Tag Archives: fish

The Demise of Bivalves and Shell Creation

oyster new york

 

The acidification of Oceans is well documented.  Many species are unable to survive the increase of acid occurring so the ability of the Oceans to absorb carbon dioxide is radically diminishing.  One of the drastic affects of this process is the inability of the bivalves to create shells.  This was exacerbated by the National Park Service’s decision to close a very important supplier in Northern California of these delicate creatures, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm-the largest of the lot and provider of up to forty percent for the other companies.  In 2013, they raised eight million oysters.  An oyster can filter up to forty gallons of water a day.

Kevin Lunny, owner of federaaly closed Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Kevin Lunny, owner of federally closed Drakes Bay Oyster Company

After much litigation and pubic outcry, Drakes Bay Oyster Company will close this year after eighty years in existence.  It does reside on federal lands.  All the other suppliers, most notable is the Hog Island Oyster Company on Tomales Bay, depend on them.  Drive up Route One any weekend day, and the road is congested with cars parked cheek to jowl up the entire coastline.

Publisher enjoying the spoils of Drake's Bay Oysters. Photo by Shaun Fenn

Publisher enjoying the spoils of Drake’s Bay Oysters. Photo by Shaun Fenn

Like New York, documented in the wonderful book Oysters, San Francisco was awash in oysters as the settlers arrived.  They were a mainstay in the diets, including being sold from carts on the streets, but before too long they were depleted by overfishing. Oysters began to be ‘seeded’ by the mid-1850s.  This hatchery process is very delicate and concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, starting with microscopic larvae, it has become a very scientific process.

Acidification of nautilus seashells

Acidification of nautilus seashells

Humans are dumping seventy million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day.  Oceans absorbs about a third of it.   The Ocean is now thirty percent more acidic than it was two hundred years ago.  It is not the acid that prevents the oysters from growing shells, but the concomitant lack of carbonate ions in the water.  They need these ions to build their shells.  This is compounded in the Pacific Ocean by the upwelling of water that has spent 30 – 50 years in depths that have absorbed more carbon dioxide from decomposition in the Ocean.

Ocean Acidification diagram

Ocean Acidification diagram

When oysters are grown in the vats as larvae, adding pH-raising chemicals can control water conditions.  But when it is time for them to be set out in the Ocean for one to two years to mature, they are vulnerable to the vagaries of the conditions.  Seeds are now at a premium and the suppliers cannot meet the demand. One of the largest, Whiskey Creek, produces only 25% of its demands despite the buffering of the pH.  Furthermore, the seeds are much less healthy and fewer survive to maturity.

Gutting0007

Woman shucking oysters on the waterfront

UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab partnered with Hog Island in 2012 to collect data on the water conditions. This author grew oysters in Tomales Bay for a few years in a community program with the intention of starting a commercial fishery.  The governmental restrictions were too onerous to overcome.  In contrast to Marin County, Humboldt County, to the north, is assisting farmers to develop fisheries; in fact Hog Island is starting a hatchery there now.

17 vintage postcard italy fishing boat catania

In only fifteen years, according to the respected publication, Nature, acid levels will increase to a level of no retreat that will not be able to support oysters, as well as other shellfish – clams, mussels and snails.  If India continues to dig deeper for dirty coal without regard to emissions as they have stated, and the GOP win their battle for the XL Pipeline shipping sludge that is twenty percent more polluting while taking three gallons of water for one gallon of sludge to produce, stripping forests – the conditions of the fisheries will be extinct by 2050.

Oyster feast. Photo by Kim Steele

Oyster feast. Photo by Kim Steele

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Selling Our Fish…and our future…

Oyster farming in New Orleans

Oyster farming in New Orleans

I have watched the dwindling of the fisheries for many years. Spending many years on the Eastern Seaboard, especially New England, I witnessed the exhaustion of cod, and the almost decimation of the famed Maine Lobsters. Trying to be responsible, according to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium ‘approved list’ is a challenge. This recent OpEd in the New York Times, by Paul Greenburg (author of the forthcoming book, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood) speaks to one of my heartfelt concerns, and an issue for the future of our fisheries environmental sustainability, and the American economy. I am Seattle boy, a fisherman, an oyster farmer, and an environmental activist. I play by the rules, only take what I can eat, throw back the undersized, update my fishing license regularly. We recently saw the movie, The Grand Seduction, which was charming, and would have been funny except for the premise–a town that goes to great lengths to seduce a physician into relocating to a small hamlet in Newfoundland, as all residents are on welfare due to a cod fishing ban…all in order to attract a petrochemical waste recycling plant which would employ the residents, the town needs a resident physician.

The state of fishing affairs goes right to my heart. I urge all to read the OpEd via the link below, to read the book, and to post any comments about this subject.

Alaskan Cod Fishermen

Alaskan Cod Fishermen

From The New York Times:

“In 1982 a Chinese aquaculture scientist named Fusui Zhang journeyed to Martha’s Vineyard in search of scallops. The New England bay scallop had recently been domesticated, and Dr. Zhang thought the Vineyard-grown shellfish might do well in China. After a visit to Lagoon Pond in Tisbury, he boxed up 120 scallops and spirited them away to his lab in Qingdao. During the journey 94 died. But 26 thrived. Thanks to them, today China now grows millions of dollars of New England bay scallops, a significant portion of which are exported back to the United States.”

“As go scallops, so goes the nation. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, even though the United States controls more ocean than any other country, 86 percent of the seafood we consume is imported.”

“But it’s much fishier than that: While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.”

“The seafood industry, it turns out, is a great example of the swaps, delete-and-replace maneuvers and other mechanisms that define so much of the outsourced American economy; you can find similar, seemingly inefficient phenomena in everything from textiles to technology. The difference with seafood, though, is that we’re talking about the destruction and outsourcing of the very ecological infrastructure that underpins the health of our coasts. Let’s walk through these illogical arrangements, course by course…”

Oyster fisherman

Oyster harvesting

I have heard it said that all natural fisheries  will be extinct by 2050.  No wild fish.  This has already happened to many common species, like wild salmon on the West Coast.  It earns a very high premium due to it’s rareness and flavor.  Mr. Greenburg’s OpEd piece is well worth the read, especially the financial machinations of the produce being fished and shipped back and forth.  The loss of favor seems to be the future for many of the foods we take for granted, such as the tomato.

Now the South China Sea is under fishing siege by China's over-reaching claim to its waters

Now the South China Sea is under fishing siege by China’s over-reaching claim to its waters