Archive for the ‘Culebra Photography’ Tag

How Beach Cleanups Help Keep Microplastics out of the Garbage Patches 

 Lots of tiny pieces of plastic covering rocks.
Basket full of faded, old plastic bottles on a beach.
Cleaning up a few plastic bottles on a beach can make a big difference when it comes to keeping microplastics from entering the ocean. (NOAA)  Microplastics, tiny bits of plastic measuring 5 millimeters or less, are often the result of larger pieces of plastic breaking down on land before making it into the ocean. They can also come from cosmetics and fleece clothing. (NOAA)

JUNE 12, 2015 — These days plastic seems to be everywhere; unfortunately, that includes many parts of the ocean, from the garbage patches to Arctic sea ice.With this pollution increasingly in the form of tiny plastic bits, picking up a few bottles left on the beach can feel far removed from the massive problem of miniscule plastics floating out at sea.However, these two issues are more closely connected than you may think.But how do we get from a large plastic water bottle, blown out of an overfilled trash can on a beach, to innumerable plastic pieces no bigger than a sesame seed—and known as microplastics—suspended a few inches below the ocean surface thousands of miles from land?The answer starts with the sun and an understanding of how plastic deteriorates in the environment.

The Science of Creating Microplastics

Plastic starts breaking down, or degrading, when exposed to light and high temperatures from the sun. Ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), the same part of the light spectrum that can cause sunburns and skin cancer, starts this process for plastics.

This process, known as photo-oxidation, is a chemical reaction that uses oxygen to break the links in the molecular chains that make up plastic. It also happens much faster on land than in the comparatively cool waters of the ocean.

For example, a hot day at the beach can heat the sandy surface—and plastic trash sitting on it—up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The ocean, on the other hand, gets darker and colder the deeper you go, and the average temperatures at its surface in July can range from 45 degrees Fahrenheit near Adak Island, Alaska, to 89 degrees in Cannon Bay, Florida.

Back on that sunny, warm beach, a plastic water bottle starts to show the effects of photo-oxidation. Its surface becomes brittle and tiny cracks start forming. Those larger shards of plastic break apart into smaller and smaller pieces, but they keep roughly the same molecular structure, locked into hydrogen and carbon chains. A brisk wind or child playing on the beach may cause this brittle outer layer of plastic to crumble. The tide washes these now tiny plastics into the ocean.

Once in the ocean, the process of degrading slows down for the remains of this plastic bottle. It can sink below the water surface, where less light and heat penetrate and less oxygen is available. In addition, plastics can quickly become covered in a thin film of marine life, which further blocks light from reaching the plastic and breaking it down.

An Incredible Journey

In general, plastic breaks down much, much more slowly in the ocean than on land. That means plastic objects that reach the ocean either directly from a boat (say trash or nets from a fishing vessel) or washed into the sea before much degradation has happened are much less likely to break into smaller pieces that become microplastics. This also applies to plastics that sink below the ocean surface into the water column or seafloor.

Instead, plastic that has spent time heating up and breaking down on land is most likely to produce the microplastics eventually accumulating in ocean gyres or garbage patches, a conclusion supported by the research of North Carolina State University professor Anthony Andrady and others.

Of course, microplastics in the form of “microbeads” in face wash and other cosmetics or microfibers in fleece clothing also can reach the ocean by slipping through waste water treatment systems.

However, regularly patrolling your favorite beach or waterway and cleaning up any plastic or other marine debris can go a long way to keeping millions of tiny microplastics—some so tiny they can only be seen with a microscope—from reaching the garbage patches and other areas of the ocean.

The great thing is anyone can do this and you don’t have to wait for the International Coastal Cleanup each September to get started.Find more tips and resources to help you on your way:

Source: How Beach Cleanups Help Keep Microplastics out of the Garbage Patches | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Marine Debris

marine debrisMarine Debris

Marine debris is everyone’s problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales. Marine debris comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt tossed on the beach to a 4,000-pound tangle of derelict fishing nets caught on a coral reef.

Since 2005, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, one of three divisions within the Office of Response and Restoration, serves as a centralized program within NOAA, coordinating, strengthening, and promoting marine debris activities within the agency and among its partners and the public.

Importance

Marine debris has many detrimental impacts on ecosystems, such as habitat degradation, entanglement, ingestion, and transportation of non-native species. Debris can even affect human health and navigation safety.

Research is beginning to reveal the scope of the issue, and this knowledge, along with new technologies, can lead to more effective solutions to the problem. Efforts to reduce and prevent marine debris decrease not only the quantities but also the impacts of debris, and over time, create an overall change in the behaviors that lead to debris.

Through efforts in these areas as well as by working with partners across the U.S. and around the world, together everyone can make a difference in solving the problem of marine debris.

Source: Marine Debris

NOAA Scientist Helps Make Mapping Vital Seagrass Habitat Easier and More Accurate 

Shoal grass seagrass on a sandy ocean floor.

Seagrass beds serve as important habitat for a variety of marine life, and understanding their growth patterns better can help fisheries management and restoration efforts. (NOAA)

MARCH 3, 2016 — Amy Uhrin was sensing a challenge ahead of her.

As a NOAA scientist working on her PhD, she was studying the way seagrasses grow in different patterns along the coast, and she knew that these underwater plants don’t always create lush, unbroken lawns beneath the water’s surface.

Where she was working, off the North Carolina coast near the Outer Banks, things like the churning motion of waves and the speed of tides can cause seagrass beds to grow in patchy formations.

Clusters of bigger patches of seagrass here, some clusters of smaller patches over there. Round patches here, elongated patches over there.

Uhrin wanted to be able to look at aerial images showing large swaths of seagrass habitat and measure how much was actually seagrass, rather than bare sand on the bottom of the estuary. Unfortunately, traditional methods for doing this were tedious and tended to produce rather rough estimates. These involved viewing high-resolution aerial photographs, taken from fixed-wing planes, on a computer monitor and having a person digitally draw lines around the approximate edges of seagrass beds.

While that can be fairly accurate for continuous seagrass beds, it becomes more problematic for areas with lots of small patches of seagrass included inside a single boundary. For the patchy seagrass beds Uhrin was interested in, these visual methods tended to overestimate the actual area of seagrass by 70% to more than 1,500%. There had to be a better way.

Seeing the Light

Patches of seagrass beds of different sizes visible from the air.

Due to local environmental conditions, some coastal areas are more likely to produce patchy patterns in seagrass, rather than large beds with continuous cover. (NOAA)

At the time, Uhrin was taking a class on remote sensing technology, which uses airborne—or, in the case of satellites, space-borne—sensors to gather information about the Earth’s surface (includinginformation about oil spills). She knew that the imagery gathered from satellites (i.e. Landsat) is usually not at a fine enough resolution to view the details of the seagrass beds she was studying. Each pixel on Landsat images is 30 meters by 30 meters, while the aerial photography gathered from low-flying planes often delivered resolution of less than a meter (a little over three feet).

Uhrin wondered if she could apply to the aerial photographs some of the semi-automated classification tools from imagery visualization and analysis programs which are typically used with satellite imagery. She decided to give it a try.

First, she obtained aerial photographs taken of six sites in the shallow coastal waters of North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary System. Using a GIS program, she drew boundaries (called “polygons”) around groups of seagrass patches to the best of her ability but in the usual fashion, which includes a lot of unvegetated seabed interspersed among seagrass patches.

Six aerial photographs of seagrass habitat off the North Carolina coast, with yellow boundary lines drawn around general areas of seagrass habitat.

Aerial photographs show varying patterns of seagrass growth at six study sites off the North Carolina coast. The yellow line shows the digitally drawn boundaries around seagrass and how much of that area is unvegetated for patchy seagrass habitat. (North Carolina Department of Transportation)

Next, Uhrin isolated those polygons of seagrass beds and deleted everything else in each image except the polygon. This created a smaller, easier-to-scan area for the imagery visualization program to analyze. Then, she “trained” the program to recognize what was seagrass vs. sand, based on spectral information available in the aerial photographs.

Though limited compared to what is available from satellite sensors, aerial photographs contain red, blue, and green wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum. Because plants absorb red and blue light and reflect green light (giving them their characteristic green appearance), Uhrin could train the computer program to classify as seagrass the patches where green light was reflected.

Classify in the Sky

Amy Uhrin stands in shallow water documenting data about seagrass inside a square frame of PVC pipe.

NOAA scientist Amy Uhrin found a more accurate and efficient approach to measuring how much area was actually seagrass, rather than bare sand, in aerial images of coastal North Carolina. (NOAA)

To Uhrin’s excitement, the technique worked well, allowing her to accurately identify and map smaller patches of seagrass and export those maps to another computer program where she could precisely measure the distance between patches and determine the size, number, and orientation of seagrass patches in a given area.

“This now allows you to calculate how much of the polygon is actually seagrass vegetation,” said Uhrin, “which is good for fisheries management.”

The young of many commercially important species, such as blue crabs, clams, and flounder, live in seagrass beds and actively use the plants. Young scallops, for example, cling to the blades of seagrass before sliding off and burrowing into the sediment as adults.

In addition, being able to better characterize the patterns of seagrass habitat could come in handy during coastal restoration planning and assessment. Due to local environmental conditions, some areas are more likely to produce patchy patterns in seagrass. As a result, efforts to restore seagrass habitat should aim for restoring not just cover but also the original spatial arrangement of the beds.

And, as Uhrin noted, having this information can “help address seagrass resilience in future climate change scenarios and altered hurricane regimes, as patchy seagrass areas are known to be more susceptible to storms than continuous meadows.”

The results of this study, which was done in concert with a colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have been published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.

Source: NOAA Scientist Helps Make Mapping Vital Seagrass Habitat Easier and More Accurate | response.restoration.noaa.gov

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Sharks and Rays Without Borders

Although several countries have protections for sharks and rays in place, many species travel great distances, often crossing national boundaries. Their migratory routes are determined by nature, not by the borders we’ve drawn. International cooperation is vital to ensuring the survival of these exceptionally vulnerable migratory species. The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – a global wildlife treaty with 120 Parties — is uniquely suited to facilitate such action.

TAKE ACTION

In November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador, CMS Parties (member countries) from all over the world debated and decided on an unprecedented number of proposals that could greatly improve the outlook for 21 species of imperiled sharks and rays. Project AWARE was there to represent the voice of the dive community and to work with partner NGOs to urge the CMS Parties to commit to regional protections for the proposed shark and ray species. Such actions bring responsibilities for member countries to work nationally and regionally to safeguard listed species and ensure the health of their habitats throughout migratory pathways.

 Project AWARE CMS campaign #SharksWithoutBorders

Send a letter – Our letter campaign direct to delegates is now closed. Thank you to everyone involved. 28,804 letters were delivered to decision-makers urging them to support the shark and ray proposals.

Thunderclap – On 4th November, 632 people with a social media reach of almost 550k sent a loud unified message #SharksWithoutBorders.

Your support made a difference for:

  • All five sawfishes, nine devil rays, and the reef manta – proposed for CMS Appendix I & II. Appendix I is reserved for migratory species that are threatened with extinction and brings an obligation for CMS Parties to strictly protect these animals, restore their habitats, and mitigate obstacles to migration.

  • Two species of hammerheads, all three threshers, and the silky shark – proposed for CMS Appendix II, which encourages regional cooperative initiatives to conserve shared populations.

  • Threats to their migration routes and habitat, including marine debris. Our trash underwater harms marine animals, entangles sharks and rays, and damages critical marine environments. Much like migratory animals, marine debris crosses political boundaries, moving from one territorial sea to the open ocean and ending up in another nation’s waters. As a multilateral environmental agreement, CMS can also address this issue, and thereby further improve the outlook for marine species.

Fact sheets on the newly listed species and how the listings might help them can be found here.

22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

Signatories to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Sharks have unanimously agreed to add twenty-two species of sharks and rays to the MoU scope, and to accept the applications of six conservation groups as Cooperating Partners in fulfilling MoU objectives. Conservationists are, in turn, calling on countries to take concrete national and international actions to fulfill new commitments to the imperiled species.

Conserving Migratory Sharks & Rays: Priorities for Action Governments gathering to discuss the next steps in implementing the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Sharks have an important opportunity to make real progress in addressing the global plight of sharks and rays, particularly the 29 species currently listed on the CMS Appendices. Beyond adding species and working groups to the CMS MoU scope of work, there are multiple avenues for immediate, concrete action that can go a long way toward fulfilling CMS obligations for listed species, as well as broader commitments to cooperate toward better protection for these vulnerable animals. Our organizations welcomed the 2010 CMS MoU for the seven shark species listed between 1999 and 2008, participated in development of the 2012 Conservation Plan to promote MoU objectives, and celebrated the historic listing of 21 additional species (15 rays on Appendix I & II and six sharks on Appendix II) in 2014. Through the CMS Sharks MoU and Conservation Plan, signatories have agreed, inter alia, to: § facilitate a better understanding of shark populations and fisheries § set science-based catch limits in an effort to ensure sustainable fishing § prevent “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) § cooperate toward shark conservation through international bodies, and § protect critical shark habitats. Shark species covered by the CMS Sharks MoU, after listings from 1999 to 2008: § Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) § White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) § Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) § Porbeagle (Lamna nasus) § Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) § Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) § Longfin mako (Isurus paucus) Shark & ray species listed in 2011 & 2014, not yet covered by the Sharks MoU: § All five species of sawfish (Family Pristidae) § All nine species of devil rays (Mobula spp.) § Both manta rays (Manta spp.) § All three thresher sharks (Alopias spp.) § Great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) § Scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) § Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) CMS w 2NDMEETING OF SIGNATORIES TO THE SHARKS MOU w FEBRUARY 2016 As the first intergovernmental treaty dedicated to global shark conservation, the CMS MoU has bolstered efforts to safeguard these vulnerable species, through both awareness and action. Listings on the Appendices, in particular, have been a major factor in numerous domestic protections while also serving to highlight at-risk species for other international fora. Nearly four years after adoption of the Conservation Plan, however, concrete actions to fulfill MoU goals remain insufficient. For example, the following are regrettable: § The lack of species-specific regional plans for listed shark species, even the first to be listed (whale sharks) § The absence of Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) catch limits for shortfin mako sharks § The repeated defeat of US and EU proposals to cap shortfin mako landings through ICCAT1 § Exceptions to the protections for manta and devil ray (mobulids) adopted last year by the IATTC2 § Continued fishing and lack of national protections for mobulid rays, particularly Mobula species § Weak national and international finning bans that rely on complicated fin-to-body ratios for enforcement § Little cooperation among countries aiming to recover shared porbeagle and spiny dogfish populations § The small proportion of Signatories submitting national reports. In addition to expanding the MoU’s scope to cover all shark and ray species listed on the CMS Appendices (adding the 22 species listed in 2011 and 2014 to MoU Annex I), and in line with appropriate amendments to the Conservation Plan (MoU Annex 3), associated work program, priorities and strategy, we urge CMS Parties and Non-Party Signatories to take the following concrete steps: § Ensure strict national protection for all Appendix I listed species, especially those listed by IUCN as Endangered or Critically Endangered (all sawfish in Family Pristidae and giant devil ray Mobula mobular) § Co-sponsor and actively promote EU/US-led efforts to establish shortfin mako catch limits under ICCAT § Develop and promote proposals to establish shortfin mako catch limits at other relevant RFMOs § Seek to end exceptions to the mobulid ray protections adopted in 2015 by IATTC § Develop and promote proposals to protect mobulid rays through other relevant RFMOs § Support proposals to list mobula rays, thresher sharks, and silky sharks under CITES3 Appendix II § Ensure national finning bans include best practice prohibitions on at-sea fin removal, without exception § Co-sponsor EU/US-led proposals to strengthen RFMO finning bans by prohibiting at-sea fin removal § Establish active inter-sessional working groups to focus on specific regional conservation priorities § Encourage neighboring countries to sign the Sharks MoU § Complete and submit in a timely manner national progress reports to the CMS Secretariat § Consider proposing to list depleted angel sharks and guitarfishes as well as heavily fished blue sharks. Our organizations are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Signatories as Cooperating Partners under the MoU. Through actions like those urged above, we can ensure a brighter future for sharks and rays. Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation working to safeguard sharks and rays through sound, science-based conservation policy. Supporting work in more than 35 countries, Humane Society International is one of the only international organizations working to protect all animals. The Shark Trust is a UK charity working to advance the worldwide conservation of sharks through science, education, influence and action. Project AWARE Foundation is a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities

New commitments and partners agreed by Signatories to Convention on Migratory Species Shark MoU

The CMS 2010 Shark MoU is the first global instrument dedicated to the conservation of migratory sharks and rays. The addition of 22 species (listed on the CMS Appendices in 2011 and 2014) brings the total number of species under the MoU’s scope to 29: white shark, porbeagle, spiny dogfish, basking shark, both makos, all three threshers, two species of hammerheads, whale shark, all nine devil rays, both mantas, all five sawfishes, and the silky shark. The number of MoU Signatories rose to 40 (39 national governments and the EU) with this week’s addition of Portugal.

“We are encouraged by the growing number of countries that are engaging in CMS shark and ray conservation activities, and welcome the expansion of the Shark MoU scope,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International. “At the same time, we are eager for countries to follow up with concrete actions in line with these commitments, particularly strict protections for highly threatened rays, and fishing limits to ensure the long-term health of migratory shark populations.”

Through the CMS Shark MoU and associated Conservation Plan, signatories have agreed to facilitate a better understanding of shark populations and fisheries, set science-based catch limits, prevent “finning” (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea), protect critical shark habitats, and cooperate toward shark conservation through international fisheries and wildlife bodies. Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, and Project AWARE were among the conservation groups accepted as Cooperating Partners in fulfilling Sharks MoU objectives.

“Our organizations are honored by the opportunity to serve as Cooperating Partners and thereby collaborate toward migratory shark and ray conservation with countries at the forefront of this critical work,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “This status gives us a special opportunity to share expertise and provide support while ensuring implementation of the associated Conservation Plan.”

CMS Parties are obligated to strictly protect the manta and devil rays and the five sawfishes (through listing on CMS Appendix I), and to work internationally to conserve the sharks listed on Appendix II.

“We applaud Costa Rica for hosting this important and successful meeting, and for the country’s past initiatives to secure international trade controls on hammerheads and to strengthen shark finning bans on a global scale,” said Ania Budziak, Associate Director for Project AWARE. “We are hopeful that new commitments made this week will lead to strict national protections for devil rays and sawfishes, and the end of Costa Rican opposition to regional fishing limits for hammerhead and silky sharks.”

Source: 22 Shark and Ray Species Added to Scope of Global Agreement

Marine Debris

Understanding the Problem

Marine Debris

Our ocean is under siege. From everyday trash like plastic bags, food wrappers and drink bottles, to larger items like car batteries, kitchen appliances and fishing nets, our debris is entering the sea at an alarming rate. Our ocean has become a dumping ground.

Marine debris is not only unsightly, it’s dangerous to sea life, hazardous to human health, and costly to our economies. Marine animals can become entangled in debris or mistake small particles of trash for food – often with fatal results. Divers, swimmers and beachgoers can be directly harmed by encounters with debris or its toxins. And, the costs of plastic debris to marine ecosystems are estimated at 13 billion dollars a year.

Join us and take action against marine debris.

Working Toward Solutions

Project AWARE fights for the prevention and reduction of marine debris. Through our Partnerships Against Trash, we work with governments, NGOs and businesses to affect change on a global scale. In order to achieve a long-term solution, we must influence policy at local, national and international levels and prevent trash from entering the ocean in the first place.

Global change is empowered by grassroots movement. We need you – ocean enthusiasts and the scuba diving community – to help by taking action in your local communities!

Through Dive Against Debris, Project AWARE supporters remove undersea litter collected while diving and report results. Trash removed during Dive Against Debris makes the ocean safer for marine life, and more importantly, information reported helps inform policy change. With your help, Project AWARE can use the information you report through Dive Against Debris to convince individuals, governments and businesses to act against marine debris.

Together, we can work towards a clean, healthy ocean planet. Dive Against Debristoday.

Understanding the Problem Our ocean is under siege. From everyday trash like plastic bags, food wrappers and drink bottles, to larger items like car batteries, kitchen appliances and fishing nets, our debris is entering the sea at an alarming rate. Our ocean has become a dumping ground.

Source: Marine Debris

Mares Mask Star

Mares Mask Star

Mask Star

Mask created specifically for spearfishing and freediving, offering a better field of vision paired with the smallest possible volume, thanks to the angled lenses and the extremely reduced eye-lens distance. Utilizing new types of silicone help eliminate undesirable fogging, and the dual-button ergonomic buckles make it even easier to adjust the strap. The Star is manufactured with a mono-silicone skirt.

Mask Mares i3

Mares Mask I3

Mask i3

An unparalled field of vision

• Tri-comfort skirt
• X-Shaped strap
• Quick-adjusting buckles

i3 scuba mask combines the advantages of the Tri-comfort technology with a huge field of vision. In addition to the wide central glass, smaller panels on each side guarantee peripheral vision that will blow you away. The ergonomic 2-button buckles allow for easy and secure adjustment of the strap even when diving with thick gloves.

NEW Mares Mask Essence LiquidSkinfor Fall 2016

NEW Mask for Fall 2016

Essence LiquidSkin

Mask Ess

Unique design for a unique technology

• Great comfort and ample field of vision
• Quick-adjusting buckles on the skirt
• Light, foldable, easy to store

The Essence scuba mask is the maximum expression of LiquidSkin technology. Silicone and glass come together and blend to create a mask that is truly one of a kind. Light and foldable,thanks to the buckles on the skirt, it offers a broad field of vision. All the features are orchestrated by the exclusive design, a synthesis of technology and aesthetics

Dive Life: Girls Just Wanna Change the World

Our sport was once a male-dominated pursuit, but women are changing the face of the scuba diving. To celebrate PADI is launching Women’s Dive Day.

What was once a male-dominated sport has become a woman’s realm.

While diving once might have been considered a male pursuit, women are changing the face of our sport. Dr. Sylvia Earle was more than just a 2014 Glamour Woman of the Year; she was also deemed the first Hero for the Planet by Time magazine, and designated a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. The member roster of the Women Divers Hall of Fame is filled with similar women who have shaped the world of diving. It’s time to celebrate female divers’ contributions to the sport, so PADI is launching Women’s Dive Day on July 18 to honor them.

Women to Watch

Szilvia Gogh is a well-known underwater stunt woman and founder of Miss Scuba (miss-scuba.com), which was designed to bring together women who share an enthusiasm for diving from all over the world. She was also one of the youngest women ever accepted into the PADI Course Director Training Course and recently held a female-friendly course to develop the next generation of Dive Instructors. “What inspired them to become PADI Professionals, I believe, was that they saw me live out my dreams,”says Gogh. “I get to do what I love and, to me, this means everything.”

For others, like Georgienne Bradley, diving helped marry interests in biology and photography. She was instrumental in helping Cocos Island become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of her proudest achievements though has been her involvement in scholar expeditions for young girls. “These trips allow girls to open up, not be intimidated, and come into their own,” says Bradley.

The women of SEDNA Epic Expedition (sednaepic.com) are another great example. Expedition leader Susan R. Eaton is surrounded by a team of female scientists, explorers and photographers who will embark on a 1,864-mile journey, snorkeling from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories in Canada. Their goal is to increase awareness of climate change and to inspire action, especially among youth and women.

A Day to Remember

If you’re interested in organizing an event or participating in a local dive for Women’s Dive Day, please send an email to womendive@padi.com or visit padi.com/women-dive.

Source: Dive Life: Girls Just Wanna Change the World | Sport Diver

What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

Floating rafts of sargassum, a large brown seaweed, can stretch for miles across the ocean.

Floating bits of brown seaweed at ocean surface
                                                            (Credit: Sean Nash/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, is perched calmly among the floating islands of large brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Casually, it nibbles on the leaf-like blades of the seaweed, startling a nearby crab. Open ocean stretches for miles around these large free-floating seaweed mats where myriad creatures make their home.

Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird?

Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the yellow-brown sargassum with its tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, keeping everything afloat.

Home Sweet Sargassum

This little turtle isn’t alone in seeking safety and food in these buoyant mazes of seaweed. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than a dynamic stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America named for this seaweed: the Sargasso Sea. Sargassum is also an important part of the Gulf of Mexico, which contains the second most productive sargassum ecosystem in the world.

Some shrimp, crabs, and fish are specially suited to life in sargassum. Certain species of eel, fish, and shark spawn there. Each year, humpback whales, tuna, and seabirds migrate across these fruitful waters, taking advantage of the gathering of life that occurs where ocean currents converge.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with healthy sargassum seaweed habitat supporting marine life.

The Wide and Oily Sargasso Sea

However, an abundance of marine life isn’t the only other thing that can accumulate with these large patches of sargassum. Spilled oil, carried by currents, can also end up swirling among the seaweed.

If an oil spill made its way somewhere like the Sargasso Sea, a young sea turtle would encounter a much different scene. As the ocean currents brought the spill into contact with sargassum, oil would coat those same snarled branches and bladders of the seaweed. The turtles and other marine life living within and near the oiled sargassum would come into contact with the oil too, as they dove, swam, and rested among the floating mats.

That oil can be inhaled as vapors, be swallowed or consumed with food, and foul feathers, skin, scales, shell, and fur, which in turn smothers, suffocates, or strips the animal of its ability to stay insulated. The effects can be toxic and deadly.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with potential impacts of oil on sargassum seaweed habitat and marine life.

While sea turtles, for example, as cold-blooded reptiles, may enjoy the relatively warmer waters of sargassum islands, a hot sun beating down on an oiled ocean surface can raise water temperatures to extreme levels. What starts as soothing can soon become stressful.

Depending on how much oil arrived, the sargassum would grow less, or not at all, or even die. These floating seaweed oases begin shrinking. Where will young sea turtles take cover as they cross the unforgiving open ocean?

As life in the sargassum starts to perish, it may drop to the ocean bottom, potentially bringing oil and the toxic effects with it. Microbes in the water may munch on the oil and decompose the dead marine life, but this can lead to ocean oxygen dropping to critical levels and causing further harm in the area.

From Pollution to Protection

Young sea turtles swims through floating seaweed mats.

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service havedesignated sargassum as a critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Sargassum has also been designated as Essential Fish Habitat by Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service since it also provides nursery habitat for many important fishery species (e.g., dolphinfish, triggerfishes, tripletail, billfishes, tunas, and amberjacks) and for ecologically important forage fish species (e.g., butterfishes and flyingfishes).

Sargassum and its inhabitants are particularly vulnerable to threats such as oil spills and marine debris due to the fact that ocean currents naturally tend to concentrate all of these things together in the same places. In turn, this concentrating effect can lead to marine life being exposed to oil and other pollutants for more extended periods of time and perhaps greater impacts.

However, protecting sargassum habitat isn’t impossible and it isn’t out of reach for most people. Some of the same things you might do to lower your impact on the planet—using less plastic, reducing your demand for oil, properly disposing of trash, discussing these issues with elected officials—can lead to fewer oil spills and less trash turning these magnificent islands of sargassum into floating islands of pollution.

And maybe protect a baby sea turtle or two along the way.

Source: What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; Biscayne Bay, Florida, targeted for conservation efforts

January 7, 2015

The beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, which will be part of the two new Habitat Focus Areas announced by NOAA Fisheries today. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA has selected two sites in the southeast and Caribbean as Habitat Focus Areas — places where the agency can maximize its habitat conservation investments and management efforts to benefit marine resources and coastal communities. These two new areas are Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, and Florida’s Biscayne Bay.

Under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint, which provides a framework for NOAA to effectively improve habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities, Habitat Focus Areas are selected to prioritize long-term habitat science and conservation efforts. As a Habitat Focus Area, NOAA and partners will provide conservation planning and development of a watershed management plan.

“NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint illustrates our commitment to building resilient communities and natural resources by improving habitat conditions for fisheries and marine life, while also providing economic and environmental benefits,” said Bonnie Ponwith, Ph.D., director of NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center. “This effort will promote the exchange of ideas and transfer of best management practices between the two sites. NOAA is eager to bring the whole team to the table with our partners to focus on these areas and achieve benefits for these communities and natural resources.”

Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Popular for recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing, the area also contains habitats that are vital to several threatened and endangered species. The site also supports the economy through marine transportation and tourism.

However, the ecological richness of the area is vulnerable to impacts from development, land-based pollution, fishing, and climate change.

NOAA is already engaged in a variety of coral research to support management efforts. The agency will also reduce threats to the habitats through conservation projects, long-term monitoring and research activities, habitat mapping, and training and education programs in the area.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Biscayne Bay is a shallow, subtropical ecosystem with extensive seagrass cover, and a mangrove fringe along most of its shoreline. The bay contains more than 145,000 acres of habitat that is essential to commercially important species such as grouper and snapper in their early life stages. The bay supports many living marine resources, including protected species such as green and loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and several threatened coral species. The bay’s ecosystem contributes to the economy of the surrounding area.

Scientists and resource managers are concerned that water quality issues could result in widespread loss of seagrass cover. NOAA will work to better understand water quality issues.

NOAA scientists will also restore, improve, and protect fishery habitats. In addition, NOAA will restore and maintain sustainable fish stocks, reduce marine debris impacts, and improve shoreline protection.

NOAA’s dedicated the first Habitat Focus Area in California’s Russian River watershed in 2013. Since then, the agency has added Guam’s Manell-Geus watershed, the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, and Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

Next steps for the Puerto Rico and Florida areas include developing implementation plans for each area.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive.

Source: NOAA announces two new Habitat Focus Areas

10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet

Project Aware

Just like climbers and campers have an ethic or code to live by – so do scuba divers. Project AWARE first launched its environmental ethic more than two decades ago, which has helped guide millions of scuba divers on ways to do no harm and protect the underwater world.

Today, you can download and share the shiny, new10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet atprojectaware.org and stay tuned to upcoming issues of Sport Diver where we’ll explore these tips in more depth. Thank you for doing your part to protect the ocean and take these tips to heart each time you dive.

 

Divers share a deep connection with the ocean. You can make a difference for ocean protection every time you dive, travel and more.

1. Be a Buoyancy Expert
2. Be a Role Model
3. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles
4. Protect Underwater Life
5. Become a Debris Activist
6. Make Responsible Seafood Choices
7. Take Action
8. Be an Eco-tourist
9. Shrink Your Carbon Footprint
10. Give Back

Source: 10 Tips To Protect The Ocean Planet | Sport Diver

Gear / How to Maintain Your Snorkel / Dive Mask

Gear Basic – Mask Maintenance

Critical scuba diving gear requires annual inspection and service by a qualified technician, but even dive masks — your window to the underwater world — need some special TLC. Here’s our guide to keeping your mask in tiptop shape in 5 easy steps.

Predive
1. If you haven’t replaced your mask strap with a stretchy fabric one, stretch out the strap to look for fine cracks. If you do find any, immediately replace the strap.
2. Examine the silicone of your mask skirt. The most common failure area on a mask is the feather-edged seal on the skirt. This can become imperfect or irregular in shape with time and heavy use, and that irregularity can create leaks.
3. Check all the buckles, which can crack, split or become clogged with debris that can interfere with how they function. Then check the frame of your mask for cracking, chips or other obvious signs of wear, especially in the areas immediately adjacent to the glass lens.

Postdive
1. To avoid mildew growth, rinse your mask in warm, fresh water and allow it to drip dry completely before packing it away.
2. Pack the mask loosely, so nothing distorts the mask skirt. Leaving it squashed into a weird position for a long period of time will cause it to take on an unnatural shape.

Source: Gear / Masks | Sport Diver

With Lobster Poacher Caught, NOAA Fishes out Illegal Traps from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

July 11, 2014
4 Comments
This is a post by Katie Wagner of the Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division.

NOAA’s Restoration Center is leading the project with the help of two contractors, Tetra Tech and Adventure Environmental, Inc. The removal effort is part of a criminal case against a commercial diver who for years used casitas to poach spiny lobsters from sanctuary waters. An organized industry, the illegal use of casitas to catch lobsters in the Florida Keys not only impacts the commercial lobster fishery but also injures seafloor habitat and marine life.Casitas—Spanish for “little houses”—do not resemble traditional spiny lobster traps made of wooden slats and frames. “Casitas look like six-inch-high coffee tables and can be made of various materials,” explains NOAA marine habitat restoration specialist Sean Meehan, who is overseeing the removal effort.

A casita made of panels and cinder blocks on the seafloor.

The legs of the casitas can be made of treated lumber, parking blocks, or cinder blocks. Their roofs often are made of corrugated tin, plastic, quarter-inch steel, cement, dumpster walls, or other panel-like structures.

Poachers place casitas on the seafloor to attract spiny lobsters to a known location, where divers can return to quite the illegal catch.

“Casitas speak to the ecology and behavior of these lobsters,” says Meehan. “Lobsters feed at night and look for places to hide during the day. They are gregarious and like to assemble in groups under these structures.” When the lobsters are grouped under these casitas, divers can poach as many as 1,500 in one day, exceeding the daily catch limit of 250.

In addition to providing an unfair advantage to the few criminal divers using this method, the illegal use of casitas can harm the seafloor environment.

 A Natural Resource Damage Assessment, led by NOAA’s Restoration Center in 2008, concluded that the casitas injured seagrass and hard bottom areas, where marine life such as corals and sponges made their home. The structures can smother corals, sea fans, sponges, and seagrass, as well as the habitat that supports spiny lobster, fish, and other bottom-dwelling creatures.

A spiny lobster in a casita on the seafloor.

Casitas are also considered marine debris and potentially can harm other habitats and organisms. When left on the ocean bottom, casitas can cause damage to a wider area when strong currents and storms move them across the seafloor, scraping across seagrass and smothering marine life.

“We know these casitas, as they are currently being built, move during storm events and also can be moved by divers to new areas,” says Meehan. However, simply removing the casitas will allow the seafloor to recover and support the many marine species in the sanctuary.

There are an estimated 1,500 casitas in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters, only a portion of which will be removed in the current effort. In this case, a judge ordered the convicted diver to sell two of his residences to cover the cost of removing hundreds of casitas from the sanctuary.

To identify the locations of the casitas, NOAA’s Hydrographic Systems and Technology Program partnered with the Restoration Center and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In a coordinated effort, the NOAA team used Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (underwater robots) to conduct side scan sonar surveys, creating a picture of the sanctuary’s seafloor. The team also had help finding casitas from a GPS device confiscated from the convicted fisherman who placed them in the sanctuary.

After the casitas have been located, divers remove them by fastening each part of a casita’s structure to a rope and pulley mechanism or an inflatable lift bag used to float the materials to the surface. Surface crews then haul them out of the water and transport them to shore where they can be recycled or disposed.

For more information about the program behind this restoration effort, visit NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program.

Katie Wagner.Katie Wagner is a communications specialist in the Assessment and Restoration Division of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Her work raises the visibility of NOAA’s effort to protect and restore coastal and marine resources following oil spills, releases of hazardous substances, and vessel groundings.

I3 Sunrise – Masks – Mares

NEW PRODUCT Winter 2014-2015

I3 Sunrise – Masks – Mares.

sunrise blue

I3 Sunrise

An unparalled field of vision

• Tri-comfort skirt
• X-Shaped strap
• Quick-adjusting buckles

The i3 scuba mask combines the advantages of the Tri-comfort technology with a huge field of vision. In addition to the wide central glass, smaller panels on each side guarantee peripheral vision that will blow you away. The ergonomic 2-button buckles allow for easy and secure adjustment of the strap even when diving with thick gloves.

Intova Sports HD Takes on the GoPro Hero 3

Sport HD II

Waterproof HD Video Sports Camera

SPECIFICATIONS
Video Resolution 1080p HD (30fps), 720p HD, 720p HD (60fps), WVGA1 (60fps), WVGA (30fps), VGA(30fps)
Video Codec H.264
Video File Type MP4
Photo Resolution 12MP, 8MP, 5MP, 3MP
Photo File Type JPEG
Digital zoom all modes except 1080p
Lens 140 degree wide angle, aperture f2.4
Depth Rating Waterproof to 200 ft / 60m
Important: to maintain waterproof seal, be sure to clean and remove debris from O-rings and lightly apply silicone grease before use.
Monitor 1.5″ TFT LCD
Power Built in 1400 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery
Battery Life Recording time 3 hours @ 1080p with LCD off
Video/still image flip Flips image over when camera is held upside down.
Scene mode Auto, Night Scene, Sports, Landscape, Sunset, Sand-Snow, Spotlight, Diving,
Image Effects Art, Sepia, Negative, Black and  White, Vivid
Memory Support micro SD card up to 32 GB, Class 6 or 10 recommended.
Ports TV Mini out, Micro USB
Flotation Camera Floats
Housing Polycarbonate with UV injection, Patented Unibody design
Controls Full function control buttons
Dimensions (7 x 8.4 x 6) cm / (2.8 x 3.3 x 2.4) inches
Weight 179g / 6.3 oz
Model# SP1 N

September 2013 Moon Phases

September  2013 Moon Phases

 
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1

Waning Crescent, 13% of full

Waning Crescent, 7% of full

Waning Crescent, 3% of full

Waning Crescent, 1% of full

New Moon, 0% of full

Waxing Crescent, 2% of full

Waxing Crescent, 5% of full

Waxing Crescent, 11% of full

Waxing Crescent, 19% of full

Waxing Crescent, 29% of full

Waxing Crescent, 39% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 51% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 62% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 73% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 82% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 90% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 96% of full

Waxing Gibbous, 99% of full

Full Moon, 100% of full

Waning Gibbous, 98% of full

Waning Gibbous, 94% of full

Waning Gibbous, 88% of full

Waning Gibbous, 81% of full

Waning Gibbous, 72% of full

Waning Gibbous, 63% of full

Waning Gibbous, 54% of full

Waning Crescent, 44% of full

Waning Crescent, 35% of full

Waning Crescent, 26% of full

Waning Crescent, 18% of full

 
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