Overfishing

We see fish everywhere. Whether it be in the stores that we buy from, the restaurants we eat at, the harbors that we go to, or even the ocean that we swim in... they seem to be in countless supply and around every corner. Unfortunately, that's where many of us are mistaken. I am personally an avid fish-eater myself, so I'm not trying to guilt you into never looking at fish again. However, it is important to think about how we can catch and eat fish sustainably. 

"Sustainable" fishing is hook & line, or really anything that is discriminant, or only catches one fish at a time with a target organism without any bycatch. Bycatch is any non-target, such as sharks or turtles, that are caught accidentally with the targeted fish due to netting or indiscriminate fishing tactics. Industrial fishing uses less sustainable tacts such as long-lining, trawling, and nets. Long-lining was invented by the Japanese, and it is miles of baited hooks in pelagic (open ocean) areas, having the ability to catch many fish at once. Trawling is dragging a crate across the bottom of the ocean to catch fish, which not only isn't discriminant, but also can damage the sea grasses and corals on the sea floor. Netting is pretty self-explanatory, yet it often catches dolphins/sharks/turtles in them as well, impacting the environment with heavy force.

To put it in perspective, it is estimated that 90% of the "big fish" have been caught from the ocean, leaving 10% for us. Since fishing isn't a one-by-one process, often the fish caught are too young and then it potentially knocks out several generations of fish that could have reproduced before being eaten.

It is difficult to know how to help limit this process as many of us are not actively involved in the fishing community. However, I recommend doing a few things to help decrease this problem:

1) Sign petitions on Oceana, talk to your representatives, and try to get legislation passed to outlaw fishing processes that aren't sustainable.

2) Limit how much fish you eat, and make sure only to eat fish that are considered sustainable. Fish that are more sustainable are those that have better reproductive cycles to reproduce in high quantities quickly, those who are caught in a way that isn't indiscriminate, etc. You can find fish that meet this criteria on Monterey Bay Aquarium's SeaFood Watch  website and application where it tells you what fish & sushi are sustainable compared to others.

3) Spread the word to others! Make sure to ask restaurants if they serve sustainable options. Make sure others know about this issue.

We have to act fast if we want our fish supply to stay intact. Otherwise, we will lose a huge food source, a big part of our economy, and a cultural aspect of many people's lives.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry
— Thomas Fuller

"A Plastic Ocean" Review

A few weeks ago Pacific Marine Mammal Center hosted a movie night and fundraiser, showing the film A Plastic Ocean. It was a great event, as there were different groups raising awareness and coming up with solutions on how we can improve our plastic epidemic. One group in particular was really inspiring, strawfree.org, as they make bamboo straws in all different sizes in order to reduce plastic straw use. This group was founded by Diana Lofflin, and many students at UC Irvine have joined the cause. If you're looking for straws that don't have a negative impact on the environment, definitely check them out!

Without completely spoiling the film for you, A Plastic Ocean was very well done, explaining our problems with plastic in a way that captivates the audience. Some of the big topics that were discussed include: the gyre system that traps plastics in a whirlpool, how animals suffer from entanglement, how the plastic affects our food through bioaccumulation and biomagnification, how birds at Midway Island are suffering, and some of the preventative measures people are taking.

It was absolutely shocking for me to see the state of lower-income countries and how they deal with the amount of plastic on their land. In the Philippines and in other countries as well, people are living on a mountain of plastic and many of them are dying from cancer and other diseases because of their close proximity to all of the toxins. It is so sad because many of these people don't have the means to make large-scale change to improve their living environment, yet they suffer from the consequences of our growing plastic use each and every day. 

An important point that was made by a mother in the documentary was that it's getting to a point where it may not be safe to have children. These toxins that are in our food and in our environment have the ability to impact our genes and cause serious issues for babies and their growth. If we want future generations to be safe and healthy, we must act very quickly.

On the bright side, I learned about some incredible programs and solutions that have been growing in order to help our problem. One business in particular has created a system where people are payed to pick up trash off their local beaches, allowing for lower-income countries to have more job opportunities as well as a cleaner environment. Also, it has become apparent that since plastic is made from oil in the first place, it is possible to revert it back to its original state. This is huge for us, because oil is a non-renewable resource that is highly demanded in our society. If we can make plastic-to-oil production a popular system, we may be looking at a glimpse of hope for our ocean. We've seen the greed that countries have when it comes to oil and money, and so if we can concentrate that greed into picking up plastic trash from our ocean in order to make it into a resource... this could be very significant for economic prosperity as well as the environment.

I highly recommend watching this film. You can buy it on iTunes or find it on YouTube, and it truly is an eye-opener to the problems we have and how we can fix them. No matter how sad it makes us feel, it also makes us inspired to be the change and help provide a healthy ocean for the next generation.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something.
— Sylvia Earle

HOPE, STRENGTH, UNITY, LOVE

It has been quite a week for the United States. In the last ten days we have inaugurated a new President, hosted an incredible Women's March, faced some pretty big punches in the climate change area, had the DAPL approved despite the Standing Rock protests, and have been introduced to new policy changes that provoke varying reactions across the country.

Big change and big action can be very overwhelming and scary. Everyone around the country feels the divide that we face right now, no matter our specific partisanship or beliefs. It is really easy in times of uncertainty to succumb to hate and violence or to become incredibly frustrated by what we see. While that might be the natural reaction, it seems to me that there are better options for us moving forward. Instead of fear, we must rely on hope. Instead of surrendering to our weaknesses, we must find our inner strengths. Rather than expand the isolation we feel, we must unify as one Nation who has common goals and dreams. Lastly, rather than turning to hate... we must turn to love

Of course, these things are easier said than done. Nevertheless, we see this hope, strength, unity, and love in our Women's March on January 21. As expected, there were definitely a select few that decided to utilize this event as an excuse to be hateful or angry. The vast majority, though, simply used this day as an opportunity to show the power that we have in numbers, the importance of supporting each other, and the appreciation we should have for our democracy that allows us the freedoms necessary to march. It is events like these that should give us hope moving forward. When we feel deeply about issues regarding the equality of human beings or whatever else people decided was worth marching for, it is crucial that we act upon these emotions and turn them into something positive and productive.

As environmental activists and ocean lovers, the punches thrown toward climate change and its legitimacy are alarming to say the least. The climate change page being taken off whitehouse.gov   sends a loud and clear message that it isn't a topic of importance to our government. The truth of the matter is, our climate and the environment that we live in directly correlate with the health, prosperity, and lives of our citizens. Call me crazy, but that certainly sounds like the type of issues that may concern the government, the institution "of the people, by the people, for the people." I do not know how to say this any other way: climate change IS real, there is no longer a debate on that subject, and we must act now if we want our Earth to suffer as little as possible. It is now up to us to stand up for sustainable energy, clean water, less pollutants, sustainable harvesting, and overall a healthy ocean. 

Another event that has filled me with optimism is the organization of a March for Science. If you haven't heard already, this march is filled with scientists and activists who will not stand by and let people brush aside the problems we face in regards to the climate. What I love about this organization effort is that it emphasizes nonpartisanship in science, and unifies people of all political beliefs to come together for a common goal. Science is based on facts, not opinions. It should not be something that is split up by gender, race, belief systems, or anything else of the sort. It is something we can all stand behind and care about. This Earth that we live on is is something that we all have in common no matter where we come from or what we stand for. It is critical that we take these opportunities to educate the U.S. and all countries across the world about these matters and why they should be a priority to each and every one of us. 

The point is: we shouldn't be letting our political beliefs divide us. We clearly have the capacity to unify and fight for what we believe in, and we all have the ability to hear others out and respect their opinions. At Save the Mermaids, we believe that we are all brothers and sisters of the sea. We feel love and compassion for all of you, no matter whether you agree or disagree with us. It is the way we go about these differences that defines how we will function as a nation, and that will ultimately decide the fate of our environment. We hope that we can all find the hope and strength  necessary in order to unify through love rather than hate. 

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.
— J.K. Rowling

The Impacts of Noise

Noise itself in the ocean is not the issue. Many ocean lovers have been able to enjoy the sounds of cetaceans communicating (such as dolphins and whales), the roaring of waves onto the shore, and the barking of seals and sea lions. The ocean is filled with an abundance of life... and living things make noise. That being said, the ocean is also seen by many as a sanctuary. A place of peace and tranquility, as being underwater brings a feeling of silence and thought that only few place on the Earth can bring.

For these inevitable noises to be harmless, they must be natural. The unnatural and harmful noises are man-made, and include: trans-oceanic shipping, SONAR, civil engineering projects, seismic exploration, other modes of transportation, etc. 

Thankfully, our world is used to having to rebound from the pollution and harm that comes with the way man lives, and many animals and habitats have been able to adapt. Unfortunately, though, this is certainly not always the case and this noise pollution affects animals, their habitats, as well as their echolocation and other forms of communication. 

The fact that sound travels four times faster in water than air only escalates the problem at hand. The sounds can travel farther, are louder, and thus are even more harmful. 

One of the main problems is the affect on cetacean communication. Whales communicate at relatively low frequencies, which are overcome by the higher frequencies of the artificial noises. These sounds drown out the noises of whales calling for their calves, mates, and other relationships that are essential to their everyday life. With these drawbacks with communication, the migration patterns and feeding patterns can be negatively affected. 

Echolocation is another huge part of many marine animals' lives. It allows for animals to interpret objects for what they are, find their prey, and detect other organisms nearby that could be beneficial or harmful to them. The noise counteracts the waves that are used in echolocation, and can alter the interpretation that these animals have.

Not only do these sounds inconvenience animals in communicating and finding their prey, but they can be fatal. In 2000, at least seventeen whales were found stranded on the beaches of the Bahamas due to the U.S. Navy's SONAR system. 

Scientists are still trying to figure out what the long term effects could be, and how they can help limit these problems while still being practical in what is necessary for our protection and well-being as people, too. Being aware of these issues is the first step, and the more people that are educated on the potential disaster that can ensue from harming our oceans for our gain, the better.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally 

 

If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed and if we are not willing to change, we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.
— Jacques Cousteau

We Stand With Standing Rock

Thanksgiving is a beautiful National Holiday based on standing together as human beings, no matter our race or cultural differences, in order to enjoy and assist each other. It is a time to be thankful for all the people we love, all the things we love, and all the nature we love. In order to be truly thankful for all people, we must respect their simple rights as human beings. 

Unfortunately, as a Nation we are not respecting the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The information as follows is directly from a "NO-DAPL" website

"The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is located in southern North Dakota. The Reservation was established under Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of April 29, 1868. Starting in 1877 and continuing in 1889 & the 1950s and 1960s their land has continuously been taken away by the U.S. government.  

In 2015 the Army Corps of Engineers approved a heavily controversial project known as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The pipeline is planned to be constructed over sacred burial grounds and across the Missouri River, a major source of water for millions of people.  The Corps approved this project without consulting with the Sioux a direct violation of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106)

Energy Transfer Partners is the huge oil giant behind the construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.  The project has over 3 billion dollars worth of investments coming from big banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and HSBC. 

In April, the Sacred Stone Camp was established in order to resist the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Since then, indigenous peoples and their allies across the globe have come to North Dakota to Stand with Standing Rock. They have been met with what can only be described as violence from the Morton County Sheriff's Department better known by the water protectors as domestic terrorists. The Sioux along with their allies have refused to respond to these attacks with anything other than nonviolent protesting and prayer.   

Our goal is to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline."

 

As environmental activists and as citizens of the United States of America, it is our duty to protect our water, our rights granted by acts such as the National Historic Preservation Act, and support those who fight for these essential aspects of our Country. Groups have made shirts to raise awareness and donate to the cause, and there are plenty of websites, including the link listed above, that give options in order to help their efforts. Peaceful protest is a right. It should not be combatted with tear gas, concussion bombs, or freezing cold water hoses. 

Stand with Standing Rock; stand for the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly that our Country is built upon.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

Unity is oneness in purpose, not sameness of persons.
— Tony Evans

Shark Finning: Ban The Trade

Shark finning. It is a practice that kills between 88 million and 100 million sharks per year. At this rate, many species of sharks are under a serious threat of becoming endangered or extinct. Due to their status of apex predator, they are at the top of the food chain and extremely important for sustaining a healthy, balanced ecosystem. 

The way shark finning is carried out is extremely inhumane. These sharks are caught, pulled onto boats, have their fins cut, and then are released back into the ocean without a chance to live. The rest of their bodies are rarely utilized, making this an extremely wasteful process as well as unethical. You'd think these shark fins must have some sort of magical nutritional value for shark finners to stoop to this level to get them, right? Wrong. They lack any significant nutritional or medicinal value. In fact, if you think about it, it makes sense that they wouldn't be healthy for us to eat at all. Apex predators. This means that they are one of the last in line to eat in the food chain. As us ocean enthusiasts and plastic-free-for-the-sea advocates know, toxins travel up the food chain through bioaccumulation and biomagnification, making sharks one of the most toxic of the animals we could eat. Healthy? Probably not. Flavorful? The broth is the only part of shark fin soup that gives it the flavor, the fins just act as a form of texture. So, now that we know why shark finning is so wrong and pointless, lets find a way to eliminate it before it's too late.

Oceana has formed a petition to Congress to ban the trading of shark fins in the U.S. Despite the United State's decision to make shark finning illegal in American waters, trade is still free game at the moment. Signing The Shark Trade Elimination Act of 2016 is the next step toward a healthier, more sustainable ocean and protecting sharks, which play a vital role in these efforts. 

Click this link and sign the petition to urge Congress to push this bill forward.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about - farming replacing hunting.
— Jacques Cousteau