The Blog Aquatic » X-Prize News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Harnessing the Power of Partnerships to Address Ocean Acidification Mon, 09 Sep 2013 16:56:32 +0000 Julia Roberson

Today, the X Prize Foundation will announce something truly groundbreaking: a competition, sponsored by Wendy Schmidt, to address ocean acidification. Can I tell you how excited this makes me? There are people sitting up and paying attention to acidification, to the threat it poses to the ocean, and to the people and businesses that rely on a healthy ocean, in a way that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Ocean acidification is a big deal—some say it is one of the biggest challenges we face—an ever-changing ocean as a result of carbon pollution from factories, cars and power plants being absorbed by the ocean, turning it more acidic. This means that animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building the very shells needed for their survival.

So as we struggle to reduce carbon pollution, what can be done on ocean acidification? We must rely on monitoring and research to inform science and local responses.

Shucking oysters at Taylor Shellfish in Shelton, WA

Photo © Barbara Kinney / Ocean Conservancy All Rights Reserved

Monitoring is critical for two reasons. It informs scientists and in turn, us, on what our future ocean may look like and what we need to do to respond, and it allows shellfish growers to stay in business by monitoring the water at their operations. If the water is too corrosive, they can take action to protect vulnerable shellfish.

Today’s X Prize announcement means that soon, more accurate and more affordable sensors will be available to scientists and businesses that need them.

Years of work by a diverse community of people who care passionately for the ocean and the people who depend on it has led up to today’s X-Prize announcement. Strange though it may sound, these partnerships and collaborative efforts are some of the reasons I love working on this issue. Diverse groups are working together and collaborating on acidification in ways that often seem to be missing from other big environmental issues.

These groups and individuals include:

  • NRDC, who has been instrumental in getting the international scientific community to coordinate efforts for acidification monitoring.
  • COMPASS, who works with scientists studying ocean acidification (and many other areas of research) ensuring that their research reaches the right audiences.
  • Brad Warren of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, who has worked with shellfish growers and fishermen for many years to sound the alarm and to get funding for monitoring and research.
  • Dr. Jane Lubchenco, who as former NOAA administrator worked to broaden awareness of ocean acidification among decision-makers.
  • The state leaders of Washington, Oregon and California, who last week announced a groundbreaking partnership among their three states and British Columbia to advance the science of acidification, which will inform actions that the West Coast can take to protect shellfish growers, fishermen and the environments on which they depend.
  • Shellfish growers from the East and West coasts, who are in Washington, D.C., this week to walk the halls of Congress and meet with their elected officials about ocean acidification, among other things.

All of these groups and people will have had a hand in today’s announcement, because they have all worked tirelessly for our ocean and coastal communities. Partnership, collaboration, innovation and competition is what I think of when I think of the X Prize—and what I think of when I think of how we can tackle ocean acidification.

We face a great challenge, but what gives me hope is that the response to this challenge is greater than it’s ever been.


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Ocean Acidification: It’s Here and It’s Real Thu, 10 May 2012 19:59:23 +0000 George Leonard

Donning our snorkel gear, my son and I entered the tranquil bay. We’d been looking forward to spring break in Baja Mexico and had read about this spot in the guide book. But we were soon disappointed; there were few fish to see and most of the coral was damaged or dead. The unsuspecting tourist might not notice but as a trained marine biologist I know what a healthy reef looks like. This wasn’t it.

Coral reefs are under assault. Overfishing and coastal development are partly to blame, but ocean acidification is an emerging threat to corals and a host of other species that rely on calcium carbonate for their shells. As CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it dissolves in the ocean and it is changing the very chemistry of the sea.

And it’s happening now. Just this month, a team of scientists published a study that solved the mystery of why the $278 million shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly went bankrupt in 2006. Owners of the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on the Oregon coast wanted to know why all their baby oysters were dying. Scientists determined it was ocean acidification. Whiskey Creek is now fighting back against ocean acidification by changing how they raise oysters to avoid the highly corrosive seawater that is now bathing the Oregon coast.

Ocean acidification could do far more than just take oysters off the menu at your favorite happy hour; it may upend the world’s ocean – from the shallows to the deep – and the industries that depend on it, from seafood to tourism. Don’t take my word for it; watch the video above to hear from leading international scientists gravely concerned with this problem.

So what do we do? First, we need to better understand what is happening to our ocean. The X-Prize Foundation just announced a competition to develop new, cost effective instruments to gauge ocean acidification. But we need more: Industries dependent on a healthy ocean must lend their voice to a growing community of concerned environmental and business leaders. Decision makers need to better use existing laws to reduce other factors (like runoff from the land) that make ocean acidification worse.

Ocean Conservancy is working with leading organizations to confront ocean acidification head on. Over the coming months, we’ll profile this critical issue and our colleagues’ great work to ensure a healthy and vibrant ocean for all of us, snorkelers and shellfish farmers alike.

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