SeaFood Business

JUN 2014

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Point of View Visit us online at www.seafoodbusiness.com June 2014 SeaFood Business 7 Seafood's future hinges on reducing carbon pollution density and size of formerly fshed stocks. Tat might help protect reproductive ca- pacity of broadcast spawners like red sea urchins: Acidi- fcation makes their sperm swim slower and survival time of urchin sperm limits successful fertilization. An- other approach is increasing the size limit of sea urchins that can be harvested, to increase sea urchin densities and spawning success. Working with research- ers from two University of California campuses, the sea urchin industry has funded and facilitated a long-term study of larval sea urchin recruitment. Our one-of-a- kind data set shows trends in sea urchin survival at 15 sites. If decreased red sea ur- chin recruitment does show up, we will see it in the data. Keeping track of recruitment has helped us manage our fshery in the past and it will help us recognize when we need to protect spawning ca- pacity. But that's only treat- ing the symptom. Frieder's fndings on red sea urchins are a harbinger of trouble for the whole ocean. To stay in business, seafood producers of all kinds will need to belly up to some tough new management prac- tices. We will also need to be- come efective champions for pollution controls that most of us have ignored until now. Bruce Steele has spent more than 40 years as a commercial diver and fsherman in Oregon and California. He is a longstanding leader in resource management and industry associations. BY BRUCE STEELE A decade ago, Japanese researchers showed that seawater soured by carbon pollution would hamper sea urchins' reproduc- tive capabilities. I read their report and saw trouble on the horizon. As a commercial urchin diver in California, I hoped this trouble would stay far away. Now it's here. Christina Frieder at UC- Davis has demonstrated that waters acidifed to pH 7.8 — a level already detected along the West Coast — can reduce fertilization success by 20 percent in red sea ur- chins, which are harvested from California to Alaska. Frieder states that 60 per- cent reductions in fertiliza- tion success may occur in the decades ahead as pol- lution pushes seawater pH down to 7.5. Tis means that red sea urchins will have a harder time recruiting into the fshery, and they will be less abundant. Surface waters had an average pH of 8.2 in pre-Industrial times; acid from carbon emissions has reduced that to about 8.1 in today's ocean, and it's head- ing south fast. Now ocean acidifcation is my problem. If you work in seafood, it's yours too. Red king crab sufers 100 percent mortality of larvae after 90 days in seawater at a pH of 7.5. Oysters, mus- sels, clams, abalone and some scallops are vulnerable, which shellfsh farmers are learning the hard way. Cor- als that shelter vulnerable fsh populations in much of the world are at risk. Shells of pteropods, common zoo- plankton that are a key food source for salmon, are already dissolving in Pacifc North- west waters. Two recent stud- ies found that modest levels of acidifcation can impair growth in American lobsters. Direct impacts on fsh are also becoming clear: Some fsh lose their ability to smell and evade predators or distin- guish them from their own prey. Te catalog of harm includes damage to organ tis- sues, neurological functions, growth and reproduction. For the seafood industry, some consequences are now inevitable. But there is no place to hide, so we had bet- ter defend ourselves. Both the causes and the conse- quences of acidifcation can be reduced. How to curb the causes? Strong policies to reduce carbon emissions would be a good start. Without those, everything else we do will amount to an epitaph. Tis industry can and should push Congress and the Obama administration to protect fsheries from carbon pollution. Califor- nia and nine Atlantic states from Maine to Maryland have embraced market-based systems — akin to individ- ual fshing quotas — to cut emissions. Tis hasn't broken their economies. Now even China is trying a market sys- tem to cut emissions in fve cities. India has launched the world's frst nationwide cap-and-trade regime to curtail carbon pollution. Protecting seafood sup- plies will require especially deep cuts in carbon pollution. A recent paper published in Nature by Steinacher, et al., illuminates the geochemical vulnerability of productive fsheries: If CO2 emissions push atmospheric concentra- tion beyond 550 parts per million, more than 90 percent of waters where coral reefs grow are likely to become chemically hostile to many corals and other calcifers. How to reduce harm? We are learning tools for adapta- tion. To save collapsing "seed" supplies for Pacifc Northwest shellfsh farms, hatcher- ies have found efective but costly ways to measure and manipulate seawater chem- istry in their tanks. Tat's how they protect larvae that were dying by the billions in corrosive waters during their most vulnerable frst days of life. In coastal bays, research- ers along the West Coast are investigating whether photo- synthesis by sea grass can soak up enough CO2 to protect neighboring calcifers from acidifying waters, a research priority identifed by Wash- ington's Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidifcation. Can we protect fsh stocks in open waters? Maybe. No- fshing areas, which I fought for many years, do increase "…some consequences are now inevitable. But there is no place to hide, so we had better defend ourselves. Both the causes and the consequences of acidification can be reduced." 7_POV.indd 7 5/14/14 2:16 PM

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