We all want a healthy blue planet. The ocean is the heartbeat of the planet, providing us with food, economic security and even the oxygen that we breath. Our own health depends on a healthy ocean. Sometimes we feel powerless because topics that threaten our ocean seem so daunting, but by understanding the threats to our ocean and being able to share information with family and your community, we can begin to take action to protect what we love. Individual action is important but sharing concerns and taking action on a community level or even a state level can make all the difference. So lets roll up our sleeves and learn about these key ocean issues:
1. What are the top five threats facing our oceans?
- Loss of endangered species, and habitat
- Climate Change
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. Read and compare the species at FishWatch and check the status of fish stock sustainability from the annual study .
3. Are farmed shellfish ok to eat? How can I protect endangered species and choose sustainable seafood for my family?
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean, now and for future generations. The seafood guide recommendations indicate which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”
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, Former President and CEO of the New England Aquarium Bud Ris and now Senior Advisor on Climate Change to the Barr Foundation, 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.
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?
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. A bill passed in 2014 ensures 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.
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. This Ocean Today video tackles the issues and solutions for reducing bycatch.
9. What is causing the plastic gyres full of plastic smog in our oceans?
Plastic gyres are in the news. How much plastic is really in our ocean? Plastic pollution has increased every year with new data on plastic in the ocean and in the marine life we feed to our family. Most of the plastic comes from land and breaks down into tiny fragments creating a smog of floating plastic. Often the small particles of plastic are mistaken for food by marine animals. The World Economic Forum in a article by marine researcher Dr. Kara Lavender Law, reports that it is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic is released into the ocean every year.
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.