Ocean acidification is eating up seafood too

by Lana Brandt on March 9th, 2012

By Lana Gunnlaugson, SeaChoice National Manager

Oyster Bed Credit: Lana Gunnlaugson

Making smart seafood decisions is just one way to ensure that we can continue to enjoy a range of seafood choices for generations to come. Keeping our oceans healthy is also important and one of the biggest threats that the world’s oceans face today is ocean acidification. The oceans absorb roughly 25 per cent of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. As we have increased our carbon emissions over the years, much of the excess has been absorbed by the oceans, which has started to change the pH level of seawater.

Already the slightest adjustment to ocean pH levels has affected many ocean creatures. For ocean life with calcareous shells like oysters and shrimp, acidified oceans are literally eating their shells away. You might think this isn’t a huge deal that a few small shellfish are being threatened, but the impact affects much more than the amount of shellfish humans will be able to enjoy in the future. The affect on the ocean food web could be much more devastating. Consider pteropods – a tiny creature found in the Arctic. As the water becomes acidic, these little guys actually dissolve and this is a serious concern considering juvenile North Pacific salmon and larger animals like whales rely on pteropods as a food source. Altering the food web at the base has a domino effect on species all the way up to the biggest mammal.

So when considering your impact on the ocean and how your choices will affect the seafood we have in the years to come, be sure to think of the bigger picture and how interconnected we all are. What we put in our atmosphere or down our drain will impact ocean health. It is already affecting what may or may not end up on your dinner plate! To learn more about ocean acidification and why action is needed today, I highly recommend Sea Sick: The Hidden Crisis in the Global Ocean, a very important read from Alanna Mitchell.

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