The Beacon

Blog Tags: Climate Change

Oysters Feel the Burn of Ocean Acidification

oyster

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, a few of us attended a staff briefing on Capitol Hill on ocean acidification and fisheries put on by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

There were representatives from the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico and Maine. They were requesting that additional resources be channeled towards ocean acidification research so that we can better understand how fisheries are and will be impacted by rising ocean acidity.

The Whisky Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Oregon has already experienced massive collapses in their oyster stocks due to rising ocean acidity, and they’ve been doing a lot of research on their own to monitor changes in pH. Their representatives called for a comprehensive system of measuring pH so that they and other hatcheries can adapt to changes and not be driven out of business by ocean acidification.   

This group of fishers also recognized that while it is important to figure out ways to adapt to the changes that are already happening, without a true cap on carbon dioxide and serious decreases in emissions, these fisheries will not have a future.

 [Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a marine scientist at Oceana.]


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The Scanner

Happy February Friday!

Things will be quiet around here next week as we head to Pennsylvania for Oceana's annual international all-staff meeting. Hopefully these links will tide you over until then:

This week in ocean news,

...Slow and steady wins the carbon footprint race. Danish shipping giant Maersk cut its cruising speed in half the last two years, which cut greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption as much as 30 percent. If global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.

...After being removed from the endangered list in November, the brown pelican’s recovery has hit a speed bump. Hundreds of pelicans have been found dead from a mysterious ailment that could be caused by ocean pollution or runoff.

...Miriam presented this month’s Carnival of the Blue in singable couplets. 'Nuff said.

...In case you didn’t know, the Mariana Trench is really, really, really deep. And humans, by extension, are really small. Have a look at this scale illustration.

...New research shows that heat-resistant algae may buy some time for coral reefs threatened by climate change.

...New research on diseases found in dolphins could have implications for research on human diseases, including diabetes, epilepsy and certain viruses.


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The Scanner: Snowy Edition

As you’ve no doubt heard, Father Winter dealt the DC area a record-breaking series of blizzards this week, so it’s been quiet on the blog. While we were breaking our snow shovels (at least I did) and fighting cabin fever, the oceans were making news. Here's your weekly digest:

…A new study reports, unsurprisingly, that the world's first experimental marine protected area closed to fisheries has had immediate benefits for the endangered African penguin. The African penguin’s population has decreased by 90 percent during the 20th century because their primary food source, sardines, have shifted due to overfishing and warming oceans.

… After last month’s freeze in Florida, more than 4,000 cold-stunned sea turtles were rescued. 200 to 300 injured sea turtles are still receiving treatment.

…Both sides of the climate debate tried to use the East Coast's snowy winter as ammo. And while one frigid season does not a climate make, “there is evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.”

…SeaNotes reports on the “immortal jellyfish”, Turritopsis nutricula, which is able to perform transdifferentiation by reverting back from mature (medusa) to immature (polyp) life stages.

...Salt belongs in the oceans, not so much on roads. Discovery News points out that the 22 million tons of road salt used nationwide each year may help melt snow and ice, but it can also harm plants, aquatic life and groundwater. New techniques and chemicals are in development, but for now the salt assault continues.

 


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4 Key Reasons to Oppose Offshore Drilling

This week, Oceana's corporate partner Nautica invited us to Key West Race Week to spread the word and gather support for our opposition to Congressional efforts to open up Florida’s coasts to offshore drilling.

In the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, there’s a proposal that would open up currently protected areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

Why is this proposal such a big deal? I’ll give you a few reasons…

1. Currents: the Florida and Loop currents in the Gulf spread vital nutrients to marine life off Florida’s west coast, so if the currents are exposed to oil, it could expose Florida’s beaches and marine habitats to oil contamination.

2. Habitats: Florida’s mangroves and corals provide habitat for over 40 bird species, over 500 fish species, sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, sharks and commercially-important shellfish like spiny lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp. These habitats are particularly vulnerable to oil.


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20 Years of Depressing but True Stories About the Oceans

Image via wikimedia commons.

A very happy birthday to E, the Environmental Magazine, which recently turned 20 years old. A lot has happened in the environmental world in those two decades, and a lot has also stayed the same.

This excerpt of their article retrospective brings to mind some all-too-familiar ocean threats. (Oh, and thanks for the shout-out):

"A fish in a net was the cover model for E’s July/August 1996 feature on overfishing. With the headline “Vacuuming the Sea,” the article reported that 70% of the world’s marine fish stocks had been heavily exploited.


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The Winds of Change

Oceana chief scientist Mike Hirshfield and senior campaigner Jackie Savitz at the Middlegrunden wind farm.

This is Jackie's fifth dispatch from Copenhagen. Check out the others here. -Emily

In his speech here in Copenhagen, Secretary of the Interior Salazar said that the United States could generate 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030, and we at Oceana want to see that become reality.

After all, it's part of shifting to a clean energy economy, which is the only way to stop ocean acidification. As I'm writing this from Denmark, this country is already 20 years ahead of those aspirations. Danes already get 20% of their electricity from offhshore wind... and climbing. Forget 20 and 30% goals, it's numbers like 85% that play a prominent role in Denmark's mid-term goal-setting.
 
So it only seemed appropriate for Oceana's team to visit one of these offshore sites while we were in Copenhagen. We went with Energy Futures to the Middlegrunden wind farm. This single array of 20 wind-generating units produces 40 MW of electricity, which may seem small, but as we photographed it, we could see more, larger arrays in the general area. All of those wind installations add up to 20% of power production, and ultimately the beginning of the end of acidification and all of our other climate change woes.
 
The wind turbines didn't make any noise, and they really were kind of photogenic, though it was a cloudy day.  We didn't think they spoiled the view in the least, especially considering what a traditional power plant would have looked like next door (by the way, there was a waste-incinerating power generating plant, right next store and that was ugly. 

I was glad to hear that Secretary Salazar, a supporter of renewable energy, toured the same site the day before. Hopefully that will be one of the ways this summit helps us to turn the climate change ship around.


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Drilling Secretary Salazar

Oceana's Jackie Savitz asks Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar a question in Copenhagen.

This is the fourth in a series of posts from Copenhagen. Check out the rest here. - Emily

Secretary of Interior Salazar spoke here in Copenhagen about the great work that the Department of the Interior is doing to advance carbon reductions. He also promoted things like carbon sequestration and clean coal technology, which are basically really expensive, long-shot strategies for getting carbon out of coal emissions and getting carbon back underground where it belongs. He also noted that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030, and that the Danes, our hosts, were already doing so!

The Secretary's timing for being here was great -- he had just opened up one of the most productive areas of Alaska to exploratory drilling, a mistake that was not lost on some of the Alaska natives who were there and were very quick to ask him about the Chuckchi decision. (Read more about Oceana's reaction to the decision.)

I was lucky enough to ask the Secretary a question as well, which he deferred to his Deputy, David Hayes. I asked him the following: With all this interest in stopping carbon emissions and sequestering carbon below ground, was he considering as part of the solution just leaving some carbon in the ground by making expanded drilling into previously protected areas, like the west coast of Florida, off limits?  I pointed out that doing so would make resources that would otherwise be used for drilling available to help develop the offshore wind he referred to earlier.


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Oceana Front and Center

Oceana's Jim Ayers speaks at a Copenhagen side event.

Jackie's third dispatch from Copenhagen. Read the others here. -Emily

On the first day of the climate conference in Copenhagen, Oceana was front and center, getting an early start in raising awareness about ocean acidification.

We hosted what's called a "side event," which is an opportunity to learn and discuss an issue of interest. We teamed up with the US State Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as our friend Sven Huseby, the star of the hit documentary "A Sea Change" for our event. We had excellent turnout and Oceana speakers, Dr. Jeff Short and Jim Ayers, did an excellent job along with the other speakers. 

We also set up an exhibit that will run the full length of the conference. The exhibit is in partnership with some of the foremost scientific institutions working on oceans: Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where many newbie marine biologists like myself only dreamed of studying, as well as the Plymouth Marine Lab and POGO, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans. Our exhibit provides one-stop-shopping for ocean acidificatoin information, with our report, Acid Test, available in English as well as Mandarin Chinese!

We also have a globe projection that shows the trends in ocean acidification in the world's oceans. You have to see it to believe it. This exhibit has allowed us to attract considerable press attention and stories have been written in The Ecologist, The Chirstian Science Monitor and others.

We've also been featured on climateone.net with our Washington-based scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb doing an interview broadcast live over the internet.  We hope to keep the momentum going in the days to come.

Help us by taking action and let the chief negotiators of the four largest emitting countries know you want them to stop ocean acidification.


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An Ocean of People

This is Jackie's second post from Copenhagen. Stay tuned for more and read the other dispatches.  - Emily

It's an ocean of people here at the International Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. Like schools of fish, we are all swimming upstream and down in hopes of catching our elusive prey, climate negotiators who hold the power to preserve our otherwise quickly degrading habitat to make sure it's here in the future for the small fry. 

The Bella Center, where we are working, is a diverse ecosystem consisting of individuals from nearly every country of the world, rich and poor, those set up high in the mountains and in low-lying island nations. Many of these countries have sent a diversity of interests: business, industry, government, journalists and importantly those of us committed to preserving our environment, who in United Nations-speak go by the name of ENGO's or Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations.  

The Oceana team is here in the name of ocean acidification -- a growing problem for our oceans that threatens massive extinctions of corals and major disruptions of other ocean ecosystems if we don't find a way to stop pumping carbon dioxide into our air.
 
We've teamed up with some of the foremost scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, POGO and the Plymouth Marine Lab to get that message out. We have a library of information and a full time exhibit where delegates to the convention can pick up materials and learn about ocean acidification. We hope that this information will re-energize negotiators and help make sure they devise and commit to a strong agreement that will save our oceans and all the life within them.


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Arrival in Copenhagen

Jackie Savitz with one of Oceana's new ads in Copenhagen.

Our team of campaigners arrived in Copenhagen several days ago. Senior campaign director Jackie Savitz sent this first dispatch. Read the rest of the dispatches here. - Emily

On our arrival at "O-dark-thirty" in the morning, we were greeted in the airport by a series of advertisements, but not the kind you may be imagining. These ads featured a lobster, an oyster and a scuba diver, each bearing a similar message.  "The price of a lobster in 2050: 350 part per million." The price of the oyster and diving vacation is the same. The meaning may not be entirely obvious, but that's the point. These are ads that Oceana posted in the airport to greet incoming conference attendees.

We took out these ads to let people know that if we don't manage to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million soon, we may not have lobsters, oysters or dive vacations in 2050.  Hence, the price of making sure we have those things later this century is the price of achieving that target - leveling off our carbon emissions and then reducing the atmospheric level to 350 parts per million.

How on earth are we going to do that? Well, it's true it won't be easy, and it won't happen by accident. It will take a concerted effort by all of us, individuals and governments, to shift away from the use of fossil, or carbon-based, fuels.  We can only do this by developing and putting to use alternative fuels, like wind and solar energy.  This is what we mean by "shifting to a clean energy economy."  

Tens of thousands of people are expected to travel here to Copenhagen for this United Nations Conference and many of them will come in, just as we did, through the airport. They too will be greeted by the signs.  Train riders and some drivers will see the same ads on the Copenhagen metro system and on a large "jumbo board."  This is another way Oceana is bringing ocean acidification to Copenhagen in an effort to save the oceans.


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