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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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In the Wake of Sandy, Thinking About the Future

Posted On October 31, 2012 by

Credit: AP Photos / Alex Brandon

Like many of you, many of Ocean Conservancy’s staff have lived through hurricanes and other natural disasters. We know how much damage hurricanes can cause, and our hearts go out to those of you affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For our staff working along the Gulf of Mexico, June through November is a time to remember how to “live with the water,” as Bethany Kraft, our director of Gulf Restoration put it at the start of this year’s hurricane season. When Hurricane Isaac hit last month, Gulf residents experienced hard winds, massive flooding and oiled shorelines that reminded us that we are still in the grips of responding to and recovering from the BP oil disaster.

Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the East Coast on Monday, was a wholly different storm. Our immediate concerns are always with those in the path of such devastating storms, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was especially acute. We send our gratitude to NOAA for the warnings and the time to prepare and to the first responders, who are not only saving lives but are leading communities’ recovery efforts.

As we shift from rescue to recovery, we are confronting a cleanup and rebuilding effort with an extraordinary price tag and an unforeseeable timeline. And while we can’t control such a massive storm, we can help strengthen our nation’s best defense against this force of nature.

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News Roundup: What Can We Learn From Hurricane Sandy?

Posted On October 30, 2012 by

Hurricane Sandy as viewed on October 29, Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by Sandy this morning, especially those on the New Jersey coast and New York where the damage was particularly acute.

Sandy, which packed 90 mile-per-hour winds and dumped 12 inches of rain and snow across states ranging from New Jersey to Kentucky, was declared to be something other than a hurricane. It was, forecasters said, a post-tropical storm that combined with other weather systems to stretch 1,000 miles wide and create storm surges up to 11 feet.

As we catch up on our work and get back up to speed, here are some takes on Sandy from around the web that we’re finding particularly insightful. If you have stories to share, please leave them in the comments below:

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Marine Restoration Report Emphasizes Importance of Offshore Waters

Posted On September 6, 2012 by

Credit: Calsidyrose flickr stream

Yesterday I wrote about Hurricane Isaac’s impacts to our coastal environment as well as the unfortunate reminder that an unknown quantity of BP oil still lingers in the Gulf, needing only time and the right conditions to once again wreak havoc on our beaches, marshes and coastal communities.

Events like hurricanes serve as sobering reminders of how critical coastal restoration initiatives are to the long-term sustainability of our Gulf communities, our economies and, of course, our natural resources. But as critical as restoration of our coastal resources are, they are only part of a larger picture of ecosystem restoration in the region. Restoration of our marine resources are equally important to preserving our coastal way of life.

Ocean Conservancy views restoration of the Gulf ecosystem as a three-legged stool. Each leg depends on the other for balance and function. If you lose one leg, you no longer have a strong base, and you will almost certainly topple. The three legs of restoration in the Gulf are: restoration of the coastal environment, the marine environment and coastal communities.

We must focus our effort, energy and funding resources to all three of these vital areas if we are going to realize our vision of a vibrant and healthy Gulf region. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Are there competing needs for limited funds? Yes? Do we have to find a way to do all three? Absolutely. Continue reading »

Researchers Find Resilience Inside Marine Reserves

Posted On July 27, 2012 by

After a die-off, pink abalone populations inside of the Isla Natividad marine reserve in Mexico bounced back faster than abalone outside of the marine reserve. Credit: Channel Islands NMS

An exciting new study of pink abalone in Isla Natividad, Mexico sheds light on the ability of marine reserves to make the ocean more resilient to disasters.

Scientists from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station teamed up with the Mexican NGO Comunidad y Biodiversidad to study a patch of ocean that was hard hit by two large die-offs related to recent hypoxic events, periods of low dissolved oxygen in the water. They compared fished areas to nearby marine reserves, with startling results: Continue reading »

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf

Posted On July 19, 2012 by

sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration. Continue reading »

Don’t Miss This Major Step Toward Gulf Restoration

Posted On June 28, 2012 by

Shrimp boats outfitted to skim oil head out of Grand Isle to clean up the massive oil before it hits the Louisiana shore, Wed., June 9, 2010. Credit: Cheryl Gerber

No question it’s a big news day in Washington.  One big thing we want to make sure doesn’t get lost in the mix is the inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation bill that Congress will vote on this week.  Directing the fines BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster have to pay back to the Gulf for restoration has been a key priority of ours since the early days of this ordeal.

Thanks are in order to Senator Boxer for her leadership in the negotiations and the Senators and Representatives from the Gulf States, particularly Senators Landrieu, Nelson, and Shelby, and Representative Scalise for their work in shepherding the bill to final passage.  We’d like to thank Senator Nelson of Florida specifically for making sure the bill includes a science and monitoring program, which is always a crucial issue for Ocean Conservancy.

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The UnDead Zone

Posted On June 22, 2012 by

credit: cpboingo's flickr stream

Like a zombie, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico just won’t seem to really die. Estimates for the size of this year’s dead zone, an area of water so deprived of oxygen that it can’t support life, were just released by LUMCON (Louisiana University Marine Consortium) and the University of Michigan.

LUMCON estimates the size of the 2012 dead zone at 6,123 square miles, while the more conservative estimate projects an area of 1,197 square miles. While these estimates differ as much as the best way to kill a zombie does, what is really important is that there is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading »