Ocean Currents » ocean acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Will Ocean Acidification Affect Dungeness Crabs? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/will-ocean-acidification-affect-dungeness-crabs/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/will-ocean-acidification-affect-dungeness-crabs/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 18:55:45 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12122

2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014  – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”

Both fishermen and scientists are asking what’s next for this fishery. It’s possible that ocean acidification could be the next big challenge it faces. NOAA research shows that Dungeness crab larvae exposed to ocean acidification in the laboratory develop slowly, and more of them die before adulthood. In addition, research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows that Pseudonitschia (toxic algae) produce more domoic acid under simulated ocean acidification conditions in the laboratory. But, the science is still young.

We need to know more about how Dungeness crab will respond to ocean acidification and all the overlapping environmental changes happening in our waters. Bay area crabber Josh Churchman agrees, “We could use a little more information and education about [ocean acidification], I would say.” Our new short film, “High Hopes,” takes a 5-minute look at the concerns of scientists and Dungeness crabbers about the fishery. The recent NOAA research promises to be just the first of many studies that will help us shield Dungeness crabs, certainly one of our staff’s favorite seafoods, from ocean acidification.


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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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West Coast Scientists Weigh Actions Against Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/04/west-coast-scientists-weigh-actions-against-ocean-acidification-and-hypoxia/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/04/west-coast-scientists-weigh-actions-against-ocean-acidification-and-hypoxia/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 17:05:57 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11843

Ten years ago, I was finishing graduate school. I was becoming an expert on how carbon dioxide is stored in the world’s oceans, but – and this seems weird to me now – I hadn’t heard about ocean acidification. Hardly anyone had. Only a handful of scientists had started to realize that as the ocean sops up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ocean chemistry changes in ways that can hurt fish, shellfish, and corals.

Just five years later, concern about ocean acidification had grown dramatically, and thousands of people were involved. West Coast shellfish growers were trying to save their hatcheries from the effects of ocean acidification, while scientists were scrambling to offer information and solutions. Ocean Conservancy began working on this issue in 2012, helping bring affected business people, policy makers, and scientists together during the initial search for solutions in Washington State, whose shellfish hatcheries experienced dramatic die-offs of their oyster larvae.

Even though ocean acidification is a very young issue, the West Coast has been a consistent leader in the search for solutions. Today, the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel, a group of scientists from research universities spanning the entire coast convened by California Ocean Science Trust, has just released a synthesis of the current state of scientific knowledge about ocean acidification and hypoxia in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia and what management options might be used to address these issues there.

Their findings boil down to two main themes: 1) We need to reduce exposure of marine species and ecosystems, particularly by decreasing carbon and nitrogen pollution and investigating strategies to remove carbon dioxide from the water; and, 2) we also need to improve the ability of marine life to cope with changes by reducing other stresses, like warming ocean temperatures, and improving animals’ own capacity to adapt.

Credit: OAH Panel

There’s a good amount of research still to be done before their findings can be put into action, though.  The panel agrees that we need to understand where local pollutants will worsen ocean acidification and hypoxia, and that we need to develop robust predictive models to forecast hotspots. We also need to find ways to reduce pollutant inputs while also rewarding local government agencies and businesses that do so, and we need water quality goals that incorporate ocean acidification. We need pilot projects to determine whether and where carbon dioxide removal could help, and whether ocean conservation or restoration can guard against damage from ocean acidification and hypoxia. We need to develop and refine resource management rules that take ocean acidification into account. We need to understand the pros and cons of selective breeding or aquaculture to improve species’ ability to adapt.

To that end, the Panel makes several research recommendations to fill the knowledge gaps that currently stand between the science and managing with ocean acidification in mind. They underscore the need for research partnerships and coordinated monitoring, which will all make the most of the historical strong collaboration on the West Coast on ocean acidification and hypoxia.

This report is the next big step towards taking care of our local ocean life in the face of large-scale environmental changes that threaten it. And doing that right will also take care of the people and businesses that depend on a healthy ocean.

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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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An Interview with Coral Reef Expert Danielle Dixson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2016 20:58:16 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11714

There are some new champions for corals in the nation’s capital. Hawaii’s Senator Hirono and Representative Takai have proposed legislation supporting competitions that encourage innovation among scientists, engineers and coastal managers to develop new and effective ways to keep U.S. coral ecosystems and their neighboring human communities healthy and sustainably managed. We asked tropical reef ecosystem expert Danielle Dixson from the University of Delaware to share her thoughts on what this legislation means for coral reefs, the animals living there, and the people who rely on them.

OC: Tell us about your coral reef research and what inspires you to spend your days studying the ocean.

DD: My research seeks to understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they are able to use this information to make decisions on optimal habitat choice or predator avoidance, and the consequences these behavior changes have on marine conservation and management in a changing world. My research group has a particular interest in ocean acidification’s impacts on the behavior of marine organisms.

OC: Senator Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Takai (D-HI) have just introduced bills in Congress that establish prize competitions aimed at finding creative management solutions for coral reefs facing ocean acidification and the communities that depend on them. How might this legislation benefit reefs like the ones you study?

DD: Ocean acidification is a global problem, and therefore any measure that supports understanding future conditions or reducing the impact expected to happen in the future will benefits reefs worldwide. The bill’s specific emphasis on ocean acidification is particularly important as coral reefs are threatened by a number of human-induced changes such as overfishing, pollutants and rising water temperatures. Many of these threats can be understood and experimentally tested fairly easily; however, ocean acidification is happening slowly with large impacts expected in the future. If we wait for the future conditions to arrive before actually understanding what is happening and what impacts may occur, it may be too late.

OC: How might prize competitions help push research and conservation?

DD: The inclusion of prize competitions will help research and conservation immensely. U.S. educational institutions are producing bright scientists. Advancements in technology have allowed a number of innovative ideas, once thought to be impossible, become a reality. However, funding for research programs remains a limiting factor in experimentally testing research theories.  The emphasis of conservation through the prize competitions included here will provide the funding needed to evaluate important ideas. Prize competitions also often attract thinkers from unusual backgrounds, which can lead to unexpected solutions and collaborations.

OC: What else could Congress do to protect coral reefs, and how can concerned citizens help?

DD: There are a number of things that can be done to protect coral reefs; I think one of the most important steps Congress can take is continue supporting the advancement of research understanding underwater ecosystems. This can be done through funding research programs, and consulting with experts to help inform better policy initiatives.  Concerned citizens can impact coral reefs as well, regardless of whether they live near a reef or not. Making smart choices in terms of energy use, transportation and consuming local foods are things that can be easily incorporated into someone’s lifestyle. When consuming seafood, shoppers can choose organisms that are sustainably caught and managed. Voters can choose politicians that support the environment. Many people vacation near tropical reefs, and they can support sustainable tourism by making smart choices in their vacation plans.

OC: As you’ve spent your career studying coral reefs, tell us about your most memorable ocean moment.

DD: It is hard to decide on one moment, but I would have to say one of my favorite memories was the first time I went diving on a coral reef. Being from Minnesota I was trained to dive in a lake, with low visibility and very cold water. My first reef dive was done in Hawaii during my undergraduate studies. The colors and diversity of the fish, corals and other marine organisms had me hooked…I had to become a coral reef ecologist.

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Women in Science: A Q&A with Tessa Hill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/08/women-in-science-a-qa-with-tessa-hill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/08/women-in-science-a-qa-with-tessa-hill/#comments Tue, 08 Mar 2016 14:30:26 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11583

For International Women’s Day, we looked at how women are contributing to the ever-expanding field of ocean science. Tessa Hill from the University of California, Davis gave us a glimpse of her life as a marine scientist and how her work contributes to a healthy ocean.

Q: You’re an ocean biogeochemist – how would you explain your career to the average layperson?

A: I study how ocean environments respond to global change. I use a combination of many different fields – hence the long title with ocean, bio, geo, and chemist in there. I like working on questions that reach across typical academic boundaries, and collaborating with experts in other fields to broaden my own knowledge.

Q: In your research, you look at sediment records as well as current ocean conditions. Why is including both past and present relevant for your work?

A: I think we need to understand how the Earth works to be able to understand what the important consequences of future change will be. This understanding requires an investigation beyond “modern” timescales, where humans have had an impact. I like to think that paleoclimate records, or climate records taken from sediments, tell us stories about how the earth, ocean and atmosphere responded in the past to dramatic changes.

I also really enjoy having one foot in the ‘real’ ocean and thinking about how it works today. Some of my most exciting work is done with ecologists who are interested in understanding what the ocean will look like 50, 100 or 200 years from now. We do experiments that allow us to peer into the future and understand how marine animals will respond to changes that are around the corner.

Q: You also partner with Hog Island Oyster Company by monitoring pH conditions around their oyster farm. What are the shared benefits there?

A: This is a great partnership that has been really exciting for everyone involved. The owners at Hog Island Oyster Company – Terry Sawyer and John Finger – invited us to begin investigations at the site of their farming operation over three years ago. We deployed instruments that allow us to monitor the state of ocean acidification in Tomales Bay. We are monitoring temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH and carbon dioxide in the water there. We use these data for our scientific investigations and as a baseline for our laboratory work. The oyster farm uses these data to understand how acidification may be impacting their business today. They are making business decisions knowing that ocean acidification is something that will continue to impact their future, so it helps to start to understand how it is influencing the health of their oysters now. This work was a bit cobbled together at first, but now thankfully it is supported by our Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the NOAA Ocean Acidification program. It is really exciting to do work that can be used by scientists, the public, sustainable aquaculture, and coastal managers.

Q: In addition, you’re also an Associate Professor and work tirelessly on science communication and public engagement. Why do you feel communicating your work to the public is so important?

A: Ha! Tirelessly. That made me laugh because I definitely feel tired sometimes…but I also feel very committed to people understanding what we are discovering about or oceans and atmosphere. Essentially all of the work that I do is paid for by taxpayers: My research is supported by both the State of California and federal sources of funding (most significantly, the National Science Foundation). All of the information that I gather about the impacts of Earth’s changes should be public!  We have decisions to make about how to move forward and address our climate and environmental challenges. I’d like to see our decisions based in science.

Q: How about a shout-out to your favorite woman in science on International Women’s Day, Is there someone in particular that you admire?

A: Well, that is a hard one, because I actually can think of many women who I admire. I’ll start with a shout out to Rachel Carson, who has inspired so many women and men to investigate the world around them and try to understand how humans interact with the land and sea.

Q: President Obama recently awarded you with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineerscongratulations! As a female role model yourself, is there anything you’d like to share with young women pursuing a career in science?

A: Follow your curiosity! We need as many bright minds as possible to understand how the world works. Being a scientist is exciting, important, and a great way to spend your day. Come join me.

Thank you, Tessa Hill, for inspiring women and men everywhere to get excited about our oceans!

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Our Ocean Remains a Presidential Priority http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/09/our-ocean-remains-a-presidential-priority/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:41:11 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11450

Strong funding proposed for ocean conservation in President Obama’s final budget proposal.

Today, President Obama laid out his final “to-do list” in the form of his proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year. Ocean Conservancy is pleased to see this administration continue to prioritize the ocean, not least because it contributes more than $343 billion annually to the nation’s GDP and supports 2.9 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

You’d be right in thinking President Obama’s proposed budget is a big deal for our ocean.

Of course it’s not a done deal but we should still take a moment to celebrate that our ocean remains a significant priority as we work together to tackle huge challenges like climate change through science-based solutions and effective policies.

The president has proposed $5.8 billion in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our nation’s premier ocean agency. This would include $1 billion for the National Marine Fisheries Service and $570 million for the National Ocean Service – two key parts of NOAA that protect, restore, and manage our ocean and coasts. NOAA’s mission is to make sure that we have a healthy ocean that can support the economy and the communities that depend on it.

Ocean Conservancy is encouraged to note these three recommendations made today:

  1. A $12 million increase for investments in finding solutions to the challenge of ocean acidification. NOAA’s ocean acidification program coordinates research, maintains a water quality monitoring program to track acidification, develops strategies and techniques for business and communities to adapt, and provides critical research grants to improve understanding of ocean acidification’s environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
  2. An initial investment of $10 million for the first-ever federal ocean trust fund. The National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund was created by Congress late last year in a major victory for ocean champions on Capitol Hill, who have pushed for such a fund since it was first recommended by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004. This initial investment will allow the new fund to begin its important work, providing grants that improve our understanding of the ocean and support sustainable ocean uses.
  3. A four-fold increase in grants to support ocean resilience in regions across the country. Building resilience is critical for communities and economies that are facing major changes in the ocean, from climate change to emerging ocean industries like offshore wind. Resilience can only be achieved at the regional level, with communities, states, and federal agencies working together to share their collective knowledge and experience and establish a unified direction. NOAA’s innovative grant program supports this approach.

What next?

There is a long way to go before the budget is finalized.  The President’s budget is just the first step in a multi-month process in Congress to arrive at a final budget for next year. In the coming months both the House and the Senate will respond to the President’s budget with proposals of their own.

I know that you will work with Ocean Conservancy to advocate for the best investments to ensure our ocean, and the people that most depend on it, continue to thrive.  You can help President Obama make this vision a reality for the ocean next year by reaching out to your Member of Congress to express your support for a healthy ocean.

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