AltaSea: Trending – May 9, 2018

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


The quest to map the mysteries of the ocean floor (BBC)

The sea’s terrain plays a critical role in our ecosystem. Underwater crests and valleys determine weather patterns and ocean currents; sea topography influences the management of fisheries that feed millions; miles of underwater cable connect billions more to the Internet; seamounts provide protection against coastal hazards such as approaching hurricanes or tsunamis, and may even offer clues to the prehistoric movement of the earth’s southern continents.

In 2017, an international team of experts from around the world, united under the non-profit General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (Gebco), launched the first effort to create a comprehensive map of the world’s oceans.

Ocean Optimism (AlertDiverOnline)

As divers, we do not even need the media to tell us about the problems — we see the problems, particularly on coral reefs. I got my first dose of bad news shortly after finishing my graduate school research in the 1980s, when the beautiful corals of Discovery Bay were replaced by seaweed. Today, we swim over reefs where live corals are few and far between. We get excited by tiny fish because too often nothing larger is swimming around. When we get back to the shore, straws and cigarette butts lie where there should be only sand. There are still interesting and beautiful things to see, but for those of us who have been diving for decades, the losses cannot be ignored.

There are, however, successes in ocean conservation amid the doom and gloom — successes that show the way to a better underwater future. I have come to realize that we do not share these stories often enough and that even marine scientists who work on conservation issues are often unaware of what has been achieved. If we do not identify, learn from and celebrate these examples of what is working, how can we expect success to spread? So from my long list of successes large and small, here are just a few examples for inspiration.


Floating Sunscreen-Like Film Could Protect the Great Barrier Reef (National Geographic)

Conservationists are working hard to save the Great Barrier Reef.

Diagnoses of its health have gone from bad to dire to critical. The reef system, a world wonder and habitat for thousands of species, often falls prey to invasive starfish, but one of the reef system’s biggest threats is coral bleaching.

Now, a team of researchers think they may have a solution to bandage one of the Great Barrier Reef’s more serious wounds.

A “sun shield” 50,000 times thinner than a human hair has been designed to sit at the surface of the water, directly above corals. The thin film is meant to be like an umbrella that partially blocks out the sun. The shield is biodegradable and is made of calcium carbonate, the same component that coral skeletons are made of.

To Curb Ocean Pollution, U.K. May Ban Plastic Straws, Stirrers And Cotton Swabs (NPR)

The U.K. plans to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday at a meeting of Commonwealth nations.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world,” May said in a statement, in which she called the U.K. government “a world leader on this issue.”

Downing Street said an end to sales of the single-use products is expected after the government launches a “consultation” later this year. May’s statement also said the government “will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons.”

Polluters on the High Seas (The New York Times)

International shipping is the backbone of our global trading system. But it can no longer be given a free pass on climate change. If this industrial sector were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world — and if it doesn’t act now to reduce those emissions, by 2050 they could surpass total anticipated European emissions.

The good news is that this is actually an important economic opportunity for international shipping if it wants to remain the cheapest low-carbon option for our global supply chain. Certainty about emissions standards is necessary to encourage the right kind of investment now. As Alistair Marsh, the chief executive of Lloyd’s Register, which provides consulting services to the shipping industry, said recently, “The later we leave decarbonization, the more disruptive it will be for shipping.”

After Years of Decline, a California Port City Sheds Its Past (The New York Times)

The port city of Long Beach, Calif., has long struggled to revive its downtown core, which steadily deteriorated as the Navy pared down and eventually closed its decades-old operations there by the late ’90s, with military contractors following.

The once-active naval community, where ships were regularly serviced and docked, became a place that, not too long ago, fewer people cared to visit, especially after dark.

Today, on some of those same corners, bulldozers and construction cranes work almost nonstop to transform Long Beach’s 1.38-square-mile downtown and outlying areas into a more vibrant urban center. Roughly three dozen projects, valued at around $3.5 billion, are underway or in the pipeline in one of the country’s largest continuing downtown redevelopments.


The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson (The New Yorker)

Long before Carson wrote “Silent Spring,” her last book, published in 1962, she was a celebrated writer: the scientist-poet of the sea. “Undersea,” her breakout essay, appeared in The Atlantic in 1937.

“Silent Spring,” a landlubber, is no slouch of a book: it launched the environmental movement; provoked the passage of the Clean Air Act (1963), the Wilderness Act (1964), the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act (both 1972); and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1970. The number of books that have done as much good in the world can be counted on the arms of a starfish. Still, all of Carson’s other books and nearly all of her essays concerned the sea. That Carson would be remembered for a book about the danger of back-yard pesticides like DDT would have surprised her in her younger years, when she was a marine biologist at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, writing memos about shad and pondering the inquiring snouts of whales, having specialized, during graduate school, in the American eel.

The Man Swimming Across the Pacific Ocean for Science (News Deeply)

We are excited to watch the progress of Ben Lecomte of The Longest Swim, an AltaSea partner. 

It will take seven weeks for Ben to reach Japan from California. It will take six to eight months for him to get back. By swimming.

For eight hours a day during that long return trip, Lecomte, 51, will be in the water. It’s estimated he’ll burn 8,000 calories a day and spend 1,400 hours in the ocean in his attempt to become the first person to swim across the Pacific.

It took seven years for Ben Lecomte, who is currently sailing to Tokyo with his crew and could not be reached for comment, to organize the expedition. During the swim, slated to start in late May, the team hopes to raise awareness of the impact humans are having on the ocean. But along the way the swimmer and his crew will also be collecting data on ocean conditions that will be shared with researchers in at least 20 scientific institutions.


Robotics by the Sea (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

May 19th from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.  This free action-packed day is great for technology enthusiasts, science fiction fans, and ocean explorers of all ages. 

Members of local robotics clubs will be at the aquarium demonstrating remote control robots they’ve fashioned. Watch as the robots maneuver on land and in the water, and take time to ask students questions about their inventions, technology and plans for future innovations.

This is also a chance to learn more about underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) and how scientists use ROVs to explore the ocean. See an underwater ROV demonstration and test your driving skills by maneuvering an ROV through an obstacle course. There will also be robot-related arts and crafts to help jump start your imagination and ingenuity. 

26th Annual Seal Day (Marine Mammal Care Center)

June 24th from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Marine Mammal Care Center (MMCC), 3601 South Gaffey Street in San Pedro.

The day consists of guest lecturers, films, narrated rehabilitation demonstrations, and theme related children’s activities. There is also plenty of literature and other goodies handed out to take home. MMCC LA collaborates with over 30 other like-minded organizations that are set up in booths to inform them on environmental and ocean health topics. To add to this “festival atmosphere,” food trucks are onsite to make sure that there are refreshments, as well as music and entertainment to keep the event lively with opportunity drawings and activities.

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