Thursday, March 31, 2011

Only Fifty Days Until Blue Vision Summit 3

Ocean People Unite! Only 50 days until Blue Vision Summit Three (BVS3).

Get together with fellow ocean lovers for the Blue Vision Summit May 20-23 in Washington DC.

There are free sessions and most importantly, a visit to Capitol Hill on Monday the 23rd. Bang on some doors and tell our elected officials why and how ocean protections are crucial.

If you're wondering what the purpose of the event is or skeptical about what will be accomplished -- don't -- at the very least it is always inspiring to hear how like-minded people care about and are working toward healthy and sustainable seas.

Celebrity ocean people, experts and scientists, and legendary explorers will be there, as well as lowly ocean folk like yours truly. It's bound to be inspiring, fun, and interesting. I am definitely looking forward to it.

More info including schedule and sign up here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cleaning Penguins Near South Africa

Three cheers for these people on their way to save penguins. It's the kind of bread and butter of conservation that is beautiful in its simplicity and a small reminder that there may just be enough people out there to save the oceans. 

Good karma, dude
A rescue team is expected to leave Cape Town on Monday to join an international operation to clean up thousands of oiled penguins in the remote Southern Ocean, according to IOL Scitech.

The team, from Sanccob (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), is expected to arrive on the tug Singapore at the Tristan da Cunha island chain this weekend.

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bottom Trawling is the Pits

Bottom trawling is a destructive fishing practice where heavy nets and iron gear are dragged along the ocean floor over underwater hill and dale crushing and smashing habitat and sea life along the way. The comparison is hunting for deer by demolishing the entire forest.

Bottom trawling also stirs up sediment, which is bad because it blocks light needed for sea life deeper down and it kicks up toxins that were buried in the sediment.

Here's the scientific explanation: "The resulting undersea plumes of “suspended solids” can drift with the current for tens of miles from the source of the trawling, introducing turbidity throughout the water that inhibits the transfer of light down to the depths where it is needed for photosynthesis in plankton, sea kelp and other undersea plants that serve as the basis for the marine food chain.

"Also, ocean sediments serve as natural safe resting places for many persistent organic pollutants (such as DDT and PCBs). Dredging these sediments up effectively reintroduces such toxins into the water where they are unwittingly absorbed and consumed by the fish we eat and other marine life already trying to cope with otherwise compromised undersea habitats. The sediment plumes also reintroduce nutrient solids from agricultural and other practices, increasing demand for oxygen in the water (causing algae blooms) and contributing to the outbreak of ocean “dead zones” devoid of marine life," according to Health News Digest

The good news is that the US outlawed bottom trawling in its waters but the bad news is it still goes on elsewhere in Europe and in many other places of the world.

Must be the dredges of humanity who still think bottom trawling is acceptable. 

Read the full story here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scientist Forgets the Ocean is Not a Dump

Dr Tracey Shimmield of the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences should be ashamed. She is being paid by the Ramu mining company to promote ocean dumping of mine tailings in Papua New Guinea. The ocean is not a dump.

This is where Ramu wants to dump in the ocean: 

"The area in which this occurs is within the “Coral Triangle”, an area described by marine biologists as having the highest diversity of corals, fish, crustaceans, molluscs and marine plant species in the world (Veron et al., 2009). SE Asian countries (including Papua New Guinea) have vowed to protect and conserve this region of exceptional biodiversity. This region is also the location of one of the few healthy tuna fisheries in the ocean (Lehodey et al., 1997)," according to Science Alert

This is why Ramu wants to dump in the ocean:

"...a conventional land-based tailings storage facility is too expensive," says Science Alert. 

This is how little Ramu cares about the ocean:

"Aside from a few scattered bottom samples, virtually nothing is known about the deep area that will be buried in Fe/Mn rich silty clay refinery tailings, that are enriched in a chemical soup of trace elements and refinery reagents."

Here's how you can help:

Make some noise - don't stand for this. Support organizations like, which help indigenous people fight pollution.

the full story here.

Other sources:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ocean Film Winners Inspire

See these films, be inspired and encouraged.

Best title has to go to The Krill is Gone. And the people that untangle live, swimming whales from old fishing gear and lines in In the Wake of Giants surely have some conservation cojones.

The San Francisco Ocean Film Festival winners are:
  • Wildlife Film: Sex under the Sea (Belgium), Etienne Verhaegen
  • Adventure Film: Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen (USA), Allan Smith
  • Coastal Culture Film: Papa Mau (USA), Na'alehu Anthony
  • Environmental Film: Sanctuary in the Sea (USA), Robert Talbot
  • Conservation Film: In the Wake of Giants (USA), Lou Douros
  • Short Film: The Krill is Gone (USA), Jeffrey Bost & Matt Briggs

    Read the whole story here from PR Newswire.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Ocean Book from Sam Malone


Who? While it is great that Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone in the sitcom Cheers, is supporting the oceans, what a bummer that on the recent first night of his book tour in the largest city in the US, the oceans only garnered a medium crowd. Where's the love?

Ted and Friend
Danson still did a great job. Refreshing, unassuming, and natural he was. Great sense of humor, and assuredly (and thankfully) not a scientist.

Thankfully because he spoke to the layman, not trying to be the know-it-all, in fact acknowledging that he was none of that. As he would tell it, he is simply a famous person trying to be a responsible global citizen. From what I can tell from my seat in the crowd, he'd probably be a good guy to hang out with in general.

He made a good point about overfishing, too. Although a fishery or fishing method may be sustainable, the margin of error is very thin for potentially game-changing events such as ocean acidification and oil spills. Can a fish population take three big hits at once? Not sure, so let's err on the side of the fish.

Meanwhile, Danson's book is a comprehensive survey of the oceans and the challenges facing them, replete with tons of images, which is a nice way to digest the sea of information.

The book is called Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them (Rodale Press) named after the excellent marine organization he fronts. Get it! Enjoy it! 

Short piece here about his tour.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Between a Rock and a Fish

Happy Spring
Is it rock or is it a fish? Sort of both. It's a stone fish, clearly named for it's excellent camouflage. He was spotted off Socorro Island in the Pacific. Image courtesy of Jamie Pollack, co-founder of Shark Savers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Act Locally

Here are inspiring stories of regular people making clean energy and energy efficiency wins across the US. The stories are courtesy of Repower America who are trying to encourage and engage Americans to do exactly what their name implies.

As their site says, the Repower America campaign was launched to galvanize the American public around a bold new clean energy plan and a revitalized national energy infrastructure.  It's exactly the kind of proactivity and innovation that leads us into the future.

There's a church mom who got solar panels put on her church roof and teacher who helped the school install motion sensitive lights and other simple savers.

Read here for more refreshing stories.

Act Locally

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mangroves and Salt Marshes Beat Tropical Forests

Loves Carbon
In all the talk about carbon, let's not forget that conservation fights carbon. Say it again. Keep it mind.

Mangroves, salt marshes, and sea grasses soak up five times more carbon than tropical rain forests, according to an enlightening story in Scientific American

This is why we should be alarmed that we lose an American football field a day -- a day -- of wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not mainly because of the BP mess, it's from chronic channeling and dredging and runoff pollution. It's essentially that old hubris that man is supposed to conquer nature rather than live as part of it. 

While taking carbon out of the atmosphere, mangroves also have other benefits, worth about $9,000 bucks per hectare, according to the United Nations.  A hectare is about the size of the field inside a standard 400 meter running track.

"Mangroves are tangled orchards of spindly shrubs that thrive in the interface between land and sea. They bloom in muddy soil where the water is briny and shallow, and the air muggy. Salt marshes and sea grasses also flourish in these brackish hinterlands. Worldwide, these coastal habitats are recognized for their natural beauty and ability to filter pollution, house fish nurseries and buffer shorelines against storms," according to the article.

Ah, the sweet spot between land and sea. Let's do everything we can to keep them around.

Read the whole story here.

Photo: Scientific American

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blue Vision Summit Coming in May

Ocean People Unite!

No, not a call from the Sub Mariner or Aquaman, but from one ocean lover to another, get together with your kin for the Blue Vision Summit May 20-23 in Washington DC.

There are free sessions and most importantly, a visit to the Hill on the Monday. Let's go bang on some doors and tell our elected officials why and how ocean protections are crucial.

If you're wondering what the purpose of the event is or skeptical about what will be accomplished -- don't -- at the very least it is always inspiring to hear how like-minded people care about and are working toward healthy and sustainable seas.

Celebrity ocean people, experts and scientists and legendary explorers for example, will be there, as well as lowly ocean folk like yours truly. It's bound to be fun and interesting. I am definitely looking forward to it.

More info including schedule and sign up here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Republicans Support Fossil Fuel Polluters

The clowns are at it again, but it's not funny. It is sad to watch them make a joke out of our proud American heritage of innovation and hard work for payoffs.

Republicans have written a bill that “amends the Clear Air Act to state that greenhouse gases are not ‘air pollutants,’ and, therefore, cannot be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency,”  according to

Called Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. Bill is sponsored by Frederick Upton R – Michigan. They even put the phrase “tax prevention” in the title, even though the bill has nothing to do with taxes.

Why the bill? In a recent hearing, the Republicans cited doubts about climate change science. Really?

Clearly these politicians are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry, which wants to pollute and to discourage clean energy development. Either that or these people really are ignorant enough to doubt mounds of scientific consensus.

There are 34 other bill sponsors, list here. These two talked about their doubts about climate science in the hearing: Morgan Griffith, R – VA, Cory Gardner, R -- CO. 

When someone asks who ruined the future, look no farther.

Source: New York Times, March 10, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Government for Sale

Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago:

"Clean energy and climate legislation before Congress would put us on the right track, but it's been mired in both Republican political opposition and opposition from old economy industries,” according to the New York Times.

Trade groups and oil and gas companies spent $146.3 million on lobbying in 2010.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sea Shepard is Part of the Same Team

Let's face it, Sea Shepard is a conservation organization that makes some conservationists uncomfortable. Yet, they are effective.

Maybe an American football metaphor works here. The linebacker wants to take the opponent's head off at the neck to win while the kicker wants to use precision and tactical skills to get the win. Plus, no one on the team is happy if in his zeal to win, the aggressive linebacker hurts the whole team with costly penalties. Enough metaphor stretching.

I've read posts and heard conservation-minded people distance themselves from support of what Sea Shepard is doing. There is a risk that many other conservationists will be marginalized as radical along with Sea Shepard as opposed to rational or collaborative.

Sea Shepard's methods may also be reinforcing the stereotype that probably still lingers, if not loudly persists in some places, among fishers that conservationists are simply against them, out to ruin their livelihoods. It might close off dialogue or at least hamper those who want to work with fishers toward sustainability.

BUT as noted in a refreshing post from treehugger, Sea Shepard gets attention and they get results -- everyone knows their name and whale hunts are down.

Read the whole post here from treehugger. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Costa Rica Gets It

Costa Rica has set aside more ocean for protection. The more the merrier.

Hammerhead sharks and leatherback turtles should find the area a refuge from the humans. 

The protected area, called "Seamounts Marine Management Area" or Area Marina de Manejo Montes Submarinos, extends close to 2.47 million acres around the Cocos Islands. This extends by five times the existing National Park, which is currently a fully protected non-fishing zone and UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to USA Today.

See the full story here.
Image: USA Today

Monday, March 7, 2011

Japanese Turn a Blind Eye

When the Japanese consumer is out of touch or in denial, oceans everywhere suffer.

The fact that Japan's shark industry uses every part of the animal does nothing to protect shark populations, says Mayumi Takeda, co-founder of PangeaSeed, a shark conservation group in Tokyo, according to The Guardian. Several countries, including the US, have taken steps to conserve shark populations, but she holds out little hope that Japan will follow suit.

"Many Japanese turn a blind eye to the problem and ocean conservation seems to be overlooked here," she says.

"And because of the efforts of conservationists in the southern ocean and Taiji, the Japanese media have spun these issues to appear to be the actions of eco-terrorists. But Japan's international scoresheet can't handle much more negative press."

Read the full Guardian story here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cleanse the Soul

A recent Reefbase scientific study contains a line that may be all the reason we need to save the seas:

"Coastal environments can cleanse the soul, stimulate the mind, and restore the body."

Refreshing to see a philosophical, emotional statement in a scientific paper.

This is not to say it has been scientifically proven that coastal environments do this. But then again, isn't it obvious? It's why so many people love the ocean.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All my Friends are Gone

"I dreamed I made friends with the sharks," said five-year-old Charlotte Work. 

She and her classmates slept over at Ocean Park's new Grand Aquarium in Hong Kong, according to the Standard.

It's too bad that her shark friends may disappear before she's thirty if we don't stop killing 73 million a year. And by "we" I mean the people who eat shark fin soup, many of whom live in Hong Kong and China.

Where is everybody?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Surprise Hope

Hope from an unexpected place. Guess who said this:

"We must not any longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth and reckless roll outs as that would result in unsustainable growth..." 

No, not a leader in sustainable management or a professor at some prestigious university. China's environment minister, Zhou Shengxian, that's who said it.

It would be great if he also said that shark fin soup is unhealthy for the oceans but this is a good start.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wherever and Whenever

It is easy for melancholy to get a foothold when the depth and breadth of the challenges facing the oceans are realized. So it's important to look for the bright spots wherever and whenever they can be found.

Here's one voice:  "the natural world that gives us sustenance, wisdom and a reflection of our souls." More and more people seem to be talking about intangible benefits of the sea like spirituality, and that has power, maybe even staying power.

That was Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D, who gave us a dash of optimism and that "something bigger than us" sense in her keynote as part of the launch of the World Resources Institute's "Reefs at Risk Revisited".  Some additional hopeful prose from Jane:

"Some might say that the odds of reversing trends to leave such a legacy are too great.  But I beg to differ.  I am encouraged by numerous signs: 
  • the increasing number of local community efforts that are underway, bringing ingenuity and passion;
  • the successes of various restoration efforts, giving hope for reversing trends;
  • increased scientific engagement informing choices;
  • critical philanthropic efforts enabling proof of concept, development of powerful networks, and translation of scientific knowledge into practice; and
  • especially the engagement of young people who have a knack for tackling seemingly impossible tasks and bringing fresh energy and thinking.  
Healthy oceans should be everyone’s business.  Greater awareness and engagement are needed to protect and restore the global treasures that are coral reefs.  How the world rises to this challenge is a reflection of our commitment to one another and to the natural world that gives us sustenance, wisdom and a reflection of our souls."

Jane is under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator.