Ocean acidification and the future of the seafood business

The CO2 emissions are changing the ocean, and quite possibly the seafood business with it.

This Thursday marks a meeting between scientists, government officials, and key actors of Norwegian aquaculture enterprises. The topic of discussion? The future of the seafood business.

According to the conference website, “Climate change is a compounding threat to the sustainability of capture fisheries and aquaculture development. Higher sea temperatures, acidification and rising sea level will affect the seafood business directly.”

Not only will our response determine the future competitiveness of out seafood business, but “the consequences of out actions or inactions will extend well beyond Norway´s borders…”. Associate professor Are Olsen will contribute to the discussion by presenting a key note talk on ocean acidification.

The ocean has absorbed around a quarter of our carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. This process also leads to ocean acidification.

Increased acidification also means a decreasing level of carbonates, which again are crucial for the survival of many of the ocean’s organisms – such as coral reefs and coccolithophores such as the Emiliana huxley. Furthermore, changes in pH directly affect ocean creatures by altering signal transmission in their brains. Closed experiments have exposed changing behaviours as a result of acidification, where certain creatures become nearly fearless, and as a result become increasingly exposed to predators.

– Exactly how this will take place in a large-scale setting such as the ocean remains to be seen. It is however certain that changes will occur, which is bad news for aquaculture enterprises that depend on a level of predictability for their financial success, says Are. Their options are however limited.

Plans have been made to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but this will do little to stop ocean acidification. When emissions reach the atmosphere the ocean begins to absorb them. The technological solutions that target the atmosphere for CO2 reduction will not be able compete against the ocean. In short, to reliably stop ocean acidification we need to stop our emissions from reaching the atmosphere.

Are Brandvik, The Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, 26 October 2016. Article.

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