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Ben MacShane will be the first to admit that he is a lucky guy. So lucky, in fact, that he got to go on an adventure that most people can only dream of. But what I love about Ben is that he will turn what he learned on this elite educational trip into powerful action.  He has been passionate about the ocean all his young life, sailing small boats on the North Shore, exploring and observing. Watch out! We will hear from Ben again. He is already a steward of the sea.

Here is a blog Ben has written about a very important part of his trip to Antarctica.

My name is Ben MacShane and I am a sophomore at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. I returned in January from the South after a very eventful trip, not only did we encounter the incredible animals of South Georgia, but we also met with a Force 11/12 Antarctic blast. Force 12 is a hurricane. This hurricane gave us all the Silver Explorer, our ship, could handle, and then some. At around 4:45pm in the middle of the storm, a monstrous wave smashed the front of our ship. The rogue wave smashed in one of our bridge window, water, glass, and crew were smashed into the back wall of the bridge. It was a very traumatic experience, I actually saw three crew running down the hall to the infirmary, soaked in blood, head to toe. Our ship limped back to Ushuaia under a single engine and limited electronics, but in high spirits. Even though we were cut short, I took back an incredible amount of knowledge. During our long cruises to the islands and back to Ushuaia, we had three lectures a day. The lectures ranged from Shackleton to elephant seals to the winds and currents of Antarctica. Here is a combination of a few lectures wrapped into one essay!

The affect of global warming on the Krill population in Antarctic by Ben McShaneplaces22

There are 100 trillion krill in the world’s oceans today, however, these krill are in danger, it is not the hunting sea lions or the blue whales, its the warm temperatures in the Souther Ocean. These krill account for the single largest biomass of any single species on earth, 500-700 million tons. Why are there so many of them? They are excellent at what they do. At only two and a half inches and about .7 ounces, a single krill can live for up to six years. Krill have an arsenal of natural survival tools that range from illumination to diet. All of these adaptations enable them to live a long life. For 260 days a krill can fast, now this may seem plausible because they could live off of their fat stores like many other animals that go without food for extended periods of time. But here is where krill have adapted. No other animal can do this: Krill actually burn their muscle and slow down their swimming to survive when going without food. Why? Antarctic waters can be as cold at twenty-eight degrees, the freezing point of salt water. Without their fat, the tiny krill would die within days; this is an incredible example of evolution in the Southern Ocean.             The krill aren’t done there, these supreme survivors have a few more traits that aid in their survival in the brutal Antarctic. Speed: these tiny animals have an efficient swimming motion that allows them to shoot through the water at speeds of up to four to six body lengths per second. Can you imagine if we could move that fast? I’m about six foot three, and it would be very helpful to move more then thirty-six feet per second! At these speeds they can elude the most agile fur seal, maybe not a blue whales gapping mouth though. To elude the whale however, in an all out sprint, a krill can flick its tail instead of using its legs, and move twenty-five body lengths a second! Second, and perhaps the most sci-fi esq. are the lights that krill possess. Since krill are predominately clear, they use ten lights along their backs to light themselves up when at depth. Just as penguins and sharks have colorations to camouflage themselves with their surroundings, dark from the top, light from the bottom, krill appear as sunshine from below with their lit up bodies. If that was not enough, krill have the ability to actually shed their skin in order to confuse a predator, in no time at all, the hard outer shell can be slipped off as the krill escapes in the opposite direction. Perhaps krill’s most effective defense, lies in numbers. A school of krill can pack into a ball so tight that in one square meter of that school, 50,000 krill can be found. These massive gathering are an effort to literally increase each krill’s probability of living, if there are millions of them together, a krill’s only hope is that he is one of the lucky ones!

Despite every effort these krill make, they serve as the building blocks of an eco-system that supports the largest animals on the planet, and everyone in between. This means a great deal of them get eaten. To be more exact, a single fur seal can eat a ton of krill a year; there are three to four million fur seals in Antarctica. A blue whale needs four tons of krill a day to survive. An Adelie penguin colony can eat up to 8,000 tons a day. In total, the estimated number of krill eaten in one year in Antarctic waters is 310 million tons. In addition, fisherman take 100,000 tons a year, but that is relatively insignificant compared to the real inhabitants of the ocean.

It is clear that krill are very special creatures. Every animal in the Antarctic depends on their population’s well-being in some way. So what happens if the krill begin to die. We are in the process of finding out as we speak. I know it sounds cliche, but it couldn’t be more true, it all comes back to global warming. Krill do eat, despite how much I have talked out them being eaten. A single krill can actually clear a square foot of algae from the bottom of a piece of sea ice in about ten minutes. This algae is incredibly important to the young krill who are not strong enough to fight the currents of the ocean, as they try to find food in the open water. So, when they are born, they float to the surface where the sea ice is, and feed off of the algae attached to the bottom of the ice. There is one problem however, the ice that holds this algae is melting, and as that ice melts, the speed at which is calves and crumbles increases. Ice is white, meaning it reflects the sun, and it’s heat. So people think the sun is melting the ice from the top, they are wrong. The sun is attracted to dark surface, where it can be absorbed. That dark surface in Antarctica happens to be the ocean, and so the more ocean that is exposed by calving ice shelfs, the more heat is absorbed from the sun. Thus, the ice is actually being melted from below by the ever warming water. This can not be stopped. Once it begins, the only way for it to stop is for the climate to actually reverse, and begin cooling.

The ice supports everything, animals live on it and krill feed off of it. Without this essential piece of the south, the Southern Ocean is in trouble. As this ice melts more and more everyday, more and more baby krill never make it to adulthood (to be eaten, its a rough life isn’t it). Last year in under forty days a massive ice shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula calved, dumping thousands of square miles of ice into the ocean. That’s thousands of square miles of algae for krill to eat, GONE.

 

Emily Mead (in a photo by Keith Ellenbogen) with letters of thanks from the children of Kanton Island

Emily Mead (in a photo by Keith Ellenbogen) with letters of thanks from the children of Kanton Island

 

Weston resident and current freshman at Dartmouth College, Emily Mead, quietly wants to make sure that the children of a small island nation in the Phoenix Islands have the learning tools they need to express their creativity and have some fun.  Summer volunteering at The New England Aquarium, Emily learned that the children of Kanton island, part of the Phoenix Island Marine Protected Area (PIPA)) are so isolated, a thousand miles southwest of Hawaii, that obtaining basic supplies can be a challenge. When The New England Aquarium Marine Coral Scientist, Dr.Randi Rotjan and Ocean Photographer Keith Ellenbogen were planning the 2012 PIPA research expedition to study the thriving marine life, Emily saw an opportunity to reach out to the island’s Minister of Education who then provided her with a wish list from teachers, educators and children.  Along with the scientific experiments, camera equipment, crew and experts, a box carefully stowed in the expedition boat containing a special message and thoughtfully assembled by Emily, was hand delivered at the end of the long trip across the Pacific.

The children of Kanton where delighted that someone oceans away took a special interest in their tiny island and sent letters of thanks, sparking a budding pen pal relationship with Emily Mead. Through Emily’s connection to this far away place, she has learned about the importance of Marine Protected Areas for ensuring revitalization for endangered marine species and economic stability for the habitants of the surrounding islands.

PIPA is one of the largest Marine Protected Area and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It seems so far away but Emily’s story is just one of many that connects us to this beautiful fragile and endangered ocean world.  On April 2nd, Women Working for Oceans (womenworkingforoceans.org) will present “Take Only Pictures and Leave Only Footprints ” with Dr.Randi Rotjan and Photographer Keith Ellenbogen at the Simon’s Imax Theater/New England Aquarium. Randi and Keith will take us on an ocean adventure, featuring the people of Kanton as well as the Phoenix Island Marine Protected Area, highlighting this pristine ecosystem through science and photography that will educate and inspire conservation.

Tickets are on sale HERE or on our “Events” page at womenworkingforoceans.org

 

I went shopping last week with a friend who has a membership to BJ’s and was reminded why I have let my own membership lapse.  Once you are sensitive to the single use plastic issue, it seems like the plastic monster is everywhere and that the entire universe is bathed in the stuff.  Natures finest gets wrapped and encased. I thought I would choose a carton of milk over the plastic jug…and, as you can see, this didn’t work out for me.  Selling two at a time with one price and plastic wrapping the two milk cartons together! You have to wonder who thinks this up!

 

Eggs (the ultimate in perfect packaging all by themselves) were covered by the plastic cloak as well.

I decided to try Stop and Shop.  First stop was the produce aisle. I needed some celery for a recipe I was thinking of making.  I caught up with a person stocking the items and asked what she thought about the celery being in plastic and whether or not there was some purpose for packaging them that way and she sweetly said “Oh, thats how they come.” She then looked at the quizzical look on my face and she laughed and I laughed and we had a discussion about how easily we say these things forgetting that produce doesn’t start out its journey in plastic wrap.

I did find a carton of milk!

 

NPR photo of Whole Foods MSC label on Swordfish

As a follow up to my last blog post, I am including the second of a three part series about the “sustainability” of the MSC labeling. MSC labeling is again called to task. Hopefully a great idea will maintain/gain some great standards and guidelines for buying fish. What we wish it to be, though, isn’t yet. Certainly listen to the three programs devoted to this topic or read this entire article (and the MSC’s response to the accusations) but here is an excerpt from the next NPR segment:

 

But many environmentalists who have studied the MSC system say that label is misleading. “We’re not getting what we think we’re getting,” says Susanna Fuller, co-director of marine programs at Canada’s Ecology Action Centre. She says the consumer, when purchasing seafood with the blue MSC label, is “not buying something that’s sustainable now.”

If the label were accurate, Fuller says, it would include what she says is troubling fine print: The MSC system has certified most fisheries with “conditions.” Those conditions spell out that the fishermen will have to change the way they operate or study how their methods are affecting the environment — or both. But they have years to comply with those conditions after the fisheries have already been certified sustainable.

Gerry Leape, an oceans specialist who sits on the MSC’s advisory Stakeholder Council on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trusts, says the MSC’s policy is baffling. “It’s misleading,” he says, “to put a label of sustainability on a product where you still don’t have the basic requirements.”

Image from sustainablesushi.net

I caught the ending of an interesting program today on NPR that explained and questioned the labeling of fish by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  I see the labels in Whole Foods and other retail outlets and have always just taken for granted that the label was a signal to me that what I was purchasing was “sustainable.”  I am like you-I want to do the right thing and buy fish that are not endangered or in decline. I also want to support fisheries that care about sustaining species of fish for their own livelihood and our culinary enjoyment. The labeling of fish by the MSC seems like a great idea but doesn’t always fulfill the promise of sustainability.

Unilever, one of the largest producers of frozen fish, and The World Wildlife Fund devised the MSC labeling at the height of the Atlantic Cod decline in the 90s.  “The MSC does not certify fisheries itself. Instead, a fishery that wants the label hires one of roughly a dozen commercial auditing companies to decide whether its practices comply with the MSC’s definition of “sustainable.” Sounds like a wonderful idea….

The comment that struck me as I listened today made my heart sink; ( I won’t get the quote just right and can’t find it anywhere in the article) “When you buy swordfish for dinner are you ok with the fact that three sharks were caught along with it?”  The sharks caught are usually release but the stress causes many of them to die anyway.  My taste for my favorite fish suddenly makes me not hungry. “This touches on one of MSC’s three fundamental rules, even though studies show swordfish are plentiful. The second rule says that a fishery is not sustainable if it does not maintain “the integrity of ecosystems” — which means, in part, that it’s not sustainable if there is too much by-catch,” says Steve Campana, who runs the Canadian government’s Shark Research Laboratory, near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MSC has engaged the interest of the public by contracting with big companies such as Walmart and Target, which are drivers of change for sure-so maybe this is a good thing for some that are just starting their journey about caring for our fish and oceans.  If labeling is done well, we should rejoice that this system has become popular. But this consumer is now concerned that she doesn’t know enough to trust what she reads and will be questioning labels and doing some more research on this important topic.

 

Board Member Lynne Taylor will tell you that after the W2O plastics event, “Plastics in the Ocean, Plastic in You”, she gained valuable information about marine debris and its effect on the oceans from Plastic Pollution Coalition founder, Dianna Cohen. Now, she feels even more passionate to take a stand and say “no” to single use plastic. “I feel like I am now armed to be bolder. If people are informed about the issue, they are willing to try and change their habits. We need  factual information before we can jump on the band wagon. Saying ‘no thanks’ is easier for me now. But we still need to spread the word.”

Lynne’s husband Michael (a board member of the New England Aquarium) and her four boys (ranging in age from 7-13) share Lynne’s desire to do their part to protect our amazing oceans.  Michael, a  pilot, recently helped the New England Aquarium transport sea turtles to the Charleston, South Carolina Aquarium  as part of a rescue and relocation program. The boys have a true love of the ocean from summers with cousins and grandparents on the Jersey Shore.  At home, the boys like to calculate how many bottles of plastic they didn’t use by making soda in their Soda Stream. “When the boys see the plastic on beautiful beaches, I want them to understand why we all need to do our part to protect our oceans.”

Lynne lives in Milton and has a long list of accomplishments, including her work in publishing, public relations, and communications.

 

 

Massachusetts is a place where we value our ocean frontage, its beauty, magic, and its ability to give us recreation and sustenance.  At W2O we are watching carefully as the protection of fish stocks collides with the protection/support of our local fisherman and fish related industries.

Off the coast of New England, our stock of Cod, the fish that Massachusetts calls its own, is “on the verge of extinction” according to scientist.  Making real change so that the fish population can recover while supporting the efforts of our local fisherman and fisheries is a topic that our state has struggled with since the beginning of the decline of the once abundant Cod population from decades of over fishing. If confirmed, the new rulings on allowable catch this year will have a huge economic impact on the fishing community. If nothing is done, Atlantic Cod will be the fish that we will regret not saving from extinction.

From the New England Aquarium: “On January 30, the New England Fisheries Management Council met to decide on allowable biological catch (ABC) limits for cod in fishing year (FY) 2013 (which begins on May 1, 2013). This decision had been delayed since last year by the Council’s request for a new Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment to ensure the findings from the 2011 assessment were accurate. The results of the most recent Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod assessments show that both stocks have been overfished, with overfishing occurring every year since the beginning of the time series (1982). These results are in accordance with previous results, both the original Gulf of Maine cod stock assessment and the new one came to the same results.”

Here are some links about this topic (in the news today and some archival information) that might help you understand this huge issue.
http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/cod/species_pages/atlantic_cod.htm
 
http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2012/12/20/with-drastic-fishing-cuts-expected-thursday-blame-for-disappearing-cod-shifts-ocean/OydWAwHlQcZwWxL6eIXzSI/story.html
 
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/03/04/in_canada_cod_remain_scarce_despite_ban/
 
http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/hope-remains-for-new-england-fisheries_2013-02-03.html
 
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/opinion/keep-the-fishing-ban-in-new-england.html?_r=0
 
http://www.savingseafood.org/fishing-industry-alerts/statement-of-the-northeast-seafood-coalition-on-gulf-of-maine-cod-catch-limit-announc-2.html
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jun/03/fish-stocks-information-beautiful
 

Chef Bill Bradley cooking for W2O members

W2O Member, Michelle Vilms weighs in on what she learned from a night out with members at the Sustenance for the “Sole” Event
For the novice fish buyer, the seafood counter can be daunting.  We are often paralyzed by the choices and a lack of understanding about what is a great sustainable seafood choice.  At the W2O members event this month, Heather Tausag, from the NEAq started off by saying,  “Buying seafood over meat is always the best choice. It is a choice that is better for the environment as well as for our health. Knowing the benefits should make us all want to experiment with new selections at the seafood counter.”  Heather and NEAq staff member, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, also talked about the great shellfish options available all year long.  They explained the strict US regulations for monitoring the bays where the shellfish is caught and NEAq Executive Chef Bill Bradley explained some cooking options.  The take-away “You can never go wrong ordering shellfish”.
Next, we learned that all canned fish can be a great trusted staple. Even canned tuna is a good choice.  That being said, not all countries adhere to the regulations and the fish do not see the boundaries. The package labeling will guide us toward the highly regulated sustainable USA products, which is a great choice for the environment.  It also sends a message of support to our local fishermen.

Anchovies are the underrated fish. Most often the anchovy is a food source for the larger fish and has not been cultivated as a dining option.  Chef Bradley provided tasty fried anchovy stuffed olives (recipe below!) as an appetizer.  Elizabeth and Heather explained the many health benefits of the fish which are packed with vitamins and selenium (which has benefits for a healthy heart and has been prescribed as a healthy food to cancer patients).  Because some view anchovy as “fishy” and associate it with what is served in a Caesar Salad, it is a not a typical choice for the home cook. The advice from Chef Bradley was to start out slowly by incorporating an anchovy paste (found at Wholefoods and other specialty shops) into a pasta dish for flavor and great nutrition.
Chef Bradley, cooked with ease as he explained how to poach fish.  Arctic Char was the choice for the evening. Delicious!  Check out the Neaq.com website for some recipes.
All the guests asked great questions and showed a thirst for knowledge about sustainable seafood choices. Overall the best advice was to “experiment with different fish and recipes to broaden the seafood menu in our homes”.  Events like this one helps share the important information regarding the choices that we make regarding our health and the health of our oceans. We should all continue to ask questions of our waitstaff, chefs, seafood counter help and owners.  Asking these questions about where and how the fish is raised or caught assists in menu choices, product lines and consumer information.
This event was fantastic.  The information was well thought out and provided useful tips for our everyday busy lives.
Michelle Vilms is a consultant and a member of W2O. She is also an Overseer at the New England Aquarium.

Fried Olives

 For the: Anchovy Filling

1 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine

4 anchovy fillets, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

Extra virgin olive oil or butter as needed

Salt and pepper

Method: Combine all ingredients in a in a food processor and puree to a paste.  Add some extra virgin olive oil or butter as needed to make the paste smooth.  (You may add water instead to cut down on fat content.)  Place filling in a plastic pastry bag and set aside.

For the: Olives

24 green Sicilian olives

Anchovy filling

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, whipped

2 cups Italian bread crumbs

Canola oil for frying

Method: Fill each olive with the anchovy filling. Roll each filled olive in flour (make sure the olive is completely covered with flour), then dip in the egg (again make sure the olive is completely covered in egg.)  Finally, roll the olive in the bread crumbs.  Place olives in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the breading adheres.  When ready to serve heat oil in a sauce pan to 325 degrees.  Place olives in the oil, 8 at a time, and fry until golden brown.  Serve warm.

 

W2O members crowding in to enjoy NEAq's Chef Bill Bradley's cooking demo

On January 10th, W2O Board member, Pam Holding, graciously opened up her lovely home to a W2O members only night, “Sustance for the “Sole.” NEAq Chef Bill Bradley and NEAq’s V.P. of Conservation and Sustainable Seafood expert (and W2O board member), Heather Tausag, treated W2O members to a free cooking demonstration and discussion about Sustainable Seafood. Beautifully presented delicious fish was served up and Heather and conservation staff member, Elizabeth Fitzsimons, helped W2O members navigate through the myths and facts about what to look for and questions to ask about sustainable seafood when purchasing at a restaurant or for cooking in your home. Bill Bradley spoke about easy plan ahead recipes to prepare for your family or guests (some linked here from the NEAq website).

Fish and Shellfish were generously donated by North End Fish Market.  

Don’t miss out! Join Nowand find out why W2O members have so much fun learning about a variety of topics concerning protecting our life sustaining oceans.

NEAq Chef Bill Bradley with Host Pam Holding

The big new today, of course, is not new news at all. We are all feeling the effects of climate change and thankfully it is a “hot” (pun intended) topic in the press.  Graphs and headlines that show that 2012 was the hottest ever on record are scary but hopefully will squelch the skepticism that still exists about whether or not our own actions are contributing to last year’s extreme heat and drought. Scientists are convinced that last year’s record temps are caused by “natural variability but “many of them express doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases” (NY Times 1/9/13).

Tucked away in the Op-Ed section of the NY Times Thomas Friedman makes the analogy that we need to “tap the breaks” on climate change because we are “driving towards a cliff in a fog.”  I won’t get political here but we all know that a cliff is a cliff and we can’t go over it-whether financially or environmentally.  Mr. Friedman puts it eloquently: “Indeed we are actually taunting the two most powerful and merciless forces on the planet, the market and Mother Nature, at the same time. We’re essentially saying to both of them: “Hey, what’ve you got, baby? No interest rate rises? A little bitty temperature increase? Thats all you’ve got?  I just hope we get our act tougher before the market and Mother Nature each show us what they’ve got.”