The Blog Aquatic » solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Hope Over Fear: Ocean Is Bruised and Battered, But Not Broken http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/25/hope-over-fear-ocean-is-bruised-and-battered-but-not-broken/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/25/hope-over-fear-ocean-is-bruised-and-battered-but-not-broken/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 12:00:27 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6880 The midnight sun in Alaska.

Photo: Nick Mallos

Words of lost hope and unsolvable problems have been circulating the past few days in response to an article highlighting Ivan Macfadyen’s sail from Melbourne to Osaka. In the article, this long-time sailor describes the waters of his Pacific crossing as desolate and without life, “… for 3,000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.” Macfadyen goes on to describe in detail that in place of the missing life were abhorrent sights and volumes of garbage.

Reactions on social media have included words such as sad, scary and heartbreaking. But most of all, I’m concerned about posts like this one:

Tweet from Coast Road: I'm outta ideas. What do we do now?

It is clear that our ocean is facing unprecedented times and growing environmental challenges. In many places, we’re treating rivers and coastal waters like refuse pits for our unwanted waste. We are catching too many fish, and we are putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it is finding its way into the ocean with troubling consequences. However, I’m not yet ready to throw in the towel, and it troubles me that this article leaves people feeling hopeless. We know that if people are left with despair, they have little motivation to work toward solutions.

While I cannot discount or confirm Mr. Macfadyen’s accounts of his journey, we should be careful in our interpretation of his personal story. While it is a powerful observation, it is only a single observation. Science—the thorough, replicated and verified collection of ocean observations—must be the foundation upon which we understand a changing ocean and from which we advocate and empower society to strive for solutions.

As a marine scientist at Ocean Conservancy, I have been to the North Pacific Gyre, Gulf of Alaska, Caribbean Sea and Sea of Japan researching and cleaning up ocean trash. In all my travels, never have I seen debris conditions so voluminous or severe, nor have I heard of such atrocities from my scientific colleagues. Don’t get me wrong—there is stuff out there—a lot of it. But the bulk of that material is comprised of small, fragmented plastics that lie just below the water’s surface, posing a range of ingestion threats to turtles, birds and fishes. To more fully understand the impact of plastics on ocean health, Ocean Conservancy has brought together the world’s top scientists to quantify the extent and impact of the global marine debris problem. This global synthesis should provide new insights into this global problem.

Mr. Macfadyen also incorrectly states that there are no organizations trying to solve the problem of marine debris. In fact, a large number of concerned people, engaged governments, independent scientists and passionate nonprofit organizations are working diligently to address these complex issues. Ocean Conservancy is joined by a community of hard-working and passionate conservation organizations such as Surfrider, 5Gyres Institute, Algalita Marine Research Institute, NRDC and Plastic Pollution Coalition that are deeply committed to the fight to stop plastics and trash from reaching our beaches and waterways.

I am not downplaying the struggles our ocean faces. Plastic pollution, ocean acidification and commercial overfishing are serious problems that must—and are—being addressed. But if we want to truly confront these issues, we must be principled and scientifically grounded in our strategy. And if we want people to join the fight and feel like their efforts are worth something, we must empower them with ideas and hope, not fear.

If you’d like to learn more about why you should be hopeful for our ocean, watch this video from my recent scientific expedition to Alaska. If you would like to reduce your personal impact on the ocean, download Ocean Conservancy’s mobile app Rippl to get simple tips on how to make a difference.

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Of Fear, Hope, and the Future of Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/17/of-fear-hope-and-the-future-of-our-oceans/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/17/of-fear-hope-and-the-future-of-our-oceans/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2012 19:30:28 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1768

Credit: Wyant Lauterman

As an ocean scientist I am personally familiar with the struggle between dread and hope. This duality is deeply entwined in all of our work here at Ocean Conservancy. Understanding the seriousness of what ails the ocean and what it will take to address these problems often keeps me up at night. But it is the knowledge that much can be done to turn the tide – that there is hope for our oceans – that gets me out of bed each morning.

Anxiety can be paralyzing. But if we let fear over the extent of the ocean’s problems overwhelm us, the future will undoubtedly be bleak. Yet, so too can false hope also prevent timely or adequate action or send us in search of solutions not based on scientific fact. We must face this scientific reality if we are to address the seriousness of the challenges before us.

Last week, The New York Times published a powerful opinion piece starkly laying out an ocean future devoid of coral reefs. Corals are under assault from a “perfect storm” of overfishing, ocean acidification, and pollution and their future is very much at risk. But the piece’s author Roger Bradbury went further, concluding that “there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem” and accusing conservationists of “persisting in the false belief that corals have a future.” He calls for a radical reallocation of funding from trying to save coral reefs to coping with the fallout from their inevitable collapse.

Should we simply give up on coral reefs? Really? Is our only solution to plan for a world without corals and the vital natural ecosystems they support? There is no debating that a healthy future for corals is at serious risk, but in my view, the only sure way to guarantee corals’ failure is to lose hope that we can save them. To give up. At Ocean Conservancy, we believe there is a moral imperative to ensure that doesn’t happen.

History is replete with examples where a dedicated effort – and a dose of optimism – turned some of the most dire environmental problems around. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio literally caught fire because it was so polluted. That same river now supports 44 species of fish and bald eagles have started nesting along its shores. Speaking of bald eagles, they, along with other iconic American species such as the Gray Wolf, the Southern Sea Otter and the Grey Whale, have recovered from the edge of extinction due to the combined effects of the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts and countless dedicated scientists, advocates and government officials with a deep commitment to making things better and a belief that they could make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we are not Pollyannas. We believe in facing the ocean’s problems head on. But we also know from experience that nature is extraordinarily resilient. And with focus and tenacity even very serious threats can be addressed over time. That is why we have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to establish a network of marine reserves in California, a central strategy to enhance the ocean’s ability to resist the impending – and frightening – impacts of climate change. We have succeeded in putting red snapper on a path to recovery in the Gulf of Mexico and developed a broader blueprint for recovery in the Gulf following the BP oil disaster. This work was extraordinarily hard. It has no guarantee of future success. But we believe it will make a difference and this belief is fundamentally grounded in the hope of a better future for our ocean.

Make no mistake – our ocean faces significant and daunting challenges. But we can’t give up hope. Instead the scientific reality that our coral reefs are dying must be our wake up call. The time is now to redouble our efforts, focus on real solutions and collectively commit to making the tough choices necessary to turn the tide.

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