Michelle Cassidy's blog

Video: Romance with a Side of Plastic

Posted Tue, Jun 12, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to great pacific garbage patch, microplastic, plastic, plastics pledge, pollutin, psa, recycling, reduction, reuse, SOS Plastic, video

How do you like your oysters? Probably not with a side of fishing line or a plastic bag.

This video, created by Katrin Peters for SOS Plastic, shows a couple on a seemingly romantic date. It’s less appealing, though, when you see what accompanies their dinner:

 

Part of a global campaign to raise awareness and unite international groups against marine plastic pollution, SOS Plastic aims to show how plastics in the oceans affect the entire world.

Every year we use millions of tons of plastic in packaging, water bottles, single-use bags, fishing line and more. The qualities that are so useful to humans – its durability, light weight, and lack of decomposition – make plastic a dangerous material once it gets into the oceans. Polymers can last for decades, if not centuries, which leads to an enormous accumulation of plastic in the oceans.

In 1992, the EPA found that the majority of the world’s beaches showed some sort of plastic accumulation. You might have seen bottles, bags, or fishing nets washed up on the shore, but the real danger lies in what you can’t see.

When exposed to the sun and water, plastics break apart into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These little bits of trash don’t decompose in the water; instead, they get eaten by plankton then travel up through the food chain. Microplastics carry chemicals at extreme levels that can cause illness in both marine animals and humans when we eat seafood.

Many states and counties are starting to limit or ban plastic bags, like Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. You can help by reducing your plastic use – bring reusable bags to the grocery store or farmer’s market, carry a drink in a stainless steel water bottle, and make sure that when you do use plastics you recycle. Sign the Plastics Pledge today to prevent the ocean from getting trashed.


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World Oceans Day at the National Aquarium

Posted Tue, Jun 12, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to 2012 ocean heroes, baltimore, conservation, coral reef, dive, john halas, john racanelli, National Aquarium, ocean heroes, scuba, sea turtle, world oceans day

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The divers offer Calypso an afternoon snack. ©National Aquarium/Kate Hendrickson

World Oceans Day was this past Friday, and as we mentioned in our last post, Oceana headed up to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to take part in their special celebration of the seas.

Divers enter the aquariums exhibits every day to feed the animals and clean the tanks, but on Friday there was a very special dive. National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli joined Oceana’s very first Ocean Hero, John Halas, for excursions into the Atlantic coral reef and Wings on the Water exhibits.

The Atlantic coral reef exhibit was John Halas’ first aquarium dive, but far from his first experience with that ecosystem. He earned the Ocean Hero award in 2009 for his more than 30 years of working to protect coral reef systems in Florida. He retired earlier this year, but has been busy traveling to places like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to help install environmentally friendly buouy systems.

In Wings on the Water, John Halas got to meet Calypso, the friendly three-flippered sea turtle that lives in the Aquarium. You can check out video from both dives and interviews with John Racanelli and John Halas over at the Baltimore Sun.

Do you know someone who does great things for the oceans like John? Nominations for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Award are open now and we’re searching for people of all ages and backgrounds who are working hard to protect the world’s oceans. Don’t forget to get your nominations in by June 20th!

Many thanks to the National Aquarium for hosting us and doing such great work to protect the world’s oceans.


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5 Ways to Celebrate World Oceans Day

Posted Thu, Jun 7, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to aquarium, baltimore, bay, beach, cleanup, National Aquarium, ocean heroes, pollution, river, world oceans day, zoo

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Every day is World Oceans Day when you're a humpback whale ©Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Happy World Oceans Day!

The ocean does a lot for us — it generates much of the oxygen we breathe, provides us with nutritious food to eat and regulates our climate. But if we want to hold onto these valuable resources, we have to take care of the ocean the way it takes care of us.

Today marks the 20th annual World Oceans Day, a chance for us to protect our most valuable resource. We’ve put together five ways for you to celebrate World Oceans Day (even if you’re nowhere near an ocean)

1. Go to the Beach What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than to go straight to the source? If you’re lucky enough to live near the water, get a group together and head down to the shore. Pack a picnic (but no single-use plastic bags or bottles, please!) and spend the day learning about the ocean firsthand.

2. Visit an Aquarium If you can’t get out to the beach, try the next best thing. Aquariums let you see unique marine life that you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. They also do a lot of great research and conservation so that we can protect our marine resources. Many aquariums and zoos are hosting special events for World Oceans Day, see if there are special events at one near you.

3. Clean Up Help keep the marine environment clean by participating in a river, bay, or ocean cleanup today — you might be surprised by what you find! You can find a cleanup event near you on the World Oceans Day website.

4. Adopt a Sea Creature Oceana works hard to protect all kinds of marine life, from sharks to penguins to sea turtles, and everything in between. You can support our efforts by adopting an animal.

5. Nominate an Ocean Hero Our fourth annual Ocean Heroes contest just started, and we’re looking for the most dedicated ocean activists we can find. If you know someone who’s doing great things for the ocean, tell us about them!

If you want to celebrate World Oceans Day with Oceana, we’ll be at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland today. Our 2009 Ocean Hero John Halas will dive in two of their exhibits with National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli. They’re also hosting special events all weekend, including scavenger hunts and book signings with Debbie Dadey, author of the Mermaid Tales book series.

We hope you have a wonderful World Oceans Day, and remember to look out for the oceans every day of the year!


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Nominate an Ocean Hero!

Posted Wed, Jun 6, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to 2012 ocean heroes, activism, conservation, education, finalists, marine mammals, nominations, ocean heroes, pollution, rehabilitation, sea slugs, sustainability, vote

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2011 Junior Ocean Hero Sophi Bromenshenkel with her snow hammerhead.

Is someone in your community doing great things for the oceans? We want to hear about them!

Nominations for our fourth annual Ocean Heroes Awards open today and we’re searching for people who work hard to make a difference and deserve to be recognized for it. Each year we choose a selection of adult and junior finalists, then let you vote to pick the winners.

What does it mean to be an Ocean Hero? The other day we took a look at previous finalists’ areas of interest, ranging from SCUBA and submarines to marine mammals and sea slugs. They work to influence lawmakers, rehabilitate animals, and reduce pollution. Every Ocean Hero is different, but they all share a passion for the world’s oceans that drives them to make a difference.

You can nominate an Ocean Hero between now and June 20th — that gives you two weeks to tell us about your friends who are working to protect the oceans. This Friday, June 8th is World Oceans Day, a good chance to look out for Heroes in your community.

We will announce the finalists on June 27th, and let you all choose our 2012 Ocean Heroes. The winners will receive a prize package that includes fantastic gifts from our corporate sponsors, Nautica and Revo.

Now’s your chance to tell us about the ocean heroes you know!


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Q&A with 'To The Arctic' Filmmakers

Posted Tue, Jun 5, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to arctic, environmental films, imax, macgillivray freeman, polar bears

ToTheArctic

To the Arctic showcases unique Arctic species like polar bears. ©IMAX

Oceana had a chance to talk to Greg and Shaun MacGillivray, the producers of To the Arctic, an IMAX 3D film that explores the changing landscape of the Arctic and the animals that call it home. Here's what they had to say about survivng the cold and falling in love with a family of polar bears.

Q: Without revealing any spoilers, what is To the Arctic going to show us that we’ve never seen before?

To The Arctic is the first 3D IMAX film ever shot in the Arctic, and because of the immersive, experiential quality of 3D IMAX footage shown on screens 80 feet tall, audiences will feel like they have been transported to this incredibly wild and pristine place without even having to put a parka on. We were extremely lucky while shooting in Norway to find a mother polar bear and her two cubs willing to let us follow and film them at close range for five days straight, which is unprecedented. Polar bears are usually skittish around humans and will avoid them. But this mother was completely comfortable with us and even seemed to like having us nearby. The result is that we were able to capture extremely rare, close-up footage showing the daily lives of a polar bear family in a changing Arctic, and the incredible lengths to which this mother went to protect and nurture her cubs. We saw her fend off four different attacks by hungry male polar bears in five days, and we have it all on film. 

Q: What were some of the challenges filming in Arctic conditions?

In the Arctic we were primarily filming wildlife, which is hard enough in normal conditions. But the extreme cold and wind and remoteness of our locations made it even more difficult than usual. When you’re filming wildlife, there is a lot of waiting and searching for the animals, and then you want to try to capture a variety of animal behaviors, so you have to give yourself lots of time. We were in the field much longer for To The Arctic  than for any of our other films—about 8 months over four years—and we were never really comfortable. On one trip, during our three-week stay aboard an icebreaker in Norway, the showers weren’t working, so we didn’t bathe for 21 days straight! For the underwater crew filming under the ice cap, the conditions were even more challenging. They were filming in water that was 29 degrees Fahrenheit, literally “liquid ice.” Only the salt content in the water kept it from freezing. It was so cold that their longest dive was only 45 minutes. Any longer and their hands would have become completely frozen.

Q: How different was diving in the Arctic compared to California? 

Well, for one thing, we were filming polar bears underwater, which you don’t find too often in California. To get the shots, we relied on Bob Cranston, a brave underwater cinematographer who has photographed alligators, great white sharks, venomous snakes, and now, the fiercest predator of all--polar bears. They are eating machines, so we sent in Bob. He invented a way to film them by diving down below them, then waiting for the bear’s natural curiosity to cause them to investigate our cameras. If the bears got too close for comfort, Bob would sink down out of range. Polar bears don’t like to dive too deep—the deepest we saw them dive was about 20 feet—so as long as Bob picked spots where the water was deeper than that, he felt relatively safe.   


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Tuna Still Feeling the Effects of Fukushima

Posted Wed, May 30, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to california, Cesium, fukushima disaster, highly migratory species, japan, mercury, nuclear power plant, overfishing, radiation, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, sushi

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna are carrying radiation from Japan to California. ©Oceana/Keith Ellenbogen

It might seem straight out of science fiction, but this story is real – radioactive tuna could be swimming in an ocean near you.

new study found that after last spring’s Fukushima nuclear accident, Pacific Bluefin tuna caught off of San Diego appear to have been contaminated by radioactive materials from last spring’s nuclear accident in Japan.

The March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in central Japan. Even now, the only way to enter the zone 20 kilometers around the plant is with special government permission. After the accident, tests showed that concentrations of radioactive Cesium in coastal waters increased up to 10,000-fold.

This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found the same radioactive Cesium in 15 Bluefin tuna specimens caught outside of San Diego. The fish tested showed a 10-fold increase from normal Cesium concentrations, well below the safety limit established by Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishes.

Bluefin are a highly migratory species – they spawn in the West Pacific near Japan, then, once they have matured, may travel more than 9,000 miles to the East Pacific and the California coast. They’re such strong swimmers that the trip only takes a few months.

During the course of this trip, the radioactive concentration fell as the fish grew and the Cesium decayed. If they had tested tuna from Japan, the radiation would be expected to be up to 15 times more concentrated, according to Daniel Madigan, Zofia Baumann, and Nicholas Fisher, the co-authors of the study.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch already lists bluefin as a species to avoid due to severe overfishing and high mercury levels. They’re highly valued as sushi fish, which has led to a steep decline in their populations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Bluefin tuna are slow to mature, and are often caught before they have a chance to reproduce. Oceana is currently working to protect bluefin tuna from overfishing.


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We Like La Mer, Do You?

Posted Thu, May 24, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to creme de la mer, donation, Facebook, la mer, world oceans day

Today beauty company La Mer is launching an exciting initiative to support Oceana, but we need your help to make it happen.

For every new 'like' on La Mer's Facebook page between now and World Oceans Day on June 8th, they will donate $5 to Oceana until they reach their goal of $30,000. What's not to like about that?

La Mer relies on sea kelp's restorative properties to make their skin products. The World Oceans Day campaign for 2012 emphasizes the future of ocean conservation. Marine life has a lot to offer that we haven’t discovered yet, so it’s important that we protect ocean habitats for future study.

Since 2005, La Mer has worked with Oceana to protect the world's oceans and the kelp forests that they use to make their products. They have created a special limited edition version of their famous creme to commemorate World Oceans Day, the proceeds from which will help our campaign to protect ocean habitats.

On their site you can check out an interactive presentation about the world’s oceans and some of our global initiatives.

Thanks, La Mer! We like you. (And all you readers should, too!)


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Photo of the Week: Shallow Dive

Posted Tue, May 22, 2012 by Michelle Cassidy to baltic expedition, ocean expeditions, photos, scuba diving, underwater photography

baltic sea diver

Oceana diver in a shallow seabed in the Baltic. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Members of our Baltic Expedition crew have been diving in the waters around Finland's Åland Islands. Even in the shallow waters pictured here, the poor visibility felt "like diving at night," according to diver and deck coordinator Jesús Molino. In this water, it would be hard to see your hand sticking out in front of your face.

Even close to the shore, the water reached depths of up to 100 meters. The crew sent in remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to survey the seabed in these deep waters before heading in themselves.

The divers braved dark, icy waters to film the marine life in the waters near these isolated islands. They found a variety of shrimps, eels, isopods, fish like the fourhorn sculpin, and even a submerged bird egg.

The crew has spent the last few days in the Åland Islands, and will set off on the next leg of their journey tonight. They will be sailing north for about 15 hours to reach their next working site in the Baltic Sea.


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