Author Archive

A Bad Deal for America’s Ocean: Plan Aims to Open Up Almost All of America’s Coastline to Risky Offshore Drilling

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On January 4, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke unveiled the Trump administration’s proposed new five-year offshore leasing program—and it’s not pretty. The proposed leasing program aims to open up almost all of America’s coastline to risky offshore drilling. Vast swaths of the Arctic—including areas in the Northern Bering Sea that haven’t been made available for leasing in 30 years— and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would be made available to oil companies.

Secretary Zinke’s proposed plan is now open for public comment. At this point, the plan is still preliminary; it won’t be finalized for a year or more. But now is the time to take a stand and demand change. Tell Secretary Zinke that you oppose new offshore drilling off the Atlantic and Arctic and Pacific coasts.

Our nation’s offshore energy program should be based on science and stewardship. Instead, the proposed plan is a gift to oil and gas companies that seek to exploit our ocean for profit. It puts campaign contributors before conservation—and that’s not right.

Offshore drilling is risky business, and the threat of a catastrophic oil spill is always present. Even under the best of conditions, it is difficult to clean up spilled oil. Secretary Zinke’s plan would allow for oil and gas leasing in areas where it would be virtually impossible to clean up a spill.

A spill in Arctic waters, for example, would be especially challenging because of the region’s remoteness. The town of Utqiaġvik (Barrow) on Alaska’s northern coastline is roughly 1,300 miles from the nearest major port by boat. And the nearest Coast Guard air station is a 950 mile flight away from Utqiaġvik. Even after responders arrive in the Arctic, spill response efforts would likely be hampered by intense storms, high waves, sea-ice, extreme cold and other environmental challenges.

Unfortunately, this short-sighted offshore drilling plan is not an anomaly. In the past year, President Trump and Secretary Zinke have been busy dismantling environmental protections and making it easier for extractive industries to exploit the lands and waters that belong to all of us. They have attempted to scrap protections for sensitive environmental areas—both in the ocean and on land. They have threatened to shrink marine monuments and roll-back standards and regulations designed to safeguard important ocean habitat. And now they are attempting to open up new areas of our ocean to risky offshore drilling—including key areas in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific.

Enough is enough. Tell Secretary Zinke that you oppose his offshore drilling plan.


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A Garbage Emergency in Bali and How We Can Solve It

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Over the winter holidays, hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists flock to the beaches of Bali, eager to enjoy the Indonesian island’s breathtaking landscapes and iconic temples. This year, however, sightseers may have gotten more than they bargained for: mass amounts of marine debris.

Last week, Bali declared a “garbage emergency” after some of the island’s most popular beaches were overrun with plastic waste. More than three and a half miles of shoreline were declared an emergency zone due to the sheer amount of junk on the beach: workers collected approximately 200,000 pounds of garbage each day at the peak of the cleanup.

Shocking as the situation may be, this is hardly the first time we’ve heard of Indonesia’s plastic problem. Just a few months ago, a photo of a seahorse latching onto a cotton swab off the country’s coast went viral. And in 2012, world-famous surfer Kelly Slater—whose company, Outerknown, has partnered with Ocean Conservancy on beach cleanups—warned his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers that “If Bali doesn’t #DoSomething serious about this pollution it’ll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I’ve ever seen.”

The Indonesian government and people are responding to the challenge. In February, 2017, the government pledged that it will reduce 70% of its plastic debris by the end of 2025. To do this, Indonesia has developed a National Action Plan on Marine Plastic Debris that contains numerous strategies and concrete plans on land, on coastal areas and at sea aimed at significantly reducing marine plastic debris from all of these sources. Reaching out directly to citizens, Indonesia will also integrate the issue of marine plastic into its national education curriculum. Additionally, the World Bank has created a trust fund to help Indonesia tackle the issue, with Denmark having agreed to contribute more than $800,000 to the cause.

But this is not one country’s problem, or fight. A 2015 seminal paper by Dr. Jenna Jambeck and several colleagues published in Science estimated that approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flow into our ocean each year globally, threatening this delicate and interconnected ecosystem. While the authors estimate that more than half of it is now coming from five counties in Asia, including Indonesia, countries all around the world contribute to this flow, and if we don’t change our trajectory, more countries from Africa and Latin America will make the list as their populations and incomes grow.

Meanwhile, as illustrated by the Bali crisis, ocean plastic is not just a problem for the ocean and the creatures in it—it has direct consequences for communities and economies, and comes with real costs. In 2008, marine debris was estimated to have directly cost the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies approximately US$ 1.3 billion in impacts on tourism, fishing, transportation and insurance industries.

To solve the garbage crisis in Bali and elsewhere, all of us need to work together to create big, systemic change. Ocean Conservancy has made partnering with governments, NGOs, and the private sector to fight ocean plastic a priority, and we’re starting with Southeast Asia. This is why at the 2017 Our Ocean conference in Malta Ocean Conservancy and its partners, including the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, Closed Loop Partners, PepsiCo, 3M, Procter Gamble, the American Chemistry Council and the World Plastics Council, announced an initiative to raise over $150 million toward improved waste management in the region. In September 2017, we also joined the Indonesian government to announce the launch of the Alliance for Marine Plastic Solutions (AMPS), in partnership with the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, to bring together private sector companies with local governments and organizations to catalyze on-the-ground solutions and accelerate opportunity to scale up projects that work. We believe it is through these types of collaborative, multi-sector efforts that we will make the most difference.

Indonesia’s fight against ocean plastic is likely to play a starring role in this year’s news cycle, as more and more people get engaged and look for solutions. With Indonesia hosting the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, as well as the Our Ocean Conference, this year—where marine debris will undoubtedly be center stage—there is an opportunity to engage everyone from finance ministers to school children on this issue, and move toward truly global solutions.

All to say, we have reason to be optimistic that 2018 is the year Indonesia and the rest of us really stem the tide on ocean trash.




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The Books Every Ocean Lover Should Read in 2018

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Here at Ocean Conservancy, we get countless requests for all things sea-related—including our best book recommendations for ocean lovers. The beginning of January is the perfect time to curl up with a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a start a new book (or three), and Ocean Conservancy’s staff has pitched in with their best recommendations, just in time for the new year. Which ones will you add to your 2018 reading list?

BONUS: Purchase any of these books with your Amazon account, sign up FREE for the Amazon Smile program, and when you checkout, 0.5% of the proceeds of your purchase will be donated to Ocean Conservancy! Click here for the details on how to apply this feature to your shopping cart today.

Inspiring Depictions of Natural History

While our ocean is awe-inspiring all on its own, knowing the natural histories of its various habitats and species can help us appreciate it all the more. These books help us understand how and why our ocean came to be as it is today, as well as how it established itself as being one of the most important features of communities and cultures across the globe.

  • Beautiful Swimmers (William W. Warner)
    • “This is my favorite. Not just because I grew up enjoying steamed crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, but because it tells a compelling story about the fascinating Blue crab, its history and importance to the Chesapeake region…and, it describes how easy it is to overfish a presumed limitless resource.” 

-Charlotte Meyer (Director of Individual Philanthropy)

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The Human-Ocean Connection

These inspiring books discuss the incredible and sometimes mysterious pull that human beings feel towardblue mindblue mindthe sea, as well as our ocean’s ability to make us feel happier, healthier, and more in tune with our spirituality

The Health and Wellbeing of Our Ocean Today, and What We Can Do to Help It

It’s no mystery that our ocean is has been and continues to face some extremely detrimental threats when it comes to maintaining healthy ecosystems today. These works outline some of those most threatening issues, and contain some powerful calls to action about ways we can help combat these problems.

-Rebecca Colglazier (Manager, Development Operations)

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Addressing and Combating Plastic Pollution

While we could’ve included pollution and the presence of trash in our seas in the previous category, we know that these topics can sometimes be so strong that they’re placed in a realm all their own. The following are both true stories about some of the most powerful discoveries of accidental plastic loss at sea, the impact they had on our ocean, and what brave and determined individuals and communities did to fight back against this type of pollution.

-Ivy Frederickson (Staff Attorney, Conservation Programs)

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Photography-Based and Coffee Table Books

Know someone who loves visuals and photography? These books use the power of imagery to communicate their key messages, but all unite in oneUntitled design (5)Untitled design (5)common theme: demonstrating the beauty of our ocean through photos! 

The Living Seas and Books on Marine Life

If you or someone you know is highly interested in marine life and the creatures that dwell beneath the surface of the sea, these are the animal- and living being-focused books we recommend!

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Fictional Coastal Adventures

Diving into the category of fiction, these books both demonstrate themes of action, thrill, and even science-fiction. The best part? They’re all set along our nation’s gorgeous coasts!

  • Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer)
    • “I fell in love with St. Marks while I was visiting nearby Wakulla Springs last year, and I love that VanderMeer–who lives in Tallahassee–sets the book in a version of the Gulf Coast that seems almost pristine yet dangerous. The book is the first of the author’s Southern Reach trilogy, and it’s been adapted as a movie starring Natalie Portman, to be released this February!”

-Rachel Guillory (Gulf Restoration Program Specialist)

  • Tampa Burn (Randy Wayne Right)
    • “The entire Doc Ford series discovers the Indiana Jones-like escapades of an ex-CIA assassin turned marine biologist; all set on the Florida Gulf Coast. How could I not relate to this?”

-Michael Drexler (Fisheries Scientist)

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From classic literary gems to unbelievable first-person accounts, these literary pieces are all about one thing: experiences had by human beings on the open seas!

  • The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Shackleton’s Boat Journey (Frank A. Worsley)
    • “A short, vivid account by the ship’s skipper of Ernest Shackleton’s voyage in open boats to South Georgia to rescue his stranded Antarctic expedition. This is what got me hooked on Antarctica and the polar regions, so I can say it was a life-changing read!”

-Henry P. Huntington, Ph.D. (Director,  Arctic Science)

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An Alaskan Plan to Tackle Climate Change

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Less than a week after Governor Bill Walker appointed me to the Alaska Climate Action Leadership Team, I attended our first meeting in Anchorage. The participants reflected Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallot’s commitment to hearing from a rich diversity of other Alaskan voices from across our nation’s biggest state.

Together, we represented different geographic, cultural and educational backgrounds brought together and united by a common cause—our commitment to helping our state chart a path forward to take action on climate change, one of the biggest challenges of our time. In my view, action is needed urgently especially as President Trump and other national political leaders seek to undermine science and undo progress on addressing global climate change.

In Alaska, we are seeing and experiencing the effects of changing climate first-hand. Our lands and waters are changing and, with those changes, come significant impacts on our communities, economy and very way of life.

Villages are falling into the ocean. Unreliable sea ice is disrupting subsistence hunting practices that have existed for millennia. Unusual weather events are becoming more common. The changes in Utqiaġvik (Barrow) were so rapid that models developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flagged the relevant data as unreal and excluded it from the associated databases. The recently released 2017 Arctic Report Card calls this the “new normal,” marked by a rapid decline in sea-ice and increasingly warm ocean waters at rate that has not been seen in at least the last 1,500 years.

What can we do and how best can we prepare to adapt to our rapidly changing world? Well, that was part of the discussion at the meeting. We talked about building resilience for our communities, about becoming a world leader in renewable sources of energy, about scientific research to guide sustainable, forward-looking choices, and about the specific actions that can further those goals.

I was particularly inspired by the concept of One Health, which recognizes that the health of the environment and people really is the same—healthy communities are part of healthy ecosystems and vice versa. It is a holistic approach that is very relevant in Alaska and the Arctic. The resilience of communities and ecosystems are interdependent and, really, indistinguishable in many ways.

I am proud to serve on this inclusive team that will strive to guide state action to address climate change from a unified, Alaskan viewpoint, not as a partisan political issue. We will build on previous efforts by former Governor Sarah Palin and the Alaska Arctic Policy Committee. While the task ahead is immensely challenging, I am optimistic that we are taking steps in the right direction.

I’ll be sharing regular updates from our progress so watch this space!

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A Thank You Note to Our Ocean

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As 2017 winds down to a close, and as we all join our families to celebrate a season of togetherness, joy, and appreciation, we can’t help but appreciate the countless gifts our ocean offers us each and every day. Recently, we came across an adorable and quite seasonally-appropriate holiday: National Thank You Note Day. I started to think about what I’m personally most thankful for this year. And the one thing that kept coming back to my mind?

The ocean.


Sure, it seems pretty obvious that people who work for an ocean conservation group would clearly love and adore the sea beyond words. But, as I continued reflecting, I wondered: how often do we truly take the time to mindfully appreciate all our ocean gives us on a regular basis? From promoting relaxation and positive, calming vibes, to providing millions of people with a reliable food source, to the air we breathe and the water we drink, the sea provides both our bodies and minds with innumerable things that our lives would never be the same without.

So this year, we’re ready to acknowledge those gifts, and thank our ocean for so many things…

Public Domain

  • Thank you for your ability to inspire, and for instilling in us a sense of wonder and curiosity that’s beyond what we can put into words. Close to 95% of our ocean remains unexplored by mankind. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that a statistic like that certainly leaves a renewed sense of wonder and curiosity about our great blue planet.

Public Domain

  • Thank you for providing our world with food…if only we show it the respect and treatment it deserves. From fish to oysters to mussels and more, countless coastal communities and indigenous groups rely on healthy oceans for both steady dietary provisions and stable local economies. Without our seas, these communities truly would never be the same. Countless cultures center their livelihood and communities around the sea, making our ocean the foundation of cultures around the world.

Taylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WATaylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WA
© 2013 Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy All Rights Reserved

  • Thank you for seeing us all as equalsfor being being pure-heartedly and gracefully free from the superficial assumptions. Whether sourced from our biases on race, gender, religion, abilities, or otherwise, you show us that the sea is welcoming and willing to show its beauty to all who wish to see and appreciate it, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Public Domain

  • Thank you for bringing communities together with a united cause for a greater good. Across our country and the globe, thousands have come together each year to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup. Even after some of the most catastrophic natural disasters, cleanup efforts have brought people together and illustrated the tie that binds us: a love for each other, and a love for our ocean.

A Joy Asico:Asico PhotoA Joy Asico:Asico Photo
© Joy Asico

Thank you, thank you, thank you…for being beautiful, educational, calming, and awe-inspiring, all at once. Without the influence of our ocean on how so many of us view the world (with a sense of wonder, humility, and limitless curiosity), we would never be the same. So again…

To our ocean, thank you.

While this year has brought quite the number of obstacles and difficulties to those trying to protect you, rest assured, we won’t give up on you.

We see you, and we’re fighting for you. No matter what happens, we’re excited for the start of 2018, symbolizing a fresh start and renewed energy for our work to protect and preserve you.

Public Domain

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The Ocean Expedition You Can Watch from the Comfort of Your Home

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How many nautical vessels does the United States own that are dedicated to exploring the seabed and ocean crust?


Just one!

© NOAA Okeanos

The Okeanos Explorer is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This high-tech ship travels around the world to map the floor of our ocean and gather data on marine life—and it just completed a key phase of its 2017-2018 expedition. This venture, which took place in the Gulf of Mexico, started on November 29th and ended on December 20th. The expedition will resume in March 2018. NOAA scientists on the ship explored ship wrecks, deep sea corals, chemosynthetic communities and underwater volcanoes—but that’s only a glimpse of Okeanos’ full scientific potential.

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© NOAA Okeanos

Technology like the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), which NOAA scientists have dubbed “Deep Discoverer” (D2), allows scientists to understand the mysteries of our ocean like never before. This is the first time an Okeanos expedition has ever been live streamed, so ocean lovers can now watch D2 plunge into the deep and explore the shadowy depths of the sea floor in real time.

Our ocean is still largely uncharted and unexplored, so the exploration and research that Okeanos and NOAA scientists are conducting will contribute greatly to our understanding of our ocean and the life that inhabits it. The 2017-2018 expedition has been filled with unexpected surprises—some good and some bad. Here are a few of the 2017 Gulf of Mexico expedition highlights:

It’s called a deep clean…

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© NOAA Okeanos

During Okeanos’ December 14th dive in the Gulf of Mexico, D2 dove down to the bottom of the sea floor to investigate a mysterious ship wreck known as ‘Wreck 15725’. Upon arrival to the designated location on the sonar, they discovered that there was no ship! Instead, they found a shipping crate and a graveyard of sunken washers, dryers, refrigerators and deep freezers. What a weird find! This discovery shows how pervasive trash and debris are, even at the most remote depths of our ocean.

Is that a shark!?

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© NOAA Okeanos

You silly ocean lovers! That ghost-eyed creature is actually a long nosed chimaera. Although they aren’t sharks, sharks are their distant cousins. These fish are rarely seen by humans because they live close to our ocean floor. Okeanos spotted this rare deep sea creature on its December 12th Gulf of Mexico dive. Even the scientists on the ship were in awe because some of them had never seen a long nosed chimaera in the wild.

(Cue Lion King soundtrack) – ♪It’s the circle of life ♪

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© NOAA Okeanos

On Okeanos’ first ROV dive, which took place on December 2nd, the crew explored the “South Reed,” a site southwest of Florida. NOAA scientists observed multiple schools of squid, including these shortfin squid in the middle of their mating season. While there were an abundance of squids swimming and flirting, the ROV observed dozens of lifeless squids scattered over our ocean floor. Once a squid mates, it dies shortly after the reproduction process is complete. NOAA scientists were certain that a mass mortality event had occurred due to mating. Hence, the circle of life; mass mortality events are no laughing matter, but baby squids are adorable!

Do you wreck-en well make it through the storm?

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© NOAA Okeanos

During Okeanos’ December 9th dive, ROV plunged into the Gulf of Mexico to investigate an unexplored ship wreck, known as ‘wreck 15377’.  A thorough assessment of the ship was conducted. This included 3D mosaic imaging, allowing NOAA scientists to bring the mysteries of the seafloor to an electronic platform. Dating the ship back to the mid-eighteen hundreds, it was determined that this ship was predominantly used for hauling large amounts of cargo across our ocean. The ship contained pots, pans, ceramic containers, hand-blown glass jugs, along with an array of sea life that has made the shipwreck home over the last century and a half.

Creepy Crawlies on our ocean floor

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© NOAA Okeanos

-On December 16th, Okeanos explored the Tunica Mound, off the coast of Louisiana. While observing the diverse marine biology, looming on sea floor, NOAA scientists paused to examine this camouflaged sea creature. Looking like an elongated flounder with centipede legs, this cynoglossid tonguefish uses its individual rays of fins to inch its way across the sea floor. The biodiversity of our ocean seems to have no bounds.

The mission isn’t over yet. Okeanos is going to be doing more Gulf of Mexico deep sea exploration in 2018 from March 23rd-April 5th. Look out for updates, reminders and additional content regarding the March expedition and join us as we tag along with Okeanos in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

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A Social Celebration of Our Ocean at Work

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I am so thrilled that 2017 closed on a high note
for ocean planning!

One year milestones always seem to hold a special significance—whether it’s a first birthday, a one year wedding anniversary, or simply your first year in a new city. It exemplifies 365 days of first experiences, first challenges and first triumphs.  December marked the one year anniversary of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Ocean Plans. Here are some of our favorite tweets celebrating the success of a common-sense, collaborative approach that keeps our ocean working for all of us.

We all love the ocean. It is not only where we go to find adventure, relaxation and recreation, it is one of America’s greatest natural resources. Did you know, the ocean economy touches 30 coastal and Great Lakes states? It contributes $352 billion annually to the U.S. economy and supports 3.1 million jobs nationwide. That’s equivalent to the economy of the entire nation of Norway, and that’s more jobs than the entire population of Iowa! I’d say that’s worth celebrating and protecting for this and future generations.

If you read the stories around Our Ocean at Work, perhaps one of the most outstanding aspects of ocean planning has been access to rich, new data about how we use the ocean. Avoiding conflicts between the needs of various ocean users starts with a common understanding—and in the case of ocean planning, that is taking place through open dialogues based on clear, reliable information.

A huge reason why I also celebrate ocean planning is because it brings diverse stakeholders to the table. In an excellent conversation with Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Nation, she talked about how tribes have a seat at the table when it comes to this process, noting, “Our ability to bridge western and indigenous knowledge and science is at the heart of innovation for this planning process.”

At Ocean Conservancy, we are celebrating  the common-sense, collaborative approach of regional ocean planning that has been embraced by industry, fisheries managers, tribes, coastal communities and agencies.

What it comes down to is, ocean planning just makes plain sense. Ocean Conservancy is delighted to see it succeeding in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The support it has generated is already inspiring the West Coast to work on its own ocean plan.

Ocean planning gives America one of the best tools to­ keep our blue economy strong from sea to shining sea – let’s celebrate that!

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A Bold Step in the Fight Against Ocean Acidification

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The Senate just took a bold step in the fight against ocean acidification by introducing legislation to help prepare our coastal communities for the impacts of this looming issue. Taking such a step requires political leadership – and elected officials from state legislatures to the halls of Congress are stepping up to the plate to protect their communities from changing ocean conditions.

Senator Murkowski (R-AK), along with a group of bipartisan Senators, including Senator Collins (R-ME), Senator Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and Senator Peters (D-MI) introduced S. 2229, the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act. This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct assessments that will help determine the risks that coastal communities face because of changing ocean chemistry. This bill is a companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), which has garnered wide bipartisan support in the pasts several Congresses from coast to coast.

We’ve already seen how ocean acidification can drastically impact ocean resources on which coastal communities depend. Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest nearly declared bankruptcy in the mid-2000s as a result of ocean acidification, which killed billions of oyster larvae and jeopardized the livelihood of many coastal residents who depend on these ocean species. In Alaska, there are worries that acidification could put the red king crab fishery at risk. In Maine, fishermen are calling for additional research that examines acidification’s impact on lobster, a valuable fishery for Maine’s coastal cities and towns. Coastal communities are unique because of their dependence on the ocean for economic prosperity, and changing ocean chemistry can disrupt that connection. Continual research and monitoring will increase our knowledge of ocean acidification and will inform strategies that are essential for protecting communities along the coast. But if we don’t also take steps to address acidification, the problem will only get worse.

Taylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WATaylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WA
Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, WA © 2013 Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy All Rights Reserved

Political leaders have been instrumental in taking the small steps that add up to a big impact in fighting against ocean acidification. Leaders on both sides of the aisle, at all levels of government, and on all coasts recognize the importance of preparing their communities for the impacts of ocean acidification.

Senator Murkowski, as co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, has long talked about how ocean acidification would negatively impact Alaska communities, and has been a consistent champion for increased federal investment into research and monitoring. And in Maine, in addition to the leadership of federal lawmakers like Congresswoman Pingree and Senator Collins, the state legislature was among one of the first in the nation to establish a commission to study ocean acidification and its effects on economically valuable ocean species.

There continues to be a groundswell of local support for fighting ocean acidification, and we are making significant progress. But in order to keep this momentum, Congress needs to hear your voice. Join us by urging your member of Congress to cosponsor this critical legislation and help protect our coastal communities.

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The Fight Against Empty Oceans

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Healthy fish populations shouldn’t be a partisan issue—more fish in the water means more fish that can be caught. Fishermen, fishing businesses and conservationists share a similar goal, and lawmakers from both parties have historically worked together to solve the challenges of overfishing and create a law that keeps commercial and recreational fishermen out on the water. But it appears the tides have changed.

This week, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a markup on H.R. 3588 and H.R. 200, two pieces of partisan legislation that would seriously undermine the success we’ve had at managing fisheries in the United States.

On a strictly party line vote, the committee passed H.R.200, the House’s third attempt at a partisan bill to reauthorize and change our nation’s benchmark fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). H.R. 200 would undermine the science-based conservation tools in the MSA that are crucial to preventing overfishing, restoring still-depleted fish populations, and stabilizing coastal communities harmed by decades of overfishing. These tools help ensure the law has the strength needed to make sure we’re planning for the long-term health of our fish and fisheries, and removing them puts us at great risk of returning to the days of wide-spread overfishing and depleted stocks.

The Committee also passed H.R. 3588, also known as the RED SNAPPER Act, which would exempt Gulf of Mexico red snapper from the parts of the law that have helped this depleted stock start rebuilding.  If it was to become law, it would be the second blow this year to the fishery. Back in June, Department of Commerce extended the 2017 private recreational fishing season beyond sustainable levels—the data we have so far shows all this extra time on the water resulted in landing at least 1.5 times their catch limit. And it’s not accident—memos from Commerce lay out that they knew exactly what they were doing and the harm it would cause to the fishery. Administration officials spoke candidly about violating the MSA to intentionally manufacture a crisis as a way to push Congress to legislatively unwind conservation requirements for 2018.

H.R. 3588 would be the next step towards unraveling the progress made in this fishery, as it would continue to let private anglers fish under different, weaker rules with less accountability than commercial and for-hire fishermen. It’s a terrible precedent to set and steers us far away from the core principle that has formed the backbone of our management to date—we’re all in this together.  Overfishing from one sector hurts everyone who relies on the abundance of this fishery.

Both H.R. 200 and H.R. 3588 now await a vote by the full House of Representatives before being sent over to the Senate for their consideration. Fortunately, the Senate has shown a readiness to listen and compromise. They’ve held several hearings to consider the experiences of a wide array of stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, and fishery scientists. They now have an opportunity to work in a bipartisan fashion to tackle the real—not manufactured—challenges facing our fisheries.

If partisanship continues to dominate the conversation around fisheries, we know exactly how this story will end. It undoes the incredible progress we’ve made in responsible fisheries management and puts us back right where we started with depleted fish stocks and struggling fishing communities. That’s not fair to the fishermen who depend on abundant fisheries for their livelihood, the recreational anglers who are in it for the excitement of the catch, or the countless people throughout the country who enjoy eating seafood. It’s time for Congress start working together again and chart the course for real improvements to fisheries management. Our fishing communities depend on it.

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North Carolina Pilots, Oysters and Pilot Projects

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December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Two brothers sat down to a meal of oysters. But these were not just any brothers, and this certainly was not your average meal. Their names were Orville and Wilbur Wright, and this was their final meal before they attempted what no one had ever successfully accomplished: to fly.

Many people dismissed them as nothing more than a couple dreamers who were crazy enough to believe they could fly. Later that day, only five people showed up to watch the launch.

We all know how the Wright brothers’ story turned out. Thanks to their ingenuity, we no longer blink an eye when we defy gravity and jet from one side of the world to the other at 40,000 feet. But the carbon pollution from our jet-setting lifestyle is adding up and altering the pH balance of our oceans, causing forward-thinking business owners in Virginia and North Carolina to consider how to safeguard their oyster industries from ocean acidification.

Recently, after meeting with shellfish growers in Virginia, I traveled to Morehead City, North Carolina to meet a group of shellfish growers, recreational fishermen, natural resource managers, coastal development planners, scientists, and environmental groups to discuss acidification in local waters.  While ocean acidification is not a huge worry among stakeholders by itself, it could combine with the effects of existing runoff pollution in concerning ways.

Pollution in the form of excess nitrogen, phosphorus and other chemicals that wash from urban and rural lands already causes problems for coastal ecosystems and the people who rely on healthy, consistently productive waters. Specific animals like oysters, crabs and fish, and whole ecosystems are already affected by runoff pollution from specific events, like rainstorms. Often, these impacts take the form of sudden die-offs. And the state is tackling these issues with federal government support. Acidification from carbon pollution could pile onto this effect, possibly leading to slower growth rates plus increased die-offs of coastal species.

All the stakeholders at the North Carolina workshop were concerned because marine creatures like crabs and oysters provide jobs and revenue to coastal communities, create habitat for fish, and filter excess nitrogen and phosphorus from local waterways. But this group moved quickly from concern to action. Some of the leading ocean acidification researchers in the state underscored that more data is needed to determine whether acidification of North Carolina’s bays, estuaries and ocean coasts has been increasing, what those impacts might be to marine species, and what to do about it.  As a result, after the day-long discussion, the attendees are now initiating some pilot water chemistry monitoring projects to expand the existing monitoring and modeling efforts. Ocean acidification action in North Carolina is lifting off rapidly!

How acidification plays out in bays and estuaries around the country is something I’ll be discussing more. As North Carolina and Virginia aim to increase their production of oysters, the concerns over acidification and runoff pollution will grow. But in the spirit of the Wright brothers’ bold ambition, the region’s appetite for innovation will likely win out. And I’m betting our stakeholders will soon be offering lessons on how to create pilot monitoring programs!

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