Posts Tagged saving mother ocean

Why Canada Needs to Protect Hudson Bay’s Beluga Estuaries

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on Why Canada Needs to Protect Hudson Bay’s Beluga Estuaries

A few years ago, I tagged along with a research team counting beluga whales in Canada’s western Hudson Bay. On one memorable July day, our boat was surrounded by 350 belugas, we spotted 11 polar bears and a bird expert recorded the sighting of 5,000 black scoters (an Arctic sea duck) in the water and an additional 4,000 flying overhead.

I was reminded of this staggering biological productivity by a recent report published by our Canadian partner, Oceans North, urging Canada’s federal government to make good on a promise to protect this beluga habitat by establishing a national marine conservation area in western Hudson Bay by 2020. Once established, a national marine park would ban oil and gas drilling, deep-sea mining and ocean dumping and would require ecosystem-based management of fishing.

WHB_HudsonBay_BelugaMigration_map_v6WHB_HudsonBay_BelugaMigration_map_v6
© Oceans North

It would also create much-needed economic spinoffs for the town of Churchill, Manitoba, and nearby Indigenous communities, providing jobs, expanding tourism and triggering infrastructure improvements and new research.

Each summer, more than 55,000 beluga whales migrate to estuaries along Western Hudson Bay in the province of Manitoba. In the shallow waters of the Seal, Nelson and Churchill river estuaries, nearly one-third of the planet’s belugas gather to give birth, feed, molt and escape predation. Tourists from around the world flock to this region for a chance to see these awe-inspiring white whales in their natural habitat.

Protecting Manitoba’s Beluga Estuaries from Oceans North on Vimeo.

Collaborating with government scientists and Inuit partners, Oceans North has led beluga research in the Seal River region since 2012. That has included tagging and tracking six whales to learn about how they used the habitat and a boat-based survey to assess the density of beluga pods and their movements. Oceans North staff also worked with Inuit partners to organize an archaeological dig on Hubbard Point near the Seal River that uncovered evidence to prove Indigenous people have used this spot as a hunting camp for at least a thousand years.

Climate change and the resulting loss of sea ice means there’s an urgency to protecting the beluga estuaries of Western Hudson Bay. Earlier spring ice melts may put belugas at greater risk of predation by orca whales that previously had only limited access to this region. Vessel traffic is likely to increase with the loss of sea ice, resulting in environmental hazards such as pollution from fuel spills and a noisier marine environment.

Western Hudson Bay is one of the places in the Arctic that reminds us of the sheer abundance of the ocean. We applaud Oceans North for its years of work on this important issue and hope that Canada takes action soon to protect the beluga estuaries of Western Hudson Bay.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/06/01/canada-needs-protect-hudson-bays-beluga-estuaries/

Keeping Up with Nemo

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on Keeping Up with Nemo

This blog post was written by Anna Smith, an Ocean Conservancy intern working with the Ocean Acidification program for the month of May 2018. Anna is a senior in high school and is looking forward to studying Environmental Sciences in college.     

Believe it or not, fifteen years ago today, everyone’s favorite clownfish had his big debut—our lovely friend Nemo! While the spotlight was on Nemo once again a couple years ago with his role in Disney-Pixar’s Finding Dory, we’re checking in with Nemo today to see how he’s doing, fifteen years after his first Hollywood appearance.

Sadly, Nemo and his friends are facing a reality not quite as uplifting as it may appear on-screen. Many of the difficulties that clownfish and anemonefish are experiencing have to do with the environmental threats affecting their homes, their host anemones. In recent years, large-scale coral bleaching events have resulted in detrimental impacts on coral reef communities and anemones around the world. Stressors including rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and pollution have driven this coral bleaching, a process that involves anemones expelling the zooxanthellae that provide them with food and their beautiful coloration. And since clownfish depend on anemones for housing and protection, that’s a big problem for both corals and clownfish alike.

Research has shown that fish associated with bleached anemones suffer chronic stress, and high levels of cortisol—a stress hormone—have been detected in their blood. At the same time, this stress response has been linked to a drop in reproductive hormones in male and female clownfish; one study showed a 73% decrease in fertility among clownfish reacting to bleached anemones.  In addition, clownfish reproduce in only a small temperature range and warming waters can have fatal effects on their eggs. Not only does coral bleaching stress our little friends out and deter reproduction, but the mere loss of habitat that follows makes it difficult for them to survive.

Jason MarksJason Marks
© Jason Marks

Weirdly enough, coral bleaching and ocean acidification both severely affect the clownfish senses. Sounds are key cues that help clownfish navigate, detect mates and find food. Although it’s tough for us to sing underwater, sound actually travels very well underwater! Healthy coral reefs are cosmopolitan centers of aquatic life and are bustling, noisy places full of fish buzzing and chirping. These noises help clownfish navigate when trying to find a suitable habitat or seek shelter and assist in distinguishing between places settled by friends and those filled with predators. With coral reefs in rapid decline, these cues are becoming less ubiquitous and intense.

And that’s not all. Scientific studies have proven that increased levels of CO2 in the ocean actually make it difficult for clownfish to hear at all! In experiments on juvenile clownfish raised in water with CO2 levels of today, CO2 levels predicted and simulated for 2050, or for and 2100, researchers found that the clownfish raised in today’s conditions knew well to avoid the sounds of predator-rich reefs. Those raised in higher levels of CO2, however, didn’t seem bothered by the noise at all—they just kept swimming as if they couldn’t hear it! Without proper hearing, clownfish become much more susceptible to predation. Once they spend too much time away from their host anemones, they must rebuild their immunity to their anemone’s stinging nematocysts, which is quite an arduous task and again leaves them vulnerable to predators.

Acidification also challenges clownfish sense of smell. When larvae reach a certain age, they begin looking for an appropriate shallow and tropical coral reef habitat, ideally close to a vegetated island and away from their spawning point. In order to identify such a dwelling place, clownfish move towards the smell of tropical tree leaves and away from the odor of tea tree plants from swamps at the water’s edge, and their parents (an evolutionary adaptation to avoid inbreeding). In experiments resembling those conducted to test hearing, the majority of clownfish larvae raised in more acidic conditions were no longer repelled by the smell of predators, tea tree leaves or their parents. This means it will become more difficult for clownfish to find reefs offering the conditions that will ensure their survival and the health of their offspring.

Given all of these concerns, we are left wondering if Nemo, and the rest of his species, will truly be able to acclimate and survive these challenging times. Since many of these changes are happening so quickly and our oceans are acidifying at such a rapid rate, there might not be enough time for clownfish to properly adapt by evolving. If clownfish moved towards the poles to seek cooler waters, that would take them into increasingly acidified waters, and away from the tropical coral zone they need for habitat. Unfortunately, tropical corals are also struggling to keep up with temperature changes. Nevertheless, Mother Nature never fails to amaze us with her power and ability to work wonders. Although it may seem unlikely, only time will tell if Nemo will be able to adapt to his ever-changing home.

We’re sad that clownfish aren’t doing better on Finding Nemo’s 15th anniversary. We don’t want this movie to serve as a reminder of an extinct fish species to future generations. It is incredible, however, how much we have learned about clownfish due to prior research investments and how science allows us to so closely keep up with Nemo. This also gives us reason to be optimistic. With further scientific funding and research, we can continue to investigate clownfish and find ways to support Nemo on his journey.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/31/keeping-up-with-nemo/

The Family Who Saved the Pacific Northwest Oyster Industry

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on The Family Who Saved the Pacific Northwest Oyster Industry

Everything started when Masahide Yamashita arrived in Seattle in 1902.

At 19-years-old, Masahide tried his hand at various import-export endeavors ranging from lumber to pearls. But as the relationship between Japan and America waxed and waned, so did his business prospects. Yet he persevered.

Parallel to Masahide’s struggle, the Pacific Northwest oyster industry was in dire straits. Overharvesting and pollution were causing significant die-offs in the region, plummeting oyster population numbers. Shellfish growers floated the idea of importing baby oysters from Japan, but mortality rates were high due to the stress of transportation.

Luckily, Masahide had accumulated experience from his other business ventures and he was able to formulate an efficient shipping method that preserved the baby oysters during their long journey from Japan.

Today, 98% of all oysters sold in Washington are Pacific Oysters (formerly “Japanese Oysters”)

IMG_3317IMG_3317
© Patrick Yamashita

Without Masahide, the Pacific Northwest Oyster industry would never have survived.

Not long after Masahide had settled into the booming oyster business, World War II broke out. Anti-Japanese sentiment rose with startling intensity, fueled by the underlying fear of the “Yellow Peril.”

“Before evacuation, a man came down the hill to our tidelands,” Eiichi, Masahide’s son, tells me, “I was only around 17 or so just before the war broke out. I told him he couldn’t go out there and take our oysters. But the man said, ‘well, you’re not going to be here long anyway.’”

In February 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing nearly 110,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast to leave behind their businesses, possessions and homes. Ushered into euphemistically-named “relocation centers,” they found themselves in new and unfamiliar territory, surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.

Masahide was taken to Fort Missoula in Montana, while the rest of the family, including young Eiichi, was sent to Tule Lake in California. They were incarcerated for three and a half years before finally being reunited.

IMG_8990IMG_8990
© Patrick Yamashita

“It was hard,” Eiichi tells me, “Readjusting was hard. But the fortunate thing was that when we came back, the oysters were waiting for us. It was fortunate for us that we had enough oysters to get us started. It saved us.”

“So many people lost everything when they had to go to the camps,” Patrick adds, “They could only have two suitcases or something like that. And many people had businesses that they just had to close up…They lost all of that. They had to start over all over again.”

The interplay between struggle and hard work is a constant theme in the Yamashita story. Since stepping out into the tidelands at age thirteen, Eiichi has been a life-long oyster farmer and a tireless water quality champion after experiencing frequent tideland closures due to pollution.

The first closure happened when Patrick was a junior in high school. Perplexed, he watched his dad continue to work and relay the oysters from the polluted water to clean water, increasing his handling costs and losing his profit margin. He couldn’t understand why his dad would go to such great lengths to continue his work.

“But I know better now,” he says, smiling. “It’s evidence of how Dad perseveres in spite of adversity. I think seeing him and mom struggle through that for years and years really taught us kids something about life and working hard…When you look at immigrant stories in the U.S., there are common themes like working hard for the sake of the whole family. That’s something that kind of evolves as the generations go on.”

Yet despite the hardship and the struggle and the suffering, Eiichi retains an incredible propensity for compassion.

IMG_9815IMG_9815
© Patrick Yamashita

“My dad works so hard and throughout much of his life he really struggled financially because of water quality issues,” says Patrick. “Yet, whatever he had, he would share with other people, especially his own knowledge. There are young people just starting out as oyster farmers that turn to Dad for guidance. That’s another lesson I’ve learned—not just thinking about yourself but helping people to grow.”

Eiichi is such a pillar in the shellfish community that last year Leaping Frog Films made a documentary about his life, entitled Ebb Flow. It’s a testament to the resiliency of families like the Yamashitas and a potent example of how the values and legacies we pass down bind the generations through time.

The film, which touches on themes of family, the internment, the environment and the origin of the Pacific Oyster, has a message for every viewer. For Eiichi and Patrick, the film is an opportunity to promote understanding across diverse communities.

“I think one thing that I hope that people take from the documentary is that a lot of people in America would say [internment] could never happen again—We know better now. But I’m not so sure,” warns Patrick.

“It really does scare me at times because people do tend to have their own biases. As do I,” he admits. “We usually don’t realize that these biases can pass on to our future generations. But we really need to be mindful that those things can happen again unless we all stand up for everybody.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 7.41.17 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-30 at 7.41.17 PM
© Patrick Yamashita

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/31/family-saved-pacific-northwest-oyster-industry/

Good News About Our Nation’s Ocean Fisheries

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on Good News About Our Nation’s Ocean Fisheries

The numbers are in—and we have great news for America’s ocean fisheries! NOAA recently released its annual report to Congress summarizing how the United States is doing in managing its ocean fisheries. The Status of Stocks report for 2017 showed good improvement and is a testament to the impressive progress that we’ve made under our nation’s landmark fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

There is a lot to celebrate in the new report. The percentage of stocks that were overfished in 2017 was at an all-time low—just 15% of stocks. This means that the majority of the fish stocks tracked have large enough population sizes to provide sustained catch. In addition, only nine percent of stocks were experiencing overfishing, which is when the rate of fishing is too high. This remained the same as the previous two years and suggests that fisheries are in larger part successfully staying within science-based catch limits.

With three fish stocks rebuilt just last year, there have been a total of 44 stocks brought back to healthy levels since 2000. The stocks rebuilt in 2017 were three rockfishes from the Pacific coast. These populations were successfully rebuilt ahead of schedule, bringing the stocks back to sustainable populations before estimates deemed possible. This is no small feat, and it speaks to the strength of our management system. The trend in rebuilding is positive, but there are still many stocks in the process of being rebuilt and others where rebuilding plans are just now being developed.

Overall, the report shows just how far our fishery management has come. The situation today is a far cry from that of two decades ago, when more than a quarter of fish stocks were experiencing overfishing, almost 40% were overfished and none had been rebuilt. This turnaround was only possible because of the MSA and important revisions to the law that required managers to set science-based catch limits, take concrete steps to overfishing and make deadlines for rebuilding stocks.

Positive changes like these are part of what makes our fishery management a model for the rest of the world. But now isn’t the time to rest on our laurels—the work doesn’t end because many of our fish stocks are now doing well. Some of our iconic fish, such as the Atlantic cod, continue to be overfished and experiencing overfishing. Climate change poses growing challenges for managing our fish stocks sustainably.

The stakes are high. Healthy fish stocks are critical for a strong economy and environment. Fortunately, we are on the right path. Thanks to the MSA and the managers and fishermen who are working together to rebuild and sustain our fisheries, we can continue this progress and make sure that there are plenty of fish to catch today, tomorrow, and for years to come.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/29/good-news-nations-ocean-fisheries/

A Safer Bering Strait

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on A Safer Bering Strait

As climate change ushers in rapid changes in the Arctic Ocean, northern nations and communities are scrambling to adapt at multiple scales.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body with authority to govern global shipping, made an important step at the international level last week when 174 member states approved a set of measures proposed jointly by the U.S. and Russia to make shipping safer in the Bering Strait.

This narrow passage of water between Alaska and Russia is the marine gateway between the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. This region teems with wildlife. It is a critical pathway for thousands of marine mammals like bowhead, beluga and gray whales and millions of seabirds that migrate north each spring to take advantage of the incredible abundance of Arctic summers. It’s also home to indigenous peoples in Alaska and Russia with dozens of communities built on the shores of the ocean to take advantage of the region’s natural bounty. A clean, healthy ocean is critical to food security and their way of life.

The strait, only 53 miles wide at its narrowest point, is also a bottleneck for increasing ship traffic in the Arctic. All ships that travel the Northwest Passage through Canada—or the Northern Sea Route along Russia’s coast—must transit through the strait. This year, the Bering Sea experienced the lowest wintertime sea ice year since at least 1815. More and more ships are expected to travel these waters as sea ice continues to recede.

With increasing ship traffic comes more noise and water pollution, a higher risk of ship strikes on whales, increased conflicts with subsistence activities and the possibility of oil spills. Risks are compounded in the Bering Strait by the presence of sea ice, poor charting and harsh weather conditions.

The remoteness of the region—thousands of miles from response capabilities—means that the impacts of a serious vessel accident, especially an oil spill, would be devastating to the marine environment and the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.

The best way to avoid such accidents is to prevent it from happening in the first place. That’s why Ocean Conservancy has been working to get Arctic shipping safety measures in place before a disaster happens. In the years leading up to this decision, we’ve provided expert advice to the U.S. Coast Guard on the legal, policy and environmental grounds for taking precautionary action, contributed data to the mapping showing how the proposals would work in the water, met with Russian experts to discuss the need for a joint approach, and worked directly at the IMO as part of an observer team.

The IMO action approved establishment of designated shipping routes, as proposed by the U.S. and Russia. The routes encourage ships to travel in known, well-charted regions significantly offshore, with a goal of reducing vessel incidents which may endanger lives, lead to devastating oil spills, or impact the subsistence way of life of local communities.

The IMO also approved a U.S. proposal to designate three “areas to be avoided,” which warn vessels to steer clear of three islands in the region (St. Lawrence, Nunavik and King Island). This will help ensure that ships keep their distance from dangerous shoal waters off the coasts of these islands, which are environmentally sensitive and important to Alaska Native subsistence activities.

The IMO has given us another positive example of how international cooperation can help tackle climate change and chart a sustainable future for people and our ocean.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/25/safer-bering-strait/

From the Trenches

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on From the Trenches

Ocean Conservancy recently embarked on a partnership with Force Blue to support a coral restoration mission in Puerto Rico. Nathan Quinn, a member of Force Blue Team One deployed to Puerto Rico to assist NOAA, Sea Ventures and Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources in October and has been there since. The Florida native and U.S. Army Veteran and Military Medic Instructor took some time to speak with us about his time in Puerto Rico. Read parts one, two and three of this four-part series.

Michael Farnham: Your Force Blue teammates were recently in D.C. working with Ocean Conservancy’s Government Relations team to tell your story to lawmakers in the hopes of supporting further funding for NOAA. You were working in Puerto Rico while this happened, what message would you like to convey for those representatives and senators as to the importance of the work NOAA is doing and how it benefits organizations like Force Blue?

Nathan Quinn: If I could say one thing to the legislators on Capitol Hill, it would be “Please do not disregard the amount of good partnerships like the one between NOAA, Force Blue and the Ocean Conservancy are doing in giving our marine resources—and our veterans—a second chance.” Organizations like Force Blue can do so much to support the mission of agencies like NOAA. In order for that potential to be maximized, we know that fully funding NOAA so that they can keep leading these efforts is critical to our future. If the powers-that-be would take a moment to consider that—and to recognize what a win/win this is for all involved, I think we’d find bipartisan support across the board and that was our message in Washington.

8- Please credit @Jim Hellemn, forceblueteam.org8- Please credit @Jim Hellemn, forceblueteam.org
© Jim Hellemn

Farnham: Force Blue is a young organization and this Puerto Rico project demonstrated the capabilities on a major scalewhat do you envision Force Blue looking like in the next few years?

Quinn: It was a big deal when little start-ups began to disrupt huge industry and make changes to long time consumer problems by pointing out how inefficient certain businesses were. It seems reasonable, therefore, that the same can be done in the nonprofit world. With this deployment in particular there was an idea that was introduced and tested by science then proven by small groups like Sea Ventures. Force Blue can add the man power and prove the scalability of these ideas by taking them and putting them to work in very short period of time—6,000 fragments of coral that would perish are now thriving on the reef in just a few months! Now proven, we can scale this using a larger group from Force Blue—like Team Two training in August—as well as other groups. Pretty soon we will start to see enormous changes not just in Puerto Rico but around the country and around the world.

The six members of Force Blue Team One are not going to replant all the coral. What we can do is bring attention to all of the amazing things that are being done to save the world’s oceans. Inspiring people isn’t just a good way to improve the world, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Our goal over the next few years is to add more veteran combat divers, beginning with the six new recruits we’ll be training this August, to create a bigger force capable of deploying anywhere in the word.  More veterans doing more good in more places—that’s our formula for success.

Farnham: Anything else you’d like to add?

Quinn: All I would add is that, if you’re reading this, thank you. Taking the time to understand what it is we’re endeavoring to do is so very important to our mission.  If you’re reading this and would like to play an even bigger part in that mission’s success, please visit www.forceblueteam.org and make a tax-deductible donation.  Every dollar raised goes directly toward putting a veteran like me back in service—which is where we all belong.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/25/from-the-trenches/

Is Your Sunscreen Killing the Coral Reef?

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on Is Your Sunscreen Killing the Coral Reef?

This blog post was written by Anna Smith, an Ocean Conservancy intern working with the Ocean Acidification program for the month of May 2018. Anna is a senior in high school and is looking forward to studying Environmental Sciences in college.

With summer fast approaching, many of us are already looking forward to spending days on the beach and getting in some much-needed vitamin D. Most of us will unknowingly celebrate National Sunscreen Day this Sunday when we stock up on beach supplies; but before you buy your sunscreen for the summer, we wanted to give you the lowdown on sunscreen ingredients and ocean health.

Recent studies have found that sunscreen chemicals in many popular products actually hurt corals. The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defenses against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development. It’s almost as though sunscreen for humans has the opposite effect for corals! This damage, along with harm from other stressors including ocean acidification, water pollution, rising sea temperatures, and coral disease, prevents corals from successfully reproducing and surviving in current marine environments.

When beachgoers wearing sunscreen go swimming, they carry these chemicals into the ocean. Research shows that coral reefs in Hawaii are exposed to over 6,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year. Chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate also enter marine ecosystems through sewage treatment plant outflows. Since they’re not designed to remove other pollutants, they are not usually removed by wastewater treatment systems. A 2015 study showed that oxybenzone starts causing serious damage to corals at concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools. In Hawaii, concentrations more than 10 times that amount have been measured at popular swimming beaches that feature some of the islands’ most exquisite coral reefs.

To protect Hawaii’s precious coral ecosystems, the state’s lawmakers passed a bill on May 1, 2018 that prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. If the legislation is signed by Governor David Ige, it will take effect on January 1, 2021. This is a big step designed to protect one of Hawaii’s major tourist attractions—it’s beautiful reef ecosystems. Tourism is a huge part of the Hawaiian economy—a more than $16 billion industry. Millions of visitors will be affected by this law but local businesses are ramping up awareness campaigns to help. For example, Hawaiian Airlines has partnered with Raw Elements to offer reef safe sunscreen containing only certified natural and organic ingredients to their guests.

Even if you’re not lucky enough to be at a Hawaiian beach this summer, we can all still make a difference. By putting our awareness into action, we can make different choices that lessen our impact on the ocean.

  1. You’ve already taken the first step—becoming informed!
  2. Choose mineral sunscreens, especially lotions containing non-nano zinc dioxide as the primary active ingredient.
  3. Look for reef safe sunscreens which are becoming increasingly available
  4. Avoid aerosol sunscreen. Much of what you spray leaves a residue on the sand which is then washed back into the ocean. Your lungs will be healthier too, as aerosol sunscreens are easily inhaled.
  5. If you can, apply less personal care products before you go swimming; the fewer chemicals you bring into the ocean, the better. Some ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation without lots of sunscreen could be to avoid going to the beach during the intense midday sun, or spending lots of time in the shade and in sun protective clothing and a hat.

These tips can help you care for the ocean while you enjoy carefree time on the beach and in the ocean. Of course, we don’t mean to throw shade on sunscreen on National Sunscreen Day—you should always protect yourself from harmful UV rays while enjoying time outside! So next time you join your friends at the beach, help us shed some light on this beloved summer essential and share our tips to keep both beachgoers and our treasured corals healthy, safe and protected.

 

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/24/sunscreen-killing-coral-reef/

It’s a Mermaid, it’s a Sea Cow, it’s a…Dugong?

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on It’s a Mermaid, it’s a Sea Cow, it’s a…Dugong?

Manatees and dugongs are affectionately dubbed “sea cows” because of their grass-eating tendencies and slow nature. They are often seen swimming gracefully with their powerful tails and flippers.

But, did you know that manatees may have been the inspiration behind many sailors’ tales of sirens and mermaids? History Channel reported that during Christopher Columbus’ first trip to the Americas, his company recorded a sighting of three mermaids in the waters surrounding the island of Haiti. He reported seeing these mermaids rise from the sea near his route. Later it was discovered that these mythical mermaids were most likely manatees.

We love the slow and gentle nature of manatees and dugongs. Since the behavior and characteristics of manatees and dugongs are fairly similar, they are often confused for one another, but we’re here to help! We’ve put together the key differences that separate the two below.

What They Look Like

Manatees are thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals more than 60 million years ago, their closest relative outside of dugongs being the elephant. There are three different manatee species: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the America or West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) and the African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). These aquatic mammals are usually a gray-brown with a flat, paddle-shaped tail, two flippers and a whiskered snout. All manatees, with the exception of the Amazonian manatee, have vestigial toenails, appendages rendered useless over evolution and reminiscent of the claws they once had as land animals. Despite having small eyes and no external ear structures, manatees have fairly good eyesight and hearing. They have a special membrane that protects their eyes and large, inner ear bones. Also unique to manatees is their lack of a seventh neck vertebrae, which means they can’t turn their head without turning their entire body. The average lifespan of a manatee is around 40 years, in which they can grow between eight and thirteen feet.

giphygiphy

Dugongs (Dugong dugong) are closely related to manatees and are the fourth species under the order sirenia. Unlike manatees, dugongs have a fluked tail, similar to a whale’s, and a large snout with an upper lip that protrudes over their mouth and bristles instead of whiskers. Dugongs are born a pale, cream color and darken to a slate gray as they age, which is around 70 years on average. Another defining feature is that adult males and some old females develop small tusks, which males use for fighting during mating season. Dugongs also have good hearing, but unlike manatees, their eyesight is very poor. Adult dugongs are usually around eight to ten feet in length.

Where They Live

Relative to their species name, manatees are found in specific parts of the world. The Amazonian manatees stick to the Amazon River, the African manatee lives along the west coast of Africa and the American or West Indian manatee is found on the east coast from Florida to Brazil. Regardless of what part of the world they are found in, manatees tend to stay in shallow waters, since they need to resurface for air. A resting manatee can remain submerged up to 15 minutes, but when active they must resurface every three or four minutes. Manatees usually swim alone or in pairs, but can form small groups, called aggregates, during mating season or if there’s a particularly large feast of grass.

giphygiphy

Dugongs live in the coastal waters of East Africa to Australia with most of the population residing in northern Australian waters. They prefer shallow, warm areas with high concentrations of sea grass and are rarely found in rivers, unlike manatees. Dugongs are usually spotted alone or in pairs, but can gather in large herds consisting of nearly a hundred. The exact gestation period for a dugong is unknown, but it’s estimated at about a year. Similarly to manatees, dugongs give birth to their young in the coastal waters, where the calves swim to the surface for their first breath.

What They Eat

Manatees are herbivores and possess molars to feed on aquatic plants. When at sea, they prefer sea grass and when in rivers munch on freshwater vegetation. Because plants have such low nutritional value, manatees must graze for six to eight hours a day, consuming around 10-15% of their body weight. Manatees have also developed a lower metabolic rate allowing them to use 25% less energy than other mammals of their size. Since manatees are so large and slow-moving, they are vulnerable to motorboat accidents, crowded waters and fishing nets.

giphy-5giphy-5
© IMGUR

Dugongs are also herbivores and have a similar diet to manatees. Dugongs have between ten to fourteen teeth along with a horny pad on their lip and palate to easily up root vegetation. Some algae and the occasional crab have been identified in the stomach of a dugong, but their stomachs are relatively simple and have a hard time digesting.

For a breakdown of key differences between manatees and dugongs, check out our diagram below.

ManateesDugongs_VennDiagram2ManateesDugongs_VennDiagram2
© Ocean Conservancy

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both manatees and dugongs as vulnerable with some subspecies of manatees as endangered. It’s imperative that we share the ocean with these amazing creatures as we navigate a rapidly changing ocean landscape.

Because they are unable to survive in the cold, manatees and dugongs must make the difficult journey towards warmer water each year. Boat strikes are one of the biggest threats during migration. To help the sea cows, when boating, always obey posted speed zones and go slowly in shallow waters where they tend to rest, feed and migrate. Watch for signs and never throw trash, debris or fishing line overboard.

Even if you live inland, you can help by picking up trash that could end up in coastal and ocean waters. Spending a few extra minutes at the end of your beach visit to clean up your surroundings can benefit manatees for a lifetime. The most important way you can help is to always be respectful. If you are lucky enough to see a manatee or dugong in the wild, never disturb them. Admiring from afar is safest for you and the animals.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/23/mermaid-sea-cow-dugong/

It’s a Mermaid, it’s a Sea Cow, it’s a…Dugong?

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on It’s a Mermaid, it’s a Sea Cow, it’s a…Dugong?

Manatees and dugongs are affectionately dubbed “sea cows” because of their grass-eating tendencies and slow nature. They are often seen swimming gracefully with their powerful tails and flippers.

But, did you know that manatees may have been the inspiration behind many sailors’ tales of sirens and mermaids? History Channel reported that during Christopher Columbus’ first trip to the Americas, his company recorded a sighting of three mermaids in the waters surrounding the island of Haiti. He reported seeing these mermaids rise from the sea near his route. Later it was discovered that these mythical mermaids were most likely manatees.

We love the slow and gentle nature of manatees and dugongs. Since the behavior and characteristics of manatees and dugongs are fairly similar, they are often confused for one another, but we’re here to help! We’ve put together the key differences that separate the two below.

What They Look Like

Manatees are thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals more than 60 million years ago, their closest relative outside of dugongs being the elephant. There are three different manatee species: the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the America or West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) and the African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). These aquatic mammals are usually a gray-brown with a flat, paddle-shaped tail, two flippers and a whiskered snout. All manatees, with the exception of the Amazonian manatee, have vestigial toenails, appendages rendered useless over evolution and reminiscent of the claws they once had as land animals. Despite having small eyes and no external ear structures, manatees have fairly good eyesight and hearing. They have a special membrane that protects their eyes and large, inner ear bones. Also unique to manatees is their lack of a seventh neck vertebrae, which means they can’t turn their head without turning their entire body. The average lifespan of a manatee is around 40 years, in which they can grow between eight and thirteen feet.

giphygiphy

Dugongs (Dugong dugong) are closely related to manatees and are the fourth species under the order sirenia. Unlike manatees, dugongs have a fluked tail, similar to a whale’s, and a large snout with an upper lip that protrudes over their mouth and bristles instead of whiskers. Dugongs are born a pale, cream color and darken to a slate gray as they age, which is around 70 years on average. Another defining feature is that adult males and some old females develop small tusks, which males use for fighting during mating season. Dugongs also have good hearing, but unlike manatees, their eyesight is very poor. Adult dugongs are usually around eight to ten feet in length.

Where They Live

Relative to their species name, manatees are found in specific parts of the world. The Amazonian manatees stick to the Amazon River, the African manatee lives along the west coast of Africa and the American or West Indian manatee is found on the east coast from Florida to Brazil. Regardless of what part of the world they are found in, manatees tend to stay in shallow waters, since they need to resurface for air. A resting manatee can remain submerged up to 15 minutes, but when active they must resurface every three or four minutes. Manatees usually swim alone or in pairs, but can form small groups, called aggregates, during mating season or if there’s a particularly large feast of grass.

giphygiphy

Dugongs live in the coastal waters of East Africa to Australia with most of the population residing in northern Australian waters. They prefer shallow, warm areas with high concentrations of sea grass and are rarely found in rivers, unlike manatees. Dugongs are usually spotted alone or in pairs, but can gather in large herds consisting of nearly a hundred. The exact gestation period for a dugong is unknown, but it’s estimated at about a year. Similarly to manatees, dugongs give birth to their young in the coastal waters, where the calves swim to the surface for their first breath.

What They Eat

Manatees are herbivores and possess molars to feed on aquatic plants. When at sea, they prefer sea grass and when in rivers munch on freshwater vegetation. Because plants have such low nutritional value, manatees must graze for six to eight hours a day, consuming around 10-15% of their body weight. Manatees have also developed a lower metabolic rate allowing them to use 25% less energy than other mammals of their size. Since manatees are so large and slow-moving, they are vulnerable to motorboat accidents, crowded waters and fishing nets.

giphy-5giphy-5
© IMGUR

Dugongs are also herbivores and have a similar diet to manatees. Dugongs have between ten to fourteen teeth along with a horny pad on their lip and palate to easily up root vegetation. Some algae and the occasional crab have been identified in the stomach of a dugong, but their stomachs are relatively simple and have a hard time digesting.

For a breakdown of key differences between manatees and dugongs, check out our diagram below.

ManateesDugongs_VennDiagram2ManateesDugongs_VennDiagram2
© Ocean Conservancy

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both manatees and dugongs as vulnerable with some subspecies of manatees as endangered. It’s imperative that we share the ocean with these amazing creatures as we navigate a rapidly changing ocean landscape.

Because they are unable to survive in the cold, manatees and dugongs must make the difficult journey towards warmer water each year. Boat strikes are one of the biggest threats during migration. To help the sea cows, when boating, always obey posted speed zones and go slowly in shallow waters where they tend to rest, feed and migrate. Watch for signs and never throw trash, debris or fishing line overboard.

Even if you live inland, you can help by picking up trash that could end up in coastal and ocean waters. Spending a few extra minutes at the end of your beach visit to clean up your surroundings can benefit manatees for a lifetime. The most important way you can help is to always be respectful. If you are lucky enough to see a manatee or dugong in the wild, never disturb them. Admiring from afar is safest for you and the animals.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/23/mermaid-sea-cow-dugong/

How Canada’s G7 Leadership Can Help Reduce Plastics in the World’s Oceans

Posted in Saving Mother Ocean | Comments Off on How Canada’s G7 Leadership Can Help Reduce Plastics in the World’s Oceans

Susan Ruffo wrote this blog in partnership with Louie Porta, vice-president of operations for Oceans North, a Canadian nonprofit that works on Arctic marine conservation in partnership with Indigenous organizations. 

When Canada hosts a G7 summit meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec next month, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has pledged to work with other world leaders to reduce the more than 8 million metric tons of plastic that end up in the oceans each year.

To support this important goal, Oceans North and Ocean Conservancy organized a one-day workshop in Ottawa on April 25 that brought together 60 key experts from industry, local and national governments, scientists and conservation groups.

“There was a lot of common ground,” said Louie Porta, vice-president of operations for Oceans North. “We came up with a top ten list of ideas that a G7 initiative needs to include on marine debris.”

That list was shared with Minister McKenna when she met with workshop leaders at the end of the day.

One of the recommendations that had widespread support is for Canada to show leadership at home by establishing a harmonized national “extended producer responsibility” policy. This would require companies to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of plastic products throughout their entire lifecycle. This would include proper disposal of plastic products, from recycling to reuse and other waste management solutions.

Another key suggestion was to create a global network of municipalities to work on cleaning up marine debris since 80 percent of plastic litter in the oceans is generated on land. An additional 20 percent comes from sea-based sources, including lost and abandoned fishing gear. A city-to-city approach could be especially important for remote northern communities in Canada and elsewhere that lack waste management systems because of economic and geographic hurdles.

“Northerners are concerned about this. These are places where people rely on the marine environment for a healthy lifestyle,” Porta said.

Cities are critical actors when it comes to managing plastic waste since they are both the leading edge when setting goals and policies and the last defense before items escape into the environment, said Susan Ruffo, managing director for international initiatives at Ocean Conservancy.

“Engaging mayors and city leaders is critical to setting up systems that will work,” Ruffo said.

McKennacleanupMcKennacleanup
© Oceans North

A third idea was to have G7 countries negotiate an agreement to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean, along with China and the four Southeast Asian countries that generate 50 percent of the marine debris. Such an accord could be modeled after the landmark international Arctic fisheries agreement that was negotiated last year between 10 countries to protect that region from commercial fishing.

G7 countries can also take the lead on setting standards for recycled content, plastic waste reduction targets and minimizing the leakage of plastic into the marine environment.

The next step will be to compile a report on the workshop’s findings and top recommendations that will be submitted to Minister McKenna before the G7 summit next month.

Three days before the Ottawa workshop, Minister McKenna participated in a beach cleanup near Halifax, Nova Scotia, helping 150 volunteers collect 100 bags of marine debris. The event was organized by Oceans North, Ecology Action Centre, Friends of McNabs Island and Ocean Conservancy.

Article source: https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/05/22/canadas-g7-leadership-can-help-reduce-plastics-worlds-oceans/