There Will Be No Jobs on a Dead Planet.
Our oceans are dynamic ecosystems. But the changes happening now, both large and small, are damaging our oceans, and with that our lives and livelihoods. We are all unmistakable contributors to these changes. And their devastating effects are being witnessed first hand by those of us who work on the water on a daily basis. Whether it’s rising water temperatures driving fish populations northward or more frequent extreme weather events, it is clear that we are now on the front line of a climate crisis that has arrived a hundred years earlier than anticipated.
Protecting our coastal waters from these damaging changes is inextricably linked with protecting our jobs and our families. The lobster industry is a prime example. For generations, lobster harvesting in the Long Island Sound has supported and fed hundreds of thousands of families along the coast. However, temperatures in the area have been rising at a rate of half a degree per decade since the 1970s. Now they are above the maximum temperature that lobsters can survive – 68 degrees. As a direct result, lobster populations have plummeted by 90%, forcing hundreds of lobstermen out of business. Roger Frates Sr., a lobsterman of 40+ years, told a reporter at the Washington Post,
“You don’t know how this damned die-off changed lives. Look, I’ve seen some of these fishermen cry. Hey, these are tough guys. But I’ve seen them face those empty traps and cry (1)."
And it’s not just rising water temperatures that are wreaking havoc – carbon dioxide levels have led to increased rates of ocean acidification. Seawater is naturally slightly basic (pH above 7), but as our oceans continually absorb the unnaturally high levels of carbon from the atmosphere, the pH of the earth’s seawater decreases, leading to more acidic conditions. Oysters and other shellfish are known as “calcifiers” – they depend on calcium carbonate in the water to build their shells. In acidic water, shellfish cannot take up the carbonate they need, resulting in what is essentially severe osteoporosis for mollusks. Washington State’s shellfish industry is worth $270 million annually, supporting 3,200 jobs (2), but the Puget Sound has recently become so corrosive that an entire stock of oyster larvae died within a span of two days. So it’s not just the oyster shells that are dissolving; it’s the revenues and jobs they support.
If we want to revive the American economy...
we all need to support initiatives that reduce emissions. All around the US, coastline communities are hard at work inventing new ways to create jobs and provide healthy, traceable, and sustainable seafood. Vertical ocean farming, for example, is a new blue-collar innovation that is well on its way to reviving some coastal communities. GreenWave, a non-profit based in New Haven, CT, provides job training, and anyone with $20,000 and a boat can set up their own vertical (polyculture) ocean farm. A 20-acre ocean farm nets more than $150.000 annually, and employs two full-time and five seasonal employees. Not only are these farms profitable, but they also help restore the local ecosystem, actively removing excess carbon and nitrogen from the surrounding waters while producing some of the planet’s healthiest and most sustainable food.
Community-supported fisheries (CSFs) are another example of sustainable efforts in the food industry working to create new jobs. Over the past five years, Dock to Dish has worked on the coastal frontiers of the local food movement. We are using scientific data to create an entirely new and more sustainable model to replace the old, industrialized seafood supply chains while strengthening small-scale fishing communities in North and Central America. Now operating in ports spanning from New York and California to Canada and Costa Rica, our place-based sourcing programs have blazed new trails toward the restoration of transparency and sustainability in the wild seafood market.
None of this work would be possible without data
Data provided by the scientific agency of the US Department of Commerce, NOAA, that Dock to Dish uses to build its sourcing strategies and policies. Using data gathered by NOAA, Dock to Dish is also currently combining two of the most advanced traceability technologies on the planet to work together on sea and land. Upon initiation of this new unified system, Dock to Dish will become the most transparent and state-of-the-art community-based seafood operation in the country, if not the world. All of the work that Dock to Dish does in the United States is dependent upon the science provided by NOAA, as well as two other US science agencies, the EPA and DEC.
But these new industries need robust federal support
Support from federal agencies is needed to ensure continued success. For Greenwave, the EPA has been essential for tracking changes in the water and collecting data to help us stay ahead of the changing climate . And we have worked closely with NOAA and SeaGrant to develop new hatchery technology, guaranteeing future seed for ocean farmers. We also rely on enforcement of the Clean Water Act because without clean water all our jobs disappear.
For us, climate change is the real “job killer.” We need to protect the climate to protect our way of life. For that reason, GreenWave will be leading a contingent of fishermen and ocean farmers to the Climate March in Washington DC carrying a simple message: There will be no jobs on a dead planet.
About the Authors:
is a lifelong veteran of both the restaurant and fishing industries of New York, and a co-founder of Dock to Dish (@docktodish). This innovative and acclaimed membership-based supply programs connects artisanal fishermen directly to local communities through wild seafood sourcing cooperatives that build resilience to climate change.
Since launching the original Dock to Dish program in 2012 with help from the Concerned Citizens of Montauk Association, support from chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the careful guidance from his close friend, farmer Scott Chaskey at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett — an original birthplace of community supported agriculture in the United States — Barrett’s organization has proliferated into an expansive international network of community and restaurant supported fisheries that are now being broadly recognized as an important blueprint for a future of sustainable seafood.
He is a founding member of both the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) and the Amagansett Food Institute (AFI); serves on the executive board of GreenWave.org; is a longtime pod member for the Future of Fish organization; and has been named Person of the Year by the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners (URTO) Association of New York State.
Barrett has appeared on PBS, ABC and the Smithsonian Channel, and was recently featured in TIME and National Geographic Magazines. He was also ranked among the 25 Most Daring Individuals of 2016 by Vanity Fair magazine; named to Grist’s list of the Foremost 50 People Fighting for a More Sustainable Future; listed as one of Sonima's top 50 Innovators Shaping the Future of Wellness; identified as one of the Top 7 Leaders of the Future of Food by Bon Appetit magazine; designated as New York State's ambassador to the "United States of Healthy" by editors of Cooking Light magazine; nominated by both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Carl Safina to be recognized by the White House as a United States Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood; and appointed to serve as a member of the New York State Marine Resources Advisory Council under Gov. Andrew Cuomo."
is the owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm and executive director of GreenWave (@GreenWaveOrg). A lifelong commercial fisherman since the age of 14, Bren pioneered the development of restorative 3D ocean farming, which is designed to restore ocean ecosystems, mitigate climate change, and create blue-green jobs for fishermen — while ensuring healthy, local food for communities. His work has been profiled by CNN, Google Food, The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and others. He has won the Buckminster Fuller Prize for ecological design, the Clinton Global Initiative award for ocean innovation, the European Sustainia Award, and is a finalist for the SeaWeb Seafood Champions Award. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and National Geographic. In 2013, Smith was chosen as one of six “Ocean Heroes” by Oceana and Future of Fish’s “Ocean Entrepreneur” of the year. He is an Ashoka and Echoing Green Fellow.