Ocean Currents » Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Restoring Endangered Coral Reefs http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/28/restoring-endangered-coral-reefs-2/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/28/restoring-endangered-coral-reefs-2/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:19:31 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12530

With mass coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef making headlines all over the world this summer, we wanted to check in with Tripp Funderburk of Coral Restoration Foundation to learn how corals in our part of the ocean are faring.

First, what is the big deal about coral reefs?  

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. They provide three-dimensional habitat for an astonishing variety of plants and animals. While they occupy less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs support more than 25% of all marine life. They also shelter shorelines from storms and erosion, and provide food and jobs for coastal communities dependent on tourism and fishing.

How are coral reefs in the United States and the Caribbean faring? 

Stressors such as climate change, ocean acidification, diseases, overfishing, sedimentation, and pollution threaten coral reefs around the world.  Over the last 40 years, coral reefs around Florida and throughout the Caribbean have become degraded due to a multitude of these and other stressors, but the largest decline occurred after the outbreak of White Band Disease in the late 1970s and the die-off of the long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) due to an unknown pathogen in 1983. NOAA has found that elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn (Acropora cervicornis), two previously dominant, reef-building corals, have declined between 92-97% since the 1970s, and both are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Without these fast-growing, keystone species, Caribbean coral reefs are deteriorating, and the fisheries, wave-protection, and tourism generated by healthy reefs are at risk.

Can these corals be saved? 

We’re working on that at Coral Restoration Foundation, here in Key Largo, Florida. We are involved in education, research and monitoring, as well as active reef restoration projects. For example, in our coral tree nurseries, we grow elkhorn, staghorn and other corals and are able to outplant them back onto degraded reefs. Our nurseries serve as an ark to preserve the genetic diversity of endangered corals and re-establish healthy coral thickets that are capable of sexual reproduction.

Is it working? 

Coral Restoration Foundation currently has five coral tree nurseries in Florida that house more than 40,000 corals. In 2015 alone, more than 22,000 corals were outplanted throughout the Florida Keys with the help of volunteer divers. This kind of project, which NOAA calls “population enhancement” or “restocking,”  is part of the Recovery Plan released by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service last year.

The structure of the Florida Reef Tract still exists, but the live coral cover and three-dimensional habitat that elkhorn and staghorn provide is declining. Because Acropora colonies are now scarcer, they may be too far apart for high fertilization success during spawning events.  Our organization is working to fill in these gaps by creating healthy thickets of genetically diverse coral that can sexually reproduce and encourage natural recovery. We have found great success with our methods and are continuously monitoring to track the health of our outplanted colonies.

How can I get involved? 

The Recovery Plan for elkhorn and staghorn corals provides a blueprint for restoring degraded reefs, but it won’t be implemented without funding and support from Congress, the Administration, and the public. Coral Restoration Foundation and Ocean Conservancy are working together to create the support and political will to implement the actions outlined in the Recovery Plan. If you would like to join our effort to support the Recovery Plan or learn more about our restoration efforts, visit coralrestoration.org or email info@coralrestoration.org.

Coral Restoration Foundation is a nonprofit ocean conservation organization working to restore coral reefs, educating others on the importance of our oceans, and using science to further research and monitoring techniques.

Tripp Funderburk is the Director of Policy for the Coral Restoration Foundation.  Mr. Funderburk previously worked in government relations with the Livingston Group and the Washington Group, and served as a legislative assistant for Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston.

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Protecting What We Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/04/protecting-what-we-love/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/04/protecting-what-we-love/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:20:46 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11424

Our coastal communities are rallying to protect our oysters and our ocean

It’s no secret: I love oysters.

(And so should you. They keep our ocean and waterways healthy. And taste spectacular too.)

But we haven’t always done right by my favorite shelled creatures. It’s a fact reinforced by a slew of recent reports—plastic trash in the ocean could be hurting baby oysters, said the Washington Post and a new University of Miami study that found that the Atlantic Ocean has absorbed 100 percent more man-made carbon pollution in the past 10 years as it did the previous decade, spelling trouble for marine life and coastal communities.

It made me doubly grateful for the large dose of optimism delivered at the Climate of Change event hosted by the Maine-based Island Institute last night. It was the Washington DC premier of four short films that shone a spotlight on the changes taking place in our ocean. More importantly, they all focused on solutions that support coastal communities across America.

“A Climate of Change: Collapse and Adaptation in the Apalachicola Oyster Fishery” was a stand-out for me.

And no, not just because of luscious close-ups of oysters.

For 10 minutes I was immersed in the story of a small Florida town where oystermen still harvest their catch by hand in one of our country’s last wild oyster fisheries. It’s a community that has been built on the half shell. Drought, freshwater shortages, and then the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010 have had a devastating impact. Where there once were 150 oyster processing houses, there are now only nine. But the community is rallying. Apalachicola received federal funding to reseed the bay. It is putting oystermen back to work and helping to ensure a viable oyster fishery in the future. There is clearly a long way to go for Apalachicola but things are on the upswing.  By sharing their story they are also inspiring other communities to take action.

Local action to tackle acidification

Ocean Conservancy is getting the word out to make sure people on both the East Coast and West Coast understand the changes taking place in our ocean. I’m particularly concerned about ocean acidification; it’s already impacted oyster growers on the West Coast, and could impact fishermen and shellfish growers on the East Coast as well. We need to reduce our carbon emissions to tackle ocean acidification at its root, but there are many things we can do locally, too.

We’re working with partners and people on the front lines to create support for local and regional actions to address acidification. I am proud to be part of the Ocean Conservancy team that prepared a toolkit that identifies actions that states and communities can take to tackle acidification, which was published just last week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. We hope it will be a useful part of a growing resource base for communities to adapt. It’s heartening that states like Maine, Washington and Oregon are already taking action.

So when the news stories get especially grim, I am grateful to be part of the solutions. And for glimpses from places like Apalachicola where smart, passionate people in our coastal communities are working hard to protect what we love.


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An Ocean of Support at the Paris Climate Negotiations http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/21/an-ocean-of-support-at-the-paris-climate-negotiations/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/21/an-ocean-of-support-at-the-paris-climate-negotiations/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:10:32 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11240

The recent, and much heralded, Paris climate negotiations have led to a new global climate agreement. This historic deal involves 195 nations working toward a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and restricting future global warming to an increase of “substantially less than 2 degrees Celsius”, a substantially new target that was just one of many new components of the landmark climate agreement. Ocean Conservancy sat down with longtime friend and colleague Jay Manning, a climate and ocean expert from Washington state, to get his inside report from Paris and COP21, and what it means for the health of the world’s ocean.

Jay, tell us why you went to Paris, and what message you wanted the climate treaty negotiators to hear.
I went to Paris in my professional capacity to support the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which consists of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. These jurisdictions have been working together for 8 years on climate, energy and ocean acidification. The agenda at Paris included a substantial focus on cities, states, and other jurisdictions below the national level where substantial progress on addressing climate change has been made. The message we sent was that carbon limits and economic success go together. Another important reason why I went to Paris was to advance the discussion on ocean acidification. I’ve worked on this issue with Ocean Conservancy and others for the last 4 years. I spoke out in support of an aggressive international agreement to limit carbon emissions, which is the root cause of ocean acidification, to protect shellfish farmers from my coastal state, for other coastal communities around the world and for ocean ecosystems.

What expectations did you have for how prominent the ocean would be in the discussions and how did it turn out?
From my vantage point, the health of our ocean was a prominent theme in the discussions. Ocean advocates from around the world gathered and told stories of ocean acidification and other changes caused by global warming impacting the Pacific Northwest and other hot spots around the world. My understanding is that this was quite different from previous meetings. To the disappointment of some, the agreement itself heavily focused on atmospheric carbon and limiting emissions with little explicit language on the ocean, but there was far more prominence given to the ocean than in previous negotiations.

Why is the ocean so much more prominent this year in the global discussions on climate change?
I think it’s because in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia the impacts of ocean acidification are beginning to be felt. It started with oyster growers, and the crash in oyster stocks in the Pacific Northwest, but now it’s happening on a much larger scale. Climate impacts across the board—from the ocean to the land—are showing up much earlier than expected. Ocean acidification is being felt across the world. But, it’s not just acidification. Warming ocean temperatures and lowering dissolved oxygen levels are combining with increased acidity to threaten whole ecosystems and coastal economies.

How will the results of this historic climate agreement remedy the growing threat of ocean acidification on coastal communities and fishing businesses around the world?
The root cause of ocean acidification is the increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2, of which 25-30% dissolves into the world’s ocean. As the atmospheric concentrations go up, it also goes up in the ocean. As the pH goes down, it creates real problems for shell-forming creatures like oysters. In some places, we are seeing pH levels at 7.5 or 7.6. At that level of acidity, it’s a lethal dose for oyster larvae. Now, we’re starting to worry about lobsters, crab and pteropods, an important food source for the Northwest’s iconic salmon species. We have to get at that root cause; we have to reduce CO2 emissions substantially, and we need to do it quickly. While the text of the climate agreement doesn’t say much about the ocean, it is all about reducing atmospheric CO2—which is a very good thing when it comes to the world’s ocean.

What surprised you?
The scale of this climate meeting was staggering. 50,000 people were in Paris for this event. In the Parisian suburb of La Bourget, huge buildings were erected for all of the delegates. This was the most international event I’ve ever been to—195 nations!

What will you remember most about COP21?
Most memorable is the fact that the international negotiators did reach consensus on what is truly the most far reaching, specific agreement that has ever been reached on climate change…and they got 195 countries to agree on it. It was a huge breakthrough and success, and it was exciting to have been there. I’ll remember that most. Second, was the hospitality shown by the Parisians. They were absolutely wonderful. They were friendly, helpful, and cheerful. Following on the heels of the terrorist attacks in the city, the Parisians seemed glad we were there working on something so positive.

What’s next?
Now the hard work really starts. We should have more concerted, consistent leadership from nations across the world. That will help and be incredibly important for the long-term success of this work. I know there will still be a need for leadership at the state, county and city levels. For example, progress on energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and rooftop solar will happen more at the local than the national level. These are important building blocks for progress in addressing climate change and will benefit the ocean.

As well, I am optimistic for the future and for issues that Ocean Conservancy is working on like advancing the science of ocean acidification. The Paris meeting was a demonstration of the increasing recognition of the importance of ocean health and increasing coordination between ocean acidification scientists globally. I saw scientists from France working with scientists from the Philippines and the US and so on. Today, there is much better coordination on ocean acidification research and monitoring, and we’re answering the most pressing questions first. Scientists are helping industry mitigate and adapt to the changing ocean chemistry. And on the policy side, I’m working with colleagues who are connecting policy makers from jurisdictions making progress with those just learning about the science of ocean acidification. It is a great time to be working on protecting our coastal communities and Ocean Conservancy has really led the way on what I consider to be one of the world’s great challenges.

Sunset from Shoreline COP21 COP21 COP21 ]]>
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Ode to Oysters (or, Happy National Oyster Day!) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/05/ode-to-oysters-or-happy-national-oyster-day/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/05/ode-to-oysters-or-happy-national-oyster-day/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 19:57:42 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10639

© Rick Freidman / Ocean Conservancy

Oysters – my all-time favorite seafood, and often my favorite food, period. I can be sitting in an oyster bar, miles from the ocean, and when I eat one I can practically feel sand between my toes and smell the salt in the air. I would eat oysters every day of the week if I could. But I understand that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. A quick poll among my colleagues revealed that people seem to fall into two camps – rabid oyster lovers, or those that think they taste like salty sea snot (I’m looking at you, George Leonard). But love them or hate them, oysters are a major part of the ocean and coasts we know and love, and National Oyster Day is the perfect time to learn a little more about these animals:

  1. They’re some of the hardest working animals in the ocean. An adult oyster is capable of filtering 25-50 gallons of water a day! Check out this time lapse from Florida Oceanographic Institute of a tank of oysters cleaning water. The entire Chesapeake Bay could be filtered in just five days before oysters were reduced to just 1% of their historic population. Speaking of the Chesapeake, it’s an Algonquin Native American word that means “Great Shellfish Bay.”
  2. They don’t just filter water– oyster reefs shelter fish and crabs, and with filtered water comes more seagrass, which is a feeding and breeding ground for other species that we love to eat – like rockfish and blue crabs.
  3. Oysters take on the flavor of the water where they’re grown. One of my favorite oyster businesses on the East Coast, Rappahannock River Company, has a fantastic little restaurant in Topping, Virginia, called Merrior. Owner Travis Croxton put a twist on the term ‘terrior,’ used to describe the environment in which a particular wine is produced, to describe the marine environment where their oysters are grown. East Coast oysters tend to be saltier and brinier while West Coast oysters tend to be a little sweeter.
  4. Oysters and oyster growers are vulnerable to ocean acidification. As carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, the sea water becomes more acidic, and oysters have trouble building their shells. In 2006 to 2008, some oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest nearly declared bankruptcy because they lost more than 80% of the baby oysters (or oyster larvae). The good news is that states like Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, and Maryland – where coastal communities depend on a healthy ocean to grow and harvest oysters, clams, mussels, lobsters – are taking action to tackle acidification. These actions include funding for research on commercially important species – like salmon or lobster – that may be impacted by acidification, and exploring ways to reduce pollution from land (like stormwater runoff and other types of coastal pollution) that makes acidification worse. And just last week Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) introduced a bill that would improve the monitoring of ocean acidification and direct federal agencies to examine how coastal communities would be impacted.
  5. The recently released Clean Power Plan is good for the ocean, and therefore oysters. While states across the country are doing what they can to address ocean acidification, to truly solve this problem we need to reduce the amount of carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean. The Clean Power Plan announced earlier this week aims to reduce emissions from power plants – the biggest sources of carbon pollution – by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. As an oyster lover I’m thrilled that we are now facing a future of cleaner air and cleaner water.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk of oysters is making me very hungry. Guess what I’ll be having for lunch today? And if you’re eating oysters today, don’t forget to take a #shellfie and tag Ocean Conservancy on Instagram or twitter – we’ll share it. Happy National Oyster Day!

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Reducing Carbon Pollution is Good News for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/03/reducing-carbon-pollution-is-good-news-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/03/reducing-carbon-pollution-is-good-news-for-the-ocean/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:46:32 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10602

© 2013 Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy All Rights Reserved

You might have heard the news today that the Obama Administration released its final version of a rule called the Clean Power Plan. Years in the making, this rule from the Environmental Protection Agency aims to reduce emissions from power plants – the biggest emitters of carbon pollution – by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. We hear a lot about how carbon pollution causes our planet’s atmosphere to warm, and as a result, droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather events, are becoming more frequent, dangerous and costly to Americans and many others around the world. But what does carbon pollution mean for the ocean?

Actually, it means a lot. The ocean absorbs about 25 percent of the carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere. As a result, the ocean is roughly 30 percent more acidic now than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest lost up to 80 percent of their oyster larvae (baby oysters) due to acidification in 2006-2008 and some growers nearly declared bankruptcy.

But ocean acidification isn’t the only threat our coastal communities face from carbon pollution. It is also causing the ocean to get warmer – sounds like a good thing, right? But a warmer ocean means some fish and crustaceans are shifting their range. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than anywhere on earth; lobstermen in Maine and New England are starting to see their catch move north. In Maine alone, the seafood industry is worth an estimated $1 billion dollars and critically important to coastal communities. This begs the question: What will happen to those fishermen and communities as the ocean continues to change?

Many coastal communities are doing what they can to address these threats at the local and state level. States like Washington, Oregon, California, Maine and Maryland are looking at reducing local coastal pollution that can end up in the ocean and make acidification worse. In Maine, local groups are working with fishermen to diversify their catch as the ocean changes. But more must be done to reduce emissions. For the sake of our coastal communities and the millions of Americans who depend on a healthy ocean, the Clean Power Plan is a very good thing.

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Q&A With Paul Greenberg, Author of American Catch http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/27/qa-with-paul-greenberg-author-of-american-catch/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/27/qa-with-paul-greenberg-author-of-american-catch/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:43 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8654

Ocean Conservancy was honored to interview Paul Greenberg about his newly released book, American Catch, which hit bookshelves yesterday. We hope you enjoy our interview — and we hope that you’ll want to help ensure healthy fish populations by taking action today.

1) What made you decide to explore American seafood for your next book?

Originally I’d planned to write a book about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  It had happened just as my earlier book, Four Fish, was coming out and I kept being asked about it on the radio and it struck me as a defining moment for the ocean.  And so I’d actually even sold a proposal called “Under the Horizon” to Penguin and got to work on it as soon as the book tour was over.

But scarcely a month into my research, a flood of books started coming out.  Many excellent books like Carl Safina’s “A Sea in Flames” and Rowan Jacobsen’s “Shadows on the Gulf”.  Many not so excellent books too.

At that point I ran into Carl Safina and I said, “I’m supposed to write this oil spill book . . . “ and before I could even finish saying what I was saying he said, “Don’t do it!  Don’t! The people are all talked out, the scientists are all caught up in the NRDA process and won’t talk, and it will be years before we really know what kind of damage was done.”

Nevertheless I soldiered on.  I researched the oystering community.  I went out shrimping.  But on a dark night while pulling nets in Lake Pontchartrain, I started getting into a conversation with a shrimper about how his market had been severely disrupted by Asian shrimp.  The Spill, for him, was just kind of a sideshow.  A freak show even.  What was really at play was American food security and the prevalence of cheap imports had completely upended his world.  It was then that I realized that the Spill could be part of the story but just one part.  What we were really talking about was the disconnection of the American consumer from the American coast and all the consequences that resulted from that disconnect.

2) In your last book, Four Fish, you highlight cod, salmon, tuna and bass.  In this book you highlight the Gulf of Mexico shrimp, Alaskan sockeye salmon and the New York oyster.  Of those seven seafood delicacies, the oyster stands out—partly because it’s not a fish, but also because few people associate New York with oysters these days.  What made you want to highlight oysters?  What is your hope in promoting them in your book?

An oyster grower from Maine named Carter Newell told me during an interview back in 2012, “Shellfish aquaculture is the economic argument for clean water.”  He meant that because things like oysters, mussels, and clams eat by filtering the water they must de facto have clean water to be edible for humans.  This was a real “a-ha!” moment.

It meant that if we as a nation could become reliant on bivalves again (as we were magnificently before 1920) it could create a positive feedback loop.  We would want to eat from our waters and therefore we would want our waters to be clean.  We would clean our waters and then we would have more food.  And a not small part of this feedback loop is the amazing things shellfish aquaculture does for the marine environment to encourage the presence of more fish.

That really clicked in when I interviewed Bob Rheault, Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association,  who told me: “We took a patch of 2.3 acres of black, eutrophic, anoxic bottom—unproductive and virtually barren, and after a few years it was transformed into one of the most vibrant dive spots in Rhode Island. We sent a few scientists to document the diversity and abundance of species. We found that our pissant little 2.3-acre farm was now home to a thousand baby lobsters, thousands of juvenile sea bass and other fish. We set up traps for scup around the perimeter because fishing on the lease was so good. We slammed them. We would catch keeper striped bass on the lease many months of the year, attracted to the lease by the forage fish and structured habitat around the oyster cages. When I took my kids fishing we went to the lease because I knew we would catch fish.”

That was pretty damn convincing.

3) It seems much of your book can easily speak to Americans who either live near a coastline, or spend a great amount of time there.  What about Americans from the inland states, or those who don’t get to visit the beach on a regular basis?  What message do you have for those who are part of this country with deep ocean roots, yet they may be detached from this history and local seafood in particular, on a day-to-day basis?

Once we had a vibrant freshwater seafood economy and infrastructure.  New York’s old Fulton Fish Market, which features prominently in my book, once had an entire city block devoted to freshwater fish ONLY.  Now there is very little freshwater seafood production in large part because we have drained so much wetland, rejiggered so many rivers and overfished larger bodies of water.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  There are 3,000 dams in the state of Connecticut alone.  Useless dams that impeded the migration of once important food fish like alewives, shad and eels.  We are experiencing massive eutrophication events in the Great Lakes due to poor application of fertilizers.  We can reverse that.  We also can do a lot more inland freshwater aquaculture.  In Illinois there are now shrimp containment farms up and running.  And then there’s the Asian carp, which we should eat out of existence.

4) The reception for your previous book, Four Fish, was incredibly positive – what are you hoping to achieve with American Catch?

As I think I did with Four Fish with respect to aquaculture, I’d like to pull back the blanket on the weird world of imports and exports.  The New York Times op-ed that just ran went a little bit viral, and I was getting flooded with emails and twitter responses that were like, “What? We’re importing as much salmon as we’re exporting?  And some of that is making a 10,000 mile round trip to China?” It’s a weird, weird, weird world.

Most importantly, I’d like people to eat from their own shores and invest their energies into making sure their shores stay safe to eat from.  That requires us to keep the water clean, manage our fisheries well and restrict coastal development.

5) You’ve written about taking your young son fishing – are you concerned or optimistic for the future of American seafood when he’s an adult?

I think if we can maintain solid management and curb coastal development there can be a good future for American seafood.  That said it will likely be a different seafood economy that what we’ve got right now.  My home, Long Island Sound, will be a lot more like the Chesapeake in terms of species composition than like New England.  Already blue crab is much more common than lobster in the Sound.  And there will be much more epochal shifts.  But nature adapts and I think we can adapt with it.

6) You seem like you’re a bit of a foodie and very well versed in cooking seafood. Do you have a favorite seafood dish or recipe?  How about your son?

I am not being lazy when I say that these three recipes that I already did for the Washington Post last month are among my favorite.  I make the fish fillets in spicy vinegar sauce, Beijing style regularly and if I’m having people over I really like to do the Hanoi style fried fish with turmeric and dill with all the various fixings.  It’s a beautiful preparation and fun to eat wrapped up in cabbage or lettuce leaves.  For my son I keep it simple.  Fish dusted in flour, fried and then finished with juice of half a lemon.  He loves that.

6) What is the one thing Ocean Conservancy members can do to help support American seafood?

Eat as many farmed American mussels, clams and oysters as you can.  There are of course other American seafoods you can eat, but farmed mussels, clams and oysters actually improve the marine environment.  By eating them you’re encouraging their propagation, which will lead to cleaner water in the end.

To learn more about American Catch, or to purchase the book, visit http://www.paulgreenberg.org/

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Mass Shellfish Die-Offs in Canada: Is Ocean Acidification to Blame? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/04/mass-shellfish-die-offs-in-canada-is-ocean-acidification-to-blame/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/04/mass-shellfish-die-offs-in-canada-is-ocean-acidification-to-blame/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 21:15:10 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7635

Photo: Barbara Kinney, Ocean Conservancy

News broke last week that a company called Island Scallops in British Columbia, Canada, had lost three years’ worth of business – 10 million scallops and $10 million. The CEO, Rob Saunders, identified ocean acidification as the culprit.

Now, there is rightly some attention to being paid to the mass shellfish die-offs in Canada. An oyster farm in the region has also come forward with tales of oyster deaths. The owner of the oyster farm was quoted in Canada’s Globe and Mail as saying, “It’s hard to say [what is causing these deaths] without having somebody there monitoring what’s going on.”

Scientists and policy experts agree that acidification and its impacts on coastal seafood, can be hard to untangle. Coastal areas are dynamic areas; things are constantly changing.

As Ocean Conservancy’s ocean acidification scientist, Dr. Sarah Cooley says, “We know coastal zones are complicated and disturbed places where natural systems and human damage intertwine.”

Many scientists want to better understand what is happening at Saunders’ operation. The good news for Saunders is that there are people just to the south of his operation in Washington and Oregon who have lived through similar experiences; there are policy experts that have identified ways in which the two states can respond to a changing ocean in ways that protects and enhances their coastal businesses, and above all, there are people that are passionate about this issue that want to help and better understand it.

It is heartbreaking for Saunders and his employees, to face an uncertain future. This is why Ocean Conservancy is renewing its call to double federal funding for ocean acidification research and monitoring – Rob’s story won’t be the first, nor will it be the last. We know that other businesses and livelihoods will feel ocean acidification’s impacts. But the good news is that with a smart investment now – $15 million dollars – the returns are huge. Monitoring already helped bring a $272 million oyster industry back from the brink. Members of Congress have an opportunity this spring to choose our long-term coastal communities’ health as they decide on their budget numbers for the coming fiscal year.  As Saunders said, “If we don’t figure it out, then we don’t have an industry.”

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