Ocean Currents » Maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:26:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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Setting Sail to Search for Marine Debris in the Gulf of Maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 22:10:09 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6521 American Promise sailboat

Photo: Rozalia Project

This week, I’m sailing with Rozalia Project as a guest scientist onboard American Promise. I joined the crew in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I’m spending seven days sailing south through the Gulf of Maine with our journey concluding at the ship’s home port of Kittery, Maine.

My home away from home is Rozalia Project’s “mother ship,” American Promise. Not originally meant to be a garbage-hunter, American Promise has a storied past. She was designed by America’s Cup champion Ted Hood to sail around the world in record time. From November 1985 to April 1986, American Promise did just that when Dodge Morgan became the first American to sail around the world alone in record-breaking time.

One of the main goals of this sail will be to remove as much trash from the water as possible. Much of our work regarding marine debris is centered around the items found along our coastlines and floating on the surface of coastal and inland waterways. However, we know marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes and is present throughout the water column.

In addition to using nets to gather debris, the Rozalia Project team is also equipped with two remotely operated vehicles that are able to reach depths of up to 1,000 feet. The ROVs will enable us to reach debris otherwise inaccessible to humans due to the depth, pressure or water temperature. The ROVs also allow for zero-impact trash removal, ensuring debris doesn’t drag along the seafloor or have an effect on marine life.

Removing trash from the water isn’t our only task. We will also be conducting beach cleanups on remote islands in the Gulf of Maine. Despite their location and the fact that the islands are relatively uninhabited, I expect to find many of the same trash items that we find during the annual International Coastal Cleanup.

How is that possible? Trash travels, and plastic items such as bottle caps, food wrappers and bags are easily carried by wind or storm water into local waterways and eventually to the ocean.

Throughout this entire journey, I will be collecting data on each item we collect, trying to find out more about that item and where it is from, and then hypothesizing on how exactly it made its way to the Gulf of Maine.

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“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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North America’s First Floating Wind Turbine Raises Need for Smart Ocean Planning http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/07/north-americas-first-floating-wind-turbine-raises-need-for-smart-ocean-planning/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/07/north-americas-first-floating-wind-turbine-raises-need-for-smart-ocean-planning/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 20:00:43 +0000 Susan Olcott http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6487 VolturnUS turbine

Photo: Susan Olcott / Ocean Conservancy

When I first saw the VolturnUS, North America’s first floating wind turbine, it was smaller than I had imagined. But once I realized it was just a 1/8 scale model, I knew the potential implications for this new technology were huge.

Developed by the University of Maine’s DeepCWind Consortium, the launch of VolturnUS could mark the beginning of a new industry in Maine. “This project is a first-of-its-kind design to help develop more cost-effective offshore wind technologies,” says Habib Dagher of the DeepCWind Consortium.

Making this happen will be complicated both financially and technologically, but the real question is: How do you decide where to put these turbines?

Back in 2008, the state established an Ocean Energy Task Force to identify ways in which the ocean energy industry could be jumpstarted to provide for cleaner energy sources and local jobs. The task force also wanted to help establish Maine as a leader in the ocean energy arena.

One of the task force’s recommendations was the identification of up to five sites along the coast that would be appropriate for testing ocean energy devices. More than 50 meetings and less than a year later, the agencies involved designated three test sites in Maine’s coastal waters. This was a lot of work to decide what to do with an area less than 5 square nautical miles, which is relatively small compared to the coast of New England.

Collecting data and gathering stakeholder input about ecological and human uses along the entire New England coast is the heady task recently begun by the Northeast Regional Planning Body, an intergovernmental council created by the National Ocean Policy.

The idea of regional ocean planning is to put siting exercises like Maine’s into context by making them part of a region-wide set of publicly accessible information that can be used to inform decisions about what happens where off our coasts, including where to potentially put new uses like renewable energy.

This will mean that ocean businesses won’t have to reinvent the wheel by collecting data and information that are already out there. It will also help us to make the best decisions possible for the long-term ecological and economic health of our coasts.

“Proactive planning can ensure that conflicts with current users are minimized,” says Paul Williamson of the Maine Ocean & Wind Industry Initiative. “Planning will also provide market stability and certainty, reducing risks associated with ocean energy projects and encouraging the massive investment that such projects will require.”

Another goal of regional planning is to coordinate the agencies involved in project permitting so that it is clear to those interested in developing new uses how to proceed.

We need a clear map not only of the resources and uses out there, but also of what needs to happen to get a project in the water. This is something that regional planning can help to address.

The Northeast Regional Planning Body is currently reviewing feedback on their draft planning goals to provide a framework for how they are going to tackle this herculean task. Their next meeting will be this fall.

Meanwhile, new maritime technologies will continue to develop, and we would be wise to create a plan designed to help guide them and to be adaptable for whatever might come next.

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