News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About Ryan Ono
Ryan Ono joined the ocean acidification team in Washington, DC as the Program Coordinator just this past January. His background is in sustainable fisheries management and holds a Master of Marine Policy degree from the University of Delaware.
Measuring ocean acidification is tough — we can’t see it, and we have to use specialized instruments to measure it properly. Scientists use specialized laboratories to make the most accurate chemistry measurements of deep ocean waters. Worse, even the most affordable instruments to get this data still costs tens of thousands of dollars. This makes life difficult for shellfish growers, marine resource managers, and decision-makers who are trying to monitor ocean acidification and protect businesses, fisheries and local communities.
Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.
Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.
Happy Earth Day! Today is the one day of the year where people all over the world come together to do something good for the Earth. However, we see extraordinary people dedicate their lives to helping our water planet.
With today being Earth Day and April being Florida Volunteer Month, we wanted to highlight SCUBAnauts International. This is an organization dedicated to teaching bright, energetic teenagers about marine science using scuba diving in Southeast Florida. Representative “SCUBAnauts” visit us once a year in DC to talk about marine policy and tell us about their research and conservation work in the water. Their stories are inspirational, and we can’t help but share them with you.
The SCUBAnauts been the envy of our office since reporting that, in addition to scuba diving in tropical locations, they’ve been helping Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory restore coral reefs in the Keys.
There’s been a recent spate of good news about people dealing with the global problem of ocean acidification at the local level. Over the past month, the Maryland Ocean Acidification Task Force and Maine Ocean Acidification Commission have reported on what ocean acidification means for their states, and what each state can do to protect its local ocean. These are the first comprehensive state reports on the east coast to put forth suggested actions addressing acidification.
Both commissions included scientists, fishermen, shellfish farmers, state agencies, elected representatives and community groups who are especially concerned about their shellfish farms and wild fisheries, especially blue crabs and American lobsters. I attended the Maryland Task Force meetings too.
During the meetings over the summer, we heard of shellfish farmers in Maryland seeing lower baby oyster production levels. Even though the cause has remained a mystery, no one could rule out ocean acidification. This lower amount of oyster seed still remains unexplained, but everyone agreed that the marine resources and coastal communities of the state are too important to be left in such uncertain conditions. In fact, the Maryland report includes recommendations for increasing ocean acidification research and monitoring so the state can understand just what is happening.
Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the agency is proposing new rules to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The new rules, which the EPA is calling their “Clean Power Plan,” would reduce carbon emission from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, an amount equal to the pollution emitted by more than 150 million cars. But what does all of this mean for the ocean? Many people may not realize it, but by proposing the Clean Power Plan, the United States took a significant step towards addressing ocean acidification. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants means there will be less carbon pollution in the atmosphere. And less carbon pollution in the atmosphere means less carbon pollution that is absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic.
When people think about the state of Maine, images of lobsters and lighthouses usually spring to mind. For the state of Maryland, people think of blue crab and the rivers feeding into the Chesapeake Bay. Both states are closely associated with rich maritime traditions, however a change in ocean chemistry is rapidly occurring that could jeopardize not only their maritime way of life, but also the jobs and economic benefits that the ocean and coastal waters provide.
Ocean acidification is caused by carbon pollution from factories, cars, and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. In fact, the ocean absorbs roughly 30% of all carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere, and local pollution running off from the land into coastal areas can make acidification worse. Animals that have shells, like oysters, clams, mussels and crabs have trouble surviving in increasingly acidic water. In the Pacific Northwest ocean acidification has damaged these animals, contributing to billions of baby oyster deaths, significantly impacting the hatcheries and oyster operations in these regions. The impact of ocean acidification on other animals, such as lobsters and fish, are not well understood.