WASHINGTON— As evidence mounts about the growing toll that ocean acidification is taking on America’s sea life, the Center for Biological Diversity today called on Congress to hold a hearing to discuss a national plan for addressing this crisis. In a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Center asked for a hearing focused on solutions that will curb carbon pollution that threatens fish, corals, whales, sea otters, shellfish and, ultimately, people around the globe who rely on the oceans for food.
The Center today also released a new infographic highlighting the risks of ocean acidification to wildlife and society.
“The havoc wreaked by ocean acidification is unfolding faster and more severely than anyone thought it would. Coral reefs are collapsing, and food chains may break apart as our oceans go through a dangerous transformation,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “If we’re going to stop this crisis from getting far worse, we’ll need national leadership at the top levels of our government.”
Last month, 540 of the world’s leading ocean acidification researchers gathered at a conference in California to discuss the latest scientific findings. They warned that ocean acidification is already occurring rapidly and will dramatically alter our oceans.
“Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas are causing the oceans to acidify more and more rapidly than at any time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. It’s time for actions that reduce carbon pollution in our oceans before it’s too late,” said Ken Caldeira, climate scientist in the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.
The key findings of the conference highlighted the need for Congress to act now on ocean acidification:
- Coral reefs are near a threshold of collapse and will not exist later this century unless ocean acidification is curbed.
- Wildlife on the Pacific Coast is already exposed to seasonally corrosive waters that were not predicted to occur until the end of the century, and California’s surface waters will be corrosive to shellfish year-round as early as 2030, with a tenfold increase in intensity of acidification by 2050.
- Ocean acidification magnifies fivefold the toxicity of harmful algal blooms — or red tides — that are responsible for poisoning fish, shellfish, marine mammals and people.
- Reef fish, like the clownfish in the movie Finding Nemo, and mollusks suffer brain malfunction due to ocean acidification. Some fish lose their ability to avoid predators and instead are attracted to them, making the fish five to nine times more likely to be eaten.
“When I take my kids to the beach, it saddens me to think they may never remember seeing a healthy coral reef or a tide pool teeming with life. Ocean acidification isn’t just eroding the shells of marine animals, but also cheating our children out of their natural heritage,” said Sakashita.
The letter requests that Congress either hold a hearing on ocean acidification during this session or make it a priority for the next Congress.
Every day 22 million tons of carbon dioxide from factories, cars, power plants and other human sources are absorbed by the world’s oceans. As a result, seawater has become more acidic, spelling disaster for many marine animals, from plankton and coral up the food chain to sea stars, salmon, whales and people.
Oceans have become 30 percent more acidic because of carbon pollution since the Industrial Revolution.
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, email@example.com, (415) 632-5308
To learn more, visit EndangeredOceans.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Center for Biological Diversity, 22 October 2012. Press release.