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Galveston Beach, where the International Coastal Cleanup first began in 1986, is a 45-minute drive from my house. It’s not your typical vacation destination with crystal-clear water and sugar-white sand. Actually, the water here is distinctly brown, and the sand is, too. As a longtime resident of the Gulf, you learn to live with it—or learn to love it, as I did. From the very beginning, the ocean nurtured my understanding of the world and myself.

The ocean is my teacher.

The realization that there is so much more beyond the shore really opened the world to me. It taught me that there is more to what we first see on the surface. Take Galveston’s brownness, which many people I know have mixed feelings about. The water’s murkiness comes from huge amounts of sediment deposited into the waters, due to the nearby freshwater rivers flowing in. This sediment is what feeds the fish, shrimp and oysters and makes Galveston a productive fishing spot. The fact there are so many other creatures we share the world with is endlessly fascinating.

The ocean is my muse.

As a child I remember being obsessed with animals, and my way of studying these charismatic creatures was seeking out books and illustrations. It was as if by learning to draw them, I could really bring them into my immediate world.

Whether it was the shells of sea turtles or scales on fish, my endless interest in their patterns only inspired me even more to learn about their biological and ecological significance.

The ocean is a powerful force.

Wherever I go, the ocean has the ability to clear my mind and require absolute attention to my surroundings. Hot summer days spent splashing in the ocean’s bath and cool morning walks on the warm sand—these memories are so vivid that I can still feel them.

While the ocean can invoke calmness, it can also instill fear.

I learned early on that the ocean, in its largeness and with unpredictability, has the capability to engulf entire towns. From tropical storms to hurricanes, preparing for hurricane season each year has always been a normal part of life for those who live near the coast. I can remember several storms that forced my family to decide whether to evacuate or prepare for the worst.

Now there’s a new normal. Climate change plays a role in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and makes the issue more complex in ways that we might struggle to understand, but need to accept and prepare for. Those on the frontlines feel the consequences directly, but even people not living near the coast, whether they know it or not, are affected by the ocean, too.

Coastal communities on the Gulf of Mexico have faced the consequences of not only devastating natural disasters, but man-made environmental disasters. Although the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is the most well-known, there have been countless others which have seeped into the waters over decades, the effects of which still linger.

Despite these events which might make us feel hopeless, I see my community’s ability to recover, time and time again. My parents have relocated many times in their lifetime—with their most difficult choice being to leave their homes in Vietnam and start over in the United States. As Vietnamese who have become Americans, they are committed to stay through any storm that comes our way. We gather into one house, cook food for everyone with all that we have, and stick together until the winds and floods have gone. We help each other heal. We find our way back and rebuild. We do what needs to be done to prevent further damage. Many of us stay fiercely attached to our homes because sometimes it’s the only choice we have, and the worst thing we can do is abandon it. Hurricanes might uproot our houses, but we choose to recuperate from these destructive events and in turn, build fierce resilience.

This not only applies to coastal communities, but to everyone.

This planet we call home needs us. By not giving up on wherever we choose to call home, we develop an even stronger attachment to the land and water we live on.

The most important lesson I have learned is that when we put effort into healing our ocean, it gives back. Projects to restore the Gulf for the long term are just underway, and Ocean Conservancy is keeping a close eye to make sure the Gulf’s marine species and ecosystems—like fish, corals, sea turtles and dolphins—are included.

It only took a move to another city for me to realize that wherever I go, the health of Galveston Beach where I had grown up all my life is tied to my emotional state, as much as it is tied to the health and livelihood of my friends, family and all the coastal communities that depend on it. The Gulf, one corner of the much larger ocean—as my teacher, my muse, my home – is a place that I will always come back to.

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The post Lessons Learned from a Gulf Coast Resident appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Warming temperatures, thinning and shrinking sea ice, increasing ship traffic and a threat of expanded offshore oil drilling… lately, news from the Arctic hasn’t exactly been uplifting. This year, researchers even found microplastics in remote Arctic waters.

But there’s good news too. Here’s a recap of what went right in the U.S. Arctic in 2018:

February

Coast Guard Proposals will Help Protect the Arctic from Increased Shipping Traffic

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) (a specialized UN body that governs global shipping) adopted two important measures to help safeguard Alaska’s Bering Strait region and mitigate potential safety and environmental risks to fish, birds, marine mammals and indigenous residents. One measure—jointly proposed by the U.S. and Russia—establishes two-way vessel traffic routes through the narrow Bering Strait and surrounding waters. The other measure—proposed by the U.S.—designates three “areas to be avoided” (ATBAs) in the northern Bering Sea. The ATBAs will help ensure ships steer clear of particularly hazardous or sensitive locations. All these measures took effect December 1, 2018.

© Amelia Brower (NOAA)

This past fall, the U.S. Coast Guard announced plans to start another vessel traffic study, this time for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The study will pave the way for additional safety and protection measures in more northerly U.S. waters. We expect the Coast Guard to officially launch the study in the next few weeks.

April

Reducing Vessel Pollution

T­he IMO committed to develop a ban on the use of the world’s dirtiest fuel—heavy fuel oil (HFO)—in Arctic waters. HFO is an especially dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers many of the largest ships venturing into the Arctic. An HFO spill would have devastating long-term effects in Arctic marine waters where it would break down slowly and prove nearly impossible to clean up. The forthcoming ban will help protect indigenous Arctic communities and marine ecosystems from the threat of the worst kind of oil spill. In addition, a ban will help reduce black carbon emissions from vessels, which would be especially beneficial to the Arctic.

The IMO has not yet finalized its timeline for the HFO ban. Assessment of impacts will begin in early 2019, with hopes that IMO Member States will adopt and implement the ban by 2021.

June

 A Partnership to Remove Marine Debris

Ocean Conservancy sponsored its first marine debris cleanup in Alaska, joining the Aleut tribe and St. Paul School in a cleanup of one of their shorelines during the annual Pribilof Days celebrations. Thanks to the help of students in the fourth and fifth grades, middle school and high school, the team effort rid the beach of almost 300 pounds of debris, including fishing nets, lines, buoys and an assortment of plastics and foam pieces that washed up onto a fur seal rookery within walking distance of the town of St. Paul.

© Patricia Chambers

The impact of marine debris in the Arctic and in remote locations like St. Paul is on the rise, affecting seabirds, marine wildlife and local communities. Ocean Conservancy hopes to return to St. Paul in 2019 to help organize and participate in cleanup efforts to protect the unique beauty and bounty of the Pribilof Islands.

October

The Making of a Milestone Arctic Fisheries Agreement

The U.S. and nine Arctic and non-Arctic countries signed a binding agreement that will prevent the start of commercial fishing in the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years while scientists study the effects of climate change on the region.

One of the planet’s most pristine ecosystems, this 1.1 million square mile area has been frozen year-round until recent years. In the summer of 2007, 40% of the Central Arctic Ocean became open water, making this region and the shallow Chukchi Plateau accessible to commercial fishing for the first time.

In 2018 alone, we witnessed several alarming signs of how fast the climate is shifting: the Arctic’s oldest, thickest ice started to break up, the North Pole surged above freezing during winter, and in the Bering Sea, the gateway to the Central Arctic Ocean, sea ice hit a new record low.

The Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean is a timely example of international cooperation in the face of such unprecedented environmental changes and the type of precautionary action that is needed in the face of these challenges.

Looking back over the unprecedented environmental changes in the Arctic this year is a great motivator to continue to push for protecting this special place, its people and wildlife. Though understanding the relevance of these dramatic shifts to our daily lives is not easy at times, we know that what happens in the Arctic will impact societies everywhere. To that end, we hope you join us in our New Year’s resolution to continue to work with indigenous communities, policy-makers, scientists and people like you to protect the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem.

© Cory Mendenhall / Coast Guard Cutter Healy

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The post The U.S. Arctic: A Year in Review appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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It’s one wild ocean out there when it comes to fishes and their flashy fins, humorous habits and serious camouflage capabilities. Take even the most unsuspecting fish and we bet you’ll find something fun and unexpected about it. Discover these five fin-credible fishes showcasing some of the most interesting diversity in our ocean waters.

Weedy Scorpionfish

(Rhinopias frondosa) © ALEX TYRRELL/ CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Camouflage level: expert. This fish might look like it’s ready for a fancy party to us, but to other small fish, it looks like just another piece of seaweed or ocean debris. And that’s exactly what makes it an effective predator. The weedy scorpionfish hunts by waiting motionless, or even swaying in the water to blend in. When an unsuspecting prey fish swims too close, the weedy scorpionfish uses suction to swallow the fish whole. While waiting to capture prey, these fish can remain in the same spot for weeks or months. Talk about dedication!

Red-Lipped Batfish

© THE OCEAN AGENCY/ CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

“Attractive” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you see the red-lipped batfish. They might seem a little unusual—for example, they tend to use modified fins as “pseudo legs” to walk along the bottom rather than swim. But, these fish have lots of tools to attract the things they need in life. Their flashy red lips are their most striking feature and are thought to be a way for males to attract mates. As a type of anglerfish, batfish have a lure below their horn, which is likely for attracting small fish and crustacean prey. And if their lure weren’t enough, scientists think that red-lipped batfish might secrete a perfume into the water that draws prey to them.

Hogfish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA © FABRICE DUDENHOFER/ CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Named for its long snout-like nose, a hogfish likes to dig in the sand around the reefs to find buried crustaceans in the same way a hog might root around on land for food. But perhaps the coolest fact about hogfish is that they can rapidly change color from white to spotted to a full brownish red color in order to better blend in with their surroundings or to stand out to a potential mate. Scientists recently discovered that these fish can even sense light with their skin to make these color changes.

Yellow-Headed Jawfish

© GREGORY PIPER/ CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

While the term “jaws” might make you think of sharks, yellow-headed jawfish deserve their own shout-out for their multipurpose mandibles. Jawfish use their large mouths to dig burrows in the sand at the edges of coral reefs. These burrows offer protection from predators, and jawfish will even reinforce the entrances with rocks and shells they carry using their jaws. Once the burrow is built, they can use their jaws for snapping up small food items in the waters around them. The jaws also come in handy for raising young—the males care for the eggs by storing and aerating them in their mouths until hatching time. You might even say their jaws are like the Swiss army knife of the fish world!

Long-horn Cowfish

© THE OCEAN AGENCY/ CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

This fish found in Australian waters really packs a punch! To start with, their flesh is poisonous. And when stressed by sudden sounds or lights, long-horn cowfish release a toxin into the water that can be lethal to other sea life. Their long horns are thought make it harder for predators to swallow them. Not only do they have horns on their head like a bull, they also have a horn beneath their tail. Their horns are hollow and can even grow back if they are lost!

It can be easy to overlook our fishy friends, but we shouldn’t. They have an important role to play in ocean ecosystems and many fish species help support fisheries. At Ocean Conservancy, our appreciation of fish, the fishermen that sustainably catch them and the scientists that study them runs deep. Learn more about our work on fish.

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Last night Congress missed its deadline to agree on a funding solution to replace the expiring Continuing Resolution (CR) and the federal government has partially shut down. Until Congress can reach an agreement on federal funding that President Trump is willing to sign into law, dozens of agencies—including the EPA, Department of Interior and NOAA—will remain closed.

For the ocean, that means that our nation’s premier ocean agency, tasked with understanding and managing U.S. ocean waters from Hawaii to Maine, will furlough (send home without pay) around 6,000 employees. Ranging from scientists and technology experts to educators and outreach specialists, these hardworking folks who strive every day to protect and improve our ocean will wait at home to hear when their offices, labs and visitors centers might reopen.

How might the shutdown impact the ocean and the people who depend on it? Here are five big ways:

1. Fisheries management will go on with just a skeleton crew

While some employees will not be furloughed for the shutdown and will continue to carry out their duties without pay, the vast majority of NOAA employees that work to manage our nation’s fisheries will be furloughed. Stock assessments, permitting processes, and more will slow down or even halt.

2. Water quality monitoring will suffer

Only a single NOAA staff person will remain at work during the shutdown to maintain the monitoring system that predicts and detects Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). With the red tide event that has been impacting Florida for months and other HABs occurring around the country, HABS forecasting is vital for protecting water quality, fisheries and tourism, and this understaffing could have wide-ranging impacts.

3. Ocean research will halt

Staff at NOAA labs will be significantly reduced, with a few people staying at work only to prevent damage and to carry on data efforts needed to protect life and property. All other areas of research, from arctic sea ice to tropical coral reefs, will suspend.

4. Marine mammals may suffer

We know from the last major government shutdown that marine mammal rescue efforts suffer. Groups lose access to federal properties where animals may be stranded. NOAA grants, facilities, and staff are out of reach. We also know that nine Unusual Mortality Events are currently underway for marine mammals ranging from dolphins to seals, and hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles have already required rescue this winter. The shutdown creates an unworkable situation for our marine mammal first responders and a deadly one for animals in crisis.

5. The public may lose access to websites and data

Also a lesson learned during the last shutdown, without information technology specialists at work to manage websites and datasets, NOAA may be required to cut the public off from access to the information that taxpayer dollars provide. We pay for the data and information that NOAA collects and provides. Losing access to it does damage to businesses and communities.

These impacts paint a scary picture of a dereliction of duty, a failure to manage the ocean resources that are critical to our economy and to the environment. We will be following the shutdown closely. Stay tuned for updates as the impacts begin to come to light from coast to coast.

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The post 5 Reasons Why the Government Shutdown is Bad for Our Ocean appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Wonder Woman? Aquaman? Batman? All of the above? (GASP! Holy saltmarshes ocean fans, am I drawing a connection between Super Heroes and a marine ecosystem?!) When I think about estuaries, that’s what comes to mind. By the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) definition, an estuary is simply “a partially enclosed body of water, and its surrounding coastal habitats where saltwater from the ocean mixes with fresh water from rivers or streams.” But to me, they’ve got super powers that keep our coastlines safe and healthy.

BAM!

Similar to how Wonder Woman deflects blows from speeding bullets with her trusty bracelets, wetlands in estuaries filter out toxic pollutants and defend us from powerful oceanic waves, even subduing deadly storm surges.

Source: GIPHY

KAPOW!

Aquaman nurtures sea life much like how gentle salty and fresh estuarine waters serve as nurseries for baby fishes and other little critters while their nutrient-rich soils help provide homes for thousands of species.

Source: GIPHY

WHAM!

Coupled with deflecting and nurturing, estuaries flush their communities with cash—just like Batman. The commercial shipping, fishing, tourism and recreational boating industries rely on calm estuarine waters and their heavily trafficked ports to create tens of millions of jobs that add billions of dollars to the US economy.

Source: GIPHY

Estuaries can even fight climate change by sucking excess greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide, right out of thin air. I don’t know of a Super Hero who can do anything remotely like that!

© Rafeed Hussain

Estuaries protect, care and provide for us, but right now, estuaries are fighting for their lives. Who’s killing them? Us. Who can save them? Us. It’s as though, collectively, we are a well-meaning sidekick who just can’t stop getting in our hero’s way.

© Rafeed Hussain

Coastal communities are growing. Fast. In fact, they’re growing three times faster than their inland counterparts. As populations grow, cities and towns have been forced to develop over wetlands, destroying important natural defenses. On top of that, since our society values green lawns this influx of people is resulting in higher use of fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants that runoff into rivers that drain into estuaries.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

At the 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration, I heard conservation experts, artists, business leaders and federal agency representatives from around the country talk about what they’re doing to defend their community’s estuaries. I learned that many regions, states, cities, and municipalities are turning to ocean planning—a common-sense system that gives all ocean users the information they need to make the best management decisions by providing them with both valuable data and an avenue to collaborate with each other, avoiding conflicts and negatively impacting important habitats.

© Rafeed Hussain

After learning about so many different estuaries, I wondered what my home state’s doing to keep my estuary safe. I grew up in East Lyme, Connecticut and so the Long Island Sound forever holds a special place in my heart. Sitting at my desk in DC, I can close my eyes and transport myself back to the Sound. A gentle breeze kisses my cheek, the soft rhythm of cool waves laps at my feet as brilliant oranges, purples and reds of a setting sun paints the sky. I can smell the salty air and feel my heart steady, marching to the beat of the sea’s drum as my stress washes away like my footprints beneath the incoming tide. This isn’t one single memory, but a collection of thousands. Long Island Sound is where I hung out with my childhood friends. It’s where I had barbeques with my family. It’s where I first found a love for our ocean with Project Oceanology and where I learned everything I know about marine science with the University of Connecticut. Throughout my adolescence, into adulthood, and to this day, happy or sad, rain or shine, night or day, summer or winter, I travel to the Long Island Sound to be… me.

© Project Oceanology

So, you could say I was relieved to learn that Connecticut has its own ocean plan in the works—The Long Island Sound Blue Plan. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) began working on it in 2015, and I’m excited to say they aim for a draft of the Plan is to be completed by March 1, 2019. It seeks to establish a record of Long Island Sound’s natural resources that will eventually inform a set of policies based on where and how much of those natural resources there are. The Blue Plan will help preserve Long Island Sound by using a science-based, decision-making process to allow everyone to sustainably use the Sound, whether it’s for work or play, while minimizing the likelihood for conflicts to arise between estuary users. In short, the Plan will ensure that Long Island Sound will remain big enough for all of us.

© Rafeed Hussain

Like all estuaries do for many of their young inhabitants, Long Island Sound nurtured me until I was ready to swim out into the big ocean. Without it, I wouldn’t be who or where I am today and for that, the Sound will always be my Super Hero.

© Ocean Conservancy

With that, I have one request. Be a hero and help protect your estuary. Here are 3 ways the National Estuary Program (NEP) suggests how you can do just that.

  • Minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides on your yard
  • Help plant trees or seagrass
  • Participate in trash clean-up days like the International Coastal Cleanup!

Finally, all Super Heroes have a theme song, so here’s one just for you!

Estuary Life - YouTube

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The post Estuaries, the Coastal Super Heroes appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Unless you literally live underwater, chances are you’ve heard about the new Aquaman movie, premiering in North America on December 21st. The film stars Jason Momoa as the titular half man, half Atlantean whose powers include superhuman strength, extraordinary swimming skills and the ability to telepathically communicate with ocean animals.

Personally, I’m psyched to see it. I’ve spent most of the week watching trailers and diving deep into the Aquaman universe and everything I’ve found so far is absolutely delightful. Jason Momoa tackles a submarine? Amber Heard sky dives without a parachute? Willem Dafoe rides a hammerhead shark? Nicole Kidman fights with a trident?! Look out, landlubbers.

The upcoming flick is the first standalone film for Aquaman, and it’s about time that our favorite aquatic Super Hero finally gets the respect he deserves. In the past, his ability to communicate with ocean animals has been unfairly maligned by those who suggested that it was a somewhat lame power compared to, you know, whatever Superman does.

Now, I would LOVE to be able to telepathically communicate with all undersea animals. If I had a dollar for every time I wondered what a blowfish was thinking… well, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. And of course, I wouldn’t turn down superhuman strength or swimming abilities. But thinking about Aquaman’s superpowers got me thinking about all of the ocean creatures with their own superpowers. Here are six ocean superpowers that I wish Aquaman had:

Regeneration

Though the ability to regenerate limbs is more common among amphibians and lizards, some species of sea stars have the ability to regrow their limbs. Sometimes, they’ll even choose to shed their arms as a defense mechanism. I understand that the visual of Aquaman literally shedding and growing back an arm might not be particularly appealing, but it cannot be denied that it would be useful in a scuffle.

Camouflage
© GIPHY

From cuttlefish to flounder to the leafy sea dragon, dozens of ocean creatures have incredible camouflage abilities. My personal favorite is the Mimic Octopus, which, rather than blending in with the seafloor, changes its skin color and how it moves its tentacles to take on the shape of other sea creatures. It has been known to impersonate more than 15 different marine species, including flounders, lionfish and sea snakes. Though camouflage would certainly be useful for Aquaman’s ocean heroics, it would also deprive me of Jason Momoa screen time, so I’ll forgive the filmmakers for forgoing this particular ocean power.

Flight

While flying fish don’t technically “fly”, they can still propel themselves out of the water at speeds of more than 35 miles an hour! Their torpedo-like shape helps them gather enough speed to break the surface, and their large, wing-like fins get them airborne. And of course, we can still count many seabirds as ocean dwellers. As half human and half-Atlantean, Aquaman has one foot on land and another in the sea—but can you imagine if he had a third foot in the skies?!

Eating Things Twice Their Size
© Wikimedia Commons

The black swallower is truly the stuff of nightmares. These deep sea dwellers are capable of swallowing animals twice their length and ten times their mass, and sometimes they’ll still try to eat more. Jason Momoa is 6’4” and about 235 pounds, meaning that Aquaman would need to be able to eat something approximately 12 feet long and over 2,300 pounds to match up with the black swallowers abilities. To put that in perspective, a narwhal is about 12 feet and 2,100 pounds, so Aquaman would need to be able to eat a chubbier than average narwhal to have the same impact as these monsters of the deep. I’m not sure when that would come in handy in the quest to save the world, but at least it would be intimidating.

Switchblade Skulls
© Pixabay

Stonefish are one of the most venomous fish in the sea, which is a serious superpower on its own. But these bad boys also have an extra trick up their sleeve—or, more accurately, their skull. Scientists have found that stonefish have a hidden switchblade on their face that they can flick out whenever they feel like they’re in danger. If that doesn’t sound like something straight out of a comic book, then I don’t know what does.

Monogamy
© KQEDScience

Look, superpowers come in all shapes and sizes, okay? Though most ocean animals don’t mate for life, seahorse couples are essentially serial monogamists, sticking with one partner for long periods of time to maximize their likelihood of successful procreation. And as anyone who’s married will tell you, that’s hard work! While I don’t pretend to be an expert on Aquaman’s dating life (I wish I was, because I have questions, primarily: is he single, and if so, can I have his number?) I imagine that the power of monogamy and a stable home life would be a positive.

Hopefully, the good people at Warner Bros. will take notice of these ocean superpowers and incorporate them into the sea-quel!

Aquaman premieres in North America on December 21st, 2018.

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Here’s one more reason to work to halt climate change: the Arctic Ocean has lost 95% of its oldest, thickest ice since 1985.

Two kinds of Arctic sea ice have been a defining feature of our northern ocean for hundreds of thousands of years. Multiyear ice persists during the summer melting season. Seasonal ice forms anew during the long winter months in the Arctic’s open water. This pattern of sea ice and open water changes each year depending on temperatures, tides, winds and other events. But the general pattern has persisted so that ecosystems, animals and people have been able to thrive in the Arctic largely by depending on sea ice and its predictable, seasonal change.

The most recent Arctic report card from the U.S. government’s leading ocean scientists documents the precipitous loss of multiyear sea ice. When they began measurements in 1985, government scientists calculated that multiyear ice made up 16% of the total. This year, that had dropped to only 1% of Arctic sea ice—a 95% reduction in multiyear ice over the last 33 years.

This finding matches the trend from a recent Ocean Conservancy analysis of sea ice. Our scientists looked at sea ice data for the Central Arctic Ocean by decade since satellite measurements began in the 1980s. We found that during the 1980s only 1% of this area was open water at the height of the Arctic summer in September. In our current decade (2010 to 2017), open water increased to an average of 22%. The same comparison found that sea ice thickness decreased by 60%, from an average of 2.2 meters to less than a meter of thickness.

These clear trends validate what many scientists and communities in the Arctic are observing:  an ocean that is emerging from the persistent sea ice that has characterized it for all of human history. How will organisms adapt, migrate, increase or decrease? How will ecosystems re-assemble with different or changing components? And how will humans, whether those who live in Arctic communities or who participate in global economic sectors, change and adapt?

The honest answer is that no one knows because we’ve never faced this level of change in the Arctic. We should go slow by adopting precautionary policies for increased industrial access for commercial fishing, shipping, and offshore oil and gas. We should do more scientific research, like the studies summarized in the Arctic Report Card, so that we can better understand how the Arctic works and how changes are rippling through ecosystems. We should listen to and help Arctic communities adapting to changing circumstances.

Most fundamentally, we should work to reverse climate change. In the long run, getting our greenhouse gas emissions under control could actually reverse melting trends and restore Arctic sea ice. Indeed, because Arctic sea ice plays such an important role in global temperature regulation, restoration of Arctic ice may be vital not just for the Arctic, but for the world.

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Last month Collins Dictionary announced “single-use” as the 2018 Word of the Year. This came as no surprise to us at Ocean Conservancy. Our Trash Free Seas® program has been busier than ever—growing our team and the work we perform on the issue of ocean plastic.

It is estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year, negatively impacting marine life through entanglement and ingestion. During the International Coastal Cleanup each year, volunteers collect data on some 20 million items, the majority of which are single-use—meaning they are designed specifically to be used only once and then disposed of. In 2018, these items received a well-deserved spotlight as just about everybody began to re-think the products they use in their everyday lives.

In honor of Collins’ decision, and with the New Year just two weeks away, let’s take some time to look back at some major ocean moments of the past twelve months:

  • January— China Restricts Recyclable Importations from the US and Europe
    • China announces it will no longer accept recyclables with high levels of contamination from America and Europe, sending a shockwave through global recycling markets. While jolting, this shift provides an opportunity to improve domestic recycling.
  • March—Sixth International Marine Debris Conference
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hosts the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, bringing together hundreds of ocean plastics experts from around the world. Scientists, industry executives and non-profit representatives gather to discuss the state of the science, and the solutions in the pipelines to address marine debris globally.
© National Geographic
  • May—National Geographic Launches Planet or Plastic?
    • National Geographic Magazine releases an in-depth feature on the impact of single-use plastic on our planet. In addition, the discovery of a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench—approximately 10,898 meters below the surface—demonstrates just how deep our plastic problem goes.
  • June – G7 Puts Plastic on the Map
    • The governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union announce the Ocean Plastics Charter, showing leadership in addressing plastics in the ocean. The Charter commits to more sustainable use and management of plastics to stop their flow into the ocean.
  • June—For the First Time in Over Three Decades, Plastics Sweep Top Ten List
    • Glass beverage bottles and aluminum cans typically are among the top ten items collected during the global cleanup event. However, this year every single item found in the top ten was plastic. Not to mention all the weird finds found during the 2017 cleanup like hot tubs, a banana toothbrush and thousands of appliances!
© Starbucks
  • July—Starbucks Announces its Plan to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020
    • Starbucks announces plan to eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 stores worldwide eliminating more than one billion plastic straws a year. Plastic straws will be replaced with strawless lids with alternative-material straw options available,
  • September—Volunteers Around the World Suit up to Cleanup in the 33rd International Coastal Cleanup
    • Hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world hit their local beaches and waterways, collecting tens of millions of pounds of trash. Volunteers have collected information on over 265 million items of debris since 1986. Now, it’s easy to track your impact with OceanConservancy’s mobile application, Clean Swell.
  • October—Save Our Seas Act Signed Into Law
    • The Save Our Seas Act is enacted into law by President Trump. The Act reauthorizes NOAA’s marine debris program for 5 years at $10 million a year and calls on the State Department and Executive Branch to address marine debris.
© Alessio Viora/Marine Photobank
  • October—Ocean Conservancy Assumes Leadership of Global Ghost Gear Initiative
    • Ahead of Our Ocean conference in October, Ocean Conservancy announced that it would be taking on the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) in the New Year. GGGI brings together 100 organizations to address the global threat to our ocean’s health: ghost gear. Ghost gear has been found to be the most hazardous type of marine debris to marine life, entangling anything from sea turtles to northern right whales. Ocean Conservancy looks forward to assuming leadership of GGGI in January 2019 to expand and grow this crucial piece of the marine debris puzzle.
  • October— Circulate Capital Announces $90 Million in Expected Funding to Combat Ocean Plastic
    • Circulate Capital, the investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic, announces in October that it expects to receive $90 million in funding for its strategy to combat ocean plastic from several of the world’s leading consumer packaged goods and chemical companies, includingPepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever and The Coca-Cola Company.
  • December – This one is up to you! Join us in the fight for Trash Free Seas® and keep the ocean in mind as you make your New Year’s resolutions—take the plastic pledge.
    • Skip the straw, or opt for a reusable alternative.
    • Make the switch to reusable shopping bags.
    • Choose to carry a refillable water bottle, thermos, or coffee cup.
    • Mindfully recycle any plastics that you do consume.

Spread the word. Share with friends and family the simple steps we can all take to ensure a future with a health, thriving ocean.

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The post Looking Back on 2018’s Fight for Trash Free Seas® appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Out of all the animals that live in the ocean—octopuses have to be one of my favorite. I know everyone reading this blog will agree that octopuses are completely fascinating. They are extremely intelligent—earning the title of the smartest invertebrates in the world. Octopuses have a superpower-worthy defense mechanism—spraying ink as a smokescreen to avoid being eaten. And, let’s face it—if you played a game of hide and seek with an octopus—eight hands down—you would lose! They can change the color and texture of their skin to match their surroundings. This handy camouflage keeps them safe from predators.

Certainly, as an ocean enthusiast—you already knew each of those fun facts about the octopus. BUT, did you know that there is a range of different species of octopuses that each have their own unique skills and characteristics? Here are eight octopuses that YOU need to meet.

Blue-ringed octopus

© David Evison/FotoliaSmall, but deadly—the blue-ringed octopus is recognized as one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean. Its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide, and this tiny octopus packs enough venom to kill 26 humans within minutes. It’s best to keep your distance if you encounter a blue-ringed octopus in the ocean. Its bite is usually painless, so you might not know you’ve been bitten until it’s too late. Fortunately, the blue-ringed octopus isn’t aggressive; it’s only likely to bite humans if cornered or handled.

Mimic octopus

© GIPHYThe mimic octopus is the ultimate master of disguise. This sneaky octopus has taken camouflage to a whole new level. In addition to changing its color and texture, the mimic octopus will change the way it moves its arms to impersonate a variety of other marine species. It can “mimic” 15 different species (that we know of)! Divers have reportedly seen mimic octopuses imitating even more wild species, such as anemones, jellyfish, feather stars, giant crabs, mantis shrimp, seahorses and more.

Giant Pacific octopus

© Richard Carey/FotoliaI’m sure it’s no surprise that the giant Pacific octopus is largest octopus species. It is also the longest living. It is probably one of the most easily recognizable octopuses because of its bright reddish-pink color. The giant Pacific octopus enjoys a life of solitude and enjoys spending time alone in their den—only venturing out to hunt for food.

Common octopus

© GIPHYThis octopus isn’t easily offended—and doesn’t mind at all being called common. They know they are one of the most unique-looking octopuses—with a very large head and eyes that seem too large for the rest of their body. Like all octopuses—the common octopus is very flexible! They can easily squeeze through narrow cracks and small holes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Phew! You’ve made it through the first four types of octopus. Congratulations. You’ve earned a much-needed JOKE BREAK!

How do you make an octopus laugh?

You give it ten-tickles (hahahaha).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Coconut octopus

© GIPHYThis octopus has to be my favorite of the ones on this list—they find shells in the ocean and hide in them or carry them around. The coconut octopus has the foresight to carry around coconut shells to use as protective shelters when it is out exploring—to ensure it has someplace to hide should a predator show up. They are so smart!

California two-spot octopus

© Jonas GozjakYou can easily identify this colorful octopus by the circular blue eyespots on each side of its head. This octopus prefers living in shallow ocean waters—and relies on being able to reach the sandy bottoms of the water in order to hide in rocks and crevices found there. The California two-spot octopus is reported to be the friendliest octopus. While most octopuses will immediately swim away—when approached—this octopus doesn’t seem to mind the company of others, even if they only have two arms.

Blanket octopus

© Stephen FrinkThis has to be the wildest-looking octopus out there! This octopus looks like a wet blanket floating in the ocean—no joke. The blanket octopus spends its entire life in the open ocean. For many species of animal, males are bigger than females. But the opposite is true for the blanket octopus. The females are 10,000 times bigger than males. You read that correctly—10,000 times bigger!

Caribbean reef octopus

© Jeremy ShelbyAnd, finally—the last in our long list of octopuses to meet—the Caribbean reef octopus. They live among reefs and grass beds throughout the tropical waters of western Atlantic, Bahamas, Caribbean and northern South America. They are also a beautiful blue-green color and have a very short lifespan, generally only a year to a year and a half. The Caribbean reef octopus is a nighttime hunter—using the cover of dark to search for prey among reefs and sea grass beds. They also have built-in reflective skin—and are easy to spot at night with dive lights.

Octopuses all over the world need your help.

The octopus may be able to escape some of the trickiest situations, but the ocean plastics villain may prove deadlier than any of its natural predators ever could.

But we can stop this. We can keep ocean plastics out of these creatures’ homes.

Make a promise to help octopuses today: make the pledge that whenever you’re able, you’ll say “no thanks” to single-use plastics like those that marine wildlife are so vulnerable to. Promise our ocean’s cephalopods that you’ll commit to being mindful and making responsible choices for the sake of all marine wildlife.

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We have a great reason to celebrate in the Gulf region this holiday season—the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation just announced several new projects to restore the Gulf’s special places and the animals that depend on them. Among the long list of projects, we’re excited to see five new projects that will help sea turtles and fish recover from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, funded by a settlement from BP and Transocean for their roles in the disaster.

Sadly, tens of thousands of sea turtles were killed in the BP oil disaster. And the odds are already naturally stacked against these tiny creatures—only 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles will live to reach adulthood, so it’s important that we give them the best possible chance to survive. Here’s three different ways the new projects will give sea turtles a fighting chance:

1. Restoring the Night Sky

When baby sea turtles hatch from their nest on the beach at night, they head toward the nearest light source— the moonlight reflecting off the ocean. But on a developed beach, streetlights and lights from houses and buildings can confuse them, causing them to instead crawl toward the buildings and ultimately the street. To prevent this light pollution confusion, the Sea Turtle Conservancy will work with willing property owners in southwest Florida to install “turtle friendly” lighting and train local authorities to enforce light ordinances to keep the beach dark.

2. Preventing Sea Turtle Hatchlings from Becoming a Snack

These raccoons are not-so-patiently waiting for this sea turtle to finish laying her eggs before they raid her nest. © Sea Turtle ConservancyIf you’ve ever watched nature documentaries like BBC Earth, you’re familiar with the mad dash that baby sea turtles must make from their nest to the sea, dodging hungry crabs, birds and other predators. The Sea Turtle Conservancy conducted a pilot project in Florida and found that many sea turtle nests were raided by animals—some even lost 60 percent of their eggs or hatchlings. This project will expand that pilot to identify ways to protect Florida’s sea turtle nests from predators.

3. Protecting Sea Turtle Nesting Hotspots

The last sea turtle projects will expand national wildlife refuges like Archie Carr in northeast Florida and Laguna Atascosa on Texas’s South Padre Island, both very important nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. South Padre Island is one of only two places in the whole world where Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest (the other being Rancho Nuevo on Mexico’s Gulf Coast). Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge sees up to 20,000 loggerhead nests a year—that’s the most nests per mile of any beach in the world for that species. By protecting these special places, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can make sure mama sea turtles are able to nest safely without being disturbed by humans.

The BP oil disaster also impacted many fish species in the Gulf. The Deepwater Horizon Trustees estimated that 2 to 5 trillion larval fish were killed or never hatched because of the BP oil disaster. Those larvae are important not only for the survival of their own species, but also as a food source for other fish. To help reef fish like red snapper recover, we need better data to estimate their numbers and determine how to maintain a healthy population. will help the state coordinate with Florida, Mississippi and the federal government to better manage commercial and recreational fish and shell fish species like red snapper, lane snapper, gray triggerfish, gray snapper and blue crabs.

In the new year, the Deepwater Horizon Trustees will announce even more projects to restore sea turtles, fish, dolphins, whales and corals, thanks to $1 billion set aside in the BP settlement to restore the Gulf where the BP oil disaster began—offshore and in the deep ocean. Our hope is that these investments will create a healthy future that we can be thankful for, this year and every year.

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