Kipp Baratoff

Kipp Baratoff working on the Yukon River in Alaska.

For well over a decade, Oregon has considered legislation to cap carbon and put a price on pollution. As a business whose survival depends on the natural environment, we at Fishpeople urge policymakers to move beyond consideration — and act.

Adopting cap-and-trade legislation in Oregon’s 2019 legislative session would be a significant step towards curbing carbon emissions. It would also send a powerful signal to businesses and governments far beyond our state that investing in clean energy technology is smart for both the economy and the environment.

In 2012, we founded Fishpeople to “re-imagine North America’s relationship to the sea.” By committing to our fishermen, the oceans, and transparency, we wanted to offer consumers a chance to deepen their understanding of where their seafood comes from and the people who bring it to them.

We believed then and still believe now, that linking the economies of rural coastal communities to today’s natural food consumer is essential for pioneering industry change. Our vision includes an industry capable of serving the consumer unparalleled quality while preserving fish stocks and promoting economic prosperity in the communities that rely on seafood for their livelihoods.

Doing right by the ocean, our workers and our customers is a never-ending journey. Being a transformational company means embracing transformational policies and programs that drive the innovation required to sustain economies for generations to come. Establishing a carbon pricing mechanism for Oregon is one of those policies.

In 2018, the Pacific cod quota in the Gulf of Alaska was cut by 80 percent, and further cut in 2019. The reason: a severe depletion of cod stocks due to warm water, resulting in the worst numbers in decades. While the National Marine Fisheries Service believes that stocks will rebound, that recovery requires water temperatures to remain normal. The warm water off the Gulf of Alaska, known as “the blob,” has made that difficult. Warm water decreases the nutrients required for cod egg populations to survive.

The impacts appear to be lingering, affecting other species and extending all the way down to California. For example, warming-related damages in the prized West Coast Dungeness crab fishery led the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations to file suit against 30 companies in the fossil-fuel industry. Warming waters cause algae blooms that produce the neurotoxin domoic acid. Domoic acid makes crab and other shellfish unsafe to eat, and requires fisheries be suspended until levels reduce. These suspensions have negatively impacted California, Oregon and Washington fisheries in the last few years.

Water temperature, flow and acidity are crucial to sustaining marine economies and jobs, the lifeblood of many coastal communities in Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Simply put, fewer fish equals fewer jobs.

Oregon may be a small state, but we all know pollution doesn’t have borders. Passing cap-and-trade policy during this year’s legislative session would link us to similar ongoing efforts in California and Washington.

Too often cap-and-trade opponents try to paint the issue as business versus the environment. As an Oregon-based business reliant on the environment for our survival, Fishpeople rejects that view because we know it to be a false dichotomy. We support cap-and-trade because it will help protect the future of our coastal communities and the people who live and work there — and benefit Oregon as a whole. The time to act is now.

Kipp Baratoff is co-founder of Fishpeople Seafood, which operates facilities in Garibaldi and Ilwaco, Washington.

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