The threat to fisheries due to the adverse effect of ocean acidification has been put high on the agenda by leading marine biologist Jim McClintock.

The threat to fisheries due to the adverse effect of ocean acidification has been put high on the agenda by leading marine biologist Jim McClintock.

McClintock, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US, has warned that acidification could critically alter the oceans' food chains.

Speaking shortly before heading off to research the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems in Antarctica last week, McClintock said that organisms such as molluscs and crustaceans - crucial sources of food for fish - are at real danger of being unable to adapt to more acidic seas.

Ocean acidification – the effect of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the oceans –directly threatens organisms who are dependent on calcium and carbonate; such as molluscs and crustaceans. With greater absorption of carbon dioxide and hence greater ocean acidity, the ability for organisms to produce those shells falls.

“The increased acidity of the seawater itself can literally begin to eat away at the outer surfaces of shells of existing clams, snails and other calcified organisms, which could cause species to die outright or become vulnerable to new predators,” McClintock said.

“Ocean acidification is simply happening too quickly for many species to survive unless we reverse the trend of increasing anthropogenically generated carbon dioxide that is in large part driving climate change," he added.

GROWING AWARENESS

At the UNFCCC Copenhagen conference in December last year, a study documenting the impact of ocean acidification was presented to delegates by the European Project for Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) - a consortium of research institutes and environment agencies.

The consortium said at the time: “This is a wake-up call about the double impact on our seas of climate change and ocean acidification caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.”

Since the Copenhagen conference, concern over the relatively undocumented impact of Ocean Acidification has been growing and is now seen as the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to climate policy.

Just last month, a study published by researchers at the University of South Florida in the US found that seawater in a large and deep section of the northeastern Pacific Ocean is showing signs of increased acidity brought on by manmade carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Again, scientists involved with the study made stark warnings over the fate of the ocean’s food chain and other important processes essential for healthy marine ecosystems.

Seas At Risk is actively working towards strengthening international policy concerning the sustainability of fisheries and on policies regarding the mitigation of green house gas emissions from the shipping and fishing sectors.



For more information on Professor McClintock’s research:

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