Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, are calling for a national strategy to address ocean acidification and prevent harm to Alaska and the nation’s commercial fishing industry.
The announcement Aug. 11 came during a tour of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s laboratory in Seattle, to see high-tech buoys and sensors that NOAA uses to monitor ocean conditions. NOAA administers the buoys under the Integrated Ocean Observation System.
Cantwell and Begich announced a legislative effort to make ocean acidification monitoring a national priority. They said they plan to introduce legislation that would reauthorize the IOOS program and require NOAA to prioritize what fisheries and fish habitat are most at risk, so officials can determine where to deploy more sensors. Their bill would create the first ever national ocean acidification monitoring plan that targets deployment of monitors to the areas under greatest economic threat.
Ocean acidification occurs as a result of seawater absorbing carbon dioxide, which makes the ocean waters more corrosive to shells of oysters, mussels and crab. Research has shown a connection between increasing ocean acidity and high mortality rates in fish and crab.
Scientists do not yet know enough about which areas are most at risk. The buoys are equipped with sensors that can regularly check surface waters for carbon dioxide concentrations, temperature, salinity and oxygen levels, and transmit that data back to researchers. Researchers also can use “wave gliders” powered by wave motion, like remote controlled surfboards, that can monitor conditions in different locations.