Archive for the 'Conservation' Category



Q&A with Photojournalist and Ocean Advocate Brian Skerry!

In advance of his special lecture at the Aquarium on March 18th, we chatted with photographer Brian Skerry about what inspired him to pursue a career in photojournalism and how his work inspires others to protect our oceans!

brian skerry photographer

What first interested you about photographing marine wildlife?
From a very young age, I was captivated by marine wildlife. There was something mysterious to me about the sea and the creatures that lived there and I had a great desire to spend time with these animals and learn more about them.

If you had to pick one subject to photograph for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
A difficult question for sure, but I think I would say sharks. For me, these animals represent the perfect blend of grace and power and I’ve never tired of photographing them.

brian skerry and shark - photography

If the folks who engaged with your photographs could take away one thing about our oceans and their future, what would you hope for it to be?
That Earth’s ocean is a very, very special place, but it needs our help to survive.

How have you seen the areas your work represents change in recent years?
I began simply wanting to make beautiful pictures of animals or places that interested me. While I still have this desire, I have seen many problems occurring in our ocean and I feel compelled to tell these stories too, as a way of effecting positive change.

brian skerry photography

How does your new book, Ocean Soul, help to further your mission to increase protection of special ocean places?
A book has a long shelf-life so it can attract new readers over time. A book like this also allows me to tell my story; my journey of ocean exploration, the animals and places I’ve seen and how I have begun to connect the dots with species and ecosystems.

Join us for Brian Skerry’s Upcoming Lecture!

What: A lecture from “Ocean Soul: A Photojournalists Journey,” book signing to follow

When: March 18, 2014 at 7 pm EST

Where: National Aquarium
A livestream will also be available online.

To purchase tickets for this event, please visit aqua.org/lectures

Guest Post: Fighting Seafood Fraud Protects Our Health and the Environment

government affairs and policy update

Today’s post comes from Jillian Fry, PhD, MPH. She is the Director of the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In her role, Jillian works to engage public health communities in research, communication, education, policy, and advocacy activities aiming to increase understanding of the public health implications of industrial aquaculture practices and to move toward more sustainable and responsible methods of production. 

In support of that important work, Jillian is a strong advocate here in Maryland for the fight against seafood fraud.

Are you getting the seafood you are paying for? Maybe not– an investigation by Oceana revealed last year that a third of seafood sampled in the U.S. was mislabeled. In an effort to reduce seafood fraud, The Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act was introduced in this year’s state legislative session, and I strongly support the bill due to the potential effects of mislabeled seafood on human health, fish populations, and the environment.

People choose the seafood species they eat based on many factors—how it tastes, health benefits, if it’s responsibly fished or farmed, and if it’s generally known to have low contaminant levels. Many seafood guides exist, such as the popular Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium, to help consumers make choices about seafood, but efforts to educate consumers about safe and environmentally sustainable fish have a reduced impact if seafood is not accurately labeled.

monterey bay aquarium seafood watch

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide.

When purchasing wild-caught fish, consumers should seek species known to be from well-managed fisheries to avoid overfishing and bycatch concerns. In the case of farm-raised fish, it should be from an operation that avoids use of chemicals, antibiotics, high densities of fish, and feed made mostly from small fish caught in the ocean (this contributes to overfishing). In addition, certain fish carry advisories, especially for pregnant women and young children, to limit or avoid due to contamination of heavy metals or chemicals.

Oceana’s investigation found overfished species sold as fish from well managed fisheries (e.g., Atlantic halibut as Pacific halibut), farmed fish sold as wild-caught (e.g., farmed tilapia as red snapper), and fish with health advisories being sold as fish with no advisories (e.g., tilefish as red snapper and halibut).

One goal of educating consumers about healthy and sustainable seafood options is to shift demand and change commercial fishing and aquaculture practices. But, if producers can pass off their product as a fish known to be safe and ecologically sustainable, there is little incentive to change practices due to market forces. This also puts honest wild-caught fishers and fish farmers at a disadvantage. To increase demand for fish that are safe and caught or produced sustainably, we need to know what we are eating and where it comes from, and that is why we need better monitoring and enforcement of seafood labeling in Maryland.

For more information on Jillian and the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project’s work, click here. For more information on The Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act, click here

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

Bill of the Week: Education Funding

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Did you know? Nearly 60,000 Maryland school children, teachers, and chaperones visit the National Aquarium free of charge every year through a partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

national aquarium education

Governor O’Malley’s Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget includes over $6 million in funding for 40 State Aided Educational Institutions (SAI) across the State of Maryland. The proposed grant includes $474,601 for the National Aquarium.

During the current 2014 session, our Government Affairs team has been working diligently in Annapolis to voice strong support for this important education funding and the Aquarium’s allocations within the state’s budget.

Through our partnership with MSDE, the National Aquarium provides students across the state opportunities to interact with our 17,000+ animals and geographically-diverse exhibits, all with the aim of providing an education beyond the classroom without any cost to the students or their schools.

Funding from the SAI program has offset 52 percent of the cost of our school program, making it possible to offer this program to 960 local schools, and open our doors each year to over 59,000 students, teachers, and chaperones—for free.

This funding will give 28,000 students the chance to visit the Aquarium in 2014. They will join the 2.5 million Maryland school children from every jurisdiction in the state having visited the National Aquarium since our opening in 1981.

The National Aquarium’s education program offers more than just field trips. We also have a year round continuum of extracurricular experiential programs for all ages, off-site “outdoor classroom” programs to communities and free curriculum training to over 500 teachers.

national aquarium education

The field trip experience combined with the Aquarium’s commitment to advancing the science programs in Maryland schools will help educate a future generation with an interest and passion in the environmental sciences, all the way from the tropical rain forests to the Chesapeake Bay.

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Women in Science!

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to recognize just a few of the amazing women who have dedicated their lives and careers to the exploration and protection of our precious and fragile blue planet!

Margaret Leinen
As the Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Margaret Leinen is helping to pave the way for future generations of ocean scientists, explorers and environmentalists. Scripps, formally part of UC San Diego, is one of the world’s oldest centers for oceanic and atmospheric research. Since it’s establishment in 1903, this institution has produced three Nobel Prize winners and three National Medal of Science winners.

Margaret Leinen

Image via Scripps

Leinen’s recent appointment at Scripps is just one of the many accomplishments in an illustrious career dedicated to the ocean. As an award-winning paleo-oceanographer, Leinen is responsible for  creating a better understanding of the relationship between ocean sediments and climate.

Wendy Schmidt
In 2013, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE launched. The goal of this prize is to address a global need for better information about the process of ocean acidification.

Wendy Schmidt

Image via XPRIZE

A long-time supporter of ocean exploration and research, Schmidt and her husband Eric are founders of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI). Through combining science with state-of-the-art technology, the SOI hopes to achieve lasting results in ocean research and shares their groundbreaking knowledge with audiences around the world, with the ultimate goal of fostering a deeper understanding of our environment.

Ruth Dixon Turner
Marine biologist Ruth Turner was the world’s expert on shipworms, wood-boring bivalves that were responsible for destroying ships.

Ruth Dixon Turner

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Throughout her lifetime, Turner published more than 200 scientific articles and became one of Harvard’s first tenured female professors. In addition to her contributions to marine academia, Turner worked closely with filmmakers and explorers like Stan Waterman, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Robert Ballard (responsible for discovering the Titanic).

Margaret Murie
Affectionately referred to as the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement,” Margaret Murie played a critical role in the passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Margaret Murie

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Beginning in the 1960′s Murie, an author, naturalist and conservationist, dedicated her life to lobbying Congress to pass legislation to prevent development on designated wildlife habitats nationwide. As a result of her tireless dedication to preserving millions of acres of Alaskan habitat, Murie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Want to learn more about the amazing contributions women have made to science? Join us for our annual Women’s History celebration tomorrow, March 7th!

A Blue View: Inside Giant Clams

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 5, 2014: Inside Giant Clams

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss
the awesome giant clam!

In the vastness of the ocean, there are many so-called animal to animal symbionts, seemingly odd-fellow relationships from which both species benefit. Finding Nemo made famous one such partnership, that of the clownfish and anemone.

But what about symbiosis between an animal and a plant? Or more specifically, a plant-like alga called zooxanthellae? It’s a surprisingly common phenomenon, especially in the shallows of warm equatorial reefs where there’s abundant light for photosynthesis. Corals, jellies, even sea slugs participate.

And so does Tridacna gigas, the giant clam of the Indo-Pacific, the largest bivalve mollusk on Earth and the world’s only sun-powered clam.
The giant clam hosts a thick layer of zooxanthellae in its tissues and gets up to 90 percent of its nutrition from their photosynthesis. Imagine if we could do that? Just stand outside on a sunny day and photosynthesize? That’s pretty close to a free lunch.

giant clam

The giant clam does its part, too, by providing the zooxanthellae with a habitat protected from hungry predators.

During the day, the giant clam extends its mantle tissue, allowing sunlight to reach the zooxanthellae. In fact, full-size giant clams cannot fully close their shells. You’re less likely to get your foot stuck in a giant clam like in one those ‘50s-style horror movies than to get a hernia from trying to pick one up.

Because of their symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae, giant clams can photosynthesize their food like plants, even as they carnivorously filter feed, sieving out plankton from the water as all clams do. No Omnivore’s Dilemma for the giant clam.

And with this abundance of nutrition, giant clams have gone turbo—at least in terms of size. Giant clams grow and grow. In the wild, they can reach a length of four feet, weigh up to 500 pounds, and live for a hundred years.

Scientists have also discovered the giant clam can even “farm” its zooxanthellae. At night, specialized cells called amebocytes search out and digest old algal cells, keeping the “farm” clean and healthy, and in the process aiding the entire reef. The giant clam’s vigorous filtering keeps reef water crystal clear and free of fouling organisms.

But these giants are becoming rare, and near some Pacific Islands, are already locally extinct.

There is a huge demand for every single part of the giant clam. For Pacific Islanders, who rely on the ocean’s bounty for most of their diet, giant clams have been a traditional food source for millennia. The clam’s mantle and dried abductor muscle are considered a delicacy in Asia.

Further, every year approximately 200,000 live giant clams are taken for the ornamental aquarium trade. Their shells are, of course, sought-after as souvenirs. The zooxanthellae make the clam’s mantle look glamorous, in hues of electric blue to malachite green. Each clam’s pattern is unique and has long caught the eye of humans.

To save the giant clam, and the reefs on which they make their home, mariculturists are learning to farm them on Fiji and other islands, much the same way oysters are raised in the Chesapeake Bay. The goal is to reintroduce them into the wild, where they can filter and photosynthesize to their hybrid heart’s content. As happy as clams.

national aquarium CEO john racanelli


Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 236 other followers