W2O Whale Tales

By | Adventure on the Water, Events, Member Only Events, Past Events, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

Being near or in the water brings wonderment and reminds us of why protecting the ocean is the mission of Women Working for Oceans. “Our members really want a deep understanding of what is below the water, and we want every member to be able to tell the story of why our ocean is vital to all of us,” says W2O Membership Co-Chair, Pat Chory.

In early October, with Boston Harbor Cruises and the staff of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, W2O members were treated to a unique whale watch experience witnessing humpback whales “bubble feeding,” a choreographed technique that forces fish in a circular motion to the surface of the ocean. Whales then lunge from below with open mouths for their feast of krill and small fish. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, right off the coast of Massachusetts, is described by the sanctuary as serving up “a sumptuous smorgasbord for marine mammals.”

Stellwagen supports a diverse and varied number of marine animals and seabird species. The tally of our sightings, according to the log from the boat Asteria, included 3 minke whales, 6 humpback whales, terns, jaegers, shearwaters, northern fulmars, gannets, and gulls. On most trips, the crew also records debris that makes it way to the ocean from beaches or is tossed overboard. The Asteria reported that debris from our outing included a plastic bag of trash and a balloon. Unfortunately, we know that more marine debris lurks under the water, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. All of this debris is dangerous when ingested by marine animals.

On this recent trip, naturalist Laura Lilly’s narration of the action was equally as exciting as the events all around us. At one point Laura spotted an identifiable tail fluke of the juvenile humpback “London” that she had participating in naming (the pattern on the fluke resembles Big Ben.) Although she claims that naming whales does not make them pets, it was very clear from the tremor of her voice and the animation of her description that she is emotionally attached to these majestic creatures that she knows so well. Whales travel from where they were born off the coast of the Dominican Republic to Stellwagen Bank to feed May to November. Feeding on the rich variety at Stellwagen ensures that when they return to the Caribbean and begin their fast, they will have built up reserves of fat to last through the breeding season.

Whales, like sharks and other marine animals, help regulate the ocean food chain by ensuring that certain species do not overpopulate the ocean; they also contribute to the nutrient mixing necessary to a healthy sea. These enormous fascinating creatures belong to the cetacean species, along with dolphins and porpoises. All of these animals have become a part of a huge economic engine, drawing audiences and bringing in millions of tourism dollars across the globe. “Seeing these animals up close and personal is like seeing a national treasure,” commented W2O’s Anne Peacher.

Naturalist Laura Lilly (top) with NOAA’s Leila Hatch and staff from Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary

“Good for you; good for our ocean” is a saying here at Women Working for Ocean. We are linked, wholeheartedly to our most precious resource and its inhabitants.

Learn more about whales from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Make a Date with W2O for our Ocean

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

We need you. We need your voice and your ocean optimism! Mark your calendar and make a date with W2O to speak up for our ocean. Here are the upcoming events that demand your presence and your voice. Together we can speak up and out, defend and deliver a message of concern, and gather as one with hope and optimism for collective action to protect what we love: our blue planet.

April 22nd is Earth Day and scientists from around the globe are marching to remind the current administration that science is real and that peer-reviewed data should be respected when making policy decisions about climate action. Science is real. Science is everywhere and affects everyone. Watch for updates on our Facebook and Twitter.

April 29th is the peoples Climate March Nationwide. No matter where you live, there will be a march near you. Washington expects the largest turnout, but, like the Women’s March, cities across the Nation are planning to mobilize for climate action. Grab your signs and your family and join us in Boston on April 29th. Mark your calendar and look for more information about a meet-up place on Facebook and Twitter closer to the day.

 

 

May 16th W2O will present Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas featuring author Liz Cunningham at the New England Aquarium’s IMAX Theater. Liz will harness that great energy from the marches and inspire you to find your role within the global initiative to safeguard our ocean. Liz delivers a hopeful message amongst dire circumstances that will leave you with a mission of action and a renewed faith that collective voices can influence decisions in this tumultuous and uncertain political climate. Come be inspired!  TICKETS

 

Hope Among the Ruins

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

 

We have been reflecting, reminiscing, marching, huddling, writing, posting and discussing. Now might be a good time to speak of hope. 

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act” says environmental writer Rebecca Solnit in a recent article for The Guardian. Right now our hope lies with knowing that our resolve is strong, that we will defend our progress and we will keep educating others so that they might begin to understand how our lives depend on a healthy ocean. After all, the ocean is the heart of our planet, providing us with the air we breath, food to sustain us, and economic stability from fishing and tourism. The ocean feeds our us and nurtures our soul.

W2O is excitedly looking forward to our Spring event, Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas on May 16th at the New England Aquarium featuring author and ocean lover Liz Cunningham. Liz will describe her resolve to get back underwater after a life-altering kayaking accident led to a journey with flippers, tank and new friends and the renewal of her faith that we can have hope for the health of our ocean. Liz is an observer, citizen scientist and artist who can tell a story that will inspire you to pack your bags and adventure near or far to get a closer look and be involved with what she calls the passion for rescue.”The passion of rescue doesn’t calculate the odds,” Cunningham writes in Ocean Country, “Its risks are the one that make life all the more worth living, risks with heart. The passion of rescue is a lived, breathing hope.”

Liz Cunningham near her home in Berkeley California

Why W2O will March

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Photo: Artist for Humanity

It has been a celebratory couple of years for our ocean. We have witnessed the designation of several key ocean National Monuments, finally felt committed as a nation to the Paris Climate Accord, embraced alternative energy development, nationally banned microbeads and watched the topic of plastic pollution rise to the consciousness of the world with considerable action taken on changing single use plastic usage. The world now knows that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is accelerated by the choices that we’ve made and that the ocean is warming because of those actions. There is no looking back.

Women Working for Oceans members will march on January 21st at the Boston Women’s March for America because we have to defend the progress of our nation and protect the future for our children. We march because the ocean is our life, our livelihood and its destruction harms the most vulnerable of people across the globe. Climate justice is social justice. All deserve to have a clean, healthy ocean and planet.

Join us on January 21st at the Boston Women’s March for America

 

The Super Food Secrets of Seaweeds

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Kombu kelp lasagna anyone? When thinking of cooking with fresh greens, seaweed is hardly the first thing to come to mind for most people. Dr. Nichole Price and Chef Barton Seaver joined W2O members last week to show us why we shouldn’t be so quick to rule out vegetarian options from the sea when planning our menus.

At our “Cooking with Sea Greens” event, both presenters extolled the virtues of cultivating and consuming seaweeds. Dr. Nichole Price, a marine ecologist who studies climate change at Bigelow Laboratories in Maine, explained how these marine plants can play an important role in fighting climate change. Large seaweeds, such as kelp, are functionally the “trees’” of the ocean, absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, while producing life-sustaining oxygen. These amazing plants can lower acidity levels and also absorb toxins from the water column, helping to maintain healthy chemistry. While these absorptive abilities make a big difference for local ecosystems, toxins aren’t transferred to people when consumed, making these plants a powerhouse before and after harvest. Dr. Price’s work communicates this science, engaging local communities and inspiring active solutions. Seaweed aquaculture meets both these goals: healthy oceans, healthy communities.

Shifting how and where we grow our food could also translate into healthier diets. Sea greens are jam-packed with nutrients, providing often-lacking iodine, among others. “This is a blue revolution and my job is to convince you to eat it,” explains Barton Seaver. Seaver had no trouble convincing us; everything he cooked was delicious. From seasoning soups with seaweed for a “sultry sauna of flavor” to zesty pesto and fresh salads, attendees tasted a variety of dishes that would make you forget everything you think you know about seaweed. Barton Seaver’s cookbooks show you how to bring sustainable, delectable treats into your own kitchen. Sea greens are truly a super food: good for you, good for our oceans.

Chef Barton Seaver with W2O member Meghan Jeans

 

 

Todays Blog contributor Emily Conklin, is a Master’s candidate in Marine Biology at Northeastern University. She is currently an intern for W2O working on outreach and education and plans to continue her career in science education after graduation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MahaloObama from a Grateful Ocean

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Photo of Blue Trevally: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mahalo” (thank you in Hawaiian) to President Obama and many others for Monument designation expansion of the pristine area of Papahānaumokuākea off the coast of Hawaii. It is now the largest protected area (land or sea) in the world! This is big world news this week and hopefully sends a message to everyone of the importance of protecting vital habitat everywhere in our oceans. Protected areas are the basis of climate refuge and, according to Douglas McCauley from UC Santa Barbara in this NPR interview, the area of Papahānaumokuākea is one of the most spectacular places on earth. “You put on a mask, and the mask essentially becomes a time machine. You put your head under water, and you’re looking at what the ocean looked like on reefs thousands of years ago. It’s what Hawaii-the reefs that we see when we go on vacation out there-looked like before we impacted and disturbed this ecosystem,” says McCauley.

Photo: Lee Gillenwater
The Pew Charitable Trust

Marine protected areas have proved to be a hotspot for the study of climate change and have demonstrated that when left alone, without fishing, tourism or reef disturbance, protected areas are able to rebound from damaging human activity. W2O co-founder and Chair of Trustees of the New England Aquarium Donna Hazard is so grateful for the news from Hawaii but also knows that she wants to see more areas protected.  She is particularly concerned about the Atlantic where it might be more difficult to imagine the abundance of diversity under the dark blue cold waters. “It’s so important to protect those biologically diverse habitats.  It would be great if I could just know that during my lifetime I could help secure more marine protected areas for the next generation. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass by without trying to protect the most worthy scientifically significant marine areas,” Hazard passionately remarked when speaking about the possibility of a monument in the Atlantic.  “I am hopeful that the wonderful press and excitement about the Monument expansion of Papahānaumokuākea will help propel the movement for more marine protected areas,” Hazard added.

 

Happy World Oceans Day from Intern Emily Conklin

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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.

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

 

Stop Ocean Noise!

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Stop Ocean Noise That Threatens Marine Life

We think of our oceans as a silent underwater world. In reality, the ocean is full of noise. Diving on any given day, anywhere in the world, you might hear fish chomping, waves crashing, mammals calling to each other and even rain falling. 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.

Keith Ellenbogen's school of Bigeye Trevally

Keith Ellenbogen’s school of Bigeye Trevally

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.  To search for oil and gas, arrays of airguns are towed behind ships and release intense blasts of compressed air into the water–think about a dynamite explosion underwater every 10 seconds for days and sometimes months on end. Airgun noise can displace and confuse whales, dolphins and porpoises by interfering with their ability to communicate.

Recently, the Obama administration moved to prohibit lease sales for testing in the Mid and South Atlantic for 2017-22. That decision does not halt seismic permitting in the Atlantic. The federal government will likely propose opening up Atlantic waters for oil and gas exploration with airgun surveys, affecting many marine mammal species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale. According to the Department of Interior’s own estimates, the proposed seismic airgun array blasting in the Atlantic could harm up to 138,00 whales and disrupt their behavior over 13 million times. Take action to stop ocean noise. Tell your elected officials that you do not want them to support seismic testing.

Use this template to email or mail your Senator to stop ocean noise.  Use this link, Find your Senator or Congresswoman/Congressman for the address.

If you live in Massachusetts:
Letter to MA Senator Markey

Letter to MA Senator Warren

Your voice matters!

Can You Hear Me Now? 6 Amazing Things About Sound and Marine Life

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized

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.

 

Get Ready for W2O’s Event on Ocean Noise April 7th

By | Events, Featured Post, Uncategorized

On April 7th, W2O, along with the New England Aquarium will present Beeps, Rumbles, and Blasts: How Human -Generated Noise Threaten Marine Life. Scientists Chris Clark and Scott Krauss will educate us about how shipping, seismic testing and other human generated noise create a cacophony of sound drowning out the voice of whales, dolphins and all marine life communicating to each other during feeding, migration, breeding, and while detecting predators.

Beeps ok?