By Hannah Norman
An otter backstrokes past the damp walkway as sea lions bark, resting on adjacent planks. Sunlight filters into the shaded labyrinth of mesh-lined cages that hang in the water column beneath Monterey's Municipal Wharf No. 2. Inside the suspended cylinders, thousands of California red abalone are munching on freshly harvested kelp.
"Welcome to our world under the wharf," said Art Seavey, co-owner of Monterey Abalone Company.
The historic pier is more than 90 years old; its wooden troughs were severely rotted out before the farm refurbished them and took up residence in the unused space. A built-in ladder eases the descent through a trapdoor from the bustling office and touristy marketplace above, where the company sells fully grown abalone for roughly $21 to $23 per pound. Local, high-end restaurants, as well as individuals, purchase the delicacy straight off the wharf.
Aquaculture provides more than half of all fish consumed globally, as wild fish catches are slowly diminishing. Experts say that seafood is an integral part of supplying food security, as well as sufficient protein and nutrition, to a global population that is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. A major battle for environmentalists and many aquaculture proponents alike is ensuring the industry moves away from environmentally harmful techniques, which have painted the growing sector with a negative brush.
Global Fish Stocks Depleted to 'Alarming' Levels - EcoWatch https://t.co/MMsziHffPS @SeafoodSource @RespectOurEarth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1468029005.0
Monterey Abalone Company hopes to help catalyze this shift. Founded in 1992, the company is one of six abalone farms in California, and it takes pride in its sustainable aquaculture practices. Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, a program that helps consumers and businesses choose sustainable seafood options, gives abalone—when farmed in enclosed systems such as that of Monterey Abalone Company—a green, "best choice" ranking.
Trevor Fay, Seavey's partner, points out that the sea snails are indigenous to the Pacific coastline, as is their regular meal of hand-harvested kelp. One of the fastest growing plants on the planet, giant kelp expands 10 to 12 inches per day, providing a renewable, fresh resource to feed the abalone. "It all comes back to us relying on a healthy kelp bed," said Fay. "We need a healthy planet to continue our farming."
How an Army of Ocean Farmers Is Starting an Economic Revolution https://t.co/SI5Qt94XFu @HealTheBay @SeafoodWatch— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1460411723.0
Still, kelp harvesting has been the most controversial aspect of their operation, even though the company is one of only two hand harvesters in the entire U.S., according to Fay. During the 1990s, the Monterey abalone outfit came under fire after an out-of-town kelp harvester unrelated to the company mechanically clear-cut a giant kelp bed just offshore. It wasn't until after a 2000 Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary study, which concluded that Fay and Seavey's business only harvested about one-tenth of one percent of the bay's kelp, that tensions subsided.
Corey Peet, a sustainable seafood consultant, said that across the U.S. and Canada, the pendulum has swung too far toward the anti-aquaculture side, propelled in part by the notoriously bad byproducts of salmon farming, such as waste excretion from net pens, the overuse of antibiotics and the spread of disease to wild populations. Another problem with finfish farming is the feed conversion ratio. Salmon and other finfish, which are predators by nature, feed on harvested smaller fish that are ground into fishmeal. It can take up to five pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon.
"There are shades of gray in which the sustainability of our species will be determined," Peet said. "Clearly, aquaculture has a role to play, but it's not going to be salmon or tuna feeding the masses."
That's where shellfish, and species like abalone that are lower on the food chain, come in. Bivalves, such as mussels and clams, are filter feeders, which means that they don't require any additional feeding, according to Judith Weis, a member of the Sierra Club's Marine Action Team and a professor of biological sciences at Rutgers University. They also absorb excess nutrients from the ocean, which can actually be beneficial to water quality and local ecosystems.
Just like with finfish farming, however, not all shellfish aquaculture embraces best practices, notes Weis. Bivalve culture can be an avenue for introducing invasive species—and their diseases—to a new area, along with smaller hitchhiking critters such as oyster drills, limpets and algae. Cultivating species in a native habitat prevents these negative impacts on local ecosystems. "Aquaculture is a necessary thing because we are depleting wild stocks, but let's learn to do it right," she said.
Can Eating Oysters Make You Sick? https://t.co/AnRzk57691 @Healthy_Child @naturallysavvy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481063414.0
Aquaculture can also be integral in restoring local species decimated by overfishing and coastal degradation.
California's once plentiful abalone population succumbed to a combination of overharvesting and a disease called withering foot syndrome. In 1997, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife closed both sport and commercial abalone fishing for all seven species of the sea snail. Today, only freediving for red abalone, the most abundant variety, is permitted on a short stretch of coast above San Francisco.
Though the Monterey Abalone Company raises their abalone for eating, Fay said they contribute to restoration and environmental efforts through their educational partnerships. In 2008, the company started a hatchery in a joint project with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, a consortium campus for seven California state universities, where students can study the species' early life cycle. It has also hosted groups from the restaurant industry, such as the Culinary Institute of America, to raise awareness about the environmental benefits of sustainable seafood. The farm regularly invites elementary and high school classrooms from around Monterey County in for discussions about California's depleted abalone population, as well as aquaculture best practices.
"It's very important to educate the public about how and why we're doing it," Fay said. "Most people aren't aware of where the food comes from."
The company is doing a few experiments of their own, too, in order to minimize their environmental impact even more. The marine farmers have begun growing purple hinged rock scallops, which hang underneath the abalone in the water column and feed off of extra nutrients excreted from the abalone above.
"The idea of cultivating species with different ecological roles together, multiaquaculture, is a really clever idea," Weis said. "That's really good."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
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By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
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Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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