National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program’s Executive Director Brad Warren speaks on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross about ensuring initiative 1631 provides a fair solution for working lands and working waters, as well as rural communities. He tackles some of the most common opposing viewpoints and shares why price-and-invest policies like 1631 are the ones that work best. Interview starts at 12:47. Or, to listen directly from the start of his interview, click here.
This commentary appears in the October 2018 issue of Pacific Fishing magazine
By Matt Marinkovich
In the mid-1980s, when I started seining with my dad for Fraser River sockeye, the Puget Sound fishery was already declining. But lately the consequences of a fraying marine food web are spreading far beyond the fishing fleet. Living in Friday Harbor, I have a front row seat.
That’s why I will vote for Washington’s Initiative 1631 in November. This ballot measure will deeply reduce the biggest source of pollution that degrades our waters: carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil and gas.
I’ve experienced some of the harm first hand. Local salmon stocks kept dwindling, so like many fishermen I migrated north. Now I fish in Bristol Bay, while back home whale watch boats and yachts have replaced fish boats in the harbor. Now they are worried too.
The endangered southern resident Orca whales aren’t getting enough fish to sustain themselves. These whales haven’t successfully raised a calf in over three years.
Is anyone surprised? Our resident orcas eat almost exclusively Chinook salmon. Just since I was a teenager, catch and escapement of these fish have dropped by more than half. Chinook in Puget Sound are down to about 10% of historic levels.
Scientists say the young Chinook themselves may be starving, especially when they first enter the Sound. November’s ballot measure offers a chance to tackle what might be the biggest problem —while we still can.
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels mixes into the water and acidifies Puget Sound. Scientists at the UW Labs in Friday Harbor have measured CO2-driven acidification at extremes that most marine waters aren’t expected to see for generations. It is dissolving the shells of tiny floating snails called pteropods, a major prey for young salmon. High CO2 and warm waters are fueling toxic algae that displace nutritious plankton eaten by salmon. Toxic algae are also forcing harvest closures in Dungeness crab and shellfish beds. Scientists say the impacts will keep getting worse until we confront the root cause.
Not every attempt to “cure” this problem deserves support from fishermen. Initiative 1631 does. It is a powerful and affordable tool to slash the underlying CO2 emissions.
Fishermen and tribal leaders intervened to improve this ballot measure, so resource-dependent coastal people get a fair shake. The Working Group on Seafood and Energy, the only fisheries trade association focusing on carbon emissions, endorsed the initiative and provided a lot of information for this article.
The measure will achieve deep emission cuts at low costs. It will also help fishermen and others afford to do their part, instead of just sticking them with a bigger fuel bill. This initiative will impose a modest “carbon price” on most fuels. Then it uses the money to fix the problem—investing it to help ordinary people boost fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and adapt.
This is a much stronger, fairer approach than the “carbon tax” (and mis-targeted revenue giveaway) that Washington voters rejected in 2016. I-1631’s “price and invest” approach provides funding that communities and businesses can use to build solutions that also benefit local industries. The money can build cold storages in coastal communities to eliminate trucking fish hundreds of miles to facilities in urban centers; retrofit vessels and vehicles to make them more fuel-efficient; and protect carbon-storing forested watersheds to ensure stable water supplies and draw down carbon.
Fishermen and tribes insisted on strong measures to ensure carbon revenues won’t be diverted and squandered. Now the initiative includes multiple layers of accountability, starting with the mechanism for collecting revenue: it’s a fee, not a tax. Legally, that means the money can only be spent to reduce emissions or to help people adapt to the impacts.
Marine fuels are exempt from the extra carbon price, so fishermen won’t pay a dime more at the fuel dock. Other fuels will be charged $15 per ton of carbon (around 14 cents a gallon of gas or diesel). That price rises at $2 (per ton) a year, with the proceeds invested in solutions. The price stops rising in 2035 if the state is hitting its emission targets, which it should, since most of the money will go directly into emission reductions.
This fee-based policy makes way more sense than the “carbon tax” voters rejected in 2016. This time, the initiative won’t give away money for tax breaks for big business and unfocused “rebates” to low-income people. Instead, I-1631 dedicates the revenue to actually fix the problem— isn’t that where the money should go?
Washington isn’t going it alone. Dozens of countries (including China) and state and local governments that represent about half the world economy have already enacted similar “price-and-invest” policies. That’s the kind of teamwork it takes to make a difference.
Killer whales and fishermen share a common interest in making sure the ocean can continue to support the fish we hunt. We need a strong, fair policy that will cut emissions. We need a policy like Washington’s I-1631.
Matt Marinkovich grew up fishing sockeye salmon on Puget Sound, fishes Bristol Bay today, and runs Matt’s Fresh Fish, selling direct to consumers and restaurants. He is an active advocate for a healthy Salish Sea.
Note: this op-ed was written with help from GOH Executive Director Brad Warren
On November 6th, Washington state will vote on Initiative 1631, a measure to curtail carbon emissions that drive ocean acidification and climate change
The initiative would put a fee on most fossil fuels purchased in the state and invest the proceeds to help people increase fuel efficiency, build clean energy supplies, and adapt to impacts. The price would start at $15 per metric ton of carbon emitted, which equates to roughly 13 cents per gallon of gas, or 15 cents for diesel. The price would rise at $2 per ton annually until the state is on track to hit its emission-reduction targets.
Fuel for fishing vessels will not be charged this fee. The initiative exempts marine fuels from the new carbon price, along with agricultural and aviation fuels.
However, vessel owners, vehicle owners, and seafood companies would be among groups qualified to apply for funding from the pooled carbon revenues — for example to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions through equipment retrofits.
Washington tribes and fishing community representatives negotiated successfully for a number of changes in the ballot measure last winter. They secured the provision to invest in fuel-efficiency in vessels and vehicles, along with other changes that allow resource-dependent communities to benefit from investments of carbon revenues. The aim of these investments is to help recipients afford to “become the solution.”
If the measure is approved, Washington would join dozens of nations and states worldwide that have enacted similar policies to price carbon emissions and invest the proceeds to increase energy efficiency and accelerate the transition to a cleaner economy.
Initiative 1631 has been endorsed by the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, an association representing fishermen, shellfish growers and fishery-dependent community leaders on energy and carbon policy.
The Working Group actively opposed a 2016 initiative in Washington to price carbon without investing in solutions, saying that approach would be costly and ineffective.
The group believes that revenues raised to tackle carbon emissions should be used for that purpose. They contend that merely relying on higher fuel prices to do the job is a recipe for failure and causes unnecessary economic harm to businesses and people —like fishermen, among others —who must burn fuel to earn a living.
The senior advisor to the Working Group is Brad Warren, Executive Director of the National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program. The program focuses on helping fishery-dependent people confront the root causes and the marine consequences of carbon pollution and other waste streams. It was formed by GOH at the behest of seafood industry leaders who wanted a better understanding of climate change consequences and solutions, and a forum to voice their concerns.
Two recent articles have come out based on a paper co-written with one of our board members, Suzanne Iudicello, and our Director, Brad Warren. This is the second article.
Seattle Times. May 10th, 2014. By Kyung M. Song
The Magnuson-Stevens Act was enacted in 1976 to protect fisheries collapsing from overfishing and poaching by foreign trawlers. But the upcoming fourth reauthorization of the main federal fisheries law has split American fishing factions by coastlines.
WASHINGTON — The nation’s chief fisheries law was enacted in 1976 in a climate of alarm: the oceans were losing fish faster than they could reproduce, and most of the diminishing harvests were being scooped up by an armada of Soviet and Japanese factory trawlers.
In response, Congress passed the legislation now commonly called the Magnuson-Stevens Act. It asserted exclusive American fishing rights out to 200 miles from shore. It also entrusted the federal government to protect Alaska pollock, Atlantic haddock and hundreds of other stocks from overfishing and to guard the water’s bounty for perpetuity.
Today, the fight to ensure sustainable fisheries has turned entirely domestic.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act expired last September. Republicans in the House Natural Resources Committee and Democrats in the Senate Commerce Committee have released separate bills to update the 2006 reauthorization.
The dueling drafts have split fishing factions by coastlines. Bering Sea crabbers and West Coast commercial groundfish harvesters, for instance, want the law’s conservation measures left largely intact.
But some of their counterparts in New England and the Gulf of Mexico are demanding key changes. The collapse or overexploitation of such iconic stocks as cod and red snapper have battered their livelihoods and curtailed sport fishing, and the fishermen want more elastic mandates on overfishing and on rebuilding depleted fish populations.
Meanwhile, recreational anglers, a sizable economic force, are pressing harder than ever to amend the law to secure longer, predictable fishing seasons and permission to hook bigger trophy fish.
The schism has hardened despite — or because of — the fact that U.S. fisheries on the whole are rebounding from catastrophic overfishing that pushed some species to possible extinction.
In 2006, “overfishing was so endemic everyone realized we needed to take measurable steps,” said George Geiger, former chairman the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils responsible for overseeing the law.
“There is much more acrimony associated with this reauthorization.”
The heightened tension reflects high stakes. Commercial fishermen hauled in $5.1 billion worth of fin fish and shellfish in 2012, the latest economic data available. That in turn generated another $34 billion in income for processors, wholesalers and all who touch the seafood on its journey to the table.
In Washington, the seafood industry supports 61,000 jobs, fourth-highest behind California, Massachusetts and Florida, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Seattle is home to major seafood processors and most of the Alaska crabbing fleet.
Read more here
Two recent articles have come out based on a paper co-written with one of our board members, Suzanne Iudicello, and our Director, Brad Warren. This is the first article.
Rollcall.com. May 7th, 2014, By Eric Shwaab and Bill Hogarth
Healthy oceans and well-managed fisheries improve coastal economies, enhance recreational fishing opportunities and provide fresh, local seafood to consumers. And while many fisheries around the world are in serious decline, the United States benefits from one of the most sustainable and profitable fisheries management systems in the world. It is a system that is built on sound science and incorporates strong local input from fishermen and others. Under current law, our management practices are rebuilding many depleted stocks of fish and ensuring a sustainable fishing future for fishing communities long struggling with a variety of economic and environmental challenges.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, introduced in 1976, which has been at the center of much of this progress, is presently before Congress for reauthorization. Initially, the law used subsidies and other programs to provide access to and manage what was perceived as a near-limitless supply of fish. Over time, however, many of our iconic fisheries — such as the New England cod and Gulf of Mexico red snapper — became severely depleted. In response, fishermen, conservation groups and congressional leaders came together in 1996 and again in 2006 to improve the law and protect our fishermen’s livelihoods. These changes formed the foundation of our current sustainable fisheries management system.
As former directors of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, we were both fortunate to have been present and helped implement these key bipartisan reforms to the Magnuson Act. These reforms have demonstrably improved the health of our oceans, sustainability of our fish stocks and the viability of many local fishing economies. We especially appreciate the hard work of fishermen, regional fishery managers, scientists, and conservation groups who continue to implement these policy advances on the water.
Overfishing (catching fish faster than they can reproduce) is now at an all-time low, and both 2011 and 2012 saw record recovery of depleted fish stocks. A recent status report detailed a total of 34 species have been returned to healthy levels in the past 13 years, including scallops, whiting and king mackerel. All fish populations in the United States are now managed under science-based plans. The act also has safeguards against overfishing and long-term depletion. And we know these plans are working: Recent analysis shows that 90 percent of fisheries have successfully stayed within science-based catch limits.
Read more here
The Daily World, April 5th, 2014. By Brionna Friedrich
The frightening impacts of a changing climate are sometimes unavoidable, but an upcoming workshop takes a proactive look at how to cope with changing coastlines and ocean chemistry.
“If we can snatch opportunity out of the jaws of climate change, we’ll be doing a smart thing,” said Eric Swenson, communications and outreach director of Global Ocean Health. “That’s a real message I hope resonates and people can act on. Can we benefit from the coming circumstances?”
The non-profit initiative focuses on the impacts of ocean acidification, the absorption of carbon dioxide into ocean waters, which is already impacting local industries like shellfish growers.
It specifically works with seafood producers and coastal communities on options for adaptation.
The free workshop, set for Tuesday in the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen, will connect climate change and ocean acidification experts with local and regional policymakers and the general public.
The morning session, from 9 a.m. to noon, will feature speakers on changing aquaculture and how marine plants and grasses can help absorb CO2.
Stephen Crooks, climate change program director for Environmental Services Associates, has recently briefed the White House and the United Nations on the impacts of estuary restoration, Swenson said. “Now he’ll be doing a briefing for the Washington coast in Aberdeen,” he said. “We’ve got some actual world-class folks on the agenda.”
Marine and coastal vegetation provides opportunities, from contributions to overall estuary health to a possible commercial enterprise, harvesting food and biofuel.
“This isn’t pie-in-the-sky, people are doing this and making money at it in Asia,” Swenson said.
It could also provide a tool for shellfish farmers. Acidic ocean waters can decimate delicate oyster larvae.
“If you can just move the meter a point or two in some key areas, it’s the difference between life and death,” Swenson said.
“There’s a fair amount of research that shows that when shellfish and seagrasses co-exist — the right kind of seagrasses — it’s to the benefit of both,” he continued.
“We will be looking at how plants sequester the carbon. The salt marsh plants, for instance, do a job that’s about five times as effective as a tropical forest, so photosynthesis can really be made to work for us.”
A free lunch will be offered before the afternoon session, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., which will discuss local planning and policy processes that can help in preparation for a changing coastline.
“We’re bringing (ocean acidificaton) into a wider context of what the coast is going to look at in 20, 30 or 40 or more years, and it’s going to be very different than what it is now,” Swenson said. “By trying to consider what the coastline is going to look like with the higher sea, we may be able to shelter shellfish, we may be able to protect our estuaries, which are such nurseries for a variety of sea life.”
“If we learn to plan for it well, sea level rise might be more than just a problem — which it certainly will be — but an opportunity,” Global Ocean Health Director Brad Warren wrote in a press release. “Higher water will make more room for estuarine ecosystems that can sometimes chemically shelter vulnerable larvae from corrosive waters. It won’t be a smooth transition, but sea level rise may open up new areas for farming shellfish and marketable marine macroalgae. It will increase coastal habitats that support hunting and fishing and expand the nursery grounds that support most of the world’s seafood supply.”
Some basic understanding of ocean acidification will help for those who attend the workshop, Swenson said, but scientific expertise isn’t a requirement.
“I think people who have at least a fundamental grasp of what we’re talking about will be better served by the meeting, but it is designed to be open to the public, free of charge, with that free lunch included, in an attempt to draw in people who want to learn more about this,” Swenson said.
The Rotary Log Pavilion is located at 1401 Sargent Blvd. in Aberdeen. No registration is required for the workshop.