Ocean Acidification Is Threatening U.S. Coasts, Fishing, And Farming

Ocean acidification is a known ecological problem, causing shark populations to drastically decrease in recent years, and damaging coral reefs. But new studies show that ocean acidification could pose serious economic problems, even on the shores of the United States.

According to UPI, research performed at Oregon State University indicates that mollusk farming is an industry particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Shellfish larvae are at the highest risk because their protective shells have not been fully formed yet. And ocean acidification could cause their shells to grow incorrectly, as the animal matures into adulthood. Deformed mollusks could have serious trouble with survival and reproduction.

According to Nature World News, in a matter of a few decades, global ocean acidity has increased as much as 30 percent. This is one of many deadly side-effects of climate change, which has caused the oceans to absorb higher amounts of carbon dioxide. A third of all CO2 is absorbed by oceans, which dissolve the carbon dioxide and create a chemical reaction that leads to rapid ocean acidification.

This new research suggests that the effects on mollusk farming could evolve into one of the most severe long-term economic problems caused by ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification has already cost the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly $110 million and jeopardized about 3,200 jobs,” said Julie Ekstrom, one of the leaders of the study.

“We looked at all the coasts around the United States. There are more places vulnerable than we previously thought. That said, every region has a unique set of factors that makes it vulnerable. Understanding what makes you vulnerable is useful to guide how you will adapt.”

The areas of the United States that would be impacted the worst by ocean acidification are Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. These states are especially reliant on fishing and shellfish farming. A massive dip in supply could result in economic disaster, which could ripple out beyond the coasts and into the rest of the United States.

In response to ocean acidification, some fisheries have resorted to constructing nurseries to raise mollusks and other shellfish on land, taking the oceans completely out of the equation. But this does not resolve the ecological and environmental damage of ocean acidification.

One of the co-authors of the study, marine ecologist and biogeochemist George Waldbusser, claims that the best solution to ocean acidification is minimizing the effects of climate change.

“This clearly illustrates the vulnerability of communities dependent on shellfish to ocean acidification. We are still finding ways to increase the adaptive capacity of these communities and industries to cope, and refining our understanding of various species’ specific responses to acidification. Ultimately, however, without curbing carbon emissions, we will eventually run out of tools to address the short-term and we will be stuck with a much larger long-term problem.”

For more on climate change, read about how a global warming denier was paid $1.2 million for research “disproving” climate change by major oil companies.