Conservation & Science

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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Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia accepts the 2018 Ocean Champion Award.

Community-minded leadership

Garcia, whose district includes parts of Riverside and Imperial counties, has made impressive progress on climate-related policy since his 2014 election. This past July, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 398, authored by Assemblymember Garcia. The bill extends and improves California’s cap-and-trade program, helping our state continue to meet its ambitious climate action goals.

Garcia also played a key role in bringing a $4 billion park and water bond proposal to California voters, joining Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León in putting the measure on the June 2018 ballot. If voters approve Proposition 68, the bond will fund projects to help ensure clean drinking water; safeguard our state’s oceans, rivers, lakes and streams; and build new outdoor spaces in the neighborhoods that most need them.

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Assemblymember Mark Stone accepts the 2018 Ocean Champion Award.

A track record of ocean progress

Assemblymember Mark Stone represents parts of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Monterey counties in a district that includes the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Now in his third term, Stone has proven himself as one of California’s most dedicated environmental defenders. He has advanced a number of issues important to our ocean and coasts, including: curbing illegal coastal development, reducing the sources of plastic pollution, and cleaning up our drinking water supplies.

As chair of the Select Committee on Coastal Protection and Access to Natural Resources, Stone held hearings on oil spill prevention efforts, plastic pollution, beach erosion, and coastal access for all Californians. In his capacity on the state’s Ocean Protection Council, he works to ensure that California maintains healthy, resilient and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations.

A global leader

In addition to the accomplishments of the two Ocean Champions, Packard noted several other actions California took for ocean health in 2017, including the state’s lead role in formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance at a time when the federal government was retreating from climate leadership; and its opposition to new oil and gas drilling off the West Coast.

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Participants in the Aquarium’s Young Women in Science program practice yoga on Del Monte Beach in Monterey.

“What makes California great is our commitment to both economic growth and the stewardship of our environment,” Packard said. “We know, and we’ve proved time and again, that you don’t have to sacrifice the environment to build a strong economy. And we know that the natural bounty of our state should benefit all Californians.

“We have strengthened our leadership around the world in advancing solutions to global climate change. Today, California is among the brightest spots in the nation, and around the world.”


Featured photo: Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presents the 2018 Ocean Champion Award to Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia (left) and Mark Stone (right).

Learn more about the Aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of ocean health.

 

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.)

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The world is taking climate action at COP23

wsi-imageoptim-cop23The ocean is about to take center stage at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference in Bonn, Germany. November 11 is officially Oceans Action Day at COP23, when leaders of government, businesses and organizations around the world turn their attention to the sea that covers more than 70% of our planet.

Speakers at the international gathering will discuss how carbon emissions from human activities are changing the world’s ocean (and not for the good)—including impacts on marine wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, and coastal communities. They’ll also explore science-based solutions, such as ramped-up development of renewable energy and ecosystem-based adaptation to the changes already underway.

Ocean Action Day includes a program at the U.S. Climate Action Center—the largest pavilion at the climate talks. Michael Bloomberg (the former mayor of New York City and a U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change) and California Gov. Jerry Brown will release a new “America’s Pledge” report detailing what U.S. states, cities, and businesses are doing to keep the U.S. on track to meet its Paris Agreement carbon reduction goals. They will be joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Laura Phillips, Senior VP of Sustainability for Walmart, to discuss specific actions to meet the emission targets established under the Paris Agreement.

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Bikes lined up outside COP23 in Bonn, Germany. Photo by UNClimateAction via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

The day will conclude with a signing ceremony for the “Because the Ocean Declaration,” an effort led by Chile, urging nations of the world to protect the ocean as they map paths toward implementing the breakthrough Paris Agreement—the commitment, adopted two years ago by nearly every nation in the world, to reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases. The island nation of Fiji is also leading a collaborative effort, called the Ocean Pathway Partnership, to give the ocean the prominent place it deserves in the U.N.’s ongoing climate conversations.

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International honors for our conservation commitment

Our 33rd year has been remarkable in many ways, and the last day of the year brought with it a humbling honor. Monterey Bay Aquarium was saluted by colleagues with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), for the depth and scientific rigor of our work to safeguard the health of the ocean.

“This is quite an anniversary present!” Cynthia Vernon told WAZA delegates as she accepted the Conservation Award on behalf of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“This is quite an anniversary present!” Aquarium Chief Operating Officer Cynthia Vernon told WAZA delegates gathered in Berlin, Germany as she accepted the second-ever Conservation Award presented by the WAZA, an association of 300 member zoos and aquariums from six continents.

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The world unites to protect Our Ocean

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Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Our Ocean conference. ©European Union, 2017

Each year, global leaders gather at the Our Ocean conference, pledging meaningful actions to protect the health of the global ocean. This year, on the Mediterranean island of Malta, Monterey Bay Aquarium was at the heart of several key initiatives addressing fisheries, aquaculture and ocean plastic pollution.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who launched the event in 2014, announced a new partnership between the Aquarium and the Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceThrough the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative, we’ll work with regional governments and seafood producers in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines to overcome obstacles to sustainable seafood production.

“Sustainable fishing is good for jobs and good for the environment at the same time,” Kerry said. “It’s not a competition between the two.”

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‘Historic moment’: Nations act to save Pacific bluefin tuna

Today in Busan, South Korea, Pacific nations came together and agreed, for the first time, to recover the population of Pacific bluefin tuna to a sustainable level.

Bluefin tuna at auction in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market. Japan consumes 90 percent of the world;s catch of bluefin tuna. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

“This is a historic moment for this remarkable species, which is so important to the ocean ecosystem and to coastal communities around the Pacific Rim,” said Margaret Spring, Chief Conservation Officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

At the annual meeting of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission—the body responsible for managing tunas and other highly migratory species across the western Pacific Ocean—international delegates discussed ways to recover the population of Pacific bluefin tuna after years of decline. Ultimately, they took a major step forward by agreeing to recover the population to a sustainable level and establishing a long-term management plan.

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Science shows a path to recover Pacific bluefin tuna

The ruby-red slice of maguro presented on a piece of nigiri sushi does nothing to convey the sheer power of Pacific bluefin tuna. These top ocean predators can grow to be twice the size of lions; at top swimming speed, they’re faster than gazelles. But it’s been a huge challenge to halt the decline of these incredible fish.

Pacific bluefin tuna at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder

The Pacific bluefin population is down to just 2.6 percent of its unfished level—yet it continues to face intense fishing pressure. The fish are prized commercially, command staggering market prices, and are difficult to manage because they cross through national and international waters on trans-Pacific migrations.

Monterey Bay Aquarium has long advocated for use of the best available science to inform management decisions that can bring the Pacific bluefin population back to a healthy level. Now researchers at the Aquarium, together with colleagues from Harvard University and the National Museum of National History, have identified new evidence of migration trends that underscore the need for comprehensive fishing restrictions and enforcement across the Pacific—especially in the Western Pacific, where all Pacific bluefin spawn, and where most of the fish are caught.

The source of spawning-age fish

The analysis, published in Science magazine, concludes that—in many years—the majority of spawning-age bluefin tuna in the Western Pacific are migrants who left the waters off Japan when they were just one to two years old, and spent the next four to six years on rich feeding grounds off the coasts of California and Mexico, before returning to the Western Pacific.

New research supports the need to limit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna — and to enforce the limits — in order to recover the species. Photo courtesy NOAA

If too many of the young fish are caught in the Western Pacific before they can make the migration east, there won’t be enough returning fish years later to maintain or recover the already-depleted population.

And if fishing pressure is too great in the Eastern Pacific, the fish won’t survive to make the migration back to their spawning grounds near Japan.

“These fish were passing through two gauntlets, in the west and in the east, before they had a chance to spawn,” said Dr. Andre Boustany, the Nereus Principal Fisheries Investigator for the Aquarium. “Many fish have to pass through both the Western and Eastern Pacific Ocean. So by taking too many of them out in both locations, we end up with a severely depleted population.

“We need much better management of the fishery in the west, and to continue to at least maintain current management in the east,” he added.
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