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Archive for the ‘Coastal Conservancy’ Category

DAN BACHER, IndyBay.org, September 1, 2010

In a great show of unity between Tribal members, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and environmentalists, the 33 members of the Regional Stakeholder Group for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative on August 31 adopted one unified proposal for marine protected areas (MPAs) stretching from Point Arena in Mendocino County to the Oregon border.

The North Coast stakeholders were the first ever to develop a single consensus proposal under the controversial, privately funded process. In the Central Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast regions, environmental NGOs and fishing groups supported separate proposals.

The proposal will be submitted to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for review at before their October 25-27 meeting at the Fortuna River Lodge. The final proposal will then go to the Fish and Game Commission for final approval at their meeting in Sacramento in December.

“Everyone talked about a unified community proposal at the beginning of the MLPA process, but I wasn’t expecting to pull it off,” said Adam Wagschal, Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreational and Conservation District Conservation Director, in a news release from Cal Oceans, a coalition of three environmental NGOs. “Sure enough though, everyone came together and we did it. It’s a great accomplishment.”

Tribal representatives also applauded the adoption of a unified proposal that allows for traditional tribal fishing and gathering rights. The stakeholders meeting was preceded by a historic protest in Fort Bragg on July 21 where over 300 Tribal members from 50 Indian nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, immigrant seafood industry workers and environmentalists peacefully took over an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in defense of tribal fishing and gathering rights.

“There was significant progress by the stakeholders in coming together to create a unified proposal that protects tribal rights,” said Megan Rocha, Acting Self-Governance Officer of the Yurok Tribe. “The stakeholders did the best they could in respecting tribal gathering and fishing rights. Now this issue will go to the state of California and tribes to work it out at the next level.”

Rocha emphasized that every MPA proposal includes language to allow continued tribal uses in marine protected areas. In certain areas, the stakeholders also included language allowing for co-management between the tribes and the state.

Over the past few months, the initial set of MPA eight proposals was whittled down to four. The Regional Stakeholder Group (RSG), including Tribal leaders, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, harbormasters, divers, seaweed harvesters, business leaders and conservation representatives found enough common ground to develop one final proposal.

“The stakeholders took a strong position affirming tribal rights,” said Rocha. “It was unbelievable how committed the stakeholders were to making sure that tribal rights were respected. All of the tribes really appreciated that support.”

The proposal will result in about 13% of the North Coast region being restricted or closed to fishing and gathering, versus 16-20% in other regions of the state.

Representatives of conservation groups applauded the effort, despite some concerns that the plan may not fully meet the scientific guidelines laid out for the MLPA process.

“Everyone made sacrifices to get to this point,” said Jennifer Savage, Ocean Conservancy’s North Coast Program Coordinator. “We started out with a number of significant differences regarding needs and desires, but ultimately our respect for each other and willingness to work together enabled us to develop a plan we can all send forward.”’

The plan includes three “State Marine Reserves,” zones completely closed to all fishing, just south of Cape Mendocino, about a mile offshore of the Mattole River and along an area west of Petrolia. Another MPA along Samoa allows for Dungeness crab, chinook salmon and smelt fishing. The MPAs include two areas to the south of Redding Rock, one allowing fishing and the other a no-take zone.

Recreational and commercial fishermen also praised the development of a single proposal.

“I’m happy that we came up with a single proposal,” Tim Klassen, captain of the Reel Steel charter boat out of Humboldt Bay, told the Eureka Times Standard on August 31, “and hopefully we’ll keep our fate in our own hands.”

Despite the adoption of a unified proposal for the North Coast, significant concerns about the overall MLPA process remain.

Fishermen, Tribal members and environmentalists are concerned that the MLPA process under Schwarzenegger has taken oil drilling, water pollution, wave energy development, habitat destruction and other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table. The MLPA would do nothing to stop another Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon oil disaster from devastating the California coast.

MLPA critics have also blasted the Governor for appointing an oil industry lobbyist, a marina developer, a real estate executive and people with conflicts of interest on the Blue Ribbon Task Forces that develop the marine reserves.

Many are puzzled whey Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, is allowed to make decisions as the chair of the BRTF for the South Coast and as a member of the BRTF for the North Coast, panels that are supposedly designed to “protect” the ocean, when she has called for new oil drilling off the California coast.

Many fishermen and environmentalists are also concerned that a private corporation, the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, is privatizing ocean resource management in California through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DFG.

Nonetheless, the development of a unified marine protected area (MLPA) proposal on the North Coast is a great victory for fishermen, Tribes, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists and other stakeholders in the MLPA process. Rather than being “divided and conquered” by the Schwarzenegger administration as has happened elsewhere in the MLPA study regions, they chose to work together and overcome their differences to develop a consensus proposal.

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FRANK HARTZELL, Fort Bragg Advocate News, June 11, 2010

Rising acidity of ocean waters will wipe out the world’s coral reefs and could devastate crab, scallops and other creatures that build shells from calcium compounds in ocean waters, a top professor told a Fort Bragg audience last Friday.

San Francisco State Professor Jonathon Stillman presented figures that showed the pH balance of ocean waters has tilted toward acid in the past 20 years. That’s nearly as much as it did in the previous 200 years, which were themselves a steady but slow increase over historical levels.

The bad news could be good news for Fort Bragg’s efforts to launch a marine science study center. Millions in study funding has already been pledged by various organizations to monitor new Marine Life Protected Areas. Ocean acidification and upwelling present further tasks critical to the planet’s future that a local marine study center could help with, locals said.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is a public-private effort to create a connected array of new areas of the ocean where fishing uses are prohibited or restricted. The MLPAI is a private organization authorized by the state and funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation Fund to gather public input and create the proposed maps of closed areas.

Stillman presented preliminary experimental data that showed disturbing changes to mollusks, crustaceans and even fish, including decreasing shell-building and creature size.

Rising proof about the impacts of global climate change and acidification show that coral reefs will actually be melted in this century if current rates of acidification continue.

Perhaps most distressing to the crowd of about 40 people was that the life-giving upwelling off the Mendocino Coast actually adds to acidification by bringing up more acidic deep waters.

The more upwelling, the more acidic waters become.

Ocean acidification is caused by atmospheric carbon dissolving in the oceans. Ocean acidity has been rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution, as factories, cars and even cows have pumped out increasing amounts of carbon dioxide. About 30% of carbon released into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans.

Stillman was both harried and delighted by the steady barrage of questions from the audience. Many were complex and scientific in nature such as queries from geologist Skip Wollenberg and seaweed harvester Tomas DiFiore.

Everybody seemed to have a question and got an answer from the professor:

  • Do rising salinity levels contribute? Answer: No and icecap melting means salinity is actually going down.
  • What about studying the winds that drive upwelling? Answer: Important question but too tangential.

Wollenberg wanted to know if the fossil record provided any warnings of what happens when oceans get more acid. Stillman said it does, but wanted time to share important recent studies on that subject before answering, and he ran out of time, due to all the questions and discussion.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative never came up, although, it has greatly raised local interest (and controversy) in ocean issues and local participation in solving problems with the oceans.

The talk was sponsored by COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea) and OST (Ocean Science Trust). COMPASS seeks to help scientists like Stillman step outside the ivory tower and communicate complex topics to the general public.

“They are an effort to provide relevant science talks to our communities — which is such a treat,” said Jeanine Pfeiffer, a locally-based college science teacher who is also outreach coordinator for MLPAI. “I personally am thrilled to have free access to the types of seminars I used to be able to see on a weekly basis at UC Davis, but are so rare here on the coast, due to our remote location.”

Stillman provided no solutions, with his handout stating that reduced carbon output is the only solution to ocean acidification (as well as rising sea levels).

More scientific study of the oceans — like that locals hope to create with a science center on the former Georgia Pacific mill site — is critical to the survival of the planet, Stillman said.

“At present we cannot adequately predict how marine ecosystems as a whole will respond to ocean acidification and our ability to deal with (acidification) depends on how well we can predict its effects,” Stillman’s handout states.

State efforts to stem global climate change and prepare for rising sea levels were explained to the crowd by Sheila Semans, project specialist with the California Ocean Protection Council, the state agency that oversees the oceans.

She explained the sweeping Global Warming Solutions Act signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 that targets emission reductions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Among important specific actions she cited was the acquisition of Bay Area wetlands, mostly from the Cargill Corporation, another public-privatized effort (like MLPAI) financed by the Resources Legacy Foundation.

Unlike Georgia Pacific at the mill site, Cargill was allowed to convey tens of thousands of acres to the state before cleaning up toxic effects of generations of salt mining.

This reporter, accompanied by dissident Bay Area local environmentalists and Department of Fish and Game employees, toured miles of these former salt marshes, which support little life in many places. The state has little funding for a cleanup that could cost a billion.

Local critics of the acquisition process for the salt marshes (such as refuge friends organizations) say they were unable to influence the centralized marketing and acquisition process. After the massive land tracts were acquired amid much fanfare, problems with the amount paid and the extent of the cleanup needed emerged, as local critics had predicted.

The MLPAI effort pledges better follow up study, but many locals remain skeptical that study dollars or efforts will involve locals and those with hands-on familiarity with the local ocean.

– For an overview of climate change: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/

– California Climate Change portal: http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/

The site with videos addressing rising sea levels (and other topics): http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/visualization/index.html

– Cargill acquisition: http://baynature.org/articles/jul-sep-2007/highway-to-the-flyway/napa-sonoma-marshes

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AMBROSIA SARABIA with edits, theLog.com, June 10, 2010

In May 2010, a reporter that was attempting to videotape proceedings was forcibly removed from a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session. MLPA staff then reversed their ban on videotaping and audio recording at future sessions. However, the move has not eased tensions between those tied to the planning process for new Marine Protected Areas off the California coast (where fishing will be off limits) and sport anglers who advocate retaining open fishing areas.

On May 28, United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, who have opposed the direction MLPA’s appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force appears to be heading, filed a suit against the task force and the MLPA Science Advisory Team, claiming they have violated the California Records Act.

“It has become more and more evident that the MLPA process is being steered off course by special interests — and political motivations — with dangerous potential for restricting many popular areas enjoyed by fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said UASC president Steven Fukuto, in a prepared statement.

The law firm of Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble, Mallory & Natis LLP, acting on behalf of the UASC and petitioner Robert Fletcher, filed suit at the Sacramento County Courthouse as the first step of a multistage litigation process, according to Fukuto. The filing is the first step in what he expects to be an ongoing, thorough examination of the “flawed process.”

“Our legal team has identified several potential causes for action, and we will aggressively pursue any and all legal avenues to protect recreational access for fishermen, and all Californians,” Fukuto added.

According to the UASC, the suit is tied to the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s and Science Advisory Team’s failure to respond to requests made by Fletcher for documents and records relevant to the MLPA implementation process. The verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

Under the California Public Records Act, the public has the right of access to information that is in the possession of state and local agencies. By law, public records are open to inspection at all times during office hours of state or local agencies, except for those that are exempt from disclosure by express provisions of the law.

Transparent Process?

California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act of 1967 requires that “meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” and requires open meetings for all California state agencies, boards and commissions. Its purpose is to mandate accountability and transparency of government activities and to protect the rights of citizens to participate in state government.

However, MLPA’s staff has long stated that its work sessions do not qualify as “public meetings,” as the MLPA initiative process is privately funded through a unique public-private partnership.

When a Fort Bragg journalist was forcibly removed from a North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session after refusing to stop videotaping, claiming California’s open meetings laws gave him the right to cover the event, there was public uproar — and a protest from United Anglers of Southern California.

According to MLPA staff, members of the media and the public were permitted to attend work sessions but were not permitted to make comments, take photos or make recordings of any kind. The rule was put into place to create a “safe space” for individuals to speak openly and toss out ideas, according to staff.

In May, the rule was revisited and redefined to allow videotaping and audio recording by the public and members of the media, after MLPA staff members determine that the ban “was not reflective of the process.”

“We always err on the side of being open and transparent,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative. He said the sessions do not fall under Bagley-Keene, since there is not a quorum. “It is important that people not be given this idea that we are somehow restricting access, or that it is not open and transparent.”

The change in policy has not changed UASC’s mind about the openness of the process. The organization has cited various instances where decisions were made during Science Advisory Team meetings.

One occurred in 2009 when “persistent kelp” was mentioned — a subject that UASC said no one but perhaps team members understood. The classification of “persistent kelp” reduced the amount of kelp used in scientific guidelines that the Science Advisory Team uses to evaluate habitat replication. At the time, stakeholder groups were not provided enough time to fully understand what it meant or how it applied, according to UASC.

“The Blue Ribbon Task Force said they would operate the process in the spirit of Bagley-Keene, and we feel they have not lived up to that spirit,” Fukuto said. “We feel that decisions have been made in private.”

Others argue that the process is anything but open. Months of planning and revising Option 2, an alternative for the South Coast Region that would implement the fewest fishing closures, were wasted, many participants in the process said, when the Blue Ribbon Task Force threw out the options recommended by stakeholders and instead developed its own preferred plan — the IPA. If approved, the plan will close approximately 400 square miles of ocean off the Southern California coast to fishing.

However, Wiseman argues that anglers’ time was not wasted and their input was not thrown out. The resulting plan created by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was a blend of all three stakeholder proposals, Wiseman said.

“For sportfishing associations to say their ideas were ignored is ludicrous,” he said. “Their ideas are incorporated into the preferred alternative that is in front of the commission.”

He added, “They did not get everything they wanted, but nobody did.”

Greg Schem, who served as a member of the South Coast Region Blue Ribbon Task Force and currently sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast Region, said the process invites everyone to the table. Every proposal made by varied interested groups, information provided by the Science Advisory Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force is open to public comment.

Schem said he is an angler who joined the process two years ago, so he understands where other anglers are coming from — but he said he also understands that fishing closures are necessary as marine resources continue to degrade.

“I don’t like closures either, but I recognize this is a necessity,” said Schem, president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, a firm specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments — including a marina, fuel dock and boat- yard in Marina del Rey.

“It is not a question of how do we not close anything, but a question of how do we close areas while still preserving adequate areas for consumptive users, and provide protected areas that will allow this network of MLPAs to operate as scientists anticipated,” Schem said.

Closing specific fishing areas was especially difficult since everyone has a favorite spot, Schem said. These emotional ties made it difficult for many to compromise on closures, he added.

“Not everybody is going to be happy,” Schem said. “Everybody is going to give a little bit, and that’s how you come up with a compromise.”

The Fish and Game Commission will vote on the plan for Southern California’s MLPA closure areas this summer and plans to finalize and implement new Marine Protected Areas by the end of the year. The study region includes the area extending from Point Conception to the California/Mexico border.

The North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group is in the early stages of drafting alternatives for establishing Marine Protected Areas in Northern California. The group will work with the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Science Advisory Team and staff to evaluate existing Marine Protected Areas within the North Coast study region. The study region extends from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek in Mendocino County.

The planning process is expected to be completed in December 2010.

For more information on MLPAs, visit dfg.ca.gov.

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JENNIFER DART, Westerly News, June 3, 2010

Several groups working on wave energy on the British Columbia coast gathered in Ucluelet this week to discuss developments in the industry and update local projects.

Representatives from the non-profit Ocean Renewable Energy Group (OREG) chaired the community open house, held June 1 at the Ucluelet Community Centre.

Also in attendance were academics, developers, and representatives from all levels of government, including the Yuu-cluth-aht First Nation and the District of Ucluelet.

OREG executive director Chris Campbell said developing the technology to harness energy from the ocean is a “long, slow process,” but Canadian companies are active internationally, “so it’s gradually becoming more and more real.”

The Ucluelet/Tofino area has long been considered an ideal site for an ocean renewable energy project given its coastal location and proximity to the BC Hydro grid.

“Ocean renewable energy is something that’s been making rattling noises for quite a few years in our area,” said Ucluelet mayor Eric Russcher. “It would be a new and different world we live in but an exciting prospect for us all.”

According to information from OREG, preliminary studies indicate the wave energy potential off Canada’s Pacific Coast is equal to approximately half of Canada’s electricity consumption.

There seems to be a new energy behind wave power in recent months, given in part to new advances in technology, and also specifically in B.C. because of the Liberal government’s Clean Energy Act, which has been tabled in the legislature but has yet to be passed.

Jeff Turner from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said the Act is meant to achieve energy efficiency while maintaining low rates, generate employment in the clean energy sector, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While critics of the Act say it gives the province oversight on major projects like the Site C dam on the Peace River and could be mean higher hydro rates, the announcement has helped kick start development in areas like wave energy, where researchers are currently focused on pinpointing potential outputs.

Two wave energy projects are in development on the West Coast; one for the waters off Ucluelet and one in close proximity to the Hesquiaht communities at Hesquiaht Harbour and Hot Springs Cove.

John Gunton of SyncWave Systems Inc. presented his company’s plan for the SyncWave Power Resonator, a buoy class device that would be slack moored in depths of up to 200 metres. Simply put, this device captures energy from the upward and downward motion of the wave. Gunton said the company has provincial and federal funding, but is looking for a $3 million investment to complete its first two phases of development for placement near Hesquiaht Point.

A test resonator placed eight kilometres off Ucluelet in 40 metres of waters in December was collecting data for a period of about one month until a mast on it was destroyed. It was repaired, upgraded and redeployed in late April and a website will be set up by a group called the West Coast Wave Collaboration that is comprised of academics and industry representatives to transmit power data. Local partners in this project include the Ucluth Development Corporation, the District of Ucluelet and Black Rock Resort.

The other technology is a near shore device, placed in depths of 35 to 50 metres. The CETO device is owned by Carnegie Wave Energy of Australia, and was presented by David King at the open house. Seven metre cylinders capture wave energy and pump it to an onshore turbine. A government grant will also assist in the development of this technology.

But Jessica McIvoy of OREG said there are many questions left to be answered including what are the impacts on the ocean environment and sea life of such devices, and in turn how will the devices last in the ocean?

Campbell said an adaptive management approach to the technology seems like the best option to proceed with preliminary work, taking into account “critical indicators” in the natural environment.

Yuu-cluth-aht chief councillor Vi Mundy said she’s interested in these indicators after hearing concerns from her community, from fishers for example: “I’m hearing questions like what kind of impact will there be and what kind of standards have been developed so far [in the wave energy industry].”

But she also noted young people in her community are asking for green development that will provide year round employment.

“It’s really good to see that in young people,” Mundy said.

Anyone with questions about wave technology on the coast is invited to contact OREG at questions@oreg.ca.

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May 22, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of California have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate procedures and schedules for review of hydrokinetic energy projects off the California coast.

This marks the fourth hydrokinetics MOU that FERC has signed with other states, following agreements signed last year with Washington and Maine, and with Oregon in 2008. Today’s agreement ensures that FERC and California will undertake all permitting and licensing efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner, taking into account economic and cultural concerns.

“This agreement with California shows FERC’s continuing commitment to work with the states to ensure American consumers can enjoy the environmental and financial benefits of clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“I am delighted the State of California has signed an MOU with the Commission on developing hydrokinetic projects off the California coast,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “This completes a sweep of the West Coast which, along with Maine, is showing its commitment to bringing the benefits of clean hydrokinetic energy to the consumers of the United States.”

FERC and California have agreed to the following with respect to hydrokinetics:

  • Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license or license;
  • When considering a license application, each will agree as early as possible on a schedule for processing. The schedule will include milestones, and FERC and California will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
  • They will coordinate the environmental reviews of any proposed projects in California state waters. FERC and California also will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters; and
  • They will encourage applicants to seek pilot project licenses prior to a full commercial license, to allow for testing of devices before commercial deployment.

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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.

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TIM STELLOH, North Coast Journal, January 28, 2010

“Consensus” isn’t a word that comes to mind with the Marine Life Protection Act, Mendocino County branch.

Consider a Monday night meeting in Fort Bragg, where fishermen, seaweeders and enviros convened at St. Micheal’s Episcopal Church to do one thing: figure out which areas along the Mendocino Coast to “protect” — that is, which coastline to turn into no-take reserves and protected areas that limit or block fishing and harvesting, as required under MLPA.

Brevity was important. So was compromise, as the deadline is Feb. 1 for Mendocino, Del Norte and Humboldt counties — together the North Coast region of the MLPA — to officially make their choices as a single, unified group. If the coalition blows the deadline, the state will have a whole lot more power to make those decisions for them — particularly for Mendocino, said Jennifer Savage of the Ocean Conservancy. (Ed. note: Savage is the Journal’s art and poverty columnist.)

This process, of course, has been mired in conflict. Fishermen, seafood harvesters and other critics have called the science behind those protected zones — which the state says should be about nine square miles every 30 to 60 miles — bogus. They’ve described the process as an unfair, underfunded burden on communities, as obfuscatory and hostile to public input. Some have described the entire premise of MLPA as, at best, misguided and, at worst, a conspiracy to wrest control of California’s coast. On the flip side, enviros say the process has been transparent, and the protected areas are necessary to safeguard against overfishing and other harmful activities.

Del Norte has done just fine in deciding which parts of its coast to protect. Humboldt has slogged through. Then there’s Mendocino, which, let’s just say, has had a few problems.

It was about about two and a half hours into the Monday meeting when the mood soured. Bill Lemos, a local teacher who’s working with National Resources Defense Council (or “Big Green,” as MLPA foes call it) and Conservation First!, had, using a computer model map and projector, just cataloged all the areas he thought suitable for protection — areas near Cape Vizcaino and Pt. Cabrillo, among others.

A group of fishermen from the Salmon Trollers Marketing Association weren’t having it. Until now, most of them had, well, been fishing, and unable to attend any of the create-your-own map meetings that recently began, said Ben Platt, a salmon and crab fisherman. No longer. Were the state to implement one of Lemos’s suggestions near Usal Beach, he said, they’d lose 80% of their crab.

“That would gut the crabbing area,” another fisherman said. “I don’t know why you’d even put that up there.”

Another fisherman chimed in: “We’ve got to take in the economic value of our community. Commercial, recreational, everyone here. We’re supposed to be doing adaptive management not protective management — ”

Lemos had had enough.

“Folks, we’ve been through this before. We walked out of this meeting before saying, ‘We are not here to take your negative input,'” Lemos said, referring to a meeting earlier this month that ended on less than cordial terms. “We’re here to share with you what our ideas are. We understand that these [changes] will cause you to be less active in the ocean and cause you some economic hardship. We understand that part of it. But folks, these are coming from somewhere, and we are trying to adapt them to places that would have the least impact. Thank you for your input, but I really don’t want to be here all night arguing with you. We’ve done the best we can.”

Another debate followed — one that shows how bewildering the process is: Just how much coastline does the state require that the North Coast region set aside in order to comply with MLPA rules? And just how important is that rule anyway? According to Dave Wright, a recreational fisherman, it’s not a top priority.

Lemos disagreed.

Even though there’s not a strict number, for the next echelon of scientists to even consider the map of protected coastline — the one that’s due in under a week — 15% of the North Coast should be protected, he said, adding that even that would be on the low end. In other parts of the California coast where MLPA has been implemented, between 16% and 22% of coastline has been turned into reserves and protected areas.

“I thought they were re-evaluating that for the North Coast,” Wright said. “Aren’t they re-evaluating that?”

“I don’t know,” Lemos said.

And that’s pretty much where the meeting ended — almost an hour past the scheduled end time, with no apparent compromise and no single, unified map.

Which gives Mendocino’s many coastal stakeholders even less time. If they don’t pull an all-nighter between now and next Monday and come up with that map, several maps will have to be submitted to begin the slow slog through the MLPA bureaucracy toward the final destination: a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the state, and the Department of Fish and Game, which the MLPA is officially part of.

With that last-gasp, non-public effort just days away, Jeanine Pfeiffer, the UC Davis scientist who’s been moderating the discussions, had a stern warning to Mendocino’s enviros: “If we fail to protect our cultural heritage — which in this region means small-scale fisheries, coastal towns and Native American tribes — if we fail to protect our cultural heritage with the same passion and attention as our biological heritage, then we’re not doing our best,” she said.

Ladies and gents, get your NoDoz.

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