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?
- Loss of endangered species, and habitat
- 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?
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:
For tips on low-carbon transportation, see: