For forty years, I have worked as a bayman in New York’s rich waters. You could find me bullraking hard clams, sail dredging oysters, dredging bay scallops and potting lobster. I have earned a living from these waters my whole life. Declines—and the occasional full crash—in shellfish stocks, however, have forced me to look at other occupations.
What do lobster fishermen, recreational boaters, research scientists, family aquaculture businesses and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all pulled up a chair at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean, through a process called ocean planning.
Last week, nearly 30 ocean users from five coastal, New England states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the Northeast regional ocean plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.
Ah, Louisiana. Famous for seafood dishes including shrimp étouffée, oyster po’boys and blackened redfish. Although some of you reading may now be thinking of lunch, there are some great stories behind the recipes, and the efforts people make to secure your meal’s ingredients now and in the future.
One of those people is Dr. John Supan, the Louisiana Sea Grant Oyster Research Laboratory Director who oversees a new oyster hatchery on Grand Isle that provides the larvae, or “seed”, for shellfish farmers and oyster reef rehabilitation efforts. We recently asked him some questions about how this hatchery helps ensure coastal areas are resilient not only for Louisiana’s culinary history, but also for the regional ecosystem.
I’m really hoping last week was a turning point for the ocean. After spending a sobering week in Montereyat a gathering of over 500 ocean scientists, where I learned the latest about the threat of ocean acidification to the health of the ocean, I’ve concluded we are all going to have to pull together if we want a livable ocean in the future.
Since the first global conference on ocean acidification in 2004, a large and passionate group of scientists has coalesced to determine what is happening to our ocean. Some of these leaders were profiled in the Washington Post yesterday, names that aren’t yet known to the general public but who are firsthand witnesses to a changing ocean. Folks like Dick Feeley, Gretchen Hofmann and Jean-Pierre Gattuso are ocean pioneers, working overtime to understand the threat that our continued burning of fossil fuels poses to the ocean. Their insights and those from many of their colleagues are now pouring in across a range of scientific disciplines from oceanography to ecology and evolution. While last week’s conference shows that the science on specific species and how they might react is variable and nuanced, one conclusion is clear – ocean acidification is real, it is happening now and it is impacting real people. Scientists can’t yet predict exactly what will happen to every species, but it is clear that the ocean of the future will be fundamentally different from that of today, unless we work together to stem the tide of ocean acidification. Continue reading »
What if you could take the pulse of the ocean? What if that measure could integrate all the threats and impacts to the ocean, rather than evaluating each one separately? And instead of dwelling on these negatives, the metric could express the health of the ocean by quantifying and adding up the most important ways the ocean benefits humans. Most importantly, the measure wouldn’t portray humans as separate from nature, but rather embed us deeply in this “seascape” and empower us – all of us – to chart a course for the future of the ocean.
The newly released Ocean Health Index (OHI) may very well get us there. The OHI takes on the big issues – pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species, fishing and climate change – and its findings should cause us all to think hard about what we want the ocean to provide. The short story is that the global ocean scores 60 out of a possible 100 points, with large variation among the 171 countries and territories evaluated. Whether you view the glass as half empty or half full, there is clearly considerable room for improvement. Continue reading »
Do you know where the fish in your fish and chips came from? Credit: David Ascher
Next time you go to your local fish market, ask them for a hybrid fillet. My guess is they will stare at you with a confused look on their face or direct you to the local Toyota dealership. Most consumers and seafood retailers typically think of seafood as either farmed or wild. But if a new proposal on seafood labeling gains traction, you may soon see the term “hybrid” American lobster alongside wild Pacific Halibut and farmed Atlantic salmon.
Fishing is different than farming. Fishermen ply the seas and interact with the fish only once, when they capture it. Fish farmers, by contrast, tend their crop, generally from egg to juvenile fish to harvest as adults. Fishing is thus analogous to hunting, while aquaculture is more akin to farming. Fishermen also tend to think of themselves as fundamentally different from fish farmers and there can be animosity among the two groups because their products compete in the marketplace. But deep down, most seafood experts have long known that this simple distinction isn’t really based on reality. Continue reading »
I have had three sobering yet empowering days in Boston at the first Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security hosted by UMass Boston. I joined colleagues from academia, government, the non-profit sector, private industry and even the military to explore human and national security implications of our changing climate and our changing oceans. While our elected officials in Washington DC continue to debate whether climate change is “real”, those on the front lines have moved beyond this debate to prepare for what is to come and indeed, what is already here.
Make no mistake about it. Our oceans are changing. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the nation’s top ocean official, itemized these changes; sea level is rising and the oceans are getting stormier, seawater is getting warmer and holds less oxygen. None of this is debatable. The data are clear and profound. And the pace of change is increasing. Continue reading »