World Ocean’s Day: Ten things you can do to help everyday…

1. Use Fewer Plastic Products

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Plastic garbage collected from research plot to assess plastic pollution, Eastern Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest Hawaiian Islands

Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. Plastic has also been found in the deepest depths of the ocean trenches and doesn’t break down for hundreds of years. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

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A pristine Pacific island is being covered in plastic…

“The beaches of Henderson Island are littered with plastic razor blades, toothbrushes and scoops from containers of baby formula, coffee and laundry powder. Turtles get tangled in fishing wire. Land crabs make their homes in toxic plastic.

Despite sitting 3,100 miles from the nearest factory or human settlement, this South Pacific island is covered with the highest density of plastic debris ever recorded in the world for a beach, according to a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team estimates 37.7 million pieces of plastic debris litter Henderson Island, exposing the extent to which the Earth’s nooks and crannies have become sinks for the 311 million tons of plastic waste created annually by humans.

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Half-Earth Project…


“Half-Earth proposes an achievable plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature.

In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature.

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High level of toxic pollutants found in the deepest trenches of the ocean…

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In a study published last week in the journal Nature, scientists discovered extremely high levels of toxic chemicals (PCBs and related compounds) down 10 km deep in the Marianas and Kermadec Trenches. The trenches, which could easily swallow the entirety of Mt. Everest, were originally thought to be one of the last pristine habitats left on Earth. However, pollutants have settled via ocean dispersal and vertical transport in the deepest reaches of the world’s oceans, only to then be taken up (or bioaccumulated) by the creatures that dwell there.

“Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.”

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Don’t Let Your Vacation Ruin the Destination…

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Millions of people take part in cruise vacations every single year. However, most travelers do not realize that cruises are more harmful to the environment (and to human health) than many other travel forms.

Cruise ships pollute air during transit and even when docked, contributing significantly to carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA estimates that an average cruise liner at sea emits more soot each day than 1 million cars.

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The Biggest Environmental Problem You’ve Never Heard of…

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The shedding of microfiber from synthetic clothing is actually contributing to microplastic pollution in waterways. Every time you wash that pair of leggings, athletic wear, fleece, or other synthetic article of clothing, tiny particles of plastic make their way into wastewater. However, microplastics are nearly impossible to filter out and eventually make their way into coastal waterways and the ocean. Microplastics can have detrimental effects on marine life and can be magnified up the food web, leading to toxic concentrations in many of our own sources of food. Studies have shown that nearly 80% of fish from the U.S. has been contaminated with plastics from textiles.

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In Hot Water: Challenges and solutions to ocean warming…

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“Up to now, the oceans have shielded us from the worst impacts of climate change by absorbing most of the heat caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions, and capturing around a quarter of the carbon dioxide released. The resulting ocean warming and acidification have added to other pressures on marine life, such as pollution and over-fishing, and the populations of many species are shrinking or shifting in response.

From the poles to the tropics, plankton, jellyfish, turtle, fish and seabird species are on the move, shifting by up to 10 degrees of latitude to find cooler habitats, while some breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds disappear.

The distribution patterns of species like pelagic tuna, Atlantic herring and mackerel, and European sprats and anchovies are gradually shifting in response to changing ocean temperatures. Some fish are moving tens to hundreds of kilometres per decade.

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But not all species are able to cope. 

Over the last three decades, as the planet has warmed, the frequency of coral bleaching has increased three-fold. In Western Australia, extensive areas of kelp forest were wiped out during a marine heatwave. In the Southern Ocean, progressive warming has been associated with a decline in krill, with populations of many seabirds and seals also decreasing.

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“You worry about the polar bears; so do we. But nobody is worried about us, because we will lose our homes too with the melting ice and the rising sea level” – Anote Tong, Former President of Republic of Kiribati, the world’s lowest-lying island nation.

Ocean warming drives a chain of impacts that link to human society. Communities that rely on the ocean for daily subsistence – typically the poorest coastal nations – are likely to suffer the greatest losses. Ocean-based fisheries, tourism, aquaculture, coastal risk management and food security are all threatened by ocean warming combined with over-fishing and population growth.

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‘The effects on food security are likely to be greatest in tropical and subtropical countries where the largest reductions in fisheries production are generally expected to occur. However, as profound as the effects of ocean warming on productivity of marine fisheries are likely to be in many of these countries, population growth and the quality of resource management will probably have a much greater influence on availability of fish per capital for the next few decades’ – IUCN report, Explaining Ocean Warming.

Oceans at the crossroads.

The report recommends a series of actions to address these impacts, including mitigating CO2 emissions, enhancing marine protected areas, and protecting the high seas and ocean seabed under the Law of the Sea and by expanding the World Heritage Convention.IUCN-panel-Dr-Sylvia-Earle3-640x427.jpg

‘We need to protect our oceans as if our lives depend on it – because they do’ – Sylvia Earle, ‘Ocean Elder’ and Founder, Mission Blue.”

-IUCN World Conservation Congress

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Fish pee, coral’s number one nutrient supply, cut by fishing fish…

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“Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman emperor Vespasian taxed the sale of human urine, then a valuable industrial ingredient. When his son objected, the emperor held a gold coin to his nose, asking whether it smelled—arguing that money was money, no matter its source.

Perhaps Vespasian would have been a great marine biologist; when it comes to nutrients in coral reefs, he’s absolutely right. In fact, coral reefs wouldn’t be stunning havens for biodiversity without one key nutrient source: fish urine.

The trouble is, humans like to eat reefs’ best recyclers: the biggest, and biggest bladdered, fish atop the food chain. And unsustainable pursuit of that protein comes at a cost. A study published on Tuesday in Nature Communications reveals that fishing can remove nearly half of coral reefs’ fish-driven recycling—underscoring the importance of large fish, and in particular large predators, in the post-food chain.

‘It’s kind of a funny thing to say that we would conserve for fish pee,’ says study author Jake Allgeier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington. ‘But it is hopefully setting a precedent to think about these reefs differently.’

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Urine for a Treat

Allgeier has spent years studying pee, determining in incredible detail how the fish and invertebrates of the Caribbean urinate. His number one research focus, along with other groundbreaking studies over the last 30 years, reveals a surprising truth: that reefs are urine-soaked wonders.

Whether it’s phosphorus from their anuses or ammonium from their gills, fish spritz reefs with nutrients in just the right ratio and form for corals. This recycling is crucial, since many of the world’s coral reefs don’t get much in the way of new nutrients. Nutrients flow up the ecosystem in the form of food—and back down again out the back end.

‘We’re used to hearing about excess nutrients, and we’re forgetting about ecosystems where nutrients are hard to come by,’ says University of Georgia ecologist Amy Rosemond, one of Allgeier’s mentors. ‘When you’re talking about this tight cycling on a reef, these biologically available nutrients are mainly coming from fish excretion…’

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