Ocean Currents » science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Why I Support the March for Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/21/why-i-support-the-march-for-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/21/why-i-support-the-march-for-science/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14214

Tomorrow, thousands of people around the world will take to the streets for the March for Science. It’s a strange concept—why is it important to come together and support science? To find out, I sat down with Ocean Conservancy’s President, Andreas Merkl, and asked why ocean science is so important to him, why he’s marching and why a British explorer and a Czech monk are his science heroes.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Do you remember a moment as a kid when you thought, “Science is freaking cool! I want to do that”?

There was no epiphany; it was an integrated curiosity that was constantly being fed by my family. My grandfather was an incredible man whose knowledge could tie everything together. He wasn’t just a scientist—even though he was, he was a mathematician, he translated Lord Byron’s works into German, he was a nature historian—he was a true renaissance intellectual.

We would go on these long walks along the Rhine [growing up in Germany], his walking stick always up in the air pointing at things. He would start with the cellular structure of oak tree bark and what a miracle it is and what a miracle it is that osmosis could suck a thousand gallons of water into one tree.

After being exposed to so many scientific disciplines growing up, why did you choose the ocean?

I think there are city people, desert people, mountain people and ocean people. There are also river rats, but river rats and ocean people are usually of a similar group.

I was a river rat to start with because I grew up on the Rhine, but the first books I remember reading were taxonomic books of ocean fish. Of course, every kid that grows up inland who becomes an ocean person has a story of that staggering epiphany when you’re 8 years old and the family station wagon rolls over the dunes to the ocean for the first time; and your mind is blown. Oh my god, if there ever was an epiphany it was that. And it wasn’t a stunning California beach either; it was some crappy beach at the North Sea! But back then, I thought it was paradise.

Who are your scientific heroes?

I have two: Alfred Wallace [of Britain who helped discover evolution] and Gregor Mendel [of the Czech Republic who discovered genetics]. Mendel was closest to the true spirit of science: purely curious, smart, humble and patient. He thought, “Huh…I just bred a white bean plant with a blue bean plant and I didn’t get a light-blue bean plant, I got another blue one. Isn’t that weird?” So this little monk says, “I’m going to figure this out”. Suddenly, a “Huh…” unravels genetics, along with a research design that is so staggeringly cool.

Wallace was the same. He had traveled to Sumatra, Java, Bali and it was all lush tropics; but he gets to Lombok and it’s a desert! So he asks, “Huh… Everything appears the same, so what’s different?” And from that “Huh…” he deduces island geography, and probably ahead of Darwin, evolution.

How have you seen the public view on science change throughout your career, and why do you think public demonstrations are important?

I’ve seen increasing attacks by people whose assets are threatened by systems science, increasing attacks on the principle and validity of objectivity, and the increase of press to accommodate that point of view.

At its core, what we’re saying is that the standard of objectivity remains sacred as ever. The fact there needs to be a demonstration on the streets, 400 years after the invention of the scientific method? To once again defend the principles of objectivity? It’s insane. I mean, it’s unbelievably important, but insane.

Oh by the way, I have a message for the people who say that message adds to the elite image of scientists; that message is [raspberry fart noise]. If there’s one bipartisan line in the sand we have to insist on that is not elite, its objectivity! It is by definition just what it is! Objectivity!

Many young people interested in science are hesitant about pursuing a career because of the decline in science jobs and funding. What’s your advice to them?

Begin with science and see where it takes you. If you start with science and you find it to be your passion, odds are you’re going to get good at it and the money will come. If you get sidetracked, so be it! You’ll find that you’ve learned the importance of objectivity, how to breakdown problems and countless other skills.

I also think the decline is narrowly defined to classic academia. What about Skybox, or Google Earth? I mean, we’re at the beginning of the most profound knowledge revolution EVER and you’re telling me that a good scientific mind won’t find a place in that?! Why that’s ridiculous!

What does it mean to you that Ocean Conservancy is a science-based organization?

EVERYTHING. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. I don’t know of many organizations that understand to the degree we do that the line between science and advocacy is blurring, and you can only be an advocate if you advocate for something.

So what’s that something going to be in the oceans? We really don’t quite know anymore. We could do the safe stuff… overfishing is always bad, pollution is bad, cutting down mangroves is bad; it’s the classic, “The bad man is coming to take it away, let’s stop the bad man” brand of environmentalism, but the sum of all that gets us nowhere with today’s systemic threats. So for us to ask questions like, “how do we put together creative management that is adaptive to the level of change?” is pretty cool.

Why are you supporting the March for Science?

Because it proudly supports the bedrock principle on which a modern enlightened and humane society is founded, which is the existence of a standard of objectivity against which everything else has to be measured: Objective truth. Once you do away with that, we’re thoroughly screwed.

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George Leonard: I am a Scientist http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/15/george-leonard-i-am-a-scientist/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/15/george-leonard-i-am-a-scientist/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 18:26:57 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13913

As the buzz around alternative facts gets louder and research budgets are slashed, the importance of highlighting the role of science in our lives and the people behind it becomes even more important. Ocean Conservancy is proud to introduce you to our best and brightest scientists through the “I am scientist” series. We hope you will be inspired by people that have an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, a sharp mind that is dogged in its pursuit of facts and a tenacity to find solutions to tackle some of the biggest ocean challenges of our time.

In this kickoff interview, we invite you to get to know George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy’s Chief Scientist, who spoke to Erin Spencer.

Erin: What science experiment most fascinated you as a kid?

George:  As I kid in the 70’s, I watched every episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau that came out. One of the most memorable experiments for me took place in the “Sleeping Sharks of Yucatan” where 6-foot-long sharks appeared to sleep in underwater caves with no apparent water flow. Scientists knew at the time that sharks generally had to swim to stay alive. Cousteau and his crew released nontoxic dye in the water near the sharks and observed that these sharks could actually pump water across their gills where no apparent current was present. I thought it was so cool that scientists could do simple experiments like this to learn something new about how the natural undersea world worked. I was hooked by bedtime! And I vowed to get my scuba license as soon as possible, one year later at the age of 13.

Erin:  Who is your scientific hero and why?

George: Nowadays my scientific heroes are marine biologists who play an active and impactful role in society to help people understand and tackle the challenges that our ocean faces.

In many respects, Dr. Jane Lubchenco (former NOAA Administrator) is solely responsible for giving academic scientists the confidence to play leadership roles outside the classroom. She realized that coastal communities and ocean-dependent industries could benefit from a closer relationship between scientists and the people whose livelihoods depend on the very ecosystems that scientists study every day. Seventeen years ago, I worked with her to launch an effort called COMPASS. It was a novel partnership between scientists, a communication agency, a book publisher, and a public aquarium to help scientists step out of what is often called the “ivory tower.” It played a critical role in making marine science more accessible and relevant to people’s lives.

Erin: When did you decide you want to be a scientist?

George: I was always interested in math and science but it took me until I was 23, two years out of college, and working at a financial company in Boston to get to that realization. One day I was at New England Aquarium, looking up at the giant ocean tank when I whispered to myself “This is what I really want to do—I want to study the ocean, how it works, and why it matters.” I went home that night and started looking up information on graduate programs. Within a year, I had moved to California and was diving in the kelp forests off Cannery Row in Monterey, learning how these incredibly beautiful ecosystems functioned and uncovering why a healthy Monterey Bay remains so important to the coastal communities of California today.

Erin: Why, personally, does science matter to you?

George: Science is personal because I see it in nearly everything.  I am writing this from the doctor’s office, where I am picking up a prescription for antibiotics that will beat back an infection which generations ago might have killed me. I drive a car smart enough to sense an impending collision and avert disaster, an engineering marvel founded on a deep appreciation of the fundamental laws of physics. I am able to buy sustainable wild-caught fish at my local fishmonger. Its availability is a direct result of resource managers adhering to a scientifically-determined estimate of how many fish are in the sea and how many can be sustainably caught. I live in a state that is prone to natural disasters, from drought and fire to flood and landslides. Over 200,000 of my fellow residents narrowly averted disaster when flood control engineers took emergency measures to reduce water levels in the Oroville dam last month. High level math and engineering was needed to keep my neighbors safe. And I am proud to say I am part of a community of thoughtful and committed scientists across the West Coast that is working to understand how our changing climate will impact our communities, from residents high in the Sierra Nevada, to farm workers in the agricultural fields of the central valley to the fishermen and coastal residents along the shores of San Francisco Bay. Many aspects of my life wouldn’t be the same without the hard, honest, committed work of scientists. For them, I am deeply grateful.

Erin: What’s the hardest thing about choosing science as a profession?

George: Choosing a career in science isn’t easy but it can deeply rewarding. You need to have a passion for learning and applying that learning from school and through research to solve problems to make the world a better place for all of us. This takes drive, diligence and perseverance. You likely won’t get rich doing it but in many ways, you will live a life of service, which is pretty noble.

Erin: How does your science help people and communities?

George: As Chief Scientist at Ocean Conservancy, I work with a team of experts to develop new knowledge and insights on problems that matter to the oceans and to people and use this information to develop actions that improve the ocean and people at the same time. Everything we do at Ocean Conservancy is founded on a deep understanding of science and respect for the independence of the scientific process, for if we don’t understand the problem objectively, we can’t develop solutions that will work for the long haul.  One of the best examples for me is our work on the establishment of a 1,000 mile long string of marine protected areas (MPAs) in California that is the envy of the rest of the world. Science was the foundation of this work, but it was designed to improve people’s lives too, whether they were a commercial fisherman or a recreational scuba diver. Ten years in the making, California’s MPAs are now delivering: the fish and fishermen are more abundant than ever.

Erin: What is the one thing you would tell a kid interested in science as a career?

George: Ask questions: science is a journey of discovery and the only way to learn new things is to ask questions.  If you find out asking (and answering) questions related to the natural world is fun, then science just might be a career path to you.

Erin: What is your favorite science joke?

George: There isn’t just one; there are books and books of them published by the one and only Gary Larson, who wrote The Far Side for 15 years from 1980 to 1995. You can flip to any page of his books and find yourself having laughed yourself right out of your chair. I didn’t generally think science was humorous until I came across his cartoons in the mid 1980’s when I was in college. While Gary Larson hasn’t published a Far Side cartoon for over 20 years, his work still causes scientists everywhere—including me—to laugh right alongside him.

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The Blue-Ringed Octopus: Small but Deadly http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/13/the-blue-ringed-octopus-small-but-deadly/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/13/the-blue-ringed-octopus-small-but-deadly/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:21:34 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13905

At first glance, the blue-ringed octopus looks perfectly innocuous. Its psychedelic coloring and pint-sized packaging make it seem more adorable than alarming. But don’t let its cuddly exterior fool you: this tiny octopus can kill you. And quickly.

Native to the Pacific Ocean, the blue-ringed octopus can be found in the soft, sandy bottom of shallow tide pools and coral reefs. When not seeking food or a mate, blue-ringed octopuses often hide in crevices, shells or marine debris. If you catch them outside of their cozy hiding spots, it’s easy to see how the animal gets its name: when threatened, bright blue rings appear all over its body as a warning signal to potential predators.

Although all octopuses (as well as cuttlefish and some squid) are venomous, the blue-ringed octopus is in a league of its own. Its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide, and this golf-ball sized powerhouse packs enough venom to kill 26 humans within minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s recognized as one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean.

Blue-ringed octopuses produce a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, a potentially-deadly substance also found in pufferfish. The venom is produced by symbiotic bacteria in the animal’s salivary glands and is more toxic than that of any land mammals. It’s primarily used when hunting: the octopus captures crabs, shrimp and small fish by pecking through its prey’s exoskeleton with its beak and inserting the venom. Then it will use its beak to pick off meat while its prey remains helplessly paralyzed. In the end, only the tough outer shell of its prey remains.

So, what happens if you’re bitten by a blue-ringed octopus? First, the venom blocks nerve signals throughout the body, causing muscle numbness. Other symptoms include nausea, vision loss or blindness, loss of senses and loss of motor skills. Ultimately, it will cause muscle paralysis—including the muscles needed for humans to breathe, leading to respiratory arrest. There is no known antidote, but victims can be saved if artificial respiration is started immediately.

If you ever encounter this blue and yellow beauty, back away in a hurry—its bite is usually painless, so you might not know you’ve been bitten until it’s too late. Fortunately, the blue-ringed octopus isn’t aggressive; it’s only likely to bite humans if cornered or handled. In fact, there have been no known deaths from its bite since the 1960s. As long as you keep your hands to yourself, you should be fine.



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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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Meet the Scientists Studying the BP Oil Disaster in “Dispatches from the Gulf” http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/19/meet-the-scientists-studying-the-bp-oil-disaster-in-dispatches-from-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/19/meet-the-scientists-studying-the-bp-oil-disaster-in-dispatches-from-the-gulf/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 13:00:39 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11930

In the new documentary “Dispatches from the Gulf,” the scientists are the heroes. The film airs for the general public for the first time via livestream on April 20 at 2pm and 7pm eastern. I got a sneak peek of the film, and trust me—you won’t want to miss it.

Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began in 2010, hundreds of scientists around the country have been documenting the impacts of the tragedy on the wildlife and habitats of the Gulf of Mexico. This documentary tells the stories of these scientists, from the University of Miami team that built the equivalent of a treadmill for mahi mahi to test their endurance and see how oil has affected their hearts, to Christopher Reddy, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist who scours the beach for tar balls with a simple tote bag and pair of purple gloves.

Their stories are pretty inspiring. For me, the most memorable part was watching Dr. Mandy Joye, professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, climb into the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) “Alvin”—the same ROV that explored the wreckage of the Titanic. Dr. Joye then traveled 90 minutes in the Alvin to the bottom of the Gulf, where she found a shocking amount of oil on the seafloor.

The work these scientists are doing is important to understand how the Gulf’s wildlife and habitats are recovering—or if they’re not recovering, why. For the creatures that live in the deep, blue ecosystem of the Gulf, expanding research and monitoring is one of our only options for restoring their populations. In the case of the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, the herring fishery collapsed unexpectedly after four years. The Gulf supports a giant seafood industry, and we don’t want to see a similar crisis strike here. That’s why we need science to understand how our fish and wildlife are coping with the stress of the BP oil disaster.

If there is something to be gained from this tragedy, it is knowledge. Many of the lessons we are learning about the Gulf in the aftermath of the BP oil disaster can be applied elsewhere in the world. If a researcher from the other side of the world wants to know how fish and corals in the deep sea are affected by exposure to oil, they will turn to our scientists in the Gulf. The Gulf stands on the forefront of a unique opportunity to lead in the field of marine science, but only if we make science a priority in the effort to restore the Gulf.

Don’t forget to catch the livestream of the documentary tomorrow, April 20 at 2pm and 7pm EDT, and follow the conversation on Twitter.

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What Do We Actually Know About the Ecological Impacts of Marine Debris? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/31/what-do-we-actually-know-about-the-ecological-impacts-of-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/31/what-do-we-actually-know-about-the-ecological-impacts-of-marine-debris/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 13:00:26 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11795

The following is a guest blog from Dr. Chelsea Rochman, who is currently serving as a Smith Postdoctoral Fellow in Conservation Biology.

For decades, we have heard concerns regarding the entanglement of marine mammals and sea turtles in marine debris. We see images of seabirds, turtles and whales washing up with bellies full of trash. And more recently, we see constant media attention on microplastics—small pieces of plastic debris less than five millimeters in size. Marine debris is everywhere. It is reported from the poles to the equator and from the surface to the seafloor. It has been recorded in tens of thousands of individual animals encompassing nearly 600 species.

With such vast and abundant contamination, comes a perception that marine debris is a large threat to the ecology of our ocean. As part of a working group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) facilitated by Ocean Conservancy and focused on marine debris, I worked with a group of scientists to ask if the weight of evidence demonstrating impacts matched the weight of this concern? The findings of our analysis have just been published.

The Weight of Evidence


“What do we actually know about the ecological impacts of marine debris?

To answer this question, we dove into the growing scientific literature and quantified perceptions regarding impact and evaluated whether individual studies had rigorously tested and demonstrated an effect.

Overall, we found hundreds of perceived impacts and substantial evidence of demonstrated impacts caused by marine debris. We showed that in almost every case where a perceived impact was properly tested, an impact was demonstrated. While we found most evidence at suborganismal levels, it is not a foregone conclusion that sublethal effects due to debris will result in an ecological impact. To be sure that such an ecological response exists, requires a heavier weight of evidence; i.e. more science!

Show Me the Data!

The majority of all impacts were caused by plastic items. For example, my own studies have demonstrated changes in gene expression related to endocrine disruption and stress in the livers of fish exposed to microplastic (Rochman et al., 2013 Sci Reports; Rochman et al., 2014 STOTEN). Still, evidence of demonstrated impacts above suborganismal levels remains extremely sparse, mainly demonstrating death to individual organisms. Causes of impact were mostly due to ingestion, followed by entanglement and smothering. The most common items reported to cause effects at the organism or assemblage levels were lost fishing gear and other items of plastic debris such as rope, bags, straws and degraded fragments. Interestingly, a recent study led by Ocean Conservancy and CSIRO determined that these same marine debris items are perceived to be among the most hazardous by experts in the field.

Perceived, tested and demonstrated impacts of debris. Rows in each matrix represent different levels of biological organization. Columns represent order-of-magnitude sizes of debris from smallest (left) to largest (right). Shading in the individual cells of the matrix represent the magnitude of a) perceived b) tested and c) demonstrated impacts of debris. White represents 0, light grey 1 – 5, grey 6 – 10, dark grey 11 – 20 and black > 21 impacts. Diamonds in matrix 2c correspond to cells where at least one impact has been demonstrated by correlative evidence. 

Although we conclude that the quantity and quality of research evaluating ecological impacts requires improvement for risk to ocean health to be determined with precision, scientists have generated a lot of evidence over the last several decades regarding widespread contamination and suborganismal impacts of marine debris. Thus, there is enough information for policy makers, non-governmental organizations and industry to work together, such as through the Trash Free Seas Alliance® to strategize ways to invoke positive change now while scientists continue to rigorously increase our understanding of the ecological consequences of debris on ocean health.

For more information, the entire article can be found here.

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The Future Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/20/future-oceans/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/20/future-oceans/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:33:09 +0000 Anna Zivian http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10912

Ocean change is happening, and all of us who love and rely on the ocean are recognizing how important that is for our future. Ocean Conservancy recently participated in the Our Ocean conference in Chile, where global leaders convened to advance solutions to changes and threats to our ocean like illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, and ocean acidification. Scientists, too, have been focusing on these challenging problems and responses to them. It is clear that if we are to confront the consequences of a changing ocean, we will need more and better science to anticipate these changes and respond proactively to protect the ocean’s future and our own.

The recently-released Nereus Program report, “Predicting Future Oceans: Climate Change, Oceans & Fisheries,” is a key tool for helping us do so. It lays out the key challenges in managing the ocean under climate change and also presents key strategies to address these challenges. Based on the latest scientific findings from innovative research on marine ecosystems and ocean governance, the Nereus report offers a short, easily-readable overview of current and future ocean phenomena and a guide on the actions needed to keep our ocean healthy and productive, especially with respect to fisheries and seafood production. The report highlights a large body of research from over 25 academic articles written or co-authored by global ocean experts affiliated with the Nereus Program.

Central to the report are seven main conclusions. The report states:

1. Due to CO2 emissions, changes in global ocean properties – particularly temperatures, acidity and oxygen levels – are occurring at a scale unprecedented in the last several thousands of years.

2. Climate change is expected to affect the oceans’ biological productivity — from phytoplankton to the top predators.

3. Climate change has already been affecting global marine ecosystems and fisheries, with further impacts expected given current trends in CO2 emissions.

4. Fishing exerts significant pressure on marine ecosystems globally – altering biodiversity and food web structures – and affects the ability of the international community to meet its sustainability goals.

5. The impacts of climate change interact with the existing problems of overfishing and habitat destruction, driven largely by excess fishing fleets, coastal development and market expansion.

6. Aquaculture is developing rapidly, with the potential to supersede marine capture fish supply. Yet, the full understanding of its impact, including its long-term ecological and social sustainability, is unclear.

7. Sustainable fisheries in the future require the further development and strengthening of international fisheries law, as well as the overarching international framework for ocean governance.

To address these challenges, the report recommends six strategies that can work in concert to improve ocean and socioeconomic health:

1. Bringing CO2 emissions under control.

2. Maintaining biodiversity, habitat and ecosystem structure.

3. Diversifying the “toolkit” for fisheries management.

4. Adopting economic systems that support sustainable practice.

5. Enhancing cooperation and coordination between international fisheries regulation and regulation of other maritime activities.

6. Ensuring equitable distribution and access for fishing in vulnerable communities.

At Ocean Conservancy, we know the ocean is critical to all life. Actionable and effective solutions require that we better understand and predict changes to our coasts and ocean. The Nereus Report is an important contribution to bringing the best, most relevant information to bear to protect, maintain, and restore healthy ocean ecosystems. It is especially relevant to our ongoing work at Ocean Conservancy; right now, for example, our fisheries and ocean planning programs are grappling with how multiple human-induced stressors affect ocean and fishery health. We are applying new tools and techniques in improved fishery management and smart ocean planning to ensure we can rely on and enjoy the ocean for years to come.

The future is coming to the ocean of today. We need to take action now to ensure we protect our future ocean. More science — like that in the Nereus Report — can help us do that.

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