There are those who still believe that the effects of global warming on our oceans are minimal and there is still no need for drastic measures to be taken. However, thankfully, there are just as many and more that recognize the real dangers to our oceans and, in particular, the dangers of ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as “A reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Pteropods are small calcifying (or shelled) organisms that live as zooplankton in the water column and are an important prey species for many fish.” Additionally, “Like plants, our oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When carbon dioxide is absorbed in oceans, it forms carbonic acid. Increased levels of carbon dioxide emitted from anthropogenic sources are not only impacting our atmosphere, but are also impacting our oceans by causing them to become increasingly acidic.”
What this translates to for anyone with a social conscience and respect for the environment, is that (a) it becomes much harder for shell building ocean species, such as oysters and scallops to grow their protective coverings in hopes of survival, and (b) recreational and other species of fish are impacted as well. Since our shorelines along the Atlantic Ocean also have numerous streams and freshwater rivers that drain into the ocean creating different ecosystems, ocean acidification is particularly dangerous due to the high levels of nitrogen pollution in the water.
Living in a coastal community where shellfish harvesting and marine fisheries not only contribute to the economy but also represents the livelihood of many, the damage from ocean acidification could eventually represent tremendous financial damage to the whole state, including New York City and Long Island.
Locally propelled by the legislative efforts of Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Kenneth LaValle the new law signed by Governor Cuomo will create a 14-member Ocean Acidification Task Force within the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), that “Will explore the challenges facing New York as a result of ocean acidification and solutions to get us ahead of the problem, as well as identify where changes in chemistry pose the greatest ecological and economic problems and where monitoring would be most useful, and to develop recommendations on state and local regulatory and/or statutory actions to respond to the impacts of ocean acidification.”
New standards are undoubtedly needed to protect marine life, animals and plants, and on the state level, the new law will allow the state to fully and more completely evaluate the effects of nitrogen pollution and ocean acidification utilizing all available resources, including the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and other measures.
There is a line in the motion picture Martian where Matt Damon announces, “I am going to have to science the sh– out of this” in hopes of his own survival that could be applied to this current situation, as this law will explore the best available science to determine anticipated impacts, and rely on experts in the fields of oceanography, ecology, marine fisheries, climatology and others to make informed recommendations to reduce the impact of ocean acidification on our existing ocean(s) and waterways.
It is with great hope that this new law will result in a truly Happy New Year for all who not only rely on our waters for fun and recreation, but for sustenance, economic stability and growth, and maybe even help out our planet too!