This Week on TalkingFish.org – October 20-24

Oct 24, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

October 22 – Exploring America’s Ocean Canyons – Officials in the mid-Atlantic region are considering important and much-needed protection for some 39,000 square miles of U.S. territory, an area larger than Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey combined. But it’s not a place that you or I have ever visited. It’s part of the country’s ocean realm stretching 200 miles from shore, beyond our shallow coastal waters. Fortunately, the deep-sea explorations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel Okeanos Explorer and its unmanned submersible are bringing parts of that vast, largely unknown area into spectacular, close-up view.

October 24 – Fish Talk in the News – Friday, October 24 -In this week’s Fish Talk in the News, New England herring and bluefin tuna fishing worlds collide; Maine’s New England Cluster aims to boost its maritime economy; NRDC intends to sue NMFS and NOAA; the Maine Lobstering Union also intends to sue NMFS; an opinion piece calls for better monitoring of Gulf of Maine cod; Maine researchers are trying to better understand microplastics in the Gulf of Maine; ASMFC recommends cuts in Maine’s elver quota; NMFS proposed a new sea turtle protection rule; ASMFC release supplemental materials for its annual meeting; Cuban fisheries managers learn from the New England fishing industry’s successes and failures; the Army Corps approved the first east coast offshore shellfish aquaculture permit; seafood lovers celebrated at the Wellfleet OysterFest last weekend; North Shore high school students will be served locally caught fish on Fridays; $18 million in federal funds will be available for Saltonstall-Kennedy grants; the Coast Guard is offering free safety courses to commercial fishermen; and a Maine lobstermen faces a $50,000 fine and jail time.

Redefining Open Space: The Case for Protecting Open Space in the Sea

Oct 24, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Photo credit: Brian Skerry

Photo credit: Brian Skerry

Nestled on Massachusetts’ North Shore, Ipswich is an historic New England community with a vibrant town center, friendly people, and working farms.

What really strikes visitors to this small town, however, is its open space. A remarkable 47 percent of the town is protected. People here seem to share a common, almost innate understanding that their quality of life is intimately tied to their open space – and that they need green spaces to balance a landscape increasingly developed for housing and commerce.

The people of Ipswich are not alone – New England boasts 500 land trusts working to protect the places that make living in this corner of the country so special. Across the country, the number of active land trusts tops out at more than 1,700, which, together, have conserved 47 million acres of land. That number of protected acres only gets bigger when you add in state and national park systems and wildlife refuges.

So, when I think about the concept of open space in the ocean, I am confounded by how differently we treat our saltwater resources. There’s not even a term for open space at sea. I know, for many of us, the vast blue expanse of the ocean looks like nothing but “open space.” But beneath the waves is a landscape as diverse, breathtaking, and dramatic as any on land – a dynamic seascape of boulder reefs, hard and soft corals, luxuriant kelp forests, muddy basins, ever-changing sand plains, and beautiful canyons full of exotic marine life.

Yet only a fraction of our oceans – barely two percent – is permanently protected worldwide.

Surely in the same way that we bank away critical portions of our terrestrial landscape for its inherent value, we can protect equally vital seascapes so that our ocean can survive and thrive for generations to come. That protection should follow the same principles as on land, which we manage for multiple uses. We need appropriate places to develop and site clean renewable offshore wind energy, for example. And, we need fishing grounds to support our venerable fishing industry and the production of the delicious seafood for which our coastal regions are renowned.

But we also have to acknowledge that fishing, while important, is not a benign activity; few exploitative industries are. And some fishing gear – trawls and dredges, in particular – are more destructive than others. Our decisions about how to manage the ocean, then, must balance both realities. That’s why Conservation Law Foundation is pushing to protect some of New England’s most remarkable – and vulnerable – ocean open spaces before they are damaged beyond repair.

Cashes Ledge is one of those vulnerable places. Located in the Gulf of Maine about 80 miles from Portland, Maine, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, Cashes Ledge rivals any earthbound landscape in beauty, biodiversity, and grandeur. The steep ridges and deep basins along this 25-mile-long mountain range create ideal conditions for marine life as currents mix nutrient- and oxygen-rich water from the top of the water column to the seafloor far below. Home to the deepest and largest cold-water kelp forest along the Atlantic seaboard, Cashes Ledge provides an important source of food and a diverse habitat for fish, sharks, marine mammals, and an astounding array of invertebrates. This diversity also makes it a valuable open-sea laboratory for scientists studying ocean ecosystems and the impacts of climate change.

Marine life on Cashes Ledge. Photo credit: Brian Skerry.

Marine life on Cashes Ledge. Photo credit: Brian Skerry.

For the past 12 years Cashes Ledge and the area surrounding it have been closed to most commercial fishing – and it shows. The area is lush and productive, a refuge not only for threatened groundfish like Atlantic cod, but also for rare species such as Atlantic wolffish and North Atlantic right whales. As I write, however, federal fisheries managers are considering a proposal to re-open the whole area to the most harmful kinds of commercial fishing, which could devastate this prized seascape.

Cashes Ledge is one of those remarkable places that few people will ever get to experience for themselves – only the most skilled divers attempt to explore its depths. To help expose the underwater beauty and diversity of Cashes Ledge, Conservation Law Foundation has partnered with noted marine photojournalist Brian Skerry, a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine and a National Geographic Photography Fellow. During his long career, Brian has photographed oceanscapes around the world, documenting their beauty and their fragility for all of us to see. Now he’s come back home to his native New England waters, capturing through his expert lens Cashes Ledge’s rainforest-like kelp forest, expansive mussel beds, sea stars and sea anemones, red Atlantic cod and cunner, and so much more.

Brian knows that seeing is believing – and he shares with us a conviction that, by revealing the wonder of Cashes Ledge through his dramatic and mesmerizing photography, we can inspire people’s passion for its protection, a passion as strong as any stirred by our most beloved landscapes.

We can – we must – change the way we think about ocean open spaces, and move forward meaningful protection for our most vital seascapes, places like Cashes Ledge.

Priscilla Brooks is the Director of Ocean Conservation at Conservation Law Foundation where she works to restore and protect New England’s ocean wildlife and habitats.

Video: Take a 90-Second Dive on Cashes Ledge

Aug 27, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Cashes Ledge is a spectacular underwater mountain range unlike anyplace you’ll find on land or sea – it’s one of the most dynamic hotspots of biodiversity in New England and the entire North Atlantic. Now it’s in danger. Cashes Ledge has been protected from the most harmful fishing practices for more than 10 years. But this amazing preserve for fish and ocean wildlife may be just a few months away from having its protected status revoked.

We’re not going to let that happen – and you can help by doing just three things:

1. Watch our video. Since we can’t take you to Cashes Ledge, we enlisted National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry, Brown University Biologist Jon Witman, and local fishermen to help bring Cashes to you.

2. If you haven’t already, please sign our petition to NOAA today, asking them to protect Cashes Ledge.

3. Share this video far and wide with your friends, colleagues, and networks. – and ask them to sign our petition and support our work. Because we need many more passionate people like you to take action, today, to protect this remarkable marine refuge.

It’s going to take all of us raising our voices loudly and clearly to protect Cashes Ledge. Thank you for your commitment and for being part of the CLF community.

 

Dedication and Talent Obvious Among Commission Members Studying Ocean Acidification

Aug 7, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Did you know that climate change has made the Gulf of Maine 500% less productive at producing marine life? How much of that reduced productivity is a result of ocean acidification is a question that might be answered by Maine’s Ocean Acidification Study Commission, which met for the first time on August 1. The Commission, the second in the nation of its kind, is tasked with understanding the science behind ocean acidification, determining what we still need to learn to fully understand the problem, and recommending potential solutions.

Oysters-OA-Blog

Rep. Mick Devin shucks oysters during the first Maine Study Commission meeting, highlighting research done on ocean acidification at the University of Maine’s Darling Center.

The Commission is composed of an impressive array of legislators, fishermen and scientists, most of whom are volunteering their time. At the August 1 meeting, which was open to the public, Commission members asked tough and detailed questions to a team of scientists who shared their knowledge about this problem. Here are some of the facts that I learned at the meeting:

  • Ocean acidification is like acid rain, in that carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid. Its impacts differ, however, because the ocean can absorb more carbonic acid than freshwater lakes (which were most affected by acid rain). The acid nonetheless eats away at the shells of mollusks like clams and oysters and affects crustaceans like lobsters by impacting the calcium carbonate that they use to make shells. Scientists are still studying and discovering exactly how harmful ocean acidification is to shellfish.
  • The major cause of ocean acidification is carbon from fossil fuel emissions. We must find local, regional, and national ways to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from sources like power plants and cars.
  • We must also reduce coastal sources of acidification, such as stormwater runoff and insufficient sewage treatment. This can be done mostly by passing laws and taking actions that drastically reduce the amount of nutrients that flow into the ocean from these controllable sources.
  • We have to find ways to help marine life adapt to the changes already caused by ocean acidification and those further changes that we cannot stop. Scientists are looking at whether we can recycle mollusk shells and add them to bays to act like an antacid, the ability of plants like seaweed and sea grass to absorb carbon, and ocean planning to perhaps start seaweed farms (which could reduce carbon) near shellfish farms (which are harmed by carbon).
  • Some shellfish farmers in Maine have already begun storing sea water to use during times when stormwater runoff makes the water unsafe for developing oysters.

In a state where 75% of our fisheries income is derived from shellfish, the Commission has a large task in front of it. The sincerity, expertise and dedication of the Commission members inspired confidence that they will find ways to help reduce the causes of acidification and lessen its impacts on our fisheries. CLF is especially grateful to Representative Mick Devin for introducing the legislation and working so hard to bring scientists and others to the first meeting. Senator Chris Johnson and Representative Wayne Perry also played active roles at the meeting, asking thoughtful questions and helping to shape the work ahead.

The Commission has set up working committees and will meet three more times as a whole. After that, they will write a report to be presented to the state legislature by December 5. If you want to learn more about the Commission, or attend any of their meetings, check out their website.

CLF will assist the Commission using our legal and policy expertise. On a state and regional level, we will continue to work for clean energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and for laws and permits that reduce or eliminate sources of nutrient pollution to our ocean.

Meet the CLF Dive Team

Jun 2, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

CLF-Dive-Team-1

The team getting ready for action.

With the CLF dive team busy exploring Cashes Ledge and other sites in the Gulf of Maine, we thought we’d introduce you to our star-studded team of ocean adventurers!

 

CLF-Dive-Team-2

Brian Skerry is a renowned underwater photographer praised around the world for his aesthetic sense and evocative scenes. His images tell stories that not only celebrate the mystery and beauty of the sea, but also help bring attention to the threats that endanger our oceans and their inhabitants.

A contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 1998, Brian has covered a wide range of stories, from the harp seal’s struggle to survive in frozen waters to the alarming decrease in the world’s fisheries. His latest book, a 160-photo monograph entitled Ocean Soul, was published in 2011.

Skerry is also a passionate ocean advocate. After three decades of exploring the world’s oceans, the Massachusetts native has returned to the Gulf of Maine to document and protect its exceptional diversity of marine wildlife and habitat.

CLF-Dive-Team-3

Jon Witman is a professor of biology at Brown University. He has studied the ecology of subtidal marine communities for over 30 years, and has conducted research in six of the world’s seven oceans.

Jon led the first ecological study of overfishing in the Gulf of Maine. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and book chapters on the invertebrate and fish communities that thrive on the rocky seafloor at Cashes Ledge, and he has also studied the internal waves that support primary productivity in the area. He is committed to protecting the ecological and scientific value of this unique marine habitat.

Jon will also be joined on the expedition by his Ph.D. student Robby Lamb.

CLF-Dive-Team-4

Evan Kovacs started his filming career in 2003 on the History Channel’s underwater adventure series Deep Sea Detectives.  He has also had an ongoing filming relationship with the Emmy award winning Lonewolf Documentary Group, and recently the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

With WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab, Evan has filmed on the deep submersible ALVIN and the ROV Jason. Currently he is working with the lab to develop the next generation of 3D and 2D cameras and shooting techniques for topside and underwater imaging. Evan has been diving for over 18 years and has dived on shipwrecks, caves and reefs across the world.

CLF-Dive-Team-5

Luis Lamar is a scientific technician with WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab. He has filmed and photographed marine life around the world, from New Zealand to Micronesia. Lu has assisted Brian Skerry on numerous dive expeditions and has captured video of the kelp forests on Cashes Ledge for Conservation Law Foundation.

CLF-Dive-Team-6

Ken Houtler is the captain of WHOI’s R/V Tioga, a research boat launched in 2004 and designed for day and overnight trips in coastal waters. Ken has led the vessel on countless research expeditions in New England waters, including trips to deploy and recover autonomous oceanographic instruments, to collect data on harmful algal blooms, and to tag endangered North Atlantic right whales.

CLF-Dive-Team-7

Liz Kintzing is the expedition’s dive captain. Liz supervises the academic diving program at the University of New Hampshire’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, and she also sits on the board of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. She has been diving with Jon Witman on Cashes Ledge for over 20 years.

New England’s Congressional Members Demonstrate Strong Leadership and Support for Regional Ocean Planning and the National Ocean Policy

May 16, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Congress has finally announced a bipartisan compromise on legislation to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRRDA). Thanks to the leadership of Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and California Senator Barbara Boxer, a potentially damaging rider that would have prohibited the US Army Corps of Engineers from working with states and tribes to improve regional management was left out of the final bill. If the provision had been included in the bill – which contains billions of dollars in projects – management decisions for our nation’s coasts and waterways, vitally important for New England states, would have suffered greatly.

The rider, promoted by GOP Congressman Bill Flores of Waco, Texas, would have prohibited the US Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the National Ocean Policy and disallowed the Nation’s leading manager of waterways from coordinating with states, businesses, scientists and coastal users in devising plans for managing coasts, oceans and the Great Lakes. Rep. Flores’ attempt to stop new collaboration and planning among federal and state agencies and ocean users, such as energy developers and shipping interests, ignores the hundreds of billions of dollars of economic value in coastal and Great Lakes commerce, which to a large degree depend upon a network of integrated management.

CLF loudly applauds New England’s Representatives Pingree (ME-1), Michaud (ME-2), Neal (MA-1), Shea-Porter (NH-1), Kuster (NH-2), Welch (VT), McGovern (MA-2), Tsongas (MA-3), Kennedy (MA-4), Tierney (MA-6), Capuano (MA-7), Lynch (MA-8), Keating (MA-9), Cicillene (RI-1), Langevin (RI-2), Larson, (CT-1), Courtney (CT-2), DeLauro (CT-3), Himes (CT-4), and Esty (CT- 5), all of whom voted correctly to oppose the Flores rider.

Unfortunately, the WRRDA bill did not enact the National Endowment for the Oceans, a program championed by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI). However, a new Army Corps program focusing on ocean and coastal resiliency was included that addresses a great need for funding and focuses efforts on our ocean and coastal ecosystems. In a press release issued Thursday, Senator Whitehouse comments, “In Rhode Island and throughout the country, the strength of our economy is tied directly to the health of our oceans and coasts. This program will provide a new avenue through which we can protect and restore those ecosystems. While I would have preferred to establish a separate oceans endowment with broader authority, this program within the Army Corps will enable important projects to go forward that might have otherwise languished. It represents an important step in our nation’s effort to protect coastal resources, and I look forward to supporting this program going forward.”

The National Ocean Policy directs federal agencies to coordinate management activities, implement a science-based system of decision making; support safe and sustainable access and ocean uses; respect cultural practices, recreational access, and maritime heritage; and conserve ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. The National Ocean Policy does this by providing a framework of ocean planning, a science-based process of improving decisions about ocean resources before conflict arises that involves everyone who has a stake in ocean management, including towns and cities, scientists, fishermen, conservation groups, recreational users, and businesses. The importance of coastal marine spatial planning in decision making is clearly demonstrated as Rhode Island approves its first offshore wind project.

Conservation Law Foundation thanks New England’s leaders for recognizing that partisan politics do not have a place when our ocean, coastal and Great lakes regions have significant management challenges to tackle and that real challenges need real solutions.

Maine Legislature Takes First Step Towards Averting Disastrous Impacts of Ocean Acidification

Mar 12, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Maine’s legislature is taking early steps to address increasingly acidic ocean waters in the Gulf of Maine that threaten the state’s shellfisheries and marine ecosystem.

The Gulf of Maine has become increasingly more acidic as CO2 emissions from industrial sources and vehicles get deposited in the water, where the carbon mixes to form carbonic acid. This problem is aggravated by polluted stormwater runoff.  The more acidic seawater has been shown to dissolve juvenile clam shells, and larvae are avoiding the most acidic mudflats. Studies predict that the increasing acidity, if left unchecked, will also stunt the growth of lobsters, and cause them to develop thicker shells. Oyster production is also expected to drop dramatically.

Maine is more dependent on its marine resources for its economic health than any other state in the Northeast. Nearly 6,000 active harvesters work in our lobster and clam fisheries alone, while hundreds of other industries and communities support, and depend on, this vital source of revenue and livelihoods.

Last week, the Maine Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee took a giant first step towards addressing the problem when it voted unanimously to send a bill that authorizes a study of the issue to the house floor. The bill, introduced by Representative Mick Devin, would establish a 16-member panel to identify what further study is needed and what legislation can be introduced in the 2015 legislative session to address ocean acidification. The bill starts a critical process designed to counteract ocean acidification now, rather than waiting until it has rotted away our shellfish industry and irrevocably changed the fish that can survive in our waters.

CLF strongly supports this first but significant step in averting this potential economic and environmental crisis. We joined with other organizations and fishing interests to help ensure positive support for Representative Devin’s bill in the Marine Resources Committee. In the near future, the bill will go to the floor for a vote by the full legislature. Please contact your legislators and let them know of your support for this important bill. If you want to learn more, post a comment or email ifrignoca@clf.org.

Oil and Water Don’t Mix

May 14, 2013 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

Cape Cod National Seashore

With warming seas and ocean acidification putting unprecedented pressure on our already heavily fished, shipped, and polluted coastal areas, adding the extreme pressures of seismic testing and offshore oil drilling, which we keep hearing are supposed to be safe and foolproof, but never really are, seems like a foolhardy move.

There are plenty of other options for developing offshore energy that will not put us at such high risk of horrible toxic spills and deadly-to-wildlife noise. We don’t want dead or deformed fish, whales, and dolphins in our ocean, and tar balls on beaches where our kids build sand castles. We have some of America’s most beautiful coastal areas and amazing ocean life here in New England, and we need to keep them that way.

What can you do to help? Be part of a global campaign by joining one of your local Hands Across the Sand events this Saturday, May 18th, 12 PM local time, to say “No” to dirty fossil fuels and “Yes” to clean, renewable energy. Hands Across the Sand started in Florida in 2010, and has rapidly grown into a major global campaign. The idea is simple – join your fellow ocean champions on the beach, lock hands, and unite in opposition to dirty energy.

Have someone take a picture and post it to the Hands Across the Sands Flickr page (and, if you’re in New England, please share your photos with us, too!), and send it to your elected officials for even greater impact. Visit the Hands Across the Sand page to find a local even or organize your own.

Fishermen, beach-goers, surfers, and conservation groups agree – oil drilling has no place in New England’s ocean. So take a stand and put your Hands Across the Sand!

This was originally posted on New England Ocean Odyssey on May 14th, 2013.

Waves of Change: Who’s in Charge Here?

Jan 11, 2013 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Rules work better when we all understand them, but what happens when the rules overlap or conflict with one another? And, who is in charge of implementing all these rules anyhow? When it comes to the rules of the road we all learn the same common rules during the drivers’ education course. But, what happens when it comes to the rules which manage and protect our ocean and coasts?

Ocean and coastal resources are currently managed by more than 20 federal agencies and administered through a web of more than 140 different and often conflicting laws and regulations. We use our coasts and ocean for so many things – fishing, boating, swimming, tourism, shipping, renewable energy – and there are no easy guidelines about who is in charge at any given moment, in any given spot.

Fortunately, we are on our way to making this puzzle of governance a bit easier to solve.

The National Ocean Policy directs federal agencies to coordinate management activities, implement a science-based system of decision making, support safe and sustainable access and ocean uses, respect cultural practices and maritime heritage, and increase scientific understanding of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.

Improving the way in which federal and state agencies work with each other and the public is a distinct goal of the National Ocean Policy. To do this, the NOP presents a set of nine priority objectives for policies and management actions and establishes a new National Ocean Council (NOC), which will be responsible for developing strategic action plans for these priority objectives and leading coordination and collaboration between federal agencies.

A well coordinated group of agencies can better serve the people they are supposed to serve, create the jobs and economic benefits we all need, help us enjoy and safeguard our waters, beaches, and wildlife for our families and our future.

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