Action today

Posted on 10/21//13

4x6_LunchboxTag.Oct2013_PRINT

 

At the recent W2O event, featuring Celine Cousteau’s “A World Beneath the Waves: Being Human in the Sea” we asked our guests to take home this action card and to find the answers to these ten important questions about Ocean Issues.  By researching and knowing the answers to these questions, you become an ambassador for the ocean; able to speak to friends, family and your community about what they can do to protect our blue planet.

 

1.  What are the top five threats facing our oceans?

  • Overfishing
  • Loss of endangered species, and habitat
  • Pollution
  • Climate Change
  • Acidification  (read more here)

2. How does the state of the cod fishery in New England compare to that of the fishery in the northwestern U.S.?

NOAA’s “FishWatch” website provides useful information on the status of various fisheries. Which should you feed to your family? Read here about Pacific Cod and compare here with the Cod of the Northeast.

3. Why are farmed shellfish generally OK to eat?

Through its work on sustainable seafood, the New England Aquarium is a wonderful resource for your questions about farmed shellfish. Find out how shellfish species are grown and harvested, their nutritional value, how to choose them at the grocery store, and even how to cook them! Oysters! Mussels! Clams!

4. Why will climate change cause the seas to rise and how much of an increase can we expect by 2100?

To answer this question and find out what everyone should know about Climate Change, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium Bud Ris, put together a list of the best resources and latest science on this important topic. For basic information about Climate Change and its effect on all of us, he suggests this article by the Union of Concerned Scientists that has an easy to read info graphic as well as a question and answer format. For information about the Boston area, his presentation on Climate Change Sea and Sea Level Rise in Boston Oct 2013, gives us an overview of what to expect if sea levels continue to rise in our back yard.  The most authoritative source on the latest science about Climate Change comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In this article, you can dive deep into the issues, and, learn why its authors say “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming and understanding of the climate system.”

5. What happens to coral reefs if the water around them gets too warm?

Find out why Coral Bleaching endangers and upsets the entire balance of coral existence, and affects the health of all ocean animals here. Check out this short video “Coral Breakup: A Tragic Love Story” to find out why species have to rely on each other to survive, and how Coral Bleaching can ruin this relationship.

6. What are the principle threats to the North Atlantic right whale?

The New England Aquarium is a global leader on whale research and partners with shipping and fishing industries to reduce two major threats to the North Atlantic right whale: entanglement in fishing gear, and collisions with large commercial ships. The endangered and majestic North Atlantic Right Whale’s  scientific name is Eubalaena Glacialis, which in Greek means”well or true” and “icy” (referring to the cold waters of the Atlantic.) Read about the whales and follow NEAq’s blog, which introduces you to some of the recent sightings off our coasts. 

7.What is wrong with shark finning and what is the legislative initiative underway in Massachusetts?

Sharks have inhabited our oceans for 400 million years, but now scientists warn that existing shark populations cannot sustain the current level of exploitation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species estimates that 30 percent of pelagic (open ocean) sharks are threatened with extinction.  Like the slaughter of African elephants for their ivory, massive overfishing of sharks is largely driven by the market for their fins—which can be worth anywhere from 20 to 250 times the value of the meat, depending on the species.  Every year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, primarily for use in shark fin soup. H.3571, a bill introduced by Representative Jason Lewis, will ensure that Massachusetts ceases to be a part of the destructive global shark fin trade by banning the possession, trade, and sale of shark fins. Similar bans exist in Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, New York, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. An exemption exists for dogfish and skate species. Click here to read more about the purposed MA bill:  MA Shark Finning Factsheet H 3571 ALL LOGO 8-13.

8. What is bycatch and what can be done to reduce it?

Bycatch happens when fisherman, dragging nets, and scraping ocean floors from trawling, catch marine animals that are not their intended catch. The unintended catch is then thrown back into the ocean, usually stressed and dying. Thousands of sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals die as a result of becoming bycatch victims. The New England Aquarium leads a consortium on bycatch problems and solutions.

9. What is causing the plastic gyre in the middle of the Pacific?

Plastic Gyres are in the news. But how can you separate myth from fact?  Check out this information and video and learn the truth about plastic pollution.

10. What are the most important things we can do to help solve the problems facing our oceans individually and as a community?

What people eat, and how they move around, have some of the biggest impacts on two of the ocean’s most important problems: overfishing and climate change.  Influencing change often comes from small group discussion with peers. Community level action focused on seafood markets and transportation options that reduce carbon emissions are so important. Getting an entire community or company involved will have a much bigger impact than anything you can do on your own.

  • Talk to your friends and community groups about what fish they eat, and encourage them to speak to ask questions about where the seafood is sourced at restaurants and supermarkets.
  • Promote low-carbon transportation alternatives (e.g. high-speed rail, expanded mass transit, car sharing, bike sharing, installing bike lanes) and encourage the purchasing and use of fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
  • Include ocean conservation organizations as part of your annual giving.

For seafood ideas see:

http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/projects/fisheries_bycatch_aquaculture/sustainable_fisheries/celebrate_seafood/ocean-friendly_seafood/index.php

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/08/230494959/fish-for-dinner-here-are-a-few-tips-for-sea-life-lovers?utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprfacebook&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook

For tips on low-carbon transportation, see:

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/what_you_can_do/practical-steps-for-low-carbon-living.html

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 09/14//13

Bagnesia/HeatherHeather is a busy working mom who is thoughtful about her usage of single use plastic. She packs her children’s lunch boxes with care, limits her use of unnecessary plastic items and brings her reusable bags to the grocery story….unless she is having a bout of….BAGNESIA!  It happens to all of us. We head out to the grocery store with our list, are distracted by work or getting children into their car seats, get to the store and wammo! We realize that we have forgotten the reusable bags!  Should she buy another one?  Can she manage without one? (Did she read W2O’s blog about transporting groceries plastic free?)  Can her children help her carry items that can be transported without a bag at all? Will her husband chide her (again) about buying more bags each time she has forgotten them? What memory tricks could she use to try and remember those bags in the future?

W2O’s tricks for remembering your reusable bag:

  • Buy some really great bags that are small enough to fit into your pocket or purse. Small Footprint Family writes a great blog about figuring this out and recommends Envirosaxs, which fold up small and come in a variety of cool and pretty styles.
  • After unpacking your bags, hang them on the same hook as your car keys
  • Put your shopping list pad and list into a reusable bag. If you don’t have “listnesia” you will remember both!
  • Put a note or reminder in your car.  Conserving Now has an unobtrusive non adhesive cling sticker reminder that might be the perfect choice.DSCN3816

Always remember to wash your bags often and keep them for the specific use of grocery shopping. Designate other bags for when you are headed to the mall. Remember, even the smallest efforts will increase your awareness. Good for your health and good for our beautiful oceans.

 

Posted on 08/02//13

Today I am setting you all up for some serious summer reading. Links to this New England Aquarium refresher on Climate Change is a good introduction to the more scientific facts in Science Magazine’s article “Natural Systems in Changing Climates,”  and its comprehensive list of articles that include a wide range of topics taking the mystery out of questions about the impact of human induced changes in our climate. Covered topics include the economic impact and human health vulnerability effected by our warming planet. Important summer reading from W2O.

photoWhat are you reading that might be of interest to our Ocean Loving members this summer?

Posted on 07/14//13

IMG_0823 2W2O seeing another reminder today about why it is important to refuse plastic (yes, support that Massachusetts Plastic Bag Reduction Bill) and polluting waste when ever you have the option to do so. Todays Boston Globe the article “Are Big Blue Bins Bad for Recycling” talks about the limited success of single stream trash collection and outlines the list of “non recyclables.”

“At the plant, six people using hands and hooks pull non-recyclables off the line before the machines take over. Broken umbrellas, Styrofoam containers, wire hangers, plastic bags: all trash.”

Think about what you can do! It could be a simple “no” to a plastic straw, a plastic bag or a styrofoam cup.  It is easier than it seems. We can all play a part in keeping ourselves healthy and the ocean free of single use waste. Summer months mean cold drinks. We all love a frozen drink, iced coffee or tea.  I have been carrying my cup in the car (it tastes great in anything but plastic!) or if I am out and about without, I have asked the vendor to just put my drink in a paper cup. I get some funny looks and comments like “this cup won’t support that” and “it won’t be kept cold” Bullhicky. Icy and cold. I also did a little test the other day..the fear I had was that the cold drink would seep through the paper and ruin my oh so righteous moment of success.  Well, yes, it does seep through, but only after about an hour. If you are like me, you are consuming that cool lovely drink the moment you receive it! So, enjoy…but refuse the plastic.

Posted on 05/22//13

Plastic

Plastic

Apple would like us to think that its plastic white bag is a reusable bag. We might use it to take out the trash, but we certainly aren’t carrying it to the grocery store or using it as our “go to” environmentally friendly cool bag…It is Plastic. W2O believes that it is like any other single use bag-a pollutant that clogs our waterways, threatens marine animals and ultimately is a health risk to us.  Isn’t it time for Apple, an innovator on many levels, to make a great branding bag made out of a material other than plastic? Tell us what your think. Vote on our Facebook page.    Steve Jobs named Apple after his apple orchard and said in his commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005 that  “Whole Earth Catalog was the Bible of his generation.” I am sorry he is gone. I would have liked to have had this discussion with him..As our friends at Plastic Pollution Coalition  tell us:  Plastic Pollution is a health risk. Plastic is Forever.

Read more about the M.A. Bag Bill

 

Posted on 05/15//13

Open Ocean Trading Company's Focus Fish Initiative

Open Ocean Trading Company’s Focus Fish Initiative

W2O wants to support the replenishing of our New England endangered fish population and wants, at the same time, to support our local fishing communities.  Sometimes we feel like the two ideas don’t always easily go hand in hand, especially with the recent quota cuts for fisherman in the Northeast. Some quotas will force fisherman into selling their boats and permits because they just can’t make a decent living with the current restrictions.  Hearing about a new initiative by Open Ocean Trading gives hope that the future of the small boat fisherman will be brighter.  This new Northeast company, Open Ocean Trading (OOT), is working hard to help small boat fisheries keep fishing.

Friend of W2O, Nancy Barrett, Open Ocean Trading’s Director of Business Development describes the Initiative for “Focus Fish:”

Now is the most critical time to keep these small boat fishermen in business. We must work together to preserve the proud and well-known fishing culture that has been woven into Boston and New England history.

Open Ocean Trading believes the solution lies in the supply chain. Everything starts with the fishermen.  They are the foundation of this fragile industry and if they go, the entire system (processors, wholesalers, dealers) will be pulled down with them.  The fish you and I eat will no longer come from our shores but will be imported from overseas via large vessels where fishery management is sometimes absent. If this happens, our seafood might be less traceable, questions will linger about whether it is responsibly harvested, and it might not be a healthy choice for the consumer. We all like to know where our fish is coming from and local seems like the best choice.

Right now, OOT is helping local fishermen survive by creating a new market for previously marginalized species inside the dining halls of universities and colleges in the Northeast.  These fish, now proudly called “Focus Fish,” are the species we need to focus on now-they are the most sustainable choices both for the environment and for our New England local fishing industry.

The beauty of Focus Fish is that it is varies regionally and seasonally. What is responsible to fish for, here, in New England, is different than what people should concentrate their purchasing power on in the mid-Atlantic or on the west coast.  For example, dogfish on the west coast is considered a “red light” species, but here in New England the stocks are rebuilt, and according to recent data, have become an additional stressor to the Atlantic Cod stocks because their bellies are full of juvenile Cod fish!

By creating a market for Focus Fish in colleges and universities, everyone wins – fishermen survive quota cuts and continue fishing, the supply chain avoids collapse, and college students are introduced to new delicious, nutritious, and local species.

OOT recently held a taste test of four New England Focus Fish; Redfish, Dogfish, Pollock, and Hake, at a local campus dining hall. The students surveyed showed that:

  • 88% of the students said they care about where their fish was caught and who caught it
  • 91% felt that having a role in sustaining local community fisheries was somewhat to very important
  • 94% thought the fish they tried was as just as good, better, or much better than fish they were familiar with eating

Wellesley College, located in Massachusetts, was the first school to team up with OOT to bring Focus Fish to their campus. They believed OOT’s forward thinking approach to the fishing industry reflected their own value of innovation and sustainability.

If you are alumni of a school that shares values about sustainability or have a connection to a school that you care about, recommend that they source Focus Fish through Open Ocean Trading and help sustain the fishermen in your area. Schools can use the supply chain that they already have in place, but now they will know exactly where the fish is coming from.  Using OTT makes a real, measurable impact on the industry while supporting local, traceable, nutritious, and delicious seafood.

For more info on Open Ocean Trading: www.openoceantrading.com  and a great video of how a local fisherman uses Open Ocean Trading to maintain a healthy, profitable product: http://www.openoceantrading.com/videos.html 

 

 

Posted on 05/08//13

Leave Only Footprints” transported us to a faraway, magical place where we were immersed in the beauty of an exotic under water world.

Speaking to a sold out audience, photographer Keith Ellenbogen, Randi Rotjan, Ph.D. (New England Aquarium’s Associate Research Scientist), and Heather Tausig ( VP of Conservation, New England Aquarium) provided an inspirational narrative about the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).

These incredible story-tellers took us on an educational journey to the remote island nation of Kiribati and introduced us to the untouched and bountiful marine life of The Phoenix Islands. PIPA is one of the largest and most ambitious marine protected areas ever created by a developing country. It is also one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

 

Thank you to all of you who took action and added ocean preservation to your philanthropic dance card!
More than $12,000 was raised!
Your support of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area
(PIPA) Trust is so very much appreciated!
Here is a wonderful photo of Bud Ris, President and Chief Executive Officer, New England Aquarium and Dr. Teuea Toatu (PIPA Trust Executive Director) acknowledging the gift W2o made possible.

Together we are making a difference!

Posted on 04/23//13

Legislature Marks Earth Day by Advancing Ban on Plastic Bags
BOSTON – On Monday, April 22, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, held a special hearing on proposals to ban plastic carryout bags. They immediately voted to advance the bill, taking this critical first step. The bill will now move forward and could face a final vote within the next few weeks.
Plastic bags have been singled out as a one of the most visible and dangerous types of litter. The bags take up to 1000 years to degrade, and when they do, they break up into smaller and smaller bits, never going away. They are deadly to wildlife, which mistake them for food or become entangled in them. Turtles, whales, seals, birds, and fish are the most susceptible to ingesting them, suffering a painful death as the plastic wraps around their intestines or they choke to death. Some animal species, already threatened due to issues such as overfishing or habitat loss, could face extinction.
Plastic bags also don’t biodegrade; they simply break into ever smaller plastic bits, never disappearing from our environment. These small bits, known as micro-plastics, attract toxins and carcinogens, which eventually enter the food chain, and displace food supplies in the world’s oceans.
“Like urban tumbleweeds, plastic bags end up airborne in trees, clogging storm drains and polluting our oceans. Every time we utilize a plastic bag we are contributing to leaving our planet worse for the generations that will follow us,” said State Representative Lori A. Ehrlich, (D-Marblehead), the lead sponsor of H696 “This legislation will put Massachusetts on the map as a beacon for responsible consumer behavior and environmental stewardship.”
“Over 380 billion plastic bags are used every year by Americans, and only about 5 percent are recycled. The widespread use of plastic bags has serious consequences for the environment: littering our coastlines, using up the equivalent of billions of gallons of petroleum and killing millions of animals every year. It’s time to ban this dangerous product and encourage the use of more sustainable alternatives,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
“This is a major step in the right direction for Massachusetts. With this ban, we would become one of the leaders among governments acting to protect the world we live in. We don’t have to accept plastic bags choking our oceans, rivers, birds, and animals. We can start being part of the solution,” stated Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville).
Reps. Ehrlich, Provost, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge each sponsored similar bills to ban plastic bags.
Numerous cities and countries around the world have enacted plastic bag bans. In fact, Nantucket, Massachussetts was one of the first in the world, enacted over 20 years ago. In the last year, Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea joined with their own plastic bag bans. Every county in Hawaii has passed a ban, but passage of this bill would make Massachusetts the first state to pass a statewide ban.
This bill would ban single use plastic bags from chains and large stores and would require paper bags to be comprised of recycled material. Many grocery stores have already implemented these policies, so this would not have a significant impact.
The Massachusetts Sierra Club and other public interest organizations have been attempting to pass statewide legislation to ban plastic bags. “Public support for banning bags is overwhelming,” said Phil Sego of the Sierra Club. “Readily available sustainable substitutes make banning plastic bags a common-sense policy to protect the environment.”
“Nothing we use for five minutes should harm our oceans for generations to come,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Massachusetts.  “It’s time to say goodbye to the plastic bag.”
Also testifying in favor of a ban were Women Working for Oceans (W2O), Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Brookline Town Meeting Member Clint Richmond.
Article submitted for publication to the Boston Globe by The Sierra Club
Posted on 04/22//13

Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

W2O Co Founder, Barbara Burgess and three other W2O Board members headed to the Boston State House today to testify to our State Legislature’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of the Plastic Bag Reduction Bill #696.  What better to way to honor Earth Day than to stand up for what we believe in to protect our oceans by stating our views on the pollution and harmful effects to human health by those aerodynamic plastic bags choking our waterways, strangling our marine life and ending up in all of us. W2O joined The Sierra Club, Environmental America and other groups in support of the bill put forth by Democrat Massachusetts Representative of the 8th Essex District, Lori Ehrlich.

Some reminders of the issues at hand and a link to how you can help!

  • PLASTIC IS FOREVER (still ringing in my ears from our “Plastics in the Oceans, Plastics in You event and eloquently put by Dianna Cohen from Plastic Pollution Coalition-plastic breaks down into tiny bits that are ingested by our fish and wildlife and then in turn is ingested by us and IT NEVER GOES AWAY
  • Plastic clogs our waterways, costs municipalities in clean up efforts, and end up in our oceans, collecting in huge gyres that can never be cleaned up
  • “Biodegradable” doesn’t exist when speaking of plastic (bags or any kind) and companies that tell you that their bag is going to “break down” are not telling you the science. In order for a bag to decompose, it needs the perfect conditions of sun, heat and lack of moisture.  Most bags are in our trees, landfills and waterways and are not basking in the sun for hundreds of days waiting to break down. Just refuse plastic bags!

Act now! Use this link to the Sierra Clubs easy guide and Write your legislator and Protect What YOU Love!

Posted on 04/02//13

Scientist Randi Rotjan's supplies for her PIPA expedition

Scientist Randi Rotjan’s supplies for her PIPA expedition

 

Keith Ellenbogen's map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition

Keith Ellenbogen’s map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition

 

I am inspired by a current Rhode Island School of Design art exhibit that is called simply, “Lists.”  The show presents lists from artists that were written in great detail before and during a project or artistic journey.  When I attended the W2O event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” today I was struck by how much effort it must have taken Scientist Randi Rotjan and underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen to mount the PIPA expeditions for the New England Aquarium.  This is a “List” worthy, massive artistic and scientific undertaking. Along with other scientists and photographers, Randi and Kieth kept lists and double checked to make sure that only the most necessary equipment took the trip on the relatively small vessel that travels 5 days at sea from Fiji to reach the remote Phoenix Islands and the Island Nation of Kanton. And these last details only after years of planning, fund raising, researching and coordinating with other conservation organization.  The time, effort and expense are well worth the results and revelation that come from exploring the islands, learning about the small community living on them and studying this laboratory of intact coral reef system and ocean marine life. The area is now free of commercial fishing and damaging habitat destruction and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the deepest and largest World Heritage site on Earth.

Today’s event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” was magical in image, informative in content and inspiring to all of us. Our take away “Action” today: Please put ocean protection on your “philanthropic dance card” and  support the PIPA project.

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen