This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.
Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.