Archive for the Resources Category

Apr 23 2018

Dr. Ray Hilborn and Team Launch New Sustainable Fisheries Website

The website and education tools make learning and reporting about seafood sustainability easier than ever.


SEATTLE, WA April 23, 2018 – Dr. Ray Hilborn and his network a fisheries scientists launch The website is built around Sustainable Seafood 101, a series of posts meant to explain the science, policy, and social aspects of global fisheries.


“Our goal is that anyone interested – a high school student, PhD candidate, or reporter alike – could read Sustainable Seafood 101 and walk away with a good understanding of the complexities of global fisheries,” said Dr. Hilborn, professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington.


The new website also offers free fact-checking and source-finding for any interested journalist. Sustainable Fisheries UW can quickly put journalists, or other interested parties, in touch with the right expert to answer questions or fulfill interview requests.


The Sustainable Fisheries UW blog will keep readers up-to-date on events and research, as well as management and policy actions from around the world. Sustainable Seafood 101 coupled with up-to-date blogging gives readers access to fisheries science and policy in context, providing more complete information than can be gathered from a typical article. Sustainable Fisheries UW is a resource that explains fisheries news and provides relevant, supporting information quickly and easily.


The site also includes “Fishery Features” where long form posts detail the history and status of compelling fisheries around the world. The “Fact Check” section will highlight controversies in fishery science and stress the correct information.


Finally, will serve as the archive for CFoodUW, our former website meant to give fishery scientists and experts a platform to discuss recent research and fishery policy.


You can find Sustainable Fisheries UW on twitter @SustainFishUW and Facebook. For a more in-depth description of the site and Sustainable Seafood 101, visit the about page, contact us, or see the introductory blog.




Aug 31 2017

Pelagic survey highlights NOAA’s growing collaborative relationship with industry


Preface: ” The California Wetfish Producers Association and NOAA’s SW Fisheries Science Center are conducting a collaborative survey of the nearshore in Southern CA in 2018. CWPA also partners with the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct aerial surveys of the nearshore area to document coastal pelagic species now missed in current stock assessments.”


Earlier this year, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used the Lisa Marie, a private fishing boat, to collect data for its annual coastal pelagic species survey. The more was part of an effort to increase collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Earlier this summer as officials with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration completed work on an annual survey of coastal pelagic species (CPS) in the Pacific Ocean, they received some assistance from a new source: the private sector.

Not only were representatives from the West Coast seafood trade industry on board a federal vessel for five days while survey samples were taken, but one fisherman allowed NOAA officials to outfit his boat with equipment to survey more shallow waters near the coastline. The collaborative venture marked a milestone in a public-private dialogue that’s been going on for years.

The CPS survey collects data primarily on Pacific sardines, Koch said, but it also includes observations on other CPS fish such as northern anchovy and jack and Pacific mackerels. Typically, officials use the Reuben Lasker, a NOAA vessel, to conduct the survey. However, private sector representatives felt the government was missing out on some key data in their work.

Government leaders welcomed the idea to get more data to fill in the gaps they also sought to fill.

“Data is like gold to us,” said Kristen Koch, the acting science and research director of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Service Center in La Jolla, California. “If we can collect more of the kind of data we need, it improves the precision of our assessments of these species.”

Because of its size, the Reuben Lasker can only conduct surveys in deeper waters, around 35 fathoms. Fishermen and processers, who must abide by the survey data that is used to establish catch limits for fisheries, contended that large schools of these fish can be found much closer to the shore, in water roughly seven fathoms deep.

Greg Shaughnessy, chief operating officer for Ocean Gold Seafoods, spent nearly a week on the Reuben Lasker. For the 40-year industry veteran, it was an educational experience for him to see to see the steps NOAA officials take to conduct their surveys. He also said he appreciated being involved in the process.

“We feel that we have something to add to the conversation because we’re out there,” said Shaughnessy, who is also a member of the West Coast Pelagic Conservation Group, a nonprofit industry advocacy group. “We’re looking at the ocean everyday.”

Besides Shaughnessy, Andy Blair, who owns the Lisa Marie, observed the survey on the NOAA vessel. Blair’s boat was also rigged to conduct surveys along the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

The idea for the joint venture stemmed from conversations between current NOAA Chief Scientist Cisco Warner, who was serving as the director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center at the time; Koch, then the SFSC deputy director; Gerard DiNardo, the Fisheries Resources Division director; Mike Okoniewski, the Alaska operations manager and a fisheries policy advisor with Pacific Seafood; and Diane Pleschner-Steele, with the California Wetfish Producers Association.

Okoniewski said the collaboration and the talks that led up to it indicate an improving relationship between the two sides.

“This has been a real sea level change for the science centers, and they’ve really done a good job reaching out to industry,” he said.

While the survey results won’t be ready for quite some time, both industry and government leaders already hail the project as a success and hope they can do similar endeavors in the near future.

“This is a really positive – experimental, yet, but positive – collaboration that I think we’ve had with this particular group, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work toward jointly getting at more of these observations that help the assessment,” Koch said. “That’s really the bottom line.”

Originally posted:


Jun 16 2017

FAQs: West Coast drift gillnet (DGN) fishery & protected species

Current measures minimizing marine mammal and sea turtle entanglements, and NOAA Fisheries’ withdrawal of a proposed rule for hard caps on interactions with protected species


Jul 14 2016

Stinky Sea Lions Inspire Wacky Deterrents—Like Fake Orcas

sea_lionSea lions have angered human neighbors in La Jolla, California, with their smells and sounds, kicking off a public battle.

Along North America’s West Coast, human beings are wrestling with the triumphant return of the slippery California sea lion.

The thick-bodied creatures in La Jolla, California, muscle their way into lifeguard chairs, block access to public steps, and laze about on dry rocks, where the sun bakes their feces into a stench that clears out nearby restaurants.

Up north in Oregon, these sleek swimmers so completely take over docks and marinas that port officials repel them with paint guns, electric mats, and the same Gumby-like wiggling inflatable air dancers that usually advertise clearance sales at car lots. Still, the animals keep coming.

And 145 miles (235 kilometers) up the mighty Columbia River, sea lions now feast on so many endangered fish that the federal government last week renewed authority for states to remove or euthanize the most gluttonous of the predators.

Forty-four years after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the population of smart, muscle-bound sea lions has climbed to almost 300,000. That’s a far cry from the 1930s and 1940s, when these animals dipped to less than 20,000 and may have numbered as few as 10,000. For a fish-eating critter once slaughtered for dog food, its blubber sold for oil and its whiskers used as tobacco pipe cleaners, that is a stunning comeback.

“It’s one of the greatest success stories we can talk about in terms of marine mammals,” says Garth Griffin, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Oregon. “The MMPA flat out did its job.”

But how well are we learning to live with that success?

During the last few years, thousands of baby sea lions were stranded in southern California as ocean changes redistributed their mothers’ prey. The images of these starving young mammals may have overshadowed another phenomenon: Even as juveniles were dying, adult males were congregating in record numbers in a few unfortunate places, destroying docks, sinking boats, and munching scarce stocks of salmon.

One Oregon port last year even deployed a boat painted like a sea lion-eating orca. It was supposed to emit whale noises in an attempt to scare the whiskered critters off. It capsized.

These beautiful barking animals keep finding new ways to bamboozle us.

“Overall, California sea lions are doing quite well, and that’s a good thing,” says Chris Yates, assistant regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “However, it hasn’t come without consequences. Once these animals settle in a place, they can be very hard to deter.” (See how sea lions and other animals may hold cures for cancer.)

Sea Lions of San Fran Locals and tourists gather to see Pier 39’s rowdy sea lions in the heart of San Francisco.

A Marine Mammal Fracas

Few people are coming to understand that better than Steve Haskins. While serving as president of the La Jolla Town Council, a community within the city of San Diego, the local real estate attorney landed in the middle of a small marine mammal fracas.

For more than a decade, some in his community had been embroiled in a surprisingly bitter spat over a group of harbor seals that commandeered a tranquil beach where residents taught their kids to swim. Those seeking protection for this fresh habitat and those itching for continued beach access faced off in lawsuits and public screaming matches. There were death threats, arrests, even a fist fight with a stun gun.

In the midst of this melee, a handful of sea lions arrived and began hauling out on rocky bluffs above popular La Jolla Cove, less than a quarter mile from outdoor restaurants and fancy hotels. The fetid mess left behind, along with the waste from cormorants and other seabirds, sometimes proved overwhelming in a community where tourists pay to eat outside.

The city sprayed a special microbial foam to counteract the stink. That eliminated the wafting odor of bird poop, but did little to knock down the sea lion’s musky funk.

“We’re pretty temperate, so the sea lion droppings would stay there and the sun would hit and it would get very, very smelly,” Haskins says. “It would go up into the restaurant district and drive people crazy.”

The same attorneys who sued to protect the seals went to court to try and force the city of San Diego to clean the waste. They argued the smell of sea lion-digested anchovies was costing businesses too much money.

“The professional boxer Floyd Mayweather, for example, recently booked two villas and six rooms for his entourage at the historic waterfront hotel La Valencia, but checked out 15 minutes after arriving because of the noxious odors emanating from La Jolla Cove,” the suit claimed.

A judge dismissed the case. A rise in bacteria in the water this year even spiked a popular open-ocean swimming race.

So Haskins and others kicked around solutions, ranging from spraying animals with hoses to mounting a set of rollers on the rocks that would make it hard for sea lions to haul out in the first place. But then this year, the animals shifted gears; they began congregating on a popular protected beach.

“The only way in or out is to swim, or there are two sets of stairs going down to the beach,” Haskins says. “What the sea lions would do is get on the stairway and sit there. They’d block it. People on the beach couldn’t get out. Then they’d climb into the lifeguard stations. Lifeguards were dealing with sea lions and not watching for people drowning.”

Haskins isn’t sure what comes next.

“No one wants to do anything that might harm marine life,” he says. “It may be one of those things for which there is no good answer.”

Sea Lion Lemonade

Some communities have simply embraced their uninvited guests.

“When you think about it, it’s absolutely spectacular that people can observe these big predatory animals that closely, and have the opportunity to see them while eating lunch,” says Bob DeLong, with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, who has worked with sea lions since 1969.

European hunters centuries ago began driving sea lion numbers down, harvesting them for hides and blubber, and because they were rivals for fish. Today, these sea lions breed on offshore islands in southern California, but some also mate in the Farallones, off San Francisco, and on islands in Mexico. While females may nurse their young for much of the year, adult males tend to roam.

“It’s that sexual separation that really sets things up for a lot of the conflicts that we see,” DeLong says. “It’s not the females; they’re too busy making milk to feed junior to come up north and eat salmon or haul out on people’s docks.”

But males, after four or five years, travel far and wide, hightailing it to wherever they find food, sometimes as far north as Alaska. That appetite and wanderlust can bring a spot of trouble.

In 1989, after the Loma Prieta earthquake, a few sea lions chasing herring found their way to a new dock at San Francisco’s Pier 39. Within a year, the number of sea lions topped several hundred, rendering the pier almost useless as a marina. Frustrated, boat users abandoned the yacht mooring spot to the lounging pinnipeds. Now Pier 39 sometimes attracts 1,700 or more sea lions and is “one of the most visited attractions following Disneyland,” DeLong says.

“LaJolla just hasn’t gotten used to what they have,” he says. “There’s lemonade to be made there.”

That lemonade doesn’t always come cheap. When sea lions amassed at Moss Landing Marina in California’s Monterey Bay, “they sunk boats, they broke rails, smashed in doors; there was feces everywhere,” says NOAA’s Yates. After years of effort and thousands of dollars in damage, the harbormaster began installing special equipment to protect the structures. “It’s expensive and hard, and it’s a long painful process with angst on all sides.”

And not all conflicts are with people.

Mysterious Hershel and Hondo Return

In the early 2000s, during one of the Columbia River’s best salmon runs in decades, the Army Corps of Engineers noticed a few sea lions making their way to Bonneville Dam, where they ate salmon, including chinook and steelhead, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“There’s no archaeological evidence that sea lions historically occurred in the Columbia,” says Robin Brown, with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

At first it was an amusing head-slapper. The mammals usually appeared at the Columbia’s mouth to snatch smelt. But with smelt numbers down and salmon up, the sea lions traveled upriver to the dam. Soon they were arriving by the hundreds, helping drive down fish populations. “The impact varies year to year, but it’s potentially significant,” Yates says.

Now, each spring, marksmen patrol the river, shooting sea lions with bean bags, rubber bullets, noisemakers, and firecrackers, trying to prevent one protected species from making a smorgasbord of the other. In extreme cases, the animals can be removed or killed.

Some animal-rights groups oppose this treatment, and many environmentalists suggest the focus on sea lions detracts from larger threats to the Columbia, namely habitat destruction upstream and dams that warm the water and complicate fish passage. But river and wildlife managers point to sea lions’ history of doing damage when not kept in check.

In the 1970s, a pair of the pinnipeds, Herschel and Hondo, began gorging on endangered steelhead at a set of locks on Washington’s Puget Sound. Within a decade, the problem was so severe that federal managers turned to crossbows and slingshots and specially prepared fish pumped full of nausea-inducing drugs in an attempt to turn the mammals off steelhead for good.

When that didn’t work, they drove the sea lions away—literally—by capturing and trucking them out to the coast. The animals returned two weeks later. Later, the sea lions were dumped thousands of miles south in California’s Channel Islands, but still found their way back. By the time the problem was controlled in the early 1990s, fewer than 100 of the winter steelhead run remained. Today those fish are all gone.

Scientists suspect the strandings of young sea lions in recent years ultimately will drive that marine mammal population down a bit in coming years. In addition, the return of white sharks and shortfin makos that prey on sea lions may also bring down sea lion populations. But scientists don’t believe that will ultimately help the endangered fish.

And recent winters have given researchers pause.

Unusually large populations of smelt have drawn record numbers of sea lions to an area near the mouth of the river. While hundreds swarmed the docks near the estuary in 2012, that number hit nearly 4,000 by 2016. But when the years of those bountiful smaller fish peter out, some experts fear they know what comes next.

“The sea lions will show up, expecting their smelt, but then see those large salmon swimming by and simply follow them up the river,” Griffin says. “I believe that this problem will either stay the same or get worse.”

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Oct 1 2015



September 28, 2015 — FORT COLLINS, Colorado — The following was released by FishChoice:

New Sustainable Seafood Reporting Application Available for Businesses

Online Application Enables Businesses to Self-Assess the Sustainability of their Seafood

Powered by, in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program and Seattle Fish Co., the new Sustainable Seafood Calculator application enables businesses to self-assess and track the sustainability of their seafood.

“We partnered with to create the Seafood Calculator to allow our customers to easily and accurately rate the sustainability of their seafood,” says Derek Figueroa, COO of Seattle Fish Co. “The Seafood Calculator is a valuable and straightforward tool that makes it easy for Seattle Fish Co. to deliver up-to-date information to our customers and allow them to drive real change.”

Chefs, retailers, distributors, and others register for a free account and can immediately start creating one or more lists of their seafood inventory. At any time, users can calculate sustainability where they will be directed to a dashboard with a table of their seafood inventory matched with corresponding up-to-date sustainability information. The dashboard also includes a collection of charts summarizing their seafood categories by overall sustainability and by individual sustainability categories. Additionally, users of the application receive email notifications when there are updates to the sustainability of any of their items.

Currently, over 500 companies have tested the application and use it to track and report the sustainability of their seafood. Chefs are some of the main businesses benefiting from the application. According to Sheila Lucero, Executive Chef, Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, “We are committed to our sustainability practices and being able to utilize the Seafood Calculator has been a beneficial tool to our chefs.” The sustainable seafood calculator can be found at

Read the original post

Read the PDF of the release here

May 14 2015

Demystifying Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management


Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) became a major initiative of resource managers around the world beginning in the 1990s.  Unlike traditional management approaches that focused solely on the biology of a particular stock, EBFM provides a more holistic approach to fisheries management – one that takes into account the complex suite of biological, physical, economic, and social factors associated with managing living marine resources.

EBFM has continued to evolve over the past 20 years and is now a cornerstone of NOAA Fisheries’ efforts to sustainably manage the nation’s marine resources.  But despite substantial progress in the science behind and application of EBFM, a perception remains that the science and governance structures to implement EBFM are lacking, when in fact they have already been resolved in the United States and other developed countries.  An April 2015 article in Fisheries took on the important challenge of identifying some of the most common myths that can impede the implementation of EBFM.  Here’s a look at some of them.


Myth 1: Marine ecosystem-based management lacks universal terminology, making it difficult to implement.

The scientific literature provides clear and consistent definitions of marine ecosystem-based management and associated terminology.  There are three primary levels of ecosystem-based management in relation to marine fisheries that differ by focus area. Full definitions can be found in the paper. From most comprehensive to least comprehensive, the three levels differ by their key focus:
  1. Ecosystem approaches to fisheries management (EAFM) focus on a single fisheries stock and include other factors that can influence a stock.
  2. Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM)  focuses on the fisheries sector (multiple fisheries).
  3. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) focuses on multiple sectors, such as fisheries, ecotourism, and oil and gas exploration.



Myth 2: There’s no clear mandate for EBFM.

For the past 20 years, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, combined with more than 90 separate federal legislative mandates, either implicitly or explicitly have given NOAA authority to implement an ecosystem-based approach to management.  NOAA Fisheries specifically has been fully engaged during this period to implement EBFM, in order to more efficiently and effectively fulfill its key mandate – stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitats, interactions, and ecosystems. Rather than waiting for the perfect mandate to move forward with EBFM, managers, scientists, and policymakers can and should move forward within current authorities.



Myth 3: EBFM requires extensive data and complicated models.

A common misconception is that EBFM requires comprehensive data and complex models, and can only be applied in exceptional, data-rich circumstances.  The reality is that EBFM begins with what is known about the ecosystem.  It provides a framework to use all available knowledge, whether it’s a detailed time series of species abundance or more descriptive local knowledge of the ecosystem.  When data are limited, approaches such as risk, portfolio, or loop analysis can be applied to work with available information.  These techniques provide managers with a tool to assess whether a fish population or the ecosystem is likely to reach a tipping point.The key point here is that EBFM allows managers to work with the information available to best manage the resources in an ecosystem, aware of all the parts of the system simultaneously.



Myth 4: EBFM results will always be conservative and restrictive.

There is an existing perception that applying EBFM will always result in a more precautionary approach to management and reduced catch limits.  The rationale is that accounting for more uncertainty as well as focusing on conserving protected or non-target species will lead to more restrictive management measures that further reduce catches below maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels.  A better question might be, why would stakeholders ignore the best available science and jeopardize the resiliency of the stocks and ecosystem? Fisheries scientists over the past half century have criticized the concept of maximum sustainable yield for single species because of the impossibility of achieving MSY for all species simultaneously.Furthermore, some studies show that when management applies EBFM and focuses on the combined landings and value of all targeted species in an ecosystem, the landings are comparable to the amounts under single-species management.  Plus, there may be long-term economic benefits for multiple fisheries when the system is managed as a whole.



Myth 5: EBFM is a naïve attempt to describe a complex system.

Proponents see EBFM as a solution, whereas critics see it as an approach that falls short of addressing the many socioeconomic, political, and other challenges inherent in marine resource management.  Scientific agencies worldwide have traditionally given fishery management advice on a stock-by-stock basis rather than consider multiple fisheries and multiple user groups. But ignoring the trade-offs, or the existence of multiple objectives, does not make them go away.  Different stakeholders often have competing interests, and it is important to acknowledge these differences and identify management options that optimize the full range of interests.  Strategies can often meet multiple objectives, such that no one stock, fishery, sector, economy, or community is unknowingly depleted at the expense of another. Ultimately, EBFM is about trade-off analysis – examining which options meet the most objectives as a collective system.



Myth 6: There aren’t enough resources to do EBFM.

A final myth is that it will take substantially more resources – more funding, staff, data, and sophisticated models – to implement EBFM.  But EBFM implementation actually has the potential to increase efficiencies.  Many national and international working groups currently exist to support single-species management efforts.  A transition to EBFM allows multiple species to be addressed through a more integrated assessment process, thus requiring fewer working groups.  This has the potential to reduce staff workloads and consolidate modeling efforts.  In addition, applying EBFM has been shown to improve the stability of marine ecosystems, which translates into improved regulatory and economic stability and better business planning.


Dispelling the myths and taking action

These myths have discouraged some managers from even trying EBFM and have prevented them from getting the best available information needed for resource management.  Instead of viewing EBFM as a complex management process that requires an overabundance of information, it should be viewed as a framework to help managers work with the information they have and address competing objectives.   To learn more about EBFM and how NOAA is implementing it, click here.

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Apr 30 2014

U.S. Fisheries – Reports on Economics and Status of Stocks


April 29, 2014
Fisheries of the U.S. – Economics and Status of Stocks Released Today

Today NOAA Fisheries released two important reports that continue to document positive trends in the sustainability of U.S. federally-managed fisheries–Fisheries Economics of the United States 2012 and the Status of U.S. Fisheries 2013. Together, these two reports highlight the strength of our federal fisheries as responsibly managed and underscore the broad and positive economic impacts that commercial and recreational fishing contribute to the nation’s economy.

In 2012, U.S. commercial and recreational saltwater fishing industries generated more than $199 billion in sales impacts, contributed $89 billion to gross domestic product, and supported 1.7 million jobs in U.S. marine fishing and across the broader economy.

With regard to the status of our nation’s federal marine fisheries, in 2013, 91 percent of assessed stocks/complexes were not subject to overfishing and 83 percent not overfished. This underscores the strength or the U.S. fisheries management system and the significant progress that collectively NOAA Fisheries, the regional fishery management councils and our stakeholders have made to end overfishing and rebuild our nations’ fisheries.

For full details on each report visit us online.

Warm Regards,

Laurel Bryant
Chief, External Affairs
NOAA Fisheries Communications

Dec 17 2013

Fishing Green: Calif. Harvested Wetfish Fisheries are the most efficient in the world

As more Californians consider their total carbon footprint, as a way to reduce human impacts on climate change, more are looking at “food miles”:  how far their food travels between the time it is harvested and the time it gets to their plate. The Farm-to-Fork movement not only implies freshness, but that transportation from the farm to the consumer’s plate is a relatively short distance.

Fishing, like farming, can be green and sustainable. And California is leading the way in this effort, but distance is a misleading measure. Fishing green implies that fisheries are harvested at a sustainable level, keeping the fish populations healthy, while providing nutritious foods to millions of Americans and others worldwide. Beyond fishing below set quotas, there are three ways that fishing green can be achieved:

• Reduce the harvest of foods that have high energy costs in their production, capture or transportation

• Reduce harvest of high trophic level species that require a large amount of primary production to replace their numbers

• Support efficiency in the production of fishery resources

In the complete “Fishing Green” report by Richard Parrish, PhD, you will learn more about how California’s wetfish fisheries (coastal pelagic species such as sardine, mackerel and market squid) are among the most sustainable methods of food production.  Purse-Seine fisheries for small pelagic fishes and squid in California are the most fuel-efficient of all the fisheries, averaging 6 gallons per metric ton harvested.

Read more in the full report here.

Oct 25 2013

Sustainable Seafood – A U.S. Success Story

NOAA   FishWatch

The United States is a recognized global leader in responsibly managed fisheries and sustainable seafood. And you can help too!

This video introduces consumers to, which provides easy-to-understand, science-based facts to help users make smart, sustainable seafood choices.

Through this video, you’ll learn more about “sustainability” and what NOAA is doing to ensure that our seafood is caught and farmed responsibly with consideration for the health of a species, the environment, and the livelihoods of the people that depend on them.

Have you ever thought about where that piece of salmon on your plate came from? It could have been caught in a wild fishery or harvested from an aquaculture operation. Maybe it’s from the United States, or maybe it was imported from another country, like Canada or Chile?

Read the full story here.

Sep 17 2013

Ocean acidification, the lesser-known twin of climate change, threatens to scramble marine life on a scale almost too big to fathom.

Seattle Times Sea Change

NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.

She kicked through blue water until she spotted a ceramic tile attached to the bottom of a reef.

A year earlier, the ecologist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science had placed this small square near a fissure in the sea floor where gas bubbles up from the earth. She hoped the next generation of baby corals would settle on it and take root.

Fabricius yanked a knife from her ankle holster, unscrewed the plate and pulled it close. Even underwater the problem was clear. Tiles from healthy reefs nearby were covered with budding coral colonies in starbursts of red, yellow, pink and blue. This plate was coated with a filthy film of algae and fringed with hairy sprigs of seaweed.

Instead of a brilliant new coral reef, what sprouted here resembled a slimy lake bottom.

Isolating the cause was easy. Only one thing separated this spot from the lush tropical reefs a few hundred yards away.

Carbon dioxide.

In this volcanic region, pure CO2 escapes naturally through cracks in the ocean floor. The gas bubbles alter the water’s chemistry the same way rising CO2 from cars and power plants is quickly changing the marine world.

In fact, the water chemistry here is exactly what scientists predict most of the seas will be like in 60 to 80 years.

That makes this isolated splash of coral reef a chilling vision of our future oceans.

Watch the introduction video.

Read the complete article, watch the videos and look at the images here.

Ocean acidification Images 1