Join us September 2 to Protect Ocean Treasures

Aug 21, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

You are invited to join world-renowned National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry for an evening of scientific exploration about two extraordinary underwater Atlantic Ocean landmarks in New England.

RSVP to join us at the New England Aquarium in Boston at 5:30pm on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Come learn about the need to permanently protect these special places from human threats – forever.

A red cod swims in the healthy kelp forest on Cashes Ledge

A red cod swims in the healthy kelp forest on Cashes Ledge

Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts, 150 miles off Cape Cod, are two spectacular underwater places located off New England’s coast. These precious ecosystems provide refuge for hundreds of species, many of which are rare and unique, and they are critical to the vibrancy of our coastal communities.

But these treasures are under threat from climate change, industrial exploitation and fishing.

That’s why we’re gathering with distinguished guests, including Brian Skerry and some of New England’s most prominent marine scientists.

We hope you’ll attend our free pre-event reception at 5:30, where you’ll meet fellow supporters from CLF and other environmental organizations involved in this historic effort to permanently protect Atlantic Ocean treasures – and make your voice heard in support of these marine treasures.

Now is the time to protect Cashes Ledge and the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts – and we need your help! Your presence will show that the people of New England care about these underwater ocean landmarks. RSVP today.

September 2, 2015  |  Reception: 5:30   |  Event: 6:15
New England Aquarium, Simons IMAX Theater, downtown Boston

“Her Deepness” Dr. Sylvia Earle is commemorating her 80th birthday with a dive at Cashes Ledge

Aug 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Photo courtesy of Mission Blue

Photo courtesy Mission Blue

Dr. Sylvia Earle is many things: Oceanographer. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Scientist. Diver. Founder. Pioneer. Author. Advocate. And, my favorite – conservationist.

As Dr. Earle prepares to dive with Conservation Law Foundation at Cashes Ledge this weekend to celebrate her 80th (yes, 80th!) birthday, I’ve been learning a lot about this inspiring and accomplished person.

Many people have been exposed to Sylvia’s work through her recent Netflix documentary, Mission Blue, but Dr. Earle’s work as an advocate for the world’s oceans began decades ago. Her accomplishments and achievements are many, so I’ll attempt some highlights:

In 1964, Earle embarked on a dive in the Indian Ocean where she was the only woman in a 70-person crew – a pioneer and role model for women in the sciences

  • In 1979, Earle walked untethered on the ocean floor, a world record-setting 1,250 feet below the surface. After this dive, she was fittingly dubbed “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker, a nickname that has stuck
  • In 1990, she became the first female chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Earle was named TIME’s first “Hero for the Planet” in 1998

Dr. Earle’s work and accomplishments are seemingly endless. She has led more than 100 expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater. Having dived at remarkable places all over the world – from the Galapagos Islands, to the coast of China, to Oahu – Dr. Earle is coming to Cashes Ledge for the first time. As a renowned scientist who could visit any of the world’s amazing underwater places, we’re excited that she’s chosen our amazing place, right here in New England’s backyard.

Cashes Ledge underwater mountain range is an ecological hotspot. Its tallest peak, Ammen Rock, disrupts the Gulf of Maine current, creating the conditions necessary

Photo courtesy Kip Evans/Mission Blue

Photo courtesy Kip Evans/Mission Blue

for an abundance of unique wildlife. In recent years, it’s seen threats of a reopening to fishing (which would be disastrous for the creatures and habitats that find refuge there); it is also at risk from climate change and the potential for industrial exploration. Because of this, Cashes Ledge needs permanent protection, and we’re so excited to work together with Dr. Earle to make this a reality.

In Mission Blue, Dr. Earle spoke about areas in the ocean that need special protections, the same way certain land areas are designated as national parks. She calls these places “hope spots” – places where we can still have hope for saving and conserving the ocean — and therefore our future. Because, as she says: “No blue; No green.” No ocean, no us! We are thrilled that Cashes Ledge and the deep-sea canyons and seamounts are being declared a Hope Spot.

The dive at Cashes Ledge is scheduled for Aug. 8-12, 2015, but is dependent upon weather conditions. Follow along on Twitter @theCLF where we’ll be posting updates with the hashtag #HopeforCashesLedge.

How Climate Change Could Affect Your Lobster Roll

Jul 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Did you think we could finally put this year’s harsh winter behind us? Think again. The summer season has officially started, but it seems our lobster roll – New England’s famed summer seafood – is paying the price for the snowy winter…or at least we are paying the price for the lobster roll.

A lobster at the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Maine/New Hampshire. Photo credit: Brian Skerry/NEOO.

Lobsters are available in New England year round, but any New Englander will tell you that the true lobster season kicks-off in the summertime. This is when the sweeter, juicier soft shell lobsters, often known as “shedders,” undergo molting, a growth process during which the crustaceans shed their old, too-small shells and grow new, larger ones. After the molting process is complete, the lobsters then migrate closer inshore where they are readily available for lobstermen to haul up in their traps.

So far this season there have been numerous news stories on the increasing price of lobster. On average, lobster per pound prices are already $1 to $2 more expensive than last year’s, a trend that University of Maine researchers have attributed to lower ocean temperatures due to the past winter.

Ocean water temperature heavily influences the timing and frequency of the molting process, which in turn influences when lobsters are ready for harvest. Adult lobsters living in colder waters will typically only molt once a year and are known to have later molting periods compared to those in warmer waters. Since the harsh winter caused a drop in ocean temperatures, the lobster molting season in New England has been delayed, at least compared to recent years. This has resulted in a lower supply of lobsters and a slower, more expensive start to the summer lobster season.

As Dr. Bob Steneck from the University of Maine told Business Insider, this summer “will be a one-molt season, based on temperatures,” and that molt will likely not occur until July or August. Unfortunately, until that occurs, we can expect to pay a little more for our lobster dinners.

Don’t let the cooler water temperatures fool you, though; if anything, this summer is a glimpse into the past. The start of this year is contrary to recent trends we are seeing in the lobster industry – lucky for our wallets, not so lucky for the lobsters. Lobsters are a cold-water species that will continually face the impacts of climate change such as warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification on a daily basis.

Climate change is the reason why we saw record high lobster landings and low prices in 2012 and 2013. Warming ocean temperatures triggered an early molting and migration season for lobsters, leading to a high supply early on in the summer. Also, since the molting occurred so early, we experienced a two-molt season, which is atypical for New England waters and leads to a high supply of lobsters throughout the summer.

These conditions are not sustainable for lobsters. In warmer temperatures, lobsters are forced to use more energy for respiration, and therefore have less available for feeding, growth, energy storage, and reproduction. A lobster’s immune response is also compromised by the warmer water, which is evident from the upsurge in occurrences of shell disease.

We must not let the current season fool us – climate change still remains a great threat to our lobster populations. Global warming rates are not slowing down; they are occurring faster than ever. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the rest of the ocean. In an attempt to understand climate change impacts on the lobster industry and help the lobster industry better prepare for the season, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has started a lobster forecasting project and was able to accurately predict the late start for this year’s season.

Unfortunately, this prediction model has come too late for the southern New England lobster industry, which has all but disappeared as the lobsters migrated north in search of cooler waters. Hopefully, in the Gulf of Maine, it can be a new tool in our climate change adaptation belt.

Take Action to Protect Ocean Habitat

Dec 5, 2014 by  | Bio |  5 Comment »

New England’s ocean is a unique and breathtakingly beautiful marine environment. One of the extraordinary places that CLF has featured as part of its ocean conservation efforts is the highly productive, diverse, and dramatically beautiful Cashes Ledge. Tragically, despite these valuable and irreplaceable characteristics, Cashes Ledge is in danger of being opened to trawls, dredges, and other destructive fishing practices pursuant to a fisheries management proposal that would eliminate its currents protections—and ultimately do more harm than good to Cashes and numerous other fragile ocean habitat in our region.

Kelp Forest at Cashes Ledge; 70-miles off the coast of Maine

For more than ten years Cashes Ledge has been protected against the most damaging forms of fishing, such as bottom trawling and dredging. But the New England Fishery Management Council is now considering a proposal that would remove these protections. The proposal, known as the Omnibus Habitat Amendment (OHA), includes a range of alternatives for managing ocean habitat. One alternative would eliminate all the current protected areas that now provide fish a safe haven from damaging fish trawls and other harmful gear. Another alternative would reduce the amount of protected ocean in New England by as much as 70%. Among the many harmful alternatives being considered is one, preferred by the Council, that would expose more than 70% of the currently protected Cashes Ledge area to damaging bottom fishing. The Council has made a preliminary decision to move forward with this alternative that would eliminate protection for areas where the imperiled Atlantic cod obtains refuge to feed, spawn, and avoid predators–in spite of recommendations from its own technical staff and scientists to leave Cashes fully intact!

This is not only contrary to the OHA’s habitat protection objective, but an overall bad sign for an ocean ecosystem already unable to sustain healthy populations of important species like Atlantic cod and flounder.

Now is your chance to tell the Council and NOAA that you won’t stand for this kind of mismanagement. You can submit written comments to these agencies here, as well as make a statement in person at public hearings that are currently taking place all over New England and in a few of the mid-Atlantic states. Your simple presence at these meetings would demonstrate to the Council the widespread support for keeping Cashes Ledge permanently closed to harmful fishing practices. As New England ocean-lovers, it is our responsibility to reveal to others the true beauty of our home waters, and show that New England’s ocean is a spectacular ecosystem that deserves to be protected.

Thank you for your continued support, and we hope to see you out there!

“Snap the Shore, See the Future”

Oct 8, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

king-tides

Point Judith Sunset. Photo Credit: Austin Recio.

Living in the Gulf of Maine area, climate change and sea level rise are bound to affect our lives. According to the EPA, we could see a 2-foot rise in global sea level by 2100. For almost 50 years Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has worked to restore and protect the Gulf of Maine and surrounding waters, New England’s largest public trust resource. Our work includes cleaning up our harbors, protecting ocean wildlife and critical ocean habitats like Cashes Ledge, and working to create a region-wide plan to help coastal communities adapt to rising sea levels caused by climate change.

It can be difficult to imagine the effect climate change will have on our coastlines. That’s why CLF appreciates the work of the King Tides Project, a non-profit organization made up of local interest groups that strives to effectively explain to people just how climate change will impact our coasts and the people living there.

King tides are completely natural phenomena, occurring twice a year when the sun and moon align. And even though they are regular and predictable, king tides have a chance of damaging coastlines if they occur during poor weather conditions. These tides “give us a sneak preview of what higher sea levels could look like.”

The next king tide is tomorrow, October 9th at 12:30pm—this is where you come in. The King Tides Project is hosting a Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest! The organization wants local residents to visually document how the king tide—what may very well be “the new tidal norm” with sea level rise—is affecting Gulf of Maine coastal areas. So, CLF members and supporters, here is your chance to show us how you view the Gulf of Maine and why we should take action to reduce the effects of climate change! For more information, you can go to the Gulf of Maine King Tides website.

Dive In with Brian Skerry as He Prepares to Photograph Cashes Ledge

May 22, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Over the past two years, National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry has taken us on an incredible tour of some of our region’s marine life – from blue sharks to red cod to North Atlantic right whales.

We now have some exciting news to share with you all – over the next two weeks, Brian Skerry will return to the Gulf of Maine and Cashes Ledge to photograph more of New England’s incredible marine life and habitat!

Brian has photographed marine life around the world – from China to Spain and everywhere in between – so we’re excited to have him return to his native New England waters (he’s originally from Uxbridge, MA). Brian has called New England Ocean Odyssey “an opportunity to bring my fellow New Englanders along with me and show them that our ocean is every bit as thrilling and surprising and beautiful as seemingly more exotic locales.”

Brian-Skerry

Brian Skerry gets ready for a dive on Cashes Ledge.

From May 25 to June 6, Brian will dive from the R/V Tioga out of Portsmouth, NH. The ultimate goal: to return to Cashes Ledge, an ecological marvel 100 miles off the Maine coast. This underwater mountain range rises to within 40 feet of the surface. Being so close to the surface exposes this mountaintop to sunlight, and its steep topography creates internal waves that mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water. This mixing supports incredible productivity, including the deepest and largest cold-water kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard. The diverse habitat of Cashes Ledge draws in an spectacular array of marine wildlife – rare anemones and sponges, fish like cod, wolffish, and bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and endangered North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales.

The exact dive locations will depend on a lot of factors, like weather and visibility, but Brian and the team are hoping to visit sites from the inshore Isles of Shoals to more far-flung locations, including Cashes Ledge. Along the way, Brian will be joined by a team of ocean scientists, advocates, photographers, and videographers, including Dr. Jon Witman, a marine ecologist who led the first ecological study of overfishing in the Gulf of Maine and has spent decades studying invertebrate and fish communities on Cashes Ledge and other marine habitats in the region. We’ll be introducing more members of our dive team to you over the next two weeks.

Brian and the entire team are looking forward to exploring some of the incredible habitat the Gulf of Maine has to offer, from rocky shoals to anemone beds to lush kelp forests. Over the next two weeks, be sure to follow Conservation Law Foundation and New England Ocean Odyssey on Facebook and on Twitter at #CLFDive2014 as we share snapshots and updates from this one-of-a-kind expedition. With Brian as our guide, we look forward to revealing more of the amazing wonders beneath New England’s waves.

Making a Plan to Protect our Beautiful Places

Apr 9, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Cheering SectionNow that we are in the throes of a real ocean planning process in New England , how will we protect special places in New England’s ocean? We have both a great responsibility and a great opportunity to do so as we bring people together to make decisions about how we will manage multiple and growing uses in our already busy ocean.

We must identify and protect the beautiful places in New England’s ocean that provide food and shelter and spawning areas that can help our ocean thrive. Places like Cashes Ledge, located about 80 miles east of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. It’s a unique underwater mountain range which provides refuge for a vibrant, diverse world of ocean wildlife.

The steep ridges and deep basins of Cashes Ledge create ideal conditions for marine life as currents mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water at a depth exposed to sunlight. Home to the deepest and largest cold water kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard, Cashes Ledge provides an important source of food and a diverse habitat for common New England fish and rare species such as the Atlantic wolffish. This abundance draws in even more ocean wildlife like migrating schools of bluefin tuna, blue and porbeagle sharks, and passing pods of highly endangered North Atlantic right whales and humpback whales.

Cashes Ledge is important not only to marine life but also to scientists hoping to learn about the health and function of New England’s oceans – many scientists believe that Cashes Ledge represents the best remaining example of an undisturbed Gulf of Maine ecosystem. As a result, scientists have used Cashes Ledge as an underwater laboratory for decades.

There are many other beautiful places in the Gulf of Maine, some we know about, and some we may not have identified yet. That’s why it’s essential that our regional planning process includes science-driven work to actively identify and protect these ecologically important areas. The basic chemistry of our ocean is rapidly changing, and if our ecosystems are going to adapt, they will need the space and time to do so. Reducing fishing, shipping, and other pressures on certain areas may be one of the best ways to give them these.

As CLF continues to be extremely active in New England’s ocean planning process, we will also continue highlighting the need to protect New England’s beautiful places and thriving ecosystems.

Please Stand With Us, For the Sake of Cod

Apr 3, 2013 by  | Bio |  12 Comment »

A few weeks ago my colleague Peter Shelley stood in front of fishermen and policymakers and spoke about the startling decline of New England’s cod fishery. Did you know that, since 1982, it’s estimated we have lost more than 80% of the cod in New England’s ocean? That surely should be a wake up call to us all.

That day, Peter’s argument was simple, and backed by sound science. We must act quickly, he argued, to prevent the Atlantic cod – New England’s most iconic fish — from complete and utter collapse.

The response? Hisses and boos. Hisses and boos.

Peter is no fool – he knew what was coming. A fisheries expert who filed the first lawsuit that led to the cleanup of Boston Harbor, Peter has heard this same response too often. But still, this response is as startling as it is unhelpful.

The science is clear. Atlantic cod populations are at an all-time historic low. The cod fishery, which for generations has supported a way of life in New England’s coastal communities, may be in complete collapse. Don’t believe me? Watch this video of Peter explaining the science behind this critical issue.

Over the coming 14 days, NOAA – the agency in charge of setting limits on how much cod commercial fisherman can catch – is deciding how much to allow commercial fisherman to catch this year. We at CLF believe that the managers of this public resource have a responsibility to revive and rebuild cod stocks.

Instead, they are continuing a decades-long pattern of risky decision-making that has run this fishery and its communities into the ground.

We have an opportunity to urge NOAA to save the Atlantic cod from complete collapse. But we have to act now. The longer we wait, the more we risk losing this iconic fishery.

We at CLF are working to urge NOAA to do three things:

  1. Shut down the commercial cod fishery, so as to save it for future generations
  2. Protect cod populations, especially the adult females that produce as many as 8 million eggs a year
  3. And, protect the ocean refuges that will allow cod to recover, not bow to industry pressure by opening them to more commercial fishing.

If you believe, as we at CLF believe, that the cod fishery is worth saving, please stand with thousands of New Englanders and take action today.

Now is not the time to push the limits of the law and set dangerously high catch levels. Now is not the time to bow to industry pressure. Now is not the time to risk this species for short-term gain.

Now is the time to show strength, and real leadership. Now is the time to try to save New England’s cod fishery for future generations to enjoy.

Please stand with us, and thousands of others, in calling on NOAA to protect this species before it’s too late.

Getting Educated – Sea Rovers Style

Mar 14, 2013 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

Under the Ice

Under the Ice. Photo by Zach Whalen.

I’ll be honest with you – I tend to stay on top of the water when I’m in the ocean. Or, I try, anyway. As a surfer the goal is to spend as little time underwater as possible. Especially in the winter. But I’m starting to think I’m missing out on something by avoiding the chilly depths of our Gulf of Maine.

The Boston Sea Rovers, one of the oldest underwater clubs in the nation, hosted its 59th annual show this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to be there with some fellow CLFers. We went to talk about the importance of preserving valuable habitat, like Cashes Ledge, for protecting our fragile ocean ecosystems and helping our dwindling groundfish stocks recover.

We hoped that by showing people Brian Skerry’s beautiful photographs of the gorgeous kelp forest and amazing animals of Cashes Ledge, the divers would be inspired to help us protect it. They were – we got hundreds of signatures on our petition to ask our fisheries managers to protect essential habitat in the Gulf of Maine. And, while we may have gone there to talk, we ended up doing a lot of listening as well. Here are just a few things I learned after spending two days talking with divers:

  • The Gulf of Maine is an excellent place to dive. There are so many wonderful animals to see here.
  • But visibility often stinks. This is partly due to the very productive nature of our waters. As phytoplankton bloom and the food chain gets going, it gets a little harder to see. Or, poor visibility can be due to human activities in the water (see next bullet).
  • The ocean floor looks pretty bad after a bottom trawler comes through. I heard this dozens of times this weekend. “It looks like a freshly plowed field,” said one diver, and you can see the sediment plume from miles away.
  • The next time I want to talk to divers about the amazing beauty of Cashes Ledge, I’d better bring a map so they know how to get there and see for themselves.
  • The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Discovery Channel have partnered to develop a robot that can follow a white shark. Seriously. I saw the footage. More on this later in the month (yes, I am totally geeking out on this).

I also learned that, in spite of difficulties equalizing my ears underwater, there may be ways I can still get down below, if I take things very slowly. I’m pretty stoked to find out if that’s true. My 10 year old son, who was with me this weekend, wants to learn also. Even more motivating!

I’m not sure I’ll be as hardy as diver Zachary Whalen, who took this awesome picture under the ice, but maybe I can at least go down below on a warmer day and watch the seals that I usually only see when they pop their heads up next to me while I surf.  But if there are waves – I’m bringing my board.