Posts Tagged 'Atlantic Ocean'

Thoughtful Thursdays: Maryland Shark Fin Ban Signed Into Law!

government affairs and policy update

Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill prohibiting the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins into law this morning, making Maryland the first state on the East Coast to grant sharks this crucial protection.

Governor Martin O'Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Governor Martin O’Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Our home state has now joined California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in enacting laws regarding shark finning. Perhaps most exciting of all, the state of Delaware passed similar legislation only last night and New York is poised to do the same in the coming weeks.

Maryland’s law, which will help curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year, was sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Eric Luedtke and passed by the Maryland General Assembly with bipartisan support earlier this year.

There are as many as 62 species of shark found off the Atlantic coast of North America (and 12 species found right in the Chesapeake Bay). Because they have few natural predators, are slow to mature and produce very few young, shark populations are very sensitive to environmental and commercial fishing pressures. Their continued depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems around the world.

The National Aquarium worked closely with the bill sponsors, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation, Oceana, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and recreational watermen on the issue. The new law provides exemptions for commercial and recreational fishermen, a museum, college, or university to possess a shark fin. The mid-Session addition of an amendment to exempt smooth-hound and spiny dogfish from the bill limits the impact on Maryland’s hard-working watermen yet still protects the most vulnerable families of sharks – large apex predators. The resulting legislation addresses both the supply and demand side of the market for shark fins by prohibiting the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of both raw and processed fins.

As part of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of sharks to the worlds’ oceans. We’d like to sincerely thank all those who showed their public support of this ban and Delegate Eric Luedtke and Senator Brian Frosh for championing this legislation through the General Assembly!

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5 Gyres “Last Straw Plastic Pollution” Bike Tour Events at National Aquarium!

Patches of plastic and trash cover large portions of our blue planet. The largest patch, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is estimated to cover anywhere from 270,000 to 5,800,000 square miles of ocean. These congregations of pollution exist in all five gyres or large systems of rotating ocean currents. Without immediate action, this plastic pollution will continue to do irreparable damage.

Map of five ocean gyres or large systems of rotating ocean currents

5 gyres, a conservation organization striving to end plastic pollution, is spreading the word about the five main oceanic garbage patches by biking 1,400 miles down the Atlantic coast on their “Last Straw Plastic Pollution” tour.

Tomorrow, the 5 gyres team will be hitting the streets of Baltimore, Maryland  and making a stop at National Aquarium from 5 – 6:30 PM. The team will share photographs from their journey and talk about their research on the impact of plastic pollution and what the community can do to eliminate this crippling harm to local waters and marine life. Click here to RSVP for the Baltimore event! 

As the 5 gyres team continues their Atlantic tour, they will also be making a stop at our Washington, D.C. venue on Tuesday, October 23. Click here to RSVP for the Washington, DC event! 

For additional details on 5 gyres  and these upcoming events, click here.

5 Gyres sails to the most remote regions of our oceans to research plastic density in areas where no one has before, and takes the evidence of home to engage with government, industry and concerned citizens to drive common sense solutions to plastic pollution through policy, education and sustainable business. For more information, visit http://www.5gyres.org

Thoughtful Thursdays: Students Help to Restore Atlantic White Cedar Population

As part of this year’s Wetland Nursery Program, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) is working with schools along Maryland’s Eastern Shore to repopulate Atlantic white cedar trees.

This project teaches students sustainable methods of raising tree saplings in an indoor ‘greenhouse’ and how to transplant them into nature, with the hope that we can slowly but surely bring back the species!

Juvenile Atlantic white cedar trees

Once common in freshwater wetlands, Atlantic white cedars are now rare. Lumber from these cedars is water-resistant and highly valued for use in boats, furniture and houses. Overharvesting of this natural resource has decimated the population and the species is now on the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Watch List.

After learning about the history of Atlantic white cedars and the need to restore them, students used clippings from older trees to propagate 500 new trees and helped to re-pot 200 trees that had outgrown their planters and were ready for transfer.

Students show off their healthy juvenile Atlantic white cedars!

All year, our group of students will continue to regularly monitor the trees’ growth and, with the help of their teachers, learn more about freshwater wetlands. In the Spring, the students will join ACT! at Nassawango Creek Preserve to plant their trees.

Owned by the Nature Conservancy, the Preserve encompasses more than 10,000 acres and is home to cypress swamps and upland forests. The planting will take place in a newly cleared 8-acre plot adjacent to Nassawango Creek!

This project would not be possible without the support of our partners: The Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Trust, The Munson Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, and the Chesapeake Conservation Corps.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Virginia Beach Sand Dune Restoration

Earlier this month, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) headed south to Virginia Beach for our annual sand dune restoration project. Our team, along with an amazing group of volunteers, focused their efforts on the eastern coast near the Naval Air Station Dam Neck Annex.

Virginia Beach

Beautiful day at the beach for a restoration!

Coastal sand dunes are formed by the action of sea and wind. Dunes protect the land by acting as natural barriers to salt water intrusion and sea wind erosion. The sand dune system absorbs energy of the waves and without this protection, the soft coastline would disappear rapidly. Even small disruptions in the dune system can cause salt-water infiltration into the ground water, threatening local farmlands.

Virginia Beach restoration

Although sand dunes may appear to be lifeless, in reality they are home to a multitude of species! Their importance has been acknowledged over the last years and they now are priority habitats for conservation.

Over two days, Aquarium staff partnering with Naval Air Station Dam Neck Annex planted 25,000 native grasses including American Beach Grass and Switch Grass. The Aquarium has partnered with the US Navy for the last 10 years. Big storms like Hurricane Isabel have ravaged the area in recent years, making restoration of this habitat even more of a vital need!

We can’t wait to return to Virginia Beach and continue our dune restoration at NAS Dam Neck Annex. Join us in 2013!

Can’t wait that long? Click here to find out about our upcoming conservation events!

Maryland: Help save the sharks!

Shark populations worldwide are in danger of collapse due to fishing pressures stimulated by the global demand for shark fin soup.  Every year fins from tens of millions of sharks are used for this traditional, but non-nutritional meal.  Many species have been depleted nearly to the brink of extinction.  The National Aquarium and its partners are advocating on behalf of legislation that will help eliminate the market for shark fins in Maryland.

Current Federal and Maryland laws banning shark finning control shark handling practices but do not restrict the number of sharks killed just for their fins, or the substantial market for shark fins which creates economic incentives to overfish sharks just for their fins.  One of the most effective ways to protect sharks is to eliminate the market for fins by prohibiting their sale.  California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have all banned the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins, and now it’s our opportunity to lead.

With our support, the Maryland State Senate has passed the bill (Senate Bill 465) that would ban the possession or distribution of shark fins in the state.  Now, it will be heard in the House of Delegates.  This legislation will establish Maryland as the first state on the east coast to join these other states in ensuring we are not contributing to the supply and demand of shark fins.

What You Can Do!
If you live in Maryland, please contact your delegates and let them know you support the “Shark Fin Ban” bill.  They need to hear from you!


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