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16 Reasons to Love and Preserve the Ocean

The ocean can be described in an endless number of ways. It's refreshing, beautiful and humbling. It's vast, mysterious and terrifying. It's magnificence has inspired countless novels, films, documentaries, songs, and news articles.

If it were a god, it would already have millions of devoted disciples -- divers, scientists, surfers, biologists, ocean-going enthusiasts -- who are in constant awe of its power and beauty. That's why, for World Oceans Day, we wanted to explore the reasons we are all drawn to the sea.

Below, 16 reasons the ocean, our beloved resource, is one of the most fascinating elements on our planet Earth.

1. The ocean covers over 70 percent of our planet's surface and contains about 99 percent of the living space on Earth.
According to the MarineBio Conservation Society, humans have only explored less then 10% of that "living space," which pretty much means we know absolutely nothing about the blue marble of a world we live in:

 

2. An estimated 2.2 million species live in the ocean.
Between 50 to 80% of all life on Earth is under the sea:

 

3. Like this jellyfish that ages backwards.
The Turritopsis dohrnii (a.k.a. the "immortal" jellyfish) has the ability to transform itself into a younger state:

 

4. Or this horseshoe crab.
They've existed on Earth for over 300 million years. That's older than the dinosaurs:

 

5. Or the largest and heaviest animal to ever exist.
The blue whale, which is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, can grow as long as 100 feet and weigh up to 330,000 pounds:

 

6. But let's talk about the one fish that everyone is absolutely fascinated with -- sharks.
Love 'em or hate 'em, these toothy fish are one parts terrifying, a thousand parts misunderstood. While they are considered an apex predator of the sea, you are at a higher risk of dying from a mosquito bite than a shark:

 

7. Sharks are actually designed to be the ultimate ocean navigators.
Shark skeleton is made of cartilage and its skin is covered with tiny toothlike scales, making them fierce swimming machines. And contrary to common belief, research has shown that sharks have sharp vision and are ten times more sensitive to light than humans -- perfect for preying in dark waters:

 

8. Speaking of dark waters, the average depth of the ocean is around 14,000 feet.
That's more than 40 football fields, from end zone to end zone. There, magnificent, bioluminescent, and sometimes even scary creatures roam about a dark world, like this viperfish:

 

And bioluminescent jellies, also known as ctenophore:

 

9. But, in lighter waters, where the sun rays glow, a magnificent forest emerges.
Kelp forests have the ability to grow up to 18 inches per day, creating the perfect, nutrient-rich playground for seals, sea lions, whales and birds:

 

And adorable sea otters:

 

10. The world's ocean is arguably the most important resource we, as citizens of Earth, have.
Aside from the oceans comprising most of our planet, it is a source of food for hundreds of thousands of species. Sadly,overfishing and other human-created pollution are responsible for harming our greatest resource. If we continue, we may eventually run out of fish, setting a domino effect of disaster. That could mean no more beautiful, thriving reefs like this:

 

Or this mesmerizing bait ball -- press play and watch the hypnotic fish gather by the thousands to protect themselves from predators like dolphins, sharks and birds (yes, aerial attackers swooping in from above):

11. And don't get us started on how naturally clever the ocean can be.
Ever thought, 'Silly Spongebob, how can there be a lake under the sea?' Turns out, we are the silly ones. In parts of the world, like in the waters of Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, hydrogen sulfate mixes with saltwater, making it heavier than regular saltwater and causing it to sink to the bottom and flow like a river:

 

12. The sea is actually way more physically diverse than that tropical beach on your phone's wallpaper.
It's frigid and cold:

 

It's fiercely rough and stormy:

 

But, of course, it's also warm, crystal clear and incredibly inviting:

13. And when the elements align in perfect unison, it's the ultimate playground.

But remember, the ocean isn't just a playground, nor is it only ours. It is a resource we must protect if we want to continue to enjoy it like this:

14. Can we just step back for a moment and take in just how simply beautiful the ocean is?
By the way, submersing yourself in the salty sea is actually good for your mental and physical health:

Deep breath in...

Deep breath out...

15. While we humans don't have gills (yet), the ocean can be one of our greatest spiritual sanctuaries.
Anyone who spends a lot of time in the ocean -- surfing through waves, diving in deep waters, sailing across the world -- can tell you just how humbling the power of the sea is. It can heighten the senses and can give you the most heartfelt and emotional thrill of your life:

16. The ocean, whether we realize it or not, is the world's most shared resource, jointly used by billions of humans all across the globe.
The sea provides us with air to breathe (ocean plants provide half the world's oxygen), gives us food to eat (around 3.5 billion people rely on the ocean as their primary food source), and even helps boost our economy (one in every six jobs is marine related). The Polynesian Voyaging Society recently began a three year voyage around the world in a wooden canoe, using ancient wayfaring techniques, to prove that we are all connected and need to take care of Mother Earth, just as she takes care of us:

Help Save Our Seas. Get involved. For more on what you can do check out these amazing organizations:

http://oceana.org/

http://www.5gyres.org/ 

http://www.seashepherd.org/

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/oceans

https://www.surfrider.org/

 

 

Why we use recycled plastics??

Here's why:

Photo
The carcass of an albatross chick that was fed plastic by its parents.CreditClaire Fackler/PNAS
SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

Seabirds like albatross, petrels and penguins face a growing threat from plastic waste in parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans, according to a new study published on Monday.

Brightly colored floating bits – debris that includes items such as discarded flip-flops, water bottles and popped balloons – often attract seabirds, which confuse them for food like krill or shrimp. Many die from swallowing the plastic.

The problem received some national attention in 2013 with the documentary “Midway,” which showed a remote island in the Pacificcovered in corpses of baby albatross. Their exposed innards revealed lighters, bottle caps and toothbrushes mistakenly fed to them by their parents.

The number of incidents like these is rapidly increasing, according to the new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers from Australia and Britain analyzed a number of papers from 1962 to 2012 that had surveyed 135 seabirds. The team found that fewer than 10 percent of seabirds had traces of plastic in their stomachs during the 1970s and 1980s. They estimated that today that number has increased to about 90 percent of seabirds. And they predict that 99 percent of all seabirds will swallow plastic in 2050.

For Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Imperial College London and co-author of the paper, the most surprising findings from their analysis were the locations where seabirds were most likely to ingest plastic.

Researchers had previously thought that giant garbage patchesswirling between Hawaii and California were the most likely places where birds would eat the waste. Instead, most seabirds are ingesting plastic at hotspots that stretch from Australia and New Zealand to South Africa and Chile.

Boris Worm, a marine biologist from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who was not involved in the research, said that seabird deaths are the most visible sign of a larger threat that plastics pose to marine wildlife like fish, whales and sea turtles.

“It’s an indicator that our world is literally getting clogged by plastic,” he said.

The study’s authors suggest stricter regulations on plastic production, consumption and disposal, as well as the development of plastics that degrade in seawater.

Global plastic production has doubled every 11 years since the 1950s and currently tops 300 million tons per year. Currently more thanseven million tons of plastic trash end up in the ocean, often a result of improper dumping into rivers that wash into the sea.
—NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR

Harvest on the front Lines of the Santa Barbara oil spill

Last Tuesday, an onshore pipeline belonging to the Texas-based oil company Plains All American burst, spewing roughly 105,000 gallons of crude down a storm drain and into an undeveloped stretch of coastline just north of Santa Barbara. We wanted to get a closer look at the environmental impacts, and do what we could to help clean up so we spent a couple days volunteering around the spill area, and soon a baby elephant seal would be thanking us.


Ground zero for the spill occurred near Refugio State beach and El Capitan State beaches. These areas have been completely closed off to the public. Armed guards patrol these areas keeping the public's prying eyes away, and focused on other issues while trained clean up crews work to clean the beaches and shorelines around these state parks. It's unclear if these guards were hired by the oil company for the public's safety, or if they have more to hide on those beaches, or both.

North and south of those two beaches there are pockets of concerned citizens volunteering to clean up the oil company's mess. That's where our mission begins. 

The spill affects an approximately 20 mile stretch of coast from Arroyo Hondo beach stretching south nearly to UCSB. This region of the Santa Barbara Chanel that stretches from the coast out to the Channel Islands is often called the “Galapagos of the north” for its ecological richness and diversity. The channel offers habitat to porpoises, dolphins, seals and sea lions, in addition to serving as a migratory passage for blue and humpback whales and a range of birds. 

South of the spill is a 9 mile stretch of privately owned coastline with no public access. Being somewhat local to the area, We knew of a couple surf spots located in that stretch, but getting to them requires a pretty solid hike. 

After a couple hours hike in we finally made it up into some usually pristine isolated beaches, only to be shocked by what we saw. Oil everywhere.. Beaches and rocks stained and sprinkled with raw crude oil. But the most depressing sight was the number of wildlife affected by the spill. We saw dozens of birds and pelicans with completely black oil slicked under bellies and beaks, and a number of dead pelicans and even a seal lifeless on these beaches.

This stretch of coastline is a wildlife preserve. Seals and other animals love these beaches because they are still relatively unimpacted by humans because of the lack of development and public access. It was great to see some other dedicated locals working to clean the oil of the sand so the wildlife could have their beaches back.

Bucket by bucket we hauled small chunks of oil stained sand off the beach. Then racked any other debri or small bits of oil into piles to be shoveled off and removed. This process was repeated hundreds of times at various hidden beaches by dozens of concerned citizens, including ourselves. But still the tide brings more chunks of crude oil onto the beaches with every pull from the moon. After cleaning a small cove to the best of our ability we decided to hike even further north up the beach towards ground zero in search of marine life in distress. This is where we found our Elephant seal pup covered in oil and barely clinging to life.

Elephant seals are protected species. Their populations were dwindled down to a few due to commercial fishing in the early 1900s. Since then their populations have been rising, but they are still endangered. We knew it was important to get this elephant seal pup help asap. We called Wildlife Fish and Game, 911, and every other number those two organizations gave us. All our calls got the same response; "We are not sure we can get to you because our resources are maxed out". Apparently there are so many marine animals affected by the oil spill they can not all be rescued.

At that point we decided to split up. One of us went for help and I stayed with the seal. It would be over 3 hours until I saw another human. I spent that time trying to keep the seal alive. I tried cleaning the oil of it with a wet shirt but that was useless. The oil was caked on, Mostly around its head and eyes. I spent most of the time just sitting with it, talking to it and wiping it down with a wet shirt, just trying to keep it from slipping away. I even tried to reach out to the many oil company helicopters I saw flying overhead by writing messages in the sand. I felt like a shipwrecked survivor on an island trying to signal planes flying overhead with rescue messages written in the sand. None of my attempts were answered. 

Northern elephant seals are the largest phocid, or "true" seal, in the Northern Hemisphere. Fully grown males can reach lengths of over 13 feet and can weigh nearly 4,400 pounds. Females are significantly smaller than males, but are also quite large growing to about 10 feet long and weighing up to 1,300 pounds. Pups are born in early winter from December to January. Northern elephant seal pups are about 4 feet long and weigh about 75 lbs at birth. Our seal was very dehydrated but i guessed still weighed around 120-150 lbs.

Elephant seal pups are very vulnerable during oil spills because the mother/pup bond is affected by the odor. Seals use smells to identify their young. If the mother cannot identify its pup by smell in the large colony it may not feed it or it might even reject attempts by the pup to suckle. This leads to starvation and abandonment. Oil will also attack exposed sensitive tissues. These include mucous membranes that surround the eyes and line the oral cavity, respiratory surfaces, anal and urogenital orifices. This can cause corneal abrasions, conjunctivitis and ulcers. Consumption of oil-contaminated prey will lead to the accumulation of hydrocarbons in tissues and organs. Hydrocarbons of oil are transferred rapidly to the bloodstream from the lungs and can damage red blood cells, suppress immune systems, strain the liver, spleen and kidneys and even interfere with the reproductive system of animals and humans.

My seal was running out of time. I could see death in her eyes when she looked at me. She knew it too. She begged me to do something with each gaze. It was gut wrenching to have her look at me and know we were both helpless right now. My anger at this disaster turned to sadness at the loss of life i was witnessing. I had been out there for hours after calling for help and was starting to think no one was coming. I considered carrying the seal, even tried to pick her up at one point, but i felt her weight and didn't think i could make it a few miles down the soft sand to civilization with her.

The tide was coming up and now I was starting to worry about my safety. There were a couple points along the hike where even at low tide the ocean was close to the bluffs. I took notice when i was walking out that if the tide got to high i would not be able to get around a couple points. The tide and the steep rock walls of the bluffs would close the door on me. We were out of time. I debated on my options, but I couldn't leave this little seal to die. So i stayed as the tide continued to rise.

From my vantage point I could see pretty far down the beach. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I finally saw human movement along the beach about a half mile south of me a couple coves away. I took off towards them at a full run. Something told me they were our salvation. When I got close enough to them to read Marine mammal rescue on one of their shirts my heart filled with joy. Four amazing volunteers from the California Fish and Game and the California Wildlife Center had arrived to save the day. My seal had a chance.

I quickly debriefed them on the seal's condition and led them to her location. They confirmed it was a baby elephant seal and thought it was a female but could not confirm that because she was so dehydrated and emaciated. 

We proceeded to load the seal into a large dog kennel and begin the long hike back down the beach. The Kennel had no real handles other then the lip where the top piece of the kennel fastens to the base, leaving not much more then finger tip grips on the side of the kennel. This seal was not light and as she moved around in the kennel the weight got even harder to deal with. My forearms were on fire as we slowly carried her to safety. It took us well over an hour or two to hike her out with regular stops to rest and drink water. Apparently I need to do more rock climbing because my forearms were sore for days after carrying our seal down the beach, up the bluffs and finally to the Fish and Game truck, where she was loaded and taken to a rescue center. There she will be cleaned, given food and fluids until she is strong enough to be returned to the wild.

We saved Her!

Thats the good news. The bad news is there are still hundreds of seals and birds covered in oil, and in need of help. The story is being grossly under played by the media and the powers that be. I saw on CNN yesterday they were reporting 1 Seal and 5 Pelicans had been killed so far and 1 Seal and 9 Pelicans had been rescued and were being treated for oil exposure. That is incorrect. I saw more then that with my own eyes. The environmental and economic damage from this spill and others like it around the world will be felt for decades. The oil companies and the media never give us the full truth. Thats why its important for concerned citizens to do whatever we can to hold these corporations accountable, Wether its helping on the ground volunteering at disaster points, writing your government officials, or just staying informed and spreading the word. You have a voice, use it and be heard. You alone can make a difference.

 

 

Harvest Ocean Benefit

We had a great turn out for our Ocean Benefit at 5 Point yoga in Malibu with special guest instructor Amy Rose.

Thanks So much to everyone who came out and donated!!!

We raised money for the 5 Gyres non profit organization and raised some awareness about a very important cause. 5 Gyres works to keep plastic out of our oceans and clean plastic that has already found its way to sea. Check them out at 5gyres.org.

What is a "Gyre" you ask? Our oceans are dynamic systems, made up of complex networks of currents that circulate water around the world. Large systems of these currents, coupled with wind and the earth’s rotation, create “gyres”, massive, slow rotating whirlpools in which plastic trash can accumulate.

The North Pacific Gyre, the most heavily researched for plastic pollution, spans an area roughly twice the size of the United States. Designed to last, plastic trash in the gyre will remain for decades or longer, being pushed gently in a slow, clockwise spiral towards the center. Most of the research on plastic trash circulating in oceanic gyres has focused on the North Pacific, but there are 5 major oceanic gyres worldwide.

Cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. When marine animals consume plastic trash, presumably mistaking it for food, this can lead to internal blockages, dehydration, starvation, and potentially death.

Also of deep concern for societies are the potential human health impacts of toxic chemicals entering the marine food chain through plastics. Science is beginning to ask the question: do chemicals such as PCBs and DDTs that sorb onto plastic pellets get into the tissues and blood of the animals that eat plastic? Do these chemicals work their way up the food chain, becoming increasingly concentrated and potentially entering our bodies when we eat seafood?

This is a problem we need to solve immediately, and it wont be easy. We are up against some huge corporations who are more concerned about their stock price then the environment. But If we all work together as a team, this planet might still have a chance.

Harvest founders Jason Moriarty and Michael Butler with Amy Rose.

Harvest founders Jason Moriarty and Michael Butler with Amy Rose.