Ocean Currents

Protecting What We Love


It’s no secret: I love oysters.

(And so should you. They keep our ocean and waterways healthy. And taste spectacular too.)

But we haven’t always done right by my favorite shelled creatures. It’s a fact reinforced by a slew of recent reports—plastic trash in the ocean could be hurting baby oysters, said the Washington Post and a new University of Miami study that found that the Atlantic Ocean has absorbed 100 percent more man-made carbon pollution in the past 10 years as it did the previous decade, spelling trouble for marine life and coastal communities.

It made me doubly grateful for the large dose of optimism delivered at the Climate of Change event hosted by the Maine-based Island Institute last night. It was the Washington DC premier of four short films that shone a spotlight on the changes taking place in our ocean. More importantly, they all focused on solutions that support coastal communities across America.

“A Climate of Change: Collapse and Adaptation in the Apalachicola Oyster Fishery” was a stand-out for me.

And no, not just because of luscious close-ups of oysters.

For 10 minutes I was immersed in the story of a small Florida town where oystermen still harvest their catch by hand in one of our country’s last wild oyster fisheries. It’s a community that has been built on the half shell. Drought, freshwater shortages, and then the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010 have had a devastating impact. Where there once were 150 oyster processing houses, there are now only nine. But the community is rallying. Apalachicola received federal funding to reseed the bay. It is putting oystermen back to work and helping to ensure a viable oyster fishery in the future. There is clearly a long way to go for Apalachicola but things are on the upswing.  By sharing their story they are also inspiring other communities to take action.

Local action to tackle acidification

Ocean Conservancy is getting the word out to make sure people on both the East Coast and West Coast understand the changes taking place in our ocean. I’m particularly concerned about ocean acidification; it’s already impacted oyster growers on the West Coast, and could impact fishermen and shellfish growers on the East Coast as well. We need to reduce our carbon emissions to tackle ocean acidification at its root, but there are many things we can do locally, too.

We’re working with partners and people on the front lines to create support for local and regional actions to address acidification. I am proud to be part of the Ocean Conservancy team that prepared a toolkit that identifies actions that states and communities can take to tackle acidification, which was published just last week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. We hope it will be a useful part of a growing resource base for communities to adapt. It’s heartening that states like Maine, Washington and Oregon are already taking action.

So when the news stories get especially grim, I am grateful to be part of the solutions. And for glimpses from places like Apalachicola where smart, passionate people in our coastal communities are working hard to protect what we love.


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