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.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hood Canal Experiences Bloom of Coccolithophores - If they can do it why can't I?

Coccolithophore - Emiliania huxleyi 
The great calcifiers.

The Lake Louise of Puget Sound
Satellite images from last week caught what a few may have seen while driving along Hood Canal - an immense bloom of phytoplankton, believed to be Coccolithophore. While generally known for turning vast areas of the oceans a milky white, they may also at times cause the waters to be turquoise in color, similar to the color of Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. They are made up largely of calcium carbonate shields.

Non-native Pacific Oysters:
Not so great calcifiers.

You're getting warmer
As the Coccolithophores are made up largely of calcium carbonate it is unclear why Taylor Shellfish and Coast Seafoods are having such difficulty growing non-native Pacific oysters in their hatcheries. Seen in the picture above is the concentration of the phytoplankton, located in Dabob Bay. It is the same area where non-native Pacific oyster larvae die-offs in hatcheries have caused large amounts of taxpayer dollars to be spent in an attempt to understand why. Currently, a low pH level believed to be caused by CO2 altering the chemistry of the water is believed to be the cause. A recent paper in Ocean Acidification discussed the possibility that global warming helped Coccolithophores adapt relatively quickly to the changes in chemistry brought about by lower levels of pH.

Why oh why can't I?
Native Olympia oyster on the left,
non-native Pacific oyster on the right.

Sometimes bigger isn't better.
In addition to discovering the currently accepted cause of this hatchery failure, taxpayer funding has also discovered the smaller, and native Olympia oyster appears to fare much better in this lower pH environment. Added to that list of native species which appear to be able to adapt to this environment is the Coccoliothophore phytoplankton currently thriving in Hood Canal. In the case of the shellfish industry, the non-native Pacific oyster is the oyster of choice, as it grows faster and larger than the native Olympia oyster which was over-harvested to near extinction. It may be, in the end, that being bigger isn't always better.

The big picture.

Get a larger perspective on things.
Seen in the satellite image above, taken in late July, the area of Hood Canal affected by the bloom is clearly seen. What the long term implications of the bloom are remain to be seen, except that things change, sometimes faster than we know.

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