Washington’s Promising Pollution Story Starts With Oysters And Ends With Victory

ThinkProgress.com, by Natasha Geiling

Oct 28th, 2015

When Alan Barton first arrived at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in 2007, he wasn’t expecting to stay very long. The hatchery — the second-largest in the United States — was in trouble, suffering from historically high mortality rates for their microscopic oyster larvae. But Barton knew that in the oyster industry, trouble is just another part of the job.

As manager of the oyster breeding program at Oregon State University, he had already helped one oyster larvae breeding operation navigate through some tough years in 2005, when a bacterial infection appeared to be causing problems for their seeds. To combat the issue, he had created a treatment system that could remove vibrio tubiashii, an infamous killer in the oyster industry, from the water.

Barton made the winding two-hour drive up the Oregon coast from Newport to Netarts, thinking his machines could easily solve whatever was plaguing Whiskey Creek. But when Barton’s $180,000 machine turned on, nothing changed. The hatchery was still suffering massive larvae mortality — months where nearly every one of the billions of tiny larvae housed in the hatchery’s vast network died before it could reach maturity.

Two-hundred miles up the coast in Shelton, Washington, Bill Dewey was also stumped. As director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish, the country’s largest producer of farmed shellfish, he couldn’t figure out what was causing the hatchery’s tiny larvae to die in huge numbers. He knew aboutvibrio tubiashii, so when the die-offs began, Dewey called Barton and asked if they could install his machines at Taylor Shellfish’s own hatchery in the Puget Sound. And like at Whiskey Creek, the machines did little to stop the mysterious waves of death that were consuming the hatchery’s oyster larvae.

Back in Oregon, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-vessel rocked by persistent summer winds was approaching Newport. Dick Feely, a senior scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, was just halfway through the first-ever survey meant to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the surface waters of the Pacific Coast. Already, he could tell from the few samples they had collected that he and his team had the material for a major scientific paper. He called his boss at NOAA to tell him that there was something wrong with the water. It seemed that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, propelled by the burning of fossil fuels, was also increasing the acidity of the water.

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Seafood Producer’s Guide to Reducing Emissions, v1.1

Global Ocean Health is often asked what seafood producers can do to reduce their carbon emissions. While the emissions produced by the entire worldwide fishing industry are just a fraction of a fraction of a percent of global greenhouse gas production, if we want to stand as stewards of the ocean, it’s better to, “Walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” If seafood producers act as drivers for change, then being able to show you’ve made the effort to cut your own emissions footprint makes your stance more credible. Tackling ocean acidification involves not only driving better education, research, and policy, but also doing your bit to reduce emissions.

For the first time, accurate energy audits have been conducted on small commercial fishing vessels in Alaska, as part of a program initiated by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) and Sea Grant. “People in Alaska are familiar with home energy audits and this is basically a similar concept but on a fishing vessel. It becomes more complicated because there are more systems and different types of activities when you’re operating in different fisheries, things like that,” says Julie Decker, Director of AFDF.

The results from the 12 boats in phase one of the study were incorporated into an Energy Analysis Tool to help fishermen understand their vessel’s energy use and what equipment and operational changes could improve usage. In phase two, AFDF plans to launch a simpler version of the survey available via smartphone or over the web and is looking for more vessels to volunteer to participate. “You can see how much your hydraulics are using, or the main engine is drawing when you’re running around from fishery to fishery or how much your DC and AC systems are drawing, whether it’s for refrigeration, or what not,” says Decker. Go to their website to learn more about their energy audits, and read the story on AFDF’s search for volunteer vessels.

The list of possible actions in our guide is by no means complete, and we’d like to hear from you to help us improve it. Have you or your business done something that successfully reduced your carbon output, or encouraged others to do so? How did it turn out as a return on investment? Many companies find they end up saving money when they institute cuts in energy or fuel usage. We’d love to hear your stories, whether concerning your car, home, vessel, or company. And if you have questions for us, feel free to email info@globaloceanhealth. Thanks for reading, and happy fishing.

A few examples:

• Reduce vessel weight – weight control reduces the amount of power necessary to achieve a certain speed

• Maintain the bottom – in order to reduce drag, keep the bottom of the boat as smooth as possibly by removing marine growth and any other unnecessary elements

• Check the exhaust – exhaust from a well-maintained diesel engine is almost invisible

• Check the prop – bent blades, dings, or eroded edges cause the boat to consume more fuel

• Plan the route and timing – taking advantage of tides, currents, and predicted winds can easily save a lot of fuel

• Use a fuel meter on boats, and adjust the throttle to find the “sweet spot” in RPM where fuel consumption drops but speed is sufficient to meet the tides and delivery schedules (see graph below). Installing a simple device like a FloScan meter can help skippers optimize fuel use and vessel speed

• If you run an auxiliary diesel genset or two on your boat, consider a high-efficiency hydraulic generator from GenTech Global- Used with a good fuel meter, this system uses a proprietary software controller to run a generator directly off the main engine (no matter the rpm of the main), replacing a diesel genset, and cutting the cost of generating onboard electrical power in half—or better. The system is particularly valuable for some working vessels that need power for pumps, refrigeration, and other onboard systems

• Consider a Fitch fuel catalyst on your vessel engine. This simple device enhances fuel combustion; reduces emissions, injector fouling, and fuel consumption

• If you ship seafood, avoid airfreight wherever possible- Ship by water if you can, by rail or road otherwise. Airfreight dominates embedded emissions in most products that are shipped by air; it dwarfs everything else

picture of fuel efficiency• Slow down – This graph (extracted from a fuel efficiency audit) shows that increasing speeds greatly increases the power necessary and therefore the amount of fuel consumed. Decreasing your speed by just 1 knots could reduce your fuel cost by as much as 50%

• Got food waste or seafood processing waste? Compost it, or make fuel out of it. If it goes to the landfill, this waste frequently will form methane in the anoxic conditions below ground. Methane has ~21 times the insulating, warming power of CO2. A well-aerated compost pile converts the carbon into new soil material, where it becomes a useful nutrient instead of forming methane. You can also set up a simple biogas digester in a barrel and use it to generate fuel. If you burn it instead of venting it, biogas can replace commercially purchased fuel, shifting some of your energy demand to a carbon-neutral status. Instructions to do this are readily available on YouTube

• Ask your employees- Let your employees know that lowering energy costs and carbon emissions is important to your company. They may have a different perspective that could save you money and make your business greener.

• Don’t run more electrical than you need. Make certain that both on-shore and on-vessel you are not creating needless electrical draw. Turn computers completely off when not in use, as well as chargers, lights, printers – whatever the device, ensuring that small details are taken care of can make a real difference to your bottom line

• Consider adding a wind-powered charger or solar panels

• Keep good records- You only know whether you’re making an improvement (or making things worse) if you have good numbers on vessel performance, both before and after changes. At every fuel-up you should record fuel replaced, operating hours (from your hour meter or engine hour logbook), and if possible, distance traveled. Other observations such as changes in coolant and exhaust temperatures, oil temperatures and pressures, and speed over the ground (as indicated by GPS or LORAN readings) should be logged

• Do the math- Fuel is only one of the costs of your operation. You can’t manage what you don’t measure! Capital expenditure (the price of new equipment) and the value of your time and that of your crew are also costs. The cost of a solution, such as buying a new engine or even a new vessel, may be greater than the savings that could be realized. As fish prices, fuel costs, regulations, and other factors change, it is important to recalculate the trade-offs

• At home, work, or on-vessel – unplug, unplug, unplug. It’s convenient to keep that cell phone charger plugged in, and no harm done, right? Wrong. It continues to draw power even when no device is charging. Many electronics draw power even when turned off  – especially cable boxes; but also DVD/BluRay players, stereos, gaming consoles, etc. And don’t walk away with your computer on – screensavers or “sleep mode” are not the same as off. All these little things add up, and besides making a difference collectively, you might even see a drop in your monthly electricity costs.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Fuel Efficiency Initiative
Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program

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.

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Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses

June 5th, 2014, By Carl Zimmer, The New York Times

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the United States Army Corps of Engineers got to work on a massive network of levees and flood walls to protect against future catastrophes. Finally completed in 2012, the project ended up costing $14.5 billion — and that figure didn’t include the upkeep these defenses will require in years to come, not to mention the cost of someday replacing them altogether.

But levees aren’t the only things that protect coasts from storm damage. Nature offers protection, too. Coastal marshes absorb the wind energy and waves of storms, weakening their impact farther inland. And while it’s expensive to maintain man-made defenses, wetlands rebuild themselves.

Coral reefs have proved valuable to coastal regions by helping to blunt shore erosion from storm waves. - Reuters

Coral reefs have proved valuable to coastal regions by helping to blunt shore erosion from storm waves. – Reuters

Protection from storms is just one of many services that ecosystems provide us — services that we’d otherwise have to pay for. In 1997, a team of scientists decided to estimate how much they are actually worth. Worldwide, they concluded, the price tag was $33 trillion — equivalent to $48.7 trillion in today’s dollars. Put another way, the services ecosystems provide us — whether shielding us from storms, preventing soil erosion or soaking up the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming — were twice as valuable as the gross national product of every country on Earth in 1997.

“We basically said, ‘It’s an imprecise estimate, but it’s almost definitely a pretty big number, and we’ve got to start paying attention,’” said Robert Costanza, a professor at Australian National University who led the study.

That study proved to be hugely influential. Many governments, from Costa Rica to the United Kingdom, started to take the value of ecosystem services into account when they planned environmental policies. But the study also set off a lot of controversy. Some economists argued that it was based on bad economics, while some conservation biologists argued that price tags were the wrong way to save ecosystems.

Seventeen years later, the debate is getting re-energized, just as the nation becomes immersed in an intense fight over the Obama administration’s attempt to tackle the emissions that scientists say could threaten many of these ecosystems. Dr. Costanza and his colleagues have now updated the 1997 estimate in a new study, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, and concluded that the original estimate was far too low. The true value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is at least three times as high, they said.

“As we learn more, these estimates increase,” Dr. Costanza said.

That’s putting it mildly. The enormous rise in the price tag stems from hundreds of new studies carried out on ecosystems around the world. Taken as a whole, these studies reveal that ecosystems do more for us than Dr. Costanza and his colleagues could appreciate in 1997.

Coral reefs, for instance, have proved to be much more important for storm protection than previously recognized. They also protect against soil erosion by weakening waves before they reach land. As a result, Dr. Costanza and his colleagues now consider the services provided by coral reefs to be 42 times more valuable than they did in 1997. They estimate that each acre of reef provides $995,000 in services each year for a total of $11 trillion worldwide.

 Most of the 17 services that Dr. Costanza and his colleagues analyzed in 16 different kinds of ecosystems — including tropical forests, mangroves and grasslands — also turned out to be more valuable. When they added up all their new figures, they came up with a global figure of $142.7 trillion a year (in 2014 dollars).

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Carbon taxes? Inslee wants a look


By John Stang, crosscut.com

Gov. Jay Inslee wants a climate change panel to consider a cap-and-trade program on industrial emissions and a carbon tax to be sent to the Washington Legislature as recommendations.

Meanwhile, the panel’s two Republican members want the economic costs of any climate change-related proposals researched before any are adopted.

The panel met Monday in Olympia with each of its five members — Inslee, two Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators  — saying what he or she wants explored more. “My concerns is that we go forward without determining the costs to the the people of Washington state of going forward,” said panelist Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

“We’re going to look for the single most cost-effective way of doing this,” Inslee said.

Inslee wants the upcoming recommendations to come with the best available estimates of how much carbon emissions each will trim from the state’s long-range greenhouse-gas picture. That is to ensure that the panel’ meets the goals set by a 2008 law.

In 2008, Washington’s Legislature set a goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions to 25 percent below Washington’s 1990 level by 2035 and to 50 percent below by 2050. So far, nothing has happened. Early this year, Inslee successfully lobbied the Legislature to set up a task force to map out how those goals can be reached. The task force is supposed to have recommendations for the state Legislature by Dec. 31.

“Failure is not an option to meeting these legislatively mandated goals,” Inslee said.

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Carbon pricing is catching on around the globe — just not in Washington, D.C.

June 5, 2013  By John Upton

More than 40 national governments and 20 states or other “sub-national” governments are now charging polluters for emitting greenhouse gases, or plan to start in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The U.S., of course, is not one of the countries with a national cap-and-trade plan or carbon tax, but California and parts of New England are pushing ahead despite Congress’ refusal to act.

All in all, about 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases are now priced — the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the total 50 gigatons emitted annually worldwide. Not a lot. But, says the report, “If China, Brazil, Chile, and the other emerging economies eyeing these mechanisms are included, carbon pricing mechanisms could reach countries emitting 24 [gigatons of CO2 equivalent] per year, or almost half of the total global emissions.”

From The Washington Post:

The World Bank report also notes that many cap-and-trade programs are beginning to join together — California is partnering with Quebec, and the E.U. has joined up with Switzerland — which, in theory, should make it easier for companies to make the easiest cuts first. And many programs are trying to expand coverage. Australia and Korea are hoping to get 60 percent of their emissions covered, while California is aiming for 85 percent.

That said, the World Bank concludes that there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to avoid the worst effects of global warming. “The current level of action puts us on a pathway towards a 3.5–4°C warmer world by the end of this century, [which] would threaten our current economic model with unprecedented and unpredictable impacts on human life and ecosystems in the long term.”

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