Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science event underscores environmental, economic, cultural impacts of ocean acidification.
MIAMI (June 17, 2016)—Scientists, fishermen, local businesses, and state and local politicians met at the University of Miami today to discuss how Florida can respond to the growing threat of ocean acidification. The event, hosted by the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in collaboration with Ocean Conservancy, highlighted the importance of a healthy ocean for Florida’s quality of life and economy–particularly in tourism-dependent communities–and the accelerating impacts of acidifying coastal waters.
In her remarks today at lunch following the science and stakeholder panels Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her commitment to re-authorize the C.O.R.A.L. Reef Conservation Act of 2000, said to be introduced next week, is designed to “conserve our reefs and livelihoods” by developing strategies that will produce real results for South Florida and the nation.
“South Florida’s critically-important coral reefs, amazing saltwater fishing and recreational opportunities, and fabulous locally-caught seafood options all depend on maintaining healthy and productive coastal waters,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. “Ocean acidification is a threat to our local environment, economy, and way of life that we simply can’t afford to ignore.”
Ocean acidification is caused as carbon pollution is absorbed from the atmosphere, turning seawater more acidic. Animals that build shells, such as oysters, corals, clams and mussels are at risk from increasing ocean acidity. Scientists are increasingly concerned that fish will be impacted as well.
For an ocean state like Florida, that could spell real trouble for communities and businesses. Coral reef tourism alone supports more than 70,000 jobs, and generates $2.8 billion in local income. Saltwater recreational fishing supports an additional 109,000 jobs.
“Florida’s unique coastal ecosystems, and the industries that depend on them, are at risk from acidification,” said Sarah Cooley, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Acidification Program. “The state’s leaders, businesses and scientists coming together today shows how seriously they take the threat, as well as our strong resolve to confront it together.”
Ocean acidification has already wreaked havoc on the $272 million West Coast shellfish industry, causing oyster hatcheries in Washington state and Oregon to nearly declare bankruptcy and, in some cases, move their operations to Hawaii. Emerging research shows that ocean acidification can severely impact young crabs, and clownfish and some shark species may have trouble detecting predators or prey in increasingly acidic water.
“As a state whose identity and fortune are inextricably linked to the ocean, we consider ocean acidification research a top priority,” said Roni Avissar, Dean of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School. “The University of Miami’s world-class scientific capacity and expertise can help Florida prepare and respond to the impacts of acidification, but more research and funding are needed.”
Ocean Conservancy and others are working to increase federal funding for ocean acidification research and monitoring. The organization says those dollars need to be directed at species and businesses that stand to lose the most from ocean acidification.
— Rosenstiel / UM News