Archive for October, 2017

Oct 7 2017

Coastal Researchers, Fishermen Worried About More Frequent Low Oxygen Zones

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary research team members, Kathy Hough and LTJG Alisha Friel, recover sensors deployed seasonally off the coast of Washington from the research vessel Tatoosh in July 2017. — S. Maenner / NOAA

 

Scientists in Oregon and Washington are noticing a disruptive ocean phenomenon is becoming more frequent and extreme. It involves a suffocating ribbon of low oxygen seawater over our continental shelf.

The technical term is hypoxia, sometimes called “dead zones,” It’s an unwelcome variation on normal upwelling of cold, nutrient rich water from the deep ocean. When the dissolved oxygen drops too low, it drives away fish and can suffocate bottom dwellers such as crabs and sea worms who can’t scurry away fast enough.

It seemed to marine ecologist Francis Chan like this is happening most every summer lately. So the Oregon State University researcher looked back as far as coastal oxygen readings go—to about 1950—to see if it’s always been this way.

“The ocean starting in 2000 really looked different from the ocean we had between the 1950s and 1990s,” Chan said.

Chan said climate change could affect oxygen levels via disrupted circulation and ocean warming. 
 A September storm flushed away this year’s low oxygen zone by churning Northwest coastal waters. But Chan described the severity of the low oxygen readings recorded this summer as among the worst ever observed locally.

“It’s very much a patchy ribbon,” he said from his post in Newport, Oregon. Marine surveys and fixed instruments recorded notably low oxygen values from south of Yachats up past Newport.

Ten oceanographic moorings deployed by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary also found very low (hypoxic) oxygen values between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Flattery, Washington, this summer.

“This is not a happy year for organisms out on the coast,” said Jenny Waddell, the marine sanctuary’s research coordinator.

Waddell added that at least one sensor dipped into anoxic conditions, “where there’s literally no oxygen.”

“We had indications of a relatively persistent hypoxia event along the Quinault Reservation coastline,” wrote marine scientist Joe Schumacker of the Quinault Department of Fisheries in an email Friday. “Dead fish and shellfish at various locations and times beginning near the end of July and extending through most of August.”

More frequent and severe near-shore hypoxia concerns fishermen and crabbers. Commercial harvesters face reduced catches and economic losses when crabs suffocate and fish and prawns flee the oxygen-starved waters.

One of the tip-offs to OSU researchers of the onset of low oxygen conditions this summer was when Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists monitoring crab populations noticed crabs dying from lack of oxygen in a research trap. Other observers noted crabs leaving the ocean to seek more oxygenated waters in coastal estuaries and bays.

Earlier this year, researchers and fishery advocates found a receptive ear at the Oregon Legislature when they presented their concerns about silent changes in the ocean. Legislators approved the creation of a new council to be co-chaired by the state Fish and Wildlife director and an OSU leader.

The council is tasked with recommending and coordinating a long-term strategy to address hypoxia as well as ocean acidification.


Originally published: http://nwnewsnetwork.org/

Oct 4 2017

California NGO Drops Out of Stakeholder Process, Sues State Over Whale Entanglements in Crab Fishery

— Posted with permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM. Please do not republish without their permission. —

Copyright © 2017 Seafoodnews.com

Seafood News


 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Seafood News] by Susan Chambers – October 4, 2017

 

The Center for Biological Diversity has targeted the California Dungeness crab fishery by suing the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Tuesday.

The Center claims California crab fishery is causing the illegal “take” of whales and sea turtles.

Each entanglement of a humpback whale, blue whale or leatherback sea turtle violates the federal Endangered Species Act, the Center said in a press release, and the department is liable for causing these unlawful entanglements because it authorizes and manages operation of the fishery.

California Dungeness Crab fishermen were outraged at the lawsuit.  They said the Center should instead continue to be part of the multi-stakeholder process that is working on solutions to whale entanglements.

In a statement, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations said  “California crab fishermen and women take the health of the ocean incredibly seriously. Without a healthy ocean we simply cannot fish. This is why we do everything we can to avoid whales when we fish, and fishermen have risked life and limb to help whales escape in some of the rare instances in which they do become entangled.”

“This is also why commercial crab fishermen and women are already working hard together with an organized varsity team of state and federal scientists, environmental groups, and the professional marine mammal rescuers themselves to develop and implement best practices for our fishery. Our voluntary efforts are already working: entanglements are down 81% in 2017 and we are incredibly proud of this progress.”

“The Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit is disappointing because it seems designed to divide rather than unite the very groups who are already committed and working hard to finding proactive solutions. This litigation may also end up diverting limited state resources away from developing practical solutions, safety and environmental enforcement at sea, and the sustainable management of our fisheries.”

The Center says the lawsuit seeks common-sense reforms to the fishery such as restricting the amount of gear in whale hotspots like Monterey Bay and reducing the amount of rope running through the water.

However, the lawsuit itself says the Center requests the court order the department to apply for an incidental take permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service — a process that may or may not consider the efforts so far by the state and industry to decrease whale entanglements.

“These tragic entanglements are happening in record-breaking numbers,” attorney Kristine Mondsell said in the press release. “That’s why we’ve had to sue to force California officials to finally take their responsibilities seriously.”  Yet CBD has not acknowleged that entanglements are down 81% in 2017.

The leading effort in California is the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group, comprising fishermen, state and federal agency representatives and conservation groups. The Center for Biological Diversity also was a member for awhile until it disagreed with other participants and dropped out. Other groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Oceana continue to work with the state and industry on methods to decrease entanglements.

“This news should not deter the Working Group from continuing to move forward in your collective efforts,” CDFW Marine Region Manager Craig Shuman said in an email to the group’s participants and other state officials Tuesday. “We are encouraged by the Working Group’s progress to develop a Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (RAMP) and the steps that are being taken to test and evaluate the RAMP during the 2017-18 pilot.”

Fishermen are testing two electronic tools during the upcoming 2017-18 season, including eCatch, a phone/tablet-based application developed by The Nature Conservancy that logs fishing activity and GPS coordinates; and a solar logger device that passively collects fishing activity data. The industry and state also have updated a guide of best practices with methods designed to decrease whale entanglements; moved forward with a program to recover derelict gear; and participating in studies and training to minimize interactions.

The Center’s complaint relies on information to show that whale entanglements have increased in recent years. However, the Center does not point out that some whale populations have been increasing in recent years as well. Nor does it take into account changes in the crab fishery or gear distribution due to seasonal issues such as domoic acid. It also doesn’t identify how fishermen have been instrumental in helping disentangle whales, such as the one off of Crescent City, Calif., earlier this year.


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Oct 4 2017

What scientists are learning about the impact of an acidifying ocean

The effects of ocean acidification on marine life have only become widely recognized in the past decade. Now researchers are rapidly expanding the scope of investigations into what falling pH means for ocean ecosystems.

The ocean is becoming increasingly acidic as climate change accelerates and scientists are ramping up investigations into the impact on marine life and ecosystems. In just a few years, the young field of ocean acidification research has expanded rapidly – progressing from short-term experiments on single species to complex, long-term studies that encompass interactions across interdependent species.

“Like any discipline, it takes it time to mature, and now we’re seeing that maturing process,” said Shallin Busch, who studies ocean acidification at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, the pH of seawater falls. The resulting increase in acidity hinders the ability of coral, crabs, oysters, clams and other marine animals to form shells and skeletons made of calcium carbonate. While the greenhouse gas effect from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has been known for decades, it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the impacts of ocean acidification became widely recognized. In fact, there is no mention of acidification in the first three reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued in 1990, 1995 and 2001. Ocean acidification did receive a brief mention in the 2007 report summarizing the then-current state of climate science, and finally was discussed at length in the latest edition released in 2014.

But about halfway through that brief dozen years of acidification research, a shift started taking place.

“The early studies were just a first step and often quite simple,” said Busch of ocean acidification research. “But you can’t jump into the deep end before you learn how to swim.”

That started to change about five or six years ago, according to Philip Munday, who researches acidification effects on coral reefs at Australia’s James Cook University. “The first studies were often single species tested against ocean acidification conditions, often quite extreme conditions over short periods of time,” he said. “Now people are working on co-occurring stresses in longer-term experiments.”

That includes studying how acidification could change how organisms across a community or ecosystem interact – in other words, how the impacts on one species affect those it eats, competes with or that eat it. It also means looking at how impacts could change over time, due to species migrating or adapting, either in the short term or across a number of generations and how such effects may vary within the same species or even with the same population.

Nine examples of this new generation of acidification research are included in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters. One study, for example, found that the ability to adapt to pH changes differed in members of the same species of sea urchins based on location. Another discovered that a predatory cone snail was more active in waters with elevated carbon dioxide levels but was less successful at capturing prey, reducing predation on a conch species. Another highlights that an individual organism’s sex can affect its response to acidification.

Munday, who edited the series of papers, said one of the major takeaways is that researchers are increasingly studying the potential for species to adapt to ocean acidification and finding those adaptations can be quite complex.

He pointed to a study on oysters. Previous work had shown that oysters whose parents were exposed to acidification conditions do better in those conditions than those whose parents weren’t. But in a new study, researchers found that when they exposed the offspring to additional stressors – such as hotter water temperatures and higher salinity – those adaptive advantages decreased.

All the studies call for including often-overlooked factors such as sex, location or changes in predation rate in future studies. Otherwise, researchers warn, impacts will be increasingly difficult to predict as the ocean continues to acidify.

“It’s far too early to make any sort of generalities,” Munday said.

The latest paper from NOAA’s Busch also cautions against generalities. By building a database of species in Puget Sound and their sensitivity to changes in dissolved calcium carbonate, she found that summarizing species’ sensitivity by class or order rather than the specific family can result in overestimating their sensitivity.

She compared it to similarities between people in the same immediate family versus people who are distant cousins. “There would be a lot more variation among those people because they’re not super closely related,” she said. “But when people started summarizing data really early in the field, there wasn’t much data to pull from. So it was done at a class level.

“Now that we have many more studies and information to pull from, how we draw summaries of species response should be nuanced,” she added.

Acidification research is likely to get only more nuanced in the years ahead. From the broad initial projections of average, ocean-wide surface acidity, for instance, researchers have started to pinpoint local pH projections, local impacts and local adaptations.

“We know the ocean is changing in a number of ways,” said Busch. “So just studying one of those factors without looking at the other changes in what’s going on in the ocean is not going to yield useful results.”

Matthew O. Berger, NewsDeeply, 2 October 2017. Article.


Originally published: https://news-oceanacidification-icc.org/