Seven ways to be a fisherman or woman, and a conservationist

Posted Posted in Clean Water, Take Action, Watersheds
Rick Wallace with a large brown in Tasmania’s Western Lakes Credit: Greg French

By Rick Wallace, founder and editor of Tackle Village

As fishermen and women, we don’t always think about the important role we play in conservation.

Maybe some of us don’t consider ourselves as conservationists, but I actually believe almost all of us are deeply interested in conserving the natural environment.

We do this in all kinds of ways, both big and small.

But we can always do better. So, this list details seven steps to ensure that conservation is an inherent part of the way we fish as recreational anglers.

  1. Dispose of line properly
    Leaving fishing line on the bank or beach is a hazard for birds and other creatures, as well as other humans. So, it is vital to dispose of it properly. Line can last for hundreds of years beyond their initial use. Gather up any unwanted line and cut it into small pieces with scissors before putting it in the bin or the fishing line receptacles you sometimes see on piers or other popular fishing spots.

  2. Leave only footprints in wild places
    Always take out your rubbish from any place you visit and make it a habit to take out what other trash you find.

  3. Always follow bag and size limits
    These exist for the health of fish stocks and of the marine or freshwater ecosystem you are fishing in. It is vital for a healthy fishery that we as anglers abide fully by these rules.

  4. Practice catch and release where appropriate
    We practice catch and release in blue ribbon sport fisheries where you have comparatively few but large or important fish. Blue ribbon trout streams are a good example: we might take a fish for dinner in a lake, but in a stream that is a popular fishing destination and trout have their favored lies, we should practice catch and release fishing even if the rules allow taking fish. Another example of where catch and release is preferred is where the target fish is particularly slow growing or under pressure.

  5. Handle fish with care and respect
    When practicing catch and release, follow the principles of the successful Keep Em Wet ( campaign by minimizing the amount of time fish are out of the water (a quick photo, then get them back in) or in contact with hard surfaces.

  6. Become an advocate for sport fishing and don’t be afraid to share your favorite spots
    A lot of fishermen and women are a bit hesitant to reveal some of their favorite spots to others. This is an understandable competitive spirit. But think of it this way: if more people we can get to experience magical wild places that we really care about, then more people are prepared to defend them from mining or forestry, oil and gas exploration or other dangers, as well as overexploitation via commercial fishing.

  7. Join a volunteer project
    A environmentally-oriented volunteer project is a great way to give back to the locations that bring us joy. For example, fisheries and marine scientists often rely on anglers to gather data to help them understand the biology and habits of fish and the health of populations. This is a great way to help nature and science while doing what you love.

So, there are our seven golden rules for reducing the impact of your fishing on the earth and helping preserve both fish stocks and wild places for the generations to come.

Reusables Are Safe During The Pandemic

Posted Posted in Uncategorized

By Emerson Damiano, IOC Intern

During the stay at home order earlier this year due to COVID-19, the news shared stories of lowered CO2 emissions, dolphins and fish in the clear canals of Venice, and an overall temporary improvement of our ecological crisis. However, these stories were not the full truth. In reality, dolphins were not reentering the polluted canals but were visiting Sardinia, an island hundreds of miles away. Emissions into the atmosphere, while temporarily stalled, are once again growing. The temperature in the arctic circle as of June 22nd, 2020 reached 100.4°F, over 30 degrees higher than average, highlighting the continuous heating of the atmosphere. One million plant and animal species remain at risk for extinction, more than ever before in human history. 

Amongst all of these environmental news stories, a worsening problem sits just over the horizon: plastic pollution. During the pandemic, Big Plastic has taken advantage of peoples’ fear, falsely claiming that single-use plastics are the most hygienic and safe choice. Such fearmongering ignores the fact that many more people touch most plastic items throughout the supply chain than would be the case with dishes, glasses, and utensils washed in a restaurant. Since COVID-19 began, The International Solid Waste Association estimates that the production of single-use plastics has increased by 250-300 percent. Surgical face masks, disinfecting materials, hand sanitizer, gloves, single-use takeaway items, etc. have begun to accumulate in the environment as usage has increased. Environmental officials fear that soon there could be more masks in the Mediterranean than jellyfish. An increase in outdoor congregations have resulted in careless littering of plastics such as masks, gloves, and single-use utensils.

National regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 recommend that publicly shared items such as utensils should be single-use in order to prevent the spread of the virus; however, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States is the only organization worldwide actively suggesting single-use foodservice items. Other countries like Singapore, Australia, and Scotland declare that there is no benefit of single-use items, as the most effective methods to prevent transmission are good hygiene and proper cleaning.

While there seems to be a widespread belief that reusables are not safe and could lead to the escalation of the virus, a statement signed by over 125 health experts from 18 different countries insists that reusables are safe. Further, the CDC has reported that transmission from “surface contact” has never been recorded. 

Reusables can and should be used safely when dining in at restaurants. In light of COVID-19, many restaurants have gravitated towards single-use condiments, menus, and cutlery. There are safe options that restaurants can utilize that do not contribute to the world’s plastic pollution problem such as touchless drink or condiment dispensers, digital menus, and reusable dishware and silverware that is regularly sanitized. For takeaway meals, Oceanic Global suggests “earth-digestible” materials that will decompose like paper or cardboard if reusable options are not available. While some restaurants and grocery stores no longer allow people to bring their own reusable bags, many establishments have found reusable bag use to be successful and safe. Restaurants and stores can learn more about reducing their use of single-use plastic in Oceanic Global’s sustainability guidelines for reopening safely without damaging the environment. 

Many health experts from around the world also support the use of reusable masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). Experts claim that the use of disposable masks are unnecessary for personal safety as soap is an effective cleaning method, and that the use of disposable PPE harms the health of our planet. We all need to learn about the efficacy of reusable PPE in order to prevent more single-use plastic from entering our environment and ocean. Individuals can utilize reusable masks, while restaurant and grocery store staff can use reusable PPE and practice consistent sanitation measures, methods proven to be just as effective as single-use PPE—if not more so.

In response to COVID-19, single-use plastic items like masks, gloves, and takeout items have emerged as large contributors to the plastic pollution crisis. The plastic industry has convinced many individuals that single-use plastic will keep them safer. Many restaurants and grocery stores have reverted back to single-use items only, even though this is no evidence that this is safer. If your local grocery stores or restaurants have prevented consumers from using reusables during the pandemic, you can send out this letter to ask them to bring back refillables and reusables.

COVID-19 has introduced many challenges into our daily lives, but we can all work together to ensure that increased plastic pollution is not another negative result, but rather a challenge we can continue to tackle collaboratively.

Inland Ocean Ambassadors

Posted Posted in Advocacy, Ocean Ambassadors, Uncategorized

As COVID-19 became a global threat in early 2020, we needed to rethink our in-person volunteer training strategy. With chapters around the country, going virtual provided an opportunity to take our volunteer leadership trainings online and expand our inland ocean community. The virtual Inland Ocean Ambassador Certification Program brought together 25 Ocean Ambassadors from 12 different states for a four-week intensive training on ocean leadership to further grow the inland ocean network. The inland ocean movement continues to serve as a voice for inland and coastal communities, and we were delighted to share that vision with our Ocean Ambassador cohort. 

Content from the four week session included how our stories and memories have shaped our relationship to the ocean and introduced topics like marine protected areas, The Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature, plastic pollution, the importance of ocean climate action, and how to be proactive in supporting key ocean legislation. We were honored to host  prestigious guest speakers Enric Sala from National Geographic Explorer, Amy Kenney from National Ocean Protection Coalition, and Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse. Our Ocean Ambassadors finished the training with the tools and inspiration to be ocean champions in their communities. 

We are thrilled to see our Ocean Ambassadors staying active and engaged with our Inland Ocean Coalition community. Since the training, our Ocean Ambassadors have created the IOC’s 16th chapter in Washington, D.C., published two op-eds, with 3 currently in review for publication, joined coalitions, organized cleanups, and will soon begin a cross-country dive adventure to educate and involve communities all over the nation in ocean protection. With a formal graduation set for December, we are eager to share further accomplishments from the first Inland Ocean Ambassador cohort.

If you are interested in joining our Ocean Ambassador Certification Program, please check our website for updates on when applications will open for the next program. We look forward to continuing to grow the inland ocean network with you! 

How Ocean Health is Improving During the Pandemic

Posted Posted in Wildlife

By Maya Chastang, an eighth grade student at Summit Middle School in Boulder, Colorado

In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s hard to see how any good can come from this tragedy. However, because people are traveling and polluting less, the environment is getting a well-deserved break. 

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media lately, reporting wild goats wandering down from the hills in Wales and into people’s yards, and drastically clearer skies in Los Angeles. I wanted to look deeper into how the ocean is reacting to this slowing of human activity, and see if this gives us insight as to how we can restore our ocean to health. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has put life as we know it on hold. Flights have been canceled and many people are working from home instead of driving their cars to work. The result is that a lot less carbon dioxide (CO2 ) is being put into the atmosphere. According to the airline company Blue Sky, the average plane produces more than 53 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile. Now that very few people are traveling in planes, think of how much less CO2 is being emitted.

You may be wondering, how does a decreased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affect the ocean? Well, due to the ocean carbon cycle, when there is less CO2 in the atmosphere, less CO2 is sucked into the ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ocean holds fifty times more carbon than the atmosphere. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon is released, and much of those fossil fuels end up in the ocean. This makes the ocean’s pH (how acidic the water is) and temperature rise, and causes a process called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification makes it more difficult for certain animals such as corals and mollusks to build their shells, and is a threat to most marine species. 

The first photograph was taken in November last year. The second was taken on March 30, 2020. Credit: CNN

Because less fossil fuels are being burned right now, air pollution is going down. For example, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, a scientist at the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, in India, one of the countries with the most polluted air on earth, people who have never been able to see the Himalayas from their houses can see them clearly. According to National Geographic, the amount of nitrogen dioxide (a harmful gas produced by burning fossil fuels) in the air in India has been reduced by over seventy percent.

This phenomenon is not only happening in India. In Los Angeles, nitrogen dioxide levels have decreased by 33 percent. In New York, they have fallen by 22 percent. In the Northeast U.S., NASA estimated that the nitrogen dioxide levels in the air have dropped by thirty percent. The speed at which air pollution is plummeting during the pandemic may give us insight into how dramatic reductions in pollution are possible in the future. 

Leatherbacks crawling to the sea. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

In Thailand, International flights have been canceled and citizens are being encouraged to stay home. Beaches that were once crowded with tourists are deserted. Since November, scientists in Thailand have found eleven leatherback turtle clutches. According to Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, this is the most clutches reported in twenty years. Leatherbacks are the largest species of turtle and can sometimes grow to seven feet long. They live up to 45 years in the wild, and though they are thought to occupy the widest range of habitat of any reptile (they live in every ocean except the Arctic and the Antarctic), the leatherback population has been decreasing in recent years, especially in the Pacific where Thailand is located. The main threats to leatherback turtles include bycatch (the accidental fishing of marine wildlife not intended to be caught), disruption of clutches, and unintentional consumption of plastic. The leatherback turtles’ main food source is jellyfish, which can appear a lot like plastic bags floating in the ocean. When sea animals eat plastic, it harms their digestive systems, and over time, if they consume enough, it eventually kills them. 

Beaches in Thailand aren’t the only ones seeing a sudden increase in leatherback turtle clutches. In Florida on Juno Beach, scientists have already counted 76 clutches of eggs since the start of the nesting season, a drastic increase from last year. 

Clearly, the sudden increase of leatherback turtle clutches is very welcome news. Though one larger generation of leatherbacks won’t necessarily make much of a difference in the long run, this shows us that closing certain beaches, even for a short amount of time, may help restore the leatherback population.

Although the viral pictures of dolphins swimming in Venice canals have been debunked, the absence of boats in the canals has been leading to clearer water, revealing schools of fish and other marine life. According to Matteo Bisol, a Venice restaurant owner and environmental activist, “[I]t is not surprising there are fish in the canals of Venice. If there were not, then we should all be worried, as the lagoon here is a fragile ecosystem. People need to realise that if we control and cut down boat traffic in Venice and its lagoon then we could all discover a unique biosphere.”

Fewer boats in the water benefit more than fish in the Venice canals. Though scientists don’t have conclusive results yet, it is thought that the decrease in underwater noise pollution may benefit whale populations. Researchers do know that when there is more noise from sea vessels, whales off the coast of Alaska tend to call and communicate less. Michelle Fournet, a marine acoustician, told the Guardian, “[W]hat we might see is an opportunity for whales to have more conversation and to have more complex conversation.”

Photo credit: Whit Welles

Humpback whales and their calves in Hawaii are also enjoying the absence of boats. On March 20, the state Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation banned all boats from sailing around the island. This includes whale watching cruises and fishermen, the main disturbances to the whales. According to Marc Lammers, a research coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, “Not having humans either trying to view them or, in some cases, interact with them will be a huge benefit for the mother, whose priority is to protect and nurse her calf so it can be strong enough to make the trip to Alaska. It allows her to conserve her energy and transfer that energy to her calf in peace, without having to respond to stand-up paddlers and five or six boats approaching at a time.”

On April second, a humpback whale and her calf were spotted close to the beach in Lahaina Small Boat Harbor. It is uncommon behavior for humpbacks to venture so close to shore, and scientists wonder what other changes in whale behaviors we might see if boating bans remain in place. 

Of course I don’t mean to make light of the awful situation the pandemic has put us in, but these temporary positive improvements among marine life are giving us insight about how to heal our polluted Earth. I expect the pollution levels to rise and leatherback turtle populations to fall again after quarantines are lifted if we don’t make changes from how we were living before. If we were able to create and enforce bans on boating in certain parts of the ocean, we may see whale and other marine populations thriving once more. If we limited the burning of fossil fuels, ocean acidification would decrease. These changes wouldn’t solve all the problems our ocean faces, but they would help a great deal. It took a global pandemic to slow our consumption of fossil fuels and to clear up the water in the Venice canals. If only we could institute some of these changes for a long period of time, our Earth might one day become as clean as it once was. 

Maya Chastang is an eighth grade student at Summit Middle School in Boulder, Colorado. She is passionate about marine biology and ocean conservation. She enjoys writing, reading, playing volleyball, basketball, and the piano.

Plastic Pollution Legislation in Colorado

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advocacy, Clean Water, Plastic, Policy

This year Colorado is taking steps to reduce plastic pollution in the state through three legislative measures. First, SB 10 would have overturned a plastic preemption measure—essentially a ban on bans—that barred local governments and communities from creating their own bans on plastic items or regulating any plastic products within their jurisdiction. The bill was heard in the Local Government Committee on February 4th. Melissa, the Inland Ocean Coalition’s (IOC’s) new Community Engagement Manager, provided testimony highlighting the importance of reducing plastic here in Colorado, and that as a headwaters state, this would send positive ripple effects downstream to the ocean.

The IOC carried out a pilot study in 2017 with scientists from the Shaw Institute which found evidence of microplastics in high alpine mountain tributaries above 11,000 feet—what we would generally think of as pristine ecosystems. This highlights that plastic pollution is not a big city issue or far away problem: It’s something that affects all of us, from the mountains to the coasts.

Unfortunately, the bill, sponsored by Senator Kerry Donovan of District 5 in Eagle, Delta, and Pitkin counties, was voted down 3-2. This means it did not pass through committee to the Senate floor. Telluride Mayor DeLanie Young said, “It’s extremely disappointing. Our community has been patiently waiting…for elected officials to take action on this erroneously outdated language.”

However, there are still two upcoming bills that could still help reduce plastic production, use, and pollution here in Colorado. HB1162 would eliminate polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) use and and HB1163 would implement a single-use plastic bag ban for the entire state. These bills will be heard by the Energy & Environment Committee on February 24th. We plan to attend and again testify to the harmful effects of polystyrene and single-use plastic on our land, waterways, wildlife, climate, human health, and ocean. We anticipate that these bills will pass through committee and be heard by the whole floor in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned for updates! If you’d like to support these bills you can: 

The Meaning of Salmon

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Advocacy, Clean Water, Watersheds, Wildlife

By Stephen C. Curro, Inland Ocean Coalition Volunteer

Say the word “salmon” and different people think of different things. To foodies, salmon is a tasty meal rich in omega-3s. To anglers, it’s a gorgeous fish to fool on a line. To Native Americans and First Nations Peoples, it’s an important part of their culture and the web of life itself. To naturalists and adventure seekers, it’s a symbol of the wild.

Salmon are remarkable creatures. Depending on the species, they can be over three feet in length and weigh around thirty pounds. They feed on zooplankton when they’re young and seek out smaller fish as they grow. They live most of their lives in cold Atlantic and Pacific waters and swim upstream into rivers to spawn. During these salmon runs they leap up waterfalls and brave hazards like grizzly bears just so they can give the next generation a chance to taste the open ocean.

In the spawning season, and indeed other seasons, salmon are a critical food source for bears, eagles and a number of other terrestrial and marine animals. Salmon are even responsible for contributing nutrients to riparian ecosystems when they travel upstream. When predators eat salmon, they disperse nitrogen and phosphorus into surrounding lakes and foliage, increasing plant growth by up to three times the normal rate! By nourishing predatory animals, salmon help to nourish the entire riparian ecosystem.

But it’s not just the animals that benefit from the salmon. During these salmon runs, billions of dollars are generated and thousands of jobs are supported through fishing, angling and ecotourism. Commercial fishing greatly benefits from the bounty of salmon stocks, supplying the filets to your own supermarket. Many indigenous tribes have depended on salmon as a primary source of food for thousands of years.   When one considers these facts, it should be apparent why salmon are considered a keystone species; a linchpin that holds an entire ecosystem together.

Companies and politicians that want to exploit mineral resources in the far north—namely Northern Dynasty’s proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska—seem to fail to understand why people are resistant to their plans. It’s true; such a mine would yield billions of dollars and provide jobs. But such development is only skin-deep. In time the coveted gold and copper will run out and the jobs they supported will end. What will be left is a scar in the land and a torrent of toxic runoff dumped into the surrounding waters.

If allowed, Northern Dynasties will dig a hole 4,000 feet deep. To contain toxic runoff, the company will construct a tailings dam three miles long and 740 feet high. That’s larger than the Hoover Dam! All of this will happen in the heart of salmon country. The size and scope of this operation will place the surrounding waters at risk of contamination from 10 billion tons of toxic waste rock. Once dug and abandoned, the gold and copper mines will need constant maintenance just to keep the runoff in check, and not all of it will be caught. The contamination will be even worse if an earthquake strikes the region or the tailings dam breaches.

All five species of salmon, including the coveted sockeye salmon, are found in abundance in the Bristol Bay area. These are not just blip populations; we are talking over 50% of the known fishery. Unnecessary mining in the area will devastate this concentration of salmon, and as a result cripple the global population. That would be a severe blow to ecotourism, angling and commercial fishing. Worse yet, it would disrespect and damage the cultures of native peoples who revere salmon, who depend on salmon for physical and spiritual sustenance. It would strain animal populations that all depend on salmon for food, on the land and in the sea, and fracture the web of life in ways we cannot yet predict. Such a breakdown would further impact food stocks, further impact culture and tourism, and so on. These are consequences that will outlive any mine by far, consequences that cannot be easily reversed, if at all.

So what is the lesser of two evils? Choosing to not exploit viable mining, or sacrificing a critical natural resource that in all likelihood cannot be replenished?

How should America regard salmon? A food source? A draw for tourism? A facet of indigenous culture?

The answer is all of the above, and that’s a treasure worth more than precious metals.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to release the draft Environmental Impact Statement on or before the 22nd of February and there will be a 90 day public comment period. Stay tuned for how to make your voice heard on this critical issue. 

What’s the Fishue with Orca Whales?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advocacy, Clean Water, Policy, Wildlife

By Taylor Shedd, Inland Ocean Coalition Policy Manager

Some of you may know that June is orca awareness month. Few of you may know that there is a unique population of orca whales that live in the Pacific Northwest called the Southern Residents that are critically endangered. Even fewer of you may know that I, Taylor, am the Inland Ocean Coalition’s newest staff member serving as our Ocean Policy Manager. I am also an orca whale researcher in Washington state and am the Program Coordinator for the Soundwatch Program at The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. Soundwatch is on-the-water education and research that mitigates risk and disturbance away from the Southern Residents in the heavily trafficked Salish Sea. If some of this is starting to sound familiar to you, it may be due to this whale, and this photo.

This is a photo of J-35 ‘Tahlequah’ who carried her deceased calf for 17 days last summer. I actually took this photo and monitored J-35 for 12 days over 1,000 nautical miles (5 days the whales were out in open ocean). This photo made it around the world and back again, and brought attention to the plight of the Southern Resident orca whales. However, this is not a new story.

The Southern Residents are estimated to have numbered around 200 individuals pre-exploitation. In the 1960s, the possibility of holding orca whales in captivity to make a profit was realized with the successful capture and care of Namu in Biritish Columbia, then housed on the Seattle waterfront. Namu did not survive for long, and the search for a replacement quickly lead us to the Southern Residents. Around this time researchers had just figured out how to identify individual orca whales, and realized that pods are made up of strong family and social bonds. In 1972, the last live capture of orca whales in the United States took place in Penn Cove in Washington where 47 Southern Residents were removed from the populations. Five did not survive the capture, and the rest were sent around the world to theme parks. The whales returned to the wild were mostly older individuals and males, since young females were targeted by theme parks for their reproduction potential. In 1975, there were only 71 Southern Residents left in the wild. Today there are 76.

In the late 90s there was an increase to 98 individuals in the population, but since then there has been a steady decline in the Southern Resident population. This decline lead to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration listing the Southern Residents as a distinct endangered population under the Endangered Species Act. In this listing, three main threats to the populations where listed as vessel disturbance, prey availability, and contamination. 

Great efforts have gone into reducing these risks to the whales with the most recent rendition being taken by Washington state Governor Jay Inslee. In March 2018, Inslee signed an executive order creating an Orca Recovery Task Force that would produce legislation to further aid in the recovery of the Southern Residents in a years time. Last summer was a difficult time for the whales and we had three high profile losses in the population: J-35’s calf (unnamed), J-50 ‘Scarlet’, and L-92 ‘Crewser’. A year has passed, so what’s changed? Four bills passed through the state legislature that came from the Task Force. Most of these changes focus on vessel disturbance, increasing approach distance by vessels from 200 to 300 yards, introducing a speed limit of 7 knots within a half mile of whales, and including Be Whale Wise information into state boater testing. 

Other bills targeted habitat restoration for salmon and forage fish, and increasing hatchery production in an effort to provide more prey for the Southern Residents. The Task Force is set to meet again in 2019 to establish longer term recovery efforts for the Southern Residents.

If you’d like to learn more about the Southern Residents, or be a part of the naming process for the two new calves, visit The Whale Museum’s website. If you are in the area and would like to volunteer for Soundwatch you can find information there as well. For those who would just like to help the whales there are many things you can do. Being informed and educated is a great first step, and even if you do not live in the Pacific Northwest there are things you can do everyday to help these whales. Being eco-friendly and using less single-use plastic benefits that environment as a whole. Purchasing truly sustainable seafood is a great way to reduce bycatch and impacts to the ecosystem. Being a part of the Inland Ocean Coalition, helping to educate your community and representatives, and sharing your voice can make the biggest difference. We’re excited to share our passion with you, and hope you share yours with us, so we can best protect all that we love.

Algal Blooms and Protecting Waterways

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Watersheds

By Gregory Knight

The summer is approaching and it’s easy to notice the vegetation around us becoming more green. The days are longer and the weather is warmer. During the warmer part of the year we may also take notice of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in ponds, waterways, and lakes. HABs are present in all 50 states and harm aquatic ecosystems. With an increased understanding of the problem, we can take steps in the community to reduce this environmental stressor. This in turn can help protect the ocean.

Algae refers to a group of marine and freshwater organisms that photosynthesize. These organisms may or may not be related. Seaweed and kelp are examples. Algae is common in the environment; however, an abundance of algae is harmful. It impacts aquatic habitats, drinking water, and the economy.

Algae found growing in a pond on the University of Colorado’s East Campus in Boulder.

Certain varieties of algae produce toxins. Illness and even death may result from consuming contaminated fish or shellfish. Oxygen depletion can also result in HABs. This may suffocate animals or force them into migration. Economies are impacted by the decrease of consumable fish and recreational beaches are impacted with HABs.

Harmful algal blooms are continually being researched and explored today. Algal blooms happen for a number of different reasons and can have lasting effects on our environment. If we seek to reduce HABs in landlocked states we can have an impact in protecting the ocean.

During these warmer months when HABs are likely to occur we can take precautions to reduce the likelihood of occurrences. Nitrogen and phosphorus, for instance, lead to more outbreaks of HABs. It’s essential to use only the recommended amount of fertilizers or use organic and natural fertilizers strategically to reduce nutrients from running off into waterways. If we make sure our septic systems are maintained we can prevent wastewater contamination in waterways.

Understanding water quality issues like HABs can help establish cleaner waterways in local communities. Cleaner local waterways can result in a cleaner ocean, and through understanding we can help to enact regulations that will provide us with healthier aquatic and marine ecosystems.


Works cited

Davenport, Coral. “E.P.A. Blocks Obama-Era Clean Water Rule.” The New York Times, 31 Jan. 2018,

MacDonald, James. “The Problem With Algae Bloom.” Science & Technology, JSTOR. 24 Oct. 2017,

“Algal Blooms.” Colors of an Algal Bloom | CeNCOOS,

“Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Dec. 2017,

Conservation Under the Trump Administration

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Policy, Take Action

By Jacob Villalobos, trained Ocean Ranger and Inland Ocean Coalition volunteer

The Trump administration has a very different definition of conservation.

Following the December announcement that the sizes of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments of Utah will be greatly reduced, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released the next step for “responsible extraction” of America’s oil and gas resources along the nation’s coast.

The National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program will potentially open up 90 percent of the Outer Continental Region of America’s coastlines to “exploration and development,” regions of American marine ecosystems that were originally set aside for extended preservation and recovery by previous administrations. “Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” said Zinke.

Zinke and the Department of the Interior, in a press release in Late December, went on to say that the administration is leaving behind a “Conservation stewardship legacy, second only to Roosevelt,” while simultaneously placing emphasis on the expansion of hunting and fishing in ten wildlife refuges where such activities are currently strictly regulated. Despite the continued outcry against the reduction of America’s refuges and monuments, the Trump administration continues to reframe the definitions of conservation to include the potential for heavy resource extraction, a disregard for biodiversity, and ultimately, a strong emphasis on the acquisition of profits.

In response to the announcement by Zinke, 2.8 million Americans submitted public comments to the White House urging the administration to reconsider reductions to the sizes of the many monuments that are up for review, which Zinke promptly ignored.

The pushback from American mayors from states along the coastline was swift, with the majority directly opposing the proposal, citing the importance of fishing, the wellbeing of marine biodiversity, and tourism revenue, which provides coastal communities and the economy at large with billions of dollars every year. The move, if finalized, would expose vast swaths of coastline to further risk of extraction accidents as well as to the threat of seismic survey technology, a practice in petroleum and gas exploration in which sound waves are used to discover untapped oil and gas reservoirs. The practice has been highly criticized by scientists and activists, citing severe harm to migratory species who utilized sound for communication and navigation purposes, among other issues.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management open comment period ends March 9th, and we need as many voices as possible to create a conservation chorus based upon compassion, science, unity, and truth. Together we can protect the entirety of the US coast from further exploitation and unnecessary, long term damage to precious marine life and delicate ecosystems. Together, we cannot be ignored.

Please join us

Living Near Clean Waterways Provides Health And Wellness Benefits

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Policy, Watersheds

By Kris Lindhal, realtor and water enthusiast from Blaine, Minnesota

The importance of clean, vibrant water cannot be understated. The environment constitutes our home and the arteries that deliver life-sustaining elements should be treated as sacred. But many people may not realize that these resources can also have a profound impact on our everyday health and wellness. Consider these positive effects of living near a clean lake, stream, river or sea, and how you can help keep them pure.

Ocean Air Combats Free Radicals

When we are exposed to secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes and industrial pollutants, free radicals can damage the cells in your body that may lead to cancer. Spending time by large water sources such as the ocean and breathing in the negative ions associated with sea air helps the body acquire oxygen and fight off free radicals. This healthy state helps improve our cognitive powers and brings serotonin levels into balance.

Psychological Effects of Natural Waterways

Few would dispute the fact that spending time by the water has a calming effect on the mind and spirit. While the high levels of negative ions in the air helps balance out serotonin levels, the sounds of waves breaking on the shore or the trickle of a stream flowing over rocks can relieve significant stress. Like calming music sounds can have a powerful impact on everyday moods. Repetitive sounds, such as the soft sounds of moving water can have a meditative effect.

How Homeowners Can Help Keep Water Clean

Legislation such as the Clean Waters Act was established to protect the environment from the harmful actions of industry. But the average home also has a significant impact on water purity. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint at home, consider these simple things homeowners can do to help protect our waterways:

Manage Hard Surfaces: Things like driveways and walkways tend to be pathways for pollutants to travel into storm drains. Use more gravel and materials that allows water to return to the Earth directly. If unavoidable, install a trench or catch area to capture water.

Watch What You Flush: Hard materials and products should never be flushed down the toilet. These pose a problem for treatments plants and can end up in waterways. Chemicals and medications should also be limited to trash disposal.

Proper Disposal: Automobiles use a variety of environmentally harmful compounds such as oil, gasoline, antifreeze and others. Home car care should be conducted with a plan to prevent spillage and collection in mind. Once these dangerous chemicals hit the ground, they will find their way to the water table.

Environmentally Friendly Products: Switch to all-natural and environmentally friendly dish soaps, laundry detergents and other products that routinely find their way down the drain. When purchasing items to keep your home clean and fresh, consider adopting a philosophy of do no harm in your daily life.