Fishermen say carbon dioxide having ‘really scary’ ocean effect

Jeremy Brown, a fisherman from the Pacific Northwest, is pulling things from the ocean he says are so disturbing that he came to Washington to warn U.S. lawmakers about it.

“This is not overfishing, this is something far larger,” said Brown, one of 10 people who met with lawmakers and legislative aides this week on behalf of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, a San Francisco-based group that advises seafood producers on fishing practices.

The group said the ocean is becoming more acidic because of carbon-dioxide emissions that are damaging coral reefs, decimating populations of tiny animals at the base of the food chain and eating away at the shells of clams, mussels and oysters.

“Every so often we snag a piece of coral on the gear,” Brown, of Bellingham, Washington, said in an interview. “It doesn’t look healthy, the color has gone out of it. The evidence is that we have instabilities in the system, and this last year was really scary.”

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of a United Nations scientific advisory panel on climate change, highlighted ocean acidification this week in remarks at the global conference on greenhouse gases in Copenhagen.

World trade in seafood products is valued at $100 billion and feeds 3 billion people, according to the fisheries partnership. That production is threatened by rising acidity, caused by the ocean absorbing more carbon from the atmosphere, and by the effects of agricultural runoff, said Mark Green, a professor of oceanography at St. Joseph’s College of Maine in Portland, who accompanied the fishermen on the trip.

Daniel Whitten,, 10 December 2009. Full article.

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