Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Ocean Acidification and Impacts from Reduction of Carbonate Ions

An article today in Huffington Post has reported the coastal waters off of California are becoming more acidic. Along with the waters off of Oregon, Washington and in Puget Sound, the drop in pH levels has been detected in Monterey Bay. The article on the report written by an arm of the California Environmental Protection Agency, notes:
Some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being absorbed by the ocean, altering its chemistry. Scientists have documented changes to waters at Monterey Bay, which have turned more acidic in recent years, raising concerns about impact to marine life.
Carnegie Institution ecologist Chris Field, an acknowledged leader in the field of climate impacts, said the observations in the report "are more or less the gold standard of where we are now today" and provide a peek of the future.
Impacts to marine life go beyond a Pacific oyster larvae's inability to form shell
Of most significance to marine life is the change in the sea chemistry which the absorption of CO2 results in. The end result of the chemical breakdown, recombination and shifting of ions is there are fewer carbonate ions, affecting the saturation state for calcium carbonate, making it harder for shelled organisms to grow and maintain shells. In the Scientific Summary of Ocean Acidification in Washington State Marine Waters (a 9mb report) by scientists (as opposed to politicians, industry representatives and lobbyists) on Washington's "Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification", it notes:
Negative effects of OA are not restricted to invertebrate species. In systems outside Washington, marine fish species have exhibited negative responses to OA conditions that
include changes in growth, survivorship, and behavior. Marine phytoplankton have shown varied responses to OA that include changes in growth rate and calcification.

It will get worse before it gets better.
Attempting to control CO2 levels is challenging. Worse, as the Blue Panel's Scientific Summary notes, the acidic waters currently being experienced in the upwellings off of Washington's coast, and presumably now detected in California, are from CO2 absorbed 50 years earlier. It will get worse before it gets better, because:
[CO2 in] water that is upwelling onto the coast of Washington and Oregon...has been out of contact with the atmosphere for approximately 30-50 years. Waters presently moving toward the upwelling centers [in the deep ocean] from the open ocean, which have had more recent contact with the atmosphere, are carrying even higher concentrations of anthropogenic CO2. Therefore, upwelled waters will be increasingly corrosive well into the future, even if emissions of atmospheric carbon were halted today.
 In  other words, the increasingly acidic waters we are currently experiencing are from CO2 emissions 30 to 50 years ago when CO2 levels were substantially below what the are now. Ocean acidification will increase and along with it will come waters with fewer calcifying agents needed for calcification by a many species in the system, not simply oysters, including those in Drakes Estero.

Drakes Estero: A difference of perspective between a professor of marine biology and a neuroscientist/venture capitalist.
In a recent exchange between Joe Mueller, a professor of marine biology in Marin County, and Corey Goodman, a neuroscientist/venture capitalist, 2 very different perspectives were given. The professor of marine biology took the perspective that Drakes Bay Oyster Company's planting of 20 million oysters and extracting of a reported 700,000 pounds of oysters from Drakes Estero "...clearly short-changes the non-human aspects of the system[i.e., native species]." Added to the removal of nutrients by this artificial population are calcifying agents needed by other species. The neuroscientist believes this level of planting and extraction has no impact because the system, as he sees it now (i.e., as it exists in its artificial state, presumably what the UC Davis studies he refers to also looked at) is "thriving", therefor it must be good.

What the neuroscientist misses in his perspective is what would be "thriving" in the designated wilderness of Drakes Estero if the artificial structures used and unnatural densities of non-native shellfish species were not there. Would there be an increase in the native shellfish, crab, and other fish species due to there being an increase in the calcifying agents needed? Would there be an increase in various species of fish which use eelgrass as a habitat due to a species of fish which use the structures which are no longer there? It's not considered because he only looks at what is there, created by man, artificially, not what could be in the natural state of a wilderness.

What has and has not been decided.
This difference in perspectives is similar to that of whether Drakes Bay Oyster Company's use of Federal lands is a contract issue or an environmental issue, something which will be decided in the courts, not in newspaper columns. What has already been decided is that impacts from past CO2 emissions are now affecting California coastal waters and species which live in them. CO2 emissions have resulted in a reduction of carbonate ions, affecting the saturation state for calcium carbonate, making it harder for shelled organisms to grow and maintain shells. The non-native Pacific oysters being grown and extracted from Drakes Estero makes it more difficult, and that is an impact worth considering.




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