Fall 2015: What's Cooking | South Carolina Aquarium

Fall 2015: What’s Cooking

Oct 27

Fall 2015: What’s Cooking

Is Climate Change Creating a Fragile Future for Seafood?

Climate change is a key component in the discussion surrounding the health of our oceans. Recently, the focus has turned toward the impending effects of ocean acidification, which will bring big changes to the waterways and seafood supply of the Lowcountry and our southeast region.

The ocean absorbs nearly one-fourth of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into our atmosphere, much of which is the result of industrial activity. As industry has increased over the years, so have CO2 levels in the atmosphere, in turn increasing the amount of CO2 absorbed by the ocean.

A healthy ocean maintains a slightly basic pH level of about 8.1, enabling a balanced ecosystem to thrive. Increased CO2 in the ocean, however, causes the pH level to decrease, over time threatening the survival of the marine life we rely on as a resource.

Bivalves, which include oysters, clams and mussels, are examples of species threatened by ocean acidification. These animals create their own shells from self-produced calcium carbonate material. The changes in ocean chemistry affect the strength of the calcium carbonate material they can produce, resulting in a much weaker shell, which then results in higher predation and lower survival rates for these species.

According to an article published in Nature Climate Change journal, Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification, the east coast will experience some of the greatest damage from ocean acidification in the years ahead. These environmental changes will potentially result in the loss of thousands of jobs as well as our ability to enjoy one of the most important resources our waterways have to offer.

What does this mean for us? This phenomenon is not happening overnight, but it is vital that we stay informed and take action where we can. If we don’t take action, lower harvest rates and higher prices for bivalves will begin to trend. Our seafood suppliers will struggle to provide the quality products that we have come to expect. The threat of losing bivalves, a historically important resource that helps define our coastline, will become a reality.

Whether you’re a chef or a consumer, your everyday actions can help mitigate the threat of ocean acidification. Focus on everyday energy efficiency, and avoid plastic and single-use products in your restaurant or home. Share this story with your customers, staff, friends and family so they can appreciate the importance of sustainability. These actions may seem insignificant to this global concern, but if we all play a part, the large-scale effects will directly help to save our amazing Lowcountry seafood delicacies.

For more information about ocean acidification, email [email protected].

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