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New Report Reveals Concern, Insecurity regarding Ocean Acidification Among Alaska Fishermen and Coastal Residents

A report released this week by a community-based fisheries group shows concern over the long-term impacts of ocean acidification on Alaska fisheries and livelihoods.  The study by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AMCC) is based on community roundtable discussions held this winter in the fisheries-dependent communities of Homer, Kodiak, and Dillingham. 

“Ocean acidification has the potential to significantly impact the health and productivity of Alaska’s oceans,” said Rachel Donkersloot, lead author of the study and Fisheries Program Director at AMCC.  “While we don’t yet know exactly how ocean acidification will affect specific fisheries, we do know it’s a threat to marine habitat and the ocean food web which our economies and communities ultimately depend on.  Fishermen and coastal Alaskans are concerned.”

Key findings from the report include: 

  • The science about ocean acidification supports concern for the health and productivity of the oceans coastal Alaskans depend on.
  • Despite the tremendous economic value of Alaska’s fisheries, it is not known how ocean acidification will affect specific fisheries and what the cost will be to the seafood industry and fishery-dependent communities.
  • Fishermen and shellfish farmers want to support scientific monitoring of ocean pH.
  • In addition to quantifiable economic impact, coastal Alaskans are concerned about damaging traditional uses of marine resources and harm that will come to the ecosystem that supports those resources.
  • Shellfish growers in Alaska are already experiencing affects of ocean acidification as a result of problems with oyster spat due to corrosive waters in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Fishermen and coastal residents want to explore ways to address the root cause of ocean acidification in order to mitigate its effect, including reducing carbon emissions as individuals, industries, communities and nationally.

Donkersloot, a cultural anthropologist raised in Bristol Bay, skillfully enriched the report with the views of the roundtable participants. Below are some of the perspectives on ocean acidification that emerged during the community discussions:

“I don’t know a lot about [ocean acidification]... Perhaps that’s because you don’t really see any discussion until it’s well advanced and then it’s hard to reverse it.”

“I think the threat is real... But I just don’t know enough about it in terms of how it’s truly going to affect fishing. I want to know more. But it has me concerned.”

“Time is everything and it doesn’t sound like we have a lot of time.”

“We’re at a place now where a shift is necessary. And our generation can either be the clutch or that shift is going to happen without a clutch. It’s our job to find ways to enhance that transition.”

AMCC also submitted the new publication as a technical input to the National Climate Assessment, a process required by law every four years that culminates in a report submitted to Congress and the President. The current assessment is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

“It is AMCC’s hope that the report helps to ensure that the needs and contributions of members of Alaska’s seafood industries and coastal communities are accounted for in the ongoing discussion on ocean acidification in Alaska waters,” added Donkersloot.

The report is also part of a larger project of AMCC's entitled Coastal Voices on Ocean Acidification. Photos, video, and interviews with participants will be available in the future to provide a more in-depth look at this issue of importance to coastal Alaska.

 The full-report and executive summary are available at www.akmarine.org

About the Alaska Marine Conservation Council: Founded in 1994, AMCC is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the long-term health of Alaska's oceans and sustaining the working waterfronts of our coastal communities. Our members include fishermen, subsistence harvesters, marine scientists, small business owners, conservationists, families and others who care about Alaska’s oceans. Our way of life, livelihoods and economies depend on healthy marine ecosystems.

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