Conservation & Science

Protecting the ocean, the heart of Earth’s climate system

The week of September 10, people from around the world are gathering in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brings together leaders—representing nations, states, cities, companies, investors and citizens—to celebrate climate action, and step up their ambitions to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard reflects on the central role of the ocean, the heart of Earth’s climate system, in this historic moment.

To solve the climate crisis, humanity must address the health of the ocean—the largest ecosystem on our planet. The ocean is our first line of defense against the impacts of climate change, absorbing a significant share of the excess carbon dioxide and heat we produce by burning fossil fuels. And a healthy ocean helps protect humanity from the intensifying impacts of climate change.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

For too long, the ocean has been left out of climate conversations. That will change at the Global Climate Action Summit, where for the first time ocean stewardship is on the priority agenda.

A group of government and nongovernmental representatives, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, are calling on all sectors of society to protect the ocean—our most powerful tool to mitigate, and adapt to, the impacts of climate change. We’ve outlined that challenge, and provided a blueprint for action, through an Ocean-Climate Action Agenda.

The attention is overdue. And the need is urgent.

Our lives depend on a healthy ocean

As land creatures, we may not be wired to think much about the ocean—how its cycles are directly linked to our own survival, and how our choices affect it.

Seafood from the ocean provides one-sixth of the protein that sustains our population. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Selfishly, we should. We depend on the ocean in so many ways. Its marine life provides one-sixth of the animal protein we eat. Its waters carry more than 90 percent of the world’s trade—moving goods and raw materials more cost-effectively than any other mode of transport. Its shores are home to nearly half of all people on Earth.

The ocean drives global weather systems. A warming ocean and atmosphere is sparking changes in stable weather systems that have allowed civilization to flourish. Photo courtesy NASA.

The ocean is the heart of Earth’s climate system; its currents and winds circulate heat and moisture around our planet. The weather patterns we associate with different regions of the world have been relatively stable throughout human history, thanks to the ocean. Read more…

Julie Packard: Proposed EPA rollback of fuel economy standards ‘doomed to fail’

A statement from Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard:

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

Today the Trump Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency have formally proposed weakening national fuel economy standards and rescinding California’s waiver to set more stringent targets. By doing so, they are abandoning their responsibility to the American people and directly challenging California’s climate leadership.

It’s an effort that is doomed to fail.

Monterey Bay Aquarium stands with the State of California as we have in the past in the face of similar challenges.

An extended wildfire season across the American West and unprecedented extreme weather events around the world are evidence of the impact of global climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions. Rim Fire photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

The science is clear: The accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions threatens the health of ocean life and the living systems that support human civilization. New science emerges every day to support these conclusions, and this summer’s unprecedented global heat waves, torrential rainstorms and catastrophic fires demonstrate with clarity that we have no time to lose.

Now is the time to act with urgency to address the threat, not to reverse course on the progress we’ve already made.

California Gov. Jerry Brown will co-host a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September.

The Aquarium will use its voice—including at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco—to mobilize support for actions that reverse our self-destructive course, and put us on a path to a secure and sustainable future.

Learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s work to address global climate change.

 

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

Trump Administration’s Ocean Policy puts short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health

On June 19, the Trump Administration issued an executive order revoking the 2010 National Ocean Policy established by President Obama. The order also creates a new National Ocean Policy that shifts the focus of ocean resource management from stewardship and sustainability to oil and gas development and national security.

“The President’s executive order undermines our ability to sustain ocean and coastal resources over time for the benefit of this and future generations of Americans,” says Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “The new policy places too much emphasis on short-term economic gain over long-term ocean health and prosperity.”

For more than 30 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has inspired conservation of the ocean. In light of the President’s executive order, we will redouble our efforts in Monterey and beyond—with businesses,  elected officials and international leaders—to address the top threats facing the ocean today, advancing science-based solutions for a sustainable future.

Read more…

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.

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.

Read more…

Shining a light on seafood slavery

Imagine you’re a young father, from Myanmar, who has come to Thailand to find work as a fisherman and support your family. Once aboard ship, your time at sea stretches to weeks, months, or even a year. You find yourself working 20 hours a day, at one of the world’s most dangerous occupations. You sleep in unsanitary quarters, and are subject to violence and intimidation.

The risk tool can help businesses engage with suppliers to eliminate slavery from their supply chains.

But your biggest surprise occurs when the boat finally docks: You are kept in locked quarters, and not allowed to come ashore. The captain has taken your passport and keeps much of your wages.

Seafood slavery is real, and occurring in many parts of the globe. And the byproducts of this underworld economy—shrimp, crab, snapper and other popular seafood items—can make their way to dinner tables in the United States.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program wants to help businesses keep slavery out of their seafood supply, and improve conditions for people who are—literally—slaving to produce the world’s seafood. In coordination with Liberty Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, it just released an online tool so major seafood buyers—retailers, foodservice companies and restaurant chains—can identify the risk of forced labor, human trafficking or hazardous child labor in the seafood they purchase. Read more…

%d bloggers like this: