Scientists warn of threat to NZ marine ecosystems

Bluff’s oyster fisheries in Foveaux Strait may be at the top of a hit list of species vulnerable to increasing acidity levels in the oceans, scientists say.

But the global phenomenon of ocean acidification may pose a threat not only to New Zealand’s fisheries and aquaculture industries, but to marine ecosystems around the world, according to the national science academy, the Royal Society.

“Concerns exist over acidification and its potential, within decades, to severely affect marine organisms, food webs, biodiversity and fisheries,” the society said in a paper released yesterday.

The oceans are becoming more acidic as they store more carbon dioxide from the rising levels in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Oceans store about 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere, and they have absorbed more than 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released by human activity.

The Royal Society is planning to hold a workshop on the issue in Wellington on September 9.

Carbon dioxide-saturated oceans pose a threat to New Zealand’s corals, crustaceans and shellfish, because they may thin the calcium carbonate shells not only of the adult organisms, but their juvenile stages.

Acidification may also be threatening calcifying algae which cover 80 percent of the Otago coast and provide the habitat for larvae of species such as paua and kina.

Mussels, Pacific and Bluff oysters, paua and scallops make up a $300 million industry.

NZPA,, 13 May 2009. Full article.

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