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Ocean friendly choices for the consumer

Guest post by Mark Southerland, PhD

edible 6 packWe are all familiar with the pervasive effect of electronic devices on communication worldwide. Nearly everyone uses texts, emails, digital documents, e-books, and social media as their primary means for conducting business and personal affairs. This has allowed communication to grow exponentially without a concomitant increase in paper production. It is now common knowledge that everyone can make specific consumer choices to save paper, and the forests that produce it, such as by receiving financial statements and medical records electronically.  There are, however, many other inventions that provide consumers an environmentally friendly choice. Here are two recent inventions where the consumer can choose to reduce their impact on our marine ecosystems.

  1. Reduced, recycled, compostable, and edible packaging – six-pack rings that fish can eat

The change to more environmentally friendly packaging for consumer products has been a more gradual evolution, often associated with advent of environmental brands of products and stores. The most recent innovation in packaging is the creation of an edible six-pack ring from barley waste produced in beer brewing .This product addresses the tragic effect that six-pack rings have on sea life through entanglement and ingestion, resulting in thousands of deaths of fish, birds, and sea turtles each year.

  1. Guilt-free seafood — removing invasive species by eating them

Lion fishRecognition of the declines in fish populations and other seafood species spawned the sustainable seafood movement in the 1990s, producing lists of sustainable seafood that has been caught or farmed in ways that protect the long-term vitality of harvested species. While many consumers make their seafood choice based on these lists of sustainable alternatives, such as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, there is now the opportunity to seek out invasive species for your dinner plate. Wegmans in Columbia (and at other stores throughout the country) has recently added lionfish to their shelves. The red lionfish of the Indo-Pacific, whose populations have exploded in the subtropical waters of the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean, is devastating local coral reef ecosystems. Let’s work together and help remove these fish by eating them.

Take-a-way: These are two easy steps that you can take to make a difference and to encourage more innovation like this.

Floating Through Coral

parrotfishWhile on a recent snorkeling trip I lost myself in the submarine habitats that skirted a small island in the Caribbean. I floated by forests of pink reindeer coral followed by a distinctly different area of brownish orange staghorn corral and then a multihued collection of fans waving as I passed. The fish population was ever-present and diverse, ranging from large, colorful parrot fish and jacks to Sergeant Majors and grunts. I loved watching Trunkfish blow away the sand in search of food and to see pencil-like Trumpetfish hovering near fans. An octopus skittered around on its tentacles right (more…)

Fish Farming in the Maritimes

maritimes - Fundy salmonThis summer, Kathy and I traveled to Downeast Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. I had not been to the Maritimes since the 1970s when I worked for a summer on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful part of the world.

Not much has changed, there are still many beautiful places to visit and explore. On this trip, however, I was struck by the depressed nature of homes and towns along many of the beautiful shorelines that we passed. The area had always been poor and dependent on the fishing industry, but on this trip it looked like every other house was up for sale. The traditional fishing industry is in shambles with the overfishing and consequent depletion of cod and haddock – the staples of the past. (more…)

Where Have all the Plastics Gone??

stivIn the book, Saving the Places we Love, I described the major oceanic gyres and how they tend to concentrate the plastics that we discard. Many of the original pieces of plastic that have gotten into our oceans have broken down and now exist in many sizes down to micro-plastics. They are easily consumed by a wide range of marine life and eventually by us. These large, floating plastic enclaves, some as large as the state of Texas, can be harmful to marine life because along with the chemicals associated with the (more…)

Signs You Can Use To Restore Your Special Places

when you fertilize your lawnMost signs are ignored. Their messages are obvious or they are not of interest to us. However, recently I was walking along the docks in Portland, Maine and my attention was captured by a series of signs about human’s everyday impact on the water quality in Casco Bay. The signs were attractive and provocative. They captured my interest, and more importantly they captured my wife’s interest. We stopped and read them all the way through!!

We wondered why we did not see more signs like this around the lakes where we lived. They could have the very same (more…)

Top Ten, Kid-friendly, Camping Grounds in Maryland

tent at nightimeWhat makes a campground kid-friendly? It often is a place that is easy to get to and has the basic, easily accessible and well maintained facilities. Some campgrounds have many more amenities, play areas, and access to trails and water bodies, but the most important aspects to me are places that are quiet and relaxed and where a family can go to explore the great outdoors.

I have camped at private and public sites all across Maryland. We are so lucky to have such a broad variety of natural habitats from the coast to the mountains. I have selected a few sites here that are spread around the state and all of which deserve your attention. Go out and explore the closest ones first and then expand out if you like. Many people just find one they like and keep going back. Do what you can to help preserve and maintain these treasures and be sure to let me know what you think. (more…)

Skating on the Chesapeake Bay

skatingThe cold snap we are having reminded me of skating on the Bay back in 1962. Here is an excerpt from The Chesapeake Watershed that describes that scary but thrilling experience.

My friend Greg, who lived on the Bay near the mouth of Bush River, led the way down to his pier. We were in a cold snap and it was indeed very, very cold. The temperatures had been hovering around zero for the past week. The ground crunched as we walked, and within minutes my nose and fingers grew numb. I glanced at the bay and as far as I could see there was ice, quite rough along the shore, but it did look like we could skate farther out. Momentarily forgetting that it was saltwater, I convinced myself (more…)