Environmental Issues: Oceans

Oceans Main Page

All Documents in Oceans

Protecting the Mid-Atlantic's Deep-Sea Ecosystems
Fact Sheet
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, which manages U.S. fisheries resources in the region, is currently developing a plan to protect deep-sea coral communities off the Mid-Atlantic coast from fishing gear damage.
Successfully Rebuilding American Fisheries Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act
Fact Sheet
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is working to protect and rebuild America's ocean fish populations. Rebounding fish populations create jobs, support coastal economies, repair damaged marine ecosystems, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and supply fresh, local seafood.
Proceed with Caution: California’s Drought and Seawater Desalination
Issue Paper
Some observers wonder whether the long-term answer to California’s drought lies in the ocean through the
promotion of seawater desalination. This paper offers an overview of the science and policy related to seawater desalination and demonstrates why this option is generally the least promising option for drought relief.
Help Protect Our Ocean for the Future
Fact Sheet
The Mid-Atlantic States' ocean waters face growing challenges, from pollution to loss of habitat and sometimes competing industrial uses. The offshore waters serve as migratory corridors for much ocean life, including endangered North Atlantic right whales, sea turtles and many fish species, yet they are an increasingly busy place.
Solutions to Plastic Pollution in our Oceans
Overview
Plastic can be found in every ocean and waterway on the planet, even in places uninhabited by humans. This toxic garbage is wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. Unless we take immediate action, the damage will only get worse.
Waste in Our Waterways
Unveiling the Hidden Costs to Californians of Litter Clean-Up

Issue Brief
As revealed in a new report produced on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council by Kier Associates, California cities, towns, and tax payers, are shouldering $428 million per year in costs to stop litter from becoming pollution that harms the environment, tourism and other economic activity.
America’s Underwater Parks
The Marine Life Protection Act Safeguards Our Special Undersea Places

Fact Sheet
More than 130 years ago, the United States began to protect our most treasured areas on land by creating National Parks. Now, California has extended that kind of protection to special marine areas by creating underwater parks. In December 2012, the state completed a network of marine parks along its entire coast to help sustain and revitalize the rich web of ocean life. Get document in pdf.
Underwater Parks
Protected areas in the oceans are as spectacular -- and important -- as national parks on land

Overview
For more than a century, America has been protecting its most vital and beloved landscapes as national parks. But the fish, coral reefs and kelp forests of our oceans receive almost none of these protections, despite growing threats to marine life.
Ocean Blueprint
Stopping ocean sprawl with smart coastal and marine spatial planning

Overview
Increased ocean activities, if not carried out wisely, will cause "ocean sprawl," further stressing these valuable resources and jeopardizing the food, jobs and recreation we need our oceans to provide. Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) is a common sense process that allocates space in the oceans for various uses, identifying areas in which different uses make sense and other areas where ocean habitat needs protection.
Saving Our Seas
Protecting Our Oceans for the Future

Fact Sheet
Healthy oceans are essential to our survival. They provide food, jobs, and recreation that we rely on. They create the very air we breathe. But our oceans and coasts are facing innumerable threats -- from overexploitation and pollution to ocean acidification and invasive species -- and need urgent attention. The new National Ocean Policy, adopted by President Obama in July 2010, improves the way we manage our oceans, reducing duplicative efforts and conflicting government actions, and focusing attention on the most serious issues jeopardizing ocean health. We must ensure that sufficient funding is dedicated to the National Ocean Policy to protect our oceans and coasts, and the communities and economies they support, for generations to come. Get document in pdf.
Bringing Back the Fish
An Evaluation of U.S. Fisheries Rebuilding Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

Report
Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1996 to require that overfished ocean fish stocks be rebuilt in as short a time period as possible, not to exceed 10 years, with limited exceptions. As part of evaluating the success of these requirements, NRDC examined population trends of all U.S. ocean fish stocks that were subject to the requirements and for which sufficient information was available to assess rebuilding progress.
Exploring the Atlantic's Ocean Oases
Overview
Together with the Waitt Institute, the University of Connecticut, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, NRDC has embarked on an exciting expedition to help catalogue the presence of rare deep sea corals and other life in several of the Georges Bank canyons and nearby seamounts that have never before been explored.
Conserving Wild Fisheries
Overview
The world's fisheries are in crisis. Years of chronic overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction have stripped our seas of much of their vitality and productivity. Without swift action, ocean ecosystems will continue to deteriorate -- and so too will the sustenance, jobs, and recreational pleasures they provide.
Testing the Waters 2013: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches
Report
NRDC's annual analysis of water quality and public notification data at coastal U.S. beaches found that the number of beach closing and advisory days in 2011 reached the third-highest level in the 22-year history of our report, totaling 23,481 days. More than two-thirds of closings and advisories were issued because bacteria levels in beachwater exceeded public health standards, indicating the presence of human or animal waste.
Healthy Oceans Need Smart Planning
Fact Sheet
We demand a lot from our oceans -- from fishing and tourism, to shipping and energy development. These human uses and the environmental needs of the sea have been governed haphazardly -- overseen by more than 140 laws and 20 agencies, each with different goals and often conflicting mandates. But our oceans and coasts are stressed from problems like pollution, depleted fish populations, dying coral, endangered species, warmer temperatures and ocean acidification. If not carried out wisely, growing industrial use of these waters will lead to “ocean sprawl,” further threatening the health of our valuable marine resources and jeopardizing the food, jobs and recreation our oceans provide. By planning ahead for our human needs from the sea we can reduce conflicts and keep ocean waters and life healthy. Get document in pdf.
Cabo Pulmo: Protecting Baja California's Thriving Coral Reef from Massive Tourism Development
Fact Sheet
Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, is home to the only living hard coral reef in the Gulf of California. Teeming with marine life, it is one of the healthiest marine reserves in the world. But Spanish developer Hansa Urbana plans to build a colossal tourism and real estate complex right next door, which would devastate the park's fragile ecosystem. To protect the reef and its marine life, NRDC is partnering with local and international groups in a multi-faceted campaign to stop Hansa Urbana and create a sustainable, long-term development plan for the area. Get document in pdf.
Reviving Our Oceans
Changing the way we think about and manage our oceans can help avert a crisis.

Overview
Changing the way we think about and manage our oceans can help avert a crisis.
Anti-Environmental Budget Riders
A significant assault on health and environmental protection is underway in Congress.

Overview
Lawmakers must pass 12 spending bills for fiscal 2012 to fund the government, and some House Republicans are seizing this opportunity to jam through unpopular anti-environmental policies that have nothing to do with spending.
Deep Sea Treasures
Protecting the Atlantic Coast's Ancient Submarine Canyons and Seamounts

Overview
Cut into the continental shelf off the Atlantic coast of the United States is a series of undersea canyons. Teeming with an astonishing variety and abundance of marine life, these canyons and seamounts are ocean oases. Swift action is needed to defend these ancient ecosystems now, before they suffer irreparable harm.
Domestic Oil Drilling
Still Not a Solution to Rising Gas Prices

Overview
More domestic oil drilling will have no effect on the current spike in gasoline prices. It’s time to move beyond our dependence on oil and seek alternatives such as clean energy and fuel efficiency.
End Commercial Whaling
Renegade whale hunting threatens the survival of endangered species around the world

Overview
Whales are still being killed across the world's oceans -- despite an international ban on commercial whaling -- by countries that exploit loopholes and label their hunts as "scientific research."
Our Work in the Gulf
Overview
Since 2005, NRDC has been working to support Gulf communities to protect their health and environment. In the wake of the BP oil disaster, we remain committed to pushing for a full recovery of the rich ecological, cultural, and economic centers in the Gulf of Mexico. Through our Gulf Coast Resource Center we will work to ensure that neither the stories of this disaster nor the lessons we can learn from it are lost.
The Florida Keys Response To the Gulf Oil Disaster
Stories Shared and Lessons Learned

Issue Paper
Oil spills can travel vast distances and even drilling that occurs hundreds of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico can have real impacts on the health of the protected places like the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Keys were at risk because the Loop Current that flows up into the Gulf of Mexico loops down along the western shore of Florida and then heads right along the Florida Keys before picking up the Gulf Stream and shooting along the Atlantic Ocean's shoreline. When oil started gushing, state, federal, and local officials in the Keys snapped into action. Citizens prepared for the worst. Thankfully, an unusual current -- dubbed the "Franklin Eddy" -- pinched off the Loop Current and kept the oil from reaching the Keys. One of the most environmentally sensitive island chains in America was spared oiling of its shores. Get document in pdf.
Go Below the Surface of the Gulf Oil Disaster
An interactive guide to the Gulf spill's effects on one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world

Guide
It appears that only a fraction of the millions of gallons of crude oil that have flooded into the Gulf of Mexico rises to the surface. A lot of the oil remains dissolved or dispersed in the Gulf’s waters, contaminating one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world. Go below the surface of the Gulf oil disaster with this interactive graphic.
Tracking Oil Washing Ashore on Beaches
Find out which beaches are unaffected by the Gulf oil disaster, and what to do if you encounter spilled oil.

Guide
Find out which beaches are unaffected by the Gulf oil disaster, and what to do if you encounter spilled oil.
Oil Spill Do's and Don'ts for the Florida Keys
Protecting Yourself and Your Family from the Health Impacts of the Oil Spill

Fact Sheet
All across the Gulf of Mexico, a catastrophic event is unfolding. Oil from the failed Deepwater Horizon rig is spreading throughout the ocean and washing up against Florida’s valuable shorelines. The Keys are particularly vulnerable because of the islands’ exposure to the sea and the sensitive shoreline and reefs. This fact sheet is designed to give individuals information on what they can do -- and what they should not do -- to help respond to this disaster. Get document in pdf.
What's At Stake
The Ecological and Economic Future of the Florida Keys

Fact Sheet
In the Florida Keys, the natural and human communities are intertwined. The health of living barrier coral reef that exists nowhere else in North America is tied to that of the mangrove trees that fringe the islands and the submerged seagrass beds and patch reefs in between. The Florida wildlife that thrives in this unique environment relies on these habitats to be healthy, just as we, in turn, depend on them to support food, recreation, and valuable jobs. But these resources -- and the livelihoods and way of life they support -- are threatened by the growing Gulf oil disaster. We must protect our valuable marine life to ensure the ecological and economic future of the Florida Keys. Get document in pdf.
Boom, Baby, Boom
The Environmental Impacts of Seismic Surveys

Fact Sheet
For offshore exploration, the oil and gas industry typically relies on arrays of airguns towed behind ships. Although most of the energy from these acoustic “shots” is intended to search downward for evidence of oil and gas deep beneath the seafloor, a significant amount of the energy travels outwards and can be heard throughout vast areas of the ocean. The environmental problems created by these noise invasions are not fully understood, but we do know that these intense sounds threaten the habitats of endangered whales and commercial fisheries. Seismic surveys have been shown to disrupt essential behavior in endangered whales and cause catch rates of some commercial fish to plummet. To mitigate these impacts, NRDC recommends that airguns be kept out of sensitive areas and that greener alternatives be promoted, some of which are already well into development and could be made commercially available within a few years.
Get document in pdf.
Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification
Overview
ACID TEST, a film produced by NRDC, was made to raise awareness about the largely unknown problem of ocean acidification, which poses a fundamental challenge to life in the seas and the health of the entire planet. Like global warming, ocean acidification stems from the increase of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem
Increased carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the earth’s oceans, threatening marine life

Overview
Over the last decade, scientists have discovered that increased CO2 is actually changing the chemistry of the sea and proving harmful for many forms of marine life. This process is known as ocean acidification. A more acidic ocean could wipe out species, disrupt the food web and impact fishing, tourism and any other human endeavor that relies on the sea.
Protecting Our Ocean and Coastal Economies
Avoid Unnecessary Risks from Offshore Drilling

Fact Sheet
Healthy oceans are critically important to marine life and to coastal communities whose economies rely on tourism and fishing. Opening up new offshore areas to drilling risks permanent damage to our oceans and beaches without reducing our dependence on oil. When oil spills occur they can bring catastrophic harm to marine life and devastating losses for local businesses. And even routine exploration and drilling activities bring harm to many marine species. The Administration and Congress must work together to assess the environmental impacts of offshore drilling before making key decisions about offshore oil and gas activities in new areas or Alaska. Get document in pdf.
Ocean Acidification Fact Sheet
The Other CO2 Problem

Fact Sheet
Ocean acidification is the quiet tsunami of environmental degradation. Within a few decades, ocean acidification may devastate some marine ecosystems and threaten the productivity of our fisheries. When we burn oil, coal, or gas, scientists have recently shown, we are transforming the fundamental chemistry of the oceans, rapidly making the water more acidic. Get document in pdf.
Keep Our Beaches Clean
Prevent the Beachwater Pollution That Makes Swimmers Sick

Fact Sheet
Beach vacations are an annual summer event for many families. But beachgoers at polluted beaches around the country may bring back an unwanted souvenir from their trip: ear infections, stomach flu, skin rashes, and other illnesses that are caused by polluted beachwater. To help keep our beaches clean, NRDC supports improved beachwater testing to detect the pathogens that can cause health problems in swimmers. Bills now pending in Congress would provide funding for much-needed beach cleanup efforts and help ensure that the public is notified promptly when beaches are unsafe for swimming. These bills will help make sure that our beaches are safe for swimming every day.
Get document in pdf.
Comments to the Mineral Management Service regarding Seismic Activity
Comments
In March 2009, NRDC submitted comments to MMS regarding the environmental effects of multiple geological and geophysical exploration activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.  A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for these seismic activities is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and sets forth several recommendations to MMS for consideration in the PEIS. Get document in pdf.
Florida Coastal and Ocean Policy Report Card
Issue Paper
The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, including NRDC, works to conserve, protect, and restore Florida's coastal and marine environment. The Florida Coastal and Ocean Policy Report Card provides a detailed analysis and evaluation of the legislative and government actions taken in Florida during 2007 and 2008.
Safeguarding our Oceans in a Warming World
Addressing Global Warming and Ocean Acidification

Fact Sheet
From rising sea levels and higher temperatures to more extreme weather events and ocean acidification, global warming pollution presents a serious threat to our already-stressed ocean systems. Treasured oceans and beaches, food staples, recreation, and employment are all at risk in the coming decades. To avoid the worst impacts, federal and state governments must protect our oceans by reducing global warming emissions and enacting policies that will boost the ability of natural systems to weather the ongoing and expected changes brought on by global warming and ocean acidification. Climate and energy legislation expected to be passed by Congress presents an opportunity to take a major step toward that goal. Get document in pdf.
Give Swordfish a Break
Conservation campaign helped restore North Atlantic swordfish and provided an example for future efforts.

News
After a two-and-a-half-year campaign led by NRDC and SeaWeb to restore swordfish populations in the north Atlantic, the federal government in August 2000 announced measures to protect juvenile north Atlantic swordfish from fishing.
Offshore Drilling Threatens Our Beaches, Oceans, Coastal Communities and Marine Life
Legislative Analysis
President Bush and some members of Congress are pressing to open offshore areas that have been protected from oil drilling for many years, including the east and west coasts and Florida.
Florida Needs a Healthy Oceans Act
We can revive the world's oceans, starting with a Healthy Oceans Act.

Fact Sheet
We depend on the ocean for food, recreation, and jobs, but now pollution, overexploitation, and habitat degradation are pushing the world’s oceans into a silent state of collapse. In Florida, ocean deterioration has led to beach closings, dying reefs, fewer fish for commercial and recreational fishing, and dangerous chemicals in some of the state’s seafood. Fortunately, solutions are available that can help revive the world’s oceans, starting with passing a national Healthy Oceans Act. Get document in pdf.
Saving Jamaica Bay
Fact Sheet
New York City's Jamaica Bay is plagued by an array of harms ranging from overdevelopment on its borders to water pollution to invasive plant and animal species. A unified effort on the part of government and residents is needed to restore this natural gem and to save one of the city's last wild places. Get document in pdf.
Porpoise in Peril
Help protect the most endangered small marine mammal in the world

Fact Sheet
NRDC is working to prevent the extinction of the vaquita marina (Phocoena sinus), the world’s smallest porpoise and now its most endangered small marine mammal. The main threat to vaquitas is the accidental entanglement in nets set for fish and shrimp that is exported from Mexico to U.S. consumers. Immediate action must be taken to protect this critically endangered porpoise. Get document in pdf.
Florida’s Coastal and Ocean Future
A Blueprint for Economic and Environmental Leadership

Issue Paper
With tourism, fishing, and recreational sport bringing billions of dollars into Florida each year, the coast is Florida's economic engine. This issue paper provides a blueprint for how local leaders and decision makers can -- and must -- take action to protect Florida’s marine and coastal ecosystems.
Global Warming’s Effects on Florida’s Oceans and Coasts Demand Immediate Action
Fact Sheet
NRDC and our partners are fighting to revive and protect Florida's thriving coastal and ocean economy by promoting measures that will reduce global warming pollution and protect coastal habitats and restore robust fisheries. Get document in pdf.
Protecting Ocean Habitat from Bottom Trawling
Halting this underwater version of strip-mining in sensitive areas can keep our oceans healthy and full of vibrant marine life.

Overview
Halting this underwater version of strip-mining in sensitive areas can keep our oceans healthy and full of vibrant marine life.
New York State's Strained Ocean Resources
Commercially and culturally vital, New York's shorelines, beaches and fisheries are in trouble.

Fact Sheet
Healthy, diverse ocean ecosystems are an important part of New York's coastal heritage and economic well-being. Yet these ocean systems are severely strained from pollution, destruction of productive marine habitat, and overfishing.
Seafood Specials: Great Recipes that Help Save Oceans
Recipes from NRDC's home cooks and a few of our chef friends help you take the guesswork out of serving a healthy, feel-good seafood meal.

Guide
Recipes from NRDC's home cooks and a few of our chef friends help you take the guesswork out of serving a healthy, feel-good seafood meal.
Medicines from the Deep
The Importance of Protecting the High Seas from Bottom Trawling

Issue Paper
Medical research suggests that novel compounds from the deep sea hold tremendous promise for treating human disease, highlighting the need to protect the fragile deep ocean bottom from destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling.
Keeping Oceans Wild
How Marine Reserves Protect Our Living Seas

Report
Marine reserves are like national parks, and they are critical to keeping the world's oceans healthy and productive. This NRDC report demonstrates how placing important ocean areas off-limits is already reaping tremendous benefits, and shows how each of us can participate in protecting marine life and habitat for the future.
Priority Ocean Areas for Protection in the Mid-Atlantic: Findings of NRDC's Marine Habitat Workshop
Report
In September 2000, NRDC organized a workshop that brought scientists together to identify specific priority ocean areas in the mid-Atlantic for protection. This report summarizes the results of the scientific workshop in order to foster better understanding, management, and protection of marine species and habitat in federal waters of the mid-Atlantic. The report includes maps reflecting priority areas recommended by each participating scientist.

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Oceans on Switchboard

NRDC experts write about the growing risks to the health of our oceans on the NRDC blog.


Recent Oceans Posts

NRDC, Fishermen and Watershed Protection Groups Launch Legal Action to Protect Disappearing Blueback Herring
posted by Brad Sewell, 10/17/14
Bag Bans Will Keep Harmful Plastic Out of the Ocean
posted by Peter Lehner, 10/7/14
Unique and endangered: Why we need to protect the Gulf of Mexico's Bryde's whales now
posted by Sylvia Fallon, 9/18/14

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