For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide at the historic Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This is the same location where Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Charles David Keeling first established the ‚ÄúKeeling Curve,‚ÄĚ a famous graph showing that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere. CO2 was around 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began releasing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. On May 9, the reading was a startling 400.08 ppm for a 24-hour period. But without the help of the oceans, this number would already be much higher.
Rowers take your mark! This lagoon will be the site of the rowing competition at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics, but yesterday this was the scene, as thousands of fish died and had to be removed after oxygen levels in the water plummeted due to heavy pollution.
Learn about what Oceana is doing to combat pollution in the ocean and what you can do to help.
In an apparent guerilla stunt, a wildlife sculpture in downtown Vancouver has been "caught" in a giant plastic 6-pack ring. The sculpture, located at the corner of Georgia and Thurlow Streets, depicts two dolphins, whose necks are now caught in the giant plastic rings marked with the "PlasticPollutionCoalition.org" web address.
This stunt is a large-scale reminder of the dangers of litter, particularly plastics, in our ocean. Approximately 75-80 million tons of plastics are used every year to produce the world's food packaging alone, and a large proportion of these plastics inevitably end up in our oceans. Almost 80% of the garbage found in the ocean comes from land-based sources, with the majority being packaging and food containers like the ubiquitous 6-pack ring featured in this guerilla demonstration. This garbage kills sea creatures by strangling them, drowning them through entanglement, or even starving them through malnutrition when ingested debris in the creatures' stomachs prevents them from getting the food and nutrients that they require.
Though you won‚Äôt see them saddled and ready to ride anytime soon, seahorses are pretty fascinating little sea creatures.
Named for their resemblance to the horses that we‚Äôre used to seeing on land, the seahorse is one of the slowest moving fish in the ocean. They swim upright, unlike their cousin the pipefish, and flutter their dorsal fin up to 30-40 times per second to move around (more like a hummingbird than a horse).
There are 47 distinct species of seahorses, and all are in the genus Hippocampus, which comes from the Ancient Greek for ‚Äúsea monster.‚ÄĚ You can find them in shallow waters throughout the world, especially in seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangroves, where they can take cover and hide from bigger fish that might want to make a meal out of them.
Seahorses are fairly small, ranging from 0.6 to 14 inches. But the smallest of all are the pygmy seahorses. Scientists are continuing to discover new species of pygmy seahorse, but they‚Äôre tough to find because they camouflage themselves and live in or near coral, algae, or seaweed, where they blend so well that they‚Äôre nearly impossible to spot. They often use their tails to anchor themselves to a surface, then use their snouts to catch brine shrimp and other small crustaceans floating by.
One of the seahorse‚Äôs most unique characteristics is that males carry the fertilized eggs instead of females. The male seahorse has a brood pouch on his front side where the female deposits eggs during mating. He carries the eggs until they‚Äôre fully developed, then releases the tiny seahorses out into the ocean to fend for themselves. A single brood can contain up to 1,500 young!
Because seahorses are so elusive, we don‚Äôt know very much about their populations worldwide. But the coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other areas they call home are endangered by habitat depletion, pollution, and ocean acidification, which has made some species of seahorse vulnerable to extinction.
Happy World Oceans Day!
The ocean does a lot for us ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôve put together five ways for you to celebrate World Oceans Day (even if you‚Äôre 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôt get out to the beach, try the next best thing. Aquariums let you see unique marine life that you wouldn‚Äôt 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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôre looking for the most dedicated ocean activists we can find. If you know someone who‚Äôs doing great things for the ocean, tell us about them!
If you want to celebrate World Oceans Day with Oceana, we‚Äôll 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‚Äôre 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!
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‚Äôre 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‚Äô 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‚Äôs oceans that drives them to make a difference.
You can nominate an Ocean Hero between now and June 20th ‚ÄĒ 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.
If you read the blog yesterday, you may recall two things: (1) the 4th Annual Ocean Heroes Contest kicks off on June 6, and (2) nearly 1/3 of Ocean Heroes finalists hail from California. Now while the a significant proportion of finalists in the contest‚Äôs first three years have been from the same state, our 30 previous finalists cover a wide breadth of conservation issues.
For starters, if you were to ask, ‚ÄėHow are the Ocean Heroes finalists helping the oceans?‚Äô, then I‚Äôd tell you there are ‚Äď in my opinion ‚Äď seven unique areas where people can invest their time: Political Activism, Habitat Conservation, Education, Pollution Reduction, Animal Rehabilitation, Research, and Promoting Sustainability. As you can see in the chart below, most finalists are politically active ‚Äďfrom three girls scouts in Hawaii who rallied the state legislature to make World Oceans Day an official holiday to a physics and math professor in California who pushed Italian officials to end drilling in her native region of Abruzzo, which sits east of Rome on the Adriatic Sea.
Now that you see there are many different ways to put your energy into ocean conservation, you may ask, ‚ÄúWhere is all that energy being focused?‚Äô. Amazingly, there‚Äôs no end to the different areas of focus where our Ocean Heroes commit their time and energy ‚Äď SCUBA lessons for underprivileged kids (Education), developing a mooring buoy system to protect coral reefs (Conservation), saving stranded marine mammals (Rehabilitation), and the list goes on and on. As you can see in the pie chart below, marine mammals and sharks are the most popular focal points for our Ocean Heroes Finalists, but even an intense interest in sea slugs (Bonnie Lei, ‚Äô10) can earn someone a bid as an Ocean Heroes Finalist.
So, whether you want to nominate yourself or someone else for conservation, education or activism, know that there‚Äôs no one sure-fire area of focus that makes someone an Ocean Hero Finalist ‚Äď it‚Äôs about dedication and having an impact.
Ordinances to ban single-use plastic bags are picking up steam here in California. A growing list of cities and counties in the state are taking action to get rid of this frequent source of pollution, which trashes our beautiful rivers and beaches and causes undue harm to wildlife.
Did you know that 19 billion plastic grocery bags are distributed in California each year, many of which end up as litter?
When plastic enters marine waters, it continually breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces that absorb toxic chemicals. Chemical laden plastic pieces are then ingested by wildlife and enter the food chain that we depend upon. In addition, animals can inadvertently ingest or choke on plastic bags. Over 267 species of marine wildlife have been affected by plastic bag litter.
One species in particular is the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The largest of all sea turtles, the leatherback swims an incredible 6,000 miles from its nesting beaches in Indonesia to California waters to feed on jellyfish. These prehistoric turtles easily mistake plastic bags swirling in the water for jellies and once ingested the turtles suffer dire consequences like malnutrition, starvation, intestinal blockage, suffocation, and drowning. One study found that one third of Pacific leatherbacks autopsied had plastic in their gastrointestinal tract.
Good thing we have alternatives to plastic bags like re-useable cloth bags, some of which you can even wash after a few visits to the grocery or department store. Re-useable bags also come in handy for other errands and outings like the local farmers market or an afternoon at the beach.
To date, 19 cities and 6 counties in California either have adopted or fully implemented plastic bag bans. Another 44 cities and 6 counties are in process of considering such a ban. The California Supreme Court also recently ruled that expensive Environmental Impact Reports are not required for cities to implement these bans, making it much easier to take action. This map shows cities and counties moving forward to ban plastic bags to date in California. We're asking our Californian supporters to help us fill in the map and ask your local city council to consider banning single-use plastic bags in your area.
And whether or not your hometown has jumped on board with these bans, you can do your part to reduce plastic trash. Take a pledge today to use less plastic, and help keep the oceans a little cleaner.
The impacts of the Deepwater Horizon are being felt in -- you guessed it -- Minnesota.
White pelicans that winter in the Gulf of Mexico and have lived in an oiled Gulf have migrated to far away places such as Minnesota to lay eggs, and the contaminants inside them have traveled as well.
Preliminary testing by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows that petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested and nearly 80 percent of the eggs contained the chemical dispersant used during the spill, called COREXIT.
The contamination of white pelican eggs is a bad sign for the developing embryos and potentially their populations. The researchers will be continuing to monitor impacts on the population for years to come, and the true impacts may not be realized for decades.
Mark Clark, a researcher helping with these studies, says, ‚ÄúAny contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts. And when things go wrong at that stage, there's usually no recovery."
The immediate loss of pelicans and other birds that were covered in oil during the spill was amazingly disheartening and graphic. But these types of sub-lethal impacts show how the next generation may be affected.
While these effects are less noticeable, they are even more concerning for the future of the population. Nearly half of all the bird species that live in the United States spend at least part of the winter in the Gulf of Mexico, and the health of the Gulf is globally significant for birds.
After the Exxon Valdez spill, more than 88% of the birds that were found dead were outside of Prince William Sound, the area immediately affected by the spill, and the number of dead birds found was only a fraction of the total killed by the spill.
The combination of those direct losses, poor reproductive success and changes in the habitat, has prevented some species from recovering, even 20 years later. Although we don‚Äôt yet know the long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill, these contaminants in eggs serve as a warning sign of things to come.
We need to make sure that BP and the other responsible parties are held accountable for the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill that have likely impacted hundreds to thousands of species.
Even more importantly we need to recognize that these contaminated eggs, and the ongoing damages to wildlife, are part of the overall problem with offshore drilling and spilling. We have much better options for energy, such as offshore wind, and we should use them.
Our team in Chile has produced a powerful video, and we are excited to share it with you.
The video shows dramatic images and real testimonies from the people of Ventanas, in central Chile, which is severely affected by the pollution from coal-fired power plants and a copper refinery.
Earlier this month, a toxic cloud appeared containing levels of sulfur dioxide 10 times higher than the maximum limit established by the World Health Organization. In response to this and several other major pollution events over the past year, Oceana has been calling on the government to close the industries that operate in that area, at least until a health inspection is completed, and someone is held responsible for the pollution.
Our campaigners in Chile are also working to prohibit the installation of new polluting or dangerous industries in areas already declared as highly polluted. Sadly, Ventanas is just one example of many communities in Chile that are affected by severe pollution. The environmental costs of the thermoelectric industries and coal refineries are unfairly concentrated in these communities, and their residents are suffering from environmental discrimination.
Stay tuned for more videos that will feature other areas in Chile that are suffering a similar reality. Give today to support our work to protect Chile‚Äôs people and marine life from severe pollution.