Yesterday a student asked me if the devastation from 2010′s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “over.” The answer of course is no. Not by a long shot. When the spill happened, we could only observe the immediate effects: Birds drenched in oil, spoiled fisheries, and the hardships faced by many people living and working in the region. Longer term impacts will be more difficult to evaluate and we don’t know how resilient the system will be. Studies will likely continue for decades and despite all of the news coverage over the summer, I hope we do not grow complacent about what’s occurred–as we so often do when it comes to the marine realm. Please folks, remember the Gulf, and let’s do our best to make sure it never happens again.
The chemistry of the world’s oceans is changing at a rate not seen for 65 million years, with far-reaching implications for marine biodiversity and food security, according to a new United Nations study released Thursday.”Environmental Consequences of Ocean Acidification,” published by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP),” warns that some sea organisms including coral and shellfish will find it increasingly difficult to survive, as acidification shrinks the minerals needed to form their skeletons.
Lead author of the report Carol Turley, from the UK’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory said in a statement: “We are seeing an overall negative impact from ocean acidification directly on organisms and on some key ecosystems that help provide food for billions. We need to start thinking about the risk to food security.”
Damn straight. Read the full article here.
In an ever more connected and globalized world, we’re increasingly confronted with the ways in which our actions–whether political, economic, or other–can have enormous impacts in other regions. Unfortunately, when it comes to oceans, it has been easy to ignore the devastation that occurs below a seemingly pristine surface. Today is World Oceans Day and as Brett Israel points out, they make up 70 percent of the planet’s surface. And given that 95 percent remains unmapped, the marine realm is our generation’s great unexplored frontier.
After a disaster like the BP spill, images like this brown pelican drenched in oil remind us that we ought to be better stewards of oceans. But too often, we forget as soon as we turn the newspaper page or click a different url. Jeremy Jackson’s right: We’re wrecking oceans through overfishing, climate change, and pollution. So watch, listen, and most importantly, remember…
There has been no comprehensive statement from our government on oceans. Now for the first time, we have a common vision to govern the 4.4 million square miles of America’s marine waters: President Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force has issued science-based recommendations for a national policy to govern, protect, maintain and restore ocean habitat.
Why should you care? Oceans are important to all of us–not just fishermen and boaters, but snorkelers, sunbathers, divers… even those who may not see the coast on a regular basis. They drive life on our planet. Unless we take responsibility for keeping oceans sound, we’re all in trouble. As the Marine Conservation Biology Institute explains:
If adopted, implemented and funded, the recommendations would usher in a new era of ocean management — one based on environmental stewardship. Just imagine the impact we could have if, rather than the hodgepodge of agencies and laws that currently govern oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes, we work together to restore the health of these critical ecosystems!
Go visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans/ and tell the White House Council on Environmental Quality that you support a comprehensive national policy to protect, maintain and restore our oceans and coasts. The 30 day comment period ends on the 17th.
For inspiration, once again, here’s My Top Ten List of reasons why oceans are vital:
More than a few folks have noticed that for the first time in years, I’m not at Capitol Hill Oceans Week. Unfortunately, the 2009 meeting overlapped with another commitment in California. The goal at this year’s CHOW is to highlight ‘the inextricable link between the ocean and the economy, and to suggest tangible ways sound ocean policies might impact improvements in our economy.‘
When in Long Beach earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Wolf Berger; Professor of Oceanography Emeritus and Research Professor at
Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Wolf has a terrific new book out called Ocean: Reflections on a Century of Exploration which covers, well… nearly everything! From biodiversity and oceanography to marine geology and ocean history, if you’re interested in oceans, this book’s got it. Berger covers corals reefs, climate change, plate tectonics, ocean currents, and so much more. Here’s the description at Amazon:
The past one hundred years of ocean science have been distinguished by dramatic milestones, remarkable discoveries, and major revelations. This book is a clear and lively survey of many of these amazing findings. Beginning with a brief review of the elements that define what the ocean is and how it works–from plate tectonics to the thermocline and the life within it–Wolf H. Berger places current understanding in the context of history. Essays treat such topics as beach processes and coral reefs, the great ocean currents off the East and West Coasts, the productivity of the sea, and the geologic revolution that changed all knowledge of the earth in the twentieth century.
Ocean is a good companion for marine students or anyone interested in a detailed account of what’s going on beneath the surface. And for our youngest readers who are budding marine scientists–or perhaps their parents–Wolf also has a very cute and informative children’s book called Feed Me! The Story of Penny the Penguin Chick.