Posted by: Chris Laughlin

The House of Representatives passed legislation this week to provide much needed protection for threatened sea otters and endangered sea turtles.  introduced the earlier this year.  The bill passed the House Tuesday by a vote of 316-107.  Rep. Henry Brown, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, introduced the This measure passed 354-72.

istock_000006211319xsmall

Sea otters have declined at an alarming rate in the past decade. It’s estimated there are about 2,800 left along the California coast.  The The bill would provide $5 million a year over the next five years for research and recovery programs, run by experts from Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey.  The high mortality rate is thought to be caused by:  malnutrition, shark attacks, entanglement in fishing gear, boat strikes, shooting and proliferation of harmful algae ().

istock_000005507302xsmall

Under the the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004 would be extended for another five years and additional funds provided for national/international projects.  $5 million a year would be provided to save the sea turtle, endangered by the destruction of nesting habitats, poaching, entanglement in marine debris, ship strikes and pollution.

On to the Senate!

Date Posted: July 30, 2009 @ 11:55 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Jeremy Grant

final2

Americans are explorers. First we went west. Then we went up. It’s now time to get down. I’m talking about ocean exploration, the real final frontier!

Over the weekend I had the chance to listen to Dr. Robert Ballard’s TED talk on ocean exploration. is a famous oceanographer and great public speaker. For those of you unfamiliar with TED talks, I highly recommend them – they give the brightest minds in a variety of fields the opportunity to share their knowledge.  They make an excellent addition to any long trip and are an amazing educational resource.

I particularly enjoyed this talk, since, as a candidate for a Master’s Degree in international environmental policy, ocean issues are the focus of my studies. While at school, I began to recognize that much of the environmental community focuses on terrestrial solutions to environmental problems, even though the oceans account for 72% of the planet.  In my climate change class, that 72% was discussed for only one weekend!  Dr. Ballard’s talk confirmed my belief that the world’s oceans MUST receive greater attention.

While it is a widely held belief that space is the final frontier consider some facts Dr. Ballard shared:

  • We have better maps of mars then we do of our own country! That’s right – over 50% of the territory the United States has legal jurisdiction over is found beneath the oceans. Much of this land is poorly mapped, some of it not mapped at all.
  • The oceans cover 72% of our world and yet we have better maps and understanding of the moon.

Clearly, we must step up our understanding of the oceans.  Much of the world’s resources lie beneath the sea.  It is only a matter of time before corporations devise ingenious methods to extract them in an economically feasible fashion.

Thus, to prevent environmental calamities that usually follow resource extraction, we must step up knowledge of the world’s oceans. ITS TIME TO GET DOWN!

Date Posted: July 28, 2009 @ 4:52 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

On rare occasions, seemingly unrelated events converge in a way that seems to be coincidence but might just be fate.  On even rarer occasions, these events allow for ample alliteration.  On Wednesday, we were presented with such a convergence.

It all began as I was meeting with Congressman and some of his staff.  The primary topic of conversation was the Toxic Tides (aka Harmful Algal Blooms) bill that will originate in his House subcommittee.  I got some great insights – committee staff is expected to write the House version of the bill over the August recess, and they’ll work from the Senate version.  This is good because we like the Senate version, and the closer the two versions are, the easier it’ll be to pass both houses of Congress.  Inside information also suggests there is still broad support for the bill (who in their right mind can be “Pro-Toxic Tides”?).

As a side note, it was refreshing to then watch Congressman Baird address a group and speak with great conviction and expertise about both Toxic Tides and ocean acidification.  He really does lead on ocean issues.

Now, AT THE SAME TIME, David Wilmot was appearing on Rob Moir’s radio show, “Environmental Dialogs.”  David was busy talking about Toxic Tides, the problems they create, and what Ocean Champions was doing about them.  If you missed this show, you can (Ocean Champions segment is in the last 15 minutes).

This would be mere coincidence were it not for the fact that at that very moment, !  The national news attention given to THE BLOB has helped to raise the profile of the Toxic Tides problem, heightening the importance of the bill (and of Rob Moir’s broadcast).  Though this blob has not yet been diagnosed as toxic, it’s sheer size suggests that it will create a hypoxic (low or no oxygen) situation when it ultimately dies…IF IT EVER DIES!

Coincidence, I think not!

Date Posted: July 24, 2009 @ 8:26 am Comments Off

Posted by: Jeremy Grant

eating-lobster

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Benedict

Summers in Maine are not complete without a traditional New England clam bake. There is nothing better than gathering at the beach with friends and family and enjoying the bounty of the sea. After four years in Maine, I can officially say my favorite meal is a clam bake. Unfortunately, this New England tradition is under threat from an unlikely source: toxic algae.

Due to an unusually wet summer, ; other than two small locations, the entire coast is closed to mussel and clam harvesting.  “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Darcie Couture of the Department of Marine Resources.

Couture mentioned that in recent years, red tide outbreaks have been particularly severe:  “It’s been a little more serious since then that it had been for the last decade or so before that, so overall we may be in kind of a new trend where we have the opportunity and the potential every year to have a very serious red tide bloom. And then it’s just the right combination of other environmental forcing factors that determines how bad it’s actually going to be.”

Timing of this red time event could not have been worse. . While most reports have ignored the long-term financial consequences of the red tide, it is quite obvious that it will have a detrimental effect on the state’s fragile economy.

. Unfortunately, HABs have been more severe and have occurred more frequently in the past few years.

Fortunately, here at Ocean Champions we have been working very hard to support The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009 which will develop a much needed national strategy to address the harmful algal blooms and hypoxia through baseline research, forecasting and monitoring, and mitigation and control.

Date Posted: July 22, 2009 @ 9:03 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

ocean-tourism-recreation-noronha-divers2

This is a complex question that requires significant research and econometric modeling. Fortunately for us, the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) has done a lot of the work. Looking at the :

  • Coastal states account for 80% of the U.S. population, and contribute $11.4 trillion (83%) to the nation’s economic output. This is larger than any other nation, except the U.S.
  • Counties adjacent to the shore account for only 18% of all U.S. land, but are home to 36% of the nation’s population and produce 42% of U.S. economic output ($5.7 trillion).
  • The “ocean economy” alone represents over 2.3 million jobs, and contributes $138 billion to the national GDP.  This includes industries explicitly tied to ocean activities, or partially related and located in shore-adjacent counties.
  • “Non-market values” such as ecosystem services (services that have value to society such as storm protection from wetlands), “free” ocean recreation (activities such as surfing, snorkeling, and beachcombing that people do not have to pay for but would be willing to), and the benefits of biodiversity are estimated to be worth another $100 billion.

Looking within the NOEP data, there are a few interesting observations that can be made. First, of the sectors that make up the ocean economy (Construction, Living Resources, Minerals, Boat Building, Tourism and Transportation), only Living Resources (fishing, aquaculture and the seafood industry) lost jobs between 1997 and 2004. In a potentially related data series, the NOEP study shows that total fish landings declined by 11% from 1994 to 2007, with the inflation adjusted value of those landings falling 38%.

On a positive note, the NOEP data show that the tourism industry has had the most consistent growth of all ocean economy sectors over the past decade. This is good news because it means more people are visiting the coasts more often. Thus, more and more people are interacting with the oceans, learning about them, and hopefully, caring about them. With that, perhaps, more and more people will be willing to fight and sacrifice for them.

Date Posted: July 20, 2009 @ 7:51 am Comments Off

Posted by: Kai Medeiros

I am writing this blog post as a reward for surviving my second week at Ocean Champions.  While Chris didn’t actually use the term “reward” when giving me this assignment, it seemed implied that after 2 weeks of filing papers, proofreading websites, and stamping envelopes, a more enjoyable project was in order.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  Before I continue, however, I feel that an introduction is necessary.

My name is Kai Medeiros; I am a 16-year-old summer intern at Ocean Champions.

Now I am sure that many of you, dear readers, will wonder, “why in the world is a 16 year old giving up valuable time out of his summer to be an intern?”  My answer to this is twofold.

First, as an avid surfer and waterman, I feel that our first duty as humans is to our environment.  The Ocean has done much for my life and I feel it is necessary to reciprocate this.  Thus, my donation of time to Ocean Champions’ effort to protect and restore the health of our oceans is simply my way of saying “thanks” for all of the wonderful experiences the ocean has provided me with.

In addition to this, as a soon-to-be high school senior who wishes to study political science in college, this internship also provides a unique learning opportunity. This opportunity to further my knowledge of the inner workings of our political process is something I am very appreciative of.

To simply be in association with Dave Wilmot, whose knowledge of environmental policy making is amazingly vast, has been the highlight of my experience thus far.  Even is spite of his busy schedule, Dave has taken the time to answer the multitude of questions I have had, with regards the workings of Ocean Champions and Congressional politics as a whole.

These first two weeks here have been an incredible learning experience.  It has been simultaneously inspiring and disheartening to be made privy to the modus operandi of Congress.  It is sickening to see bills Oceans 21 bogged down in committee, despite the urgency with which they must be passed to save the rapidly deteriorating health of our oceans.  Likewise, watching the House of Representatives nearly fail to pass a carbon cap that is still embarrassingly far below what scientists agree is needed to mitigate climate change makes me boil with rage.

In spite of such frustrating setbacks, however, there are still moments that have inspired patriotic feelings (something I am not very prone to). Bill S952, if passed, will create a national strategy for addressing harmful algal blooms.  As a surfer who is regularly confronted by such blooms, this bill is of the utmost personal interest.  To see an issue that affects me directly to see this light of day in congress, gives me hope that perhaps America is truly a country “for the people.”  In addition, it was the central coast’s very own Sam Farr who crafted the aforementioned Oceans 21 bill.  To see that a devoted individual from my own area can put together such an effort to have a serious impact on American policy inspires me to work towards the goal of one day being able to have my own effect on the direction of our nation.

With the summer still just underway, I am excited to see what the near future holds for me at Ocean Champions, as I continue to make my contribution to this noble cause in whatever way I can.

For the ocean,

Kai Medeiros

The author, enjoying the ocean in his favorite way

The author, enjoying the ocean in his favorite way

Date Posted: July 11, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

Uhhh…. say what?!  Champs, here’s a disturbing little factoid about a bloom of Dinoflagellate called Akashiwo Sanguinea (a species of Harmful Algal Bloom).  Back in November-December of 2007, there was a widespread marine bird mortality event in Monterey Bay, coincident with a massive red tide caused by the aforementioned Dinoflagellate.  Fourteen seabird species were affected during this massive tide, resulting in 550 stranded alive and 207 dead.  To get the full details, check out this research article published February 23rd of this year. Why bring up old news from 2007 you might ask?  As you probably already know from some of our other blog posts and communications, HABs occur worldwide and can affect fish, invertebrates, marine birds, marine mammals and humans.  This summer, we’re seeing HABs outbreaks occuring all across the nation, and want to keep you updated as much as possible since many of you have been or are headed to the beach and/or into the ocean this summer.  We’ve started an ever growing list of HABs outbreaks across the states on our website, some of which, give daily updates of beaches to steer away from.

Check out this great presentation by John Ryan of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on Harmful Algal Blooms in the Monterey Bay:

john-ryan-presentationv21

Don’t forget to take action to help us pass the 2009 HABS and Hypoxia bill!

Date Posted: July 10, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

jellyfish

My family and I just wrapped up a nice Fourth of July weekend on the Delaware shore. The weather was great, we saw lots of friends and family, and the fireworks were fun for everyone. Yesterday, I was about to go for one last swim, when I saw that the water was teaming with jellyfish.

Now, this is anecdotal, but my recollection is that the jellies usually start showing up in late July / early August. Of course, since my family’s been coming to this beach for four generations, my recollection should count as scientific fact! With that established, let’s use the Delaware jellyfish plague to make a broader point: jellyfish are a growing nuisance along beaches all around the world (not just in Delaware). In recent years, abnormally large and out of season swarms have shown up along coastlines in places as diverse as France, Australia, Hawaii and Virginia Beach.

There are a number of hypotheses for this problem, including:

  • Overfishing – many of the jellyfish’s natural predators (including sea turtles, tuna, sharks and swordfish) have been so severely reduced that they aren’t able to keep them in check anymore.
  • Rising ocean temperatures caused in part by global warming help jellyfish as they breed faster and better in warmer water.
  • Hypoxia: jellyfish, the cockroaches of the sea, are able to thrive in low oxygen environments (one more reason we need to pass the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia legislation).

Many are calling the jellyfish problem the “canary in the coal mine” (an ironic label since the burning of coal contributes to the issue) for the larger problems facing our oceans. Now, the jellyfish apologists out there will tell me that they (the jellyfish, not the apologists) are a vital and important part of the food chain. I agree, and like Spongebob, I can appreciate their grace and beauty (again, the jellyfish, not the apologists; of course, there are surely many lovely jellyfish apologists). Like all good things, however, jellyfish are best appreciated in moderation, and their current numbers certainly are indicative of bigger problems. Let’s hope we can turn the situation around before it really is too late.

Date Posted: July 7, 2009 @ 5:39 am