An acidic future for Norwegian fisheries? Assessing the socio-economic vulnerability of the Norwegian fishery sector to the threat of ocean acidification

Ocean acidification, caused by the increased uptake of anthropogenic CO2, describes a change in the ocean’s carbonate chemistry. While its chemical processes are well understood, less is known about its biological and subsequently socio-economic consequences. However, there is evidence that marine organisms will be adversely affected by a decrease in pH and carbonate saturation levels. Fishery is a traditionally important economic sector in Norway but stock sizes and consequently also catch could be significantly threatened by ocean acidification. To improve the understanding of potential socio-economic consequences, I conducted a risk assessment among the 19 Norwegian counties following Mathis et al.’s (2014) application of the IPCC’s SREX risk assessment framework. The SREX framework combines information regarding hazard, exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. The results show that the northernmost counties are most
at risk as high-latitude oceans are considered to be more threatened compared to lowerlatitude regions. The second part of the analysis shows that particularly the southernmost counties, which engage in the harvest of crustaceans are more economically exposed due to the fact that these species are more susceptible to ocean acidification and generate a higher catch value. The results of the sensitivity related calculations show that the share of income generated from fisheries is very low compared to the total income. However, direct county comparisons highlight that the northern counties reveal a higher level of sensitivity, as the share of fishermen is substantially higher there than in most other counties. Adaptive capacity is considerably lower in the northern counties than in the other counties. Overall, the final risk assessment points out that 13 out of 19 counties face moderate to high risk from ocean acidification. My research shows that the SREX risk framework is applicable for evaluating the impacts of ocean acidification. In the case of Norway however, substantial improvements can be achieved by increasing the availability of detailed data, such as longterm monitoring of oceanic conditions, better information regarding the biological impact of species, and more detailed employment and income statistics. Overall, my thesis shows that,
although still in its infancy, integrated risk assessments are an important prerequisite for any form of interdisciplinary ocean acidification research and the development of successful response strategies. In future studies this quantitative research could be complemented by qualitative methods such as assessing awareness among fishermen through interviews or a participatory approach for incorporating local knowledge into adaptation efforts.

Heinrich L., 2015. An acidic future for Norwegian fisheries? Assessing the socio-economic vulnerability of the Norwegian fishery sector to the threat of ocean acidification. MSc thesis, Lund University, 66 pp. Thesis.

1 Response to “An acidic future for Norwegian fisheries? Assessing the socio-economic vulnerability of the Norwegian fishery sector to the threat of ocean acidification”


  1. 1 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 11 June 2015 at 14:54

    It is unfortunate that the terminology used in the title of this article is misleading. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. Despite the process of ocean acidification (the acidity of seawater has increased 26% since preindustrial time), the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, while it is accurate to refer to the increase in acidity, the “acid” or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments.


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