ISSUE 3, 2017
REAL SOLUTIONS START WITH SAILORS FOR THE SEA
“ IT’S CLEAR THAT THE OCEAN IS IN CRISIS DUE TO OVERFISHING, PLASTIC POLLUTION, OCEAN ACIDIFICATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE. BUT THERE IS HOPE, AND THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW.” DAVID ROCKEFELLER, JR., CHAIRMAN, SAILORS FOR THE SEA
THE OCEAN CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT US BUT WE CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT IT. 2 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
Sailors for the Sea 449 Thames Street, 300D Newport, RI 02840 phone: 401.846.8900 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE 3
BIG PROBLEMS 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean from land each year – enough to cover every coastline on earth.
Since 1950, 90% of all large predatory fishes, including cod, halibut, grouper, tuna, swordfish and sharks have been depleted.
J. Jambeck, Science
R. Myers and B. Worm, Nature
Sea surface temperature in Narragansett Bay, RI has increased 3.6°F since the 1960s. RI Ocean Special Area Management Plan
REAL SOLUTIONS The sailing community is 7 million strong. Sailors for the Sea unifies this influential and passionate group into one of the most powerful conservation movements of our time.
How? By providing We collect the most current information and knowledge about the oceans from around the world and then translate what these complex health and regulatory issues mean to us as boaters, and what you can do to make a difference in protecting the ocean. We with many organizations, large and small, in the ocean conservation and boating sectors to cultivate change. We critical messages, bringing boaters’ voices to policy makers, and connecting boaters to local conservation organizations around the world. And we boaters to take personal action.
START WITH SAILORS FOR THE SEA In 2016, over 1.3 million boaters were committed ocean advocates through Sailors for the Sea’s programs. Protect the waters you love. Add your support to our mission and join us to help save the ocean today! Ocean conservation is human conservation. We’re in a race to save the oceans and it is a race we cannot lose.
The Sailors for the Sea Crew*
*Over a million strong and counting!
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Board of Directors Chairman DAVID ROCKEFELLER, JR. Vice Chairman DAVID TREADWAY PH.D. Treasurer RICK BURNES HENRY BECTON VIN CIPOLLA EDWARD DOLMAN REGAN GAMMON ANN KEATING LUSKEY BETSY NICHOLSON DAVID MAX WILLIAMSON RAOUL WITTEVEEN
Science Advisors SCOTT C. DONEY PH.D. DR. CHARLES F. KENNEL JAMES J. MCCARTHY PH.D. DR. LARRY MCKINNEY DENNIS NIXON
Staff President R. MARK DAVIS Sustainability Director ROBYN ALBRITTON MNR Finance Director ROSE BOYNTON Education Director SHELLEY BROWN PH.D. Social Impact Director HILARY KOTOUN Stewardship Director HEATHER RUHSAM Administration AMBER STRONK MAS Sailors for the Sea 449 Thames Street, 300D Newport, RI 02840 phone: 401.846.8900 fax: 401.846.7200 email@example.com www.sailorsforthesea.org
© Sailors for the Sea, Inc. 2017 – shared under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial – NoDerivs license Printed on recycled paper. 6 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
contents Global Fishing Watch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08 Sail Away from Plastic Seas . . . . . . . . . 12 A Closer Look at Rio’s Discarded . . . . . . 18 Seaweed Invasion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 What’s an Elasmobranch? . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Tiny Giants of the Sea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 The Next Conservation Frontier . . . . . . . 36 When Whales Meet Sails . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Skip a Straw - Save a Turtle . . . . . . . . . . 46
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“GLOBAL FISHING WATCH USES THE AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM, OR AIS, WHICH SAILORS RECOGNIZE AS A TRACKING SYSTEM EMPLOYED BY OVER 200,000 VESSELS AROUND THE WORLD FOR SAFETY PURPOSES.”
Sailors Now Have the
Since 1950, there has been a 90% drop in numbers of the ocean’s large predatory fishes. But the good news is our oceans are resilient. When given time to recover,
many fish species are able to bounce back. Some exemplary stories of species recovery can be found in fish stocks in U.S. waters, including New England scallops and Mid-Atlantic summer flounder.
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F I S H I N G WA T C H
Ultimate Program to Take Action Against Illegal Fishing
By: JACQUELINE SAVITZ, Vice President for United States & Global Fishing Watch, Oceana
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Many countries have moved to ban the fishing of sharks, since research has shown that, for tourism, they are worth significantly more alive than dead. Pictured here, a Taiwanese long-line vessel based in Palau was apprehended by Palau law enforcement personnel for fishing without its automatic locator beacon (AIS) turned on. Subsequent search of the vessel found sharks, shark parts, and wire leaders onboard. All are prohibited within Palau’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Photo credit: Mike A. McCoy/ Marine Photobank
OUR OCEANS ARE UNDER SIEGE FROM A VARIETY OF THREATS, INCLUDING THE EXCESSIVE EXTRACTION OF WILD FISH. MOST FISHERIES IN THE WORLD ARE FISHED BEYOND THEIR LIMITS — INDISCRIMINATE BYCATCH IS DECIMATING POPULATIONS OF MARINE WILDLIFE, AND BOTTOM TRAWLING AND OTHER DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICES ARE DESTROYING NURSERY AND SPAWNING HABITAT. THIS RESULTS IN RAPIDLY DECLINING FISH STOCKS AND POPULATION CRASHES THAT RIPPLE THROUGHOUT THE OCEAN FOOD WEB. The good news is that oceans are resilient and can regain their former abundance, but for that to happen we must manage our fisheries responsibly. More and more countries are putting in place catch limits and habitat protections that are necessary to rebuild ocean resources. But for these efforts to be successful, the rules put in place to protect our most precious ocean resources must be vigorously enforced. Sailors understand what is at stake. And sailors, more than others, are in a position to help monitor the conduct of the global fishing fleet, to hold it accountable. Global Fishing Watch is the first technology platform that allows anyone with an internet connection to see global fishing activity in near real-time, for free. Global Fishing Watch, built by a partnership between Oceana, the search engine giant Google and the technology nonprofit SkyTruth, is free, easy to use, global in scale, and open source, which means as more users access the technology and create additional applications over time, the tool will become even more powerful. Global Fishing Watch uses the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, which sailors recognize as a track-
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ing system employed by over 200,000 vessels around the world for safety purposes. Large fishing vessels, including the ones that catch the most fish globally, are required to utilize AIS to prevent collisions at sea. Global Fishing Watch can access AIS data, which typically includes vessel identification information, and plug it into algorithms built to use vessel movement and location to identify apparent fishing activity. It then makes information on where fishing is occurring available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. This is where sailors come in. Imagine being out on the water and you see a passing fishing vessel. Perhaps it seems suspicious or out of place, or you’re just curious about where it came from. If you have an internet connection and a computer, you can pull up Global Fishing Watch, and if that fishing vessel is using its AIS, you can trace the path of its previous activity (with a three-day delay) all the way back to 2012. Global Fishing Watch will indicate whether the ship has been fishing and you will be able to see where and when it fished, whether it fished in a protected area, and where and when it returned to port.
This heat map was created using Global Fishing Watch technology to show fishing activity worldwide. By putting this technology in the hands of boaters worldwide, everyone on the water can help with the monitoring of fishing stocks. Photo credit: Oceana/Global Fishing Watch
Your “eyes on the ocean” might also identify odd behavior like a vessel meeting up with another ship at sea for a potential transshipment or a vessel that does not have its AIS activated. If you are sailing in or near a marine protected area and see a vessel fishing, you may be able to determine whether that ship was fishing in a no-take area. In all cases reports can be made through Global Fishing Watch and your report will be sent to the relevant enforcement agency. When citizens show governments that laws are not being enforced, it will put pressure on those governments to act. Global Fishing Watch will help sailors, fishermen and everyday citizens hold governments accountable to enforce fishery laws. Global Fishing Watch is especially powerful in the hands of sailors around the world, who can match eyewitness accounts with recorded satellite data. Imagine if every sailor in the world could give evidence to authorities enabling them to determine which fishing vessels are following the law and those that are not. It empowers citizens to be able to say, “I know where my seafood came from.” But it’s not just for sailors. Global Fishing Watch can be used by seafood retailers to identify the source of the seafood they purchase for sale, by seafood certifiers to strengthen the certification process, by companies that insure fishing vessels to track their policy-holders, by honest fishermen to make sure the rules are enforced so that they may compete on an even playing field. The project is brand-new and will reap the benefits of combining technology with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in an effort to curb those practices. Most importantly, Global Fishing Watch allows fishing vessel operators to show the world they are fishing legally. By consistently using an AIS transponder, they might be able to fetch a higher price for their catch -- or get access to markets that in the future could be closed to any fishing vessel that doesn’t meet this basic transparency standard. In the meantime, it will put the bad actors on notice, essentially telling them: “We’ve got our eyes on you.”
Currently, sailors traveling to more remote areas of the ocean will able to provide the most beneficial information to Global Fishing Watch. This is because they are more likely to be traveling through no-take marine protected areas and areas of the ocean that are managed by small countries and have limited resources. Additionally, sailors may be able to help identify types of gear that is not allowed in certain places, for example some areas of the Mediterranean have banned drift nets since they create a large amount of bycatch. Both Oceana and Sailors for the Sea are striving to preserve the richness and biodiversity of the ocean for future generations. Now, with Global Fishing Watch, we all have a powerful new tool to deter illegal fishing.
TAKE ACTION Sign up and use Global Fishing Watch! We recommend checking it out before you head out to sea so you can learn how to use it. http://globalfishingwatch.org/ While planning your next trip, take note if you will be sailing through any marine protected areas. They are often noted in charts, but for the most up to date database visit: www.mpatlas.org/ explore or www.protectedplanet.net Eat sustainable seafood! The Monterey Bay Aquarium produces a guide and app called Seafood Watch that empowers you to choose sustainable seafood at restaurants and the store. Get your guide: www.seafoodwatch.org Use it, share it, and help make it better. Please join Oceana, Google, Skytruth, and citizen watchdogs around the world by using Global Fishing Watch to help protect our ocean legacy.
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SA I L AWAY f r om
PL AST IC SEAS – wi t h
SCI ENCE Science can truly empower us to keep the world clean and safe — once we understand and embrace it By: MIKE GIL, Research Fellow, National Science Foundation, University of California, Davis; Founder, SciAll.org
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Exploring life beneath mangrove roots while doing research and teaching along the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Photo credit: Mike Gil
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”HOWEVER, I HAVE ALSO LEARNED THAT FOR SCIENCE TO DELIVER, IT NEEDS THE SUPPORT OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC, WHICH IS OFTEN MISINFORMED ABOUT SCIENCE AND WHAT IT OFFERS.”
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As a kid, I hated science – few things bored me more. So, it may seem surprising that I am now, at age 30, a professional scientist – a marine biologist, actually. I earned a Ph.D. in 2015 and have spent the past decade investigating how marine ecosystems function so that we can better protect them and all that they offer humankind. I changed my tune about science when I was in college, because it was there that I discovered that science is not a collection of “boring facts” but is, instead, an exhilarating process of discovery that literally cuts the edge of human knowledge. I discovered this through personal experiences doing science in the Great Barrier Reef, in the Caribbean, and as part of a research expedition, sailing from Mexico to Tahiti. My experience has taught me that environmental science provides us with the best chance to preserve our way of life. However, I have also learned that for science to deliver, it needs the support of the general public, which is often misinformed about science and what it offers. Let me explain with my journey to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Several years ago, Sea Education Association offered me a position as a volunteer researcher for its sailing expedition through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, or, as you may have seen it described: “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Oceanic gyres, like this one, result from the Earth’s rotation and are essentially inverted whirlpools, with water being directed to the center, where it piles up. As such, buoyant materials, like many plastics, can collect in great quantities here. The opportunity to study this mysterious ecosystem was too tempting to pass up. We set sail from San Diego, California, to the Hawaiian Islands. No one on board knew what to expect on this expedition into the unknown, investigating what happens to plastic after it leaves our lives and ends up in the ocean. During the expedition, I led a study to see if the size of oceanic plastic debris affects how many species make homes out of these artificial islands. Over the course of 2,597 nautical miles, 36 days at sea, and encounters with whales, dolphins, sea turtles, albatross and a giant sunfish – a suite of charismatic stakeholders as it were, I collected and characterized entire living communities on various plastic debris, from toy balls and drinking bottles, to a diversity of buoys, house siding, and a massive boat fender. We also found a floating refrigerator, full of Japanese food, and a capsized dinghy, both too large to bring on board. Since I was interested in measuring effects of debris size, I limited my samples to debris with smooth, flat surfaces, to avoid any debris structural complexity to become a confounding factor. After the expedition and data analysis, I discovered some-
(far left) A capsized dinghy supports a vast population of gooseneck barnacles that can harbor a diversity of life. Photo credit: Jonathan Waterman (top) A floating refrigerator is covered in life on the underside and full of Japanese food on the inside. Photo credit: Patricia Keoughan (bottom) A toy ball in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes a mobile home for barnacles and large crabs. Photo credit: Mike Gil
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(above) Shipmates Tyson Bottenus (left), Laura Hansen (right) and Mike Gil (center) examine the community of organisms, including a massive “forest” of gooseneck barnacles that call this piece of plastic debris from the North Pacific home. Photo credit: Marina Garland (right) Under full sail is the SSV Robert C. Seamans, the 134-foot brigantine upon which I embarked on two trans-Pacific scientific research expeditions. Photo credit: Mike Gil
“WITH OUR HELP, SCIENCE CAN TRULY EMPOWER US TO KEEP THE WORLD CLEAN AND SAFE, SO THAT OUR CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN AND GENERATIONS BEYOND CAN SAIL INTO A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.” thing unexpected. Yes, larger pieces of plastic debris generally supported more species, but I found that the diversity of mobile critters, like crabs, isopods, and polychaete worms living on the debris were most responsive not to the size of the debris, but to the abundance of resident gooseneck barnacles. These barnacles get their name from the long, neck-like stalk that forms the base of the animal’s body. These stalks, like trees in a rainforest, create a wealth of structure on otherwise structure-free surfaces, engineering homes for other animals on smooth plastic debris. This sounds nice: Animals are helping other animals. But there is a dark side. The capacity for plastics to transport foreign species across entire oceans to new coastlines is vast, made all the more so by barnacles making these “mini cruise liners” attractive to a greater diversity of passengers. For example, I found a crab from Japan living among barnacle stalks on a plastic buoy off the California coast. We know from countless examples that foreign species can become invasive to new ecosystems: including lionfish in the Caribbean, devastating local plants
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and animals and associated economies. Ironically, it is the diversity of life on artificial, plastic ecosystems in the ocean that can threaten the diversity of life (including human life) in natural coastal ecosystems. My research from the expedition was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Scientific Reports. The article generated diverse media attention, from local, national and international media outlets, and I did interviews for the program “Science Friday” and Discover magazine, to name a few. Generally, I was pleased with how well journalists stuck to the facts in their coverage. That is, until one glaring exception emerged from a plastics industry publication called Plastics Today. In this article, my study was touted as highlighting one of the “positive sides” to plastic debris in the ocean. The author went on to provide one of my original quotes, on the potential threat plastics pose as transportation for ecologically and economically devastating invasive species, but she followed this with: “However, I think the crabs see it in a different light where plastic is a good thing, a floating shelter.”
It was upsetting to see the fruits of my labor exploited for self-interest. On the other hand, the experience taught me something profound: Science is a quest for the truth, which guides sustainable human progress, BUT for science to deliver its timely insights a close connection with the public, including you, is needed. Misrepresentation of science is often due to powerful interests and weakens scientist’s connection to the public. Many people as it turns out, are like I used to be: They dislike science as it has been communicated to them. We need the public to value and trust evidence-based approaches to issues like plastics-related species invasions, fatal digestive blockages in seabirds, sea turtles and fish, and delivery of harmful chemical compounds to humans through the fish we eat. But it’s not just the audience that must change to improve the pivotal connection between science and the public: the scientific community must popularize science among the diverse masses it is intended to serve. Accordingly, I have launched a campaign, SciAll.org to directly connect my adventures and insights as a marine biologist to the public, through YouTube videos and public lectures. With our help, science can truly empower us to keep the world clean and safe, so that our children, grandchildren and generations beyond can sail into a sustainable future.
TAKE ACTION Make science part of your daily life. Follow Mike Gil online and through his social media. Get started at: sciall.org Tidy boats make for safe passages – and it also helps prevent items from washing overboard and becoming homes for invasive species. Refuse single-use plastic. Not matter how big or small the impact adds up and many items make it into our waterways. Plastic bags, straws, water bottles, napkins and plastic silverware are all items that easily blow away and that can be replaced with reusable items.
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“ I’VE SAILED AROUND THE WORLD THREE TIMES NOW AND I CAN TELL YOU THERE IS DRASTICALLY MORE PLASTIC AND DEBRIS IN THE WATER NOW, THAN THE FIRST TIME I RACED AROUND THE WORLD IN 2008. WE ALL NEED THE OCEAN, TO PROVIDE THE FOOD WE EAT AND EVERY OTHER BREATH WE TAKE. SAILORS FOR THE SEA IS AN ORGANIZATION THAT IS MAKING A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE, AND THIS IS WHY I SUPPORT THEM.” IAN WALKER, WINNING SKIPPER OF THE 2014-15 VOLVO OCEAN RACE & TWO-TIME OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST
A CLOSER LOOK AT
RIO’S DIS In Rio De Janeiro, favelas, or slums, take up 2% of the city, but they are home to 22% of the population. The lack of roads, sewage and trash services make them centers for pollution issues. Photo credit: The Discarded. 14 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
CARDED By AN N I E CO ST N ER , Filmmaker and Activist
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(top) The film focused on local activists, recycling entrepreneurs and children living in the favelas. It was also produced in Portuguese and given English subtitles to ensure it could have a bigger impact locally. Photo credit: The Discarded. (bottom) Rivers that used to flow into Guanara Bay have become so clogged with trash that they no longer make it to the bay. Photo credit: The Discarded.
“PRIOR TO THE OLYMPICS, THE POLLUTION ISSUE WAS COVERED IN THE MEDIA, MOSTLY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (IOC), AND ATHLETES THAT WILL COMPETE ON THE BAY, SUCH AS SAILORS AND WINDSURFERS.” There is no organized system for solid waste removal from Rio’s favelas, the informal settlements, or slums, whose inhabitants account for roughly one-quarter of the cities total population. Garbage collection is not even consistent in some of Rio’s most expensive neighborhoods. When it comes to sanitation services, the numbers are even more grim: It is estimated that a mere 25% of Rio de Janeiro’s 10 million inhabitants are connected to treated sewage systems. So human waste from about 7.5 million people flows untreated directly into Guanabara Bay. Prior to the Olympics, the pollution issue was covered in the media, mostly from the perspective of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and athletes that will compete on the bay, such as sailors and windsurfers. “Welcome to the dump that is Rio,” carped the German sailing team to the press months ago. The venues are simply unacceptable by their standards. Not only is plastic pollution consistently visible and unsightly on the water, it is interfering with navigation, and affecting races. If you can get past the unsightliness, and the smell, you’re left to contend with the actual health risks. In 2015, the Associated Press conducted an independent investigation showing bacteria and virus levels that far exceeded what is considered safe for boating or swimming. Many athletes in training have fallen ill with extreme nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that last for days. When it came time for real competition, these dire conditions luckily did not impact many Olympians’ ability to compete. Clearly these are newsworthy circumstances. However, my partner at Sound Off Films and I decided to send a team of filmmakers (all native Brazilians) to investigate the other side of the story. How do cariocas (a popular term for natives of Rio de Janeiro) feel about the pollution? After all, they’re the ones who live with it. And they are still living with it now that the cameras, international press, and the entire Olympic circus have packed up and gone. “The Discarded,” a Sound Off Films production in the works, seeks to tell their story, which is largely rooted in the greater dilemma of economic development: Why are some communities considered valuable, and others, discarded? I blame my alma mater, Brown University, for making my brain rattle like this. I majored in Latin American studies as an undergrad, mostly because I wanted to study abroad in South America, but also because after a few public policy classes, I had become obsessed with development models the U.S. had impressed upon Central and South American nations in the 1960s and 1970s. I traveled to Santiago, Chile, to research a subject every child of a Hollywood movie star is dying to explore: access to and distribution of potable water and sanitation in urban Latin America. From that hot page-turner (re: even my own mother could not bring herself to finish that beast of a thesis), I moved on to a career in community organizing, eventually lobbying for Clean Water Action. I learned simply this:
U.S. policy is built on a foundation of good storytelling. We don’t make laws in this country because the facts add up, or because we are making good on a promise to right every wrong that exists here. The law will shift in direct proportion to the heart and emotion that activists and policy makers can drum up around their issue. A good heartstring-pulling story makes for good policy — sometimes, it’s the only thing that does. Curators at the new MAC Contemporary Art Museum debuted the film in Rio — which was filmed in Portuguese, not English — on August 6, two days ahead of the Olympic opening ceremonies. Of course we said yes, without knowing where or how we would get the money to finish postproduction. The request itself was deeply satisfying, if not validating, that they would want to share this message more broadly, that it reflected a common perspective. Annie Costner is a filmmaker and activist, and the daughter of actor/director/musician Kevin Costner.
(top) Arthur a student featured in the film who is learning how to sail on Guanabara Bay with Project Grael puts the pollution problem in such simple terms, the way only a child can. “Here in Brazil nobody knows a good thing until it’s gone. They throw trash in the streets. Pollute the sea. If I were president and could make laws I’d put them in clothes twice their size and then fill them with trash and see whether they would still throw trash in the ocean.” Photo credit: The Discarded.
TAKE ACTION This film was created as a pivot point for further action, join the campaign to #CleanRio at: http://actnow.io/discarded Refuse single-use plastics particularly when traveling to countries that do not have recycling capabilities.
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“ IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME HOW MANY DIFFERENT CONNECTIONS PEOPLE CAN MAKE WITH THE SEA. SAILORS HAVE A SPECIAL CONNECTION THROUGH RECREATION ON THE WATER, WHICH EMPOWERS THEM TO ACT ON BEHALF OF NATURE. ONE PARTICULAR WAY SAILORS FOR THE SEA IS GIVING BOATERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE ACTION IS THROUGH THEIR PARTNERSHIP WITH SEAFOOD WATCH AND SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD EDUCATION IN THE US AND JAPAN.” JULIE PACKARD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM AND TRUSTEE, DAVID AND LUCILE PACKARD FOUNDATION
The SSV Corwith Cramer, one of Sea Education Association’s two sailing research vessels, shown here with a large Sargassum mat, travels the Atlantic Ocean making scientific measurements. Photo credit: Matt Hirsch
SE AW A unique, decades-long study of Sargassum species
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EED INVASION sheds new light on recent inundations in the Caribbean By: AN N E B R OACH E , Deb Goodwin, Jeffrey Schell and Amy Siuda, Sea Education Association
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(above) A juvenile green sea turtle lies beside a plastic container in a bed of seaweed. When the seaweed piles up on beaches it becomes so overwhelming for creatures that it actually suffocates them. Luckily, many islands in the Caribbean have sea turtle conservation organizations that have made strong efforts to Photo Many Caribbean comb2:beaches and island beaches and bays rescue those they find were inundated with Ron alive. Photo credit: Sargassum during the Wooten/ Wildscreen 2014-2015 Exchangeevent. Photo credit: George Smith (right) Many Caribbean island beaches and bays were inundated with Sargassum during the 2014-2015 event. Photo credit: George Smith
If you’ve sailed the Caribbean in recent years, you may have noticed massive amounts of brown seaweed washing up on beaches and clogging harbors. This influx of Sargassum has caused alarm, as ecological and economic costs outweigh the potential beach nourishment and stabilization benefits associated with modest amounts of the seaweed. For example, beached Sargassum can deter vulnerable and critically endangered marine turtles from nesting, skew gender ratios of their populations, and hinder their hatchlings’ survival. Ample mats of floating Sargassum have also proven a menace to sailors, as evidenced particularly in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. Concerned about impacts on fishing and tourism, the twin-island country of Trinidad and Tobago has even declared the situation a natural disaster. New findings published by Drs. Jeffrey Schell, Deb Goodwin and Amy Siuda, all oceanographers and professors at Sea Education Association (SEA), a leading undergraduate ocean education and research institution based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, provide insight based on first-hand observations collected aboard the institution’s 135-foot sailing research vessel, the SSV Corwith Cramer. SARGASSUM 101 Sargassum is a type of seaweed found globally along temperate and tropical coasts. Unique to the wider North Atlantic are Sargassum species that drift at the ocean surface in small clumps or extensive mats, creating an environmentally significant marine ecosystem in the otherwise relatively barren open ocean.
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The drifting mats play many roles, including food source, nursery for juveniles, spawning ground, and protective habitat. They support diverse communities of invertebrates, fish, turtles, seabirds and other marine creatures at various points in their lives. In June 2011, unprecedented quantities of Sargassum began washing ashore on Caribbean islands. Piles of stranded seaweed several feet thick covered once-pristine tourist beaches. The economic impacts of this inundation event drew international attention, including a story in The New York Times. Where was all this Sargassum coming from? A compelling theory was that the Sargassum simply drifted out of the Sargasso Sea, a vast region bounded by the currents of the North Atlantic gyre and well known, as its name suggests, for harboring the seaweed. However, satellite observations and sea surface current modeling suggested an alternate origin in the equatorial Atlantic, a region never before considered to be a source of Sargassum. By summer 2012 the inundation event had run its course and the normal pattern returned. Sargassum all but disappeared from the Caribbean. However, in April 2014, another inundation was underway, rekindling the debate about the seaweed’s source location. That’s where SEA researchers stepped in. For more than 40 years, the organization has been studying Sargassum from the platform of its tall ship research vessels. SEA’s data sets are extraordinary in that they represent the only longterm quantitative record of Sargassum abundance before and during the recent Caribbean inundation events.
(this page) Sea Education Association researchers collect Sargassum specimens by net and bucket. Afterward, they will identify which species are present, weigh each clump, and examine the associated community of fauna. Photo credit: Clare Morrall 22 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
(right) Drifting clumps and mats of Sargassum provide habitat, food and protection for many small marine creatures, including shrimp, crabs, snails and fish. Photo credit: Amy Siuda
“STILL, QUESTIONS REMAIN: WHAT TRIGGERS THE START OF THESE INUNDATION EVENTS? WHEN WILL THE NEXT EVENT BEGIN?” UNEXPECTED DISCOVERIES SEA faculty, crew and SEA Semester ® undergraduate students collected data to support their new findings on board the SSV Corwith Cramer from November 2014 to May 2015. Cruises began in the Canary Islands, traversed the Sargasso Sea and Western Tropical Atlantic to the Lesser Antilles, and then sailed the Eastern Caribbean before heading north to New England. Their findings offer some surprising revelations about the latest seaweed inundation. First, SEA researchers made a valuable discovery about the type of Sargassum flooding the Caribbean during the 2014-2015 event. Drift Sargassum consists of two species: S. fluitans and S. natans, which are distinguished by the presence or absence of thorns on the stem. Each species exhibits a variety of blade and bladder structures that can make species identification challenging for the untrained eye. In their latest fieldwork, SEA scientists found that a previously rare form — S. natans VIII Parr — dominated the Western Tropical Atlantic, Eastern Caribbean and Antilles Current north of Puerto Rico, and was noticeably absent from the Sargasso Sea. This distribution is significant because it confirms that the Sargassum responsible for the unusual recent Caribbean inundation event did not come from the Sargasso Sea. Second, SEA researchers were able to demonstrate that the huge amounts of Sargassum washing ashore truly were like nothing anyone has ever seen. Across the Western Tropical Atlantic, the average concentration of all Sargassum forms combined was 10 times greater in samples collected during autumn 2014 than those analyzed during the previous 2011-2012 inundation event—and a whopping 300 times greater than that of any other autumn over the last two decades of SEA research. CURRENT SITUATION There are already signs that the most recent seaweed inundation event is coming to an end. Amid reports of clear Lesser Antilles beaches, late 2015 SEA Semester voyages in the Tropical Atlantic and Caribbean observed Sargassum structure different from the massive mats of extensivelybranching, dinner plate-sized clumps of the year before. Still, questions remain: What triggers the start of these inundation events? When will the next event begin? What impact do these periodic events have on local fisheries, reefs, ecosystems and human activities? How do the benefits provided to marine environments and coastal communities differ between Sargassum species and forms? Although modeling and satellite images can lend some insight, SEA scientists believe there’s no substitute for direct field observations at sea. On future voyages aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer in the Atlantic and Caribbean, you can bet that SEA researchers plan to continue gathering data about this important ecological and economic issue.
TAKE ACTION Add to the data set! Keep an eye out for the three types of Sargassum at sea, in harbors, on the beach, and record your observations (photos, date, time, and location are all helpful!). Share your observations with SEA oceanographers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about ongoing research, visit the SEA Sargassum research website: www.sea.edu/ sea_research/sargassum_ecosystem Watch for the SSV Corwith Cramer and her students and crew sailing around the Caribbean until late April, and check our blog for updates on their activities and location. www.sea.edu/ sea_currents/all_corwith_cramer
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“ MOST OF THE LIFE ON THIS PLANET IS IN THE OCEAN AND HUMANS, EVOLVED FROM THE OCEAN. BUT WE HAVE BECOME DISCONNECTED. SAILORS ARE IN A SPECIAL POSITION TO SHARE THIS CONNECTION. I AM THRILLED THAT SAILORS FOR THE SEA EMPOWERS BOATERS TO LEAD IN THE UNDERSTANDING OF THIS IMPORTANT CONNECTION AND PROTECTION OF OUR OCEAN.” STEVE CURWOOD, HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF NPR’S AWARD-WINNING ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS PROGRAM LIVING ON EARTH
From Lost Sharks to Superstars:
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“LOST SHARKS ARE SUFFERING A CASE OF ANONYMITY; THEY RECEIVE VERY LITTLE PUBLIC OR SCIENTIFIC ATTENTION.”
W H AT’S A N
MOBR A NCH?
Public Engagement Paves a New Path in Marine Science
By: VICKY VÁSQUEZ, Graduate Student, Pacific Shark Research Center & Deputy Director, Ocean Research Foundation
Smooth and scalloped hammerhead sharks are rare in Southern California. The differences are in the head and can be hard to distinguish. It’s Hammertime! Offers those who spend time on the water an opportunity to submit their photos for scientists to better
understand the population and range of these two species. If you are in California and see a hammerhead, be sure to take a picture or video of the head or full body and submit it to the Pacific Shark Research Center.
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“IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS CHOSEN IN HONOR OF THE LATE PETER BENCHLEY, MAY SEEM LIKE AN ODD FIT, THE FORGOTTEN FA TO THE LESSER-KNOWN CONSE
Every year as people tune in to Shark Week on the Discovery Channel to catch up on their favorite oceanic superstars, they may not realize that these fish are not all true sharks. Collectively, these breathtaking visuals of manta rays gliding above coral reefs and great white sharks rocketing out of placid waters depict a group of cartilaginous fish called elasmobranchs. These are sharks, rays, and skates (basically a ray without a stinger). One advantage of elasmobranchs becoming superstars is the increase of public awareness. With more people capable of identifying elasmobranchs down to genus or species, scientists have essentially gained a larger pool of citizen scientists who can assist with data collection. The Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) has developed one such project, It’s Hammertime!, focused on hammerhead sharks in California. This project was created after multiple ocean-enthusiasts shared observations and photos of sharks on social media during the summer of 2014. Two species of large hammerhead sharks are known to occur in the Northeast Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Southern California – scalloped and smooth. Of these two species, the smooth hammerhead is the more temperate occurring species, and the extent of its occurrence is poorly known. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Assessment determined smooth hammerheads to be vulnerable, while scalloped hammerheads were designated as endangered. Typically, the scalloped hammerhead is only observed during warm water years associated with El Niño events. Although the hammerhead shark’s iconic cephalofoil (the flattened and laterally extended part of the head) makes it easily identifiable down to genus, species-specific identification is often challenging for the general public. Fortunately, the increased use of digital devices such as smart phones and GoPro cameras has facilitated the public’s ability to document observations and share them with scientists. In doing so, groups like PSRC can not only confirm what species was spotted, but also gain further details from devices such as date, time, and GPS location.
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Where the It’s Hammertime! project focuses on the Northeast Pacific Ocean; another program called the Manta Matcher is interested in citizen science data from around the world. The project includes a world map of observations, which provides citizen scientists the opportunity to confirm the presence of mantas in existing, as well as new locations. For the occasions when an ocean user spots any species of elasmobranch, there are also groups like Ocean Sanctuaries to collect a much wider range of observations for use by citizen scientists, as well as researchers. One problem with these elasmobranch superstars is that they can often outshine lesser-known species. For instance, along the U.S. West Coast, basking sharks can be found close to shore dining on plankton at the water’s surface, yet this area is more famously known as great white shark territory. As a result, many water users misidentify the plankton-eating basking sharks for their more intimidating macro-predator cousins. When translating observations into marine science terms, this can lead to a misunderstanding of the spatial and temporal patterns of great white sharks and a lack of understanding of basking shark habitat. Consequently, PSRC has partnered with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to investigate the abundance, distribution, and population status of basking sharks in the Northeast Pacific, relying on citizen science data. Dr. David Ebert, director of PSRC, coined the term “lost shark” in an attempt to engage the public with these lesserknown species that span the entire chondrichthyan group (all cartilaginous fish). Lost sharks are suffering a case of anonymity; they receive very little public or scientific attention. To further highlight the plight of lost sharks, PSRC, in conjunction with a group of researchers, contributed to a publication in the journal eLIFE; it revealed that roughly 25% of elasmobranchs are at risk of extinction, and 50% are data deficient. As one of the world’s leading labs in chondrichthyan taxonomy, PSRC has discovered 15% of all new species described in the last ten years. These scientific endeavors are nothing without the engagement and support of the public. Consequently, PSRC
This Jaws parody poster was used in the announcement of the lanternshark species as its scientific name was created in honor of Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws. After the popularity of the film and the devastation it caused for sharks, Benchley dedicated himself to educating the public about the importance of protecting sharks and oceans. Image credit: Vicky Vásquez
SPECIES SCIENTIFIC NAME WAS AUTHOR OF JAWS. THOUGH THIS TE OF LOST SHARKS IS SIMILAR RVATION WORK THAT BENCHLEY DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO.” uses a myriad of outreach tools, from in-person education to social media activities that highlight the unique qualities lost sharks possess. These qualities include: glowing, as in lanternsharks; chainsaw-like faces, as in sawsharks and sawfish; and a completely out-of-this-world appearance, which inspired the Shark Week show “Alien Sharks” (example: ghost sharks). PSRC’s methods led to an innovative outreach strategy in which school-aged children helped name a new species of lanternshark. This group of sharks, which contains 38 species (current to the publishing of this article), is a perfect example of the lost shark dilemma. Despite being one of the most species-rich shark groups in the world, lanternsharks are also one of the least studied. Similar to other lanternsharks, this species possesses spines on both dorsal fins and photophores (glowing organs) throughout the body. Specimens of this new species are jetblack, with none of the classic body markings that other lanternsharks possess, nor do they seem to glow as brightly. Armed with this information, the children decided to name the new species the ninja lanternshark. It is important to note that this species scientific name was chosen in honor of the late Peter Benchley, author of Jaws. Though this may seem like an odd fit, the forgotten fate of lost sharks is similar to the lesser-known conservation work that Benchley dedicated his life to. Unlike citizen science projects, the public does not need to be out in nature to engage on lost shark issues. From anywhere in the world, whether one is along the coast or land-locked, people can support lost shark projects by increasing public awareness. In the case of the ninja lanternshark, public awareness of this single species transformed into media attention that increased understanding for all of PSRC lost shark projects. The ninja lanternshark project, in conjunction with PSRC’s outreach strategies, has resulted in a crowdfunding campaign that received greater than 200% of the requested budget. The money will allow for the study and eventual publication of 15 potentially new species of lost sharks from the western Indian Ocean.
TAKE ACTION Join It’s Hammertime!: Share your observations of hammerhead sharks in California by participating in this citizen science project with other ocean users in the area. Visit bit.ly/hammerheadcitizenscience to get started. Help make lost sharks popular! Social media is a growing tool and platform for conservation messages. Turning lost sharks into charismatic species brings more attention to the work of researchers and provides the needed support to continue their work. Visit www.calacademy.org/explore-science/lost-sharks to learn more.
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“ IF WE WANT THE OCEAN TO FLOURISH, TO BECOME VIBRANT AND BOUNTIFUL, WE MUST INSPIRE BOATERS TO KNOW AND LOVE THE OCEAN BEFORE WE ASK THEM TO SAVE IT.” R. MARK DAVIS, PRESIDENT, SAILORS FOR THE SEA Pteropods may sound like a type of dinosaur, but they are actually sea snails. The species Limacina helicinauses uses wing-like feet to swim, and their graceful fluttering movements have earned them the nickname “sea butterflies.” Pteropods’ coiled shells are beautiful but vulnerable. They are in danger as increased ocean acidity is dissolving their shells made from the
calcium carbonate mineral aragonite. This could affect the marine food chain because pteropods are a major food source for small fish and krill, which go on to feed large fish, whales, and sea birds. Photo credit: Laura Lubelczyk, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Erica Goetze, University of Hawaii
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“THE WONDERS OF THE MICROSCOPIC WORLD AREN’T RESERVED FOR SCIENTISTS. WITH TINY GIANTS, BIGELOW LABORATORY IS MAKING THE MYSTERIOUS MARINE UNDERWORLD ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYBODY.”
Y G IAN TS O F T H E S E A marine microbes play a vital role in life at sea and on land By: JAI M E B L AI R , Communications Consultant at Bigelow Laboratory
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“BUT HOW DO YOU STIR UP INTEREST AND RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT ORGANISMS SO SMALL THAT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS CAN LIVE IN JUST A SINGLE DROP OF SEAWATER?” (right) Diatoms—singlecelled algae—are giants of the microbial world; some are even visible to the naked eye. The cylindrical diatom Coscinodiscus has a skeleton made out of silica, a type of glass. This silica skeleton is remarkably efficient at harvesting energy from the Sun; so much in fact, that engineers are copying their complex architecture to optimize solar panel designs. Photo credit: Dr. Peter Countway, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences with funding provided by the National Science Foundation
Stories of mysterious creatures lurking deep in the sea have long captivated our imaginations and stirred our curiosity. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, is on a mission to show that truth is stranger than fiction—in a big way. Tiny Giants: Marine Microbes Revealed on a Grand Scale is a photographic adventure featuring colorized and enlarged images of nearly invisible plants and animals that dominate the ocean. Their beauty will leave you awestruck. “Our idea behind the Tiny Giants images was to pique people’s imaginations about the invisible creatures that we study that are vital to our very existence,” says Dr. Benjamin Twining, director of research and education at Bigelow Laboratory. But how do you stir up interest and raise awareness about organisms so small that hundreds of thousands can live in just a single drop of seawater? You make the invisible visible. Dr. Peter Countway, Laura Lubelczyk, and other Bigelow Laboratory researchers used three types of microscopes—compound-light, confocal, and scanning electron—to capture 18 incredible images of marine microbes. Each of the high-powered microscopes provides a unique perspective and allows us to peer into this invisible world, but it takes a skilled and practiced hand to create the magical images seen in Tiny Giants. The incredible magnifications — some of the images are as big as four feet wide by five feet tall — offer a unique glimpse at the intricacies of these marine-dwelling microbes; their exquisite shapes and patterns appear otherworldly. MARINE MICROBES MATTER Marine microbes are the foundation of life on Earth: They produce half of the oxygen we breathe and are the base of the food chain. In fact, ninety-eight percent of the ocean’s biomass is made up of microbial life. Given their vital role in planetary processes and balance, it is important that we understand how ocean health issues such as ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures affect these organisms. In addition, marine microbes may lead to new advances in pharmaceuticals, fuel sources, and nutritional supplements. Bigelow Laboratory is the only independent basic research institution in the world that focuses on microbial oceanography—and its researchers want to spread the word about the world-class discoveries taking place at their state-ofthe-art campus. SPREADING THE WORD Tiny Giants has been making the rounds throughout the Northeast U.S. since January 2015. The exhibit has been featured in libraries, schools, and art galleries. The response has been as impressive as the images themselves.
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“It was delightful to wander amongst the crowd and hear people exclaim about the beauty and wonder of marine microbes,” said Darlene Trew Crist, director of communications at Bigelow Laboratory, at the sold-out showing at District Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Tiny Giants had a full summer schedule in 2016 including a World Oceans Day Summit on June 8th in Newport, Rhode Island, presented by Sailors for the Sea and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX To promote unique, exciting ways to teach and learn, the Tiny Giants exhibit resided at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, throughout the 2015 fall semester. This innovative collaboration was used not only in biology and environmental science departments, but also in theater, dance, art, and humanities. Educators used the exhibit to connect concepts of invisible marine microbes to their coursework. “We were excited to show the images in the Tiny Giants exhibition on campus last fall,” said Lori G. Kletzer, Colby Provost and Dean of Faculty. “Colby’s strategic partnership with Bigelow Laboratory provides world-class opportunities in marine science and climate science for our students—we knew that. The unique aesthetic for examining the natural microbial world through these photos completely reinforced the interdisciplinary approach that both our institutions value so highly.” The wonders of the microscopic world aren’t reserved for scientists. With Tiny Giants, Bigelow Laboratory is making the mysterious marine underworld accessible to everybody.
(left) Ostracods—tiny shrimp-like crustaceans also known as sea fireflies—give off a bright blue light through a chemical process called bioluminescence. In World War II, Japanese seamen dried and ground ostracods then mixed them with water to make portable lamps that helped them read maps in dim light. But that’s not the only story ostracods have to tell: They have one of the most complete fossil records and offer a valuable look at past seawater conditions. Photo credit: Laura Lubelczyk, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Erica Goetze, University of Hawaii (below left) Copepod may not be a household name, but their numbers are impressive—they are the most abundant group of animals on Earth and make up over 21,000 species. These mini-crustaceans have no boundaries: They are found everywhere, from puddles on mountain peaks to trenches on the ocean floor. They even hang out in carnivorous pitcher plants. Copepods are an important part of the North Atlantic right whale’s diet; during their feeding season, a 140,000-pound right whale will eat over 2,500 pounds of copepods per day. Photo credit: Dr. Peter Countway, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences with funding provided by the National Science Foundation
TAKE ACTION Learn more about marine microbes and the cutting-edge research going on at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences at: www.bigelow.org Check out the Tiny Giants schedule to see if there is an event or exhibit in your area: tinygiants.bigelow.org/schedule.html Next time you are out on the water, take a moment to think about the organized and diverse communities of tiny sea creatures that make our life possible.
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“ IF THE OCEAN IS UNKNOWN TO MOST PEOPLE, THE HIGH SEAS - WATERS BEYOND NATIONAL JURISDICTION - ARE LIKE ANOTHER PLANET. ITS WILDLIFE - SHARKS, TUNA, AND OLD BOTTOM FISH - ARE BEING PILLAGED BY INDUSTRIAL FLEETS. THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW OUR GLOBAL COMMONS AND UNDERSTAND WHAT’S AT STAKE. SAILORS FOR THE SEA IS THE PERFECT ORGANIZATION TO RAISE AWARENESS AND ACTIVATE THE SAILING COMMUNITY, TO TURN IT INTO A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR PRESERVING OCEAN LIFE.” ENRIC SALA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER-IN-RESIDENCE & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PRISTINE SEAS Colorful laminarian kelp and Saccharina longicruris decorate the seafloor at Cashes Ledge. This area is a vital habitat for wildlife with stunning diversity. Photo credit: Brian Skerry
T H E N EXT CONSE
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RVATION FRON TIER Blue Parks for our Oceans
By: A M AN DA YAN CH U RY, Ocean Communications Associate, Conservation Law Foundation
“THESE MYSTERIOUS OCEAN PLACES IN NEW ENGLAND CONTINUE TO REVEAL THEIR INCREDIBLE DIVERSITY, AND AMAZINGLY, NEW MARINE SPECIES ARE UNCOVERED DURING EVERY EXPEDITION.”
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Ocean resources support more than Canyons more massive than the Grand Canyon. Mountains that rival the Rockies in size. You’d think that formations of this stature would be well-known, like New England’s White Mountains, yet they are largely untouched and completely hidden from view: I’m talking about the New England Canyons and Seamounts, ancient canyons and mountains located underwater about 150 miles off the coast of Cape Cod – and now, the site of the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean! Three massive undersea canyons (named Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia) and four seamounts (named Bear, Physalia, Mytilus, and Retriever), some with peaks rising more than 7,000 feet above the ocean floor, exist where the continental shelf drops into the pitch-black abyss of the deep Atlantic Ocean. Such grand landscapes have been preserved across our nation for over a century, yet the era of Blue Parks – preserving those most important and dynamic places in our oceans – is just beginning. These mysterious ocean places in New England continue to reveal their incredible diversity, and amazingly, new marine species are uncovered during every expedition. Already, more than 320 marine species have been identified in the canyons and another 630 within the seamounts. NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer Program has made a series of trips out to the canyons and seamounts, and each time, new discoveries are made that contribute to our scientific understanding of a highly complex ocean. COLDWATER CORAL When most people think of coral, they imagine tropical coral in warm-water areas. But corals can also thrive in deep, cold-water areas, like they do within the New England Canyons and Seamounts. Many of these coral formations take
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230,000 jobs and $16 centuries to grow, and some are the size of small trees. The coral formations and the unique geography of the Canyons and Seamounts provide the ideal conditions for a wealth of marine life to thrive. Ocean currents driven by these underwater features create a concentration of plankton, squid, and forage fish that in turn attract endangered whales and other migratory species as they seek bountiful food sources. PROTECTING THE HABITATS AND ECOSYSTEMS FROM HUMAN THREATS The waters above the corals and canyon ridges teem with diverse marine life, too. From tuna, billfish, and sharks to the Atlantic puffins that winter on the surface, the Canyons and Seamounts are full of important marine species that are able to thrive in these excellent conditions. From the extreme depths of the seafloor along the canyons, to beyond the highest peak all the way to the surface, the Canyons and Seamounts need full protection for the vast array of unique marine life that call these places home. Under threat from human impacts like increased shipping activities, industrialization, and development efforts like cabling, sand and gravel mining, and offshore oil drilling, permanent protection for these critical ocean areas is needed now more than ever before. Commercial fishing, while small in scale, further threatens the ancient coral formations, which are highly sensitive to human disturbances, and can take centuries to rebuild – if they can rebuild at all. While the effects of climate change on our world’s ocean remains unclear, there is a growing consensus that preserving intact habitat areas rich in biodiversity is one of the best ways we can make our oceans more resilient to climate
in economic activity in New England coastal states.
change. It is more important than ever to set aside marine areas that are free from human impacts to learn more about the ocean and how we can best respond to these changes. PRESERVING AN OCEAN LEGACY In New England, the ocean has, and always will, play a major role in our region’s cultural heritage. It is the backbone of many of our most lasting traditions, foods, and recreational activities. A healthy ocean is not only important to these traditions, but it is also a major driver of the local and regional economy. Ocean resources support more than 230,000 jobs and $16 billion in economic activity in New England coastal states. Most of this economic activity comes from ocean tourism and recreation by tourists and coastal residents, with some also coming from direct commercial activity on the water and shoreside support. Ensuring a healthy ocean in New England is important for this entire ecosystem – humans included. Healthy ocean habitats provide reliable feeding grounds for whales, dolphins, and seabirds. And when these populations thrive, our region’s tourism-driven economy thrives, too. The opportunity to permanently protect special places that contribute to sustaining a healthy ocean is ongoing, and will only grow in importance as the ocean faces warmer temperatures and changing conditions. In August, Senator Richard Blumenthal led the entire Connecticut congressional delegation in calling upon President Obama to designate the Canyons and Seamounts a Marine National Monument, showing leadership for our ocean. Then, President Obama announced the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine reserve. Please join us in celebrating the protection of these vital, important ocean treasures!
(left) An eight-foot tall bubblegum coral, one of many in a forest of colonies this size, grows on a vertical wall in Heezen Canyon. Scientists say the corals can take hundreds of years to get to be this big. This specimen is in very healthy condition, which can be seen by the bright color, and full branches with many extended polyps. Photo credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team (center) An octopus stretches its tentacles on Physalia Seamount. Marine protected areas have been found to build resilience against the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, ensuring future habitat for animals. Photo credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team (right) An orange coral fan hosting tiny yellow anemones grows on a steep rock wall edge approximately 2,700 feet deep in Nygren Canyon. Currently, a combination of partial fishing restrictions and natural protective features has kept these beautiful canyons intact. Photo credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition Science Team
TAKE ACTION Blue parks are the way of the future! Support the creation of marine protected areas in our country’s ocean waters. Two additional canyons, named Nygren and Heezen, and a smaller area named Cashes Ledge were a part of the campaign for permanent protection – but didn’t make the cut this round. Visit the coalition’s Facebook page for opportunities to become involved and to view photos, maps and videos of the new monument: saveoceantreasures.org
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“WITH SAILBOATS BECOMING MORE NUMEROUS AND FASTER, THE POTENTIAL FOR MORE SHIP STRIKES IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE UNLESS WE CHANGE SOMETHING.”
ES MEET SAILS sailing community can help stop collisions with whales By: T YSO N B OT T EN U S , At-Large Ambassador for Sailors for the Sea
The North Atlantic right whale got its name because it was the “right” whale for hunting. Its high amount of blubber along with slow swimming speed and coastal habitat made it easier for fishermen than other species. Today less than 500 exist in the world and they commonly can be found in the busy shipping lanes outside of Boston Harbor.
NOAA has been working with ships to reduce casualties by adjusting shipping lanes and all vessels over 65ft must go slower than 10 mph in designated seasonal management areas, noted in the feeding areas map. Photo credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources (permit #15488)
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“ IN THE END, EIGHT BOATS WOULD REPORT OVER 15 COLLISIONS WITH FLOATING OBJECTS. SIX BOATS TURNED AROUND AND RETURNED TO PORT, AND ONE BOAT DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE ENTIRELY.” The Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing, a platinum level Clean Regatta, utilized maps to educate sailors about the overlap of their racecourse with the North Atlantic right whale migration routes. They also provided a detailed map off the coast of Boston where the race route would go through known feeding grounds when whales could potentially be present. Sailors were also provided information on how to spot whales and were encouraged to share sightings to help the rest of the fleet. Image credit: The Atlantic Cup and NOAA.
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In May 2012, CAMPER helmsman Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermudez found himself nearly face to face with a whale in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. In a pretty extraordinary video from a rainy day on the Miami to Lisbon leg of the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race, you see Bermudez swing the boat, which had been hurtling through the ocean at over 20 knots, into the wind and just narrowly avoid what would have been a catastrophic collision with a marine mammal. “It would have been a bad day for both the whale and for us,” said Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper afterwards. “With reflexes like a cat [Bermudez] narrowly missed what would have been the equivalent of a runaway freight train colliding with a truck.” Another video dated May 2016 from the Canadian Ocean Racing team highlights what happens when a sailing vessel collides at night. “We were doing 15-20 knots and there was this loud smack,” says a crew member into the camera. “Everyone came on deck because we weren’t sure what happened, and then afterwards we saw the whale surface.” For Canadian Ocean Racing and their IMOCA Open 60 O Canada, the incident left them without a starboard rudder. For the whale, its fate remains unknown, but it’s assumed by some scientists that a collision with a large enough vessel going over 10 knots can easily be considered a lethal encounter. Incidents like these illustrate a growing problem within the sailing community that needs to be addressed by sailors, regatta organizers, and anyone directly responsible for determining where boats will be sailing. With sailboats becoming more numerous and faster, the potential for more ship strikes is expected to increase unless we change something. “Overall, we think that the planning needs to be more proactive,” says Fabian Ritter, Ship Strike Data Coordinator with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the global intergovernmental body charged with conservation of whales and the management of whaling. “The most precautionary actions to reduce ship strike risks will be at the planning stage rather than at the stage where the timing and route has already been decided.” In 2012, Ritter published a study finding that, over the last 60 years, 81 reported collisions and 42 near misses of whales and sailing vessels were reported, and a greater proportion of these were from more recent years. Damian Foxall, veteran ocean racer and Recreation Education Manager at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, is confident that this number is only the tip of the iceberg. “There’s a problem right now in that the vast majority of sailors do not even know that there is a duty to report these incidents,” says Foxall, who has spent the better part of a few years working to raise attention on this issue. “At the Canadian Wildlife Federation, one of our roles as a national conservation organization is to ensure that everyone going afloat is aware of best practices to apply while in the vicinity of marine mammals. In the case of a collision, mariners have an obligation to report this type of incident to the Coast Guard as a safety notice to other mariners as well as to the Ship Strike Database hosted by the International Whaling Commission.”
One race Foxall brings up as a perfect example is the 2016 IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat from New York, NY to Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Fourteen singlehanded IMOCA 60 monohulls departed New York, bound for Les Sables-d’Olonne on May 29th. After leaving New York, all sailors took care to avoid a Right Whale Exclusion Zone and a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off of Nantucket designed to create distance between ships and a sensitive habitat area. However less than 24 hours into the race sailors began reporting collisions with unidentified floating objects. First to report was the French skipper Yann Elies, who reported damage to his boat’s daggerboard. Then Armel Le Cléac’h hit an unidentified object and turned around. In the end, eight boats would report over 15 collisions with floating objects. Six boats turned around and returned to port, and one boat dropped out of the race entirely. A statement was released after the collisions occurred by the race organizers stating: “We are very saddened that this could happen when we worked to protect marine life which would possibly cross the course of our race. The sailing community is very concerned about protecting nature, especially within the seas, which is our playing field. In our commitment to trying to resolve this issue we will assist other race organisers to find ways to work together with scientists around World Sailing’s Major Oceanic Events commission to improve safety of all races, both current and in the future.” For Foxall, who studied this race in depth, this is a troubling story. “There were reports from skippers of sunfish and basking sharks in the area, but much of the damage to the trailing edges of appendages and surrounding structure was consistent with marine mammal strikes,” says Foxall. “However since all of the boats were singlehanded and the collisions occurred at night, this makes reporting details much harder for the skippers.” Both Foxall and Ritter urge race organizers to apply care towards the timing and route planning of offshore events and to inform sailors of where they are most likely to encounter whales, dolphins, and other vulnerable marine life. They also encourage organizers provide general advice on the species most likely to be encountered along an intended route. Whales, for instance, tend to aggregate so if sailors report one whale, there’s a very good probability that there are others in the area. “Despite due diligence and correct procedure followed by the race committee and skippers in the case of the Transat-Vendee Globe, we are seeing an increase of incidents,” says Foxall. “While many nations are now realizing the real value of their marine resources, the legislation behind creating marine protected areas is often very prolonged. As a community, we must self-regulate and promote good stewardship when it comes to avoiding collisions with marine mammals.” If an accident between a sailing vessel and a whale takes place, both Foxall and Ritter urge sailors to take the time to report the incident, not only as a notice to mariners in the area, but also to the International Whaling Commission’s global database on ship strikes located at https://iwc. int/ship-strikes.
This is a close-up of the trailing edge of a daggerboard from one of the IMOCA 60s that was damaged during the 2016 Transat-Vendee Globe. Many of the boats sailed into Newport for repairs after hitting unidentifiable floating objects. All of the boats had very little damage to the leading edge, but had significant damage to the trailing edge where the daggerboard was driven into the hull. There was also serious destruction to the hulls where the daggerboard started to slice through the boats. This type of damage is consistent with hitting a heavy, soft object such as a marine animal instead of some type of man-made object like a shipping container. Photo credit: Hilary Kotoun
TAKE ACTION As a sailor, get to know the waters you’ll be sailing through. As a regatta organizer, take care to avoid sensitive areas and to integrate key marine wildlife information into your event. Report any and all collisions with whales to the International Whaling Commission with as many details as possible. These reports are confidential and are used to better understand migratory whale behavior. https:// portal.iwc.int/login Working with information from the International Whaling Commission, Sailors for the Sea and the Canadian Wildlife Federation added a new best practice to the Clean Regattas program that helps race organizers protect Wildlife and Habitat. To learn more contact email@example.com.
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“ SAILORS HAVE AN INTIMATE CONNECTION WITH THE SEA, AND SHARE A DEEP CONCERN FOR THE HEALTH OF THE OCEAN. ADMIRABLY, THROUGH SAILORS FOR THE SEA, THIS PASSION IS GIVEN VOICE, A SIREN CALL TO ACTION TO SAILORS AND NON-SAILORS ALIKE TO CONSERVE AND NURTURE THE WORLD’S LARGEST ECOSYSTEM WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME.” CHARLES GODDARD, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, ASIA-PACIFIC, THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ECONOMIST’S WORLD OCEAN SUMMIT This humpback whale calf was spotted by researchers in the leeward waters off Maui. The ship-struck animal was a case in which researchers didn’t know the type of vessel involved. Photo credit: Ed Lyman/ NOAA MMHSRP (permit #932-1489)
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SKIP A STRAW SAVE A TURTLE
By: R O BYN ALB R IT TO N , Sustainability Director, Sailors for the Sea
STRAWS ARE CONSISTENTLY ON THE TOP 10 LISTS FOR MARINE DEBRIS COLLECTED EVERY YEAR DURING THE INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEANUP. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT AMERICANS USE A WHOPPING 500 MILLION STRAWS PER DAY – A NUMBER THAT, END-TO -END, COULD CIRCLE THE PLANET 2.5 TIMES. NOW IMAGINE THIS NUMBER COMPOUNDED ON A GLOBAL SCALE. While it seems simple, straws create a pressing threat to our oceans because they are made to be disposable, and on average are used for just 10 minutes. Plastic straws are rarely recyclable, requiring special facilities, and they almost always end up in a landfill, or worse the ocean. Over their lifespan the straw breaks down into smaller and smaller, even microscopic pieces. Pieces so small that single-celled organisms and other marine life eat them – the plastic remains forever – and then starts back up the food chain. Shocking photos of straws in sea turtles’ noses and the stomachs of seabirds can easily be found online. SKIP THE STRAW BE A CLEAN REGATTA Trash on the small Caribbean island of Antigua is a big problem; with landfills growing beyond capacity, recycling must be shipped off island. The country also prides itself on its beautiful beaches, and humans along with sea turtles flock to them. Antigua Sailing Week has been working with the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regattas program since 2009. A partnership with the Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua has enabled them to improve certification over the years. In 2015, they started the straw battle utilizing the best practice
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Responsible Dinnerware. This standard encourages regattas to eliminate single-use plastics, including straws. While this concept seems really easy – as simple as not purchasing straws –habits are hard to break. Recognizing that many sailors would be dining at local bars and restaurants, race organizers expanded beyond the docks. The Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association took the mission even further, continuing the ‘Skip the Straw’ initiative long after the regatta was over and expanding to hotels. Local business owners easily opted-in by posting signs that say “Straws by Request Only.” Many locals have seen the issue of plastic pollution washing up on their beaches over the years and know the negative impacts plastic has on their environment. These signs create a catalyst for action and initiate an easy behavior change. They also create an amazing education moment for those who aren’t aware of the 8 million metric tons of plastic that enters the ocean every year. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND Using straws is so ingrained in our culture that the key to this movement is removing the straws altogether. Individuals can request they not be given one, but are at the mercy of the bartender or waiter who have been trained to add them.
TAKE ACTION Join in and next time you out to eat, ask for no straw. Remind your server or bartender when the drink is served too. If you accidentally end up with a plastic straw, reuse it on the next drink instead of going through multiple straws. Purchase reusable straws that are great for on the go. There are many options available including bamboo, stainless steel, glass, and silicone. Theyâ€™re easy to throw in your purse or suit coat too. Numbers add up! Get your sailing club or marina to take action and remove straws. At two Clean Regattas in Antigua, sailors prevented more than 26,000 straws from being used. Itâ€™s as easy as not purchasing them and it will save money too!
Explore the ocean with Sailors for the Sea's 2017 Ocean Watch Magazine. This beautiful publication allows you to dive beneath the waters you...
Published on Jan 1, 2017
Explore the ocean with Sailors for the Sea's 2017 Ocean Watch Magazine. This beautiful publication allows you to dive beneath the waters you...