On June 18th, two oceanographic moorings were launched off the Washington State coast to help natural resource managers make better decisions for key fisheries like the Dungeness crab.
The Quileute Tribe is monitoring hypoxia in the Pacific Northwest with two new oceanographic moorings as a result of a partnership with University of Washington’s Applied Physic Lab (APL-UW) and the Northwest Association of Network Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS). Hypoxia, or waters with low oxygen levels, threatens marine life including crabs, oysters, mussels, and fish important to the tribe's health and economic well-being. While hypoxia is naturally occurring in many marine environments throughout the world, it is becoming more frequent in coastal and estuarine environments due to human activity. The new oceanographic moorings relay oxygen data to the NANOOS Visualization System in near real-time, giving scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders information to improve the understanding of hypoxia events, especially for the Quileute Treaty Dungeness crab fishery.
From 2013-2015, a marine heat wave spurred a wide-spread harmful algal bloom (HAB), a toxic algae that releases a neurotoxin that can build up in crabs and other animals. After the HAB shut down the Dungeness crab fishery, the Quileute Indian Tribe applied for and received funding from the Fishery Disaster Relief Program established by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. With these funds, the Quileute Natural Resources Program worked with UW-APL to build and deploy two real-time oceanographic moorings equipped with near-bottom oxygen sensors and profiling current meters allowing for detection of hypoxic water and its movement.
The Quileute Tribe has long recognized the need for oxygen monitoring to evaluate ongoing ocean hypoxia. The data are not only useful for scientific research, but can be used to inform and guide fisheries management decisions.
Jennifer Hagen, the Quileute Tribe’s Marine Policy Advisor who led the partnership, said:
“The Quileute Tribe has depended on marine resources for millennia; this is obvious through the songs and stories that have been shared through time and remain an important part of the community today. The Tribe has always used its in-depth knowledge of its environment to ensure that marine populations were sustained for the next seven generations. These moorings provide the opportunity to gain the knowledge of when hypoxic conditions are present, and how local water masses are moving along our coast. It is the Quileute Tribe's hope that we can incorporate that new knowledge into our management of Quileute Treaty fisheries. Further understanding achieved in applying this data will assist in adapting management strategies towards a more resilient community.”
NANOOS Executive Director Dr. Jan Newton noted the importance of nurturing partnerships: “Decisions on whether or not to fish, where to fish, or whether or not the hypoxia is too severe for the Dungeness crab fishery are going to be more and more critical in a changing climate. To answer critical ocean observing questions, we need a variety of skill sets and perspectives, which we get through partnerships.”
Image: “The moorings, launched on June 18, are equipped with near-bottom oxygen sensors and profiling current meters that enable real-time detection of hypoxic water.”