marine conservation

Champion of the Ocean

 

If you don't become the ocean, you will be seasick every day. - Leonard Cohen

If you don’t become the ocean, you will be seasick every day.
                                                      – Leonard Cohen

  The impossible missions are the only ones that succeed.                                                                                                                    –   Jacques Yves Cousteau

How appropriate that World Oceans Month is celebrated the same month as Jacques Cousteau’s birthday, June 11. It’s hard to think of anyone who has had a more profound effect on the oceans than Cousteau.

Born in 1910, Jacques Yves Cousteau grew up like any normal boy, maybe more so. People are sometimes surprised that he struggled in school. Now I realize there’s hope for me.

Cousteau’s passion for the sea might never have developed had it not been for an automobile accident. He broke both arms and nearly lost his life. It set him on a life quest that ended where all life began. In the sea.

Make no mistake about it. Cousteau was no slacker, waiting to be catered to. He was tough, passionate, and brave. During World War II, he joined the French Resistance Movement working as a spy. He also worked at the dangerous job of clearing underwater mines.

It was when he went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea that a friend gave him goggles.  It opened his eyes to a world he could never have dreamed of and Jacques Cousteau fell in love with the sea. It held him so deeply that he spent the rest of his life sharing it with the public.

He put it most eloquently when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Among Cousteau’s many roles were French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, author, and researcher. Hundreds of books have been written by or about Jacques Cousteau and his achievements so it’s hard to do his life the justice it deserves in a few sentences.

Divers both recreational and professional literally owe their lives to Cousteau who with Emile Gagnan in 1943 developed practical scuba gear called the Aqua-lung. Finally mankind could dive underwater and truly explore the wonders there.

Profoundly insightful, he knew explorers on any mission needed a base from which to operate. Underwater was no different, and he developed an underwater laboratory called Conshelf I where humans could live and carry out research for long periods at a time. It was so successful, it gave birth to Conshelf II and III.

With his vision, he founded the FOC (French Oceanographic Campaigns) in 1950 and refitted the Calypso, making it a maritime research center. It was an extraordinary move at a time when the world was merrily spraying everything with DDT. But people like Jacques Cousteau and Rachel Carson were just beginning to prick our consciences.

In 1953, he penned Silent World with Frederic Dumas, introducing the world to a fascinating look at life under the sea. The book sold five million copies. He turned it into an award-winning documentary filming aboard the Calypso in 1956. Continue reading →

Fifteen Simple Things You Can Do to Help Our Blue Planet on Earth Day

STUDY IN BLUE ORIGINAL

It’s been forty-six years since earthlings celebrated the very first Earth Day. We’ve come a long ways righting the wrongs we’ve inflicted on the earth and sea, but, oh, how far we have to go!

The problems that still lie before us seem almost insurmountable, but we must remember the harm wasn’t caused in one year or one century. I’m confident if each of us does just a little something in his corner of the earth, that earth, sea, and sky can rebound magnificently.

Here are a few things you might consider doing where you live. You don’t have to do them all. Start with one or two. It might feel so good, you’ll want to try a few more:

  1. Visit websites that will open your eyes to the beauty and wonder of the sea.

These are just a few. There are many more worthwhile ones besides these.

The Blue Ocean Institute at www.blueocean.org

Ocean.si.edu

Ocean.nationalgeographic.com

World Wildlife Fund  at worldwildlife.org

Sea Shepherd at www.seashepherd.org

Greenpeace  at greenpeace.org

Ocean Conservancy at www.oceanconservancy.org

Friends of the Earth at foei.org

Global Coral Reef Alliance at www.globalcoral.org

  1. Consider joining an environmental group. You’re familiar with some of the bigger ones. Write a check. You don’t have to give them all your money and end up like a naked Sadhu wandering the forests of India, but it’s not going to hurt to give a little.

  1. Do an impromptu beach clean-up any day of the year. Earth Day shouldn’t be for just one day. Earth is your neighborhood; take pride in it.

  1. Implement your own “Carry on, Carry off” policy when you go to the beach or a park. Assume that if you leave your trash in one of the receptacles, some of it is going to end up in the water where it will do a lot of harm to the local denizens that live there.

  1. Be more conscious of chemicals you use in your home. Many harsh cleaning agents can be substituted with natural ones that break down in the environment with little harm.

  1. Consider curtailing your use of weed killers and strong fertilizers in your garden. They all end up in the sea where they wreak havoc. I’m the first to admit sometimes a potent weed killer is the only way to eliminate a terribly stubborn or invasive plant. But be aware that overdoing it is very, very bad and comes at a terrible price.

Continue reading →

Thanksgiving Revisited

Last week I recounted several of the things we have to be grateful for in the ocean and the maritime environment. While some may consider these accomplishments mere footnotes to be buried in a year of frantic activity, I urge you to regard them as important stepping stones to a better future not just for the ocean and the mariners who sail upon them, but for all of us. Why? Because the future of every soul on this planet depends on a healthy ocean and its fragile ecosystems.

With this in mind, I urge you to visit several of the sites below and learn more about the organizations that champion a better ocean. You don’t even have to join them though that would be better. At least by visiting them, you’ll learn a few things you can do to help make Mother Ocean a healthier and safer place for its children and the eight billion children of this planet.

… Greenpeace at www.greenpeace.org uses peaceful protests and communication to expose environmental problems and promote solutions.

… Coral Reef Alliance at http://coral.org/ promotes the health of coral reefs around the globe.

… Cousteau Society at http://www.cousteau.org/ is all about helping people understand and care for seas and rivers worldwide.

… Marine Conservation Institute at http://www.marine-conservation.org targets key ecosystems around the world and advocates for them.

… Wild Oceans at http://wildoceans.org seeks to curb overfishing and restore depleted fish populations. If you’re a weekend fisherman, you owe them a lot.

… SeaKeepers at http://www.seakeepers.org energizes the yachting community to protect the world’s oceans. Their motto is: “Research, Educate, Protect, and Restore.”

… The Ocean Project at http://theoceanproject.org partners with aquariums, zoos, and museums to promote ocean conservation.

… Waterkeeper Alliance at http://waterkeeper.org helps protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways worldwide. Like to swim in clean water? Check them out.

Continue reading →

Sea Shepherd takes down poachers; Epic catch a Benchmark in Maritime Conservation

We’ve had terrible news last week with the loss of thirty-three lives aboard the cargo ship El Faro. It was lost off the Bahamas in the middle of  Hurricane Joaquin. On top of that, South Carolina has endured devastating floods that have left thousands homeless. So it’s nice to be able to share some really good news today.

This past week three notorious poachers, all officers aboard the Thunder, were convicted of forgery, pollution, damage to the environment, and recklessness. Captain Luis Alfonso Rubio Cataldo (Chile), Chief Engineer Agustin Dosil Rey (Spain), and Second Mechanic Luis Miguel Perez Fernandez (Spain) received sentences between thirty-two and thirty-six months. In addition, they must pay fifteen million euros, well over sixteen million US dollars.

But none of this would have happened without the courage and persistence of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The drama actually unfolded in early January when the Sea Shepherd’s ship, The Bob Barker, captained by Peter Hammarstedt, chased one of six ships, the Thunder, notorious for overfishing, for months. During that time, the crew of the Thunder did everything conceivable short of sinking their own ship to shake the tenacious crew of the Sea Shepherd.

On the hundred and tenth day, they did exactly that, scuttling their ship to destroy possible evidence to be used in court though they would deny it. The Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker and sister ship Sam Simon, captained by Sid Chakravarty, plucked the wet and unhappy crew from their life rafts and brought them to justice. Several of the toothfish they poached in Antarctic waters became damning evidence.
Continue reading →

Do Some Real Good for the Sea

Does it make you sick to see the oceans becoming sicker and the creatures of the deep more abused and pushed closer to extinction? Want to help right the wrongs you constantly read about? It seems impossible not to pick up a newspaper or magazine without coming across at least one or two environmental groups working hard to fix some problem.

Some are like an uncle we love but rarely see. We know them. We know they do good, but somehow we just never get in touch with them. Some groups are like the new neighbor down the street who we never get around to meet.

We’ll here’s your chance to not only get in touch with that uncle who does a lot of good, or meet that new neighbor but partner with them in a real and lasting way.

Opportunities abound to join environmental groups on the forefront of making a difference. Because the list is so vast, I’m going to concentrate just on maritime organizations. Blame it on the pirate in me!  Aarrrghh!

Before introducing you to them, I want to explain these groups fall primarily into two types. Those that have members who are activists along with those who support them through money or time or by raising awareness of important issues.

The other type of group is made chiefly of activists who literally put their butts on the line. Close to the action, they often place themselves in harm’s way. Those who support them can be thought of as followers or supporters and do so with money.

Of course, some groups are hybrids of the two, but whatever group you are attracted to, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about them before committing time or money to them. All contribute to the ocean and its children in some way. A smaller group doesn’t imply the value of its work is any less noble.

Continue reading →

Ten Disturbing Things You Should Know about the Sea and What You Can Do about it

IMG_3544  June 08 is World Ocean Day. Soon many of us will be gearing up for a nice vacation at our favorite beach or looking forward to a relaxing weekend at the shore, but June’s also a good time to reflect on what the sea means to us and what we can do to make it healthier. Here are a few things to consider over the next few days.

  1. Fourteen billion pounds of garbage ends up in the ocean every year. How much of that is yours? Recycling really does make a difference.
  1. Most of the protein humans consume comes from fish. What happens when pollution makes fish so sick they become inedible? And what becomes of us when we over fish and our oceans are void of life? It’s a problem we really can solve.
  1. Plastic in our oceans accounts for the deaths of more than a million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals. Do you really want to be part of that problem?
  1. Deaths from shark bites average about seven to ten a year worldwide. In the U.S. alone, deaths from bee stings number around 53. Lightning kills about 9o people. Don’t believe the hype created by Hollywood movies.
  1. Because of the similarities between coral and human bones, coral is being used to repair bones. Kill off the coral reefs and you’re killing off a lot more than one of Mother Ocean’s precious nurseries, nurseries that harbor thousands of fish vital to our food chain.

Continue reading →