Ocean Action Hub

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NYC Design Museum showcases non-polluting plastic alternatives

26 Jul 2019 - NYTimes - Design Triennial envisions the possibilities for algae, yeast & other nonpolluting materials. Will they help save the planet?

26 Jul 2019 - NYTimes - Design Triennial envisions the possibilities for algae, yeast & other nonpolluting materials. Will they help save the planet?

Plastics transformed the material world after World War II. Today, they pollute our oceans. A better future will be made with … algae. Or bacteria. That’s the dominant theme of a sweeping exhibition, “Nature: Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial.” On display here at the Smithsonian’s temple to the culture of design, on upper Fifth Avenue, are objects you might once have expected only at a science museum: Proteins found in silkworms are repurposed as surgical screws and optical lenses. Electronically active bacteria power a light fixture.

Heedless exploitation of resources has undergirded industrial society and is quickly becoming untenable. The exhibition celebrates ambitious collaborations by teams of designers and scientists striving to achieve human ends in ways that don’t require extracting fossil fuels from the earth, for example, and that restore such vast damaged realms as oceans. The “Nature” triennial is positing no less than a new relationship between the human and the natural.

CONTINE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/arts/design/nature-climate-change-cooper-hewitt-review.html

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UN Agencies Urge Stronger Efforts to Stop Illegal Fishing - NY Times

6 Jun 2019 - Major United Nations agencies are urging key fishing nations to join efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

6 Jun 2019 - Major United Nations agencies are urging key fishing nations to join efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and other groups made the call at a conference in Bangkok on Wednesday focused on helping protect fisheries and those working in the industry.

Thailand is the world's biggest importer of tuna. It has one of the seven state-of-the-art centers in the region monitoring fishing vessels in real time to help control access to regional ports and curb illegal fishing.

The centers are helping enforce the Port State Measures Agreement, which aims to help curb illegal, unreported and unregulated — or IUU — fishing. Dozens of governments have joined but U.N. officials are urging more to support the effort.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/06/05/world/asia/ap-as-thailand-illegal-fishing.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social+media&utm_campaign=fao

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How Our Toothbrushes Are Littering Paradise

17 May 2019 - NY Times - A new survey of remote islands off the coast of Australia found mountains of plastic weighing as much as a blue whale.

17 May 2019 - NY Times - A new survey of remote islands off the coast of Australia found mountains of plastic weighing as much as a blue whale.

“Welcome to paradise,” beckons the Cocos Keeling Islands’ Visitor Center. The island chain is popular with vacationing Australians, and it’s easy to see why.

Photos from the chain of 27 islands, of which only two are inhabited, feature oceans that are nothing but swirls of translucent turquoise, cobalt and cerulean, and sandy beaches so pristine they feel untouched.

But a 2017 survey by researchers from the University of Tasmania and Victoria University, both in Australia, found the islands covered in some 414 million pieces of plastic weighing a total of 238 metric tons (roughly the same weight as a blue whale). The results were published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Read online here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/16/climate/plastic-pollution-beaches.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FOceans&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

Photo: Credit Cara Ratajczak

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The Great Barrier Reef Was Seen as ‘Too Big to Fail.’ A Study Suggests It Isn’t - NY Times

3 Apr 2019 - Study found many of the adult corals die off following ocean heat waves and the reef's capacity to recover is compromised.

3 Apr 2019 - For millenniums, ecosystems have withstood fires, floods, heat waves, drought and even disease by adapting and rebuilding their biodiverse communities.

But according to new research, there is a limit to what even the largest and most resilient places can stand, and climate change is testing that limit by repeatedly disturbing one of the earth’s most precious habitats: the Great Barrier Reef.

The study, released Wednesday in the journal Nature by researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia, monitored the death and birth of corals following ocean heat waves that caused mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.

Not only did many of the adult corals die off, but for the first time, researchers observed a significant decline in new corals settling on the reef, compromising its capacity to recover.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/world/australia/great-barrier-reef-corals-bleaching.html

PHOTO: David Gray/Reuters

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Is Your Sunscreen Poisoning the Ocean?

21 Aug 2017 - Up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world’s reefs annually, according to a 2015 paper published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 

21 Aug 2017 - One of the perks of being a Californian is that Hawaii is a quick, often affordable getaway: Without the need to escape frosty weather, we’re free to visit during summer, when the surf lays down flat and the price of hotel rooms plummets.

So for three decades, I’ve returned, year after year, to Big Island, swimming at the same bare-bones beach, which locals identify only by the number on a nearby highway mile marker. I measure my life by those trips, as surely as watermarks measure the tide. In my 20s, obsessing over career moves and noncommittal men, I escaped there with a girlfriend. Later I honeymooned there with my husband. These days we travel with our teenager, who swims confidently away from us, out to sea.

Along the way, I’ve amassed a library of books on identifying the psychedelic-hued fish, eels, octopuses, rays, turtles, nurse sharks and coral that live beneath the waves, keeping lists of what I’d seen on each trip. Gradually, and especially in the last five years or so, the variety and numbers on those lists have contracted.

At first I thought it was my imagination, but this summer there was no denying it: I felt, abruptly, like I was snorkeling through an underwater desert. Most of the coral had turned white, a sign that it was in danger of dying. Entire species of fish had vanished, and those that remained — like Hawaii’s tongue-twisting state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a — were sparse, barely a classroom’s worth, let alone a school.

According to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the fish population of what I have come to consider my reef had, depending on the areas surveyed, declined between 43 and 69 percent between the late 1970s and 2008. The state created a long-term “coral bleaching recovery plan” to prevent further damage and promote regrowth after specific events, like the spreading mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean in 2014 that came to be known as “the Blob,” or the high ocean temperatures that killed 50 percent of coral on some reefs off Big Island in 2015. But there is something in addition to climate change that may be damaging reefs, something more immediately and individually controllable: sunscreen.

Up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world’s reefs annually, according to a 2015 paper published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Most of it — including products by Aveeno, Banana Boat, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and Neutrogena — contains a chemical called oxybenzone to deflect UV rays.

Even in minute doses, the researchers found, oxybenzone rapidly bleaches coral and slows new growth: A single drop in 4.3 million gallons of water — about six and a half Olympic-size swimming pools — is enough to be deadly. In a 2008 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers applied the recommended amount of sunscreen to volunteers’ hands, then immersed them into plastic bags containing water and coral samples from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Red Sea; the samples were completely bleached within 96 hours.

Octinoxate, octocrylene and a few other alphabet stews common to chemical sunscreen have also been found to be toxic to coral. Nor do you have to put a BullFrog-slathered toe into the ocean to be part of that destruction. Those convenient aerosol dispensers, in addition to being a total rip-off, spew chemicals all across the sand, where the tide scoops them up. Even if you never buy a plane ticket, your morning shower rinses the oxybenzone from yesterday’s family picnic straight down the drain and, potentially, out to sea. Ditto flushing the toilet, since oxybenzone is detected in urine within 30 minutes of application.

In January, Will Espero, a state senator in Hawaii, introduced a bill to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone in the state, but it stalled at the end of the legislative session. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a Washington D.C.-based trade group, opposes the effort as a matter of public health, pointing to other factors, primarily climate change, as the real culprits in reef decline.

True enough, in a sense — banning chemical sunscreen won’t address the effects of climate change, coastal runoff or overfishing. Still, it can make a difference: Bleaching has been more severe in heavily touristed areas — Hawaii, the Great Barrier Reef, the United States Virgin Islands among them — and the stress of background pollutants makes even remote reefs less resilient to larger threats.

It’s a cruel irony that protecting yourself and your kids from skin cancer has come at such a cost to the ocean. The good news is that there are alternatives. Mineral sunscreens — whose active ingredients are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide — are one option. Admittedly, they can be a little gloppier to apply and sometimes leave that telltale white cast on your skin. But that’s what selfie filters are for. You could also opt for those rad-looking, long-sleeve “rash guards” that surfers wear.

On our last day at the beach, as we rinsed our masks and fins by the parking lot, a young couple with an eager-looking little boy stopped us. “Is this the place that has the great snorkeling?” the woman asked. My husband and I looked at each other. We opened our mouths. We closed them. We half-shrugged. I’m sure they thought we were crazy, but we just didn’t know how to respond.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/19/opinion/sunday/sunscreen-poisoning-oc...

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New Priority for Ocean Resorts: Restoring Reefs - NY Times

23 Feb 2017 - Ocean resorts in Asia are working to restore coral reefs damaged by climate change, land-based pollution and the impact of fishing.

23 Feb 2017 - Last April, Caterina Fattori stood on a beach in the Maldives feeling frustrated. The coral reef was bleaching, turning into a ghost reef with pale, stressed corals, and she couldn’t do a thing about it except stand there, watch, and suffer along with the reef.

Ms. Fattori is the resident marine biologist at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort. She’s heading the resort’s collaboration with a local dive team and the German Museum of Oceanography and Fisheries in an initiative called Outrigger Ozone, a program designed to rebuild and regrow damaged coral reefs off the property’s tiny island. April’s bleaching was the latest in a series of global warming- and human-related assaults on the reef; this one attacked the reef she had already worked to restore, setting back her progress significantly.

Outrigger’s Ozone began in June 2015, joining a number of other resorts working to undo the reef damage caused by large structures on the beach, climate change, land-based pollution and the impact of fishing. There’s a prevailing sentiment that beach and island resorts contribute to erosion and environmental destruction. Outrigger Konotta, along with Wakatobi Dive Resort in Balithe Andaman in MalaysiaAlila Manggis in Bali, and Taj Exotica in the Maldives, aim to do the opposite. All five run reef reconstruction and conservation programs.

“Programs like this have to come from the heart,” Doris Goh, the chief marketing officer of Alila Manggis, said. “We believe in being good neighbors and showing that there is sustainability in tourism and that we will protect the environment and the beauty of it for future generations.”

The coral restoration process is similar across all the resorts: broken but still-living coral fragments are attached to a frame, either metal or concrete, and the whole system is secured underwater. It’s a slow process (coral takes about 10 years to fully grow) but with care and protection, the reef regenerates itself on the frames.

“We can plant so many, but then the coral itself has to reproduce,” Ms. Goh said. “The reproduction eventually makes it into a coral forest.”

The Andaman takes a slightly different approach. The marine biologists there have developed Asia’s first inland coral nursery, allowing guests and staff members to start the regeneration in a safe place and then transplant it into the ocean. All of the frames coming out of the Andaman’s nursery are designed to become carbon-negative within a few years as well, to reduce the property’s carbon footprint, the general manager, Christian Metzner, said.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/travel/restoring-coral-reefs-ocean-resort-priority.html?_r=0