MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS: A film that’s ‘real and now’

OLD TIMERS TELL stories of so many salmon in North Olympic Peninsula rivers that “you could walk across the backs of them.”

They say how you could pull them out with a pitchfork.

To me and many others my age who never witnessed it, the whole thing sounds other worldly, like a fairy tale. It’s almost hard to believe.

And that is the fear of Sven Huseby: That his grandchild will never know the vibrant ocean he grew up with in Norway.

It’s a big reason why he and his wife decided to make the documentary “A Sea Change,” which details the threat of ocean acidification to aquatic life.

There will be a special screening of the film at the Peninsula College Little Theater on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Peninsula College and several other organizations, including Washington State Beach Watchers, have teamed up to present the movie for free.

“From a scientific perspective, it is not a hit you over the head with a textbook kind of film,” said David Freed, program coordinator for the Clallam County extension of Beach Watchers.

“It’s more of a personal story of a Norwegian granddad who worries about what kind of fishing and fish will be available for his grandson when he grows up.

“It’s about real time samples and results, not predictions or models or scenarios.

“It’s real and it’s now. And it’s a little bit disconcerting.”

Tatoosh Island study

Increased carbon dioxide emissions from human activities and the burning of fossil fuels have led to a 30 percent rise in ocean acidity in the past 200 years, according to scientists.

Oceans absorb about a third of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, and when the CO2 dissolves in water, it forms carbonic acid, which alters the ocean’s chemical balance.

The resulting acidification prevents marine life such as coral in coral reefs, as well as crabs, lobsters and oysters, from building calcium carbonate skeletons and shells, impairing their ability to survive and reproduce.

Measurements of ocean acidification off our own Peninsula at Tatoosh Island show acidity is rising more than 10 times faster than climate models have predicted.

Cold water absorbs more carbon dioxide than tropical waters — and while the waters off the Peninsula may be a unique environment, “this raises a warning flag that the oceans may be changing faster than people think,” Timothy Wootton, a marine biologist from the University of Chicago, told the Peninsula Daily News last year.

An acidity-driven shift in coastal ecosystems could spell disaster for shellfish industries that rely on mussels and other similar species.

It could potentially affect food fish as well, according to Gary Gill, a chemical oceanographer who works at Battelle Marine Science Lab in Sequim

“It’s a very real threat,” said Gill.

“I think it’s one that is not well-recognized. Most lay people when they think of climate change problems think only about the temperature.

“[Acidification] is something that is real and measurable today, so it is certainly an impact that we need to think about, beyond just the changes in the level of the ocean and changes in climate.”

“A Sea Change” has already been shown on the Peninsula at screening in both Sequim and Port Townsend.

Yet Friday night’s screening will be followed by a question and answer session involving a panel of experts.

Gill is one of several experts expected to be on hand to discuss ocean accidification after the film.

That includes University of Washington climatologist Lia Slemon, NOAA resource protection specialist Liam Antrim and retired commercial fisherman Bob Montgomery.

A meet and greet with free refreshments begins at 6:30 p.m. with the movie beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information on “A Sea Change,” visit www.aseachange.net.

Clams a go-go

The seas were angry during the last razor clam opener at Kalaloch.

Luckily, Poseidon appears to have cooled his jets just in time for some prime time digging this Friday and Saturday.

The state approved evening digs at five ocean beaches this week, including Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (today through Saturday), as well as Long Beach and Kalaloch (Friday and Saturday).

Surf conditions are expected to be relatively mild on Saturday (5.5-foot swells at 11-second intervals), making that the diggers’ best bet to come home with a 15-clam limit.

Kalaloch diggers could even benefit from lack of diggers willing to brave storms during the last harvest in mid-November.

With swells as high as 20 feet lashing Kalaloch beaches, Olympic National Park coastal ecologist Steve Fradkin said only 22 people showed up for the Nov. 16 dig. There was no success rate data available.

“I would imagine the success rates were probably pretty low given what the conditions were,” Fradkin said. “There was very little space available for folks [to dig].”

Kalaloch had fair conditions on Oct. 17-18 and was quite productive, with diggers taking home an average of 13.4 clams per digger.

October was the first time recreational harvesters were allowed to pierce Kalaloch’s sands in two years.

Kalaloch beaches have been closed the last two razor clam seasons because populations dropped dramatically in late 2007 and did not rebound enough last season to justify a season.

Park biologists believe that the decline was due to the shellfish disease called nuclear inclusion X, or NIX

“There are [now] a fair amount of clams out there,” Fradkin said. “When we’ve had reasonable conditions they’ve actually been showing pretty well.

“I think people have an opportunity to get out and get some clams this time.”

Harvesters will have to dig in the dark, however, with the low tides set to hit coastal beaches well after 7 p.m. on all three dates.

So make sure to bring some flashlights or lanterns. It gets dark out there.

It is always best to hit the beach at least one hour before low tide.

Digging is restricted to the hours between noon and midnight.

Here are the tides for this weekend’s digs:

• Today — -1.4 feet at 7:18 p.m.

• Friday — -1.3 feet at 8:04 p.m.

• Saturday — -0.9 feet at 8:51 p.m.

Another set of openers is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 31 through Jan. 3, pending marine toxin testing.

For more information on coastal razor clams, visit http://tinyurl.com/oyekj.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]

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