‘The smell will knock you off your feet’: mass mussel die-offs baffle scientists | Environment | The Guardian

The Chehalis River is one of the locations mentioned in this article.

Mussels, the backbone of the river ecosystem because they control silt levels and filter water, are facing a mysterious affliction
— Read on www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/14/the-smell-will-knock-you-off-your-feet-mass-mussel-die-offs-baffle-scientists

Pinto Abalone Seeking State Endangered Species Listing

This is a very good idea who’s time has come, however late. Pinto Abalone stocks have collapsed in the Salish Sea and WDFW has been working hard for twenty years to try and reverse this.  Help out by supporting this effort and sending in letters of support to the email or mailing address below.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking your input on a status review of the pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), a Candidate for State Endangered Species.  Populations of these iconic marine snails have not recovered from historic harvests and may merit additional protection.  We recognize that Washington based state and federal natural resource agencies have an important perspective on the status of our state’s marine species and habitats. We would appreciate your participation in the following way:
 Directly submit your opinions and/or questions regarding the status review to:
 
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
c/o Michael Ulrich, Fish Program
P.O. Box 43200
Olympia, WA 98504-3200
 
 
(360) 902-2737
 
What is the current status of pinto abalone in Washington?  Some receiving this notice may recall an era in Washington when legal take of abalone was allowed and healthy populations existed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Archipelago.  Recognizing a declining trend in populations during dive surveys, the department closed the recreational fishery in 1994.  Since that time, the department has continued regular monitoring and results indicate that surveyed populations continue to decline or are entirely absent from areas once well established.  Additionally, the increasing average size of remnant abalone, and absence of juveniles, indicates an aging population with little natural reproduction.  Finding abalone anywhere in Washington waters is becoming more and more difficult.
 
           What has the department been doing about these observed declines?  By the early 2000’s it had become apparent that pinto abalone populations were unlikely to recover to sustainable levels without human intervention.  A species restoration partnership was initiated with local non-profit organizations, as well as, tribes, universities, government agencies and commercial aquaculture.  A captive breeding program was developed to produce hatchery juveniles for distribution into the wild. The resulting restoration program uses local, wild broodstock to rear disease-free juvenile abalone and, since 2009, has placed over 16,000 juveniles to sites in the San Juan Islands.  Sites have been regularly monitored to assess growth and survival of the hatchery-origin abalone and the results have been encouraging.  Many sites have matured into groups of adults at reproductive densities, although, a significant scale-up of the program will be necessary to achieve meaningful results on a state-wide basis. 
 
What happens now?  We are communicating to interested parties around the state to solicit data, opinions, and questions regarding the listing proposal.  Following this period of public comment and a peer review of a draft status report (available on our website in December), the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider the status of the species.  Please lend your voice to the discussion by submitting your opinions or attending a public meeting.  (the meetings were advertised and held in early December in PT)
The period of public comment will conclude on March 31st, 2019.  We hope to hear from you about the status of this integral species to Washington’s nearshore marine environment.
 
For more information, please visit    https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/pinto_abalone/
 
Thank you in advance for your help.
 
Sincerely,                                                                                               
 
 
Michael Ulrich, Shellfish Biologist
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Limited Shellfish Opening at Fort Flagler, Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay

Port Townsend  Marine biotoxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) have declined enough to allow recreational shellfish harvesting for oysters, manila clams and mussels at Fort Flagler, Kilisut Harbor and Mystery Bay. The area is still posted closed for harvesting of butter and varnish clams due to the fact that they remain toxic for longer than other shellfish species. In August, PSP concentrations quickly rose to over 1,700 micrograms per 100 grams of shellfish, and remained high into Fall. PSP levels above 80 micrograms are considered unsafe, and levels in the thousands can be lethal to humans. Crab meat is not known to contain the biotoxin but the guts can contain unsafe levels. To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (butter).

To make sure you are harvesting the correct shellfish species, consult the species identifier chart at: www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/332-087.pdf. In most cases the algae that contain the toxins cannot be seen, and must be detected using laboratory testing. Therefore, recreational shellfish harvesters should check the Shellfish Safety map at www.doh.wa.gov/ShellfishSafety.htm or call the Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632 before harvesting shellfish anywhere in Washington State. Recreational harvesters should also check Fish and Wildlife regulations and seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish or the Shellfish Rule Change Hotline 1-866-880-5431.

 

State Fish & Wildlife propose endangered listing for Pinto Abalone

Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife have proposed listing the Pinto Abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) as endangered locally. Though attempts at cultivation have been tried, they have not been  considered successful at levels capable of sustaining the population.

Pinto Abalone have been in significant decline since the late 1980s. While there never was a commercial fishery for them, recreational divers harvested untold amounts, as the catch was never monitored. Habitat destruction also is understood to have played a role.

According to the WDFW web site (https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/pinto_abalone/):

The overall goal of the abalone recovery team is to halt the declines of abalone populations in the Pacific Northwest and to return populations to self-sustainable levels.  Such a long term goal requires a suite of interim goals and the development of numerous methodologies.  To date, such interim goals have enabled the abalone recovery team to successfully:

  • Develop hatchery and nursery programs for captive propagation and rearing of abalone.

  • Develop protocols to maintain genetically diverse and disease-free families in restoration hatchery facilities.

  • Conduct experimental outplants of juvenile hatchery reared abalone to assess the efficacy of outplants as a restoration strategy.

  • Aggregate adult abalone in the wild to enhance reproductive potential and to assess this method as a restoration strategy.

  • Outplant abalone post-larvae at experimental locations to assess this method as a restoration strategy.

  • Draft a collaborative  Pinto Abalone Recovery Plan for Washington.

  • Launch a public outreach campaign targeting divers, schools, boaters, fishers and the general public.

This body of work represents nearly two decades of basic and applied science and has laid the foundation for increasing the scale of the abalone recovery effort.   Such an effort will require a broad coalition of scientists, advocates, policymakers, and volunteers. For more information on this process please contact WDFW lead abalone biologist Michael Ulrich (hyperlink to : Michael.Ulrich@dfw.wa.gov).

WHAT YOU CAN DO: WDFW is soliciting any available data on the species, and seeks public comment on a proposal to list the pinto abalone as a State Endangered Species.  Please consider attending one of the following public meetings:

December 4, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
Northwest Maritime Center
431 Water Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368

Or, submit comments and questions to:

WDFW, Fish Program, attention: Michael Ulrich
P.O. Box 43200
Olympia, WA 98504-3200
(360) 902-2737
Michael.Ulrich@dfw.wa.gov

 

Video on NOAA work to breed oysters resistant to ocean acidification – Crosscut & PBS

Local PBS show ReInventors highlights the work of NOAA Manchester’s research facility as they race to find a hybrid oyster that can survive ocean acidification. A very good quick look at the problem, with animation, and the possible solution. If we are going to have seafood survive, this will likely hold the possibility. As it is currently going, we don’t have long before the oceans will be too acidic for shellfish to survive.

The story

https://crosscut.com/2018/10/can-these-super-oysters-survive-our-screwed-oceans

The video

https://youtu.be/WP8J0-90VoM

Sunflower sea stars remain hard to find in B.C. waters four years after massive die-off – Vancouver Sun

Sobering news from north of the border.

Reports that sea stars may be recovering after a massive die-off four years ago may be premature, experts say. “We want simple solutions. People see a few of them, and they assume they’re back,” said Port McNeill diver and scientist Jackie Hildering. “But they’re not.” While the number of ochre stars is reportedly on the rise, the iconic sunflower star remains elusive on the B.C. coast. “There is very little evidence of recovery (among sunflower stars),” confirmed Peter Raimondi, marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Tracking the wasting disease that killed millions of sea stars from Alaska to Baja California in 2013 and 2014 is difficult because so little work has been done on the species. It is unclear how many sea stars melted away during the outbreak — and how many are left. Glenda Luymes reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Washington, NOAA launch next step of shellfish initiative – AP

Governor Inslee moves forward on more aquaculture support without spending any more money.  Locally, we support the efforts to restore Olympia Oysters, and the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee is doing so in Discovery Bay. The MRC  also support a variety of shellfish growers, and are happy that the Tribes are able to make good money selling Geoducks to China.

However, the article is accurate in that environmentalists and shoreline homeowners are very concerned over the State’s willingness to turn entire bays in the South Sound into shellfish farms, despite the fact that these beds are on beaches right in front of homes and will never really be allowed to go back to a natural state, if that’s even possible. It is important to understand that aquaculture rights were established as a priority of shoreline land use  when the State was founded. The shellfish industry has legal right to harvest on  almost all shores below extreme low tide, based on a reading of state statute RCW 79.96.010 (of course the State leases the land first), and seems willing to take as much as it can to do so, regardless of the opinions of the homeowners who’s “backyard” they are farming, or concerns of environmentalists. (this is a clarification of an earlier version of this article)

The harvesting often is late at night in the winter, and noisy enough to disrupt homeowners. Large scale netting of the beach to protect the shellfish from predators leads to birds being caught in nets, and the inability of shoreline homeowners to use their beaches. Real estate agents rarely seem to warn prospective buyers of the issue.  Lawsuits to reign in the growers expansion seem to be rarely successful. The industry is heavily regulated, and the growers need to get a variety of permits to set up a farm. Some recent Shoreline Master Plans have attempted to put some limits on shellfish growers, with little success.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday renewed the state’s commitment to protecting Washington’s lucrative shellfish resources. Inslee joined federal, tribal and other leaders at the National Fish & Oyster Co. in Olympia to launch the second phase of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, which former Gov. Chris Gregoire initiated in 2011. The state, working with many partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will take new steps to improve water quality, restore native shellfish such as Olympia oysters, improve the permitting process for shellfish-growers and promote ways to address how ocean acidification is affecting shellfish. Phuong Le reports. (Associated Press)

http://www.kirotv.com/ap/ap/washington/washington-noaa-launch-next-step-of-shellfish-init/np6H6/

The B.C. Scallop Farmer’s Acid Test – The Tyee

More on the emerging ocean acidification issues of aquaculture. 

Rob Saunders points a flashlight into the depths of an immense plastic tank at his hatchery, illuminating millions of scallop larvae as tiny as dust particles. “Think of these as canaries in a coal mine,” says the marine biologist turned embattled shellfish farming CEO. It is here at Island Scallops’ facility in Qualicum Beach, located just inland from British Columbia’s shellfish farming epicentre of Baynes Sound, that ocean acidification wreaked havoc. Beginning in 2011, the company’s scallop brood stock (adult shellfish bred over 25 years to be disease-resistant and exceptionally meaty), began to die. Christopher Pollon reports. (The Tyee)

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/19/climate-change-scallops_n_8597502.html

DNR buys lands around Taylor Shellfish hatchery for long-term conservation – PT Leader

I missed this story. More good news from DNR, Taylor Shellfish and the Northwest Watershed Institute. Moving forward on protecting shorelines that are key to aquaculture  from development. We need cooperative agreements where the habitat calls for it.

On Sept. 17, Taylor Shellfish Farms sold four undeveloped shoreline parcels, totaling 15 acres, to the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for preservation as part of the Dabob Bay Natural Area, according to a press release.

Biotoxin infesting part of Hood Canal usually free of it – PDN

Warning for those of you going out to do some shellfish gathering.

…. The Department of Health found high levels of the marine biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning in Hood Canal early this summer, leading the state to close several beaches in Jefferson and Mason counties to shellfish harvest, many for the first time. Aria Shephard Bull reports. (Kitsap Sun)

http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/biotoxin-infesting-part-of-hood-canal-usually-free-of-it_77950401

See also: More shellfish harvest closures in effect in Clallam County; shut areas stretch from Cape Flattery to Jefferson line http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20150816/NEWS/308169987/more-shellfish-harvest-closures-in-effect-in-clallam-county-shut (Peninsula Daily News)

How algae blooms could take mussels off the menu – Christian Science Monitor

This article swings around from India to Puget Sound, it’s a bit all over the map, literally. But take it as you read it. I think that the point is that continued algal blooms are increasing the incident of red tide, and that if this continues it may be harder and harder to grow shellfish for the size of the commercial markets.

New research suggests that climate change could cause massive poisonous algae blooms, depleting already limited shellfishing industries. Could the solution be something as simple as seagrass? Joseph Dussault reports. (Christian Science Monitor)

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/0706/How-algae-blooms-could-take-mussels-off-the-menu

Ocean acidification a culprit in commercial shellfish hatcheries’ failures – phsy.org

More news on the science coming in that definitively is pointing to Ocean Acidification being the culprit in hatchery mortality rates here.

The mortality of larval Pacific oysters in Northwest hatcheries has been linked to ocean acidification. Yet the rate of increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the decrease of pH in near-shore waters have been questioned as being severe enough to cause the die-offs. Now, a new study of Pacific oyster and Mediterranean mussel larvae found that the earliest larval stages are sensitive to saturation state, rather than carbon dioxide (CO2) or pH (acidity) per se. Saturation state is a measure of how corrosive seawater is to the calcium carbonate shells made by bivalve larvae, and how easy it is for larvae to produce their shells. A lower saturation rate is associated with more corrosive seawater. Cheryl Dybas reports. (PHYS.ORG)

http://phys.org/news/2014-12-ocean-acidification-culprit-commercial-shellfish.html

And this article follows on it.

http://phys.org/news/2014-11-tool-west-coast-ocean-acidification.html#inlRlv

For those wanting to understand the science behind “saturation state” you can find the definition down this page. Just “find” saturation state when you get to it. The formula is there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification

Raw oysters sicken 12, prompt shellfish harvest closure and recall – Seattle Times

Oops. Apparently a leaking septic system was to blame. This affects a wide range of fresh oysters in many states. Read the article for more information. Environmental organizations have pushed for well over a decade to get counties to force mandatory inspections of septic systems. However, public outcry against doing it, especially in counties like Mason, have forced voluntary programs. And this is the kind of outcome that happens. Haven been made sick from oysters myself, I can tell you it isn’t fun. I spent almost a week in bed once from the experience, and really felt like I was dying.

Washington state health officials have ordered an emergency harvest closure and a multistate recall of all shellfish from a portion of Mason County’s Hammersley Inlet after at least a dozen people who ate raw oysters became ill. (Seattle Times)

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025219127_shellfishrecallxml.html

Shellfish Tell Puget Sound’s Polluted Tale – Earthfix

It’s always been a question mark in my mind, about how much of the bad stuff in the Sound are we eating with our delicious meals of shellfish. Now we know. And it’s a good word of caution that if you are regularly eating shellfish, that buying them from growers who are away from urban environments, or harvesting them yourself in remote places, is the best rule of thumb. And it also gives us a very easy way  to measure the recovery efforts at work. The bad news is that PCBs, long banned, continue to be found in the water, as do flame retardants. Both are cancer causing. It points out that storm water runoff and our crazy notion that we can pour our sewage into our Sound, have consequences for us.

Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound. And in some places, it’s pretty contaminated. This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound. After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results. [http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01643/] Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

http://earthfix.kcts9.org/water/article/shellfish-tell-puget-sounds-polluted-tale/

Washington Dept of Health Post New Recreational Shellfish Safety App

The State Dept of Health have a new interactive map you can use on your smartphone or tablet when in the field. Want to know if the beach you are clamming on is safe? Try this. https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html

https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html

Petition for Action Targets Shellfish Farm Operations

It’s unclear what, if any action has been taken by the EPA since this was sent in.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a EPA petition for action on July 24, 2014 regarding PVC, including PVC pipe and how it degrades (see pages 14-15 of PDF). This petition is in addition to their 2012 EPA petition for action on plastic pollution which included plastic nets, plastic rope and rubber bands.
PVC pipe, plastic nets, plastic rope and rubber bands are used extensively by the shellfish industry in Puget Sound and Willapa Bay/Grays Harbor where citizens continue to pick up increasing amounts of this plastic pollution on the shorelines.
July 2014-EPA PVC Petition (Mentions PVC and PVC pipe-Note:Over 40,000 PVC pipes go into every acre of geoduck aquaculture)

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/pdfs/PVC_RCRA.pdf

August 2012-EPA Plastic Pollution Petition (Mentions rubber bands, plastic rope and nets–Note:same materials that shellfish aquaculture uses)
Read the petition and the science behind it at:

A short film about the shellfish industry

This is about us, now. The impact of ocean acidification on our shellfish industry. Today. A great short film by students at the University of Oregon. Watch it.

This piece explores the effects of ocean acidification because of pollution from CO2 from the point of view of Oregon’s oyster farmers. The state of our ocean’s water quality is changing at a rate that can not be ignored.

 

Health risks estimated for Port Gamble Bay shellfish – Kitsap Sun

http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2014/feb/10/health-risks-estimated-for-port-gamble-bay/#axzz2szYnGC6a (subscription)

Chris Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun reports in this subscription only article about the risks of consuming significant quantities of shellfish from Port Gamble Bay.

According to the story,

Out of every 1,000 people who eat 1.1 pounds of clams, oysters and crabs every day over a lifetime, two people could be expected to get cancer because of those shellfish… which focuses on shellfish taken from the upper portion of Port Gamble Bay….

There’s lots more to the article. Read it at the Kitsap Sun link above.

New law: Septic system inspections required at time of property sale in Clallam County – PDN

I was pondering this very issue as I drove through the Sequim valley last week. Thousands of homes, virtually all of them on septic systems, and the knowledge that the beaches around the Dungeness estuary, Spit and surrounding areas are often closed to shellfish harvest because of fecal coliform levels. While many, if not most septics are fine, having at least a check every time a sale is transacted is a good start.  The thing to remember is that there is groundwater under there. At some point a failing system is likely to affect it.

http://peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140428/NEWS/304289982/new-law-septic-system-inspections-required-at-time-of-property-sale

A septic system inspection will be required at the time of a property sale under a revised Clallam County sewage code that takes effectThursday (May 1). 

 

10 million scallops are dead; Qualicum company lays off staff – Parksville Qualicum Beach News

This in from just over the border. What I understand about scallops is that they are the hardest shellfish to grow, and recent attempts to re-establish them in US Puget Sound waters have been unsuccessful (to commercially viable sizes). Maybe this is why.

High acid levels in the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach have killed 10 million scallops and forced a local shellfish producer to scale operations back considerably.

Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders said the company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million.

“I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.”

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