Conservation & Science

Straw Woman: Our California policy expert breaks down the Straws On Request bill

This month, we’re asking Aquarium visitors and social media followers in California to support the Straws On Request bill—and join the movement to combat ocean plastic pollution. We sat down with Amy Wolfrum, our California Ocean Conservation Policy Manager, to discuss the bill and how it connects to the Aquarium’s larger ocean conservation mission.

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California Ocean Conservation Policy Manager Amy Wolfrum

What’s the Straws On Request bill?

California Assembly Bill (AB) 1884, sometimes called the Straws On Request bill, would require that dine-in, full-service restaurants across the state provide straws only when customers ask for them. Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon introduced the bill in response to a growing body of science showing that plastic pollution is a real problem for our planet—especially the ocean.

Why is plastic such a problem for the ocean?

It’s estimated that nearly 9 million U.S. tons of plastic enters the global ocean each year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute! And if people around the world don’t make changes, the rate of plastic flowing into the sea is expected to double by 2025.

Plastic can now be found in almost every marine habitat on Earth—from polar ice to deep ocean trenches. Marine animals are harmed by plastic pollution in two ways: when they accidentally eat it, and when they become entangled in it.

Read more…

New kids on the block

Monterey Bay and surrounding waters are prime habitat for white sharks. The same adult white sharks visit this part California annually over decades, mostly during fall and early winter. Farther south, from Santa Barbara to Central Baja, white shark babies, or pups, typically spend their first years in warmer “nursery” waters.

The cohort of young white sharks close to popular Santa Cruz County beaches has sparked Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers to investigate what’s drawn them to the area. Photo © Giancarlo Thomae Photography

What’s new and surprising, though, is that in recent years a seasonal group of younger white sharks has established itself within sight of the beaches at the north end of Monterey Bay. Is this new cohort taking up residence as a result of warming ocean conditions? And why are the sharks aggregating in one portion of the bay?

That’s what Monterey Bay Aquarium research scientist Dr. Sal Jorgensen and his colleagues hope to determine in the coming months.

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Action Alert: Keep U.S. seafood sustainable—speak out against H.R. 200

The United States has some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, thanks to our strong, science-based federal management. Most of the fish populations swimming off U.S. shores are at healthy levels, and many have recovered from decades of overfishing.

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A seafood market worker fillets halibut in Monterey. Photo by Steve Kepple

That’s something Americans can be proud of.

But a bill introduced in Congress could undo that progress, taking our country back to the old days of overfishing, unsustainable management and crashing fish stocks.

There’s still time to stop this harmful legislation—but we need your help! Please join us and tell Congress to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Your voice matters

H.R. 200 would weaken our successful federal fishery law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. On Wednesday, July 11, the bill is headed to a vote on the House floor.

This is where you come in! Please contact your House representative today, and ask them to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Click here to contact your representative, and tell them to vote NO on H.R. 200.

Here are some suggested talking points:

  • Americans want sustainable seafood. Listening to science is the best way to protect fish, fishermen and consumers from the risk of overfishing.
  • Please keep the Magnuson-Stevens Act strong by maintaining science-based management, annual catch limits and timelines for rebuilding fish populations.
  • Americans can be proud of our country’s sustainable fishery management, which is inspiring nations around the world to follow our lead. Let’s keep it that way.
  • Please vote NO on H.R. 200!

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Vote #YesOn68 to support California’s ocean and coast

UPDATE – June 6, 2018

We did it!

With your help, Californians have passed Proposition 68 with 56 percent voter approval, authorizing the state to issue $4 billion in bonds to protect our natural resources. This investment will empower California to address some of the state’s most important water, park, and natural resource needs—including ocean and coastal conservation, climate adaptation and resilience, and increased access to parks and coastal areas.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is grateful to the voters—as well as the many organizations, bipartisan leaders and major newspapers  across the state—who stood up with us to sustain California’s natural beauty and living resources. Thank you!


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Prop 68 would improve public access to beaches along California’s 840-mile coastline.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect what we love about California—like our iconic coastline, diverse marine habitats and abundant wildlife.

That’s why Monterey Bay Aquarium is supporting Proposition 68 on the June 5 California ballot. Please join us in voting YES for the future of our ocean!

Proposition 68 is a bond measure that asks voters to approve a $4 billion investment in important natural resources. It is the first bond measure of its kind in more than a decade. If passed, it will help improve public access to California’s coast, boost our state’s resilience to climate change, and protect our ocean and coastal habitats.

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Sea otters’ perilous path to recovery

For more than 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been a key contributor to sea otter recovery in California. Aquarium researchers and policy experts have advanced scientific knowledge, promoted improved management and raised public awareness of the contributions sea otters make to healthy coastal ecosystems. A new research paper in the journal Ecography draws on three decades of Aquarium research to establish a link between sparse kelp cover along the California coast and a recent rise in sea otter mortalities from white shark bites. The finding illuminates a new challenge for everyone working toward sea otter recovery: Will sea otters be able to run the gauntlet of white sharks and expand back into their historical range without human assistance? Conservation Research staffer Athena Copenhaver explores the challenge.

Senior research biologist Teri Nicholson fans out her left hand, tapping each finger as she recites a brief list of unusual names: Jiggs, Goldie, Hailey, Milkdud . . .

Exhibit sea otters like Rosa play a key role behind the scenes, as surrogate mothers rearing stranded otter pups.

They might sound as though they belong to beloved pets, but Teri is actually recalling the stranded southern sea otter pups taken in by Monterey Bay Aquarium back in 1984.

Although Teri and her colleagues didn’t know it at the time, these first four orphaned pups became foundational data points in a pioneering sea otter study that spans the lifetime of the Aquarium.

The study, recently published in Ecography, uses information collected from 725 live-stranded sea otters between 1984 and 2015 to illuminate the critical relationship between a healthy kelp canopy, sea otter population recovery, and sea otter deaths from white shark bites.

Sea otter pups, rescued and raised by the Aquarium, are contributing to recovery of the wild population. Photo © Sea Studios Foundation

“By rescuing and rehabilitating stranded animals, we can observe symptoms and determine possible reasons the animal might have stranded,” explains Teri. “And, that means we can look for patterns in threats otters face over time.” Read more…

Honoring our 2018 California Ocean Champions: Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Mark Stone

On February 20, 2018, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered at the state Capitol to discuss ocean and coastal issues with top decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its ninth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presented our 2018 California Ocean Champion Award to Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Mark Stone, who have made significant contributions to California’s ocean and coastal leadership. The award is part of the Aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of the ocean.

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Action Alert: Help protect America’s coasts from offshore oil drilling

The sustainable use of our ocean is the lifeblood of coastal communities—supporting tourism, fisheries and recreation while protecting extraordinary marine wildlife. Offshore oil drilling in sensitive coastal waters puts coastal economies, jobs and animals at unnecessary risk.

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A flare burns during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which spilled almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Photo by NIOSH

That’s why we’re speaking out against the federal Administration’s draft proposed plan to open nearly all U.S. ocean waters, including six areas in California, to oil and gas drilling. And we need you to join us.

“The President’s offshore oil and gas plan is an outrage—a huge step backward,” says Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “Our remarkable ocean ecosystems, and all of us who depend on them, deserve better.”

The governors of almost every U.S. coastal state have expressed opposition or concern about oil and gas drilling off their state’s shores.

The Administration is taking public comments on the offshore oil drilling plan through March 9. We urge you to speak out to protect coastal waters. Your voice matters!

Click here to add your comment to the Federal Register. Consider using our suggested talking points below.

(Be sure to replace the text in brackets with your hometown; it also helps to add some personal thoughts about how offshore oil drilling could affect you.)

Read more…

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