Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Ocean Around Us

If you have been reading our blog, or knew us prior to motorhoming, you would have gathered that Betsy and I are drawn to water. We love the warm sandy beaches, clear Maine lakes, southern golden marshes, and everything in between. My childhood interest and love for the outdoors and environment led me to study fish and wildlife management in college and work for federal agency’s that protect natural resources. My previous jobs with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed my belief that our country’s natural resources are our national treasures and are not our generation’s to be squandered. Our planets resources are fragile. Our natural resources are very often not renewable and therefore not sustainable.

So as I now sit by the ocean’s side in Sarasota, Florida, I admire its beauty, give thanks for its bounty, and respect its fury. Coincidentally, the last few books I read pertain to the ocean and its resources and I feel it is important to thank the early pioneers and explorers for bringing to light the ocean’s importance. People like Rachel Carson who warned us in the 1960’s that we were polluting our waters, Jacque Cousteau who explored the deep ocean and brought it into our living rooms through his television shows, and Jacque Piccard who braved the journey to the deepest place in the ocean, the Marianas Trench, and informed us that life does exist at 35,800 feet (although the sea creatures that live down there are not very pretty).

The state of our oceans today is questionable. The populous feels that the vastness of the ocean will prevent us from creating oceanic destruction. After all, the oceans occupy 75% of our vast planet. But reputable scientists feel differently. Scientific data that indicates our oceans are imperiled and suffering the effects of overfishing and pollution. A 2006 article in Science (reported by an international team of scientists gathering data between 1950 and 2003) declared that if current fishing and pollution trends continue, every fishery in the world’s oceans will collapse by 2048. The United Nations estimated that the world fishing fleet is twice as large as what the oceans can support. We harvest fish by exploding underwater devices and dragging heavy nets along the ocean floor, killing everything in the path and destroying valuable nursery habitat. The days of “wild salmon” are numbered and we have nearly decimated the species of cod. Indirectly, we are degrading our oceans through climate change and acidification. As Betsy, Spirit (our new puppy) and I cool our wheels here in Sarasota, we hear daily news reports on red tide. The 75-mile swath is lingering slightly offshore and restricting seafood harvest and consumption.

Lucky for us, fish have survived on this planet for millions of years. Slowly, we are learning (and taking action) to conserve our oceans resources and paying attention to the warning signs that are thrust in front of us. We have learned that estuaries are vital to ocean health and biodiversity. The protection and restoration of these vital areas has moved to the forefront of habitat conservation. People living along the once biologically dead Chesapeake Bay can now relish in its bounty. We have become enlightened on how fish are harvested, their habitat requirements, life cycles, and what we earthlings are doing to the undersea world. Overfishing of wild strains has forced us to turn to aquaculture which may in turn be what is needed to preserve a species. Scientific data directs fishing regulations, including season lengths, harvest quotas, and gear. One can only hope that environmental consciousness will lead to societal changes necessary to help protect our oceans for future generations.

One of our favorite destinations is the panhandle of Florida.
Pensacola's white "sugar" sand is so fine that it squeaks under your feet as you walk.
Grayton Beach State Park remains our favorite campground.  White sand, crystal
clear blue water, and a RV sand castle to boot.
Over 4.9 million barrels of oil were released when the Deepwater Horizon well blew out in April 2010 and tragically
killed 10 people. As of November 2011, workers were still cleaning up tar balls along the panhandle. 
 Researchers reported that tar balls on the gulf floor have not degraded and they
are still being found in shrimpers nets.  An October 2011 report by NOAA Scientists
claims that dolphins and whales continue to die at twice the normal rate. 

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