Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursday'



Thoughtful Thursday: The Key to Sustainable Seafood is Information

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In this space, we’ve often discussed how our seafood choices reach far beyond the particular fish on your plate and are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.  As a result of the increase in communication from organizations like us on this issue, more and more people are paying attention to the seafood they purchase. There is new consumer awareness around the link between the fish we choose to feed our families and the health of our rivers, bays and oceans.

Primary to all of these efforts to make thoughtful choices is information.  Without accurate information about how and where our seafood is caught, our efforts to protect our aquatic ecosystems can be fairly ineffective. Inadequate or wrong information can lead you to think you are supporting local fishermen when you are not.  Worse yet, it can lead to making choices that support overfishing or habitat destruction.

 Accurate information is key to seafood sustainability, and it is why the National Aquarium will be supporting the “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act.” If passed, this legislation would ensure that seafood sold in the state is labeled with the correct species name and location of harvest – giving consumers the tools they need to make the right decisions.

In a recent study, our partners at Oceana revealed that 1 out of every 3 seafood samples they purchased were mislabeled.  Sometimes this is done intentionally to inflate the value of the fish or to hide illegal fishing practices. The problem is that even honest restaurant and market owners can mislabel their product if every step in the supply chain is not verified.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Locally, this can have a big impact on our fishing communities. This industry is an intrinsic part of the culture of this state, and we take great pride in our local seafood, like blue crab, rockfish, oysters, etc.

Take a closer look at crabs, for example. Many Marylanders grow up eating bushels of crabs with family and friends at backyard barbecues and can recite their favorite crab cake recipe from memory. There is a bustling tourist industry that revolves around the “Maryland crab cake.”  Yet millions of pounds of crab meat are imported into Maryland every year. While just about every seafood restaurant in the state highlights their own version of the Maryland crab cake, there’s no telling if the cakes are actually being prepared with locally harvested crab meat.

Using our collective power as consumers to show support for local sustainable fishing communities, like our Maryland crabbers, will be an important step in the future success of healthy communities and ecosystems. Requiring accurate seafood labeling is an imperative part of this process.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: 14 Ways to Love the Ocean

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We spend the month of February showering friends and family with love, so why not shower our natural surroundings with a little love and appreciation, too? They are, after all, the reason why we can continue to live on this planet!

national aquarium ocean love

As part of our Month of Love celebration, I’ve gathered 14 easy ways for you to show the ocean some love:

  1. Play in/on it. It is hard to escape the respect and awe you will feel once you’ve immersed yourself in it.
  2. Discover what is beneath the surface. Become a certified SCUBA diver – or check out some of the amazing animals and habitats at the National Aquarium!
  3. Protect ocean habitat. Look for ways you can protect or restore vital ocean ecosystems. Join us for a coastal sand dune restoration event May 16-17 in Virginia Beach.
  4. Start at home. What you do in your home and your yard has downstream effects on our rivers, bays and oceans. Fertilize less (or not at all), discontinue use of herbicides and pesticides and don’t dump chemicals into your drains.
  5. Drive less. As distant as it seems, our greenhouse gas emissions on land are directly linked to ocean acidification. If we decrease the concentration of these gases in our atmosphere, we can help the oceans maintain a healthy balance.
  6. Learn to share. We share the ocean with an amazing array of plants and animals. Slow down when boating near marine mammals and sea turtles, make sure you retrieve any lost fishing line and watch animals from a distance to ensure their safety and yours.
  7. Eat sustainable seafood. Seafood is a very healthy meal option, but make sure the fish you eat is caught or farmed responsibly.
  8. Eat locally. See #5. Locally grown food options cut down on transportation in the supply chain and are fresher alternatives.
  9. Learn about ocean planning efforts. Join us for the Ocean Frontiers II Maryland Film Premiere to hear how lessons learned in New England will help guide efforts here to chart a new path for the Mid-Atlantic’s long-term health.
  10. Ditch the plastic. Plastic pollution is one of the most visible threats facing our oceans. Find ways to reduce the amount of disposable plastics you use in your daily routine.
  11. Definitely ditch the microplastics. Microplastics are the tiny plastic particles that show up in popular personal care products, like face scrubs. These plastics are washed immediately down the drain and into our nearby rivers and streams after use. Although hard to see with the naked eye, microplastics are seriously damaging the health of our oceans.
  12. Visit or support a National Marine Sanctuary. Similar to National Parks on land, these sanctuaries are areas set aside to help protect vital ocean resources.
  13. Stay inspired. Check out our live exhibit webcams if you ever need a quick dose of inspiration!
  14. Share it with your family. Form cherished memories by spending time with your family at the water’s edge. It will heighten your appreciation of both!

So, what do you say? Are you ready to join me in giving our blue planet some love this Valentine’s Day?

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Bag Fee Coming to Baltimore in 2014?

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This coming Monday, the Baltimore City Council will vote on a bill that would require city businesses to charge a ten cent fee on all bags (paper or plastic) provided by retail establishments at point of sale.  If passed, Baltimore City will join the ranks of Washington D.C. and Montgomery County in trying to use economic incentives to decrease litter and promote the use of reusable bags. These laws, which took effect in 2010 and 2012 respectively, have been successful in substantially reducing the number of single-use bags distributed at retail stores in those districts. In fact, bag pollution in DC neighborhoods has been reduced by more than two-thirds!

Want to make this important environmental step a reality for Baltimore? Here’s how YOU can help:

  • Tell your Baltimore City Council member that you care about out city and our wildlife and you support council bill 13-0241.
  • Make bringing reusable bags with you as you shop a routine!

There is no denying that plastic bag pollution is a real problem in our city.  Discarded bags are almost always visible -stuck in tree branches and floating along our harbor, streams and rivers.  They can clog storm drain inlets and cause localized flooding and the city spends millions of dollars each year cleaning up bags and other litter.

debris at ft mchenry

They are also often seen being used as building material in bird nests and pose a threat to aquatic predators that mistake them as food.   Plastic pollution in our environment and waterways is well documented but its effects on wildlife are still being studied.   In one recent study, more than 50 percent of the sea turtles stranded on a beach in Texas, in a two-year period, contained traces of debris in their digestive tract – 65 percent of those animals had ingested plastic bags.

Our own Animal Rescue team has cared for animals that have ingested plastic bags, and while the deleterious effects of plastic digestion by animals may be obvious, the chronic effects of toxic chemicals found within these plastics and ingestion of degraded plastic (or microplastics) is just beginning to be characterized.

Paper bags are also being included in this legislation because they too require a significant amount of resources to manufacture and ship and ignoring this would be counterproductive to the intent of the bill.

It is important to remember that the intent of this bill is not to penalize our most vulnerable citizens by imposing another fee they will struggle to pay.  In fact, there are several exemptions that take into account the type of purchases and participation in public assistance programs.  We simply can no longer ignore the true cost of favoring single-use products like plastic and paper bags within the system. These items are not free.  There is a cost for their resource extraction, manufacture and shipping.  If they end up as litter, there is a cost to remove them from our waterways, city streets and storm drains – and when we aren’t able to do that, there is a cost to wildlife.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: New Biofluorescent Species Discovered!

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) announced today that a team of researchers and scientists has identified close to 200 species of biofluorescent fish!

**All images via American Museum of Natural History/National Geographic. 

Biofluorescence refers to an organism’s process of absorbing light, transforming it and ejecting it as a different color. This process is different from bioluminescence, which is the conversion of chemical energy into light. (Check out our infographic to learn all about bioluminescence!)

These 180 species of biofluorescent fish glow in a wide range of colors and patterns. The science community is still hypothesizing over the exact purpose of the light, potential uses include everything from communication to mating.

Did you know? Although it covers more than 70 percent of our planet’s surface, over 90 percent of the ocean remains unexplored. In that uncharted world, experts believe that up to two-thirds of the ocean’s plant and animal species still await our discovery!

To get more information on AMNH’s research on biofluorescence, click here.

2013 Re-cap: Great Conservation Moments

The National Aquarium is a 33-year-old conservation organization with one mission: to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Everyday, we live our mission through our exhibits, conservation in the field, education and animal rescue!

As 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to share some of our favorite conservation moments from the past year:

Maryland Shark Fin Bill

In May, Maryland became the first state on the East Coast to prohibit the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins!

maryland shark fin bill

Maryland’s new law is helping to curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year. Our legislative and conservation teams worked very closely with state officials on this important bill.

Over the last year, we were excited to see Maryland, Delaware and New York join California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in granting sharks this crucial protection.

Animal Rescue Team’s 100th Release

In June, our Animal Rescue team reached an exciting milestone – their 100th release!

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As #100, a green sea turtle named Willard, made his way to the water, our team was able to reflect on the last twenty years of care, ’round the clock rescue and treatment, and releases.

Each of the animals that we’ve cared for over the years, from a pygmy sperm whale to seals and sea turtles, has an incredible story. There’s no better triumph for our team than their return into the wild!

The Sea Turtle Trek

In April, our Animal Rescue team joined their colleagues from the New England Aquarium to transport and release 52 endangered sea turtles off the coast of Florida.

the lineup

The 1,200 mile road trip was lovingly named the “Sea Turtle Trek.” The entire journey, filled with lots of driving and midnight stops to pick up turtles from other institutions along the East Coast, could only be described as a labor of love.

Did you miss out on our live updates from the road? Check them out here!

Our First-Ever Chief Conservation Officer

In July, Eric Schwaab joined the National Aquarium as our first-ever Chief Conservation Officer! This newly-created position has been developed to lead our efforts in becoming a national leader in aquatic conservation and environmental stewardship.

national aquarium chief conservation officer

“We are committed to telling the conservation story more effectively…we want to use these exhibits to inspire greater appreciation and conservation action, among visitors, throughout the community and even among those who have not yet visited here in Baltimore” – Eric Schwaab

Want to get more insight into Eric’s future plans for the National Aquarium? Check out our interview with him here!

James Cameron Visits Washington, DC

In June, ocean pioneer and Academy-Award winning filmmaker, James Cameron, visited the nation’s capital as part of his DeepSea America Tour.

James Cameron DC Visit

The purpose of this nation-wide trek, with his submersible the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, was to inspire future generations of ocean explorers!

Our CEO John Racanelli and education team were delighted to be on-site during Cameron’s stop to engage the community in STEM education.

The Endangered Species Act Turns 40!

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Enacted by Congress in 1973, this legislation provides protection for species that are endangered or threatened and conserves the habitats their survival depends upon.

Zoos and Aquariums, including National Aquarium, work closely with the federal government to both conserve habitats and raise public awareness of these amazing species.

In the last few decades, the Act has successfully prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects – making it one of the most effective conservation laws in our nation’s history!

Masonville Cove Becomes First Urban Widlife Refuge

In September, the US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Masonville Cove

This new initiative is an effort to make more of our country’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, especially urban ones!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Here’s how YOU can support our conservation mission! 


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