Summer issue of Confluence magazine now online

The summer 2013 issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s magazine, Confluence, is now online at

Articles in this issue, which focuses on aquaculture in Oregon, include “The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Acid Tests,” “Priced out of our own seafood,” and “The traveling ornamental defender.”

Millions of dead krill found on Oregon beaches

Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore., says millions of dead North Pacific krill have washed ashore recently between Newport and Eureka, Calif. He says it’s the largest die-off he can recall in recent history.Krill

North Pacific krill primarily live on the eastern side of the Pacific, between southern California and southern Alaska. They’re typically found along the continental shelf, Peterson says. The shrimp-like crustaceans are an important source of food for salmon and other species of fish, birds and marine mammals.

Joe Tyburczy, a researcher with the California Sea Grant Extension office and a former Oregon Sea Grant Knauss Fellow, says the culprit could be hypoxia. Indeed, oceanographic cruises along the northern California coast found lower oxygen levels than usually seen in Pacific Northwest waters. “If it is hypoxia, there’s a possibility of implications for other species like crab,” Tyburczy says.

Another possibility, Peterson says, is that the shrimp were victims of unfriendly weather conditions during their mating cycle, and were driven to shore by high winds.

For the moment, Peterson and Tyburczy are asking that the public keep them informed of any more dead krill sightings. Peterson can be reached at 541-867-0201; Tyburczy at 707-443-8369.


Oyster shells help restore chemical balance to acid waters

Healthy young oyster spatThe shells of oysters – a commercially important shellfish whose reproduction and growth is threatened by climate-linked ocean acidification – may help counteract the effects of increased local acidity levels, according to a new study of New England’s Chesapeake Bay by a team of researchers led by Oregon State University’s George Waldbusser.

The study, published in the journal Ecology and reported this week in the New York Times , concludes that the buildup of old shells in undisturbed oyster beds – along with the oysters’ waste – can help restore alkalinity to waters that might otherwise be too acid for the shellfish to survive.

Like ocean waters around the world, the Chesapeake has become more and more acidic as a result of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now, by studying oyster populations in relation to acidity levels,Waldbusser’s team has concluded that oysters — particularly their shells — can play a significant role in reducing that acidity.

“Oyster shells are made out of calcium carbonate, so they’re sort of like an antacid pill,” said Waldbusser, an assistant professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at OSU and an author of the study. “In an undisturbed oyster reef, healthy oysters are generating a lot of biodeposits,” a genteel term for excrement, “which helps generate CO2 to help break down those shells, which helps to regenerate the alkalinity back into the environment.”

Ocean acidification is of great concern to commercial oyster growers. Additional  research by Waldbusser and colleague Burke Hales, conducted at an Oregon oyster hatchery, has shown that increasing acidity near commercial shellfish operations inhibits the larval oysters from developing shells and growing at a pace that makes oyster farming economically viable.

Waldbusser is also working on a Sea Grant-funded project to develop Web-based tools that would allow oyster growers and resource managers to better understand how acidification affects larval oysters so they can more effectively adapt, mitigate and adjust their operations to increase oyster survival and growth.

Learn more:

New online booklet explores export capacity of live shellfish in Oregon

The booklet Development of Live Shellfish Export Capacity in Oregon is available as a free download from Oregon Sea Grant.

There are many opportunities for seafood exporters to earn substantial profit in Asian markets. The trade in live shellfish exports to China could be especially lucrative. In many respects, Oregon’s shellfish industry is well positioned to meet this demand. However, due to certain impediments, interested parties remain largely unable to establish effective means of competing in the Chinese marketplace.

At the request of Oregon Sea Grant, a project was undertaken to provide stakeholders with recommendations for the continuing development of live shellfish export capacity in Oregon. The project was carried out by two investigators in three parts under the direction of Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan, Oregon Sea Grant Extension veterinarian at Oregon State University. Investigations consisted of reviews of literature on current live shellfish shipping practices, research of the prevailing export procedures and the economic and regulatory environments, and visits to sites of special interest and interviews with representative stakeholders.

Findings from this joint investigation formed the basis of this report.

Aquarium fish develop antibiotic resistance

Discus fishNEWPORT, Ore. – The $15 billion ornamental fish industry faces a global problem with antibiotic resistance, a new study concludes, raising concern that treatments for fish diseases may not work when needed – and creating yet another mechanism for exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The risk to humans is probably minor unless they frequently work with fish or have compromised immune systems, the authors said, but transmission of disease from tropical fish has been shown to occur. More serious is the risk to the ornamental fish industry,  a $900 million annual business in the United States.

There are few regulations in the U.S. or elsewhere about treating ornamental fish with antibiotics, experts say. Antibiotics are used routinely, such as when fish are facing stress due to transport, whether or not they have shown any sign of disease.

“We expected to find some antibiotic resistance, but it was surprising to find such high levels, including resistance in some cases where the antibiotic is rarely used,” said study Tim Miller-Morgan, Oregon Sea Grant’s Extension aquatic species veterinarian and an assistant professor with OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.   “We appear to already have set ourselves up for some pretty serious problems within the industry.”

In the new study, 32 freshwater fish of various species were tested for resistance to nine different antibiotics, and some resistance was found to every antibiotic. The highest level of resistance, 77 percent, was found with the common antibiotic tetracycline. The fish were tested in Portland, Ore., after being transported from Colombia, Singapore and Florida.

Findings of the study were reported in the Journal of Fish Diseases.

The bacterial infections found in the fish included Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus and others, several of which can infect people as well as fish.

Problems and concerns with antibiotic resistance have been growing for years, Miller-Morgan said. The nature of the resistance can range widely, causing an antibiotic to lose some, or all of its effectiveness.

There have been documented cases of disease transmission from fish to humans, he said, but it’s not common. It would be a particular concern for anyone with a weak or compromised immune system, he pointed out, and people with such health issues should discuss tropical fish management with their physicians. Workers who constantly handle tropical fish may also face a higher level of risk.

From an industry perspective, losses of fish to bacterial disease may become increasingly severe, he said, because antibiotics will lose their effectiveness.

Anyone handling tropical fish can use some basic precautions that should help, Miller-Morgan said. Consumers should buy only healthy fish; avoid cleaning tanks with open cuts or sores on their hands; use gloves; immediately remove sick fish from tanks; consider quarantining all new fish in a separate tank for 30 days; wash hands after working with fish; and never use antibiotics in a fish tank unless actually treating a known fish disease caused by bacteria.

Learn more

Washington state declares war on ocean acidification

Washington state, the leading US producer of farmed shellfish, this week launched a 42-step plan to reduce ocean acidification. The initiative — detailed in a report by a governor-appointed panel of scientists, policy-makers and shellfish industry representatives — marks the first US state-funded effort to tackle ocean acidification, a growing problem for both the region and the globe.

The state governor Christine Gregoire,  says she will allocate $3.3 million to back the panel’s priority recommendations.

“Washington is clearly in the lead with respect to ocean acidification,” says Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As growing carbon dioxide gas emissions have dissolved into the world’s oceans, the average acidity of the waters has increased by 30% since 1750. Washington, which produces farmed oysters, clams and mussels, is particularly vulnerable to acidification, for two reasons: seasonal, wind-driven upwelling events bring low-pH waters from the deep ocean towards the shore, and land-based nutrient runoff from farming fuels algal growth, which also lowers pH.

Read the full story in Nature.

Learn more:

Oregon Sea Grant wins two silver awards

Oregon Sea Grant has won two Silver Awards of Distinction in the 18th Annual Communicator Awards competition, one each for its “Aquatic Animal Health” brochure and its Cascade Head Scenic Research Area video.

The Communicator Awards are judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 550+ member organization of professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts. See for more information.

According to Linda Day, executive director of the IAVA, “The pool of entries we received for this year’s Communicator Awards serves as a true testament to the innovative ideas and capabilities of communications and marketing professionals around the world. On behalf of the entire Academy, we congratulate this year’s Communicator Award Entrants and Winners for their passion and dedication. We are humbled to be given the opportunity to recognize such amazing work.”

This year’s Communicator Awards received  more than 6,000 entries from companies and agencies of all sizes, making it one of the largest awards of its kind in the world. Visit for more information.








Funding Opportunity: Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program 2012 Request for preproposals

NOAA Sea Grant has announced a funding opportunity for its Aquaculture Research Program 2012 to support the development of environmentally and economically sustainable ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes aquaculture.

Priorities for this FY 2012 competition include: Research to inform specific regulatory decisions; Research that supports multi-use spatial planning; and Socio-economic research targeted to understand aquaculture in a larger context. Proposals must be able to express how the proposed work will have a high probability of significantly advancing U.S. marine aquaculture development in the short-term (1-2 years) or medium-term (3-5 years).

To view the full announcement Go to and perform a basic search using the Funding Opportunity Number: NOAA-OAR-SG-2012-2003249.

This is a two-stage competition, with preproposals and full proposals. Each stage has specific guidance and deadlines, stated in the announcement, with Preliminary Proposals due 2/7/2012, and Full Proposals due 4/17/2012. Applicants must submit a preproposal in order to be eligible to submit a full proposals. Preliminary Proposals are to be submitted directly to the National Office via e-mail.

Pay careful attention to the instructions and contact Sarah Kolesar, Research Coordinator for the Oregon Sea Grant Program (, 541-737-8695) as soon as possible to discuss proposals.

Ocean acidification: Trouble for oysters

Tiny oyster larvae, compared to a nickelCould increases in ocean acidity be partly to blame for larval die-offs that have plagued Northwest oyster producers for much of the past decade? Scientists and growers believe that may be the case – and they’re struggling to help the region’s lucrative shellfish industry adapt to the risk.

In a recent blog post for the Sightline Institute, a Pacific Northwest sustainable policy center, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Jennifer Langston talks to growers and scientist who are concerned about ocean acidification and the threat it poses for oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest.

According to Langston, West Coast oyster production dropped from 94 million pounds in 2005 to 73 million pounds in 2009, resulting in an $11 million loss in sales for what had become a $72 million-a-year industry.

Langston interviewed researchers at Oregon State University who have embarked on a major, multi-year investigation of  the effects of ocean acidification on oyster production. Among that team is OSU researcher Chris Langdon, who has received Oregon Sea Grant support for his research on the health and production of oysters, abalone and other shellfish.

While Langdon and others have identified toxic organisms  such as Vibrio tubiashii as part of the problem, there are also signs that increasing ocean acidity is playing a role in the die-off of larval oysters, which appears to worsen when ocean temperatures and currents cause water that’s high in carbon dioxide and low in pH (acidic) to well up and mix with the “good” water normally found in the oyster breeding beds.

Using what researchers have learned from their ongoing study of the issue, two major oyster producers have been able to adapt their practices to ocean conditions. Using a monitoring buoy as an early alert to changes in seawater chemistry, they were able to schedule production for “good water” periods, resulting in a strong rebound in production in the 2010 season. But concern about the state of the oceans remains.

Read the entire article in Sightline Institute’s blog.

Read more about the NOAA research project and how it has helped growers adjust their aquaculture practices.

[Photo courtesy of OSU Extension Service]

National program offers grants for aquaculture, invasives research

NOAA Sea Grant is offering grants totalling $12.8 million to coordinated research, outreach and education programs designed to create sustainable aquaculture projects and limit the regional spread of invasive species.

Approximately half of the funds are devoted to  a broad national aquaculture  competition open to institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, commercial organizations, state, local and Indian tribal governments and individuals. Dubbed the NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program 2010, the competition is aimed at funding economically and environmentally sustainable aquaculture projects across the country in 2010-2011.

The remaining two grants are open to research, outreach and education teams affiliated with one or more of the 30 National Sea Grant College Programs located in US coastal and Great Lakes states (as well as the US Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico).  One program will offer up to $4.8 million in grants to help support state and regional aquaculture through outreach and technology transfer; the other devotes $2 million to regional-scale efforts to address marine invasive species issues.

Each of the three grant programs depends on the availability of federal funding. Proposals must be submitted through, and application deadlines are in May.

For more information visit the NOAA Sea Grant Web site.