Ocean Currents » Maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 29 Aug 2016 18:00:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Massachusetts Tackling Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/06/massachusetts-tackling-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/06/massachusetts-tackling-acidification/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 13:30:38 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11836

Count Massachusetts as the latest state to take a step towards fighting ocean acidification. Last week I attended a forum hosted by ocean champions Congressman Bill Keating (MA-9th) and Massachusetts State Representative Tim Madden (D-Nantucket) at the Woods Hole Research Center.  While there, I learned about a state bill sponsored by Rep. Madden to form a commission that will guide the state’s response to ocean acidification.

This commission would first examine how acidification may affect local marine resources like lobsters and oysters. Then it would recommend what Massachusetts can do to protect its coastal jobs and economies related to those resources. The Bay State has always been a leader on ocean issues, and this latest effort provides another example of action.

During the discussion, Rep. Keating pointed out that we should consider the ocean as a critical piece of infrastructure that needs to be maintained, like roads or bridges. Ocean acidification spells bad news for shellfish farmers, fishermen, and coastal resource managers because it hurts oyster populations and slows the growth of mussels and clams. As a result, Keating has consistently supported national funding for more acidification research and monitoring.

It’s clear that Massachusetts is part of a geographically growing concern over acidification. Forum panelist Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker spoke about the actions that have been underway along the Pacific coast since 2009, particularly those by the Pacific Coast Collaborative. Maine and Maryland formed task forces, which recommended actions like monitoring water quality for acidification, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions and nitrogen run-off pollution in 2015. Delaware and New Jersey conducted internal studies in the same year, encouraging regional cooperation across state boundaries, additional scientific research on acidification and increased outreach to the fishing and shellfish communities. These activities are all effective steps towards reducing acidification, but they are not the only options for people and states to take.

If Massachusetts passes Rep. Madden’s bill, it will become the fifth state (after Washington, Maine, Maryland and Oregon) to legislatively approve of a commission that will lay the groundwork for combatting ocean acidification. I look forward to that becoming a reality.

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Questioning Our Changing Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/22/questioning-our-changing-oceans/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/22/questioning-our-changing-oceans/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 13:00:08 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11722

We all notice when things aren’t quite the same from day to day in our everyday surroundings. Some people’s jobs depend on it. Fishermen, for one, need to notice small changes on the water every day—in the currents, temperatures, and even the fish they’re chasing. Get them together, and these hardworking men and women compare notes on what they’re seeing.

This month, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland, Maine attracted fishermen, scientists, managers and community groups to discuss all things fishing in the region. The featured panel of the 3-day event was entitled “Questioning Our Changing Oceans” where fishermen talked about how waters around the world, particularly the Gulf of Maine, are changing.  This discussion was not just sea tales, though. Scientists presented the latest research and data on environmental changes happening in the Atlantic Ocean, and what the future might hold.

Most fishermen were concerned about how lobsters will respond to ocean change. As the prize fishery in Maine worth about $500 million in 2015, and comprising over 80% of the state’s seafood industry value, “there is a lot at stake. Lobster are also sensitive to environmental changes like rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification.

Rising water temperatures and their likely impacts on Maine seafood this year received the most attention. The fishermen panelists had two other important takeaways for the audience. First, fishermen need to be involved in science and management discussions, because ocean changes will ultimately impact their bottom lines, and because any regulation changes need to be practical. Second, they felt it was unwise to rely too heavily on just one species—right now, lobster.

Maine waters do seem to be changing, but the people of Maine are being proactive in staying on top of the science and planning for the future. Conversations like these are an important and necessary first step for coastal residents and business owners taking action to prepare for a changing ocean from coast to coast.

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The Faces of Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/08/the-faces-of-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/08/the-faces-of-ocean-acidification/#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2015 14:30:53 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11193

Want the latest news on lobstermen, shellfish farmers and marine scientists pioneering a changing ocean? Check out Ocean Conservancy’s Scoop.it page! “Changing Chemistry” provides a peek into the lives of shellfish farmers and fishermen nationwide, and explores partnerships with scientists and legislators that led to local success stories. Here’s a sneak peek at some of their stories.

Bi-partisan Effort Ensuring Maine is Preparing for Climate Change

As legislator Mick Devin famously said, “No one comes to the Maine coast to eat a chicken sandwich.” Lobster is Maine’s kingpin commercial fishery and tourism hook; it’s also a shell-building organism that’s potentially at risk from ocean acidification. Lobster, clams, scallops and oysters make up 87% of Maine’s $585 million commercial landings and support about 33,000 jobs. Now politicians, marine scientists, lobstermen, aquaculturists and grassroots organizations are working to ensure these vital industries are prepared for a changing ocean. This is a bi-partisan force to be reckoned with.

Hog Island Oyster Co. Talks Ocean Acidification

Tessa Hill and Terry Sawyer sat down to discuss the benefits of science and industry partnerships. Hill, a marine biogeochemist at University of California, Davis, was approached by Hog Island Oyster Company co-owner Terry Sawyer to monitor water quality conditions around his farm to help understand how acidification impacts aquaculture in Tomales Bay, California. The result has led to an incredibly successful partnership that provides Hill with valuable data, and helps Sawyer adapt to changing ocean conditions.

Flexing Muscles over Mussels

Meet California’s mussel man (no, NOT the Governator) Bernard Friedman, the only open-ocean mussel farm owner in the state since 2003. Friedman’s love for the ocean led him to study sea life, and eventually put his passion into a business model. He recently had to renew outdated permits for his farm, a process that is important for marine conservation but can easily put an aquaculture operation at risk. However with cooperation from members of the Coastal Commission and researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara, Friedman’s shellfish love affair sees a happy ending. These relationships will be crucial as future threats like ocean acidification will require smart management and monitoring to protect Friedman’s business.

How One Family Built a Shellfish Powerhouse on Puget Sound

Ever wonder what it feels like to be king of the oysters? It’s another day in the life of the Taylors at Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington. From its origins in the 1880s, this fifth generation family-owned business is the largest shellfish aquaculture producer in the country. Yet the company faced its biggest hurdle yet in 2009 when ocean acidification caused millions of oyster larvae to die. Brothers Bill and Paul Taylor reflect on how they manage their operation while staying true to the strong environmental stewardship values their father instilled in them.

Half-shell Hero

The golden years of Chesapeake Bay’s wild oyster fishery have almost faded away; however, innovative watermen are bringing back the vibrant waterfront culture. Oysters, the ocean’s water filter, are ultra-efficient at clearing excess nutrients from the water and can drastically improve water quality. Policies requiring cutbacks in nutrient runoff support a bright future for a healthy Chesapeake ecosystem; allowing oyster farms, such as Hoopers Island Aquaculture Company, to thrive while also improving local water quality.

Want more stories? Follow our Scoop.it page to learn more.

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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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Momentum Builds for Ocean Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/10/momentum-builds-for-ocean-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/10/momentum-builds-for-ocean-change/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 19:00:48 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9815

There’s been a recent spate of good news about people dealing with the global problem of ocean acidification at the local level.  Over the past month, the Maryland Ocean Acidification Task Force and Maine Ocean Acidification Commission have reported on what ocean acidification means for their states, and what each state can do to protect its local ocean.  These are the first comprehensive state reports on the east coast to put forth suggested actions addressing acidification.

Both commissions included scientists, fishermen, shellfish farmers, state agencies, elected representatives and community groups who are especially concerned about their shellfish farms and wild fisheries, especially blue crabs and American lobsters. I attended the Maryland Task Force meetings too.

During the meetings over the summer, we heard of shellfish farmers in Maryland seeing lower baby oyster production levels.  Even though the cause has remained a mystery, no one could rule out ocean acidification. This lower amount of oyster seed still remains unexplained, but everyone agreed that the marine resources and coastal communities of the state are too important to be left in such uncertain conditions.  In fact, the Maryland report includes recommendations for increasing ocean acidification research and monitoring so the state can understand just what is happening.

I’ve met with a few of the Maine commissioners, and they’re trying to reduce the uncertainty too.  This week the commission co-chair, Representative Mick Devin, emphasized why more information is needed: “It isn’t just valuable shellfisheries that are at risk, but other parts of our economy like tourism. No one visits the Maine coast looking for a chicken sandwich. Let’s make sure visitors can have a lobster roll, a bowl of clam chowder, a bucket of steamers or a platter of Damariscotta River oysters on the half shell when they come to Maine.”  Among other recommendations, the state commission emphasized the need for more research and monitoring of acidification, but this requires funding, science and collaboration with others.

While these individual states fight for their local economies and coastal cultures, they recognize that this issue is not simply a problem for a few scattered states or a region, but rather a growing concern for the whole US, and more help is needed.

I am also glad to report that the federal government is listening to these states, industry, scientists and others and has responded by recently proposing an increase in ocean acidification research and monitoring funding from $8.5 million to $30 million through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This additional funding would provide for water quality sensors, research vessel operations, scientific experiments, and allow for greater collaboration between the states, federal government, and international efforts to address acidification.

This added federal attention and increased concern is great news for Maryland, Maine, and the people who depend on the sea for their livelihoods.  By increasing the knowledge of what acidification does to marine life, tracking where and when it occurs, and working with others to reduce carbon pollution and runoff pollution, these states will limit future damages to important ecosystems, economies, and cultures.  We at Ocean Conservancy look forward to hearing more from these states and regions (and beyond!), because as we all know, the ocean doesn’t stop at state borders, and ocean acidification has the potential to reach all our shores.


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East Coast State Legislators Begin Investigations on Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/east-coast-state-legislators-begin-investigations-on-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/east-coast-state-legislators-begin-investigations-on-ocean-acidification/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 15:29:17 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8238

Photo: Ted Van Pelt with Creative Commons License

When people think about the state of Maine, images of lobsters and lighthouses usually spring to mind. For the state of Maryland, people think of blue crab and the rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay.  Both states are closely associated with rich maritime traditions, however a change in ocean chemistry is rapidly occurring that could jeopardize not only their maritime way of life, but also the jobs and economic benefits that the ocean and coastal waters provide.

Ocean acidification is caused by carbon pollution from factories, cars, and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. In fact, the ocean absorbs roughly 30% of all carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere, and local pollution running off from the land into coastal areas can make acidification worse. Animals that have shells, like oysters, clams, mussels and crabs have trouble surviving in increasingly acidic water. In the Pacific Northwest  ocean acidification has damaged these animals, contributing to billions of baby oyster deaths, significantly impacting the hatcheries and oyster operations in these regions. The impact of ocean acidification on other animals, such as lobsters and fish, are not well understood.

This uncertainty has caused ocean users and legislators to sit up, take notice and begin to act. I have recently discussed ocean acidification with fishermen and shellfish growers at the annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and have also attended a legislative hearing on ocean acidification in Maryland. The unknown ramifications of this environmental issue in these forums were a definite concern.

Since lobsters, blue crabs, and other marine resources are so vital to the waterfront economies of Maine and Maryland respectively, in the last week, their state legislatures have both passed bills forming a commission and task force to study the impacts of ocean acidification on each state’s coastal ecosystems and commercial shellfish industries.

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

These commissions are similar to a panel set up by Washington State in that they seek to identify the factors driving ocean acidification, how to mitigate it, how to enhance research and monitoring and how to protect shellfish and other important coastal species. This great, pragmatic first step by state leaders to understand and reduce any threats to the iconic livelihoods of these states was made possible by the hard work and support of concerned local businesses and groups such as the Island Institute in Maine, and National Aquarium in Maryland.

As we have become aware of the concerns from people on the water in Washington, Maine, Maryland and other states, we have informed you of these issues, and asked for your support to let decision-makers know you care about our oceans. Last month Ocean Conservancy asked for people like you to contact your Members of Congress to support funding for ocean acidification research on a national scale and as a result, more than 40,000 letters were sent to 534 elected officials who represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A number of representatives and senators have heeded your messages and have gone on to personally support this research funding.

Thank you for reading, caring and acting—not only for our oceans, but also for the people and communities who rely on those ocean waters for their livelihoods. And congratulations to Maine and Maryland —In the future, we hope to congratulate other coastal states working to address ocean acidification too!

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Gulf of Maine Cleanups Show Ocean Trash Is Global Problem With Local Impacts, Solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 21:50:18 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6565 Scientist aboard American Promise empties a net full of marine debris

Photo: Allison Schutes / Ocean Conservancy

200 miles, 7 beaches, 4 islands and over 7,500 pieces of trash: These numbers can be used to describe my time with Rozalia Project in the Gulf of Maine. But they don’t tell the whole story. Instead “inspiring” seems to capture most of my emotions.

Incredible scenery and wildlife served as the backdrop for the long days we spent collecting and removing trash while living aboard American Promise. Not only were we surrounded by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins as we sailed south from Hurricane Island, but we also had a finback whale come within 5 meters of the boat at sunset. We saw the spouts of another whale in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, and we observed harbor porpoises and seals, a pair of bald eagles and even an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, in Gosport Harbor.

Our crew of 10—eight people and two dogs—were united with one goal: to remove as much trash from the shoreline and ocean surface as possible while recording data about each and every item we removed. Sailing from Bar Harbor to Kittery, Maine, we conducted seven shoreline cleanups on four different islands, and aboard American Promise, we performed three Neuston net tows and multiple dip-net sessions—all resulting in the collection of a lot of trash.

Despite traveling to several remote islands off Maine’s rocky coast, we found many of the same items that top our list during the International Coastal Cleanup every year. Items like food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, foam cups and plates, and bottle caps were prevalent on almost every cleanup conducted while sailing through the Gulf of Maine.

These results are not incredibly surprising because we know that trash travels. Whether carried by the wind, current or human hands, everyday trash is able to make its way to even the most remote of places. For example, I pulled a food wrapper, a cigarette butt and a strap for sunglasses out of the water while sailing 50 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine.

Yet during this journey, single use plastic items were not our biggest finds. Fishing gear, including rope, monofilament line, fishing buoys, pots and traps, and lobster claw bands topped our list of items collected through the entire journey. We even found lobster bands, bleach and beverage bottles with French labels and markings, indicating these items may have started their journey in Canada.

All of these data are further indicative that ocean trash is a global problem with local impacts and local solutions. We all have a role to play in combating ocean trash, and joining us for the 28th International Coastal Cleanup is a great place to start.

Want to get started before the Cleanup? Take the pledge to help turn the tide on ocean trash.

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