The Blog Aquatic » Oregon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:49:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Sea Star Epidemic Plagues Oregon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/23/sea-star-epidemic-plagues-oregon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/23/sea-star-epidemic-plagues-oregon/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 17:49:24 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8617

Since June 2013, millions of sea stars along the West Coast have disintegrated and died. Scientists have relentlessly tried to identify the cause of the “sea star wasting syndrome.” (See map of locations with outbreak.)

Typically, the first signs of an afflicted sea star are white lesions appearing on its body. Shortly thereafter, sea stars lose their limbs and their internal organs disintegrate. Although sea stars have the ability to regenerate limbs, the disease often progresses too quickly for them to recover. The exact cause of this disease is unknown. Scientists believe that sea star wasting syndrome may be due to a viral or bacterial infection, and could be exacerbated by increased water temperature. Populations of the ochre and sunflower sea stars, two common West Coast species, have been hit especially hard. Similar die-offs have occurred in the past, but never at the magnitude we see today, and over such a wide geographic area.

Oregon’s sea stars seemed to have been spared the dreadful fate of their West Coast neighbors. However, in recent weeks, Oregon’s monitoring networks have estimated that 30-50% of ochre sea stars in the intertidal area show symptoms of the syndrome. Researchers project that they may see local extinction of ochre sea stars at some Oregon sites.

While pretty to look at, most people do not usually think about the importance of sea stars. They’re not economically beneficial like oysters or salmon. And when you think of the ocean’s top predators—sea stars don’t usually come to mind.

However, sea stars are ravenous hunters who serve an important role controlling sea urchin and other invertebrate populations. Without some sea star species, unchecked populations of sea urchins have the ability to devastate kelp beds, which act as important nesting and foraging grounds for many species of fish.

Though sea star wasting syndrome may only affect sea stars themselves, the impact of the disease can cause a ripple effect through the marine ecosystem. This devastating outbreak highlights the need for consistent science funding and continued marine research. Once the cause and transmission of the disease are known, scientists will have a better idea how the environment will be impacted and whether sea stars will be able to recover.

How can people help? West Coast residents and divers can help scientists by recording observations of where they have and haven’t seen the wasting syndrome in sea stars at seastarwasting.org. This information will help researchers assess and, hopefully reverse this devastating syndrome.

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To Make Ocean Planning Effective, We Need Regional Coordination http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/12/to-make-ocean-planning-effective-we-need-regional-coordination/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/12/to-make-ocean-planning-effective-we-need-regional-coordination/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:30:32 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7731

Photo: Jupiter Unlimited

Earlier, I wrote about coastal and marine spatial planning and the tools necessary to effectively implement it. Today though, I wanted to discuss the regions and industries that are already putting these ideas to good use.

At the state level, Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island have already created comprehensive ocean plans, and several other states—such as New York and several states along the Gulf of Mexico—are starting to do the same thing. This is a great start, but the ocean does not obey state lines. As a result, regional partnerships are essential in facilitating coordination between federal, state, tribal and local entities.

Thankfully, almost all coastal governors have voluntarily joined together to establish Regional Ocean Partnerships that connect state and federal agencies, tribes, local governments, and stakeholders to tackle ocean and coastal issues of common concern, such as siting offshore energy, habitat restoration, coastal storm mitigation and marine debris. While the priorities, structures and methods for these partnerships and this work differ to suit the needs of each region, they are collectively working toward an improved ocean environment and a stronger ocean and coastal economy. For example, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have very active partnerships that manage robust data portals needed to make informed decisions. In addition, both of these regions have new, federally sponsored regional planning boards that are working on smart ocean planning in coordination with the state-based partnerships. Other regions are also moving forward with collaborative ocean-use planning. For example, the West Coast recently launched its own ocean data portal; making these resources available to stakeholders is essential to the planning process.

It’s important to note that smart ocean planning is a voluntary process. No region is required to undergo ocean planning, and no decision-maker must follow the recommendations of regional planning bodies. The plans are simply tools to guide decision-making.

We have a unique and limited opportunity to make the long-term, coordinated decisions that will protect our ocean’s health for generations to come. When I check in later this week for the last part of this series, I’ll cover what will be needed to make this happen. For now though, if you’d like more information on what regions have started the planning process, check out this short interview with Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, senior advisor to Ocean Conservancy:

If you can’t watch the video on this page, click here.

Read more blogs from this series:

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What To Do If You Find Tsunami Debris Washed Ashore http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/20/what-to-do-if-you-find-tsunami-debris-washed-ashore/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/20/what-to-do-if-you-find-tsunami-debris-washed-ashore/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2012 15:01:38 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3013

Ocean Conservancy created a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that highlights the most common items of debris that have been washing onto West Coast beaches. Click the image to download the complete version.

Marine debris generated from the March 11th tsunami is drastically different from the ocean trash that was already plaguing our ocean. Over the coming months, there may be many difficult-to-collect debris items from the tsunami such as housing and construction materials, fishing gear and vessels. We could also find potentially dangerous items such as combustibles, as well as personal items related to the victims. Therefore, it is critical that volunteers and beachcombers document each item of debris they encounter on beaches with the highest level of scrutiny.

To assist with this effort, Ocean Conservancy created a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that highlights the most common debris items that are washing onto West Coast beaches in significantly higher numbers than in previous years. Content for the field guide was informed by our database of Cleanup data, NOAA, the California Coastal Commission and International Coastal Cleanup West Coast State Coordinators.

The field guide is NOT intended to forecast the arrival of tsunami debris and it’s imperative to remember that debris from foreign countries regularly washes onto U.S. West Coast beaches, so Asian characters on debris alone do not confirm it originated during the tsunami. The field guide provides Cleanup volunteers an educational tool so they can identify potential tsunami debris while sauntering West Coast beaches. International Coastal Cleanup participants have been using the field guide during the International Coastal Cleanup, noting any suspected tsunami debris items in the Items of Local Concern section on the Cleanup data card. These data will be analyzed in the months following the Cleanup and compared with tsunami debris model predictions. There are also protocols for handling and reporting suspected tsunami debris on the field guide.

The Tsunami Debris Field Guide can be found at Ocean Conservancy’s Tsunami Debris Action Center, along with other information about tsunami debris, what to do if you’ve found suspected tsunami debris, and how to differentiate tsunami debris from ocean trash. You can also enter your email address below to sign up to receive tsunami debris updates as new information becomes available:

 

   
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If you see a significant debris sighting, please send a photo and as much information as possible to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.

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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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Tsunamis are unavoidable; trash choking our ocean is not http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/16/tsunamis-are-unavoidable-trash-choking-our-ocean-is-not/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/16/tsunamis-are-unavoidable-trash-choking-our-ocean-is-not/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2012 19:41:14 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1701

A 66-foot dock that washed up in Oregon was identified and confirmed as tsunami-related debris. Credit: NOAA

As Interim President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy and a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I watched with concern the news of a large Japanese dock landing in Oregon after being washed away by the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan. In the Tacoma News Tribune, I explain why we should be concerned about the tsunami debris heading our way and what we can do:

While it is still too soon to know exactly how big a problem this debris will be for U.S. shores, the International Pacific Research Center estimates that 5 percent or less of the approximately 1.5 million tons of debris in the Pacific Ocean could make landfall.

To prepare for what might come, we should prioritize baseline monitoring, modeling and outreach in communities. Ocean Conservancy has been working closely with the Obama administration, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as they ramp up response efforts.

In addition to monitoring and volunteer cleanups, we also should be advocating for the resources that may be needed to deal with the aftermath of a disaster of this magnitude.

While natural disasters are inevitable, trash choking our ocean is not. Read the full story here.

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Ocean Acidification: It’s Here and It’s Real http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/10/ocean-acidification-its-here-and-its-real/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/05/10/ocean-acidification-its-here-and-its-real/#comments Thu, 10 May 2012 19:59:23 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=477

Donning our snorkel gear, my son and I entered the tranquil bay. We’d been looking forward to spring break in Baja Mexico and had read about this spot in the guide book. But we were soon disappointed; there were few fish to see and most of the coral was damaged or dead. The unsuspecting tourist might not notice but as a trained marine biologist I know what a healthy reef looks like. This wasn’t it.

Coral reefs are under assault. Overfishing and coastal development are partly to blame, but ocean acidification is an emerging threat to corals and a host of other species that rely on calcium carbonate for their shells. As CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it dissolves in the ocean and it is changing the very chemistry of the sea.

And it’s happening now. Just this month, a team of scientists published a study that solved the mystery of why the $278 million shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly went bankrupt in 2006. Owners of the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on the Oregon coast wanted to know why all their baby oysters were dying. Scientists determined it was ocean acidification. Whiskey Creek is now fighting back against ocean acidification by changing how they raise oysters to avoid the highly corrosive seawater that is now bathing the Oregon coast.

Ocean acidification could do far more than just take oysters off the menu at your favorite happy hour; it may upend the world’s ocean – from the shallows to the deep – and the industries that depend on it, from seafood to tourism. Don’t take my word for it; watch the video above to hear from leading international scientists gravely concerned with this problem.

So what do we do? First, we need to better understand what is happening to our ocean. The X-Prize Foundation just announced a competition to develop new, cost effective instruments to gauge ocean acidification. But we need more: Industries dependent on a healthy ocean must lend their voice to a growing community of concerned environmental and business leaders. Decision makers need to better use existing laws to reduce other factors (like runoff from the land) that make ocean acidification worse.

Ocean Conservancy is working with leading organizations to confront ocean acidification head on. Over the coming months, we’ll profile this critical issue and our colleagues’ great work to ensure a healthy and vibrant ocean for all of us, snorkelers and shellfish farmers alike.

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