Ocean Currents » West Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:47:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Ingredients to Make a Smart Ocean Plan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/the-ingredients-to-make-a-smart-ocean-plan/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/12/07/the-ingredients-to-make-a-smart-ocean-plan/#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:39:51 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13437
Ocean Conservancy congratulates the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for finalizing the first smart ocean plans in the United States. As they move into implementation, we look forward to continuing our work in the regions to help coastal communities and our ocean continue to thrive!

This process has come full-circle since 2004 when a commission appointed by President George W. Bush released the “Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century,” which called for coordinated governance of offshore waters based on sound science and regional collaboration.

While we celebrate the success of these two ocean plans, we wanted to take a moment to look at what the main components of a smart ocean plan are. You can also take a deeper dive into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ocean plans.

Reaching this milestone moment made us realize that a smart ocean plan has a lot in common with a good apple pie.

For an apple pie, there are some basic ingredients you need like apples, sugar, flour and butter in addition to your own creative flavor preferences and a carefully tested process to end up with a delicious creation that is a unique showstopper.

That’s how it goes with smart planning. It requires a few specific ingredients that are important to use when making decisions about our ocean, that build the foundation for smart planning that benefits the ocean environment and ocean economy. And in order to make the plan really work, each region builds upon those ingredients to tailor it specifically to their unique preferences and needs.

Main Ingredients for an Ocean Plan

Meaningful public participation

The people who live near, or work on or around the ocean are the ones that know it the best. A smart ocean plan will seek to engage a broad and diverse range of ocean users—often called “stakeholders” because they are invested in having a healthy natural resource—through a wide variety of engagement strategies, including public sessions like webinars, local and state-based meetings, open forums and more. Experts on specific subjects like renewable energy and fisheries managers are often invited to share their experiences in order to lay the best foundation for important decisions about the future of our ocean.

By consulting with as broad a diversity of people as possible, these smart ocean plans build on a strong foundation of local knowledge and expert advice, leading to the creation of a robust decision-support tool.

You can learn more about some of the people who have been involved in ocean planning at  www.keeptheoceanworking.com

Based in sound science

Sound science has to be the cornerstone of decisions that impact our ocean, which is an important ecological and economic engine for our planet. Ocean planning relies upon a wealth of existing knowledge as well as new information that is collected after any gaps in knowledge are identified through stakeholder engagement process.

Ocean planning takes into account a complex web of information, such as species distribution and migratory routes, wind and wave speeds, fishing and commercial shipping, as well as social and cultural factors important to communities along the coast. It also takes into account when and where activities happen. By collecting information that already exists and bolstering it with new science and research priorities, ocean planning helps build a map of what, where and when activities are occurring. As a result, smart ocean plans can balance the needs of ocean users and the environment, and present win-win options.

Head on over to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast ocean data portals to explore some of that information!

Coordinated decision-making

Did you know there are over two dozen agencies and 140 laws and regulations that govern our ocean? A smart ocean plan encourages a coordinated approach to decision-making. States and federal agencies, tribes, fisheries management councils and other bodies can work together with the public to share common sources of data and information. It allows for decision-making that spans from the local to the federal level. In the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic for example, various agencies came together and agreed to increase coordination in a voluntary basis, which will lead to improved decision-making and better results for local communities!

Adaptive management

Nothing in life is ever certain. Plans must be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions—be it economic, environmental or social. A smart ocean plan will be a “living” document, which means it is periodically reviewed to assess if it meets the needs of the people and responding to changing priorities in the region. And as part of the unique regional flavor, there will be complementary processes that allow for changes that take into account the public and other stakeholders.

To ensure thriving coastal and ocean economies, smart ocean plans have embraced a locally-driven approach that raises the voice of ocean users supported by rigorous science to inform decisions. This is meant to be an adaptive process that can respond to changes in the environment and economy, thus ensuring decisions are made with respect to current and future needs.

We applaud the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for their work in developing these regionally-driven, locally-based smart ocean plans that will help strengthen coastal economies and conserve our ocean environment for generations to come. As other regions like the West Coast, begin to plan for the sustainable management of their offshore resources, they can use this basic ingredient list and add a bit of their own spice, to create a unique, beneficial document for their coastal and marine economies and environment!

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West Coast Holds Regional Planning Body Kickoff Meeting http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/11/west-coast-holds-regional-planning-body-kickoff-meeting/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/11/west-coast-holds-regional-planning-body-kickoff-meeting/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 14:30:39 +0000 Amy Trice http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13317

For the past few months, we have talked a lot about ocean planning on the East Coast especially with two regional ocean plans released in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Now, we are excited to share news from the West Coast!

Last month, the West Coast Regional Planning Body (WCRPB), comprised of federal, state and tribal representatives from California, Washington and Oregon as well as the Pacific Fishery Management Council held its first official meeting since signing its charter. On October 26 and 27, I attended the meeting in Portland, Oregon, where dozens of individuals from local, state and federal government, ocean user groups, non-profit organizations, tribes and more came together to start the conversation around a regional, collaborative approach to ocean management.

The National Ocean Council Director Deerin Babb-Brott opened the meeting with encouraging words for the West Coast, underscoring support from the White House and sharing some of the lessons learned from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ocean planning process. He highlighted the value of a ground-up approach, stressing the importance of stakeholder engagement throughout the entire planning process and the need to think collaboratively as a region. Ensuring proper engagement with a diversity of ocean users groups and the public is critical to a successful planning process. Babb-Brott further urged the WCRPB to embrace the knowledge of the tribes in the region—twelve of which have representatives that sit on the WCRPB.

Ocean planning on the West Coast will build upon state-level planning that is already underway in both Washington and Oregon. The WCRPB will take a sub-regional approach to ocean planning, in an effort to accommodate the large and diverse marine ecosystem from Southern California to the Canadian border. This sub-regional approach highlights a unique factor about regional ocean planning across the country: Each region that decides to create a plan for their ocean can design the plan in a way that meets their region’s current and future needs, while ensuring the plan fits in with existing management structures.

The WCRPB is now focused on three major areas of discussion. They include:

  1. Defining the sub-regions
  2. Identifying regional issues and priorities that the planning process should address
  3. Ensuring data and information is regionally relevant through the West Coast Ocean Data Portal

I applaud the RPB’s collaboration to date and look forward to engaging as they move forward in the process!

Information on the West Coast Regional Planning Body can be found here.

Slides from the October 2016 meeting are available here.

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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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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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Update: Forage Fish Protection Begins on the West Coast http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/04/update-forage-fish-protection-begins-on-the-west-coast/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 12:00:55 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12008

I have another fin-tastic update for you, from the West Coast!

If you recall, about five weeks ago I wrote in gratitude over the outpouring of support from Ocean Conservancy activists, who together with other conservation supporters sent nearly 100,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking them to finalize protection for West Coast forage fish.

We said we’d get back to you on the final outcome and I’m happy to tell you about this victory! As of today, the final rule is complete and these fish will now be protected, and their immense importance to a range of predators from rockfish to whales to seabirds sustained.

The final rule will prohibit fishing for a list of 11 types of small, schooling marine species—including one that accounts for more than half of all deep-sea fish biomass—unless first reviewed and determined sustainable by federal fisheries managers.

In addition to the tremendous positive impact on the marine ecosystem, NMFS provided a big shout-out in support of the role of our activists in their decision, saying

Several letters from environmental organizations included petitions supporting the action, with signatures or comments from 91,966 people supporting the action… NMFS appreciates the broad public interest in this rulemaking and has taken the strong public support it received during the comment period into account in its approval of this final rule.

We’ll keep swimming forward to support corresponding forage protection in other West Coast areas such as California state waters, and keep you posted. Thanks again for helping make this historic conservation achievement possible!

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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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Thanks to YOU, Fish Conservation Swims Forward http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/19/thanks-to-you-fish-conservation-swims-forward/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/19/thanks-to-you-fish-conservation-swims-forward/#comments Fri, 19 Feb 2016 22:48:28 +0000 Greg Helms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11519

Late last month, ocean advocates and supporters took action to help protect the base of the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystem by supporting a ban on commercial fishing on unmanaged forage fish in federal waters.  And, I was so excited to see that a tidal wave of Ocean Conservancy’s supporters took action, sending more than 17,000 letters to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking for final approval of this important measure!

Since this campaign is joined by a number of ocean conservation groups around the country, NMFS has received nearly 100,000 total public comments on the issue.  WOW—that’s a big amount of support for such little (but important fish). So, thanks to YOU!

I bet you’re wondering about the outcome—did all of these messages have a BIG impact? Am I writing to tell you about a victory? Well, not quite yet! We won’t know the final outcome until perhaps springtime whether this measure will become law. Stay tuned—I promise to report back, when we have more information.

But, we can say we’ve made an incredible showing for conservation, thanks to YOU. 

Meanwhile, we can report that this effort has prompted further action along the West Coast. Back in 2012, fish managers in California adopted a visionary policy on forage species to recognize the special importance of forage species to the California marine ecosystem.  The federal rule on forage fish protection—that you helped advance with your recent action—also provided an opportunity to extend those protections to California. And, early this month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials did just that, scheduling forage fish protection similar to the federal rule for implementation this year.

So, big thanks to our resource managers in California as well.

Let’s hope for more two-for-one deals for ocean conservation in 2016!



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