Over the course of our #OceanOptimism class, we have talked about the ocean problem-solvers in our community. There are many simple ways to help our oceans, and it only takes someone to start a movement. Here we highlight a few that we found particularly inspiring.
Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly
Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly is the executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. Her organization aims to motivate consumers at local restaurants and supermarkets to choose their seafood dish from a sustainable source. Consumers can choose to be more environmentally friendly based on which dish they purchase. The website rates common seafood from different sources. “Best choice” means that the fish was caught or farmed sustainably and caused little or no harm to their habitats and surrounding wildlife. “Good alternatives” are not as good as “best choices” because there are some environmental concerns with how the fish was caught or farmed; however, it is still a much better choice than “Avoid’. “Avoid” means that the way the seafood was caught is detrimental to the natural ocean environment. Consumers would most likely not be inclined to purchase a certain seafood if they knew it was harmful to the wildlife around them. Consumers have the power to “vote” with their money and put pressure on producers to supply what they demand. By choosing seafood that are more sustainable, consumers are helping eliminate suppliers that are harming the environment when they farm or catch fish.
Kristin M. Aquilino
Dr. Kristin Aquilino, an Assistant Project Scientist at UC Davis, works in the preservation of endangered white abalone populations. In 2012, this program was able to successfully breed abalone that were held captive there, after ten years of overall failed breeding attempts of white abalones in captivity. Aquilino, who was able to talk with our class about her research, also talked about her path towards her career in helping preserve white abalone. Aquilino talked about the value and importance that white abalones hold within her family, as she hopes to be able to pass on the rich Californian abalone culture to her kids and to future generations. There are now more white abalone in captivity at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab than there are in the wild. However, Aquilino and other researchers working in the Bodega Marine are hoping to create more heterogeneous population genetic samples by introducing new white abalones isolated in the wild with the abalones raised in captivity. Future goals for preservation efforts of white abalones include finding an effective and ethical plan to release young white abalone raised in captivity safely in the wild to help repopulate white abalone populations in our oceans.
Ramon Navarro is a surfer who grew up fishing on a small boat with his father off the quiet coast of Chile. Over the years, Navarro began noticing an ongoing decrease in the population of fish in the once abundant fishing area that he had known of since his childhood. He began voicing his concerns about the harmful effects of industrial companies building in his community. He initiated a trend toward sustainability by gradually reaching out to his community of “Little Boat” fishermen in order to raise awareness of the changing ocean and its coastlines. In 2003, the whole community and others from all over Chile came together to protest the construction of a pulp mill that was scheduled to be built along the community’s coast. With the support of his community and people around the country, the construction was stopped. This demonstrates the power individuals have to institute change in their communities. It is often difficult to believe that a single person can do much for an issue on an individual scale; however, as more and more people witness wrongdoings in their community and step up, just as Ramon Navarro has done, great change can occur through ordinary people. Ramon Navarro is an excellent example of a problem solver. He not only spreads awareness of the oceans problems but he also leads others to make a change that will give the ocean a fighting chance.
The Castros and the Cabo Pulmo Community
The Castros, a family of fishermen living along the coast of Baja California, started to notice that the reefs of Cabo Pulmo were not as filled with fish as they used to be. They were able to gather the community and sway the government to secure a protected status for the reef. It was not a short process; however, after 14 years, the amount of fish in Cabo Pulmo has nearly increased to previous levels. In 1995, the local government in Baja California listened and followed the interests of the Castros and other local fishing communities. They created Cabo Pulmo National Park, a 27.5 square mile reef that is fully protected from extraction activities such as fishing and oil drilling. Thanks to the help of the Castros and the local Cabo Pulmo community, the Cabo Pulmo National Park has seen increases in biodiversity within and surrounding the protected reefs. Cabo Pulmo is now widely known as a very successful marine reserve, with evidence that biomass increased by 463% within the protected reefs.
Dr. Chelsea Rochman
Dr. Rochman, an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, performed extensive research on the effects of plastic and its impact on ocean wildlife. In her research, she noticed that tiny microbeads, most commonly found in face washes and body scrubs, were wreaking havoc in the systems of many marine animals. These beads cause changes to the eating habits of the fish who ingest them and the transfer of chemicals to the fish and those who eat them. Through Dr. Rochman’s research, she and her colleagues were able to support The Microbead Free Waters Act through Congress as a bipartisan act. In a way, this bill paves the way for future bills and other such governmental action to help clean up and protect the ocean. Dr. Rochman wants to bring more attention and awareness to conserving our ocean through government support. She believes that caring for the environment should not be a partisan issue, but a human issue in which we must all work together in order to better our world.
Be Straw Free
“Be Straw Free” is a campaign launched by a young boy named Milo Cress. Out of all the plastics products produced in this world, straws are among the most common but unnecessary plastic items used today. Plastic straws seriously harm our environment and endanger the lives of numerous marine creatures. For example, straws are mistaken for food by many marine animals. Considering the serious effects of plastic straws, many people have started to consider solutions to this problem. When Cress’s campaign was launched, many people finally realized that straws were indeed a major problem. As a result of the campaign, several organizations and restaurants proposed to reduce their use of straws. Various methods, such as using alternative materials or abstaining from the use of plastics completely, have been utilized in order to eliminate this problem. Milo Cress encouraged people to go to their local restaurants and inform the owners of the terrible effects of supplying straws. Some restaurant owners decided to only give straws upon request instead of it being in every drink. This is a great way to benefit the environment while slowly changing the culture of drinking without straws! In the “Be Straw Free” campaign, Milo Cress, organizations’ employees, and local restaurant owners are problem solvers.
Even before he reached adulthood, Boyan Slat recognized the Great Pacific Garbage patch as one our our generation's big environmental issues. He began drafting ideas to solve this massive and growing issue and eventually came up with The Ocean Cleanup. This nongovernmental organization (NGO) aims to clean up the trash that has accumulated in massive amounts in the Pacific ocean, known as the Great Pacific garbage patch, by utilizing ocean currents to our advantage.This idea of a “passive system” can help collect trash that is in the middle of the ocean where we would not normally have easy access to. This system will aggregate trash in its v-shaped area until the trash can be collected by boats and then dealt with responsibly on land. Despite his young age, Boyan Slat in now a leader in technologies that will one day make our oceans a cleaner and healthier place. His story triumphs age barriers and shows other youths that they too can make a noticeable difference to help protect our environment.
This post was written by the UC Davis First Year Seminar on Ocean Optimism. For more of our posts, start here.