FISH FACTOR: Website launched to monitor ocean acidification off Alaska
Alaska is one of a handful of U.S. states to launch a go-to website aimed at keeping ocean acidification in the public eye.
The Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, a collaboration of state and federal scientists, agencies, tribes, conservation, fishing and aquaculture groups, went live last month. Its goal is to provide a forum for researchers to share their findings, and to connect with coastal residents concerned about future impacts on their communities.
Ocean acidification, or OA, is caused by the ocean absorbing excess carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere, generated primarily from the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The off kilter chemistry causes the seawater to become corrosive, making it tough for marine creatures to grow scales and shells.
Alaska is more susceptible to OA than other regions because its waters are colder and older, and thereby hold more C02.
“We are so reliant on the ocean for our lives and livelihood. The seafood industry is valued at about $5.8 billion every year, and it’s the largest private sector employer in the state. So just think about the direct and indirect effects of OA and the implications,” said Darcy Dugan, Network project coordinator who also works for the Alaska Ocean Observing System, or AOOS.
“The more educated Alaskans are, the more creative they can be in thinking about adaptation strategies and the more confident they can feel about working together to have a sustainable future,” she added.
Since 2011 the AOOS and its partners have sampled acidic fluctuations (pH levels) at moorings in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and at the Alutiiq Pride Hatchery in Seward. Researchers also have taken 1,200 shipboard water samples over several years. Starting this fall, the Network has partnered with the state ferry system to have OA measuring instruments onboard the Columbia, which makes twice-weekly runs between Bellingham and Skagway.
The average pH in the world’s oceans today is 8.1, according to NOAA. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity. While no direct effects of OA are showing up yet in Alaska’s sea creatures, computer models predict that normal acidic ranges will become off kilter sooner than previously thought.
“They are anticipating that the Beaufort Sea will be first to leave its natural range of pH variability around 2025, followed by the Chukchi in 2027 and the Bering in 2044,” Dugan said.
“Based on global estimates of ocean acidification, the Bering Sea may reach a pH level of 7.5 to 7.8 in the next 75 to 100 years, if not earlier,” estimated Bob Foy, director of NOAA’s research lab at Kodiak
“Once, it reaches those levels there will be significant decreases in survival and subsequent fishery yields and profits within 20 years,” Foy added.
“We can be informed and prepared,” said Dugan. “We can come together as a community to respond and adapt.”
Ocean acidification in Alaska will be featured at the Aleutian Life Forum Aug. 16 in Unalaska and at a (free) “State of the Science” Workshop Nov. 30- Dec. 1 in Anchorage.
For the first time, the “Alaska” seafood brand has topped all others on menus across the nation.
“We do research every couple of years to look at brands that are featured on restaurant menus,” said Claudia Hogue, foodservice director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
The research was done by Chicago-based Datassentials, which has the nation’s largest database on U.S. menus. The group targeted “penetration,” Hogue said, or the percentage of menus that feature different brand names.
“Alaska seafood ranks highest among all other proteins for the first time,” she said. “Research shows that consumers are trying to eat healthier by the choices they’re making at the restaurant.”
“Alaska seafood” appears on 3.4 percent of all menus, compared to “certified Angus” with 3.1 percent and “Norwegian” at 1.9 percent.
The Alaska brand also outranked many other well-known food category brands, including Hershey’s, Kahlua, Tabasco and Grand Marnier.
Shrimp shells may offer the solution to harmful sulfites in wine. Currently, wine producers add sulfites such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) to wine to keep it fresh during storage. But SO2 damages the atmosphere, and can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Green Chemistry reports that researchers at the University of Aveiro in Portugal have discovered that thin films made from the polymer chitin in shrimp shells removes traces of iron and copper in wine barrels. This would prevent bacterial growth or oxidation reactions, both of which can impair the wine’s flavor.
In taste tests the new material performed as well or better than sulfite preservatives. The researchers said “the process of making the shrimp based additive is easy to scale up for wholesale production and it could be adapted for other drinks in future.”
Bureo, a Los Angeles startup that makes skateboards from marine debris, has broadened its fight against pollution by launching the world’s only collection of sunglasses made from recycled fishing nets.
The Ocean Collection is designed by Chilean eyewear company Karun from nets collected by Net Positiva, a recycling program developed and operated by Bureo, which means “waves.” Last year the program collected more than 110,000 pounds of fishing nets from 16 communities in the country.
“Discarded fishing gear,” Bureo points out in its video, “accounts for an estimated 10 percent of the ocean’s plastic pollution.”
The program has earned recognition from the U.S. State Department and won an innovation award and grant funding from the Chilean Government
The Bureo fish net sunglasses cost $139.