Ocean Currents » pacific http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 We Made History. Again. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/15/we-made-history-again/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/15/we-made-history-again/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 04:01:28 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12856

Last month, President Obama made history by establishing the largest protected marine area ever in Hawaii.

Now, he’s at it again.

Today, President Obama announced the protection of a new marine area in New England as the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. That means that in just a matter of weeks, Obama has protected more U.S. waters than any other president.

Join us in applauding the Obama Administration for permanently protecting one of the most unique places in the Atlantic.


The New England Canyons and Seamounts represent some of the most astounding and diverse underwater ecosystems in the Atlantic. Located about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, the canyons are carved thousands of feet down into the edge of the continental shelf, where it drops off into the ocean depths.  Further out, the seamounts rise thousands of feet up from the ocean bottom, towering underwater mountains.

This incredible geologic diversity creates a unique hotspot for all kinds of species, many of which we are just now discovering. In 2013, a single research expedition discovered 24 deepwater coral species and three fishes that were previously unknown in the region.

The region is also home to whales, dolphins and a host of other species. Protecting this spectacular region means these animals can thrive for generations to come.

With these two announcements bridging sea-to-shining-sea, the United States has shown itself to be a leader in marine conservation. Let’s keep up the momentum.

Thank President Obama for making marine protection a priority from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

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Oysters and Beer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/19/oysters-and-beer/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/19/oysters-and-beer/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 13:00:27 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12421

I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I drink it while eating oysters. Or at least that’s what I did in London a few weeks ago, with oyster farmers shucking local oysters right on the pub tables.

One of the perks of my job is to talk with oyster farmers, and oftentimes the most productive conversations and connections happen over drinks. In this instance, I was with American farmers Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms, Dan Grosse of Toby Island Bay Oyster Farm, Mike Martinsen of Montauk Shellfish Company and Terry Sawyer of Hog Island Oyster Company to talk about ocean acidification with shellfish farmers, scientists and government policy staff from the United Kingdom. After a long day of meetings we went to a pub in London to continue the discussion, and one of the UK farmers, Tristan Hugh-Jones of Rossmore Oysters, actually brought native oysters from his farm to share right in the pub. I’m not sure how much the pub employees appreciated it, but seeing all the growers compete for quickest and cleanest shucking job was entertaining for everyone.

Earlier that day we had hosted a workshop covering the impacts of ocean acidification, diseases and water quality issues that harm bivalve shellfish with UK shellfish farmers, scientists and government policy staff.  Fishermen, shellfish farmers and coastal communities in both countries rely on a healthy ocean as an economic resource, and they all want to keep it that way. The $51 million (£33 million) shellfish aquaculture industry in the U.K. employs over 700 people in areas with scarce employment opportunities. But this industry is in jeopardy: Carbon dioxide emissions, emitted by all nations, are creating more acidic seawater that harms a number of commercially valuable species including oysters, mussels, clams, corals and crustaceans.

A few U.K. shellfish farmers are becoming concerned over this environmental threat and want to learn more. At the workshop, they did just that. Bill and Terry, farmers from the U.S. Pacific Coast explained how ocean acidification contributed to multiple years of oyster seed die-offs to their industry almost ten years ago. Dan and Mike from the U.S. Atlantic Coast followed up noting that, while they have not yet felt any direct impacts, they are motivated to learn about this issue, and take preventative action to avoid the kinds of oyster die-offs the West Coast has experienced.

It’s common for crops of oysters to die unexpectedly in any location, including the U.K., but right now, there’s no way to tell in the U.K. whether this is due to acidification. During our workshop, U.K. scientists Dr. Rob Ellis and Dr. Silvana Birchenough presented research showing local bivalves and crustaceans grow slower and survive less often under acidification conditions in lab settings. They also projected that U.K. aquaculture and wild fishery industries in the future would suffer between $1.8 million (£1.4 million) and $11.8 million (£9.1 million) in annual loses depending on global carbon emission rates.

As individuals have become increasingly aware of the harm carbon dioxide emissions have on their daily lives, they have pushed their governments to act.  The commitments made during and following the COP21 Conference this past December were a huge step towards cutting back emissions around the world. And this September, the 3rd international Our Ocean conference offers another opportunity for countries to act on acidification and other global ocean problems such as marine pollution and overfishing.

The U.K. and other countries have made important commitments to protect the ocean through this conference series. And I for one hope that the voices of the shellfish farmers and other ocean users push our leaders to take even bolder conservation steps, because I like my oysters, and I want to eat them whenever I want in the future, with or without the beer.

Stay tuned tomorrow for photos and a report from the field trip our American delegation took to visit one oyster farm in Essex County. We were there to see their growing areas and learn about the local water quality. I’ll share what we learned in tomorrow’s follow-up blog post.

 

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This is How the Government is Preparing for Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12374

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) just took a huge step in preparing our ocean, fisheries and coastal communities for climate change. This type of foresight and required coordination is difficult, and hasn’t happened as often as it should in the past. The Western Regional Action Plan (WRAP) lays out why and how NFMS will develop, use, and apply science that helps West Coast fishery managers prepare for climate change.

In recent years, the California Current experienced a “climate change stress test.” Extremes such as rapidly warming waters contributed to a downturn in forage species like sardine, a northern shift of some fish stocks, and concerning mortality events for predator species like sea lions. These events are early signs of how more fundamental and permanent change will manifest themselves. Long-term changes cascade through the food web, affecting marine life as small as plankton at the base of the food chain, to top predators such as sharks. Humans are not immune; the shape of economically and culturally important fish stocks will shift (see an example from the Atlantic Ocean), and we’ll be forced to change the way we fish and eat.

The WRAP takes us further than ever before in addressing approaching ocean changes. NMFS identifies a better understanding of climate variability as critical to fulfilling their mission, and recognizes the significant impacts environmental change has on public trust resources. Ocean Conservancy, Wild Oceans, and others have asked NMFS to follow-through on their plan, and provided recommendations that will help move the plan forward. Help us thank NMFS and let them know their work matters.

According to Dr. John Stein and Dr. Cisco Werner, Directors of the Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers:

Climate variability drives the ecosystems of the California Current. Our multi-pronged WRAP approach will help us anticipate likely changes in distribution and abundance of our West Coast marine species and guide our response.  This effort complements our existing ecosystem management approaches, including NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Climate Vulnerability and Analysis to meet the demands for climate-related information and support NMFS and regional decisions.“ 

In implementing the WRAP, we urge NMFS to prioritize science that draws clear lines to management; science in and of itself will not prepare our fisheries and dependent communities for climate change. This process is not linear, but an iterative conversation between NMFS scientists, managers, and the public. In order to accomplish this, NMFS must also better understand the social and economic underpinnings of a healthy ecosystem. That means better incorporating humans into the way we think about ecosystem and fisheries science.

We look forward to implementation of the WRAP, and realizing a more robust ecosystem and healthy fisheries as a result. We also recognize this is just one part of a larger vision for managing our fisheries as part of a resilient and thriving California Current – more coordinated strategies are needed from NMFS as well as other federal agencies, state governments, and concerned citizens.

This blog was co-authored by Ocean Conservancy’s Corey Ridings and Wild Oceans’ Theresa Labriola.

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Caring for Crabs is Caring for the Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/23/caring-for-crabs-is-caring-for-the-coast/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:40:15 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12140

San Franciso Bay Area Dungeness crabber Captain John Mellor

“We’re like the Giants. We’re your hometown team,” said Captain John Mellor last week as he described the San Francisco Bay Dungeness crab fishing fleet. Capt. Mellor’s pride in his work as a crabber is paired with a love for what he does. But, his feelings are mixed with fear for the future. A West-Coast wide toxic algae bloom shut down the fishery last year, leaving him out of work for five months. Fishermen and researchers are also worried that ocean acidification could represent a looming threat to the fishery that could cause future fishing disruptions.

Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) pointed out that understanding ocean acidification’s effects on Dungeness crab is “an economic imperative” as he introduced Thursday’s briefing, which he co-hosted with Rep. Don Young (R-AK). He underscored the need to know more about how Dungeness will respond, because the commercial fishery and the recreational activities around the crabs are a particularly important financial engine for the West Coast.

After a screening of the new short film “High Hopes,” which offers a five-minute look at the concerns of scientists and Dungeness crabbers about the fishery, NOAA scientist. Dr. Paul McElhany and Capt. Mellor participated in a question-and-answer session with about 50 attendees. McElhany described his new research, which shows that young Dungeness crabs grow slowly under ocean acidification conditions simulated in the lab, and many don’t survive to adulthood. He explained, “It’s important to think about ocean acidification now, while the fishery is healthy,” to get ahead of any lasting problems that may arise in the water.

Mellor and McElhany both agreed that developing partnerships between scientists and the industry could go a long way towards providing data critical for understanding what Dungeness face. Mellor reminded attendees that seafood, including Dungeness, is “a public trust, but ultimately it’s the lifeblood of San Francisco Harbor.” So it’s important for us to take care of that. Continued strong research funding for ocean acidification’s research on species like Dungeness crab will go a long way towards caring for the family-owned fishing businesses and coastal communities on the West Coast.

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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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Moving Toward the Future of Fisheries Management http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/10/moving-toward-the-future-of-fisheries-management/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/10/moving-toward-the-future-of-fisheries-management/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 15:30:00 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5750

Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) hunting Pacific Sardines (Sardinops sagax) Pacific / California / USA (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

In Ocean Conservancy and Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report “The Law That’s Saving American Fisheries”, we make three key recommendations about how to improve the already vital law that governs our nation’s fisheries:

  • Minimize the habitat damage and bycatch of indiscriminate fishing.
  • Ensure that adequate forage fish are in the water to feed the larger ecosystem
  • Promote ecosystem-based fisheries management

That’s why we were so excited when the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (Council) recently reached a long-awaited milestone in transitioning toward an ecosystem-based approach to managing seafood harvest.  The Council’s adoption of a Fisheries Ecosystem Plan (FEP) establishes not only a comprehensive foundation for considering the condition of the California Current Ecosystem  in harvest planning and management, but sets a leading example for modernizing fisheries management across the globe.

How is ecosystem-based management different?  Instead of focusing on an individual ocean issues or species, the strategy shifts to the entire ecosystems in which such species or concerns exist.  So decision-makers then consider the habitats that ocean wildlife require at each stage of life, their roles as predator and prey, the natural variations in populations in different places and at different times, and of course the critical role played by humans—climate change, ocean acidification, demands for food and recreation, etc.

Until now, managing the vast and life-giving harvest of seafood from the world’s oceans has followed a species-specific approach. This has contributed to well-known and tragic consequences, such as collapsed fisheries and the communities that depended on them.

The Fisheries Ecosystem Plan adopted last month gives the Pacific Fisheries Council a dramatically more comprehensive and useful suite of information to consider when making decisions on fisheries policy.  The plan rests on a description of Pacific ecosystem dynamics that affect, and are affected by, Council harvest policy. It also establishes a set of initiatives to gather and assess additional ecosystem data for to use in future management decisions.  Critically, they can guide Council policy within individual fishery Management Plans and also inform effects and tradeoffs between them.  Initiative #1 will develop data and tools for use in managing the food base for Pacific fisheries – called “forage fish”, an essential ecosystem component, and assist in prohibiting fishing for currently unmanaged species of forage fish.  The Council will discuss this critical preventative measure in June.

Though the Fisheries Ecosystem Plan is informational for now, meaning it holds only advisory power, it is a critical step in establishing a foundation for truly ecosystem-based management.  The real effect of the plan will flow from its ecosystem initiatives, and action on the Forage Initiative in June will reveal how much early stock the Council is putting into its important new ecosystem plan.

These first steps taken in the Pacific region will hopefully serve as early indicators for the rest of the country as we work to promote and improve fisheries management.  Read more about the Law That’s Saving American Fisheries here.

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