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

Business, taxpayers save money with Initiative 1631. Vote yes.

This commentary originally appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal 

By Jeff Stonehill

Over decades running Alaska fishing and Seattle construction businesses, my crew and I burned a lot of fuel. Ironically, our livelihood came from fish stocks and forests that now are choking on the fumes from burning fuel. The costs of carbon emissions were hidden in the past, but they’re coming home to roost.

Pollution has become a fast-expanding hole in our wallets. As taxpayers, we pay billions to fight wildfires, floods, droughts, and a roster of other troubles that are either caused or amplified by carbon emissions from all that fuel we burn.

We can mend this hole by passing Initiative 1631 on November 6. This initiative applies a proven recipe for cutting pollution, reducing fuel consumption, and goosing economic growth. It’s called “price-and-invest” emissions policy: Put a modest price on carbon pollution, then invest the money to help people boost fuel efficiency, clean energy, and resilience against the consequences of pollution.

Don’t want your tax dollars wasted? Me neither. Wildfires are burning our money today—aggravated by climate-amplified heat and drought, along with poor fuel-management practices. Over the last five years, fighting the new wave of “megafires” cost Washington $1 billion, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Climate-intensified floods, hurricanes and rising seas aren’t free either. Our US tax dollars are bailing out a federal flood insurance system that was swimming in $30 billion of red ink by 2017.

That doesn’t even count the cost of degrading the natural resources that gave my family a good living. Cutting pollution will help control the growing damage to our fisheries, our forests, and our snow-fed water supplies. Seafood alone supports nearly 61,000 jobs in Washington. Wood products support 101,000 jobs. Nearly 200,000 depend on outdoor recreation.

Climate impacts and ocean acidification are undermining these jobs today. Puget Sound’s unraveling foodweb is forcing drastic measures to protect dwindling Chinook salmon and endangered resident orca whales that feed on them. Chinook salmon are dying within weeks after entering saltwater. Massive blooms of toxic algae are thriving in warm, carbon-acidified seawater, displacing healthy prey species that sustain our fish stocks. These toxic algae are undermining coastal tourism and fishing businesses by forcing health authorities to shut down razor clam and Dungeness crab harvests.

Tired of paying the tab for unnecessary pollution? Me too. Thankfully, we can prosper by cutting the emissions behind these problems. Other states are already doing it successfully.

Despite the fear-mongering claims in oil-funded TV ads, other states have demonstrated that cutting carbon pollution with policies like Initiative 1631 saves money and strengthens the economy.

On the East Coast, businesses and consumers saved $1 billion through efficiency and clean power funded by revenue from a carbon price over the last three years. Nine states from Maine to Maryland share a regional price-and-invest policy to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Instead of buying ever more imported fossil fuels, they kept $1 billion in their wallets.

Those same states reduced regulated emissions by more than 50% over the last nine years. Their efficiency and clean energy projects generated tens of thousands of new jobs, and added billions of dollars to their economy. They did it by investing carbon revenues to build a cleaner economy.

A key ingredient here is common sense. If we raise revenues to solve a problem, that’s what we should use those revenues for.  That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

Accountability matters. This measure proposes a carbon fee, not a tax.  That legal distinction keeps stray hands out of the till: Fee revenue can only be used for the purposes it is raised for. No unrelated pet projects allowed.

Under 1631, investments of carbon revenue will be dedicated to reduce GHG emissions (70%), to build climate resilience in waters and lands at the front lines of climate impacts (25%), and to help communities cope with impacts of climate change like wildfire, flooding, and the need to educate kids so they can deal with the problem (5%). About one twentieth of the money for pollution reduction is reserved to help fossil fuel employees transition to other work as demand for fossil fuels drops.

This initiative is not a retread of the “carbon tax” measure that voters rejected in 2016.  That year, some climate advocates promoted a wasteful and ineffective measure to tax carbon emissions and then give away the money in business tax breaks and “rebates” for low-income people. That might feel good, but it doesn’t do much to reduce pollution, and it doesn’t deliver the savings or the jobs we can get from this year’s stronger, smarter policy.

Come November 6, we have a chance to put our money to work where it delivers. Vote for Initiative 1631.

BIO: Jeff Stonehill ran a commercial salmon fishing business in Alaska for 20 years, and a construction business in Seattle for 15. He participates in the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, which supplied information for this article.

Note: Global Ocean Health and the Working Group on Seafood and Energy provided assistance with this piece

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/.

‘One morning we came in and everything was dead’: Climate change and Oregon oysters

 

By Travis Knudsen Wednesday, March 1st 2017, KVAL.com
KVAL oyster pic Whiskey CreekTILLAMOOK, Ore. – The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is quietly tucked away off the Netarts Bay in Tillamook.

As the state’s only shellfish hatchery, it’s a large part of the oyster industry in the region.

Alan Barton is the Production Manager at Whiskey Creek.

He’s worked there for the past decade and says they play a big part bringing shellfish from ocean to plate.

“We probably produce about a third of all oyster larvae on the West Coast,” says Barton.

In 2007 and 2008, the whole operation was nearly shut down.

Something changed in the waters of Netarts Bay, which Whiskey Creek uses to spawn oysters.

Their output was reduced by nearly 75 percent each year.

A hatchery out of business would have had a substantial impact on the oyster industry.

The Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated that shellfish growers employ, directly and indirectly, more than 3,200 people across the Pacific Northwest with an economic impact around $270 million.

“In these rural areas along the coastline, 3,000 jobs are pretty important,” says Barton. “These are just blue collar guys.”

Initially, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery staff believed their mass die-offs were caused by biological problems, like foreign bacteria – or the wrong type of algae used for food.

“I remember one morning, we came in and everything was dead, all of it,” says Barton.

“It was our worst day, but also our best day. Because it’s when we realized the problem might be with the water from the bay.”

That is when the hatchery turned to Oregon State University for help.

The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery believed “ocean acidification,” a byproduct of climate change, was to blame.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) define ocean acidification, or “OA” for short as, “a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.”

In essence, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the more it will sink into the ocean.

Once enough of it gets into the water, it’s chemical makeup changes.

That can have a wide variety of effects on local animals and the ecosystem they live in.

George Waldbusser, Associate Professor at OSU, says ocean acidification is undoubtedly connected to climate change.

“By burning fossil fuels, we’ve increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 30 percent,” he says. “That’s lowered the pH of the ocean — or the acidity of the ocean — by about 30 percent, which shifts the saturation state and makes it harder for organisms to make shells.”

The drop in acid in water is troubling for shellfish.

During the first two weeks of an oyster’s life they are especially sensitive to the level of oxygen and acid in the water.

In high acid events, oyster’s shells deform – and often times they die.

Waldbusser believes conditions will only get harder, not easier on shellfish.

“We know the chemistry will change and these extreme events will get worse and worse. And so periods of time that are easy or good to grow oysters will diminish in time for the hatchery,” he says.

Fortunately, OSU was able to help the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery.

Burke Hales, a professor at OSU, created a way to measure the chemistry of the water used to spawn shellfish.

That allows the hatchery to treat the water and provide a successful growing environment for their oysters.

“With that knowledge,” Hales says, “the Whiskey Creek folks are able to change their operations: the timing of their water pumping, how they condition the water. Now they’re back to almost 100 percent of their pre-crash productivity.”

But Hales believes the current method of overcoming ocean acidification is not a long-term solution.

“Netarts Bay has always had some good times; it’s always had some bad times. But the frequency of the good times is less and the frequency of the bad times is greater. And the bad times are a little bit worse than they used to be,” says Hales.

To combat the problem for the long term researchers at OSU point to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere which causes ocean acidification.

“We have to recognize that fossil fuel emissions are a cause of climate change and ocean acidification. We also have to recognize that we’ve relied on them for a long time and we have to find reasonable transition plans to move away from fossil fuels and into alternative energy,” says Waldbusser.

For Barton at the Whiskey Creeks Shellfish Hatchery, he’s thankful they’ve found a way to overcome the effect the effect carbon dioxide has had on the ocean.

“If we had not figured out what ocean acidification was doing to this hatchery we would for sure be out of business,” he says.

However, he is not confident their current techniques for treating the water will sustain them forever.

“The short term prospects are pretty good. But within the next couple of decades we’re going to cross a line I don’t think we’re going to be able to come back from,” he says. “A lot of people have the luxury of being skeptics about climate change and ocean acidification. But we don’t have that choice. If we don’t change the chemistry of the water going into our tanks, we’ll be out of business. It’s that simple for us.”

Originally published 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

Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas

The New York Times, October 15th, 2015,

Ocean and coastal waters around the world are beginning to tell a disturbing story. The seas, like a sponge,

nytimes oa picare absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so much so that the chemical balance of our oceans and coastal waters is changing and a growing threat to marine ecosystems. Over the past 200 years, the world’s seas have absorbed more than 150 billion metric tons of carbon from human activities. Currently, that’s a worldwide average of 15 pounds per person a week, enough to fill a coal train long enough to encircle the equator 13 times every year.

We can’t see this massive amount of carbon dioxide that’s going into the ocean, but it dissolves in seawater as carbonic acid, changing the water’s chemistry at a rate faster than seen for millions of years. Known as ocean acidification, this process makes it difficult for shellfish, corals and other marine organisms to grow, reproduce and build their shells and skeletons.

About 10 years ago, ocean acidification nearly collapsed the annual $117 million West Coast shellfish industry, which supports more than 3,000 jobs. Ocean currents pushed acidified water into coastal areas, making it difficult for baby oysters to use their limited energy to build protective shells. In effect, the crop was nearly destroyed.

Human health, too, is a major concern. In the laboratory, many harmful algal species produce more toxins and bloom faster in acidified waters. A similar response in the wild could harm people eating contaminated shellfish and sicken, even kill, fish and marine mammals such as sea lions.

Increasing acidity is hitting our waters along with other stressors. The ocean is warming; in many places the oxygen critical to marine life is decreasing; pollution from plastics and other materials is pervasive; and in general we overexploit the resources of the ocean. Each stressor is a problem, but all of them affecting the oceans at one time is cause for great concern. For both the developing and developed world, the implications for food security, economies at all levels, and vital goods and services are immense.

This year, the first nationwide study showing the vulnerability of the $1 billion U.S. shellfish industry to ocean acidification revealed a considerable list of at-risk areas. In addition to the Pacific Northwest, these areas include Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and areas off Maine and Massachusetts. Already at risk are Alaska’s fisheries, which account for nearly 60 percent of the United States commercial fish catch and support more than 100,000 jobs.

Ocean acidification is weakening coral structures in the Caribbean and in cold-water coral reefs found in the deep waters off Scotland and Norway. In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system. Dramatic change is also apparent in the Arctic, where the frigid waters can hold so much carbon dioxide that nearby shelled creatures can dissolve in the corrosive conditions, affecting food sources for indigenous people, fish, birds and marine mammals. Clear pictures of the magnitude of changes in such remote ocean regions are sparse. To better understand these and other hotspots, more regions must be studied.

Read more here

New England Takes on Ocean Pollution State By State

By Patrick Whittle, Associated Press, March 30, 2015

Portland, Maine — A group of state legislators in New England want to form a multi-state pact to counter increasing ocean acidity along the East Coast, a problem they believe will endanger multi-million dollar fishing industries if left unchecked.

The legislators’ effort faces numerous hurdles: They are in the early stages of fostering cooperation between many layers of government, hope to push for potentially expensive research and mitigation projects, and want to use state laws to tackle a problem scientists say is the product of global environmental trends.

But the legislators believe they can gain a bigger voice at the federal and international levels by banding together, said Mick Devin, a Maine representative who has advocated for ocean research in his home state. The states can also push for research to determine the impact that local factors such as nutrient loading and fertilizer runoff have on ocean acidification and advocate for new controls, he said.

“We don’t have a magic bullet to reverse the effects of ocean acidification and stop the world from pumping out so much carbon dioxide,” Devin said. “But there are things we can do locally.”

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration says the growing acidity of worldwide oceans is tied to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, and they attribute the growth to fossil fuel burning and land use changes. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increased from 280 parts per million to over 394 parts per million over the past 250 years, according to NOAA.

Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, and when it mixes with seawater it reduces the availability of carbonate ions, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said. Those ions are critical for marine life such as shellfish, coral and plankton to grow their shells.

The changing ocean chemistry can have “potentially devastating ramifications for all ocean life,” including key commercial species, according to NOAA.

The New England states are following a model set by Maine, which commissioned a panel to spend months studying scientific research about ocean acidification and its potential impacts on coastal industries. Legislators in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are working on bills to create similar panels. A similar bill was shot down in committee in the New Hampshire legislature but will likely be back in 2016, said Rep. David Borden, who sponsored the bill.

Read more here

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.

Read more here

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

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

Classic picture of clam diggers on the coast of Washington.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

razor clam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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