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Marine Life & Conservation

Making Climate a Blue Issue

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Intro – Jeff Goodman

Climate change is affecting us all. We feel it in our day to day lives, but it is arguably in the oceans of the world the greatest changes are taking place – and most people don’t even know it’s happening.

The article below is written by David Helvarg, Author & President, Blue Frontier Campaign and is from the BLUE FRONTIER CAMPAIGN web site: http://www.bluefront.org

Thunder snow, super-storms, dust storms, arctic melting and coral bleaching have existed but not as a regular part of our language ‘til fossil fuel fired climate change kicked in. You know you’re in the greenhouse century when the 13 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998 and last year, 2012, was the hottest in U.S. history, with a major drought, record fire season, sweltering summer and Hurricane Sandy. Of course no single event can be linked to human-enhanced climate disruption, just like no single Tour de France victory by Lance Armstrong can be attributed to his doping, but the trend line is there.

I’ve reported on oil and climate impacts from Antarctica to the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico, Fiji, Australia, Florida, lower Manhattan and offshore California. And in speaking with scientists in all those places I’ve found two common themes: One, the role of the ocean in climate change is not well enough understood but the impacts, like altered ecosystems and the shifting pH called ocean acidification are already occurring. Two, this is the first environmental story where the scientists are more alarmed than the public.

I first learned about global warming interviewing Roger Revelle, the father of modern U.S. oceanography, back in the 1980s. In the 1950s he and Dr. Charles Keeling, measuring atmospheric CO2 from an observatory in Hawaii, discovered industrial carbon dioxide was increasing in the atmosphere and warned of a warming “greenhouse effect.” That became established science at the time and still is.

Yet it was only in the 1990s that climate scientists were able to resolve one of their vexing issues, why the atmosphere wasn’t heating even more rapidly given this build up. The answer was the ocean was absorbing a lot of human-generated CO2, converting it to carbonic acid. The carbonic acid has shifted the pH of the ocean causing surface waters to be 30 percent more acidic than in the early 19th century and possibly up to 150 percent more acidic by the end of this century. That will change the chemical makeup of the ocean to what it was 20 million years ago when it was a less friendly place for shell forming critters like oysters, corals and certain plankton but a fine soup for bacterial mats and jellyfish (both of which are booming today). Warmer, more acidic waters also hold less dissolved oxygen and that is bad news for the entire food web.

Still, there are a couple of ocean conservation groups who talk about ocean acidification (OA) without mentioning climate change because they fear it is too much of a “hot button” issue. This, to me, is like trying to have a discussion about damaged battleships at Pearl Harbor in 1941 without mentioning the Japanese.

Author and activist Bill McKibben and his climate group 350.org take a different approach. They’re mobilizing armies of people, most recently in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to the political stranglehold the fossil fuel industry has over much of our government and a rapid transition to clean energy. Unfortunately the marine conservation community is not bringing a lot of added value to this new populist upsurge.

Yet we are slowly beginning to see some good responses to, for example, climate-linked coastal disasters like Katrina and Sandy, from government, the private sector and the seaweed groups that influence them. One positive sign is New York Governor Cuomo’s call to use $400 million of federal disaster relief to buy back destroyed homes and structures in coastal flood zones from willing sellers, a strategy known as ‘planned retreat.’ The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance has developed a waterfront action agenda for adapting New York City’s shores to the rising seas around it. In Louisiana, the state is committing its federal Restore Act funds from the BP blowout to actually restoring the coastal wetlands that protect New Orleans and other population centers, while the Gulf Restoration Network continues working to promote region-wide restoration of the coastal ecosystems that protect us all. In Washington state, long-time Surfrider member and state senator Kevin Ranker has introduced legislation to address the threat of OA that is already impacting the larval oysters at Taylor Shellfish and other aquaculture companies operating in state waters.

And, as I report in my new book The Golden Shore, California is now emerging as the nation’s leader in planning and adapting for coastal climate impacts. Moreover it’s established its own climate plan including a cap and trade emissions reduction program in response to the federal government’s failure to act. It’s no coincidence that if you go to our Blue Movement Directory you’ll find California has more seaweed groups fighting to protect and restore our public seas than any other state. Ocean action comes in response to citizen engagement. It is a huge challenge for the marine conservation community to understand how these local and state initiatives can be scaled up and made part of a common national and global strategy for our emerging blue movement.

It’s increasingly clear that if we’re to succeed as an ocean and coastal movement than climate will have to become one of our core issues. Even if we address the other cascading marine disasters of industrial overfishing, oil, plastic, chemical and nutrient pollution and loss of habitat, we could still have dying and disrupted seas just from the impacts of climate change alone. The challenge is to respond in time.

Marine Life & Conservation

The Big Shark Pledge: Shark Trust’s new campaign kicks off with a call for support

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With the ink still drying on last week’s landmark listing of nearly 100 species of sharks on Appendix II of CITES, the Shark Trust insists that this is not the time for shark conservation to take a break. The UK-based NGO this week launches its biggest-ever concerted campaign to tackle the overfishing of oceanic sharks. They are calling on people across the world to join the call for stricter controls on high seas fisheries.

The Big Shark Pledge is at the heart of an ambitious set of campaign actions. Working to secure science-based catch limits on all sharks and rays affected by the international high seas fishing fleet. The pledge will build the largest campaigning community in shark and ray conservation history to support a raft of policy actions over the vital years ahead.

Many of our best known and much-loved sharks make their home on the high seas. In our shared ocean, these oceanic sharks and rays face a very real threat from a huge international fleet of industrial-scale fishing vessels. Research published in early 2021 confirmed that over three-quarters of oceanic sharks and rays are now at risk of extinction due to the destructive impact of overfishing. They have declined by 71% over the last 50 years.

The Shark Trust is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and has a long history of securing positive changes for sharks, skates and rays. The Big Shark Pledge will build on the success of their NoLimits? campaign which underpinned landmark catch limits on Blue Sharks and Shortfin Mako in the North Atlantic.

While the listing of so many species on the CITES trade agreement is certainly a positive step, there remains a huge challenge in ensuring that sustainable practices are embedded in international fisheries.” says Shark Trust Director of conservation, Ali Hood. “Sharks on the high seas face extraordinary pressure from excessive fishing practices. This has to be addressed through international agreements such as those secured for Blues and makos.”

There is hope and a feeling of momentum in the shark conservation community. Just last week, in addition to the new CITES listings, the Shark Trust, working with partners in the Shark League, secured the first-ever international quota for South Atlantic Mako at ICCAT meeting in Portugal. The new campaign from the Shark Trust aims to push forwards from here, engaging a wave of support through the Big Shark Pledge to bolster policy action.

This will be a long-term international and collaborative effort. Forging a pathway to rebuild populations of high-seas sharks and rays. By putting science at the heart of shark conservation and fisheries management. And making the vital changes needed to set populations on the road to recovery.

Shark Trust CEO Paul Cox says of the Big Shark Pledge “It’s designed to give everyone who cares about the future of sharks the chance to add their voice to effective and proven conservation action. By adding their name to the Pledge, supporters will be given opportunities to apply pressure at key moments to influence change.

Click here to sign the Big Shark Pledge

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Gear News

Fourth Element X Sea Shepherd

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This year on Black Friday, fourth element announced their new partnership with Sea Shepherd, encouraging people to move away from mindless purchasing and to opt-in to supporting something powerful.

For 40 years Sea Shepherd, a leading non-profit organisation, has been patrolling the high seas with the sole mission to protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. They work to defend all marine wildlife, from whales and dolphins, to sharks and rays, to fish and krill, without exception.

Inspired by Sea Shepherd’s mission, fourth element have created a collection of fourth element X Sea Shepherd limited edition products for ocean lovers and protectors, with 15% of every sale going to the Sea Shepherd fund to help continue to drive conservation efforts globally.

“Working with Sea Shepherd gives fourth element the opportunity to join forces with one of the largest active conservation organisations in the world to try to catalyse change in people’s attitudes and behaviour. Fourth Element’s products are designed, developed and packaged with the intention of minimising our impact on the ocean environment, and with this partnership, we will be supporting the work of Sea Shepherd, in particular in their work on dealing with the twin threats of Ghost fishing nets and plastic pollution.”

Jim Standing fourth element co-founder

Read fourth element’s Sea Shepherd Opinion Piece HERE

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