This year, the California Legislature got things done for our state’s beautiful ocean and coast — and we were a part of it. The Aquarium spoke up in support of science-based legislation for a healthy ocean, and several of these bills were signed into law. These important new policies will:
Improve youth access to our state parks,
Leverage nature’s most powerful tools against climate change, and
Cut back on waste by encouraging reusable containers at restaurants and food trucks.
Here’s a closer look at all the state accomplished.
A just-released scientific report connects these and a host of other ocean changes with human activities that take place largely on land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate marks the first time that the IPCC has written a stand-alone report on the marine realm. It presents a detailed account of the increasingly severe consequences of climate change for the ocean, its trillions of creatures and, ultimately, ourselves.
The report makes clear that to protect the ocean, we must first reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we must also reduce ocean stress, caused by overfishing and pollution, so the ocean is healthy enough to weather the changes already underway.
“The bottom line is that we need the ocean. And right now, the ocean needs us,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Aquarium. “It’s not too late to take courageous climate action and safeguard the ocean from further damage.”
Ask not (only) what you can do for sea otters, but what sea otters can do for California.
That’s one of the thoughts on the minds of Aquarium scientists in the wake of a new study, which confirms the power of sea otters to restore coastal ecosystems.
Since 2002, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has reared rescued sea otter pups for release to the wild. Female otters in our exhibit serve as their “surrogate mothers,” teaching them critical life skills like how to groom themselves and forage. The hope is that when the pups are released in Elkhorn Slough, a wetland 20 miles north of the Aquarium, they’ll be able to thrive on their own.
A newly published study confirms that these surrogate-reared pups are surviving as well as their wild kin—and the resulting bump in the otter population at Elkhorn Slough is helping to restore the estuary ecosystem.
UPDATE Sept. 16, 2019: Unfortunately, the State Legislature did not vote on the California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act in 2019. However, leaders can pick the bills back up in 2020. We are confident that there will continue to be momentum next year to advance this legislation. Please stay tuned!
Monterey Bay is celebrated around the world for its beautiful ocean views and photogenic wildlife, like sea otters, sardines and whales. But even these protected waters are more polluted than they seem.
Aquarium and MBARI scientists recently found plastic throughout the Monterey Bay water column, from the surface to the deep sea. And most of it matched the same type of plastic used in the single-use products we discard every day, like water bottles, takeout food containers and other packaging.
If we don’t change course, the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean is projected to double in just six years. But California is in a position to get out in front of this challenge and lead the U.S. toward a cleaner future.
The California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act sets a target of reducing 75 percent of packaging waste—and the most polluting single-use plastic products—by 2030. And it sets criteria to make sure that what remains is increasingly recycled or composted.
This bill is among the most visionary approaches to solid waste legislation in the state’s history. It tackles the growing problem of plastic pollution in our ocean and waterways, and inspires innovation to “design out” waste from the products and packages we use every day.
Actualización Sept. 16, 2019: Desafortunadamente, la Legislatura Estatal no votó sobre la propuesta California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act en el 2019. Sin embargo, los líderes pueden retomar las propuestas de ley en el 2020. Confiamos que continuará habiendo el empeño para avanzar en esta legislación el próximo año.
La Bahía de Monterey es conocida alrededor del mundo por sus bellísimas vistas oceánicas y su fotogénica vida silvestre, como las nutrias marinas, sardinas y ballenas. Sin embargo, aún estas aguas protegidas, sufren por la contaminación más de lo que parece.
Recientemente, los científicos del Acuario y del MBARI encontraron plástico a lo largo de toda la columna de agua de la Bahía de Monterey, desde la superficie hasta el mar profundo. Además, la gran mayoría de él coincidió con ser del mismo tipo de plástico utilizado en los productos desechables que usamos todos los días, como botellas de agua, recipientes de comida para llevar y con otros empaques.
Si no cambiamos el curso, se estima que la cantidad de plástico que llega al océano se duplicará en tan solo seis años. Sin embargo, California puede hacerle frente a este reto y asumir el liderazgo en los EE. UU. para lograr un futuro más limpio.
El California Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (Ley de Reducción de Contaminación por Plástico de California) tiene por objetivo el de reducir el 75 por ciento del desperdicio de plástico—y el uso de los productos desechables de plástico más contaminantes—para el año 2030. Además de determinar los criterios para garantizar que lo que quede, se recicle o se use como composta cada vez más.
Este proyecto de ley se encuentra entre las más visionarias legislaciones en la historia del estado en lo referente a desechos sólidos. Aborda el creciente problema de la contaminación por plástico en nuestro océano y nuestras vías fluviales, e inspira a innovar, diseñando maneras de desalentar los residuos de los productos y empaques que usamos todos los días.
There’s a vast ecosystem stretching far below the ocean’s surface — one where the light dims, the pressure mounts, and life takes on forms that can seem downright alien. But even there, a place that seems a world apart from human society, our plastic trash is building up.
In the deep sea, it’s a challenge to study where that plastic accumulates and how it affects animals. So scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and our partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) launched an ambitious collaboration.
The resulting study, which examined microplastic in the waters of Monterey Bay, was published June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.
“We designed this study to answer a fundamental gap in our knowledge of marine plastic once it reaches the ocean,” says lead author Anela Choy, a former MBARI researcher and now a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.
The research team gathered data by using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), robotic submarines designed by MBARI engineers, to collect water samples at depths from 200 to 600 meters (about 650 to 2,000 feet).
They also searched for plastic in animals with important roles in the marine food web: pelagic red crabs; and tadpole-like creatures called giant larvaceans, which surround themselves with clouds of mucus that capture food — and, as the researchers discovered, plastic.
Sometimes, research has to venture out of the lab and into the wild. That’s the basis for a long-term Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) project to study how the ocean’s changing chemistry will affect marine life.
Ocean acidification is a change in seawater pH (and other elements of the ocean carbonate system) as the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This change will become more pronounced as people continue to burn fossil fuels.
“It’s important to try to get a better understanding of what impact that will have,” says George Matsumoto, senior education and research specialist at MBARI.
In a more acidic ocean, the minerals used to form calcium carbonate are less abundant, making it more difficult for marine species—from tiny sea snails to oysters and crabs—to build shells or skeletons. MBARI marine ecologist Jim Barry says researchers are working to understand the impact not just on individual animals, but also on broader ecosystems. Continue reading Field studies of ocean acidification
On March 19, 2019, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered in Sacramento to discuss ocean and coastal issues with state decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its tenth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders from across the state.
It’s true that global scale climate trends continue to be daunting. But the pace of solutions is accelerating. So, in that way I’m among the optimists (along with the newest Nobel laureate in economics). As a global society, we know we must do to get on a sustainable course. We’re making progress faster than ever, and we have more tools to do the job. Many of these tools were created in Silicon Valley, and in other hubs of innovation around the world, from Redmond, Washington to Mumbai, India.
Last month, I left the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco feeling energized. Monterey Bay Aquarium played a key role in putting the ocean on the Summit agenda, and it was clear people finally recognize that a healthy ocean is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change. The question now is: Do we have the will to make it happen?
Judging by the progress being made on the U.S. West Coast, and the business and government commitments announced at the Summit, I think the answer is yes. That’s especially apparent here on California’s central coast. Our region has become the global nexus for ocean education, innovation and impact. Continue reading Julie Packard: It’s time for courageous climate action