Photo contest winner
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Announcing Our December Photo Contest Winner!

Categories: Photo Contest

Congratulations to Andrew Rys, our winning photographer for December’s contest! Andrew took this beautiful photo in Little Compton, Rhode Island. We love how it captures the swirling surf and the serenity of the beach in the early morning.

Do you have a great photo of New England’s oceans to share?  Enter our photo contest! Each month, Brian Skerry will lead our team of judges to select a winner, who will receive a copy of Brian’s book Ocean Soul.

Entering is easy! Explore New England’s oceans, take some photographs and then share them with our online community on Flickr™. All you need to do is add your photos to the New England Ocean Odyssey group and tag them “PhotoContestNEOO”. Find out more here.

Be sure to check our our New England Ocean Odyssey Facebook page where we’ll continue to post honorable mentions from the photo contest and other great ocean photography.

We look forward to seeing your photos!

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Untangling our Ocean with Regional Ocean Planning

Categories: CLF Scoop

Quick – who is in charge of the ocean? Good luck answering that; ocean resources are currently managed by more than 20 federal agencies and administered through a web of more than 140 different and often conflicting laws and regulations. This results in such problems as:

  • Poor communication and coordination about ocean use decisions;
  • Slow, reactive management and decisions that drag on unnecessarily to delay or prevent good projects from moving forward;
  • Exclusion from the process – not all ocean users feel like they have a say in decisions;
  • Difficulty sharing information about uses – it’s hard to make sound decisions without having all the facts in one place.

 

Check out the short video above – our concerned octopus has a great idea for helping to change this: regional ocean planning.

Happily, New England is leading the charge in regional ocean planning, a process that brings together all ocean users – from fishermen to whale watchers, from beachgoers to renewable energy developers, to help us figure out how to share the ocean sustainably and maintain the benefits these resources provide for us all.

To learn more please visit Conservation Law Foundation’s regional ocean planning page, where we have podcasts, fact sheets, and updates on New England’s very active ocean planning process.

 

The distinctive V-shaped blow of a North Atlantic right whale.
The distinctive V-shaped blow of a North Atlantic right whale.
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Life on the Line: North Atlantic Right Whales Need Cashes Ledge

Categories: Cashes Ledge | Guest Posters

One of the favorite feeding grounds for an endangered whale is, well, an endangered ledge.

A Fertile Forest

Cashes Ledge, an underwater mountain range located 80 miles east of Cape Ann in the Gulf of Maine, teems with wildlife. As with many seamounts, the Ledge’s steep ridges and deep basins, as well as its kelp forests, create an underwater landscape ideal for marine animals to hide, hunt, and spawn.

Because of this abundant ecology, Cashes Ledge is looked upon with increasing desire by commercial fishing interests who want to be able to bring in bottom trawlers to get at the diverse populations of finfish who feed and breed there: fish like cod, haddock, hake, and halibut.

But humans aren’t the only ones who want to fish at Cashes Ledge: the richness of the indigenous ecosystem attracts ocean predators like migrating bluefin tuna, sharks, and yes, whales—all of whom depend on ecosystem of the Ledge for food.

With its abundant upwellings of plankton, Cashes Ledge is an important feeding stop for endangered humpback whales during their seasonal migration in the spring and early summer, and for even more critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, who feed at the Ledge during the summer and fall. The Ledge also attracts smaller, swifter minke whales, who dive in the slicks of calm water between the internal waves, as well as harbor porpoises.

Internal Waves

Right whales use their long black baleen plates, as long as a person is tall, to strain tiny zooplankton and krill out of the water. And there is plenty of plankton to be had at Cashes Ledge! The steep topography and stratified water column around Ammen Rock, the highest peak in the Cashes range, generates an oceanographic phenomenon known as internal waves, which bring plankton-rich waters into a highly dynamic circulation. The force of the internal waves pushes the warm water from the upper levels of the water column against the peaks and slopes of the ledge, driving it down to mix with colder depths, delivering a rich supply of plankton to the bottom. The warm water rises back to the upper photic zone where it is pushed along the ledge and forced downward again. This process, which happens as many as 20 times a day, results in the regular circulation of nutrient-rich water within the water column, and an area of high productivity and energy.

A Wayfaring Whale

For all their size and might, there are fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales alive on Earth today. Right whales are sometimes referred to as “urban whales,” as their migratory pathways carry them along coastlines busy with human commercial activity. Because they sift their food slowly at the water’s surface, they are vulnerable to injury or death from ship strike and entanglement in fishing nets.

Calving female right whales migrate south along the Atlantic coast of North America to bear their young in warmer southern waters, but in general, rights love to move about the Gulf of Maine in a regular pattern, looking for where the food supply is best. “Cashes Ledge is one of the stopping-off places for North Atlantic right whales and humpbacks, both endangered,” says Stormy Mayo, Senior Scientist and director of right whale habitat studies at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. “Cashes Ledge is notoriously rich and doubtless plays in important role in the rich processes of the Gulf of Maine.”

Whales have always been inextricably linked to their food: find one, and you find the other. Like all other animals, they go where the food is. In Moby-Dick, the crew of the Pequod locates right whales through the presence of “brit” — yellow swarms of copepods on the water.

An Interdependent Symphony

With fewer than 500 individuals left on the planet, every North Atlantic right whale is essential to the survival of the species. Protecting whales means preserving the ecosystems in which they can be nourished and healthy to survive the hazards of migration along highly-trafficked waterways.

One important way to protect animals is to keep the habitat that supports them intact and thriving. Which is why CLF is asking fisheries managers to permanently protect this special place. You can help by signing their petition.

Defending Cashes Ledge from trawling will benefit not only the gigantic right whales, but also a host of interdependent species, including cod, bluefin tuna, and other iconic “New Englanders.” CLF seeks to make the current industrial fishing restrictions on Cashes Ledge permanent, to ensure that this unique and vital habitat is fully restored and thriving to support generations of whales to come.

Laura Marjorie Miller writes about travel, ocean conservation, Yoga, magic, myth, fairy tales, photography, and other soulful subjects. She is a regular columnist at elephantjournal, a writer at UMass Amherst, and a travel correspondent for the Boston Globe. Her writing has appeared in Parabola and she has features forthcoming in Yankee Magazine and Seven Miles of Steel Thistles. She is based in Massachusetts, where she lives with a cat named Huck.

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Wishing you a Fin-tastic 2014!

Categories: Creature Features

Thank you so much for joining us on our New England Ocean Odyssey. We hope you stick around for another year of inspiring photography, heartfelt ocean conservation stories, and good clean shark fun! Happy New Year!

Thanks to Michel Labrecque for this photo contest winning blue shark image - it was reallly fun to dress up.

An undated image of members of the L Street Brownies - one of the oldest "polar bear" clubs in the US. Photo credit http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=File:L_street_brownies.jpg
An undated image of members of the L Street Brownies - one of the oldest "polar bear" clubs in the US. Photo credit http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=File:L_street_brownies.jpg
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Why Not Go for a Swim? It’s Polar Bear Plunge Season!

Categories: Guest Posters

Winter in New England is not for the faint of heart. Ice, snow, frigid cold temperatures and a biting wind  require residents of the region to steel themselves against sometimes ferocious weather. Shoveling sidewalks and driveways and trudging into the office through the wind tunnels created by the city skyscrapers can be a miserable experience.

For some us, though, the winter snow and freezing temperatures magically transforms our landscape — unlocking a winter wonderland of outdoor recreation. We can’t wait to head for the mountains to ski or slap on a pair of skates to glide, or more often, bump along  the frozen lakes and ponds. And there is nothing more exciting than flying down the backyard hills on sleds and saucers with your kids holding on for dear life.

But the holidays also bring out the most peculiar of New England winter traditions – the Polar Bear Plunge. In the coming week, tens of thousands of New Englanders will take to beaches across the region en masse on Christmas and New Years Day for an invigorating dip in the ocean. Why? Well, according to Bernaar MacFadden, the founder of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which claims to be the oldest “winter bathing” organization in the United States, swimming in the ocean in the wintertime is “a boon to one’s stamina, virility and immunity.”

I suppose a plunge into 45 degrees Fahrenheit water (and that’s what the sea surface temperature currently is registering at the Jeffrey’s Ledge weather buoy in the Gulf of Maine), might have a way of making you feel alive, but the true health benefits of shocking your system are up for debate. Some doctors advise caution before taking a winter swim, as the rush of adrenaline caused by the coldwater plunge can cause hyperventilation and irregular heart rhythms.

But that doesn’t stop the South Boston’s L Street Brownies who have been jumping into the ocean off Carson Beach every New Year’s Day since 1904, after one member reportedly posed the simple question, “Why don’t we go for a swim?” Whatever the risk, communities up and down the New England coast will flock to the seaside, run and jump wildly in and out of the ocean and once again celebrate sea no matter what the season. Why not go for a swim? Happy holidays to all!