Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Jersey Herring Catch a Break

Some good news.  Jersey herring get some protections.

As a bonus, almost all players in the story have a rich and high level understanding of the whole issue; something you might not have seen years ago.

Clearly, the herring deserve the respite.

"Research indicates the commercial catch for river herring declined from 65 million pounds a year in the mid-1960s to just 1.2 million pounds a year in recent years.  A bigger loss is an estimated 3 million pounds a year accidentally caught in trawl nets.

Environmental groups have actively been pushing for controls on river herring because it’s an important forage fish in rivers and the ocean.  Herring is eaten by striped bass, cod, whales, dolphins, haddock, seals, river otters, cormorants, herons, eagles and many other species," according to CBS News.

These small victories are tiny blips of hope.  In the struggle to support healthy oceans, they are like the half-glimpse of a shooting star over the ocean on an August night.  I'll take it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fascination Friday

The marvel of the oceans can be in the cold, hard, awesome facts, not just the natural poetry and the raw splendor.  Here's a few examples to ponder on fascination Friday:

The lowest known point on Earth, called the Challenger Deep, is in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean.  How deep is that?  If you placed Mt. Everest at the bottom of the trench there would still be over a mile of ocean above it.

Earth's longest mountain range is the Mid-Ocean Ridge, which winds around the globe.  It is four times longer than the Andes, Rockies, and Himalayas combined.

The top ten feet of the ocean hold as much heat as the entire atmosphere.

Editor's Note: The ocean is HUGE but we can still screw it up! 

Courtesy of Marine Bio. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Look to the Land to Save the Oceans

In New Zealand, another marine reserve full of fat and happy fish shows the benefits of giving nature a break.  Divers frequenting the Taputeranga Marine Reserve have noticed fish and other sea life becoming bigger since its formation in 2008, according to the Dominion Post.

While these successes are to be celebrated -- the more reserves the better -- there is a bigger picture at work. 

In order to save the oceans, terrestrial threats need to be targeted.  Burning fossil fuels makes ocean water more acidic.  This change in the water's basic chemistry is harmful, even deadly, to much of the life that calls it home.

No number of patrols guarding marine reserves, no amount of educating people who feed off the benefits of the marine reserve, and no number of conservation groups dedicated to marine reserves can protect them from the umbrella impact of stuffing the air with excess carbon.

It is a little odd but it is the reality -- look to the land to save the oceans.  That's where people are burning most of the fossil fuels to make electricity and to run cars and trucks. 

There is good news out there as clean energy is making major gains and fewer citizens are buying the fossil fuel industry's lie that we cannot have jobs and prosperity without pollution.  I hope we keep the momentum going if for nothing else than all the beautiful and diverse marine reserves out there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Hubris that Kills Us

I saw a good Frontline piece on the Fukishima nuclear disaster and how the Japanese are dealing with it.  They interviewed a young mother at a little league baseball game who had to move out of the contaminated zone.

They asked her what she thought about it all.  She gave a simple response:

"We should not build things that human beings cannot control." 

Then she said, "I'm scared."

She looked down, paused, then. "I'm scared."

Reminds me of BP's Deepwater Royal Screw Up and hundreds of other examples.  And it resonates when I hear about drilling in the Arctic or when we act like we have plenty of time to correct the build-up of carbon.

It's the hubris that kills us every time.

Webster's Definition of hubris: exaggerated pride or self-confidence

Here's the episode.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Very Cool Tool from EPA

Legend explaining that green represents National Fuel Mix and blue represents Your Region's Fuel Mix
Non-Hydro Renewables Hydro Nuclear Oil Gas Coal

It's about time we knew this stuff.  We care where our food comes from, our water we drink, the products we use, even our entertainment is scrutinized.  It's about time we understood how the electricity we Americans consume so voraciously is created (and how green it is).

Enter the Environmental Protection Agency's cool online tool titled How Clean is the Electricity I Use?

Enter your zip code and a chart comes up with percentages of fuels, such as coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewables, used to generate the electricity you use.  It varies per region and area.  Above is the New York City mix.

Keep in mind coal and gas means burning those fossil fuels to turn generators to make electricity. The combustion spews pollution including carbon.

Nuclear has no emissions but well, we could safely say there are serious safety concerns with it.

Hydroelectric is damming rivers to turn those generators to make electricity, which is controversial as it can displace people, harm wildlife, etc. but it is sometimes counted as a renewable source.

Renewables on the list, if you're lucky enough to even have any in your mix, are wind and solar.

My hope is to increase renewables dramatically and fast across all zip codes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Docks by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg must have loved the oceans.  Here he is capturing big blue's powerful beauty and exciting mystery.


Strolling along
By the teeming docks,
I watch the ships put out.
Black ships that heave and lunge
And move like mastodons
Arising from lethargic sleep.

The fathomed harbor
Calls them not nor dares
Them to a strain of action,
But outward, on and outward,
Sounding low-reverberating calls,
Shaggy in the half-lit distance,
They pass the pointed headland,
View the wide, far-lifting wilderness
And leap with cumulative speed
To test the challenge of the sea.

Doggedly onward plunging,
Into salt and mist and foam and sun.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clean Funding Means Jobs and Private Investment

Funding for clean energy stimulates jobs and private investment in addition to stopping pollution. Something to consider when the fossil fuel industry tells us we cannot have jobs and economic prosperity without their pollution.

Green energy represents not only a high-return investment for the federal government but a competitive world market in which America has arguably fallen behind despite years of continued growth in wind power and other sectors. 

These investments also benefit the public by reducing emissions of air and water pollutants, preventing global warming, addressing environmental justice, and more, according to Professor Sanya Carley and graduate student Martin Hyman at Indianan State University.

The Council of Economic Advisors finds that $46 billion in Recovery Act funds will leverage more than $150 billion in clean energy financing by private investors.

A study conducted in 2011 by the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute found that the stimulus created or saved 997,000 green jobs — including jobs in the energy sector — through the end of 2010.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fun App Tracks Great Whites

I bought the app that enables users to track great whites as soon as I heard about it.

Expedition Great White is fun and it stirs the imagination.  It is also a bit gimmicky but that's ok, especially if it creates a curiosity and even better, an appreciation, for sharks.

Here I am riding a bus or hanging out in my living room and I can see on a good map where Amy or any other sharks in the program are hanging about.  I can see them swimming.  I can imagine the color of the water.

They seem to enjoy the waters off southern California and the Baja lately.  That might have something to do with the fact that the Marine Conservation Science Institute, which tagged the sharks and is selling the app for a mere four bucks, is located nearby.

To be "locked in", the fish must put their dorsal fin out of the water for at least a few minutes.  That's when satellites pick up the transmitter.  The app comes with other good stuff like video and a bunch of great facts about the sharks.

The only downside to the app is the shark attack feature.  A red fin on the screen indicates where a shark attack occurred.  One click and you see when the attack happened and whether it was fatal or not.

My thought is this feature feeds into that shark sensationalism and blood lust that gets so many of them killed,  or ignored when someone says they need help.

At one point, the entire coast of California was stacked with red fins. It looked like you could not put a toe in the water without an encounter.  This creates an uneven view of shark attacks, especially considering on closer inspection, the red fin data covers attacks that have happened over a twenty year period. Few people may get that at the graphical display of red fins stacked along the coast.

That said, it's still a fun app and the fun might even last longer than a few days with this one.

The Chicago Tribune covers the app here.

The Marine Conservation Science Institute here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Labor Says Fear Not on Clean Energy

In the challenge to transition to a clean energy economy, starting with the end of coal, fossil fuel companies that want to continue to pollute often shake the scarecrow of jobs. 

Makes you wonder what the people whose jobs they are talking about really think. Surprise! Labor refuses to cow to the fear-mongering and wants to embrace the clean energy economy.  It wants to be part of the opportunity.

Here are some choice words from the head of the AFL-CIO delivered in a recent address.  This speech received a standing ovation.

"When these folks hear "End Coal," it  sounds like a threat to destroy the value of our homes, to shut our schools and churches, to drive us away from the place our parents and grandparents are buried, to take away the work that for more than a hundred years has made us who we are.

"So why, in an economy without an effective safety net, would the good men and women of my hometown and a thousand places like it surrender their whole lives and sit by while others try to force them to bear the cost of change.

"The truth is that in many places – and not just places where coal is mined – there is fear that the 'green economy' will turn into another version of the radical inequality that now haunts our society—another economy that works for the 1% and not for the 99%.

"So if we are going to build an innovative, sustainable, climate friendly American economy, if we are going to rebuild, restore, modernize or replace everything we inherited in just 30 years, we are going to need the energies, talents, passion and hard work of more than some regions or some Americans.   No, the job we have to do is too big.   We need the skill and effort of all of us.  Our enemy in this great challenge, as always, is fear.  Sometimes it seems like fear, and the power of money, has paralyzed our government.  But the antidote to fear is trust."

Let's do this.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wish They All Could Be California...

Wish they all could be California...Marine Protected Areas (MPA).

The state has created large, ecosystem-based MPA.  As usual, the challenge to accommodate fishermen has to be weighed against the recovery of one of nature's most generous gifts.  Right now the fishermen are angry and the environmentalists are giddy.  Hopefully they can find a middle ground.

We know the protected areas are effective, and it usually comes down to a question of enforcement.

“The difference inside the reserve versus outside the reserve is so dramatic,” David Kushner, a biologist with the National Park Service, said. “If you’re swimming underwater, it is pretty easy to see the difference. You’ll see larger fish such as sheepshead and kelp bass and ocean white fish and large lobsters, according to the New York Times Green Blog.

“Immediately upon swimming outside of the marine reserve, those fish are all of a sudden smaller and there’s fewer of them,” he said.

The ecosystem approach favored by the state of California is unparalleled. But questions abound over whether the economically strapped Department of Fish and Game will be be able to properly enforce the rules regarding the new reserves, according to the story, according to the story. 

Let's hope they are successful.  Remember, healthy seas mean healthy people.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rosie Opportunity?

Maybe there are bigger fish to fry than Rosie O'Donnell but there is a lot of coverage of her recent shark killing incident. In the end, it could be a golden opportunity for ocean conservation.

Rosie went fishing in Miami with a "legendary shark hunter" and caught a massive hammerhead.  From the image of the beautiful animal hanging lifeless from a large hook surrounded by Rosie and her smiling kids, it looks to be at least twelve feet long.

Since sharks are threatened or endangered, Rosie has been getting heat online. Anyway killing one like that and displaying it with your smiling family simply sends the wrong message.  A message that more people will see because she's Rosie O'Donnell.

Another celebrity behaving badly. Move on.  But it gets interesting when Rosie tries to defend herself.  She is quoted as saying some odd things:

"Y don't u worry about commercial fishing where the slaughter by the thousands." She said on Twitter, according to the Sun Sentinel.

I am concerned about commercial fishing, all the time hoping it's sustainable.  I am also concerned about hundreds of millions of sharks killed for soup each year. But that's not the point.

The point is it's not one fish, two fish, who fish.  It's the message you are sending of hunting and killing these magnificent creatures and displaying them for all to see.  It feeds into the bloodlust for sharks, and the theme of conquering nature rather than living connected to it.  It is not a great lesson for your kids and it is not a great lesson for your fans.  It is even worse for sharks.

She also said: "We were not going after any species in particular - u catch what u catch - and it wasn't endangered til 11 days ago."

Well, you can fish and not kill the catch. And I'm pretty sure by the time the concept of an endangered animal actually makes it into legislation, it has been endangered for quite awhile.  Before seat belt laws, people were still getting killed in accidents by not wearing their seat belts.  But again, it's the message.

"I love the ocean," she also said.

Killing the tigers and lions of the sea for sport is a sad commentary for someone who "loves the ocean".

BUT the title of this post is "Rosie Opportunity" for a reason.  Maybe Rosie feels badly about this whole incident.  Give her the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe she would like to understand more about biomass and apex predators and all the issues of the seas.  She could become one of the oceans' greatest allies;  she says she loves it after all.  Everyone wins in that story, even the sharks who could really use some good news.

Image: doodiepants.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Luxury Fouls the Oceans Stern to Bow

Cruise ships are dirty top to bottom, stern to bow.  From the fossil fuel pollution they emit out their stacks to the sewage and the hazardous waste water they dump into the oceans.

What is the mantra?  The ocean is not a dump.  This is one example multiplied exponentially and it needs remedying. 

Imagine these floating cities with thousands of people...the waste they generate. 

Luxury cruise ships emit pollution through the stacks as they burn fossil fuels to run their engines and generate power.  According to the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union through Just Means, the 15 largest cruise ships emit as much sulfur dioxide pollution annually as all 760 million cars in the world.

According to Friends of the Earth, a large vessel on a one week cruise generates: 

210,000 gallons of human sewage
1 million gallons of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys),
25,000 gallons of oily bilge water,
Up to 11,550 gallons of sewage sludge
More than 130 gallons of hazardous wastes.

Yuck. And most of this is dumped into the ocean, according to Just Means. Double yuck.

In addition to polluting the high seas and potentially pristine waters, cruise ships also deliver untreated ballast water, which can carry sea life from one place to another faraway place. 

Trouble is that when the foreign organism arrives in the new waters, it has no "enemies", no predators.  It runs hog wild.  That's called an invasive species, and they are trashing ecosystems all over the world.

Although not for me, many people enjoy cruises.  Everything taken care of, watered down adventure, carefully controlled comfort, common cuisine, etc. 

The US Environmental Protection Agency lists ways to lesson the impact of your cruise but they are kind of weak.  One of them is "use as little water as possible".

The best way to lesson your impact is to not go on cruises.  Or at least, find the greenest cruise ship you can.  When in doubt, remember the mantra: The ocean is not a dump.

For more information on cruise ship pollution, see the EPA's Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment.  Check out Ethical Traveler as well.

Image: Cruiselawnews

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fuel from Kelp

According to CNN Money, there are four cutting edge ways to solve the "energy challenge", and one directly involves the ocean: turning seaweed into fuel.

Did you know that kelp, seaweed, is nearly 50% sugar? That's natural energy. Turning it into fuel is happening (in the lab) in Chile. Interesting stuff.

The other solutions are a longer range car battery, new fusion technology, and beaming electricity from space. Zap.

Meanwhile, an economist from Deustche Bank gives us the 4 point solution to the energy challenge:

1. Get rid of coal.
2. Ramp up gas as the transition fuel.
3. Hammer down the costs of renewables.
4. Focus on energy efficiency.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Light is Life

Light is life. Sunlight hits water and tiny organisms make food from the energy of that star in our sky, and away we go.

There is no doubt something magical about light in water, the way it moves, dazzles, captures us all with a basic beauty. 

The ocean carries this even farther with this fascinating fact from a recent story about Dr. Edith Widder's efforts to use the gift of animals creating light -- bioluminescence -- to detect pollution.

"Over a career spanning almost 30 years, Dr. Widder has made hundreds of dives in deep-sea submersibles to study the remarkable number and diversity of animals that make light. This ability, called bioluminescence, is strikingly common, shared by as many as 90 percent of the creatures in the open ocean."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Protecting All Sharks is the Real Hope

Shark protections are tremendously important and to be celebrated. There is little doubt too that sharks are the "hot" 2011 ocean issue.

But let's be smart about saving sharks, otherwise some protections equate to false hope and that just takes the fight out of all of us, let alone accomplishes little.

Fabien Cousteau, 3rd generation ocean lover, spoke recently as a voice of reason along these lines. He's referring to a ban on specific species of sharks in Florida:

"It's not about protecting a couple of species of sharks," he said. "It's about doing a global ban on all sharks. Because if you start targeting certain species of sharks, then the general public is going to be even more confused than they are now."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Silly Job Talk Sells

Everyone's doing it, shouldn't you too?

Either side of almost any issue these days frames legislation in terms of impact on jobs. Trouble is it's mostly bunk, or questionable at least. The word an economist from University of California Berkeley uses is "silly", according to the New York Times.

“Many economists think most of that is pretty silly,” said David Card, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is president of the Society of Labor Economists.

“It’s just a selling point. You can say anything, no matter what, creates jobs. I don’t think people should pay much attention to it.”

Trouble is people are paying attention to it. Cooler heads prevail? Not really. These days when people (especially pundits and politicians) can say things that are simply untrue with slim accountability, rationale flies out the door.

It is not to say that all the claims are false. I can't know that from where I'm sitting. But people that know much more about labor economics suggest such comparisons and claims are meaningless at best.

Still, job creation or job related messages have become the sound bites over the past year. The latest is simply "job killer" heard often from Republican candidates for President. But if you do not have a response to the wild claims from the opposition, you lose. So the nonsense spirals.

"A coal-industry group, attacking power-plant rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, says they would “destroy over 180,000 jobs per year.” The estimate comes from a study commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, whose members include coal producers like Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

Not to be outdone, companies that make scrubbers and other pollution-control equipment have their own trade association, the Institute of Clean Air Companies. They support many E.P.A. clean air standards. And they say that 1.5 million jobs will be created in the next five years as a result of the new requirements."

Eco Ocean is guilty, too. Last week I quoted an article that said wind energy will create 54,000 jobs. Mainly, I felt it was the kind of hopeful response needed to much of the negative clean energy "job loss" talk from climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry.

The sober reality of framing legislation around job impact also reinforces the call for reason that I'm hearing out there, when it's not drowned out by the noise. Smart people are promoting positive change but in the context of thoughtful, rational, and effective decision-making. Now that's not silly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sober Hope Around Fishing

Some practical optimism from someone who is very familiar with the issues -- Lee Crockett of Pew, referring to 2011 progress on US fishing legislation: 

"I am confident that we are on track to realize the economic and environmental promises of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act -- namely, that we can manage our oceans in such a way that ensures stocks are healthy, commercial fishermen are making money, and anglers like me have many opportunities on the water."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Sperm whale taken by Peter Allinson