Archive for the Saving Mother Ocean Category

Sky of Blue, Seas of Green: Discover what lives beneath the waves (and among the kelp)

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In its latest installment, Blue Planet II brings viewers to new underwater ecosystems. “Green Seas” highlights the kelp forests, mangroves and underwater grasslands that provide homes to some unique creatures. Dragon fish dads float through the currents, looking for a safe place to spawn. Giant cuttlefish search for mates. Thousands of spider crabs gather in a pile to shed their shells in safety.

The sheer amount of life in these undersea forests is almost surprising to a science novice like myself. Generally, when I think of where most ocean creatures live, I think of coral reefs. But if coral reef are the tropical rainforests of the seas, then these ecosystems are like underwater deciduous forests—maybe less flashy, but certainly just as lively.

One example of this surprising amount of life comes in the first few minutes of the episode. In the far north, as the weather begins to warm and spring begins, starfish begin to spawn. This mass spawning (and the supply of food that comes with it) spurs on life from all corners of the sea. Sea cucumbers emerge and use ten arms to grab onto the starfish eggs as they float on by. The time lapse footage is somewhat unsettling: a plant-like creature suddenly has arms that are grabbing onto food as quickly as possible. I’m reminded of what I must look like when you put a bag of chips in front of me.

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© Blue Planet II/BBC

The sea cucumbers aren’t the only creatures that benefit from the seasonal rises in ocean temperatures. Fronds of kelp begin to rise towards the surface, propelled by the sunlight.  What was once seemingly barren terrain becomes an ocean forest teeming with life. It’s a reminder that these aquatic ecosystems are delicate, and that the smallest changes in temperature or climate can have a big impact.

In the four years it took to film Blue Planet II, filmmakers captured behaviors of aquatic animals that had never been filmed before. In this episode, an octopus is chased by a shark. When it seems the octopus has no place left to go, she takes matters into her own tentacles. She hides itself in plain sight by covering herself in shells, confusing the shark and allowing her to escape. We knew octopuses were smart, but we’ve never before seen an octopus using camouflage quite like this. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if octopuses could live on land, they would be our overlords in no time.

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© Blue Planet II/BBC

Though there isn’t an explicit conservation call-to-action in the episode, it does make a strong case for protecting these seas of green. Along the pacific coast of North America, sea otters play a vital role in the kelp forests. Otters eat the sea urchins that arrive in hoards and would otherwise threaten these ecosystems. They are a keystone species, but were hunted for their fur and came close to extinction.

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© Blue Planet II/BBC

Today, sea otters are protected. In the US, they’re protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These protections have allowed sea otter populations to bounce back—in some places, their numbers have become so great that they assemble in huge rafts, something that hasn’t been seen in over a century. However, they’re still in danger. Ocean acidification threatens the shellfish that they eat. Plastic pollution threatens the kelp forests they call home. And the MMPA is under threat from some members of Congress who wish to weaken the act. Now is not the time to roll back protections of the animals that depend on our green seas, and now is not the time to feel hopeless about these threats. We can all protect our blue planet, and in just one week, Ocean Conservancy is hosting an advance screening of the final episode of Blue Planet II—much of this final episode focuses on things we can do to take action. Make sure to follow along on our Facebook account as we post stories from the screening.

Find out how you can help protect our green seas here.

Watch the episode here.

Learn more about the series here.

 

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/21/sky-blue-seas-green-discover-lives-beneath-waves-among-kelp/

Force Blue for Our Ocean: Giving Warriors a Cause, Giving a Cause its Warriors

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Buoyancy. Betterment. Belonging.

Three words that drive the mission of Force Blue, an initiative that unites the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of coral reef conservation for the betterment of both. Ocean Conservancy is proud to support these veterans and their mission. Julia Roberson spoke to cofounders Jim Ritterhoff and Rudy Reyes about their love of the ocean, the importance of NOAA and the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.

Julia: Where does your love for the ocean come from?

Rudy: It was the Marine Corps and doing amphibious operations and being a Recon Marine and a combat diver. The water became my work and the power, the beauty, the majesty of this entirely new element to this Missouri kid—well, it was magnificent.

Jim: I grew up in a Pennsylvania steel town. The ocean was a world away for me, you know? I went away to graduate school up in Syracuse, took up scuba diving, did a lot of lake diving. And then finally got to go to the Caribbean. It just changed my whole life. From that moment on, I have been involved in marine conservation in one way or another. When my daughter Krista was born, she was in the water at a year old with me. And then, when she was 12, I got her certified. Sent her to the Marine Institute for four summers to study marine biology as a high schooler and she was my dive buddy. Based on experiences with her, I wrote a children’s book about marine conservation and made a film. When the opportunity to really begin this program availed itself to me, it was like my life’s calling.

Julia: How did you think of merging ocean conservation and helping veterans?

Jim: You know, Rudy is a very visible and well-respected member of the veteran community. He deployed a number of times to some really bad places and had a tough time in his assimilation back. I hadn’t seen him in a couple years and I ran into him. I saw that he had been having problems. I was going diving the next week with my daughter so I invited him. That’s where we saw what the water could do for Rudy and what Rudy could do in the water.

Rudy: I had no job, no money. I had been doing counter-terrorism for some time but wasn’t sure that I wanted to carry a gun for work anymore and so, I said “I’m sorry, Jim. I can’t make it. I don’t got the cash.” Jim and Keith Sahm, our third co-founder, put it all together for me and after that, I just started getting fired up about all the communities underneath the water and the beauty, the gorgeous simple truths of organisms and life doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. After some time, I started calming down and started diving like a scuba diver instead of a combat diver. One night, Keith told me that this habitat was being destroyed and that it was going to go away. Jim was like, “We’ve got a lot of guys like you, a lot of warriors and commandos, maybe we could do something proactive to help this environment.” And that’s how it all started.

Jim: We thought maybe we could use marine conservation to help these heroes find a new mission, something larger than themselves that they can believe in again and get back that feeling of doing good. At the same time, maybe we can utilize them to reach an audience about marine conservation that isn’t going to listen to another climate change scientist.

Julia: Why do you think the conversation around conservation has become so polarizing, and how can Force Blue and the ocean help bridge the divide?

Rudy: It’s become so polarized with loving and taking care of our planet and loving and supporting our veterans. Here’s something that is a bridge. It’s about being the true hero, doing the right thing and protecting and preserving something that is tantamount to life on the planet. We all have kids. I want to dive with my kids like Jim dives with his daughter. And if we don’t take care of [the ocean] and we don’t get super proactive and really make a stand, and bring every ability and asset to the table, we’re going to lose it. That’s not going to happen on our watch.

Jim: These guys have devoted their military careers to protecting communities that are at risk. It’s that simple. We’re putting it in those terms for them—that the ocean is a community at risk that can’t fight for itself. You tell that to this group of guys and they’re like, “Where do we start?” You almost can’t contain how much good they want to do because it’s all they know. It’s what they’re conditioned to do.

Julia: Why are Force Blue divers uniquely suited to do this work?

Rudy: We’re mission-oriented, and success is the only thing we do. At first, I thought that we could maybe fix some reefs and rebuild some things. But what happened through this process was a healing and a transformation. I mean we couldn’t even imagine what a profound effect it was going to have. The definition of character we learn in the Marine Corps is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. I couldn’t have done this if Jim didn’t bring me down there. He knew that there was something that needed to be done for our brothers. All those years at war and all the years of super high op tempo—we don’t really ever come home. And so that’s Force Blue—we just knew we had to do it bigger for more of the brothers, and what better mission to fight for than to fight for our oceans and reefs?

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© Force Blue

Julia: How have others in the military community received Force Blue and the mission so far?

Jim: Since our inception, which was a little over a year ago, we’ve gotten a ton positive feedback. But what I’m most proud of is that everyday somebody reaches out through our website that wants to help, wants to volunteer. We probably have 200 vets say “Hey, how can I be a part of this?” We’ve got guys from Australia, South Africa, Israel, Egypt—even one British Royal commando who’s part of our first team. This has moved even beyond just the US military. This really has the potential to be an international force for good.

Rudy: Force Blue is not just about the love. It’s about the mission of doing something arduous that’s filled with pride and making and rebuilding and creating something. This is the warrior mission for preserving and protecting. We’ve accomplished things that have never been accomplished before in the Florida Keys because of the excellence of these men. Don’t make me cry on this dang interview but it’s the proudest thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Jim: The great thing about Force Blue is that while we may have many, many, many deployments, the mission never ends. It’s not over in five days. It’s not over in two months. Everybody who joins Force Blue is in it for the right reasons, and it’s not going away. We’re going to continue to deploy and everybody can feel like they are now a part of something that has no expiration date to it.

Rudy: We go back to school to be warriors for conservation.

Julia: Ocean Conservancy is really excited to be partnering with you guys on your next deployment to Puerto Rico with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). What do you hope to accomplish?

Jim: (laughs) We’ll do anything NOAA asks us to do.

Rudy: Yeah, not only will we do anything but with these skill sets and the confidence and the team unity, we CAN do anything.

Jim: That’s not just us blowing smoke. Whether it was our NOAA teammates or the Coral Restoration Foundation folks we worked with, all of them said, you guys do three times the amount of work that one person normally does. As a team, you’ve done 20 times the amount of work that a five man team of volunteer divers would have done.

Julia: Wow.

Jim: In Puerto Rico we will go to the areas that NOAA has already surveyed. We’ll see the areas that were hardest hit, most damaged by Hurricane Maria—areas where the coral has literally been ripped off the reef and is now lying in the sand, suffocating. What we’ll do is cement these fragments back onto the reef. Or if that particular reef is too damaged or the substrate is not conducive, we will bring the fragments back to the boat and transport them to another reef for planting. There’s a great metaphor that gets lost in all this sometimes—it’s how much these veterans are like coral. You see coral that is sort of been left for dead or left–

Rudy: Forgotten.

Jim: Yeah, forgotten. And all you have to do is put it in the right place, and not only will it thrive on its own, but it will cause an entire community around to thrive around it. There’s a particular story that I think exemplifies this. When we were in the Florida Keys, there was a 1,000 pound pillar coral. There may only be five or six of those left in the Keys. It had been ripped off and was lying about 15 feet below the reef. So this dinosaur, this 500-year-old, 1,000 pound pillar coral was going to die. It was left for dead. Our guys got on it. Long story short, with six lift bags and 20 gallons of cement, we managed to get this pillar coral up righted and back on to the reef. You can see it in the footage we filmed, the color comes back almost immediately.

Rudy: It exploded into color.

Jim: We got back on the boat, and the dive masters who have worked down there for years were in tears. They told us, you guys just saved a t-rex. And then it started to hit everyone. It dawned on our guys that they hadn’t just moved a big heavy object, they had actually saved something incredibly important. My hope is there will be at least one or two of those little instances when we’re in Puerto Rico—when our guys will come to the rescue of something that otherwise would have been left for dead.

Julia: That’s so wonderful. Could you talk a little bit about your work with NOAA?

Rudy: First of all, it’s such a prestigious and absolutely credited organization specifically in science and in conservation.

Jim: When you’re dealing with governmental organizations, you see these acronyms, and they become nameless and faceless. But when you meet the individuals who work there Tom Moore, Michael Nemeth—they care so much. They’ve dedicated their lives to ocean conservation. They’re passionate people. It’s a giant governmental organization but what it’s made up of is people who care very deeply about this.

Rudy: They’re the recon of the ocean.

Julia: I love that. “NOAA is the recon of the ocean.”

Jim: Yes! They understand the situations. They’re three steps ahead of the next storm. I don’t care if you have 10,000 Force Blue divers in the water, it’s not going to matter if somebody isn’t out there assessing and understanding what needs to happen. That is what makes NOAA absolutely essential to marine conservation.

Rudy: They’re the deep dive, they’re the recon and collecting information that we can turn into intelligence so that we execute our mission. We couldn’t do it without them.

Julia: What can people do to support the work that you guys are doing?

Jim: Well, first and foremost, we are privately funded. We are, right now, a 100% volunteer effort, and we absolutely need financial support from anybody who’s willing to offer it. The easiest way is to go to our website and donate. But beyond that, it’s about awareness. Everybody involved with Force Blue understands that our story is a compelling one. What it’s doing for veterans who deserve more than just a pat on the back and a clap at the airport. They deserve to be given new ways to utilize what they are already the best in the world at. On the environmental side, this program truly has the potential to be a vanguard for the entire conservation movement because of the excellence represented by our guys and the new audience that they alone can reach. If we can get influential people, corporations and other like-minded organizations to take notice of what it is we’re doing, I truly believe the sky is the limit.

Rudy: This is such a profound movement, and we dream big. We are here. We were born to save the world, and I know we can create a revolution and a whole new way of thinking to make our world better. Fund us so that we can continue to achieve great things. Give us the chance, and that’s what we’ll do. All of us are service people. We love service and fighting for things that need to be fought for.

Julia: That is a perfect note to end on. You guys are incredible—thank you for sharing your story with us! Ocean Conservancy is so excited to be working with Force Blue and NOAA on this trip to Puerto Rico. We can’t wait to report back to our members on what we accomplish together.

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© Force Blue

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/20/force-blue-ocean-giving-warriors-cause-giving-cause-warriors/

St. Helena: A First Look at What We Learned About Ocean Plastics

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We touchdown on a narrow, deserted airstrip in Namibia after a two-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa. It has been nearly two days and Nick Mallos and I are still in route to St. Helena, one of the world’s most remote islands.  We wait on the tarmac, refueling for our final journey out over the Atlantic Ocean to the island.

Beside me an elderly gentlemen with a shock of white hair, likely from somewhere in Europe, reads “St. Helena:  A maritime history.”  He is one of 100 people on our full plane, all of us visiting the island. The government of St. Helena has plans for as many as 30,000 tourists to visit in the future, with direct access for the first time provided by South African Airlines Airlink via a new airstrip built into the side of the volcanic island.

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© Alistair Dove/Georgia Aquarium

As we reach cruising altitude once again, I review a range of documents produced by St. Helena’s Environment and Natural Resources Directorate on its strategy to deal with waste management in the face of this development. Officials are taking this seriously, for without a change in practice, it is likely that the one landfill on the island at Horse Point will reach capacity within eight years. Plans are in place to prioritize the minimization of waste and to expand recycling of items like glass, cardboard and tin cans. Half of the total waste currently sent to the landfill is kitchen waste, suggesting that great gains can be made by developing a whole-island approach to composting. But plastics and other materials with low economic value still make up a good 20% of the waste stream by weight, and likely more when assessed by volume. One of our goals for our week on the island is to learn from local officials about how they will ensure that the pace and scale of tourism development on the island can be consistent with the island’s incredibly natural biodiversity—both above and below the waves—and maintain the cultural heritage of the local community of ‘Saints.’

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© George Leonard

Nick and I are now back in the United States and over the next few weeks will present what we have learned from this field expedition. Beyond understanding the government’s progressive approach to waste management, we have quantitatively surveyed ten of the island’s beaches for evidence of plastics and other marine debris, providing insights into how the island is at the end of the line of the globe’s use and misuse of single use plastics and other materials. We had the good fortune to join Dr. Al Dove and his team of researchers from the Georgia Aquarium to also study whale sharks in the nearshore, crystal clear waters. Scientists believe these incredible creatures—and other marine wildlife that filter huge volumes of seawater—may be at risk from the plethora of microplastic particles that are now present in the world’s oceans. To date, no one has evaluated this issue among the population of whale sharks that call St. Helena home. And there are stories to be told of the amazing people we have met during our journey; dedicated government researchers working to understand and protect the natural wonders of this special place, researchers from around the South Atlantic who came to the island for the first international conference on the diverse island environments of this region, and Al Dove and his team of researchers and graduate students seeking to uncover the mysteries of the island’s whale sharks.

Come join us! We hope you enjoy our series on St. Helena as it unfolds over the next month.

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© Leigh Morris (UK Marine Conservation Society)

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/20/st-helena-first-look-learned-ocean-plastics/

Inuit Voices on Canada’s Northwest Passage

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For most of us, Canada’s Northwest Passage still conjures a romantic mystique: the lure of explorers, hardship, dreams, riches and failure. Where the Arctic explorers Franklin searched and died and where Amundsen at last succeeded, tour ships cruise today and the entire route can be sailed at times without encountering ice. And yet, the Northwest Passage remains a draw for the adventurous, even as it is also a bellwether for change and a symbol for geopolitical posturing.

At the same time, the Northwest Passage is home, a place of comfort and continuity to thousands of Canadian Inuit in 53 communities built on or near the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The mythical qualities projected on the Arctic by questing Europeans have little resonance with those for whom the region holds no mysteries, but is simply a known and inhabited land, imbued with the rich spiritual connections that bind humans and animals, and humans and the world of which they are a part.

The loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is opening the Northwest Passage to the commerce first dreamed of by early geographers and explorers. It is creating economic opportunities for those who live along the shipping routes or control resources that can now be profitably exploited and exported.

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© Oceans North

This change creates a grand, if fleeting, opportunity to chart a new course in Arctic conservation, fully engaging Inuit and fully preparing for what will come in the next decades. If careful planning can replace grab-and-go opportunism, if traditional practices can be valued along with mineral wealth and if Inuit can help guide development instead of being “developed,” then Arctic societies can turn today’s changes into tomorrow’s well-being. They can also then demonstrate that environment and economics need not be in conflict and can sustain what exists while allowing for innovation and growth.

This month Canada’s national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, made a fascinating contribution to that vision with a new report called “Nilliajut 2: Inuit Perspectives on the Northwest Passage, Shipping and Marine Issues” and a documentary film that I recommend if you want to hear firsthand the diverse and powerful voices of Inuit who live throughout the Northwest Passage.

A theme throughout the report is that Inuit want a voice in whatever happens next, whether that is the development of new shipping corridors to protect marine ecosystems or bolstering emergency response measures for oil spills or search and rescue operations. The collection of essays from Inuit leaders and reports on community consultations held across the Arctic offer important insights on how to safeguard the waters of Inuit Nunangat.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Read Aqqaluk Lynge’s essay about why Inuit in Greenland and Nunavut, separated only by Davis Strait, should collaborate on how to share and protect the ocean between them.
  • Inuk college student Robert Comeau shares elders’ stories about the arrival of Qallunaaq (non-Inuit) ships on their shores and the words of his grandmother: “We are the Land, We are the Air, We are the Water.”
  • Inuit leader Mary Simon urges governments to consider Inuit knowledge and experience when addressing the impact of climate change on the Arctic.
  • Inuit advocate Peter Ittinuar’s passionate essay outlines why Inuit feel they have “first right of access” to the waters of the Northwest Passage and must be “fully consulted before activities take place that may irretrievably and irrevocably harm the current life of those waters.”

This report is a special opportunity to listen to the priorities of those most affected by the rapidly changing Arctic and to ensure that Inuit play a significant role in shaping policies that protect this region for future generations.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/19/inuit-voices-canadas-northwest-passage/

Make Sure the $16 Billion for Gulf Restoration is Well Spent

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Opinion by Larry McKinney and Chris Robbins
(This piece was originally posted on NOLA.com, February 15, 2018)

In the shadow of New Orleans’ legendary Mardi Gras festivities, the city recently hosted a much more sober affair—one that can make or break the Gulf of Mexico.

At the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science conference, scientists, decision-makers and conservationists grappled with a central question: How effective are we at measuring and monitoring progress on restoring our Gulf? At $16 billion, this is the most ambitious and expensive ecosystem restoration in history. It came at a high cost. The BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy remains the worst environmental disaster in the United States, and it is up to us to see that this investment produces positive, lasting results.

Our national track record of learning from restoration projects is not inspiring. Harte researchers reviewed more than 192 oyster restoration projects entered into the National Estuaries Restoration Inventory—and, despite federal requirements, monitoring data was not available. No lessons were learned to be passed along, there was no way to tell if over $45 million and thousands of hours of labor was effectively used or wasted.

This must not happen in the Gulf.

An important development on that front has been a set of best practices from the trustees of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment. These practices, called adaptive management, gauge the progress of projects and fix those that are underperforming. It has been applied successfully in several restoration efforts in the United States. We are keenly interested in how state and federal restoration entities will work together to implement adaptive management in the Gulf.

A review of three case studies collated by Ocean Conservancy shows multiple benefits. We found that other states are using this approach to save money, reduce risks and increase impact. For example, using adaptive management to test-drive a smaller, experimental project to restore a floodplain in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta allowed California to justify and confidently invest $500 million in a bigger, more expensive project.

To quote Dr. Robert Twilley of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, who spoke at the conference, “Adaptive management is how we document performance and report back to stakeholders. That’s accountability.”

Ultimately, each restoration project implemented in the Gulf, or anywhere, is an experiment. Designing projects and programs to accommodate the potential for unexpected changes just makes sense.

To their credit, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees have taken the important first step of developing best practices for adaptive management. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council needs to do the same. The trustees now need to take the critical next step of putting it into practice through funding and implementation on land or out on the water. Only in this way can trustees and the council demonstrate they are wisely spending precious restoration dollars and assure the public the Gulf is being restored as promised.

Our Gulf states and coastal communities made tremendous sacrifices in the wake of what happened in April 2010. As with any investment — and especially this one that aims to restore one of the nation’s most enduring and important economic engines — it is important to minimize risks and optimize returns.

True failure would be to never learn from our mistakes. Adaptive management will give us the strongest foundation for continuous learning and improvement. And it is our chance to become a successful case study for the world to emulate years from now, when the Gulf of Mexico is healthy and thriving once again.

Our hope for that future is that the Gulf of Mexico will be not be defined by the disaster that marred us but by the strength of our purpose and the success of our endeavors to restore our home.

Larry McKinney is the executive director of the Harte Research Institute. Chris Robbins is senior manager of restoration planning in the Ocean Conservancy’s Gulf Restoration Program.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/16/make-sure-16-billion-gulf-restoration-well-spent/

Striving for Equity and Inclusion: The RAY Fellowship

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Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where I am attending the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM), a gathering for scientific exchange on ocean issues across a range of disciplines. Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy’s Director of Ocean Acidification shared an overview of the conference with us on Monday. As she noted, the range of disciplines and subject matter represented at the conference is vast, from “Changing ocean biogeochemistry in a high CO2 world” to “Scicomm beyond writing. An incomplete guide to using memes, animated gifs and infographics to tell your science story.”

As a social scientist working in interlinked science and policy arenas, I’m excited by the increasing interdisciplinary focus I see at academic conferences like this. My own participation in the conference centers around two themes—how to support networks interlinking science, society, policy and governance, and how to ensure that our work becomes more equitable and inclusive at all stages, from the scientific questions and research we decide to pursue to the policies we implement. Both science and policy practice have often been used to exclude people or negate the value of their contributions, and it is incumbent on all of us to reverse that.

I’ll be presenting on one effort to do so in the marine conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) sphere. The Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Marine Conservation Diversity Fellowship is a multi-NGO partnership to create year-long, paid fellowships for recent college undergraduates, focusing on increasing opportunities for engagement from and with historically underrepresented communities. The RAY fellowship, which is now recruiting for its third cohort of fellows, describes the goal of the fellowship as being “to equip recent college graduates with an undergraduate degree with the tools and support they need to become leaders in the ocean conservation field; one that fully represents the rich and diverse communities within the United States.”

To this end, applicants can apply for year-long, paid positions at a program partner’s organization (open positions for the coming year are listed here; the application deadline is March 16). Fellows also receive $1,000 for professional development (for example, attending scientific conferences and events) and work with both external and internal mentors to expand their networks, gain additional experience and help navigate career decisions. Current fellows are working on issues ranging from protecting NOAA’s budget in Congress to combatting ocean acidification through science and policy engagement to increasing corporate support of marine conservation.

While one fellowship program cannot, by itself, address years of inequity, Ocean Conservancy is committed to continuing to work on solutions. The RAY fellowship is part of our effort to support young scientists and practitioners in a field that has often been closed to them, and now more than ever, to increase awareness of the importance of ensuring that our science and policy represent all our society, not just a privileged few.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/15/striving-equity-inclusion-ray-fellowship/

Stop What You’re Doing: These Animal Hearts Are Honestly Unbelievable

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Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Ocean Conservancy! With it being the month of February, you’ve probably seen close to a million heart-shaped objects as we’ve drawn closer and closer to this date. Boxes of little heart-shaped candies, giant stuffed bears with hearts sewn on their ears and other adorably cheesy gifts help us illustrate our huge hearts to the people we love!

Well…figuratively, that is.

When it comes to the animal kingdom, though, there are some species that have big hearts, literally! They’re not just big, either; from having multiple ventricles to being able to amazingly regrow tissue after injury to this vital organ, these five animals have some seriously incredible hearts that you’ve got to see to believe.

Cephalopods

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© Gabriel Barathiue | www.underwater-landscape.com

  • All part of the cephalopod family, squid, octopuses and cuttlefish all have a closed circulatory system made up of three hearts. Two of these hearts are ‘branchial,’ meaning they drive blood to the gills, and the other is single-chambered ventricle heart that pumps blood throughout the rest of the body. Their blood also lacks the oxygen-binding protein that makes our blood red, so when theirs is exposed to oxygen, it’s actually blue! Could you imagine having a heart for each group of people you love…one for family, one for friends, and one for significant others? (Don’t worry, that’s so weird an idea, I can’t either.)

Blue Whales

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Public Domain

  • A blue whale’s heart can grow as big as a golf cart.  In 2014, scientists weighed in the heart from a blue whale carcass at 400 pounds, and it was estimated to be capable of pumping 40-60 gallons of blood per beat! So, if you ever catch yourself saying you’ve met someone with the biggest heart you’ve ever known, stop yourself, because 400 pounds is pretty hard to compete with. Unless, of course, you’ve met a whale. In that case, touché.

Emperor Penguins

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Public Domain

  • In order to be as efficient as possible when diving, emperor penguins can slow their heart rates down to only 15 or 20 beats per minute. Oxygen supply is cut off during these dives from all but the most vital organs, conserving it for only the most necessary functions.4 Now that’s what we call one efficient swimmer. It is the winter Olympics season after all…too bad swimming is a summer sport (and that animals can’t compete) because these babies would clearly rule the game in terms of fighting exhaustion!

Zebrafish

CNBC:ShutterstockCNBC:Shutterstock
CNBC/Shutterstock

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to have your broken heart magically heal itself? For zebrafish, that’s not too far from the truth. In the early 2000’s, a study showed the incredible ability of these fish to regenerate 20% of their heart tissue within two months of injury to their heart!5 We’ve probably all been in a place where we wished to heal a broken heart, am I right?

Ocellated Icefish

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© NOAA

  • These fish are truly one of a kind. With a heart about five times the size of the average fish heart, some scientists believe the unique structure to relate somehow to thriving in such a brutally cold environment. What’s crazy is that their blood is also clear, making for one of the creepiest yet coolest looking cold-water fish ever. The big heart factor makes sense though. They say when you’re around cold people, the best thing to do is to show them how big your heart is, because it’s never worth letting them bring you down. Good on you for the life lesson, Mr. Icefish!

Ready to learn more about cool creatures like these? Check out our Wildlife Fact Sheets to learn more about fantastic animal facts like these!

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/14/stop-youre-animals-hearts-honestly-unbelievable/

Partnership Aims for Comprehensive Restoration of Yelloweye Rockfish

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Did you know that the average human will be outlived by the yelloweye rockfish?

Native to the Pacific Northwest Coast, the large yelloweye rockfish can live to be up to 118 years old! However, since it doesn’t reach reproductive age until around 20 years, the species is especially vulnerable to overfishing. With catch data that begins only in 2003, fisheries managers face a serious information handicap when it comes to accurately gauging the health of this important fish stock on British Columbia’s Central Coast.

But not if they were to look at another source for knowledge.

Archaeological evidence shows that the First Nations of coastal British Columbia have depended on yelloweye rockfish for sustenance for at least 1,800 years (maybe even 14,000!). Due to this long reliance on a vital natural resource, First Nation fishers from the Wuikinuxv, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Heiltsuk nations began to notice that there was a startling decline of yelloweye rockfish through the years. The trend is particularly worrisome because yelloweye rockfish are both an important cultural and economic resource. As a result, the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA) initiated an ecological study based on traditional and local ecological knowledge to formulate a more comprehensive management and restoration plan for yelloweye rockfish.

In a recently published study, “Diving back in time: Extending historical baselines from yelloweye rockfish with Indigenous knowledge”, Professor Natalie Ban from the University of Victoria, and the CCIRA conducted forty-two semi-directed interviews with indigenous central coast fishermen. The insight gleaned from these conversations augmented the data-poor fisheries research and management process.

What were the tangible outcomes?

  1. The data are being considered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in their decision-making process regarding management practices.
  2. The data are being integrated into the next status report update of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for yelloweye rockfish.

The challenge of the “other”

“I think challenges arise when academia treats First Nations as though they are the ‘other,’” Professor Ban shared with me. That’s why this research partnership is so important. It marks a changing perspective. It is no longer enough to just realize that indigenous communities are important and must be studied. We must respect their ability to represent themselves without having to filter their knowledge through the colonizer’s lens.

“Traditional and local ecological knowledge are increasingly recognized for their capacity to complement ecological data and improve fisheries management. Indigenous peoples’ cultures, practices and beliefs represent a lifetime of observations and generations of learning that complement a scientific framework,” Professor Ban emphasized in an interview with her home institution, the University of Victoria.

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© Natalie Ban

What can we take away from this partnership?

It’s important to note that most First Nations in British Columbia never signed treaties. The Canadian constitution recognizes the right of Nations to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. But ownership and management rights over their resources remain contested, currently excluding First Nations from managerial roles and direct control over their fisheries. This research project sought to empower First Nations to continue to advocate for fisheries management inclusion.

Laughing, Professor Ban told me that, ironically, “the best thing is actually if I work myself out of the equation.”

One of the most important aspects of this research approach is the potential to build and support the capacity of First Nations to advocate on behalf of their traditional and ecological knowledge. Methodologies that engage with Indigenous communities and their knowledge as true partners hold a great deal of promise not just for generating the best information but also for finding successful, long-term management approaches. First Nations deserve to play a more active role in managing and preserving the cultural and economic resources that have sustained them throughout the generations.

 

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/13/partnership-aims-comprehensive-restoration-yelloweye-rockfish/

President Trump Proposes Shocking Cuts to NOAA Budget

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Four reasons why this billion dollar cut matters, and what you can do about it

This February, President Trump demonstrates once again that his administration does not have much love (care or concern) for our ocean and the many coastal communities and economies that depend on what is one of our nation’s greatest natural resources.

The budget proposal released by the Trump administration proposes cutting the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by more than a billion dollars. It ignores how deeply we all rely on this agency to help our coastal communities and our ocean thriving.

Here are the four biggest threats to NOAA’s ocean efforts in President Trump’s proposal:

THREAT 1: Wipe out programs that fund innovation in coastal economies.

NOAA/Ocean ConservancyNOAA/Ocean Conservancy
© NOAA/Ocean Conservancy

President Trump wants to zero out funding for the Sea Grant program. This would stop economic growth in its tracks for many coastal communities. This successful program is a vital resource for many business and industry innovators like the thriving sponge business in Florida. And there are dozens more stories like that from around the country. Eliminating this budget would completely axe the Coastal Management Grants, which empowers coastal states to ensure communities are safe from ocean and weather hazards and coastal economies are thriving. This is a one-two punch in the gut for coastal economies, many of whom rely on NOAA as a trusted partner.

THREAT 2: Undercut preparedness and resilience.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA © Franco Folini

This budget abandons coastal states that are trying to prepare for a changing ocean and increased coastal risks to people and wildlife. If President Trump’s proposal goes through, it will impact hard-working marine mammal first responders that rescue dolphins and manatees. It will cut back potentially lifesaving tsunami warnings that alert all our coastal communities. It will impact the ability of coastal regions to seek and determine the best solutions to make them resilient in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

THREAT 3: Handicap our ability to take action based on solid ocean science.

NOAA Ocean Explorer: NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Galapagos RiftNOAA Ocean Explorer: NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Galapagos Rift
© NOAA Ocean Explorer: NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

Budgets are important because they set priorities. In this proposal, the Trump administration is clear that science is not a priority. If the cuts go through, we will see serious gaps in our knowledge and understanding of a natural resource that literally shapes our planet. NOAA would have fewer resources to explore parts of our ocean that humans know nothing about. The basic science of ocean observations that measure things like tides and temperatures would face cuts. And we could also lose essential research that is helping shellfish companies prepare for ocean acidification, place-based research from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, and critical climate enquiries that will allow us to thrive today as well as a generation from now.

THREAT 4: Hamper America’s journey to sustainable fisheries.

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© NOAA

The Trump budget proposes cuts to fishery enforcement. That means more lawbreakers could get away with illegal fishing with little or no consequences. With a decrease in funding, we will lose our ability to track whether we are making the best management decisions, including through stock assessments, to get to sustainable fisheries. And to make matters worse, the president’s infrastructure plan accompanying the budget proposal weakens environmental reviews, including those for fishery habitats. If the infrastructure proposal were implemented, arbitrary timelines would hamper fisheries experts from recommending solutions that would allow infrastructure development to proceed with less risk to the important areas where fish spawn, feed, and live.

But there is a silver lining.

Thankfully, there is some good news. This budget is a proposal, which means it is not written in stone. You and I have the opportunity and responsibility to let Congress know what matter to us. Congress will ultimately write the 2019 budget for NOAA, and they are just getting started. Please join us in voicing your concerns about the Trump administration budget proposal for NOAA. Tell your elected representatives that our coastal communities and our ocean is too important to risk.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/12/president-trump-proposes-shocking-cuts-noaa-budget/

Congress Aids Coastal Communities With NOAA Funds—Will President Trump Follow Suit?

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Coastal communities that were hit hard by last year’s dreadful hurricane season are getting some much-needed help this week. Congress has passed a budget deal that includes $400 million in supplemental disaster funds for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Our nation’s premier ocean agency has played a critical role in hurricane response—from weather forecasts to the immediate emergency response to the longer-term recovery—and these funds allow them to continue that important work.

Supplemental funds for NOAA will support critical coastal recovery efforts, including:

  • $18 million dollars toward cleaning up debris-clogged waterways and beaches, which will reduce hazards for people and wildlife
  • $200 million to help fishermen around the country whose livelihoods have been impacted by an array of fisheries disasters

  • $100 million to enhance our ability to predict future hurricanes and to better predict and even work towards preventing, future flooding

Communities impacted by recent hurricanes are heavily dependent on ocean and coastal resources. In Puerto Rico, 7% of jobs are in the ocean economy. In Florida, the ocean economy is worth $28 billion in GDP and employs nearly 500,000 people. The additional funds passed today will go a long way toward recovery of the ocean and coastal resources that support these economic benefits.

Unfortunately, there are still two key threats to NOAA’s hurricane recovery effort.

First, there are some gaps in the bill that passed today—funds were not set aside for habitat restoration despite extensive damage to coral reefs and other important ocean habitats, or for building more resilient coasts to prepare for future storms. NOAA’s scientists and experts will have to make do with the funds in NOAA’s yearly budget to help communities in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas address those needs.

Second, and even more alarming, NOAA’s annual budget—the only funds that have been available to support recovery so far—is under extreme threat. Last year the Trump administration proposed a crippling $1 billion cut to NOAA. Thanks to a public outcry that spanned from sea to shining sea, these cuts have not yet become a reality. But we will find out on Monday whether the Trump administration continues to believe that NOAA should be chopped by $1 billion. A cut of that magnitude would mean that today’s step forward for coastal communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico is really just two steps back.

Stay tuned for more information after the Trump administration’s next budget proposal is released next week.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/02/09/congress-aids-coastal-communities-noaa-funds-will-president-trump-follow-suit/