Ocean acid rise threatens underwater catastrophe

Rising acid levels in the world’s oceans are threatening an ‘underwater catastrophe’, which could see swathes of coral destroyed and fish and shellfish numbers decimated.

Such a loss of habitat and stocks would have a severe knock-on effect on fishing industries and communities that rely on them.

Two reports – one by Britain’s respected Royal Society, the other by researchers in America – both warn of the damage acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

At present, about 30 per cent of the CO2 put into the atmosphere by human activities is absorbed by the oceans where it dissolves, altering the chemistry of the surface sea levels making it more acidic.

Higher acid levels particularly damage shellfish.

There were almost 13,000 fishermen in Britain in 2007, who harvested £645million of marine products, almost half of which were shellfish, according to researcher by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts.

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said the effect of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on the oceans had not received much political attention.

‘Unless emissions can be cut by at least 50 per cent by 2050 and more thereafter, we could confront an underwater catastrophe,’ he added.

He urged political leaders meeting in Denmark in December to thrash out a deal to cut emissions as a matter of urgency.

METRO.co.uk, 31 May 2009. Article.

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