Showing posts tagged as "conservation"
Beaches, rivers or lakes! Wherever you are, you can help keep our oceans clean and healthy by celebrating Coastal Cleanup Day this Saturday.
Find a location near you
Have you visited our new, redesigned Seafood Watch website? Now it’s easier than ever to make choices for healthy oceans. It features new, faster search – and works great on your mobile device.
Check it out
What makes WATCH a winner? Our “Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats” program recently won a Noyce Foundation “Bright Lights” award for outstanding community engagement. Our Executive Director Julie Packard tells why.
Did you know that today is World Shorebirds Day? We’re doing our part, and just released our final threatened snowy plover of the season, for a total of close to 20 rescued birds. Unfortunately, many shorebird species are threatened due to habitat loss, pollution and other factors.
Learn more about World Shorebirds Day and what you can do to help!
(Photos: Aimee Greenebaum)
Space invader! This fetching fish is becoming infamous as it gobbles its way through the world’s oceans. Learn more about the invasive lionfish—and one way to help reduce its devastating effects—in our latest podcast.
A Sad Anniversary—and a Cautionary Tale for Our Oceans
By Jim Covel, Director of Guest Experience
September 1 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon. Named “Martha,” this bird has the dubious distinction of being an “endling,” meaning she was the very last of her species. Martha spent most of her estimated 29 years at the Cincinnati Zoo in one of the first captive breeding programs, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
What makes Martha’s story so remarkable—and regrettable—is that a century earlier the number of passenger pigeons in North America was estimated as high as 3-5 billion birds! The flocks depended on large tracts of hardwood forest for food, nesting and roosting areas. One nesting area in Wisconsin was estimated at 850 square miles hosting over 130,000,000 passenger pigeons. Migrating flocks would darken the skies for hours or days at a time.
Despite those unimaginable numbers, in less than 100 years only Martha remained—and then there were none. Unregulated commercial hunting wiped out one flock after another. The bird’s habit of consistently returning to the same areas facilitated the slaughter. Removing vast tracts of forest that were essential habitat for the passenger pigeon put the final nail in the species coffin.
In retrospect, Martha and her kind provided an awful awakening that we humans had the power to drive nearly any species over the precipice into extinction. Martha inspired a new round of conservation measures that limited and eventually eliminated many forms of commercial hunting. It would be nice to know that we learned that lesson well. But have we?
Passenger Pigeons of the Ocean?
If we look to the sea rather than the sky, there are fishes that might be considered the passenger pigeons of the ocean—species once so abundant their numbers were considered both inestimable and inexhaustible. The great runs of salmon on our Pacific Coast might be one example. Most major rivers along this coast supported runs of salmon ranging from the hundreds of thousands to over 10 million in the Columbia River. These fish were concentrated into defined spawning runs, much like the passenger pigeons occupied specific nesting and roosting areas. Early fishers could row from shore placing large seine nets around the salmon and then using teams of horses to drag the laden nets up onto shore.
Yet today many salmon runs are considered endangered. Commercial salmon fishing is highly regulated as is sport fishing, so why are salmon numbers still in trouble? The quality of salmon habitat—particularly spawning streams and rivers—continues to decline. Just as farmland replaced the extensive hardwood forests the passenger pigeons relied upon, human demands for fresh water leave less and less available in streams for the fish. A universal truth in nature is that any species is only as healthy as the habitat it depends upon.
So if we work toward healthy oceans and healthy streams, perhaps we can enjoy healthy populations of many important fishes well into the future. The very thought that someday there could be an “endling” coho salmon, or bluefin tuna is too terrible to contemplate. Remember Martha, and as we acknowledge her regrettable anniversary we can renew our commitment to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Learn more about conservation at the Aquarium
(Image from Smithsonian Institution Archives)
It’s a sea otter celebration! Thanks to you, the California State Sea Otter Fund met its target this year, and will be on tax forms again in 2015. Kudos for checking the box in support of sea otter research on your California State tax form!
Hop on down! The red-legged frog just became California’s official state amphibian—and you can see one at the Aquarium. This local leaper was even featured in Mark Twain’s famous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
Learn more about this threatened species
High school senior Graham Foster wants a future in science when he graduates. He took a big step toward that goal when he joined 75 other students from Pajaro Valley High School, Aptos High School and Watsonville High School for the Aquarium’s Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) program.
The award-winning education program begins with a two-week outdoor summer camp and continues through the school year. Boogie boarding, exploring riparian habitats and creating sand sculptures, combined with visits to organic farms and waste-water treatment plants immerse the teens in diverse habitats and introduce them to people who are making a difference in their community.
Alongside educators and local ecologists, the students learn scientific methods to evaluate the health of local wetland habitats. WATCH students gain a better understanding of ocean systems, and their commitment to ocean conservation issues grows stronger because of it. They also become more personally connected to the ocean, committed to conservation and confident in their ability to make informed, environmentally sound choices.
WATCH students continue their summer camp experience in the classroom the following year where they pursue a larger environmental project that involves community awareness and conservation. Several teens previously enrolled in WATCH programs have earned regional and national recognition for their conservation initiatives.
“The impact these high school students have on their community and surrounding environment is very impressive,” says Rita Bell, director of the Aquarium’s education programs. “Their enthusiasm for the environment, for learning and for one another, is infectious!”
Interested? Learn more about our education programs!
Shark supporter? We’re proud to be one of the official sponsors of shark fin legislation—a movement that has spread to 12 states and territories, and around the world. Now THAT’S a reason to celebrate #SharkWeek!
Help sharks by using our Seafood Watch guides
(Photo: Michael Burns)