Marine Life and Conservation


U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)

The dazzling vibrancy of coral reefs, the fleeting streaks of color as shorebirds alight, flying up and above the waves, the sight of young sea turtles flecked with granules of sand, clambering for open ocean, the bioluminescence of extraordinary organisms churning in deep sea; When we catch glimpses of the myriad life dotting the ocean’s blue expanse, we are often struck by its beauty. But marine life is not only vibrant; it is vital.

Wipeter/CC BY-SA

So much as the visible compels us, it is the invisible that sustains us. Marine microbes, which drive carbon sequestration in the oceans, comprise more than 98% of ocean biomass. Floating in delicate glass walls of Silica, diatoms, a type of phytoplankton, produce one fifth of the air we breathe. Collectively, phytoplankton are responsible for every other breath we take. These tiny organisms also form the basis of marine foods webs that support Earth’s largest animal, the blue whale.

U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)

Kendall Jeffrys

Larger species also support marine ecosystems. Green sea turtles, for example, foster healthy seagrass meadows and coral reefs, critical habitats for commercial fish species that billions depend upon for their livelihoods or food security. Whales act as ecosystem engineers, recycling nutrients and increasing ocean productivity. As top predators, sharks are good indicators of ocean health and keep marine food webs in balance. These are just a few examples of the roles marine species play on the greater stage of life.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Federal protection of endangered species has allowed some marine life to come back from dramatic declines: 77% of marine mammals and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering in population size. In 2016, humpback whales had recovered so much that most populations were taken off the endangered species list. Marine mammals not listed as endangered are still protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Despite recovery of some species, many forms of life, such as shore birds, are still facing rapid decline. A confluence of climatic threats to the ocean pushes marine life to a precarious existence. The ocean is 30% more acidic than it was before industrialization. As the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, it forms carbonic acid which dissolves calcium carbonate structures of corals, mussels, clams, oysters, and starfish. The ocean is not only acidifying but also gasping for air: over the past 50 years, the volume of ocean with no oxygen has quadrupled. Oxygen is consumed by algal blooms spurred by warming temperatures and nutrient overload from sewage and agricultural run-off spilling from land into our seas.
We come from life in the ocean — the chemistry of our bodies is testament to that past. As Rachel Carson wrote in The Sea Around Us,

“Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal — each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water.”

The makeup of our atoms is not unlike that of the sea. Without ever splashing our feet into its salty waters, we all connect to the ocean in this way.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

Some may know the ocean personally, some may know it through photos, art, or the work of marine scientists such as Rachel Carson, whose book Under the Sea-Wind transforms an imagination of ocean life into a vivid reality. The RCC seeks to continue to bring the ocean to life, highlighting our interconnectedness with the sea and our need to protect it.

Latest News About
Marine Life and Conservation

Restoring Indigenous Aquaculture Heals Both Ecosystems and Communities in Hawai‘i
For generations, native Hawaiians have understood that their aquaculture systems, fishponds known as loko i‘a, serve as nurseries that seed fish populations in surrounding waters. For the first time, a team of scientists from the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) have modeled this feat of Indigenous science in a study. Read more

Coastal Marten Gains Federal Protection
The recent federal protection for the Oregon-California coastal marten is a crucial step in wildlife conservation. By designating 1.2 million acres as critical habitat, this protection aims to address the severe habitat loss and population decline faced by the coastal marten.

This effort aligns with our campaign to Save Oregon’s Oldest Trees, which are essential for the marten’s habitat. Old-growth forests provide shelter and food for the marten, and protecting these trees supports broader biodiversity. Read more

Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreen! This Summer Choose Minerals Over Chemicals
A big concern among ocean scientists and beachgoers is the impact that chemical sunscreens are having on the marine environment. Decades of research documenting ecotoxicity to coral reefs and other marine life has led to bans on the sale and use of certain chemical sunscreens in states and island communities such as Hawaii, US Virgin Islands and Aruba. The FDA has even recommended removing all chemical sunscreen ingredients from their list of “safe and effective” ingredients due to concerns about human health risks! Read more

First Baby Eagles Hatch on Reborn Chesapeake Island
Some eagle-eyed wildlife biologists have made a surprising discovery at Poplar Island.

That’s the island in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Maryland Port Authority have been rebuilding over the last 25 years. What was once almost entirely open water is now more than 1,700 acres of rock-ringed land. Read more

Save a Blue Crab, Eat a Blue Catfish
The blue crab population has been struggling. For the last four years experts say, it has experienced significant declines, negatively affecting the economy and ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, for some studying blue crab populations, the answer to preserving the species is simple.

Allison Colden, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland, said one of the best ways to help preserve and uplift the rise of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay is by eating more blue catfish. Read more

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