Two job opportunities at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute

The Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell is hiring for two positions.

  • Science, Environmental Health and Safety Support Specialist — The individual in this position will help research environmental and health hazards of chemicals that may be added to the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act list. The Science EHS Support Specialist will gather information on chemical toxicity and effects, help to define chemical categories, and identify alternatives, as well as provide support at Science Advisory Board meetings.
  • Environmental Justice, Social Justice Consultant — TURI seeks a consultant to provide an analytical report on communities in Massachusetts that are disproportionately impacted by the use and release of toxic chemicals. The current state of environmental justice and inequality among workers in Massachusetts are the primary themes of the analysis. The report will be used internally to help TURI identify opportunities to further strengthen the protection of vulnerable and sensitive groups, such as communities of color and migrant workers, among others.

The information age is starting to transform fishing worldwide

A researcher at the advocacy group Oceana uses GPS data to trace the activity of fishing boats. Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

by Nicholas P. Sullivan, Tufts University

People in the world’s developed nations live in a post-industrial era, working mainly in service or knowledge industries. Manufacturers increasingly rely on sensors, robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace human labor or make it more efficient. Farmers can monitor crop health via satellite and apply pesticides and fertilizers with drones.

Commercial fishing, one of the oldest industries in the world, is a stark exception. Industrial fishing, with factory ships and deep-sea trawlers that land thousands of tons of fish at a time, are still the dominant hunting mode in much of the world.

This approach has led to overfishing, stock depletions, habitat destruction, the senseless killing of unwanted by-catch and wastage of as much as 30% to 40% of landed fish. Industrial fishing has devastated artisanal pre-industrial fleets in Asia, Africa and the the Pacific.

The end product is largely a commodity that travels around the world like a manufactured part or digital currency, rather than fresh domestic produce from the sea. An average fish travels 5,000 miles before reaching a plate, according to sustainable-fishing advocates. Some is frozen, shipped to Asia for processing, then refrozen and returned to the U.S.

But these patterns are starting to change. In my new book, “The Blue Revolution: Hunting, Harvesting, and Farming Seafood in the Information Age,” I describe how commercial fishing has begun an encouraging shift toward a less destructive, more transparent post-industrial era. This is true in the U.S., Scandinavia, most of the European Union, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and much of South America.

Sustainable fishing limits catches at or below levels that fisheries can replace at their natural reproductive pace.

Fishing with data

Changes in behavior, technology and policy are occurring throughout the fishing industry. Here are some examples:

  • Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit, monitors and creates open-access visualizations of global fishing activity on the internet with a 72-hour delay. This transparency breakthrough has led to the arrest and conviction of owners and captains of boats fishing illegally.
  • The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, an international business-to-business initiative, creates voluntary industry standards for seafood traceability. These standards are designed to help harmonize various systems that track seafood through the supply chain, so they all collect the same key information and rely on the same data sources. This information lets buyers know where their seafood comes from and whether it was produced sustainably.
  • Fishing boats in New Bedford, Massachusetts – the top U.S. fishing port, based on total catch value – are rigged with sensors to develop a Marine Data Bank that will give fishermen data on ocean temperature, salinity and oxygen levels. Linking this data to actual stock behavior and catch levels is expected to help fishermen target certain species and avoid unintentional bycatch.
  • Annual catch limits, divvied up through individual quotas for each fisherman, have helped curb overfishing. Imposing catch shares can be highly controversial, but since the year 2000, 47 U.S. stocks that were overfished and shut down have been rebuilt and reopened for fishing, thanks to policy judgments based on the best available science. Examples include Bering Sea snow crab, North Atlantic swordfish and red grouper in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A growing “fishie” movement that mirrors the widespread “foodie” locavore movement has been gaining steam for more than a decade. Taking a page from agriculture, subscribers to community-supported fisheries pay in advance for regular deliveries from local fishermen. Such engagement between consumers and producers is beginning to shape buying patterns and introduce consumers to new types of fish that are abundant but not iconic like the cod of yore.

Growing fish on land

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing form of food production in the world, led by China. The U.S., which has exclusive jurisdiction over 3.4 million square miles of ocean, has a mere 1% share of the global market.

But aquaculture, mostly shellfish and kelp, is the third-largest fisheries sector in the Greater Atlantic region, after lobsters and scallops. Entrepreneurs are also raising finfish – including salmon, branzino, barramundi, steelhead, eels and kingfish – mostly in large, land-based recirculating systems that reuse 95% or more of their water.

Industrial-scale ocean salmon farming in Norway in the 1990s was largely responsible for the perception that farmed fish were bad for wild fish and ocean habitats. Today this industry has moved to less dense deep-water offshore pens or land-based recirculating systems.

Virtually all new salmon farms in the U.S. – in Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, and several planned for Maine and California – are land-based. In some cases, water from the fish tanks circulates through greenhouses to grow vegetables or hemp, a system called aquaponics.

There is heated debate over proposals to open U.S. federal waters, between 3 and 200 miles offshore, for ocean aquaculture. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that without a growing mariculture industry, the U.S. won’t be able to reduce and may even widen its $17 billion seafood trade deficit.

Vancouver, Canada-based Willowfield Enterprises raises coho salmon in recirculating tanks on land.

A voracious China

This kind of progress isn’t uniform throughout the fishing industry. Notably, China is the world’s top seafood producer, accounting for 15% of the global wild catch as well as 60% of aquaculture production. Chinese fishing exerts huge influence on the oceans. Observers estimate that China’s fishing fleet may be as large as 800,000 vessels and its distant-water fleet may include up to 17,000 vessels, compared to 300 for the U.S.

According to a study by the nonprofit advocacy group Oceana using Global Fishing Watch data, between 2019 and 2021 Chinese boats carried out 47 million hours of fishing activity. More than 20% of this activity was on the high seas or inside the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of more than 80 other nations. Fishing in other countries’ waters without authorization, as some Chinese boats do, is illegal. Chinese ships often target West African, South American, Mexican and Korean waters.

Most Chinese distant-water ships are so large that they scoop up as many fish in one week as local boats from Senegal or Mexico might catch in a year. Much of this fishing would not be profitable without government subsidies. Clearly, holding China to higher standards is a priority for maintaining healthy global fisheries.

The ocean’s restorative power

There is no shortage of gloomy information about how overfishing, along with other stresses like climate change, is affecting the world’s oceans. Nonetheless, I believe it bears emphasizing that over 78% of current marine fish landings come from biologically sustainable stocks, according to the United Nations. And overharvested fisheries often can rebound with smart management.

For example, the U.S. east coast scallop fishery, which was essentially defunct in the mid-1990s, is now a sustainable US$570 million a year industry.

Another success story is Cabo Pulmo, a five-mile stretch of coast at the southeast end of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Once a vital fishing ground, Cabo Pulmo was barren in the early 1990s after intense overfishing. Then local communities persuaded the Mexican government to turn the area into a marine park where fishing was barred.

“In 1999, Cabo Pulmo was an underwater desert. Ten years later, it was a kaleidoscope of life and color,” ecologist Enric Sala, director of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Project, observed in 2018.

Scientists say that thanks to effective management, marine life in Cabo Pulmo has recovered to a level that makes the reserve comparable to remote, pristine sites that have never been fished. Fishing outside of the refuge has also rebounded, showing that conservation and fishing are not incompatible. In my view, that’s a good benchmark for a post-industrial ocean future.

Nicholas P. Sullivan, Senior Research Fellow, Fletcher Maritime Studies Program, and Senior Fellow, Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A teaching and learning community for green chemistry and a healthier future

Read the full story at Beyond Benign.

As our world faces existential threats such as climate change and ocean plastics, educators play a critical role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to build a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet. Green chemistry is an upstream, preventative, solutions-oriented approach to creating a healthier future. Through the application of green chemistry, scientists and innovators can prevent the generation of pollutants and toxic compounds before they’re ever released into the environment or exposed to humans and animals, rather than cleaning up those pollutants afterward.

To enable and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators to work sustainably, green chemistry must be taught widely in science and chemistry education programs. Cue the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC), a joint initiative by Beyond Benign and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute.

Being developed in collaboration with educators from across the U.S. and the world, the GCTLC will be a central online space where teachers, industry leaders and students can share best practices and resources, connect and collaborate, receive mentorship and feedback, and help each other through peer-to-peer learning.

In this Q&A, GCTLC Program Manager Dr. Jonathon Moir shares the goals, structure, and progress of this exciting new community.

Available/Emerging Technologies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Combustion Turbine Electric Generating Units

Download the document.

This white paper summarizes readily available information on control techniques and measures
with the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from stationary combustion
turbines permitted to operate as electric utility generating units (EGUs). A discussion of the basic types of available stationary combustion turbines is included as well as factors that influence GHG emission rates from these sources. The subsequent technology discussion includes information on an array of control technologies and potential reduction measures for GHG emissions.

Want your company to offer a green 401(k) option? This startup can help

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Only 4.7% of 401(k) plans offer the choice of an environmental, social, and governance fund, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America.

To know if citizen science is successful, measure it

Read the full story in Horizon.

It’s never been easy to accurately measure the impact of any scientific research, but it’s even harder for citizen science projects, which don’t follow traditional methods. Public involvement places citizen science in a new era of data collection, one that requires a new measurement plan.

3 ways to grab listener attention in a presentation, according to science

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Tap into this element of memory to help your audience really hear your insights.

The sustainable applications of chitosan

Read the full story at AZO Materials.

A mini-review has been published in the journal Polymers on chitosan’s potential for sustainable applications in multiple industries. Researchers from Spain, India, Iran, and China have contributed to the review.

Total carbon footprint of a North American home is more than you think

Read the full story at Treehugger.

Measuring the energy efficiency of a house is pretty easy: You have your heat loss calculation before it’s built and you have the gas and electric bills after. Figuring out the operating carbon emissions is straightforward as well. But what about the embodied carbon—the upfront carbon emitted when building a house?

Embodied carbon is not so straightforward and is rarely even thought about, even though it should be. There were 1.7 million single-family housing starts in the U.S. in 2021 and 63,456 in Canada, where there is a higher proportion of multifamily units. That’s going to add up to a lot of carbon going into the air right now. Now, a new Canadian study, “Emissions of Materials Benchmark Assessment for Residential Construction” (EMBARC), quantifies how much carbon is at stake and what we can do about it.

‘Packaging free’ shopping introduced for supermarket staples in the Netherlands

Read the full story at Packaging Europe.

Albert Heijn is launching AH Packaging Free, a shopping concept that will see around 70 products – including cereal, pasta, spreads, tea, and nuts – offered in smart dispensers that can be used with consumers’ own containers or reusable jars and bags purchased in store.