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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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Obama Signs the Billfish Conservation Act into Law

On Sunday, President Obama signed the Billfish Conservation Act into law.
Written by Brittany Stockman

On Sunday, October 7th, President Obama made it illegal to import sailfish, marlin and spearfish into the continental United States.  The Billfish Conservation Act (S. 1451 & H.R. 2706) legislated the close of U.S. commercial markets to the sale of Pacific billfish in order to conserve future populations and ensure the viability of coastal economies that benefit from sportfishing.

In early June, the International SeaKeepers Society sent letters to Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in support of the Act.  We voiced our opposition to the sale of Pacific billfish in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Pacific Insular Areas and urged future legislation to protect billfish species outside of the continental U.S. The protection of both Atlantic and Pacific Billfish is economically critical in terms of eco-tourism, viability of our recreational fisheries and the health of our global marine ecosystem.

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Grab a Bite and See SHARK

“Great White Shark” by Richard Ellis
Written by Rachel Krasna

All right everyone, you can come out from under the covers, Shark Week is over. While it might have left some of you frightened and dreading your next swim, others might be hungry for more! I myself was one of the hungrier people, and my curiosity led me to Ft. Lauderdale’s Museum of Art. Located right off Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, The Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale currently features an eight-month exhibition entitled “SHARK.” Artist Richard Ellis curates the exhibit, exemplifying both the classic portrayal of sharks in Hollywood and media, as well as maintaining a thorough conservation theme. “SHARK” showcases sculptures, recycled plastic models, multimedia video and paintings featuring multiple shark species from around the world.

The exhibit is open to the public and the information desk gave out free T-shirts. Right away you are greeted by an informative video, offering footage of reef sharks feeding and roaming around the seafloor. Starting off the exhibit are pieces of shark memorabilia and old dive equipment such as a steel cage for “safe” diving missions. Chain mail suits accompany several photographs of divers after shark attack events and stories describing each incident.

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Fish Fraud: Is Your Flounder a Guppy?

© The Walt Disney Company
Written by Rachel Krasna. Edited By Brittany Stockman.

You sit down to dine at your favorite seafood restaurant and order from the menu’s seafood specials; citrus infused red snapper and wasabi mashed potatoes.  It may be a bit expensive but it sounds delicious and will be well worth the price.  Chances are that your savory snapper has been swapped for a far less desirable fish.  Essentially, your dinner has been the victim of identity theft at the hand of the perch fish.  Ocean perch is easily four to eight dollars cheaper than red snapper and is regularly available on the market.  In fact, 77% of the time someone orders red snapper it is actually perch fish or several other less desirable species including catfish, rockfish, or tilapia.

To most diners, discovering that our dear Disney character “Flounder” is indeed a guppy does not make us shake our heads in disgust or place our wallets back in our pockets.  On the other hand, the fact that seafood providers take advantage of our ignorance is certainly an affront, begging the question:  how does the fishing industry get away with such blatant deception?

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Discovery Channel’s Shark Week: Aid or Detriment?

© Discovery Channel
Written by Rachel Krasna and Beth Gibson

Sharks.  The word alone evokes a sense of fear and fascination.  Movies like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws helped form the stereotype of sharks as evil and dangerous predators.  For many people, this reputation overshadows the fact that shark attacks on humans are extremely rare.  They would rather believe the sensationalism than explore the truth about these creatures.  Globally, shark populations are in radical decline, largely due to human activities such as overfishing and shark-finning.

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, perhaps the biggest nature programming event on television today, features back-to-back documentaries about the lives of sharks and the researchers who study them.  The goal of Shark Week is to create a positive awareness and develop a more balanced reputation of sharks.  While there is a strong underlying message promoting shark conservation, there is also a great deal of hype showing sharks as vicious killers, the terrors of the sea. The average Shark Week viewer may come away from the series with a biased picture.

Along with many scientists and activists, Chris Palmer, Director of Environmental Filmmaking at American University, thinks that Discovery’s programming falls short of its main objectives.  Palmer believes that the programs focus too much on shark attacks on humans and “cute” animals such as seals and whale calves, while ignoring important elements like migration patterns, population trends and behavior studies.  Overexposed to the sensational features of sharks that draw them to watch Shark Week, viewers may feel horrified by sharks instead of inspired to help them.  Palmer states, “Filmmakers must use the storytelling techniques they would employ in any other kind of creative work…in order to engage viewers and create ethically responsible programming.”
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