Spoiling our marine soup

I have always heard that the waters of Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet, and the Gulf of Alaska boast some the richest marine “soup” in the world. This accounts for the diverse and deluxe assortment of fish and shellfish that we are able to harvest from these waters. Many in the region enjoy a good living because of it. There is a threat that I have become familiar with in the last five years that worries me more than the threat of another major oil spill.

Ocean acidification is the result of the ocean acting like a giant sponge, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We all like to be warm in winter, travel the world, navigate our boats, and enjoy the convenience of driving our vehicles just about anywhere we want to go. The very act of harvesting contributes to this threat.

I like to eat oysters and have enjoyed them ever since I was a youngster growing up in Puget Sound and Willipa Bay. These days, I enjoy fresh oysters from Kachemak Bay. I have been told that the reason the supply is sometimes inadequate to satisfy demand is that there is a shortage of seed.

The reason for this is simple: ocean acidification. Scientists in Puget Sound have found that as the pH of seawater drops, sea urchin larvae change shape, squid metabolisms slow, some brittle stars and barnacles begin to die, and the shells of oyster larvae start dissolving while they form. Oyster growers need help from the State to maintain systems to grow their own seed in tanks.

Okay, I like to eat oysters, but I make my living fishing for halibut and salmon. In the last five years, I have learned that ocean acidification is dissolving the shells of pteropods, which support the food chain that salmon depend on. The oyster story got my attention, but the salmon story is the one that made me react. I want to know more. Our fishery managers need to know more in order to manage our fisheries in a manner that will ensure salmon runs and a shellfish industry for the coming generations. We owe this to our grandchildren.

What can we do right now? I called my representative in Juneau and asked him to hold a hearing in the House Resources Committee on HJR 10, a resolution introduced by Rep. Kertulla that supports the need for more research on ocean acidification.

I found out that Governor Parnell dropped $2.7 million in funding for ocean acidification research that the University of Alaska regents had requested. I called and wrote to the members of the Senate Finance Committee and asked them to put the money back into the capital budget before they sent it back to the Governor. I will write a letter to the Governor and let him know how important this is to me and my family. If fish and shellfish are important to you, I urge you to do the same.

 

Pete Wedin, Homer, Anchorage Press, 29 Apil 2012. Article.

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