Marine Mammal caught in a Net

3 Challenges Faced by Whales and Dolphins

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Marine Mammal caught in a Net

Whales and dolphins are magnificent creatures and it seems as though you can find them everywhere in the Oceans…and according to many documentaries and tv shows, you would expect that these species are doing very well (as in they are very healthy). But that is not the case.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed revolutionary documentaries such as The Cove and Sharkwater. Each exposing major and brutal hunts on marine mammals and sharks. Now most of the world is aware of these terrible acts and action is taking place against shark fin soup in many cities around the world. So the movies are helping people save the Oceans, but there are more issues facing marine mammals and much action is required from us. The movie Whales and Dolphins help expose these issues which I describe below:

1) Entanglement in Nets – This problem is one of the biggest issues that is not as well known as we all think. Marine mammals (seals, dolphins, and whales) get caught in fishing nets set out to catch fish. The animals swim through the nets without knowing it and get them caught around their necks. It’s only a matter of time before the animal chokes to death. Old nets are even worse as no one comes back to pick up the nets so the animals have no chance to be saved.

2) Bioaccumulation – This is what I call the silent killer. Metals like mercury are found in marine mammals at very high levels. It’s difficult to see the effects of the metals on the exterior of the animal, but the impacts will eventually die from the metal poisoning. Where do the metals come from? Well, most of it comes from water pollution derived from land based sources. We need to figure out how to reduce our metal contaminants in our water that flows into the Ocean. I’m not sure how, but I am willing to hear your thoughts.

3) The Hunts – The ever so popular, and disturbing, hunts of marine mammals happens in Japan, Norway, Canada, and the South Pacific Ocean (among other places). There is a lot of controversy surrounding the hunts as well as pressure from environmental groups and advocates to stop the hunts as they are destroying species populations; not demanded by consumers; and, costs too much to conduct.

But don’t take it from me, just listen to Dr. Sylvia Earle, a well known Ocean Scientist and Ocean Leader.

Ocean Conservation: Celebrating 50 years of Protection

Celebrating 50 years of Protection!

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Ocean Conservation: Celebrating 50 years of Protection

Photo Credit: (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

It’s not every day you get to see a 50 year anniversary of a protected area. Not many marine protected areas exist today. So it’s awesome to celebrate 50 years of Ocean Conservation in one of the most beautiful underwater sanctuaries in the USA!

The overall goal in Ocean Conservation is to protect at least 20%-30% of all the Oceans. I think we are at less the half a percent…that sucks! We aren’t even close to are global goal

Why Can’t We Protect The Oceans?

One of the major problems is that it’s a global goal! It’s difficult to tell a country to protect it’s coastal waters when your own country (mine is Canada) has one of the lowest coverages of marine protected areas in the world. On top of that, countries only have juridiction within 200 Nautical Miles from there coasts, so good luck trying to protect the “high seas” where there is no law!

Some Solutions?

It may be intimidating to try an establish a marine protected area. After all, scientists, resource managers, policy makers, and politicians create marine protected areas…That’s BullCrap!. It’s YOU, the people who create marine protected areas (MPAs for short). Sure, the people I mention to all the technical work but the politicians can’t pass the bill unless it’s demanded by the bill. Here’s why:

The Oceans aren’t as calm and undisturbed as you may think. There are many industries working out there in the Ocean…and they want to use all of it. Some example industries are oil and gas, fishermen, mining companies, and the tourism industry to name a few. Now I am not saying they are all bad and they are all out to ruin the Oceans, but they can do some damage if they are left unregulated and unmonitored (I bring to your attention the BP Oil Catastrophe as a prime example!).

When scientists, policy makers, environmental organizations, and other people including government departments try an create an MPA, they are halted by what we call human activities. The human activities don’t necessarily like the fact that they won’t be able to work in certain areas that are closed off…can you blame them? They never had to before. Why should they now? The pressure from the human activities lobby groups can halt and destroy plans for an MPA in YOUR country. Crazy eh (The Canadian in me!)?

Here’s Where You Come In

You, the people, have a chance to really change the way we protect our Oceans, especially those of you who live in a democratic society! The politicians that have the power to make laws and create MPAs work for YOU, the people; not the 5% of the population that want to make money. If you want to create an MPA in your country, you have a voice to do it. Especially in areas where there are no human activities. They are the easiest to get protected because there is virtually no resistance.

So your call to action is to find a marine area you would like to protect; gather many supporters over the internet; and, pressure your government to create the MPA! Contact Us to help you get supporters. Speak Up for Blue will help you in anyway that we can!

How We Wrecked The Ocean, According to Jeremy Jackson

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Andrew Thaler posted the video below recently on the blog ,even though Jeremy Jackson conducted this talk back in April (This is the beauty of video being freely available on the web; it allows us to be reminded by the great minds of experienced marine scientists such as Jeremy Jackson for as long as the host is willing to post it).  Thanks TED talks and thanks Andrew!

Jeremy Jackson talks about the decrease in the number of fish around the world and why these fish disappeared.

The subject is dismal but the message needs to be heard so we can learn from our past mistakes. Check out the video below:

River carries pollutants to Lake Ontario

Underwater River

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River carries pollutants to Lake Ontario

Here’s a simple question: Where does the water flowing in rivers go? Well many of them will flow downstream heading twoards large lakes and will evetnually end up in the Ocean. Many small rivers, located far inland will combine together to form larger ones as the water flows towards the coast.

Now think about this: as the water combines, so does the water pollution. The pollution accumulates more and more as rivers are added when they head downstream.

So pollutants are dumped from rivers into the coastal waters at their highest concentration within the river network (the watershed).

the video below a great piece on Toronto (largest city in Canada)rivers and their influence on Lake Ontario as well as the rest of the Great Lakes. In the video, Alexandra refers to Lake Ontario as an “Ocean of freshwater”, which I think is a great way to describe Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario is the last Great Lake before freshwater flows into the St. Lawrence River and out into the Ocean. Any pollution that flows into Lake Ontario will flow into the ocean.

Lake Ontario acts as a coast to the eastern part of much of Southern Ontario, one of Canada’s most populated regions. The people pf Toronto and Southern Ontario may not be completely aware of the devastating water quality that flows into Lake Ontario from its watersheds. Leaders must SPEAK UP FOR LAKE ONTARIO and other Great Lakes in order to make people aware of the problem.

Alexandra Cousteau’s video below is a good starting point to SPEAK UP and educate coastal communities on the potential effect they have on the coastal habitats and the simple steps they can take that will reduce their impacts.

Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet: North America “Urban Watersheds: From Runoff to Renewal” from Alexandra Cousteau on Vimeo.


2 Reasons Why Canadian Pacific Orcas are At-Risk

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There is something you should know about orcas…It’s not that they are big, or intelligent, or they have a great ability to work together when they hunt. So what do you need to know about orcas (formerly known as killer whales)…You need to know that they are at risk of going extinct from the West coast of Canada.

The Canadian Species At Risk Act gives the Department of Fisheries the authority to protect the species; however, it doesn’t seem like they are doing a great job. A number of environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation launched a suit against the Canadian government as they believed the government was not adequately protecting Orcas in Canadian Water under the Species At Risk Act. Guess what??? The environmental groups won!

The Cause for Concern About Orcas

It is difficult to pin point the exact reason why the orcas population is dwindling in Western Canada as there is no defining cause. There are a number of causes for their decreased population. Here are 2 reasons why they may not be doing so well:

1) Water Pollution – There are metals, plastics, hydrocarbons, and other harmful substances leaking into our Oceans every day. The contaminants end up somewhere in the Ocean. An increasing problem is the fact that the contaminants find their way into large Ocean Animals such as whales, or more specifically, orcas. Autospy reports on orcas (when they are conducted) often attribute the death of the orcas as contaminant poisoning. Water pollution is a growing problem in our Oceans calling for more effective regulations to monitor water quality.

2) Underwater Noise – Underwater noise is getting a lot of attention in our Oceans as it has an affect on marine mammals (whales such as Orcas). What’s the problem? Well, underwater noise can be so loud that it could alter the hearing of orcas. Noise such as sonar and seismic intruments, which emit a loud noise in the water can often raise the hearing threshold of animals. Think of it like this: You listen to yur iPod as load as it can go everyday for 5 days. On the 6th day, you listen to your iPod at a lower level, but you can’t hear the music as well. You just altered your hearing threshold. In the cases of orcas and other whales, underwater noise alters the hearing threshold in a similar way to the iPod example, but on a much higher level.

These serious problems are preventing the Orca populations from growing and in fact, they are reducing the populations very quickly.

So how can you help? Well, each of us can stop contributing the water pollution by reducing/eliminating our use of plastics, disposing of chemicals, such as oil, gasoline, pesticides, and house cleaning prodcuts in the proper manner (meaning not down the drain or sewers because all of those chemicals will enventually end up in the Oceans at some point and time. It’s difficult to stop underwater noise, but one thing you can do is reduce your dependence on fuel as much of the underwater noise that is occurring in the Ocean are due to sesmic serveys to search for new oil depositis.

Plastic in the Pacific Ocean

The War Against Plastic in the Ocean

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Plastic in the Pacific Ocean


In the past year, I became aware of the enormous amounts of plastic floating in the ocean. Wallace J Nichols, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and 5 Gyres do a pretty good job at getting the word out about the negative effect plastic has on our oceans and the species that inhabit them. Whales, dolphins, sea turtles and seabirds are known to ingest plastic pieces such as lighters, bottle caps, plastic bags and pieces of plastic bottles that float in the ocean as they mistake them for food. did you know sea turtle eat jelly fish, which resemble plastic bags when floating in the Ocean.  Imagine eating a garbage bag and getting it stuck in your throat…that can’t be good for you.  In fact, many sea turtles choke and die after trying to ingest plastic bags.

The article, with the link below, shows an awareness campaign in the form of artistic representations. I must admit that it is not a traditional way of making people aware, but it could prove to be effective. Honestly, if art just makes one person aware of the plastic pollution then it is effective.

Here is a teaser:

The stuff of war is the stuff of art. Some of the earliest cave drawings depict tribal strife. Since before history, the material and materiel of war has served as a vast palette for artists to explore and explain the times in which they live.

Eighteen-year-old Lovetta Conto designs jewelry — some is made of fine metal, but others are shaped from bullet casings pulled from the soil of her native Liberia, a nation rent by civil war. Lovetta crafts beauty from bullets, finding meaning in the things that have ripped her homeland apart. No daisies, no meadows, no fairy tales for Lovetta. She’s a child who escaped civil war, suffering and violence to look upon the world with the eyes of an artist…

Enjoy the rest of the article…