Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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The largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has been predicted for this summer.  On June 18th, aquatic ecologists supported by NOAA released a forecast, predicting 7,450-8,476 square miles of dead zone to occur in the Gulf of Mexico.  The forecast is a result of the above normal flows in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, about 11% more than average.  Nutrient runoff from these rivers contain high nitrogen levels, resulting in oxygen starvation, excessive harmful algal blooms (HABs) and dead zones.

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Photo courtesy of N. Rabalais:  Mississippi River plume meets Gulf of Mexico at Southwest Pass

The Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Watch Task Force will announce the official size of the dead zone after surveys are conducted by the Louisiana University Marine Consortium mid to end of July.  You can check out near real time data from SEAMAP’s (South East Monitoring and Assessment Program) cruise in the northwest and north-central Gulf of Mexico.

For more info. on the Gulf of Mexico dead zone and other dead zones in the states and around the world:

For more on recent HABs outbreaks, check out our HABs web page.  To help us pass the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009, contact your Senators and ask them to support the bill.

Date Posted: June 25, 2009 @ 11:06 pm Comments Off

Ocean Acidification – Coming to a Coast Near You! (Or One Reason Waxman-Markey Matters For Oceans)

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill. Most of it focuses carbon emissions and it’s impact on global warming. This is serious stuff, but carbon emissions are causing another crisis that may be even more damaging – ocean acidification. To help push acidification into the conversation, here are a few talking points:

The Basics (I know, bad pun)

  • Acidification occurs when atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by the ocean.
  • The ocean is slightly basic, with an historic pH of around 8.2 (7 is neutral). As CO2 dissolves in seawater, the ocean’s pH declines, becoming more acidic.
  • Over the past 200 years, CO2 absorption has caused the ocean’s pH to decline by .1 (30%).
  • If we continue to produce CO2 at the current rate, the ocean’s pH could drop another .3 units by 2100 – a 150% increase in acidity.

OK, so what?

  • Corals, certain phytoplankton, mussels, snails, and certain larval fish require calcium carbonate to develop their shells and skeletons.
  • CO2 dissolved in seawater causes a chemical reaction that removes carbonate ions, which impacts the survival of these organisms.
  • The decline of plankton, a vital food source for many species, could alter the food web.
  • Coral reefs will rebuild more slowly and lose the ability to fight off bleaching, disease and death. By the middle of this century, coral reefs may be eroding faster than they can be rebuilt.
  • About half of all federally managed fisheries rely on reefs for portions of their life cycles.

NOAA’s Richard Feely, an acidification expert, says, “What was projected to occur in the open ocean models by the end of the century, we found is occurring right now along our entire continental shelf as far as we looked.”

From an ocean perspective, this is why Waxman-Markey and its goals of CO2 emission reduction are so important. If we can’t get our terrestrial act together with clean renewable energy and major lifestyle change, we’ll have more than a global warming problem – we’ll have dead oceans.

So Champs, let’s go preach the message about ocean acidification and drive home the need for emissions reductions, lifestyle change and support for bills like Waxman-Markey that get us going in the right direction.

Date Posted: June 23, 2009 @ 8:19 am

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

To pick up where we left off at the end of May, the Ocean Warriors press on!  Here’s the latest on JUNKride, Roz Savage and the Plastiki:

The JUNKriders have recently passed through Ocean Champions headquarters area, spending a few days down in Monterey at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Insitute, MBARI and Surfrider to raise awareness on marine debris and the use of plastics.  From their site, “2,000 miles, cycling through 15 cities from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico to give away 100 samples of the oceans surface to educators, organizations and legislators.  The Age of Disposable Plastic must end.”  Amen!  You can join them on one of their group rides coming up in the next couple of weeks, go to the agenda on their website.

Ocean Warrior Roz Savage recently crossed the first 500 mile mark on her 2,500 mile journey across the Pacific.  Go Roz!  Take part in Roz’s mission by pledging to walk/cycle more and drive less.  Check out .  Read more about her seafaring adventures online through blogs, , videos and twitter.

is still in construction, aiming to set sail this summer on a journey of 12,000 nautical miles from San Francisco to Syndey on a catamaran made up of approximately 20,000 recycled plastic bottles. will make a significant pit stop at the , bringing attention to the oceans and the many challenges they face, as well as rethinking the human footprint and ways to reduce our impact.

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Date Posted: June 12, 2009 @ 11:55 am Comments Off

Posted by: Kristen Jones

Laying on the couch with the flu or a cold is never fun except in one case… when that cold or flu is a cute and fluffy Giant Microbe.  These fun and educational stuffed animals are created by Drew Oliver and make great gifts for children or friends that have a geeky sense of humor.

I remember seeing my first microbe, it was about the time that the mad cow scare was going on.  I was wandering around in a book store and saw a stuffed animal in the shape of a prion (the microbe that is the cause of mad cow).  At first I was shocked, but the more I looked at its little eyes and the cow patterned skin the more I started to laugh.  IT WAS ADORABLE!!!

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Of course, you see I have a nerdy personality but it’s hard not to find Giant Microbes cute and fun no matter what your personality is.  The really neat thing about Giant Microbes though is the fact that they look exactly like the actual microbe and that they separate out the collections into the type of microbe.  For the Medical type there’s the Corporeal collection which contains: white blood cells, red blood cells, brain cells, and even fat cells!

What I’m really interested in is the Aquatics Collection. In the Aquatics Collection it’s okay to play with red tide and even with scum. Algae isn’t such an annoyance and you can even pet a krill!  Not only can you befriend these microbes, you can also learn more about each one. The best place to get a look at these furry friends is on the Giant Microbes website, or on . Check it out!

I’m sure no one would mind catching one of these colds from a friend.

Date Posted: June 11, 2009 @ 9:59 am

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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World Ocean Day is just around the corner, this coming Monday, June 8th.  The ocean continues to provide so much for us, while facing a growing number of Whatdoya say?  Should we get the big blue eco-party rolling, turn our minds on to all things ocean and do some giving back?  Well alright!  Here we go.  A few reminders of simple steps we can take to keep our ocean healthy:

Next time you’re enjoying the ocean, whether it’s on the water, in the water or on the beach, know that all of us at Ocean Champions and others in the ocean community are incredibly grateful for all that you continue to do for the oceans.  Keep the big blue eco-party going champs!

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Date Posted: June 5, 2009 @ 10:27 am Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

This week, Ocean Champions representatives attended events for two Members of Congress.  On Monday night, we attended a birthday party for Congresswoman , who chairs the ‘s .  While there, we had several lengthy conversations with the Congresswoman and her Legislative Director.  She has a big agenda for her subcommittee this year, and is focused on reauthorizing the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Sanctuaries Act, and the Coral Reef Conservation Act.  She and her LD also showed a lot of interest in our Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) bill, and we promised to follow up with her office when it was introduced in the House.

Last night, we attended an event for Congressman , and had the opportunity to meet him and his staff.  We had an excellent conversation with the Congressman, who is very interested in looking at our Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) bill, saying “that sounds like something I’d be interested in.”  He encouraged us to contact his chief of staff as a follow up, and expressed his interest in learing more about Ocean Champions and the other ocean-related issues we’re working on.

Following that conversation, one of his staffers sought us out to express interest in working with us on ocean issues.  He also said he was looking forward to meeting Ocean Champions founder and PhD Marine Biologist David Wilmot on his next visit to Washington.  Congressman Holt is a senior and much respected member of the Natural Resources Committee, and, as a scientist, has a keen eye for good, science-based policies. We look forward to working with him and his staff in the days ahead.

Date Posted: June 4, 2009 @ 8:39 am Comments Off