In the News

Posted on 06/23//16

 

Suntan lotion is at the top of the list for your summer holiday. Choose one that is healthy for you and for our oceans.

Consider this the next time you are investing in skincare protection for you and your family: most suntan lotions are harmful to marine life. Researchers at NOAA and the National Park Service warn us that, “the products covering our skin wash off when we enter the water, and it adds up! Research tells us that 6,000-14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year. This means that our most popular reefs, such as those in our national parks, are exposed to the majority of sunscreens.” Scientists tell us that no sunscreens are completely “reef safe” and in fact, according to a study by the Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC) and Cheryl M. Woodley, PhD, over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide contain Oxybenzone (also known as BP-3;Benzophenone-3) which is known to have toxic effects on marine life. 

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Tropical Snorkeling.com has a guide to better choice mineral-based sunscreens that might be right for you and your family. Proprietors of the site, Galen and Nicole give the low down on which are water resistant, which are oily and which ones go on clear (Yes!). Remember: when you can, use clothing (rash guard, hat, wetsuit) to cover up!
Good for you. Good for our oceans.

More on the science and research for this topic:

CDHC Scientific Study by Cheryl Woodley

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/nov15/sunscreen-corals.html

oceanservice.noaa.gov/…ws/feb14/sunscreen

 

Posted on 06/08//16

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Emily at WOD

Happy World Ocean Day from Women Working for Oceans (W2O)  

I am thrilled to be working with W2O on outreach and advocacy this summer and New England Aquarium’s World Oceans Day was the perfect first assignment. The event drew hundreds of families, all interested in learning more about our precious ocean resources and what they can do to preserve them.

W2O’s booth and education activity focused on the importance of Cashes Ledge, 80 miles off of the New England coast, and our work with partner organizations to try and have it established as a National Monument. Children colored in pictures of ecologically important marine organisms as part of a letter writing campaign to urge President Obama to designate protection for Cashes Ledge. Even the littlest participants had touching and remarkable things to say about the ocean and were eager to talk about the animals they were designing. It was exciting and refreshing to see such passion for the environment and enthusiasm for ensuring these ocean treasures are healthy and available for years to come.

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Interacting with the next generation of ocean conservationists, I was inspired by the level of interest in action demonstrated by World Oceans Day and am excited to move forward with this and other W2O projects. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring! 

Emily Conklin holds a BA in Biology from Wheaton College and is a Masters of Science Candidate in Marine Biology at Northeastern.

For more information on how you can help Save Atlantic Treasures, HERE

 

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Posted on 06/05//16

This place is not a fantasy, but exists today only 80 miles east of Boston in the Gulf of Maine

Imagine, if you will, an underwater cathedral of rock off the coast of Maine, where ledges of stone that rival Mount Washington provide a foothold for the largest cold water kelp forest in the Atlantic.

Marine life on Cashes Ledge

Photo: Brian Skerry

Broad blades of kelp lift towards the surface, converting energy from the sun into life supporting oxygen and providing cover for a staggering abundance and diversity of marine life.

Marine life on Cashes Ledge Photo: Brian Skerry

Marine life on Cashes Ledge
Photo: Brian Skerry

Here you can still find both large and small sharks and fish like cod, pollock and tuna of the size our ancestors described.

Kelp Forest and Red Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine. Photo: Brian Skerry

Kelp Forest and Red Cod at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine. Photo: Brian Skerry

Lobster and sea stars, anemones and sponges cover the bottom like clumsy, multi-colored fists of large fingers reaching to a wash of nutrients in the water.

Photo: Brian Skerry

Photo: Brian Skerry

Upwards to ten thousand whales, dolphins and porpoises at a time come to the surface to feed on the abundance of smaller fish and plankton. Seabirds on the surface hunt for leftovers and bring this enormous cauldron of productivity and energy back to land. You needn’t jump in a time machine to go there. This place is not a fantasy, but exists today only 80 miles east of Boston in the Gulf of Maine as an extension of the mountain range of Acadia National Park. The area is simply known as Cashes Ledge and it is part of our Atlantic Treasures, a fragile place being considered for marine protection through designation as a National Monument.Untitled

The rugged mountainous rocks of Cashes Ledge interrupt the river of currents flowing through the Gulf, creating smaller upending rivulets that deposit nutrients on canyon edges, fueling the start of the food chain. The larger catch upon which New England fisheries depend, such as cod and tuna, reproduce and feed on smaller fish here before ranging to the open ocean. Tiny gears turn progressively larger gears in a simple, yet elegant mechanism that is as ancient as our earth. It is these uninterrupted gears that support our healthy seas, which in turn sustain us.

“I spent a lot of time flying aerial surveys over this area,” says Scott Kraus, Ph.D.,the Aquarium’s vice president of research and one of the leading experts on the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. “One day, we encountered a multi-species aggregation of dolphins and whales that extended along the shelf edge for nearly 10 miles. There must have been 10,000 animals, and it looked like the equivalent of the Serengeti in Africa—only instead of wildebeest, giraffes, antelope and lions it was grampus, pilot whales, striped, spotted and common dolphins and sperm whales.”

But Cashes Ledge is under threat as waters warm globally. The Gulf of Maine is warming at a rate faster than 99% of other areas worldwide. Some ocean animals have started to show signs of stress from habitat changes as they search for cooler waters. A movement to permanently protect Cashes Ledge through designation as a National Monument needs your support today. Protecting Cashes Ledge, a feeding and breeding ground for so many populations of fish and marine mammals, would be the equivalent of protecting the principal of an investment, ensuring that future dividends can be paid.

Please join us in protecting this New England treasure. Sign the petition here and urge your congressmen elected officials to voice their support in protecting Cashes Ledge.

More about the species, habitat and health of Cashes Ledge from the scientific assessment proposal on marine National Monuments including work from Dr. Scott Krauss and the New England Aquarium

Laura Parker Roerdan, a W2O board member, is Executive Director of Ocean Matters.

 

 

Posted on 04/21//16

Guest blogger Nigella Hillgarth is President and CEO of the New England Aquarium and a W2O board member

Several hundred years ago there was said to be a strange and fierce sea creature that attacked ships.  The Water-Owl or Ziphius had the body of a fish and a head of an owl with huge eyes and a beak-like a sword. Today we think the animal behind these stories is Cuvier’s beaked whale or Goose-beaked whale. This deep water whale is the most widely distributed beaked whale species.

In early February I was on a sailing ship in the Caribbean passing through the channel between St Lucia and Martinique.  It is deep in that area –  several thousand feet and suitable for beaked whales. I was not thinking about whales at the time because I was busy photographing the brown boobies that were following the ship. Suddenly a robust, chocolate brown animal appeared next to the ship below me. I took as many photographs as I could before it disappeared into the deep. I was pretty certain I had seen a beaked whale but I had no idea what species.  It was not large – about 10 to 12 feet long but had the typical curved dorsal fin towards the back of the body and a strange elongated and slightly bulbous head. When I returned one of our marine mammal scientists at the New England Aquarium identified it as a young Cuvier’s beaked whale. I feel so lucky to have seen one of these elusive animals.

Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive deeper than any other marine mammal. A recent study shows that at least one individual went down as far as 9,816 feet!  Not much is known about these elusive and extreme divers, but there is concern that noise in the ocean from sonar and seismic testing may cause these whales to strand.  There is evidence to suggest that some of these stranded animals have surfaced too quickly and developed damage similar to that of the bends in humans.

Noise in the ocean is a serious threat to marine mammals and other marine life.  Commercial shipping noise, sonar testing and seismic surveys can clearly have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on marine mammal and fish populations. Normally, when we think about pollution in the seas we don’t think about noise. We think about plastics and chemicals and ghost fishing nets.  Noise in its various forms is just as big a problem for life in the ocean.  If we care about the future of strange and elusive mammals such as the ‘Water-owl’ we need to understand and mitigate noise impacts in the ocean far more than at present.

Photo: Nigella Hillgarth

Learn more about seismic testing and how you can help stop ocean noise HERE

 

Posted on 03/24//16

Sink a hydrophone in the ocean and discover a marine jungle of animal noises from the tiniest shrimp to the largest blue whale. Marine life depends on this soundscape for mating, finding food, navigation and avoiding predation.

This ocean cacophony was all natural until the advent of the industrial revolution when human-made sounds from blasting, drilling, military, and shipping began drowning out these important biological cues. Imagine, if you will, not Rachel Carson’s famous silent spring, but the opposite. Imagine if there was so much human-made noise in the spring that it drowned out all of the birds’ calls. What would happen to those birds? For marine life, the intrusion of these sounds in the mix is the equivalent of being asked to wear a blindfold.

Photo courtesy of Ocean Matters

Photo courtesy of Ocean Matters

So what’s at stake for our world’s oceans and for us? Here are six amazing things about sound and marine life:

  1. About half of all fish species are estimated to emit sounds. These sounds help fish find spawning grounds and function like the call of a bird does, as specie specific signatures. By understanding and tracking these sounds, scientists can also identify important spawning grounds in the oceans, track numbers of individuals in a species, and by doing so more strategically protect these important spawning areas.
  1. Scientists have discovered that each whale population has its own “language,” which is understood only by individuals of the same population. For a population that migrates hundreds of miles of ocean basin from feeding to mating grounds, most whales depend on hearing these songs to find other individuals to accurately navigate.

Impeding this important whale communication by drowning in human-made sound has implications for fisheries. Recent science has found (perhaps counter-intuitively) that increasing the population of large whales might help to increase the number fish in the ocean.

  1. As the largest creature on Earth, blue whales can also boast of being the loudest. At 188 decibels, their loudest vocalizations can be heard a thousand miles away and is louder than a jet, which peaks at only 140 decibels. Humans can’t hear most of the blue whale’s song, however—it’s too low. They sing at frequencies between 10 and 40 Hz (the unit measurement of sound frequency) and infrasound under 20 Hz cannot be heard by humans. While other large whales are rebounding, blue whales do not appear to be. Blue whales number in only 1% of their historic population. Scientists speculate their lack of comeback is due to the wide scale disruption of the marine ecosystem in the Southern Hemisphere by the blue whales population’s decimation. Without blue whales, there had been a cascade of other marine life losses that has made for a severely altered environment, one that continues to be difficult for other marine life to survive and rebound
  1. Dolphins are thought to have an individual signature whistle, invented as a calf and kept throughout its life. They use these whistles to call to one another and seem to be able to remember the calls of other individuals for decades. No other species other than humans and dolphins has been shown to have this capacity.
  1. Noise has always been a driver of evolution and adaptation in the sea, providing “acoustical niches” inhabited by different species. Scientists speculate that the ocean was actually noisier in pre-whaling 1800, before the addition of human generated noise. This speaks volumes about the biomass of a “healthy” ocean pre-1800 as compared to now.
  1. There is no place to escape from the intrusion of human-made sounds in the ocean. Sounds from shipping were recently recorded at the very deepest part of the ocean: the Mariana Trench, at 10,000 meters under the sea.

Join us at Beeps, Rumbles, and Blasts: How Human-Generated Noise Threatens Marine Life on April 7th featuring Dr. Christopher Clark of Cornell University and Dr. Scott Kraus from the New England Aquarium. For a sneak preview hear Dr. Clark speak briefly about the importance of this topic in this beautiful and short NPR production

 

“[If] I’m a blue whale my heart beats once a minute. My ‘metronome’ is completely different from yours. And yet I, as human observer, am expecting their communication to be somehow synchronized with mine? Whales have their own listening culture. It will take a long time to begin to understand it.” – Dr. Christopher Clark

 

Blog contributor Laura Parker Roerden is Executive Director of Ocean Matters and is on the board of Women Working for Oceans.

 

Posted on 02/05//16

FullSizeRenderA very nice man, Dr. Stan Szyfelbein (pronounced Shi-fell-bine) told me today that when he shops here and in his native Poland, he uses all different sorts of reusable bags. His favorite is what he calls a “siatka.” Siatka is Polish for “anything that has the appearance of a net.” Stan, a wise man of 81, and retired Chief of Anesthesia at Shriners Hospital here in Boston says “Bags need to be functional and fashionable. Every man and woman use to carry a siatka rolled up in their pocket when they went shopping.”

The cotton siatka (or today’s string bag) is durable, washes easily and can be very beautiful too. Here are some wonderful examples of siatkas to add to your repertoire of reusable bags. Nix the plastics! Good for you, good for our oceans.

Pinterest has bags to own and to make!

Pinterest has bags to own and to make!

Ecohip cotton string bag on amazon.com

Ecohip cotton string bag on amazon.com

 

 

 

www.estringbags.com.au

www.estringbags.com.au

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Posted on 11/16//15

W2O and the Massachusetts Sierra Club hosted Heroes of the Oceans at the MA State House last week, honoring those that have helped pass bills banning single use plastic pollution in their towns and cities.

Educating about refusing single use plastic is not enough. The real heroes are those that take up the challenge in their communities and enacting lasting change through legislation. Mindful change matters, but those changes that spark local, city and statewide initiatives, that is what its all about.

Plastic pollution clogs our drains, litters our parks, destroys our oceans and then ends up in us. The plastic ends up in us.

Our Heroes of the Oceans made endless phone calls, spent hours explaining the damage that single use plastic does to our environment, oceans and families, and convinced town chamber, town meeting members, selectman and legislators that now is the time to act and ban single use plastic in our communities. It is hard work getting that done.

 

Best Honorees

The “Heroes” with legislators on the grand staircase at the MA State House (photo: Gretchen Powers)

Posted on 10/29//15

ActionforRisingFall

BE PREPARED!!!
MAKING AND MAINTAINING A HOME EMERGENCY KIT:

http://www.ready.gov/kit
http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1390846764394-dc08e309debe561d866b05ac84daf1ee/checklist_2014.pdf

Kits for purchase:
Www.emergencykits.com
WWW.emergencygobags.com
Www.rei.com
http://www.redcrossstore.org/default.aspx

BE EDUCATED!!!
WATCH A TED TALK AND LEARN MORE
Oceanographer John Englander: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH8Q8Ki9fCA  and important information from NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/goddard/risingseas

TAKE ACTION!!!
HAVE AN HOME ENERGY AUDIT
http://energy.gov/energysaver/professional-home-energy-audits
http://www.resnet.us/directory/search


 

Posted on 10/16//15

Photo by Noelle Anderson

Photo by Noelle Anderson

Is sea level rise something we need to be concerned about right now? If you look at the data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, it seems far off somehow yet, we are seeing the water rise and cities and towns are talking about mitigation to protect vulnerable property. So what is going on? What action can we take?

Sea level rise, caused by human induced climate change, amplifies the effects of tidal height and storm surge associated with all coastal storms. A storm doesn’t need to be “super” to cause significant damage. Most people remember Hurricane Sandy. The iconic images of the massive storm taken by satellite; the bent and twisted frame of the drowned roller coaster sitting placidly in the surf just off the Jersey Shore; the flooded tunnels of the New York City subway system and lower Manhattan are hard to forget. Similarly, we shudder at the memory of New Orleans residents clinging to their roofs awaiting rescue by helicopters during Hurricane Katrina. Yet, we also tend to dismiss such happenings as anomalies. We call them “super storms “ or “100-year storms” and unless we were directly impacted, go on with our lives.

Because of warming seas from human induced climate change, scientists warn that 100-year storms are becoming more frequent. Coastal flood advisories and flood watches due to “astronomical tides” were in effect recently in locations from Key West to Maine, including Boston, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and other cities in between. In the southern part of Florida, a third night of flooding closed roads, flooded sidewalks and led to some of the most extensive tidal flooding they’d ever witnessed. Charlestown has seen consecutive days with road closure due to flooding and lives were lost due to rising waters. Last month’s king tide saw alligators swimming in flooded streets.

One constant piece of this phenomenon, the monthly ebb & flow of the tide, is just doing what it does, albeit with an extra kick when there is a king tide. With sea level rise, the highest tides are only getting higher, due to the thermal expansion caused by the increasing warm air and water and the flooding they bring is getting more frequent. Regardless of whether you live along the coast or in the nation’s heartland, the impact will be both economic and geographic.

Many of our most populous metropolitan areas are located where the ocean meets the land. In fact more than 100 million people live in coastal counties. These counties produce 42 percent of the US economy’s GDP. Besides being financial, military and government centers, these areas are home to the largest ports in our country. A quick glance at the list of the top five ports in the continental US, illustrates the vulnerabilities. They are located in Louisiana, Texas, New York/New Jersey, and account for billions of metric tons in movement of goods, both exports and imports, annually. In the past decade, each one has been impacted by a significant meteorological event, either Sandy or Katrina, and is located in a low-lying area impacted by tidal flooding and sea level rise.

When storms arrive, airports, cargo ports and financial centers close halting the movement of goods and people, slowing the economy and impacting people’s livelihoods. When land is washed away or homes and businesses are destroyed by floodwater, people’s life savings are threatened; they may be left homeless and jobless. These impacts will be more frequent as sea levels rise and storms become stronger.

What can we as ordinary citizens do to help prepare and protect our family, communities, and our society for sea level rise?

  • Be educated. By learning all that we can about climate change and sea level rise, we can support efforts to stem the tide.
  • Be prepared. Make sure our families are ready for a big storm by having a plan and the necessary items on hand to make sure we stay safe.
  • Be inspired to take action. Support legislation that demands action on climate change and reduce your own carbon footprint. Having a home energy audit is a great place to start!

Join us for Boston Waters Rising on October 29th and learn more!

Today’s blog contributor is W2O board member Dianne Brown

Terms Defined

Storm Surge occurs when the winds from coastal storms push water inland. It occurs at all tide levels, but causes the most damage at high tides and king tides. In other words, the higher the water level at the time of the surge, the more water will be pushed inland, resulting in greater flooding. The greater the flooding, the longer it will last, simply because the water will take longer to drain away. The longer the flooding lasts the more human suffering and economic damage it will inflict.

A King Tide The height of a tide is controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth, which varies during the month, as the moon waxes and wanes. The tide is highest when we have a full moon or a new moon. A king tide occurs several times during the year when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the Earth at the same time the Earth’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun.

Sea Level Rise is an increase in the level of our oceans, relative to the land. It is generally measured in three ways: satellite data, tide gauges, and land benchmarks. Sea level rise is occurring because of two phenomena – the absorption of additional heat in our atmosphere by the ocean and the melting of land ice (glaciers & ice sheets). Although scientific estimates vary about the amount of sea level rise we will experience, due to uncertain rates of land ice melt, climate scientists all agree that globally seas have risen an average of 8 inches since 1880 and that they will continue to rise from their present level.

 

Posted on 05/25//15

Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Yes, they might be in your toothpaste, face wash, and spa-like exfoliant! Micro beads, tiny plastic particles that give that buffing component to your products and then marketed as making you squeaky clean, are rinsed off of your body, enter our waterways and end up in our oceans. “By the billions,” according to Rachel Abram’s research for the poignant article in the New York Times “Fighting Plastic Bead Pollution.” 

“Once dispersed into the ocean, everything from plankton to whales is ingesting these plastics,” said Tanya Cox, Marine Plastics Officer with Fauna and Flora International (FFI). “In the water, they attract persistent environmental toxins, such as DDT, which work their way up the food chain until they are ultimately consumed by humans. All of a sudden, this not only becomes a pressing environmental issue but one that could directly affect humans.”

photo: savethewater.org

photo: savethewater.org

So, what can you do? Start by saying no to single use plastic and by making sure that your special products don’t include the plastic ingredients that are polluting you and our oceans.

“Checking really is easier than it sounds,” according to the special “Good Scrub Guide” produced by FFI and its partners, Surfrider International and Marine Conservation Society. “Just take a peek at the ingredient list on the back of your product. polyethylene and polypropylene are the two main types of plastic to look out for. To be on the safe side, also check the product is free from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon and you’re good to go.” Still wondering? Check out the  “Good Scrub Guide” or put the “Beat the Microbead” app on your smartphone. Choose well, we only have one ocean and one you!

Download the “Good Scrub Guide” and find the “Beat the Microbead” app  here.