Shellfish are in the news threatened by our CO2 driven ocean acidification.
Typically the news we are shown is all about the shellfish we humans directly consume.
Nary a word about the infinitely more numerous and important shellfish that are free swimming in the oceans, the Pteropods a vital link in the ocean food chain. We can save them.
If you are reading the news about oceans and food you likely have come across many reports about the crisis facing oysters, scallops, clams, and other shellfish that we humans enjoy eating and which sustain large shellfish industries employing tens of thousands of people. The crisis comes from us its CO2. That CO2 is making acid in the seas. Killing ocean life instead of making green.
Ocean acidification is killing ocean life and from the reports it seems that the shellfish are the first to suffer. It’s tragically typical for people to be fed news reports written to engage their personal self-interest and the closer to home the reporters can spin their stories the better, right?
But the most important shellfish on this blue planet are NOT the big tasty ones we like best, the aphrodisiac oysters that might get you laid, the sweet delicious scallops of five-star restaurants, or the clams that can bloody well get Caesar and you juiced.
The most important shellfish on this blue planet are not of this earth, or even close to shore, they are the pteropods that swim free in the vast open ocean. Pteropods have not only an odd name but they can barely be seen with the human eye, rarely reaching one centimeter in length.
The harm wrought upon them by ocean acidification is even harder to see, they are suffering not from their shells being dissolved but rather as microscopic larva they are never able to grow their first vital shell!
This is the fate of all shellfish, not the acid threat to the shells of large robust rock hard adults but rather an insidious invisible death of their young larva which never have a chance against even the tiniest amount of acid to form their first microscopically thin shell.
If you were to read the news either in popular media or even in scince journals you’d be hard pressed to find reports of ocean acidification that have anything to say other than what this means to robust adult shellfish. Take for example the news of the day in the Washington Post titled “Climate change is really bad news if you like oysters, scallops and clams.”
The fact that 101 “professors” have encouraged 1001 kids to do the dumbo research of subjecting fish tanks full of oysters in the lab to increasing amounts of bubbling CO2 is what passes for science, or at least gives the student of some parent paying tuition a passing grade. The task of studying larval forms of shellfish, especially the off shore tiny ones like pteropods is far too demanding and as a result little has been done until very recently. Now the startling facts are emerging that pteropods, one of the most vital links in the ocean food chain, are all but gone.
It seems that not only are pteropods vulnerable to very slight drops in ocean pH (acidity) but they are also far more vulnerable when there is little for them to eat. Hence the collapse of vast ocean pastures that are the key to open ocean ecology due to our high and rising CO2 is far worse than a simple first approximation notion suggests. As ocean primary productivity declines due to high and rising CO2 in the air producing a widespread global greening this means that more grass, you know good ground cover, is growing on lands everywhere. More grass growing means less dust blowing. That blowing dust now gone missing from the winds is as vital to ocean pastures as rain blowing to pastures on land is for those green terrestrial pastures.
The decline of dust and ocean productivity by the phyto-plankton the very bottom of the ocean food chain means is that there is less for ocean grazers to eat, as in starving pteropods. To make matters worse green plants, the phyto-plankton, are the only effective variable force of nature that controls ocean acidification. Ocean pasture phyto-plankton when it is in abundance intercepts our deadly CO2 and repurpose that CO2 into ocean life diverting that CO2 from becoming acid death for ocean life.
Oceans pastures around the world are collapsing as the our CO2 forced global greening of the planet deprives them of vital dust and delivers a one two punch of both loss of primary production of the grass, the phytoplankton, of the ocean pastures that directly prevents ocean acidification and the resulting acidification from even more CO2. With the collapse of the ocean pasture phyto-plankton the pasture carrying capacity has plummeted. This has nothing to do with overfishing this is the direct result of yours and my emission of CO2 from our modern society lifestyle and a profound refusal by almost everyone on this blue planet to think of the oceans not as a limitless wilderness but rather in the same way as we think of the pastures, ranges, and forests we so enjoy here on the earthen part of our planet. As everyone knows when we neglect and mistreat a pasture on land such that it ceases to grow grass little animal life can live there. It’s the same on ocean pastures!!!
We can save the pteropods by replenishing and restoring ocean pastures
There is something we can do to immediately begin to help save the pteropods and all of ocean life. We must begin to replenish and restore ocean pastures and it is remarkably simple, inexpensive, and fast to do so.
I’ve proven this in my work of 2012 where we restored a large and vital ocean pasture in the NE Pacific. A mere 100 tonnes of iron rich mineral dust turned a blue desert into a thriving abundant pasture. The proof was seen just one year later when in Alaska the forecast for the catch of Pink salmon, a primary species of our pasture, was 50 million Pinks would be caught. Instead 226 million Pink salmon were caught in 2013, the largest catch in all of history, totally unexpected by all of the salmon experts but surely a result of Pink salmon resident in that ocean pasture instead of mostly starving being treated to a feast.
What about the other species of salmon and other fish and marine life. Reports of historic returns of salmon have shown up in perfect lock step with the life cycle behaviour of those species from Alaska to the Columbia River of Oregon. Salmon that have been disappearing for decades have returned totally unexpectedly to conventional salmon management following the replenishment and restoration of their vital ocean pasture.
Around the world ocean fish are declining and the ever-present refrain is that this is due to those evil overfishing fishermen and fishing corporations. Sure overfishing the last remnant of fish starving into near extinction on depleted ocean pastures is a problem but doing nothing to reverse the collapse of those ocean pastures is the far worse crime. Especially when there is a proven natural remedy to replenish and restore ocean pastures to historic health and abundance and bring back the fish to historic numbers.
What must be done is to restore 100 vital ocean pastures around the world. Those restored ocean pastures will grow more phyto-plankton that will feed starving pteropods, krill, fish, whales, sea lions, seabirds, whales and all of ocean life. This can be done if we simply become caring good shepherds of our ocean pastures and give back to them the vital mineral dust we are denying them that is resulting in the creation of blue lifeless deserts instead of rich blue-green healthy sustainable ocean pastures teaming with life.
The money required is a pittance. Each pasture needs less than $100,000 dollars worth of natural vital mineral rich dust each year. In giving this dust back to those pastures they will give back to us billions of additional fish that will swim into the nets and onto the plates of people needing food around the world. In the bargain the ocean pastures will accomplish this miracle or restore ocean life by repurposing billions of tonnes of deadly pteropod terrifying, ocean acidifying CO2, into life itself. And the cost of those billions of tonnes of CO2 mitigation will be less than one penny per tonne!
You decide! Choose ocean life or choose ocean death. The cost will be the very least you can possibly pay, just look under your couch cushions and find a penny for our planet.
For some outside reading:
Royal Society for Science Publication 2014 – Pteropod (Limacina helicina) shell dissolution as an indicator of declining habitat suitability owing to ocean acidification in the California Current Ecosystem. N. Bednaršek , R. A. Feely , J. C. P. Reum , B. Peterson , J. Menkel , S. R. Alin , B. Hales DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0123 Published 30 April 2014
Antarctic Animals Are Dissolving – Scientists have warned about ocean acidification for years, but now it’s actually happening says a report in the Smithsonian Magazine.
Great photo collage of beautiful Pteropods here