Posts Tagged 'Conservation'



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

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

Lecture Re-cap: “Hope: A Plan for Our Oceans”

The most important thing that we extract from the ocean is our existence.

Last night, American oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer, Dr. Sylvia Earle kicked-off our spring lecture series with an amazing session titled “Hope: A Plan for Our Oceans”!

national aquarium lecture sylvia earle

Dr. Earle’s lecture focused on the concept of embracing ocean “hope spots” around the world, aquatic treasures like our own National Marine Sanctuaries. Hope spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean, Earth’s blue heart.

Here are just a few highlights from Dr. Earle’s inspirational talk: 

  • Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. It took 100 years after that for our nation to establish the first National Marine Sanctuary.
  • Sixty-four percent of the world’s oceans lie beyond national jurisdiction.
  • About half of the oceans’ coral reefs are gone. This tragedy is is due to issues like ocean acidification, habitat degradation and overfishing.
  • Since the foundation of Mission Blue in 2009, 51 hope spots have been declared worldwide. These areas give all ocean lovers and conservationists hope for the future. As Dr. Earle reminded us last night, the time to act on behalf of the ocean is now!

For those of you who weren’t able to attend or tune into our special lecture last night, a full video is available to watch here: 

Join the conversation online about the importance of marine-protected areas using #HopeSpots!

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

Bill Introduced in Maryland House to Combat Seafood Fraud

national aquarium government affairs and policy update

Earlier this week, Delegate Eric Luedtke introduced a bill that would provide Maryland residents with better information on the origin of purchased seafood.

The “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act” (House Bill 913) is the first piece of legislation introduced in the state of Maryland that directly addresses seafood fraud. According to our partners at Oceana, at least one-third of all seafood items purchased in the United States are mislabeled. They also reported that 26 percent of tested seafood in the DC metro area was mislabeled.

Citizens can have a tremendous positive impact on the health of our bays and oceans through their everyday consumer choices. The effectiveness of these choices is directly linked to the reliability of the information provided. Proper identification opens the doorway to increased knowledge of where seafood is raised and harvested, contributes to the movement of sustainable fishing practices and sustainably minded consumers, and results in a healthier ocean.

The National Aquarium is proud to support this bill: we cannot properly protect the ocean without fully understanding its creatures and our relationship to them. A large amount of our interaction with fish and shellfish occurs in the kitchen and in restaurants, and the more we can know about where our food is from the better we will understand this relationship.

Through educational programming, conservation action, special events like our Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood Dining Series, and in supporting policy initiatives like this one, the National Aquarium places a high priority on promoting and supporting seafood that is caught both locally and sustainably.

Here are the five things you need to know about the Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act:

  1. This bill specifically prohibits any person from knowingly misidentifying the species of seafood product being sold in the state of Maryland.
  2. This bill requires that species, common name and state of origin be identified on restaurant menus or market signs, as appropriate.
  3. The bill requires specific identifications for crab products, barring anything that wasn’t made from the Atlantic crab species Callinectes sapidus from being labeled as “blue crab.”
  4. In addition to actively supporting this bill, Oceana has also petitioned Congress to pass federal labeling legislation. If passed, Maryland would become the 2nd state in the country to require this type seafood labeling.
  5. Over 400 chefs nationwide have signaled their support for this type of legislation, including 25 chefs from Maryland and 10 from Baltimore.

The bill will be heard in front of the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 26th at 1:00 pm. The National Aquarium team will testify in support and will actively advocate for the bill before the entire General Assembly.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

Want to contact your Maryland representative regarding House Bill 913? Find your legislator here.

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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

Ocean Acidification: A Global Issue With Local Consequences

national aquarium conservation expert update

Only a few decades ago, scientists thought that the buffering capacity of the world’s oceans was so great that they could absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide (one of the greenhouse gases that is emitted when we burn fossil fuels) without much consequence. This was good news because carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were rising and while there were consequences for a changing climate, at least the oceans would be spared.

Unfortunately, there has been a growing body of emerging research that links dramatic changes in ocean chemistry to the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere – just in time for us to see the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide that has ever been measured – 400 parts per million. Typically, the new research focused on the effects of changing ocean chemistry, or ocean acidification, on corals and other carbonate-based organisms. It was discovered that the shells of these organisms could actually dissolve.

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A graphic representation of ocean acidification. (Via Seattle Magazine)

But the term ocean acidification is misleading. In fact, the process of converting carbon dioxide to carbonic acid is happening in all types of open water; our bays, our streams, our lakes; our rivers and more. It is affecting organisms in all of these water bodies. The impacts may even be greater in coastal bodies of water where the addition of pollution and nutrient sources from the land are magnifying changes in water chemistry.

Maryland is putting a tremendous amount of resources into Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, including supporting a robust oyster recovery plan in state waters. Ocean acidification has been shown to significantly affect the growth rate of oysters, slowing the growth of adult oysters, and, more importantly, impeding the development of larval oysters at critical life stages. Recent studies also suggest that changing ocean pH levels can affect the thickness of crab and oyster shells, possibly shifting the predator-prey balance of these two species.

national aquarium blue crab

If ocean acidification in the Chesapeake Bay goes untreated,
species like the blue crab will begin to disappear.

Furthermore, other important components of our Bay and ocean ecosystems can be affected such as calcareous phytoplankton- potentially undermining the very foundation on which other commercially and recreationally valuable species depend. At a time when we are just beginning to realize the successes of years of oyster recovery efforts and the rebuilding of important fish and crab stocks, we must work even harder to understand additional stresses these animals are facing and know how to manage against them effectively if we want to see long-term viability. We also need to take responsibility for our actions, both individually and as a community to reduce the two most significant contributors to this problem; rising greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient pollution from land-based resources.

As part of our mission at the Aquarium to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its wildlife. We have also worked in the field with more than 35,000 students and community volunteers restoring vital Bay habitat. We understand the importance of healthy intact communities and ecosystems and hope work with our communities to reverse the effects of ocean acidification on our local and global wildlife.

national aquarium conservation expert Laura Bankey


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