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SOS Plans High-Impact Ocean Events

Highlight: LA Waterkeeper Making Waves Event: Celebrating 20 Years of Protecting  Los Angeles Waterways SOS planned and executed LA Waterkeeper’s 20th anniversary event, Making Waves, surpassing the fundraising goal of $250,000 by $80,000. It’s hard to write about our Making Waves 20th Anniversary celebration and feel like I am doing the event justice.  In short, in raising $330,000 this was easily our most successful event ever! The silent auction tables were overflowing with insanely cool items ranging in value from restaurant gift certificates to international luxury vacations.Over 300 supporters, volunteers, LA Waterkeeper board members and staff, and community leaders all came together to show how much they care about clean water and what LA Waterkeeper does to protect LA’s water.  .  A live call for support far surpassed our goal of $20,000 for 20 years by raising over $30,000. – LA Waterkeeper Highlight: SOS Organizes Ground-Breaking West Coast Ocean Summit SOS has led the collaborative effort in developing a West Coast-wide intergovernmental ocean partnership. The first step of building this partnership was the first West Coast Ocean Summit which brought together over 150 participants, including leadership from West Coast Tribes, representatives from the Governors’ offices of California, Oregon and Washington and state and federal agencies. Regional ocean health priorities were shared and regional ocean coordination and collaboration opportunities were discussed. SOS managed and oversaw all aspects of the Summit, including organizing the collaborative planning team; developing the agenda; conducting communications and outreach; drafting outreach and conference materials including a website and final summit report; coordinating logistics and travel; managing contractors, overseeing budgets and finances, and on-site event management.   Highlight: The Venice...

SOS Hosts Sustainable Seafood Workshop in Miami

Last week the SOS team, along with Tim Lycke of Incredible Fish and Jennifer Mata of Legend Seafood, hosted a workshop on sustainable seafood for chefs and servers at Soho Beach House in Miami. A few pics from the tour of the chilly Incredible Fish...

Plant-based Motor Oil Can Fight Ocean Pollution

Motor oil leaks from the engines of eco-friendly hybrids and gas-guzzling SUVs onto our roadways, where rain washes it into lakes, rivers and oceans. Every year 10 billion gallons of petroleum-based motor oil and other industrial lubricants are released into our oceans and environment globally from human activity. Nearly 40% of pollution in America’s waterways is caused by used motor oil. How can you change this? Go Green! Support non-toxic, environmentally friendly plant-based motor oil to protect the environment and us. Replacing petroleum-based oils with safer, cleaner alternatives could dramatically protect and improve the quality of our vital water resources and protect us from having these harmful pollutants enter our body. Once upon a time, bio-based motor oils were unimaginable. Today, scientific advancements have made this petroleum alternative a reality. A recent study showed that bio-based lubricants – from field crop to engine – would reduce greenhouse gas emission by more than 88% compared to petroleum-based motor oil lubricants. Replacing petroleum based lubricating oil with a renewable alternative would be the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road. If used, plant-based motor oil lubricants could minimize this environmental pollution related to motor oil. Both the environment and the consumer benefits – its keeps engines cleaner, it may require fewer oil changes and the price will likely be cheaper than the petroleum-based, fully synthetic oil currently on the market – with the same great performance! However, currently there are no political or market-based incentives for major motor oil manufacturers to provide consumers with a bio-based alternative. We need support from consumers, NGOs and the environmentally conscious public to...

California’s Ocean Protection Network in Full Effect!

This is a historic day for ocean protection. The first statewide network of marine protected areas in the U.S. went into effect Dec. 19 along California’s 1,100-mile coastline. Strategic Ocean Solutions consultants had the opportunity to provide media relations and public outreach support for the California Marine Life Protection Act Initiative planning process. Watch our video below of the stakeholder-driven process in California’s north coast region. Designing a network of marine protected areas sounds like an easy task, however it isn’t. There are many people who rely on the ocean for enjoyment, work and food. These devoted fans of the ocean didn’t always see eye-to-eye, leading to moments of anger and frustration. As the La Times reporter Ken Weiss describes in his article: “The size of the network is exactly what filled auditoriums with red-shirted, shouting fishermen, angry at impending closures of favored fishing spots. The fight has continued in the courts. So far, none of the lawsuits has prevailed” “The American Sportfishing Assn., the Virginia-based trade group of the tackle and sport fishing industry, hired Sacramento lobbyists and public relations firms, and organized anglers by the busload to try to derail the process.” However, in the end there was compromise. In a Nov. 11, 2009 San Diego Union-Tribune article fishing reporter Ed Zieralski wrote: “The bottom line, and it’s always about the bottom line in fishing, is it could have been a lot worse for recreational and commercial anglers here yesterday when a state panel settled on a network of fishing closures for Southern California.” “While some were saying it was a dark day for fishing in the...

NYC’s Chinatown is Teeming with Sealife

New York City’s Chinatown is overflowing with ocean life – dried, bagged and ready for sale to those seeking alternative Chinese medicines. I recently went on a search for shark fins in the famous lower Manhattan district. I expected to find shark fins, and I did, but what surprised me the most were the many types and quantities of other sea life lying lifeless in the pharmacies. In Chinatown, traditional Chinese medicine markets are a major business and each storefront is stocked wall-to-wall with thousands of animal parts believed to hold medical cures. These markets are well stocked with some pricey sea life including, shark fins, abalone, sea cucumbers and sea horses. Thought to be the “ginseng of the sea,” sea cucumbers are being sold for $200 a pound and up. According to scientists, the lack of trade information on sea cucumber from both exporting and importing countries makes it difficult to accurately quantify the international trade of this animal. Sea cucumbers or Hai shen, as they are known in Chinese, are pickle-sized relatives of the starfish. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe they hold cures for variety of diseases and were one of the eight immortal ingredients used in Confucius cuisine. (The seven others are: shark’s fin, abalone, shrimp, fishbone, fish maw, asparagus, and ham). Fish maw, which is actually a fish’s swim bladder, is also widely available in Chinatown. I came across a bag of dried “extra large” seahorses for $48 per ounce. The bigger, the better, according to Chinese folklore. Seahorses, when steeped in rice wine, are thought to enliven the blood to cure impotence. The reality,...

A High-Seas Escape

It wasn’t an emigrant looking for economic freedom lying there on a Florida beach, but instead plastic trash hightailing it out of Chavez’s Venezuela. Is this a sign of a bigger problem offshore? This transatlantic ocean cruiser found washed ashore in the Atlantic waters off North Palm Beach, Florida, was a plastic soda bottle produced by Pepsi-Cola of Venezuela (producto de Pepsi-Cola Venezuela C.A.). Along its northerly journey out of the Caribbean Sea, it likely drifted north into the Gulf of Mexico through the Yucatan Straits, between Mexico and Cuba, before hitching a ride in the Florida Straits and onto the Gulf Stream. Along the way it picked up oceanic passengers, namely gooseneck barnacles looking for a suitable oceanic drifter to call its home. By the looks of it after finally washing ashore, the bottle had quite an adventurous tale to tell. Today, plastic bottles and other unsightly plastic trash inhabit all oceans on Earth and originate from every distant corner of the planet. Our global plastic problem has gained some worldwide notoriety, most notable in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” in waters off California and Japan where our plastic world is piling up in the middle of the ocean. Although data is scare on the extent of the global marine litter problem, the United Nations Environment Programme says that despite the raising global attention to the issue, our global marine litter problem is mounting with “some 8 million items of marine litter entering the oceans every day and “over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of ocean surface.” This recent Bolivarianism defector that washed...

Plight of the Magellanic Penguin

More than 700 dead penguins have washed up on Brazil’s beaches since June, including more than 500 this week along the Rio Grande do Sul coast in southern Brazil. According to today’s CNN report, the Brazilian Center for Coastal Studies concluded that these Magellanic penguins died of natural causes. I would disagree that these iconic seabirds, named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, are dying from natural causes. Over the last decade, scientists have observed these seabirds traveling longer distances to find food. With their distinctive white bands that loops around their eyes and down the side of the neck, these birds typically migrate in the winter months from their breeding grounds off the coasts of Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands to the waters off southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Northern Argentina in search of food. However, human competition for their main food staples – anchovy, sardines, and squid– as well as changes in the ocean conditions due to climate change and oil pollution, are having a real effect on these animals’ ability to survive. Ocean Indicator Species All Washed Up at Rio+20 This June, along Rio de Janeiro’s famed Ipanema Beach, I witnessed a lone starved baby penguin, far off track in search of food, warmth and rest. This was a particularly interesting find, since the Rio+20 Earth Summit was happening only a few miles away. The juvenile penguin I saw was likely starving to death and headed ashore because it was cold and wanted to be more comfortable and rest, according to University of Washington Conservation Biologist Dee Boersma. “Penguins are good indicators of ocean health because they depend...

Protecting International Marine Diversity Gains Votes in Rio+20 Oceans Dialogue

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, opened the Rio+20 Oceans Dialogue today as moderator of a panel of 10 international ocean experts sitting on stage alongside 10 recommendations critical to advance global ocean management. “Oceans are considered too big to fail, but in fact they are failing,“ said panelist Richard Delaney of the Global Ocean Forum at the start of the public discussion organized by the Brazilian government. Each panelist acknowledged the myriad problems facing the oceans – from ocean acidification, unsustainable and illegal fishing to land- and marine-based pollution – with an eye toward sending a strong message to the United Nations delegates charged with producing a final political document on June 22 at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. We are drawing down on our natural assets,” said Her Deepness Dr. Sylvia Earle. “We now have the knowledge and need to take action while we still have time.” All panelists emphasized the urgent need to utilize science and technology to help mitigate the negative environmental impacts that are degrading the oceans. Others conveyed the need for a strong international global framework to protect the high seas and its biodiversity, which is the 68% of ocean areas not under national jurisdictions or currently protected by international policies. The global blue economy is losing 10-20 million tons of fish a year from ocean mismanagement, according to British Columbia University professor Ussif Rashid Sumaila. His recent study shows that ocean conservation’s return on investment is $3-7 per dollar spent. “The economics are there, we just need the political will,” said Sumalia, who considers fish as an...

Exploring the Life Aquatic in Google Earth at Rio+20

Valuable on-the-ground discussions about community outreach are happening alongside the deep political negotiations at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today, the Sylvia Earle Alliance and Global Foundation for Democracy and Development presented, “Oceans in Google Earth as an Educational Tool: A Dominican Republic Perspective,” a real-world example of how to connect the world to the global ocean through technology. GFDD environmental manager Emy Rodriguez took us on an interactive Google Earth tour of the state’s diverse marine environment, rich with singrays and fish cruising along the Dominican colorful coral reefs. In 2009 Google launched Oceans in Google Earth and the “Explore the Ocean” layer, which is curated by the Sylvia Earle Alliance. The layer allows organizations and individuals around the world to populate the Google ocean with videos and pictures that tell the deeply personal stories and unique regional prospective of the ocean. “Having a variety of media content is what makes it work,” said Charlotte Vick, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Sylvia Earle Alliance. The GFDD Google Ocean project is part of a broader Dominican Republic educational outreach initiative to create greater environmental literacy among its citizens and tourists. This event clearly illustrated that we have the technology to connect diverse people across the globe to the ocean and, these tools are being used to visually teach the world the value of the global oceans in hopes of improving ocean health for future generations. This apolitical Rio+20 side event offered a real-world example of how cutting-edge technology can help advance public awareness about ocean issues and bring about the...

Rio+Ocean: Is our global ocean better protected 20 years later?

World Oceans Day 2012 comes less than two weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The conference, referred as Rio+20, brings together world leaders to strengthen international policies to achieve sustainable development through a green economy and improve international coordination for sustainable development. The first major commitments toward environmental sustainability were made 20 years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. This event is a follow up to the Earth Summit and a major opportunity for ocean advocates to enforce the environment commitment made twenty years ago. Hundreds of events across seven theme areas will be taking place during the two-week period leading up to the official UN meeting. These events, sponsored by governments and NGOs, are designed to communicate the critical environmental issues that need to be included in the final policy document adopted by the UN delegates. “Oceans” is one of the seven priority areas being highlighted at Rio+20. The ocean protection measures adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit by UN member countries are laid out in Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, as well as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Here is how the ocean commitments made through the Convention on Biological Diversity are doing: Aichi Biodiversity Target 6 By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are legally and sustainable harvested to avoid overfishing and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits. In 2012: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 85% of the world’s marine fish stocks are over exploited. Illegal, unregulated, and...

Sharks Hit the Campaign Trail with President Obama

Earlier this week President Obama took a seemingly apolitical lunch stop for Chinese takeout at the famous Great Eastern Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown. For ocean activists this stop prompted an occasion to highlight the issue of shark finning, a process where sharks are caught solely to remove their fins and their finless bodies are dumped back in the sea. The media likely got tipped off from the many ocean advocates working to end this brutal practice that the Great Eastern serves a $48 bowl of braised shark fin soup. Although Obama did not indulge in the Chinese delicacy, the San Francisco Chronicle and NY Daily News took the bait and put shark finning, and the ease of finding the fin soup, in the national spotlight. In Jan 2011, Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, which strengthens existing laws banning fishing for sharks’ fins. A law banning the sale of shark fins also went into effect in California in 2011. It’s great to see sharks get some attention on the Obama campaign trail and I hope more ocean issues get trusted in the national spotlight during this campaign year. The National Ocean Policy is under attack by Republican-controlled House National Resources Committee. Remember, Mitt Romney initiated the Massachusetts ocean planning initiative, which is now a model for the national marine spatial planning initiatives laid out in the National Ocean Policy. Perhaps Romney needs to be reminded that he supported healthy oceans in Massachusetts before he was against it.   — Annie Reisewitz, Director of Communications at Strategic Ocean Solutions Follow Annie on Twitter...

Paying Homage to Wetlands

If the ocean is the blue heart of the planet, then wetlands are the kidneys, naturally filtering out impurities from our drinking water supply. Once considered useless mosquito-infested swamplands, many of the world’s wetlands have been drained or cemented over, giving way to farmlands and shopping malls. Nature’s delicate design can be seen in wetlands. On the outskirts, they provide a nursery for young-ocean life like shrimp and fish, and, at the core, a place of last resort for many endangered plants and animals. Today, on World Wetlands Day, we pay homage to what remains of these picturesque landscapes that provide the vital link between land and sea. Wetland Facts: The Pantanal, which covers 150,000 km2 (57,915 mi2) and straddles Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the largest and best-preserved wetland in the world. The “wettest” wetlands in the world are in Southeast Asia, where heavy rains can provide up to 10,000 mm (about 200 in) of water a year. An international treaty, known as the Ramsar Convention, was signed by 160 countries on Feb. 2, 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, to help preserve the world’s wetlands. The member nations have designated over 190,000,000 hectares to date. The Florida Everglades is the largest wetland restoration project in the world, which is expected to take 30 years and cost over $13 billion dollars. Get more wetland facts   — Annie Reisewitz, Director of Communications at Strategic Ocean Solutions Follow Annie on Twitter...

2012 Election Year Battle for Ocean Champions

If the state-by-state battles being waged by GOP contenders are any indication, the 2012 political race is in full swing and there is a long and winding campaign trail ahead. However, not all political battles being waged in Washington are for the White House. Gaining political support for the ocean is on the radar of one prominent D.C.-based political advocacy organization this election year. The non-profit Ocean Champions helps elect Congressional officials who support healthy ocean policies. “For us, it all starts with getting the right guys into office,” said Ocean Champions’ Executive Director Mike Dunmyer. ”It doesn’t matter how good an advocate you are, if the guys you’re talking to don’t care about your issue.” They will be running their own political campaign this year to defend current ocean champions in Congress facing tough races, such as Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). So far, Ocean Champions’ efforts have helped elect 30 U.S. Congressional members. This election year they will be working to ensure that the current champions remain in office, while helping to elect 10 more. Ocean Champions is a non-partisan advocate for important ocean policy issues, such as fish conservation. Last year they worked to thwart attacks on the major U.S. law managing fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and are planning to continue the fight to protect the ocean conservation law from being dismantled in 2012. “Our intent it to keep the current version of Magnuson intact, thus protecting annual catch limits and other accountability measures,” said Dunmyer. In 2011 they worked to block the Republican-sponsored Jones Amendment, which would...

The 2011 ocean winners and losers

How did the world’s oceans fare in 2011? I examine the most notable ocean winners and losers of the year. Sharks had some good wins this year. In hopes of saving sharks from the high demand for shark fin soup in Asia — several U.S. states aided these ocean giants with much needed protection. Hawaii’s ban on shark finning took effect in 2011 and several West Coast states, namely California, Oregon and Washington, all passed laws this year banning possession and sale of shark fins from waters off their coasts. Along the U.S. East Coast, Florida also took a significant step to protect several species of hammerheads and the tiger shark from being fished out. On a national scale, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act in January to strengthen existing laws banning shark finning in U.S. waters. Across the pond, a delegation of international commissioners voted to protect silky sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, a good first step to protect the decline in sharks in international waters. Much more is need on an international scale to protect sharks and other long-distance swimmers, such as tuna and swordfish. According to shark expert and science blogger David Shiffman, several shark sanctuaries were established in 2011, including in Honduras, the Bahamas, and a nearly two-million square mile zone off the Marshall Islands, Guam and Palau. Speaking of ocean sanctuaries to protect marine life, Australia made news in late November by proposing the world’s largest marine reserve in the Coral Sea. This is an important step toward protecting ocean ecosystems and biodiversity. A scientific study published this year showed that ‘networks’ of...

Obama’s National Ocean Policy Protects America’s Coastal Economy and Jobs

America’s coastline support 66 million jobs and contribute $8.3 trillion to the domestic economy. Americans depend upon our coasts for jobs, recreation and to live. From tourism, fishing and offshore aquaculture to energy production and shipping, scientific research, national security and conservation efforts, these uses require that we have a blueprint for what is happening — and where — within our oceans. The health of our oceans is directly tied to human heath, and our oceans’ health is threatened by overfishing and pollution and from man-made disasters, such as oil spills and natural disasters, such as hurricanes. It’s vital that we ensure the health of the ocean is connected to sustainable use and development. The newly created National Ocean Policy and the marine spatial planning initiative advocates a comprehensive look, not sector-by-sector approach, to meet the economic, social and ecological goals that are necessary to ensure a sustainable and stable ocean economy. The Facts About Obama’s National Ocean Policy The Inter-agency Ocean Policy Task Force’s recommendations were made after extensive public input and review of current policies. The Task Force reviewed current policies and legislation, the recommendations laid out in two reports – the 2004 U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report and the 2003 Pew Ocean Commissions report – and over 5,000 public comments gathered during 38 stakeholder roundtable discussions, six regional public meetings and through their website. Creates less bureaucratic red tape. An ocean blueprint will minimize bureaucratic red tape by ensuring a business-minded approach to the permitting process. So offshore energy initiatives don’t’ spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars before they realize they are trying...

Video: Pirate Fishing in the Global Oceans

This video by the Environmental Justice Foundation highlights the impacts on the ocean environment and human rights abuses from illegal pirate fishing operations in the world’s...

New Study Shows that Florida’s Reefs Cannot Endure a ‘Cold Snap’

Scientists detail unprecedented loss of coral reef species during 2010 cold weather event Miami – August 26, 2011 – Remember the frozen iguanas falling from trees during Florida’s 2010 record-breaking cold snap? Well, a new study led by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science shows that Florida’s corals also dropped in numbers due to the bitter cold ocean conditions. “It was a major setback,” said Diego Lirman, associate professor at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. “Centuries-old coral colonies were lost in a matter of days.” The chilly January temperatures caused the most catastrophic loss of corals within the Florida Reef Tract, which spans 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Miami to the Dry Tortugas and is the only living barrier reef in the continental U.S. The Florida Reef Resilience team, a rapid-response research group comprised of scientists and resource managers, conducted a month-long survey of 76 reefs sites for Miami to Key West during and shortly after the unusually cold weather. The research team compared the mortality rates of corals from the cold event to warm-water events, such as the highly publicized bleaching event in 2005, and concluded that cold-water events cause more widespread morality than warm-water events. The results were published in the August 2011 issue of the journal PLOS One. The study found coral mortality reached over 40-percent for several important reef-building species and that smaller size colonies in shallow and near-shore coral reefs were hardest hit. This is in contrast to a four-percent decline during warm-water events that typically impact larger size colonies. Coral...

Ocean Trash: A Dose of Reality and Psychology

In an effort to share my outrage with the world, I took my newly found trash — the “Stars and Stripes” fishing bait box – to the internet. What I discovered is that our society, however ashamed of it, enables these offenders. If ocean conservationists want to tackle this problem in the real world, we need to reach beyond the current message and audience to find real-world solutions. A dose of psychology might help us face reality. Here’s the response I received when I took my litter campaign to the internet and my assessment of it. “Sometimes the bait boxes blow overboard and can’t be retrieved. Let’s hope this was just an accident, not intentional littering.” In my armchair psychological opinion, this is an enabler’s response. The term “enabler” is described as “third parties who take responsibility, blame, or make accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct.” What this reply says to me is “Oh, it’s not their fault, it’s the environment’s fault.” Should we be blaming third parties (or a gust of wind) for the intentional act of a single person? No and I won’t accept this excuse. This box clearly didn’t blow off a boat. It was in perfect condition, sitting on the rocks overlooking the gorgeous blue ocean waiting for its proper disposal. And, how often do boxes fly off boats anyway? Is this a problem that can be fixed? I tried to share my outrage directly with “Stars and Stripes” but I cannot find them on the internet. I’m not outraged at “Stars and Stripes,” in fact, I wanted to commend them for including the responsible...