2010 was a hard year for the oceans. The biggest disaster was, of course, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which raged on for a mind-boggling, stomach-curdling three months. While BP and the Feds are alternating between pointing fingers, and patting themselves on the back for saving the Gulf, the true impacts of the disaster will be making themselves known for a generation or more.
However, not all the news was bad news. 2010 also saw some major victories and discoveries that furthered our understanding and protection of the Big Blue:
- Census of Marine Life: In 2010, more than 2,700 researchers from 81 countries completed a decade-long survey of the world’s oceans. More than 540 expeditions culminated in the discovery of thousands of new species. Researchers found life everywhere they looked, from the coldest to the hottest waters, from the water’s surface to depths with pressures high enough to crush steel. Ocean geek that I am, I get positively giddy thinking about the wealth of scientific information and journal articles available on their website. I’ve blogged about this amazing effort here, and here, and definitely will again.
- Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The California Fish and Game Commission voted to establish 36 MPAs along the state’s southern coast, from the Point Conception to the Mexican border. More than 20% of U.S. lands are protected in national parks and the like, but less than 1% of the ocean has any comparable protections. A recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University (Christie et al., 2010) found that fish larvae from MPAs can help rebuild overfished populations more than 100 miles away.
- Shark Conservation Act: Shark finning is the barbaric practice of cutting off the fins of a shark for the Asian delicacy of shark fin soup. The shark is often tossed back in the water still alive to bleed to death. “Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 64 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered due to shark finning.”* Back in April, Hawaii banned shark finning in state waters. Early this month, Congress followed up with a ban on new shark finning in all U.S. waters. (Last year, the EU closed a loophole in their finning ban to effectively stop the practice in European waters).
My round-up wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few of my favorite ocean organizations, which did fabulous work in 2010. Check them out and support their efforts in 2011 and beyond. I’ve put my money where my mouth and keyboard are to support each of these amazing groups.
- Ocean Champions is the only political voice for the oceans. They work on politics, not only policy, pushing ocean legislation, and supporting candidates from both parties who support the ocean. They’re incredibly savvy about the workings of Capitol Hill, and know how to get things done. Fed up with gridlock? Support a group that works hard to ensure that ocean issues are heard in our nation’s capital.
- Sylvia Earle Alliance. I can describe Sylvia Earle in one word: hero. But why stop there? How about awesome, incredible, cool, fun, adventurous, dedicated, passionate, and smart. I had the pleasure of meeting her back in 1997, and she lived up to everyone of those words and more. She was recently named Treehugger’s Person of the Year. Check out Sylvia’s awesome TED speech here.
- Wallace J Nichols. Wallace is a one-man ocean revolution. He’s a researcher, educator, and activist, working in a dozen different ways to communicate his love, passion, and concern for the seas to people all over the world. His motto is to “live like you love the oceans,” and there’s no doubt that he’s walking the walk in more ways than you can imagine. 100 Blue Angels is a campaign he’s recently launched to support his work. You can check out his 2010 Top Ten list here.
Next month I’ll blog about some of the legislative battles on the horizon for 2011. So stay tuned for more Brave Blue Words, and have a Happy New Year!
*Historic Shark Fin Ban Passes in Hawaii – Posted on: April 29, 2010 4:16 AM, by Christie Wilcox
Mark R. Christie, Brian N. Tissot, Mark A. Albins, James P. Beets, Yanli Jia, Delisse M. Ortiz, Stephen E. Thompson, Mark A. Hixon. Larval Connectivity in an Effective Network of Marine Protected Areas. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (12): e15715 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015715