Thursday, June 22, 2017

Critter tales – A common misperception

By Bay Gammans, communications intern

One of the first things a volunteer observes at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center is how many people mistake the little skates for stingrays. Both animals look fairly similar with a triangle-like shape and a flat profile, but they are actually quite different.

Both have similar tails, but the little skate's tail is completely harmless, while the stingray’s tail is poisonous. Stingrays are commonly larger than little skates and give birth to live young, while the little skates lay eggs. One thing they have in common is that their skeletons are made from cartilage, rather than bones, making them both part of the elasmobranch family.

Like most who grew up by the Bay, I picked up dried mermaid purses along the shore as a child. The Little Mermaid was my favorite movie, so I imagined that Ariel was missing a coin purse and I was lucky enough to find it. This led me to collecting not only mermaid purses, but also sea glass, shells, and rocks for my own mermaid collection.

As these activities became memories, I never really considered exactly what a mermaid purse was. Seeing them at the aquarium with baby little skates squirming around inside of them, not only brought back these memories, but answered questions I didn’t even know I had.
The little skate eggs incubate for 9 to 10 months. When they hatch, the newly-born little skates have clear skin that allows visitors to get a unique look at their inner organs. In a separate tank, the little skates continue to grow until they are large enough to be moved into a touch tank or released into Narragansett Bay. In the touch tank, visitors can pet the little skates with two fingers, if they aren’t camouflaged against the sand. Visitors may notice their skin feels like another resident at the aquarium, hinting at who their relatives may be.

Little skates are surprisingly unrelated to their tank mate, the horseshoe crab, but more closely related to the giant round touch tank in the middle of the room—the shark tank. The relation is easily seen between these two boneless fish, when the little skates and the dogfish sharks do the same dance. They bob their noses in the air above the water’s surface and flap around to get a better sense of their environment.

Once released to Narragansett Bay, little skates can be found along the bottom of the ocean eating anything from shellfish to small fish. They are an important part of the Bay’s ecosystem, as prey to sharks, other skates, certain types of fish, gray seals and certain crabs. To learn more about little skates head over to Save The Bay’s Exploration Center on Easton’s Beach at 175 Memorial Blvd.

Monday, June 19, 2017

An Introduction to the Warwick Summer Cleanup Series

By Phoebe Finn, communications intern

Save The Bay has officially launched the 2017 Warwick Summer Cleanup Series. Through this program, we hope to remove marine debris from four beaches in Warwick over a twelve-week period and start a conversation about littering in the town. We expect that our partnership with the Town of Warwick and its local leadership will make a valuable impact on littering and control the problem in the future.

Cleaning our beaches is the first step towards reducing the amount of plastic in the ocean. According to the Ocean Conservancy, a global environmental advocacy group, there are currently 8 million metric tons of trash are going into the ocean every year. This has begun to impact local communities as 25 percent of fish at seafood markets around the world have plastic in them. So how much plastic do we Rhode Islanders want to ingest when we enjoy our favorite seafood? Here at Save The Bay, we vote none!

Our local efforts have the ability to help communities around the world keep trash out of the oceans, our backyards and even our stomachs. Last Thursday 21 local volunteers of all ages picked up 65 pounds of marine debris at Rocky Point State Park, the first beach cleanup of the Warwick Summer Cleanup Series. The fantastic turnout included local residents who were trying to get involved in the community and employees from Moo, a Providence-based printing company. It was extremely encouraging to see so many fresh faces at the first cleanup, and hopefully it was an indication of participation for the rest of the summer. The volunteers had positive attitudes towards the program and keeping Warwick beaches clean.

In addition to physically removing the trash, we also have to start a meaningful conversation about littering in the community. We are excited to balance regular cleanups with community outreach and anti-littering messaging to see what the most effective combination will be. Once we figure out the best way to reduce marine litter, spread awareness and get the Town of Warwick involved, this program can be used as a model for the rest of Rhode Island.

We chose to launch this program in the Town of Warwick because it has the most miles of coastline of any other town in Rhode Island. Residents want to enjoy the beautiful beaches and the local economy relies on a healthy ocean. Save The Bay is excited to facilitate this ongoing environmental conversation about marine debris in Narragansett Bay and the oceans beyond it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Meet our new BayKeeper: A fresh set of eyes on our Bay

By Cindy Sabato, director of communication

Meet your new Baykeeper, Michael Jarbeau. Mike joined the Save The Bay team in late March, ready and more than able to take on the all-important responsibilities as our on-the-water eyes and ears, looking out for pollution and championing public access to the shore. As our fourth Baykeeper since we instituted the program in 1992, he’s part of our advocacy team and will be instrumental in fighting for legislation and policy that protect our waters. He’s also the person we ask you to call to report pollution incidents or concerns about water quality in the Bay.

What’s your connection to Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay, and our love for our waters? I’m a fourth-generation Rhode Island native, born and raised in Warwick. I spent most of my summer weekends at Buttonwoods Beach on the north side of Greenwich Bay, a short walk from where my grandparents live. I grew up spending time with family at the beach, swimming, fishing and sailing. 

Shellfish closures were my first exposure to pollution problems in the Bay, and I remember being disheartened by the fact that the place I loved so much wasn’t healthy and thriving. The Bay played a major role in my development, as well as in my education and career choices, which is why I’m thrilled to be able to directly advocate for the Bay as Baykeeper and help ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the Bay as much as I do.

Why do you consider Narragansett Bay worth protecting? Narragansett Bay is a critical piece of Rhode Island’s history and character. People and businesses move to Rhode Island because of the Bay and how it can support their lifestyle. To me, the future of the state is closely intertwined with the health of Narragansett Bay. The Bay can’t speak for itself, and we can’t take it for granted.

What appeals to you about serving as Save The Bay’s next Baykeeper? The Baykeeper position allows me to pursue my personal and professional interests on a daily basis. The activities that so many of us enjoy are only possible if the Bay is healthy and resilient. For progress to continue, complex scientific and regulatory issues need to be addressed. I am excited to be able to work closely in and around these processes and look out for the Bay day in and day out.

As Baykeeper, you’ll be a face for Save The Bay among our constituents and citizenry. How do you feel about taking on that role? I know people are passionate about Narragansett Bay, and I believe my education and experience will help me voice their concerns and keep them aware of what’s happening. I realize that the Baykeeper is a resource for Save The Bay’s constituency and people who care about Narragansett Bay. It’s humbling to think that people will look to me as a resource and expert on Bay issues, and I will do my best every day to help those people stay informed and engaged.

You attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served as a commissioned officer. What have been your roles with the Coast Guard? I served on two ships, USCGC Venturous and USCGC Sanibel. On Venturous, we patrolled mostly in the Florida Straits, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, conducting fisheries, counter-drug, and other law enforcement missions. While serving as executive officer on the Sanibel out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, our primary missions were search and rescue and fisheries enforcement. This experience furthered my interest in fisheries and coastal management, and when I completed that tour, I attended the University of Rhode Island for a master’s degree in Marine Affairs. After grad school, I was assigned as the Fifth Coast Guard District’s Assistant Fisheries Officer and Cutter Operations Manager in Portsmouth, Virginia, where I played a role in the development of Mid-Atlantic fisheries regulations and their translation into Coast Guard enforcement policy. I’m currently assigned to the First Coast Guard District in Boston as a Reservist.

How do you think your Coast Guard career will translate to the Baykeeper role? Whether on a ship or in an office, there is no such thing as a “typical” day in the Coast Guard. Things change fast, and success requires flexibility, teamwork and expertise. Similarly, the Baykeeper’s day can change in an instant as Bay-related issues arise. My career has taught me to be prepared, expect the unexpected, and stay vigilant. I’ve also seen firsthand the value that clean water and healthy ecosystems play in sustaining coastal economies and recreational opportunities. As Baykeeper, I’ll be able to continue working for the protection of those resources.

You’ve lived in many places. Why come back here? I’ve been lucky to live in and travel to many coastal areas, but something is different about the local connection to Narragansett Bay. The Bay is more than a background for our daily lives; it’s a part of our lives. I really think that relationship is unique, and it’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Life on the Bay - Kati Maginel

Narragansett Bay is a place of childhood memories for many of us. But some of today’s children have yet to see the Bay themselves. Meet a female captain who’d like to change that. Just goes to show… Narragansett Bay is for everyone and worth protecting. Thanks to Rhode Island PBS for sharing some very special first memories of our beautiful Bay.