AltaSea: Trending – April 11, 2018

A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.


Ocean plastic could triple in decade (BBC News)

The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to triple in a decade unless litter is curbed, a major report has warned.

Plastics is just one issue facing the world’s seas, along with rising sea levels, warming oceans, and pollution, it says.

But the Foresight Future of the Sea Report for the UK government said there are also opportunities to cash in on the “ocean economy”.

They say this is predicted to double to $3 trillion (£2 trillion) by 2030.

The report says much more knowledge is needed about the ocean. The authors say the world needs a Mission to “Planet Ocean” to mirror the excitement of voyaging to the moon and Mars.

Dire News For Endangered Right Whales: Not A Single Newborn Spotted This Year (Huffpost)

Endangered North Atlantic right whales are facing an increasingly bleak future as researchers report they haven’t spotted any new calves this season.

Trained spotters look for newborns from December to the end of March by flying over the coasts of Florida and Georgia, where female right whales typically give birth. If they don’t see any new calves by next Saturday, it will be the first time since 1989 that newborns haven’t been found.

Barb Zoodsma, who oversees the right whale recovery program in the U.S. Southeast for the National Marine Fisheries Service, told The Associated Press that the dearth of calves could signal the “beginning of the end” for the species.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think it Is (National Geographic)

Microplastics make up 94 percent of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch. But that only amounts to eight percent of the total tonnage. As it turns out, of the 79,000 metric tons of plastic in the patch, most of it is abandoned fishing gear—not plastic bottles or packaging drawing headlines today.

A comprehensive new study by a team of scientists, published in Scientific Reports Thursdayconcluded that the 79,000 tons was four to 16 times larger than has been previously estimated for the patch. The study also found that fishing nets account for 46 percent of the trash, with the majority of the rest composed of other fishing industry gear, including ropes, oyster spacers, eel traps, crates, and baskets. Scientists estimate that 20 percent of the debris is from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.


Rising Tide Conference at AltaSea (Random Lengths News)

A crowd of 125 innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental activists and marine biologists turned out for the first Rising Tide Conference on March 28. The two-day conference included keynote speakers such as AltaSea’s new chief executive officer Tim McOsker and executive director Jenny Krusoe, as well as the co-founder of the nonprofit organization fighting plastic pollution 5Gyres, Marcus Eriksen.

Robotic Fish to Keep a Fishy Eye on the Health of the Oceans (New York Times)

Meet SoFi — like “Sophie,” but short for “Soft Robotic Fish,” revealed on Wednesday in Science Robotics, by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

This foot-and-a-half long robot mimics a real fish. She can swim in the ocean at speeds up to half-its-body-length a second and at depths up to 60 feet below the surface. SoFi has a battery that will last 45 minutes before she shuts down.

She’s not quite fish flesh, but she’s not a typical marine robot either. Although critical for studying the ocean, remote operated vehicles and submersibles can be expensive to build and operate. They also can startle the sea creatures they’re supposed to study. But without a line giving her away by connecting her to a boat, a noisy propeller or the big, rigid, awkward or angular body of a metallic land-alien, she doesn’t seem to bother or scare off real fish. Some even swim along with her. Sleek, untethered, relatively inexpensive and well-tolerated, SoFi may provide biologists a fish’s-eye view of animal interactions in changing marine ecosystems.

NOAA, NGOs debate effects of ocean farms on wildlife (JAVMA News)

Federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been open to fish farming for two years, but no farms yet exist.

In January 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service issued a rule that would let companies apply for 10-year permits to farm fish in federal waters of the Gulf, with five-year renewals thereafter. Up to 20 entities could operate beyond state waters in the U.S. “Exclusive Economic Zone,” mostly between 3 and 200 miles offshore, although no company had filed a permit application as of mid-February 2018.

Paul W. Zajicek, executive director of the National Aquaculture Association, suspects companies interested in starting offshore farms are waiting for results of a federal lawsuit against the fisheries service. If the service’s plan is upheld, he expects that gaining permits still will require years in a complex approval process involving NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and any other federal entities with interests in commenting on aquaculture plans.

The BAN List 2.0 (Upstream)

The BAN List 2.0 was created with the partnership of 5 Gyres, Algalita Marine Research and Education, Californians Against Waste, Clean Production Action, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Responsible Purchasing Network, Seattle Public Utilities, Story of Stuff, Surfrider Foundation, & UPSTREAM. It is a call-to-action to phase out the most polluting plastic products in the United States.


A conversation with ‘Her Deepness’ (New York Times)

Sylvia Earle, 82, is an oceanographer who has spent thousands of hours underwater studying corals, algae and wildlife. She was the first person to walk untethered on the ocean floor a quarter of a mile deep and once lived underwater for two weeks in a NASA experiment. She also spent two years as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist.

In the second article of The New York Times weekly Climate Fwd: newsletter, author Livia Albeck-Ripka interviews Dr. Earle to ask her whether, having seen what she has seen, she thinks we have time to mitigate climate change.

Cal Poly Biology Professor Helps Develop Model for Sustainable Ocean Use (Cal Poly News)

A Cal Poly biology professor was part of a team of university researchers who developed a planning tool that could herald a new paradigm of environmentally sustainable ocean industry management.

“We wanted to create a model that could optimize multiple ocean uses rather than increasing the success of one at the expense of another, as traditional models do,” said Crow White, a professor in the university’s College of Science and Mathematics, and a co-author of the study. “At the same time, we wanted to minimize negative impacts on the environment.”

The economic and environmental implications of the model — which balances location, type of ocean use and environmental impact — are immense.

Science in a bottle: 132-year-old experiment washed ashore in Australia (Ars Technica)

A 132-year-old message in a bottle turned up on an Australian beach earlier this year, but it’s not a love note or a treasure map: it’s a science experiment.

Tonya Illman was walking the beach with a friend while they waited for her son’s car to be dug out from the soft sand. That’s when she saw it. Illman’s husband Kym traced the note and the bottle to an oceanography experiment started by the German Naval Observatory in 1864. In an effort to map out faster shipping routes by plotting the world’s ocean currents, German ships tossed thousands of bottles overboard from 1864 to 1933, each one containing a form listing the date and coordinates of the message, along with the ship’s name, its home port, and the route it had been sailing at the time. 

The back of the form asked the finder to record the date and location of the find and then return the form to the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg or to the nearest German consulate. Of the thousands of forms thrown into the world’s oceans during the 69-year program, only 662 had been recovered—at least 20 of them around the Australian coast. The last had turned up on the shores of Denmark on January 7, 1934, a few months after the project’s official end.


IGNITE 22 (Braid Theory)

Thursday, April 12, 2018 starting at 9:00 am

A gathering of innovators working with and creating transformative initiatives and technologies to build, sustain and move the future on land, at sea, and in space.

Brouwerij West at CRAFTED
112 E. 22nd Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

For more information and for tickets, click here.

Quarterly Open House: Robots & Sharks (AltaSea)

Saturday, April 21, 2018, starting at 10:00 am

Featuring Dr. Chris Lowe, Director of the CSULB Shark Lab and SCMI Board Chair, Dr. Dan Pondella, Occidental College and SCMI Director, and Southern California Marine Institute, a consortium of 23 colleges, universities, and foundations.

You are invited to meet faculty and student representatives and learn how these 23 institutions will transform our Los Angeles waterfront into a marine college town. Their representatives will be exhibiting their latest innovative developments.

Attendance is free and open to the public. Please wear flat, closed-toe shoes.

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles
Berth 58: 2456 South Signal Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

To RSVP please email

15th Annual Sharefest Workday – AltaSea Wharf Beautification (Sharefest)

Saturday, April 28, 2018 starting at 9:00 am

The Sharefest Workday is an annual community-building and service day that mobilizes thousands of volunteers of all ages to work on community projects designed to meet tangible needs. Volunteers paint, clean, plant, refurbish, and beautify schools, parks, and public facilities. For 15 years, Sharefest has joined volunteers and organizations in the greater South Bay and L.A. Harbor areas to create positive change in their communities.

This year, AltaSea will be one of the Sharefest volunteer locations.

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles
Berth 58: 2456 South Signal Street
San Pedro, CA 90731

For more information and to sign-up, please click here.

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