What Oysters Have to Say to Climate Change Deniers

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

While climate change denying luddites may say that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide isn’t changing our environment, oysters and other shellfish might disagree. If current trends continue, ocean acidification could reduce U.S. shellfish harvests by . Baby oysters can’t develop their shells in the acidic and corrosive waters, which means high mortality rates. This is bad news not only for the oysters, but also for the oyster industry. A critical component of the coastal economy, the industry provides thousands of jobs. Thus, ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest threatens the triple bottom line: people, profit, and the planet.

Today, the ocean is than it was at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Decreasing pH (pH goes down, acidity goes up) limits available carbonate, which shellfish need for their shells.  Tides, waves and upwelling increase the impacts of ocean acidification on the Pacific Northwest, and the shellfish industry is suffering the first causalities, with regional oyster production dropping in recent years. Last summer, many hatcheries were struggling to cope, so ocean champion Sen. Maria Cantwell ensured that new resources were devoted to water quality monitoring.

The shellfish industry provides thousands of jobs and is worth approximately to the U.S. economy. Whole communities depend on the shellfish industry for their survival. If we lose the shellfish industry, we also lose the cultural diversity in the communities it sustains. Technology has helped producers deal with acidification for now, but future climate models show that technology may not be enough.

Oysters are important not only to people and profits, but also to the planet. These helpful critters absorb CO2 and nitrogen, thus improving water quality. In fact one oyster can ! Oyster reefs reduce wave action and storm surge, protecting our shores from erosion. Fewer oysters could lead to more toxic algae and dead zones, and more damaging storm surges.

Oysters are not the only species impacted by acidification. Pteropods, little sea snails that are a key food source, are also vulnerable to acidification. Disruptions to any one part of the ecosystem are sure to have cascading impacts throughout the food chain.

While we continue working towards comprehensive climate policy, we are fortunate to have leaders like working to protect her constituents in the Pacific Northwest. Her efforts to secure funding for NOAA regional Integrated Ocean Observing Systems have provided the industry with critical tools for monitoring ocean acidification. Using this technology, oyster growers can monitor fluctuations in water quality, avoiding the most corrosive and acidic waters.

Date Posted: October 30, 2013 @ 9:53 am Comments Off

Posted by: Emily Scherer

The ocean has always been a part of my life – the summers laboriously spent swimming boeys in Jr Guards, the school trips to aquariums and marine research facilities, the beach days and bonfires that compose my high school memories, even the salty, temperate, air of the coastal community I call home. The ocean has been an unwavering presence, a constant source of joy, calm, and inspiration in my life–that is until I moved to New York City.

‘The Big Apple,’ ‘The Urban Jungle,’ ‘The Capital of the World,’ Manhattan — an acceptance into my dream school, Columbia University, brought me to New York. If you had asked me what I loved last year (during college applications), I would have said, “Politics, travel, global affairs, and dance.” Sure, I recycle and appreciate the environment, but I did not foresee an interest in conservation. I wanted to work in the field of International Politics, combining my passion for politics and travel with a knack for mediation. Culture, adventure, academics, I was poised and ready for The City.

Yet once I was away from it all, once I could no longer idly watch dark waves crashing against the rocks, spend a Saturday afternoon peering into tidepools, or take a morning walk along the shore – I felt incomplete. I was ignorant. Ignorant of the profound role the ocean, and my fortunate proximity to it, played in my upbringing. Scuba diving at a young age cultivated my sense of adventure while the sea’s various creatures and changing currents inspired an interest in the sciences. After a stressful day of school, I could always look forward to an afternoon spent playing in the water or relaxing to the steady swoosh of the waves. Spending this year away from the shore reminded me of my dependence on and respect for the ocean. When summer arrived, I wanted to find an internship that I could be passionate about, and that’s how I came across Ocean Champions: the pragmatic, political approach to protecting my truest companion. I loved the bipartisan appeal and straight forward approach, how they are for the oceans, not parties or politicians. It was the perfect way to combine my interests both in politics and the ocean, while utilizing the skills I’ve acquired at school.

Though I most likely will not become a marine biologist or launch the next conservation non-profit, I will continue to use my studies of political science to protect what I am grateful for. Ocean champions highlighted the gap between information and action in our political system that it’s the politics, not necessarily the policies, that need the most attention when it comes to affecting change, a fundamental lesson that I will carry with me as a continue to earn my degree. Thank you Ocean Champions, I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Date Posted: October 24, 2013 @ 11:29 am

Posted by: Trent Hodges

Everyone’s love for the ocean has a story.  The love comes from experiences that have taught us something or given us a sense of connection to the ocean and to each other.

I learned at a young age the raw power and joy of the ocean.  My uncle pushed me into my first wave when I was 6 years old and blessed me with a lifelong addiction.  However, for the majority of my childhood and young adult years, I only held on to that feeling in my dreams as my family packed and moved to Idaho.  Though I enjoyed a magical youth scaling mountains and plunging into crystal clear rivers, those visions of infinite blue and the glide of waves continued to haunt me.  Starting college in San Diego, I was finally able to pursue my wave obsession relentlessly and continuously took lessons from the ocean.  Lessons in humility, patience, fear, change, insignificance, and pure joy.  The ocean was my playground and my guru.

Very soon after, my ocean experience would expand and the lessons would become even more profound.  As a peace corps volunteer on the coast of Guatemala, I worked with small scale fishermen to promote ecotourism, sustainable fishing, and environmental education.  I was lucky to be able to throw myself in the ocean for fun, but realized that many people around the world depend on the ocean as a resource for their livelihood rather than spiritual renewal.  Though all of humanity depends on the oceans for life, my friends in Guatemala’s immediate survival depends on a productive ocean.  Seeing this link between humanity and our direct and indirect dependence on the oceans, I realized the necessity of fostering a holistic mentality, balancing the needs of people while manifesting a deep respect and stewardship of the marine realm.

I have also learned that our impact on the oceans is profound and transcends borders and boundaries.  I sailed with a crew of scientists and ocean lovers from San Diego to Hawaii on a 135 foot sailing ship quantifying marine plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre.  It was humbling to see that out in the middle of the ocean far from land, plastic is more prevalent than the phytoplankton that provide our oxygen.

So how can we balance human needs and the integrity of the ocean for future generations?  It begins with an understanding that we must move forward in a positive direction to sustain the planet and the oceans we depend on.  That is why I am proud to be working for Ocean Champions and supporting elected leaders who understand that human health and thriving coastal economies are directly related to the health of our oceans.  The ocean provides half of the oxygen we breathe each day.  It holds over 96% of the Earth’s water and drives the weather.  Ecological economists have valued the goods and services provided by the oceans at $21 trillion (the value of land goods and services are only $12 trillion), and one in six jobs is marine related.

In the words of John Muir:  “not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.”  Let’s continue to stand up for what sustains us and makes us whole.

Date Posted: October 22, 2013 @ 10:14 am Comments Off