The Beacon

Blog Tags: National Geographic

Brian Skerry Showcases His 'Ocean Soul'

Photographer Brian Skerry calls his new National Geographic book, “Ocean Soul,” a love story – and he clearly means it. Seeing his photographs and listening to him speak, it’s obvious how deeply he cares about the oceans and their condition.

At a sold-out National Geographic Live event in DC last night to officially mark the book’s publication, Skerry showed photographs from around the world and shared some of his experiences working for National Geographic documenting some of the 98% of the world’s biomass that lives in the oceans.

And experiences he has certainly had, from living on the seafloor for seven days straight to being the first photojournalist allowed on a Canadian seal hunting boat in over a decade.

And even more striking was Skerry’s clear enthusiasm for the oceans and all the life they contain. He talked about ocean photography as peeling back layers of mystery. Surrounded by chaos, he said, his solution is to “focus on individual behavior” while striving to be an “artistic interpreter of all I see.”

Part of that interpretation is to tell a more complete story by showing not only the beauty of the oceans, but also the troubles they face. Photographing bluefin tuna, Skerry said his goal was to foster “wildlife appreciation” rather than just document seafood. About overfishing, he said, “The ocean’s not a grocery store, we can’t continue to take without expecting consequences.”

During the talk, Skerry showed photographs he has taken of harp seals, lemon sharks, right whales, leatherback sea turtles, and humboldt squid, in addition to reef fish, shrim, and tunicates.

He ended with images taken in marine reserves, where he said his goal is to show the abundance, diversity and resilience of the oceans when they are protected. “At every level, it seemed to be in harmony,” he said of one such area.

You can see photographs from “Ocean Soul” and watch another talk by Skerry. Video from last night’s event will be posted by National Geographic.

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Confronting Illegal Fishing in Sala y Gomez

The naval team approaches the fishing boat. © Ford Cochran and Alex Munoz Wilson

Oceana and National Geographic are currently aboard a Chilean naval ship, the Comandante Toro, on a scientific expedition in the waters of the newly created marine park around Sala y Gomez island (FYI, an alternate spelling is Salas y Gomez). Author Alex Muñoz Wilson is the Executive Director of Oceana Chile. This blog dispatch was originally posted at National Geographic.

We woke up this morning to a startling sight: Overnight, a small commercial fishing boat from Easter Island entered the protected waters of the marine park and dropped its lines within site of the Comandante Toro.

The fishing boat's captain was either brazen (why make an illegal fishing foray in plain sight of a large naval patrol ship?) or unaware of the existence of the new park (which would also be surprising, given the substantial publicity in Chile--particularly on Easter Island--surrounding the park's creation).

The Navy captain dispatched a team in one of the Toro's fast boats to interdict the fishing vessel, inspect it, and put a stop to the illegal fishing. According to the captain's report, this was a small commercial fishing boat with tuna in the boat's hold.

The fishing boat's owner said he was aware of the existence of the marine park, and that he was still planning to fish in this area. The navy showed him maps which made it clear that he was harvesting marine life inside the park in a no-take zone where all commercial fishing is banned.

This was the first enforcement action inside the new marine park.

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Victory! Chile Creates Marine Reserve Around Sala y Gómez

Sala y Gómez island. © Oceana

We were hoping this day would come, and today, it did!

In a huge victory this morning for Chile’s marine health and our Chilean colleagues, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of Sala y Gómez Marine Park, a no-take marine reserve of 150,000 square kilometers around Sala y Gómez island.

Sala y Gómez is an uninhabited island that’s part of a biodiverse chain of seamounts that are vulnerable to fishing activity. Dr. Enric Sala, marine ecologist and National Geographic Ocean Fellow, called Sala y Gómez “one of the last undisturbed and relatively pristine places left in the ocean.”

Last March, Oceana, National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation conducted a preliminary scientific expedition to the island and found abundant populations of vulnerable species such as sharks and lobsters, much larger than in the depleted ecosystem in nearby Easter Island, which is not protected from fishing. In addition, the scientists found unexpectedly high biodiversity in deeper waters.

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Victory! Chilean Senate Recommends MPA Around Sala y Gómez Island

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Big news for a pristine patch of ocean off the coast of Chile: Last week the Chilean Senate’s Fisheries Committee unanimously agreed that the Chilean government should establish a 200 nautical mile marine protected area around the Island of Sala y Gómez, near Easter Island.

Oceana and National Geographic have been promoting the protection of this area, which still remains virtually unexplored, and which may well be one of the last pristine vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Pacific.

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Sea Lion vs. Octopus

National Geographic has captured incredible footage of a sea lion battling a large octopus in Australia (spoiler alert: the sea lion prevails.) To get the footage, the hungry sea lion was equipped with a GPS tracker and a crittercam.

The project, led by South Australian Research and Development Institute, is helping researchers learn more about where and how sea lions feed, which will ultimately help in protecting key habitat for the creatures. Plus, it's just a really cool video. Check it out:


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Blue Whales at NatGeo

blue whale tail

I've been infatuated with blue whales since I was a child (who isn't?), so I was thrilled to watch Flip Nicklin, one of the preeminent whale photographers in the world, speak last night at National Geographic. The 61-year-old Nicklin was introduced to whales as a kid. He began by telling how his father, also a diver and underwater photographer, once rode a blue whale that was caught in a gill net (he later set it free, don't worry.) Since, then he's been traveling around the world, from Patagonia to Sri Lanka, in search of the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth. And sometimes they're not very easy to find. "I'm fairly deaf," Nicklin said, "so I'm glad the whales are big." Big is an understatement -- the modern-day dinosaurs can be up to 100 feet long and weigh 200 tons, and their hearts can weigh as much as an SUV. They eat krill almost exclusively, and sometimes up to four tons a day. On a recent expedition, he spent more than three weeks at sea, and saw only one blue whale for a total of about 15 minutes. He got five usable photographs, all taken during the same minute. "They're good at playing hide-and-seek," he joked. But sometimes they are quite literally under his nose. In one video he showed, a blue whale eyed him curiously -- from less than five feet away. And most recently, he traveled to Baja, where he saw more than 20 blue whales.

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