Written By: Xavier Lucas
Ocean acidification threatens to cause billions of dollars in damage to the U.S. economy, harming everything from crabs in Alaska to coral reefs in Florida and the Caribbean, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a new report.
This new federal report points to major potential losses in key fisheries and protective coral reefs. Carbon dioxide emissions and ocean acidification are occurring at an unprecedented rate; deteriorating valuable fisheries and tourist destinations across the United States and its territories. NOAA said in a daft research plan for ocean acidification [that it will affect] commercial, subsistence, recreational fishing, tourism and coral ecosystems.
Implicating human activities such as burning fossil fuels, NOAA’s research said that ocean acidification “is driven by the growing amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide absorbed and dissolved in the upper ocean.” Ocean acidification makes it hard for some marine organisms such as lobster, oysters, and coral to build shells and skeletons.
The 172- page draft research plan draws on hundreds of studies and describes how NOAA will continue to analyze acidification.
As part of a congressional mandate the NOAA plan is unique in that it assesses the threat of ocean acidification nationwide. The U.S. Geological Survey found that coastal reefs protect economic activity worth $319 million a year in Florida $118 million a year in Puerto Rico and $25 million a year in the Virgin Islands.
Coral reefs in southwest Florida generate $4.4 billion in annual sales, $2 billion income, and 70,400 full- and part-time jobs. The harvest of marine resources plays a critical role in the identities and well-b being of Alaska communities, NOAA’s research plan said. More so than any other American, Alaskans rely upon subsistence harvest of marine resources to meet their daily nutritional needs.
This research plan captures NOAA’s extraordinary effort to improve the ability to understand, protect, manage, and restore ecosystems that support healthy fisheries, increase opportunities for aquaculture, and balance conservation with tourism and recreation. “NOAA has not officially released its 2020-2029 research plan for ocean acidification. A draft became public in December when it was posted by NOAA’s Science Advisory Board, whose reviewers called it a brilliant research plan.”
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