Outline of Presentation: Brief review of ocean acidification and recent research. Report on what happened in Washington state and the response, including the Blue Ribbon Panel. Three success stories. Recommendations for protecting Mexican shellfish. I’ll finish with four of my best personal reasons for working on ocean acidification. Cover photo: Homer, Alaska, high tide on Sunday, September 6th, 2009. Over 100 fishing boats, kayaks, skiffs and sail boats participated in spelling out exactly what we don’t want in our oceans: acidification.
For centuries, miners used to take caged birds into mines to warn them of toxic gases they themselves could not detect. Let Washington state be your sentinel, your distant early warning system. Benefit from our experience. We lived to sing. Hear our song.
Rapidity of change in ocean chemistry unprecedented in geological history. Increase in acidity of 30% in last 200 years.150% increase expected by 2050. Oceans under heavy assault from acidification, warming, and declining oxygen, a trifecta of trouble. When these factors have occurred together in the past, they have resulted in mass extinctions of marine life.
Recent researchfrom Australia shows that clownfish, under the stress of high-carbon waters, cannot distinguish between predator and prey. Other finfish, however, will suffer from the damage acidification causes to the base of the ocean’s food chain. Pteropods (sea butterflies), for example, are particularly vulnerable to corrosive waters and constitute about a quarter of a young salmon’s diet. Some species, such as starfish and jelly fish will thrive. Studying the effects of ocean acidification on sealife is relatively new. The phrase didn’t even enter the scientific literature until 2003. Research on keystone species such as corals forecasts large-scale die-offs.
West coast upwelling brings nutrients and food from the ocean’s lower depths to the surface, making these regions especially productive for fishing. These resource-rich areas are also at greater risk of acidifcaton, as these cooler waters are richer in carbon and lower the pH of nearshore waters. Research by Richard Feely, NOAA, et al.
Washington state is a prolific producer of shellfish. Oysters alone earn $100 million per year. Early settlers to Puget Sound used to say, “When the tide is out, the table is set. Native Americans lucky enough to live near the Salish Sea dined well. Their descendants have treaty rights to shellfish and other wild food.
Shellfish growers were baffled by the regular death of oyster larvae beginning in 2007. At first they thought a naturally occurring bacteria, Vibriotubiashii, a chronic scourge of oysters, was to blame. But the larvae deaths continued despite extensive anti-bacterial measures. Adding to the puzzle, natural sets of oysters ceased in 2005.
After working with NOAA’s Feely and researchers at Oregon State University, the hatchery operators identified acidification as the cause of the die-offs was identified and changed dramatically how the hatcheries drew water for the larvae tanks. $500,000 in federal economic stimulus funds allowed hatcheries to monitor pH, partial pressure of CO2, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.
Ocean acidification is not just a problem of the future based on modeling or predictions. It is here now and must be faced.As acidification worsens, the measures growers take now to cope with the problem may no longer work.
Willapa Bay yields around 20% of all the shellfish harvested in the United States. One grower has removed his larvae-growing operations from state waters, placing them in Hawaii where upwelling is not a problem.
Monitoring is the cornerstone of dealing with ocean acidification.
To the best of our knowledge, Washington state’s Blue Ribbon Panel is the first governmental group in the world formed to take action on acidfication.
The panel is part of Washington’s Shellfish Initiative, an agreement among federal and state governments, tribes, and the shellfish industry to restore and expand Washington’s shellfish resources to promote clean-water industries and create family-wage jobs.
The Tulalip bio-digester is one of 16 operating in Washington state.Harvesting food and fuel from rapidly growing plants while removing carbon from the ecosystem is a most promising development.Collecting and recycling shells has been done for years on the East Coast. Field trials in Maine show that treated beds are three times more likely to attract and sustain young clams. Such projects also engage restaurants and the public in hands-on activities.
Mexico can benefit from the lessons learned in Washington state. While ocean acidification is an immense problem that most of the world is not even aware of, proven ways to deal with it exist.
Need to emphasize positive action rather than disaster scenarios. Cannot afford resignation or apathy. Must mobilize citizenry.:Another relevant Dubos quote: “Think globally; act locally.”
My granddaughters: Charlotte, 2.5; Adelaide, 5; Lola, 10; Piper, 18. What sort of world are we leaving our children and grandchildren and the world at large? What will be our legacy?
2 eric swenson
Washington State: Leading the Charge on Ocean Acidification Eric Swenson Communications and Outreach Director Global Ocean Health Program A joint project of the National Fisheries Conservation Center and the Sustainable Fisheries PartnershipInternational Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health and Food Safety Ensenada, México - 19 September 2012
Ocean Acidification Attacks all calcifiers: mollusks, crustaceans, corals, etc. Smaller organisms at the base of the food chain (plankton,krill, pteropods) and early life stages are especially vulnerable.Below: Young clam in 7.5 pH water goes from healthy to dead in 72 hours.
Effects on Finfish and Other Sealife No More Nemo? Missing Links in the Food Chain? An Ocean in Collapse?
The Northwest Oyster Crisis Fifth-generation family business. Largest producer of farmed shellfish in North America. 9,000 acres of oysters, clams, mussels, and geoducks in the state of Washington. Almost 500 employees and more than $50 million in annual revenue.
Devastating Losses 70-80% losses of larvae in oyster hatcheries, 2007-09. Whiskey Creek Hatchery on Netarts Bay, Oregon, which produces 75% of oyster larvae for West Coast growers, wasready to close before acidification was found to be the cause of the die offs.
The Canary Survives Extensive monitoring of water pH Adjusted protocols for time and depth of intake Research and testing of mitigation and adaptation methods, such as buffering2011 production 80% at Whiskey Creek, highest ever at Taylor
WarningIf we dont begin addressing oceanacidification promptly, the future ofshellfish farming and the entire seafoodindustry is at stake. All our efforts atmarine conservation and resourcemanagement will prove inadequate ifwe dont tackle the most basic problemof all—our acidifying marine waters. Bill Dewey Policy & Communications Director Taylor Shellfish Farms
News from the Frontlines June 21, 2012 Oyster grower sounds alarm, starts hatchery in HawaiiA Willapa Bay shellfish company is shifting some of its business to Hawaiibecause of ocean acidification that scientists believe is killing tiny oyster larvaein shellfish farms along Washingtons coast.
Key Element: MonitoringYou can’t dodge what you don’t see
Blue Ribbon Panel- Appointed in February 2012 by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire- Bipartisan group led by Bill Ruckelshaus, first administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and Jay Manning, environmental lawyer and former head of Washington Department of Ecology- 27 members: top scientists, policy makers, tribal leaders, educators, seafood industry folks, agency heads, conservationists, et al. A real cross section of the power structure, local, state, and federal- October 2012 deadline to recommend action Follow-up group to monitor implementation, assist in funding, promote best practices, campaign for education and action, etc. We aim to make a difference and be a model http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html
Action on Ocean AcidificationA Big Response from a Little StateGovernor Gregoire announcing theWashington Shellfish Initiative andplans for the Blue Ribbon Panel.Shelton, Washington Dec. 9, 2011When asked what a small state likeWashington could do about such ahuge global problem as acidification,Gov. Gregoire had a one-word reply:“Lead.”
Success StoriesTulalip Tribes get cleaner water,reduce carbon emissions, andhelp farmers by turning dairywaste into income (energy and fertilizer)Seaweed and algae sequester carbon andwhen harvested yield biofuel, food, andvaluable chemicalsGround-up bivalve shell helps buffer shellfishbeds and provide a better growing medium
Recommendations for Protecting Mexican ShellfishLearn from the Washington experienceBegin/expand monitoringStart adaptation/mitigation research/trialsReduce land-based acidification sourcesEducate self, colleagues, others in the supplychain, the media, politicians, and the publicabout acidificationPreach and practice success
Final Thoughts Since there are countless ways to go wrong but only a very few ways to do right, our best chance to deal successfully with our contemporary problems and those of the future is to learn from the success stories of our times. -Rene Dubos
Four Personal ReasonsI Work on Ocean Acidification
Please Stay in Contact Eric Swenson Communications and Outreach Director Global Ocean Health ProgramA joint project of the National Fisheries Conservation Center and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership firstname.lastname@example.org 206 334-7333 http://www.sustainablefish.org/global-programs/global-ocean-health
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