Washington’s Promising Pollution Story Starts With Oysters And Ends With Victory

ThinkProgress.com, by Natasha Geiling

Oct 28th, 2015

When Alan Barton first arrived at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in 2007, he wasn’t expecting to stay very long. The hatchery — the second-largest in the United States — was in trouble, suffering from historically high mortality rates for their microscopic oyster larvae. But Barton knew that in the oyster industry, trouble is just another part of the job.

As manager of the oyster breeding program at Oregon State University, he had already helped one oyster larvae breeding operation navigate through some tough years in 2005, when a bacterial infection appeared to be causing problems for their seeds. To combat the issue, he had created a treatment system that could remove vibrio tubiashii, an infamous killer in the oyster industry, from the water.

Barton made the winding two-hour drive up the Oregon coast from Newport to Netarts, thinking his machines could easily solve whatever was plaguing Whiskey Creek. But when Barton’s $180,000 machine turned on, nothing changed. The hatchery was still suffering massive larvae mortality — months where nearly every one of the billions of tiny larvae housed in the hatchery’s vast network died before it could reach maturity.

Two-hundred miles up the coast in Shelton, Washington, Bill Dewey was also stumped. As director of public affairs for Taylor Shellfish, the country’s largest producer of farmed shellfish, he couldn’t figure out what was causing the hatchery’s tiny larvae to die in huge numbers. He knew aboutvibrio tubiashii, so when the die-offs began, Dewey called Barton and asked if they could install his machines at Taylor Shellfish’s own hatchery in the Puget Sound. And like at Whiskey Creek, the machines did little to stop the mysterious waves of death that were consuming the hatchery’s oyster larvae.

Back in Oregon, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-vessel rocked by persistent summer winds was approaching Newport. Dick Feely, a senior scientist with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, was just halfway through the first-ever survey meant to measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the surface waters of the Pacific Coast. Already, he could tell from the few samples they had collected that he and his team had the material for a major scientific paper. He called his boss at NOAA to tell him that there was something wrong with the water. It seemed that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, propelled by the burning of fossil fuels, was also increasing the acidity of the water.

Read more here

Sea Change – Supply challenges and climate changes are forcing the U.S. seafood industry to adapt

March 2015, By Sherry Daye Scott, QSR Magazine

California-based fast casual Slapfish, which serves a range of premium seafood items—including a Bowl of Shrimp either chilled or fried—partners with Aquarium of the Pacific to develop and maintain a sustainable sourcing plan.

California-based fast casual Slapfish, which serves a range of premium seafood items—including a Bowl of Shrimp either chilled or fried—partners with Aquarium of the Pacific to develop and maintain a sustainable sourcing plan.

Though U.S. consumption is well below other proteins today, seafood will likely be an increasingly important part of the American diet in the years to come. The country’s population is predicted to grow by 89 million between 2010 and 2050 to 401 million people. More people require more food—and land limitations mean the beef, pork, and poultry industries can only produce so much volume.

Increased domestic consumption will have a direct impact on restaurant operators who serve finfish and shellfish. On one hand, more Americans eating seafood means the potential for increased sales. On the other, it also means the potential for higher wholesale prices. And while space limitations largely don’t affect the seafood industry, it has its own challenges to contend with, especially in the U.S.

For starters, more than 90 percent of the seafood the U.S. consumes is imported from countries with their own growing demand for protein. China, the global seafood producer and processor leader, is experiencing a rise in its middle class. China used to be a net exporter of seafood, but now it’s a net importer. The same is true of other seafood-producing countries in Asia and South America.

“If I am a buyer of seafood,” says Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association (MAA), “global demand is going to make it harder for me to source.”

In addition, climate changes are forcing suppliers to reevaluate their sourcing practices and invest in new practices, like aquaculture. These challenges have all levels of seafood stakeholders looking at new ways to approach the present—and future—state of the seafood industry.

Read more here

Seafood Producer’s Guide to Reducing Emissions, v1.1

Global Ocean Health is often asked what seafood producers can do to reduce their carbon emissions. While the emissions produced by the entire worldwide fishing industry are just a fraction of a fraction of a percent of global greenhouse gas production, if we want to stand as stewards of the ocean, it’s better to, “Walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” If seafood producers act as drivers for change, then being able to show you’ve made the effort to cut your own emissions footprint makes your stance more credible. Tackling ocean acidification involves not only driving better education, research, and policy, but also doing your bit to reduce emissions.

For the first time, accurate energy audits have been conducted on small commercial fishing vessels in Alaska, as part of a program initiated by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) and Sea Grant. “People in Alaska are familiar with home energy audits and this is basically a similar concept but on a fishing vessel. It becomes more complicated because there are more systems and different types of activities when you’re operating in different fisheries, things like that,” says Julie Decker, Director of AFDF.

The results from the 12 boats in phase one of the study were incorporated into an Energy Analysis Tool to help fishermen understand their vessel’s energy use and what equipment and operational changes could improve usage. In phase two, AFDF plans to launch a simpler version of the survey available via smartphone or over the web and is looking for more vessels to volunteer to participate. “You can see how much your hydraulics are using, or the main engine is drawing when you’re running around from fishery to fishery or how much your DC and AC systems are drawing, whether it’s for refrigeration, or what not,” says Decker. Go to their website to learn more about their energy audits, and read the story on AFDF’s search for volunteer vessels.

The list of possible actions in our guide is by no means complete, and we’d like to hear from you to help us improve it. Have you or your business done something that successfully reduced your carbon output, or encouraged others to do so? How did it turn out as a return on investment? Many companies find they end up saving money when they institute cuts in energy or fuel usage. We’d love to hear your stories, whether concerning your car, home, vessel, or company. And if you have questions for us, feel free to email info@globaloceanhealth. Thanks for reading, and happy fishing.

A few examples:

• Reduce vessel weight – weight control reduces the amount of power necessary to achieve a certain speed

• Maintain the bottom – in order to reduce drag, keep the bottom of the boat as smooth as possibly by removing marine growth and any other unnecessary elements

• Check the exhaust – exhaust from a well-maintained diesel engine is almost invisible

• Check the prop – bent blades, dings, or eroded edges cause the boat to consume more fuel

• Plan the route and timing – taking advantage of tides, currents, and predicted winds can easily save a lot of fuel

• Use a fuel meter on boats, and adjust the throttle to find the “sweet spot” in RPM where fuel consumption drops but speed is sufficient to meet the tides and delivery schedules (see graph below). Installing a simple device like a FloScan meter can help skippers optimize fuel use and vessel speed

• If you run an auxiliary diesel genset or two on your boat, consider a high-efficiency hydraulic generator from GenTech Global- Used with a good fuel meter, this system uses a proprietary software controller to run a generator directly off the main engine (no matter the rpm of the main), replacing a diesel genset, and cutting the cost of generating onboard electrical power in half—or better. The system is particularly valuable for some working vessels that need power for pumps, refrigeration, and other onboard systems

• Consider a Fitch fuel catalyst on your vessel engine. This simple device enhances fuel combustion; reduces emissions, injector fouling, and fuel consumption

• If you ship seafood, avoid airfreight wherever possible- Ship by water if you can, by rail or road otherwise. Airfreight dominates embedded emissions in most products that are shipped by air; it dwarfs everything else

picture of fuel efficiency• Slow down – This graph (extracted from a fuel efficiency audit) shows that increasing speeds greatly increases the power necessary and therefore the amount of fuel consumed. Decreasing your speed by just 1 knots could reduce your fuel cost by as much as 50%

• Got food waste or seafood processing waste? Compost it, or make fuel out of it. If it goes to the landfill, this waste frequently will form methane in the anoxic conditions below ground. Methane has ~21 times the insulating, warming power of CO2. A well-aerated compost pile converts the carbon into new soil material, where it becomes a useful nutrient instead of forming methane. You can also set up a simple biogas digester in a barrel and use it to generate fuel. If you burn it instead of venting it, biogas can replace commercially purchased fuel, shifting some of your energy demand to a carbon-neutral status. Instructions to do this are readily available on YouTube

• Ask your employees- Let your employees know that lowering energy costs and carbon emissions is important to your company. They may have a different perspective that could save you money and make your business greener.

• Don’t run more electrical than you need. Make certain that both on-shore and on-vessel you are not creating needless electrical draw. Turn computers completely off when not in use, as well as chargers, lights, printers – whatever the device, ensuring that small details are taken care of can make a real difference to your bottom line

• Consider adding a wind-powered charger or solar panels

• Keep good records- You only know whether you’re making an improvement (or making things worse) if you have good numbers on vessel performance, both before and after changes. At every fuel-up you should record fuel replaced, operating hours (from your hour meter or engine hour logbook), and if possible, distance traveled. Other observations such as changes in coolant and exhaust temperatures, oil temperatures and pressures, and speed over the ground (as indicated by GPS or LORAN readings) should be logged

• Do the math- Fuel is only one of the costs of your operation. You can’t manage what you don’t measure! Capital expenditure (the price of new equipment) and the value of your time and that of your crew are also costs. The cost of a solution, such as buying a new engine or even a new vessel, may be greater than the savings that could be realized. As fish prices, fuel costs, regulations, and other factors change, it is important to recalculate the trade-offs

• At home, work, or on-vessel – unplug, unplug, unplug. It’s convenient to keep that cell phone charger plugged in, and no harm done, right? Wrong. It continues to draw power even when no device is charging. Many electronics draw power even when turned off  – especially cable boxes; but also DVD/BluRay players, stereos, gaming consoles, etc. And don’t walk away with your computer on – screensavers or “sleep mode” are not the same as off. All these little things add up, and besides making a difference collectively, you might even see a drop in your monthly electricity costs.

RESOURCES:
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Fuel Efficiency Initiative
Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program

Submit Your Razor Clam Survival Theory to Our “Panel of Doom”

razor clams, clam digging, Moclips, long beach, coastal, washington

Classic picture of clam diggers on the coast of Washington.

The pacific razor clam is an exceptionally meaty and delicious shellfish found on the outer coast beaches of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Washington has the largest area of razor clam habitat, with five beaches (including all 24 miles of Long Beach), some small stretches in state parks, as well as some co-managed on tribal land. It is an incredibly popular recreational fishery, with many people rushing out to gather their 15 clam quota at every opening. Speak to a local, and you’ll often hear of a tradition stretching back through several generations of their family.

Dan Ayres, the Department of Fish and Wildlife manager of the razor clam fishery, will even tell you that razor clams helped his grandfather survive the Great Depression. “He would ride down to the beach before dawn on the sideboards of a Model T, and harvest razor clams to trade for staples like milk and butter,” says Dan. For the local tribes, razor clams are important to both community identity and subsistence.

For the small rural communities where tourists flock for their quota, the razor clam makes

The author, Julia Sanders, on her first razor clam dig: night at Moclips Beach, WA

The author, Julia Sanders, on her first razor clam dig: night at Moclips Beach, WA

all the difference economically. The fishery is managed to provide for small monthly digs, rather than one big dig, to make it more beneficial for local businesses. An average season generates $22 million in economic revenue, and this last year (2013-2014), a banner year for clamming, generated over $40 million with over 450,000 digger trips. The author herself visited Moclips Beach this winter and had a ball learning to dig razor clams (see picture). For places like Moclips, razor clam revenue is the difference between a functioning economy or not – as they painfully learned during harmful algal bloom closures in 1999 and 2003.

So here’s where ocean acidification and our respected readers come in: nobody knows what the potential effect of OA might be on razor clams. No OA research has yet been done on them. The Washington Ocean Acidification Center made razor clams a high priority species in their first request for research proposals, but there weren’t any takers. Apparently there have been struggles in learning how to keep larvae thriving in a lab environment (although some have done it: WDFW ran a successful hatchery in the 80s, and Alutiq Pride Hatchery restored razor clam population to an Alaskan beach). There is still hope of future research: Terrie Klinger, of the OA Center, says, “We would be very interested in funding research on razor clams in the next biennium should we receive additional funding for experimental work.” Jeremy Mathis, whose influential research on OA and Alaska’s fisheries made a big media splash this year, also considers razor clams to be of high importance. We already know that shellfish are often the most vulnerable to OA, so why did the razor clam just have one of its best years? Why have there been no indications, as yet, to them being at all bothered by changing ocean chemistry?

razor clam

The Pacific razor clam, which averages 3-7 inches in length.

YOU TELL US! We have put together a prestigious panel of judges who will be looking over the theories we receive from our illustrious readers as to just why the razor clam seems to be doing so well (so far) despite being on the front lines of corrosive upwelled water. Then the judges will be putting their heads together to name winners of our various categories, to be announced in the next Ocean Acidification Report. The judges will be Meg Chadsey, Ocean Acidification Specialist at Washington Sea Grant, Dan Ayres, Coastal Shellfish Lead Biologist for WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife, and Joe Schumacker, Marine Resources Scientist for the Quinault Indian Nation.
Here are some theories to get you thinking:

1. Could razor clams benefit from good timing? In other words, is it possible that because they mostly spawn in springtime, most of the young animals at their most vulnerable life stage meet water that is sweeter than in summertime, protecting them from upwelled CO2-enriched waters that clobber some other calcifiers that spawn in the summer? Many oyster farmers have changed the time of year when they release seed to avoid the summer upwelling that causes such high mortality in oyster larvae.

2. When some of the clams hatch out late, what are they doing to cope?

3. Because razor clam populations occur in areas that are regularly exposed to the variable chemistry of upwelled waters are they more tolerant of changes in ocean chemistry?

4. Does hiding your head in the sand really work? Some research has shown that razor clams might be better at surviving hypoxia (periods of low oxygen, killing water) because adults can dig a meter or more into the sand, perhaps allowing them to find better oxygenated water. Could the same be true when OA chemistry becomes unbearable? Juveniles “set” in the sand at 5mm. They don’t have the same digging power, but it may provide some protection.

5. Are they made out of siliceous rock and tank treads?

Our winner’s categories – with plenty of room for everyone’s point of view:

“Most creative speculation”
“Best overall explanation”
“Most extreme wild goose chase”
“Why being dead wrong is sometimes a great way to learn”
“Go directly to jail. Do not pass go.”

To dig into what is known about the razor clam, some links to get you started:
http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/2013_razor_clam_season_setting.pdf
http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/species_profiles/82_11-089.pdf
http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/education/wns/razor_clam.pdf

Email theories to info@globaloceanhealth.org, or post on our Facebook page.
This is meant to be both fun and serious, so feel free to go wild with your best creative thinking. Beyond the prestige of seeing your name and theory in the next Ocean Acidification Report (which is mailed to over 6,000 readers in over 100 countries), Global Ocean Health will post the winners on Twitter (@GlobalOAHealth) and Facebook, and honor your contribution with a certificate (suitable for framing) to show all your friends. So please, get going and get us your theories in the coming month!

New Challenges for Ocean Acidification Research

SpaceDaily.com January 2nd, 2015
Kiel, Germany

To continue its striking development, ocean acidification research needs to bridge ocean acidification between its diverging branches towards an integrated assessment. This is the conclusion drawn by Prof. Ulf Riebesell from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Dr. Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Universite Pierre et Marie Curie.

In a commentary in the journal “Nature Climate Change”, the two internationally renowned experts reflect on the lessons learned from ocean acidification research and highlight future challenges.

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of “the other carbon dioxide problem”. It is time to reflect on the successes and deficiencies of ocean acidification research and to take a look forward at the challenges the fastest growing field of marine science is facing.

In the January issue of the journal “Nature Climate Change” Ulf Riebesell, professor for Biological Oceanography at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, and Jean-Pierre Gattuso from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) urge the international scientific community to undertake a concerted interdisciplinary effort.

According to the two experts, future ocean acidification research will have to deal with three major challenges: It needs to expand from single to multiple drivers, from single species to communities and ecosystems, and from evaluating acclimation to understanding adaptation. “The growing knowledge in each of the diverging research branches needs to be assimilated into an integrated assessment”, Prof. Riebesell points out.

For the scientific community, it is obvious that ocean acidification does not occur in isolation. Rising temperatures, loss of oxygen, eutrophication, pollution and other drivers happen simultaneously and interact to influence the development of marine organisms and communities.

Read more here

Shopping on Amazon will Donate to Global Ocean Health at no Cost to You

Brad-Warren-2012Please support us with your holiday shopping this season – it won’t cost you an extra penny, and every bit helps! Your support is HUGELY appreciated. Thank you in advance! All donations will go directly to the Global Ocean Health program. Simply click on the link below to choose National Fisheries Conservation Center as your charity of choice and %.5 of your purchase will be donated to Global Ocean Health (a joint initiative of National Fisheries Conservation Center and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership). Every little bit helps in our fight to keep stakeholders properly prepared to fight the effects of ocean acidification, and we greatly appreciate any help you can give.

CAM00395And if you feel inspired to give a little more, please choose the paypal donation button on the right of this page, to donate any amount from $2 and up! It’s fully tax-deductible. We here at GOH pour our hearts into this program, and donate much of our time. We have been crucial leaders in the fight to save the the west coast oyster industry and reach out to coastal and fishery stakeholders, giving them a voice in the struggle (just check out our accomplishments section for a few stories of many). It would mean the world to us if you could find it in your heart to make a small donation toward our cause.

We wish you a joyous and peaceful holiday season, and look forward to continuing the fight to protect our productive ocean and abundant fisheries in 2015, with your support. GOH is Protecting Seafood at the Source, reaching across party lines to bring meaningful change to stakeholder protections and ensure ocean acidification research receives the support it needs to prepare us for the future. Thanks to all of you who have supported us on the way, and all of you that will support us in the future. We have big plans ahead.

Warmest Regards,
Brad Warren, Julia Sanders, & the rest of the team

 

Study Committee Calls for Maine to Act on Ocean Acidification

Portland Press Herald, Dec 2nd, 2014 By Kevin Miller

A report to legislators says more research and local efforts are needed to deal with the threat to shellfish, including lobsters and clams.

AUGUSTA — Maine should increase research and monitoring into how rising acidity levels in oceans could harm the state’s valuable commercial fisheries while taking additional steps to reduce local pollution that can affect water chemistry.

Those are two major recommendations of a state commission charged with assessing the potential effects of ocean acidification on lobster, clams and other shellfish. The Legislature created the commission this year in response to concerns that, as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen, the oceans have become 30 percent more acidic because oceans absorb the gas.

Researchers are concerned that organisms that form shells – everything from Maine’s iconic lobster to shrimp and the tiny plankton that are key links in the food chain – could find it more difficult to produce calcium carbonate for shells in more acidic seawater. They worry that the acidification could intensify as carbon levels rise and the climate warms.

Although research on Maine-specific species is limited, the commission of scientists, fishermen, lawmakers and LePage administration officials said the findings are “already compelling” enough to warrant action at the state and local level.

“While scientific research on the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and individual organisms is still in its infancy, Maine’s coastal communities need not wait for a global solution to address a locally exacerbated problem that is compromising their marine environment,” according to an unofficial version of the report unanimously endorsed by commission members Monday.

The panel’s report will be presented to the Legislature after Monday’s final edits are incorporated. Those recommendations include:

Work with the federal government, fishermen, environmental groups and trained citizens to actively monitor acidity changes in the water or sediments, and organisms’ response to those changes.

 Conduct more research across various species and age groups to get a better sense of how acidification is affecting the ecosystem.

 Identify ways to further reduce local and regional emissions of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas produced by the combustion of fossil fuels – and to reduce runoff of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients that can contribute to acidification.

 Reduce the impact of acidification through natural methods, such as increasing the amount of photosynthesizing marine vegetation like eelgrass and kelp, promoting production of filter-feeding shellfish operations, and spreading pulverized shells in mudflats with high acidity.

 Create an ongoing ocean acidification council to monitor the situation, recommend additional steps and educate the public. This recommendation is the only concrete legislative proposal contained within the report.

Read more here

The pH is Falling! Oysters and Economics on the Hill

November 25th, 2014  By Kinberly Dunn, WWF Canada Blog

That’s right – the pH is falling. The pH of our oceans to be exact.

ocean acidification

WWF-Canada President and CEO, David Miller speaking at yesterday’s Oceans on the Hill event . © House of Commons

 

Yesterday afternoon, WWF-Canada and the All Party Ocean Caucus hosted an Oceans on the Hill event to highlight this global issue, which is generally referred to as ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification takes place when carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, lowering the pH. This naturally occurring process is accelerated by our fossil fuel emissions, resulting in global oceans that are now 26 per cent more acidic than before the industrial revolution.

Parliamentarians, staffers, industry reps, and NGOs gathered in Centre Block to hear from Bill Dewey, Manager of Public Policy and Communications for Taylor Shellfish Farms. Bill came to Parliament to give us an on-the-ground report of ocean acidification’s impacts on the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest. As WWF’s CEO David Miller remarked, Bill helped us to “make the connection between the global and the local.”

I come from the dual backgrounds of business and environmental management, so I was pretty excited when I learned that this Oceans on the Hill would not only connect the global to the local, but also provide a real-life, tangible translation of what acidification means for industry.

Oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest have experienced severe losses in recent years, since the acidification process also means a shortage of the carbonate ions that shellfish larvae need to build their shells. In some areas, there has been acomplete failure of wild oyster seed. The industry has been forced to adapt in order to survive.

Listening to Bill’s presentation – to the story of Taylor’s journey – I couldn’t help but recall this simple truth:

Environmental issues are never just environmental issues. Never.

They’re economic issues too. For ocean acidification, this means negative impacts for the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest. It means money spent on sophisticated water monitoring and treatment equipment, so that businesses can remain viable. Unchecked, it could also mean up to a trillion dollars a year in global economic losses by the end of the century.

And they’re people issues. For Canadian shellfish farmers and their supply chains, this means jobs in coastal, rural, and Aboriginal communities – many of which are filled by young people. It means opportunities for those communities to combat outward migration and keep people at home. And, most simply, it means the sustainment of a food source that has been an inherent part of coastal living for hundreds of years.

And so perhaps this was the greater message of yesterday’s event – for me, and for all those who attended. A reminder that it’s not environment or economy, as we are sometimes led to believe, but rather environment for economy. Environmentfor people.

And frankly – whether we’re talking about falling pH or something else – we can no longer afford to think about it any other way.

See article here

Surf Scientists Develop SmartPhin Against Ocean Acidification

Surfertoday.com, November 6th, 2014

Benjamin Thompson, founder of BoardFormula, had decided to invest his time and engineering knowledge in the protection of the environment and oceans. But how could he do it while riding waves?

SmartPhin answers that tricky question. Imagine thousands of surfers across the globe gathering and sharing information about their local breaks, and working cooperatively to fight global warming and ocean acidification.

The innovative project is competing in the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize, a two-million dollar race to create pH sensor technology that will affordably and accurately measure ocean acidification.

SmartPhin is more than just a surfboard fin. This multi-sensor hardware device is ready to collect information the moment you touch the water so that scientists can establish comparisons over time, in different regions of the planet.

Thompson believes in what he is doing, and SmartPhin will definitely hit the market. If you own a smartphone with Bluetooth technology and are willing to help understand how oceans evolve and can be protected, get ready. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego is already testing the surfboard fin.

Ocean Acidification: A Common Cause and a Common Concern for Norway and Canada

September 23rd, 2014, By Mona Elisabeth Brother, The Huffington Post Canada

 

As nations of seafarers and fishermen, Norwegians and Canadians have lived in close contact with the ocean throughout history. We have reaped its benefits and weathered its storms. Healthy oceans are key to a healthy future for us peoples of the North.

The oceans are facing many challenges. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished or depleted. Marine litter kills a million seabirds every year, and ocean acidification is putting entire marine ecosystems at risk.

Under the umbrella of the Arctic Council and during the Canadian chair, acidification of the seas has come forward as a central theme. The working group AMAP presented in 2013 a thorough report on this issue, based on science from a wide range of countries, Arctic and non- Arctic stakeholders. This report in its turn, form the background for the Arctic Council’s present work on these extremely important issue.

Some of the facts are appalling. Acidification is taking place at a speed unforeseen by scientists only a decade ago. In addition, it is taking place over a wide range of ocean depths; most rapidly in surface waters and more slowly in deeper waters. For example, notable chemical effects have for example been found in surface waters of the Bering Strait and the Canada Basin of the central Arctic Ocean.

The primary driver of ocean acidification is uptake of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities, specifically when burning carbon-rich materials such as coal or oil. Some of this gas is absorbed by the oceans, slowing down its build-up in the atmosphere and thus the pace of human-induced climate warming, but at the same time increasing seawater activity. As a result, the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide is now about 30 per cent higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

The Arctic Ocean is especially vulnerable to ocean acidification; due to the large quantities of freshwater supplied from rivers and melting ice, this part of the ocean is less effective at chemically neutralizing the acidifying effects. The cold waters also favour the transfer of carbon dioxide from the air into the ocean, and the recent and dramatic melting of the ice decreases the summer sea-ice cover.

Sea-ice cover, freshwater inputs, and plant growth and decay can also influence the state of the oceans, varying over seasons, place to place, and year to year.

Arctic marine ecosystems are highly likely to undergo significant change due to these changes, scientists find. Precise data on effects on species in the top of the food chains, as sea birds and seals, and bottom animals like sea stars and urchins, are needed, and underway, for the Arctic region. Growth rates, behaviour, shell formation and growth studies show that many species will grow slower under predicted rates of acidification. Some shell-building are likely to react negatively, and fish eggs and early larval stages are sensitive to changes. Fisheries might be affected, but which changes we can foresee, are uncertain. Fish stocks may be more robust to acidification if other stresses — for example, overfishing or habitat degradation — are minimized.

The only way to fight ocean acidification is through a reduction in the global level of CO2 emissions. It is vital for Norway and other key players that the climate summit in Paris next year is successful. Norway is committed to the process and to achieving an ambitious outcome as we work towards the two-degree target and a low carbon society.

Norway and Canada, together with the other members of the Arctic Council, recognized in the Kiruna Declaration that carbon dioxide emission reductions are the only effective way to mitigate ocean acidification, and agreed to take action to this effect, and monitor and assess the state of the Arctic Ocean.

 Read more here