A Rewarding Summer Protecting & Enhancing California’s Coast

Southern California’s pristine coastline and a work to protect it: I would definitely say this is a superb way to spend my summer. I am here at California Coastal Commission’s South Coast District Office in Long Beach, just a few blocks from the ocean and the Port of Long Beach. Along with 6 other district offices and various departments, we thrive to fulfill the mission of the Commission as a whole: To protect and enhance California’s coast for present and future generations.

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The passive government and the positive market: How to use the market to find out the wasted fish.

The seafood market is a giant market in Taiwan. However, because the ocean is large (about 180,000 km2) and the marine environment is complicated (coral reef environment in the South China Sea, kelp environment in the Ease China Sea, Kuroshio ocean current, and China coastal current), the seafood is various so that it is difficult to be regulated.

According to the Fishery Agency, there are 322 genus species are economic marine species, but only a few species have clear data of fish population to modify its catching. These species include tuna family (Family Scombridae), mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus), and farmed fish (about 12 genus and species). Therefore, a consumer could have various choice in fish but the products could be from boats which are from IUU fishing (Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing).

This end of June, Taiwan, because of pressure from the European Commission, leads the long-distance fleets to comply with the RFMO obligations systematically (Regional Fisheries Management Organization) and have VMS (vessels monitory system). Now, it is the time to stimulate the small-scale fishing vessels to have legal, reported, and regulated fishing. But, how to do it?

If we use the “cap and trade” on GHG management, the tax is a cap and the carbon market is a trade. Similarity, the prescription in the small-scale fishery from the government is the cap and the high-end catering industry will be the trade in the seafood market in Taiwan. We hope to stimulate people to understand which species they are eating and what the impact will give to the ocean by the chosen fish from the high-end catering industry. The reason is we notice that many Taiwanese tend to know what the seafood is eaten by wealthier. By revealing the seafood what they like to eat, the local social media would report and stimulate people that they should choose this new seafood carefully or not.

This summer, I am working in Satoumi (里海有限公司). Satoumi is a company which provides many high-end restaurants in Taiwan. These chefs are looking for local food, including seafood. Unfortunately, the choice in seafood is very difficult. To review the reason why the local seafood providing is so difficult, we got some reasons: the marine environment is changing too quickly but the scientific data did not follow up; many chefs in high-end restaurants prefer to take a challenge in unique food. If we can switch the high-risked fish species to low-risk fish in the chosen list, can we release a little bit of pressure from the overfishing?

For example, giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus) is a by-catch with giant scarlet prawn (Aristaeopsis edwardsiana). However, this year, because of not enough catching value of giant scarlet prawn, the vessels tended to increase its trawling times. The problem on the vessel was that there were a lot of giant isopods rather than the giant scarlet prawn. The giant isopods were the bycatch in this case. To stop the vessels working in the South China Sea and ruining the coral reef environment,  the company decides to sell giant isopod to cover the shortage of income from giant scarlet prawn. I evaluated the possibility to sell it or not.  Then, my boss and I decided the price that people will payment (about 8~17 USD for the first sale and 12.6~50 USD for the second sale).

Interestingly, this product stimulates not only people who love to take challenge in specific seafood but also people who love to collect specimen to buy the giant isopods. By selling a new product, the team wants to trigger people to rethink where the seafood are from.

Fig 1. Giant isopod (Bathynomus giganteus). There are about 19 species in this genus. Because it is a giant body size in the Isopoda and its style is very interesting, also, the Toba Aquarium in Japan has had the same genus but different species of the isopod, there are many people tend to concentrate on this news about it’s from and how the fishermen caught it.

First week at TRNERR

My summer began with a sunrise visit of the Tijuana River Estuary at Border Field State Park. I met my new supervisors at 7AM for a special tour they were hosting for a team of journalists interested in the binational relations and environmental problems in the Tijuana River Valley. Following around a film crew and eavesdropping on interviews was not a conventional first day as an intern, but I was able to see the landscape we work to protect, as well as understand some of the most pressing environmental issues. As we explored the park, border patrol radios murmured over our shoulders and smoke rose from the hills of Tijuana, Mexico, just barely a stone’s throw away.

The Tijuana River watershed straddles the US-Mexico border, carrying sediment and debris from the Mexican side (known as Goat Canyon) over the border, into State Park land and protected estuary habitat, until it dumps into the Pacific Ocean in the town of Imperial Beach. The hilly and under-vegetated slopes of Goat Canyon, lack of consistent waste recollection systems, and heavy periodic rains, cause high levels of debris and toxins to contaminate the river mouth and coastal zone at Imperial Beach. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve acts as organization that brings together the US and Mexican local and regional governments to mitigate these impacts, build climate resiliency, and improve livelihoods on both sides of the border. I am excited to intern with them this summer, learning about their coastal resiliency and binational collaboration efforts.

My first week passed quickly. I was brought on board with the Coastal Training Program manager, the lead ranger of the State Park land, the binational liaison in charge of coordinating Mexican affairs, and the head estuarine researcher. I was put to work assisting in creating and editing Spanish and English reports from recent adaptation trainings, brainstorming educational materials about marine debris, and coordinating event logistics for upcoming adaptation trainings.

At the end of my first week, I was able to participate in a training co-hosted by TRNERR and a local non-profit, 4Walls, to bring stakeholders together for a collaborative work session regarding the Border Impact Bond, a proposed funding source and mechanism to reduce downstream pollution and increase access to basic services. I enjoyed hearing the passionate contributions from different government representatives, environmental and social advocates, and Goat Canyon residents. It was a great way to tune-up my Spanish language skills, as well as chow down on some delicious platos tipicos.

Aside from the internship work, I am also having an amazing time exploring San Diego. Not only am I putting faces to names from the coastal resiliency world and broadening my professional network, but I’m also enjoying evening beach sunsets and new coffeeshops and taco trucks. Next week I’ll go to Scripps’ Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for the second component of my summer internship. The summer is already flying by!