A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.
When a marine biologist from Australia traveled to a remote string of islands in the Indian Ocean to see how much plastic waste had washed up on the beaches, here’s just part of what she found: “373,000 toothbrushes and around 975,000 shoes, largely flip-flops,” says Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania in Australia.
And that’s only what was on the surface.
The Cocos Keeling Islands make up barely 6 square miles of land, about 1,300 miles off the northwest coast of Australia. It was a good place to measure plastic waste because almost no one lives there. That meant the plastic debris there wasn’t local — it floated in — and no one was picking it up. It gave Lavers a good notion of just how much was bobbing around the ocean.
Plankton don’t get nearly the respect they deserve. These tiny organisms (phytoplankton being plant-like cells that produce much of the world’s oxygen, zooplankton being little animals) float around at the mercy of currents and form the very foundation of the ocean food web. You like whales? They eat krill, which eat, wait for it, plankton. You like your climate? Phytoplankton soak up CO2 and spit out oxygen, helping keep the planet a pleasant human habitat. So even if you don’t care about whales, at the very least you should care about breathing and not boiling alive (just yet): Life on Earth shares its fate with the littlest organisms in the sea.
But plankton don’t do well in warmer waters, which carry fewer nutrients. One study has shown that phytoplankton alone have declined by 40 percent since 1950. Getting a handle on how climate change is affecting other plankton counts, though, has been tricky. Because plankton are generally soft-bodied organisms, they quickly rot away when they die, making it hard to know what their populations were like in centuries past.
An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive.
Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean – the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.
He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep.
He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers.
It is the third time humans have reached the ocean’s extreme depths.
SUSTAINABLE AND INNOVATIVE BUSINESS
L.A. has a plan for combating climate change. But is it realistic? (The Los Angeles Times)
California has had a glimpse in recent years of what it can expect as the climate continues to change: wild swings from extreme drought to extreme rainfall and snowfall, a sharp increase in devastating wildfires and record temperatures.
With poor leadership on climate issues from the federal government, the state has responded to the unfolding crisis by passing ambitious legislation aimed at achieving 100% renewable energy generation by 2045. California will also require solar panels on all new homes starting next year, a doubling of building energy efficiency requirements and a strengthening of the state’s cap and trade program, with an emphasis on investments in greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in disadvantaged communities.
Bill Gates: This is what we need to do to tackle climate change (World Economic Forum)
Wind and solar power generation is expanding around the globe at record rates, allowing more people to get their electricity from clean, renewable sources than ever before. This is great news.
And here’s better news: We can do even more. By investing in energy innovations, we can build on the progress we’ve made deploying current technology like renewables, which will help accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a future of reliable and affordable carbon-free electricity.
“Quality need not cost the ocean”: Heathrow becomes world’s first Sustainable Fish Airport (The Moodie Davitt Report)
London Heathrow has been recognised as the world’s first Sustainable Fish Airport.
An airport-wide initiative involving all food & beverage partners across five terminals led to the award from Sustain, an alliance for better food and farming.
Each F&B company investigated the source of their seafood and committed to removing ‘red-rated’ fish – meaning those considered the least sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society – within the year. The aim was to ensure a traceable and sustainable supply chain, Heathrow said.
In honor of World Oceans Day, ByFusion is assembling a lifeguard tower made with ByBlock on the sand at Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach, Calif. to show how plastic can be put to better use than becoming an environmental hazard. ByBlocks consist of plastic classifications 3-7, types that are currently unrecyclable and end up in our landfills and oceans, and surfboard foam waste, provided by Channel Islands Surfboards and Sustainable Surf.
A New Pop-Up Exhibit in NYC Immerses Visitors in a Deep-Sea Experience (Smithsonian.com)
“Ocean Cube,” a pop-up exhibit on view in Manhattan’s Lower East Side through August 18, offers a futuristic vision of life under the sea in 2119.
As the show’s website explains, the underwater world—designed to not only immerse visitors in a fantastical, bioluminescent experience, but also draw attention to ocean conservation concerns—transforms coral reefs into traffic tunnels, jellyfish and whale into transportation portals, and pearls and bubbles into the building blocks of shopping malls.
The exhibition unfolds across five separate rooms. First up is the Coral Tunnel, a fiber strand-filled channel that leads from what a press release describes as the “polluted surface” to the deep sea. Then comes the Net Guard, a space lined with fishing nets protecting visitors from both pollution and potentially predatory ocean creatures.
Exploring the oceans by remote control (The New Yorker)
In 2015, Melissa Omand, a thirty-four-year-old oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island, began preparing for a six-day research expedition. For the first time, Omand would be the lead scientist—an important professional milestone. She would be supervising eleven other researchers studying how the movement of carbon through the oceans shapes the global climate. Many of them would be using advanced instruments that had never before been deployed in the field. The expedition was set for October. In April, Omand learned that she was pregnant.
Personally, she was overjoyed. Professionally, the picture was complicated. While UNOLS, the governing body of the major U.S. research vessels, had no formal policy about pregnant cruise participants, discussions with colleagues led Omand to temper her expectations of going to sea. And yet delaying the cruise wasn’t an option. The data that Omand hoped to collect could boost her career. Her students planned to study it during her maternity leave, and other scientists were depending on the expedition for their own work. Many stars had aligned to make the expedition possible. They were unlikely to do so again.
Ocean advocate and AltaSea partner Ben Lecomte will swim 300 nautical miles through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, beginning on June 8, 2019 – World Ocean Day. Starting in Hawaii, he will swim up to eight hours a day over three months and plans to arrive in California in the first week of September. During the swim, he will collect data and assist with research on the plastic “smog of pollution” in the Pacific Ocean.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is part of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans and is located halfway between Hawaii and California. It covers an approximate surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers – an area twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France.
Sail on a tall ship! (AltaSea)
In July, we will give one randomly selected current AltaSea member four tickets on a tall ship voyage with Los Angeles Maritime Institute. The Celebrate Non-Profits Sail takes place August 17 from 5:00pm – 7:30pm.
Click here to join or renew as an AltaSea member.
LAMI community sails are open to the public. Regular tickets are $60 for adults, $30 for children. For more information on this sail and other upcoming tall ship trips, click here.
27th Annual Seal Day (Marine Mammal Care Center)
June 22, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
3601 Gaffey Street in San Pedro
Seal Day festivities will feature outdoor animal viewing, live music, food trucks, games for kids and dozens of booths from a wide range of community organizations. This year’s theme is Halloween in June, complete with professional costumed visitors, a Trunk-or-Treat experience with world famous Star Cars– vehicles from stage and screen, and a costume contest for those who come dressed for fun.
Bring your appetite too! Some of the region’s most popular food truck eateries will be attending. Popular exhibitor booths will include Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, El Dorado Nature Center, plus many local environmental groups that will be giving lectures and demonstrations throughout the day. Live music performances will be happening all day by Kyle Smith plus special appearances by singer/pianist Flaviyake.
Event is open to the public and free of charge.