Fight Ocean Acidification: Yes on WA Initiative 1631

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

Acidification & Climate: Carbon price-and-invest measure on WA ballot

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.

Working Group members Terry Williams of Tulalip Tribes, Larry Soriano of Alaska Ship Supply, and Scott Coughlin; with GOH Deputy Director Julia Sanders

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.

Email Brad directly at brad@globaloceanhealth.org. Visit and like the Working Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seafoodandenergy/.

Washington’s gas-price surge not enough to deter summer travelers

Comment from Global Ocean Health: “The Seattle Times reports that drivers aren’t hanging up their car keys to avoid high fuel prices this summer. No surprise. This report further confirms one of our main findings from research on policies that seek to reduce carbon pollution: Price signalling alone is not the best tool in the kit. Effective carbon policies go beyond merely putting a price on the carbon released by burning fuels. They use the money from a carbon price to help people afford to “become the solution.” That means investing to boost fuel efficiency, produce more clean energy, and reduce both the pollution and the costs that come from burning more fuel than we need.”

Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, July 6th, 2018

Over the past year, a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Washington gas prices have soared over the past year to among the highest in the country, but that’s not expected to change anyone’s summer driving plans, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA of Washington, said her organization projects about 47 million Americans traveled during the Fourth of July holiday stretch, a 5 percent increase over last year.

Surveys from AAA clubs around the country indicate that Seattle will be among the top three domestic destinations, behind Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., Cook said. That’s partly because the city is a starting point for cruises to Alaska.

Still, this year’s rising costs at the pump are nowhere near the record set on July 6, 2008, when regular unleaded reached $4.35 a gallon.

While higher prices in Hawaii and Alaska are attributed mostly to the cost of transporting fuel, in Washington, Oregon and California, prices are boosted by stricter standards for fuel cleanliness, Cook said.

Washington drivers pay 67.8 cents per gallon in taxes, 49.4 cents a gallon to the state and 18.4 cents to the federal government. That’s the second highest gas tax in the nation after Pennsylvania, where drivers pay nearly 77 cents per gallon.

Eastern Washington has less expensive gas than the western part of the state because the region uses cheaper, dirtier crude oil from Montana rather than the cleaner kind imported from Alaska and Canada, she said.

Of those travelers — about one million of whom originated in Washington — 85 percent traveled by car, she said. And the travel boom is forecast to last all summer, likely setting new records, she said.

Read more here

Northeast Carbon Market Keeps Delivering Major Benefits to All

New report details sustained economic and environmental gains enjoyed by states participating in regional carbon cap-and-trade market.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, continues to succeed at reducing pollution, creating jobs, and boosting economies for all participating states. It’s no wonder that Virginia will soon add its name to the RGGI states, New Jersey is in the process of rejoining, and that states are exploring ways to reap the benefits of carbon markets to drive investments in transit and cleaner mobility options.

A new report released last month by the Analysis Group found that, over the past three years, RGGI helped grow participating states’ economies by $1.4 billion, while adding 14,500 job-years (equivalent to full-time jobs for one year of employment). Nine states participate in RGGI, including the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Key findings from the report are detailed in the infographic below.

Figure 1

RGGI is a cap and trade program; it requires energy producers that emit carbon dioxide to buy pollution allowances through an auction process. This means that they must internalize some of the costs of carbon pollution related to fossil fuels. It also incentivizes investment in cleaner fuel sources.

Altogether, since the program was implemented in 2009, the nine RGGI states have collected $2.8 billion in auction proceeds. States typically use RGGI auction revenues to pay for energy efficiency and clean energy programs – a “cap-and-invest” approach that further cuts emissions, reduces energy costs, and creates jobs. When states invest RGGI proceeds in energy efficiency, they get the biggest “bang for the buck” as they add more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment. RGGI also helped reduce by $1.37 billion the amount of money sent out of the region to import fossil fuels.

Read more here

Global Ocean Health May 11th fundraiser – join us for oysters, salmon, crab and more aboard the F/V North American

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Join us aboard the F/V North American (as seen on “Deadliest Catch”) for an oyster bar, salmon, crab, beer, wine, and other delicious local foods.  Check out the suite of emissions-reducing, fuel-saving technologies onboard and support National Fisheries Conservation Center’s Global Ocean Health program.

Learn how we’ve enabled local fishermen, seafood businesses, tribes, and coastal communities to modify a proposed carbon pollution law in Washington so it protects abundant waters and gives fishermen a fair deal. Initiative 1631, which will be on statewide ballots in November, would provide carbon revenues to reduce emissions and cope with unavoidable consequences of carbon pollution. It includes funding to enable owners of vessels and vehicles to invest in efficiency-improving technology on vessels and funding to help adapt to and remediate the effects of ocean acidification. Also included are funds to protect healthy forests, watersheds, and resource-dependent communities from climate impacts.

National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program have been part of the waterfront for decades: spreading the word and exploring how to tackle ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, warming/species shift, and other changing conditions. This is your opportunity to show that work matters to you.

Hear from Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish and Pete Knutson of Loki Fish Co about the work of Global Ocean Health in ensuring that the ocean continues to produce the fish and shellfish we love, for our grandchildren and beyond. Participate in our silent auction and help the organization grow. We hope to see you there!

Buy your tickets at: https://globaloceanhealth.brownpapertickets.com

Opportunities for sponsorship or donation of food or products are available – reply for more information. If you can’t attend but would like to make a tax-deductible donation, visit: http://globaloceanhealth.org/donate/.

Thank you to our Gold Sponsors:

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Thank you for your support — looking forward to seeing you May 11th!

Brad Warren, Director

Julia Sanders, Deputy Director

Special thanks to all our generous in-kind donors: Taylor Shellfish, Grand Central Bakery, Proletariat Wine, 192 Brewing Company, Baywater Shellfish Company, Olympia Oyster Company, Morning Glory Chai, The Central Co-op, Jensen’s Smokehouse, Anne Kroeker and Richard Leeds, Palisade, Chinook’s, Key City Fish, Vicki Sutherland-Horton, Chandler’s Crabhouse, Holly Hughes, Candere Cruising, Alki Kayak Tours, Seattle Theater Group, Jeffrey Kahrs, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Heronswood Gardens, Marche Restaurant, Cynthia Blair, The Old Alcohol Plant, Sleeping Lady Resort, Bellflower Chocolate, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Clipper Vacations, Northwest Outdoor Center, Beacon Charters & RV Park, OceanLink, Claire Oravec, Caffe Appassionato, Vicki and Marc Horton and of course Erling Skaar/GenTech.

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