NOAA’s chief poses ‘grand’ ocean challenge

The chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is challenging the nation to reverse the decline of oceans and coasts and restore them to a “healthy, productive and resilient state” while tackling the issue of climate change.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco unveiled what she called a “Grand Challenge to the Nation” during a speech Monday before ocean and coastal management experts who are attending a conference this week in the state capital.

She described her challenge as a “teeing off” from President Obama’s recent proclamation for the development of a national ocean policy incorporating ecosystem-based science and management.

Climate change is already affecting coastlines and oceans through sea-level rise, increased storm surges, coastal flooding, coral bleaching and ocean acidification, Lubchenco said.

In New England, she said, it threatens to alter fish and shellfish resources, presenting either new opportunities or new challenges for fishermen.

Changes in ocean temperature could cause fish species to migrate northward and could throw current predator-prey relationships out of balance.

Ocean acidification related to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could make it difficult for scallops, oysters, mussels, clams, lobsters and other shellfish to produce and maintain hard shells or skeletons.

“This is a relatively recently uncovered problem,” she said. “And we don’t yet know how every single species will respond. But for most species it will be increasingly challenging for them.”

Ocean impacts from climate change are a challenge that “is not insurmountable.”

Controlling certain environmental stresses such as overfishing, habitat destruction, invasive species and nutrient pollution can enhance the resilience of ocean ecosystems, making them more able to adapt and “thrive in a new world,” she said.

Becky W. Evans, South Coast TODAY. com, 21 July 2009. Full article.

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