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New England’s iconic lobster roll and summer clam bake are at risk: ocean acidification caused by climate change makes it difficult for their outer shells to form. With no action, crustacean shells in the Gulf of Maine will begin to dissolve in the next 40 years, according to a new report looking specifically at the impact of ocean acidification in Massachusetts. Mollusks like the eastern oysters and sea scallops are especially vulnerable, and the ones that survive will likely be smaller. “Addressing the ocean acidification crisis is essential if we hope to sustain our blue economy and protect our state’s historic coastal and marine environment,” Massachusetts State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who co-chaired the commission, said.
Why this Matters: For marine life, the impacts of acidification will alter the ocean ecosystem. It’s also an economic issue: fishing employs more than 5,700 people in Massachusetts, and the state’s marine is especially dependent on shellfish. In recent decades, shellfish have become a greater share of what fishers land, all while the ocean is becoming more acidic. But the long-term effects of acidification depend on the actions we take today to reduce emissions.
Acidification among other ocean threats
The ocean absorbs 90% of excess heat and almost a third of global CO2 emissions, but taking all of that in is causing serious harm. Along with ocean acidification, the compounding stresses harms pretty much all underwater life, not just shellfish. The Gulf of Maine off New England’s coast is warming faster than nearly any other body of water on earth, making it a “living laboratory” for scientists to study the impacts of climate change on our oceans. For shellfish, that trend is toward cooler waters farther offshore and farther north — and could eventually be the end of lobster in Maine.
The ocean as a climate solution
Some solutions could happen right in the shellfish industry, like planting kelp at fishing sites to absorb CO2 and improving acidification monitoring to improve aquaculture. While the ocean faces multifaceted threats, it’s also a big part of the climate solution. There’s only one marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean, and nationwide, only about 5% of US waters are fully protected. Expanding these protected areas to encompass 30% of our ocean by 2030 would help solve climate change and biodiversity loss, which are tied together. In order to hit those targets within a decade, the U.S. and other countries will need to accelerate the pace and scale at which they protect the ocean.
This week, we have featured this series of videos by the Environmental Defense Fund about the impacts climate change is having on the ocean as observed by the people who live and work there — fishermen and women. Their stories have been compelling and provided a sense of the ways that climate change is harming and shifting global fish stocks.
Why This Matters: On Tuesday, pursuant to President Biden’s climate executive order, NOAA announced: “an agency-wide effort to gather initial public input” on “how to make fisheries, including aquaculture, and protected resources more resilient to climate change.
It’s not just men in the fishing sector who are impacted by climate change, overfishing, and COVID-19 — women are too. Women like Alexia Jaurez of Sonora, Mexico, who is featured in this Environmental Defense Fund video, do the important work of monitoring the catch and the price, and most importantly determining how many more […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Last summer, Florida created its first aquatic preserve in over 30 years. The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve protects about 400,000 acres of seagrass just north of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. These are part of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest seagrass bed and borders other existing preserves, creating a […]
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