A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.
2016 has been a strong year for ocean conservation, and that trend continues with the latest announcement that the world’s largest marine sanctuary will be established in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Officials and scientists from 24 nations and the European Union voted unanimously to create the 600,000-square-mile marine reserve at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. South of New Zealand and deep in the Antarctic Ocean, the 1.9 million square-mile Ross Sea is sometimes called the “Last Ocean” because it is largely untouched by humans. Penguins rejoice!
Robotic Mussels Track Rising Temperatures for Climate Research (The New York Times)
At first sight, you might not be able to spot a robotic mussel nestled among real mussels — and that’s the point. Scientists have created robotic mussels that contain small thermometers designed to approximate the internal temperature of the real mussels nearby. The robotic mussels are an example of “biomimicry,” a relatively nascent field of study “that uses natural processes, structures and strategies to deal with human problems.” These robotic mussels have been placed in multiple locations from Canada to Chile and Oregon to New Zealand in order to examine temperature change and how ocean animals react to climate change.
Whales’ Dung is the Real Reason We Need to Stop Hunting Them (New Scientist)
The dung of whales may end up being what saves these marine mammals. You read that right. For years representatives from Japan, Norway and Iceland have claimed that whales decrease fish populations and have used that claim as justification for whaling. Yet new research reveals that nutrients in whale feces provide food for fish by stimulating the growth of phytoplankton that are eaten by krill. These krill then become prey for fish. “This is an exciting new horizon,” says Claire Bass, UK director of Humane Society International. “It inspires us to see whales not as resources to be exploited, or as competitors for fish stocks, but as ecologically essential geo-engineers.” As this body of evidence grows, and there is continued study of the significant positive effect of whales and other large animals on marine ecosystems, it may become easier for conservationists to finally outlaw whaling internationally.
Surfers Take Part in Waterborne Illness Study (San Diego Union-Tribune)
It’s long been known that water quality at beaches in Southern California deteriorates following rainstorms. Rain creates runoff, which later results in blooms of bacteria that can negatively affect swimmers. Researchers from the University of California Berkeley, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and the Surfrider Foundation wanted to quantify those effects – and they used Southern California surfers to help. More than 650 surfers in the San Diego area used a phone app to log when they went into the water and how often they got sick, in order to look into the risks of surfing in compromised water. The researchers found that “the risk of getting sick after swimming in the ocean is about 25 per 1,000. That number increases to 30.2 per 1,000 following rainy conditions.” The study shows that there is now data to back up the strong correlation between wet weather and increased health risk to people who spend time in the ocean.
Sustainable and Innovative Business
Could the cure to malaria be found in the ocean? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thinks it’s possible. That’s why the Foundation has given a $775,000 grant to Sirenas, a San Diego-based company that catalogues unique chemistry compounds found in the ocean and screens them against different diseases. According to a 2012 study, up to 50% of drugs approved in the last 30 years were directly or indirectly sourced from nature – Sirenas and the Gates Foundation hope to expand this work into marine research.
New Wave of TV Cartoons Urge Children to Save Seas (Yahoo News)
A new generation of cartoon superheroes is on the way to save the oceans! Lisa Henson, daughter of famed puppeteer and storyteller Jim Henson, has created “Splash and Bubbles,” a 40-episode series that will air on PBS next year. The “edutainment” show is aimed at four to seven-year-olds and features a team of animated animal superheroes rescuing sea creatures. Henson said like “Sesame Street,” “Splash and Bubbles” is all about teaching children good values in a fun way. We can’t wait to see how the show will inspire both curiosity and care for the ocean among children. In the words of the main characters, “Explore! Rescue! Protect!”
AltaSea’s innovative model of leveraging collaboration to find ocean-related solutions to the world’s most pressing problems continues to attract attention – most recently in local tech circles. This fall, AltaSea’s very own Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Sandra Whitehouse and our partner Dr. Robert Ballard — the “Indiana Jones of the Ocean” — presented at Los Angeles’ Cleantech Incubator. The two discussed how the expeditions of Dr. Ballard’s ship, E/V Nautilus, align with AltaSea’s efforts in the areas of sustainable aquaculture and blue tech. The growing partnership will put Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean at the epicenter of these critical exploration efforts and cutting-edge new industries. Check out the article for excerpts from the presentation.
USC, Ports Partner to Improve Supply Chain Technology (Los Angeles Business Journal)
In October, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker publicly announced that The University of Southern California, local ports, and the U.S. Department of Commerce have formed a strategic partnership aimed at improving the global competitiveness of the nation’s supply chains. The goal of the partnership is to encourage ports throughout the country to become more efficient by adapting to innovative technologies. The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach have a history of partnering with USC’s Marshall School of Business on projects that not only improve efficiency, but also environmental sustainability. Congrats to our friends at the Port of Los Angeles for being part of this important new collaboration, and high-five for their ongoing commitment to innovation.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, a valued AltaSea partner, hosted a successful Sustainable Food Expo last month at the Port of Los Angeles. The annual event helped consumers choose the fish that’s good for their bodies and the environment, thanks to cooking demonstrations, a panel discussion with experts and a keynote address by actor and cofounder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, Adrian Grenier. The Expo also featured more than 40 exhibitors and sustainable seafood sampling booths. Kudos on another educational (and delicious!) Sustainable Food Expo.
Looking for something unique to do this fall? How about ice-skating on a battleship? It’s possible thanks to the Los Angeles Kings. Our champion ice hockey team announced it’ll be sponsoring five outdoor ice rinks throughout the region for the holiday season. The rink in San Pedro, which is set to open on November 19, will be floating on board one of AltaSea’s neighbors at the Port of Los Angeles: the Battleship USS Iowa, the famed World War II museum ship.