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Archive for Kessina Lee

When I last wrote about the Oregon Shellfish Initiative, the bill to create it was working its way through the 2015 legislative session. House Bill 2209 passed both houses and was signed by the Governor, and a whole new phase of work began. The bill created the Oregon Shellfish Task Force, an 11-member group charged with producing a report to the 2017 Legislature with recommendations related to shellfish in Oregon. The issues to be addressed by the Task Force include creating an efficient permitting process for shellfish growers–eliminating regulatory overlap and gaps where possible and encouraging communication among regulatory agencies, establishing best management practices for cultivated shellfish in Oregon, protection and restoration of wild and native shellfish stocks for conservation as well as recreational harvest, supporting ocean acidification research in collaboration with shellfish growers, and assessing the socioeconomic impacts of commercial and recreational shellfish on Oregon’s coastal communities.

Around this same time, my term as the Oregon Sea Grant Legislative Fellow was coming to an end. Fortunately for me, I was able to move across the street to the Governor’s staff offices and into the position previously occupied by the fabulous Kaity Goldsmith as the Natural Resource Policy Fellow working on ocean and coastal issues. Though the Governor’s office doesn’t have an official role with the Task Force, I’ve been able to support the work in an unofficial capacity, providing an informational presentation at the first meeting, and meeting with committee staff to provide background information and help ensure that interested stakeholders are at the table.

The Task Force convened in November and has been meeting approximately every other month. The fourth meeting is coming up next week, and this halfway point in their process seems like a good time to weigh in on their work to date. After an initial organizational and informational first meeting in November to bring up to speed those TF members who were new to the conversation, the January meeting was held at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and focused on shellfish research in Oregon, particularly related to the effects of ocean acidification and changing ocean conditions on oysters and other bivalves. The meeting also included a tour of the research facilities at HMSC where Oregon State researchers Chris Langdon and Burke Hales research the effects of changing ocean chemistry, including Dr. Langdon’s Molluscan Broodstock Program which aims to select oyster broodstock that is resistant to increased CO2, temperature, and other fluctuations. The third meeting, held in Salem at the Capitol, focused on the role of federal and state agencies in the shellfish industry, as well as conservation concerns related to wildstock and native oysters. Representatives from several federal and state agencies discussed their role in permitting and regulating the shellfish industry in Oregon. It was a very productive meeting, with some agencies presenting efforts they are already making to simplify the permitting process, and several others bringing recommendations for opportunities to increase inter-agency collaboration and communication in order to make the process more efficient. Dr. Bill Hanshumaker, Oregon Sea Grant Chief Scientist, also presented to the Task Force on work Sea Grant will be doing to support development of a coordinated statewide program to support Oregon aquaculture, expansion of new and existing shellfish operations through reduced regulatory barriers, and supporting shellfish aquaculture operations in being more diversified and sustainable in the nearshore, offshore, and estuary environments.

On a related note, I was invited to represent Oregon in a Shellfish Initiatives session at the World Aquaculture Society triennial conference in Las Vegas in February. The session was kicked off by Michael Rubino, director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture in Silver Spring, Maryland, who gave an update on the National Shellfish Initiative, introduced in 2011. The presentations then started with Alaska and proceeded south with Washington, Oregon, and California, and then to the Gulf states and up the East Coast including Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It was fascinating to hear where other states are in their Shellfish Initiative process and how they’re approaching supporting their shellfish industries. It was also the first time I had a clear sense of where Oregon falls in this larger context, and I was pleased to note that we are right in step with the other states–not as far along as Washington, Maryland, and Rhode Island, all of whom started before we did, but further along than other states who haven’t had the support of legislators like our Coastal Caucus who have really helped drive this process.

I do work on other issues besides shellfish, but it’s been great to have the continuity with this effort for the last sixteen months or so, and to see the  results taking shape.

In my next post I’ll try to encapsulate the other things I’ve gotten to work on:  ocean acidification, marine debris, and the launch of the Oregon Ocean Science Trust.

 

under: Kessina Lee, Legislative Fellow, Natural Resources Policy Fellow, Uncategorized
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Working as the Sea Grant Legislative Fellow staffing Oregon’s Coastal Caucus, I was given the opportunity help craft House Bill 2209, the Oregon Shellfish Initiative. The intent of the Shellfish Initiative is to support Oregon’s oyster industry and preserve wild stocks of oysters for recreational harvest. The oyster industry in Oregon has already felt the impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia, and a major component of the Initiative includes funding for continued research and monitoring capabilities.

I had the opportunity to visit Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and see Dr. Chris Langdon’s lab which is home to the Molluscan Broodstock Program. Dr. Langdon and his grad students have been breeding and selecting oyster lines for productivity in changing ocean chemistries. The Shellfish Initiative contains an appropriation for the MBP, as the legislature sees that this research is vital to understanding how different molluscan shellfish will respond to fluctuations in the carbon cycle, and helping the shellfish industry mitigate those impacts through broodstock that is best adapted to the conditions.

I was also able to tour the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts Bay, which works closely with Dr. Langdon’s lab. Whiskey Creek had experienced substantial larval die-offs, and it was only due to monitoring equipment that detected more than just simple pH measurements that they were able to determine the cause of the die-offs. Whiskey Creek is now able to monitor and adjust the chemistry of the seawater tanks in which they raise broodstock, which they supply to approximately 75% of oyster growers on the West Coast. The Shellfish Initiative also appropriates funds to Oregon State University for ongoing support of the research partnership with Whiskey Creek Hatchery.

These partnerships were in place before the creation of the Oregon Shellfish Initiative, but it’s been extremely gratifying to me to be working on legislation to fund this important research. The Initiative also increases funding to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for more frequent water quality monitoring in Tillamook Bay, with the aim of being able to reopen the bay for oyster harvest more quickly after a closure. If the Tillamook Bay pilot project is successful, the increased monitoring could be expanded to other estuaries in the future.

The Shellfish Initiative also convenes a Shellfish Task Force which will report back to the legislature by the 2016 short session with recommendations on how to continue to enhance and expand the commercial oyster industry while addressing the impacts of ocean acidification and hypoxia on both cultivated and wild shellfish. Ideally, Sea Grant will continue to play a role as a bridge between research, industry, agencies, and coastal communities as the Shellfish Initiative recommendations are implemented.

The bill had a successful public hearing and work session in the House Committee on Ag & Natural Resources, and will soon be heard in the Ways & Means Natural Resource Subcommittee. There is a national shellfish initiative, Washington has a shellfish initiative, and California has one in the works, so the timing seems perfect for the Oregon Shellfish Initiative, and all the parties are committed to moving it forward.

Watch this space for more updates!

under: Kessina Lee, Legislative Fellow
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It took me a few tries, but I’m finally able to log in and post, so here is my first blog entry as a Sea Grant Scholar! With the legislative session underway, things are moving at an incredibly fast pace. I’m working out of Rep Caddy McKeown’s office as she’s chairing the Coastal Caucus this session. Before session started, the Rep hosted her two legislative staffers and I at her home in Coos Bay. We met with Port and city officials in the district, got a great tour of the area, admired the beautiful southern Oregon coast scenery, and ate the best smoked fish I’ve ever had.

Back in Salem, we hit the ground running. One of my primary focuses is helping craft an Oregon Shellfish Initiative aimed at enhancing opportunities for shellfish aquaculture, protecting wild shellfish habitat and commercial and recreational shellfish fisheries, and promoting research on ocean acidification. California and Washington have passed Shellfish Initiatives, so we’re able to look to those as templates, but Oregon has unique challenges, largely due to having much less available land for shellfish aquaculture. This initiative is bringing together industry, agencies, fisheries, and researchers to identify the best practices and priorities and is serving as a crash course in policy making for this biologist. And as a great admirer of the humble mollusk, I’m honored to be its champion. More updates to come. IMG_5797

under: Kessina Lee, Legislative Fellow

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