I have written about ocean warming and the dramatic decline in steelhead and salmon populations. Most recently, I posted about commercial salmon fishing belatedly being declared an official disaster. Here’s a related NOAA report and a State of Oregon report on ocean acidification. Scientists have had a clear understanding of global warming for 40 years but we continue to study the problem. I just don’t get it: you don’t study fire while watching your house burn down.
Rising temperatures have massively disrupted the food web off the Oregon coast. Near the bottom of the local web are plankton which cannot survive in warm water. “Forage” (small) fish feed on plankton. These populations have significantly decreased, impacting species that prey on them, including salmon and steelhead. Further up the food chain impacts on species like orcas have been well publicized as they no longer have enough salmon to eat. Sea birds also rely on forage fish and have had recent die-offs.
Ocean acidification and hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) is another important change in the ocean environment. OAH has been directly connected to rising carbon emissions into the atmosphere which are then partially absorbed by the ocean. OAH has been “commonplace in Oregon over the past 10 years, impacting Oregon’s economy and marine resources in measurable ways. While Oregon is experiencing these impacts now, similar impacts are projected to affect ocean health worldwide in the decades to come”.
One notable impact in Oregon is the inability of oysters to reproduce without introducing changes to water chemistry in hatcheries. OAH is also effecting formerly highly productive estuaries and near shore marine environments where clams, crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish including salmon and rockfish reside. Just last week the opening season for razor clams on part of the coast was delayed due to the clams being insufficiently developed.
In my opinion, both the NOAA and State of Oregon reports are outrageously cautious citing the need for more study. The NOAA report states they need to further understand impacts even though they predict warming conditions will “increase in frequency and intensity”. The State of Oregon OAH report identifies a timeline for “increasing awareness” and “charting a course”.
I think this is absurd. You don’t study the causes of fire, or chart a course of action while watching your house burn down.