ISSUE 1, 2014 Navigating the way toward ocean health
SETTING A NEW COURSE BY THE STARS
12 stories to inspire action
Over the past ten has borne witness to a changing ocean. From the oil the ramification of our ocean absorbing excess contains 46,000 pieces of plastic. We have also seen an inspiring rise in the understanding of and media coverage on these important issues. Ocean health and the science behind it is no longer hidden in laboratories and on research vessels – there is a vibrant community of ocean heroes sharing the important story of the need to protect our ocean, now! And most importantly we have seen a shift in one particular community. One that is deeply connected to the ocean and has the ability to make a direct impact on ocean health – those who travel by water, SAILORS. The sailing community has jumped on board with sustainability measures implemented at events with our Clean Regattas program - the only sustainability certification program for water-based events in the world. With over 650 Clean Regattas held since the inception of the program – Clean Regattas has become a vital way to win the race to restore ocean health. One part education, two parts activation, the Clean Regattas program unites and mobilizes sailors by offering support and resources to help heal the ocean. We have also seen the proliferation of our marine education program within the sailing and boating community – teaching young sailors what is beneath their hull and hopefully
David Rockefeller, JR. Chairman and Co-Founder
years, Sailors for the Sea spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to ocean acidification: CO2, and the fact that every square mile of ocean turning that 7-year-old Opti sailor or 12-year-old Laser sailor into the next Sylvia Earle or Jacques Cousteau! KELP, Kids Environmental Lesson Plans, offer easy modules for informal educators based on the Seven Principles of Ocean Literacy. The next generation of boaters will grow up knowing not only how to spot shifts in wind but also in ocean health. This magazine offers a reflection on the issues that the ocean, 71% of the Earth’s surface, is facing and why we need to act now to protect this important life giving resource. This collection of stories published by Sailors for the Sea has been curated to educate and inspire boaters with pragmatic Take Action opportunities to protect the waters they love. Today – as we launch the next ten years of this organization, we are proud to be a compelling rally cry that offers tools, education and inspiration so that boaters become change agents – harnessing the power of their passion to catalyze ocean protection. We aim to inspire all 12 million registered boaters in the United States (and their children and grandchildren!) to take a stand for the ocean. Join us in creating a sea change. Together we are one voice. One legacy. And the momentum behind protecting the ocean for the future of all mankind!
Fair winds and following seas,
R. Mark Davis
Vice Chairman and Co-Founder
Board of Directors Chairman DAVID ROCKEFELLER, JR. Vice Chairman DAVID TREADWAY Treasurer RICK BURNES HENRY BECTON VIN CIPOLLA EDWARD DOLMAN REGAN GAMMON BETSY NICHOLSON DAVID MAX WILLIAMSON
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 TYSON BOTTENUS Finance Director ROSE BOYNTON Social Impact Director HILARY KOTOUN Stewardship Director HEATHER RUHSAM Sailors for the Sea 449 Thames Street, 300D Newport, RI 02840 phone: 401.846.8900 fax: 401.846.7200 firstname.lastname@example.org www.sailorsforthesea.org
© Sailors for the Sea, Inc. 2014 – shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license Printed on recycled paper.
contents Oceans on Acid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 04 The Bay of all Beauties . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08 Boating with Manatees . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 CARIB Tails . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 The Lionfish Invasion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Smart Ocean Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 What is a MPA? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Plastic Pollution and its Solution . . . . . . 32 A Chance to Reboot the Gulf . . . . . . . . . 36 Sea Turtles, a Call for Conservation . . . . 40 The Oceanâ€™s Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Sustainable Seafood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 8
OCEANS ON ACID
By: H I L ARY KOTO U N , Social Impact Director, Sailors for the Sea Take a big breath and hold it. The oxygen you inhale is absorbed by the blood and carried throughout
your body. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide is carried back to your lungs and is released. But wait – keep holding your breath. Your lungs will ache as you keep yourself from exhaling. Trigger impulses from your brain will signal your body to ensure normal respiration. This trigger – the urge to breathe – is not caused by the lack of oxygen in your body, but rather a build up of carbon dioxide and a change in your body’s pH.
Okay, you can exhale now. Breathe.
MUCH LIKE YOUR BODY JUST EXPERIENCED – THE OCEAN’S PH IS DROPPING Seawater is naturally alkaline, with a healthy pH around 8.2. But since the industrial revolution, this number has dropped 30% and become more acidic. In the last two centuries alone, the ocean has absorbed 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists say the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher now than it has been in the last 650,000 years and that this recent change in chemistry is happening faster than any known change in ocean chemistry in the last 50 million years. TO PRESERVE OCEAN HEALTH WE MUST CURB OUR CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS. There exists a strong connection between the ocean and the atmosphere. A golden rule to remember is that what gets emitted into the air eventually makes its way into the ocean. Right now that number is about 22 million tons of carbon dioxide per day, or one third of all carbon emissions. This conceivably has “delayed” the current impacts of global warming, but it does not mean the problem has disappeared. When carbon dioxide reacts with seawater it forms carbonic acid – the same acid that creates fizz in soft drinks, and also the root of where many problems in the ocean may stem from in the coming years. THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT IS TEEMING WITH ORGANISMS THAT DEPEND ON PROTECTIVE SHELLS TO SURVIVE. Calcium carbonate is a key element for sea creatures to build their shells. From coral to oysters, lobsters to certain varieties of plankton – shells are the only line of defense for many creatures in the ocean. When excess carbonic acid is present, the formation of calcium carbonate becomes difficult and can dissolve shells that have already been formed. Because so many of these organisms serve as the basis of the marine food web, this breakdown may have sweeping effects in years to come. Some one billion people rely on marine animals currently as their primary protein source. When we mess with ocean chemistry and threaten the smallest organisms in the sea, we ultimately have an impact on all of humanity. CORAL REEFS Corals need calcium carbonate to survive. Often described as the “rainforests of the ocean”, they contain over 25 percent of the world’s fish biodiversity. However scientists have found that increasing acidity significantly reduces the ability of reef-building corals to produce skeletons. On top of the many species they house, coral reefs provide many coastal communities with a natural protection from storm surges and hurricanes. Additionally, coral reefs make up a large portion of the tourism industry in tropical destinations. In the United States alone this includes revenue of $1.2 billion per year in the Florida Keys, and $360 million per year in Hawaii.
Imagine if the pH in your blood changed, causing your bones to dissolve. SEA BUTTERFLIES Pteropods are free-swimming transparent sea snails with a small shell. Often called the “potato chips of the sea” due to the critical part they play in the arctic marine food chain, these beautiful, tiny creatures are essential to the diet of everything from krill, to salmon, and even whales. A recent study of pteropods in the Pacific Ocean between Central California and the Canadian border found that more than half of the creatures had damaged shells due to acidity. This creates disturbances in the food chain, of which the implications are immense, but still not fully understood. While the impacts of ocean acidification are still being explored, scientists are finding that even creatures at the bottom of the ocean are beginning to experience issues due to changes in acidity. The Pacific Northwest has been hit hardest by ocean acidification. Their oyster farms, valued as a $110 million operation, have become the poster child to explain the dangers ocean acidification poses to the fishing industry. In addition to potentially wiping out the farms if waters become too acidic, researchers have found that the pH of the ocean may impact the size of the oyster. THE OCEANS FUNCTION AS OUR PLANET’S LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM Two of the most important factors for an organism to survive in the ocean are temperature and acidity we continue to emit carbon dioxide we alter both of these conditions. The sooner we reduce global carbon emissions, the sooner we are able to prevent these harmful trends. The ocean moderates our climate and filters pollution. It supplies us with a rich diversity of food, minerals, and medicines. We also use it as a source of comfort, relaxation, recreation, and inspiration. However, due to a steady unchecked decline our oceans are in trouble, which in turn poses a threat to marine life, coastal and pelagic ecosystems, our economy, coastal cultures and societies.
(pictured left) An Antarctic pteropod, seen here under a microscope, is about the size of a pepper grain. Their name is Greek meaning “winged-foot” and their hard shells are made from calcium carbonate. Pteropods are an important source of food, eaten by marine animals from the tiny krill to salmon and even whales.
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OCEAN ACIDIFICATION REDUCES SIZE OF CLAMS The 36-day-old clams in the photos are a single species grown in the laboratory under varying levels of CO2 in the air. The CO2 is absorbed from the air by ocean water, acidifying the water and thus reducing the ability of juvenile clams to grow their shells. As seen in the photos, where CO2 levels rise progressively from left to right, 36-day-old clams (measured in microns) grown under elevated CO 2 levels are smaller than those grown under lower CO 2 levels. The highest CO2 level, about 1500 parts per million (ppm; far right), is higher than most projections for the end of this century but could occur locally in some estuaries. (Figure source: Talmage and Gobler).
The oceans are now 30% more acidic than they were at the dawn of the industrial revolution.
SHELLS DISSOLVE IN ACIDIFIED OCEAN WATER These photos show what happens to a pteropod’s shell in seawater that is too acidic. The left image shows a shell collected from a live pteropod from a region in the Southern Ocean where acidity is not too high. The shell on the right is from a pteropod collected in a region where the water is more acidic Photo credits: (left) Bednaršek et al. 2012; (right) Nina Bednaršek).
TAKE ACTION Take the NT3 pledge to reduce your carbon footprint. Learn more about Ocean Acidification by watching the documentary A Sea Change.
AS OCEANS ABSORB CO2 , THEY BECOME MORE ACIDIC The correlation between rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (red) at Mauna Loa and rising CO2 levels (blue) and fallingpH (green) in the nearby ocean at Station Aloha. As CO2 accumulates in the ocean, the water becomes more acidic (the pH declines). (Figure source: modified from Feely et al. 2009).
For trips less than a mile, people are 60% more likely to drive than walk or bike. Switch to an alternative mode of transportation on these short trips to greatly reduce your carbon footprint - and get exercise! Choose renewable energy for your power company. Install solar panels or wind generators at home or on your boat! Sail.
When it comes to loving the ocean,
It’s all about chemistry. Every year, one third of our CO2 emissions are absorbed by the sea. As a result we’re changing the chemistry of the ocean. It’s called Ocean Acidification. It’s as if the pH in your blood changed, causing your bones to dissolve. Deep in the ocean and along our coasts, sea creatures are struggling to form skeletons. The implications are immense, and like dominoes, as parts of the food chain disappear and coral reefs vanish, 20% of the world’s food supply will go with it. All this is happening right now. Under the hull of your boat. And In the water where you and your family swim. BUT YOU CAN CHANGE THAT. CO2 emissions that are harmful to the ocean come from producing plastic, toxic, petroleum-based chemicals and from burning fossil fuel.
TAKE THE NT 3 PLEDGE ONLINE!
Reduce your carbon footprint to stop OCEAN ACIDIFICATION.
Visit www.sailorsforthesea.org/nt3 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE 7
THE BAY OF A By: T YSO N B OT TEN U S , Sustainability Director, Sailors for the Sea
Cristo Redentor on Corcovado mountain overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay. Rioâ€™s population has ballooned more than 400% since 1950, with unfortunate consequences to the health of the bay. Photo from Wikipedia Commons
Can one hundred years of pollution be cleaned in two?
“Talk not of Bahia de Todos los Santos – the Bay of all Saints; for though that be a glorious haven, yet Rio is the Bay of all Rivers – the Bay of all Delights – the Bay of all Beauties. From circumjacent hill-sides, untiring summer hangs perpetually in terraces of vivid verdure; and embossed with old mosses, convent and castle nestle in valley and glen.” HERMAN MELVILLE, White Jacket (1850)
Last December Alan Norregaard, a Bronze medalist from the 2012 London Olympics, was just barely edging out Nico Delle Karth for first place as he approached the windward mark in the 2nd race of the 2013 Intergalactic Championships in Guanabara Bay, a rather large protected bay outside of Rio de Janeiro. And then disaster struck when his 49er shuddered to a halt. He and his crew watched helplessly as the entire fleet passed by. Backwinding their mainsail, they peered into the murky water to see what had happened and what they saw was both infuriating and outrageous: their 49er was stopped dead in the water by a large plastic bag wrapped around their centerboard, floating haphazardly in the bay. “I have sailed around the world for 20 years and this is the most polluted place I’ve ever been,” Norregaard told reporters after the race. He isn’t the only one complaining. This February, the Irish Sailing Team put out a request for funding to bring a doctor with them to Rio de Janeiro to assess “potential health concerns posed by untreated sewage water.” Stories and anecdotes are cropping up of dead horse carcasses and mattresses floating along the racecourse. “The sewage is visible and we have identified it as a significant health risk to our athletes,” said James O’Callaghan, ISA Performance Director, to the Irish Times this February. In 2016, sailing teams from all over the world will descend upon Brazil to take part in the Summer Olympics. Individuals and teams have been training for most of their lives for their chance to earn a medal for their country. The least that can be hoped for is clean waters to compete in.
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(left) An Olympic windsurfer practicing in Guanabara Bay. With the amount of pollution in the bay, athletes and coaches have concerns over health and hitting objects that may damage their boat during a race. (top) Garbage along a beach in Guanabara Bay. A little more than a third of the 13,000 tons of solid waste produced every day in the Rio de Janeiro area is released directly into Guanabara Bay. Photo credit: Associated Press (bottom) Untreated sewage pours directly into Guanabara Bay in Rio, where the sailing events will be held for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo credit: Felipe Dana / The Associated Press
THE FOLLOWING IS A STORY ABOUT WHY EVERY REGATTA ORGANIZER SHOULD THINK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY – NOT AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT – BUT AS A PRIMARY PILLAR OF THEIR REGATTA’S LEGACY. Human impacts dating back to the late 1880s were found by a team of researchers when they analyzed sediment samples from the bottom of Guanabara Bay. But when these researchers looked closely, they found a significant increase in heavy metals dating back to the 1950s – approximately when Rio’s population began increasing exponentially. From 1950 onward, Rio’s population has ballooned more than 400%. The effects of this population growth can be seen. According to the Associated Press, nearly 70% of Rio’s sewage goes untreated. Guanabara Bay is also the center point of a complex river drainage basin. Over 50 rivers flow into the bay bringing the untreated sewage and any disposed waste dumped from the 14,000 industries, 14 oil terminals, 2 commercial ports, 32 dock yards, more than 1,000 oil stations and 2 refineries that surround the bay. 10
A little more than a third of the 13,000 tons of solid waste produced every day in the Rio de Janeiro area is released directly into Guanabara Bay where it’s expected to make its way out with the tide. (Haven’t we learned that the solution to pollution is not dilution?) More often than not however, the trash ends up on Rio’s beaches and enmeshed in the meager mangrove forests that are left along the coast. On top of that, three major oil spills have left a dirty mark on Guanabara Bay. While entering the Sao Sebastiao terminal in Guanabara Bay in 1975, an oil tanker from Iraq ran aground and spilled 70,000 barrels of oil. At the time it was the worst oil spill to ever occur in Brazil. Twenty years later the Brazilian refinery operator Petrobras reported that a leaking pipeline had spilled over five times that amount. This put an immense strain on fishermen and their livelihood on the bay. Three years later Petrobras again admitted fault in yet another oil spill, this time because they had failed to install modern sensors on their pipelines. The result was utter devastation. Brazil experienced an economic downturn as Guanabara Bay’s fisheries collapsed, leaving fishermen to find other sources of income. Environmental groups were furious at the level of incompetency demonstrated by Petrobras - Greenpeace protested by leaving oil-soaked birds and by chaining themselves to the railings outside of Petrobras’s headquarters.
A Petrobras oil platform in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
AS OF TODAY, THERE ARE LESS THAN TWO YEARS UNTIL THE 2016 OLYMPICS. CAN BRAZIL CLEAN UP OVER A CENTURY OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE? The Olympic Games have long been derided from an environmental standpoint as an unsustainable event. Think about all the resources that go into making the Games happen. Stadiums need to be erected, ski slopes must be carved, vast quantities of bottled water need to be on hand. It’s safe to say that the relationship between sport and sustainability is not always the most harmonious. But if Rio is serious about it’s commitment to cleaning up Guanabara Bay, then this commitment has the potential to change the relationship between sport and sailing. For the sailing to happen, change must happen alongside. Only time will tell what kind of legacy Rio 2016 will leave behind.
TAKE ACTION Pollution is often a “slow drip” issue. Next time your club or program hosts a regatta, consider the legacy you want to leave. Discuss the prospect of organizing a beach clean up during or after your regatta. Implement Clean Regattas at your next event and let everyone know how important racing in clean waters is to you!
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AT E E S
By: RO G ER R EEP Professor, College Of Veterinary Medicine, University Of Florida As a fourth generation Floridian in my seventh decade of living, I am interested in preserving the health of the natural environment for my children and grandchildren. This includes the coastal estuaries that link marine and freshwater environments.
The West Indian Manatee, pictured here is native to Florida, and an endangered species and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In Florida the biggest threats to manatees are motorized boat traffic and algal blooms often exacerbated by chemical runoff. Photo credit: USGS Sirenia Project
Living in harmony with the natural environment is a challenge in Florida, which has undergone more growth in human population and infrastructure than most other regions of the United States. For several decades this growth has impacted indigenous plant and animal life through habitat loss or alteration, decreased water quality, increases in airborne pollutants and introduction of invasive species. In the case of Florida manatees, an endangered species, habitat alteration has included harmful algal blooms such as red tide that have resulted in hundreds of sick and dead manatees. These blooms may be exacerbated by groundwater runoffs high in nitrates and phosphorus that are often caused by human activities including septic tank leakage and the use of manufactured fertilizers. Manatees in Florida deal with motorized boat traffic throughout much of their range. Florida has about 2000 miles of complex coastline involving the Intracoastal Waterway, numerous rivers, creeks, canals, bays, lagoons, inlets, lakes and coastal islands. Manatees are found in each of these habitats because they feed on a wide variety of aquatic vegetation. The number of registered boats in Florida has increased significantly along with the expanding human population, and is directly correlated with increasing manatee mortality from strikes by boats. During 2008-2012, an average of 88 manatees per year died as a result of boat strikes. Dead manatees undergo postmortem necropsy at the Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory in St. Petersburg, Florida to determine cause of death and to collect other biological data important for understanding population dynamics.
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CAN MANATEES DETECT AND AVOID BOATS? Studies of manatee hearing have been done on wild and captive manatees. In controlled experiments, manatees have been observed to detect and avoid single boats traveling at a variety of speeds, as long as they have adequate time to respond. However, the presence of many boats in one area generates a complicated mixture of sounds that make it difficult if not impossible to detect a specific boat that may pose a threat. Just imagine yourself underwater with five or ten boats moving around nearby! Reduced speed zones have been implemented at designated locations in 18 Florida counties, focused on areas where manatees are known to be abundant. They include portions of over 20 major rivers, but constitute only a very small fraction of the total amount of navigable waterways used by manatees in Florida. Depending upon the specific location, restrictions include no entry, idle speed, slow speed, and 25, 30 or 35 mph limits. Some restrictions apply year-round, others during specific months. The premise of establishing slow boat speed zones for manatee protection is that vessels moving at slower speeds allow both the vessel operator and the manatee more time to respond to avoid a collision. In the event that a collision 14 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
occurs, less severe injuries occur if a vessel is moving at a slower speed. Even moderate reductions in the speed at which an impact occurs can dramatically lessen the potential for injuries or death since the resultant force of impact is reduced. HOW DO BOATERS BEHAVE IN SLOW SPEED ZONES? Several studies have found that only about 60% of boaters comply with posted slow speeds. Not surprisingly, the presence of law enforcement results in greater compliance. However, the number of marine patrol officers is very low compared to what would be needed to have a widespread effect on boater compliance. For now, low boater compliance and an increasing number of boats are two factors that contribute to sustained high numbers of manatees killed by boat strikes. Technological solutions have been proposed, including warning lights to notify boaters of manatees in an area and sound beacons on boats to warn manatees of boaters in an area. However, in my opinion, if we are to solve the problem of manatees being hit by boats it will be through the technology of the human soul, whereby we learn to live more cooperatively with other species and the natural environment on whose health we all depend.
(left) One of the pleasures of being in Florida is seeing manatees in their natural habitat, either from your boat, by kayak tour, or on a snorkeling trip in the Crystal River area where this photo was taken. By driving slow in no wake zones, and having a dedicated spotter â€“ you may be lucky enough to see one! Photo credit: USGS Sirenia Project (right) Volunteers help capture a wild manatee for health assessment in Crystal River, Florida. The information gathered is invaluable in protecting the species and after assessment the manatee will be safely released. Photo credit: USGS Sirenia Project
SPOTTING MANATEES While traversing waterways known to have manatees it is important to follow speed limits and lookout for these majestic creatures. Have a dedicated spotter on board and looking for large shadows and circular wave patterns left on the surface of the water by the manateeâ€™s tail. Polarized sunglasses will help. One of the pleasures of being in Florida is seeing manatees in their natural habitat, either from your boat, by kayak tour or on a snorkeling trip in the Crystal River area. The Manatee Eco-Tourism Association of Citrus County is composed of responsible tour companies and strives to ensure that all human/manatee interaction is conducted in a safe, non-stressful and considerate manner. We can change the way other people behave on the water by setting a good example through our own behavior. So enjoy boating in Florida and keep an eye out for manatees and slow speed zones!
TAKE ACTION Help preserve manatee health and habitat with the Save the Manatee Club. Learn more about how to boat safely in order to protect manatees with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Safely observe manatees in their natural habitat in Crystal River, FL with River Ventures, Birds Underwater Inc., or Crystal River Manatee Tours. Use non-toxic cleaning products on your boat, lawn and house to help reduce nitrates and phosphorus, chemicals that help create harmful algal blooms. Visit www.sailorsforthesea.org to learn more.
Scientists are still unsure why whales breach, however some theories include social reasons, removing parasites from their skin and stunning or scaring prey. The longest recorded sustained series of breaching documented was by a humpback whale in the Caribbean totaling 130 leaps in less than 90 minutes. Photo credit: Whale and Dolphin Conservation
CA R I B
TA I LS
AN I NTER NATI O NAL CITIZEN SCI EN CE PROJ ECT FO R BOATERS By: NATHALI E WAR D, PhD, NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
A HUMPBACK WHALE BURSTS THROUGH THE SURFACE LIKE A LOCOMOTIVE FROM A TUNNEL. SOME 100 YARDS FROM THE BOAT, PLUMES OF MIST ERUPT FROM THE SEA, BUT IT’S THE HARSHNESS OF ITS BREATHING—THOSE EXPLOSIVE CHUFFS—THAT STARTLES ME MOST.
— N. WARD
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Every humpback whale has a unique pattern – acting as a fingerprint does for a human. Pictured above is Salt, the first whale to be identified by Sister Sanctuary Program. Since she was identified in 1976, researchers have observed the birth of her 12 calves and in 2010 she became a great grandmother. Photo credit: Plymouth Whale Watching
Anyone who sees a humpback is impressed by its enormity and grace. The size of a city bus, it rises from the sea firing vaporous plumes from its blowholes, and then slowly rolls into the depths, exposing a tiny dorsal fin on top of a small hump. A parting view may be a pair of 15-feet wide tail flukes raised over the water like the outstretched wings of a massive seabird. Celebrated by Herman Melville as the most “gamesome” of the great whales, theirs is a leisure society that predates ours by some 50 million years. Besides looking for food and feeding in northern latitudes, humpbacks spend their time in the winter months in the warm, tropical seas of the Caribbean—swimming, cavorting, conversing, wooing the opposite sex and giving birth and nursing their young. A SANCTUARY CONCERN— PROTECTION BEYOND BORDERS Within the animal kingdom, the humpback whale makes one of the longest migrations of any animal. They are international citizens—acknowledging no sovereignty but their own—traveling through international waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea without a passport.
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NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, within the Gulf of Maine, protects a shared population of almost 1,000 humpback whales that return from their tropical breeding grounds with new calves each spring. This population shows a slowed recovery rate as human impacts such as entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes contribute to mortality throughout their migratory path. In 2007, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary created the Sister Sanctuary Program to develop strategic, science-based “sister sanctuary relationships”—with other marine mammal sanctuaries in Bermuda, the Dominican Republic and French and Dutch Antilles—to insure the protection of humpback whales outside of U.S. borders, with specific focus on international breeding and mating grounds in the Caribbean and along migration corridors. WHAT A TAIL CAN TELL — PHOTO-IDENTIFICATION Knowing the identity of individual whales can be of critical importance to researchers. Photo-identification is a technique that enables scientists to identify an individual whale anywhere it may travel throughout its life by compar-
ing black and white pigmentation patterns on the underside (or ventral portion) of the flukes, the two wings of the tail. These marking include both natural pigmentation and scars. Using photo-identification techniques to help monitor the recovery of this endangered species, CARIB Tails is enlisting boaters as citizen scientists to help track the movements of humpback whales between their North Atlantic feeding grounds and their breeding grounds in the Wider Caribbean Region. The project is an international research collaboration between NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme’s Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife’s Programme and our conservation partners. Since the early 1970s, humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary and elsewhere in the Gulf of Maine have been catalogued, not only with formal identification numbers, but also with names. By cataloguing individual humpback whales, scientists can monitor individual animals and gather valuable information about population sizes and migration patterns. THE FLUKE CATALOGUE — THE HOW AND WHY When new photographs of humpback tail flukes are received, they are matched against the photographs in the existing North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue, which has been maintained since 1976 by Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine USA. Information about each whale sighting (such as date, time, location) is kept in a database, or Catalogue. Using these kinds of data, it has been possible to learn that humpbacks mature no earlier than four years of age, may have calves every two years, travel to the Caribbean in winter to mate and give birth, and appear to return to the same northern feeding area each summer. The Catalogue contains fluke photographs of more than 7,000 individual humpback whales. It is the result of collaboration between scientists, naturalists, citizen scientists and tourists who have contributed photographs of humpbacks from regions including North America, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Caribbean. Information gained from the Catalogue helps advance understanding of marine mammal conservation and habitat protection, raise public awareness and motivate marine mammal conservation action and stewardship. P.S. “Salt”, also known as the “Grand Dame” of the Sister Sanctuary Program, has been seen on Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary every summer except one since 1976. She is also the first Gulf of Maine humpback whale to have been seen by researchers on Silver Bank off the Dominican Republic. Her sighting confirmed the north-south migration route of humpback whales. WANTED: Your help tracking humpback whale migration with your photographs of humpback flukes If you get see a humpback whale while cruising in the Caribbean, you will never forget it. If you take a good photo of its flukes, you can contribute to the conservation of this spectacular animal. For more information about how you can participate visit: www.caribtails.org.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD Science for Solutions
Tyson Bottenus, our Sustainability Director, took a special trip to Washington, D.C. to speak on a panel about the importance of our National Marine Sanctuaries. The panel was gathered by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to give decision makers in Washington, D.C. a better understanding of changes occurring in our ocean and the Great Lakes and how we can create partnerships within sanctuaries that engage non-profits and citizens. Tyson was honored to be on the panel with the esteemed oceanographer and Time Magazine’s first Hero of the Planet, Dr. Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue. Tyson spoke about efforts to engage the boating community in a project aimed to collect behavior and migratory patterns of humpback whales. Today, with the preponderance of digital cameras and smartphones in so many peoples’ hands we can all participate in citizen science.
TAKE ACTION Prior to boating in water known to be inhabited by whales, learn how to properly navigate near marine mammals. Visit www.oceantoday.noaa.gov/whalesense/ to learn proper rules and regulations. Learn more about Stellwagen Bank and its Sister Sanctuaries program at www. stellwagen.noaa.gov Photographing humpback whales can be a challenge! Get tips from the pros and be prepared to take the best photographs. You can also share your photographs with the database at www.caribtails.org
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By: J E S S I CA WU R ZBACH ER , M SC
Beautiful, elegant, vibrant, graceful and unique ….. but we shouldn’t be admiring them in the Atlantic. The red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and devil firefish (Pterois miles) are native to the coral reefs of the South Pacific, but are no longer a long-haul flight away.
Divers across the Caribbean are working together to keep the species in check by reporting sightings to REEF. After the report is received, experienced spear fisherman will go out and collect the fish. Since lionfish are very territorial, they tend to not move very far from their location and are easy to find again.
Unfortunate accidents in the early 90’s have led to their invasion and spread across much of the Caribbean Sea and as far north up the east coast to Rhode Island. Although they do not live long in cooler waters and are unable to survive the tougher winters (Kimball et al. 2004). Lionfish in the Atlantic are termed invasive species: a non-native organism that has intruded into an area and may have serious detrimental effects on native organisms, the local economy and human health. One of the most infamous cases is in invasion of the Great Lakes in 1988 by non-native zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). These have caused severe problems at power plants by blocking pipes and also wiped out the native clam population. The majority of alien invasions result from human activities and the globalization of the world market. According to some estimations the major environmental damages, losses, and control measures for invasive species cost the U.S. an average of $138 billion per year and invasive species also threaten nearly half of the species currently protected under the Endangered Species Act (NOAA). HOW DID THE LIONFISH END UP IN U.S. WATERS IN THE FIRST PLACE? It is speculated that the root of the problem was only 6 lionfish accidently released from an aquarium during hurricane Andrew in 1992. Genetic research supports this finger pointing but it is likely that many more have been intentionally released by “retired” aquarium enthusiasts. With no natural enemies and an extremely high reproductive rate of 2 million eggs a year from one female, unsurprisingly they’ve taken over rapidly (NOAA). The cold water temperatures are keeping their numbers in check to the north, but this is not the case to the south where lionfish are spreading rapidly through the South Florida Estuaries, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Marine Scientists believe they will have established themselves as far south as Brazil within the next five to ten years.
Lionfish are nonselective feeders, and with virtually no natural enemies in the tropical western Atlantic they’ve invited themselves to an all you can eat seafood buffet.
Surveys conducted by Paula Whitfield and her team in 2004 found that lionfish were already as abundant as many native groupers, and second in abundance only to scamp (Mycteroperca phenax) (Whitfield et al, 2007). This is extremely concerning given the short time period for this population growth to occur. Recent estimates of lionfish densities show the populations continuing to grow, with the highest estimates reporting over 1,000 lionfish per acre in some locations (NOAA). Lionfish now occupy an extensive geographic range, and are able to survive in a range of habitats and depths (2-140m). Lionfishes have now become established in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, and the Cayman Islands. There are also reported sightings in Belize, Haiti, U.S. Virgin Islands, Mexico, and Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire (NOAA). WHY IS THIS BAD? Lionfish are voracious predators and are taking the already threatened Caribbean reefs by storm. Lionfish are nonselective feeders, and with virtually no natural enemies in the tropical western Atlantic they’ve invited themselves to an all you can eat seafood buffet. Lionfish have been observed consuming 20 small fish in a 30-minute period and prey up to 2/3rd of their own length. Impressively, their stomachs can expand up to 30 times their normal size after a meal. Mark Hixon et al (2009) determined that a single lionfish can reduce juvenile fish populations by 79% in just 5 weeks. Samples of lionfish stomach contents in the western Atlantic have shown that they consume more than 50 different species, many of which are overfished and diminished to already critical levels (Gupta, 2009). Given this extreme rate of feeding lionfish are out-competing native predators for their food sources, as well as reducing fish populations through direct predation. Not only are they dangerous to the fragile ecosystems, but they can inflict an extremely painful sting to humans, not usually deadly, but it can make you quite sick. ARE THERE ANY SOLUTIONS? Due to the extent of the lionfish invasion, control is now the only option as attempts to eradicate existing lionfish populations would be impractical and probably unsuccessful (NOAA). In the Pacific groupers, sharks and coronet fishes are known to prey on lionfish. In the Atlantic, groupers are severely overfished and struggling to fill this role. The first documented case of grouper predation was in the Bahamas in 2008, when several groupers were captured containing partially digested lionfish remains in their stomach (Maljkovic, 2008). For this, and many other reasons, predator populations need to be protected and allowed to recover. Another method of control is something that humans are notoriously good at - let’s eat them! Apparently lionfish are tasty, with light, white and flakey meat, and have been received very well in some high end New York, Washington and Chicago restaurants following the success of Bermuda’s Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em, campaign. Scientists
from Roger Williams University, REEF, NOAA and the North Carolina Sea Grant (Morris et al, 2011) have just published a study detailing the nutritional benefits of lionfish consumption; lionfish have the highest concentration of omega-3 in their category, scoring above farmed tilapia, Bluefin tuna, red snapper and grouper. Claimed to be the “ultimate in guilt-free eating - delicious, nutritious and eco-conscious”. Lionfish is certainly in the ocean friendly seafood choice list. How about some fluffy battered lionfish, lionfish sushi or lionfish fingers? Perhaps a more unique approach is being tried out by divers in Honduras who are trying to train local sharks to eat the invasive lionfish (National Geographic). At the current rate of population growth, these measures are unlikely to be able to restore the ecosystem balance, but it is hoped it may perhaps slow the spread and buy a little more time for a solution.
(top) This map shows sightings of lionfish (red dots) from the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database. Since first being spotted in the Atlantic in 1990’s the species has spread rapidly, recently earning the nickname “Terminator” over being called a predator because of its growing takeover. (bottom) Divers across the Caribbean are working together to keep the species in check by reporting sightings to REEF, experienced spear fishermen will go out and collect the fish. Since lionfish are very territorial, they tend to not move very far from their location and are easy to find again.
A single lionfish can easily decimate a reef eating up to 79% of the juvenile fish in just 5 weeks. They can eat fish up to 2/3 their own size and like the taste of more than 50 different species.
Another method of control is something that humans are notoriously good at let’s eat them!
TAKE ACTION Eat Lionfish! They are tasty, with light, white and flakey meat, and have been received very well in restaurants. Avoid eating grouper - also marketed as “Sea Bass” or “Mero” – because they can help keep the population of lionfish down. Download the Seafood Watch app for your phone to help you make informed decisions on sustainable seafood choices. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org to learn more. Report any lionfish sightings to REEF (www.reef.org/lionfish) to help track and monitor the invasion.
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SM A RT OCE
The waters of Rhode Island, including the bountiful Narragansett Bay and Newport harbor pictured here, are used by many. From sailboat races to fisherman to wind farms, smart ocean planning gives all stakeholders a seat at the table.
A N PLA N N I NG have a voice in the future of our oceans By: SAN D R A WH ITEH O U S E , Ph.D. Senior Policy Advisor Ocean Conservancy
“ANY SAILOR KNOWS THAT WHILE THE OCEANS AND GREAT LAKES MAY APPEAR EMPTY, THERE IS A LOT OF ACTIVITY: SHIPPING, COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL FISHING AND FERRIES TO NAME A FEW.”
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Living in Newport, Rhode Island, sailing has been a favorite activity with family and friends since my youth, now my husband and I have the pleasure of owning and sailing Osprey. As a child, when I wasnâ€™t sailing I was at the beach collecting crabs and snails. Ultimately this led to my becoming a marine biologist, coastal manager and ocean policy advisor. So, it is personal to me that our oceans are healthy, are used sustainably, and support our coastal communities.
Sandra and Sheldon own a classic Herreshoff S-class named Osprey. She was built by his grandfather in 1934 and restored by the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI in 1995.
The goals of protecting, maintaining and restoring ecosystem health, supporting sustainable uses, and preserving maritime heritage are the foundation of the National Ocean Policy. Any sailor knows that while the oceans and Great Lakes may appear empty, there is a lot of activity: shipping, commercial and recreational fishing, and ferries to name a few. More and more projects are being proposed that require fixed structures: offshore LNG facilities, wind farms and aquaculture operations. If we are going to maintain our existing uses and realize the growth opportunities that the ocean affords, while conserving the ecological resources that make it all possible, we need to look at the big picture and move beyond single-sector management. We need all stakeholders, including sailors and their representative organizations, to engage in defining the future of our ocean spaces. One of the states that took a proactive and comprehensive approach to ocean management is Rhode Island. In 2010 they completed the Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). This plan is now being implemented and used to site a pilot wind turbine project in a manner that has reduced conflicts among uses and minimized envi-
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ronmental impacts. The SAMP is a good example of smart ocean planning that is based on the best available information of human uses and environmental parameters. Of interest to the sailing community is the chapter on recreation and tourism. This chapter compiled information about the past and present use of waters for offshore sailboat racing as well as information about the economic value of sailing events and activities. Two of the maps that were created by the SAMP are pictured to the right. This kind of information is critical for managers as they consider project proposals. Sailing is important to the stateâ€™s economy and integral to its culture. That is why the areas characterized by an especially high concentration of boating activity were designated as Areas of Particular Concern. This means that the Coastal Resources Management Council (the coastal and ocean management authority in Rhode Island) has adopted the goal of protecting these areas from large-scale offshore development. So the buoy racing areas off Block Island for example are now recognized as having high human use value for sailing and are protected. This would not have been possible without the participation of sailing organizations that helped state government officials better understand the importance of the sailing industry to the state, and helped the state map the most frequently used areas. This type of planning approach is now being utilized in federal waters through the National Ocean Policy. The Policy defined nine planning regions for the United States and territories. Currently, two of the regions that want to create smart ocean plans are underway within their federal waters (throughout the Exclusive Economic Zone, approximately 200 nautical miles). The Northeast Regional Planning Body (NERPB) was launched in 2012. One of the first data sets identified as inadequate was information about recreational boating activity. Thatâ€™s why the NERBP worked with a number of partners to conduct a recreational boating survey. Recreational boaters helped design and implement the survey, shared data on their trips and expenditures as well as their opinions on boating compatibility with other ocean uses. The results revealed that in 2012, 907,000 boating trips on the ocean generated approximately $3.5 billion and the equivalent of nearly 27,000 year-round jobs in the Northeast region alone. The data collected was also used to generate maps of popular recreational boating locations, which anyone can access through the Northeast Ocean Data Portal. Now decision-makers can use this information to make smart planning decisions that consider the importance of the recreational boating community. As in the state waters of Rhode Island, the federal waters of the Northeast will have a comprehensive, proactive plan that provides guidance to ocean management agencies about what the future should look like. A planning effort has also been initiated in the Mid-Atlantic region (2013) by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body including an associated data portal where they are gathering information on recreational boating. Sailors can help the planners by bringing information into the process and explaining how certain areas are used. They can also tell their Congressional delegation that smart-ocean planning is important to ensure that the next generation of sailors can continue to enjoy our coastal and ocean waters.
(top left) During the planning process for Rhode Island waters, a recreational boating survey was conducted, which brought forth the importance of the racing community to the state economy. This map was created from known courses for distance races that go through Rhode Island waters to help managers and planners understand sailorâ€™s use of the oceans. (bottom left) In addition to distance races, a second map was created to help managers and planners understand where day or buoy races are held within Rhode Island waters. (right) The 2012 Northeast Recreational Boating Survey found that most boating occurs close to shore and that the majority of boaters would not be affected by installment of a wind farm a few miles off shore.
SAILING IS IMPORTANT TO THE STATEâ€™S ECONOMY AND INTEGRAL TO ITS CULTURE.
TAKE ACTION Learn more about ocean planning by watching two great films by Ocean Frontiers. www.oceanfrontiers.org Participate in recreational boating surveys as they become available in your region.
Instead of managing sector-by-sector, smart ocean planning collects and considers data and engages stakeholders from all sectors to make good, science-based management decisions.
Write or call your congressional delegates and ask them to support and fund smart ocean planning efforts.
W H AT IS A
While there are many different restrictions that define a Marine Protected Area from allowing industrial fishing to not even allowing sailors to land on the islands within the park, protecting the ocean and making users aware of regulations are an important part of these habitats survival. Photo credit: Enric Sala
ECT ED A R EA A N Y WAY?
By: R ACH EL KEYLO N , Senior Ocean Policy Fellow at the Marine Conservation Institute
DIVE IN TO THE DEEP WORLD OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS (MPAS) AND LEARN HOW THEY AFFECT THE OCEAN AND WHERE THEY CAN BE FOUND!
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A massive, Montipora coral head speckled with reef fish. Although coral reefs comprise less than 0.5 of the ocean floor, it is estimated that more than 90% of marine species are dependent on them. Photo credit: J. Maragos
For sailors it is hard to imagine not being able to enjoy the wonders of the open expanse of the worldâ€™s ocean, which encompasses some of the most beautiful places on earth. But today the ocean is facing many threats, including pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, climate change, and ocean acidification. Thankfully some of the areas in our ocean have been protected from some of these threats and are relatively untouched by humans. To give our ocean a chance of surviving in this ever-changing world, scientists recommend preserving some of the most productive and biologically diverse places as no-take marine protected areas. WHAT IS AN MPA? There are many names for marine protected areas, including marine parks, marine refuges, marine reserves, and marine sanctuaries. With all this different terminology being used, we often hear the question; What is a marine protected area? Why are there different names for MPAs and what do they mean? And how do they affect me, as a sailor? MPAs are a tool used to conserve parts of the ocean that may be ecologically, historically, and/or culturally important. The idea behind an MPA is to protect unique areas and allow species to thrive, with a no-take MPA being the gold standard. Marine protected areas create refuges where marine life is protected from some or all-human pressures allowing organisms to grow, thrive, and replenish the broader ocean. In the United States and around the globe,
MPAs have been shown to benefit the marine ecosystem and coastal communities in several ways: Allowing marine species to recover. Even heavily
utilized ocean areas can rebound to original levels of productivity and species diversity as untouched ocean environments after being protected as a MPA. Protect essential marine habitat from destructive fishing practices. Fishing practices like using dynamite
tostun fish and trawling cause major damage to seafloor habitats. MPAs usually restrict the most damaging fishing practices, preserving vital habitats. Thriving habitats and species. As fish and other species within marine protected areas recover and begin to thrive, marine life expands into surrounding nonprotected areas that can be fished often providing more and larger fish for local communities. The use of MPAs has been embraced on a global scale with countries all over the world protecting marine life and coastal ocean habitat. Some nations have even gone so far as to designate large portions of their exclusive economic zones as marine protected areas, such as Chagos Island in the Indian Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. HOW DO MPAS AFFECT ME? No-take MPAs are firmly enforced and prohibit extractive uses and other activities such as commercial and recre-
ational fishing. Others are minimally restrictive with only moderate restrictions on specific ecological threats like oil drilling or bottom trawling. Unfortunately, the regulations and names associated with each MPA and its protections vary wildly. One of the biggest struggles for MPAs is when regulations are not followed either purposefully or unknowingly. As an ocean user, you should educate yourself about protected areas that you may encounter during your coastal and high seas travels. By learning more about MPAs and their management, you can improve compliance with the regulations set up to protect these vital ocean areas, and help our oceans and the life within them recover. Some great resources you can use to learn more about specific MPAs and their regulations include:
• NOAA Charts has created a mobile app that includes information on MPAs. • Visit: www.MPAtlas.org, an online tool that provides information on all of the world’s MPAs. • Country-specific travel guides and travel bureau websites
dent George W. Bush to protect the pristine environments, numerous endangered species, and areas of cultural and historical significance such as Midway Atoll. Overall, these areas are some of the most protected areas on Earth with most restrictions on both commercial and recreational fishing, and many of the islands at the hearts of these Monuments are National Wildlife Refuges in which most human activities are prohibited. Sailors are permitted to traverse the waters of the marine monuments but in most of these areas are not allowed to fish, drop anchor, discharge pollutants or ballast, or land on the islands. However due to their extremely remote locations, the very reason these waters are so healthy, these MPAs are difficult to monitor and protect. For that reason, the federal agencies count on sailors to voluntarily comply with regulations to protect these important areas where endangered sea turtles and shorebirds nest, and endangered reef fish and marine mammals swim. You can help by following the regulations and refraining from stopping and landing at these natural island refuges. Your action will go a long way to protect the health of our ocean!
Less than 3% of the ocean is protected, compared to almost 13% of our planet’s land area. Marine Sanctuaries, much like the National Park System in the United States protect precious areas for future generations. Photo credit: J. Margos
U.S. PACIFIC ISLAND MPAS In 2006 and 2009, the US created four large MPAs in the Pacific Ocean. These large MPAs (Papahânaumokuâkea, Rose Atoll, Marianas Trench, and Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monuments) were designated by PresiSAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE 31
Whether you are tied up to the dock or 1,000 miles from land, plastic pollution is ever present in the ocean.
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ASTIC POLLUTION AND ITS SOLUTION By: M AG G I E O STDA H L , Sustainable Initiatives Manager, Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco No doubt you have heard of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, and thought goodness, that’s terrible, someone should clean up that island of trash. WHAT IS MARINE DEBRIS, AND WHY DOES IT END UP IN GYRES? Marine debris, as defined by NOAA, is “any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.” There is a growing body of scientific studies about marine debris, its composition, and its direct and indirect impacts to marine wildlife and us. Some things we do know: most marine debris (60-80%) actually comes from land-based sources (e.g. humans), and the majority of marine debris – again up to 80% in some studies – is some form of plastic. Plastic can be a very useful material, but by design it is extremely durable, ubiquitous, inexpensive – and now everywhere. These are the very characteristics that help blow it or carry it from common terrestrial sources out to the ocean. Let’s take as an example the single-use plastic water bottle bought from a convenience store, or by the case (wrapped in more plastic, of course). When the bottle is consumed, it’s placed in the recycling bin – but what if the bottle never gets to the recycling plant? It could easily make its way into a nearby stream or river instead, especially if it goes into a storm drain. Whatever makes its way through storm drains is not treated at wastewater treatment plants, so all plastic finds its way into a storm drain goes into the watershed and ultimately out to the ocean.
TOP FIVE ITEMS 2,117,931 cigarettes / cigarette filters
1,140,222 food wrappers / containers
1,065,171 beverage bottles (plastic)
1,019,902 bags (plastic)
Volunteers for the America’s Cup Healthy Oceans Project clean up the shoreline near Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. Cleanups are a great way to raise awareness, but to truly address plastic issues we must reduce single use items. Photo credit: Maggie Ostdahl
Data collected by the International Coastal Cleanup.
Along the way, physical forces such as sun and water may break the plastic bottle into smaller and smaller plastic pieces by a process known as “photodegradation”, but it will not degrade entirely. If this plastic bottle began in California, chances are it – or its plastic bits - are now in the large ocean currents that contribute to the North Pacific gyre. A gyre is any vortex in air or water, but the word is most commonly used to refer to natural convergence zones of ocean currents that rotate because of the Coriolis Effect. There are gyres in the five major ocean basins - North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian, South Pacific and North Pacific. These gyres are not fixed areas; they shift depending on wind, waves, and currents. Scientists are actively studying the gyres, and how they tend to concentrate marine debris. In the meantime, our trash continues to drift out to the middle of the ocean. Along the way, marine debris becomes entangled or is eaten by fish, turtles, seabirds, whales, and so on. Plastic particles floating in the ocean can also be small platforms to transport environmental pollutants and invasive species throughout the sea.
THE SOLUTION: EXAMPLES FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA The good news is that there are many individuals and groups around the world raising awareness and encouraging all of us to help slow and stop our tide of trash before it becomes marine debris. Plastic pollution and marine debris have been topics of a number of TED talks, and ‘trending topics’ in social media. Local, state and national governments are crafting laws and policies to address marine debris. People and communities are changing trash habits, as we all begin to understand that there is no away in our throwaway culture. What are some specific things going on in the Bay Area as I write this essay? For one, there are year-round beach and shoreline cleanups organized by Sea Scavenger Conservancy, Surfrider, Save the Bay, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Aquarium of the Bay, The Marine Mammal Center, and many others. All of these groups and more also participate in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Clean-up via California Coastal Clean-up Day.
The name “Pacific Garbage Patch” has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter —but most of the plastic is not immediately evident to the naked eye. The debris is continuously mixed by wind and wave action and widely dispersed over huge surface areas. While this map is an oversimplification of ocean currents in the Pacific, it helps demonstrate how the waste ends up in gyres.
“IN 2007 SAN FRANCISCO WAS THE FIRST CITY IN THE UNITED STATES TO BAN SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CHECKOUT BAGS AT CERTAIN STORES.” Beyond coastal cleanups, San Francisco and many surrounding cities and counties are changing our attitude and habits around trash and working towards Zero Waste. Aquarium of the Bay since 2005 has been part of the San Francisco Green Business program, which includes commitments to generate less waste in our daily operations. In fact, as of 2009 in San Francisco, residents and businesses MUST recycle and compost. While European countries lead the way in reducing single-use plastic bag waste, in 2007 San Francisco was the first city in the United States to ban single-use plastic checkout bags at certain stores. This bag ordinance was expanded in 2012; it has also been used as a model for cities. San Francisco has also banned the use of polystyrene food containers by all food vendors and restaurants. Zero Waste rules and behaviors extend to all events taking place in the city, too. A great example is the 34th America’s Cup and their implementation of Clean Regattas Best Practices along with the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project, whose many partners have removed over 170 tons of trash and counting from the San Francisco Bay shoreline, keeping it from becoming marine debris.
As plastic breaks down in the ocean it becomes very small, but never disappears. Today, plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
TAKE ACTION Pledge to help reduce marine debris and encourage others to do the same with the NT 3 pledge. Follow through: reduce your plastic and trash habit with reusable grocery bags, reusable containers and straws and by buying products with less packaging. Join a cleanup near you on International Coastal Clean-up Day, held annually in September and organized by Ocean Conservancy in conjunction with local non-profits.
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A view of The Gulf of Mexico from space â€“ while the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was catastrophic to this region â€“ it also gives us a chance to reflect on and restore these bountiful waters. Photo credit: NASA
A CHANCE TO
By: D R . L ARRY MCKIN N EY, Director, Harte Research Institute, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
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The expansive watershed that drains into the Gulf of Mexico covers 41% of the continental United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. Runoff that comes from these regions including fertilizers from homes and farms creates the largest hypoxic event (no oxygen) in the ocean every summer. Map credit: EPA
TODAY, RESTORE IS A CHANCE TO REBOOT THE GULF. WE ALL HAVE After we watched yet another Gulf platform burn uncontrollably last month, it brings into focus the vulnerability of America’s Sea. At the same time it also demonstrates just how resilient the Gulf of Mexico can be and why it is important to do all we can to give it a fighting chance. Even as flaming natural gas lights the night skies off Louisiana, the stage is set to heal the Gulf and make sure it can continue to meet the countries energy demands and function as the healthy and productive ecosystem we all depend on and hope to sustain in the future. We are not there yet, and everyone who loves the water and the Gulf in particular, must remain vigilant so as to not let this opportunity slip away. Over the summer of 2012, Congress took unprecedented action to help assure the environmental and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast (RESTORE) Act was adopted as part of an omnibus transportation bill with overwhelming support from both parties. This historic act guarantees that 80 percent of the penalties recovered from the Deepwater 38 SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE
Horizon oil spill will return to the five Gulf Coast states to fund environmental and economic restoration activities. We will not know how much is available until the case against BP is resolved, but it will be in the billions of dollars, possibly between $10 billion and $30 billion. Other cases related to this incident have settled and some billions are already on the way to the Gulf. This resets everything for the Gulf of Mexico, the long ignored “third coast”. The federal government has shamefully ignored the Gulf for years while it spent a significant amount of funds to address problems on the East and West coasts, along with the Great Lakes. This, despite the fact that the Gulf of Mexico is the single most valuable body of water touching the United States, and is vital to the energy security, economic vitality and environmental health of the country. Today, RESTORE is a chance to reboot the Gulf. We all have a stake in a successful restoration effort in the Gulf. Those who advocate for investing in sustaining our oceans health have long stated that funding expended on assuring a healthy ocean returns both economic benefits and enhanced health and well-being for us all. Now we have
(top) A positive aspect of these platforms is that they abound with fish creating an aquarium without glass for divers and for fisherman success on every cast. Once platforms are retired they are created into artificial reefs. Photo by Harte Research Institute. (bottom ) Fish congregate around High Island Platform 389, which remains an active platform while in the process of being converted to an artificial reef. Photo credit: Harte Research Institute.
A STAKE IN A SUCCESSFUL RESTORATION EFFORT IN THE GULF. the chance to prove that for the Gulf of Mexico. If we are successful, we can be an example for the rest of the country. Perhaps then we will make the investments to assure our oceans health and future. The Gulf of Mexico can be a laboratory for the rest of the world, showing how a healthy environment and a vibrant economy can coexist. The Gulf annually produces 1.4 billion pounds of seafood and accounts for 44 percent of all recreational fishing in the U.S. At the same time, the Gulf is home to 47 percent of U.S. refining capacity and accounts for more than 50 per cent of domestic oil and gas production. Fifteen of the top 50 shipping ports are located in Gulf States. We have come to take for granted the bounty we receive from the Gulf and few realize that it has come at great cost. We have lost half of our productive wetlands, seen annually occurring dead zones the size of some New England states, and found increasing areas of coastal waters closed because of pollution. RESTORE can turn this deteriorating situation around and assure a healthy and productive future.
TAKE ACTION Find volunteer opportunities though the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Learn more at www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org Do your part donâ€™t pollute â€“ trash, oil and gas from even the smallest boats can add up to a big mess. Learn how to reduce your boats impact at www.sailorsforthesea.org. Speak up about how you think funding should be spent. Find more information at www.restorethegulf.gov, the official federal portal for the Deepwater BP oil spill response and recovery.
S E A T U
Sea turtles are found in all warm and temperate waters throughout the world and undergo long migrations, some as far as 1400 miles, between their feeding grounds and where they lay their eggs.
U R T L E S, A C A L L F O R C O N S E RVAT I O N By J EN N I FER R . N O L AN , Photos by: J I M AB ER N ETHY Protecting sea turtles is not only an act of compassion - it reinforces a necessary link in the fragile chain of our earth’s ecosystem. When humankind is in harmony with the “world of the sea turtle” and the ocean at large, the benefits are far reaching. We are all connected.
“THE CONSERVATION AND RECOVERY OF SEA TURTLES REQUIRES MULTI-LATERAL COOPERATION AND AGREEMENTS TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF THESE HIGHLY MIGRATORY ANIMALS.”
The sea turtles that exist today represent an evolutionary lineage that dates back at least 110 million years. Based on current data and trends, sea turtles are considered by many to be on the brink of extinction and immediate action is imperative if they are to rebound. There are seven species: flatback, green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley. All seven species are endangered and six of those in a matter considered “critically endangered”. The good news, however, is that we know what is required to save them. Future actions on our part must consist of having the good sense and vision to carry out the necessary implementation. Presently, the status quo only serves to fuel the rapid and alarming decline of sea turtle populations worldwide. We must realign policies and governance on an international level and take the time-sensitive steps necessary to save these magnificent creatures. As stated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “The conservation and recovery of sea turtles requires multi-lateral cooperation and agreements to ensure the survival of these highly migratory animals.”
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DISEASES CAUSED BY POLLUTION Water pollution effecting the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean is also a serious problem for sea turtles. Unprecedented numbers of sea turtles are now suffering from a disease call fibropapillomatosis, which presents itself as growths on the soft tissue. Some scientists are convinced this is linked to pollution. The now historic BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, estimated to have dumped 4.9 million gallons of oil, serves as a prime example of how gambling with the environment’s safety not only severely impacts an abundance of wildlife, but can trigger massive economic loss. The Gulf of Mexico, a breeding ground for countless species, happens to be “home” to the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley. With their home turned into a virtual sea of chemicals and oil slicks and their prey (primarily crustaceans such as blue crabs) now critically contaminated, the fate of the Kemp’s ridley is even more threatened.
Simply put, protecting your environment is akin to protecting your home. Just like a turtle cannot separate from its shell, we cannot separate from the conditions we create here on earth.
LONGLINES Fisheries that use “longlines” are directly linked to excessive sea turtle fatalities. This modern day, controversial fishery involves boats running fishing lines up to sixty miles in length, dropping millions of hooks off the side of their vessel each day. Worldwide, it is estimated that 1.4 billion hooks are cast into the ocean annually via this method. While some of the traditional and destructive “J” hooks are being replaced with circle hooks (a style of fishing hook designed so that turtles can’t bite them), longlines still decimate untold numbers of marine life. Not only does this negatively impact sea turtle populations, but also scores of other threatened species fall prey to this practice as well as unintended “bycatch”. Estimates supported by the Humane Society of the United States suggest that each year longlines kill more than 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 seabirds (including endangered albatrosses), millions of sharks, and thousands of marine mammals such as oceanic dolphins, sperm whales, and orcas. Regenerating these populations can take decades. With a staggering 90 percent of large, pelagic fish now harvested from the sea, losing fish “by mistake” is simply unacceptable. NETS Another fishing technique that delivers crushing effects on sea turtle populations, and scores of other marine life are nets such as those used to fish for shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtles caught in these fishing nets are unable to surface for oxygen. Stressed and unable to breathe, they drown. One grid-like device that prevents some sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets is the Turtle Excluder Device (TED). While TEDs are helping to reduce unnecessary sea turtle deaths, this technology alone will not allow the population numbers to recover. Increased global restrictions on fisheries, protection of prime sea turtle habitats, and higher standards for water quality must be universally enacted if these reptiles are to survive.
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For centuries, the resilience of sea turtles has been tested, and like most champions, they adapt. But turtles are now putting us to the test. Will mankind implement regulations that seek to halt their decline and potential demise? Will we put in place safeguards to protect them from unnecessary harm? Or will we let them slip away on our watch? The extinction of sea turtles lies in our hands. If it happens, much of their demise would be directly due to our actions - or lack thereof. But with capable hands and informed policy, we can change behavior of those who impact them the most by pulling up the abandoned “ghost nets,” removing the harpoons from those who harvest these defenseless creatures, conserving and cleaning up our littered beaches, and by turning off the lights that shine on sacred nesting grounds when the sun sinks below the horizon line.
(opposite page; left) If you are lucky enough to encounter a sea turtle, you are in the presence of 110 million years of evolution. Yet for as long as these creatures have survived, all seven species are currently on the endangered species list. (left) A young sea turtle greets photographer Jim Abernethy at the surface. On average, 1of every 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings will make it to adulthood. (this page; above) Loggerhead turtles are the most abundant of all the marine turtle species in U.S. waters. Pollution, getting caught in shrimp trawling nets, and development in nesting areas threaten the population. (right) Green sea turtles ancestors evolved on land and took to the sea, they are one of the few species to inhabit the earth long enough that they watched the dinosaurs evolve and become extinct.
ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDS To be ethical stewards of our natural environment and ensure the earth’s biological integrity, it is imperative that we understand how our surroundings impact our own wellbeing. We must all have rights, with “we” denoting all flora, fauna, and humankind. Our society functions best when all entities are considered and honored. To embrace proposed sustainable practices for fisheries, farming, and forestry is to live responsibly. Preservation of our biodiversity protects the natural resources so essential to our own survival. Simply put, protecting your environment is akin to protecting your home. Just like a turtle cannot separate from its shell, we cannot separate from the conditions we create here on Earth. Sea turtles are an inspiration. They are survivors, and encountering one is no less than swimming with millions of years of evolution. Let it not be on our watch that their existence flickers out. An ocean without sea turtles would be like the celestial sky void of shimmering stars. The legacy of our generation will be determined by what we leave behind for those who follow in our footsteps. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “The measure of a civilization is the landscape it leaves behind.” The fate of sea turtles will be an indicator of own moral compass. Please join the call to action to save and protect these archangels of the sea, and in doing so, demonstrate the best qualities of compassion and wisdom that humankind has to offer.
TAKE ACTION Abide by laws and efforts that seek to protect sea turtles and their natural habitats. This may include leash laws for dogs at the beach and no wake zones in harbors that are known to have turtles. Avoid using plastic bags or helium balloons. Sea turtles ingest this type of floating trash, mistaking it for jellyfish. If you go to the beach during nesting months, please remove all beach chairs, umbrellas, and trash upon leaving. Flatten sand castles and fill in any holes formed on the beach. Do not disrupt any roped off nesting grounds and avoid climbing on dunes, especially where “No Trespassing” signs are posted. Respect light-restriction laws near beaches where sea turtles nest. Do not buy products made from real tortoise-shell.
Many iconic coastlines (such as the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine pictured here) are already being threatened by sea level rise. The Northeast has also seen a 70% increase in extreme precipitation events in the past 50 years, which when combined with sea level rise have significantly increased property damage due to coastal flooding.
OCEAN ’S FUTURE How glob al wa rming cha nges our favorite places By: H I L ARY KOTO U N , Social Impact Director, Sailors for the Sea
The boating community exists in the boundary where land meets the water and today that boundary’s location is changing due to the effects of global warming. Whether you hope to watch a future America’s Cup in (potentially) San Francisco where the backup of seawater into the sewage systems is a reoccurring problem, or racing in Miami, FL where the ocean blankets the streets at high tide, global warming is currently impacting boaters all around the United States.
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SEA LEVEL RISE By 2050, anticipated sea level rise will vary greatly along the 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline, but the consistent trend is that the tide is getting higher. In some locations – sea level rise is anticipated to be upwards of 2.3 feet in the next 36 years. The National Climate Assessment also looks at potential flooding events based on historic extreme weather events in a region such as spring high tides and hurricanes. When analyzing likeliness of storms such as Hurricane Sandy or Katrina - which were once predicted to occur “once every 100 years” - many coastal cities can expect that these will occur every five to twenty years. INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES Those who live along the coast and own docks, marinas, boats or waterfront property have already started to feel the rising tide. However sea level rise is not just a risk for private property. Much of the infrastructure in our country is along the coast. Our highways, which connect our ports and airports, bring goods from town to town and often hug the coastline. One of the strongest examples of this problem can be found in the Gulf Coast. Within this century, half of the major roadways in this region will be inundated by sea level rise. WE ARE IN HOT WATER The ocean absorbs over 90% of the heat trapped by increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This excess heat warms and expands the ocean, adding to sea level rise problems. 46
Warming waters are also predicted to change ocean currents and circulation. With a 0.9°F rise in sea surface temperatures over the last century, ecosystem change can be seen in many areas of the ocean. In Hawaii and the Caribbean, coral bleaching is a persistent problem and only becoming worse. Coral bleaching occurs when water temperatures become too high, forcing reefs to expel the algae (zooxanthellae) that help nourish and give them their vibrant color. Coral reefs are essential spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds, and one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. OCEANS ON ACID “The ocean currently absorbs about a quarter of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, leading to ocean acidification that will alter marine ecosystems in dramatic yet uncertain ways.” National Climate Assessment, 2014 Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there has been an approximately 30% increase in surface ocean acidity. Along our coasts, regional differences in ocean pH occur as a result of variability in regional or local conditions. Additionally, coastal waters and estuaries can also exhibit acidification as the result of pollution and excess nutrient inputs, such as fertilizer runoff. Sailors and boaters can help mitigate this by using environmentally safe cleaning products and using compost, rather than toxic fertilizers at home or on marina lawns.
COASTAL PRESSURES Today, more than 50% of Americans, 164 million people, live in coastal counties, and every year 1.2 million more are added. This places heavy demands on the unique natural systems and resources that make our coastal areas so attractive and productive. “No other region concentrates so many people and so much economic activity on so little land, while also being so relentlessly affected by the sometimes violent interactions of land, sea, and air.” National Climate Assessment, 2014 Coastal ecosystems provide many valuable benefits such as reducing flood impacts, buffering from storm surge and waves, providing nursery habitat for important marine species, water filtration, carbon storage, and opportunities for recreation and enjoyment. Coastal ecosystems in the United States have long faced environmental struggles. It’s time we start preserving and restoring these vital habitats. HOW GLOBAL WARMING IMPACTS HUMAN HEALTH Climate change affects human health just as seriously as it does the environment and our property’s economic value. In the coming years, most impacts on human health will come from extreme weather events including: • Wildfires and decreased air quality • Increased days with temperatures over 100 degrees • Traumatic extreme weather events • Illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease carrying insects These events can lead to: • Emergency room visits and medication for asthma, bronchitis and chest pain • Increased cases of heat stroke and exhaustion, and particularly with elderly and young a greater risk of death from excessive heat • Increased cases of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from extreme weather events • Increased exposure to Lyme disease, dengue fever and in rare cases diarrheal diseases WHAT CAN BE DONE? “The amount of future climate change will largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions of heat trapping gases mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Emissions can be reduced through improved energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon or non-carbon energy sources.” National Climate Assessment, 2014 We need to act now to embrace big solutions to big problems that reduce the human carbon footprint. WHAT IS THE NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT? In May of 2014, the third National Climate Assessment was published, focusing on our changing climate while highlighting current and future impacts of a warming world. Sailors for the Sea published a series of blogs interpreting the information published by the assessment for the boating community. All graphs and images are from the National Climate Assessment website, unless otherwise noted. To read the full report visit: www.globalchange.gov
The maps above show the global extent of mass coral bleaching with a large increase worldwide over the last decade. Credit: Marshall and Schuttenberg 2006
TAKE ACTION Be part of the 10% – if 10% of registered vehicles in the United States drove 1 less mile a day, it would eliminate 22 million tons of CO2 emissions – the same amount that the ocean absorbs everyday. Reduce your carbon footprint – take the NT3 pledge today. Adaptation – after storms don’t rebuild in the area that was destroyed and work with your local government to prepare for sea level rise.
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SUSTAINABL HOW TO PU RCHASE
A SEA OF CHOICES Many of us flock to the coasts during the summer to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, a break from the heat and delicious seafood. In todayâ€™s globalized world, even those of us who live far from the coast have access to a plethora of seafood choices in our local restaurants and grocery stores. As you peruse your seafood options, you may find yourself wondering which seafoods are best to eat, and I am not just talking taste. WHICH SEAFOODS ARE SUSTAINABLE? This simple question can feel overwhelming, but if you Sea turtles are found in all warm and know the right questions to ask, you can find out which temperate waters throughout the world and fish andsome shellfi were harvested sustainably and which undergo long migrations, as sh far as weretheir not.feeding grounds 1400 miles, between 11032
and where they lay their eggs.
BUT WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN FOR SEAFOOD TO BE SUSTAINABLE? By the simplest definition, a seafood product can be considered sustainable if it is harvested in quantities small enough to prevent negative impacts to its population and is caught in a way that does not harm other species or marine habitats. Sustainability is all about the future productivity of marine ecosystems. But without a crystal ball, how can we know how the actions we take today will influence tomorrowâ€™s ocean? Since fisheries scientists and managers are not fortunetellers, they rely on several different metrics to determine if fish are harvested in a manner that promotes healthy marine ecosystems in the future. Our seafood choices consist of many different species caught with many different methods from all corners of the globe, so there is no single metric that can be used to determine if a given type of sea-
LE SEAFOOD: WITH CONFIDENCE By
B E AT A I L U J
er Fi sh
food is or is not sustainable. There are, however, a few key concepts that are commonly used to assess seafood sustainability. By understanding a few of these concepts, you too can be an educated seafood consumer. The questions you should ask
Use these five questions to find out if your seafood is sustainable: • What type of gear was used to catch this ﬁsh or shellfish? • How much bycatch does this gear usually cause? • Does this gear type damage marine habitats? • Where on the food chain does this species fall? • Is it wild or farm-raised?
FISHING GEAR Gear type is one of the most important aspects of seafood sustainability because it has a major impact on other species and on marine habitats. And trust me, there are a lot of different gear types out there. There are two very basic generalizations that you should understand about the relationship between gear type and seafood sustainability. 1. Indiscriminant gear, such as purse seines, gill nets and trawls, usually results in more bycatch (more on that below) compared to selective gear, such as hooks, traps, and harpoons. Yes, you can buy seafood caught by harpoon! 2. Gear that touches the seafloor (such as bottom trawls and dredges) is more likely to damage marine habitats than those that avoid the seafloor. 3. Ask your server or seafood dealer how the fish was caught. You can also find out how your favorite seafood is normally caught with a quick Google search. SAILORS FOR THE SEA - OCEAN WATCH MAGA ZINE 49
Eating local and sustainable can be tricky – but well managed farmed fish give options in many land locked states – and asking how the seafood was harvested is important in coastal regions. Visit: seafoodwatch.org for more options. *All information and images from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Groups
DISCARDED FISH “Bycatch” refers to fish that are caught incidentally by fishermen who are usually targeting one or two species of fish. In the United States, fishermen are permitted to fish on a species-by-species basis and are subject to regulations on when and where they can fish and on the size and number of the fish they are allowed to keep. “Bycatch” can include a species that a fisherman is not permitted to harvest, such as a fish caught out of season, or one that is smaller or larger than the legal size. Sometimes fishermen accidentally catch too many fish of a particular species and they have to throw some back. This is also considered bycatch. Fishery regulations in the United States require that most bycatch be discarded at sea. Because fish and shellfish discarded as bycatch are usually dead, bycatch can have a major negative impact on marine ecosystems. HABITAT DAMAGE If fishing gear touches the seafloor it can damage marine habitats. This causes major impacts on other species and on the overall health of marine ecosystems. Bottom trawls are the most notorious example of fishing-induced habitat destruction. Bottom trawls catch fish by dragging heavy gear along the bottom. They are particularly harmful to rocky habitats, sponges, and corals. Pole-caught, handline, troll, or trap-caught seafoods are better options because they cause very little habitat destruction. 50
FOOD CHAIN Fish that are low on the food chain are generally sustainable options because they are, for the most part, more abundant than fish that are higher on the food chain. They also reproduce at a younger age, which helps them recover relatively quickly from low to moderate levels of overfishing. In the U.S. we tend to prefer long-lived, predatory fish such as cod, tuna, swordfish, salmon, and halibut. By expanding your tastes to include species lower on the food chain, you can support healthy marine ecosystems by reducing pressure on the larger species, several of which are overfished. Some tasty options that are low on the food chain include mackerel, tilapia, catfish, mussels, clams, and oysters. There are some exceptions to this rule, which is why it is important to do a bit of research when considering your seafood options. For example, shrimp are low on the food chain, but most of the shrimp available in the U.S. was farm-raised in ways that cause significant habitat damage. Americans consume more than one billion pounds of shrimp every year, and 90% of that is imported from overseas aquaculture facilities. Shrimp aquaculture operations in some developing countries have a particularly bad track record for habitat destruction and human rights violations.
Large, stable nets placed in the fish’s path to feed is a typical way to catch tuna. But lots of other species are captured and die for nothing. A large sunfish here is trapped while fishermen are targeting tuna. Photo credit: Alessio Viora/Marine Photobank
The fishing fleet of Kodiak, Alaska. By purchasing your seafood from a farmers market or Community Supported Fishery you can feel confident that you are eating locally and sustainably. Photo credit: Julia Beaty
WILD VS. FARM-RAISED Most of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is harvested from wild populations. However the amount of farm-raised fish and shellfish in U.S. seafood markets is rapidly expanding. There are many benefits associated with aquaculture, but also many environmental costs. Aquaculture tends to generate strong opinions. You should do your own research before forming your opinions on aquaculture. Some argue that aquaculture is necessary to feed a growing human population while also supporting the health of marine ecosystems by taking pressure off wild stocks. Others argue that aquaculture relies too heavily on wild-caught fish to create feed for farm-raised fish, that it pollutes the environment with fish waste and antibiotics, and that escapees can harm wild populations by introducing diseases or altering the wild gene pool. Farm-raised mussels, clams, and oysters are generally beneficial to marine ecosystems because they feed by filtering seawater and do not require artificial feeds. They also improve water quality in the surrounding region. If you purchase these farm-raised species you can feel confident that you are supporting healthy marine ecosystems. For other farm-raised species, speak with your seafood dealer and decide if they are sustainable options or not. In general, it is best to avoid seafood from aquaculture operations in developing countries because these countries tend to have fewer regulations on aquaculture compared to the United States. EAT LOCAL A great way to learn more about seafood sustainability is to buy your seafood locally and talk with fishermen and dealers specializing in seafood. You may be able to find seafood at your local farmers’ market or join a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). If you buy your seafood from a farmers’ market or a CSF, you can feel confident that it is sustainable. CSFs follow the model of Community Supported Agriculture in that they bring fresh, seasonally available, locally caught seafood directly to consumers. They also offer a great way to support both healthy marine ecosystems and coastal economies.
TAKE ACTION Be brave, ask your server one of the five questions on page 49 every time you order fish. Eat fish and shellfish that are caught locally. Your farmers’ market can be a great resource. Join a Community Supported Fishery (similar to Community Supported Agriculture). Visit www.Communityfisheriesnetwork.org and www.Localcatch.org to learn more. Ask where your fish came from and how it was caught. Knowledge is key to eating sustainably. Look for fishing methods that are indiscriminate – for examples fish caught by a line and poll has less bycatch than a net. Photo credit: Julia Beaty
Before you head to dinner know what types of fish you prefer that are sustainable. Search these websites to learn which types of seafood are sustainable. www.Seafoodwatch.org and www.Fishwatch.gov.
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THERE ARE PLENTY MORE GREAT OCEAN WATCH ARTICLES IN THE SEA– AND ONLINE!
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ABOUT SAILORS FOR THE SEA We are a leading conservation organization that engages, educates, inspires and activates the sailing and boating community toward healing the ocean. Sailors for the Sea is a movement and pragmatic voice for action that oﬀers boaters tangible opportunities to create a legacy and make a diﬀerence. Through the NT3 Pledge (No Trash. No Trail. No Trace.), Clean Regattas, Kids Environmental Lesson Plans (KELP), Ocean Watch and the Clean Boating Guide— Sailors for the Sea sends a vibrant message of hope and empowerment. Since its start in 2004, Sailors for the Sea has been harnessing the wind in the collective sail of ocean conservation. As a result, one-by-one, boaters are becoming catalysts for change.
Turn the tide! Give generously today. The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, yet receives less than
2% of charitable giving to protect it…
if 10% of the boaters in the United States
donate to ocean conservation in 2015,
we will increase ocean gifts by nearly
YOUR GIFT TODAY PROTECTS THE OCEAN NOW AND FOR GENERATIONS TO COME!
Based upon Giving USA’s 2013 Annual Report On Philanthropy total monetary donations to environmental charities and number of contributing households.
Navigating the way toward ocean health www.sailorsforthesea.org Sailors for the Sea 449 Thames Street, Suite 300D Newport, RI 02840 t: 401.846.8900 f: . 401.846.7200
Dive into the ocean from the comfort of you couch with twelve stories to inspire action to protect the waters you love. Topics include: Hum...
Published on Dec 8, 2014
Dive into the ocean from the comfort of you couch with twelve stories to inspire action to protect the waters you love. Topics include: Hum...