Societal Climate Impacts, Alaskan Crab Shortage, Protected Fisheries Surprise. October 21, 2022, Part 1

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A Boost For U.S. Electric Vehicle Battery Production

This week, the Biden administration announced it would issue grants totaling some $2.8 billion to increase U.S.-based production of electric vehicle batteries and mining of the minerals used in their manufacture. The grants would go to companies in 12 states to help boost domestic production of key battery ingredients such as lithium, graphite and nickel, reducing the country’s reliance on China and other foreign battery producers. Casey Crownhart, a climate and technology reporter at MIT Technology Review, joins John Dankosky to talk about the plan and the road ahead for U.S.-based electric vehicles.

They also talk about a surge in renewables use in Europe, new options for COVID vaccine boosters, charges of environmental racism against the state of Louisiana, and new research into why some of us seem to be magnets for mosquito bites.

Climate Change’s Toll On Our Social Fabric

Climate change is already driving many visible effects in our world, from extreme flooding to the extinction of species. It threatens agriculture and life on coastal lands. But researchers predict a changing climate can also affect humans in other, more nuanced ways, including changes in human behavior and mental health.

Co-host Shahla Farzan talks to Stanford researcher Marshall Burke, whose research has looked at the link between climate extremes, including heat waves and drought, and historic and contemporary conflicts. Plus, John Dankosky interviews Queens College neuroscientist Yoko Nomura about her work finding high rates of childhood psychiatric disorders among children whose mothers were pregnant, and under extreme stress, during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy—a hint at the generational toll of intensifying disasters. They discuss why the answer to both challenges may be providing more social and economic support to those most vulnerable to stress as the globe warms.

The Mysterious Case Of Alaska’s Crabs

For the first time ever, the Bering Sea snow crab fishery will not open for the upcoming season. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game announced the closure Monday afternoon. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery will also be closed this year — for a second year in a row. Gabriel Prout co-owns the F/V Silver Spray with his dad and brothers. The Silver Spray is a 116-foot steel crabber that’s homeported in Kodiak. He said he wasn’t surprised that Fish and Game closed the king crab fishery — in a normal year, he’d go out for king crab, too. But numbers have been on the decline and that fishery didn’t open last year, either.

“The real shocking part is the total and complete collapse of the snow crab fishery which no one expected last year when it happened, and a complete closure this year was equally as shocking,” Prout said. Miranda Westphal, an area management biologist with Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, said the sudden decline in snow crab came as a shock to biologists as well. Back in 2018, there was record recruitment in the Bering Sea snow crab stock. Those numbers started to go down in 2019, and there was no survey in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Read the rest at sciencefriday.com.

In Hawai’i, Conservation Has Also Provided Fishermen Economic Benefits

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, along the northwestern Hawaiian islands, has been under some kind of conservation protection since the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. It is a deeply sacred place to native Hawaiians. And at more than 583,000 square miles, it’s also the world’s largest fully protected no-fishing zone, after its expansion under the Obama administration in 2016.

Marine protected areas like Papahānaumokuākea are designed to provide refuge to fish and other marine mammals that have been overexploited and otherwise threatened by human activities. But research has remained inconclusive on if these protections provide enough benefits to nearby areas to blunt the economic impact of exclusion zones. This is especially debated in the case of big, mobile, migratory species like Hawai’i’s all-important bigeye and yellowfin tuna.

Now, new research from an interdisciplinary team of economists and ecologists looked at how well Hawaiian tuna fishermen did when they fished close to the monument, and further away. And they found, to their surprise, that there was a strong benefit, which increased in the years after the monument’s expansion. Fishermen near the monument caught more tuna, for the same amount of effort, than fishermen further away.

Co-host Shahla Farzan talks to first author Sarah Medoff about the surprising findings, and why the economics of a marine protected area might matter to conservation decisions.

Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

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