Monday, January 31, 2011
The US Department of Agriculture announced new dietary guidelines to help Americans make healthier food choices. Their main recommendation was to encourage the two thirds of Americans that are overweight to eat less food, and focus on eating nutrient-dense food like vegetables, low fat dairy, lean meats, and seafood.
Specifically, we are encouraged to "Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry."
To help you on this journey, and to make sure you make sustainable seafood choices, we hope you will find these resources helpful:
What fish are safe to eat? - Seafood Watch
Friday, January 28, 2011
The application period for the 2011 Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grants program in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology is now open. Applications are due April 1st. Good luck!
Click here to view learn more about the program and view the application guidelines.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
There is a beautiful new sculpture exhibit near Cancun, Mexico. It features 400 sculptures depicting people in different emotional states and is called "The Silent Evolution." The catch? It is all underwater.
The sculpture garden is the start of an underwater museum meant to give SCUBA divers something to look at besides the fragile coral reefs in the area. The hope is that the reefs will be given a break from the more than 750,000 tourists who visit them every year. Even though there are more pressing problems than the accidental fin in the coral bed (warming ocean temperatures, agricultural run-off and destructive fishing practices come to mind), what I like about this new exhibit is its creativity.
Why not bring in divergent thinkers when thinking about ways to alleviate the pressure on our coral reefs, and the marine ecosystem in general? Who says an artist or museum curator can't have the next big idea to help, something that a scientist would never even dream of? These statues are made out of a marine cement that attracts the growth of corals, meaning that not only are they beautiful new attractions, they are actually helping the corals flourish.
It's going to take all of us to help protect and rehabilitate fragile and damaged ocean ecosystems, especially the poor coral reefs. Innovative approaches are needed and this example is enlightening and encouraging.
Keep on dreaming!
Monday, January 24, 2011
It doesn't make much sense on the face of it, but that is what could be happening to our climate right now.
It will be a few years before the research is conclusive, but it looks like the crazy weather we've been having recently in the States may be due to global warming, particularly in the Arctic. It doesn't take much to see evidence of the crazy weather we've been having. One day this month, it snowed in 49 of the 50 states, winter snow storms much earlier than expected here in Washington State, not to mention the freak blizzards in the Capitol and the one that crippled NYC over the holidays, as well as unusual snowfall in the South.
It's been one crazy winter. One crazy enough for people to be thinking, "Global warming, what global warming?" But don't get ahead of yourself, it's really climate change we're talking about here, and changes in regional climate and weather patterns that may do more harm to society than the overall warming of a few degrees. Our weather simply isn't that simple. It's a complex thing that has changed drastically over the millenia, and we'll have to find a way to adapt to it as it continues to change over the coming decades and centuries. How we manage to adapt is where the key lies in our success. In many ways, climate change is as much of a socio-political issue as it is an environmental one.
Be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Courtesy National Oil Spill Commission
On June 13, 2010 I graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor of science in Environmental Biology and Management. Two days later President Obama described the BP oil spill as “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” I studied environmental issues for four years, and the moment I graduated the worst environmental disaster in US history reared its ugly head? I took this personally, and I wanted answers.
On Tuesday January 11th, 2011 the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released its final report to the President, titled “Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling.” The nearly 400 page document is the coup-de-grace of my oil spill research, and I’m currently on page 80. It reads more like a book than a report by a federal investigatory commission. The report paints a vivid picture of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. It describes the parallel histories of the oil industry and the federal agencies charged with the industry’s regulation. The historical context sets the stage for the Deepwater Horizon drilling for oil more than 3 miles below sea level.
Had I been on the seven-member Commission I would say the proximate cause of the oil spill was a series of problems with the integrity of the well (that BP and its partners Transocean and Halliburton ignored or failed to report in order to speed up the project) that collectively caused the undersea blowout. In economics, firms are expected to minimize costs and maximize benefits. However, BP failed to account for all of the costs by discounting the possibility of a blowout resulting from the problematic well. The explosion killed 11 people, and the spill destroyed the economy of the US Gulf Coast and severely impaired a coastal ecosystem that was already struggling.
As for the ultimate cause of the spill, I would conclude that the Minerals Management Service, underfunded and understaffed, was unable to properly regulate the oil industry for two reasons. First, the MMS was created with a conflicting duel-mandate: promote domestic oil and gas production so as to strengthen US national security and the domestic economy, and at the same time protect environmental health by policing oil industry activities. The clear conflict of interest here is between environmental protection and economic development. It was impossible for the agency to protect the environment and encourage environmentally damaging natural resource extraction.
Furthermore, the MMS failed to keep pace with the oil industry’s exponential rate of innovation. Its understanding of industry operations, technology, and safety protocol lagged so far behind that the agency essentially asked the oil industry how it should be regulated. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart likened this to telling your dog to decide how much Purina Dog Chow she should eat. Need I say more?
Our country cannot allow activities that put our oceans and shores at risk in this way, and as a nation we must adopt environmentally friendly technologies and practices that also strengthen our economy and our national security.
Here are some links to more information about the oil spill:
The National Commission Report
MCBI President Elliot Norse’s and SkyTruth President John Amos’ report on the oil spill
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The oceans are my first love. I work for a marine conservation organization, SCUBA dive, and try to spend as much time near water as possible. I was lucky, though, because I was born and raised in a city near the ocean. Growing up, my family would spend weeks at my grandparent’s house on Whidbey Island. I would spend all day walking up and down the beach, gathering sea glass and watching the boats glide in across the water, hoping for an adventurous fish to leap into the air. I knew at a young age that I wanted to do everything possible to save the oceans from destruction.
But what about people who, through sheer luck of birth, grew up in a place far from the sea? There are 27 landlocked states in the US and many of the ones with coastlines are so large that getting to the ocean is not an easy trip. The same question holds true for countries around the world. For those who did not grow up with ocean memories, how did you come to care about the ocean?
Was it a picture of a coral reef community, teeming with colorful fish and eels? A vacation to a tropical locale? Or a visit to an aquarium?
What would make someone care about the ocean if they haven’t spent time experiencing its wonders?
This is an important question as organizations like ours move to bring ocean issues to the forefront of policymakers’ and the public’s minds, both in the US and internationally.
What do you guys think?
Friday, January 07, 2011
Marine debris has become one of the most widespread pollution problems affecting the world’s oceans and waterways. A recent study by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation found human debris in all five major ocean gyres (including the well-known Pacific Garbage Patch) http://www.5gyres.org/. Research has proven that debris has serious effects on the marine environment, marine wildlife, the economy, and human health and safety.
Marine debris harms marine and coastal communities by damaging marine habitat like coral reefs; transporting non-native and invasive species to new habitats; causing navigational hazards and vessel damage; and harming and entangling wildlife. The number of marine debris-related entanglement deaths of endangered and threatened seals, sea turtles, and seabirds continues to grow.
One of Marine Conservation Biology Institute's program areas is elevating the issue of marine debris, especially to our lawmakers. MCBI staff also like to be an example to others by reducing our waste. We can all be seen carrying around our reusable water bottles, using reusable dishes and utensils in our office kitchen, carrying our own grocery bags to the store. A new invention we would like to share with you is the reusable sandwich and snack bags. Check them out here: http://www.lunchskins.com/our-products.html. They are reusable, washable in the dishwasher, and durable. Why didn't we think about this before?
Share your ideas below on how you reduce your waste? Every little bit helps.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
For me this means moving, and finding a new apartment in the competitive DC rental market. I can't help but think of hermit crabs, an animal which, like us, outgrows its home and seeks to move up. However, hermit crabs have an ally in their new home search: other crabs.
Hermit crabs go about the process of moving up in a cooperative manner through a complex regime of trades known as a "synchronous vacancy chain." The discovery by researchers at the Tufts University of Arts and Sciences and the New England Aquarium in 2010 showed that when a new shell becomes available rather than fighting over the largest shell, crabs gather around it and form a line from largest to smallest. Once the largest crab moves into the vacant shell, each crab in the queue swiftly switches into the next newly vacated shell.
Their illustrative video shows this behavior:
One of the biggest changes happening in DC is the start of the 112th Congress today. Members are changing offices, staff is changing hands, and funds are being lobbied for. With all of these resources in transition, perhaps this Session can learn a lesson from the lowly hermit crab: if members align themselves with allies so all are positioned advantageously to meet current needs, everybody wins. Hill politics may be more adversarial than hermit crab moves, but it is certain that their networking strategies will be as useful on the Hill as under the sea.
See also: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-04/tu-snh042610.php
Monday, January 03, 2011
I'm looking for suggestions from our readers, and I'm hoping you'll share them with the rest of us. I'm sure everyone will appreciate a healthy and sustainable seafood recipe.
If I don't hear from you before dinner tonight, I'm going to do my best to refrain from frying the cod filet, or breading it in pecans and covering it in buerre blanc as Emeril suggests (although if you're not on a diet, this sounds simply delicious) and try baking it with white wine, capers, and lemon. Or, if I can find some miso before tonight, I might try this recipe from weight watchers that actually sounds good: