Arctic ocean acidity killing off cod population

cod ocean

writer icon Emma Lindgren     ISB   |   Sustainability     🕐 30. Jan. 2019

A research group based in Norway have been following cod larvae in various degrees of arctic ocean acidification, to determine what the effect on their survival chances are. Results now show that if acidification increases at current levels, 80% of cod populations will die out over the next 80 or so years.

The findings not only indicate the severity of climate change effects on the eco systems on which human and other animals depend on for food, but also for one of Norways biggest industries. “It is the main cod-fishing industry in the world, and the most robust one at that” says climate and environment minister Ola Elvestuen, to Norweigan newspaper NRK.

Nordic region more exposed
When carbondioxid (CO2) comes into contact with and mixes with seawater, it reacts and forms carbonic acid which in turn acidifies the oceans. These changes in carbonate chemistry happen at a greater rate in colder waters and the consequent acidification process happens more quickly than in more temperate regions.

While cod purposefully seek out cooler waters due to rising ocean temperatures, the notable acidification of arctic ocean waters are effecting their populations negatively at an alarming rate.

Norwegian fisheries take a big hit
The survival forecasts presented in the AMAP report, will affect the fishing industry markedly over the next coming years. Cod has had more impact on Norweigan fisheries than any other type of fish to date, and Norway exported a whopping 197 000 tons of cod, to a value of over one billion US dollars, in 2018 alone.

Not only do codfish keep laying their eggs in waters that are too acidic for them to thrive, or at times even survive, but the high acidity also affects other marine life. As a consequence the entire nutritional chain of the marine eco system starts falling apart.

For example, plankton are also negatively affected by the ocean acidification processes, and they form the very basis of the food-chain for many marine animals, as well as for codfish. Adding insult to injury, rising ocean temperatures have already seen a staggering decline in plankton, with the population dropping more than 40% since the 1950s.

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