For nearly 100 years wild salmon populations along the Elwha River, located at the heart of Olympic National Park, have been limited to a five-mile stretch of the 45 mile-long river below the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. In September 2011 engineers began the Nation’s second largest ecological restoration project; a three-year dam removal process, allowing wild salmon and other anadromous fish populations to return to the upper channels and tributaries of the river. But how effective will these restoration efforts be, and how do we measure success? Kinsey Frick, George Pess, and John McMillan, scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, in partnership with other federal, state and tribal organizations in the region are working together to find answers to these important questions. Their research will not only help us understand the impacts of dam removal on wild salmon populations and ecosystems in the Elwha and allow managers to manage the recovering system adaptively, but also help inform future river restoration projects throughout the country.
By Alan Lovewell – WCGA Sea Grant Fellow
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be invited to take meeting notes for two focus group meetings in Oakland at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center lead by Jenna Borberg and Carrie Pomeroy from Oregon and California Sea Grant respectively. These focus groups were assembled to assess NOAA’s knowledge, capacity and needs for involving stakeholders in the regional Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) process and contribute to developing a framework for improving stakeholder involvement. This project will also help inform NOAA’s coordination and collaboration on CMSP with partners (e.g., federal and state agencies, regional and local entities, and tribes).
As a note taker and observer at two of these meetings I was anxious to hear an update on CMSP, what was happening at the National level, and what the various corners of NOAA think about its utility, development, and challenges. And more than anything I was interested in hearing first hand how participants are currently succeeding or struggling to accomplish their management objectives and goals.
This was the first of 9 focus group meetings that are being held in Oregon, California, and Washington. Participants from NOAA’s extended family (defined as entities that rely on NOAA for base funding) included:
- NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS), National Weather Service (NWS), Oceanic Atmospheric Research(OAR)
- NOAA Coastal Services Center
- National Estuarine Research Reserve System
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- California, University of Southern California, Oregon, and Washington Sea Grant Programs
- Integrated Ocean Observing System
- Cooperative/Joint Institutes
- Pacific Fishery Management Council (employees)
- State Coastal Zone Management agencies
The diversity of representation is intended to provide a range of feedback on the issues marine resource managers are currently addressing including: who and how they define their stakeholders and partners; how they effectively engage and communicate with stakeholders; and how they communicate and coordinate within the NOAA extended family.
Principal investigators for this study are: Dr. Stephen Brandt, Director, Oregon Sea Grant; and Dr. John Stein, Director, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, co-lead for NOAA’s Western Regional Collaboration Team, and member of the West Coast Governors Alliance (WCGA) Executive Committee and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Work Group. The information gathered from these focus groups will inform the next phase of the study, which includes a survey of the larger West Coast NOAA workforce and extended family.
Here are a few of my key takeaway points from these conversations:
- Meaningful engagement with stakeholders is essential to the success of most management processes or actions.
- In one form or another, we are all stakeholders dependent on the health of our oceans. The more we connect and value the ecosystem and the resources it provides us, the more we’ll feel invested in the oceans long-term health.
- Stakeholders and partners often vary between agencies, projects, and issues.
- The success and failure of CMSP depends on everyone’s commitment to welcome all perspectives at the table to have discussions and talk about management options.
- The status and progress of CMSP and why we should manage our waters as a public trust, should be communicated within and outside of NOAA on a regular basis.
I’m sure a lot of individuals, myself included, will be looking forward to project outcomes. The WCGA IEA Workgroup is one team within the WCGA that will find this information useful as we continue planning our regional scoping strategy for the US West Coast.
I just finished reading through the National Ocean Council’s (NOC) newly released National Ocean Policy (NOP) Implementation Plan. The NOP Implementation Plan provides a road-map for how federal agencies will implement President Obama’s 2010 Nation Ocean Policy from Executive Order 13547 and focuses on nine priority areas:
- Ecosystem-Based Management
- Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding
- Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure
- Coordinate and Support
- Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration
- Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
- Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land
- Changing Conditions in the Arctic
- Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
The West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health is the in the process of assembling their comments on the Implementation Plan, and I’m excited to be helping to write these comments. It’s gratifying to see that many of our comments on the draft Strategic Action Plan outlines released in June 2011 were taken into consideration and incorporated. For example, in the original Strategic Action Plan for the priority Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration in Action 6: reduce the threat of marine invasive species, the only invasive species to be considered was the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. To be sure, lionfish have invaded and become established along the Southeast United States and the Caribbean, and these fish are a huge problem in this area. However, each region of the United States has its own invasive species problems, and the WCGA commented that if the NOC was going to choose focal species, they should choose one for each of the nine regions. Here on the West Coast, the WCGA has chosen to focus on invasive Spartina, a cordgrass that has invaded numerous large estuaries on the West Coast, but we acknowledge that there are other invasive species on our coasts as well. Now, in the NOP Implementation Plan, the Action to ‘locate, control, and, where possible, eradicate invasive species populations’ is written to include all regions of the United States rather than focusing solely on the invasive lionfish in the Southeast.
I think that the the NOP has done a great job addressing comments they received from the WCGA and other respondents but, there is still room for improvement. I’m glad that the NOC incorporated our comments to not focus on a single invasive species. However, it might be useful for this specific action to think about preventing introductions as well as controlling them. The WCGA would like the NOC to consider efforts to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species, such as by supporting ballast water treatments and addressing hull fouling and the trade of live organisms (a largely unmanaged vector). No one knows the exact source of the lionfish invasion, but the data suggest that the it may have been introduced through the aquarium trade. Putting some energy into outreach and education could save a lot of time, money, and effort in the long run. It’s a lot easier and much less costly to prevent introductions than to clean up the mess once the invasion has been established.
As the WCGA is preparing its own comments on the NOP Implementation Plan, you can also share your perspective with the National Ocean Council. When the Strategic Action Plan outline came out in June 2011, the NOC conducted listening sessions throughout all the regions of the United States. I attended the listening session in San Francisco and had the opportunity to hear public comments regarding two priority areas— Ecosystem-Based Management and Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. It seems to me that the NOC takes comments from the public seriously. During the Ecosystem-Based Management session, I heard more than one person comment that they wanted the Implementation Plan to reflect the definition of Ecosystem-Based Management supported through a consensus statement signed by over 200 highly regarded academic scientists. The new Implementation Draft now reflects that definition and reads:
EBM is as an integrated approach to resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans and that the goal of EBM is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need.
McLeod et al. 2005
The NOC is asking for public comments on the Implementation Plan by midnight February 27th. You can read the Implementation Plan here. The NOC has a web-based platform where you can type your comments in directly or even upload attachments if your comments are lengthy.
Specifically, the NOC is interested to hear your comments on:
- Does the draft Implementation Plan reflect actions you see are needed to address the nine priorities for the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes?
- What is the most effective way to measure outcomes and to detect whether a particular action in the Implementation Plan has achieved its intended outcome? Would a report card format be useful?
So go read the plans and do your part to help shape the future of our coasts and oceans.
I like how Bill McKibben talks about climate change in his book “Eaarth.” Humans’ impact on the climate is like “a huge experiment,” one that has never been run before. We get to watch it play out before our very eyes, without a control, and without any true sense of the outcome. We are only beginning to understand the scale of this experiment, and the consequences of running it. But it’s clear that there is change happening now. And it’s happening faster than anyone would have dreamed.
Of all the consequences of releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the most intriguing and unnerving to me is the change it’s causing in the ocean.
“It’s basic science,” said Brian Baird, former Congressman and the last speaker at a town hall meeting I attended in Seattle last month. The presentation, “Dissolving Before Our Eyes: The Acidification of Our Oceans, and Why It Matters to All of Us”. Speakers discussed the science, policy, and social sides of ocean acidification—and why we all need to pay attention.
Baird was referring to the simple formula that tells us why we can expect a progressively more acidic ocean in the future. It’s called ocean “saturation state,”—science has shown that when carbon is absorbed from the atmosphere by the ocean, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH. With a decrease in pH, the ocean becomes an environment that dissolves calcium, a vital part of the shells and plates that many ocean dwellers need to survive.
The basic elements of the ocean food web consist of creatures like pteropods and zooplankton, which form from calcium carbonate and its derivatives, aragonite and calcite. These creatures are foundational to the food web and the fuel that most critters in the ocean need to thrive. Not only is the food source at risk, but we begin to see oysters, clams, and other shellfish not surviving through juvenile stages because of shell deformities. We quickly realize that this condition threatens not just those requiring shells. Ocean acidification affects the entire ocean ecosystem and the economies that depend on it.
Recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences suggest ways to classify, monitor, research, and evaluate ocean acidification, but none of those recommendations suggest steps we can take to mediate or reverse it. It’s like many of the problems associated with climate change; we’ll “stem the flow” if we globally reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% within the next 50 years. Otherwise, we’re looking at a seriously different world than what we see in front of us today.
But it’s not that “simple.” Even with a monumental societal epiphany, and with cooperation and agreement among industrialized nations to suddenly focus exclusively on alternatives to fossil fuel consumption, we’re still in for a bumpy ride.
Ocean circulation is slow. It takes 1,000 years for deep water from the North Atlantic to reach the surface of the Pacific. This means that most of the anthropogenic CO2 released into the atmosphere during the Industrial Revolution is still in the deep ocean. Slow circulation, according to Dr. Richard Feely of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, means that we can expect another 30 to 60% decrease in calcification over the next several decades. Considering we are nowhere close to a “zero emissions” world, this is just the beginning.
To get to a world that begins taking action toward the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions, we need a social movement on a global scale.
Baird described social change in a series of stages, based on his years as a psychologist.
- Stage 1 – Precontemplation: characterized by denial and ignorance of the problem.
- Stage 2 – Contemplation: Ambivalence, conflicted emotions.
- Stage 3 – Preparation: Beginning to experiment with small changes, and collecting information about change
- Stage 4 – Action: Begin taking direct action toward achieving a goal
Nationally, we’re still working our way up the ladder to social change, and negotiating a process that may seem a little more inconvenient and costly than business as usual. I would challenge that no matter what your opinion is on climate change, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate the ocean.
What we have through science is a definitive answer; if we continue with status quo, this problem will persist, and the ocean will continue to change. We need action by every individual and by the world to begin to tackle this issue.
I have to believe that every little bit helps. Every time I ride my bike or walk instead of drive, I battle ocean acidification. Every time I choose local over global, I save some pteropods. When I grab a sweater instead of turning up the heat, or make sure every light is off before I leave, I’m making a difference. We have to move from knowledge into action, because there will be no room for excuses with generations to come.
Scientists at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA are studying the life in Puget Sound’s surface waters—from microbes to fish and jellyfish— to understand this complex living system and shed light on how human activity affects its health . By understanding what groups of species live where and when and why, we can select measurable characteristics that tell us how the whole ecosystem is doing . This information can then be used by managers to protect and recover the life of Puget Sound. From Spring to Fall 2011, principle investigators Correigh Greene, Casey Rice, Linda Rhodes, and Kurt Fresh, and over 20 other scientists, technicians, and volunteers surveyed more than 80 sites from Commencement Bay in the south to Bellingham Bay in the north and Hood Canal in the west, representing of a range of natural conditions and human influence.
John Hansen, Program Director of the West Coast EBM Network, shares with us his experience at the 2011 West Coast EBM Network annual meeting. Photographs by Alan Lovewell.
The West Coast Ecosystem-Based Management Network (Network) recently held its 2011 Annual Meeting in Eureka, California. The meeting brought together local project staff from 10 West Coast communities, representatives from ocean and coastal nongovernmental organizations (NGO)s, Washington, Oregon, Southern and Central California, and California Sea Grant, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA), along with a number of local, state and federal staff from the Humboldt Bay area. The meeting took place over two days and included over 60 attendees.
Early portions of the meeting highlighted the latest efforts taking place in coastal communities along the West Coast, including 10 sites ranging from San Diego to the outer coast of Washington State. Project staff presented successful ecosystem-based management approaches driven by strong engagement with local stakeholders, including climate change planning, habitat restoration, and supporting local fisheries and working waterfronts, among other topics. Discussion focused on exchanging local lessons and addressing common challenges, while revealing management experiences for the entire West Coast region.
Following the spotlight on local efforts, presentations were then given by representatives from NOAA and WCGA to provide updates on regional and national-level activities. NOAA staff summarized the latest activities of the National Ocean Council and the preparation for new regional coastal and marine spatial planning frameworks. The WCGA Executive Committee updated the group on the latest regional issues along the West Coast, and efforts of WCGA related to broader national-level planning and CMSP. Finally, the four WCGA Fellows provided a briefing on their respective work plans and ongoing activities related to integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs), climate change and sustainable communities, regional research planning, and a West Coast regional data sharing framework.
Throughout the meeting, the overlaps between the activities of the West Coast EBM Network and WCGA’s priorities were clearly apparent. Many local communities throughout the West Coast are directly addressing pressing issues facing their local ecosystems and stakeholders, including preparing for climate change and supporting working waterfronts and local fishing fleets. These align with the broader goals of WCGA Action Plan and the efforts of the WCGA Action Coordination Teams (ACTs) throughout the three West Coast states. The activities and expertise housed in the WCGA ACTs were of great interest to the community-level projects at the meeting, and discussions centered on how a stronger connection could be made between the regional ACTs and staff supporting local-level efforts along the coast.
On a broader level, the other key lesson taken away from the meeting was the valuable opportunity to grow a mutually beneficial relationship between regional efforts like WCGA and coastal communities. The WCGA is working towards successful regional approaches throughout the coast, and linking members of their ACTs, on topics that align well with EBM approaches at the local level. Concurrently, the West Coast EBM Network is working to link coastal communities and successful on-the-ground outcomes, all of which could greatly benefit from a stronger relationship with the WCGA. Further, local projects may serve as the ideal foundation for regional WCGA efforts, and illustrate the value of enhanced collaboration and planning along the coast through tangible benefits to local stakeholders and communities.
The West Coast EBM Network looks forward to continued collaboration with WCGA, including its Executive Committee, ACTs, and Sea Grant Fellows, to highlight the value of this innovative partnership and leverage the benefits to active coastal communities throughout the region.
For more information on the West Coast EBM Network, please visit www.westcoastebm.org.
The 9.0 earthquake centered 80 miles off of the Japanese coast was felt by the whole world, not physically, necessarily, but through our kinship as a global community. We were rattled to see such devastation on our computer and television screens, and West Coasters went to the shorelines to watch the ocean ebb and surge as the tsunami reached our coast. For some port towns, it came with fury, jostling boats and tearing up harbors, causing one fatality and millions in damage. For others towns, like Port Orford, OR, it was captivating to see tides in fast-forward, but it was an unsettling reminder that the Cascadia fault line that stretches from northern Vancouver Island to northern California is about 80 years overdue. Next time, it might be all of us.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone (Credit: California Emergency Management Agency)
Today, almost six months after the Honshu quake, Japan is still reeling. The world has offered its hand in humanitarian efforts, as well as in scientific expertise for the subsequent nuclear crisis. People struggle to rebuild and survive. Food, water and electricity remain in short supply.
What became abundant? Debris. Of all shapes and sizes, from household items, to cars, to whole buildings. When the water receded, anything suspended went along with it back into the Pacific Ocean. This means, in no uncertain terms, that remnants of Japan are headed our way.
NOAA has run a model using OSCURS (Ocean Surface Current Simulator) showing the flow of debris from Japan. (Courtesy of J. Churnside) (Credit: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html#1, 8/31/2011)
This brings one question to mind, and that’s “Are we ready?” First, are we ready to act when, or if, this massive amount of debris hits our coastline? Do we have any sense of the magnitude or high-probability areas? Could any of that debris be radioactive?
Most scientists think we have some time before any debris hits. However, there is no clear answer how the North Pacific Gyre will speed up or slow down that movement. In the time it takes to cross the big blue, and the mismatched timing of the Fukushima incident with the recession of the water, NOAA and others consider it “highly unlikely” that Hawaii or the West Coast will have to deal with radioactivity. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for monitoring radioactivity.
Graphic from the International Pacific Research Center. This graphic shows the predicted movement of the debris field. (Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1374520/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-debris-floating-US-West-Coast.html?ito=feeds-newsxml, 8/31/2011)
The general consensus is that most of the debris will reach the West Coast in about two years, with debris protruding from the water (e.g. fishing vessels) likely to turn up first because of exposure to the prevailing winds. Other debris may remain in the depths of the Pacific never to be seen by most of us again. To date, I’ve really enjoyed picking up beach treasures from Japan (glass floats and interesting bottles), but I’m not sure I’d be so thrilled coming across remnants of cars or houses.
While some of us have the opportunity to go to Japan and help in the rebuilding efforts, others can do the world a favor by taking part in the clean up on this side of the Pacific. Whether this means signing up for the SOLV Beach clean up every year, participating in events like the California Coastal Cleanup Day and Washington Coast Cleanup, or just bringing garbage bags with you to the beach, we can all do something.
NOAA Center for tsunami research (Credit: http://nctr.pmel.noaa.gov/honshu20110311/ 8/31/2011)
West Coast-wide organizations, such as the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA), addressed marine debris in the 2008 Action Plan. Action 1.4 notes that the three states will establish baseline estimates of marine debris off the West Coast, and support policies to meet reduction goals through recycling, trash maintenance, and litter laws. Members of the Marine Debris Action Coordination Team and the forming Marine Debris Alliance, with folks at EPA Region 9, the U.S. Coast Guard and others, are on regular calls trying to track this debris plume and figure out the “when, where, and how much.” There is a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot going into getting prepared. This includes a NOAA initiative called “Ships of Opportunity” program, which hires non-research vessels traveling in that direction to search for the head of the debris plume. The thought is if they can deploy buoy sensors at the head of the plume, scientists will be able to track the progress of the debris to the West Coast. Who knows? This may be another happenstance opportunity to learn more about Pacific Ocean currents.
Will we be ready when it’s our shoreline that’s quaking? I know there are a lot of communities starting to think along the lines of tsunami preparedness, but what about our families and friends? I have no disaster plan. I have no kit. Do you? Granted, not everyone is in imminent danger of a tsunami, but the damage from an earthquake means long-term threats for everyone’s way of life. I’m not advocating that everyone run to the store for their dehydrated food kit, or build a survival shelter in their backyard, but I know that I could benefit from knowing a little more and taking some steps to prepare.
I guess the bottom line for me is, let’s learn from this. Let’s keep our Pacific neighbors in our hearts and minds. Let’s get ready, in every way possible, to prepare for the aftermath of the damage already done, and prepare for events to come. I think we can all agree that it’s only a matter of time.
House bobbing in the Pacific off Japan (Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1374520/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-debris-floating-US-West-Coast.html?ito=feeds-newsxml; 8/31/2011)