Submit Your Razor Clam Survival Theory to Our “Panel of Doom”

razor clams, clam digging, Moclips, long beach, coastal, washington

Classic picture of clam diggers on the coast of Washington.

The pacific razor clam is an exceptionally meaty and delicious shellfish found on the outer coast beaches of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Washington has the largest area of razor clam habitat, with five beaches (including all 24 miles of Long Beach), some small stretches in state parks, as well as some co-managed on tribal land. It is an incredibly popular recreational fishery, with many people rushing out to gather their 15 clam quota at every opening. Speak to a local, and you’ll often hear of a tradition stretching back through several generations of their family.

Dan Ayres, the Department of Fish and Wildlife manager of the razor clam fishery, will even tell you that razor clams helped his grandfather survive the Great Depression. “He would ride down to the beach before dawn on the sideboards of a Model T, and harvest razor clams to trade for staples like milk and butter,” says Dan. For the local tribes, razor clams are important to both community identity and subsistence.

For the small rural communities where tourists flock for their quota, the razor clam makes

The author, Julia Sanders, on her first razor clam dig: night at Moclips Beach, WA

The author, Julia Sanders, on her first razor clam dig: night at Moclips Beach, WA

all the difference economically. The fishery is managed to provide for small monthly digs, rather than one big dig, to make it more beneficial for local businesses. An average season generates $22 million in economic revenue, and this last year (2013-2014), a banner year for clamming, generated over $40 million with over 450,000 digger trips. The author herself visited Moclips Beach this winter and had a ball learning to dig razor clams (see picture). For places like Moclips, razor clam revenue is the difference between a functioning economy or not – as they painfully learned during harmful algal bloom closures in 1999 and 2003.

So here’s where ocean acidification and our respected readers come in: nobody knows what the potential effect of OA might be on razor clams. No OA research has yet been done on them. The Washington Ocean Acidification Center made razor clams a high priority species in their first request for research proposals, but there weren’t any takers. Apparently there have been struggles in learning how to keep larvae thriving in a lab environment (although some have done it: WDFW ran a successful hatchery in the 80s, and Alutiq Pride Hatchery restored razor clam population to an Alaskan beach). There is still hope of future research: Terrie Klinger, of the OA Center, says, “We would be very interested in funding research on razor clams in the next biennium should we receive additional funding for experimental work.” Jeremy Mathis, whose influential research on OA and Alaska’s fisheries made a big media splash this year, also considers razor clams to be of high importance. We already know that shellfish are often the most vulnerable to OA, so why did the razor clam just have one of its best years? Why have there been no indications, as yet, to them being at all bothered by changing ocean chemistry?

razor clam

The Pacific razor clam, which averages 3-7 inches in length.

YOU TELL US! We have put together a prestigious panel of judges who will be looking over the theories we receive from our illustrious readers as to just why the razor clam seems to be doing so well (so far) despite being on the front lines of corrosive upwelled water. Then the judges will be putting their heads together to name winners of our various categories, to be announced in the next Ocean Acidification Report. The judges will be Meg Chadsey, Ocean Acidification Specialist at Washington Sea Grant, Dan Ayres, Coastal Shellfish Lead Biologist for WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife, and Joe Schumacker, Marine Resources Scientist for the Quinault Indian Nation.
Here are some theories to get you thinking:

1. Could razor clams benefit from good timing? In other words, is it possible that because they mostly spawn in springtime, most of the young animals at their most vulnerable life stage meet water that is sweeter than in summertime, protecting them from upwelled CO2-enriched waters that clobber some other calcifiers that spawn in the summer? Many oyster farmers have changed the time of year when they release seed to avoid the summer upwelling that causes such high mortality in oyster larvae.

2. When some of the clams hatch out late, what are they doing to cope?

3. Because razor clam populations occur in areas that are regularly exposed to the variable chemistry of upwelled waters are they more tolerant of changes in ocean chemistry?

4. Does hiding your head in the sand really work? Some research has shown that razor clams might be better at surviving hypoxia (periods of low oxygen, killing water) because adults can dig a meter or more into the sand, perhaps allowing them to find better oxygenated water. Could the same be true when OA chemistry becomes unbearable? Juveniles “set” in the sand at 5mm. They don’t have the same digging power, but it may provide some protection.

5. Are they made out of siliceous rock and tank treads?

Our winner’s categories – with plenty of room for everyone’s point of view:

“Most creative speculation”
“Best overall explanation”
“Most extreme wild goose chase”
“Why being dead wrong is sometimes a great way to learn”
“Go directly to jail. Do not pass go.”

To dig into what is known about the razor clam, some links to get you started:
http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/2013_razor_clam_season_setting.pdf
http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/species_profiles/82_11-089.pdf
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/education/wns/razor_clam.pdf

Email theories to info@globaloceanhealth.org, or post on our Facebook page.
This is meant to be both fun and serious, so feel free to go wild with your best creative thinking. Beyond the prestige of seeing your name and theory in the next Ocean Acidification Report (which is mailed to over 6,000 readers in over 100 countries), Global Ocean Health will post the winners on Twitter (@GlobalOAHealth) and Facebook, and honor your contribution with a certificate (suitable for framing) to show all your friends. So please, get going and get us your theories in the coming month!

New Challenges for Ocean Acidification Research

SpaceDaily.com January 2nd, 2015
Kiel, Germany

To continue its striking development, ocean acidification research needs to bridge ocean acidification between its diverging branches towards an integrated assessment. This is the conclusion drawn by Prof. Ulf Riebesell from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Dr. Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Universite Pierre et Marie Curie.

In a commentary in the journal “Nature Climate Change”, the two internationally renowned experts reflect on the lessons learned from ocean acidification research and highlight future challenges.

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of “the other carbon dioxide problem”. It is time to reflect on the successes and deficiencies of ocean acidification research and to take a look forward at the challenges the fastest growing field of marine science is facing.

In the January issue of the journal “Nature Climate Change” Ulf Riebesell, professor for Biological Oceanography at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, and Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) urge the international scientific community to undertake a concerted interdisciplinary effort.

According to the two experts, future ocean acidification research will have to deal with three major challenges: It needs to expand from single to multiple drivers, from single species to communities and ecosystems, and from evaluating acclimation to understanding adaptation. “The growing knowledge in each of the diverging research branches needs to be assimilated into an integrated assessment”, Prof. Riebesell points out.

For the scientific community, it is obvious that ocean acidification does not occur in isolation. Rising temperatures, loss of oxygen, eutrophication, pollution and other drivers happen simultaneously and interact to influence the development of marine organisms and communities.

Read more here

Shopping on Amazon will Donate to Global Ocean Health at no Cost to You

Brad-Warren-2012Please support us with your holiday shopping this season – it won’t cost you an extra penny, and every bit helps! Your support is HUGELY appreciated. Thank you in advance! All donations will go directly to the Global Ocean Health program. Simply click on the link below to choose National Fisheries Conservation Center as your charity of choice and %.5 of your purchase will be donated to Global Ocean Health (a joint initiative of National Fisheries Conservation Center and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership). Every little bit helps in our fight to keep stakeholders properly prepared to fight the effects of ocean acidification, and we greatly appreciate any help you can give.

CAM00395And if you feel inspired to give a little more, please choose the paypal donation button on the right of this page, to donate any amount from $2 and up! It’s fully tax-deductible. We here at GOH pour our hearts into this program, and donate much of our time. We have been crucial leaders in the fight to save the the west coast oyster industry and reach out to coastal and fishery stakeholders, giving them a voice in the struggle (just check out our accomplishments section for a few stories of many). It would mean the world to us if you could find it in your heart to make a small donation toward our cause.

We wish you a joyous and peaceful holiday season, and look forward to continuing the fight to protect our productive ocean and abundant fisheries in 2015, with your support. GOH is Protecting Seafood at the Source, reaching across party lines to bring meaningful change to stakeholder protections and ensure ocean acidification research receives the support it needs to prepare us for the future. Thanks to all of you who have supported us on the way, and all of you that will support us in the future. We have big plans ahead.

Warmest Regards,
Brad Warren, Julia Sanders, & the rest of the team

 

Study Committee Calls for Maine to Act on Ocean Acidification

Portland Press Herald, Dec 2nd, 2014 By Kevin Miller

A report to legislators says more research and local efforts are needed to deal with the threat to shellfish, including lobsters and clams.

AUGUSTA — Maine should increase research and monitoring into how rising acidity levels in oceans could harm the state’s valuable commercial fisheries while taking additional steps to reduce local pollution that can affect water chemistry.

Those are two major recommendations of a state commission charged with assessing the potential effects of ocean acidification on lobster, clams and other shellfish. The Legislature created the commission this year in response to concerns that, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen, the oceans have become 30 percent more acidic because oceans absorb the gas.

Researchers are concerned that organisms that form shells – everything from Maine’s iconic lobster to shrimp and the tiny plankton that are key links in the food chain – could find it more difficult to produce calcium carbonate for shells in more acidic seawater. They worry that the acidification could intensify as carbon levels rise and the climate warms.

Although research on Maine-specific species is limited, the commission of scientists, fishermen, lawmakers and LePage administration officials said the findings are “already compelling” enough to warrant action at the state and local level.

“While scientific research on the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and individual organisms is still in its infancy, Maine’s coastal communities need not wait for a global solution to address a locally exacerbated problem that is compromising their marine environment,” according to an unofficial version of the report unanimously endorsed by commission members Monday.

The panel’s report will be presented to the Legislature after Monday’s final edits are incorporated. Those recommendations include:

Work with the federal government, fishermen, environmental groups and trained citizens to actively monitor acidity changes in the water or sediments, and organisms’ response to those changes.

 Conduct more research across various species and age groups to get a better sense of how acidification is affecting the ecosystem.

 Identify ways to further reduce local and regional emissions of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas produced by the combustion of fossil fuels – and to reduce runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that can contribute to acidification.

 Reduce the impact of acidification through natural methods, such as increasing the amount of photosynthesizing marine vegetation like eelgrass and kelp, promoting production of filter-feeding shellfish operations, and spreading pulverized shells in mudflats with high acidity.

 Create an ongoing ocean acidification council to monitor the situation, recommend additional steps and educate the public. This recommendation is the only concrete legislative proposal contained within the report.

Read more here

The pH is Falling! Oysters and Economics on the Hill

November 25th, 2014  By Kinberly Dunn, WWF Canada Blog

That’s right – the pH is falling. The pH of our oceans to be exact.

ocean acidification

WWF-Canada President and CEO, David Miller speaking at yesterday’s Oceans on the Hill event . © House of Commons

 

Yesterday afternoon, WWF-Canada and the All Party Ocean Caucus hosted an Oceans on the Hill event to highlight this global issue, which is generally referred to as ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification takes place when carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH. This naturally occurring process is accelerated by our fossil fuel emissions, resulting in global oceans that are now 26 per cent more acidic than before the industrial revolution.

Parliamentarians, staffers, industry reps, and NGOs gathered in Centre Block to hear from Bill Dewey, Manager of Public Policy and Communications for Taylor Shellfish Farms. Bill came to Parliament to give us an on-the-ground report of ocean acidification’s impacts on the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest. As WWF’s CEO David Miller remarked, Bill helped us to “make the connection between the global and the local.”

I come from the dual backgrounds of business and environmental management, so I was pretty excited when I learned that this Oceans on the Hill would not only connect the global to the local, but also provide a real-life, tangible translation of what acidification means for industry.

Oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest have experienced severe losses in recent years, since the acidification process also means a shortage of the carbonate ions that shellfish larvae need to build their shells. In some areas, there has been acomplete failure of wild oyster seed. The industry has been forced to adapt in order to survive.

Listening to Bill’s presentation – to the story of Taylor’s journey – I couldn’t help but recall this simple truth:

Environmental issues are never just environmental issues. Never.

They’re economic issues too. For ocean acidification, this means negative impacts for the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest. It means money spent on sophisticated water monitoring and treatment equipment, so that businesses can remain viable. Unchecked, it could also mean up to a trillion dollars a year in global economic losses by the end of the century.

And they’re people issues. For Canadian shellfish farmers and their supply chains, this means jobs in coastal, rural, and Aboriginal communities – many of which are filled by young people. It means opportunities for those communities to combat outward migration and keep people at home. And, most simply, it means the sustainment of a food source that has been an inherent part of coastal living for hundreds of years.

And so perhaps this was the greater message of yesterday’s event – for me, and for all those who attended. A reminder that it’s not environment or economy, as we are sometimes led to believe, but rather environment for economy. Environmentfor people.

And frankly – whether we’re talking about falling pH or something else – we can no longer afford to think about it any other way.

See article here

Surf Scientists Develop SmartPhin Against Ocean Acidification

Surfertoday.com, November 6th, 2014

Benjamin Thompson, founder of BoardFormula, had decided to invest his time and engineering knowledge in the protection of the environment and oceans. But how could he do it while riding waves?

SmartPhin answers that tricky question. Imagine thousands of surfers across the globe gathering and sharing information about their local breaks, and working cooperatively to fight global warming and ocean acidification.

The innovative project is competing in the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize, a two-million dollar race to create pH sensor technology that will affordably and accurately measure ocean acidification.

SmartPhin is more than just a surfboard fin. This multi-sensor hardware device is ready to collect information the moment you touch the water so that scientists can establish comparisons over time, in different regions of the planet.

Thompson believes in what he is doing, and SmartPhin will definitely hit the market. If you own a smartphone with Bluetooth technology and are willing to help understand how oceans evolve and can be protected, get ready. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego is already testing the surfboard fin.

US/NZ Host International Workshop on Ocean Acidification

August 27th, 2014  US Embassy Press Release

(Note from GOH: our staff member Todd Capson is a participant in this workshop and in article)

An International Workshop on Ocean Acidification: State-of-the-Science Considerations for Small Island Developing States

August 28-29, 2014

Apia, Samoa

Jointly hosted by New Zealand and the United States in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Parallel Event of the UN Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Leading international ocean scientists and policy experts are tomorrow gathering in Apia, Samoa to better understand the threat ocean acidification poses to Pacific Island nations.

The workshop, co-hosted by the United States and New Zealand Governments in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, will be held on the margins of the Small Island Developing States Conference, on the 28-29 August.

The workshop participants, who hail from the nations attending the Small Island Developing States conference, will discuss best practices, solutions and ocean acidification monitoring programmes for island nations to implement.

US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Marie Damour said US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean’ conference in June, highlighted ocean acidification as a key threat to the world’s oceans.

“The workshop, in addition to coming up with practical solutions for the challenge of ocean acidification in the Pacific, showcases the strong partnership between the US and New Zealand on oceans and science issues,” she said.

“As Minister Steven Joyce highlighted this week, the United States is New Zealand’s most significant research and technology partner,” she said.

This week’s Ocean Acidification workshop follows on from a workshop in Nelson in December 2013 which identified ways to future proof New Zealand’s $350 aquaculture industry. It was held in partnership between the US Department of State, the New Zealand Government, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Sanford Limited and the Cawthron Institute.

This week’s workshop, entitled ‘An International Workshop on Ocean Acidification: State-of-the-Science Considerations for Small Island Developing States’, was officially announced by US and New Zealand at the 45th Pacific Islands Forum in Palau held this year in August.

Speaking at the event will be Dr Todd Capson, an American oceans scientist and Science & Policy Advisor to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in Washington DC who also co-organised the Nelson event.

The organisations co-sponsoring the Ocean Acidification workshop are the US Department of State, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Read more here

Scientists Warn of Dangers from Ocean Acidification

Acid Seas Threaten Creatures that Supply Half the World’s Oxygen

Ocean acidification is turning phytoplankton toxic. Bad news for the many species – us, included – that rely on them as a principal source of food and oxygen.

June 16th, 2014 By Martha Baskin and Mary Bruno, crosscut.com

What happens when phytoplankton, the (mostly) single-celled organisms that constitute the very foundation of the marine food web, turn toxic?

phytoplankton pseudonitzschia_Their toxins often concentrate in the shellfish and many other marine species (from zooplankton to baleen whales) that feed on phytoplankton. Recent trailblazing research by a team of scientists aboard the RV Melville shows that ocean acidification will dangerously alter these microscopic plants, which nourish a menagerie of sea creatures and produce up to 60 percent of the earth’s oxygen.

The researchers worked in carbon saturated waters off the West Coast, a living laboratory to study the effects of chemical changes in the ocean brought on by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. A team of scientists from NOAA’s Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, along with teams from universities in Maine, Hawaii and Canada focused on the unique “upwelled” zones of California, Oregon and Washington. In these zones, strong winds encourage mixing, which pushes deep, centuries-old CO2 to the ocean surface. Their findings could reveal what oceans of the future will look like. The picture is not rosy.

Scientists already know that ocean acidification, the term used to describe seas soured by high concentrations of carbon, causes problems for organisms that make shells. “What we don’t know is the exact effects ocean acidification will have on marine phytoplankton communities,” says Dr. Bill Cochlan, the biological oceanographer from San Francisco State University oceanographer who was the project’s lead investigator. “Our hypothesis is that ocean acidification will affect the quantity and quality of certain metabolities within the phytoplankton, specifically lipids and essential fatty acids.”

Acidic waters appear to make it harder for phytoplankton to absorb nutrients. Without nutrients they’re more likely to succumb to disease and toxins. Those toxins then concentrate in the zooplankton, shellfish and other marine species that graze on phytoplankton.

Consider the dangerous diatom Pseudo-nitzschia (below). When ingested by humans, toxins from blooms of this single-celled algae can cause permanent short-term memory loss and in some cases death, according to Dr. Vera Trainer, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Fisheries Marine Biotoxins Program. Laboratory studies show that when acidity (or pH) is lowered, Pseudo-nitzschia cells produce more toxin. When RV Melville researchers happened on a large bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia off the coast of Point Sur in California, where pH levels are already low, they were presented with a rare opportunity, explains Trainer, to see if their theory “holds true in the wild.”

Multiple phytoplankton populations became the subjects of deck-board experiments throughout the Melville’s 26-day cruise, which began in mid-May and finished last week.

Another worrisome substance is domoic acid, a neuro-toxin produced by a species of phytoplankton. Washington has a long history of domoic acid outbreaks. The toxin accumulates in mussels and can wind up in humans. “Changes in the future ocean could stimulate the levels of domoic acid in the natural population,” says Professor Charles Trick, a biologist with Western University in Ontario, and one of the RV Melville researchers. Which means that the acidified oceans of tomorrow could nurture larger and more vigorous outbreaks of killer phytoplankton, which could spell death to many marine species.

Read more here

Device on Ferry Hull to Aid Ocean Acidification Research

June 16th, 2014, by Charlie Bermant, The Seattle Times

A device attached to the hull of a Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry will help scientists collect data on low-oxygen water and ocean acidification

PORT TOWNSEND — The state ferries system has attached a device to the hull of the MV Salish on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route to provide data on low-oxygen water and ocean acidification from Admiralty Inlet.

“This will help us understand Puget Sound much better,” said Sandy Howard, a Department of Ecology spokesperson.

“It provides a new piece of information that we never had before and will allow us to monitor current, velocity, temperature and the flow of fresh and salt water on a long-term basis.”

During a recent servicing, Washington State Ferries crews attached the sensor, an acoustic Doppler current profiler, to the bottom of the Salish, which makes 11 daily crossings between Port Townsend and Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

The sensor gathers data during the crossings of the area known as Admiralty Inlet, or Admiralty Reach, the gateway to the Puget Sound, where salt and fresh water merges.

The project is a partnership among Ecology, Washington State Ferries and the University of Washington.

It is supported by a $261,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rudder-shaped device, which extends about 40 inches from the middle of the hull, both stores and transmits data, according to Cotty Fay, chief naval architect and manager of vessel design for the ferry system.

The device is expected to last at least five years and will cause the ferry to have a “very small” slowdown of about 0.5 percent, Fay said.

“Every tide is different than the one before,” Fay said. “Over a long period of time, we will get a profile of how the water moves in and out of Puget Sound.”

Read more here