Every spring, the Nautica South Beach Triathlon gives us reason to smile. There’s the energetic crowds, the celebrity entrants, and the warm-but-not-too-brutally-hot April weather on Miami Beach. This year, however, in Oceana’s 5th year participating through our partnership with Nautica, our grins got even bigger as we set a pair of performance records where it matters most: raising funds for our conservation work.
Team Oceana, comprised of seven passionate ocean advocates, nearly doubled its previous fundraising record at the race, raising $7,171, while our partners at Nautica raised another $20,000 for Oceana by donating 100% of proceeds generated from their beachside shop. That’s $27,000 raised in one weekend, which will go a long way toward improving the condition of the oceans around South Florida, the country, and the world
Over the last two months, 180 manatees have been found dead along the coasts of Florida. The friendly and well-loved creatures of Florida’s waters are currently being threatened by an outbreak of red tide, an algal bloom which has proved to be toxic to the species.
A harmful toxin in the algae enters the nervous system of the manatees and prevents them from being able to breathe, which then causes them to drown. Some studies show that the algae may be linked to climate change and increasing global atmospheric temperatures because the algae blooms in warm temperatures. This detrimental algae has led to a record number of manatee deaths in the last two months and will likely continue to do so for the next several months. Many scientists and veterinarians are making valiant efforts to help prevent further manatee deaths, but not all of the creatures can be saved.
There are less than 5,000 Florida manatees inhabiting U.S. waters, and this number is shrinking every day. Manatees are endangered in the U.S. and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. Despite this, their numbers continue to decline.
With the growing threat of extinction, it is becoming increasingly important to rescue and protect as many of these creatures as possible. These large mammals are also being threatened by various types of human activity including fishing vessel activity and recreational boating, with as many as 80 animals being killed every year in boat collisions. It is extremely important to protect this species in order to maintain the biodiversity of the oceans and the earth. We must take steps to further the protection of these creatures as well as the many other sea animals that are facing population declines and possible extinction.
Oceana, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, announced last week that they intend to sue the federal government over its failure to designate critical habitat areas for loggerhead sea turtles in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – an action required under the Endangered Species Act but that has not yet been done.
Loggerhead sea turtles currently face threats from commercial fisheries, habitat destruction, and climate change along our coasts and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately population recovery efforts are slow, as turtles are long-lived animals that typically don’t reach sexual maturity until 20-35 years of age.
The designation of critical habitat is expected to help restore plummeting population numbers, as species with identified critical habitat are more than twice as likely to show recovery in overall numbers. The designation of critical habitat will likely protect nesting and foraging grounds that are important to the survival and recovery of these turtles.
In order to designate critical habitat, the federal government must first identify areas that are essential to the survival and recovery of the species. More than 90 percent of the U.S. Atlantic nesting population of loggerheads nests on U.S. beaches along the eastern coast of Florida. Critical habitat designation is vital to the survival and recovery of threatened and endangered species. Every day the government delays means more turtles caught in nets and more habitat areas destroyed without consideration of the impacts on the population.
You’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out who this year’s Ocean Heroes are, and the time has finally come to announce our winners!
We received over 400 fantastic nominations this year, and narrowed it down to six adult finalists and five junior finalists. Thousands of your votes determined the winners, and we’re excited to announce that our adult Ocean Hero is Captain Don Voss and our Junior Ocean Hero is James Hemphill.
Captain Don Voss, from Fort Pierce, Florida, is the owner of the Marine Cleanup Initiative Inc., a debris collection organization that cleans up Florida’s waterways. Over the last 11 years, the company has grown from six volunteers to over 400, who have collectively removed over 300,000 pounds of marine debris. Don started SCUBA diving as a form of therapy after he was wounded in Vietnam, and his love for the ocean motivated him to help clean up the waterways that he loved to dive in.
Don was thrilled to hear that he had won, and is excited for the future of his work.
“I’m 64 now and keep thinking I’ll go back to recreational diving, but every time I go back in the water I find myself picking up debris. People need to understand that this is an ecosystem and that every one thing affects the next thing… What I’ve learned from my grandchildren, if you want an adult to stop doing something, you tell the kids. I’m hoping is that I can get more kids involved with diving, I can get less debris in the water and the water quality improves.”
And if there’s any kid who’s involved with getting debris out of the water, it’s our Junior Ocean Hero, James Hemphill. At 15 years old, James has already been working in ocean conservation for several years. He’s the president of Project Green Teens, a student-run environmental group that promotes conservation in Virginia Beach. They have removed 2,300 pounds of trash from Virginia waterways, and are currently working on a plastic bag ban in Virginia Beach.
James wants kids his age to know that getting involved in conservation is easy, and you can make a big difference by making some changes in your lifestyle.
“Start out with the little creeks that run into the ocean and start small where you can physically see the results. Get a group of friends that are interested and experiment. There’s no such thing as failure… it’s just a matter of how much effort you’re willing to put into it.”
Congratulations to Don and James, and all of our amazing finalists!
Thanks to our corporate sponsors at Nautica and Revo Sunglasses for helping make the Ocean Heroes Awards possible. Our winners will receive a prize package that includes a $500 gift card to Nautica and a pair of Revo sunglasses, made with a 100% recycled frame and polarized lenses, perfect for spending days out on the water.
The Florida ocean conservation community said farewell to one of its greatest servants this week. John Halas, who was the winner of Oceana’s first annual Ocean Heroes contest, has retired after nearly 32 years of work protecting coral reefs in Florida.
Halas, a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, has been working to protect coral systems in Florida since 1981. After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, he took it upon himself to develop an environmentally friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries.
We’re sad to see John go but wish him a very happy retirement!
Stay tuned for this year’s Ocean Heroes contest, which kicks off with nominations on World Oceans Day, June 8.
On April 1st Oceana kicked off spring in high gear at the 2012 Nautica South Beach Triathlon. We set out for the warm waters of Miami to fundraise for the oceans, engage hundreds of new ocean advocates and connect with existing Wavemakers in one of our favorite ocean places. Thanks to Nautica, our passionate volunteers and dedicated athletes, we did just that – and then some!
In the end, our athletes like Summer Osterman (Burgess Yachts), Deborah London, Bruce Sutherland and Laura Taglione, raised nearly $4000 for ocean conservation and our volunteers helped turn hundreds of curious attendees into Oceana Wavemakers by rallying their support around a new petition to help protect dolphins and other sea creatures in American waters.
In total, Oceana raised over $30,000 at the event thanks to athlete fundraising and contributions from Nautica that included proceeds from all the commemorative merchandise sales at their beachside pop-up tent throughout the weekend. 100 percent of all Nautica sales during race weekend went to Oceana’s mission to help protect the oceans! Not only that, but they supplied us with tent space, race entries and uniforms for our athletes – helping keep us outfitted and visible throughout the entire weekend.
And despite a sudden downpour that left most of the expo waterlogged for much of the weekend, we had great weather – especially on race day. Clear skis and water temps in the high 70s made for perfect racing conditions for Team Oceana and the 3,000 other folks that turned out to test their mettle through swimming, biking and running.
A special thanks goes out to our volunteers who helped rally new Oceana supporters and to the Nautica team for raising an impressive amount of money to help fuel our mission to protect the world’s oceans. Next up, Nautica Malibu Triathlon! We can’t wait.
After recently joining Oceana as a senior advisor, I traveled with the team to Fort Lauderdale last week where we hosted our first major South Florida event, SeaBlue. We had a great time and let me say, it was a huge success for the oceans.
At SeaBlue we raised a lot of money to help protect the world’s oceans and in the process, over 300 guests had a blast dancing and singing along to the music of Oceana Ambassador Adrian Grenier and The Honey Brothers. We were also joined by Martin Stepanek (world champion free diver) and Wyland (a renowned marine artist) as we celebrated Oceana at the perfect winter getaway.
On a more serious note, the evening focused on sharks and the need for Floridians to fight for their protection. Legislation in Florida to stop the shark fin trade has stalled, putting a kink in Oceana’s efforts to stop the practice of shark finning and the trade of fins, which still legally feeds the high demand in many states.
Looking for an excuse to celebrate the oceans this winter? Look no further. On March 3, we are holding our inaugural SeaBlue benefit event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and you are invited!
SeaBlue will feature a musical performance by The Honey Brothers with Oceana Ambassador Adrian Grenier, and Alexandra Cousteau and World Champion Freediver Martin Stepanek will also be in attendance.
The benefit, co-chaired by philanthropic leaders Senta Monet Mackel and Louise Storelli Fogarty, will be hosted at the award-winning W Fort Lauderdale. Guests will be treated to an evening of hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and dancing in an underwater world created by Chris Cruz of Emagination.
SeaBlue is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors and underwriters, including W Fort Lauderdale, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, LiveESP.com, Wells Fargo, Bacardi U.S.A. and Emagination.
You can purchase tickets at www.seablueevent.org, and please spread the word!
When Christopher Columbus first saw a West Indian manatee, he thought it was a mermaid – you can decide for yourself if the comparison is apt.
November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida, so this week we’re checking in with the charismatic sea cows – and if you tweet us what makes the manatee’s teeth unique among mammals, you could win a prize.
The West Indian manatee is found in two distinct populations in the Caribbean and Florida, where they live in warm, shallow water, migrating somewhat with the seasons. They are tolerant of a range of saltiness, although they need occasional access to freshwater to keep from being dehydrated.
Manatees are about 10 feet long and can live to be about 50 years old. Despite their massive size, they are surprisingly agile, even though they swim and steer with just their tails. They are usually pale grey, although calves are darker. Their skin is constantly flaking off, likely to reduce algae. For the most part, manatees live alone, spending about six to eight hours a day eating.
Eating takes up so much of their day because their diet consists primarily of seagrass, which has a very low caloric value. Although manatees have developed a low metabolic rate to help conserve energy, they still need to eat a lot of seagrass – about 10-15% of their body weight each day (!) In addition to seagrass, manatees use their flippers to dig up roots, and will occasionally eat invertebrates or fish.
I’m sitting in the meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission down in Key Largo, and I have great news: A decision has just been made to protect tiger sharks and three species of hammerhead sharks in state waters.
The new rules go into effect January 1, 2012 and prohibit the commercial harvest, possession and landing of tiger and hammerhead sharks (scalloped, smooth and great hammerheads) in state waters -- that’s three miles off the Atlantic coast and nine miles off the Gulf coast. Recreational fisheries for these species could continue, as long as they’re “catch and release."
We really like this new regulation. Tiger sharks have declined drastically in recent decades -- up to 97% in US Atlantic waters. And these three species of hammerhead sharks have declined about 70% in northwest Atlantic waters. Sharks are often caught for their fins that eventually end up in shark fin soup.
There are some other shark species that still would benefit from this same protection in Florida’s waters, but for now we’re pleased to see the state make positive changes to these shark fisheries. Florida’s waters provide essential habitat for these species; their babies (called pups) use these waters as nursery grounds.
Protected sharks = more shark babies = healthier oceans. Thanks to everyone who helped with this huge victory for sharks!