ocean acidification

The Race for Adaptation in an Increasingly Acidic Salish Sea

dissolving pteropod NOAA

Underneath the picturesque Salish Sea there are churning currents, with water swooshing in from the open ocean and surges of nutrient-rich fresh water from creeks and rivers that alter the sea’s chemistry — and can make life tough for species trying to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

And that’s why scientists are increasingly interested in the Salish Sea as they study ocean acidification — often called the evil twin of climate change.

The impacts of ocean acidification range from coral reef bleaching in the Caribbean and South Pacific to the hardships faced by oyster and mussel aquaculture businesses in the Salish Sea because shellfish are unable to form calcium carbonate shells.

Immediate Action Needed to Save Pacific Northwest from Ocean Acidification: Scientists

The Pacific coast of North America is becoming more acidic as human-produced carbon dioxide emissions dissolve into the water and communities from B.C. to California must take action now to offset changes that are already affecting West Coast marine life, say leading ocean scientists.
The panel of 20 scientists from B.C., California, Oregon and Washington have spent three years studying changes in ocean chemistry along the West Coast and a report released Monday says regional strategies are urgently needed to combat changes that are coming and, where possible, reduce the impacts.
“Ocean acidification is a global problem that is having a disproportionate impact on productive West Coast ecosystems,” Francis Chan, an Oregon State University marine ecologist, said. Chan is the co-chair of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science panel.
“There has been an attitude that there is not much we can do about this locally, but that just isn’t true. A lot of the solutions will come locally and through coordinated regional efforts,” he said.

The Strait of Georgia is Turning to Acid, Spelling Doom for Shellfish, New Research Shows

Some people call it the elephant in the room. I like to call it the blue whale in the pool,” scientist Brian Kingzett told a room of naturalists this week. He was talking about the dramatic rise in ocean acidity along the B.C. coast.

As the Oceanside Star reports, Kingzett, field station manager for the Vancouver Island University Centre for Shellfish Research, met the Arrowsmith Naturalists at the Knox United Church to deliver a talk, Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.

It’s going to sound a little doom and gloom,” he told the room. When it comes to recent discoveries about ocean acidity, Kingzett said he could hardly believe what he was seeing.

Scientists, Kingzett explained, traditionally haven’t spent much time measuring ocean acidity because levels have remained so consistent for nearly 300 million years. Yet when he began sampling water in and around the Strait of Georgia, Kingzett was so surprised by the results he asked fellow researchers along the Pacific Northwest to confirm them.

It was true: the region’s pH levels had dropped from an expected 8.0 to a staggering 7.57. The difference seems moderate, but each 0.1 decrease represents a whopping 25 per cent increase in acidity.

Changing Oceans to Bring Economic Hardship to Coastal Communities

As scientific studies continue to reveal how carbon emissions are making the world’s oceans more acidic, one prominent academic from British Columbia suggests that the rapidly changing marine chemistry could also eventually negatively affect the economies of some coastal communities. If the recent collapse of a scallop fishery off the coast of B.C.’s Vancouver Island is any indication, those negative changes may already be well underway.

Karen Kohfeld, a Simon Fraser University associate professor and a Canada Research Chair in Climate, Resource, and Global Change, said scientists have learned much about the oceans’ chemical makeup in the past three decades but are less certain about how the increased acid levels will affect ecosystems.

There may be some species that adapt better than others,” Kohfeld told DeSmog Canada on Thursday. “And in the end, we are just beginning to understand how ocean acidification could impact our coastal fisheries in the long run.”

Community on Forefront of Climate Change Adaptation Offers Lessons about Food Security

Hartley Bay

Food is at the heart of our cultural lives. It’s not just sustenance—it’s part of how we celebrate, how we mourn and how we come together. But what happens when the food that defines us begins to disappear?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report released in March, climate change is already having an affect on food security. Extreme weather in “key producing regions” has already led to drastic jumps in food pricing. In cities we are padded from these effects by long supply chains, but not so in places like Hartley Bay on the northern coast of British Columbia.

Massive Shellfish Die-Off in B.C. Heralds a Future We Can and Must Avoid


This is a guest post by Caitlyn Vernon and Torrance Coste.

The February 25th headline, “10 million scallops are dead; company lays off staff,” hit British Columbians like a punch in the stomach. The shellfish industry has been an economic powerhouse on central Vancouver Island for decades, providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue every year – over $30 million in average wholesale value. 

But when we talk about shellfish, we aren’t just talking jobs and economics. We are talking about food. Shellfish harvesting is one of our most robust local food systems, and the prospect of losing this industry makes us all feel, quite frankly, a little hungry.

Of the possible causes of the recent scallop die-off, ocean acidification seems the most likely. Ocean acidification is directly connected to climate change and to our runaway consumption of fossil fuels. In short, acidification occurs when carbon is absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere, making the water more acidic. Acidification strips the ocean of carbonate ions, which marine species like scallops and oysters need to build their shells, therefore reducing the ability of these species to survive.

Government Report Confirms ‘Unprecedented’ Ocean Acidification From Greenhouse Gases Threatens Canadian Atlantic Waters

Kumiko Azetse Scott writes about ocean acidification in Canada

A 2012 government report from scientists at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans warns that Canada’s Atlantic waters are “particularly vulnerable” to ocean acidification from rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Mike De Souza writes for Postmedia News, that “the government report, posted on a website without a formal announcement or news release, noted that the world’s oceans have absorbed a significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, with profound effects on marine ecosystems that could damage the Canadian economy.”

The October report, co-authored by Kristian Curran and Kumiko Azetsu-Scott from the department, focuses on what global ocean acidification “may mean for the marine ecology of the Scotian Shelf region of Atlantic Canada.” The Scotian Shelf is in the North Atlantic, which is “a global 'hotspot' for the absorption of carbon dioxide into the surface ocean.”

Subscribe to ocean acidification