Recently in Marine Category


It took me a few tries to wrap my head around this headline about a recent NOAA study:

US Residents Say Hawaii's Coral Reef Ecosystems Worth $33.57 Billion Per Year

Did you catch that? We often talk about the "worth" of coral reefs in terms of the revenue they can generate for local communities via fishing or tourism. But this is different. This is the amount of money Americans say they're willing to pay to ensure that Hawaii's reefs are safe and healthy.

Thumbnail image for DSC07965pEARLWALL1OCT07.JPGThe key point here is that the survey pool comprised "a representative sample of all US residents" -- meaning, it included tons of people who have never seen Hawaii's coral reefs and never will. They just like the idea that they exist!

In fact, when you look at per-household figures, it turns out they like it a lot.

The study breaks down coral reef conservation into two types: "Ecosystem-wide Protection & Restoration" and "Restoration after Localized Injuries." (That last one referring to fixing the damage caused by, say, wayward boats.) Put them together and the average amount a household is willing to pay is $287.62.

Sound like a lot? It is. Forgive the rough comparison, but say your household income is $50,000 (about the national median) and you're married with a kid. Two-hundred and eighty-seven dollars is more than you would pay in federal income taxes for everything other than Social Security and Medicare -- meaning national defense, health care, unemployment insurance, education, NASA, FEMA, Homeland Security, and so on, combined. And that's just for the coral reefs in Hawaii!

Who knows if these households are truly prepared to pony up $287 in the name of reef conservation. But even if the number is inflated, it suggests something quite interesting: it may be easy for us to not think about conservation, but it's apparently very difficult for us to choose inaction... so long as we're asked to choose something.




DSC07287oct1507pearlwall.JPG
We just got this GLOWING update via email from our field rep in Indonesia about the 99,000-acre marine reserve off the coast of Daram Island. (Seacology is funding the construction of a community center in nearby Fafanlap village in exchange for their support of the reserve)

It was so great we just had to share:

The last time I dived this site was with the Seacology trip in 2007 and while it was spectacular four years ago, the reef has exploded with fish life since then. For the first time we saw schools of Napoleon wrasse, blacktip sharks and aggregations of big grouper, all of which seem to have been locally extinct on most Indonesian reefs for over a decade. There were so many fish on this dive that our heads were spinning. I was emphatically pointing one way and Mark was emphatically pointing another way the whole dive. I came out of that dive exhilarated and full of joy and hope that other reefs in the Misool area, with continued protection, will also look like Fafanlap in just a few short years. If they do, I can foresee that S.E. Misool will have THE best diving in the world, hands down.



Seacology and Sylvia Earle

|

12% of America's land is protected by our government. But how much of the world's oceans, which cover 75% of our planet, are under similar protections? An astounding .08%--not even 1%!

This was one of the many fascinating subjects discussed at a reception this week with Seacology and Dr. Sylvia Earle, a leading oceanographer and member of our Scientific Advisory Board, to discuss the state of the world's oceans. Seacology Fellow Lezlie Johnson hosted a private reception in her Los Angeles home, and guests heard from Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstein, who described how Seacology is contributing to Dr. Earle's vision of a global network of marine protected areas. 

LA Reception_CM 055 rotated.jpg

During her presentation, Dr. Earle summarized her career as an explorer of the oceans--from her experience in the first all-female aquanaut expedition, to her 1250 foot dive in a JIM suit, the deepest dive by any woman. Since winning the TED Prize in 2009, Dr. Earle has been a leading advocate of ocean conservation. At Seacology's reception, she shared again her TED wish:

"I wish you would use all means at your disposal -- films! expeditions! the web! more! -- to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet." - Sylvia Earle

Seacology's island conservation projects are working towards Dr. Earle's vision of a global network protecting our oceans and their species. Our latest projects include three new marine conservation areas, in the Philippines, Mexico, and Fiji.

Water, Water Everywhere...

|

Today is Blog Action Day, when bloggers worldwide join together to raise awareness about an important issue. This year's topic is water, and nothing could be more relevant to islands! Even though islands are surrounded by oceans, they are plagued by problems resulting from not enough--or too much--water. 

Sulawesi marine reserve.JPG



Conservationists and snorkeling fans alike will be excited at one of the newest marine reserves--Lundy Island, off the southwest coast of Great Britain, is now recognized as the UK's first official marine conservation zone. Dubbed "Britain's Galapagos" for the rich marine life it shelters, the island was privately owned until 1969, when it became part of the National Trust. Although it has been a protected location since then, it recently became the first protected marine area under Britain's new Marine and Coastal Access Act. With this new legislation, Britain hopes to increase protection of marine wildlife and habitat. Like oceans around the world, the waters around Britain currently face a major overfishing crisis, with many of the native fish stocks severely threatened. As the government and national conservation groups work to reverse this trend before it is too late, reserves such as the one on Lundy Island are critical to restoring natural balance in Britain's marine ecosystems. 

DSCocadeMer.jpg

According to the Lonely Planet guide, "Among the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles are some of the most beautiful island getaways in the Indian Ocean, or indeed the world. Here you can find the lush tropical paradise you may have seen in seductive advertisements." The group of islands around Mahe (home of the international airport and the capital city of Victoria) are made of granite while the remaining islands are coralline atolls. The Seychelles lie 1,600 kilometers off of East Africa, its nearest neighbor. As a result of this isolation the Seychelles are rich in rare plants which flourish nowhere else on the planet. Perhaps the most famous of these is the coco de mer, the world's largest coconut weighing as much as 20 kg. In addition to their prodigious size the coco de mer is famous for its rather erotic shape (pictured right). I will let readers' imaginations run wild on this but if you want to see this coconut in person head for the beautiful Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin. I recently led a Seacology group to visit the Seychelles and some of us are still blushing after seeing these rather evocative coconuts. The Seychelles visitors bureau knows a good thing when it sees one and the coco de mer not only appears on posters and brochures everywhere but the Seychelles official passport stamp is in the shape of this naughty coconut.

As a Word-of-the-Day email subscriber, I relish the exploration of language that increases my vocabulary. I am fascinated by etymology, especially the words that derive not from another language's roots--like "panjandrum," a word for an important person or pretentious official, coined in the 18th century in a piece of nonsense writing. So when I began researching the Hawaiian kapu ("forbidden") system that prevents overfishing, I was surprised to learn that Captain James Cook had brought the Tongan and Fijian word tabu back to England, which became our word--taboo. The Austronesian language family of Southeast Asia and the Pacific reveals related words for "forbidden"--tapu in New Zealand and Tahiti and kapu in Hawai'i.

Kapu Sign.jpgGrowing up with a Hawaiian-Chinese father, I was accustomed to seeing KAPU written on his dried aku (tuna) and tako (octopus sashimi), but further investigation of the kapu/tabu system reveals an ancient method of conserving natural ocean resources. At Seacology we ask islanders to establish and manage terrestrial or marine reserves, and the tabu system reveals why this approach to conservation respects islanders' traditions. The traditional tabu system outlined fishing limits to prevent depleting marine life (in addition to restrictions on eating, a chief's rights and privileges, etc). Seacology's no-take reserves respect this ancient tradition, preventing overfishing and protecting all marine life.