Ocean Currents » seafood http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Parlez vous oysters? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/06/parlez-vous-oysters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/06/parlez-vous-oysters/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:15:54 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10829

© YLM Picture

“Although each of the world’s countries would like to dispute this fact, we French know the truth: the best food in the world is made in France. The best food in France is made in Paris.” That is how “Ratatouille,” one of my favorite movies, begins. Now I don’t want to pick a fight over what city has the best food, but I think we can all agree that Paris has made a name for itself as a food destination and taste exporter. This December, Paris might become world-renowned for exporting something else that has a big impact on food: a global carbon pollution agreement.

For over twenty years, world leaders have struggled to tackle this problem that is ultimately caused by cars, airplanes, agriculture, factories, power plants and other sources at local levels. These leaders will soon meet again in Paris to negotiate a deal that holds countries accountable for their carbon emissions. This is a good thing for we know too well that carbon pollution in the atmosphere hurts the health of people, plants and animals, including the shellfish in our ocean. At Ocean Conservancy, I spend a lot of time thinking about how carbon dioxide emissions drives ocean acidification, and how increasingly corrosive seawater is impacting oysters and the whole ocean food web.

Seafood is an important part of food culture around the world, and it’s also a vital source of protein and jobs in many places. As a result, more and more people are talking about and taking action to tackle ocean acidification. Earlier this month I was in France talking with some of them at an oyster trade show. I was joined by US oyster growers and a US scientist to talk with members of the French oyster farming industry and research community about environmental threats such as acidification and disease. We told of the American experiences of mass die-offs, ongoing research, and work being done to limit the losses.

While the American oyster growers from the Pacific Northwest have certainly seen some of the most surprising and worst impacts of acidification so far, that doesn’t mean other growers are safe, and the East Coast and French growers are certainly starting to pay attention. The French especially have good reason — their industry is worth nearly $1 billion per year, employs thousands of people and supplies about 75% of all of Europe’s oysters. There’s a lot at stake, and there simply isn’t much data or monitoring available to determine when ocean acidification will impact them and how bad it will be.

Others around the world are trying to get a better handle on acidification as well, and as part of the “Pathway to Paris” movement to get a comprehensive international carbon emissions deal, acidification is getting more attention. On Monday during the second Our Ocean Conference in Valparaiso, Chile, the international community committed to expanding the network of marine sensors to better monitor and understand acidification.

The conversations between the American and French oyster growers and scientists were very promising, and as they continue, these individuals can help support the efforts of government officials working to reduce carbon emissions and protect their industry and our ocean. Let’s hope this progress on the ground sets off a groundswell of action to protect shellfish and other food sources worldwide this winter in Paris.

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Another Brick in the Wall: Plastics in the Seafood We Eat http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/24/another-brick-in-the-wall-plastics-in-the-seafood-we-eat/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/24/another-brick-in-the-wall-plastics-in-the-seafood-we-eat/#comments Thu, 24 Sep 2015 21:50:31 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10770 Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

If you have been reading my recent posts, you have noticed that I have been discussing the emerging science on plastic pollution in the ocean and exploring what we need to do to stem the tide. It started in February, when a groundbreaking study showed that 8 million tons (nearly 17 billion pounds) of plastic flows into the ocean each year, mostly from a small number of Asian nations where local waste management can’t keep up with rapidly growing plastic use. Then scientists estimated that nearly all the worlds’ seabirds will be contaminated by plastics by 2050 unless conditions don’t change.  And a study published only days later showed that half the globe’s sea turtles are likely to suffer the same fate. Today, we need to think carefully about the latest study, showing that plastics can be found in many of the fish that we eat. We don’t yet know if eating plastic-laden fish negatively impacts our health, but today’s study is another brick in the growing wall of scientific evidence that demonstrates that plastics are a major threat to the global ocean and ultimately, ourselves.

Roughly a quarter of fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained manmade debris—plastic or fibrous material—in their guts, according to a new study by Dr. Chelsea Rochman from the University of California, Davis and colleagues from Hasanuddin University in Indonesia. The study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, is one of the first to directly link plastic and man-made debris to the fish on consumers’ dinner plates. The researchers sampled 76 fish from markets in Makassar, Indonesia and 64 from Half Moon Bay in California. All of the manmade fragments recovered from fish in Indonesia were plastic. In contrast, 80% of the debris found in California fish was fibers while not a single strand of fiber was found in the Indonesian fish.

These patterns appear to be related to differences in waste management in the two countries. Indonesia has little in the way of landfills, waste collection or recycling, and large amounts of plastic are tossed onto the beaches and into the ocean and waterways. Meanwhile, the U.S. has relatively advanced systems for collecting and recycling plastics. Indonesia ranks second for mismanaged waste globally, producing ten times more mismanaged waste than the twentieth ranked United States. In contrast, most Californians wash their clothing in washing machines, the concentrated wastewater from which then empties into the ocean from more than 200 wastewater treatment plants along the coast. Rochman theorizes that fibers remaining in sewage effluent from washing machines were ingested by fish swimming offshore of the state.

So now we know that plastics are in the fish that we eat, fish like anchovy, rockfish, striped bass, Chinook salmon, sanddab, lingcod and oysters. What we don’t yet know is whether this puts our health at risk. But there is growing cause for concern. Scientists have shown that plastics contain a range of hazardous chemicals that are used during their production and also adsorb toxic chemicals once they reach the ocean. There is evidence that some of these chemicals can become bioavailable to a range of species from lugworms to seabirds to fish. Rochman and her colleagues conclude that “chemicals from anthropogenic debris may be transferring to humans via diets containing fish and shellfish, raising important questions regarding the bio-accumulation and bio-magnification of chemicals and consequences for human health.” Clearly more research is needed to quantify these risks and weigh any risk against the other well-known benefits of consuming seafood.

At Ocean Conservancy, we are committed to stopping plastics from getting into the ocean in the first place. If we can keep the ocean clean, we can keep plastics out of our seafood – and ourselves.

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Ode to Oysters (or, Happy National Oyster Day!) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/05/ode-to-oysters-or-happy-national-oyster-day/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/05/ode-to-oysters-or-happy-national-oyster-day/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 19:57:42 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10639

© Rick Freidman / Ocean Conservancy

Oysters – my all-time favorite seafood, and often my favorite food, period. I can be sitting in an oyster bar, miles from the ocean, and when I eat one I can practically feel sand between my toes and smell the salt in the air. I would eat oysters every day of the week if I could. But I understand that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. A quick poll among my colleagues revealed that people seem to fall into two camps – rabid oyster lovers, or those that think they taste like salty sea snot (I’m looking at you, George Leonard). But love them or hate them, oysters are a major part of the ocean and coasts we know and love, and National Oyster Day is the perfect time to learn a little more about these animals:

  1. They’re some of the hardest working animals in the ocean. An adult oyster is capable of filtering 25-50 gallons of water a day! Check out this time lapse from Florida Oceanographic Institute of a tank of oysters cleaning water. The entire Chesapeake Bay could be filtered in just five days before oysters were reduced to just 1% of their historic population. Speaking of the Chesapeake, it’s an Algonquin Native American word that means “Great Shellfish Bay.”
  2. They don’t just filter water– oyster reefs shelter fish and crabs, and with filtered water comes more seagrass, which is a feeding and breeding ground for other species that we love to eat – like rockfish and blue crabs.
  3. Oysters take on the flavor of the water where they’re grown. One of my favorite oyster businesses on the East Coast, Rappahannock River Company, has a fantastic little restaurant in Topping, Virginia, called Merrior. Owner Travis Croxton put a twist on the term ‘terrior,’ used to describe the environment in which a particular wine is produced, to describe the marine environment where their oysters are grown. East Coast oysters tend to be saltier and brinier while West Coast oysters tend to be a little sweeter.
  4. Oysters and oyster growers are vulnerable to ocean acidification. As carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, the sea water becomes more acidic, and oysters have trouble building their shells. In 2006 to 2008, some oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest nearly declared bankruptcy because they lost more than 80% of the baby oysters (or oyster larvae). The good news is that states like Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, and Maryland – where coastal communities depend on a healthy ocean to grow and harvest oysters, clams, mussels, lobsters – are taking action to tackle acidification. These actions include funding for research on commercially important species – like salmon or lobster – that may be impacted by acidification, and exploring ways to reduce pollution from land (like stormwater runoff and other types of coastal pollution) that makes acidification worse. And just last week Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) introduced a bill that would improve the monitoring of ocean acidification and direct federal agencies to examine how coastal communities would be impacted.
  5. The recently released Clean Power Plan is good for the ocean, and therefore oysters. While states across the country are doing what they can to address ocean acidification, to truly solve this problem we need to reduce the amount of carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean. The Clean Power Plan announced earlier this week aims to reduce emissions from power plants – the biggest sources of carbon pollution – by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. As an oyster lover I’m thrilled that we are now facing a future of cleaner air and cleaner water.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk of oysters is making me very hungry. Guess what I’ll be having for lunch today? And if you’re eating oysters today, don’t forget to take a #shellfie and tag Ocean Conservancy on Instagram or twitter – we’ll share it. Happy National Oyster Day!

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Tasting Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/15/tasting-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/15/tasting-ocean-acidification/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:14:58 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9695

Photo: Russell Illig

Pink shrimp raised in tanks that simulate the more acidic ocean expected in the future just don’t taste right, according to a recently published research paper from Sweden.  For the first time, a scientific study has looked at the effects of future ocean conditions on the taste of seafood.

Teaming up with a professional chef, the researchers cooked and served local shrimp that had been raised for three weeks in high carbon dioxide conditions alongside shrimp raised in regular conditions. Volunteer taste testers then tried both kinds of shrimp and scored them on appearance, texture, and taste.

Ocean acidification didn’t affect texture at all, but it significantly hurt the shrimps’ appearance and taste scores.  Shrimp raised under regular conditions were more than three times as likely to be rated the best shrimp on the plate, and the shrimp raised with high carbon dioxide levels were about three times as likely to be rated the worst on the plate.

“Ocean acidification is often referred as the silent storm because you can’t see it, you can’t hear it, and you can’t smell it, but our research suggests that you just may be able to taste it”, says lead author Dr. Sam Dupont, in a statement from the University of Gothenburg, where the research was performed.

The researchers did not study exactly why the flavor and appearance changed, but it’s well known that stressed animals produce poorer quality meat. In fact, fish under stress can have a metallic aftertaste. The stress of ocean acidification might have changed these shrimps’ metabolism enough that they didn’t store fats and sugars normally, leading to these changes.

These intriguing results suggest that there could be many hidden ways that global change will affect the things we care about. It’s not just about shellfish growing slower or sharks not smelling their dinner. It’s also about how our dinner might taste!


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An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Tons of Future Harvests http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/24/an-ounce-of-prevention-is-worth-tons-of-future-harvests/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/24/an-ounce-of-prevention-is-worth-tons-of-future-harvests/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:00:53 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9381 fishermen load scallops onto a boat

“Ocean acidification is a pocketbook issue here. It’s about dollars and cents and jobs,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell in Massachusetts at Monday’s conference on Ocean Acidification and Southern New England. Organized by the Woods Hole Research Center, this workshop brought together fishermen, planners, ocean acidification experts, and policymakers to jumpstart action on ocean acidification. Mayor Mitchell noted, “There is no more appropriate place to discuss ocean acidification” than in New Bedford, where smart fisheries management has led to a scallop boom.  In fact, the city is the sea scallop harvest capital of the U.S. and its port consistently brings in the highest commercial fishery revenue in the country each year.

The workshop began reviewing the science of ocean acidification as it relates to Massachusetts’ oceanography and fisheries. There’s still a lot to learn, particularly about how iconic fisheries like sea scallops and lobster respond to ocean acidification.  But it’s clear that there is a lot to be worried about in New England. Seawater acidity is greater in these waters today than it was 35 years ago.

Folks closely affiliated with the sea scallop, oyster, lobster, and other fisheries spoke about the multiple environmental challenges they face, from coastal pollution that results in harmful algal blooms, to ocean acidification and warming. Fortunately, ocean acidification hasn’t caused measurable losses to New England fisheries yet, as it has in the Pacific Northwest with the oyster industry. But it’s clear that decision-makers in Massachusetts are starting to sit up and pay attention.

Representatives of Massachusetts state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and NOAA, joined by State Reps. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) and Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket) highlighted new opportunities and many existing initiatives that can help partially address ocean acidification. The state already has goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions statewide and decrease land-based pollution flowing into waterways.

Attendees generally seemed to favor convening a statewide study panel, such as those in Washington State, Maine, and Maryland, to assess how Massachusetts’ existing goals might expand to address ocean acidification concerns and the additional knowledge that is needed. Certainly, there is a great deal of interest in taking preventive action against ocean acidification in Massachusetts, to protect this state’s valuable and iconic fisheries and the communities and people that depend on them.

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Ocean Acidification is About What We Eat http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/02/ocean-acidification-is-about-what-we-eat/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/02/ocean-acidification-is-about-what-we-eat/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 21:30:50 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5608

A Seattle Chef prepares crisp smelt while learning about the local impacts of ocean acidification – credit Zach Lyons

Earlier this April, Ocean Conservancy and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative co- hosted an event featuring what was probably the most delicious seafood in the world. The Seattle Chef’s Collaborative is a local chapter of a national organization that brings chefs together to meet, learn, and advocate. They are not a traditional conservation organization, but in this case were gathered to talk about little-known local species, a problem called ocean acidification, and to enjoy their colleagues’ creations featuring the very species discussed.

Ocean acidification, caused by rising CO₂ emissions being absorbed by the ocean can be a pretty daunting topic.  We are always asking ourselves, “how do we move this conversation from small groups of scientists and managers to the bus stops and dinner tables where most of us hang out”

Well, everyone has to eat, and for the most part, they enjoy doing so.

Some of our most favorite, most iconic species are oysters and shellfish.  So when you start to think that some of our activities on land might be jeopardizing those things in the ocean that we love, we get worried.   My colleague George Leonard spoke on a panel at the Edible Institute, a yearly gathering of leaders in the local food movement last month in Santa Barbara, and received a warm welcome connecting ocean acidification and the seafood on our plates:

“The audience wanted to know more, and was concerned that ocean acidification is not only affecting shellfish today but poses a serious threat to the broader ocean food web we all depend on.”

Local seafood — geoduck and herring, made for non-traditional but delicious sushi

My experience in Seattle was the same. Beyond getting to talk with interesting chefs and restaurateurs and enjoy amazing seafood and wine, it was most exciting to hear how interested and concerned they are about ocean acidification and its impacts on local food and businesses.  Right now oysters and oyster growers are living with the impacts of acidification – corrosive water nearly brought the Pacific Northwest industry to its knees.  Washington State is now the first state to tackle ocean acidification at a state level – Former governor Chris Gregoire convened an expert panel to address ocean acidification and provided $3.31 million for state efforts.   We recently made a video telling Washington’s story through the people most affected.

A growing body of science is telling a tale of changes in the ocean that could threaten  entire ecosystems from salmon to narwhales, and everyone who depends on them for livelihood, dinner, culture, or recreation. Chefs and other food-industry advocates are well-suited to talk about this subject and connect with others on it.  Not only do they depend on seafood for their art and livelihood, but they are natural story-tellers with an intuitive understanding of the connection between the natural world and our plates.

As we move forward facilitating discussion, educating on the threats, and promoting action to alleviate the ecologic and societal damages of ocean acidification and other ocean issues, it’s important that we remember why groups like chefs are so valuable and necessary to the tell the stories.  It’s the stories, the people, and the experiences that truly motivate and impassions not only the public and the policymakers, but ourselves as well.

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