Quinault Nation Wins Ocean Fishing Area Case

Source: water4fish

TAHOLAH, WA (7/9/15)—Federal District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez handed down a decision today favoring the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as the Quileute Tribe, confirming the tribes’ right to fish in the ocean. The case, which was first filed in 2009, pitted the two tribes against the Makah Tribe in a territorial battle for fishing rights.

 “We make every effort to avoid intertribal conflicts such as this, and that was certainly the case here, but the Makah Tribe, joined by the State of Washington, brought this lawsuit to limit the Quinault Nation’s treaty ocean fishing so Quinault was forced to defend its treaty rights. We are very fortunate to have federal court to resort to in those rare instances when we need it.”

Judge Martinez ruled that Quinault Nation’s Usual and Accustomed fishing area extends 30 miles out to sea from the Tribe’s reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. 

 “We are obviously very pleased with this decision,” said President Sharp. “We had no doubt whatsoever that our fishing heritage includes the ocean, and that was confirmed by the judge” she said.

The decision confirms that Quinault fishers will be able to continue fishing in the ocean for generations to come.

Judge Martinez accepted the Quinault Nation’s evidence regarding its heritage and reserved treaty rights.  This lawsuit was part of the 1974 U.S. v. Washington (Boldt) case which confirmed tribal treaty fishing rights. That case was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978.

 “Winning this case will not only help secure our long held ocean fishing heritage for our fishermen; it will also help us continue to manage ocean fish stocks properly. We will work with the Makah Nation, as well as other tribes and other governments to help assure that there are healthy stocks of salmon and other species in the ocean environment for many generations to come,” said President Sharp.

The Quinault Nation was represented in the trial by Eric Nielsen of Nielsen, Broman & Coch of Seattle. Quinault attorney Ray Dodge also contributed significantly to the case, which resulted in an 83 page decision by Judge Martinez, much of which documents the extensive long term relationship of the Quinault people with the ocean. 

Warm Ocean Temperatures Could Mean Trouble For Marine Life

An emaciated sea lion pup in California's Channel Islands.NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center

An emaciated sea lion pup in California’s Channel Islands.
NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center

 

 

by Jes Burns OPB

It’s a double-whammy kind of year for the Pacific.

An unusually warm winter in Alaska failed to chill ocean waters. Then this winter’s El Nino is keeping tropical ocean temperatures high. Combine these and scientists are recording ocean temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average off the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

“This is a situation with how the climate is going, or the weather is going, that we just haven’t really seen before and don’t know where it’s headed,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Chris Harvey.

Harvey is a lead scientist on the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, which was recently presented to Northwest fisheries managers.

This map shows sea surface temperatures off the West Coast. The darker the red, the farther the temperatures are above average.This map shows sea surface temperatures off the West Coast. The darker the red, the farther the temperatures are above average.

NOAA Fisheries

Pacific Ocean temperatures regularly swing along a temperature spectrum. In fact, scientists have identified multi-decade cycles of warmer and cooler water.

“But right now, in the last couple of decades, we feel like we’ve seen maybe a little bit less stability in those regimes,” Harvey says.

This year, the temperatures are particularly high. The effects already appear to be rippling up and down the food chain.

When the ocean is warmer, it is less nutrient rich.

The humble copepod is a good illustration of this phenomenon. Copepods are small, crab-like organisms that swim in the upper part of the water column. They’re basically fish food for young salmon, sardines and other species.

But NOAA scientists have described the difference between cold-water copepods and warm-water copepods as the difference between a bacon-double cheeseburger with all the fixin’s and a celery stick.

Cold-water copepods are fattier and more nutrient-rich, making them a higher-value food for fish.

 

This warm-water copepod collected off Oregon this winter. They provided provide less energy to salmon and other fish than cool-water species. This warm-water copepod collected off Oregon this winter. They provided provide less energy to salmon and other fish than cool-water species. NOAA Fisheries/Northwest Fisheries Science Center

 

“The copepods that we associate with warmer water, which is what we’re seeing develop off the West Coast right now, tend to have lower energy content,” Harvey says. “There’s going to be probably an abundance of copepods out there, just not the high-energy ones we associate with higher fish production.”

Scientists are already making connections between these lower-nutrient waters and seabird die-offs in the Northwest and the widespread starvation of California sea lion pups, as well.

The warm water isn’t all bad news for Northwest fisheries. Some  fish that like warm water, like albacore tuna, may be more abundant this year in waters off the Oregon and Washington coasts.

Harvey says the science suggests fisheries managers might want to take a more cautious approach when setting harvest rates in the coming years. But what these record-high temperatures say about the longer-term health of Northwest fisheries and other coastal wildlife is still unclear.

“For me the jury is out on this,” Harvey says. “We’re going to have to wait a couple years before we know if this was just a really, really bizarre bump in the road or if there’s more to it.”

Action Taken To Protect Fish At Bottom Of Ocean Food Chain

A new rule prohibits new fisheries on forage fish species including silversides, shown here.Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Flickr

A new rule prohibits new fisheries on forage fish species including silversides, shown here.
Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Flickr

 

by Cassandra Profita OPB

 

West Coast fishery managers adopted a new rule Tuesday that protects many species of forage fish at the bottom of the ocean food chain.

The rule prohibits commercial fishing of  herring, smelt, squid and other small fish that aren’t currently targeted by fishermen. It sets up new, more protective regulations for anyone who might want to start fishing for those species in the future.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously voted to adopt the rule at a meeting in Vancouver, Washington. The council sets ocean fishing seasons off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

The idea behind the new rule is to preserve so-called forage fish so they’re available for the bigger fish, birds and whales that prey on them. It’s part of a larger push by the council to examine the entire ocean ecosystem when setting fishing seasons.

Environmentalists who have been advocating for the rule for years celebrated the approval.

“If we’re going to have a healthy ocean ecosystem in the long term, we have to protect that forage base,” said Ben Enticknap of the environmental group Oceana. “These are the backbone of a healthy ocean ecosystem.”

Enticknap said many of the forage fish subject to the new rule are already being fished elsewhere in the world. Little fish at the bottom of the food chain are used to make fish meal for aquaculture, and they’re increasingly in demand as food for people as other fish populations decline.

Previous rules only required managers to be notified of a new fishery on non-managed forage fish species. Now, the council will require a more rigorous scientific review to prove that the new fishery won’t harm the ecosystem before it is allowed.

“Really, it’s being precautionary,” said Enticknap. “It’s getting out ahead of a crisis rather than waiting for a stock to collapse and then having to have serious consequences for fisheries after the fact.”

The rule has gained broad support — even from the fishing industry, according to Steve Marx of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Valuable commercial fish such as rockfish, salmon, halibut and tuna all prey on forage fish.

“The fishing industry support has been pretty strong because everybody understands how important these small forage fish are to the fish they like, that they make a living off of,” he said.

Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, congratulated the council on moving forward with the rule.

“It’s rare to get this sort of consensus support from commercial, environmental and recreational sectors, and I think you have it on this one,” he said.

Before voting, council members discussed the best way to allow existing fisheries to catch some of the forage fish species incidentally – as they’re targeting other fish.

The council directed staff to continue developing the details of the rule so that it doesn’t constrain existing fisheries, but it does discourage fishing boats from targeting forage fish.

Councilors instructed staff to hold fishing boats accountable the forage fish they catch and consider discouraging development of at-sea processing of forage fish species into fish meal.

Warming Ocean May Be Triggering Mega Methane Leaks Off Northwest Coast

Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast. The base of the column is one-third of a mile (515 meters) deep and the top of the plume is at 1/10 of a mile (180 meters) deep. | credit: Brendan Philip / UW

Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast. The base of the column is one-third of a mile (515 meters) deep and the top of the plume is at 1/10 of a mile (180 meters) deep. | credit: Brendan Philip / UW

 

By Ashley Ahearn, KUOW

SEATTLE — As the waters of the Pacific warm, methane that was trapped in crystalline form beneath the seabed is being released. And fast.

New modeling suggests that 4 million tons of this potent greenhouse gas have escaped since 1970 from the ocean depths off Washington’s coast.

“We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast,” said Evan Solomon, a University of Washington assistant professor of oceanography and co-author of the new paper, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The modeling does not indicate whether the rate of release has changed as temperatures warm, but it does strengthen the connection between ocean temperature and methane behavior.

Solomon and his colleagues first learned about the methane leaks when fishermen started sending them photographs of bubbles coming up out of the deep.

“They’re really low quality phone shots of their fish finders, but every single location they gave us was 100 percent accurate,” Solomon said.

On a cruise this past summer, Solomon and his colleagues gathered core samples from the ocean floor, about one-third of a mile deep, at the spots where the fishermen reported seeing bubbles.

And sure enough, mixed in among the sediment, were crystalized methane deposits.

“It looks like slushy ice,” Solomon said. But it certainly behaves differently. “If you took it from the sediment and lit a match or put a lighter on it, it will go into flames because of all the gas.”

Methane can exist in a gas, liquid and crystalline form. The crystalline version, or methane hydrate, occurs at cold temperatures and under pressure – conditions that can be found at certain depths of the ocean. But as deep sea waters warm, scientists believe those crystals will dissolve, releasing the methane in bubbles that can change ocean chemistry and contribute to atmospheric change once they escape at the sea’s surface.

“It’s a way to contribute to ocean acidification if you have a lot of this gas coming out and being oxidized in the water column,” Solomon said.

The methane release isn’t just happening in Washington waters, Solomon says. More sampling needs to be done but the same conditions for methane hydrate release exist from Northern California to Alaska. “So it’s not a Washington central thing,” says Solomon, who is looking forward to further study of this issue. “It should be happening off of Oregon, off of British Columbia as well.”

Other research has found similar patterns of methane release in the Atlantic and off the coast of Alaska.

“It’s a hot topic,” Solomon said.

Biologists Discover Landlocked Chinook Salmon In Oregon

 

By: Cassandra Profita, Oregon Public Broadcast

 

It took some snorkeling and biological detective work to prove it.

But now Jeremy Romer and Fred Monzyk can confidently say they’ve found the first documented examples of Oregon chinook salmon spawning without swimming to the ocean and back.

The two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists published their findings in an article this month in The North American Journal of Fisheries Management.

The discovery was the result of an investigation that started when they noticed something strange about the chinook salmon fishermen were catching in Green Peter Reservoir southeast of Corvallis: They looked wild.

In photographs printed in local newspapers and on the website ifish.net, several of the chinook being caught in the reservoir clearly had their adipose fins – little fins on their backs that are clipped off in hatcheries to mark the difference between hatchery fish and wild.

But there’s no way for wild fish to get to the reservoir.

The reservoir was created by Green Peter Dam on the Santiam River, a tributary of the Willamette. And the dam doesn’t have a route allowing fish passage to the ocean.

Up until 2008, the state had released excess hatchery chinook above the reservoir. But those fish were essentially trapped. They were only released so fishermen could catch them. And according to their biology, they should only have lived to 2012.

“Several pictures were of chinook captured in 2013,” Romer said. “That’s where the math didn’t add up because the last releases happened in 2008, and fish in the Willamette rarely live to age 6.”

So, the fish being caught in the reservoir couldn’t be the hatchery fish the state released in 2008 – not only because they had adipose fins but also because those fish were supposed to be dead already.

“One of the biggest clues was that we kept seeing photos in local newspapers of happy anglers with salmon we knew we didn’t put in there,” Monzyk said.

So, if these fish weren’t the hatchery chinook released by ODFW, where did they come from?

“It was an ideal opportunity for us to investigate,” Romer said.

The biologists went snorkeling and saw nine adult chinook salmon with their adipose fins intact. They also recovered six carcasses of wild-looking chinook. They ran tests to see if chemistry inside the fish indicated that they’d been to the ocean. It didn’t. Nonetheless, they found four female fish that appeared to have successfully spawned in 2012.

Their conclusion: The hatchery chinook released above the dam didn’t go to the ocean, but some of them spawned anyway. And fishermen were catching their offspring in Green Peter Reservoir.

“It’s another example of the resilience of chinook in the Pacific Northwest,” Romer said. “It’s pretty amazing that even though they can’t fulfill their regular pathways or life history they’re able to adapt and still reproduce. Like Jurassic Park, they’ll find a way.”

You may have heard of kokanee – they’re landlocked sockeye salmon. Chinook don’t usually evolve to live without going to ocean and back, Romer said. It’s been known to happen in a few places, but this is the first time it’s been documented in Oregon. Romer and Monzyk say it likely won’t be the last. They suspect a similar situation has already unfolded in Detroit Lake, southeast of Salem.

Ocean’s Rising Acidification Dissolves Shellfish That Coastal Tribes Depend On

ThinkstockThe ocean's acidity is rising and dissolving seashells, which could spell doom for Northwest tribes' way of life as well as their livelihood in the shellfish industry and sustenance harvesting.

Thinkstock
The ocean’s acidity is rising and dissolving seashells, which could spell doom for Northwest tribes’ way of life as well as their livelihood in the shellfish industry and sustenance harvesting.

 

Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today, 8/14/14

 

The ancestral connections of tribal coastal communities to the ocean’s natural resources stretch back thousands of years. But growing acidification is changing oceanic conditions, putting the cultural and economic reliance of coastal tribes—a critical definition of who they are—at risk.

It’s a big challenge to tribes in the Pacific Northwest, said Billy Frank Jr. (Suquamish) back in 2010, addressing the 20 tribes that make up the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“It’s scary,” he said in a video posted at the fisheries commission website. “The State of Washington hasn’t been managing it. The federal government hasn’t been managing it. We’ve got to bring the science people in to tell them what we’re talking about.”

What they were talking about are the decreases in pH and lower calcium carbonate saturation in surface waters, which together is called ocean acidification, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some 30 percent of the carbon, or CO2, released into the atmosphere by human activities has dissolved straight into the sea. There it forms the carbolic acid that depletes ocean waters of the calcium that shellfish, coral and small creatures need to make their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.

Its impacts are felt by Native and non-Native communities in Washington State that rely on oysters and shellfish. Disastrous production failures in oyster beds caused by low pH-seawater blindsided the oyster industry in 2010, prompting a comprehensive 2012 investigation by Washington State. Earlier this month Governor Jay Inslee took the issue to the media in order to jump-start climate change action in his state, The New York Times reported on August 3.

The Quinault Indian Nation on Washington’s coast is part of one of the most productive natural areas in the world and is especially involved in the ocean acidification issue. The rivers in Quinault support runs of salmon that have in turn supported generations of Quinault people. The villages of Taholah and Queets are located at the mouth of two of those great rivers. The Pacific Ocean they flow into is the source of halibut, crab, razor clams and many other species that are part of the Quinault heritage.

“Since the summer of 2006, Quinault has documented thousands of dead fish and crab coming ashore in the late summer months, specifically onto the beaches near Taholah,” Quinault Marine Resources scientist Joe Schumacker told Indian Country Today Media Network. “Our science team has worked with NOAA scientists to confirm that these events are a result of critically low oxygen levels in this ocean area.“

The great productivity of this northwest coast is driven by natural upwelling, in which summer winds drive deep ocean waters, rich in nutrients, to the surface, Schumacker explained. This cycle has been happening forever on the Washington coast, and the ecosystem depends on it.

But now, “due to recent changes in summer wind and current patterns possibly due to climate change, these deep waters, devoid of oxygen, are sometimes not getting mixed with air at the surface,” Schumacker said. “The deep water now comes ashore, taking over the entire water column as it does, and we find beaches littered with dead fish—and some still living—in shallow pools on the beaches, literally gasping for oxygen. Normally reclusive fish such as lingcod and greenling will be trapped in inches of water trying to get what little oxygen they can to stay alive.”

The Quinault, working with University of Washington and NOAA scientists determined these hypoxia events were also related to ocean acidification.

“Now Quinault faces the potential for not just hypoxia impacts coming each summer, but also those same waters bring low-pH acidic waters to our coast,” Schumacker said. “Upwelling is the very foundation of our coastal ecosystem, and it now carries a legacy of pollution that may be causing profound changes unknown to us as of yet. The Quinault Department of Fisheries has been seeking funding to better study and monitor these potential ecosystem impacts to allow us to prepare for an unknown future.”

Schumacker noted that tribes are in a prime position to observe and react to these changes.

“The tribes of the west coast of the U.S. are literally on the front line of ocean acidification impacts,” he said. “Oyster growers from Washington and Oregon have documented year after year of lost crops as tiny oyster larvae die from low pH water. What is going on in the ecosystem adjacent to Quinault? What other small organisms are being impacted, and how is our ecosystem reacting? We have a responsibility to know so we can plan for an uncertain future.”

Scientists from NOAA and Oregon State University studied ocean waters off California, Oregon and Washington shorelines in August 2011, and found the first evidence that increasing acidity was dissolving the shells of a key species of minuscule floating snails called pterapods that lie at the base of the food chain.

Their study, published in the April 4, 2014, edition of the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that 53 percent of pterapods “are already dissolving,” said NOAA’s Feely.

“Pteropods are only a canary in this coal mine,” the Quinault’s Schumacker said. “They are a critical component of salmon diets, but what other creatures in the ecosystem are being affected?”

It’s a concern too, for the Yurok Tribe on the northern California coast. Micah Gibson, director of the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program, told ICTMN, “We’ve done some research, but no monitoring yet.”

The Passamaquoddy Tribal Environmental Department in Maine is monitoring ocean acidification, according to a letter the tribe sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They reported that the pH of Passamaquoddy, Cobscook Bays and the Bay of Fundy was around 8.03 during the 1990s and had dropped to 7.92.

The lower the pH value, the more acidic the environment. If, or when, the Passamaquoddy letter stated, the level in bays falls to 7.90, shellfish—including clams, scallops and lobster, all economic mainstays—will die.

In Alaska, coastal waters are particularly vulnerable because colder water absorbs more carbon dioxide, and the Arctic’s unique ocean circulation patterns bring naturally acidic deep ocean waters to the surface, according to recent research funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awaiting publication in the journal Progress in Oceanography.

Ocean acidification spells even more trouble for the Inuit subsistence way of life.

“New NOAA-led research shows that subsistence fisheries vital to Native Alaskans and America’s commercial fisheries are at-risk from ocean acidification,” NOAA said in the report. “Emerging because the sea is absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, ocean acidification is driving fundamental chemical changes in the coastal waters of Alaska’s vulnerable southeast and southwest communities.”

The pH of the ocean’s surface waters had held stable at 8.2 for more than 600,000 years, but in the last two centuries the global average pH of the surface ocean has decreased by 0.11, dropping to 8.1. That may not sound like a lot, but as of now the oceans are 30 percent more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, according to NOAA.

If humans continue emitting CO2 at the level they are today, scientists predict that by the end of this century the ocean’s surface waters could be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years.

The ocean acts as a carbon sink, greatly reducing the climate change impact of CO2 in the atmosphere. When scientists factor in our increasingly acidic oceans their studies show that global temperatures are set to rise rapidly, according to a study of ocean warming published last year in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

These frightening scenarios illustrate the point made by Frank in his talk on ocean acidification: Humanity must meet this challenge. So too must Inslee’s persistence in trying to place a high priority on climate change in Washington DC.

RELATED: Obama’s Climate Change Report Lays Out Dire Scenario, Highlights Effects on Natives

We are moving into the Anthropocene Age, a new geological epoch in which humanity is influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature, according to the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The Anthropocene challenges American Indians, but if traditional knowledge could foresee the tremendous challenges posed by ocean acidification, Indigenous knowledge can surely find solutions to the impacts of climate change, starting with how we use energy, and how much carbon we emit.

“Have a little courage, and get out of some boxes,” the environmentalist and writer Winona LaDuke told ICTMN. “Put in renewable energy and re-localize our economies, from food to housing, health and energy.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/14/oceans-rising-acidification-dissolves-shellfish-coastal-tribes-depend-156395?page=0%2C1

 

How Ocean Chemistry Threatens The NW Oyster Industry

 

 

By: Kathryn Batstone-Boyd, Ben Stone, and Karina Ordell, OPB

 

NETARTS BAY, Ore. — Mark Wiegardt steps slowly through knee-high water, pausing over some jagged lumps of brown-gray shells with a bent flat-head screwdriver.

He picks up a clump of oysters and rests it on his thigh, stabbing and wrenching until the shellfish crack apart.

The creatures inside are more valuable than ever, so Wiegardt tries his best to make them look nice by bashing off the sharp edges.

Oysters are biologically simple. But nothing is simple about the water in which they live. The Pacific Northwest’s ocean chemistry is changing. A phenomenon known as ocean acidification has shocked the Northwest oyster industry, causing farmers and hatchery owners to modify decades-old ways of cultivating oysters and to reconsider the murky future of their industry.

“Our business has definitely been altered by this changing water chemistry,” Weigardt said.

He understands the concern surrounding ocean acidification better than almost anyone. Wiegardt’s a fourth-generation oyster farmer and one of the managers of Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Oregon.

Like many hatcheries on the West Coast, Whiskey Creek grows Pacific oysters — a Japanese species introduced to America in the early 1900s. Farmers grow oysters in enclosed waters connected to the ocean, known as estuaries. But the coastal waters of the Northwest are too cold for Pacific oysters to spawn naturally. So, oyster seed suppliers like Whiskey Creek act as incubators.

Whiskey Creek houses huge vats of seawater that serve as swimming pools for young oyster larvae to develop. When the larvae are mature enough, the hatchery packs them in balls of paper towels before sending them to independent oyster farmers along the coast.

The farmers take the oyster “seed” to their nurseries and dump it into giant tanks, where the larvae “set” onto vacant oyster shells. When they are mature enough, the farmers remove the shellfish from the tanks and chuck them into the bay. The oysters will stay here for a couple years, fattening up by filtering algae and other nutrients out of the water. Eventually, the farmers will return and gather their harvest so the full-grown oysters can be bagged and sold.

Why Are The Larvae Failing?

In the late summer of 2007, the oyster larvae at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery didn’t make it to the bay. Without warning, the larvae began to fail by the millions inside the vats.

“Everything was dying. The larvae were pink. Every larva in the place was not feeding,” said Sue Cudd, owner of Whiskey Creek.

Whiskey Creek couldn’t supply its customers with seed. No one could understand why the larvae were dying.

“The changes were so dramatic, we thought there was a very strong possibility that we were going to go out of business,” Wiegardt said.

A year after the first die-offs, Whiskey Creek engineer Alan Barton scrambled for clues explaining why Whiskey Creek’s methods were suddenly not working. Barton discovered that an upwelling of ocean water with unusually high acidity was corroding the oysters’ shells, causing the larvae to die while trying to form an exoskeleton. He was eventually able to stem the die-offs by adapting simple aquarium chemistry to equalize the pH in Whiskey Creek’s tanks.

Since then, Whiskey Creek has learned to sustain healthy brown larvae in its vat water with a system that constantly buffers the water. However, the effectiveness of buffer chemicals is limited to hatchery tubs.

The die-offs made 2007 a defining year for West Coast oyster farmers.

Hedging Bets In Hawaii

Kathleen Nisbet, a manager of Goose Point Oyster Company in Willapa Bay, saw the die-offs as a signal to change. In 2009, Goose Point began constructing its first oyster hatchery in Hilo, Hawaii, in order to lessen its dependence on hatcheries like Whiskey Creek, which draw water from the Northwestern tides. Though the Nisbets had long done business with Whiskey Creek, and still do, they felt they had to set themselves apart geographically to insulate their business from the acidic waters.

“I employ 70 employees; I’m responsible for 70 families. That’s a big deal to me,” Nisbet said. “I can’t just say, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ I’ve got people I have to feed and it was our responsibility to look at what we needed to do.”

But even as one crisis seems resolved, another one looms. There’s a new concern that mature oysters may soon be at risk. Roberto Quintana, an engineer at Ekone Oyster Company on Washington’s Willapa Bay, has begun to see health defects in oysters out in the bay that he can’t correlate with natural events.

“Last year was when I first heard some of the old-timers from around here who were like, ‘We don’t know what the hell happened,’” Quintana said.

There is no consensus on what to do if water chemistry in the bays turns inhospitable for mature oysters. Quintana says there are a few options: genetically engineer a more hardy oyster species; try to apply buffer chemicals directly into the bays; or perhaps just give oysters more time in their safe nursery tanks.

Can The Oyster Industry Survive?

But for some, the thought of such dramatic changes to old farming techniques makes them question the long-term survival of the Northwest oyster industry.

“Those are big, philosophical questions,” Jambor said. “Do you get out of this business because you think it’s going to go down in 30 years? I don’t know.”

Whiskey Creek’s Wiegardt, however, is not about to idly watch the Northwest oyster industry go down in his lifetime. In the last few years, he has travelled many times with other Northwest shellfish producers to Washington, D.C., to tell their stories and ask lawmakers to pay for monitoring stations that would measure the water’s acidity.

“Farmers in general, I think we all like to complain a little more than we should,” he said. “[But] any time you know a little bit about something that may have a huge impact, you need to communicate that.”

Wiegardt thinks he has been well received in the Capitol, and he accepts these trips as his responsibility to the small community of Northwestern oyster farmers who know each other by first name.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” Wiegardt said. “We’re solving a problem here as we speak.”

Kathryn Batstone-Boyd, Karina Ordell and Ben Stone are students in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. This report was produced as a class project. Video produced by Batstone-Boyd; photography by Ordell; article written by Stone.

Being Frank: Listen to the Planet

Note: Being Frank is the monthly opinion column that was written for many years by the late Billy Frank Jr., NWIFC Chairman. To honor him, the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington will continue to share their perspectives on natural resources management through this column. This month’s writer is Ed Johnstone, treasurer of the NWIFC and Natural Resources Policy Spokesperson for the Quinault Indian Nation.   

 

Ed Johnstone 05ish_1

 

By Ed Johnstone, Quinault Indian Nation, NWIFC Treasurer

OLYMPIA – Our planet is talking to us, and we better pay attention. It’s telling us that our climate and oceans are changing for the worse and that every living thing will be affected. The signs are everywhere. The only solution is for all of us to work together harder to meet these challenges.

We are seeing many signs of climate change. Our polar ice caps and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising. Winter storms are becoming more frequent and fierce, threatening our homes and lives.

It is believed that we are witnessing a fundamental change in ocean and wind circulation patterns. In the past, cold water full of nutrients would upwell from deep in the ocean, mix with oxygen-rich water near the surface, and aid the growth of phytoplankton that provides the foundation for a for a strong marine food chain that includes all of us.

The change in wind and ocean patterns is causing huge amounts of marine plants to die and decompose, rapidly using up available oxygen in the water. The result is a massive low oxygen dead zone of warmer waters off the coasts of Washington and Oregon that is steadily growing bigger, researchers say. Large fish kills caused by low oxygen levels are becoming common, at times leaving thousands of dead fish, crab and other forms of sea life lining our beaches.

Low oxygen levels and higher water temperatures are also contributing to a massive outbreak of sea star wasting syndrome all along the West Coast. It starts with white sores and ultimately causes the star fish to disintegrate. While outbreaks have been documented in the past, nothing on the scale we are seeing now has ever been recorded.

We are also seeing basic changes in the chemistry of our oceans. Our atmosphere has been steadily polluted with carbon dioxide for hundreds of years. When that carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, those waters become more acidic and inhospitable to marine life. Young oysters, for example, are dying because the increasingly acidic water prevents them from growing shells. Researchers say that ocean acidification could also amplify the effects of climate change.

Because we live so closely with our natural world, indigenous people are on the front line of climate change and ocean acidification. That is part of the reason that native people from throughout the Pacific region will gather in Washington, D.C. in July for our second First Stewards Symposium. Tribal leaders, scientists and others will examine how native people and their cultures have adapted to climate change for  thousands of years, and what our future—and that of America—may hold as the impacts of climate change continue.

President Obama’s commitment to addressing adaptation to climate change in a real and substantive way is encouraging. Tribes stand ready to partner with the Administration and others any way we can to protect our homelands and the natural resources on which our cultures and economies depend. Only by all of us working together – supporting one another – will we be able to successfully face the challenges of ocean acidification and climate change.

Banner Summer On Tap For Ocean Salmon Fishing

File photo. Fisheries managers are expecting a banner year for ocean salmon fishing.Michael B Flickr


File photo. Fisheries managers are expecting a banner year for ocean salmon fishing.
Michael B Flickr

By Tom Banse, NW News Network

A federal fisheries management panel has approved what some charter captains are calling the best ocean fishing season in 20 years.

It’s a big turnaround from the recent past when ocean salmon fishing was sharply curtailed or not allowed at all.

Fishery managers are predicting strong returns of wild and hatchery-raised salmon to the Columbia, Klamath and Sacramento Rivers this year. These runs provide the backbone for the ocean salmon fishing season. This year’s spawners benefited from good river flows when they were young and productive ocean conditions as adults.

Coho Charters owner Butch Smith of coastal Ilwaco, Washington is looking forward to a seven day a week summertime fishery in the ocean.

“Fishing for both Chinook and coho salmon are some of the best we have had for a long time,” said Smith. “Salmon fishing — the fishing industry — to my town is like Boeing and Microsoft is to Seattle. It’s very important. It is the lifeblood.”

The good times may not last because of drought conditions in southern Oregon and California. Poor spawning and juvenile survival conditions today will probably dampen future returns. This could lead to varying degrees of restrictions coast wide in coming years.

“Hopefully, we’ve still got a couple more of these good cycles left before we happen to see an unfortunate downturn,” said Smith.

Meeting at a hotel in Vancouver, Wash., the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted the 2014 season quotas unanimously on Wednesday after days of lengthy negotiations between commercial troll and recreational fishing representatives, treaty tribes and government regulators.

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Carbon dioxide pollution just killed 10 million scallops

scallops

By John Upton, Grist

Scallops go well with loads of chili and an after-dinner dose of antacid. It’s just too bad we can’t share our post-gluttony medicine with the oceans that produce our mollusk feasts.

A scallops producer on Vancouver Island in British Columbia just lost three years’ worth of product to high acidity levels. The disaster, which cost the company $10 million and could lead to its closure, is the latest vicious reminder of the submarine impacts of our fossil fuel–heavy energy appetites. As carbon dioxide is soaked up by the oceans, it reacts with water to produce bicarbonate and carbonic acid, increasing ocean acidity.

The Parksville Qualicum Beach News has the latest shellfish-shriveling scoop:

“I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” [Island Scallops CEO Rob] Saunders told The NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.”

Saunders said the carbon dioxide levels have increased dramatically in the waters of the Georgia Strait, forcing the PH levels to 7.3 from their norm of 8.1 or 8.2. … Saunders said the company has lost all the scallops put in the ocean in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“(The high acidity level means the scallops) can’t make their shells and they are less robust and they are suseptible to infection,” said Saunders, who also said this level of PH in the water is not something he’s seen in his 35 years of shellfish farming.

The deep and nutrient-rich waters off the Pacific Northwest are among those that are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification, and oyster farms in the region have already lost billions of their mollusks since 2005, threatening the entire industry.

So get your shellfish gluttony on now. Our acid reflux is only going to get worse as rising acidity claims more victims.