Liz Cunningham and Her Passion for Rescue

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

“There’s no life without water-we all live in ocean country,” said Liz Cunningham at the Women Working for Oceans’ Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas event last week. Liz delivered an inspiring message of hope to a full Imax Theatre at the New England Aquarium and challenged us to think about how we might use what she calls our “passion for rescue” in the effort to save our ocean.

“Active hope is something we do rather than have,” Liz remembers learning from the philosopher Joanna Macy. But how can we have hope when there is so much concern and worry about our blue planet? The answer from Liz is that you can never quit. Even when the math doesn’t hold up and it looks like the odds are against us, each and every one of us can choose a role, make a decision or maybe introduce a new way of thinking and act with our ocean in mind.

Liz presenting at the Imax Theatre at the New England Aquarium

Coming out from underneath a kayak in a near death accident, Liz had the will to live, but it was that passion for rescue that gave her the strength to defeat her despair.  “The passion for rescue,” she declares, “is a lived, breathing hope.” During that terrible accident, in the middle of the ocean, Liz had found her calling, in a way. It was at that moment of desperation, trapped and unable to escape, that the “audacious force” she called the “thing-thing”  inside of her gave her the strength to take a breath, break free and find the hope. During her recovery from the accident, her renewed passion for rescue set her on the course for writing Ocean Country about her search for the people who, despite impossible odds stacked against them, make the important choice of protecting our ocean.

Liz has taken this notion of active hope and simply states that “hope is something we do.”  At the Heart of Hope event, she shared those stories reinforcing to us that we all have a role to play and that each of us can make a difference when it comes to protecting our living ocean. What is your role? How can you champion for our ocean and have that passion for rescue? Connect with us at W2O and find out how you can be part of the movement to save our ocean. Join today and let us help you discover your passion for rescue.

“In the end, it’s really about inviting others to be a part of the hope on which our future hinges. Each and every one of us is needed. There’s a role for each of us to play,” says Liz.

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

#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.

 

Sailors Delight Plastic Free

By | Action today, Featured Post, In the News, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

Boaters will tell you that plastic is their friend for making sure food is fresh and transportable. Reusable hard plastic dinnerware and shatterproof glasses are boating standbys, especially for enjoying refreshments above deck.  Storing food on a boat means thinking about avoiding condensation and tightly sealed containers that are light weight are the favorite choice.  It would be great to decide to go plastic free completely while boating but today a doable goal would be to decide to refuse single use plastic or plastic that we use once and then throw away. There are choices you can make to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that ends up in our oceans.

After our visit to Sailors for the Sea, and checking out their “Green Your Galley Guide,” we were inspired to look a little closer at how to make a day out on the water single use plastic free. Most day sailors and boaters are really “picnic-ing” on a boat with transportable foods usually eaten at the dock, on a mooring or anchored in a safe harbor.  The first step to a plastic free day starts at home. Here are some tips to help you take the important steps to healthy plastic free choices for you, your family and our oceans.

  • Make your food! Create a simple meal at home and avoid picking up prepared foods in single use plastic containers. Transport food in insulated reusable bags in glass or metal containers.
  • Find a basket with handles, like the one Emily is passing up above, or a deep wide tray for handing food and drinks above and below deck.
  • Bring a large cooler and fill it with ice and water at the dock rather than opting for that case of water bottles. Filling it up at the dock ensures it will stay cold for the trip and is easier to transport from home. Using insulated reusable water bottles are also a handy solution.
  • Life tastes better with real cutlery! Stock bamboo or metal on your boat instead of single use plastic.
  • Transport your gear in reusable bags or choose to invest in a “boat” bag. The one pictured below is 20 years old, has clocked many miles at sea and is still as good as new.

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

 

Cashes Ledge: Save Our Atlantic Treasures, Save Our Future Fish Today!

By | Action today, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized

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.

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

Marine life on Cashes Ledge Photo: Brian Skerry

Marine life on Cashes Ledge
Photo: Brian Skerry

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

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.

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.

 

 

An Unexpected Encounter With a Beaked Whale

By | Action today, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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

 

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!

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?