Posts Tagged 'NOAA'



We’ve Hired Our First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer

eric schwaabWe’re excited to announce Eric Schwaab as our first-ever Senior Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer (CCO). With a realignment of priorities that emphasizes an updated conservation mission, Schwaab’s appointment represents the Aquarium’s new dedication to serve as a national leader in ocean preservation and environmental stewardship.

“With the confirmation of Eric Schwaab as our Chief Conservation Officer, we are setting an agenda for National Aquarium’s future,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “We are dedicated to our mission of inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Eric’s wealth of experience and passion will help us expand and better promote conservation action to protect the ocean, our planet’s life support system.”

As CCO, Schwaab, who assumes responsibilities July 1, will provide strategic vision and leadership for the National Aquarium’s Conservation and Science Division, a team of 130 professionals, engaging in initiatives ranging from field conservation and biological programs to legislative advocacy and animal rescue.

Schwaab currently serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this role he works closely with Congress, other agency leaders, partner organizations and local communities to develop policies and take conservation action to ensure sustainable federal fisheries, promote coastal stewardship and enhance protection of ocean habitats. Previously, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA from 2010-2012, Schwaab directed the National Marine Fisheries Service. He was responsible for science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. Schwaab led the agency’s national requirement to end overfishing, the implementation of “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.

The National Aquarium is changing the way the world views conservation by instilling a sense of urgency on issues that affect aquatic ecosystems worldwide, including the Chesapeake Bay. In the ocean policy arena, the National Aquarium has recently focused its efforts on a ban on the sale and trade of shark fins, offshore wind development, plastic and beverage container deposits and watershed conservation.

“Through its current work in conservation and science, National Aquarium is redefining the role of public aquaria as catalysts for tangible change in how people care for oceans and aquatic systems,” said Schwaab. “The Aquarium’s role as a trusted source of information and its ability to communicate with millions of people annually provide significant opportunities to influence public policy and personal behavior on behalf of sustainable ocean conservation. I look forward to leading this charge.”

Prior to his work with NOAA, Schwaab spent three years as Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, where he worked extensively with legislative leaders and other agencies to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest and park land conservation and fisheries rebuilding. Schwaab’s 20 plus years of conservation stewardship in Maryland also include service as Director of the Fisheries Service (1999-2003); Director of the Forest, Wildlife & Heritage Service (1995-1999); Director of the Forest Service (1992-1995); and Chief of Resource Management for Maryland Forest & Park Service (1989-1992). From 2003 into 2007, Schwaab served as Resource Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, coordinating conservation work on behalf of fish and wildlife agencies across North America.

Schwaab, who currently serves as the NOAA Administrator designee on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from McDaniel College and a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Environmental Planning from Towson University. He also completed a leadership program for senior executives in state and local government at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Happy 40th Birthday, NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries!

For 40 years, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary system has preserved some of the most treasured and endangered resources in our oceans. This underwater network of national parks, first established in 1972 – exactly 100 years after America’s first national park was created, protects more than 18,000 square miles of ocean waters and habitats!

national marine sanctuaries

Congratulations & happy birthday to all our friends at NOAA!

Visit the National Marine Sanctuaries all in one place!
Our Washington, DC venue highlights all thirteen sanctuaries as well as marine national monument as part of a partnership with NOAA to help spread awareness and inspire conservation of these amazing ecosystems. You can explore the following sanctuaries during your visit:

  • Florida Keys NMS - This sanctuary is a complex marine ecosystem surrounding the Florida Keys archipelago, an island chain known worldwide for its extensive offshore coral reef. The waters surrounding most of the 1,700 islands that make up the Florida Keys have been designated a sanctuary since 1990. The Florida Keys marine environment is the foundation for the commercial fishing and tourism-based economies that are vital to southern Florida.
Florida Keys

Florida Keys Gallery

  • USS Monitor NMS – located off the coast of Newport News, Virginia, this wreck of a Civil War-era ship was the first designated marine sanctuary!
  • Flower Garden Banks NMS - Flower Garden is located about 110 miles off the coast of Texas and Louisiana. It harbors the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States and serves as a regional reservoir of shallow-water Caribbean reef fishes and invertebrates.
  • Gray’s Reef NMS - Gray’s Reef is located 17 miles off Sapelo Island, Georgia. It is one of the largest near-shore sandstone reefs in the southeastern United States. The rocky platform, some 60–70 feet below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface, is wreathed in a carpet of attached organisms. This flourishing ecosystem provides not only vertical relief, but also a solid base for the abundant invertebrates to attach to and grow upon.
Loggerhead turtle

A loggerhead turtle in our Gray’s Reef gallery

  • Cordell Bank NMS - Cordell Bank is located approximately 52 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge at the edge of the continental shelf. Upwelling of nutrient-rich ocean waters and the bank’s topography create one of the most biologically productive areas on the West Coast. The site is a lush feeding ground for many marine mammals and seabirds.
  • Olympic Coast NMS – along the Olympic Peninsula coastline of the Pacific Northwest, sits this protected continental shelf and several submarine canyons. This upwell zone is a home to marine mammals such as orcas and seabirds. Throughout the sanctuary, kelp keeps pockets of tidal communities teeming with fish. In addition to these ecological resources, this area also preserves over 200 shipwrecks.
  • Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale NMS – In the shallow waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, this sanctuary represents one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.
  • Stellwagen Bank NMS – located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, this sanctuary was the first in New England. It was first designated to protect endangered whales from the shifting of shipping lanes in busy commercial waters. Since its establishment, striking of these whales has been reduced by 81 percent, according to NOAA.
Stellwagen Bank

Toby, our blue lobster, in the Stellwagen Bank gallery

  • Fagatele Bay NMS - Fagatele is located on Tutuila, the largest island of American Samoa, and is the only true tropical coral reef in the National Marine Sanctuary Program. This complex ecosystem, with its exceptionally high level of biological productivity, is the smallest and most remote of all sanctuaries.
Fagetele Bay

Fagatele Bay gallery

  • Gulf of the Farallones NMS – near San Francisco, this sanctuary was critical to the creation of Beach Watch, one of the first citizen-science monitoring projects within NOAA. This volunteer program helps to protect a lush cold water coral reef, abundant with many threatened and endangered species.
  • Monterey Bay NMS – this rocky, rugged area off the coast of Southern California acts as a home or migration corridor for 26 species of marine mammals, close to 100 species of seabirds, close to 400 species of fish and invertebrates and four species of sea turtles. A mixture of habitats including open ocean, rocky shores, sandy beaches and lush kelp forests.
  • Channel Islands NMSThe Channel Islands are located 25 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The waters that swirl around the five islands within the sanctuary combine warm and cool currents to create an exceptional breeding ground for many species of plants and animals.
Leopard sharks

Leopard sharks in our Channel Islands gallery

  • Thunder Bay NMS – off the eastern coast of Michigan, this sanctuary protects a collection of shipwrecks in Lake Huron. Not only are these developed ecosystems an important research tool, but this area has become a major tourist destination and economic stimulant in the area – further spreading awareness of how important it is to protect marine wildlife.
  • Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, this is the single largest conservation area in the US and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The monument encompasses close to 140,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean – an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.

We are so happy to  share these small glimpses into such a diverse and beautiful network of environments. Thanks to NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act for allowing us to continue to enjoy and protect America’s underwater treasures for many years to come!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Climate Change is Killing our Coral Reefs

A Majority of Coral Reefs Will Be Damaged By 2030 Due to Rising Greenhouse Gases

The negative impacts of climate change have been widely reported. Temparatures continue to steadily rise, weather patterns are increasingly erratic and greenhouse gas emissions are causing alarming rates of CO2 to linger in our atmospheres. The ecosystem in the most immediate danger of total degradation from this changes is the ocean.

Orange mushroom and other various corals

Specifically, climate change impacts are wreaking havoc on our coral reef ecosystems. As temperatures rise, mass bleaching and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent and impossible to contain. The CO2 that lingers in the air above ground is also being absorbed into the ocean, altering the sea water chemistry in a process called ocean acidification.

“Think about putting your blue jeans in the laundry and putting in too much bleach. Well, they come out white. That’s what happens to these corals. All these beautiful colors of this coral that you’re looking at … now what you would see is a field of white,” said Brent Whitaker, National Aquarium Director of Biological Programs .

A vibrant sun polyp coral

The bleaching of coral reefs is usually brought on by unusually warm waters and stress. Shallow-water reefs, like those along our Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, have been particularly harmed by prolonged periods of warmth – an estimated 16 percent of those reefs have been killed worldwide.

Queen Angel fish in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit

After closely montioring the effects these changes are having on ocean life, scientists have determined the rate at which the damage is happening. At least 70 percent of coral reefs are projected to suffer from degradation by 2030 without a dramatic change to carbon emissions, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

There is so much that we can do to protect our blue planet. To learn more about the National Aquarium’s efforts to preserve our coral reef ecosystems and how you can get involved, click here.

Climate change, do kids get it?

Climate change is a complex issue that is a major concern to the public. The topic sparks debate and is gaining major attention around the world. Climate change is so popular that it’s this year’s theme for Blog Action Day, an annual web event held on October 15th that unites the world’s bloggers in posting an issue on the same day to trigger discussion.  So today we’d like to share what we know about kids and climate change.

In a recent study done by the Ocean Project, it was found that most people do not associate climate change and carbon pollution with ocean health. When the truth is, climate change is adversely affecting the marine environment in particular—evident through sea level rise, elevated water temperature, coral bleaching, and acidification.

At the Aquarium we spend a lot of time educating visitors on environmental concerns through our exhibits and outreach events, and we also spend a lot of time educating children, and listening to children. We know that general public awareness about the critical role the ocean plays in the Earth’s climate system is low but, strangely, we have found that youth seem to be more connected  to this issue than adults. More importantly, they are committed to understanding and talking about climate change.

Continue reading ‘Climate change, do kids get it?’

Rainforests of the sea

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives advanced an important ocean-related conservation measure called the Coral Reef Conservation Act Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009 (H.R. 860). The amendments will bolster America’s coral reef conservation efforts by promoting international cooperation to protect coral reefs and codifying the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force. 

You probably know corals for their beauty! But do you know why they are so important? Coral reefs are integral components of tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems.  They protect shorelines from incoming storms, provide habitat for innumerable species of fish and invertebrates, and generate important tourism revenues for many coastal countries.  But like many ocean habitats, they are becoming increasingly threatened by growing coastal populations and a variety of human activities. Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) introduced the bill, and stated that “coral reefs are truly the ‘rainforests of the sea.’  That statement couldn’t be more true.Secore Picture

The National Aquarium is involved in coral reef conservation project called SECORE, a unique initiative that is addressing coral conservation issues by bringing together public aquariums and zoos and marine scientists to share knowledge and practical skills in coral husbandry and coral research. The National Aquarium’s DC venue has been a key partner in the SECORE project for 4 years. In 2008, staffers ventured out on a research and collection trip, and they are currently propagating coral polyps at the facility.

You can see wonderful coral exhibits at the National Aquarium’s DC venue.  And if you believe in this issue, please write your elected officials and urge them to support this crucial bill that will help preserve our rainforests of the sea. Click here for more information.


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