Towards a sustainable blue economy | New
The eternal conflict between environmental conservation and economic development may now be in remission, with the climate change crisis increasingly pushing industries to cooperate with environmental goals. One of these pathways to coexistence, at least along the California coast, is the “sustainable blue economy”, defined by the World Bank as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. “
A three-day “sustainable blue economy” symposium was held virtually last week, sponsored by California Sea Grant, the Humboldt Bay Initiative and several local consulting firms. The symposium brought together scientists, community activists and an economist, along with government officials of all faiths, ranging from county planners to the head of a state agency.
The keynote speaker was Wade Crowfoot, secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency, an umbrella agency that oversees the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Ocean Protection Council, the Coastal Commission, the Coastal Conservancy and many other environmental agencies.
People identify climate action with electric vehicles or solar panels on rooftops, Crowfoot said, but we also need to elevate the role of nature to help us tackle the climate crisis.
“Humboldt Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Crowfoot said. “However, it faces different challenges than any other region of the state. Coastal communities face a formidable set of threats and need resources… so that these communities can continue to thrive in the decades to come. come, even if the climatic effects intensify. “
Crowfoot noted that the budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last week includes $ 15 billion for climate action.
“We have the leadership, we have the resources and we have very clear goals to achieve,” he said, praising the offshore wind farm project, which he said would be located 17 miles from the coast, without impact on the viewing basin, and minimal impacts on fishermen.
Humboldt Bay is also emerging as a hub for ocean products. Already producing 70 percent of the state’s oysters, the port has also started to develop seaweed farms.
“Last year, Humboldt State University established the first commercial seaweed farm in Humboldt Bay,” said Rafael Cuevas Uribe, associate professor in the Department of Fisheries Biology at HSU, adding that the university is the only place in California where a student can prepare for a career in fisheries biology with a concentration in aquaculture.
He noted that this was a good opportunity for local farmers, instead of mega-businesses, to take matters into their own hands. “In Arcata, we know that local businesses are key,” he said. “This is what I want to create in Humboldt Bay.”
Marine scientist Karin Gray, a consultant at GreenWave, spoke of growing algae as a nature-based solution that can help regenerate the ocean ecosystem, while creating jobs and providing food.
Gray noted that the farm has already had two successful harvests of dulse, an algae of commercial value. Next year, HSU hopes to start a kelp farm.
“Kelp was an obvious choice, not only because it grew naturally in the bay, but also because of the unprecedented decline of California’s kelp forests,” Uribe said. According to an HSU publication, kelp can be used for human consumption, animal feed, agricultural fertilizers and as a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic.
The loss of kelp forests was described the day after the lecture by Sarah Gravem, an ecologist at Oregon State University. Starfish, or starfish, to use their proper name, have all but disappeared along the Pacific coast in recent years, causing drastic changes in the underwater coastal ecosystem (“The Plight of the Abalone ”, March 8, 2018). Victims of a horrific viral disease, the starfish once visible in every tidal basin have died, allowing their main prey, the sea urchin, to grow and multiply without restraint. Sea urchins feed on kelp and without predation on starfish, sea urchins have devastated kelp forests that provide food and habitat for many sea creatures. The results are analogous to clearcutting a terrestrial forest: there is nothing left.
More than 5.75 billion starfish have died, Gravem said, placing the creatures on the list of “critically endangered species.” The exact cause of the outbreak is unknown, although the warming of the sea resulting from climate change is believed to be a critical factor.
Scientists and citizen naturalists have joined forces in an attempt to save kelp forests, with a group called the Oregon Kelp Alliance diving into the water and eliminating sea urchins by hand. Scientists are also trying to rear baby starfish in captivity, where they can be protected from the outbreak. Graven asked members of the public to report starfish viewings on the iNaturalist phone app or on the website www.seastarwasting.org.
The other half of the sustainability equation allows the coastline to do its natural job of separating the ocean from the land.
When the white settlers settled in the Humboldt Bay area, they made massive changes to the shoreline in an attempt to drain the salt marshes and create more farmland. In an era of rising sea levels caused by climate change, this landscape is no longer tenable. Today, government planners are increasingly turning to “nature-based solutions” to deal with rising sea levels.
Several ongoing projects hope to combine public safety with better recreational opportunities.
Katie Marsolan, City Planner for the Town of Eureka, discussed the reclamation of the Elk River Estuary. This abandoned section of the Elk River near the mouth of Humboldt Bay occupies 114 acres of municipal property purchased in the 1980s for the development of the sewage treatment plant. Much of the property, formerly used as a dumping ground for biosolids from the processing plant, has been converted to pasture. Another part consists of mudflats covered with invasive cordgrass. The city plans to remove the tidal barriers from the mouth of the Elk River, allowing more natural tidal action in the area, to eliminate the Spartina and to reconfigure the topography to allow public access.
The improved floodplain will help protect the nearby highway from coastal flooding. When complete, there will be 2.8 miles of navigable canals, areas for coastal native plants and a 1-mile extension of the Eureka Waterfront Trail, as well as a new non-motorized boat launch providing access to the waterfront. both at the river and at the bay.
Humboldt’s Bay National Wildlife Refuge recently completed another project, restoring historic flow from Salmon Creek into Hookton Slough. Earlier man-made changes to the area had converted acres of salt marshes to poor quality pasture. With the help of $ 693,000 in grants, the salt marshes have been restored, creating a more natural resilience to storms and sea level rise.
Other restoration projects are planned for the Jacoby Creek wetland.
There are many obstacles to community efforts to tackle sea level rise. A thorny issue is the simple fact that low-income people, at least in Humboldt, tend to live in areas most vulnerable to sea level rise. floods, such as King Salmon and Fairhaven. Many of these residents are seniors, whose lifetime wealth comes from investing in their homes. Farm workers also live in low-cost housing scattered throughout the lowlands. Where would these people move to and how could they afford to move in today’s bloated real estate market?
A planner said that a key will be building plenty of affordable housing, a laudable goal that has proven difficult. Adam Canter, the natural resources specialist for the Wiyot tribe, warned that the tribes in the region, with their centuries of indigenous knowledge, must be included in any regional planning.
Another problem could be the California Coastal Act itself. Written 40 years ago to ensure the coastline remains accessible to Californians of all income levels, planners say aspects of the law prevent necessary adaptations.
John Driscoll, the district representative for Congressman Jared Huffman, also warned that forward-looking planning could be threatened by technologies of the past, such as a coal-fired train project, which he compared to an effort defeated decades ago to bring a liquefied natural gas plant to Humboldt.
“We have some areas on Humboldt Bay that can be developed, but we don’t have endless room,” he said. “We have this opportunity and we cannot waste it on the old ways of doing things.”
Elaine Weinreb (she) is a freelance journalist. She’s trying to reimburse the State of California for giving her a degree in environmental studies and planning (Sonoma State University) at a time when tuition was still affordable.