Acidification threatens the world’s fish species

While in Copenhagen the world debates its response to global warming, a related but little-known menace is threatening B.C.’s salmon and other fish species.

Delegates to the international climate summit in Copenhagen are focused on the climatic effects of carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But those emissions cause another effect that scientists believe may significantly damage the world’s fisheries.

Oceans absorb an estimated 30 per cent of carbon dioxide. That’s good for slowing global warming, but bad for the animals living in the ocean, including fish.

As seawater absorbs carbon dioxide it becomes more acidic. And B.C. is likely to be among the first regions to feel the damage from ocean acidification, says Debby Ianson, a federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist based in Sidney.

“Other than the Arctic and Antarctic, this is where we’ll see the negative effects first,” Ianson says. “In terms of an impact from climate change that’s really going to affect people, our children and grandchildren, ocean acidification is probably the biggest.” The north Pacific that washes against our coast already has the highest carbon levels in the world because of temperature and ocean currents.

Carbon levels, and therefore the level of acidification, are higher in deep water, but research by U.S. oceanographer Richard Feely has revealed that since the Industrial Revolution north Pacific acidification has risen so steeply that shells of sea creatures will begin to dissolve at a level 50 to 200 metres closer to the surface.

Ethan Baron, The Province, 13 December 2009. Full article.

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