The Davis family manages operations of Baywater Inc., employing up to 10 people.
IN HOOD CANAL, WASHINGTON The Davis family manages operations of Baywater Inc., employing up to 10 people. © Jonathan P. Davis

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Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition Calls on Congress

Shellfish businesses from coast to coast tell Congress members about the impacts of climate change on their way of life.

Today, business members of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coaliton sent a letter to congressional leadership calling for action on federal climate policy. The coalition, which has been in existence less than a year, is emphasizing the impact on their businesses, many of which are family owned and form the backbone of coastal communities all over America. Citing the findings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released late last year, the letter calls for House and Senate Leadership to act now on climate change.  

“Our industry has already been compromised by climate change,” wrote the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition. “We have to invest in equipment and practices to respond to ocean acidification, and we have to close our beds for harvest more and more frequently because of extreme storm events and polluted water. We must deal with climate change head on, otherwise these environmental insults and their associated expenses will only increase, making our businesses less and less profitable.”

The coalition provided anecdotes from two of its member-growers that illustrate the serious nature of the problem on their industry.

Andy DePaola: The increased severity of storms brought on by climate change is severely impacting Andy DePaola’s oyster farm in Alabama’s Mobile Bay. Andy’s entire crop was wiped out in 2017 by storm runoff and the toxic algal blooms they bring. And last year his pier was wiped out by storms.

Taylor Shellfish Farms: On Washington’s Dabob Bay, Taylor Shellfish Farms has been forced to invest in water chemistry monitoring equipment in their hatchery and buffer the water, so the larval oysters don’t die from the impacts of ocean acidification.

The Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition called on Congressional leadership to support federal action to address climate change that includes increased investments in zero carbon energy and emission reductions for transportation, energy production and other sources.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment highlights how coastal properties and infrastructure are already at risk, threatened by increasing frequency and intensity of flooding to sea level rise and storms, directly impacting the viability of shellfish growers and their businesses.

The full letter can be found below. See the full list of coalition members here.

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The Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition is a partnership between shellfish growers on both the East Coast and West Coast in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. 

March 4, 2019

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader
317 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Minority Leader
322 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
233 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
2421 Rayburn House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy,

Late last year, the Trump administration released the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Members of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition reviewed this report with keen interest, as the document describes our current understanding of climate science and highlights the significant ramifications climate change poses for those of us who make our living from the sea.

The Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition was formed early in 2018 by business owners who grow, harvest, prepare, and serve shellfish across the United States. Our goal is to shine a light on the many ways climate change is already affecting food production in the U.S. We believe taking action to address climate change is imperative to secure the viability of our businesses, our communities, and the natural resources they depend upon.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment, a peer-reviewed report produced at the behest of Congress by thirteen federal agencies biannually since the Reagan Administration, tells us that the impacts of climate change are happening now and will continue to get worse if we continue to delay action. Key facts from the report that are critically important to our businesses include:

  • Human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the primary cause for the warming temperatures we are experiencing.
  • Americans are already paying for climate change as it makes storms more damaging.
  • The Department of Defense, farmers, businesses, and local communities are already planning for and adapting to climate change.
  • Climate change is a clear and present danger to the health and welfare of all Americans.

The report tells us that coastal property and infrastructure are already at risk, threatened by increasing frequency, intensity and extent of flooding due to sea level rise and storms. All these impacts directly affect the viability of our businesses. We have seen these impacts first hand. The increasing impacts of the Atlantic tropical storm season have resulted in farms losing more and more crops, gear, and time on the water as the frequency and intensity of these storms increases.

The report also tells us that impacts from ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation are on the rise. We are already seeing changes to our crops. They are growing in warmer, lower pH water more often. In addition, ocean acidification has caused many hatcheries in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest to make significant capital investments to avoid crop loss.

Our industry has already been compromised by climate change. We have to invest in equipment and practices to respond to ocean acidification, and we have to close our beds for harvest more and more frequently because of extreme storm events and polluted water. We must deal with climate change head on, otherwise these environmental insults and their associated expenses will only increase, making our businesses less and less profitable.

The following anecdotes from two of our member-growers illustrate the serious nature of this problem.

The increased severity of storms brought on by climate change is severely impacting Andy DePaola’s oyster farm in Alabama’s Mobile Bay. Andy’s entire crop was wiped out in 2017 by storm runoff and the toxic algal blooms they bring. And last year his pier was wiped out by storms.

On Washington’s Dabob Bay, Taylor Shellfish Farms has been forced to invest in water chemistry monitoring equipment in their hatchery and buffer the water, so the larval oysters don’t die from the impacts of ocean acidification.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment clearly indicates that we as a nation must commit to achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions to avoid these and even greater negative impacts on the ocean ecosystem our living depends on. We must take action now.

As a result of this report, the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition recommits itself to apply business practices that reduce our carbon footprint and dedicate ourselves to continue to grow products that provide important ecological benefits and require minimal inputs to produce.

We ask you for your leadership in support of federal action to address climate change, including increased investment in zero carbon energy and emissions reductions from transportation, energy production and other sources.

If you would like to learn more about our Coalition or if we can help you in your legislative efforts, please contact Melissa Carey, senior policy advisor for climate, The Nature Conservancy -- melissa.carey@TNC.ORG

Sincerely,

The Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition
www.nature.org/shellfish4climate

See the full list of coalition members here.

Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition Member businesses recognize that climate change poses a threat to businesses and food production for a growing human population.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.