The Blog Aquatic » invasive species http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 “Shifts Happen”: Maine’s Fishing Communities Talk Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/12/shifts-happen-maines-fishing-communities-talk-climate-change/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 21:00:14 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6502 Lobster boats in Maine

Photo: rkleine via Flickr

On a recent day that would otherwise have been perfect for fishing, a group of Maine fishermen and lobstermen opted to remain indoors. They gathered to discuss an issue serious enough to tie up the boats: the future of fishing in the face of climate change.

Increasing carbon pollution and its impacts on the ocean is something that may seem distant and far away for many. But fishermen are seeing changes now and living new realities today. Members of Maine’s fishing communities met recently to discuss these changes during a workshop hosted by the Island Institute, a Maine group dedicated to sustaining local coastal communities.

Shifting fish populations due to warming waters are bringing new species to Maine and pushing others out. Lobsters are more plentiful than ever, a would-be boon except for an excess of “shedders” (also thought to be because of a warming ocean) that sell for a much lower rate than the usual hard-shelled individuals.

Green crabs, an invasive species, have moved north as waters have warmed, and are eating their way through the local shoreline, leading local clammer Walt Coffin to conclude, “We’ll be out of business in two years.”

Ocean acidification is another issue fishermen are contending with today. This process is occurring because of excess carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, resulting in an increase in the ocean’s acidity, which spells trouble for shell-building animals. While not as immediate or visible as a swarm of invasive crabs, it also has the potential to seriously damage local industries and cripple economically important fish stocks.

We already know that ocean acidification has caused alarming losses in the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry, and the East Coast is becoming equally concerned about how acidification will impact commercially important fish species.

There is no easy answer, but there is agreement from industry, scientists and conservationists alike—we can and must do something to ensure a future for our iconic fishing and shellfish industries in the face of these threats.

Change can’t come from the waterfront alone though. Local, state and federal leadership is needed to tackle a problem of this proportion. The Maine legislature illustrated this in June, when it passed a resolution recognizing ocean acidification as “a threat to Maine’s coastal economy, communities and way of life.” The resolution cites reasons for action including the high susceptibility of the Gulf of Maine to ocean acidification and the value of fisheries to Maine’s economy (over $600 million in 2012 for those who are counting).

In light of all the challenges the New England fisheries are facing, it’s hard to even think about a future threat so dark and seemingly hard to address as climate change and ocean acidification. But the workshop was inspiring despite the dire predictions. It is clear that solutions are out there, members of the fishing community want to take action and management can respond.

In summing up the meeting that day, speaker Mike Fogarty said, “shifts happen.” The real question is how we respond to them.

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Wrangling Invasive Species in Cajun Tennis Shoes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/wrangling-invasive-species-in-cajun-tennis-shoes/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/27/wrangling-invasive-species-in-cajun-tennis-shoes/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 21:27:21 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3076

Credit: peternijenhuis flickr stream

If I were to tell you there’s a rodeo for hunting invasive species, or that I feed my dog treats made of swamp rats, you’d probably think I have my Cajun tennis shoes (shrimp boots) on too tight. But if you go to just one of these events, you’d immediately see the innovation and creativity that is put into eradicating and raising awareness of invasive species…and that my boots fit just fine.

Rio Grande Cichlids, Nutria Rats, and Lionfish are among an already too long and growing list of invasive species that now call the Gulf Coast home. If these species don’t sound familiar, think Kudzu – the vine that ate the south. These unwelcome visitors, introduced accidentally or purposely, out-compete native species for space and resources. But the Gulf Coast is not the only area fighting invasive species; The West Coast of North America is currently grappling with debris from the Japanese tsunami and the hitchhiking creatures washing up with it.

As invasive species do what they do best, invade, the general public is joining the fight – along with governmental agencies, scientists, and environmentalists – to raise awareness of the need to remove these species and keep them from being introduced in the first place. Well, now that you’ve been through Invasive Species 101, here’s your prize: an explanation of the events I mentioned earlier.

Both Righteous Fur and Marsh Dog received a small grant from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to kick-start their projects, both of which have taken off. Nutriapalooza is a fashion show featuring nutria rat fur put on by Righteous Fur, whose tagline is “Save Our Wetlands: Wear More Nutria.” Their goal is to help control a destructive invasive species, raise public awareness about the need to restore the vanishing coast, and provide a stylish, eco-friendly alternative to traditional fur. But before you say “Eww! Fur!!” I encourage you to keep an open mind and visit their website.

Marsh Dog is an innovative market-based approach to solve the invasive nutria problem with dog biscuits made from nutria meat. Marsh Dog says “Owners can treat their dogs to an all-natural, sustainable treat that tastes good and does good while helping to support the fight to conserve…coastal wetlands.” My pound puppy loves them.

The Nutria Rodeo is an event created by Sassafras Louisiana to help put a dent in the nutria rat population. (Yes, there is a nutria rat hunting season in Louisiana). The organization is meant to bring the youth together in the restoration and preservation of Louisiana. Yes, you read that right, youth lead by other youths. I’d bet my last crawfish one of these young adults will have an address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington one day.

The Rio Grande Cichlid Rodeo is a fishing tournament organized by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries designed to help reduce the number of invasive Rio Grande Cichlids in New Orleans.

While these are a few of my favorite events in Louisiana, there are probably events like these near you. I encourage you to participate in something local and to learn what you can do about the growing threat of tsunami debris.

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Incredible Journey: Dock Propelled from Japan to Oregon Carries a Lesson in Biology http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/30/incredible-journey-dock-propelled-from-japan-to-oregon-carries-a-lesson-in-biology/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/30/incredible-journey-dock-propelled-from-japan-to-oregon-carries-a-lesson-in-biology/#comments Thu, 30 Aug 2012 18:09:19 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2579

Workers clean off the dock that washed ashore in Oregon. Credit: NOAA

Recently, contractors hauled away the final piece of a concrete dock weighing more than 165 tons that washed up on an Oregon beach after a 14-month journey across the Pacific Ocean. The dock was one of four that broke loose from the Japanese fishing port of Misawa during last year’s tsunami. One dock was found in Japan, a second turned up in Oregon in early June, and two are still missing.

The largest tsunami-borne object to travel across the Pacific and wash up on the West Coast so far, the dock generated immediate interest from the public. More than 1,000 people a day visited the site to pose for photos and be part of history. An enterprising artist even painted a breaking wave along one of the dock’s massive seven-foot-high sides.

Scientists at Oregon State University have been studying the impacts of invasive marine species for decades. But when the Misawa dock showed up about five miles down the coast from their Hatfield Marine Science Center, what they found defied their expectations. The Misawa dock was covered with hitchhikers: two tons of marine life – algae, crabs, shrimp, mussels, sea stars and more.

Essentially a floating island, the dock carried a complete ecosystem of Japanese coastal species, transported more than 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Scientists identified nearly 100 different species of sea life on the dock, including a number of species—like the brown kelp Undaria, the Asian shore crab and the North Pacific sea star—that are known to pose especially high ecological risks when introduced to new territories.

Globally, invasive species are a big deal. They can wreck havoc on natural ecosystems by out-competing native species, introducing disease, and leading to costly removal efforts. Case in point: When the Misawa dock landed on the beach, state workers launched an immediate emergency response, scraping the dock and burying everything removed, torching the dock to kill any remaining living organisms, and cutting the concrete up and hauling it to a landfill. All that took two months. And the final tab was an estimated $84,000.

Many are wondering if more tsunami debris items might show up soon bearing unwanted visitors. Only time will tell. But beyond the biology lesson, this dock has also become a fitting emblem for the enduring strength of the Japanese people. Workers at the salvage company saved one concrete chunk from the landfill. This piece of the dock will become part of a tsunami memorial to be installed in the Hatfield Marine Science Center – a fitting tribute to the human and biological impacts of the tsunami.

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