Monday, November 26, 2018

The Straw Revolution

Want to know a great thing about human beings?

I believe it is fair to say, that most people who see another person or animal suffering feel inclined not only to sympathy, but also to action. There was a video recently which went viral because it tugged at the heartstrings. This video was of a sea turtle with a foreign object lodged in its nose. This object turned out to be a 4 inch plastic straw. A team of scientists found this sea turtle while doing research in the field and removed the plastic from the animal’s nose. Plastic, although sometimes useful, can be detrimental to marine wildlife, and the environment as a whole.

Photo taken from National Geographic
Plastic, although a seemingly affordable resource in manufacturing, has many long-term and detrimental consequences. Plastic does not ever fully go away. Even when being made smaller through bio or photo-degradation, there are many factors that affect and inhibit upon these natural and chemical processes. As the disintegration of degradable plastic occurs, what’s left: micro plastics and nurdles, still pose a threat to wildlife. 

Plastic releases toxins and carcinogens into the environment, and is often times mistaken as food for hungry sea turtles, whales, sharks, birds etc. This is not ideal because not only can they choke on this material, but when they consume plastic, their bodies do not obtain the nutrients necessary for survival. 

I have begun to do something, and I encourage you all to join me! Choose an alternative to plastic straws. There are so many options! Here’s what I came up with:

Bambooorganics. Natural Bamboo Straws.
Bamboo Straws: These last a while, however, they do disintegrate after many uses. They can be hand washed. The benefit of bamboo is that the it grows very quickly and plentifully and can thus keep up with high demand.

Glass Straws: A great, long lasting alternative to plastic.  Glass in and of itself is relatively fragile, it CAN break. However, in my experience, several of the ones that I’ve used have been thicker than expected and sturdy. These straws are not designed to bend so in travel,  it will need to be carried in a way that takes its length into consideration.  

Metal Straws from Fin Pins

Metal Straws: They can come collapsible, making them mobile and convenient. Silicone tips can also be purchased with the metal straw to minimize chipping tooth discomfort when drinking. Again, these straws typically come with a brush for cleaning purposes. And many provide a bag for convenience when traveling. The metal straws we purchased were from Fin Pins and meaningfully say "Protect our Oceans."

Paper Straws: These are a great one time use alternative. They are perfect for parties or functions, and will not damage teeth for all my straw chewers out there. The downfall of the paper straw however, is that they disintegrate, sometimes, before the drink has been consumed.

Stainless Steel Straws
Stainless Steel Straws: Stainless steel is a metal, and therefore a conductor of heat. This makes the possibility of burning oneself when using this type of straw to drink a hot drink a possibility. Stainless steel also has temperature absorption qualities so if the drink is cold, the straw may be cold, if the drink is hot, the straw will be as well. It is important to keep this in mind. With this being said, this straw is another one of my personal preferences.

The benefit of being alive in this time of history is that we each have access to knowledge and a way to network with others for any cause that matters to us. Here at NECWA, it is our marine wildlife that we focus on and work hard to protect. We need them, and they need us. And I need you!

Jasmine trying out a glass straw.
I have provided links to small and local businesses who can not only supply these products, but also have a mission of charity. Let’s support each other!

NO action is too small.

-Jasmine Figueroa
New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance
Intern/ Volunteer

“With Knowledge come empathy, with empathy comes change, and with change comes peace; For all beings alive and conscious in their own way”

Non-Profit/Small Business
IG: @finpinshop
IG: @simplystraws


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Team Mola

Researcher Aimee Carlson presenting on recent ocean sunfish tagging activities.
What does it mean to be a member of Team Mola? On a small scale, it means working with friends and neighbors on a community-based project focused on the heaviest bony fish in the world - the Ocean Sunfish. The mission of this team is to better understand and protect Ocean Sunfish, or Mola mola, that live and feed off the shores of New England. 
Fisheries Biologist Aimee Carlson
On Saturday, September 20th, the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) in collaboration with Coonamessett Farm Foundation and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary hosted their first Team Mola training session at the Mass Audubon sanctuary in Wellfleet, MA. The goal of Team Mola is to build a network of volunteers that can assist NECWA with rescues and necropsies of ocean sunfish strandings. These strandings are annual event that occur each fall and early winter, typically along the shores of Cape Cod. 
Marine artifact materials on display
Team Mola members work together to gather as much information about Ocean Sunfish as possible. Working with NECWA staff and interns, Team Mola members assist with rescues of live ocean sunfish as well as necropsies (animal autopsies) of carcasses that wash ashore. The efforts of Team Mola help NECWA more efficiently, safely and effectively respond to ocean sunfish strandings. Team Mola members also provide additional coverage with more recent projects, such as NECWA's tagging and tracking activities. Fisheries biologist Aimee Carlson from Coonamessett Farm Foundation in Falmouth provided an update on her teams recent tagging efforts using both satellite tags and mark & recapture tags. 

Powerpoint Presentations
Since 2005, NECWA has sponsored a community-sighting network called the New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Project at This network asks the general public to report their sightings of live and dead basking sharks and ocean sunfish the they see from a boat or from the beach. What NECWA was not expecting were the annual calls each fall and early winter concerning stranded ocean sunfish. Now NECWA is prepared and is working hard to address this issue.
Team Mola field kits to support the work these volunteers are doing.
When reporting a sighting, make sure to record the date, time and position of the animal and take lots of pictures. This information is important for it builds on what we know about these coastal pelagic giants who are some of the most unusual looking fish in New England. There are many good and free app for cell phones that provide a latitude and longitude. Take a screenshot of that screen and you will have both the time and the location of whatever you are trying to document. 
Hal Levine teaching participants how to weigh an ocean sunfish
Team Mola is also about connecting the New England community with the unique marine animals that live in our coastal backyard. It provides unity and collaboration by asking the community to come together to help an animal in need.
Showing correct measuring techniques on a cardboard ocean sunfish.

If you would like to learn more about Team Mola, contact NECWA at Anyone can get involved so give us a shout and let's see how we can include you in this exciting and innovative group. 
To learn more about NECWA and its goals, visit our website at
Showing how to collect measurements using a cardboard ocean sunfish
If you would like to learn more about the amazing Ocean Sunfish, check out these websites:
Blog posting written by Krill Carson and Haley Pollard (NECWA Intern)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ocean Exploration Cruise - 7 am to 1 pm Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ocean Exploration Cruise - NECWA Fall Fundraiser

Sunday, September 30, 2018

7 am to 1 pm

Privateer IV, 7 Seas Whale Watch

Marine Forecast Links:

  • National Weather Service Stellwagen Bank - click HERE
  • Offshore Buoy Data - Boston - click HERE

UPDATE - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29TH - for those who have registered for this trip.
  • NECWA News Blog Updates. Check the NECWA News blog for any changes or updates to our trip.  Right now, seas are looking a bit rough offshore so take your motion sickness pills in advance. Eat a light breakfast and stay away from greasy foods. We will have Saltines and Ginger Ale onboard if you need it. 
  • Guest Naturalists for tomorrow. We are very excited about this Ocean Exploration Cruise as we will have amazing guest naturalists onboard the boat and on the microphone. Guest naturalists will include Wayne Petersen, Jim Sweeney, Thomas Robben and Adrian Jordaan. 
  • Captain Jay onboard. Tomorrow our captain will be Capt. Jay Frontierro who is an amazing naturalist/biologist, captain and birder. So we are in good hands and will relay on his advice as to where the best places will be to head offshore to view whales and seabirds and other marine wildlife. 
  • NECWA naturalists onboard and on the microphone will include Krill Carson, Courtney Callahan, Tammy Silva, Leah Horeanopoulos and Dani Marston. We will also have a number of NECWA interns onboard so make sure to chat with them about the work that they did this summer or are currently involved with.  
  • Dress for the weather. Best to dress in layers and expect it to be 10 - to 15 degrees cooler offshore than on land. Your are welcome to bring anything you would like onboard, but please keep your gear to a minimum so there will be plenty of room for everyone inside the cabin. 
  • Bring food and don't  forget about the galley. You can bring food and drinks onboard, but no alcohol. You can purchase food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments from the galley so bring extra cash. 
  • Check in time is 6:30 am - 7:00 am. Be down at the 7 Seas dock by 6:30 am ready to  board. We hope to start boarding by 6:30 am tomorrow morning. We will leave the dock at 7 am sharp so please don't be late. If you need to contact me, use my cell at 508-369-8303. 
  • Free Nature Raffle. As we move through the harbor on our way offshore, we will conduct our Free Nature Raffle. If you would like to donate a new or gently used item to the raffle table, please provide to Leah once you get onboard. She will be leading the raffle event and will have a table set-up in the back of the cabin with all the free nature-themed items. Thank you in advance!
  • Plankton Tow, Chumming for Seabirds and Underwater Camera Activities. If it makes sense given the conditions offshore, we will conduct a plankton tow (with onboard observation) and Tom Robben is bringing some underwater cameras. We will also chum for seabirds if aggregations of seabirds are offshore. 
  • NECWA Merchandise. NECWA will bring a limited number of sweatshirts, t-shirts, canvas bags, and windbreakers onboard for sale. Please bring cash if you would like to purchase something. If you see something in our online shop and would like me to bring it for you tomorrow (to save shipping costs), just let me know. 

Krill Carson

Monday, June 18, 2018

Why Does Plastic Matter to Whales, Turtles, Fish and Humans?

Marine debris is causing high levels of contamination in our world’s oceans. Its presence in the once pristine waters that are home to all aquatic species accounts for a high number of marine wildlife deaths on a global scale. Plastic is the primary environmental pollutant in our waters and it makes up approximately 80% of all of the debris that is creating the critical habitat crisis of Marine Debris.

We have an infinite variety of uses for plastics in our society, everything from children’s toys and necessary medical equipment that keeps people alive and healthy, to plastic drinking straws and fleece jackets. Until technology catches up with our need to find alternatives to our current uses of plastics, we are essentially in a position to find plastics present in our lives somewhere even if our goal is to live a “zero plastic” lifestyle.

A major issue with all of the currently indispensable plastic items in our lives is that plastic is a petroleum-based material and, once manufactured into a useable state, it never really goes away. It can be recycled and reused, but currently less than 10% of all plastics discarded by humans actually enters the recycling stream. Recycling is not necessarily the answer to our problems either. Plastic degrades to a greater degree after it is recycled each time and cannot infinitely be recycled. This means that your plastic water bottle or coffee mug that proudly declares on the product tag at the time of purchase that it is made entirely of recycled plastic will continue to contaminate our environment over time when it breaks and you decide to recycle it later on.

Almost everyone has heard about the great plastic island in the Pacific Ocean. It has been well publicized and efforts are underway to find solutions to the ever-expanding debris island that makes up this extreme marine pollution situation. This is only one of the garbage patches present in our oceans. There are actually five established areas of ocean debris that have reached epic proportions. You might ask why this floating debris is so dangerous. Yes, it is ugly -but it is also dangerous. The answer to that question is that plastic is insidious, it does not biodegrade and return harmlessly to the environment. This petroleum product does however degrade into micro-particles that remain in the water indefinitely critically changing the environment long-term.

In looking at a trash island from the ocean’s surface you can see larger pieces of debris on the top layers of the water and those larger pieces do get caught in the bodies of marine mammals and fish. However, over time the larger plastic trash items break down to microscopic levels and creates a sludge that goes much deeper into the oceans depths than the floating debris on top. This sludge does allow plankton to coexist with the plastics under certain conditions and zooplankton swim with Nano particles of plastic. Unsuspecting filter feeders will consume the plankton-laden sludge and the toxic substance will remain in their systems, not to be secreted in all cases. If the sludge is extreme it will totally deplete oxygen and cause dead zones underneath the floating trash that are visible on surface layers. Entanglements of discarded fishing and boating gear also create problems for marine wildlife, often exacting a death sentence on any animal or fish unfortunate enough to be caught in the gear.

Eventually contaminated fish and other marine species will be caught and consumed by humans. One of the dangerous substances present in plastics are BPA (Bisphenol A -such as in foam coffee cups) which acts as an endocrine disruptor and has been traced to Diabetes and learning disabilities. It can cause ADD and ADHD and is a factor in both feminizing males and masculinizing females as well as other health issues. It is common for people walking along the beach or fishing by the water to bring a foam cup of take-out coffee and, when done with their drink, discard it on the sand and directly into the water. The progression from the point of discarding this toxic BPA laden substance into the coastal environment could be that the same person carelessly discarding their foam cup may then consume seafood either by cooking their fishing catch when they get home, or by going to a seafood restaurant after their invigorating day by the water order a fish dinner. The fish on their plate may very well be contaminated with BPA from previous foam cups, plates, and other materials tossed into the ocean either from land or sea and which has already deteriorated into the micro-particle sludge in the lower layers of the water.

What can we do to reverse this situation? A lot, but time is running out. Her is a quick list of 5 items that we can put into action today:

  • Carry in-carry out for ALL of your trash, whether on land or at sea.
  • Refuse to buy plastics whenever possible.
  • Refuse foam take-out cups and plastic coffee cup lids.
  • At restaurants say “no” to plastic straws and foam to-go containers.
  • Go to clean-ups whenever you can and create your own mini-clean-ups whenever you are at the water yourself.
We can make a difference for our most precious resource, the world’s oceans and the marine wildlife that inhabit that environment. You may think of yourself as only one person with one voice, but one is more than none and together each one of our voices along with our positive actions will create change!

Cheers from a bottom-feeder!

For further information regarding ocean plastics and the garbage patches try these site:

Bio: Ann Le Blanc is a long-time member of NECWA. She is a Cape Cod resident, lives near Cape Cod Bay and currently and works in that area as a Park Ranger at the Cape Cod Canal. Her educational background includes Environmental Technology, Education, and Sociology.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ocean Exploration Cruise - June 3, 2018 from 7 am to 1 pm is a GO!

Ocean Exploration Cruise
Sunday, June 3, 2018
7 am to 1 pm
Onboard the Privateer IV with 7 Seas Whale Watch
7 Rogers Street, Gloucester

Date of this Posting: Saturday, June 2, 2018

Status of Trip on June 3: A GO!

Hi: I was just offshore today and winds were calmer than predicted with almost no seas offshore. Our trip tomorrow at 7 am continues to be a go. I assume winds will increase over the course of the night and early morning, so we expect to sneak this trip in before it gets nasty offshore. The marine forecast for Monday through Thursday is not good so this may be the last trip offshore for a few days. 

Please be down at the 7 Seas Whale Watch dock at 6:30 am and we will board as soon as we can. Bring food, drinks, and dress appropriately. Keep your belongings to a minimum so everyone will have space. NECWA will bring some merchandise onboard to help raise funds for our projects and activities, so bring cash if you want to continue to support our work. We will also have our free nature raffle onboard with Michael O'Neil at the mic, so be prepared!

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow morning. Here we go!

Best, Krill (508-369-8303)

Date of this Posting: Thursday, May 31, 2018

Status of Trip on June 3: A GO!

Hi: We are a go for our rescheduled trip on Sunday, June 3 from 7 am to 1 pm. Please be down at the 7 Seas Whale Watch dock, car parked and ready to board by 6:30 am. We leave right at 7 am so please don't be late.

If you haven't had a chance to complete the liability waiver and send it back to Thomas Robben, please do so before Sunday. If necessary, bring the completed form with you and hand it to Thomas when boarding. 

Dress for the weather and be prepared for rough seas offshore. You can keep track of the marine forecast by clicking HERE.

Keep your belongings to a minimum to make room for all and feel free to bring food and drinks with you, but please no alcohol. 7 Seas Whale Watch has a galley and they accept only cash. 

If you would like to donate a new or gently used nature item to our free onboard raffle, please give to me as you board. 
Looking forward to an adventure on Sunday. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. My cell is 508-369-8303 and my email is 

Best, Krill 


Date of this Posting: Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Trip Rescheduled: Sunday, June 3, 2018 from 7 am to 1 pm

We have rescheduled our Ocean Exploration Cruise from Saturday, May 19th to Sunday, June 3rd. 

If you are registered for tomorrow's (canceled) trip and would like to attend our June 3rd trip, we ask that you contact Krill at to let her know. No additional payment is required and NECWA will reimburse you $10 to compensate for the reduced time offshore. Those reimbursements will be made on the day of sailing. 

If you registered for tomorrow's (canceled) trip and cannot attend the June 3rd trip, then please contact Krill to let her know that you would like a refund. Once Krill hears from you, she will go to PayPal and refund your ticket online. 

If you would like a refund and you paid with a check, please email Krill and provide your full name and the complete mailing address for the reimbursement. 

If you would like to register for this new date of June, 3, go to our Constant Contact Event Site by clicking HERE.

For all refunds, you will be refunded the complete cost of your ticket, minus a $10 administration/registration fee. This helps to cover NECWA's expenses related to advertising and needed supplies. 

Please contact Krill if you have any questions or concerns. And please spread the word about this new trip for space is still available. 

Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and fair seas on Sunday, June 3rd. 


Date of this Posting: Friday, May 18th, 2018

Status of Trip: CANCELLED

With our Spring Ocean Exploration Cruise on the horizon for this weekend and rain and wind in the forecast, interns and staff here at NECWA as well as staff of 7 Seas Whale Watch have been monitoring reports with hopes of positive changes. Unfortunately, with passenger comfort and safety in mind, we will be cancelling tomorrow’s cruise, May 19thbecause of high winds, low visibility, and rain. With heavy hearts, we thank you for your support and sincerely apologize. 

For registered guests who have paid, you will receive a refund of $80 tomorrow; your $90 ticket minus the $10 administration fee (students will receive $55 after the administration fee). If you paid via Paypal, you will receive your reimbursement through there, and if you paid by check, one will be mailed back out to you. Please allow 5-10 business days for this to post your account or to receive your refund check. 

Please contact Krill at with any questions or concerns. 

Date of this Posting: Thursday, May 17, 2018

Status of Trip: The weather for Saturday is still not looking great. We are holding off from making any final decisions until Friday early afternoon around 1 pm. If the weather continues to look iffy, we have 2 choices. 

1- Cancel the trip completely and folks will get reimbursed the majority of their ticket. 

2- Switch the trip to Sunday, May 20th but the trip will only run from 8 am to 1 pm. This reduced time offshore is due to the fact that 7 Seas has a scheduled afternoon trip that day. Participants will get some money back given the shorter trip.  

3- Wanted to get this out to folks as soon as I could. Feel free to email me or call me if you have any questions or concerns. 

Again, a final decision will be made tomorrow, Friday, by around 1 pm once we get a look at the marine forecast that comes out at that time. 

Wish I could control the weather :  )  Sorry for any issues this may cause folks. 

Best, Krill

Date of this posting: Wednesday, May 16

Status of Trip: The trip on Saturday is a GO! Weather is not looking great, but that can change all the way up to the time of the trip.

Keep an eye on this blog for updated information on the trip. There might be rain on Saturday so dress accordingly. 

Here is additional information that I recently provided in an email sent to all participants. 

Departure: Please be down at the 7 Seas Whale Watch dock by 7:30 am ready to board the boat. We leave at 8 am sharp so make sure to get to Gloucester with plenty of time to park, grab your gear, and board the boat. 

Parking: We pay for parking in the large gravel lot to the north of the 7 Seas ticket booth. The kiosk at the front of the lot accepts cash and credit cards. 

Onboard Galley: For food, there is a full galley onboard the boat and they prefer folks bring cash to pay for food and drinks. You are more than welcome to bring your own food and drinks, but space is limited so please keep your gear to a minimum. No alcohol. 

Liability Waiver: Each person who attends this trip must provide a completed form to Thomas Robben. This form is good for both the spring and fall Ocean Exploration Cruises. 

NECWA Merchandise: We will bring some t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other items for sale onboard the boat this Saturday. If you would like to pick-up some NECWA merchandise, please pay with cash or a check. 

Thanks again for all your support and I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.  

Best, Krill 
President, NECWA

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Not your ordinary Science Project - First Prize at the Regional Science Fair

Anna Du, a 6th grade student at the Andover School of Massachusetts, won First Prize at the Regional IV Middle School Science & Engineering Fair.

Read about her amazing science project below. 

Developing a Smart Infrared-Based ROV
to Identify Microplastics in the Marine Environment.

The world is facing a threatening problem of microplastics in the ocean. Microplastics, which are plastics the size of 10 um to 5 mm are accumulating everywhere, and its effect on the environment is disastrous. As of 2017, 8 million metric tons have been dumped into the ocean. Not only do the animals in the ocean get affected, humans do as well through a few different means. We can eat fish directly, or eat farm animals that depend on seafood byproducts, or we can eat vegetables that used the animal’s manure as fertilizer.

It's very difficult to separate microplastics from microorganisms and other particles in the ocean; using density, filtration, and chemical techniques have proven to be highly insufficient means of accurately isolating microplastics. To solve this problem, I have built an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) which can analyze microplastics in the ocean. My hypothesis is that I can use infrared LED's of different wavelengths as a more affordable option compared to a commercial NIRS spectroscope that costs around $50,000 dollars. This is so I can have a more affordable and scalable system that would allow researchers to be able to cover more of the ocean floor quickly. 

An innovative part of my ROV is that it does all of the chemical analysis in-situ, as opposed to having to collect samples. The reason why this is good, is because instead of having to take the samples out of the water, and take them all the way to a lab, I can just let the ROV do it, and this allows for much faster research. One key part of my system is the mathematical algorithm that is based on the pattern of the ratio of the absorption of plastics versus sand in different wavelengths of infrared light. My results, which I calibrated against some publicly available FT-IR data, are that you can see a clear difference between plastics versus metal, wood, or other organic chemical bonds such as those commonly found in materials such as seaweed, shellfish and other marine life. 

My conclusion is that I can use infrared LED's as a more efficient way of finding plastics in the ocean. I suspect that microplastics, which have a range of different densities, are very likely aggregating into specific areas, much like gold deposits in the bend of a river, or floating plastics congregate into certain areas of gyres, and the Great Pacific Garbage patch on top of the ocean. If these ocean floor plastic repositories can be identified and categorized, then it will make the job of cleaning them up significantly easier, and much more financially feasible. 

In a future phase of this project, I would like to develop an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) that utilizes my algorithm as part of the training model for machine learning for the system that can then pinpoint exactly where microplastics are aggregating along the ocean floor. Then these AUV's could optionally be deployed using swarming technology, that would be able to conduct faster spatial mapping of target regions, and use that information to inform the best way of cleaning the microplastics up.

Anna Du


Bio: Anna Du is twelve years old and attends Andover School of Montessori. This is her first year attending the science fair, and she did so because she loves marine mammals and other marine life. She's a big fan of both science and engineering and has attended ID Tech education camp every summer as well as attending engineering workshops at MIT Edgerton Center since she was five. She often travels with her family to Europe and Beijing, which is where her roots are, though she was born in Miami, near the ocean. She loves to visit the coastline all along New England. Her hobbies include ice skating, gardening, violin, and reading -- and one of her newest favorite books is My Friend, Salt. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Just in Time for Summer!

Our Fluke Canvas Bag makes a great summer beach tote and can also be used at the grocery store for shopping or for traveling.

Made of 100% Earth-friendly cotton
 and Mr. Koda approved. 

Design includes 10 humpback whales flukes with the name of the individual below. Each humpback whale is studied by researchers in the Gulf of Maine and this information is helping us better understand and protect this protected species.

Our newest high school intern, Maddie, modeling her bag. 

This is a one-of-a-kind item only available on through NECWA.

To purchase your tote today, go to the NECWA Store using the link to the right of this posting.

Volunteering for the Earth Day Clean Up 2018

Paige at Buzzards Bay Recreation Area
Photo Credit: John Pribilla

On April 21, 2018, as part of my internship at the Cape Cod Canal with the US Army Corp. of Engineers, I had the opportunity to volunteer for their Earth Day celebration. This annual celebration was hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers, organized by AmeriCorps Cape Cod, and was held at the Buzzards Bay Recreation Area. I assisted with the set-up for the event, and while I was working, I had the time to review a few of the organization’s earth-friendly themed displays. The one display that caught my attention the most was what happens to discarded litter over time. The poster demonstrated the length of time it took for various types of trash to decompose in the natural environment. I was surprised at how long it takes to break down common items to their base elements, such as monofilament line, Styrofoam cups, tin cans, six pack can holders, drinking straws, and plastic bags.

Marine Debris from the Cape Cod Canal Clean-up
Photo Credit: USACE

Every time I picked up monofilament line during my day at the clean-up, I thought of the line being tangled around a seabird. When I picked up a 6-pack plastic can holder, I envisioned it getting caught around marine life or seabirds possibly making them choke or causing immense pain. As I disposed of a plastic bag, I imagined a sea turtle mistaking it for a jellyfish and dying after eating it. When I picked up a crushed and broken lobster trap, I thought of the lobsters that were left to die in the discarded trap and the other animals that might have gotten trapped inside or crushed by the weight of the broken metal. As I picked up the tangled and broken lines and buoys, I imagined all the marine life that would have been entangled in the lines.  

Ghost Pot with Trapped Live Lobster
Photo Credit: USACE

The question is; what can we do to make a difference? There are a few things we can do to help right now. For starters, we can eliminate trash from the environment. This may seem impossible, but if everyone picks up at least one piece of trash every day, it will greatly impact what’s happening. By minimizing our plastic consumption, we can reduce the amount of contamination. Finally, we can reduce the amount of litter if we get rid of plastic altogether from our lives. With plastics gone from our world, there will be no need to worry about all the harm it can cause. Many places are switching to more environmentally friendly materials. Examples would be: grocery stores using paper bags instead of plastic, restaurants using cardboard boxes instead of plastic, and schools switching from plastic utensils to silverware. 
If we all do something to help, in time we will have a decrease in the use of plastics and the impact they have on the environment. If we continue to use more renewable and environmentally friendly products and materials, we will see an improvement in our future and our health for all creatures living on the Earth. I believe there is still hope for my generation to have a cleaner, healthier, and happier environment.

-  Paige
Paige Pribilla; Natural Resource Intern; Cape Cod Canal 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Where are the North Atlantic right whale babies?

right whale
Photo credit: NECWA
No North Atlantic right whale calves were born in 2018. At least none were seen in the southeast waters off South Carolina, Florida and Georgia, the only known calving grounds for this species. In 2017, only five calves were born, down from counts of 15 to more than 35 between 2001 and 2011.
Maybe the right whale moms weren’t healthy enough or well-nourished enough to give birth to and nurse a calf, saving their energy for a year when they and the calves would be more likely to survive. Maybe the stress and physical wear from entanglements in fishing line has increased the time right whale mothers need to wait after raising one baby to have another. Maybe we didn’t see them. Whatever the case, this is bad for the right whale’s future. Since 1986, when researchers began counting the number of calves each year, there has never been a year with no calves.

To read more about right whales, click HERE for a short review by Dr. Scott Krauss from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, at the New England Aquarium. 
Photo credit:NECWA
The total number of adult female North Atlantic right whales that can breed is less than 100. Imagine if there were less than 100 women left on the planet that could have babies. Our species would be facing extinction, which is exactly what the right whales are facing.

The good news is that lots of people, scientists, fishermen, politicians, lawmakers, and the pubic want to save the North Atlantic right whale. The US government requires that fishermen and ships follow many measures to reduce right whale entanglements and ship strikes. However, one right whale already died in US waters this year from entanglement, which is one whale too many.

The US government needs to continue working with fishermen and the shipping industry to develop and implement industry practices that fully protect the right whale. Solutions are being developed which will drastically increase right whale protections while continuing to allow businesses to keep operating.

Photo credit: NECWA
One of these solutions is ropeless fishing gear, which would allow the lobster and crab fisheries to retrieve their traps using an acoustic release system. Another area of gear development is using rope that is weaker than current ropes. Research shows that entanglements in these ropes are less deadly than those that occur with normal rope. Less rope in the water will help all marine organisms, including other whale species, seals, and turtles that could be caught in fishing rope. The commercial lobster industry, NGOs, scientists, and technology companies are working together to develop this gear on a commercial scale.

To take action to help save the North Atlantic right whale, YOU can call/write/twitter/snapchat/e-mail etc. your Senators and Congresspeople and ask them to:

Support funding for testing and implementation of ropeless fishing gear and weak breaking rope, including funds to help fishermen buy the best available whale safe gear.

Provide permits to fishermen to test whale safe gear, and once whale safe gear is ready to implement on a commercial scale, permit ropeless fishing in all fishing areas, including both state and federal areas.

Require all fishermen to use the best available whale safe gear.

Maintain and expand ship speed regulations in areas where right whales are found.

Protect the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws which provide legal protection for ocean resources.

Photo credit: NECWA
North Atlantic right whales have returned from the brink of extinction before. After they were whaled, only a few hundred individuals remained. They might be able to recover again, but they need our help and they need it now. If another 17 North Atlantic right whales die in 2018, their risk of going extinct will be even higher.

Right whales face stress, injury, and mortality from a range of industrial activities, including oil and gas exploration and development, wind turbine construction, military exercises, changing ocean conditions, ship strikes, and entanglements. Up to 85% of right whale mortalities from 2010-2015 were from entanglements. Fortunately, humans can directly reduce one of the greatest threats to right whales – by getting the ropes out of the water. The solutions already exist, we just need to refine, require, and implement them. If you want to help, you can – exercise democracy and tell your representatives on Capitol Hill what’s on your mind.

Let’s celebrate the summer by helping to save the whales,


                                                                                             Photo credit: Ingrid Biedron