Ocean Acidification: Impacts and Action

The world’s oceans are 30% more acidic today than they were 300 years ago.

A consequence of increased atmospheric CO2, rising ocean acidity (OA) directly impacts shellfish industries and threatens the base of the entire marine food web. At the Ocean Acidification State of the Science Workshop, organized in November 2016 by the recently formed Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, one take-home message resonated loudly: 

We must decrease atmospheric CO2 emissions if there’s any hope of preventing wide spread ocean acidification and thus complete shifts in the marine food web we know today.

One of several regional collaborations working to understand OA processes and consequences, the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network is a hub of information with goals to 1) engage with stakeholders to expand understanding; 2) identify knowledge gaps & priorities; and 3) share best practices.

At the workshop, scientists, decision-makers, conservationists, fishermen, shellfish harvesters, and additional stakeholders shared knowledge about current OA monitoring efforts, and about the consequences and threats of OA to ecosystem health and marine resources. Additionally, they learned about opportunities for community engagement and outreach to a variety of audiences.


The Role of Impact Investing

Clearly, large-scale threats like ocean acidification require large-scale solutions. And this is where impact investing comes in–while putting a price on carbon is the key to decreasing CO2 emissions, building ecological and community resilience is essential. Innovative marine resource solutions, such as branching out from oysters, mussels, and shrimp commodities to harvest species more resistant to OA, support resiliency in a time of climate change.

By funding solutions that diversify economies, bolster resource harvest potential, and increase access to information, communities become more adaptable–thriving coastal communities will in turn sustain the 3.5 billion people who depend on the ocean as their primary food source.

It comes down to local, regional and national stakeholders working together with public and private capital. Jeremy Mathis (NOAA) summed it up during his presentation on OA Adaptation Strategies for Alaska “Community resilience requires building neighbor-to-neighbor reliance and organizational connection.”