Kelp Sustainable Growth & Usage

Have you ever wondered what the secret ingredient was that made your teeth shine? That made your hair glisten? That made your skin youthful and healthy? (Yes, it's kelp!)

Kelp is used in our toothpastes, cosmetics, medicines, salads, glass production, ice cream, jellies, and can yield resources such as methane and ethanol. 

For these products, kelp is harvested in its natural habitat in order to be distributed. There are an incredible amount of benefits to the processes in sustainable mariculture. Kelp produces oxygen for us (over 50% of our world's oxygen comes from the OCEAN) through photosynthesis, and absorbs chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon dioxide which are too plentiful in our coastal system. It provides habitats for fishes and mollusks while protecting coastlines from erosion. 

In order to harvest kelp in a sustainable fashion, one must follow guidelines regarding the placement of the open-water farm and everything from that point onward. Some of the conditions to finding a good farm location include: current strength, nutrient amount, protection from storms, limited use from commercial fisheries that could overuse the resources, specific depths, not in habitats that would endanger species, and far enough from state-owned piers or structures. 

A key factor in farming sustainably is not including pesticides, antibiotics and pollutants to this process, or else there could be more harm than good. The whole point of kelp mariculture is to provide local products that are useful and renewable while still restoring the ocean instead of taking away from it. 

Ama Sea Beauty, a Santa Barbara local cosmetics store and "Pharmersea" that farms sustainable seaweed, is a perfect example of what we should be striving toward. Inspired by Bren Smith and Green Wave, Ama Sea has produced a 25-acre ocean farm off the California coast with all green, clean, sustainable, and local aspects. With this farm, they are able to provide the public with healthy kelp-based products while remaining on the Ocean's side. 

In Antoinette Marquez's novel The Longevity Revolution: Thalasso Therapy, she explains the history behind using the sea as a health resource and how we apply this to kelp mariculture. She gives sustainability advice, such as to only gather seaweed at the lowest tide and only the pieces that are already detached as to not disrupt the life cycle. In California, we are able to harvest up to 17 pounds a day without a license. This kelp can be used in baths, foods, and skin routines to improve aging and overall health. Once the kelp is collected, it must be dried (3-5 hours). The kelp used for food should be at least 10 meters from the shore when found. Depriving the kelp of oxygen forces it to let go of its gooey internal material that works all of the magic. Other forms of thalasso therapy include beach walks, swims, and floating. It's simple yet effective. Check out the book linked above for more detailed information!

The goal of these ocean farms is to restore ecosystems in the face of climate change that have devastated kelp forests while producing products and jobs, and relying on a blue-green economy rather than one that focuses on fossil fuels. This kind of innovative thinking is what leads our society to clean energy, clean fertilizers, healthier products, restorative methods, and supporting local economies. In order to make a difference in the health of the ocean, we have to adjust our thought processes in such a way that allows us to move forward in both our economy and the conservation of the environment rather than one or the other.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.
— Ban Ki-moon

Silly Fun Facts

Today we tend to focus on the craziness and sadness that is going on with our beautiful Ocean. We talk about the coral bleaching, the fossil fuel emissions, the pollutants, and everything else. These topics are incredibly important and it's beneficial for us to educate ourselves and others on them, but sometimes we need to step back and remember the happy things that made us fall in love with the ocean in the first place. It's these fun facts that make kids fall in love and want to protect the ocean forever. It's the inspiration that forms from them that acts as fuel in a child's brain to come up with the most mind blowing solutions we never thought of before. So, here goes.

  • Jellyfish have been alive for so long that they outdate sharks and dinosaurs.

  • Ever heard of the saying "sleep with one eye open"? Well, Dolphins literally sleep using half their brain so the other half can be active and alert.

  • An Octopus has THREE hearts and has blue blood.

  • A blue whale sounding is 188 decibels, making it the loudest sound produced by an animal.

  • Some animals, such as oysters, can change genders in order to mate more effectively. This is called hermaphroditism.

  • Celebrating Father's Day? Well, if you're going to celebrate Fathers... the sea horse wins father of the year. It is the only animal in which the male gives birth and carries the young instead of the female.

  • Ever have to make the choice between using your head or your heart to make a decision? Shrimp don't have this problem, their heart is in their head!

  • Turtles live on every continent except Antarctica 

  • If you were to take all of an Electric Eel's electricity, you would have the power to light up 10 electric bulbs.

  • Ocean tides are caused by the Earth rotating while the Moon and Sun’s gravitational pull acts on ocean water.

  • The name “Pacific Ocean” comes form the Latin name Tepre Pacificum, “peaceful sea”.

  • The deepest known area of the Earth’s oceans is known as the Mariana Trench. It’s deepest point measures 11km.

  • About 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the oceans.

  • We have only explored about 5% of the world’s oceans.

  • The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from the moon!

  • 94% of life on Earth is aquatic, which makes us land-creatures seem a little less important now, doesn't it?

  • The Mid-Oceanic Ridge is the longest mountain range on Earth and is underwater! It exists in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and into the Indian and Pacific oceans. It runs more than 35,000 miles long, has peaks higher than those in the Alps and it comprises 23 percent of the Earth’s total surface.

  • Chemosynthesis is a similar process to photosynthesis, except no sunlight is required. Organisms living near hydrothermal vents on the deep sea floor use this process to convert hydrothermal water into sugars needed for life.

  • Cephalopods such as the Octopus are able to camouflage themselves into their surroundings with little chromatophores on their skin. Check This Out! 

  • An Octopus's speed never exceeds that of the surrounding waves

  • Squid is very particular in what colors and behaviors it possesses. When trying to mate with a female, they will produce a warm brown color, but will show a white color and aggressive behavior to other males

  • Oceans have lakes and rivers that exist underwater. These may occur, according to NOAA, due to seawater seeping into thick layers of salt. This forces the salt to dissolve and creates depressions in the seafloor with denser bodies of water surrounding it. 

  • There are even hidden waterfalls in the ocean!

 

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. Never stop exploring the fun and magic that is the OCEAN!

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

There is great power in making a journey with a deep purpose, but any journey can be further deepened by seeking a broader perspective. The path needs more light: To shine the light of your own natural curiosity into the world can reveal wonders.
— Phil Cousineau

Happy World's Ocean Day!

Today is a happy day because today we celebrate our wonderful ocean (but shouldn't we everyday?).

We see rallies in Australia encouraging clean energy rather than oil rigs/coal mines that have the capability to ruin the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef (thank you Kate Nelson!), we see people fighting back on President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Accord, we see numerous posts on ocean conservation pages encouraging involvement, and we see more and more studies made that tell us what we are doing wrong and how we can fix it.

There has been a lot of backlash on Trump's Paris Accord decision because right now we need everyone to unify under the goal of preserving the environment before it is too late for future generations to recover from our mess. The true goals of the Paris Accord, as explained by Mermaid Kate, "is empowerment of cities, regions, local authorities to take this on, scale up efforts & support actions to reduce emissions, to decrease vulnerability to adverse effects of climate change & cooperate internationally." Obviously, these are some great goals and something we all need to work on as Nations in order to get back to a healthy state. However, it is difficult to make sure people walk the walk rather than simply signing an agreement, so hopefully the anger that arose from Trump pulling out of this agreement will manifest into more people taking it upon themselves to act. The entire county of Santa Barbara have already taken it upon themselves to better the environment (yay!) as the city council established a goal to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and all municipal buildings and operations to 50% clean energy by 2020. This just goes to show that we can make a difference on a local level and hopefully this will have a domino effect that will eventually translate into a national decision on the matter. 

The rallies in Australia are to protect our coral reefs as Adani wishes to build a large coal mine that has the potential to further the bleaching of our reef with increased fossil fuel emissions. For more information on the drastic effects of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions, look at our Clean Energy and Ocean Acidification blog posts. 

It is important to remember that the ocean holds cultural and economic significance as well as bringing us joy and love. Conserving these roaring waves and what lies beneath them will be what saves our future generations from huge depressions-- both economically and socially. Whether it is saying no to single-use plastic, rallying in the streets for clean energy and sustainable fishing, or simply riding a bike instead of a car... today (and everyday!!) is your chance to do your part in saving approx. 75% of our Earth from its demise. If you don't live by an ocean, these things still apply! Water sheds of any sort still make their way to the ocean and our beautiful mountains and forests need your help too.

What can we do today?

  • Ride our bikes to work/around to where we want to go! It's summer for many of us, embrace the beautiful weather!
  • Say no to plastic! Bring a re-usable bottle around town as well as your own handy dandy utensils. 
  • Sign petitions, talk to your representatives. Do everything in your power to make your voice heard.
  • Use that social media! We all check our phones way more than we should anyways, we might as well make it productive. Post on Instagram and Facebook about these issues so you're friends join the pro-Ocean life too.
  • Are you artistic? Write stories, make art. One of the best ways to inspire others is through books and art in order to educate.
  • Take your children, nieces/nephews, grandchildren, siblings, friends... and get outside. Have the younger generations fall in love with nature. Their love can be all it takes to make a change someday. 

 

Go for a swim or for a paddle. Play to protect. Enjoy yourself! This life is, after all, supposed to be fun.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

For each of us, then, the challenge and opportunity is to cherish all life as the gift it is, envision it whole, seek to know it truly, and undertake—with our minds, hearts and hands—to restore its abundance. It is said that where there’s life there’s hope, and so no place can inspire us with more hopefulness than that great, life-making sea—that singular, wondrous ocean covering the blue planet.
— Carl Safina

Clean Energy, Clean Ocean

As we learn more and more about our planet and our ocean, we have learned that being dependent on fossil fuels (oil, gas, etc.) is not the way of the future. This lifestyle has led us to numerous disastrous oil spills, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and frankly just a waste of non-renewable resources when we have plenty of renewable ones at our fingertips. 

When researching clean energy and natural gas, we find that vehicles in the transportation industry account for 50% of the U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel industry. This is a substantial amount of fossil fuels, creating greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Natural gas is not perfect either, of course, but switching completely over to natural gases reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to 70%. 

Now, you're probably wondering: "what is natural gas?"

Natural gas is formed by the decay of organic matter mixed with the heat from the Earth's core often found within the ocean floor or beneath the Earth's surface in general. 

Some benefits of the change to natural gas include: lower fuel costs, reduces our carbon footprint, more jobs based on tourism with a healthy environment, and... a beautiful ocean.

Other great alternatives include using wind, solar, and geothermal power (using heat from the Earth). Hydroelectric power is the most commonly used form of renewable energy, in which we use dams to manipulate water for electricity. A really cool form of renewable energy is Hydrokinetic energy (first started in France!) where the power of waves and tides are converted into energy. 

Point being, there are plenty of renewable options for energy that have less drastic consequences than the fossil fuels we depend on. It can reduce pollution, create jobs, combat climate change, and produce a living environment with cleaner air and water supplies.

In order to convert to this system, we will need to work together to get our voices heard. This is the time to tell your friends, contact your representatives, and sign petitions. The sooner we use more clean energy and less fossil fuels, the sooner our oceans can rise back up to their potential. 

Best Fishes, 

Aqua Ally

 

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Bahia de las Animas

Have you ever thought back to how things used to be? How things were before mankind took such a heavy toll on the environment? When the tide pools were rich with life under each and every rock? When the shells on the beach were plentiful and in perfect condition? When there could be an estuary, mangrove habitat, mud fat, and reef all in one mile or two of beach? 

Yeah, it's hard to imagine how something as beautiful and pristine could even exist in today's world. I had to see it before I could truly believe it. In the middle of the Baja California peninsula within the vast country of Mexico, there is a hidden treasure known as Bahia de las Animas. The Bay of Souls. Three hours of driving on a "dirt road" that isn't even a true road, far from the closest town. Once you arrive, it doesn't take long before you realize why this place is named after souls, as you can feel the rich amount of love in the land. The only footprint on the Earth's soil belongs to some abandoned fishermen huts from long ago, and even these are only made of simple driftwood. 

Let me set the scene: a long stretch of beach with the desert mountains covered in cacti and small plants behind you and the Sea of Cortez in the front. The ocean water a mix of blues, with two little islands infested by birds just paddle-boarding distance from the shore. The beach is not pure and clean like you see at resorts. The sand is not fake. It is rich with shells, rough terrain, the occasional desert remnants (if you're unlucky, you may step on something poky), quartz and rhyolite and feldspar rocks can be seen with the trained eye. To the left there is a mouth to the estuary that flows back into the desert and is filled with mangroves, fiddler crabs, and stingrays at high tide. To the left there is an intertidal zone, and to the far right there is a mudflat. 

And then there was us. 105 campers consisting of a seniors-only high school marine ecology class from Southern California, some parent drivers, and a few boat drivers. We took over the beach in our sleeping bags, sleeping under the stars for our eight-day camping trip (no tents!). We spent our mornings exploring through labs created by our teacher, and spent the afternoons exploring on our own accord. We played volleyball, swam, snorkeled, painted shells, paddle-boarded, kayaked, fished. We did anything and everything we could.

This bay is filled with life. Every sunset a pod of dolphins would come and jump out of the water to give us a personal show. They live in this bay and come back every year. We saw humpback whales while fishing. While snorkeling, we could see fish and sea stars and gorgonians with every inch of the sea. And, my personal favorite, we swam in a sea lion rookery and played with sea lions for an hour or so. This was incredible and no words can truly capture my feelings in that moment. The sea lions played like puppy dogs around us. They twirled and blew bubbles and were not afraid; they simply wanted a new friend to play with. I am not exaggerating when I say that each and every tide pool rock had organisms to see. We found sea stars, bristle stars, sea hairs, sea cucumbers, flat worms, sea anemones, nudibranchs, shrimp, sponges, and much more. Years before us had seen an octopus, too. 

We fished sustainably, putting any fish back in the water under a specific size, only catching specific fish, and under specific quotas. Any fish we put back in the water we used a buoyancy bucked that would put them back into the depths of the ocean at a slow enough speed so that their swim bladder wouldn't burst, preserving their life. It was the best fish I've ever had, fresh from less than an hour before. 

Why am I telling you all this? Why explain it? 

Places like these show us potential. They prove the damage that runoff, building, and industrialization have on an environment. They show the importance of preserving certain areas, of protecting the ocean because of the beauty it holds, and allowing people to fall in love with true authentic nature so they help protect it for future generations. I cannot explain the love and beauty I saw and felt in this week of camping in words. The best equivalent is John Steinbeck's The Log from the Sea of Cortez. He explains the beauty in a way that I don't think I ever could. I attached some photos below, but they don't give the place justice. Remember places like these, explore places like these, fall in love with places like these. Encourage others to as well. Show people what the other side is like. Education. Preservation. Restoration. Let us hope that Bahia de las Animas never loses its sparkle. 

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

Let us go into the Sea of Cortez, realizing that we become forever a part of it; that our rubber boots slogging through a flat of eel-grass, that the rocks we turn over in a tide pool, make us truly and permanently a factor in the ecology of the region. We shall take something away from it, but we shall leave something too.
— John Steinbeck

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