On Sunday June 23, 2017 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story that covered Money Island New Jersey. Nantuxent Corporation’s founder Tony Novak is interviewed along with other business owners and Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell. The article drew some harsh criticism from the scientific community in response to the mayor’s comment that sea level rise damage is “hogwash”.
Most of us have little knowledge or concern about methane. But this small molecular gas in the air could play a major role in the future of aquaculture or even for humanity itself.
Much of the recent news about methane is draped in political controversy. I don’t want to step into that discussion. The purpose of this post is simply to establish why methane could be more important in the future of aquaculture.
Atmospheric methane is a natural gas produced by plant decay that normally has little effect. However it’s levels are increasing rapidly in our air. It is believed to have a greater impact on atmospheric warming than CO2 due to its molecular structure.
Most methane is naturally produced without human involvement.
The largest source of methane is wetlands.
Sea level rise (and other factors) is triggering a sharp and dangerous increase in atmospheric methane.
Draining and development of wetlands through management of sea level rise response decreases methane production.
Conversely, creating man-made wetlands like rice paddies or fish ponds increases methane production.
Oysters and shellfish aquaculture is implicated in methane production.
There is a lot of news about methane in the past few weeks. We will need to wait until the dust settles to see any useful trend in government response to know what real long term impact any of this news has on management of wetlands. I posted a primer on methane gas including points note related to aquaculture on my personal blog titled “15 basic facts about methane and the environment“.
A tale of two vastly different responses to sea level rise
Here in the middle Delaware Bay we are bordered by two states: Delaware on the west and New Jersey on the east. Both sides of the bay are equally affected by sea level rise. Both states have lost towns in the past decade to the effects of sea level rise. Both states are suffering from decline in value of bayfront farmland and shorefront properties. Governments in both states are struggling equally with the cost of maintaining public services under these higher water conditions. But that’s where the similarity ends. The actual planning for dealing with sea level rise is far different between the two states. I’ve been actively engaged in the sea level rise response actions in both states for more than a decade and the differences in official government actions have been astounding.
The State of Delaware has a fully developed sea level rise response plan with the input and involvement of all stakeholders. Starting back in 2009 the state held a number of educational public meeting to solicit the best ideas from a wide range of sources. The state is preparing for sea level rise between 1.6 feet and 4.9 feet above their present levels by the year 2100. You can read the resulting executive summary sea level rise response plan titled “Preparing for Tomorrow’s High Tide” with plenty more details on the state’s web site.
The State of New Jersey is barely past the point of denial of the existence of sea level rise. Some NJ government officials appear to still be in denial. You can read recent (September 2017) news coverage by David Kutner in Asbury Park Press criticizing New jersey’s lack of sea level rise response. Local Downe Township Mayor calling sea level rise “hogwash” in the June 2017 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Until now, the state’s primary official response is to truck sand to damaged shorelines and purchase, then demolish, homes that are in danger of increased flooding. This is not a sustainable response plan especially if sea level rise continues to advance by another 1.5 to 3 feet within our lifetime. New Jersey has recently come as far as to now officially recognize the risk of sea level rise response. You can read the state’s official positions here. The state’s web site positions still lag behind the most recent sea level rise research available through Rutgers and NOAA. To New Jersey’s credit, the state is now taking sea level rise response seriously. We still have a long way to go. But we can and will develop a response plan that our residents can rely upon.
Now is the time of maximum opportunity for individuals and organizations to influence and contribute to our sea level rise response plan so that New Jersey will eventually catch up with the State of Delaware in meeting this challenge. No doubt Money Island’s educational/research community and the commercial fishing community will continue to have a lot to say on the topic. We know that sea level rise is a manageable phenomenon and are ready to embrace both the challenges and opportunities presented by sea level rise.
A new way to use climate change models developed by NOAA may be used to forecast effects on Delaware Bay fisheries according to a recent news report. The basic conclusion, as I understand it from a range of conversations with researchers and a reading of the available information, is that the changes forecast for our Delaware Bay will make the bay more challenging for oyster growers but potentially more favorable for blue claw crabs.
The Virginia Pilot reports “NOAA said its researchers might apply the same “downscaling” method to predict the potential effects of climate change on other species such as blue crabs and striped bass and other estuaries, including the Delaware Bay.” Other published seafood industry publications have predicted that these same forces of water temperature warming and acidification might actually benefit blue claw crabs.
My own opinion, not necessarily shared by researchers or the oyster industry*, is that resistant strains of oysters will be developed to combat the adverse effects of climate change (vibrio and acidification) but that seafood consumers will eventually insist on seafood (including oysters) that is sterilized through some procedure to kill any potential pathogens prior to consumption. That technology exists today but is not widely used. In the end, these development are more likely to have greater (positive) impact on funding for the scientific community by triggering the need for more research and development than on consumers or the seafood industry.
*Opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any of the commercial or educational firms associated with Nantuxent Corporation.
This video features Downe Township mayor Bob Campbell, local business owner Paul Waterman, and other local residents talking about the state buyouts of property at Money Island, New Jersey. The buyout of residences along both sides of the Delaware Bay is an essential prerequisite and enabling factor for the expansion of education, aquaculture and marine fisheries activity in the future. Naturally this causes tensions within the community. Money Island’s past existence with quiet waterside residences in a recreational fishing community has given way to a more active future in eco-tourism and education, aquaculture and commercial seafood harvesting. Nantuxent Corporation founder Tony Novak points out that this inevitable tension directly led to the community’s fast transformation in recent years and the sustainable eco-friendly redevelopment opportunity that exists today.
In fact, while seas and climate-related water changes are bad for residential communities and recreational fishing, these changes are generally helpful to the aquaculture and commercial seafood harvesting industry.
Nantuxent Corporation works in partnership with a number of commercial, educational, government and nonprofit entities to help balance the interests of all stakeholders. Striking this balance will help speed up the redevelopment of Money Island as an aquaculture and educational hub if the middle bay region.
Rutgers University published a video discussing the challenges and progress being made through living shoreline stabilization projects. Much of the filming in this video is done on related properties and businesses.