AltaSea: Trending – April 13, 2016


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



Tiny Island Chain Wants to Create the World’s Largest Ocean Sanctuary (The Huffington Post)

With support from Pew Charitable Trusts, the people of the Austral Islands (a small chain of islands in the South Pacific) have drafted a proposal for the French Polynesian government that would ban fishing in more than 385,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the island chain and establish sustainable coastal fishing areas around each of its five inhabited islands. The move was prompted by the needs of the people, for whom overfishing has resulted in fewer fish available to them. According to a Pew representative, local residents say, “We fish now in one day what we could fish 20 years ago in one hour.” If approved, the reserve would be roughly the size of California, Nevada and Arizona combined.

Ancient Glass Sponge Reef Discovered off B.C. Coast (CBC News)

While doing an environmental assessment off the coast of British Columbia for a new underwater natural gas pipeline, crews spotted “ghost like images” rising 30 meters from the seabed. It turned out to be a rare and ancient reef dating back to the days of dinosaurs. Found only in the Pacific Northwest, glass sponge reefs are composed of both living sponges and fossilized skeletons, made of fragile silica or glass. They are easily damaged by fishing nets, bottom trawling and any other activity that stirs up sediment. Thankfully, the energy company recognized the reef’s importance and adjusted its pipeline route to avoid damaging it.


Concerts Create a Huge Amount of Waste, and Jack Johnson Is Tackling the Problem Head on (The Huffington Post)

Jack Johnson, popular musician and ocean conservationist, is using his influence and popularity to help make the concert industry more green. Johnson’s rider, the list of demands a musician gives to a venue, includes things like energy efficient light bulbs, water refill stations (to cut back on plastic water bottles), mandated recycling, bike valet stations, and carbon offsets. It’s making an impact on more than just Johnson’s shows: venues often don’t go back to the old light bulbs, and many find that some of the changes he requires save them money − proving that going green can be good for business. Excess carbon dioxide often ends up being absorbed by the ocean; Johnson’s last tour offset 2.3 million pounds of it!

The Seas Will Save Us: An Army of Ocean Farmers Is Starting an Economic Revolution (Observer)

This opinion piece written by a fisherman, Bren Smith, focuses on how his love for fishing led him naturally to be an advocate for sustainability. He spent years jumping around to different types of fishing jobs only to find out they weren’t so sustainable after all, or to have them ruined due to climate change or overfishing. Now, he has remade himself as a “3D ocean farmer,” growing a mix of seaweeds and shellfish because they mitigate the harm humans do to the environment. Smith says, “My job has never been to save the seas; it’s to figure out how the seas can save us.”


New Bill Would Encourage, Support Women and Minorities in STEM Fields (The Seattle Times)

A new bill co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Hirono, Gillibrand, Feinstein, Heinrich, Murray, Baldwin, Stabenow and Brown would provide $15 million a year to support women and minorities studying in the tech and science fields. The legislation would fund grants for outreach, mentoring and professional development programs that encourage women and minorities to enter STEM fields. It would also fund STEM education outreach programs in K-12 schools. Let’s hope it passes the Senate and the House.

The Octopus Whisperer (Science Friday)

Basic information about octopus species in the wild is not known. But a new exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Tentacles, is leading to some interesting new discoveries. Chris Payne, a senior aquarist, is responsible for ensuring that the dozens of creatures on display stay healthy. He’s found that not only are the octopuses extremely clever − enjoying puzzles and dog toys − but they each have distinct personalities. “If people weren’t interested in going to aquariums and seeing these animals,” says Stephanie Bush, scientist with the aquarium, “there wouldn’t be this invaluable addition of knowledge.”


Chinese Goods Bypass California (The Wall Street Journal)

Though California ports have long served as the gateway for Asian imports, more and more Chinese exporters are sending their goods through Savannah, Houston, and other ports in the Southeast. The reason? With an increase in industrialization in the “old confederacy,” Chinese suppliers are finding it cheaper to ship parts directly to ports that are close to new assembly facilities. However, two developments in the coming months could affect the trend. This spring, the Panama Canal will open new locks allowing larger ships from China to bypass the West Coast and travel through to the East and Gulf Coasts. Meanwhile, French shipping line CMA CGM SA plans to launch several mega-ships on regular routes between Asia and the West Coast, which should give California ports a traffic boost.

Will La Niña Follow One of the Strongest Ever El Niños? (Climate Central)

El Niño is so last year. It’s possible that by fall we could be experiencing the effects of its opposite: La Niña, when the ocean’s waters are colder than average. Ocean temperatures peaked back in November and have been cooling since; if they keep cooling we could be in for an extremely dry year. La Niñas don’t always follow El Niños, but the stronger the El Niño, the more likely it is to rebound strongly and swing the other way. For now though, odds are only slightly better than 50 percent.

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