E&E: Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean’ conference spurs domestic and global commitments to sea conservation

Elspeth Dehnert, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference, hosted by Secretary of
State John Kerry, concluded yesterday with well over $1 billion in
pledges to protect and preserve the world’s oceans.

For two consecutive days, heads of state, foreign ministers,
policymakers, scientists, environmentalists and experts from nearly 90
countries, gathered at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters
with the goal of developing strategies to combat marine pollution,
overfishing and ocean acidification.

President Obama led the charge early in the day when he announced
plans to make a vast portion of the south-central Pacific Ocean off
limits to energy exploration, fishing and other harmful activities,
thereby creating one of the largest ocean preserves in the world.

The administration will attempt to expand the Pacific Remote Islands
Marine National Monument with the guidance of scientists, fishermen,
conservation experts and elected officials.

“If we drain our oceans of resources, we won’t just be squandering one
of humanity’s greatest treasures, we’ll be cutting off one of the
world’s major sources of food and economic growth,” Obama said in a
video message. “And we can’t afford to let that happen.”

The president also said he will be directing federal agencies to
develop a comprehensive program to combat black-market fishing by
addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from
entering the marketplace.

Other domestic efforts include $102 million in Department of Interior
grants to restore natural barriers and floodplains, such as the
wetlands and marshes that run along the Atlantic Coast, and the
release of a white paper on ocean acidification by the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Now that’s just some of what we’re planning to do here in the United
States,” Kerry said. “But as President Obama made clear this morning,
we’re really just getting started.”

A global effort

The island country of Palau will be following in the United States’
footsteps with the creation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary,
which will protect up to 500,000 square kilometers, or 80 percent, of
the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone by banning industrial-scale
fishing in the area.

“Palau comes to the table with a call for more marine protected
areas,” said the country’s president, Tommy Remengesau Jr. “It’s not a
one-size-fits-all formula but a call for all of us to put a share of
the solution on the table.”

Norway, meanwhile, made one of the biggest strides with a pledge to
allocate more than $1 billion for climate change mitigation and
assistance, including a substantial contribution to the Green Climate
Fund. The Scandinavian country also said it will spend more than $150
million to promote sustainable fisheries and put $1 million toward a
study looking at ways to combat marine plastic waste and

“We need clean and protected oceans to safeguard our existence,” said
Norway Foreign Minister Børge Brende. “The better we take care of the
ocean, the better the ocean can help us take care of our needs.”

Hollywood was also present at the event in the form of award-winning
actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave opening remarks alongside Kerry and
pledged $7 million to ocean conservation projects. “I’ve learned about
the incredibly important role our oceans play on the survival of all
life on Earth,” he said, “and I’ve decided to join so many people and
others that are working here today to protect this vital treasure.”

Souring seas in the spotlight

Conference speaker Carol Turley, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in
the United Kingdom, rang the alarm bells on the rapid pace of global

ocean acidification, saying “it is happening at a speed we haven’t
seen for millions of years.”

“If we keep doing what we’re doing,” she added, “we’re going to end up
with a world that is between 3 and 6 degrees warmer and end up with
seas that are between 100 and 150 times more acidic.”

NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan later announced that the federal
agency will contribute more than $9 million over the next three years
to the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network. It is a financial
boost that Kerry said will enable the international effort to “better
monitor ocean acidification around the world.”

“And so out of this conference has come more — a commitment to a
combination of effort with respect to climate and oceans, but
specifically focused on acidification and sea level rise,” said the
secretary of State.

“We will convene again,” he concluded. “It will be in Peru, and after

that maybe back here. We will convene again.”
Senators vow to do more to address pollution, maintenance concerns

Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

At the State Department’s Our Ocean Conference, Sen. Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who co-chairs the Senate Oceans Caucus, yesterday
called for a greater focus on monitoring and tracking marine debris.

As the Obama administration advances ocean conservation, senators
passionate about the seas will likely take on some of those same
issues in Congress.

In an interview, caucus co-Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) later
said that the caucus has discussed “doing more.”

“Our reality is we might have these systems out there, if you don’t
maintain them, it’s tough to get the data you need,” the Alaska
Republican said.

The group also may take up ocean acidification, Murkowski said,
another of the oceans issues brought up at the conference. The problem
has long been acknowledged among the senators — it was discussed at
the caucus’s first meeting in 2011 — and at least one member of the
caucus, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), has repeatedly called attention
to the issue at hearings and on the Senate floor.

Murkowski noted that the caucus has done its part to advance another
issue on the administration’s agenda: dealing with illegal, unreported
and unregulated fishing. Earlier this year, the caucus served as the
force behind the Senate’s approval of four fishing treaties that have
long awaited ratification, including the Port State Measures

She said she was “encouraged” by President Obama’s announcement of a
national strategy to combat illegal fishing, noting that the issue has
gained some traction.

“I appreciate the fact that the president is looking at this as an
issue that is important not only from the conservation perspective but
also from the perspective of support for a major economic sector,” she
said. “We’ll see where the task force goes and the kind of direction

he gives it.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Support Our Ocean Conference June 16–17

Dear Friends,


As many of you know, US Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting Our Ocean Conference June 16-17 to bring together international ocean stakeholders and experts in hopes of moving protection of the ocean forward. http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/06/02/protecting-our-ocean-what-will-you-do

In case you haven’t received below, please help build public engagement efforts. There are three main ways you and your networks can help:


1. Answer Secretary Kerry’s Call to Action and share his video:  Please help amplify this important message by retweeting or reposting on any of your social media platforms using the hashtag #OurOcean2014.


2. Join and promote our ThunderclapA Thunderclap allows a single message to be mass-shared so it rises above the noise of social media. Please use your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr accounts to join the Thunderclap to automatically post – 

“Our ocean is under threat. Join people all over the world and make a difference. #OurOcean2014 http://thndr.it/1tP7svS

at 9:00 AM ET on June 16, the start of Our Ocean ConferencePlease join our Thunderclap with your account and ask your networks to join as well.  

Here’s a sample post:  We can all do something to protect our ocean. Join @StateDept’s 1st @ThunderclapIT to spread the word. thndr.it/1tP7rrQ #OurOcean2014


3. Share a photo for our photo campaign:  The Department of State will launch a photo campaign on June 6 in support of Our Ocean Conference asking people to “Show us your love of our ocean!” by posting photos to social media. The photos can be anything from fun beach trips to coastal cleanup efforts. Select photos from the campaign will be posted to the Department of State’s Instagram account and displayed at the conference.  We will send a follow-up message with additional details and the hashtag that should be used when photos are posted to social media platforms.



Dirty Fuel Opponents to Join Hands Across the Sand and Land: Worldwide May 17th 2014


For Immediate Release: May 12th, 2014



Dave Rauschkolb, Founder, (850) 865-1061; pressinfo@handsacrossthesand.org

Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Foundation, (503) 887-0514; pstauffer@surfrider.org

Nancy Pyne, Oceana, (202) 486-6406; npyne@oceana.org

Chris Carnevale, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (843)-225-2371; chris@cleanenergy.org

Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102; Virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org

Cathy Harrelson, Gulf Restoration Network, (727) 415-8805; cathy@healthygulf.org




Across the nation, from Florida to Alaska, and in eight countries around the world, events will be held on Saturday, May 17, for the fifth annual “Hands Across the Sand and Land” event, to say no to dirty fossil fuel projects that endanger our local communities, and accelerate the shift to clean, renewable energy such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. The events are a strong show of support for clean energy at a time when a host of new dirty fuel proposals are under consideration.

A complete list of events can be found here: www.handsacrossthesand.org.

Across the country communities are facing threats from coastal and offshore drilling, seismic blasting, the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands mining and transporting crude by rail, hydraulic fracturing and LNG export terminals, and mountain top removal coal mining. In addition to damaging our water, air and wildlife these projects also threaten to worsen climate disruption, which is already leading to rising sea levels, drought, forest fires, ocean acidification, crop loss and flooding. 

To counter these threats, Hands Across the Sand/Land participants, groups, and communities across the country will show leaders like President Obama the breadth of opposition to new fossil fuel exploitation and support for a clean energy economy rooted in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy solutions, such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Hands Across the Sand/Land is sponsored by Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club,Center for a Sustainable Coast, Chart 411, Tar Sands Coalition, Urban Paradise Guild, and All things Healing. 

Group Quotes:

“Offshore drilling will never be safe. Expanding offshore oil drilling is not the answer; embracing clean energy is,”said Dave Rauschkolb, a Florida restaurateur who founded Hands Across the Sand in 2010. “We’re here to say NO to offshore drilling and dirty fuels, and YES to clean energy.”

“The massive participation in Hands Across the Sand shows that people oppose the risky practice of offshore drilling and understand that we need to seek real solutions to our energy crisis including increased efficiency, conservation and renewable alternatives,” said Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Program Manager

“Dirty fuels should be kept in the ground,” said Dan Chu, Senior Director for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We should be investing in clean energy solutions, like wind and solar, and expanding smart transportation choices, not moving ahead with destructive projects like Keystone XL, or opening up special places off our coasts, on public lands or in the Arctic to destructive mining, fracking or drilling.”

“Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous, and events like Hands Across the Sand are crucial reminders to our decision makers that the time for clean energy is now,” said Nancy Pyne, Grassroots Manager for Oceana’s Climate and Energy Campaign.

“In the Southeast, the economics of offshore drilling just don’t make sense.  Coastal tourism and fishing generate billions of dollars every year and employ hundreds of thousands of people in our region.  Jeopardizing those industries for high-risk offshore drilling would be a grave mistake.  Offshore wind energy, on the other hand, could create thousands of jobs without the huge risks of drilling,” said Chris Carnevale, Coastal Climate and Energy Coordinator for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. 

“Our coastal and marine environments continue to be threatened by the exploration and drilling for fossil fuels.  Four years after the BP disaster, the effects of oil and dispersant are taking a toll on marine life and on the health and economy of coastal communities.  This is why we join hands – to hold the line against dirty fuels and call for clean energy now”, said Cathy Harrelson, Florida Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network.

Photos from the events are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/handsacrossthesand/

For more information about the events and organizer contact information please visit http://www.handsacrossthesand.org.  Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Eco-Watch: Parasitic Flatworm Could Decimate Coral Reefs Worldwide


| April 11, 2014 3:38 pm |

A coral-eating flatworm with a unique camouflaging strategy could be a major threat to the world’s coral reefs, according to researchers in the U.K. The parasite, called Amakusaplana acroporae, infects a type of staghorn coral known as acropora, a major component of reefs, and can destroy its coral host very quickly.

Acropora grandis (Staghorn coral) forest. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The parasite has been detected at the Great Barrier Reef, and because it has no known natural predators, researchers are concerned it could spread quickly and decimate reefs worldwide. A novel camouflaging strategy makes the flatworm difficult to detect and monitor, the researchers say.

When eating the coral tissue, the worm also ingests the coral’s symbiotic algae. Instead of digesting the algae completely, the worm keeps a fraction of them alive and distributes them, along with the fluorescent pigments that give coral its characteristic hue, throughout its gut so that it perfectly mimics the appearance of the coral.

This is an Amakusaplana flat worm. Photo credit:  Professor Jörg Wiedenmann
This is an Amakusaplana flat worm. Photo credit: Professor Jörg Wiedenmann

The parasite has been identified in numerous aquarium-based corals, and biologists worry that it could spread rapidly if aquarium-raised coral, fish or seaweed are introduced to natural reef environments.

——–Special thanks to Richard Charter

NSF.gov: Caribbean-wide study shows protected coral reefs dominated by sponges with chemical defenses

Press Release 14-025
Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs favors coral-killing sponges



Image of a sponge smothering a living coral head on a reef
A sponge smothers a living coral head on a reef that lacks predatory angelfish.
Credit and Larger Version

February 24, 2014

Scientists had already demonstrated that overfishing removes angelfish and parrotfish that feed on sponges growing on coral reefs–sponges that sometimes smother the reefs. That research was conducted off Key Largo, Fla.

Now, new research by the same team of ecologists suggests that removing these predators by overfishing alters sponge communities across the Caribbean.

Results of the research, by Joseph Pawlik and Tse-Lynn Loh of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“In fact,” says Pawlik, “healthy coral reefs need predatory fish–they keep sponge growth down.”

The biologists studied 109 species of sponges at 69 Caribbean sites; the 10 most common species made up 51 percent of the sponge cover on the reefs.

“Sponges are now the main habitat-forming organisms on Caribbean coral reefs,” says Pawlik.

Reefs in the Cayman Islands and Bonaire–designated as off-limits to fishing–mostly have slow-growing sponges that manufacture chemicals that taste bad to predatory fish.

Fish numbers are higher near these reefs. Predatory fish there feast on fast-growing, “chemically undefended” sponges. What’s left? Only bad-tasting, but slow-growing, sponges.

Overfished reefs, such as those off Jamaica and Martinique, are dominated by fast-growing, better-tasting sponges. “The problem,” says Pawlik, “is that there are too few fish around to eat them.” So the sponges quickly take over the reefs.

“It’s been a challenge for marine ecologists to show how chemical defenses influence the structure of ocean communities,” says David Garrison, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

“With this clever study, Pawlik and Loh demonstrate that having–or not having–chemical defenses structures sponge communities on Caribbean coral reefs.”

The results support the need for marine protected areas to aid in coral reef recovery, believes Pawlik.

“Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs, particularly by fish trapping, removes sponge predators,” write Loh and Pawlik in their paper. “It’s likely to result in greater competition for space between faster-growing palatable sponges and endangered reef-building corals.”

The researchers also identified “the bad-tasting molecule used by the most common chemically-defended sponge species,” says Pawlik. “It’s a compound named fistularin 3.”

Similar chemical compounds defend some plants from insects or grazers (deer, for example) in onshore ecosystems, “but the complexity of those ecosystems makes it difficult to detect the advantage of chemical defenses across large areas,” says Pawlik.

When it comes to sponges, the view of what’s happening is more direct, he says. “The possibility of being eaten by a fish may be the only thing a reef sponge has to worry about.”

And what happens to reef sponges may be critical to the future of the Caribbean’s corals.


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, cdybas@nsf.gov

Related Websites
NSF grant: Chemical ecology of sponges on Caribbean coral reefs: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1029515&HistoricalAwards=false

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/


  Photo of different species of sponges on a coral reef in the Bahamas.
More than five species of sponges cover a coral reef in the Bahamas.
Credit and Larger Versionphoto of Aplysina cauliformis on Agelas clathrodes
Aplysina cauliformis (violet) on Agelas clathrodes (orange); both carry potent chemicals.
Credit and Larger Version

Large sponges on a reef with  sponge-eating fish in the Bahamas.
Large chemically-defended sponges on a reef with abundant sponge-eating fish in the Bahamas.
Credit and Larger Version

A yellow burrowing sponge on a plate-forming stony coral.
A yellow burrowing sponge attacking a plate-forming stony coral.
Credit and Larger Version

Close-up of the brilliantly-colored Ailochroia crassa (purple) and Agelas sp. (brown).
Close-up of the brilliantly-colored Ailochroia crassa (purple) and Agelas sp. (brown).
Credit and Larger Version

Coral-list.org: Pawlik Lab announces “Sponges of the Caribbean: What Ecological Factors Most Affects Them” (video)

A video entry on our previous report showing the effect of predation in manipulative experiments on Conch Reef, Florida, received 4th place and an “honorable mention” in the NSF-sponsored Ocean 180 Video Challenge.  You can see the video at this link:



Joseph R. Pawlik, Professor,
Dept. of Biology and Marine Biology
UNCW Center for Marine Science
5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
Wilmington, NC  28409   USA
pawlikj@uncw.edu<mailto:pawlikj@uncw.edu>; Office:(910)962-2377; Cell:(910)232-3579
Website: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/index.html
PDFs: http://people.uncw.edu/pawlikj/pubs2.html


Oceana: Miranda Cosgrove Swims with Dolphins in New Oceana PSA. Despicable Me and iCarly actress urges government to protect dolphins from seismic testing

 image002 5474.jpg 2
 March 5, 2014
Contact: Jessica Wiseman
Photos of Cosgrove swimming with dolphins
Video PSA
image004 2376.jpg 2Washington, DC – Today, Oceana released its latest public service announcement (PSA) starring actress, singer and ocean lover, Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly and Despicable Me. Oceana and Cosgrove traveled to South Bimini in the Bahamas to film a PSA that highlights the need to protect dolphins and other marine life from the threat of seismic airgun blasts in the Atlantic Ocean.
“When I first entered the water, the dolphins were playing with each other, swimming side by side, and they were constantly singing to each other – I could hear it! After a while they started to approach me and I could feel them look me in the eye. It was one of the best experiences of my life” commented Cosgrove. “Swimming with wild dolphins made it so clear that these intelligent and social animals need their use of sound to survive, and I’m so happy to be working with Oceana to protect them.”
Dolphins are highly social and intelligent animals that depend on sound to communicate, eat, reproduce, socialize and live. But their song is threatened by seismic airgun testing, a form of oil and gas exploration that amounts to repetitive dynamite-like blasts in the ocean. These blasts are 100,000 times more intense than the sound emitted from a jet engine and occur every 10 seconds for days to weeks on end. This constant disturbance threatens dolphins, fish, and other marine life along the Atlantic Coast.
Just last week, the United States government released a final proposal that would open an area twice the size of California (from Delaware to Florida) to seismic airgun testing, as a first step to dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.  By the government’s own estimates, seismic airgun testing on the East Coast could injure as many as 138,500 dolphins and whales and disrupt their vital behaviors like feeding, mating and communicating more than 13.5 million times.
“With the help of supporters like Miranda Cosgrove, we can stop destructive practices like seismic testing and protect marine life, like dolphins, all around the world,” said Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless. “As the largest international organization focused solely on protecting our oceans, Oceana is best suited to achieve these kinds of policy victories the oceans need to ensure they remain abundant and productive for future generations.”
There is hope – we can stop unnecessary and damaging seismic airgun testing from occurring and protect dolphins, whales and other sea life. Join @Oceana and @MirandaCosgrove and please share this important PSA with #dolphinsong to @BarackObama and tell him to protect dolphins and whales in the Atlantic Ocean, and to stop seismic airgun testing before it starts.
Watch the 30 second video PSA and photos of Miranda Cosgrove swimming with dolphins and take action at http://act.oceana.org/sign/stopseismic/
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.

E&E: A largely unmapped food resource continues to shrink — study

Daniel Lippman, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, January 10, 2014

Japan, Greece and the Philippines are among the countries that enjoy
lots of marine biodiversity but are at highest risk of damage from
human impacts like overfishing, marine pollution and climate change,
according to a new study.

There are varying estimates of how many species are in the world’s
oceans (2.2 million is a common estimate), but the vast majority of
them have never been seen or named by scientists. Decreases in marine
biodiversity can threaten coastal protection services and ecosystem
services like fisheries.

The new study used a database of where 12,500 marine species are
located and combined the data with maps of where human impacts are
having major negative effects on oceans. With limited resources to
protect the ocean, finding out which areas have the most marine species
and are at highest risk can help policymakers decide how to prioritize.

“Our results emphasize the importance of both developing policies that
promote sustainable fisheries management and that also reduce the human
activities responsible for climate change,” said Elizabeth Selig, the
study’s lead author.

For Japan, the risks to its coral reef species and cold-water species
include fishing, climate change and shipping pollution. For Greece,
risks include overfishing and runoff from land pollution. Marine
species in the Philippines are threatened by shipping traffic pollution
and damaging practices such as dynamite fishing.

Where protein supplies are at risk

The oceans that are most at risk include the southwest Indian Ocean,
the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, and the so-called Coral Triangle in
Southeast Asia.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, fish and marine
invertebrates provide more than 2.6 billion people with at least a
fifth of their protein intake. A major loss of marine biodiversity
could threaten parts of that food source.

Selig, director of marine science at Conservation International, warned
that high temperatures can particularly affect coral reef systems in
the tropics where, when temperatures are high enough for an extended
period of time, it can cause coral bleaching and coral deaths.

“Because those corals are the foundation on which all the species in
those regions depend, coral deaths can lead to a major ecosystem
collapse,” she said in a telephone interview.

However, the news isn’t all bad, and there are opportunities to protect
marine biodiversity. Areas that have lots of marine biodiversity but
are relatively unaffected by human activities include southern Africa,
Australia and South America, according to Selig.

She acknowledged that there can be natural changes in species
composition but said “the levels of change now are really unprecedented
and a real cause for concern.”

The study was published this week in PLOS ONE.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

DIve Travel Business News: The Ocean is our Silent Partner: Yet it has No Place at the Dive Industry Table



(Dive Travel Business News.com – Nov 15, 2013) — DTBN.com Editorial —  by Laurie J. Wilson

DEMA’s Moving Towards 2020: Developing a Strategic Vision for the Recreational Diving Industry brainstorming session was held on the closing Saturday of DEMA Show 2013 in Orlando, Florida.

Scheduled during show exhibit hours, the meeting was well-attended, and well-organized. Before we were divided into working groups, DEMA’s Executive Director Tom Ingram walked the participants through the latest findings of DEMA surveys that pointed to potential markets to re-engage lapsed divers and activate new ones.

It was the first slide that grabbed my attention:
The slide, entitled “Dive Industry Stakeholders” was described something like this: “You all know this already,
but we have to say it anyway”…

According to the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, the Stakeholders in the Dive Industry are listed as follows:

1. Manufacturers
2. Certification Agencies
3. Media
4. Dive Centers
5. Travel Suppliers

Is there a stakeholder missing?
My first impression was, where’s the environment? Does it not have a seat at the table? Granted, the answer to this question is simple: the DEMA stakeholder list is based on the Association membership segments that have voting rights in the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association. In our association, you pay to play as a dive industry stakeholder.

This point of view completely misses the point, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The Saga of Sipadan
Earlier at DEMA Show 2013, I attended a thought-provoking seminar by Malaysia dive industry pioneer and International Scuba Diving Hall of Famer, Clement Lee. Now a retired partner in Borneo Divers, Clement was once responsible for opening up that gem of an Island called Sipadan, on the east coast of Borneo. And he explained at the Tourism Malaysia seminar how he was partially responsible for closing it down.

As a personal back story, I’d met Clement when I visited the much lauded Sipadan after speaking at DEMA Asia in Kuala Lumpur in 1996. It was the best coral reef diving I’ve ever done. In fact, David Doubilet – along with his 18 cameras – was at Clement’s resort shooting Sipadan’s spectacular coral reef drop-offs and helixing schools of barracuda for National Geographic. Sipadan was really remote – it took a lot of time and effort to get there. It wasn’t cheap either. And the accommodations were “rustic”. Surely with all these factors in place, it would be a gem forever?

But not 7 years after this visit, Clement had decided to pull his resort operation out of Sipadan because of the state of the reefs. He saw that if strong controls were not put in place, the reefs would be destroyed in as little as three years.

Sipadan was being dived to death.

Clement asked fellow dive operators to do the same – to give Sipadan a rest. He explained to the members of the Malaysia Sport Diving Association (MSDA) that while they were all in competition with each other, they shared a common value – and more to the point – a common valuable asset called THE OCEAN. If they could all agree to take care of the ocean together, all the other aspects of their businesses would fall into place in a collaborative win-win.

“The environment is our silent partner,” said Clement to his peers. These are the words of a wise and very successful businessman; yet they fell on deaf ears.

Even with this enlightened plea, the other operators were not interested in leaving Sipadan;  they were hoping to reap all the advantages they could while the going was still good. Clement chose to exit anyway. And it was soon after that that the government asked all operators to leave the island. A strict  limit of 120 divers per day was imposed on outside operators to the island, and several other beautiful dive islands were opened up to balance and mitigate diver impact.

The Success of Sustainability
In 2014 it will be 10 years since Sipadan was “closed” as a resort island and proper controls were put into place to allow it to regenerate itself. It is a huge success story that I’ve asked Clement Lee to share more fully with us in an upcoming post. In a nutshell, the looming environmental crisis in Sipadan brought operators together to work together, it instilled sustainable dive business practices, it opened up new areas, it created more business for everyone, while protecting Malaysia’s marine heritage. The crux of this story is critical for our industry to understand:

The ocean is our silent partner.
And if we don’t take care of it we have no business. It seems so obvious, so essential to our business model and operational mindset, and yet the ocean has no seat at our industry table. It’s evident by its absence on the “Dive Industry Stakeholders” slide at DEMA’s Moving Towards 20:20 brainstorming session.

This is a huge oversight, and we are ALL responsible. The ocean has been our silent partner all along. But with stronger and more frequent storms, coral reef degradation, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, plastic pollution, dwindling shark numbers, diseased whales and dolphins, disseminated fish populations, the ocean is talking to us loud and clear – in the only way it can.

Who cares enough?
Up until now, only a minority of dive operations can be viewed as being truly eco-friendly; giving back through volunteer efforts, partnering with non-profits and scientific groups, making environmental donations as part of doing business, engaging and educating the local community and its own customers, supporting marine protected areas, investing in sustainable infrastructure, and following sustainable practices to protect the environment on which their businesses are based:  Wakatobi in Indonesia, Misool Eco-Resort in Raja Ampat, Matava in Fiji, Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman are some examples.

There are wholesalers and tour operators like Deep Blue Adventures and G Adventures that have the environment and social responsibility as a core piece in their missions. There are dive center owners like Steve Mussman at Sea Lab Diving in Atlanta, Georgia and Sage Dalton at Ocean First Divers in Boulder Colorado who put the ocean first. We are seeing non-profits like the Coral Restoration Foundation partnering with dive operations and dive destination governments to restore reefs and generate new business.

This list of ocean-friendly businesses is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you some examples of those who have brought the ocean into their businesses as a full partner, and not as an after-thought.

It’s time to stop taking our ocean environment for granted.
It’s time to stop ignoring the problem. It’s time to stop paying lip service to marine conservation. Making short shrift of our environmental responsibility is epidemic in this industry.  It’s time to take responsibility.  It’s time for ocean action. We are on the leading edge of ocean protection. As dive business owners we have a vested interest in protecting our marine environment. We see what’s going on. We can do something about it.

Yes. We. Can.

This was the consensus of the participants at a session sponsored by the Colorado Scuba Retailers Association and the Colorado Ocean Coalition, entitled Bluing of the Dive Industry hosted by SSI president Doug McNeeese on Nov 8 at DEMA Show 2013. In spite of the last minute scheduling, and the fact it took place concurrently with the DEMA Show’s Keynote address, it was attended by an impressive cross-section of industry stakeholders who want the environment recognized as an industry stakeholder. Scientists, marine NGO’s, and government policy people were also at this “table”.

This concept of a Blue Industry is a no-brainer that only a relative few are willing to fully embrace. But it’s clear:  If we don’t make an honored place at the head of the table for our oceans, we will have no industry.  The environment must be a part of our business mission, and be an integral part of our day-to-day operations, education programs, trip planning and lifestyle. It’s good for profits, it’s good for the planet and it’s good for people.

It’s a blue attitude. And it’s how we must roll.

Bluing the Dive Industry
You can do one thing right now to make your operation more sustainable. What will it be?  We’ve provided a list of links to Ocean-Friendly Practices on this site. But you can start super simple with this National Geo Ten Things You Can Do To Save The Oceans.  And visit the websites of the examples mentioned above. They will give you some ideas as to where you can take immediate action.

As the Bluing the Industry working groups move forward, I’ll be able to share more specific practices, tools and techniques in upcoming posts.

If you have information, eco-friendly examples or best practices you’d like to share, I’m all ears. If  you would like to join one of the Bluing the Dive Industry working groups I’d be happy to put you in touch with those in the know. Either way, you can email me at Laurie.Wilson@divetravelbusiness.com

** This RSS Feed is brought to you by Dive Travel BusinessNews.com **



Audubon and Pew: Florida’s Coastal Birds Could Face Threat to Food Supply, Researchers Recommend Protecting Small Fish as a Vital Food Source

Debbie Salamone, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 407-982-0958, dsalamone@pewtrusts.org


Jonathan Webber, Audubon Florida, 954-593-4449, jwebber@audubon.org





Nov. 20, 2013


Tallahassee, FL.—Already pressured by a steady loss of habitat, many of Florida’s imperiled and iconic coastal waterbirds are vulnerable to declines in small fish that are necessary for their survival, according to a report by Audubon Florida and The Pew Charitable Trusts.


“Fins and Feathers: Why little fish are a big deal to Florida’s coastal waterbirdsexamines the crucial link between birds and the diverse array of small fish that are a critical food source. Declines in the populations of these fish, known alternatively as forage fish, prey fish or baitfish, could threaten imperiled birds such as Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers and Reddish Egrets, according to the report. 


“In Florida, our environment is directly linked to our quality of life and our economy,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon’s director of wildlife conservation. “This report shows how important baitfish are to Florida’s coastal birds, environment, communities and economy. Fisheries policy must consider the ecological and economic vitality that hinges on these smallest of fish.”


Few regulations limit the amount of forage fish such as sardines and herring that are hauled out of Florida’s coastal waters each year. Forage fish are used for bait, food and commercial products ranging from fertilizer to fish meal. Worldwide demand is growing. In 2012, seven main types of forage species, including sardines, scads, herrings, ballyhoo and mullet, accounted for 20 percent of all commercial catch off Florida. Commercial fishermen, for example, caught more than 9 million pounds of mullet that year, mostly for their eggs, which are sold around the world as a delicacy. 


Fishery managers can help conserve Florida’s forage fish and its natural resources by accounting for the needs of predators such as seabirds when setting fishing rules in Florida’s coastal waters. Bird conservation efforts historically have focused on other threats such as habitat loss, with less emphasis on ensuring prey abundance and availability. With many birds already pressured by a steady loss of habitat, this report reveals a new and critical conservation gap at a time when leaders can act before it’s too late.


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has drafted species action plans for 60 bird species warranting protection. Among those species are 10 birds that rely on forage fish as part of their diet. Rules and permitting changes to protect these species will be completed in 2014; the plans and rules are slated for final adoption in Spring 2015.


The same state agency, which is meeting in Weston today and tomorrow, also has jurisdiction over fishing rules in nearshore waters extending up to 9 miles off the Gulf Coast and up to 3 miles off the Atlantic coast. Although the state has restricted the size and types of some fishing nets that typically snare small fish, a Tallahassee circuit judge ruled last month that the regulations are fundamentally unfair, ordering the state to stop enforcing them. Yet the restrictions—intended to implement a net ban approved by voters in 1994—will remain in effect while the state appeals the decision. 


All of these state efforts to protect small fish are critical to coastal wildlife.


“Small, nutrient-rich fish are the main course for many birds, marine animals and larger fish such as tarpon, snook  and sharks,” said Holly Binns, who directs Pew’s Southeast ocean conservation work. “It only makes sense to protect the smallest link in the ocean food webs. Investing in protections for forage fish will reap dividends down the line for fishermen, coastal communities, tourists and everyone who enjoys Florida’s birds and environment.”


In light of the report’s analysis, Audubon Florida and Pew encourage the state to:


·         Account for the forage needs of coastal waterbirds before expanding current forage fisheries or allowing the development of new forage fisheries.


·         Ensure sufficient abundance, variety, and sizes of forage fish species to meet the needs of coastal waterbirds and other marine wildlife when setting management limits on forage fisheries.


·         Identify and map foraging areas for nesting coastal waterbirds and areas subject to forage fisheries; analyze potential overlap of these areas and activities; and consider conservation and management options to avoid or minimize potential conflicts.


·         Protect forage fish habitat such as mangrove and seagrasses, as well as water quantity and quality in the estuaries.




Coastal development in Florida directly harms seagrass beds, mangrove forests and salt marshes, all of which serve as critical nursery habitat for forage fish. Similarly, changes in the quantity, quality and timing of freshwater that flows into estuaries threaten to degrade and diminish the quality of these important places for fish. At the same time, habitat loss and coastal development also pose risks to many of Florida’s bird populations.


Yet these birds and fish are crucial to an environment that draws tourists from around the world. Florida’s 2,276 miles of coastline are an international destination for wildlife viewing.


Residents and visitors to Florida who watch birds, dolphins, marine turtles and other species had an economic impact of $4.9 billion in 2011 alone, according to the most recent estimate from the state wildlife commission. In addition, the commission found that nearly 1 in 5 Florida residents participate in some form of wildlife viewing. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of people who visited Florida to view wildlife increased 22 percent.


“Florida’s birds are a delight for tourists and residents, yet they need help,” Binns said. “The state should recognize the importance of conserving forage fish for the sake of birds as well as other important marine life.”


For additional information, including details on specific species, see the full report here at Pew: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/reports/fins-and-feathers-why-little-fish-are-a-big-deal-to-floridas-coastal-waterbirds-85899521601


Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature, and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon Florida online at fl.audubon.org.




The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org


Wildlife Promise: Artificial Reefs: Restoration Beyond Recreation?

Wildlife Promise





Posted: 19 Nov 2013 12:15 PM PST


Over the past few decades the five Gulf States have built artificial reefs both inshore and offshore with the aim of enhancing recreational fishing and diving opportunities. State and local governments on the Gulf Coast have expressed interest in creating additional artificial reefs with some of the money from the federal funds resulting from the BP oil disaster.





Artificial Reef in Southwest Florida. Flickr photo by Florida Sea Grant


It is important to make sure these projects are funded appropriately and implemented using the best available science.


Artificial Reef Science: Are We There Yet?


A number of environmental and economic considerations should be considered when planning and designing new artificial reef projects. Water quality, wave interaction, bottom composition, reef profile, and materials used for construction are just a few things that can influence the effectiveness of these habitats, or potentially cause harm to adjacent habitats.


For a more comprehensive look at Gulf State artificial reef programs and key considerations in implementation or management, please take a look at NWF’s new white paper: Artificial Reefs of the Gulf of Mexico: A Review of Gulf State Programs & Key Considerations.




Reef Pyramids being deployed in Florida. Flickr photo by Florida Fish & Wildlife


The bottom line is that scientists are still working to unravel the functionality of artificial reefs.  Some experts believe that artificial reefs can function comparably to natural reef communities. Others argue that artificial reefs merely attract existing fish from the adjacent open water habitat, forming more dense fish aggregations.  Only time, and additional research, will tell.


Natural Reefs vs. Artificial Reefs


Artificial reef projects are designed to enhance recreational fishing opportunities. Reef restoration projects are designed to restore the ecological functions provided by reef systems.  In cases where materials of similar type and size to historical or natural habitats-such as oyster reefs-are placed in nearshore waters in order to help the recovery of related ecological services, the term “artificial reef” is misleading. Because reef restoration projects can restore or replace “natural resources, habitats, or natural resource services” damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, they may qualify as an appropriate use of Natural Resource Damage Assessment funding, or even other spill-related resources like the RESTORE Act and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.


Loss of Human Use?


Artificial reefs develop communities of encrusting organisms and thus attract fish, but studies have shown that the communities that develop on artificial reefs remain quite different from those on natural reefs. Because artificial reef projects don’t serve to replace or restore the harm to natural resources, they have a more limited source of appropriate spill-related funding.




Nearshore oyster reef restoration at Helen Wood Park near Mobile, AL. Flickr photo by CesarHarada


These types of projects could help to restore or replace the loss of human use stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster:


1.      The oil disaster resulted in significant closures of recreational fishing, boating and swimming ground. Scaled appropriately, artificial reefs could help compensate the public for lost access (or “human use”) to the Gulf of Mexico by generating new opportunities for angling, snorkeling, and engaging in other recreational activities.


2.      Artificial reef projects intended to restore or replace existing artificial reefs that were harmed during the oil disaster would be a justifiable use under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process.


The Gulf of Mexico is an economic powerhouse and a national treasure. Natural and restored reef habitats can help make it whole again in the wake of the disaster. Strategic and appropriate investment of spill-related funding to restore its use, wildlife habitats, water quality and diversity of ecosystems will pay environmental and economic dividends for generations to come.



You are subscribed to email updates from Wildlife Promise

Colorado Ocean Coalition: “Making Waves” Ocean Symposium Saturday, September 21, 2013


Making WAVES is honored to host this free, public symposium to address a variety of climate/ ocean topics, marine protected areas, plastics and environmental impacts, plus agricultural and watershed connections. This community-focused, interactive event will offer plenty of opportunities for you to learn about how our oceans are affected and what we all can do to protect and preserve our oceans.


Location:    University of Colorado at Boulder University Memorial Center
Time:          8:00AM – 5:30PM
Tickets:      FREE


What Will I Learn?


Between informative keynote presentations, topic-specific panels and interactive “dive-in” sessions, you will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of ocean issues, including:


        * Savvy travel: Eco-tourism and adventure travel


        * How to be a “responsible” traveler


        * What it is like to be a submarine pilot


        * How fossil fuels impacts oceans and inland water sources


        * Aquaculture and sustainable seafood – What Seafood can I eat?


        * How Plastic Pollution effects oceans and animals


        * How the Inland Ocean Movement partners to protect oceans


        * MoreŠ



Confirmed Speakers


View a list of confirmed Symposium speakers and speaker bios here.


        * Fabien Cousteau, Diver and Founder of Plant a Fish


        * Richard Charter, Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation


        * David Guggenheim, President, Ocean Doctor


        * Holly Lohuis, Field Producer, Exec. Coordinator for Jean-Michel Cousteau


        * Mark Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation


        * Stephanie Tobor, Founder, Green Apple Supply


        * Jim Toomey, “Sherman’s Lagoon Cartoonist and Ocean Advocate


        * Richard Theiss, RTSea Media


        * Gregg Treinish, Executive Director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation


        * Erika Bergman, Submersible Pilot, ExploreOcean


        * Dennis Long, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation


        * Sonja Fordham, President, Shark Advocates International


        * John Armor, Deputy Director, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries



Check out Making Waves 2012 Speaker videos


Are you interested in becoming a weekend sponsor? Download sponsor packet or contact coloradoocean@gmail.com for more information.



Co-sponsored by Colorado Ocean Coalition and Colorado Scuba Retailers Association.
Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Discovery.com WHALES & DOLPHINS: Many Stranded Bottlenose Dolphins May Be Deaf






Dolphin deafness can be caused by aging, underwater noise or other factors. VINCENT M. JANIK, UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS



In waters from Florida to the Caribbean, dolphins are showing up stranded or entangled in fishing gear with an unusual problem: They can’t hear.  More than half of stranded bottlenose dolphins are deaf, one study suggests. The causes of hearing loss in dolphins aren’t always clear, but aging, shipping noise and side effects from antibiotics could play roles.



“We’re at a stage right now where we’re determining the extent of hearing loss [in dolphins], and figuring out all the potential causes,” said Judy St. Leger, director of pathology and research at SeaWorld in San Diego. “The better we understand that, the better we have a sense of what we should be doing [about it].”


Whether the hearing loss is causing the dolphin strandings — for instance, by steering the marine mammals in the wrong direction or preventing them from finding food — is also still an open question.

Deaf strandings

Dolphins are a highly social species. They use echolocation to orient themselves by bouncing high-pitched sound waves off of objects in their environment. They also “speak” to one another in a language of clicks and buzzing sounds. Because hearing is so fundamental to dolphins’ survival, losing it can be detrimental. (Deep Divers: A Gallery of Dolphins)

A 2010 study found that more than half of stranded bottlenose dolphins and more than a third of stranded rough-toothed dolphins had severe hearing loss. The animals’ hearing impairment may have been a critical factor in their strandings, and all rescued cetaceans should be tested, the researchers said in the study, detailed in the journal PLOS ONE.


How exactly do scientists give dolphins a hearing test? In captivity, dolphins and whales can be trained to press a paddle or make a noise when they hear a test sound. But a different approach is needed for wild animals.


Above water, animals perceive sound via airwaves. But underwater, dolphins hear primarily via pressure changes in their jawbone, so researchers use a “jawphone,” which consists of a suction cup placed on the dolphin’s lower jaw to produce sound pulses. Electrodes embedded in the suction cups measure brain responses to the sounds.
NEWS: Dolphins May Be Math Geniuses

Causes of deafness
Dolphins can become deaf for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is age-related hearing loss, said Dorian Houser, a marine biologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego. Like humans, dolphins tend to lose their high-pitch hearing first, and males tend to go deaf more often than females, Houser told LiveScience.


Some dolphins are also born with impaired hearing; certain drugs used to treat the animals’ other health problems can also cause hearing loss. Other causes are chronic exposure to noise (such as from shipping), or exposure to short-lived intense noise (such as explosions).


Many studies have investigated the effects of military sonar on dolphin hearing. “There’s mounting evidence that midfrequency sonar may be impacting dolphins and whales,” St. Leger said.


The animals may lose hearing for a short time and then recover — the so-called rock-concert effect, Houser said. But they’d have to be pretty close to the source of the sonar and be exposed to it repeatedly, he added. Studies have shown temporary hearing loss from sonar, but less is known about its long-term effects. The bigger concern is how sonar could disrupt the dolphins’ behavior. For example, the high-frequency pings can mask the calls of dolphins and whales and scare them away from their habitats.


As for deafness in dolphins, researchers are still trying to get a handle on the problem’s prevalence, which may not be as pronounced as the PLOS ONE study suggested, Houser said. “But I think, in time, we’re going to answer the question,” he said.




This article originally appeared on LiveScience.com. More from LiveScience.com:


Copyright © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC. The number-one nonfiction media company

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Coral List: Coralwatch releases educational DVD series including Shifted Baselines

Dear Colleagues

CoralWatch recently released an education DVD series, adapted from our book, Coral Reefs and Climate Change.  This series incorporates 22 short videos (3-8 minutes), each focusing on a key aspect of oceanography, coral reef ecology, climate change science, and reef conservation. Animated diagrams, interviews with scientists and footage from around the globe help to communicate the latest science to diverse audiences.

We have just uploaded the episode on Shifted  Baselines to be freely available on youtube.

Feel free to share with colleagues or use this in your teaching activities.

If you would like to order the full DVD, or find out more about CoralWatch, please visit our website www.coralwatch.org, or email info@coralwatch.org


Dr Angela Dean I Project Manager (Monitoring & Research) – CoralWatch I The University of Queensland l Phone: +61 7 3365 3127 l Fax +61 7 3346 6301 l Email a.dean@uq.edu.au