Conservation & Science

Making strides for ocean health at the Our Ocean Conference

For nearly 20 years, Monterey Bay Aquarium has worked to shift global seafood production in more sustainable directions—because fishing and aquaculture, done the wrong way, can do great harm to the ocean and ocean wildlife. What started as the Aquarium’s consumer-focused Seafood Watch program has blossomed to engage major seafood buyers, producers and governments in seafood-producing countries around the world.

More recently, the Aquarium has stepped up to address another growing threat to ocean health: a tide of plastic pollution.

Our Ocean BaliThe global impact of our work on both fronts took several steps forward this week at the international Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia—in ways that will be felt in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Since the inaugural conference in 2014, Our Ocean has brought government officials, business leaders and NGOs together to make measurable commitments that will improve ocean health. This year, the Aquarium is a part of four commitments: two to make our global seafood supply more sustainable, and two to reduce the use of ocean-polluting plastic.

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A surge of ocean action in Sacramento

The 2018 California legislative session brought great news for the ocean! The Aquarium supported seven bills and two resolutions this year—and they all became state law.

These new state policies will:

  • Protect our coast from federal offshore oil and gas drilling
  • Restrict several common single-use plastic products that pollute the ocean
  • Continue to conserve California’s marine protected areas, and
  • Encourage new, more sustainable fisheries practices

Here’s a bill-by-bill breakdown.

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Painting a picture of the ocean’s past

At our new Ocean Memory Lab, Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers are studying the global ocean and marine life in novel ways, to gain insights into a world before plastic and chemical pollutants were introduced to the water. Feathers, bones, teeth, bits of marine algae and other tissues from ocean plants and animals can paint a picture of conditions dating back a century or more.  They’ve already learned how the feeding habits of seabirds have changed since the late 19th century, as PBS NewsHour Weekend producer Ivette Feliciano discovered when she talked with our director of science, Dr. Kyle Van Houtan.

Here’s her report:

We’ll share the latest news and updates about the Ocean Memory Lab in future blog stories.

Learn more about our Conservation Research programs and priorities.

Julie Packard named ‘American Food Hero’ for tackling seafood sustainability and slavery

 

For American Food Hero Julie Packard, protecting the rights of people in the seafood industry is as fundamental to sustainability as are sound environmental practices. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s commitment to sustainable seafood has grown over the past 20 years, from a simple Seafood Watch consumer guide to a program that influences seafood production and government policy around the world.

The impact of that work—including a new initiative to address slavery and other labor abuses in seafood supply chains—has earned Executive Director Julie Packard recognition as an American Food Hero from EatingWell, the influential print and online publication that’s been at the forefront of the healthy-eating movement for more than 25 years.

EatingWell cites the “wildly successful Seafood Watch program,” which has “revolutionized the way we buy fish and shellfish today.”

It’s a view shared by ocean conservation leader Carl Safina, who told EatingWell: “Julie Packard has been the single most effective person in raising public awareness about seafood sustainability.”

A Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series found that even seafood landed in Hawaii was being caught by crews of slaves. Photo by Associated Press

The honor singles out the launch earlier this year of a Seafood Slavery Risk Tool that helps major seafood buyers assess potential risk of labor abuses in their supply chains, so they can work with suppliers globally to correct problems and improve the sustainability of their seafood.

When news articles highlighted the scope of the problem, EatingWell notes, “The thought of slave-caught fish landing on American plates—or any plates for that matter—was a galvanizing moment for Julie Packard. To her, protecting the people working on our waters was no different than protecting the fish swimming in them.”

“’I felt it was imperative that we include human rights issues in our definition of sustainable, because sustainable isn’t just about the environment,’ she says. ‘It’s about the broader social impact. And the seafood industry is rife with problems in that area.’”

You can read the full article here, with profiles of Julie Packard and 11 other American Food Heroes: men and women doing extraordinary things to make food and food systems better.

Featured photo: Shrimp are left on an abandoned peeling table after a raid in Thailand connected with seafood slavery investigations. Credit: Associated Press/Dita Alangkara

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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Chefs serve up support for sustainable U.S. seafood

On June 14, chefs nationwide will be serving up support for our U.S. sustainable seafood law.

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Chef Danielle Leoni of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, Arizona shows off sustainably harvested short-spined thornyheads from California.

Over 50 culinary leaders across the country in cities like Honolulu, Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Sarasota and New York are joining together that evening to celebrate the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our country’s premier fisheries management law—and to defend it from threats in Washington D.C.

Two bills currently before Congress, H.R. 200 and S. 1520, would weaken the MSA’s sustainability measures that have largely ended overfishing and recovered depleted species in U.S. waters. Chefs have been particularly vocal in their opposition to these proposals, pointing out that fisheries management is not just an issue for fisherman or coastal residents—it’s a food issue.

The culinary community from landlocked states knows this better than most. Seventy-two chefs from Midwest and Mountain West states recently weighed in with a letter to Congress, urging them to maintain science-based management and accountability measures of the MSA.

“Fisheries management may seem like a weird topic for chefs to get involved in,” says Danielle Leoni, chef and owner of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, Arizona. “But we all love fish. And as a businessperson, I want access to a consistent supply of sustainable seafood—even though my restaurant is hundreds of miles from the nearest coast.”

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On World Oceans Day, it’s time to protect Earth’s largest habitat

As we celebrate World Oceans Day, it’s too easy to forget about the deep sea. It’s the largest habitat on the planet, and is increasingly threatened by human activities. Monterey Bay Aquarium scientists, and our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, are working to understand and protect the deep ocean. It’s a big job—and we’ll need your help.

To bring the message about the deep ocean to a wider public, Executive Director Julie Packard and MBARI President and CEO Chris Scholin shared their thoughts about safeguarding the deep sea in an op-ed column published in today’s New York Times.

“The oceans are the largest home for life on our planet and the blue heart of Earth’s climate system,” they write. “We must use them wisely. Otherwise, we risk using them up.”

You can read the full commentary, and their action plan for the deep sea, here.

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