SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 17, 2015
Ocean Policy At Sea
39°00.2’N x 072°25.5’W
Description of location
120 nm from NYC off the Jersey Shore. No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn!
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Sailing under mainstays’l, forestays’l and tops’l. Winds WNW Force 3, seas SW x W 3 ft.
Marine Mammals Observed last 24hrs
Sargassum Observed last 24hrs
As Marine Biodiversity and Conservation’s ocean policy professor, I joined the Cramer in Bermuda for some of the shore activities and to sail the second leg from Bermuda to New York. This is my first time aboard the Cramer (or any of SEA’s ships for that matter), and my first time on an ocean-going sail training ship in more years than I’d like to admit. Fortunately, my students, including Sabrina, Joe, Helena, Hannah, and Mareike, were a big help in showing me the ropes (literally!).
They’ve also helped me feel right at home. Lizzie told me how Robbie Smith, who sailed as guest faculty during the first leg, wanted them to call out “Bird!” whenever they saw one, and she asked me if I wanted them to call out “Policy!” whenever one went by. We had a good laugh about this and decided this might look like paper airplanes whizzing by, denoting maritime boundaries and fisheries regulations and the like. Lucky us, though – we have had a few ocean policy teachable moments under way, including the appearance of a Japanese fishing vessel on the high seas between the Bermudian and U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Tuna, anyone?
My job on board is to teach ocean policy classes and work with the students on their final project – a proposal for a network of management areas within the Sargasso Sea. While in Bermuda, we had a class meeting with Dr. Tammy Trott, who works with both the Bermuda Dept. of Environmental Protection and the newly-formed Sargasso Sea Commission. Tammy provided the students with an on-the-ground perspective on Sargasso Sea management, sharing lessons learned from her work with international authorities such as the International Maritime Organization and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. We’ve had some great (and spirited!) follow-up discussions on board, debating topics like the recent “Blue Halo” initiative to establish a no-take marine reserve in Bermuda’s EEZ, and have brainstormed some great ideas for the final proposal. We’ve also had some public speaking practice: in front of the entire ship’s company, students delivered elevator speeches summarizing their proposals for the protection of the Sargasso Sea.
One of the best parts of this trip has been the ocean science. I’ve helped with some science deployments and data processing, including counting myriad tiny fish, shrimp and snails hiding in samples of sargassum, which is much more ecologically significant than I’d realized. And signs of ocean life are not limited to the sargassum: we’ve seen Portuguese man-o-war, mahi-mahi, by-the-wind swimmers, flying fish, and a pod of nearly ten tiny dolphins, one of whom did a full head-over-heels flip just off the quarterdeck. Fortunately, the students set me straight: Callie reminded me that mahi-mahi are much too beautiful to eat, and Sabrina reminded me that dolphins don’t have heels. Clearly I’ve spent too much time ashore of late!
The rest of my time is occupied with shipboard life. Standing watch every evening enables me to help steer, handle sail, and navigate – though the students, who are now in “Junior Watch Officer” phase, hardly need the help! However – and this is the best part – shipboard life is more than watchstanding. Beginning our passage across the Gulf Stream, we gather at sunset in anticipation of the elusive green flash, Captain and all, Joe and other students piled two rows deep on top of the dog house. Fredrick plays “Halleluiah” on his harmonica, and Caroline and Lena sing along. Will we see it? Is it real? The debate and anticipation mounts….and….no! Not this time. But it’s no matter - everyone lingers long past sunset to soak in these last moments in the Sargasso Sea. This is why we came here, and what we seek to protect - using both the best available science and the best available tools that ocean policy offers.