Why We Won’t Quit the Caribbean

Carysfort Reef 1975 to 2014

A dramatic time series of photos documenting the 95 percent loss of coral cover from Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida since 1975. The photos capture the loss of a once thriving colony of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata (Photos: Phil Dustan)

You wouldn’t know it from the colorful travel ads, but beneath the Caribbean’s sublime azure surface, the story of is one of utter mayhem.

A major report released earlier this year, the most comprehensive to date, puts it clearly and bluntly: Without swift and meaningful action, “Caribbean coral reefs and their associated resources will virtually disappear within just a few decades…” There has been an average decline of coral cover in the Caribbean of more than 50 percent since 1970.

The reefs I so delighted in as a teenager in the Florida Keys are today heartbreaking and unrecognizable. Live coral is estimated to be less than 20 percent of what it was in the early seventies when I first dove there. 

Statistics like these make it easy for one to abandon hope, and indeed, many have. The report states, “Concerns have mounted to the point that many NGOs [non-governmental organizations, nonprofit conservation organizations and funders] have given up on Caribbean reefs and moved their attentions elsewhere.” But Ocean Doctor hasn’t given up on the Caribbean — we’re in it for the long-haul, dedicated to restoring Caribbean coral reefs to their former glory. And we’ve found a new reason to be optimistic. [Read more…]

OMG I Thought You Were Dead!

Carysfort Reef 1975 to 2014

A dramatic time series of photos documenting the 95 percent loss of coral cover from Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida since 1975. The photos capture the loss of a once thriving colony of elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata (Photos: Phil Dustan)

I shouted with euphoric joy through my regulator, 20 feet underwater. I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. It must have been difficult to discern between an expression of delighted surprise and a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on an old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in years. I had heard he was dead – or at least gravely ill. But there in front of me, larger than life, vibrant and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.

Several years earlier, I joined an expedition to explore a corner of the Gulf of Mexico I had only heard about from colleagues: The magnificent coral reef ecosystem of Veracruz, Mexico. Seated inside the DeepRover submersible with great anticipation for a vibrant reef that lay below me, I was lowered from the deck of a Mexican Navy ship into the warm blue waters below and radioed the ship that I was going to begin my descent.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch 

 

What Becomes of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?

Goliath Grouper and Photographer

A Critically Endangered Goliath Grouper greets a tourist photographer in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen National Park. Environmental economics demonstrated that conservation and ecotourism would result in more revenue than commercial fishing. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

When a foreigner sets foot in Cuba, it immediately becomes clear that this magical island is profoundly unique and has developed drastically differently than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean. And for those who venture into its verdant mountains or below its aquamarine waves, a striking revelation awaits:  Just as the fifties-era Chevys and horse-drawn buggies portray an island seemingly frozen in time, so, too, do its exceptionally healthy and vibrant ecosystems illustrate that Cuba may have picked the perfect time in history not to follow the path of its neighbors. Indeed the past half century has seen a tragic and unprecedented decline in Caribbean coastal and marine ecosystems.

Read the full post at EcoWatch.com

EcoWatch

 

Look Who’s on the Cover of Scuba Diving Magazine!

Ocean Doctor's Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

Ocean Doctor’s Cuba Travel Program is the cover story in Scuba Diving Magazine

That’s our pal, Niño the saltwater crocodile, adorning the cover of the latest Scuba Diving Magazine! We’re proud to say that the cover story feature’s Ocean Doctor’s unique educational travel programs to Cuba and the spectacular Gardens of the Queen. We’re also proud to say that Scuba Diving Magazine readers voted Gardens of the Queen “Best Marine Park,” and with good reason. It’s the Caribbean’s largest fully-protected marine park and its health and wildlife are unmatched in the region.

Want to join us? We have space for individuals and small groups on the following dates.

  • November 19-29, 2014 (Tortuga)
  • December 2014 (exact dates/vessel TBD)
  • April 29 – May 9, 2015 (Avalon II)

Learn more about our Cuba Travel Program and contact us if you’re interested in traveling with us for the luxury learning adventure of a lifetime.

Under a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, our program allows us to take U.S. citizens and residents on these trips legally.

Activities 

[Read more…]

Save Penguins and Threatened Wildlife at Earth’s Remotest Places

 

Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha, the world’s remotest inhabited island, is located in the South Atlantic

On March 16, 2011, a horrific environmental disaster occurred at the most remote inhabited island group in the world, Tristan da Cunha, that threatened the second largest concentration of seabirds in the world.

Marine scientist Dr. David E. Guggenheim, president of  Ocean Doctor, was aboard a ship that received a distress call from a Maltese freighter that had run aground at Nightingale Island. The catastrophic oil spill that ensued was captured on film, and Dr. Guggenheim has turned that footage into a film that explores this tragedy and others like it, as a warning signal and call to action to prevent future tragedies and prepare local managers for any that might occur.

The beloved  Northern Rockhopper penguin has declined 90 percent over the past 50 years and is now an endangered species

The beloved Northern Rockhopper penguin has declined 90 percent over the past 50 years and is now an endangered species

[Read more…]

Hope Beneath the Bering Sea!

A beautiful cluster of deep-sea coral, byozoans, anenome and other delicate life below 1,000 feet in the Bering Sea's Pribilof Canyon

A beautiful cluster of deep-sea coral, byozoans, anenome and other delicate life below 1,000 feet in the Bering Sea’s Pribilof Canyon

Yesterday I received wonderful news from colleague and friend, John Hocevar at Greenpeace, who has been on the front lines in Juneau seeking protection for the world’s largest underwater canyons, both in Alaska’s Bering Sea: Zhemchug Canyon and Pribilof Canyon, the “Grand Canyons” of the sea.

According to John, “the [North Pacific Fishery Management] Council unanimously adopted motions for both short term and long term measures. First, they agreed to identify coral areas in the canyons and weigh options to protect them. Second, they will develop a Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Bering Sea, with particular emphasis on the shelf break.

Following eight days of often contentious hearings and tremendous pressure from powerful industrial fishing interests, this is very welcome news and exactly what our Greenpeace-led coalition had hoped for.

Over the weeks and months ahead our coalition will have a great deal of work to do helping ensure that the Council to follows through with strong measures that will ensure the health of the Bering Sea and the fisheries it sustains.

Our Ocean Doctor action alert set a new record for the number of responses. You added your voices to thousands around the world, and for that we are deeply grateful. And I am pleased to say that your voices were heard loud and clear. According to Greenpeace’s Jackie Dragon, Council member John Henderschedt thanked all who provided comments, saying “your voices are important to this process and they’ve been heard.” From all sources, more than 100,000 individuals submitted comments!

This victory is especially important as it underscores that the oceans represent the largest public trust in the United States, and not the exclusive domain of industrial fishing or any other commercial interest. They belong to and must be stewarded by all of us. You helped us make that point loud and clear, and for that, please accept my profound thanks.

Sincerely,
David Signature
David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D.
President, Ocean Doctor
Director, Cuba Conservancy
 

Learn More:

The Worst Thing I Ever Saw Underwater

Action Alert: Grand Canyons of the Bering Sea

VIDEOS: Return to the Arctic Depths

BeringSeaCanyons.org (Greenpeace)

Spoiler alert: Fishery Council votes in favor of the Bering Sea (Greenpeace)

Return to Arctic Depths

The Worst Thing I Ever Saw Underwater (and Why it Matters This Week)

An enormous scar on the bottom of the Bering Sea's Pribolof Canyon at 1,000 feet left by a trawl net leaves a path of destruction miles long, having ripped corals, sponges and everything else in its path from the bottom. (Photo: David E. Guggenheim)

An enormous scar on the bottom of the Bering Sea’s Pribolof Canyon at 1,000 feet left by a trawl net leaves a path of destruction miles long, having ripped corals, sponges and everything else in its path from the bottom. (Photo: D. Guggenheim)

On Friday, August 3rd, 2007, I landed the Deepworker submersible at 1,052 feet in the second largest underwater canyon in the world, Pribilof Canyon in Alaska’s Bering Sea. In the distance, I saw the lights of the other submersible, piloted by Michelle Ridgway.

As we both sat on the bottom conducting life support checks and communicating with the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza above, I peered through the dome and saw something strange. I reported that I had landed on what appeared to be some sort of geologic stratification — unusual layers and grooves of sediment in parallel lines across my path. What in the world was this? We hadn’t seen anything like it. [Read more…]

Action Alert: Grand Canyons of the Bering Sea

 

Action Alert - Ocean Doctor

Time Remaining to Take Action:


Protect the Bering Sea’s Grand Canyons

Background

In 2007, Greenpeace launched a groundbreaking expedition to explore the two largest underwater canyons in the world, in the heart of the Bering Sea. It was the first time manned submersibles ever entered these canyons and human eyes gazed directly upon their treasures. Ocean Doctor president, Dr. David E. Guggenheim served as a sub pilot and scientific consultant during the 2007 expedition. The expedition revealed an extraordinary tapestry of life thousands of feet below the surface, including beautiful, brightly-colored deepwater corals, sponges, anemones, octopus and fish and resulted the discovery of new species and species ranges. [Read more…]

World Penguin Day 2013



World Penguin Day 2013 [Read more…]

Open-Ocean Aquaculture Would Harm the Gulf of Mexico

Statement of Recirculating Farms Coalition Executive Director, Marianne Cufone

Recirculating Farms CoalitionNew Orleans, LA, February 8, 2013 – Today, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council – the body that advises the National Marine Fisheries Service on fish and fishing in the Gulf – voted to push forward regulations that would permit industrial fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico. The Council did so in violation of a number of procedural laws, as well as in direct conflict with the members’ oath of office to conserve and manage the marine resources of the Gulf of Mexico for the benefit of the nation. Open water fish farming is well documented to be highly problematic for both people and our planet. [Read more…]