlife calendar from Ocean Conservancy. Your support will help Ocean Conservancy pursue innovative solutions that will bring lasting, positive change for the ocean.

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Beyond Nemo: How Are Dory and Bruce Doing?

Posted On October 22, 2014 by

Photo: Matthew Potenski

Traditional fishery management has been a lot like the movie Finding Nemo, where fishery managers focus on the life of a single species of fish. But, as we saw in the movie, single species of fish do not live alone; they depend on habitat like anemones, they encounter predators like Bruce, and there are human impacts such as removing fish from reefs. Our current management system often fails to consider the bigger picture: the habitats that ocean wildlife require at each stage of life, their roles as predator and prey (Bruce’s attitude on fish as ‘friends not food’ doesn’t really hold true in the ocean), the natural variations in populations in different places and at different times, such as sea turtle migrations, and of course the critical and varied impacts of humans—climate change, pollution, ocean acidification, cultural uses, and demands for food and recreation.

In short, we need an ecosystem approach—a modern, big-picture system that maintains the overall health of the ocean ecosystem by explicitly considering the above. Ensuring the long-term viability of fish populations and communities that depend on them requires a greater focus on the fitness and resilience of the ecosystems that support productive fisheries.

The good news is that U.S. fishery managers are recognizing the need to consider the whole ecosystem. A new report by the NOAA Science Advisory Board takes stock of the shift toward ecosystem-based fishery management across the nation. The report found that the use of ecosystem science in fishery management varies greatly by region, and the last several years have proven to be a time of experimentation in the ecosystem approach. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.

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Tidal Anatomy

Posted On October 20, 2014 by


Photo: John Madere

This blog post was written by John Madere, an award winning photographer. 

I’m pleased to announce that the book launch and exhibition of my Tidal Anatomy portrait series opens at Site 109 in Manhattan on October 21. The images are the result of two years of photographing surfers from an unlikely perspective with my camera placed high above the surfer and beach.

The inspiration for this project came to me while walking along the shore in Montauk, New York, on a raw, windy day in the Spring of 2013. An unusually harsh winter had radically altered the beach, leaving behind arresting scenes of strewn rocks, stratified clay, decaying driftwood, driven sand, and man made debris.

Read more at JohnMadere.com.