Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Atlantic Ocean’ Category

JEANNE ROBERTS, Celsias via CleanTechies, March 29, 2010

There is a cascade failure going on in the world’s oceans that promises nothing but trouble in the future, and the problem stems in part from agricultural practices developed over the last half-decade aimed at growing more food on the same amount of land to feed rising populations.

A cascade failure is the progressive collapse of an integral system. Many scientists also call them negative feedback loops, in that unfortunate situations reinforce one another, precipitating eventual and sometimes complete failure.

The agricultural practices relate to “factory farming,” in which farmers grow crops using more and more chemical fertilizers, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, which are the first two ingredients (chemical symbols N and P) listed on any container or bag of fertilizer. The last is potassium, or K.

But farmers aren’t the only culprits. Lawn enthusiasts add to the problem with their massive applications of fertilizer designed to maintain a species of plant that doesn’t provide either food or habitat, and is grown merely to add prestige. And groundskeepers at parks and large corporate headquarters are equally guilty. In fact, a whole generation needs to rethink its addiction to lawns.

Whoever is guilty of applying the fertilizer, these megadoses are eventually washed off the fields and lawns and into waterways. From there, they migrate to the nearest large bodies of water, where they spark such tremendous and unnatural growth in aquatic plants that the result is eutrophication , or lack of oxygen in the water as bacteria act to reduce the sheer mass of dying organic matter.

One of these aquatic growths is algae, or phytoplankton. Moderate algal growth can produce higher fish yields and actually benefit lakes and oceans, but over-stimulation leads to a whole host of problems whose integral relationship to one another threatens not only aquatic but human life.

A classic example would be the Baltic Sea, where phytoplankton are raging out of control. The Baltic Sea is, as a result, home to seven out of ten of the world’s largest “dead zones,” aquatic areas where nothing survives.

One of the other three is the Gulf of Mexico, where a 2008 dead zone the size of Massachusetts is expected to grow in future years thanks to the U.S. government’s biofuel mandate. Most of the crops for biofuel are grown along the Mississippi River, which drains directly into this dead zone.

In the Baltic, as elsewhere, overfishing has exacerbated the problem. Fish feed on smaller aquatic organisms, which themselves feed on the algae. Take the fish out of the equation, and the balance is lost. It’s very much like removing the wolves that keep down the deer population in order to protect the sheep, and it doesn’t work in the ocean any better than it works on land.

Once the algal blooms begin to thrive, they block sunlight to deeper water and begin to kill off seaweeds and other aquatic plants which are home to fish species. The dying plants then consume more oxygen as bacteria consume them. And, as the seaweeds die, the few remaining fish and shellfish species move away, deprived of habitat.

This is a classic example of a negative feedback loop, and it is reinforced by every meal of fish, every instance of Scotts lawn fertilizer, and every ear of corn grown with a little help from Cargill or Dow, to name just two multinational fertilizer manufacturers.

Another example is occurring in the Pacific Northwest , along the West Coast of the United States, where — in Washington State, Oregon, and even Northern California — piles of Dungeness crab shells on the ocean floor mark areas of severe eutrophication well within sight of land.

Elsewhere along the Pacific shoreline, bird deaths – ranging from pelicans to sea ducks – predict a failure in the natural world that can’t help but reverberate among the planet’s prime predator, man.

These areas of eutrophication have always been present, but their spread – from one or two areas to miles of coastal waters – indicates a larger problem that is likely about to overwhelm not only the fishing industry and tourism but the existence of oceans as living entities.

As Oregon State University ocean sciences professor Jack Barth notes, the once-scarce areas of low oxygen have become the “new normal”, with old areas repeating and new areas cropping up every year. In many of these areas, oxygen levels are 30% lower than they were a mere half-decade ago.

Not all algal blooms are harmful or noxious, of course. But those which occur in response to eutrophication do seem to be, and these – known as HABs, or harmful algal blooms – include pseudo-nitzschia producing algae, which deliver a neurotoxin called domoic acid that can kill humans, birds and aquatic mammals that eat the affected shellfish; golden algae, which under certain conditions produce toxins that cause massive fish and bivalve (clams, mussels, oysters) kills; brown tides, which are not toxic in themselves but create aquatic conditions that can kill fish larvae; red tides, which produce brevetoxins that can affect breathing and sometimes trigger fatal, respiratory illnesses in humans; and blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which can form dense colonies that cause water to smell and become toxic to fish, pets and humans.

This last, which has spread from Texas to Minnesota, has led to livestock deaths in the former. In the latter, where having a lake home is a sign of prestige, many homeowners have been forced to sell at a loss to get away from once-pristine lakes so smelly and toxic that dozens of pet dogs have been killed drinking the water.

Lower oxygen levels in oceans are very attractive to one species; jellyfish, and these odd creatures with their many tentacles and poisonous sting thrive under such conditions. In fact, jellyfish have few predators except man, and those few (tuna, sharks, swordfish, a carnivorous coral , one species of Pacific salmon and the leatherback turtle) are all at great risk of extinction because of eutrophication and its related conditions, pollution, overfishing and climate change.

As one of the most prolific species in the ocean, and certainly one with a long history (the species has been around since the Cambrian), jellyfish will probably take over the oceans if things continue as they have been going since the 1960s. This is good news for the Japanese, Chinese and other Oriental cultures who regard the slimy beast as a delicacy.

For the rest of us, jellyfish are an acquired taste, and one we had better acquire if we want to keep eating seafood. Either that, or we can support legislation that, in the U.S. at least, promises some relief through research, monitoring and rule-making regarding the Great Lakes and both coasts.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

MICHAEL COLLINS, Ventura County Star, January 18, 2010

Americans’ insatiable love of seafood is back on the federal government’s plate.

Five years after former President George W. Bush’s administration first proposed allowing fish farming in federal waters, the Obama administration is set to come up with its own set of rules for offshore aquaculture, including deepwater fish farming.

The new rules, which are expected to spell out a permitting process for offshore aquaculture operations, could come as early as this summer, said Michael Rubino, manager of the aquaculture program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’re looking at this whole question of aquaculture in federal waters — how to go about it,” Rubino said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has filed legislation that would establish a regulatory framework for aquaculture operations in federal waters, which begin three miles beyond the nation’s shores.

Capps’ proposal not only lays out the permitting process for offshore aquaculture facilities, but also contains environmental safeguards to see that any such projects pose a minimal risk to ocean ecology — a concern that derailed the Bush administration’s efforts.

“It is important to take a strong public health standard approach and make sure we have food safety and environmental protection as a basis for any kind of aquaculture project that would come up,” Capps said.

Ocean fish farming has long been seen by advocates as a way to guarantee a plentiful bounty of seafood even as a number of wild fish stocks decline. An estimated 80% of all edible seafood supplies in the United States is imported, and nearly half of all seafood is farmed, according to the San Diego-based Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

Right now, fish farming is limited to state waters, which begin at the shoreline and extend out for three miles.

In 2005, the Bush administration proposed allowing fish-farming operations up to 200 miles off the coast, which would have marked the first time such facilities would have been permitted in federal waters.

But that proposal, and subsequent plans, died in Congress in large part because of environmental concerns associated with fish farming, such as the discharge of waste and the use of pesticides, antibiotics and other potentially harmful chemicals.

Capps objected to the Bush plan because of the environmental issues and a belief that it was too closely tied to the fishing industry. “They wanted to go out of their way to see that industry was satisfied,” she said.

In contrast, the congresswoman’s aides say, her proposal offers a comprehensive policy that spells out the permitting process for aquaculture facilities while putting in place standards for environmental, public health and consumer protection.

Under the Capps plan, a special office to deal with offshore aquaculture would be established within the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

The office would be responsible for implementing the aquaculture permitting and regulatory program, as well as conducting environmental impact studies for each region of the country. The studies would determine which locations are appropriate for offshore aquaculture, the type of fish suitable for farming in each region and the impact such projects would have on other marine life.

Aquaculture permits would be good for 10 years and could be renewed for subsequent 10-year periods. Permit holders would be required to report fish escapes, the prevalence of disease and parasites and the use of any antibiotics, pesticides or other drugs and chemicals.

By putting in place a comprehensive regulatory framework, “It will be very clear to all of the stakeholders what the rules of the game are,” Capps said.

President of Hubbs-SeaWorld, said Capps’ bill would create “a regulatory jumble” because some of the safeguards it would put in place already are covered by other federal agencies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, for example, already regulate the use of antibiotics, he said.

The additional requirements would be so cumbersome that, if the proposal were to become law as written, “there won’t be an (aquaculture) industry in federal waters in the United States,” he said. “I won’t do it under the existing bill.’’

Hubbs-SeaWorld had wanted several years ago to set up an experimental fish farm on Platform Grace — an old oil rig about 10 miles off the coast of Ventura County — to raise California yellowtail, bluefin tuna and striped bass. The project eventually was abandoned, however.

The research institute also has put on hold plans for a commercial fish farm five miles off the San Diego coast in light of the Obama administration’s announcement that it is developing an aquaculture policy.

Capps’ office responded to his concerns by saying the congresswoman’s proposal attempts to legislate “a common sense national framework for aquaculture” and that it is the result of a collaboration with environmental and consumer groups, the scientific community, the aquaculture industry and others.

The congresswoman will continue to work with all stakeholders as the process moves forward, said her spokeswoman, Emily Spain.

Rubino said NOAA has no comment on the Capps proposal, other than to reiterate that the administration prefers a national approach to aquaculture instead of a region by region approach.

Read Full Post »

MendoCoastCurrent, January 11, 2010

In December, Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force published it’s Interim Framework and approach for waterways, oceans and all things marine.

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s Ocean Policy Task Force released its Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (Interim Framework) today for a 60-day public review and comment period. With competing interests in the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes, the Interim Framework offers a comprehensive, integrated approach to planning and managing uses and activities. Under the Framework, coastal and marine spatial planning would be regional in scope, developed cooperatively among Federal, State, tribal, local authorities, and regional governance structures, with substantial stakeholder and public input.

What jumps out at me is the 60-day public REVIEW and COMMENT period.

If you care about our oceans, waterways and coasts, I hope you’ll read the report (read what is interesting to you) and consider commenting, participating. The 60-day public review and comment period ends February 12, 2010.

I’ll be reading it.

To read the Ocean Policy Task Force Releases Interim Framework & more, click on this link and keep digging for the actual report link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/oceans

Read Full Post »

FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, December 17, 2009

The Obama administration has launched a new “zoning” approach that puts all ocean activities under the umbrella of nine regional planning bodies.

Public comments are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 12.

The approach is more local and integrated than the current strategy, which puts separate functions under different federal agencies. But it remains to be seen how such a plan can satisfy a plethora of federal laws that now protect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

The issue of whales killed by ships (like the blue whale kill in October off Fort Bragg) is cited in the new report as an example of how the regional planning approach could solve problems that single agencies cannot.

In the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other government agencies and stakeholders reconfigured the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme, after numerous fatal collisions between marine mammals and ships.

This kind of joint action is what the new Obama approach anticipates using nationwide.

The reconfigured shipping lanes reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales, studies show.

NOAA is the lone federal agency dealing with the whale kill issue locally, working with two state agencies, which have regulations that are inconsistent. With the Fort Bragg incident highlighting weaknesses in the regulatory process, a regional board could propose solutions.

In another example of oversight conflict, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) planned and launched a policy for wave energy leasing completely without local governments’ knowledge. Other federal agencies also bombarded FERC with criticism and problems their federal fellow had failed to anticipate when FERC’s program came to light.

The Obama administration’s idea is to bring all the federal and local agencies to the table at the planning stage, not the reactive stage.

“The uses of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes have expanded exponentially over time,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who also heads the Ocean Policy Task Force. “At the same time they are facing environmental challenges, including pollution and habitat destruction, that make them increasingly vulnerable.

“Without an improved, more thoughtful approach, we risk an increase in user conflicts and the potential loss of critical economic, ecosystem, social, and cultural benefits for present and future generations,” said Sutley, in a press release.

Many scientific studies have called for ocean zoning, but this is the first effort to make the idea work.

California, Oregon and Washington would be included in a single planning area The participants in the planning process, such as Indian tribes, federal agencies, states and local entities, would be asked to sign a contract modeled on development agreements.

Development agreements are widely used by housing developers to bring all county and state permitting agencies to the table so they can get loans and prepare to launch a project.

Sutley said the administration will reconvene the National Ocean Council to work with the regional planning bodies.

While the new approach promises more locally responsive planning, the job of the National Ocean Council will be to ensure that planning is consistent from region to region. That is likely to create some conflicts with monied interests representing some uses, such as oil drilling, and leave other uses with less ability to advocate at the table.

The proposal comes from the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, established by President Obama on June 12. It is led by Sutley and consists of 24 senior-level officials from administration agencies, departments and offices.

The task force’s interim framework is available for a 60-day public review and comment period. After the close of the comment period, the task force will finalize its recommendations in both this report and the Sept. 10 interim report and provide a final report to the President in early 2010.

For more details on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, including the interim framework, and to submit comments, visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

Read Full Post »

TOM HESTER SR., New Jersey Newsroom, August 25, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoState and local officials joined with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) Tuesday to recognize the success of one of the Pennington-based company’s PowerBuoys off the coast of Atlantic City.

OPT is a pioneer in wave energy technology that harnesses ocean wave resources to generate clean electricity.

“This is a celebration of our work in the renewable energy sector and an opportunity to thank the state and federal government for supporting OPT since the very beginning,” said Charles Dunleavy, the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. “As we continue to achieve success in both the national and international markets, OPT is proud to have invented, developed, and grow our operations right here in New Jersey.”

The federal and state support, including assistance from the Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the state Economic Development Authority (EDA), and the state Commission on Science and Technology.

The PowerBuoy has successfully operated for three years off the coasts of Hawaii, Spain, Scotland and Oregon.

“Governor Jon Corzine’s comprehensive energy master plan calls for 30-percent of New Jersey’s energy to be generated from renewable sources by the year 2020,” said BPU President Jeanne Fox. “Ocean Power’s PowerBuoy can help us achieve that goal while also building New Jersey’s green economy and putting our people back to work. It’s exactly the kind of business success that the Governor envisions for New Jersey.”

OPT was founded 1994. It is a public company and operates out of a 23,000- square-foot facility. Since its inception, the company has focused on its proprietary PowerBuoy® technology, capturing wave energy using large floating buoys anchored to the sea bed and converting the energy into electricity using innovative power take-off systems.

Commencing in 1997, OPT has conducted ocean trials off the coast of New Jersey to demonstrate the concept of converting wave energy and convert it into electricity. Ocean Power currently has 42 employees in New Jersey and plans to continue its growth.

“Governor Corzine’s commitment to investing in clean energy has ensured New Jersey is able to attract and develop companies like Ocean Power Technologies,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Caren S. Franzini. “Ocean Power’s innovative technology and talented staff will only help to drive the company’s growth and the creation of more green jobs in the state.”

Franzini noted that EDA, in conjunction with BPU and the state Department of Environment Protection, recently launched Clean Energy Solutions, a suite of financing and incentive programs to further support the state’s effort to promote green job creation and a more environmentally responsible energy future.

Read Full Post »

Excerpts from Environmental Leader, April 10, 2009

windmapUS Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told participants at a summit meeting “that U.S. offshore areas hold enormous potential for wind energy development in all coastal metropolitan centers, and the wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states could exceed electricity demand in the U.S.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has identified more than 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of wind potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 GW of wind potential off the Pacific Coast. There are more than 2,000 MW of offshore wind projects proposed in the United States, according to the Department of Interior.

The total wind potential for the Atlantic region is 1024 gigawatts (GW), and 1 GW of wind power will supply between 225,000 to 300,000 average U.S. homes with power annually, according to U.S. Geological Survey-Minerals Management Service Report.

New Jersey is tripling the amount of wind power it plans to use by 2020 to 3,000 megawatts, or 13% of New Jersey’s total energy, according to AP. In Atlantic City alone, the local utilities authority has a wind farm consisting of five windmills that generate 7.5 megawatts, enough energy to power approximately 2,500 homes, according to the article.

The biggest potential wind power is located out in deep waters (see chart above) — 770.9 GW in the Atlantic, 891.4 GW in the Pacific and 67 GW in the Gulf, according to NREL. The laboratory assumes that about 40% of wind potential, or 185 GW, could be developed, to power about 53.3 million average U.S. homes.

But some believe Salazar’s estimates are too optimistic.

Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Cape Wind, pushing to build a wind farm off Cape Cod, Mass., told the Associated Press that it would take hundreds of thousands of windmills with the average wind turbine generating between 2 to 5 megawatts per unit.

Read Full Post »

Hydro Review, August 18, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69Off the north coast of Scotland in waters 10 to 12 meters deep, ocean energy developer Aquamarine Power Ltd. has bolted its Oyster wave energy converter to the ocean floor and expects to be generating power by year’s end.

A team of offshore professionals eased the 194-ton converter into the sea at the European Marine Energy Center in the Orkney Islands. “Getting Oyster into the water and connected to the seabed was always going to be the most difficult step,” said Aquamarine CEO Martin McAdam. “Its completion is a real credit to everyone who has worked hard on planning and executing this major engineering feat on schedule.”

The Oyster is designed to capture energy from near-shore waves. The system includes an oscillating pump fitted with double-acting water pistons. Each wave activates the pump, delivering high-pressure water by pipeline to an onshore turbine that generates electricity. All electrical components of the Oyster are onshore, making it durable enough to withstand Scotland’s rough seas, McAdam said.

Marine constructor Fugro Seacore installed the Oyster converter under a $2.9 million contract.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »