The Second Life of a Sunken Ship

August 30, 2019

The Second Life of a Sunken Ship

UNESCO estimates there are over three million shipwrecks in the world’s oceans. So what happens to all those shipwrecks? A recent deep-sea dive, the first in 14 years, shows how the wreckage of the Titanic is now rapidly disintegrating thanks to metal-eating bacteria, salt corrosion, and shifting ocean currents. But even if the Titanic disappears, as it’s predicted to do by 2030, it’s had a much longer—and more productive—second life underwater.

Wreck or Artificial Reef?

While many associate shipwrecks like the Titanic with catastrophe or perhaps sunken treasure, the reality is that shipwrecks often serve as new habitats or artificial reefs for algae, coral, fish, and other sea life. Whether you see a shipwreck or an artificial reef is all about how you perceive things.

How Does an Artificial Reef Grow?

The first stage of an artificial reef begins with a surge of plankton, those generally microscopic organisms like bacteria and algae, floating on the ocean current. The plankton then attracts small fish like sardines and minnows who in turn attract larger fish like tuna and sharks. Creatures seeking shelter in holes and crevices like snapper, eels, and grouper come, attracting predatory fish like barracudas. Over time, the shipwreck becomes encrusted with living organisms like algae, coral, barnacles, and sponges as well as rusticles, formations of oxidized iron similar to icicles.

See A Shipwreck for Yourself

First, you’ll have to get your wreck diver’s certification, but once you do, you’ll be able to make like Jacques Cousteau and explore a shipwreck/artificial reef on your own. You can swim through rooms on all five levels of the U.S.S. Kittiwake near the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean or see the world’s largest wreck, the S.S. President Coolidge, off the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu in the South Pacific (complete with World War II weapons and remnants of the ship’s pre-war past as a luxury liner). For something closer to home, check out the Shipwreck Trail in the Florida Keys. You’ll explore ships as old as the San Pedro, a 1733 Spanish treasure fleet sunk by a hurricane, or the remains of the oldest active U.S. military vessel, The Duane.

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Green Boating Tips

August 19, 2019

According to the World Economic Forum, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050. Currently, up to 2.41 million tons of plastic float in “garbage patches” in five offshore accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. If we’re all going to enjoy boating, fishing, and water sports in the years and decades to come, each of needs to do our part. We’ve compiled some easy, green boating tips to help keep our waters in tip top shape.

Tip #1: Clean and Maintain on Land

Painting? Opt for a nontoxic antifouling paint. Cleaning? Use non-abrasive underwater hull cleaning techniques and nontoxic, biodegradable products that won’t damage fish tissues or lead to algal blooms. When you’re changing the oil or refueling, be sure to prevent spills and leaks. Fuel can expand when warm; instead of overfilling your tank, level up to about 90 percent full to allow for expansion. Should you have an oil spill on the water, hay can naturally absorb the oil without chemically impacting the water. Regularly inspect and maintain your bilge to prevent leaks.

Tip #2: Stow Don’t Throw

It’s never a good idea to just toss waste overboard, which is especially true with toxic items like paint, batteries, antifreeze, cleaning products, cigarette butts, oil, or other garbage. Instead, hold onto these items until you can safely and properly dispose of them onshore. As for human waste and gray water, these can be illegal to dispose of in the water. Instead, look for harbor pump-out stations or shore-side facilities.

Tip #3: When on Land, Think Green

Look for environmentally friendly products before you head out to sea. Phosphate-free biodegradable soaps minimize the impact of marine life. Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, which can contribute to coral bleaching, can damage coral larvae, and disrupt the development of fish. Avoid single-use plastics on board and instead opt for wooden utensils and cloth napkins. Buy products you can reuse or recycle. Plan ahead and try to buy local as much as possible.

Remember, it’s easy to be green if you plan ahead, be a good water steward, and shop smart.

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Be An Ocean Explorer at the Click of a Button

August 1, 2019

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be Jacques Cousteau, you’ve now got a chance to experience ocean exploration via the web thanks to a collaborative effort from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The web-based tool called OceanReports provides in-depth analyses of U.S. coastal “ocean neighborhoods.” It allows you to dive deep into commerce, energy development and conservation using more than 100 ocean datasets.

Gathered from over a decade’s worth of data collection, the information can be accessed by users as diverse as students, researchers, coastal managers, commercial fishers, energy companies, shippers and the tourism industry. James Morris, NOAA marine ecologist and member of the OceanReports development team, said, “New industries such as aquaculture and existing industries such as energy and shipping will all benefit from having easy access to this unprecedented volume of ocean intelligence. Everyone will now be better informed and positioned to conserve marine resources and grow ocean commerce to new levels.”

Whether you want to identify historical lighthouses, see where offshore drilling occurs, search for shipwrecks, figure out how many jobs the ocean in a certain area supports, understand the speed and direction of ocean currents or the migration paths of whales, OceanReports can help you discover and understand more about the oceans.  From the northern coast of Alaska to the shores of Puerto Rico, you can explore the nearly four million square miles of U.S. ocean waters for the first time in a single place.

The “blue economy,” ocean-based industries, contributes $320 billion to the U.S.’s gross domestic product annually. Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator said, “Whether it’s aquaculture siting, marine transportation, or offshore energy, OceanReports puts this data at our fingertips and gives us an edge as we continue to grow our national economy.” The ocean provides us with food from fish, crustaceans, even seaweed and resources ranging from oil and gas to rare earth metals used in cell phones.

For the first time in history, OceanReports provides us with a 360-degree look into the complex and ever-changing environment of the U.S. coastline. Happy exploring!

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Why Sustainable Fishing Matters

July 25, 2019

Sustainable fishing

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), “sustainable seafood is the most environmentally efficient source of protein on the planet.” Around 3 billion people worldwide rely on fish as a major source of protein. Additionally, fishing supports 1.7 million jobs and generates over $200 billion each year.

In the past, the ocean’s resources were seen as infinite and, as a result, certain fish populations were overfished and even collapsed while bycatch (accidental/unintentional catch) jeopardized protected species. Now the “Blue Economy” understands that the economic health and prosperity of the fishing industry and other ocean-related industries depends on the wellbeing of marine ecosystems. Waste management, maritime transportation, tourism, renewable energy, and fisheries must all work together to keep the earth’s oceans healthy.

In the U.S., seafood must be caught in accordance with management plans that prevent overfishing, rebuild depleted stocks, minimize bycatch, conserve essential habitats, and take into account the social and economic outcomes for fishing communities. This type of management addresses today’s needs while leaving a positive legacy for future generations.

As the demand for seafood grows, food suppliers turn to aquaculture or farm fisheries to meet growing needs. NOAA cites aquaculture as “the fastest growing form of food production worldwide.” To this end, NOAA leverages cutting-edge science in addition to innovative and collaborative partnerships between local, state, federal, and international governments as well as industry partners to create mutually beneficial solutions for economies and the environment.

As a consumer, you can aid in the fight by purchasing responsibly sourced seafood. If you enjoy fishing, practice fishing methods that target a single fish at a time and minimize bycatch like reel-and-rod fishing or spearfishing. A healthy ocean should be a priority for everyone—even landlubbers—because marine ecosystems are the lifeblood of the planet.

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Waterway Rules 101

July 18, 2019

The open water, like the open road, symbolizes adventure and is the stuff of legend: white whales, old men, gargantuan sea monsters. But unlike the road, the water lacks lanes, traffic lights and signs to regulate everyone and create a common, agreed-upon flow. The water’s increased freedom comes with increased responsibility. With the ever-increasing diversity of boating vessels, especially during the highest traffic months of summer, safe navigation has never been more important.

Rule #1: Take a Safety Course—For Free!

Organizations such as the BoatU.S. Foundation or the United States Power Squadrons offer multiple boating safety courses. Taking a safety course will provide you with a solid foundation to understand the rules of the water.

Rule #2: Understand Right of Way

Understanding right of way on the water remains a key element in boating safety. But knowing who has the right of way on the water can be tricky, especially because boat speak is not the same as road speak. For example, if your vessel has the right of way, you’re the stand-on vessel. If not, you’re the give-way vessel and should allow the other boat to pass.

When it comes to right of way on the water, you need to consider the position of the vessel as well as its type and size and the surrounding waterscape. Typically, the least maneuverable vessel is designated the stand-on, such as a sailboat under sail or a commercial vessel. If you’re in a narrow channel or on a river and following another vessel, you’re the give-way vessel. You bear more responsibility should anything go wrong if you try to pass, hence why you’re also called the burdened vessel.

Rule #3: Ask for Permission, Not Forgiveness

It’s necessary to always ask for permission to pass another vessel when you’re the give way. To ask for permission, sound two short blasts. If you hear two short blasts back, you’ve got the thumbs up to pass on the (left) port side. Should you hear five blasts back or nothing at all, consider your permission denied. The vessel in front of you may have access to information about water conditions or safety you don’t have access to like a person overboard, wreckage or fishing equipment.

Rule #4: Be a Self-Proclaimed Crossing Guard

If you find yourself in a situation where you could collide with another vessel if neither of you changes course, follow these guidelines:

  • If the vessel is on your (right) starboard side, that vessel is the stand on and has the right of way to cross in front of you.
  • If the other vessel is on the (left) port side, you’re the stand on and must pass in front of the other vessel.
  • If you’re meeting a vessel head on, both of you should steer to the right so you can pass each other safely portside to portside.
  • If nobody seems to know what they are doing, play it safe and give way.

Rule #5: Obey the ATONs

Aids to Navigation (or ATONs for short) include buoys, day and radio beacons, lights, lighthouses, fog signals, marks and other objects used for communication and signage. They help determine a vessel’s position and chart a safe course. They can notify boaters of restrictions or dangers such as designated activity areas, dams or speed limits. Just like street signs, they should be obeyed for everyone’s safety and enjoyment.

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Top Boating Safety Tips

July 12, 2019

Every year National Safe Boating Week puts safety front and center. But safety isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal—it’s before, during and after each and every jaunt on the open water. As a tribute to 24/7/365 safety, we’ve gathered a roundup of the top five boating safety tips you can use any time.

Tip #1: Always Wear a Life Vest!

The National Safe Boating Council says, “We believe wearing a life jacket is the simplest way to ensure the safety of you and your family while enjoying a day on the water.” According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2017 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, drowning was the cause of 76 percent of all 658 boating fatalities. Of these, 84.5 percent were not wearing life vests.

Why should everyone wear a life jacket? Because crazy things like getting knocked unconscious can occur. No matter what happens, a life vest will float…every time. For more on finding the right life vest for your water activity, click here.

Tip #2: Take a Boating Safety Course

Not only will you learn valuable, life-saving skills, you may also save money on your boat insurance. The U.S. Coast Guard’s list includes boating safety courses offered throughout the nation for all types and ages of boaters. You’ll learn everything from boat handling to weather reading to electronic navigation skills. Whether you’re sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, or leisurely fishing, a boating safety course can provide you with the knowledge and skills to handle nearly any situation.

Tip #3: Check the Weather

The weather can change drastically from one minute to the next, especially on the water. Before you plan to head out, know the current marine weather forecast and keep checking it. You’ll want to know the temperature both in and out of the water, especially if you plan to swim or dive. If you plan to boat during the winter, you’ll need to dress appropriately to stay not only warm but dry as well.

Tip #4: Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. Odorless and colorless, it can strike if someone inhales too much of it. Gas-powered engines and generators produce CO, so it’s especially important to have a working CO detector on board, never block exhaust outlets and keep a minimum of 20 feet between your vessel and others. For more information on how you can prevent CO poisoning, click here.

Tip #5: Communicate

In the event of an emergency, a communication device could be the difference between life and death. You should have two waterproof communication devices, such as a satellite phone and a VHF radio with Digital Selective Calling. Cell phones are not reliable enough for boating.

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How to Prepare for Hurricane Season

July 8, 2019

2019 hurricane season has officially begun: it started May 15th for the Eastern Pacific Ocean and June 1st for the Atlantic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2019 hurricane forecast on May 23rd, predicting that this year will be near normal. Scientists at Colorado State University anticipate two major hurricanes at or above Category 3 in the Atlantic.

Rather than wait and hope for the best, wise boaters in hurricane-prone areas should prepare well in advance of impending storms.

Store Wisely

The easiest way to avoid losing your boat during a hurricane is to store it in the most “storm-worthy location possible.” Boats stored on land tend to fare better than those kept in the water. But simply hauling a boat inland is not enough. Strap your boat down to a secure anchor with little or no stretch so that the boat can’t rock, which could work jack stands out of position or be blown over. Opt for the highest ground possible.

If you must store your boat on the water, choose a marina that is well-protected with floating docks and tall pilings. Floating docks and 16- to 18-foot pilings allow boats to move with rising and falling waves without stretching or stressing lines.

Anchor Properly

You’ll want to use long lines that can allow your boat to move with water surges. Helix anchors, which screw into the seafloor, can hold between 12,000 and 20,000 pounds. You may also need to set multiple anchors to keep the boat from swinging as the wind changes.

Know Your Responsibilities

Even if you store your boat at a marina or storage facility, the responsibility to prep for the storm may be yours. Make sure you’ve closely read your contract and ask the dock or facility about their hurricane plan. If you don’t live near your boat, you may be able to join a “Hurricane Club” that can haul your boat to a safer location and/or provide you with a professional hurricane plan.

“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector, and the public,” said Daniel Kaniewski, Ph.D., FEMA deputy administrator for resilience. “It only takes one event to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare. Do you have cash on hand? Do you have adequate insurance, including flood insurance? Does your family have communication and evacuation plans? Stay tuned to your local news and download the FEMA app to get alerts, and make sure you heed any warnings issued by local officials.”

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