Ocean acidification. It’s one of the least publicized ocean threats. Yet even a slight increase in ocean acidity is detrimental to our seafood supply, local and national economies, marine life and ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs. For this reason, ocean acidification – and ways to combat it – will be a “hot” topic on World Oceans Day, June 8th.
The good news is that progress is being made to fight ocean acidification and understand its impacts. Globally, tens of thousands of people are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (including CO2) at the international, national and local levels.
Here at The Ocean Foundation we are working with key state decision-makers in eight coastal states to develop, share and introduce legislation designed to address ocean acidification. We have also created a blue carbon calculator that allows you to offset your carbon footprint through the restoration and protection of seagrass meadows, which account for 11% of the organic carbon stored in the ocean.
Recently, the Obama administration announced one of the most significant actions ever taken to curb carbon emissions and combat the disastrous effects of climate change by proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Human actions are the primary cause of increased CO2 in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, with the ocean absorbing almost half of the amount released and becoming more acidic.
And, on June 16 and 17, Secretary of State John Kerry will host an international conference, entitled “Our Ocean,” that will focus on ocean acidification as well as sustainable fisheries and marine debris. With representatives from more than 80 countries attending, the meeting will highlight the importance of marine issues in formulating foreign policy.
One call to action stemming from this conference is the establishment of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network. In support of this Network, The Ocean Foundation has been selected by the Department of State, NOAA and other stakeholders to host an affinity group called the Friends of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network to mobilize high-level national and international donor commitments that would contribute to the implementation of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network.
The Ocean Foundation will then work with the Network’s Executive Council to set priorities for investing the funds to address needs and gaps in the global ocean acidification observing system. Contributions to this fund will allow more buoys, floats and gliders to be deployed, to provide more training and capacity building, and, of course, for improved data and knowledge sharing. Spending could also be used to facilitate new partnerships with industry, e.g., by promoting a ships-of-opportunity program.
We have yet to fully grasp the ramifications of increased acidification on our marine ecosystems. It is important that we continue to take these steps to understand it and mitigate its effects.