Ocean Acidification Fact, Not Theory

Posted September 18, 2014 at 5:44 am by

Here’s a report from the Stew­ard­ship Net­work of the San Juans…

stewardship-network-logoShell­fish Grow­ers and Marine Sci­en­tists Agree that Ocean Degra­da­tion is Fact, Not The­o­ry; Col­lab­o­ra­tion and Adap­ta­tion Key Next Steps

Ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion is fact, not the­o­ry, and col­lab­o­ra­tion and adap­ta­tion are key to tack­ling this cri­sis. That was the con­clu­sion of local shell­fish grow­ers, marine man­agers and sci­en­tists who gath­ered Sep­tem­ber 10 in Fri­day Har­bor, Washington.

Con­vened by the San Juan Marine Resources Com­mit­tee, with sup­port from the North­west Straights Ini­tia­tive, Puget Sound Part­ner­ship and Char­lotte Mar­tin Foun­da­tion, the shell­fish grow­ers and marine man­agers met all day to dis­cuss chang­ing ocean con­di­tions and how they impact local shell­fish grow­ing and marine management.

The sober­ing truth is that anthro­pogenic car­bon dioxide—carbon diox­ide caused by human activ­i­ties such as burn­ing fos­sil fuels—is chang­ing the chem­istry of the ocean. The effects of pos­i­tive changes we make today won’t be seen for the next 30 to 50 years, because pol­lu­tion in ocean waters cir­cu­lates for decades.

Because of this “…things will get worse before they get bet­ter, so we have to learn to adapt,” said Bill Dewey, pub­lic affairs man­ag­er for Tay­lor Shell­fish Farm, who start­ed notic­ing changes in his shell­fish in 2005.

Increas­ing acid­i­ty in ocean water results in shells that are thinned, pit­ted and not prop­er­ly formed, Dewey said. One-third of all the species in the Sal­ish Sea are ani­mals that make shells out of cal­ci­um car­bon­ate, mak­ing our local waters, and the shell­fish farm­ing indus­try, par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble. Dewey posit­ed that suc­cess would be gained in part through dili­gent monitoring.

Rec­og­niz­ing the prob­lem through data col­lec­tion is only part of the solu­tion, accord­ing to Dr. Joel Bak­er, direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton Puget Sound Insti­tute Cen­ter for Urban Waters. “Ana­lyz­ing (the data) requires a tremen­dous amount of time and ongo­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with col­leagues,” he said. He also stressed the impor­tance of being real­is­tic about what’s hap­pen­ing, and fac­ing it head on.

All of the work­shop lead­ers agreed that solu­tions begin with knowl­edge and edu­ca­tion. Dr. Jan New­ton, Co-direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter, sin­gled out and praised the work of young, enthu­si­as­tic grad­u­ate stu­dents. “Let’s arm our­selves with infor­ma­tion and edu­cate the next gen­er­a­tion,” said Dr. New­ton. “We need to be ambas­sadors for the oceans.”

“It’s with­in our pow­er to make pos­i­tive changes,” said Dr. Ter­rie Klinger, Co-direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Ocean Acid­i­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter. “We here in the San Juan Islands and Wash­ing­ton State have a great respon­si­bil­i­ty not to fail. We can make a difference.”

There is still much research to be done about ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion, which is affect­ing us glob­al­ly as well as local­ly. It impacts not just our shell­fish, but any organ­ism that needs cal­ci­um car­bon­ate to build any part of its body struc­ture. For more infor­ma­tion about ongo­ing efforts and to learn what you can do, go to http://coenv.washington.edu/research/major-initiatives/ocean-acidification/, http://www.nanoos.org/, or http://pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification.

In addi­tion, the San Juan Marine Resources Com­mit­tee expects to post the lec­ture pre­sen­ta­tions from the work­shop to their web site with­in the next month.

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