Fight Pollution, Cut the Oil Boy’s Allowance: Pass I-1631, say Fishermen

Nov 2, 2018

By Brad Warren, Erling Skaar, Jeff Stonehill, Amy Grondin, Jeb Wyman, Pete Knutson, and Larry Soriano

Erling Skaar with the F/V North American

As voters consider a November 6 ballot measure to cut carbon pollution in Washington state, you might not expect fishermen and marine suppliers to defend an initiative that big oil—in a tsunami of misleading ads—claims will drive up fuel bills and achieve nothing.

Nice try, oil boys. Keep huffing. Initiative 1631 is our best shot to protect both our wallets and the waters that feed us all. We’re voting yes.

We depend on fisheries, so we need an ocean that keeps making fish. That requires deep cuts in carbon emissions. And yes, we burn a lot of fuel to harvest seafood and bring it to market—so we need affordable energy. Washington’s Initiative 1631 provides the tools to deliver both.

Carbon emissions are already damaging the seafood industry in Washington and beyond. This pollution heats our rivers and oceans and it acidifies seawater. These changes drive an epidemic of harvest closures, fish and shellfish die-offs, even dissolving plankton. Pollution is unraveling marine foodwebs that sustain both wild capture and aquaculture harvests—jeopardizing dinner for more than 3 billion people worldwide. Today Washington’s endangered resident orca whales are starving for lack of Chinook salmon. To us, that’s a sobering sign: No one catches fish better than an orca.

We are not amateurs or do-gooders. We are Washington residents who have built careers and businesses in fisheries. Several of us come from families that have worked the sea for generations. All of us have benefited from our region’s strict and sustainable harvest management regimes.

Our legacies and our livelihoods are being eroded by the ocean consequences of carbon emissions. Even the best-managed fisheries cannot long withstand this corrosion. Knowing this, we have done our homework. We opposed an ineffective and costly carbon tax proposed two years ago in Washington. We did not lightly endorse Initiative 1631. We pushed hard to improve it first.

We like the result. The initiative charges a fee on carbon pollution, then invests the money to “help people become the solution.” That is a proven recipe for cutting emissions and building a stronger, cleaner economy.

In the Nov. 6 election, Washington citizens have a chance to face down the oil lobby that has stifled progress on carbon emissions for many years. But we cannot watch silently as some of our neighbors fall under the $31 million blitz of fear-mongering ads that oil has unleashed to fight this measure. We know and respect people in the oil industry. But they are not playing straight this time.

Here we refute their misleading claims.

MYTH: Oil pays, but other polluters are unfairly exempted

REALITY: A fee on all heavy industries would kill jobs, exporting pollution instead of cutting it

If you want to cut pollution, it pays to aim. Targeting carbon prices where they work—not where they flop—is necessary to reduce pollution and build a stronger, cleaner economy. That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

For some key industries, a price on carbon emissions kills jobs without cutting pollution. That’s what happens to aircraft manufacturers, or concrete, steel and aluminum makers. They use lots of energy and face out-of-state competitors (I-1631 Sec. 8). Suppose we slap a carbon fee on them as the oil boys pretend to want. Sure enough, their competition promptly seizes their markets and their jobs, and factories flee the state. Way to go, oil boys! You left pollution untouched, and you crushed thousands of good Washington jobs!

By waiving the fee for vital but vulnerable industries, Initiative 1631 keeps jobs and manufacturing here in Washington. The initiative helps these companies reduce emissions over time, just as it does for the rest of us. In fact, it even reserves funds for retraining and assistance so fossil-fuel workers can transition to new careers. That could become necessary as the state migrates from dirty fuels to a cleaner, more efficient economy (Sec 4,(5)).

In a clean-energy future, Washington will still need local manufacturing and basic materials. Keeping these businesses here allows the rest of us to buy from local producers, instead of paying (and polluting) more to haul those goods back to Washington.

The oil boys also whine about Washington’s last coal plant, in Centralia. It is exempt from the fee because it is scheduled to close by 2025 under a legal agreement. Why shoot a dead man?

MYTH: This is an unfair tax on low-income families.

REALITY: The poor get help to cut fuel and energy bills.

Initiative 1631 provides both the mandate and the means to avoid raising energy costs for lower income people. Carbon revenues fund energy efficiency and more clean power—permanently reducing fuel consumption. The measure reserves 35% of all investments to benefit vulnerable, low-income communities (Sec 3, (5)(a)) —ensuring a fair share for those of modest means. It also funds direct bill assistance where needed to prevent unfair energy burdens on those who can least afford it (Sec 4, (4)(a)).

MYTH: The fee would burden businesses and households

REALITY: I-1631 will cut fuel bills by boosting efficiency, clean energy

Despite the scaremongering from oil companies, consumers and businesses are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in states that have policies like I-1631. How? Carbon revenues fund more clean energy and fuel-saving improvements (such as heat pumps, solar and wind power, and fuel efficiency retrofits). That’s what 1631 will provide in WA. These investments reduce fuel bills. Even the big oil companies use internal carbon pricing, as do hundreds of major corporations. Their internal prices drive energy efficiency and lower emissions in their own operations, cutting their costs; they also help position the firms to thrive in a carbon-constrained world. If this didn’t pay, big oil wouldn’t do it. Big oil producers like Exxon hate spending money on fuel they don’t need to burn. They just don’t want the rest of us to have the same tool.

Nine East Coast states are using carbon revenues to cut both their fuel bills and their emissions. Their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) helped them avoid spending $1.37 billion on imported fuel in the last 3 years alone.  If refineries do pass along Washington’s fee to consumers (as we expect), households and drivers here will still reap the same kind of benefits as ratepayers back East: efficiency and clean energy investments funded by the fee will reduce our energy bills. A heat pump alone can cut home heating costs by half to two thirds. The fee starts in 2020 at less than 5% of today’s gasoline prices, and rises to about 13% by 2030. Fuel efficiency investments help protect people who still need fuel-burning trucks and vehicles: you can’t haul timber or fish to market with a bus pass. For those who cannot switch to transit, electric vehicles, or low-carbon fuels, the initiative funds fuel efficiency improvements (Sec 4, (1)(d)(iii)). The resulting fuel savings can easily outpace the cost of the fee. One example: HyTech Power, in Redmond, sells a system that increases combustion efficiency in large diesel engines, saving at least 20%. This retrofit alone (one of many proven options) could save diesel users more than the future cost of the carbon fee projected by its opponents.

MYTH: I-1631 is an unproven policy.

REALITY: Price-and-invest policies are clobbering pollution in other states.

Pete Knutson with the F/V Loki

Carbon price-and-invest policies are delivering strong results worldwide. Here in the US, a price-and-invest policy helped California cut emissions enough to surpass its 2020 goals back in 2016—four years early. The East Coast states in the RGGI price-and-invest system have reduced their emissions by 50% since 2009, far surpassing their goal. By cutting harmful pollution, the multi-state RGGI program avoided $5.7 billion worth of healthcare costs and associated productivity losses, saving hundreds of lives. From Maryland to Maine, the RGGI program generated 14,500 job-years of employment and net economic benefit of $1.4 billion during 2015-2017 alone. This program saved ratepayers more than $220 million (net) on energy bills over the last three years. The nine RGGI states achieve this by committing 70% of their carbon revenues—about the same as I-1631—to increase efficiency and clean energy. That’s a recipe for success.

MYTH: 1631 lacks oversight, will waste money.

REALITY: Accountability and oversight are robust.

Accountability is built into this initiative from the ground up, starting with the revenue mechanism: It is a fee not a tax, so the money can’t be diverted. By law, fee revenues must be spent addressing the problem the fee is meant to tackle—in this case reducing carbon pollution and its many costly consequences in Washington. That means no pet projects, and no sweeping money into the general fund.

All investments must earn approval from a 15-member public board that includes experts in relevant technology and science, along with business, health, and community and tribal leaders (Sec. 11). The legislature and board will periodically audit the process to ensure effectiveness (sec. 12).

The oversight panel is deliberately designed to hold state agencies accountable. Washington treaty Indian tribes—who both distrust and respect the agencies— insisted that public members must hold more votes than bureaucrats, who get only four voting seats (Sec. 11 (5)). That power balance restrains the agencies’ ability to grab funds, yet it ensures the panel can tap their genuine expertise. To lead the oversight board, a strong chairman has an independent staff within the governor’s office. This provides the spine and staff power needed to ride herd on agencies and lead a crosscutting mission to combat climate change—a task that spans authorities and talents found throughout the state government.

A word about wasting money: If the oil boys honestly believed 1631 would waste our money, they wouldn’t fear it. They condemn the fee, but we know the price doesn’t worry them, since they use carbon prices themselves. They have poured more than $31 million into fighting 1631—the most expensive initiative campaign in Washington history—for one simple reason: The money will help the rest of us buy less fuel. Pity the oil boys. By passing this initiative, voters can cut their allowance.

Let’s do it.

Note: The authors are Puget Sound-based fishermen, marine suppliers, and policy leaders.

Fishing Industry Businesses Endorse I-1631

FOR IMMEDIATE GENERAL RELEASE:

October 23, 2018

To whom it may concern:

Erling Skaar with his Bering Sea crab vessel the F/V North American. It’s outfitted with his GenTech system, allowing it to operate with far lower emissions and fuel costs than similar vessels.

We write today to announce our support for Washington’s Initiative 1631. As businesses who rely on healthy fisheries for a significant portion of our income, we believe this is a well-designed policy that offers us – and our customers – the best possible chance against an uncertain future fraught with the threats of changing ocean conditions.

It’s become clear that our fisheries need a lifeline. Here in Washington, we are experiencing the worst ocean acidification anywhere in the world. Research has firmly established the cause of this problem: emissions from burning coal, oil and gas mix into the ocean, altering its chemistry. The consequences loomed into headlines a decade ago when the oyster industry lost millions and nearly went out of business during the oyster seed crisis. Temporary and limited adaptation measures in hatcheries are keeping them in business, but in the rest of the oceans, fisheries that put dinner on billions of tables are at risk. Here in the Northwest, harvests are already being eroded and even shut down by the effects of unchecked carbon emissions.

The “warm blob,” an unprecedented marine heatwave off the West Coast, reached its height in 2015 and caused mass fatalities. In the Columbia River, a quarter million salmon died. The largest recorded toxic algae bloom shut down the Dungeness crab fishery for months. The food web crashed, and marine creatures were spotted farther north than ever before. Sea surface temperatures never returned to their previous norm, and new research indicates another blob is forming.

Summers have become synonymous with a smoky haze from wildfires causing poor visibility and poor health – this summer the National Weather Service warned even healthy adults in some Washington areas to stay indoors due to hazardous air quality. At the same time, our iconic Orca whales are starving from a lack of Chinook salmon. The Chinook in turn are suffering from a lack of the zooplankton that juveniles eat.

Research has made it clear that some of our most lucrative fisheries are vulnerable to ocean acidification: king crab, Dungeness crab, and salmon. Scientists also warm that combining stressors – like warming with ocean acidification – makes survival in the ocean all the more precarious.

We studied to understand how to protect our businesses and the natural resources we rely on. The answer was clear: reduce carbon emissions. Reduce them now, and reduce them as quickly as possible.

This is where I-1631 comes in. This fee on carbon, which starts at $15/ton and rises by $2/year, will raise around a billion dollars a year. That revenue will be spent on clean energy projects, energy efficiency, and climate resiliency. Fisheries and ocean acidification projects are specifically included as priority investments.

Maritime fuels will be exempt, so struggling fishing vessel operators won’t pay any additional cost for their fuel. However, they will still qualify for energy efficiency funding. Many of our businesses offer technologies that greatly increase efficiency: sometimes by more than 50%. But over and over, we hear from our customers that despite the obvious advantages and quick return on investment, they simply don’t have the capital to invest in energy efficiency. A billion dollars a year, every year, would provide unprecedented access to that sorely needed capital. Businesses and fleets of vessels or trucks would reap the savings in energy costs, and our environment would reap the benefits of lowered carbon emissions. It’s an obvious win-win.

The fee will likely add about $.14/gallon to the cost of diesel for road transportation, and other energy costs will rise a bit too. But the additional cost could be eliminated by just a 5% increase in efficiency in year one; even in year ten, a 14% increase in efficiency would more than pay the fee. Such efficiency gains are easily achievable with existing technology. Fleets of vessels could be outfitted with more efficient engines or generators, processing facilities could receive grants for more energy efficient refrigeration systems or boilers.

The initiative will also fund work to prevent and mitigate wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events, and research to understand the threats to fisheries and investigate mitigation methods.

And the truth is, we’re already paying much more for climate change than I-1631’s fee will cost. We don’t just pay in harvest closures, reduced catches, and lost jobs. We get stuck with an out-of-control tab for the impacts of carbon pollution through our taxes and insurance bills.  Since 1980, the US economy has already endured climate disaster costs of more than $1.5 trillion, according to NOAA. That works out to nearly $10,000 for each individual taxpayer. And those costs are rising. In 2017, NOAA reckons that extreme weather disasters rang up a $306 billion bill in the US. That’s another $2,000 a year on each of us who do the work and pay the bills around here.

In Washington alone, the $1 billion in wildfire response cost since 2014 adds up to a cost of $371 per household. Enough already. I-1631 will combat these threats. Washington will join a global network of price-and-invest policies with a proven track record of improving economies, creating jobs, decreasing health costs, and dramatically reducing emissions. The initiative protects critical Washington industries that can’t afford an added fee, and ensures that low-income households bear no additional burden. It gives tribes and rural communities their due, and because it’s a fee rather than a tax, the funds can never be diverted for other uses: not for the general fund, not for pet projects. The revenue can only be used for emissions reductions and climate resiliency.

Along with a diverse coalition including labor, tribes, physicians, and environment and science experts, I-1631 is also supported by major Washington businesses. Vigor, Microsoft, Expedia, Virginia Mason, MacDonald Miller, and REI are just a handful of the biggest endorsers. We proudly add our names to theirs, and ask other businesses to join us.

For more information contact the Working Group on Seafood and Energy at info@globaloceanhealth.org.

Sincerely,

Erling Skaar
F/V North American and GenTech Global

Pete Knutson
Loki Fish Co

Matt Marinkovich
Matt’s Fresh Fish

Amy Grondin
Duna Fisheries

Greg Friedrichs
F/V Arminta

Mike Cassinelli
Beacon Charters

Lars Matthiesen
Highland Refrigeration

Bob Allen
MER Equipment

Larry Soriano
Alaska Ship Supply

Robert Loe
Robert Loe & Associates

Mining power: EPA’s Pruitt aims to short-circuit Clean Water Act

By Jessica Hathaway  

Three days before the deadline for public comments on the proposed Pebble Mine project  in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to create a rule limiting the agency’s ability to regulate projects under Clean Water Act guidelines.

These are the exact guidelines that commercial fishermen and local tribes urged Obama-administration EPA officials to invoke to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska’s salmon gold mine.

In a memo dated Tuesday, June 26, Pruitt directed the EPA’s Office of Water to submit the following changes, at minimum, to the Office of Management and Budget within the next six months:

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”

• Requiring a regional administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.

• Requiring a regional administrator to review and consider the findings of a final Environmental Assessment or environmental impact statement by the Corps or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.

• Requiring the agency to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.

“The guiding principle should be to provide landowners, developers and entrepreneurs with certainty that the EPA will not short-circuit the permitting process… before taking any steps to veto a permit application,” the memo reads.

Mining permits are typically submitted by massive global corporations that have the lawyers, lobbyists and money to push through the permit phase. Users of clean water are typically lowly individual American citizens with an ever-dwindling influence on their federal government.

No one who has followed the Pebble process for the last two decades could possibly say the fishermen pulled a power play over the massive Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. A multinational company named “dynasty” can hardly invoke a pity party for lack of power.

Thousands of Bristol Bay’s fishermen have fought hard to protect their livelihood from being invaded by a foreign investor who is free to cut and run after it makes its 50-year cash-out investment in Pebble — leaving behind the toxic waste resulting from the metals mining process. Forever.

This singular victory for a sustainable fishery and a renewable resource hardly warrants EPA’s attempt to shut down one of the few powers we have as citizens to protect our access to a public resource.

Source: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/viewpoints/alaska/mining-power-epas-pruitt-aims-to-short-circuit-clean-water-act/

Climate Change May Be Creating A Seafood Trade War, Too

June 15th, 2018, Marshall Shepherd, Forbes.com

One of the grand challenges that I find as a climate scientist is conveying to the public the “here and now” of climate change. For many people, it is still some “thing” that seems far off in time or distance from their daily lives of bills, illness, kids, and their jobs. Ironically, climate change touches each of those aspects, but the average person does not often make the connections. People eat seafood and fish, but most people will not make any connections between tonight’s dinner of flounder, lobster or mackerel to climate change as they squeeze that lemon or draw that butter.

A new Rugters University study caught my eye because it is a good example of a “here and now” impact. Climate changes is causing fish species to adjust their habitats at a more rapid pace than current policy can manage. Many species of flounder, lobster, mackerel and crab are migrating to find colder waters as oceans warm.  The study suggests that such shifts may lead to international conflict and reductions in fish supply. Seafood is a pawn in the trade chess game.

NOAA

Fishers on deck

Researchers at Rutgers University say that an obsolete and outdated regulatory system has not kept pace with how the ocean’s waters are warming and shifting fish populations. I actually wrote a few years ago in Forbes about how warming waters were shifting crab populations in the North Pacific and affecting fishers as well as one of my favorite TV shows, The Deadliest Catch. This new study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world, Science, has provided new insight that has implications for our food supply and potential international conflict. According to a press release from the university:

for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.

Malin Pinsky is an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study. He, postdoctoral associate James Morley and a group of international co-authors reported that commercially important fish species (in other words things you like to eat and that many depend on for sustenance) could continue to migrate further northward in search of colder waters.

Read more here

Fish Stocks Are Declining Worldwide, And Climate Change Is On The Hook

December 14, 2015, NPR.org, Claire Leschin-Hoar

A fisherman shovels grey sole, a type of flounder, out of the hold of a ship at the Portland Fish Pier in Maine, September 2015. New research finds the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe. The worst news comes from the North Atlantic, where most species are declining.For anyone paying attention, it’s no secret there’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We’ve got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights. And fishermen say they’re seeing unusual patterns in fish stocks they haven’t seen before.

Researchers now have more grim news to add to the mix. An analysis published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe.

“This, as far as we know, is the first global-scale study that documents the actual productivity of fish stocks is in decline,” says lead author Gregory L. Britten, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine.

Britten and some fellow researchers looked at data from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems across the globe. They say they’ve identified a pattern of decline in juvenile fish (young fish that have not yet reached reproductive age) that is closely tied to a decline in the amount of phytoplankton, or microalgae, in the water.

“We think it is a lack of food availability for these small fish,” says Britten. “When fish are young, their primary food is phytoplankton and microscopic animals. If they don’t find food in a matter of days, they can die.”

The worst news comes from the North Atlantic, where the vast majority of species, including Atlantic cod, European and American plaice, and sole are declining. In this case, Britten says historically heavy fishing may also play a role. Large fish, able to produce the biggest, most robust eggs, are harvested from the water. At the same time, documented declines of phytoplankton made it much more difficult for those fish stocks to bounce back when they did reproduce, despite aggressive fishery management efforts, says Britten.

When the researchers looked at plankton and fish reproduction declines in individual ecosystems, the results varied. In the North Pacific — for example, the Gulf of Alaska — there were no significant declines. But in other regions of the world, like Australia and South America, it was clear that the lack of phytoplankton was the strongest driver in diminishing fish populations.

“When you averaged globally, there was a decline,” says Britten. “Decline in phytoplankton was a factor in all species. It was a consistent variable.”

And it’s directly linked to climate change: Change in ocean temperature affects the phytoplankton population, which is impacting fish stocks, he says.

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

 

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

The Magnuson Act: It’s a Keeper – Commentary

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