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Building Environmentally Conscious Habits

Written by contributing blogger Sebastian Alarcon Leon

The Ugly Journey Of Our Trash. An infographic by Project AWARE

Small Changes Can Actually Make A Big Difference

You’ll be surprised by the amount of little things you can do every day that help preserve both the ocean and the environment in general. Whether you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious or just trying to be frugal, these seemingly trivial actions can have a dramatic impact on both the environment and your budget.

  • Turn the air conditioning off when you’re not home! AC consumes a bunch of energy. By reducing the amount of time you have it on, you can help reduce overall energy use, not to mention your utilities bill!
  • Disconnect your idle chargers! I bet you didn’t know that nearly 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is consumed by products that are switched off. Only 5% of the power drawn by a cell phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95% is wasted when it is left plugged into the wall. Turning off power strips also helps!
  • Re-use plastic products!  Things like water bottles, containers, and plastic bags can be reused which prevents them from becoming waste and further contaminating natural resources. In a world where few people are aware of their ecological footprint, everyone who chips in makes a difference.
  • Clean up after yourself! Everywhere. Littering, especially in coastal areas, can be exceedingly detrimental to the ocean and marine life. There has been a huge growth in the death of animals thanks to the astounding amount of plastic littering their habitats. Be kind to your beach.
  • Cut back on seafood! Seafood products are generally more expensive than beef or chicken anyways, so cutting back on it every once in a while will benefit both you and seafood populations. The more people that think twice before ordering that delicious salmon carpaccio, the less demand the human population asserts on already over-exploited fisheries.
  • If you’ve gotten this far, have the decency to recycle.


High Stakes on the High Seas: Why cruise ships pollute.

Written by contributing blogger Michael Moore Jr.  Edited by Brittany Stockman.

I recently ran into an old high school friend.  After exchanging the usual pleasantries, this happened:

“What are you doing lately?”

“I work for a nonprofit that protects and restores the sea. You?”

“I work for a major cruise line.  You probably hate major cruise lines.”

I was a bit taken aback.  I do not know if I hate the cruise industry. I wouldn’t hate a hotel on a nature preserve.  A hotel on the nature preserve contributes to the greening of the modern world, by allowing people to enjoy nature while promoting environmental conservation.  Animals that live in nature preserves are kept under a watchful eye.  If their population starts to dwindle, measures are taken until the animals bounce back in number. If visiting tourists do not see rare animals thriving, the hotel loses business.

To learn more about why this works, let’s take a small example and extrapolate to the big picture.  If there is an empty lot on a city block which isn’t owned by any of the surrounding neighbors, it will typically become overgrown.  Soon, it might even fill with trash.  Although the neighborhood as a whole would benefit from a clean lot, no one in particular wants to be the one to take responsibility.  The lot will become increasingly dilapidated over time, creating an unsightly area.  Essentially, this is the “Tragedy of the Commons.”

Take the same situation but assume that the empty lot is owned by a homeowner on the street.  Intuitively, she mows the lot and keeps it clean. Perhaps, she puts up signs that warn against littering.  She does this because the lot is her private property.  She might plant flowers, bushes and trees and perhaps allow the public to visit.  Now, we start to see the correlation between ownership and preservation.

Similarly, ocean stewardship benefits from distinct property rights; however, there is a key difference in regards to the cruise industry.  No one owns the high seas; the ocean is a common resource.  The area beyond each nation’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone is simultaneously no one’s territory and everyone’s territory.

Like the hotel on a nature preserve, the cruise industry also exists to bring tourists closer to nature.  Unfortunately, just two decades ago, a cruise ship was one of the most polluting machines in existence.  Cruises dumped tons of garbage and waste-water into the ocean.  At one point, the industry accounted for as much as three-fourths of the waste entering the ocean.  Cruise lines would ignore environmental regulations because of the lack of incentive to care for this open-access resource.  Why should they bear the costs of disposing of such waste if they could do it for free?  Just like the abandoned lot in the city, the oceans might just benefit from the assignment of property rights.

On the bright side…

Born of a realization that the sea is not as infinite and resilient as it once seemed, major seafaring corporations have begun to recognize the folly of polluting their main attraction. The cruise industry has made significant progress to reduce its negative impact on marine resources. In fact, the amount of waste cruise ships produce and discard has decreased continuously over the past 20 years.  Now you see, even without distinct property rights, the cruise industry managed to develop a sense of stewardship over the oceans. They still have a long way to go, but encouraging this feeling of ownership is a giant stride in the right direction.

For works cited contact:

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Day Six: Bluefun Tuna

Let’s begin: Today is day six of the “Fish are Friends” pledge.  The fish that will tempt me the most over the next few months is the delectable bluefin tuna.


  • That $14 piece of toro on your plate may actually be one of three species: Atlantic bluefin, Pacific bluefin or southern bluefin.
  • All populations of bluefin tuna are overfished, which means they are caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce.
  • Most studies agree that over 80% of the bluefin population has disappeared over the past 40 years.
  • Despite calls to reduce catch limits, scientific recommendations are repeatedly ignored. Fisheries management institutions tend to focus debate on “how much overfishing to allow rather than how to effectively end it.”
  • In May of 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA) declined to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), despite widespread scientific consensus that their survival as a species is threatened.
  • Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) is listed as critically endangered.
  • The tuna fishery often catches sharks, rays and other fish as bycatch.
  • Due to absurd demand for bluefin in high end sushi markets, the occurrence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has skyrocketed.
  • In November, fishermen off Nova Scotia killed a thousand pound bluefin, which will sell for over $30,000 US and produce nearly 20,000 pieces of sushi. Sylvia Earle compares the consumption of bluefin tuna to dining on snow leopards or pandas.
  • One of only two confirmed total spawning locations, the Gulf of Mexico, was recently polluted by 210 million gallons of oil after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Hopefully, you’ll keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted by that amazing sashimi lunch special…

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Fish are Friends Pledge

"I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food."

“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”

On December 7, I pledged to help raise awareness for my favorite underwater friends by not eating fish for the next 90 days (and hopefully the next 90 days after that).  The inspiration behind the new diet was my rediscovery of Sylvia Earle’s The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One.  (Let’s be honest, I was also motivated by the squad of fish-addicted sharks in Finding Nemo…)

Not only do I adore the taste and texture of fish, I relish in the multitude of health benefits associated with their consumption.  Generally, fish are low in calories and ‘bad’ fat content yet high in Omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  For years, I have avoided species such as sea bass and grouper and I have become quite familiar with the gentle teasing and mocking from those who find my actions futile.  (Friend: “Ah yes, Brittany will have the filet of baby grouper, please.”)

Expanding these restrictions to all species will be the most challenging lifestyle change I’ve ever tackled.  As a pessimistic environmentalist, I highly doubt my choice will in any way affect society’s demand for fish; however, I can no longer dine on fish with a clean conscience.

Here’s the plan: every few days I will post about a certain fishery and explain exactly why I choose not to consume this product. When acquaintances, friends and family ask me why I’m not ordering the sea bass sashimi with yuzu, salmon roe and truffle oil at Zuma, I’d like to have every statistic and fact backed up in hopes of encouraging others to think twice before eating fish.

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Climate Change: Too Hot to Handle?

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Written by Rachel Krasna and Brittany Stockman

Can museums help foster a culture of sustainability?  SeaKeepers believes that the below aquariums and zoos are doing exactly that.  Although many of the exhibits featured approach climate change cautiously, SeaKeepers expects these exceptional platforms will inspire young minds to care about our planet and generate an overall sentiment of ocean stewardship. By stimulating dialogue and encouraging reflection through interactive exhibits, the following aquariums and zoos really stepped up to the plate to raise awareness about controversial environmental issues.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

First, head over to the west coast and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium just South of San Francisco. In June, 2012, the aquarium revealed a new exhibit entitled “Play Your Part,” which directly addresses humanity’s unsustainable culture and associated effects on the marine environment.  The exhibit encourages the public to make minor changes in their everyday routine that can dramatically reduce their ecological footprint.  Additionally, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers various volunteer programs, networking opportunities and outreach events that raise awareness about climate change, spiraling population growth and fossil fuel dependency.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Is anyone planning a vacation in Cincinnati Ohio? The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden utilizes power generated by solar panels located in nearby parking lots.  This green energy initiative is actually the largest publically accessible urban solar array in the United States today.  Such forward thinking inspired other neighboring zoos to follow suit and offer exhibits that educate children about the importance of sustainable energy usage.

Photo Credit: The National Aquarium

The National Aquarium

Baltimore, Maryland is home to the nation’s National Aquarium. Located in Baltimore’s downtown inner harbor, the National Aquarium features all the expected exhibits including Dolphin Discovery, Upland Tropical Rainforest, and Australia: Wild Extremes.  Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance; however, tells a more cautionary tale.  The exhibit discusses the origins of nine jellyfish species and their ability to take advantage of shifts in the marine ecosystem.  To put it bluntly: Jellies are changing the balance of Earth’s aquatic habitats by dominating food webs altered by overexploitation.  Also, this past April, the Baltimore Aquarium hosted the Communicated Climate Change and the Oceans Summit along with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the New England Aquarium. The conference, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), evaluated strategies to promote climate change and ocean acidification exhibits in museums nationwide.

Chester Zoo

Now let’s head across the pond for tea and crumpets. While touring Buckingham palace and Big Ben swing over to the United Kingdom’s Chester Zoo located in Chester, England. The zoo launched a climate conscious exhibit titled “Hot Pink Flamingos,” which explores numerous ways for us to reduce our carbon footprint.  By promoting alternative energy sources and even eco-cooking tips, the interactive exhibit encourages visitors to think outside the box and explore environmentally conscious practices.

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Richard Branson Lobbies to Ban Shark Finning

Photo Credit: Upwell

Thanks to collaboration between Ocean Elders, WildAid and Virgin Unite, President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica issued an Executive Decree banning the importation, exportation and transportation of fins.

In January, Costa Rica and the 7 other members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) adopted a binding resolution outlawing shark finning.  The regulation required all member countries (Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) to enact similar legislation to establish a sustainable shark fishery.

Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador  established laws prior to the SICA Regulation which banned finning in some capacity; however, all were flawed with easily manipulable loopholes and nearly impossible to enforce.

So which countries honored their commitment and succeeded in passing practicable legislation?  One.

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