Kill Godzilla. Heal the ocean. Eat more oysters.

Marty Odlin
2022-09-19
minute read

Running Tide exists for my kids. I want them to live in a world where we can go fishing on a summer Sunday afternoon out to a favorite spot in a thriving kelp forest. We fish for mackerel, we catch our fair share, and if they’re feeling brave, we dive down and grab an oyster. I want them to be able to pass that tradition down to their kids, and their kids’ kids.

Life on Earth is possible because of the ocean. Yet, every data point available to us indicates that ocean health is rapidly declining.

Running Tide is a global ocean health company on a mission to heal the ocean.

We are not a kelp company or an oyster company or a carbon removal company. Our work is to build diagnostic systems and positive interventions at the scale needed to restore ocean health, rebalance the carbon cycle, decarbonize global supply chains, and revitalize coastal communities.

In 2017, we set out to improve ocean health by first building the most data rich shellfish system in the world. Shellfish are foundational organisms in coastal ecosystems, filtering seawater, removing excess nitrogen, combating eutrophication, creating reefs that increase biodiversity, protecting coastlines from storm surges and erosion, and providing sustainable protein. Our shellfish platform combines robotics, machine vision, and in-situ ocean monitoring to enable regenerative aquaculture and ecosystem restoration to develop a global scale.

To fulfill this mission, we’ve built a team of 60+ engineers, 17 scientists, and 11 PhDs, collaborating with a diverse group of experts and scientific partners, to develop a system to amplify natural pathways to durably remove carbon and combat ocean acidification.

Kill Godzilla

The imbalance in the carbon cycle is the single greatest threat to ocean health.

Since the beginning of the industrial era, humanity has moved 1.5 trillion tons of carbon out of the slow cycle (i.e. geological reservoirs and the deep ocean) into the fast carbon cycle (the upper ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere). The ocean has absorbed ~30% of this excess fast carbon, causing rapid ocean acidification and warming. The ocean currently absorbs the equivalent of 5 atomic bombs of heat energy every second. The more mass we transfer from the slow carbon cycle, the warmer and more acidic the ocean becomes, and the more we increase the risk of mass extinction of 90% of aquatic life. The extinctions and mass die-offs that we are currently on track for would have a devastating impact for all life on Earth, human beings included. (Oceanic plankton alone produce over 50% of the oxygen we breathe.)

By moving 1.5 trillion tons of mass from the slow carbon cycle to the fast, we have built up a massive carbon debt that is a powerful, destabilizing force in the world. We have unearthed Godzilla and given him the power to destroy entire ecosystems, as well as the many human communities that rely on them.

However, there is still time to take back Godzilla’s power by rebalancing the carbon cycle — which requires gigaton-scale carbon removal combined with rapid industrial decarbonization.

Heal the Ocean

A responsibility to act, responsibly.

The scale of the ocean is almost too large to comprehend. It covers roughly 70% of the Earth's surface, and there are 39,000 billion tons of carbon stored in the deep ocean.

The history of human engagement in the natural world is littered with cautionary tales. While the need for rapidly scaling ocean-based carbon removal is clear, uncertainties exist about the scale, density, and most effective way to design interventions to maximize ocean and planetary health. We know that the vast scale and power of the ocean makes it an important part of the global carbon cycle, and therefore a powerful ally in the fight to kill Godzilla. We must develop the capabilities to make large-scale positive interventions in the ocean, while ensuring that we keep ocean health in its Goldilocks zone. We have a duty to intervene, but we must do so responsibly.

Amplifying the ocean’s natural carbon removal system.

The centerpiece of acting responsibly starts with learning from the natural processes in the ocean, and designing a multi-pathway system to work in partnership with these processes. The cornerstones of Running Tide’s carbon removal system utilize natural phenomena — sunlight, photosynthesis, ocean currents, carbonate chemistry, and gravity. We use materials that already exist in the ocean, including terrestrial biomass (floatation and transport), calcium carbonate (alkalinity enhancement), and macroalgae (carbon sequestration), to form a multi-pathway system to sustainably amplify the ocean’s biological carbon pump: the natural system that transfers carbon from the fast to the slow carbon cycle in order to store carbon in the deep ocean and marine sediments. The biological carbon pump is the Earth’s most powerful carbon removal technology, naturally moving >2 billion tons of carbon from the fast to the slow cycle every year.

We released a whitepaper in May of this year that describes our ocean carbon removal process and details the principles of our current system.

Science-for-Action — a Governance Framework

There is widespread scientific consensus for the need to rapidly scale durable methods to move carbon from the fast carbon cycle back into the slow, as has been articulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Academy of Sciences. There are no credible scenarios to reduce ocean acidification, restore ocean health, and keep global warming below 1.5°C that do not include carbon removal at the scale of billions of tons per year.

Our collective action must meet the scale of the problem. It will require massive investments in logistics, manufacturing, shipping, and engineering, as well as in science-for-action. Importantly, these efforts are not separate from industrial decarbonization, as carbon removal and industrial decarbonization are tightly coupled. This effort will bring together scientists alongside miners, loggers, and longshoremen. Collectively, we need to build a system that can sustainably move at least 10 billion tons of mass from the fast to slow carbon cycle every year.

Our #1 priority at Running Tide is developing science-based solutions to improve ocean health to fix the planet. Every aspect of our operations is grounded in the best available science and first principles engineering. The climate crisis has produced complex, extraordinary circumstances that require complex, extraordinary responses. The scientific community has a pivotal and unique role to play — in partnership with this community, we must collectively move from a paradigm of science-for-research to science-for-action in order to solve global challenges.

Our guiding principles are simple: we apply the best available science to develop comprehensive nature-based interventions to improve ocean health. If rigorous testing, environmental impact assessments, and robust data and evaluation from our peers indicate that our interventions are not improving ocean health and durably removing carbon, we will seek new solutions, or iterate on our system design to deliver the intended positive outcomes. Nothing happens in the ocean statically. The best ocean operators are in a constant state of data gathering and adjustment. We anticipate nothing less for Running Tide.

To ensure our work is effective and safe, Running Tide is committed to the following best practices:

  • Scientifically Peer-Reviewed, Publicly Available Protocol for Quantifying Carbon Removal — We are developing a 3rd party peer-reviewed protocol detailing our accounting and quantification approach that will be available for iterative review and feedback.
  • Independent Scientific Advisory Board — Running Tide has partnered with Ocean Visions, who has convened an external, independent Scientific Advisory Board composed of leading subject matter experts.
  • Expand the Collective Knowledge of the Ocean — Rigorous scientific collaboration, input into our processes and analysis of results, and data and research sharing are key to contributing to the best available science.
  • Independently Reviewed Environmental Impact Assessments — Proactive environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to evaluate and assess potential ecological, economic, and social impacts prior to planned deployments. Running Tide EIAs are designed to be objective, rigorous, and conservative, with evaluations contextualized against the baseline scenario of inaction. Assessments are reviewed by independent third parties with every change in the scope of operations as part of a staged progression towards scale.
  • Robust Data and Ocean Carbon Quantification and Monitoring Platform — Employing transparent monitoring and quantification frameworks across our interventions, including independent auditing of a deployment’s full end-to-end carbon accounting and environmental impact.
  • Community Engagement — We actively seek the perspectives and guidance of coastal communities where we operate by engaging directly with community leaders, hiring local staff, organizing town halls, and participating in local community events, as well as ensuring we have processes in place for ongoing feedback mechanisms with affected stakeholder groups before, during, and after planned deployments. Running Tide was born on a working waterfront, and we are committed to giving working waterfronts a seat at the table.
  • Permitting and Governance — The ocean is a global commons. We are working to set a high bar for implementing positive interventions in the ocean by working with permitting authorities at local, state, federal, and international levels to set up clear permitting and governance structures.

These best practices are an essential foundation to the work of rebalancing the carbon cycle and restoring ocean health. More detail will follow in future blog posts on what our science-for-action governance framework looks like in practice.

One oyster can filter 50 gallons or 230 liters of seawater per day, removing nutrients and improving the water quality, they are also very tasty.

Eat More Oysters

Our mission to heal the ocean isn’t an abstract idea or some banal company slogan — it’s the goal of restoring an abundant, diverse, and thriving ocean for future generations to come.

Running Tide is committed to this work — but we can’t do it alone. We are constantly seeking new avenues to share and improve our systems to increase our collective capacity to heal the ocean. We are constantly seeking partners and collaborators from every sector, including the scientific community, governments, NGOs, industry, working waterfronts, the nonprofit sector, and local communities. Only by working together can we solve this global challenge. 

Now let’s get to work, kill Godzilla and heal the ocean, so we can all eat more oysters and smile in the sun.

Marty Odlin, CEO and Founder of Running Tide

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Kill Godzilla. Heal the ocean. Eat more oysters.
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White Paper - Sustainably Amplifying the Natural Carbon Cycle 
White Paper - Sustainably Amplifying the Natural Carbon Cycle