On June 16-17th, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Department of State will bring together scientists, stakeholders and leaders from around the world for the Our Ocean Conference. This international event will focus on three pressing ocean issues: sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. I am honored to be speaking on the ocean acidification panel at this conference.
I will be sharing stories I gathered from my year-long Watson Fellowship, studying how ocean acidification might affect human communities around the world. Over that year, I saw just how far-reaching ocean acidification’s impacts could be. We already know, from our experience in the US, that it hurts shellfish growers and the communities that depend on them. But around the world, there are whole countries and communities that depend on threatened species, such as coral for tourism, and fish for food and livelihoods. The stories I heard convinced me that we need to raise awareness and take action against ocean acidification at the international level. Here are some of those stories:
News broke last week that a company called Island Scallops in British Columbia, Canada, had lost three years’ worth of business – 10 million scallops and $10 million. The CEO, Rob Saunders, identified ocean acidification as the culprit.
Now, there is rightly some attention to being paid to the mass shellfish die-offs in Canada. An oyster farm in the region has also come forward with tales of oyster deaths. The owner of the oyster farm was quoted in Canada’s Globe and Mail as saying, “It’s hard to say [what is causing these deaths] without having somebody there monitoring what’s going on.”
Fall is upon us, and with it comes a new season, new beginnings and new opportunities. The saying “hope springs eternal” evokes an entirely different season, but this autumn I’m feeling particularly excited and optimistic—and it has nothing to do with football. Great things are happening on ocean acidification, and this is an issue that I’m always happy to have something good to talk about.
State efforts to address this issue are essential. Ocean acidification is a global ocean health problem, caused by our increasing carbon emissions from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean—but its impacts are local. Ocean acidification is putting American jobs and livelihoods at risk.
This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Jaclyn Yeary.
After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast last October, I read an op-ed by Paul Greenberg in the New York Times titled “An Oyster in the Storm” that inspired me. In his piece, he described how oysters can be used to protect the shorelines of our coastal cities while improving the water quality of America’s largest metropolis. The solution to two major issues seemed suddenly so obvious. I needed to learn more.
So I partnered with a friend to produce a short documentary titled “Harbor Heroes” about the importance of oysters to New York City. We interviewed an amazing group of individuals including students from the aquaculture program at the New York Harbor School, Philippe Cousteau and Paul Greenberg himself.
How do oysters help water quality?
The idea behind restoring New York’s oysters is this: oysters grow on top of one another, forming nurseries for baby fish and creating a base structure for reefs. Reefs act as natural surge protectors and reduce the size of waves during big storms. Like other mollusks, oysters are filter-feeders, which means they clean the water column as they eat. If the water quality improves enough, sea grass could grow and create a root network that would prevent the erosion of the shoreline.
President Obama’s plan to address climate change is a step in the right direction on the long road toward making real progress in reducing carbon pollution. There is no greater threat to the life on our planet than the effects of putting too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we are already seeing the impacts. It’s urgent, and we must act now.
The Arctic is experiencing the effects of climate change more than anywhere else, with air temperatures warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Water temperatures are rising and seasonal sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace.
As we have increased the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air, the ocean has absorbed more and more of it, becoming 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. This has a ripple effect up the food web and across livelihoods.
There is something we can do about it. The ocean should be at the center of our solutions to the rising threat of carbon pollution. You can learn more about Ocean Conservancy’s work on this issue in my blog, The Ocean in a High CO2 World:
“I am hopeful.” “There are actions we can take.” “Republicans and Democrats are working together.”
Not phrases you often hear these days, especially with some of the more challenging issues we face as a society.But this type of action and partnership is exactly what is taking place right now in Washington state to tackle ocean acidification.Washington’s people and businesses have been hit hard by this invisible problem – caused by increasing carbon pollution from land being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. Many animals are struggling to build their shells in increasingly acidic water – and local pollutants in coastal areas make the problem worse.Oyster growers have experienced massive die-offs, and this is an industry that brings in $272 million to Washington annually – and directly employs around 3,200 people.So the state and its people are fighting back.Watch the video and learn how.
One of our readers, who is very concerned about increasing CO2 emissions, asked that question in a comment on my last blog, where I detailed how rising carbon pollution is the greatest risk to the ocean and the resources—food, water, air, energy—it provides to sustain us.
The first step we need to take is to find out more about the species, people and places that are already feeling the effects of increased carbon pollution. The ocean is absorbing more and more of our carbon emissions, and its waters are becoming more acidic as a result. Ocean acidity has already increased 30 percent in the past few decades, and we are starting to see real impacts on species that depend on calcium for their shells.