Last week, the United Nations’ World Heritage Convention went blue. Two of the largest and healthiest marine protected areas on our planet—the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii—have now gained World Heritage status. Together, they more than doubled the marine area protected under the World Heritage Convention—now 1.6 million square kilometers (more than 617,000 square miles) or about 0.5 percent of the world’s ocean surface. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area conserves one of the world’s largest intact coral archipelago...
Exciting news for the Ocean Portal blog! We’re happy as clams to be making our inaugural appearance in the Carnival of the Blue , a rotating monthly compilation of the "best of" ocean blogging. This month, Michael Bok, a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp, is hosting the 39th edition of the carnival on his blog, Arthropoda . We’re delighted to be in the company of so many accomplished marine wordsmiths and scientists, and we hope you’ll check out some of the other fine offerings from the carnival. Take an awe-inspiring swim with a giant whale shark. Explore the...
Starting this Sunday, August 1st, the fins will be circling on a television near you. Sunday kicks off The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” an annual TV ritual that offers hours of programming about sharks—some bloody, some beautiful, some scientific, some sensational. It’s great to see these sleek beauties of the sea getting some serious airtime, and we hope this week-long focus on sharks can help call attention to the issues sharks face and to our own species’ rocky relationship with them. Let’s face it, when it comes to sharks, many of us carry some very heavy mental baggage. Years of...
The year 2010 will likely be remembered as a tragic time for the ocean. Yet, despite the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I have hope for our ocean’s future. Last week President Obama signed an Executive Order to implement our nation’s first National Ocean Policy. Despite our 200-year history as a maritime nation , we have a jumble of more than 140 different and often conflicting laws pertaining to ocean management, all of which are overseen by more than 20 separate agencies. Now, for the first time, we have a national policy that will enable us to plan our interactions with the ocean. The...
Happy International Mangrove Action Day! This occasion is a small but vibrant tradition that has been observed annually on July 26th for nearly a decade in countries around the globe, including the U.S., India, Ecuador, Micronesia, and many others. To celebrate, some communities organize protests or restoration projects. Some convene discussions or offer educational lectures about mangrove ecology. Others simply take a moment to appreciate the importance of mangrove forests. Why have a special day for mangroves ? They don’t have the cachet of the giant redwoods or the notoriety of rainforests...
An 11-year-old in Texas is saddened by the oil spill and begins searching for something she can do to help. A 13-year-old in Washington, D.C., convinces her mom to make small changes in their daily routine that make their home more ocean-friendly. A 7-year-old spends a part of his Saturday trip to the museum learning about the ocean—and some of the things that are harming it —and decides to donate the two prized nickels he found that morning to help the ocean. A 15-year-old decides she wants to be a marine biologist so she can learn about and save the ocean. She dreams of seeing her favorite...
Happy (early) Independence Day! For many of us in the United States, the 4th of July is a time to celebrate and reflect on our national heritage. In many ways, the U.S. grew up on the water and remains a maritime nation to this day. In fact, some of the proudest patriotic traditions have their roots in the sea. One such tradition is the national anthem. On September 14, 1814, an attorney named Francis Scott Key was detained on a British ship four miles off the coast of Baltimore. From that vantage point, he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry. As the sun rose over the water at dawn, he...
Ah, summer (in the northern hemisphere, anyway). For me, despite growing up in land-locked cowboy country, the word summer has always been synonymous with beach . It’s that time of year when bathing suits come out of hiding, and we make our annual pilgrimages to visit the sun, the sand, and the surf.
Lately we’ve been fielding questions from Smithsonian visitors wondering how they can help with the oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico. If there is any good news coming out of this situation, it’s that thousands of people across the U.S. care deeply and are finding ways to respond to the oil spill. Some people are donating or volunteering. Some are making changes in their homes and workplaces—reducing their energy consumption and ditching the disposable lifestyle. Some are expressing their views through the media and to their elected officials. These and other actions are all part of...
Since late April, the world has watched a devastating oil spill from a BP drilling rig spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico and become one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the United States. We have all seen some of the impacts on large animals: birds, turtles, dolphins, and fishes have all been shown covered in oil with clogged gills, feathers and fins. Undoubtedly, the imagery of these familiar and normally photogenic animals is a powerful, heartbreaking reminder of the damage being done in the Gulf. But, the effect of the oil on those organisms we do not see may be...