An Alaska-focused study on public understanding and awareness of ocean acidification risk shows that Alaskans are three times more aware of ocean acidification than Americans in general.
However, according to the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, Alaskans have difficulty seeing ocean acidification as an immediate risk. and there is confusion as direct risks to Alaska’s fisheries are still not well understood.
Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced a bipartisan bill Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2017 to identify and assess communities that are most dependent on coastal and ocean resources that may be impacted by ocean acidification. The legislation will offer special focus on island, low-population rural, and subsistence communities.
Calling the measure significant legislation for those living in a community whose livelihood greatly depends on the health of our oceans, Murkowski says the Act will help lawmakers gain a deeper understanding of how ocean acidification is affecting our coastal and subsistence communities throughout Alaska.
Ocean acidification has happened before in the geological record, but the rate at which it is increasing now is at least ten times faster than any change in acidity experienced by marine organisms for the last 20 million years or more, according to Sea Grant Alaska.
Scientists are finding that acidification is occurring in deep ocean waters, particularly in the Arctic and North Pacific and that upwelling is bringing more of this lower pH water to the surface and coastal zone where most fisheries productivity is – at time with hard impacts to the food chain.
The Act would conduct coastal community vulnerability assessments related to Ocean Acidification, and strengthen collaborations with between stakeholders such as Indigenous Knowledge groups, regional Ocean Acidification Networks, and Sea Grants as they plan and implement the assessments.
In addition to identifying the communities, the act looks at the nature of the social and economic vulnerabilities of the communities, and determines the harmful ocean acidification impacts on those communities.
Dorene Lorenz, Radio Kenai, 19 December 2017. Article and audio.