The film crew records an exciting moment on the Miss Britt II.
Last week, two filmmakers and I went to South Florida to document how ocean acidification can touch communities, like Miami’s, that don’t depend heavily on shellfish harvests. Known for its marine life, beaches, coral reefs and sunny weather, Miami and much of Florida rely on these natural assets to drive the local fishing and tourist industry. Coral reefs are the key link, because they provide habitat for vast numbers of fish—including many of the sport fish that make Florida’s charter fishing industry a must-visit for thousands of tourists each year.
Can you imagine a family in the same business for eight generations? Talk about dedication and deep expertise! That is what struck me when I met the Haward family, who has been farming oysters since the 1700s. Last month in West Mersea, England, I had the privilege of visiting Richard Haward’s Oysters. I was hosted by Richard himself, along with his son Bram. These men have inherited a craft honed by their great, great, great, great grandparents, but they are living in a time of unprecedented environmental change. And that is precisely why I was there, along with four American shellfish farmers. Specifically, we traveled to the United Kingdom to talk about ocean acidification and how it threatens the livelihoods and traditions of people who rely on the sea.
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.
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.
Ocean acidification is one of those big, scary problems that scientists have been warning us about for years. Carbon emissions are being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic – spelling trouble for oysters, clams, mussels, as well as corals, salmon and even sharks. We know that reducing global carbon emissions is key to solving ocean acidification. The UN Climate Meeting in December was a resounding success, but what can people and states do, today, that will make a difference to their communities and businesses impacted by acidification? Turns out, quite a lot.