Tag: sustainability

GBR Bleached

The Devastating Change That’s Happening to the Great Barrier Reef

Pictured above is a recent photo showing the devastating effects of coral bleaching on the once bright and beautiful Great Barrier Reef. Always regarded as one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems on Earth, the once thriving coral reef is now feeling the harsh effects of climate change. A phenomenon called ‘bleaching’ is killing off the corals. Bleaching is a process that happens when abnormal environmental conditions (such as a spike in water temperatures) affect the relationship that the corals have with a species of algae called zooxanthellae. Check out the infographic below for more information:

coral infographic

A recent arial survey of the reef shows that around 95% off the ecosystem is affected by bleaching. Of the 520 reefs surveyed, only four showed no damage.

So what does that mean for the Great Barrier Reef? Well, corals can recover from bleaching if the conditions return to normal and the zooxanthellae are able to repopulate the reefs. However, due to the severe nature of the bleaching, it seems unlikely that many will survive. Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert, estimates that about half of them will die off in the next month or so.

For comparison, check out the beautiful photos at this blog – showing the Great Barrier Reef in its former glory.

The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Want to make a difference and inspire positive change in our world? Take action. Stopping climate change begins with the choices we make as individuals. So turn off a light when you leave the room, recycle, and make smart choices when it comes to choosing the products you buy. Check out our list of ways you can help stop climate change here for more information.


Sources:

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html (infographic found here)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching-95-per-cent-north-section/7279338

How Can YOU Help Stop Climate Change and Save Our Seas?

Melting Ice

Climate change and pollution are real threats that are damaging the world we live in, particularly our oceans. These environmental problems and our own unsustainable practices are creating problems such as sea sparkle (which isn’t as lovely as it sounds) and the devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

There are lots of things you (as an everyday, average person) can do to help put a stop to global warming, however. There are big moves, like driving an electric or hybrid car, or powering your house with solar energy – but there are also solutions that are attainable by everyone. If we work together, we can all make a difference just by changing small habits in our everyday lives.

Here’s a short list we’ve put together of ways you can help:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! You might be tired of hearing this, but the difference changing just a few of your habits can make is phenomenal! For example, did you know that Americans buy about 25 billion plastic water bottles each year – which requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year! Imagine how much energy we could save if everyone bought reusable water bottles instead? Consider buying paper products such as paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper from recycled sources. Saving trees means more oxygen in the air and less carbon dioxide, which is a huge contributor to global warming. When shopping for household products, choose items with less packaging and bring your own bags with you when you shop. In the United States alone, we throw away about 100 billion plastic bags a year.
  2. Use energy efficient appliances. Just by switching the lighting in your home to LED lights, you use around 80% less energy – helping the enviroment AND reducing your electric bill! Next time you need to replace one of your home appliances, look for the Energy Star label. They are the most energy efficient models. You can also make a difference by turning things off and unplugging them when you’re done using them. 10% of your energy bill comes from phantom loads. That means wasted energy from your home appliances, cell phone chargers and more being plugged in while they are not in use.
  3. Keep your car well maintained. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, routine tune-ups and basic maintenance can make a big difference in your fuel economy. So, replace your air filter regularly, keep your tires properly inflated (that really does make a difference!) and stop putting off that tune-up you know your car needs. In addition to this, turn your car off when you’re stuck in traffic. It’s a myth that turning your car on and off uses more fuel than idling! Of course, you can also take advantage of car-pooling, public transit, your trusty bicycle or the shoelace express to save on emissions as well.
  4. Buy local – especially your food! Buying food from local farmers not only supports your local economy, but it helps the environment by reducing the amount of travel your food products have to go through to make it to your plate. Worldwatch Institute estimates that the ingredients for the average American meal travel more than 1,500 miles before they’re finally consumed. Try to purchase organic food whenever possible as well. Run-off from pesticides is a contributor to damaging our ecosystems both on land and aquatic.



Sources:

http://life.gaiam.com/article/climate-change-25-things-you-can-do
https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939044

 


Introducing… Ariki Paua Shell Jewelry!

Ariki Paua Shells

Pearls International is proud to announce we are expanding our inventory of Abalone jewelry to now carry gorgeous, sustainably sourced Paua shell jewelry in Sterling silver!

Our new line, from a New Zealand company called Ariki™, includes amazing pieces hand-inlaid Paua shell that have been carefully selected once personally removed from the local waters by divers. The shells are actually a byproduct of fishing for food – so every part of the Abalone sea snail is used, which we though was super cool, because sustaining our sea life is very important. After all, the ocean makes up 71% of our Earth – so it’s important we take care of it and all the creatures that live there.

After each Abalone cabochon has been cut and set into your pendant or earrings, two layers of clear lacquer are added to protect and extend the life of your jewelry.

Remember, just like with your pearls, Abalone comes from the ocean where it is dark and protected from the sun and daily pollutants such as hair sprays and lotions. Follow these easy steps to keep your Ariki™ jewelry looking new for generations to come:

  • Never expose your jewelry to perfumes, hair sprays, lotion, or other materials containing detergents. With time these may penetrate the lacquer and cause damage to the Paua shell.
  • Don’t wear your jewelry for many hours in the bright sunlight.
  • Remove your jewelry before swimming. Chemicals in the water can damage your shell.
  • Store your Sterling silver jewelry in a jewelry box or other secure storage area when you aren’t wearing it. Believe it or not, exposure to oxygen actually causes silver to tarnish.
  • Clean routinely with a good polishing cloth.

We hope you enjoy our new Ariki™ line as much as we do! Stop by the shop today to see all of the beautiful pieces!

Sea Sparkle

Sea Sparkle: Pretty, or pretty bad?

You probably aren’t too familiar with Noctiluca Scintillans, the alluring not-quite-algae responsible for the beautiful displays of light in the oceans surrounding Hong Kong. 

This unusual single-celled sea life, also known as “sea sparkle” gives off a bioluminescent glow when agitated, either by the movement of the waves or by a passing ship or fish. The breathtaking light shows are visible in many parts of the world, but become more prevalent in areas where increased nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from agriculture upset the delicate balance of the local ocean ecology.

Sea Sparkle

Noctiluca scintillans is an organism that functions both as a plant and an animal. While the organism in itself is not toxic, it tends to feed on phytoplanktons, and because noctiluca scintillans does not move from place to place, the buildup of excretions from its feeding results in high levels of ammonia in the surrounding water. This can lead to problems with surrounding sea life when heavy blooms of noctiluca scintillans take over large aquatic regions.

Noctiluca Scintillans single celled organism

We’re always impressed at the delicate balancing act our oceans perform to keep our entire globe running properly, and also by how easy it is for a few careless people to throw everything off kilter. Just a bit too much pollution from farms can cause seawater to become too nutrient-rich, leading to an overgrowth of noctiluca scintillans. The high ammonia caused by the overgrowth in turn causes problems with local sea life, problems which move gradually up the food chain until finally, they reach your dinner plate.

So what can you do about it?

Well, first, do your part. Be a responsible citizen of the globe. Recycle. Find ways to get involved. Educate yourself on the issues. Then get out there and make a difference! It takes a whole lot of drops to fill the ocean, and that ocean is depending on us.

UCF Helps Restore Oyster Reefs

UCF Knights Give Back

The University of Central Florida’s volunteer program, Knights Give Back, recently completed their Eighth Annual Day of Service! The program has grown extensively over the years, as more and more UCF students, alumni, teachers, and other volunteers have started lining up for their chance to give back. This year, thousands of volunteers working at more than 20 different volunteer sites across central Florida worked on a variety of projects helping the community and the environment.

Infographic on Knights Give Back throughout the years

We at Pearls International are especially interested in this event because this year, one volunteer activity aims to help our favorite little ocean organisms – that’s right, oysters!

On October 11th, 2014, a multitude of students, teachers, and alumni, led by Dr. Linda Walters of the UCF biology department spent their day helping to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon. Volunteers planted and transplanted mangroves and marsh grass, and created oyster restoration mats. These mats were placed in areas where oyster reefs used to exist, helping to restore the population. Oysters are a keystone, or essential, species and are filter-feeders, which means they actually clean the water as they eat, helping to create a healthy ecosystem in the lagoon.

UCF Students creating oyster mats.
UCF Students creating oyster mats to help restore the oyster population.
Oysters covered in oil

Deepwater Horizon Spill of 2010 the Latest Threat to Oysters?

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Among other grisly repercussions of the great oil spill of 2010, (which came to be known as the “Deepwater Horizon Spill”), hundreds of fragile oyster beds that thrived in the area have been severely disrupted.  Why is this a problem?  Simply put, oysters are a filter animal and are a natural and necessary part of the filtering that is required for the environments of our oceans, lakes and rivers.  The talented animals can clean water like a pool vacuum cleans a pool.  Filtering organic materials is their business – but understandably, the Deepwater Horizon Spill has proved too much for many of the oysters along the Gulf.

The damages to the Gulf oyster beds have threatened not only the oysters themselves, but myriad of businesses based on the oyster trade.  The oldest oyster shucking operation in the United States, P&J Oyster Company of New Orleans was extremely impaired by the spill.  It reported that the company still has not resumed shucking its own oysters after the spill, and the overall business is still only at 35 percent of original production figures.

That same year, Governor Bobby Jindall ordered freshwater to be pumped into the Mississippi river in order to try to flush out the oil that had seeped in. Though the freshwater pumping may have helped on some levels, the over-abundance of fresh water also adversely affected the oyster beds, because a subtle mixture of brackish water, both saltwater and fresh, is needed for the fragile oysters to thrive.

Dr. Tom Soniat,  for over ten years a full-time Biology professor at Nicholls University and mussel specialist, stated that “the mortality rate [in the area] was up to 98 percent in some oyster beds.”  At a 2 percent survival rate, this kind of depletion could quickly cause oysters to join the endangered species list.  In addition, many other polluted areas which once supported thriving oyster beds are no longer producing at all.

Oily OystersEven though man-made problems can have a devastating effect on our oyster beds, man-made solutions may also help to mitigate the damages.  Through thoughtful reef management, the oyster beds can improve and begin to thrive.  One of the sustainable practices that helps to support the oyster growth is to plant “cultch.”

Cultch is nothing more than a mass of shells, pebbles and gravel.  It is spread along on the bottom of the oyster habitat and provides a floor of sorts to which an oyster may attach itself with its tiny weed-like foot.   It is a starting place for oysters to group together for protection and support and begin to form a colony.

Emily Bryce of The New York Times found that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife has an oyster cultch project in six large oyster habitats across Louisiana. She reports that “by simultaneously building hatcheries where oyster larvae are cultivated, the state  hopes to seed the new reefs with generations of oysters that will build new fortresses.”

There is a silver lining to the Deepwater Horizon Spill – the increased environmental awareness in the Gulf area and knowledge of the obstacles the region faces has skyrocketed since the Spill, and has sent hundreds of agencies to the rescue, learning as they go, how to return to and keep the waters in their original state. That is a big win for our friends, the oysters.

Check out this blog over at HuffPo about other animals that have yet to recover from the spill.

See: Source: Bryce, Emily. A Multitude of Oysters? Looks Can Be Deceiving. The New York Times. 25 October, 2012.

Oysters

Oysters: The Threatened Species

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

To continue with the green-theme, I found some thought provoking information concerning our favorite jewel-creating animal. Although this may not be completely about sustainability, it raises a lot of the same non-pollution motifs as far as sustainability is concerned.

In terms of the jewelry that requires the most effort put forth by human hands, pearls are at the top of the list. Since pearls are purely organic, the animal that makes a pearl, an oyster, must be provided for in order to produce a pearl. Recently, some species of oysters have been classified as a threatened species in the freshwater rivers of the United States.

There are several statuses offered to species that are facing rapid decline due to habitat encroachment, pollution, over-harvesting, and other factors. While the “threatened” and “endangered” statuses are very similar, a species belonging to the threatened status has a more promising population growth trend compared to an endangered species, and therefore the threatened species has a more likely chance of recovering.

The article Endangered Freshwater Mussel Species and Trade, written by the TED project, states the “primary cause for (the reduction in oyster population) is believed to be due to non-specific pollution from areas including: coastal, urban, agricultural, and industrial runoff into rivers and waterways”.  Since oysters are filter feeders that consume algae and microscopic organisms in the water, they are an important part of the aquatic habitat. Without oysters, an infestation of algae and microscopic organisms would lead to diseases within other species. Since oysters are so small and because of the way their systems operate, they are more vulnerable to toxins and ecological change than many other marine creatures.

Not only has modern pollution been a problem, but according to Alan P. Covich, in his paper titled Emerging Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources: A Perspective on Transformed Watersheds, experts have pointed to the extremes in the variability of precipitation due to the temperature increase in many regions, which could cause floods and droughts. It was stated that “the main effects on freshwater resources are likely to consist of greatly increased uncertainty in maintaining sufficient local and regional supplies of high-quality water resources to meet demands for municipal, industrial, and agricultural needs while also sustaining natural ecosystem services.” It is theorized that global warming may alter regional hydrology and ecosystem capacities to supply reliable sources of high quality freshwater. The changes that have been documented are now considered long-term even though they may not be completely understood at the moment. It appears lake levels are declining across western basins, midwestern aquifers, and southeastern states.

Oysters are experiencing increasing danger due to the dire state of the environment. Without oysters, the pearl industry will cease to exist. Although we cannot prevent global climate change completely, we can all do our part by preventing pollution and conserving water for our aquatic friends. Next up in the ‘sustainability’ chapter: we all heard how terribly devasting the oil spill in the gulf was in 2010, but did you know who much harm it did for the oyster population?

Oysters

Sustainability: How Do We Keep the Ocean Healthy?

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

While researching recent “oyster,” “pearl,” and “ocean” information I came across some interesting material concerning our environment which is a huge proponent in the Pearl industry. Since pearls are made within a living being, it is very important to keep that being healthy and safe. Since oysters need a specific environment, the topic of sustainability comes into play.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has a mission to protect human health and the environment. Within this mission of protecting the environment arises the topic of sustainability. The EPA website says “sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.” This includes maintaining the conditions under which humans and nature exist in fruitful harmony. It would appear the overall main goal of the US EPA is to preserve the environment for present and future generations. This is very important to us as humans in ensuring that we will continue to have the water, materials and resources needed to protect and perpetuate human health within our environment. Not only does this include those material items, but also other living animals. So many of the foods we eat depend on clean waterways for living and drinking, and clean air for breathing. The topic of sustainability has developed as a byproduct of the consequences of rapid consumption of natural resources and population growth, which in turn uses more resources as well. In its early years the EPA  served as an overseer to the nation’s environment; however, now it has set theories, tools, and laws to control, and now even more importantly, prevent pollution within the work force and daily living. Today with all the technological resources available, the EPA is working toward the “next level of environmental protect.” The objective of promoting ‘green’ business practices will help cut down the carbon footprint in terms of land management, sediments management, waste management, and land use and watershed protection.

Oysters on Lines

The EPA works with ecosystems research to provide goals to help protect and sustain natural habitats for wildlife. It is stated that “to accomplish this goal, EPA must assess the condition of the environment, diagnose causes of impairment and forecast the impact of alternative activities and policy scenarios.”

Protecting and maintaining drinking water sources and public water systems is also a very important aspect in promoting sustainability. The nation’s wetlands and water ways are slowly being overrun with human pollutants. EPA researchers are working to provide the scientific information to support of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. “Research and technical assistance is focused on several major areas that include drinking water and water quality, wastewater, water resources, and water security”. For example, the average American uses 120 gallons of water a day, in order to continue with this much consumption the United States alone would need 37,800,000,000 gallons of water in a single day!

In order to save the environment, the EPA suggests there should be perfect equilibrium between the three pillars of sustainability – environment, society, and economy. The tridisciplinary work will help arrange for a more environmentally sustainable future.

Although this doesn’t say much about pearls, it leads to more information down the road about our oceans, rivers, and estuaries. Stay tuned for more sustainability blogs concerning our most favorite jewel: pearls! Next up, learn about how our oceans are being affected.

 

http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/index.html

Oyster Shell

The Humble Hero: Oysters’ Surprising Role in a Delicate Balancing Act

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

 

It is becoming increasingly apparent how important the tiny oyster is to the health of our oceans. If you didn’t get a chance to check out this video we posted a while back, it’s worth a watch.
As filter-feeders, oysters spend most of their lives absorbing the water around them and processing the tiny particulates through their highly evolved systems. Some of these particles are tiny planktons and algae that are used as food and energy for the oyster, and minerals are used to produce nacre to layer onto the oyster’s shells (and create pearls!).

[quote float=”left”]

key·stone spe·cies
noun
1. a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend, such that if it were removed the ecosystem would change drastically.

[/quote]

One remarkable byproduct of this process is that through the filtration process, oysters actually manage to remove toxins such as mercury and pesticides from the water–storing them neatly away within the layers of shell that make up their homes. In fact, oysters are so efficient at this technique that in some regions, it is not recommended to consume them during periods of the year when toxic algaes are in bloom or when large quantities of pesticides from agriculture are expected in runoff from nearby areas.
Their ability to filter is not their only virtue however, as they also act as a valuable food source for birds and other ocean-dwelling animals who give their lives in turn to larger predators in the food chain. The humble oyster forms an important nutritional foundation for much of the ocean’s wildlife. These gifted little creatures are so important to our waterways that should they disappear entirely, the entire marine ecosystem would come under threat of collapse.

 


Not bad for a bivalve!

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