September 8th, 2014 By Peter Shelley, TalkingFish.org
That still-true ancient line, penned by Tamil poet Avvaiyar some two thousand years ago, reminds us all that while it is worth paying attention to what we see, it is often critical to be seduced by our convictions about what it means. And so it is that recent reports from the Portland waterfront of bountiful cod can neither be ignored nor fully credited.
They are what they are: observations. While a lot of cod have apparently been landed in Portland compared with recent years—and when was the last time anyone heard good news from the Portland Fish Exchange?–and while everyone hopes for good news about cod and a future for cod fishermen in New England, a couple of hundred thousand pounds of landed cod hardly leads to the conclusion than the recent scientific stock assessment update is wrong indicating that Gulf of Maine cod populations are in extremis.
This situation brings to mind the experience several years ago when fishermen from Gloucester were reporting that they had never seen so many inshore cod while the scientists concluded that cod prospects were terrible and getting worse. As it turned out then, they both were right in their own ways. An unusual and concentrated burst of the sand lance populations off Cape Ann had attracted cod from far and wide but that random feeding frenzy that the Gloucester fishermen were seeing in such great abundance. But those high catch rates were not representative in any sense of a recovery of cod in the region, as the scientists knew.
That was the year when almost 50 percent of all the landed Gulf of Maine cod were caught within just a 100-square-mile hot spot off Gloucester. The abundance of cod that Gloucester fishermen were seeing did not reflect the larger condition of the stock. Even then, old timers at the St. Pete’s Club in downtown Gloucester were no doubt snorting that these “young guys” had never seen the abundance of cod that Gloucester boats once fished in earlier times.
Is the science about Gulf of Maine cod wrong? Probably, if one is talking about any kind of precision. Population models are now being asked to look into biological territory that the people who build these models have never seen before. But based on the best scientific judgment, there have never been as few cod in the Gulf of Maine as today. Never. The uncertainties introduced by that fact alone dwarf the conventional uncertainties inherent in population modeling and suggest that prospects are worse than already imagined.
And, as Regional Director John Bullard has aptly reminded us all, greenhouse gas emissions are driving regional ocean temperatures increases, acidification of the oceans, and shifts in plankton formation and abundance into ecological territory that the Gulf of Maine has likely never seen, at least in human experience. The Gulf of Maine may be experiencing some of the most severe, early consequences of climate change in all the world’s oceans. No one knows how those forces, coupled with decades of chronic overfishing, loss of large female spawners, and historic low population numbers have affected the ability of cod to get by, let alone recover in New England.
Daniel J. Boorstin drew a conclusion in The Discoverers that is worth repeating in this context: “The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the ocean was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.”
Read more here
March 12th, 2014, by Amelia Urry on Grist.org
Bristlemouth à la beurre. Miso-seared mola mola. Lanternfish tartare.
If you’ve never seen these things on a menu, that’s probably because humans don’t generally catch or eat the denizens of the mesopelagic zone, that slice of sea about 656 to 3,280 feet below the ocean surface (also known as 200 to 1000 meters, which is much easier to remember). Lying just below the pelagic, the top layer of the open sea where most of the fish we’re familiar with live, the mesopelagic is apparently much more lively than we thought.
A paper published last month in the journal Nature Communications revised the estimate of biomass in this “twilight zone” of the ocean up from 1 billion tons to more than 10 billion — meaning these deep-dwellers actually make up something like 95 percent of the total fish in the sea.
This might sound like good news — lots more fish! — but it’s not nearly as good as some news outlets would have you believe. The right-wing blog Powerline optimistically asserted that “maybe overfishing of tuna won’t turn out to be quite the crisis we thought it was,” while The National Review’s Greg Pollowitz told us to stop worrying about ocean pollution since deep-water “deserts” under trash gyres turn out to be chock-full of fish. Even Popular Science overplayed the positive angle in its subhead: “Good news for fish. And humans who like fish.” (To be fair, a caveat followed in the piece itself: “This study doesn’t have much relevance for the issue of overfishing, which is an enormous and still growing problem.”)
I like fish, but I don’t expect to be picking dragonfish bones out of my teeth anytime soon. Deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler points out that media coverage of this study has distinctly neglected context — namely that, while this news teaches us a lot about the mechanics of the open ocean food chain, and may even explain why the sea is so good at absorbing our extra carbon, it really has little to bring to the human dinner table. Yes, there are a lot of (weird) fish out there, but that’s not a good excuse to keep dumping plastic in the Pacific or fishing bluefin tuna to extinction.
Not to mention that mesopelagic fish have been undercounted precisely because they are extraordinarily good at evading the trawl nets sent down to survey them. (So don’t get too excited about plundering this untapped food source, at least not yet.) The new research was done with sonar instead — harder to dodge that sound wave, huh, myctophids?
This article refers to a workshop organized mainly by Todd Capson from our team, working with partners in NZ and with the Marine Conservation Institute:
Aquaculture experts from the United States and New Zealand are meeting in Nelson to focus on protecting the $350 million industry in New Zealand from harmful ocean acidification.
About 60 shellfish experts will share knowledge at the workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ocean acidification is the progressive increase in the acidity of the ocean, which caused a dramatic decline in Pacific oyster larvae in the United States in 2007.
It is not a problem in New Zealand currently, but it is important ocean monitoring systems are in place to enable the government to track future changes in ocean chemistry, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.
“There are key lessons to be learned from our colleagues in the United States that will assist us in focusing research, planning and management practices to enable the industry to grow despite pH decline,” Cawthron Institute aquaculture scientist Dr Norman Ragg says.
The New Zealand aquaculture industry is worth $350m a year.
Week of November 27, 2013
PMEL successfully deployed the first carbon dioxide flux and ocean acidification mooring in the Northern Indian Ocean on November 23. The Bay of Bengal Ocean Acidification (BOBOA) mooring will help us understand the large intraseasonal, seasonal and interannual biogeochemical variations in the Bay of Bengal, and how the marine ecosystem in the Bay is changing over time.
This mooring is part of the Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA) made possible through a close partnership with NOAA and Bay of Bengal partners. Read more and see live data on the BOBOA Carbon website.
This past week my deputy Marie Damour traveled to Nelson for a workshop on ocean acidification which our Embassy co-sponsored with the New Zealand government, the NZ seafood industry and the Gordon & Betty Moore foundation. The workshop, titled “Future Proofing New Zealand’s Shellfish Aquaculture: Monitoring and Adaptation to Ocean Acidification,” was intended to respond to what Secretary of State John Kerry describes as the “economic, environmental, and policy concerns created by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and the resulting acidification of our oceans.”
The two-day conference brought together more than 60 shellfish experts to share their knowledge in order to help identify ways to protect New Zealand’s NZ$ 350 million (US$ 285 million) per year aquaculture industry from the effects of climate change. The agenda was organized around two topics identified as top priorities during the 2012 session of the N.Z.-U.S. Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation – (1) Climate Change Monitoring, Research, and Services in the Pacific, and (2) Marine and Ocean Research.
Just as climate change has evolved from a purely scientific discussion into a set of significant economic and security concerns, ocean acidification has quickly evolved from a theoretical exercise into a major economic threat. Just looking at the United States, for example, one of every six jobs is marine-related, and more than one-third of the Gross National Product originates in coastal areas.
A team of international scientists has launched an ambitious mission to understand how the warming and acidification of the world’s oceans will affect Europe’s shellfish.
Currently scientists do not fully understand how species such as oysters, mussels, scallops and clams produce their shells, or how a change in environment will affect their populations. To address this, the European Union is funding a €3.6 million programme called CACHE (Calcium in a Changing Environment).
Coordinated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge this multi-national programme, which aims to train a new generation of marine scientists, will look at every aspect of how the animals produce their shells and strive to identify populations which are resilient to climate change.
The shellfish industry is an important contributor to the European marine economy – dubbed the “Blue economy” – which is currently worth €500 billion every year and provides an estimated 5.4 million jobs.
These relatively small animals play an important role in the oceans because they are a crucial part of marine biodiversity and, as they make their shells out of calcium carbonate, they have a role in absorbing CO2. While the fishery industry built around them provides jobs in rural communities the animals themselves are also seen as an important and healthy food.
Shellfish have been highlighted as being particularly at risk under future climate change scenarios.
The risk comes because their shells are made of calcium carbonate – a substance which dissolves under acidic conditions. As the oceans become warmer and more acidic their shells will either thin, or the animals will have to expend more energy on producing thicker shells. This will affect their population sizes and the quality of the meat they produce, directly affecting the fisheries economy and damaging consumer choice.
First meeting of the Ocean Acidification international Reference User Group (OAiRUG), 2-4 December 2013, Oceanographic Museum, Monaco.
Nov. 25 2013
An oil rig pumps near the hills of California’s Wind Wolves Preserve.
A new study out on Monday says that the United States’ is emitting far more of the greenhouse gas methane than previously thought. The study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that in 2008 the US emitted 50 percent more methane gas into the atmosphere than was previously thought by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The new data indicates that methane could be a bigger challenge in combating global warming than scientists previously thought, according to the Associated Press. Here’s more from the AP:
Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn’t stay in the air as long. Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says.
The new research, NBC News reports, “is based on atmospheric methane measurements taken from the top of telecommunications towers that stick more than 1,000 feet into the air as well as from airplanes.”
In early October, Washington Sea Grant released 20 Facts About Ocean Acidification–the product of a collaboration between WSG, NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Plymouth Marine Labs and other international partners. Feedback on this initial document has helped us improve the precision of the facts, resulting in this November 2013 update: