Greetings from Busan – fifth largest port in the world

Posted by: Jeremy Grant

Greetings from Busan – Korea’s largest port and the fifth largest port in the world. Consequently, the ocean is of utmost importance to this emerging city’s economic vitality. I am here because I was invited to attend the North East Asia Economic Forum’s Young Leaders Training and to give a presentation on China’s coal use. I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss some of the ocean related issues discussed in the forum and a few general observations from my travels.

Before I share a few travel stories, I want to begin by offering some hope for the oceans. In a lecture by Dr. Heita Kawakatsu, the Governor of Shizuka Prefecture in Japan, he stressed the important role the ocean plays in Northeast Asia’s ability cooperate economically. He said unlike NAFTA and the EU, the countries of Northeast Asia are mostly isolated little islands only connected by the ocean. While at first glance this may not make sense, a little thought clears it up.  Consider South Korea – to trade with China they cannot go through North Korea, instead they turn to the seas. Likewise, crucial energy resources must also come via the seas. The Governor also stressed the importance of viewing the oceans as a shared resource owned by everyone rather than something to be carved into territories. Clearly, there is leadership in Asia that recognizes the importance of the seas.

Away from the conference the ocean has played an important role in my travels. To begin with, Koreans love seafood. Unknowingly, I ate quite a few sea critters due to my poor ability to order food when I went out to eat. From squid in my noodles, to little dried fish in my Kimchi seafood was everywhere. I decided to go to the source – the Jigalchi seafood market, Korea’s largest.

img_046421

I thought the stench would be more pungent as I approached the market; however, to my amazement there was only a mild displeasing fish smell. That said, my eyes were not fooled by the lack of smell, as I peered down the street into countless stalls selling every sort of imaginable animal that could live in the sea – even those from science fiction movies!  I saw eels, sting rays, turtles, giant fish, and tiny dried fish. What struck me more than the various types of sea creatures at the market was the sheer magnitude of it all. As far as you could see, creatures from the sea were being sold.

img_04022

As I walked down the alleyways, I began to wonder if the market’s buyers and sellers knew that today’s population of large fish is only 10% of what it was in the 50’s. I understand that seafood is a major part of the region’s rich cultural heritage, but harvesting seafood at unsustainable levels will ultimately eliminate many traditional practices. In America, even Walmart is trying to inform their consumers about where their seafood comes from. We need to make this practice global, and find creative ways to  spread knowledge and try to change consumer choices by better informing them.

Date Posted: August 26, 2009 @ 4:35 pm Comments (1)

AK News

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

istock_000004377877small1

Alaska’s been in the forefront of ocean news this week:

First off, the Obama administration has declared a moratorium on expanded commercial fishing in the Arctic. This is the first time an administration has taken a proactive approach in protecting an entire marine ecosystem before major commercial fishing takes place.  Both conservationists and fishermen applauded the move.  The plan announced by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke “establishes a framework for sustainably managing Arctic marine resources. It initially prohibits commercial fishing in the Arctic waters of the region until more information is available to support sustainable fisheries management.”

Secondly, the first public meeting of the Ocean Policy Task Force takes place today in Anchorage, Alaska.  You may recall, President Obama issued a Memorandum in June that calls for the development of a national ocean (coastal and Great Lakes) policy that will protect, maintain, and restore these ecosystems.  The President established an Ocean Policy Task Force that will recommend within 90 days: (1) a national policy that protects, maintains, and restores ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems, (2) a framework for policy coordination, and (3) an implementation strategy. The task force will also begin to address the challenge of planning for multiple uses in the oceans.  You can catch the live stream here of today’s public meeting at 1:30 AKDT.   We’ll be sure to keep you posted of any other future meetings, meanwhile, submit your comments online to the Council on Environmental Quality.

Third:  a fun, animated action alert created by the Alaska Wilderness League is definitely worth checking out and taking action!  Be warned, clip contains profane talking animals.

istock_000004855750xsmall2

Date Posted: August 21, 2009 @ 12:19 pm Comments Off

Getting Down in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Posted by: Jeremy Grant

In the vast wide ocean, finding microscopic pieces of plastic might seem like an insurmountable, useless endeavor. Luckily, there is a group of Ph.D. students and research volunteers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego that are looking to get down aboard the research vessel Seaplex. From August 2nd-21st the group will travel thousands of miles off the coast of California to explore and research the “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch”, an enormous floating debris field in the Pacific.

Although the “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” has recently received a lot of media attention, very little is actually known about it. One thing we do know is that much of the garbage consists of plastic, which is why the area is such a concern. Plastic, as everyone knows, is not biodegradable. Stuff floating in the ocean will be there for quite some time. It slowly breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up in the stomachs and around the necks of marine life resulting in sickness and death.

cfacklerho3

Albatross impacted by marine debris

According to their daily blog, spirits are high aboard the ship.   They are entering day six of their journey.  Jesse Powell, a crew member, said, “During the last day or so, as we’ve started to enter the gyre, we have begun to see more and more plastic debris floating in the water as we steam along at 10 knots (11.5 miles per hour). Yesterday, our bird and whale observers counted hundreds of floating plastic pieces during the day.”

To learn more about the “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” check out NOAA’s site.  Also, you can follow along as the crew completes their journey here . Its nice to know there are people out there that are exploring the oceans and getting down!

Date Posted: August 8, 2009 @ 3:48 pm Comments Off

It’s The CO2, Stupid

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

SCUBA Diver Activism

We recently posted a link on our Facebook page to an article about a McKinsey study.  The study found that investing $520 billion in energy efficiency would “save more than $1.2 trillion and avoid the release of some 1.1 gigatons of annual greenhouse gases, an amount equal to replacing 1,000 conventional 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants with renewable energy.”  This, in and of itself is quite intriguing, but I mention it here to make a far simpler point.

A person commenting on the post, remarked, “So why is Sen. Inhofe so dead set against it? Someone tell him.”  I thought this was a great point.  Of course, to Senator Inhofe, the risk involved in energy investment isn’t worthwhile because he doesn’t believe global warming is happening.

So, for anyone who cares about oceans (and/or occasionally debates Senator Inhofe), I thought I’d provide the argument I use, anytime I meet a global warming denier.  I simply say, OK, set aside global warming and assume I agree with you.  Ocean acidification – another dangerous environmental problem – IS happening, and it’s being caused by CO2 emissions.  This isn’t up for debate – it’s simple water chemistry.  As the ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2, it becomes more acidic.  And, as we laid out in an earlier blog, this is killing our oceans, which are necessary for our own survival.  So, EVEN IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING, you cannot reject the need to reduce CO2 emissions.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Please feel free to use this argument anytime you encounter Senator Inhofe.

Date Posted: August 3, 2009 @ 9:21 pm Comments Off