DSCN1903At W2O we believe that protecting the oceans is protecting ourselves. Thank you W2O members for attending our events, learning about ocean risk and enabling us to donate thousands of dollars to Marine Protected Areas. Your gifts are saving the oceans and we are thankful.

Read this wonderful article from Thomas Friedman “Stampeding Black Elephants” and be inspired to give back to the environment that sustains, feeds and protects you. Be thankful that, as Mr. Friedman puts it, “The planet will always be here.” But be aware that “This is about us.”

“Protected forests, marine sanctuaries and national parks are not zoos, not just places to see nature. “They are the basic life support systems” that provide the clean air and water, food, fisheries, recreation, stable temperatures and natural coastal protections “that sustain us humans,” said Russ Mittermeier, one of the world’s leading primatologists who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week.”

That’s why “conservation is self-preservation,” says Adrian Steirn, the South Africa-based photographer who also attended the conference.

So, how about you? Tweet and share why you are thankful for all the bounties of the ocean. #howaboutyou.

 

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Though Mayor Menino is surely missed in Boston, his presence was felt strongly at the Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities meeting at Boston University last week. Most speakers credited Mayor Menino for bringing them together to engage in the topic of how climate change and the resulting sea level rise will affect cites across the world.

City officials from Helsinki to Melbourne came to collaborate and learn about what cities are doing to increase their resilience to protect their communities with smart design choices involving government, urban planners, developers, the private business sector, academia and scientists. Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in a video shown shown at the event that extensive research shows that over the next 30 years, sea levels will increase up to a foot or more in some east coast locations and that when storms occur on top of already typical tidal flooding, higher tides will magnify the risk of severe coastal events.

The conference highlighted the importance of communication between those entities working in different domains, especially from scientist who are learning the language that will be crucial to delivering the message of climate change that causes sea level rise to governments, insurers and the public. “Inherit uncertainties make it harder to make the message clear,” said Bud Ris, past president of the New England Aquarium and a contributor to environmental education and policy around the topic of climate change. But Tony Janetos, director, Fredrick S. Pardee Center for the Studay of the Longer Range Future and co host of the event with the Initiative on Cities, reminded us that “we (scientists) were never trained to communicate this way.” It is an urgent message they are tasked with delivering- one that he says is not that climate change is “50 years out, like we thought” but here faster than we even imagined. “We do not have the luxury to ignore what the science or the experience of others tells us. We must manage the risks while learning more.”

Everyone wants to know, “What will the future hold?” According to Janetos, “it depends on what future we choose.”

*The computer enhanced photo on this page is from a prediction project of the collapse of the Western Antarctic glaciers from Climate Central. Yes, that is the Boston Harbor Hotel. Check out the rest of the photorealistic work depicting iconic places around the globe (and maybe where you live) by photographer Nickolay Lamm.

 

Tiny_Giants_Invitation_FINAL

In this exhibit Bigelow Labs  along with the New England Aquarium will present a photographic exhibition of “marine microbes revealed on a grand scale.” Tickets are limited. Come take a closer look at the mystery and beauty of the ocean seen from a microscopic lens. W2O is so excited to host and we look forward to seeing you there!

Grey Reef Shark photo: marinebio.org

Grey Reef Shark
photo: marinebio.org

W2O’s event Sharks Matter highlighted the sharks essential contribution to our oceans health as the apex predator, serving a the critical role of keeping the balance of species in our oceans. Wendy Benchley and John Mandelman showed us powerful images of the majestic shark but also shared graphic pictures and a video of shark finning. Wendy and John educate people around the world about protecting sharks and our most precious resource, the ocean.  Take the Shark Pledge-its a simple way to show your support for protecting sharks, the oceans and ultimately yourself.

 

photo: MV Gazette

photo: MV Gazette

Something about the way in which Wendy Benchley speaks makes her seem both typical and extraordinary. She’s a mom, grandmother, wife and likes to work. She grew up in Montclair New Jersey, summered with extended family in Stonington Connecticut, lived for years in Princeton, New Jersey and now resides in D.C. …Sounds like someone you might know! But unless you are involved in the small world of conservation, you might only recognize her name from her famous first husband, the author of Jaws, Peter Benchley.

Make no mistake, Wendy Benchley is anything but typical!  Wendy makes waves, literally and figuratively. A short list of Wendy’s accomplishments and activism begins with her arrest (at a suburban Woolworth store while a student at Skidmore) for protesting in the 50’s about immigration reform. Stints at the American Field Service and as a Princeton N.J. councilwoman (while raising three children) honed her skills that are reflected today in her work for organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Shark Savers, Ocean Champions and currently, WildAid. 

I asked Wendy if there was a recent movie to share with our families, (the way that we all watched Jaws together in the 70s-usually more than once!), that might mobilize and inspire real action toward saving the majestic shark and other marine animals.  She recommended some of her favorites; Cove, Blackfish and the 6th Extinction but somehow they still don’t live up to the Jaws phenomenon. There is something about some popcorn, a tiny all American town, a rugged hero, an awkward everyman and a terrifying predator that resinates still. Wendy contemplates “turning the tail on its head” and telling the story from the shark’s point of view. Now that would be an interesting movie!

Join us at Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic and Misunderstood Creature on October 22nd and hear more about why we must protect sharks. 

More about Wendy Benchley: William Waterway from Martha’s Vineyard interviews Wendy Benchley. Thanks to the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette for the photo used here of Wendy Benchley.

It doesn’t matter where you live, who you are, or what your economic or social circumstances are, a world without sharks would be devastating. Think desperate, barren, foul, depleted, or apocalyptic. It is estimated that 100 million sharks- majestic apex predators of the ocean-are killed each year. Fishing, accidental “by catch” and the demand for shark fins and other parts for sale are the major contributors to the shark’s decline.  The concept of protecting sharks to some might seem counterintuitive. Don’t they eat everything and contribute to the decline of other species in the ocean? We imagine them as voracious eaters because our perception of sharks has been colored by images that depict them as dangerous man-eaters. In truth, without a healthy shark population, we would be in real danger of loosing the living ocean that we rely on for food, our economy and livelihood. The fact is, sharks matter more than you think.

Photo: Brian Skerry

Photo: Brian Skerry

The loss of sharks would set off a chain reaction in our oceans. According to Oceana, “The loss of sharks as top predators in the ecosystem allows the number of grouper, which eat other fish species, to increase. The groupers in turn reduce the number of herbivores, such as parrotfish, blennies and gobies, in the echo system. Without these herbivores to eat algae off the coral, algae will take over the reef system.” In Oceana’s report Predators as Prey: Why Healthy Oceans Need Sharks, even shark’s proximity to some animals will cause them to behave when choosing feeding sites in ways that are healthier for oceans.

Learn more about the importance of sharks at W2O’s October event Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic, Misunderstood Creature. Wendy Benchley, co founder of the Peter Benchley (author of Jaws) Ocean Awards and shark advocate will present along with John Mandelman, scientist and director of research at the New England Aquarium.

So move over and make way-sharks ultimately will keep us healthy if we protect them.

W2O, in partnership with the New England Aquarium, will host shark protector and advocate, Wendy Benchley along with scientist John Mandelman on October 22nd for an evening lecture, cocktail party and celebration of the ocean’s apex predator: the majestic shark. Wendy is actively engaged in the marine policy community  and supports many of the world’s leading ocean and environmental philanthropies. She is a member of the International Board of WildAid, a widely respected global non profit solely focused on reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn and shark fin.  With her late husband, Peter Benchley, and after the release of his movie phenomenon Jaws, the Benchleys helped transform fear of “Great” white sharks into a message of conservation and protection inspiring a new generation to become advocates for protecting this hauntingly beautiful species referred to by biologists by its real name: the white shark. Senior Scientist and Director of Research at the New England Aquarium, John Mandelman, has spent the last fifteen years studying the effect of human disturbances on sharks. His research focuses on decreasing stress and injury to sharks while increasing their overall survival in the face of fishing pressure. “By understanding how sharks respond to human-induced disturbances, we can establish more effective strategies to protect them. Sharks are critical to the health and balance of just about every marine environment around the globe, and therefore essential to our well-being” Mandelman says. Come celebrate, learn and share the awe of sharks with us. Here for ticketsW2O_2014 Benchley Fall_Lecture_Invitation_600px

 

 

W2O’s summer intern Elise Green gives us a lesson about Marine Protected Areas and why they are important to all marine life, especially sharks.Elise Green USC intern

As part of my work as a biology student at University of Southern California, last month I visited Palau, a group of islands that are part of Micronesia, in the Pacific ocean. Apart from hosting some of the pristine white beaches featured on the television show, “Survivor,” Palau is best known for its untouched coral reefs that feature an incredibly high rate of marine biodiversity and its popular “Jellyfish Lake” in which tourists can swim with millions of sting-less jellyfish. It is also home to the world’s first shark sanctuary, the Palau Shark Sanctuary. As W2O is preparing to host a shark-centered event in October, you might be interested in understanding exactly what a “shark sanctuary” is. According to the BBC, each year, about 100 million sharks are captured by fishermen and contribute to the 39 percent of shark species that are classified as “threatened” or “near threatened” for risk of extinction*. Shark sanctuaries strive to address this problem and hope to replenish shark populations worldwide by forbidding the fishing of sharks and preserving shark habitats.

The main goal of the Palau Shark Sanctuary is to end shark-finning in the waters around Palau. Shark fins are sought after for use in popular soups and for medicinal purposes in some countries. Shark-finning has led to a large decline in shark populations and refers to the act of catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and releasing the sharks back into the water. Without their fins, sharks struggle to swim and often die soon after their fins are severed.

Elise Green & Amanda Semler diving in Palau Photo: Tom Carr

Elise Green & Amanda Semler diving in Palau
Photo: Tom Carr

Because I was scuba diving in Marine Protected Areas to collect data as a part of a University of Southern California project focused on reef regeneration, Palauan rangers accompanied my group to our various dive sites. The rangers informed us that, while shark-finning was a major problem in Palau in the past, since the establishment of Palau as a Shark Sanctuary in 2001 and since the addition of more rangers to help enforce regulation, shark-finning incidents have noticeably declined.

Not only did I feel extremely lucky to have the chance to dive amongst beautiful animals such as Napoleon Wrasse and Eagle Rays, but, thanks to Palau’s waters being mostly free from shark poachers, I also had the opportunity to admire sharks such as the Gray Reef and White Tip shark. These sharks can grow up to eight feet long and enjoy warm, shallow waters near corals or atolls. Because these sharks, like most, feed mostly on fish and crustaceans, I had no fear of diving close to them and greatly appreciated their extreme grace as they maneuvered the waters with subtle yet strong thrusts of their fins. Hopefully general awareness about shark conservation around the world will increase, and these marvelous animals will prosper for generations to come.

Grey Reef Shark photo: marinebio.org

Grey Reef Shark
photo: marinebio.org

 

beach pathShelly Kaplan from Monroe N.J. has a fabulous response to “Why the Beach is a Bummer” a rant about feeling less than comfortable at the seaside by Roxane Gay (Sunday NYTimes Review, July 27th.)  Ms. Kaplan writes an eloquent retort with deep respect for the beach, ocean and its emotional benefits. She writes, ..”I feel the most sadness for the 61 percent of Americans who have never seen the ocean with their own eyes.”  She seems to want to defend what she loves, beautifully and simply. You can read the entire letter to the editor here.

I am never so peaceful as when my feet are in the sand, when the smell of the Atlantic permeates the air I breathe, and when I hear the lullaby of ocean waves.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichol’s new book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Douses neuroscience to explain the benefits of the ocean. A review here by The Guardian, addresses the naysayers like Ms. Gay; “Anyone whose experience of the sea is limited to grey skies and the indignity of wriggling into a damp bathing suit on a rain-swept beach might well balk at such utopian talk.” For the rest of us, we love that Blue Mind gives us some science to explain what we already know.

 

DSCN4570Like most beach communities, Martha’s Vineyards population swells in the summer. Renters descend and take advantage of MV’s beautiful setting.  “Seasonal residents and tourists flock to the Island to bask and hike on its beaches, swim in its waters, catch and eat local fish and shellfish, and go boating on its sparkling bays”, reads The Island Blue Pages, a “phonebook” published by concerned locals wanting to education everyone on the Island about this vulnerable treasure. The Island Blue Pages is only a phonebook in such that every household on the Island received one free, with hopes that it would remain a guide for year round residents and everyone visiting the Island. Yes, there is a list of phone numbers in its reference material, but mostly the book is a wonderful guide to the islands watersheds, sound water usage, and waste management. It even includes a “12 Step” program for “Dream Lawn Addicts” that guides homeowners and business to make smart pesticide free, water conscience lawn care choices.

The idea for The Island Blue Pages ruminated in biologist and director of Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group Inc. Rick Karney’s mind for years. Each time he visited a hatchery or community near water, he picked up packets of information regarding best practices for the community around water usage and sustainable living. It was the Puget Sound Blue Pages that stood out as the most comprehensive and user friendly of any of the publications that he had seen. With funding through an EPA grant awarded to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and keen editing by Amandine Surier from Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, The Island Blue Pages relied on local full time residence of the Vineyard to author each chapter making this a true community conservation effort.

Amandine Surier and Rick Karney

Amandine Surier and Rick Karney

The unique layout of The Island Blue Pages appeals to all ages.  The graphic are simple enough to engage a child but not “kid-ish” enough to turn off a teen. The layout is easy to navigate and engaging with enough science to satisfy the well versed hobby conservationist.  The Island Blue Pages is tailored to Martha’s Vineyard specifically by including local stories and maps, but any community could adapt a version to represent its own environmental concerns.Graphic from The Island Blue Pages

This wonderful reference book with tips on gardening, septic tanks, and boating includes a section about marine animals called “Vineyard Neighbor.” It should be poured over, updated regularly and passed from generation to generation.

Graphic from Island Blue Pages