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April 2023 Research Summaries and Sustainability Tips

Spring into another month of ocean research and sustainability tips (with a guest apperance from March)!

MARCH 15: RESEARCH SUMMARY - MOURNING #3343

The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most critically endangered whales. As their name implies, they are only found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Right Whales got their name from hunters because they were the “right” whales to hunt because of their slow moving nature, and also because they float after they are killed.

An obituary for a North Atlantic Right Whale known as Catalog #3343. This obituary contains a photo of the whale dead on the beach, as well as a photo of him swimming. The obituary reads: North Atlantic right whale, known as Catalog #3343, was killed recently by a boat strike. The 20-year-old male died tragically young before he was able to find a mate and father any calves. He was known for his tenacity in life, having survived three documented fishing gear entanglements since he was a calf. #3343 was the son of mother “Magic” and father “Thorny.” He is predeceased by his aunt, “Reyna” and his elder sister “Lucky,” both of whom were also killed by injuries from ship strikes. He is survived by his sister, “Caterpillar,” who also bears injuries from a ship strike. He will be deeply missed by the entire North Atlantic right whale population, of which only around 340 remain.

While these bodacious beauties are now protected and no longer hunted, humans still are depleting their populations by accidentally hitting them with their boats and leaving fish nets (and other gear) to entangle and trap these gentle giants.


The pictured North Atlantic Right Whale, known as Catalog #3343, is one of the most recent victims of a boat strike. He had previously survived three fishing gear entanglements, making his death even more tragic.


You can read more about the North Atlantic Right Whale and its relatives from NOAA.



MARCH 17: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - WHALE WATCHING

Whether you are the captain of a cargo ship, or collecting research on a boat, be sure to follow speed rules and regulations. These guidelines are easy to break but are important for the safety of animal species, like the North Atlantic right whale, especially during their migration in the fall. And if you find some fishing gear washed up on shore, be sure to dispose of it safely! These actions will help us protect this beloved species. Doing so will help us #keeptheoceaneverblue for humans and animals alike <3


APRIL 10: RESEARCH SUMMARY - OCEAN CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

America’s first ever Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP) sets three overall goals: creating a carbon neutral future, accelerating nature-based solutions that protect and support coastal and ocean ecosystems that capture and store greenhouse gasses; and enhancing community resilience to ocean changes. It outlines more than 200 different actions to be taken, and ambitiously, many are within the next 6 months. The most ambitious actions can be split into two different groupings:

  1. RESPONSIBLE USE OF THE OCEAN: This includes expanding offshore winds, decarbonizing shipping, ocean carbon dioxide removal, and offshore carbon sequestration and storage.

  2. MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION: This includes building climate ready fisheries, establishing and expanding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), protecting marine environments that sequester carbon, and developing equitable climate resilience plans for coastal communities.

These changes could be sweeping and a great step in the right direction, but we must ensure we’re always thinking critically about climate action. Stay tuned for some critiques of this plan!



APRIL 12: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - OCEAN CLIMATE ACTION PLAN


Welcome back to our dive of the US’s first ever Ocean Climate Action Plan! So far, it sounds great and considers climate needs as well as environmental impacts of proposed construction projects and the needs of tribal communities. However, as important as it is to remain positive as a climate advocate, it’s also important to be critical of climate action. Let’s talk about this plan and where it lacks.


Most notably, this plan fails to address offshore oil and gas drilling, something that the administration has come under fire for. Just in the past month, the administration has twice opened federal territory for new oil drilling, including the controversial and large-scale Willow Project.

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is wonderful, but it’s also a brand new technology! As a new field, there are limited regulatory guardrails, so ocean CDR should not be deployed until its safety to both humans and the environment can be ensured.


Though building climate-ready fisheries is important, the OCAP must also do more to address illegal fishing and labor abuses within the industry; as of now, it only gives a brief nod to the issue.


These are a few of the critiques of the OCAP. It’s always important to be critical as we put forward large-scale climate action, but the White House is taking enormously welcome steps.


APRIL 19: RESEARCH SUMMARY - HIGH SEAS TREATY

Although most nations have agreed to the “Law of the Sea”, they have not come to an agreement about how best to protect international waters. In 2018, nations started to put together a treaty that would ensure the protection of these waters. In March 2023, it was finally accepted. Although there is still much to do to protect our oceans, governments are making small (but meaningful) steps to #keeptheoceaneverblue for generations to come.


APRIL 21: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - CALL YOUR REP

A big part of protecting our oceans is done through national and international policy. One way we can influence policy is by letting our representatives know what issues we care about. Try calling your representative and let them know that you are concerned about protecting the ocean through policies such as UNCLOS or the High Seas Treaty. This little action can lead to bigger and better ocean advocacy.


Need help identifying your representatives? Go to www.house.gov or www.congress.gov to find out.


APRIL 26: RESEARCH SUMMARY - IPCC OVERVIEW


The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published last month gave us a healthy dose of both recommendations for future global action and predictions about what might happen given the choices we make today. Here’s Everblue’s overview of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report:

Kristian Gillies (@krisjonnes)
  1. There is no question that climate change is caused by humans and exacerbated by our continued use of fossil fuels.

  2. Human-caused climate change is causing widespread damage to our planet and environment, and the people who will bear the brunt of this damage and experience the worst weather and climate disasters are vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least to climate change.

  3. Since the last IPCC report, policies and adaptations to mitigate climate change have increased dramatically, but global funding flows are still not big enough to reach the goals nations are setting.


4. In order to limit warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need “deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” This would help us slow down global warming within about twenty years.

5. Effective climate action is driven by political will and collaborative effort between nations. It also relies on multilevel governance, which means we need action at the local, state, country, and global levels in order to address this massive issue.

6. This report noted chillingly that “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” That being said, we are still living in a time when we have it within our reach as a world to turn this around if we commit to immediate and large reductions in greenhouse gases while supporting the most vulnerable communities with climate justice work.



APRIL 28: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS

The latest International Panel on Climate Change’s report made it clear that the only way to support a sustainable, livable future for all people on our planet is to rapidly decrease our use of fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas, and we need to start now. You can help support this global effort from wherever you are by signing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.


But what is this treaty? The United Nations have used treaties before to make global agreements on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, stopping use of chemicals that were creating a hole in the ozone layer, and creating climate agreements. However, major climate agreements from UN meetings in Paris and Egypt have not mentioned oil, gas, or coal. We need a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to keep nations of the world accountable for phasing out fossil fuels.

This treaty has already been endorsed by the nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu, two islands on the front lines of sea level rise. We need to step up as a world to support the most vulnerable communities on the front lines of climate change. This proposed treaty focuses on non-proliferation, a fair phase-out, and a just transition.


Learn more and endorse the treaty as an individual or organization at their website! https://fossilfueltreaty.org/home

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