[Senate Hearing 111-962]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
S. Hrg. 111-962
THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OCEANS, ATMOSPHERE, FISHERIES, AND COAST GUARD
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE,
SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
APRIL 22, 2010
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SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, West Virginia, Chairman
DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, Texas,
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts Ranking
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine
BARBARA BOXER, California JOHN ENSIGN, Nevada
BILL NELSON, Florida JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington JOHN THUNE, South Dakota
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
MARK PRYOR, Arkansas GEORGE S. LeMIEUX, Florida
CLAIRE McCASKILL, Missouri JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
TOM UDALL, New Mexico SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas
MARK WARNER, Virginia MIKE JOHANNS, Nebraska
MARK BEGICH, Alaska
Ellen L. Doneski, Staff Director
James Reid, Deputy Staff Director
Bruce H. Andrews, General Counsel
Ann Begeman, Republican Staff Director
Brian M. Hendricks, Republican General Counsel
Nick Rossi, Republican Chief Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OCEANS, ATMOSPHERE, FISHERIES, AND COAST GUARD
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington, OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine, Ranking
Chairman ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi
DANIEL K. INOUYE, Hawaii GEORGE S. LeMIEUX, Florida
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts JOHNNY ISAKSON, Georgia
BARBARA BOXER, California DAVID VITTER, Louisiana
FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, New Jersey
MARK BEGICH, Alaska
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held on April 22, 2010................................... 1
Statement of Senator Cantwell.................................... 1
Statement of Senator Snowe....................................... 3
Statement of Senator Boxer....................................... 5
Prepared statement........................................... 7
Statement of Senator Lautenberg.................................. 7
Statement of Senator Begich...................................... 52
Sigourney Weaver, Actress........................................ 9
Prepared statement........................................... 11
Thomas Ingram, Executive Director, Diving Equipment and Marketing
Prepared statement........................................... 14
Donald A. Waters, Commercial Fisherman, Pensacola, Florida....... 21
Prepared statement........................................... 23
James P. Barry, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Research Institute (MBARI) and Member, Committee on Development
of an Integrated Science Strategy for Ocean Acidification
Monitoring, Research, and Impacts Assessment, National Research
Council, The National Academies................................ 25
Prepared statement........................................... 27
Dr. John T. Everett.............................................. 32
Prepared statement........................................... 34
Response to written questions submitted by Hon. Olympia J. Snowe
Thomas Ingram................................................ 61
Donald A. Waters............................................. 63
James P. Barry, Ph.D......................................... 65
Response to written questions submitted by Hon. Roger F. Wicker
James P. Barry, Ph.D......................................... 67
Response to written questions submitted to Dr. John T. Everett
Hon. Olympia J. Snowe........................................ 71
Hon. Roger F. Wicker......................................... 72
THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF OCEAN ACIDIFICATION
THURSDAY, APRIL 22, 2010
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:02 a.m. in
room SR-253, Russell Senate Office Building, Hon. Maria
Cantwell, Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MARIA CANTWELL,
U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Senator Cantwell. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science
and Transportation, Subcommittee on Oceans and Atmosphere and
Fisheries, Coast Guard, will come to order.
Today, we're having a hearing on the environmental and
economic impacts of ocean acidification. And welcome, to our
panelists here. We appreciate them testifying before us today,
and we will introduce them shortly.
We live on a blue planet. And on this day, the 40th
anniversary of Earth Day, it's no coincident that we are
focusing our attention on our oceans. They are 70 percent of
the Earth's surface and provide a foundation for all of life.
And yet, there is a grave threat that lies hidden beneath
the surface, called ``ocean acidification.'' And since the
start of the Industrial Revolution, humans have increased the
global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by 35 percent.
But, carbon dioxide is not only accumulating in our atmosphere,
it is being absorbed by our oceans. Approximately one-quarter
of our global carbon dioxide emissions end up in oceans, and we
know now that this is changing the very chemistry of our
oceans. And while the full implications of these changes are
unclear, the initial signs are frightening.
As sea water becomes more acidic, it begins to withhold the
basic chemical building blocks needed by marine organisms.
Scientists predict that a more acidic ocean could dissolve the
shells of tiny organisms that make up the base of the ocean's
food chain. And when it comes to ocean acidification, we are
not just damaging the ocean's ecosystem, we are threatening its
And even though these changes are occurring out of sight
and below the surface of the ocean, we are starting to see some
of the very worrying signs. And that's what this hearing today
is to discuss.
In May 2008, I held a field hearing, in Seattle, of this
subcommittee to examine the impacts of ocean acidification and
climate change on Washington State's marine environment. The
most vivid testimony came from one of my constituents, a fifth-
generation shellfish farmer named Brett Bishop.
Mr. Bishop's family shellfish farm is on the Little Scookum
Bay in Mason County. His parents live next door, and his two
teenaged sons are the sixth generation to live on that
homestead and grow clams and oysters. And over the past several
years, ocean acidification decimated the source of oyster by
dissolving the larvae shells and increasing the susceptibility
to dangerous marine bacteria.
Damaged natural reproduction, coupled with failing oyster
hatcheries, is threatening the entire shellfish industry in the
Pacific Northwest. Generations of Brett Bishop's family have
invested everything they have into their family farm, growing
shellfish for 126 years. And if ocean acidification prevents
the Bishop family from growing shellfish, they will lose their
farm, their home, and six generations of hard work, hopes, and
Today, I received a letter from the shellfish growers,
commercial fishermen, seafood industry representatives from
across the United States, requesting that Congress work to
mitigate the cause and reduction--the economic harm resulting
from ocean acidification. I want to read just a paragraph from
that letter, because I think it sums up today's hearing, quote,
``While some organisms are likely to be more adaptive than
others to high CO2 oceans, seafood producers and
consumers cannot afford to whistle in the dark about these
changes. The U.S. seafood industry generates approximately 60
billion annually, fueling jobs and businesses that sustain
thousands of families along the Gulf, Atlantic, Pacific and
ocean--and Alaskan Coast. Even for the fisheries, where no
direct harm from acidification has yet been documented, the
disturbing signs of trouble on the front lines reveal a very
compelling case to prevent the impacts from spreading and
growing more severe.''
Stories like the Bishop family and this letter is why we
called this hearing today, so this subcommittee can look at the
threats, challenges, and questions posed by ocean acidification
to our coastal communities, to the businesses and the people
who rely on these healthy systems.
It is also why this committee worked so hard to enact
legislation Senator Lautenberg--Federal--in his Federal Ocean
Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, which I was proud to
cosponsor; that law established the Nation's first
comprehensive program to specifically study ocean
And there he is, on cue.
Senator Cantwell. We're glad to see you.
Ocean acidification is real, and there is a clear link
between our society's carbons emission and the resulting change
in the ocean's chemistry. Fortunately, we can slow down this
process by ending our dangerous over-reliance on fossil fuel
and transitioning to a cleaner, more diverse energy source.
This effort has been one of my top priorities, and I will
continue to fight to craft responsible, effective, bipartisan
legislation to move us forward.
Doing so is not only vital for our oceans and our
environment, but for people like Brett Bishop and some of our
witnesses who are here today, Mr. Waters and Mr. Ingram, but
also for our Nation's long-term economy and our sustainability.
So, again, I would like to thank the witnesses for being
here, and like to turn it over to the Ranking Member, Senator
Snowe, to make an opening statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. OLYMPIA J. SNOWE,
U.S. SENATOR FROM MAINE
Senator Snowe. Thank you, Madam Chair, for calling this
It's only appropriate that we would be convening this
hearing today on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, to discuss
perhaps the greatest threat facing our planet's oceans. If
current trend of ocean acidification continues, by the end of
this century vast areas of the sea could very well become
inhospitable to many species which form the foundation of the
marine food web.
Our oceans, which make up 70 percent of the planet's
surface, are far too often overlooked, and as a source of the
very building blocks of life, we cannot risk placing them in
That's why I'm very pleased today to be able to welcome our
witnesses. Dr. Barry and Dr. Everett, your efforts to identify,
to monitor, and to predict the trend of ocean acidification
will be integral to protecting the marine environment, and the
businesses that will be directly affected, like those
represented here today.
Mr. Waters and Mr. Ingram, your work in the industry drives
our coastal economy, and you're on the front lines of the
battle to protect our ocean resources.
And, Ms. Weaver, thank you for being here and for adding
your eloquent voice and your presence in working as an ocean
advocate and narrator of the stunning piece that we'll have the
opportunity to see a portion of here today, in the documentary,
``The Acid Test: The Global Challenges of Ocean
Acidification.'' This will continue to raise the public profile
of this issue. It's vital that we not only garner the public's
attention, but also galvanize public action, both here and
across this country, and, indeed, around the world. So, thank
you for your contribution and being such a champion.
In just a few short years, ocean acidification has
developed from a relatively new theory into one of the most
disconcerting aspects of global climate change. In 2005, when
the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy submitted its final report
to Congress--it just seems like yesterday--the term
``acidification'' did not appear in the 676-page document. And
yet, today we're holding the second subcommittee hearing on
this topic since May of 2007.
In the past 250 years, atmospheric and oceanic carbon
concentrations have increased by 40 percent, and the pH of our
oceans has decreased by roughly 30 percent, a rate of change
not seen in more than 800,000 years, and that was underscored
in the National Research Council's publication, which was
released this week. That report, coauthored by Dr. Barry, on
ocean acidification, confirms the current state of knowledge
about this issue and delineates the areas requiring additional
information. In effect, this document provides a litany of
things we still don't know: how individuals and species will
react to acidification in conjunction with other environmental
stressors, the potential for adaptation and acclimation to
lower pH levels, and the socioeconomic fallout that we will
Clearly, following through with this work, which has been
outlined in the NRC's report, will be vital to the future of
our coastal economies, as I'm sure Mr. Waters and Mr. Ingram
will attest. And what affects our coastal economy drives our
national economy; in fact, more than 75 percent of the growth
in this country between 1997 and 2007 was in coastal states,
whether measured by population, jobs, or GDP. Every year, the
ocean-dependent economy, comprised of tourism, fishing, and
other marine industrial activities, generated more than $138
billion in revenues, including $70 billion from tourism alone.
As ocean acidification weakens coral reef structures that
protect many of our southern shores, we also risk losing a
vital buffer against coastal storm surges, leaving these
regions increasingly vulnerable.
In my home State of Maine, our shellfish industry, led by
the iconic Maine lobster industry, represents more than 80
percent of our landings totalling over $250 million, in fact,
in 2008. To date, the brunt of the effects of acidification has
been outlined very eloquently by the Chair regarding the
Pacific Northwest. So, it remains unclear what increasingly
acidic oceans will mean for New England's fishermen. Some
reports have shown that lower pH levels can result in lower
shellfish reproductive rates and decrease shell thickness,
leading to greater vulnerability to predators. However, in some
species, such as lobster, shell growth can actually speed up.
The point is, we don't know.
Regardless of what the final results will be, we simply
cannot leave the future of our oceans and their valuable
resources to chance. That's why I joined the Chair in
cosponsoring legislation offered by Senator Lautenberg that,
fortunately, became law in 2009, to create a program within
NOAA to study ocean acidification. I also joined in sending a
letter to the NOAA Administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, in her
appearance at Copenhagen asking her to prioritize, not only
climate change, but also the issue of ocean acidification.
As we know, the conference did not, ultimately, produce a
consensus on climate change; acidification was a prominent
topic. The world is beginning to acknowledge this looming
catastrophe, and our obligation to act quickly and decisively
to manage it. To do that, we must enhance our research
capabilities, including a greater commitment to the Integrated
Ocean Observing System. I sometimes sound like a broken record
on this issue.
At this subcommittee's hearing in 2007 on ocean
acidification, all six of the witnesses underscored the view
that the ocean observing systems are integral to boosting our
ability to monitor this problem.
I introduced legislation that was enacted along with the
Ocean Acidification Act, paving the way for enhancement of this
vital tool. Unfortunately, NOAA has failed to adequately
support the implementation. For 2011, the agency has requested
just $21 million for this program, more than $12 million less
in the previous year, and less than half of the $53 million
that has been requested by the National Federation of Regional
Associations that estimates the regional components of the
system required in order to function properly. The NRC report,
released today, lists an ocean-observing network as its first
recommendation, and rightfully so, further reinforcing the
imperative to sustain and enhance this system.
As we'll hear from our witnesses today, the implications of
ocean acidification are still being researched, but the basic
equation is simple: acidification makes it more difficult for
shell-building organisms to survive. This leaves less food for
larger fish that we catch and eat. It leaves fewer corals to
serve as fish nurseries, act as storm buffers, and to inspire
visitors, as vibrant reminders of the diversity and the
complexity of marine life. Follow this trend to its logical
conclusion, and the cost of inaction is too great to
So, again, Madam Chair, thank you for holding this hearing
today, and thank you all for being here.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you. And I want to give my
colleagues, who have been leaders, Senator Boxer and Senator
Lautenberg, a chance to make opening statements, and then we'll
turn to the witnesses, as well.
And I want to just thank Senator Boxer for her leadership
as Chairman of the EPW Committee--and has been an advocate of
oceans policies, passed many bills through this committee. And
so, we appreciate her being here today.
STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA BOXER,
U.S. SENATOR FROM CALIFORNIA
Senator Boxer. Well, I want to thank you, Madam Chairman
and Ranking Member Snowe. Senators Lautenberg, and I know we've
been joined by Senator Nelson.
You know, all of us see this in a very similar light. We
have to act. And it's very fitting that, on this day, Earth
Day, we're discussing ocean acidification. Because I believe it
is one of the biggest threats facing our oceans.
I want to thank our panel, each and every one of you, for
About a third of the carbon dioxide we've emitted into the
atmosphere has been drawn down into the ocean. The climate
change our planet is experiencing would be even more severe
without this important process. The ocean is a very large
carbon sink, and it is now showing the stress and the strain of
Adding so much carbon dioxide to the ocean has caused its
pH to decrease by a tenth of a unit since the beginning of the
Industrial Revolution, and that is what ocean acidification is.
When you add carbon dioxide to water, it makes calcium
carbonate minerals that dissolve more easily, and that
threatens species whose shells or skeletons contain these
materials, such as the corals, commercially imported shellfish,
like mussels, clams, and oysters, and some microscopic algae
that form the basis of the entire marine food web.
Earlier this morning, I did a little experiment. I was
thinking of doing it out here, but I thought that this--``This
belongs in the science lab.'' But, I did a little experiment.
We had a jar of plain water, and we had a jar of sparkling
water, which has carbon dioxide added to it, and we took two
pieces of chalk and--those are basically calcium carbonate--and
we dropped one into each glass. And when you drop the chalk
into the still water, nothing happened. It just--the chalk sat
there. But, immediately upon dropping it into the carbonated--
the carbon dioxide water, you saw, immediately--immediately,
the chalk began to dissolve. And it's a very simple, well-
known chemical reaction, but it has complex impacts on our
And I won't reiterate what Senator Snowe said about the
economic impact of losing this very special and precious
environment. My estimates are, from my staff, that if you take
``the rainforests of the sea,'' as we call them, and you look
at the tourist attraction they are, and you look at everything
else that goes along with it, you're looking at a global
economy of fishery resources and tourism of $375 billion.
Imagine. And the devastation would be enormous, in so many
ways, if we lose this environment.
I won't go into my support of Frank's--Lautenberg--Senator
Lautenberg's legislation. I was proud to do that, as well. We
all are working to make sure that we have this research done.
But, I want to give you my opinion, and it may be worth
something to somebody, and that is that unless we have a
climate change bill, we're going to whistle past the graveyard,
because this is--we're talking about a carbon sink. This is the
problem. The carbon is going into the ocean, so much of it.
And so, I hope, and even pray, yes, that, here in the
Senate, we will have the breakthrough with the bipartisan
efforts--I would say tripartisan--an Independent, a Republican,
and a Democrat--the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill, and I'm
working with them, and hope it will a good bill. And if we can
make that breakthrough, we're going to turn this around. And I
just am so committed to that and hope that my colleagues will
move forward, because we can study this, and we must, and we
should. But, we know the oceans are a carbon sink. So, the
obvious thing to do is just cut down on the amount of carbon
we're putting into the atmosphere. It's simple. It's not simple
to pass the bill, I understand. But it--we know what we have to
And I just want to say to my colleagues on this committee,
on both sides of the aisle, what leaders they have been on the
environment. And it gives me a lot of solace, to know that
they're here, looking at these issues. At the end of the day,
we have to be bold, and we have to address this.
I just want to say to Ms. Weaver, you know, I--representing
the State of California, we have so many very, very famous
stars, and we have famous directors, and we have--a lot of
Senator Boxer. And I so appreciate when people with that
aura come forward, because what you do--first, you give up a
little bit of your privacy, and I know that's hard. But, what
you do is, you gain attention to the issue that--a lot of us
try to gain attention to it. We get a little bit, but we really
can't hold a candle to the attention that you will get by your
testimony here. And, obviously, your work in the movies--and
Jim Cameron and all the rest. So, I want to thank you from the
bottom of my heart for that.
And I would yield back to the Chair or the Ranking Member.
[The prepared statement of Senator Boxer follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator from California
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for holding this hearing--fittingly, on
Earth Day--to discuss ocean acidification. This is one of the biggest
threats facing our oceans.
About one-third of the carbon dioxide we have emitted into the
atmosphere has been drawn down into the ocean. The climate change our
planet is experiencing would be even more severe without this important
Unfortunately, as reported by the National Research Council today,
adding so much carbon dioxide to the ocean has caused its pH to
decrease by a tenth of a unit since the beginning of the industrial
revolution, a process called ocean acidification.
When you add carbon dioxide to water, it makes calcium carbonate
minerals dissolve more easily, threatening species whose shells or
skeletons contain these minerals--such as corals, commercially-
important shellfish like mussels, clams, and oysters, and some
microscopic algae that form the basis of the entire marine food web.
The economic consequences of ocean acidification could be enormous.
The ocean economy generates $230 billion in economic activity and 3.6
million jobs nationwide, with more than half of those revenues and two-
thirds of those jobs coming from ocean tourism, recreation, and
fishing. Coral reefs, which have been called ``rainforests of the
sea,'' provide an estimated $375 billion per year in economic activity,
while covering less than 1 percent of the Earth's surface. Imagine the
economic devastation if we lose these important resources.
Much is still unknown about exactly how ocean acidification will
affect marine ecosystems, and this is a top priority for ocean
research. That's why I proudly co-sponsored the Federal Ocean
Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, which was signed into law in
March 2009. This legislation established a coordinated Federal research
and monitoring program on ocean acidification.
While we continue to study the impacts of ocean acidification, we
also need to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide that are changing
global climate and ocean chemistry--which is why moving clean energy
legislation has been one of my top priorities as Chairman of the
Environment and Public Works Committee.
I look forward to hearing from our panelists about the latest
information on ocean acidification, and will continue to work with my
colleagues in Congress to address this important issue.
Senator Snowe. Thank you very much, Senator Boxer.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK R. LAUTENBERG,
U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW JERSEY
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you, Madam Chairman. And my
colleagues, I think, amply laid out the problem. Around here,
everything may have been said, but everybody hasn't said it.
So, we'll take our----
Senator Lautenberg. And, Ms. Weaver, thanks for your help.
The last time I saw you, you weren't looking back at me, but
you were in outer space, and it was quite something. And, at
that time, I also had hair. So, we've had----
Senator Lautenberg.--we've had changes.
Our oceans cover, as we know, 70 percent of the Earth's
surface. In my home State, New Jersey, though small in size, we
have 127 miles of shoreline, and we're terribly--extremely
dependent on our coast to energize our economy, create jobs,
and support families. In fact, our coast is a $50-billion-a-
year economic powerhouse that's responsible for one out of
every six jobs in the State of New Jersey. Whether it's
fishermen, hotel workers, shop owners, our state depends on
this natural resource; so does our country. Our oceans generate
more income for our economy, the U.S. economy, than the entire
agricultural sector. And despite that, our oceans are under
assault--water pollution, climate change, offshore drilling--
all pose severe threat to their future. But, it doesn't end
there, and the ocean acidification is a problem that is
intensifying, as we've heard.
About one-third of all carbon dioxide pollution that we
release into the air is absorbed by the Earth's oceans, making
the oceans more acidic. This increase in acidity threatens to
decimate entire species, including those that are at the
foundation of our marine food chains. If that occurs, the
consequences are devastating.
And when I look at my grandchildren--and that's my
motivator--and I think about what life might be like in 20 or
30 years, it's not a pleasant prospect. And I'm going to do
whatever I can to fight against it.
Imagine what the collapse of the food chain would mean to
commercial fishing, tourism, and coastal communities. And
that's why I wrote the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and
Monitoring Act. It became law last year, and coordinates all
Federal research on this serious threat.
And, once again, Sigourney, your help--immense on being--in
getting that law passed, and I'm equally grateful to you. We
all should be.
The President's budget funds this new law for the first
time, and it includes more than $11 million to assess the
effects of the ocean acidification. It's a good start, but I
have questions about whether it's enough.
And now, even as we zero in on the effects of ocean
acidification, we also have to address the causes, as Senator
Boxer said. We cannot sit on our hands while carbon pollution
continues to spew from trucks, cars, power plants. And that's
why we've got to pass an effective climate change bill that's
going to cut global--the global warming pollution and spark a
new clean energy economy.
Putting limits on carbon pollution will not only protect
our vibrant coastal economies, it's going to create
manufacturing jobs, clean up the air that our children breathe,
and reduce our dependence on dirty, unsafe fuels.
And I thank all of you for being here, for your willingness
to testify. And it's even possible we might have a
disagreement, but welcome.
Senator Snowe. Thank you very much, Senator Lautenberg, I
Before we hear from our panel of witnesses, I'd like to
play a short video produced by the Natural Resources Defense
We thank you very much for creating this documentary that I
think sends a very powerful message about the challenge that
we're facing with respect to our oceans.
Now we'll see if the technology works.
Senator Snowe. Well, it's clear that that portion of the
video, I think, again underscores and powerfully portrays the
challenge that we face and must confront.
So, again, I thank all of you for joining us today, and now
I'd like to introduce our panel for their testimony.
Ms. Sigourney Weaver, Actress, narrator of ``The Acid Test:
The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification''; Dr. James Barry,
Senior Scientist,, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute;
Mr. Donny Waters, Commercial Fisherman from the Gulf of Mexico;
Mr. Tom Ingram, Executive Director, Diving Equipment and
Marketing Association; Dr. John Everett, President, Ocean
Ms. Weaver, we'll begin with you.
STATEMENT OF SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ACTRESS
Ms. Weaver. Red light--oh, testing, testing.
Ms. Weaver. OK, thank you.
Ms. Weaver. Hi. My name is Sigourney Weaver, and I am
honored to appear before you today, the 40th anniversary of
Earth Day, as we've all said, to testify about ocean
acidification. I am not here as a science--a scientific or a
policy expert, but as a concerned American and as an Earthling.
Ms. Weaver. My father was a Navy man. His one requirement
as we grew up was that he always had to be in sight of a body
of saltwater. So, I had the great advantage of growing up next
to the sea and listening to foghorns at night and being chased
by horseshoe crabs by day. And I think, like a lot of us, I
thought of the oceans as these vast, infinite places, certainly
infinitely forgiving, in terms of whatever we were doing to
them or throwing into them. And now, of course, we know that
this is not the case.
One of the things I love about the ocean is the mystery of
marine life. The oceans contain so much life and variety, as
you've just seen, and a lot of it is hidden from our sight. A
lot of it is, if you'll excuse the pun, alien to us. And this
makes the process of learning about the oceans, and what lives
in them, an unending series of surprises and discoveries,
because the oceans are so full of organisms that are unlike
anything we know on land, that sometimes their very existence
seems impossible. For instance, there are life forms that don't
even need light or food to survive. They consume chemicals,
like hydrogen sulfide, that bubble up from deep sea vents.
And these same features that make the ocean so wonderful,
their mystery and their otherworldliness, have actually worked
to the oceans' disadvantage now, because for many of us, the
oceans are sort of out of sight and out of mind, and we take
them for granted. Their inaccessibility has limited our
scientific exploration, and their vastness and power have made
them seem indestructible, with endlessly renewing resources.
So, we tend to forget the oceans are finite and vulnerable, and
that we all depend on them for our survival, and for our
completeness, regardless of where we live or what we eat.
The oceans generate most of our oxygen, they regulate our
climate, they provide most of our population with sustenance.
We cannot prosper unless the oceans prosper, too. And the
oceans are not prospering.
Unfortunately, one secret that the oceans have kept very
well is their sensitivity to carbon dioxide pollution.
Scientists have known for decades that when CO2
mixes with ocean water, it creates carbonic acid; but only
recently did we begin to realize that this growing quantity of
carbonic acid--what that would mean for ocean life. And, you
know, as you have seen in ``Acid Test,'' this new understanding
has many of the world's leading scientists deeply concerned.
So, what they say is that the oceans are 30 percent more
acidic today than they were during pre-industrial times, and if
we continue burning fossil fuels as we are now, we will
actually double the ocean's acidity by the end of this century.
And scientists believe that many organisms may not survive so
radical a shift in chemistry. Some of those organisms, certain
plankton and corals, for instance, which form the foundation of
ocean food webs, if they perish--and they are already
suffering; we have scientific data that is indisputable--what
happens to the hundreds of thousands of species further up the
food chain? What happens, then, to our shellfish, our oysters,
clams, and mussels that appear particularly vulnerable to ocean
Now, despite scientists' concern, this phenomenon of ocean
acidification was, until very recently, little known to the
public, certainly not known to myself. And that is the reason
``Acid Test'' was made, and certainly the reason I joined the
project, which Natural Resources Defense Council, an
organization whose work I have long admired, called and said,
``Will you participate in this?''
Now, despite the seriousness of this threat from ocean
acidification, there is cause for hope. And my hope, one that's
shared by millions of Americans, is that you, our legislators,
will put aside your differences and enact climate and energy
legislation that will move America to a clean energy economy,
an economy based on efficiency and renewable power that will
build a workable future for all living things.
In addition, lawmakers must help ocean ecosystems adapt to
the changes brought about by a warming climate and acidifying
oceans. To make the oceans more resilient to these changes, we
need to do a better job of keeping oceans healthy. That means
restoring depleted fish populations, protecting important
marine and coastal habitats, and reducing pollution,
particularly nutrient pollution, in the coastal zones.
Finally, it is critical in--critically important that our
Nation invest in research that will help us all better
understand the implications of ocean acidification, because
we're only now beginning to understand the changes that occur
in an increasingly acidic ocean world.
Having been in the movie ``Avatar,'' I know how
passionately people feel all over this country, and all over
the world; they want to preserve and protect our planet. This
is particularly true in our country, I think. It's not
considered a partisan issue for Americans. And we need your
leadership, we need your courage, and we need your willingness
The recent documentary series on our National Parks showed
how, time after time, with the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone and
the Adirondacks, it was our legislatures--legislators who had
the foresight and courage to save us from our own lack of
vision. The oceans are sending us a message, loud and clear:
Dirty fossil fuels are killing them, and time is running out.
We need you to listen and to lead.
Thank you for this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Weaver follows:]
Prepared Statement of Sigourney Weaver, Actress
My name is Sigourney Weaver and I am honored to appear before you
today, the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, to testify about ocean
acidification. I am here not as a scientific or policy expert, but as a
My father was a Navy man and the one requirement he had as I was
growing up, in terms of where we lived, is that we had to be within
sight of a body of salt water at all times. So I grew up listening to
foghorns at night and being chased by crabs by day. And I think like a
lot of us, I thought of the oceans as infinite and vast, and certainly
infinitely forgiving in terms of what we were doing to them. We now
know, of course, that that is not the case.
What I love about our oceans is the mystery of marine life. The
oceans contain so much life and variety and most of it is hidden from
our sight. A lot of it is--if you'll pardon the pun--alien to us. And
this makes the process of learning about the oceans and what lives in
them an unending series of surprises, a constant discovery of
The ocean is full of organisms that are so unlike anything we know
on land that their very existence seems impossible. For instance, there
are life-forms that don't need light or what we'd think of as food to
survive. They simply consume chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide, that
bubble up from deep sea vents.
These same features that make the ocean so wonderful--its mystery
and other worldliness--have actually worked to the oceans'
disadvantage, because for many of us, the oceans are out-of-sight and
out-of-mind. Their inaccessibility has limited our scientific
exploration, and their vastness and power have made them seem
indestructible, with endlessly renewing resources.
So we tend to forget that the oceans are both finite and
vulnerable, and that we all depend on them for our survival, regardless
of where we live or what we eat.
Organisms in the oceans generate most of our oxygen, the oceans
regulate our climate, and they provide a large portion of the world's
population with sustenance. We cannot prosper unless the ocean
prospers, too. And the oceans are not prospering.
Unfortunately, one secret the oceans have kept very well is their
sensitivity to carbon dioxide pollution. Scientists have known for
decades that when CO2 mixes with ocean water it creates an
acid; this is textbook chemistry. But only recently did they begin to
realize what this growing quantity of acid would mean for ocean life.
As you see in the film Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean
Acidification, this new understanding has some of the world's leading
ocean scientists deeply concerned.
What they say is this: the oceans are 30 percent more acidic today
than they were during pre-industrial times and, if we continue burning
fossil fuels as we are now, we will double the ocean's acidity by the
end of the century.
Now scientists fear many organisms may not survive so radical a
shift in chemistry. And some of those organisms--certain plankton and
corals, for instance--form the foundation of ocean food webs. If they
perish, what happens to the tens of thousands of species further up the
chain? What happens to our shellfish--our oysters, clams, mussels--that
appear particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification?
Despite scientists' concern, the phenomenon of ocean acidification
was, until very recently, little known to the public. That is the
reason the film Acid Test was made. And it is the reason I joined the
project when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an
organization whose work I have long admired, called.
Despite the seriousness of the threat from ocean acidification,
there is still cause for hope. My hope, one shared by millions of
Americans, is that you, our legislators, will put aside your
differences and enact climate and energy legislation that will move
America to a clean energy economy--an economy based on efficiency and
renewable power--that will build a workable future for all living
In addition, lawmakers must help ocean ecosystems adapt to the
changes brought about by a warming climate and acidifying oceans. To
make the oceans more resilient to these changes, we need to do a better
job of keeping the oceans healthy. That means restoring depleted fish
populations, protecting important marine and coastal habitats and
reducing pollution, including nutrient pollution, in the coastal zones.
Finally, it is critically important that our Nation invest in
research that will help us better understand the implications of ocean
acidification. We are only beginning to understand the changes that
could occur in an increasingly acidic ocean world.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my testimony today.
Senator Cantwell [presiding]. Thank you, Ms. Weaver. And
let me add my thanks to you for your leadership on this issue.
In Washington State, we have a statement, that
environmentalists make great ancestors. And----
Ms. Weaver. We hope.
Senator Cantwell.--I think that your--I think that your
stewardship is about helping us take care of the planet. So,
thank you for being here on Earth Day and for----
Ms. Weaver. Pleasure.
Senator Cantwell.--your active effort in helping to explain
this to the--to many people, who yet need to be convinced. So,
Mr. Ingram, we're going to turn to you and go right down
the line of our panelists, and then we'll go to questions.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS INGRAM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DIVING
EQUIPMENT AND MARKETING ASSOCIATION
Mr. Ingram. OK, thank you very much.
Good morning, Chair Cantwell, Ranking Member Snowe, members
of the Committee. I'm Tom Ingram, I am Executive Director of
the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, and I want to
thank you for the opportunity to testify on the potential
economic impacts of ocean acidification on the recreational
scuba and snorkeling industries.
DEMA is a nonprofit trade association, we represent dive
businesses worldwide. Our mission is to promote sustainable
growth in safe recreational diving and snorkeling while
protecting the underwater environment. So, we have a vested
interest in what's going on here today.
My testimony today will focus on several areas: the
dependence of the diving industry on a healthy marine
environment, now and for the future; the overall economic value
of recreational diving and snorkeling; how ocean acidification
could impact diving-related businesses; and then DEMA's ability
and desire to provide additional input as policies are
considered and crafted.
You know, divers, perhaps more than many, are very aware of
the need for a long-term sustainability of this resource; far
more than others, perhaps, because we see it firsthand every
time we go into the water. The health of the ocean directly and
immediately impacts our business, and without an appropriate
place to dive, there simply isn't a diving industry at all.
Divers, and diving professionals for that matter, are stewards
of the aquatic environment; they respect it, they want to
protect it. And DEMA itself, as a representative of the
industry, has been an advocate of appropriate legislation,
where science and economics indicated the need.
In the past, we've advocated reauthorization of the
National Marine Sanctuaries Act, we supported and commented on
the creation of marine life protection areas, we drafted the
2008 Ships To Reefs legislation in Florida to take pressure off
natural reefs by sinking retired ships as artificial reefs.
There are between 2.7 and 3.5 million active scuba divers
in the U.S., and about 6 million active scuba divers worldwide.
In that little chart that you all had up here earlier, we're
about a sliver, that big, we're very tiny. But, every year,
about 200,000 people become certified in the United States. And
by some estimates more than a million people worldwide try
diving under the direct supervision of a dive professional,
without ever becoming certified. All of these groups are
attracted to coral reefs, and all help support the diving
business. Any loss of access to dive sites, or the destruction
of coral reefs due to ocean acidification--or any other reason,
for that matter--are going to impact our industry in a number
of different ways.
Probably the most immediate is the loss of activity, which
equals the loss of jobs. In the U.S. there are about 92.5
million snorkel diver days per year and about 22.8 million
scuba diver days per year. U.S. economics studies show that
diving activity alone, just the activity itself, aside from
manufacturing and training and travel and retail and the diving
media, the activity itself is responsible for about 340,000
full-time equivalent jobs here in the U.S. We also contribute
about $11 billion to the gross domestic product through direct,
indirect, and induced revenue.
So, we have a contribution to make, as well, and I think,
beyond dollars and jobs, there's something that's very
important. Reefs have another value, and I like to call this a
``nonmarket value.'' And it's truly an economic value for
divers, because we like to see these reefs, and we like to see
them in an unharmed state. And that is our economic value.
Long-term, you can think of that nonmarket value as being
something that's giving me, giving my industry, the ability to
show these coral reefs to my children and to my grandchildren,
two of whom are sitting right here in the room today.
The loss of reefs through ocean acidification will impact
business, for sure; it will hit the human side of our business.
There are approximately 1800 retail dive centers in the United
States, there are about 200 DEMA member destinations around the
world; all of those could be lost if we were to lose our coral
reefs, because they all depend on them, to some extent.
And I think the challenge for this committee with regard to
ocean acidification, at least from our perspective, is finding
the balance of keeping these businesses viable while protecting
the oceans. We, at DEMA, believe we can assist in understanding
what that market value is, and what the nonmarket value is, of
these resources, and in finding the balance that allows
continued usage and access, but also helps protect the resource
and the businesses that are built around them. We can provide
you with firsthand information that could be helpful to the
We strongly support the economic and environmental
investigation of the effects of ocean acidification being
undertaken by this committee. We look forward to working with
Congress to develop a balanced approach between the immediate
economic business issues and the long-term health of the
critical coral reef and ocean resources.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to express the
diving industry's concerns regarding ocean acidification.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ingram follows:]
Prepared Statement of Thomas Ingram, Executive Director,
Diving Equipment and Marketing Association
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Senator Cantwell, and members of the
Committee. I am Tom Ingram, Executive Director of the Diving Equipment
and Marketing Association. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on
the potential economic impacts of ocean acidification on the
recreational scuba diving and snorkeling industries.
The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) is a non-
profit trade association (501 (c) 6) based in San Diego California,
representing the business and consumer interests of the recreational
scuba and snorkel diving industries all over the world. DEMA's mission
is to promote sustainable growth in safe recreational scuba diving and
snorkeling while protecting the underwater environment.
My testimony today will focus on the interest of snorkeling and
scuba diving participants in protecting and respectfully using the
marine environment while keeping it clean and healthy, on the economic
benefit of access to healthy dive sites for U.S. and international
recreational scuba diving and snorkeling interests, on job creation and
economic benefit to communities based on diving activity and access to
an attractive environment, and on the economic concerns of these
industries should such access be lost due to ocean acidification or for
any reason. I will also reiterate our industries' interest in
participating in and assisting with policy development and
implementation as such policies are considered.
Interest of Snorkelers and Scuba Divers in Protecting the Marine
DEMA strongly supports scientific and economic investigation to
determine the potential impacts of ocean acidification and looks
forward to working with Congress to ensure that the marine environment
remains clean and healthy, a viable place for continued diving consumer
use, and remains open to careful stewardship by diving businesses
around the world. We applaud Congress for scheduling this hearing as a
means of gathering information for such investigations.
The diving industry depends on continuing interaction with a
healthy marine environment for its very existence, and is aware of the
need for long term sustainability of these resources for all.
Consequently, the diving industry is dedicated to protecting the marine
environment for its own well-being and for the well-being of all. For
these reasons DEMA's mission statement includes an expressed
acknowledgment of the need for protecting the aquatic environmental.
Scuba divers and snorkelers are strong advocates for environmental
protection in part because they can observe first-hand the coastal
marine ecosystem, and can relate that information to friends, family
and acquaintances. Divers have long been concerned with the effects of
pollution and other potential sources of damage; whether from run-off
that originates from populated regions in proximity to diving areas,
from potential sources of CO2, or from other sources. Scuba
divers and snorkelers are stewards of a unique environment upon which
they depend for recreation and study. All ``certified'' scuba divers
today are educated to maintain proper buoyancy and positioning while
diving, which helps to prevent accidental damage to natural marine and
other aquatic resources. Many divers seek additional training to better
understand the complex nature of coral reef communities, fishery
resources and how to contribute to the knowledge base needed to monitor
and protect these environments. With their first-hand observation of
these protected areas, divers can and do encourage others to protect
The most active divers in the U.S. today participate in diving
activities in many areas of the country, including such locations as
the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, areas of California and
Hawaii, and other U.S. territories in the Caribbean and in the Pacific.
According to a study by the Professional Association of Diving
Instructors (PADI), 78 percent of divers travel to dive within 12
months of receiving their initial diver training and certification.
According to a 2006 and 2009 DEMA study, today's most active divers
fit the following profile:
Age--Between 38 and 53 years old--Mean: 45 Median: 46
76 percent are male
Household Income--56 percent make between $75,000 and
Occupation--80 percent are White-Collar/Professional/
Home ownership--93 percent own their own home
Mortgage amount--Median of $148,000
Marital Status--71 percent married
Presence and age of children--17 percent have kids under 18
Generally an affluent demographic such as described above is
concerned with the environment and with the sustainable use of natural
resources (Source: Murch, Arvin. 1971. ``Public Concern for
Environmental Pollution.'' Public Opinion Quarterly 35:100-106). The
environmental concerns of divers are consistent with this study.
A 2003 study by Flexo, Hiner and Partners (FHP), which included
divers and non-divers in the age range of 20 to 59, indicated that 81
percent participate in aquatic activities because they wish to be
``closer to nature.'' In addition, a 2005 study by Knowledge Networks
indicates that adults within this demographic (age 41-59) are attracted
to ``Adventure Activities'' indicating an affinity for nature or ``eco-
related'' activities (See Exhibit B).
Scuba divers and snorkelers regularly participate in such
activities as underwater photography, observing and counting fish,
reporting environmental concerns to state and Federal authorities, and
participating in beach and submerged coastal clean-up activities. Non-
profit, U.S.-based organizations, such as The Reef Environmental
Education Foundation (REEF), the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), and the
Project AWARE Foundation provide many opportunities for divers and
others to understand more about reefs, ecosystem management,
sustainable tourism, and how to become effective environmental
advocates. To date for example, REEF has involved divers in more than
118,000 surveys of aquatic life, contributing to the knowledge base in
areas of fish populations and invasive species. During almost two
decades, Project AWARE Foundation has completed thousands of beach and
underwater clean-up activities involving divers and non-divers with an
interest in protecting the marine and aquatic environments.
A study by Knowledge Networks in 2005 indicated there are 60
million active travelers vacationing specifically for outdoor
activities, one-third of which are over the age of 45. The Outdoor
Industry Association Foundation indicates that adults with similar
demographic characteristics as those of the most active divers are
predisposed to water-related activities on vacation. This
predisposition appears to be related to their desire to observe the
diversity of marine environments accessible first-hand only to divers
and snorkelers, and helps explain the attraction of diving to the
described adult population. In fact, some organizations use this
environmental concern as a means of promoting diving and attracting new
In conclusion of this point, divers and diving professionals, and
all of those connected with the diving industry actively observe and
protect the environment on which they depend for recreation, and for
their livelihoods. Perhaps John J. Cronin, one of the founders of PADI
said it best, ``If divers do not take an active role in preserving the
aquatic realm, who will?''
Economic Impact of Access to Healthy Dive Sites: the Economics of
Recreational Diving and Snorkeling
There are approximately 2.7 to 3.5 million active divers in the
U.S. alone, with estimates as high as 6 million worldwide. According to
Understanding the Potential Economic Impact of SCUBA Diving and
Snorkeling: California (2006), Linwood H. Pendleton, Associate
Professor, Environmental Science and Engineering Program at the
University of California, Los Angeles, estimated that by 2010 there
would be about 11 million snorkelers in the US. PADI estimates that
there are some 20 million snorkelers worldwide.
Leeworthy and Wiley estimate that about 5.07 percent of the U.S.
population participates in snorkeling (approximately 11 million) and
they participate at the rate of 92.5 million diver-days annually.
Leeworthy and Wiley further estimate that 1.35 percent of the U.S.
population participates in scuba diving (about 2.79 million) at the
rate of 22.8 million diver-days annually (See Exhibit F).
A 2006 DEMA study indicated that divers remain active in the sport
for a long time. Studies indicate that divers have a participation
``half-life'' of about 5 years. That is, some 5 years after receiving
their initial training and diver ``certification,'' about 50 percent of
the diver population will have discontinued their diving activity.
Approximately 5 years later an additional 50 percent of the initial
diver population will cease or reduce diving activities, and so on. In
the U.S. about 200,000 new divers are trained and certified each year.
Interestingly, many ``divers'' never actually become ``certified.''
A large number (by some estimates more than one million globally)
participate in ``try diving'' experiences. These individuals are under
the direct supervision of a diving professional, and though they never
complete a certification course, they nonetheless participate in diving
activities, many on living coral reefs in the ocean. They are therefore
impacted by potential environmental degradation such as ocean
Recreational scuba divers and snorkelers contribute to U.S. and
international tourism revenue by purchasing dive trips, equipment and
other diving-related items, and by spending on ancillary items such as
hotels, food, fuel, air, water and ground transportation, and other
items while traveling to local and distant dive destinations. Divers
contribute to sales tax revenues for local counties, municipalities and
states, and to Federal and state tax revenues through the creation of
diving tourism-related jobs.
Divers visit natural and artificial reefs, as well as other bodies
of water to observe natural or man-made structures. Recreational diving
is, therefore, possible under a variety of conditions and in a variety
of locations. Most are attracted to clear warm water, and natural coral
reefs and clean ocean environments play a key role in developing the
``market value'' of these diving experiences.
Natural Reefs: Trade and Industry Value Including Snorkeling and Scuba
Numerous individual economic studies have contributed to the
economic picture of recreational diving and the value of natural reefs
in terms of usage, tourism revenue, goods and services, and shoreline
protection. Several of these are cited here.
Overall Reef Value
According to Coral Reef Ecosystems Value: Enhancing Resilient
Communities presented during Capitol Hill Ocean Week, June 4, 2008,
Billy D. Causey, Ph.D., Regional Director, Southeast Region, National
Marine Sanctuaries (See Exhibit C--Florida Coral Reefs Recreational
Use), natural coral reefs contribute some $375 billion in goods and
services annually to the world. Rodney V. Salm, PhD in his
presentation, Taking the Heat in Tropical Seas (also for Capitol Hill
Ocean Week, June 4, 2008) indicated that the average value of coral
reefs was estimated to be about $813,000/sq. mile for recreational use,
food, jobs and other services combined.
A 2002 study of Hawaii estimated the value of that state's coral
reefs at $364 million. It was noted in this same presentation that
reefs provided shoreline protection that would otherwise cost an
estimated $400,000 to $24 million/mile. In the Caribbean, shoreline
protection provided by coral reefs is valued between $0.7 billion and
Clearly, natural reefs have a significant impact on local and state
economies in the U.S. as well as providing cost savings in terms of
Value of Recreational Divers and Snorkelers Attracted to Natural Reefs
Recreational divers, snorkelers, fishers, and others are attracted
by the presence and accessibility of coral reefs, making them a
significant part of diving tourist and travel promotional strategies.
In the March 2003 An Assessment of the Socio-Economic Impact of the
Sinking of the HMS Scylla the South West Regional Economy Centre at the
University of Plymouth indicated that for every 10,000 diver days,
three full time equivalent (FTE) jobs were created, half of which were
direct (associated directly with diving) and half of which were
indirect (associated with hotels, restaurants and other tourist and
service employers). This same study indicates a contribution to the GDP
of approximately 669,000 (US$1,027,800) for every 10,000
diver-days (See Exhibit E).
A 2000 report from the World Resources Institute indicates that
coral reefs in the Caribbean alone contribute $2.1 billion for dive-
specific tourism. This same presentation recorded more than 8.80
million visitor-days in Florida annually by snorkelers and scuba
divers. The annual direct economic value of coral reefs to world
tourism is estimated at some $9.6 billion.
A study of Martin County Florida published in 2004 indicates that
snorkeling on Martin County reefs generates about $465,000 in annual
expenditures within the county, of which one-half are spent on boat,
oil, and gas. Scuba diving on Martin County reefs generates about
$672,000 in annual expenditures within the county of which about one-
half is spent on boat, oil, and gas. For all activities combined, the
use of natural reefs generates $6,886,000 in annual expenditures within
the county. Total annual reef-related expenditures, including natural
and artificial reefs, are estimated at $12,000,000.
According to the Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Southeast Florida
(October 2001, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in association with
Florida State University), reef-related expenditures generated over
$4.395 billion in sales in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe
Counties combined, during the 12-month period from June 2000 to May
2001. These sales resulted in generating $2.047 billion in income to
Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe County residents during the
same time period. During the same period, reef-related expenditures
provided 71,300 full and part-time jobs in these four southeast Florida
counties. Two-thirds of the economic contribution was associated with
natural reef-related expenditures in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach
Counties, 75 percent of the economic contribution was associated with
natural reefs in Monroe County, and about fifty percent was associated
with natural reefs in Broward County (See Exhibit A--Economic
Contribution of Reef-Related Expenditures in Four Florida Counties).
It should be clear that recreational diving and snorkeling
contribute significantly to tourism-related businesses, in addition to
the revenue contribution from diving activities derived directly by
diving-related businesses. It should also be clear that recreational
diving and snorkeling generate jobs in many different sectors, some of
which are highly specialized, requiring extensive training.
Economic Concerns of Recreational Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Regarding Loss of Coral Reefs or Coral Reef Access Due to Ocean
The recreational diving industry is dependent on the availability
of quality diving and snorkeling sites, and this economic dependency
extends to hotels, restaurants, marinas and other businesses associated
with coastal and coral reef diving activities.
As noted, it is estimated that three full time equivalent (FTE)
jobs are created for every additional 10,000 diver-days. With
approximately 115 million combined snorkeling and scuba diver-days
annually in the U.S. alone, it is projected that such recreational
diving activity, through direct and indirect contributions, delivers
about $11 billion to the U.S. annual GDP (See Exhibits E and F) and
creates more than 340,000 FTE jobs.
The Effects of Ocean Acidification and the Human Side of Coral Reef
There are approximately 1,800 retail dive centers in the United
States, most offering diving instruction, diving equipment sales and
rental, providing clean filtered breathing air, and often selling dive
travel (for a complete listing of retail dive store fronts, see
www.BeADiver.com). There are more than 200 international destination
DEMA members, many of which depend almost solely on healthy coral reefs
to attract scuba divers and snorkelers.
These businesses are the ``customer interface'' for the diving
industry. They are the conduit by which diving equipment manufacturers,
training organizations, the media and travel access potential diving
consumers. All of these (typically larger) businesses depend to some
extent on the retail dive center or its Internet equivalent. Without
retail stores and tourist diving destinations, the industry cannot
easily reach customers and the scuba and snorkel diving industries
Many of these retail businesses are small or micro-businesses, most
are independently owned and operated, and many are family operations,
providing household income which puts children through school, buys
homes, and feeds and clothes the entire family. These businesses are
also job centers for specialized and highly trained professionals such
as diving instructors, underwater photographers, biologists, aspiring
writers, life-support service technicians, Coast Guard-licensed vessel
captains, and a variety of others.
Undoubtedly, losing coral reefs due to ocean acidification, or
losing access to coral reefs for any reason would be economically
detrimental to the recreational scuba and snorkeling industries in the
U.S. and in every nation or territory that enjoys access to these
natural wonders. Such loss would be devastating to members of the
diving community and their families, and would place an economic burden
on the coastal communities which depend on recreational diving and
snorkeling for their livelihood.
Research and Policies
By investigating both the economic and environmental impacts of
ocean acidification, the Congress is being appropriately cautious and
prudent in their actions. The recreational scuba diving and snorkeling
industries could be detrimentally impacted by regulatory policies that
create more immediate cost or reduction of access when such policies
may be unnecessary or overly burdensome. In times of economic downturn
the recreational diving industries experience many of the same
circumstances as do other small recreational businesses; reduced
revenue, fewer new customers, and less overall participation. According
to a recent CNBC article (Survey: Pilates Exploding, Darts & Billiards
Plummeting, published Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010), this reduced participation
is common to many other water-related activities, ``Water sports are
almost toxic. Since 2000, jet skiing (down 18.5 percent), scuba diving
(36.7 percent) and water skiing (44.5 percent) have seen massive
To introduce regulation without the critical research input that
this Congress is now sensibly seeking may adversely impact these
industries during the first fragile part of the economic recovery. By
understanding more about the economics of ocean acidification on the
diving industries, and on the families that participate in these
businesses, it should be possible to balance the long term
environmental needs of the oceans and reefs, with the more immediate
concerns of those that help their customers enjoy the ocean
Since its inception DEMA as an organization has worked for the
betterment of the environmentally sensitive resources on which our
industries depend, while balancing the needs of diving businesses, and
encouraging diving consumers to further protect these resources. Our
efforts to protect the ocean, create jobs and recruit additional
stewards for oceans and coral reefs have been enhanced by programs such
as our Ships 2 Reefs program, providing information to those who would
create environmentally safe artificial reefs. Using retired ships,
carefully submerged in appropriate locations, takes fishing and diving
pressure off natural reefs and helps increase aquatic life populations.
DEMA's efforts resulted in the Ships 2 Reefs legislation enacted in
Florida in 2008. DEMA has also been privileged to advocate for the
reauthorization of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and comment on
establishment of Marine Life Protected Areas, as well as other efforts
to protect the underwater environment. We openly offer our assistance
in understanding the economics of these industries or in other ways
that make the most sense to this committee.
Suggestions from the Recreational Scuba and Snorkeling Industries
DEMA applauds the Congress for their efforts and recognition that
there is a need for additional economic and environmental investigation
with regard to impacts of ocean acidification or other factors which
might limit or prevent access to natural coral reefs. DEMA suggests
that such economic and environmental investigations should:
1. include input from all user groups
2. provide for a clear balance between the long-term
environmental health and of this critical resource and the
immediate economic issues such as access limitations and
regulations that impact the industry and the cost to
participate in diving
The Diving Industry's Interest in Continued Participation in the
Economic Investigation of the Effects of Ocean Acidification
DEMA and the recreational scuba diving and snorkeling industries
appreciate the opportunity to be included in this economic discussion
regarding the effects of ocean acidification. As the trade association
for the recreational diving industries, DEMA has a strong interest in
additional and continuing opportunities to contribute suggestions and
ideas with regard to policy considerations and related activities.
In closing, DEMA strongly supports the economic and environmental
investigation of the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs
being undertaken by this committee. The recreational scuba diving and
snorkeling industries can continue to be a formidable instrument in
this committee's toolbox for discovering, reporting, studying and
evaluating the impact of ocean acidification by providing first-hand
information in areas such as coral reefs status, fish counts and other
observable areas. DEMA willingly offers its assistance in these areas
and looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that there remains
a balance of consideration between the immediate economic issues and
the long term health of the critical coral reef and ocean resources.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer my thoughts on how the
diving industry could be economically impacted by ocean acidification.
Exhibit A--Economic Contribution of Reef-Related Expenditures in Four
Southeast Florida Counties
Economic Contribution of Reef-Related Expenditures to Each County
June 2000 to May 2001--Residents and Visitors
Type of Economic Palm Beach Broward Miami-Dade Monroe
Contribution County County County County
Sales--All Reefs (in $505 $2,069 $1,297 $490
millions of 2,000
Artificial Reefs $148 $961 $419 $127
Natural Reefs $357 $1,108 $878 $363
Income--All Reefs (in $194 $1,049 $614 $139
millions of 2,000
Artificial Reefs $52 $502 $195 $33
Natural Reefs $142 $547 $419 $106
Employment--All Reefs 6,300 36,000 19,000 10,000
(number of full- and
Artificial Reefs 1,800 17,000 6,000 2,000
Natural Reefs 4,500 19,000 13,000 8,000
Source: Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Southeast Florida, Johns,
Leeworthy, Bell, Bonn
Exhibit B--Top 10 Adventure Activities of Adult Travelers
Top 10 Adventure Activities on the ``Most Adventurous Trip'' for adults
age 41 to 59:
1. Hiking/backpacking/rock and mountain climbing
2. Escorted or guided tour
4. Camping (tent)
5. Fresh or saltwater fishing
6. Horseback riding (tied for 6th)
6. Biking (tied for 6th)
7. Whitewater rafting/kayaking
9. RV camping
10. Scuba diving
Source: 2005 Travel Survey, Knowledge Networks
Exhibit C--Florida Coral Reefs Recreational Use
Recreational Use of Coral Reefs in Florida
Snorkeling 4.24 million visitor days
Scuba Diving 4.56 million visitor days
Fishing 9.72 million visitor days
Glass-bottom Boats 0.12 million visitor days
TOTAL 18.64 million visitor days
Ref: Dr. Vernon R. Leeworthy, Chief Economist, Office of National Marine
Exhibit D--Recreational value of coral reefs in Hawaii in 2001 (US
Value Added of
Consumer Direct Value Added of Indirect Multiplier Total Value
Surplus Expenditure Expenditure Effect Added
Residents 10,053,899 2,318,704 -- 579,676 12,952,279
U.S. West 47,833,826 20,882,055 23,136,504 11,004,640 102,857,025
U.S. East 33,174,006 14,482,250 20,450,444 8,733,174 76,839,874
Japan 13,340,508 5,823,854 2,189,058 2,003,228 23,356,648
Canada 5,236,964 2,286,218 3,587,133 1,468,338 12,578,653
Europe 3,809,326 1,662,977 2,246,766 977,436 8,696,505
Other 11,782,791 5,143,826 6,794,101 2,984,482 26,705,200
Subtotal 125,231,322 52,599,883 58,404,007 27,750,973 263,986,183
Residents 3,450,231 5,137,088 -- 1,284,272 9,871,591
U.S. West 1,588,179 3,152,878 3,545,777 1,674,664 9,961,498
U.S. East 1,101,444 2,186,603 3,134,126 1,330,182 7,752,355
Japan 1,255,768 2,492,969 2,710,742 1,300,928 7,760,407
Canada 173,878 345,185 549,745 223,733 1,292,541
Europe 126,477 251,085 344,327 148,853 870,742
Other 391,212 776,641 1,041,228 454,467 2,663,548
Subtotal 8,087,190 14,342,448 11,325,946 6,417,099 40,172,682
Total Recreational Value
Residents 13,504,130 7,455,792 -- 1,863,948 22,823,870
U.S. West 49,422,006 24,034,932 26,682,281 12,679,303 112,818,522
U.S. East 34,275,450 16,668,853 23,584,570 10,063,356 84,592,229
Japan 14,596,276 8,316,823 4,899,800 3,304,156 31,117,055
Canada 5,410,842 2,631,403 4,136,878 1,692,070 13,871,193
Europe 3,935,804 1,914,062 2,591,094 1,126,289 9,567,249
Other 12,174,003 5,920,467 7,835,329 3,438,949 29,368,748
Total 133,318,511 66,942,331 69,729,953 34,168,071 304,158,866
Multiplier effect: The total economic contribution of the reefs of Hawaii includes the contribution of reef
expenditures to sales, income and employment. Expenditures by visitors generate income and jobs within
industries that supply reef-related goods and services, such as charter/party boat operations, restaurants and
hotels. These industries are called direct industries. In addition the visitor expenditures create multiplier
effects wherein additional income and employment is created as the income earned by the reef related
industries and their employees, is re-spent in the local economy. These additional effects of reef-related
expenditures are called indirect and induced. Indirect effects are generated as the reef-related industries
purchase goods and services from other industries locally. Induced effects are created when the employees of
the direct and indirect spend their money locally.
Exhibit E--The Impact of Scylla on the South West Economy with
Projected U.S. GDP
The Impact of Scylla on the South West Economy
Extra Diver Days U.S. Diver-Days
2500 5000 7500 10000
Direct 3.9 7.7 11.6 15.5
Indirect 3.5 7.1 10.6 14.2 Projected U.S.
Total 7.4 14.8 22.2 29.7
Direct 66,060 132,120 198,180 264,240
Indirect 101,275 202,551 303,826 405,102
Total 167,335 334,671 502,006 669,342
TOTAL Contribution to Projected U.S. GDP
(Direct and Indirect)
Exhibit F--Participation in SCUBA and Snorkeling Recreation (2000)
Number of Participants Number of Days
Participation Rate (%)* (millions)* (millions)***
Snorkeling 5.07 10.46 92.5
Scuba Diving 1.35 2.79 22.8
Snorkeling 0.34 0.71 3.818
Scuba Diving 0.14 0.29 1.383
From Leeworthy and Wiley (2001), *Percent of the U.S. population that participated in the activity, **Number of
participants is equal to the participation rate multiplied by the non-institutionalized population 16-years or
older in all households in the U.S. as of September 1999, ***The number of days the respondents participated
in each activity over a year. Note figures from top to bottom of table differ due to the use of different base
population levels in each report.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Mr. Ingram. And we have a lot
of diving in the Northwest, although people don't believe that,
because they think it's dark and cold waters, but they are----
Mr. Ingram. It's beautiful there.
Senator Cantwell. Yes, right off--right where I live, in
Mr. Ingram. Oh, you bet.
Senator Cantwell.--there is a big underground city that
people dive to, so----
Mr. Ingram. We're very privileged to see all of that stuff
that you saw in the video, firsthand.
Senator Cantwell.--yes, thank you.
Mr. Waters, welcome. We look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF DONALD A. WATERS,
COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN, PENSACOLA, FLORIDA
Mr. Waters. Good evening. Thank you, Chair Cantwell,
Ranking Member Snowe. And I also want to thank the Senators of
the Gulf State regions for my support and their hard work to
promote sustainable fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.
I have been a fisherman owner-operator for most of my life
in reef fishing--better part of four decades. My home port is
in Pensacola, Florida. I currently fish for red snapper and
king mackerel. I've also participated in other fisheries in the
Gulf of Mexico, and I also participate in stock-assessment
panels for red snapper and king mackerel.
In this business, we have to keep our eyes open and be
prepared to what we meet on the ocean. In my opinion, this is
something that's unseen as we have our battles amongst the
commercial fishermen on how we want to do policy, catch shares,
no-catch shares, this, that. And this seems to be something
that has been put on the back burner by a lot of the commercial
fishermen, but it seems to be really creeping up on us. And it
was my first eye opener, when I came up last December to
testify in front of some of my Senators on some of the changes
in Magnuson-Stevens. And I met Mark Wiegardt, from Oregon, and
his oyster hatchery there, and got to talking to him, and he
was telling me how the oysters were just dying off from
acidification. And I--you know, I just kind of said, ``Well, if
that's really going on in a closed-loop circuit, what's really
going on in the wild?'' So, it really got my attention.
So, the more that I thought about it and started
investigating and started reading up on it, I learned things,
you know, about what is really happening in the wild, what is
happening to the food for our commercial fin fish. This
acidification could just totally devastate the food chain,
therefore we would lose our main fin fish that we harvest for
the customers of the United States. These are the citizens,
they own a part of this resource.
So, I--it just upset me dearly. And I know I'm kind of
talking behind everybody that's a whole lot more speaker, but
this is just--to me, this is just a----
Senator Cantwell. Mr. Waters?
Senator Cantwell. Mr. Waters, I think you're actually
stealing the show. You're doing such----
Mr. Waters. Yes, I mean--[Laughter.]
Mr. Waters.--as you can all tell, I'm a commercial
fisherman, not a public speaker. But, this is just--to me,
would be totally upsetting. It would just totally destroy our
economic survival--I mean, in a whole nationwide capacity.
The--it's just--the whole bearing of it is just incomparable. I
mean, it's just something that you can't imagine. If you
could--if you lost the jobs, the men, the boats--it's just--I
mean, it--to me, it's just--you can't even speak of the
devastation that our country would be facing if our oceans
turned, more or less, into poison.
I mean, I know that this is basically off of my written
testimony, but it just really takes--just really takes it to my
heart. And I'm speaking with passion, I'm speaking from my
heart. And I know my fellow fishermen, sometimes we compete--we
compete hard in the fields, and we--you know, it's a
competitive--but, this is something that we have to join hands
with, and we have to move forward with, and we have to get a
hold of. We need to move forward and try to protect, because
this is something that we do need to fight over; this is
something that we need to join up with and move forward with.
And my opinion is that this is something that we need to be
proactive on, and not reactive to something after it's too
And I'm sorry that I really can't sit here and stay
straight to my written testimony. My written testimony's from
the heart, too. But, when I start speaking--I'm sorry I have to
speak with such passion, because this is a devastating ghost
lurking in the shadows that would just totally devastate our
economy in this country. Because without the shores and the
beaches and the restaurants, the--I mean, it would just change
our whole lives. We would be--I mean, I can't even explain it.
I mean, you could use your imagination, and it takes you to
Mr. Ingram. It sure does.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Waters follows:]
Prepared Statement of Donald A. Waters, Commercial Fisherman,
Chair Cantwell, Ranking Member Snowe, and members of the Committee,
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony of my
concerns about ocean acidification and its possible effect on fisheries
in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. waters. And I would also like to
express my appreciation for all the support that I have received in the
past from my Gulf State Senators. It has been a privilege to work
together to keep our fisheries sustainable.
I have been an owner-operator fisherman for most of my life, reef
fishing for the better part of four decades. My home port is Pensacola,
Florida. I currently fish for red snapper and king mackerel but have
also worked the waters of the Gulf of Mexico for others species. People
need to work hard on and off the water to keep our fisheries
sustainable, so I am heavily involved in the fisheries management
process, participating on both the red snapper and king mackerel
In this business we have to keep our eyes and ears open. When an
issue comes up that could affect my fishery and livelihood, I learn
everything I can about it. That's what I've done since I first heard
about ocean acidification.
I don't pretend to be an expert on ocean acidification but I do
know this problem is real, and we need to get on top of it. I first got
word of ocean acidification not long ago, in December 2009, when I was
in D.C. to talk with my Senators and Representatives about proposed
changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I ran into a group of fishermen
and shellfish growers who were in D.C. to talk to their Senators about
One of the shellfish growers I met was Mark Wiegardt from the
Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts, Oregon. Three or four
years ago, for no apparent reason, the oyster larvae that Mark grows
for a living started dying in the first few days of their lives. The
usual culprits, like marine bacterial infections, turned out to be
innocent this time. After a few years of major larvae die-offs and
barely staying in business, scientists working with Mark and his
partners correlated the die-offs with upwelling deep water that is
acidified by high concentrations of CO2. For juvenile
oysters, the water was corrosive, and larvae simply couldn't survive in
The other people in the group I met in December were mostly
fishermen from Washington and Alaska. They saw the problem of larval
shellfish die-offs as a canary in a coal mine. It was a problem to get
ahead of before it expanded to their fisheries. If the seawater that
was pumped into the hatchery from the ocean was killing the oyster
larvae, what was going on in the wild? Wild larval shellfish and other
tiny marine plants and animals are the food source for most
commercially important finfish in their juvenile stages of life. The
way these fishermen saw it, less food for juvenile fish would mean
fewer adult fish to catch. Sometimes it doesn't take much to push a
stock below the threshold for commercial production. No fish means no
fishermen. I started to consider fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and
how ocean acidification might affect us.
I have learned since I started looking into ocean acidification
Research shows that CO2 emissions from burning of
fossil fuels and other man made sources of CO2 are
absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere. In the ocean, the
CO2 reacts to form carbonic acid. The acid changes
the ocean's chemistry.
As a fisherman I can tell you that a lot of us aren't sure
where we stand on climate change, but ocean acidification is
real. It has been documented by researchers all over the world
and there is no doubt that the pH of the ocean is dropping,
becoming more acidic. Measurement show that the open ocean, on
average, is about 30 percent more acidic today than it was
before the Industrial Revolution. In some places, like the West
coast, local factors compound that change in seawater. With
upwelling or the kind of conditions that produce nutrient-
driven hypoxia like we get in the Gulf of Mexico, seawater can
become corrosive to some of the fish and shellfish and to the
species they eat.
Mixing CO2 into seawater doesn't just make it
more acidic. The carbonic acid from CO2 changes a
lot of the ocean's chemistry. For one thing, it reduces the
availability of nutrients in seawater that clams, oysters,
crabs, lobsters; corals need to build and maintain their shells
and skeletons. They absorb nutrients from the seawater. The
increased acidity depletes those nutrients. That makes it
harder (and sometimes impossible) for a lot of these shell-
builders to survive.
Even small changes in the ocean's chemistry can disrupt the
marine food web and cause trouble for fish higher in feeding
order. For fishermen to make a living, we need fish stocks that
are abundant and dense enough so we can harvest them
Cold water absorbs more CO2 than warm water. The
oceans in high latitude places like Alaska are more acidic than
the warmer waters nearer the equator.
For a lot of species, it looks like they are most vulnerable
in early life, especially their larval stages.
Even adult shellfish, corals and other calcifiers show
slower rates of shell building, diminished reproduction, muscle
wastage, and other problems when exposed to acidified seawater.
What does ocean acidification mean for fisheries in the Gulf of
In the Gulf of Mexico, we already experience serious impacts from
the dead zones that are usually attributed to hypoxia. The coastal
communities that rely on the shrimp and oyster industries and fishing
are beginning to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane
Katrina and the other storms that followed on her heels. New management
tools that fishermen and managers put in place have helped to rebuild
fish stocks. The last thing we need is to have our recovery efforts
threatened by something we didn't even see coming.
I have invested a lot of my time and money to participate in reef
fishing. I don't go out to sea unprepared for whatever might come up
while I am on the water. Right now I feel like those of us in the Gulf
States have no idea what we may be up against with ocean acidification.
So far, it looks like there isn't much research yet on this problem in
the Gulf I found out about one study by USGS that's meant to create
baseline data on ocean chemistry for the West Florida shelf. That's a
start, but it's not enough. We ought to be monitoring the Gulf so we
can recognize changes when they come our way. For instance, if this is
affecting coral, we need to know. We need healthy reefs to have a
healthy reef fishery.
Commercial fishing and the shellfish industry in the Gulf of Mexico
are not only important to the fishermen and the coastal communities
that they live in. Inland regions of the Gulf States also receive the
benefits of the seafood industry. I offload fish in both Florida and
Louisiana so let's consider the State of Louisiana. Commercial
saltwater fishing has a dockside value of $264.9 million in Louisiana.
Once that seafood leaves the fishing boat, hits the dock and gets into
distribution that dockside value turns into retail sales of $1.8
billion with a total economic impact that is ripples out to $2.3
billion. Shellfish and commercial fishing support 26,345 jobs from the
dock to inland in Louisiana. Every person who touches that fish from
ocean to plate sees the economic benefit. The state and local tax
revenues that result from the seafood industry are $166.9 million in
Louisiana. These numbers show that commercial fishing and the shellfish
industry play a big part in the providing jobs and a viable economy in
If the fisheries of the Gulf States went away the impact would be
felt nationwide. The money from our healthy fisheries works its way
through marinas, repair shops, gas stations, fish gear shops, grocery
stores, lodging, seafood restaurants--the list goes on. So you can see
a lot of people have an economic interest in keeping our fisheries
strong. And we haven't even considered the revenue and jobs from
recreational fishing or the saltwater tourist industry with people who
want to walk on beaches or dive on reefs.
I've talked about the Gulf of Mexico because that is where I work,
where I live, and what I know. The 2008 edition NOAA's annual document
called ``Fisheries of the United States'' looked at fisheries landings
and how the value is amplified as our catch moves from the fisherman to
the consumer. Nationwide, the revenues swell from the dock to the
Fishermen $4.5 billion
Processors $7.6 billion
Exporters $23.4 billion
Importers $28.5 billion
U.S. commercial marine fisheries industry $35 billion
(producing and marketing fishery products for domestic and
Consumers: $69.8 billion (about two thirds in food service
venues, one third in stores)
Fishing is a way of life for me and a whole lot of other people
from coast to coast. Fish and shellfish provide jobs and food. The
ocean that makes all this possible needs to be taken care of. People
are seeing changes on the water and we don't yet know why. Without
increased research and monitoring we are not going to find out if ocean
acidification is eating our lunch. Looking the other way and hoping for
the best is not the way I respond to challenges to my livelihood. It's
not the way we should respond as a country, either. I think that it
would better to be proactive than reactive.
I want to thank the Chair and members of this subcommittee for
taking a good hard look at this problem and how it might affect the
country. In closing I hope that you can supply adequate funding for
monitoring and research on ocean acidification. Let's keep our eyes
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Mr. Waters.
Mr. Waters. Thank you, ma'am.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you for that testimony. It's very--
we appreciate it very much.
Senator Cantwell. And I think that you are right, it takes
that passion to convince people. And you're right, it's
unfathomable what would happen. And I thank you for delving
into it, and understanding, and for bringing a real face and
passion to that issue. So, we thank you.
STATEMENT OF JAMES P. BARRY, Ph.D., SENIOR SCIENTIST,
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM RESEARCH INSTITUTE (MBARI)
AND MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON DEVELOPMENT OF AN
INTEGRATED SCIENCE STRATEGY FOR OCEAN
ACIDIFICATION MONITORING, RESEARCH, AND IMPACTS
ASSESSMENT, NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL,
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Dr. Barry. Sometimes you just have to stand up and shout
because things are changing. And I hope that the science about
ocean acidification is incorrect, actually; but there are so
many unknowns with this that we're not sure about how it will
translate into ecosystems services. In many cases, it looks a
little bit scary. But, it's nice to have passion about issues.
Now I'll start my testimony.
Good morning, Madam Chair, Ranking Member Snowe, and
members of the Committee. My name is Jim Barry. I'm a marine
biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute,
where we perform research and development--technology
development for important issues in ocean science.
Today, I'm going to highlight some information concerning
ocean acidification based on research from myself and others,
and then touch briefly on the report summary that was released
today from the National Research Council's Committee on Ocean
Carbon dioxide emissions are now being absorbed in the
ocean's surface at a massive rate. Roughly 1 million tons per
hour enter the sea surface, leading to higher CO2
levels, increased acidity, and reduced levels of calcium
carbonate minerals that are important to the formation of
shells and skeletons by a wide variety of marine organisms.
Changes that we expect to occur by the end of this century
as ocean acidification intensifies will be the largest and most
rapid shift in ocean chemistry thought to have occurred for
many millions of years, if the science is right about this.
Ocean acidification does not affect ecosystems directly, it
affects individual marine organisms. And marine organisms faced
with ocean acidification, or other environmental stresses,
respond based on physiological adaptations that have been
developed throughout their evolutionary history. They may
respond by acclimation, adaptation, or extinction.
Individuals may acclimate to new conditions by adjusting
their physiology a bit. Over generations, adaptation may allow
species to tolerate new conditions. If not, generate--or,
extinction is the only other option. The ability to acclimate,
or adapt, is expected to vary greatly among organisms and among
habitats in the oceans.
Several physiological functions are affected by ocean
acidification. Photosynthesis, calcification, the formation of
these skeletons, acid-based balance of our internal tissues,
and metabolic rates are--as well as respiration rates--are all
important processes that can be affected by environmental
stress of any kind. Some photosynthetic species exposed to
ocean acidification may benefit, but many animals may be
stressed by these higher CO2 levels.
Can I have the first slide, please?
On this graph, I'd like to talk about changes in
physiological performance and how they play out with
environmental stress, because they have consequences for
individuals that then play out through the food web.
So, this is just a simple pie diagram, on the left, that
shows how much we're spending, or how much an organism spends
on taking care of its body; the cost of living, you might think
about it. And you can think of this as the same as a household
budget; that cost of living is just as much as, maybe, how much
we pay for rent. And when we have an income we pay for rent,
the rest of it goes to education and toys. And for animals it
goes to growth and reproduction.
Now, if our cost of living goes up, the rent goes up, we
just can't buy as many toys. But, for an individual organism
that's more stressed, if it has to spend more energy taking
care of its body, there's less energy for growth and
reproduction. Now, for that individual what happens is, it may
grow more slowly, it may reach a smaller size, and it may die
earlier. And that translates, through the population, to a
lower abundance of those sorts of animals in the ocean, maybe a
lower productivity for the food chain up above it, as well as a
greater likelihood of extinction of that species.
Next slide, please.
Ecosystem performance--for example, how many fish actually
are taken by humans or make it up to the top of the food
chain--depends upon the flow of energy through food webs. Any
change in the abundance or loss of key species due to
environmental stress can disrupt this flow of energy and
degrade ecosystem performance. So, if we start pulling out
important species in this food web, maybe we can do that for
awhile, but as we lose too many, you can collapse that. And
if--in extreme cases, this can lead to ecological tipping
points; for example, the failure of a fishery.
Next slide, please.
There is much we can learn from Earth history. This is a
slide of the number of animals on Earth from 542 million years
ago to the present, starting from right to left. And those
black arrows point out where we've had mass extinctions on
CO2 levels have been much, much higher in the
past, more than 25 times higher than they are now, and life has
thrived. But, there have been many episodes of mass extinction
during the past 600 million years of Earth history, several
causing more than 70 percent of all species to be lost. Coral
reefs disappeared during most of these massive extinctions.
Each of these events is associated with a rapid change in
environmental conditions. Life recovered, but that recovery
required 10 to 20 million years.
The general lesson is that when the environment changes,
many species may, and do, go extinct. The change in condition
during these extinctions was far greater than we're
experiencing now, but how much environmental change is too
Next slide, please.
Because this field is relatively new, there are major
uncertainties in how future ocean acidification will affect
ecosystems. Marine fisheries are a good example. Will changes
in primary productivity at the base of the food chain lead to
more or less fish at the top? What about coral reefs? The
preponderance of the recent scientific literature, and the
fossil records, suggest very strongly that coral reefs may be
in real trouble, both because of ocean acidification and other
environmental change. It's my view that ocean acidification is
very likely to affect various vulnerable ecosystems, leading to
changes in ecosystem resources and services important to
Now, a touch on the NRC report. The NRC Ocean Acidification
Committee released, today, a summary of their report, ``Ocean
Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a
Changing Ocean.'' In this report, we outline a plan for
observations and monitoring of ocean conditions, coupled with
priorities for research, to examine the potential effects of
future ocean acidification on natural resources.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this very
[The prepared statement of Dr. Barry follows:]
Prepared Statement of James P. Barry, Ph.D., Senior Scientist,
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Member,
Committee on Development of an Integrated Science Strategy for Ocean
Acidification Monitoring, Research, and Impacts Assessment, National
Research Council, The National Academies
Good morning Madam Chair, Ranking Member Snowe, and members of the
Committee. My name is Jim Barry. I am a Senior Scientist at the
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), located in Moss
Landing California, where I have been employed for nearly 19 years.
MBARI is a nonprofit research and technology institute funded
principally by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation where we perform
research and technology development to address important issues in
ocean science. My research concerns the biology and ecology of marine
animals, particularly those inhabiting the deeper waters of the oceans.
During the past several years, my studies have focused on the effects
of high ocean carbon dioxide levels on marine animals, from either the
direct injection of waste CO2 into deep-sea waters or by
ocean acidification due to the passive influx of CO2 from
the atmosphere. I was a contributing author for the Special Report on
Carbon Capture and Storage produced by the IPCC (Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change) in 2005, and am currently serving for the
National Research Council as a member of the Committee on the
Development of an Integrated Science Strategy for Ocean Acidification
Monitoring, Research, and Impacts Assessment (hereafter NRC Ocean
Acidification Committee). The National Research Council is the
operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, chartered by
Congress in 1863 to advise the government on matters of science and
This committee originated as a request from NOAA to the Ocean
Studies Board, based on the call from Congress in the Magnuson-Stevens
Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, and
later the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, to conduct a study
of the acidification of the oceans and how this process affects the
United States. In addition to NOAA, input and sponsorship of the
Committee was provided by the National Science and Technology Council
Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (JSOST), the
National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey
I commend the Committee for convening a hearing on, The
Environmental and Economic Impacts of Ocean Acidification,--the other
CO2 problem, due to the growing concern that this phenomenon
may have important effects on marine organisms and ecosystems, as well
as ecosystem services of great value to society. The history of ocean
acidification research is relatively short. The notion that increasing
carbon dioxide emissions absorbed through the sea surface are causing a
change in ocean chemistry and may have important consequences for ocean
biology was argued in the 1970s (Caldeira and Wickett, 2005). During
the past ten to fifteen years, however, several studies and workshop
reports have concluded that the very rapid and massive influx of
CO2 emissions into the oceans (now over 1 million tonnes of
CO2 per hour) could have very significant effects on marine
ecosystems (Kleypas et al., 1999; Raven et al., 2005; Fabry et al.,
2008; Kleypas et al., 2006; Doney et al., 2009).
In my testimony, I would like to address two main themes. First, I
will provide my personal perspective based on my own studies and others
concerning the potential effects of ocean acidification on the biology
of marine organisms and how these affects are expected to scale up to
ecosystem services important to society. Second, I will provide an
overview of the key points and recommendations from the NRC Ocean
Acidification Committee's report on Ocean Acidification: A National
Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. The key points of
my personal testimony are as follows:
Ocean acidification is changing the chemistry of the oceans
at a scale and magnitude greater than thought to occur on Earth
for many millions of years, and is expected to cause changes in
the growth and survival of a wide variety of marine organisms,
potentially leading to massive shifts in ocean ecosystems.
Ocean acidification, like other sources of environmental
variation, directly affects the physiological performance of
organisms, which can respond individually by acclimation
(tolerance), or collectively as a species by adaptation or
extinction. Sensitivity to ocean acidification is known to vary
among organisms and habitats, including ``winners'' and
``losers'', with some photosynthetic organisms apparently
benefiting, while the performance of animals is generally
Future changes in marine ecosystems expected to occur due to
ocean acidification are poorly understood for most habitats,
and difficult to predict from short-term studies of individual
species, a research approach that has dominated this field to
date. It is expected that biodiversity in many ecosystems may
decrease due to the generally negative impacts of ocean
acidification on marine animals, thereby impairing ecosystem
function. Severe changes could lead to ecological ``tipping
Ocean goods and services important to society (e.g., marine
fisheries), are dependent on the healthy function of marine
ecosystems. Although it remains unclear how marine fisheries
will be affected, changes in the photosynthesis at the base of
the food chain and shifts in the growth, survival, and
productivity of higher trophic levels due to ocean
acidification are expected to lead to important changes in
1. Ocean chemistry is changing rapidly due to the influx of fossil fuel
Roughly 40 percent of all fossil fuel emissions now reside in the
oceans (Sabine and Tanhua 2010), and the ocean surface is 25-30 percent
more acidic than prior to human fossil fuel use. Increasing carbon
dioxide emissions are expected to increase ocean acidity (pH) by 200
percent by the end of this century, with even greater changes beyond
2100. In addition to increased acidity, ocean acidification causes
higher carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater and a reduction in the
saturation state of calcium carbonate minerals important for shells and
skeletal formation in many marine organisms. This change in ocean
chemistry is far more rapid and larger than has occurred throughout the
past 800,000 years and perhaps as long as 25 million years, 10 million
years before the first hominids appeared on Earth. Eventually, over 85
percent of all emissions will reside in the ocean, and this carbon
dioxide will mix throughout the depths of the oceans.
2. Ocean acidification acts on the physiology of individuals
The response of organisms to ocean acidification depends upon
physiological adaptations that have allowed them to survive and
function in ocean ecosystems through their evolutionary history. In
order to be successful--to survive, grow, and reproduce--organisms must
maintain physiological function throughout a range of environmental
variation or suffer reduced or impaired performance. As ocean chemistry
diverges distinctly from the natural range of variation experienced
through their recent evolutionary history, the tolerance of species is
expected to decline.
Several key physiological functions are affected by ocean
acidification in marine organisms including photosynthesis,
calcification, respiration, internal acid-base balance, and metabolic
rates. Photosynthesis has been observed to increase in some species in
high-CO2 waters, although rates of calcification may be
reduced. Ocean acidification has been shown in general to reduce the
rates of calcification in many marine organisms, due to the reduction
in the saturation of calcium carbonate minerals in seawater (e.g.,
Doney et al., 2009; Fabry et al., 2008). Ocean acidification can also
disturb the internal acid-base balance of organisms, leading to reduced
function of enzymes involved in a wide variety of fundamental
biological processes. Increased seawater acidity can also impair oxygen
transport and lead to lower metabolic rates in many organisms, which in
turn limits their aerobic activity (e.g., chasing prey or escaping
Maintaining efficient physiological function in more acidic waters
has been shown in some taxa to increase the energy required to cope
with these stresses. This increased ``cost of living'' is expected to
reduce the energy available for growth and reproduction in individuals.
Reduced performance by individuals is expected to impact the entire
species, leading to reduced abundance and productivity, and a greater
likelihood of extinction.
Though limited, research to date indicates that there will be
``winners'' and ``losers'' in a high CO2 ocean. In general,
photosynthetic species may benefit in some ways from higher
CO2 levels in seawater, particularly some seagrasses
(reviewed in Doney et al., 2009). Shifts in photosynthesis rates could
lead to massive changes in the dominant phytoplankton species forming
the base of marine food webs, with effects reverberating throughout
pelagic ecosystems. Most animals, however, either do not benefit or
have exhibited various combinations of impaired shell or skeletal
formation (calcification), and reduced rates of growth, reproduction,
or survival. Corals, particularly those forming aragonite (a form of
calcium carbonate) skeletons appear particularly vulnerable to ocean
acidification, and along with other aragonitic taxa, may be the
ecological `losers' in the future high CO2 ocean.
There is considerable variation among organisms in coping with
physiological stress caused ocean acidification. Adaptations that allow
some organisms to have very active lifestyles, with a high capacity for
gas exchange (respiration) and metabolism (e.g., actively swimming
fishes or many mollusks), also preadapt these species for some of the
stresses of ocean acidification. However, even though they may be able
to tolerate ocean acidification, they may nevertheless experience
reduced performance. In contrast, more sedentary animals may have less
extra energy for coping with ocean acidification. Sensitivity also has
been shown to vary among life stages of species and among habitats.
Some deep-sea taxa have been shown to be sensitive to even moderately
acidic waters (Barry et al., 2004, 2005), and the physiological
tolerance of various higher taxa (fishes, crustaceans) to ocean
acidification decreases greatly with depth (Seibel and Walsh 2003; Pane
and Barry 2007).
3. Future changes in marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification are
``Scaling up'' from the effects of ocean acidification on
individuals to entire ecosystems is difficult. Except for a series of
experiments on marine plankton communities, most research on ocean
acidification has been performed on individual species, thereby
limiting our understanding of population and ecosystem-level effects of
a high-CO2 ocean.
The function of marine ecosystems depends upon their biodiversity--
the wide variety of species in the habitat. Biodiversity forms a
biological network that functions though the interactions between
species and with their environment. Predation, competition, and other
interactions among species, as well as the effects of environmental
variation on species, determine how and how much energy flows from
primary producers at the base of food chains to top predators.
Biological networks with greater diversity (i.e., more species) are
thought to be more stable, more resistant to disturbances, and allow
more efficient energy flow to top predators. In part, this is related
to overlapping ecological roles among species--the ability of multiple
species to perform the same or similar functions in food webs. For
example, if one species of prey goes extinct, a predator will be able
to find another to take its place. Although we still don't know how
ocean acidification will affect ecosystems, it is expected that
ecosystem function will degrade if biodiversity is lost, and may reach
an ecological tipping point if key species are reduced or removed.
Studies of large marine ecosystems housing marine fisheries indicate
that lower biodiversity is associated with low catch rates, greater
variability, and higher chances of fisheries collapse (Worm et al.,
2006). And though the specific effects of ocean acidification on marine
fisheries in the future remains uncertain, loss of biodiversity caused
by ocean acidification and other environmental perturbations can affect
ecosystem function, potentially leading to ecological `tipping points.'
4. Ocean resources and services important to society depend upon the
Humanity depends on the function of ocean ecosystems for a range of
resources and services, from processes as fundamental as oxygen
production by marine phytoplankton, to shoreline protection, fisheries
and aquaculture harvests, and recreational or spiritual experiences. It
is my personal opinion that although predicting changes in ecosystem
function due to ocean acidification is difficult, key elements of some
ecosystems appear to be at high risk due to the expected reduction in
calcification (and perhaps other related physiological processes) with
increasing ocean acidity. Tropical coral reefs, deep-sea coral reefs,
and mollusk-dominated food webs in high latitude regions may experience
reductions in calcification that lead to important ecosystem changes.
Consequently, societies depending on tropical reef systems may
experience significant ecological and economic disruption. On the other
hand, the potential increase in photosynthetic rates by phytoplankton
could increase the energy available within some ecosystems, potentially
leading to increased production at higher trophic levels as long as
food webs function efficiently. Finally, although there will be losers
and winners throughout ecosystems, I expect society, along with most
ecosystems, will be on the losing side of this ``game.'' Throughout
Earth history, periods of rapid environmental change have often (but
not always) led to a contraction in biodiversity that disrupted the
function of ecosystems.
Caldeira, K., Wickett, M.E. 2005. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans,
Kleypas, J.A. et al., 1999. Science 284:118-120.
Raven, J. et al., 2005. Ocean acidification due to increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Royal Society.
Fabry, V.J. et al., 2008. ECES. J. Mar. Sci., 65: 414-32.
Kleypas, J.A. et al., 2006. Report of a workshop sponsored by NSF,
NOAA, and the USGS, St. Petersburg, FL.
Doney, S.C. et al., 2009. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 1: 169-192.
Sabine, C.L. and Tanhua, T. 2010. Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci. 2:175-198.
Barry, J.P. et al., 2004. J. Ocean., 60: 759-66.
Barry, J.P. et al., 2005, J.Geo. Res. Oc., 110, C09S12.
Seibel, B. and Walsh, P. 2003, J. Exp. Biol., 206: 641-650.
Pane, E.F. and Barry, J.P. 2007, Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 334: 1-9.
Worm et al., 2006, Science 314: 787-790.
Key Findings from the NRC Committee Report on Ocean Acidification: A
National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean
The ocean has absorbed a significant portion of all human-made
carbon dioxide emissions, benefiting society by moderating the rate of
climate change, but also causing unprecedented changes to ocean
chemistry. Carbon dioxide taken up by the ocean decreases the pH of the
water and leads to a suite of chemical changes collectively known as
ocean acidification. The long term consequences of ocean acidification
are not known, but are expected to result in changes in many ecosystems
and the services they provide to society. This report, requested by
Congress, reviews the current state of knowledge and identifies gaps in
understanding, with the following key findings.
1. Ocean chemistry is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude
due to human-made carbon dioxide emissions. The average pH of ocean
surface waters has decreased by about 0.1 pH unit--from about 8.2
to 8.1--since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and model
projections show an additional 0.2-0.3 drop by the end of the
century, even under optimistic scenarios of carbon dioxide
2. Changes in seawater chemistry are expected to affect marine
organisms that use carbonate to build shells or skeletons. For
example, decreased concentrations of calcium carbonate make it
difficult for organisms such as coral reef-building organisms and
commercially important mollusks like oysters and mussels to grow or
to repair damage. If the ocean continues to acidify, the water
could become corrosive to calcium carbonate structures, dissolving
coral reefs and even the shells of marine organisms.
3. It is currently not known how various marine organisms will
acclimate or adapt to the chemical changes resulting from
acidification. Based on current knowledge, it appears likely that
there will be ecological winners and losers, leading to shifts in
the composition of many marine ecosystems.
4. The Committee finds that the Federal Government has taken positive
initial steps by developing a national ocean acidification program.
The recommendations in this report provide scientific advice to
help guide the program.
5. More information is needed to fully understand and address the
threat that ocean acidification may pose to marine ecosystems and
the services they provide. Research is needed to assist Federal and
state agencies in evaluating the potential impacts of ocean
acidification, particularly to:
understand processes affecting acidification in coastal
understand the physiological mechanisms of biological
assess the potential for acclimation and adaptation;
investigate the response of individuals, populations, and
communities; understand ecosystem-level consequences;
investigate the interactive effects of multiple stressors;
understand the implications for biogeochemical cycles; and
understand the socioeconomic impacts and informing
6. The national ocean acidification will need to adapt in response to
new research findings. Because ocean acidification is a relatively
new area of research, the Program will need to adapt in response to
findings, such as the identification of important biological
metrics, analyses of the socioeconomic impact of ocean
acidification, and inclusion of concerns from stakeholder
7. A global network of chemical and biological observations is needed
to monitor changes in ocean conditions attributable to
acidification. Existing observation systems were not designed to
monitor ocean acidification, and thus do not provide adequate
coverage or measurements of carbon parameters, such as total
alkalinity, pH, and dissolved inorganic carbon, or biological
constituents such as nutrients, oxygen, and chlorophyll. Adding
sites in vulnerable ecosystems, such as coral reefs or polar
regions, and areas of high variability, such as coastal regions,
would improve the observation system.
8. International collaboration will critical to the success of the
program. Ocean acidification is a global problem that requires a
multinational research approach. Such collaborations also afford
opportunities to share resources, including expensive large-scale
facilities for ecosystem-level manipulation, and expertise that may
be beyond the capacity of a single nation.
9. The national ocean acidification program should support the
development of standards for measurements and data collection and
archiving to ensure that data is accessible and useful to
researchers now and in the future. Steps should be taken to make
information available to policymakers and the general public in a
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Dr. Barry. And we'll look
forward to asking you some questions about the recommendations
from that report, and anxious to see those findings.
Dr. Everett, welcome, thank you for being here. We look
forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF DR. JOHN T. EVERETT
Dr. Everett. Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the
Thirty years ago, I worked for the Committee, handling
oceans and fisheries issues. I've sat behind you, and I've sat
behind here for my other bosses, and this is the first time
sitting at the table.
What I am going to present is swimming against the tide of
what we're hearing; and so, I just want to make sure everyone
knows, I'm not on anybody's payroll, other than my own. I have
accepted no money from any groups that in any way influence my
views on climate change.
My approach to the impact analysis is a product of my
education and work at NOAA and for the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change. I led IPCC work on five impact analyses:
fisheries, polar regions, oceans, and oceans and coastal zones,
which was two reports. Since leaving NOAA, I have been an IPCC
expert reviewer, and have maintained climate and other subjects
in the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans, where I am the Chief Editor
and Project Manager.
I am also President of Ocean Associates, Inc., an oceans
and fisheries consulting business, with 70 people in six
states. I also have a website called ClimateChangeFacts.info,
where I try to keep track of and share all the latest
information about climate change.
I have focused on seven concerns in my statement, including
that marine life might lose the ability to make shells, and
that existing shells will become weaker, and that the loss of
shell-forming plants and animals will reduce food for those
higher in the food chain; and there are about four others.
These concerns are based on the work of respected scientists
who believe increased CO2 will dangerously increase
acidification. They use IPCC scenarios developed in the early
Other respected scientists believe that the scenarios have
been overtaken by events; for example, the cost of fuels is
rising, and the science shows the Earth's ability to absorb
CO2 has not diminished. And in my testimony, it also
shows that the increase is a straight line, and may, in fact,
be leveling off; still increasing, though.
Importantly, oceans are alkaline, not acidic. If all the
CO2 in the air were put into the ocean, the oceans
would still be alkaline. We need to reassure bathers and scuba
divers that when they put their feet in the water, they're not
going to dissolve.
So, Madam Chair, a puddle of rainwater or a handful of snow
is 100 times more acidic than the oceans will ever be.
I have reviewed the IPCC and more recent scientific
literature, and believe that there is not a problem with
increased acidification, even up to the unlikely levels in the
most-used IPCC scenarios. This assessment is due to four
First, laboratory work shows there is no basis to predict
the demise of shell plants and animals living in the sea. The
animals above them in the food chain will still find food.
There are two noteworthy papers. In the first, Woods Hole
Oceanographic researchers found that crabs, shrimp, and
lobsters build more shell when exposed to acidification, and
that hard clams and corals slowed formation of shells very--at
very high CO2 levels, while soft clams and oysters
responded and--slowed at lower levels.
Second, the Iglesias-Rodriguez paper found that
calcification and production in an important shell planktonic
plant are significantly increased by high CO2. Thus,
the science actually indicates plants, crustaceans, and shelled
algae plankton will be more successful. Since they are at, or
near, the bottom of the food chain, this is good news.
Second, the Earth has been this route before. Whether or
not laboratory studies provide the answers we think are
reasonable, we need to look more broadly. Russian
academicians--these are members of their Academy of Sciences
that I worked with on IPCC--taught me to look at how the Earth
responded in past eras when conditions were like those
projected. They gravely distrusted computer models.
So, what can we learn from the past and what we see around
us? The oceans have been far warmer and far colder and more
acidic than as projected. During the millennia, that marine
lift endured and responded to CO2 that was many
higher--many times higher than present. And it responded to
temperatures that put tropical plants at the Poles or covered
our land by a thick ice that was a mile thick. The memory of
these events is built into the genes of all species, as Dr.
Barry was talking about. Virtually all ecological niches have
been filled at all times. If someone could demonstrate that
there were no corals, clams, oysters, or shell plankton when
there was double or triple the amount of CO2, I
would be concerned. The opposite is true.
Third, observational data show no harm. IPCC concluded,
prior to the Iglesias-Rodriguez paper, that there is no
observational evidence of oceanic changes due to acidification.
There is also nothing conclusive in the recent research to
indicate any reason for concern.
Last, natural changes are greater and faster than those
projected. Major warming, cooling, and pH changes in the oceans
are a fact of life, whether over a few years, as in an el Nino,
over decades, as in the Pacific oscillation, or over a few
hours, as a burst of upwelling appears or a storm bring acidic
rainwater to an estuary and perhaps kills oysters and clams.
Despite severe and rapid changes that far exceed those in
the scenarios, the biology adapts rapidly. The 0.1 change in
ocean alkalinity since 1750 and the 1-degree Fahrenheit rise
since 1860 are but noise in the rapidly changing system.
In the face of all these natural changes, whether over days
or millennia, some species flourish while others diminish. With
no laboratory or observational evidence of biological
disruption, I see no economic disruption of the commercial and
recreational fisheries, nor harm to marine mammals, sea
turtles, or any other protected species.
Whichever response the U.S. takes, our actions should be
prudent. Our research should focus on understanding those
ecosystem linkages needed to wisely manage our fisheries and
conserve our protected species. This includes research to
explore further, the possible acidification effects, as wisely
envisioned with the funds recently made available to NOAA.
I would be pleased to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Everett follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. John T. Everett
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting
me to appear before you today. I am John Everett. I am not here to
represent any particular organization, company, nor special-interest
group. I have never received any funding to support my climate change
work other than my NOAA salary, from which I retired after a 31-year
career in various positions. I was a Member of the Board of Directors
of the NOAA Climate Change Program from its inception until I left
NOAA. I led several impact analyses for the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change from 1988 to 2000, while an employee of NOAA. The
reports were reviewed by hundreds of government and academic scientists
as part of the IPCC process. My work included five impact analyses:
Fisheries (Convening Lead Author), Polar Regions (Co-Chair), Oceans
(Lead Author), and Oceans and Coastal Zones (Co-Chair/2 reports). Since
leaving NOAA I have kept abreast of the literature, have continued as
an IPCC Expert Reviewer, have talked to many individuals and groups and
have maintained these subjects in the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans, where I
am the Chief Editor and Project Manager. I own a fisheries and oceans
consulting business called Ocean Associates, Inc. and a website
ClimateChangeFacts.Info \1\ that I try to keep unbiased in its
treatment of conflicting science. This site is the number 1 Google-
ranked site of many million for certain search terms. My approach to
impact analysis is a product of my education and work experiences at
NOAA and the work I led for IPCC. This statement provides my analysis
of the effects of ocean acidification on our living resources and our
All opinions are mine alone.
I was assigned the climate change duties when I was the NOAA
National Marine Fisheries Service Division Chief for Fisheries
Development in the 1970s. The agency was very concerned about the
impact of climate change on the United States fisheries and fishing
industry. Global cooling would be devastating to our fisheries and
aquaculture. About 1987, the momentum shifted to fears of global
warming and with my background, and as Director of Policy and Planning
for NOAA Fisheries, I was tasked to lead our efforts dealing with it.
In 1996 I received the NOAA Administrator's Award for ``accomplishments
in assessing the impacts of climate change on global oceans and
fisheries.'' In 2008, I received recognition from the IPCC for having
``contributed to the work of the IPCC over the years since inception of
the organization,'' leading to its Nobel Peace Prize.
I. The Concerns
There are several concerns about CO2 entering the oceans
and causing its pH to become lower. Their discussion in the press and
among policy officials is at the foundation of this hearing. These
1. Animals with calcium carbonate shells will lose the ability
to make shells
2. Existing shells will become weaker
3. Loss of shell-forming animals will reduce food for those
higher in the food chain
4. Many species will be gone in 30 years
5. Oysters and clams are dying
6. Jellyfish are increasing
7. Seagrasses will be injured
The concerns are based on the work of respected scientists who have
shared the above beliefs or authored papers that argue the above
points. They believe increased atmospheric CO2 will increase
the acidification of the oceans. The basis is largely a set of emission
scenarios developed by IPCC in the early 1990s in an attempt to reign
in the mass confusion about the future trajectory of CO2
emissions. With this standard set of scenarios, climate modelers could
then have a standard set of inputs in terms of what was broadly
considered a primary determinant of climate--the proportion of
CO2 in the atmosphere. This proportion is based on new
contributions after deducting removals by the Earth system and assumes
a decreasing removal ability as CO2 increases. For the first
time, modelers around the world could compare results while impact
assessment scientists and policymakers could look at points on which
most models agreed. Standardization of scenarios allowed modelers to
identify errors or alternative ways to predict or handle parameters,
such as cloud cover. One of the scenarios became heavily used and is
identified as IS92--Business as Usual. Nearly 20 years ago, it was a
reasonable approach and pretty much in the middle range of alternative
scenarios. It underpins much of the research findings I will present
There are other respected scientists who believe that the Business
as Usual scenario has been overtaken by events. The cost of fossil
fuels is rising, reflecting increasing scarcity and contributing to a
slower CO2 growth in the atmosphere and a lack of
acceleration. New science shows the Earth's ability to absorb the same
proportion of new CO2 each year has not been diminished,
removing a key underlying assumption. Importantly, oceans are
alkaline--not acidic (much more so than rain-water), so use of the term
``acidification'' promotes fear. If all the CO2 in the air
were put into the ocean, the oceans would still be alkaline. With all
this talk of acidification, we need to reassure bathers that their feet
will not dissolve when they step into the ocean. Ocean water at the
surface generally has a pH over 8 and neutral is 7.0 (pure water) while
a puddle of rain water is far more acidic after having picked up
CO2 in its fall. Technically, we should say the oceans could
become less alkaline, a term not so endearing to those trying to get
II. The Physics
At the bottom of our inverted pyramid of climate science are a few
good scientists working to improve our knowledge of how the Earth
system operates, and then to project future possibilities. The physics
are daunting. Similarly, the modelers must get observational input data
from the physical world and from prognosticators about how many people
will be born in future years and how they will get and use their
energy. The number of scientists doing this work is small compared to
the number who will use their information to analyze impacts and make
policy recommendations to governments and industry.
As a research manager much of my life, I have a healthy skepticism
of things that underpin important decisions. Whether it is a column of
numbers that will tie up a fishing fleet because of an addition error
or a wiring harness on a manned lunar rocket that doesn't quite fit, I
have learned to pause and check it out. There are some things at the
bottom of the CO2 pyramid that make it seem wobbly and in
need of a check.
Physics tells us that increasing atmospheric CO2 lowers
oceanic pH and carbonate ion concentrations, thereby decreasing calcium
carbonate. Surface ocean pH (a logarithmic measure of hydrogen ions)
today is believed to be 0.1 unit lower than pre-industrial values. The
median value of ocean model runs projects that pH will decrease by
another 0.3 to 0.4 units by 2100. This translates into a 100 to 150
percent increase in the concentration of H+ ions while carbonate ion
concentrations will decrease. When water is undersaturated with respect
to calcium carbonate, marine organisms can no longer form calcium
carbonate shells. The model simulations project that undersaturation
will be reached in a few decades.\1\ The conventional wisdom also says
that as CO2 concentration becomes higher, saturation will
mean that more of it will remain in the atmosphere each year,
accelerating its accumulation.
However there are some major problems with the science. The wisdom
at the time of the IPCC 2007 report was that half of CO2
emissions would remain in the atmosphere and that we would have 712 ppm
(IS92a) by 2100.\2\ This would require the atmosphere to more than
double the present rate of growth of CO2 to 3.05 ppm, yet
the growth rate seems to be leveling off. The meaning of this
information (and the future of all climate models based on it) became
VERY cloudy on 31 December 2009 with the ScienceDaily acknowledgment of
a paper published by American Geophysical Union and authored by
Wolfgang Knorr that shows ``No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Fraction in Past 160 Years,'' despite the predictions of carbon cycle/
climate models.\3\ The implications of this have yet to be assimilated
by the modeling community. This does not mean that CO2
proportion is not rising but rather that the proportion not being
assimilated has not changed since 1850. Importantly, it means that the
rate of CO2 cycling increases as it becomes more
concentrated, and does not decrease as assumed in climate models. The
rate of projected growth in CO2 appears to be greatly
The CO2 scenarios are literally falling flat and need
revision. The observational trend line shows monotonic growth--pretty
much a straight line as in the chart below of global marine
CO2 measurements (NOAA data),\4\ while the IPCC scenarios
used in most research rely on an accelerating growth. Certainly the
predicted rapid acceleration of the IS92a model (see solid black line
in middle of figure) is missing from the NOAA data plotted below. In
fact, if we wonder if the last 8 or 12 years are representative of the
future, we might imagine a downward slope in the growth rate. This
could be real as rising prices cut usage and lead to economic distress.
It could also mean that the ocean is absorbing more CO2,
which might not bode well in light of concerns over acidification.
However, it may be that the ocean is converting and storing the
CO2 as calcium carbonate in the form of shells of oyster,
clams and planktonic organisms. It is a complicated environment and
there is much we do not know.
Using the average rate of increase for the past 10 years (1.87/
year), and assuming a straight-line growth, my projection for 2100 is
560 ppm. I have great reservations about our ability to find the
necessary amount of fuel even this would require, never mind enough to
reach 712 ppm (IS92a) or higher.
Thus, if the projections we are concerned with today are based on
the IPCC IS92a model, or one of its cohorts, and the concept of
CO2 sink saturation, we should give the information on its
impacts a second look.
Further, if a model can't replicate the past by relying on
principles of physics and mathematics, without ``tuning'' its
parameters to reflect past variations, we must not trust that it
properly represents the real world. Some important physics may be
missing or misrepresented. This is particularly true of any model that
failed to predict the present leveling of temperatures in the face of
rising CO2. I know of none that got it right.
Something is very wrong at the bottom of our inverted pyramid!
III. The Biology
Much of the concern flows form the latest IPCC report. The text
from the Summary for Policy Makers states: ``The uptake of
anthropogenic carbon since 1750 has led to the ocean becoming more
acidic with an average decrease in pH of 0.1 units. Increasing
atmospheric CO2 concentrations lead to further
acidification. Projections based on SRES scenarios give a reduction in
average global surface ocean pH of between 0.14 and 0.35 units over the
21st century. While the effects of observed ocean acidification on the
marine biosphere are as yet undocumented, the progressive acidification
of oceans is expected to have negative impacts on marine shell-forming
organisms (e.g., corals) and their dependent species'' \5\
1. Animals with calcium carbonate shells will lose the ability
to make shells. These animals include corals, coralline algae
(e.g., encrusting algae), and foraminifera, pteropods (swimming
planktonic snails with aragonite shells), and mollusks (e,g,.
clams and oysters).
2. Existing shells will become weaker and even dissolve.
Dissolution of shells after death is the norm. Calcium
carbonate flows back into the water wherever it is not
saturated. In the deep ocean, this can happen rapidly to
3. Loss of shell-forming animals will reduce food for those
higher in the food chain. Dissolved calcium and carbonate ions
are used by ocean animals to produce their shells and skeleton.
A lower pH can slow shell production by disrupting the supply
of carbonate ions, thus slowing shell production and increasing
the susceptibility to dissolution, early death and predation.
4. Many species will be gone in 30 years. This is founded in a
belief in the IS92a emission scenarios and some research
5. Oysters and clams are dying. In the Pacific Northwest there
are charges that an acidic ocean is to blame for extensive
mortalities of young oysters and clams. Fears include the
possibility that acidic upwelling waters will get even more so
when exposed to high CO2 air.
6. Jellyfish are increasing. Some have postulated that ocean
acidification could open ecological space for noncalcifying
7. Seagrasses will be injured. Acid waters will disrupt life
processes and slow growth.
There is limited research. I have reviewed the major papers and the
critiques about the papers. Below are a few that I think merit bringing
before the Committee. It is only a few that show no obvious bias. For
example, it is quite common among researchers vying for scarce funding
dollars to hype their findings or the importance of the problem.
Whether it is the use of hydrochloric (HCl) acid to mimic
CO2 but which introduces other issues such as shell decay,
or presenting the findings of grave consequences at high acidity while
not mentioning the lack of change at lower levels, or not investigating
whether low pH was due to degraded water quality from runoff and
sewage, the real cause of reduced growth or mortality. In some cases a
lower base year is chosen that exaggerates the percentage change, such
as ``pH levels will drop 30 percent from pre-industrial levels--when
current levels are far less disputed, but the percent change is less.''
Each study must be scoured for hints of inappropriate procedures
and unfounded statements. None can be accepted at face value. The peer
review process has warts. A good example is the dispute over whether
acidification is good or bad for shell-forming plankton, a vital part
of the ocean's biology and the ability to sequester vast amounts of
CO2. The first paper says more CO2 is good, the
second bad, and then the first successfully refutes the criticism and
gets the last word, sustaining the positive assessment in great detail.
All published in Science.
``Ocean acidification in response to rising atmospheric
CO2 partial pressures is widely expected to reduce
calcification by marine organisms. From the mid-Mesozoic,
coccolithophores have been major calcium carbonate producers in
the world's oceans, today accounting for about a third of the
total marine CaCO3 production. Here, we
present laboratory evidence that calcification and net primary
production in the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi are
significantly increased by high CO2 partial
pressures. Field evidence from the deep ocean is consistent
with these laboratory conclusions, indicating that over the
past 220 years there has been a 40 percent increase in average
coccolith mass. Our findings show that coccolithophores are
already responding and will probably continue to respond to
rising atmospheric CO2 partial pressures, which has
important implications for biogeochemical modeling of future
oceans and climate. \6\ ``However, Riebesell et al., vigorously
attacked the paper, claiming that ``shortcomings in their
experimental protocol compromise the interpretation of their
data and the resulting conclusions.'' \7\ In rebuttal, also in
Science, Iglesias-Rodriguez et al., successfully demonstrate
that the logic and methods of Riebesall et al., are the ones
that are flawed and the original findings of increased
calcification are valid.\8\
Perhaps the most thorough review of the literature on acidification
impacts is by Fabry et al.,\9\ They found that little research was done
on CO2 concentrations that were relevant to answer today's
questions. They express much concern that acidification will retard
development of shells. They as do several other authors, note that
studies have not been long-term enough to discover adaptations over
multiple generations. I believe this is key because these genera have
genetic information about past events and this may well take several
generations for stabilization. In any scenario, there will be ample
time for this to happen. In a laboratory it happens with the throw of a
switch. If my family or its descendants needs to hold its head
underwater for 5 minutes and they have a couple generations to adapt,
it can be done. However, I can't do it very well today.
With respect to corals, Atkinson reviewed recent literature on . .
. ``how ocean acidification may influence coral reef organisms and
coral reef communities. We argue that it is unclear as to how, and to
what extent, ocean acidification will influence calcium carbonate
calcification and dissolution, and affect changes in community
structure of present-day coral reefs.'' \10\ Also, the latest IPCC
report (summary above) found no empirical evidence supporting effects
of acidification on marine biological systems.\11\
Kurihara et al., investigated the ``effects of seawater
equilibrated with CO2-enriched air (2000 ppm, pH 7.4) on the
early development of the mussel'' and found that the mussels, as clams
studied by them earlier, were significantly impaired when exposed to
CO2 over 5X! that of today.\12\
Marubini et al., found that seawater acidification may lead to a
decrease of tropical coral growth calcification. This effect is either
mediated by a decrease in carbonate, in pH, or by an alteration of the
internal buffering system leading to a disruption of carbon supply to
calcification rather than by a direct effect of CO2 or a
change of HCO3-concentration. Results showed that the
negative effect of acidification may be counteracted by increasing the
bicarbonate concentration of seawater, resulting in an increase in the
Research in laboratories shows that shell growth is slowed in some
animals and enhanced in others. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
(WHOI) researchers found that 7 of 18 species of animals ``such as
crabs, shrimp and lobsters--unexpectedly build more shell when exposed
to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon
dioxide (CO2)''S.\14\ They tested as high as 7 times present
levels. They found that hard clams and corals slowed formation of
shells but only above 1,000 ppm, while soft clams and oyster slowed
formation at lower levels. Note that the shells did not dissolve, but
only grew somewhat slower at 7X present CO2 concentrations.
There is no basis to predict the demise of shelled animals living
in the sea or the animals above them in the food chain at any likely
level of CO2 that might be put in the air by humans.
A study at the University of Hawaii found the olfactory-based
homing ability of clownfish was disrupted at 1,000 ppm and non-existent
at 2,000 ppm. The values of CO2 acidification were high:
``These values are consistent with climate change models that predict
atmospheric CO2 levels could exceed 1,000 ppm by 2100 and
approach 2,000 ppm by the end of next century under a business as usual
scenario.'' \15\ This has implication for all fish that need to find
their way back to natal streams, if we were ever to get to 1,000 ppm.
With respect to clam and oyster mortalities being caused by
acidified water, it is unlikely that CO2 deposition from the
air is the culprit. Upwelling brings water from the depths to the
surface. This water has been out of sunlight perhaps for centuries.
There has been no photosynthesis for plants to turn the CO2
into oxygen, and whatever oxygen there was, has been converted into
CO2 by animals. When this cold water reaches the surface, it
is saturated with CO2 and is acidic, plus it has little
oxygen. This warming water will be outgassing CO2, rather
than picking it up as claimed by some. Acidic water is also symptomatic
of coastal eutrophication, whether caused by runoff or sewage. The WHOI
work cited above shows that the growth of clams and oysters can be
slowed by CO2-induced acidification. In their studies, the
animals did not die even at rates several multiples of today's
CO2 levels and for clams, growth slowed only at the highest
levels of CO2.
Example of shell formation at 7X current CO2. Source:
With respect to being overrun with jellyfish, because ocean
acidification could open ecological space for noncalcifying species.
Richardson and Gibson studied the possibility that there were more
noncalcifying jellyfish when conditions were more acidic (lower pH) in
the Northeast Atlantic using coelenterate records from the Continuous
Plankton Recorder and pH data from the International Council for the
Exploration of the Sea for the period 1946-2003. They could find no
significant relationships between jellyfish abundance and acidic
conditions in any of the regions investigated.\16\
With respect to sea grasses, Zimmerman studied sea-grasses that
form the bases of highly productive ecosystems ranging from tropical to
polar seas. Despite clear evidence for carbon limitation of
photosynthesis, seagrasses thrive in high light environments, and show
little evidence of light-induced photoinhibition. Increasing the
availability of dissolved aqueous CO2 can increase
instantaneous rates of light saturated photosynthesis by up to 4-fold.
Prolonged exposure to elevated CO2 concentrations increases
the concentrations of non-structural carbohydrates (sucrose and
starch), rates of vegetative shoot proliferation, and flowering, and
reduces light requirements for plant survival. Consequently, seagrass
populations are likely to respond positively to CO2 -induced
acidification of the coastal ocean, which may have significant
implications for carbon dynamics in shallow water habitats and for the
restoration/preservation of seagrass populations.\17\
IV. Has this Happened Before?
From 50-600 million years ago, CO2 levels in the
atmosphere were usually 2-20 times higher than at present. All the
animals of concern evolved during this period. This included the age of
the dinosaurs, when life was so prolific on land and in the oceans that
we are still using the carbon (and chalk) deposited during those
periods. The animals of concern all should have the innate genetic
plasticity to quickly respond to the relatively modest changes of even
the unlikely worst-case scenarios, none of which move our atmosphere's
present concentration of CO2 into the earlier range. The
CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere, originally came from
it during the epochs when the species of concern flourished. The chart
below compiles the work of several authors and methods. It is from the
latest IPCC report, showing time in Ma (millions of years) before
present. For comparison, the present CO2 level is 388 ppm.
V. Is this Bad or Good or Just Different?
We and all other animals use oxygen and expel CO2.
Plants do the opposite. CO2, combined with light and
nutrients is their food. We must not lose sight of the fact that plants
have consumed once-abundant CO2 to the point that it is
0.000388 of the atmosphere. Many greenhouse operators pump
CO2 into their buildings to enhance growth, indicating
plants evolved during higher concentrations of CO2. Plants
in the ocean also rely on CO2. There is a high ability to
move the excess out of circulation, turning it into oxygen (by plants)
or calcium carbonate (by animals-mostly). A view of the CO2
growth chart and analyses such as that of Wolfgang Knorr cited above
show this has not been adequately taken into account by climate
modelers or those who provided their inputs.
We know that the Earth has seen these conditions before, and that
all the same types of animals and plants of the oceans successfully
made it through far more extreme conditions. Virtually all the
ecological niches were filled at all times. If someone could
demonstrate that there were no corals, clams, oysters, or shelled
plankton when the Earth had double or triple the amount of
CO2 in the air, we would have reason for concern. Just as
IPCC has concluded, there is no observational evidence that things
would be better or worse, or even different. Similarly, there is
nothing conclusive in the very recent scientific literature to indicate
any reason for concern. If anything, the science indicates plants will
be more successful, and since they are the bottom of the food chain,
this cannot be totally bad.
VI. What Can Be Done about It?
Oceans are actually alkaline with a surface pH of around 8.1. But
it can vary from higher levels in shallow areas, where CO2
and hydrogen ions are consumed by plants, to relatively acidic areas in
eutrophic estuaries. Upwelling areas are also less alkaline, as cold
bottom waters are brought into sunlight near the surface where algae
use the deep-water CO2 and nutrients to create a
productivity boom that sustains fisheries production in several areas
of the world. There are no long-term data, using similar instruments
that provide a real clue as to global trends in alkalinity. There are
only a few data sets of over a decade, such as that of the Monterrey
Bay Aquarium. The variability, because of nearby ocean currents and
upwelling shows the difficulty in portraying a global average value.
Some pundits have argued that we could add limestone to the oceans
to make them more alkaline, but this has little merit due to costs and
the fact that the oceans already contain immense buffering capability.
We should bear in mind that this limestone and chalk for the most part
came from the shells of plankton as they fed on the CO2-
laden ancient seas.
VII. Research Suggestions
There are some items that would go a long way toward establishing
the likely effects of an increased CO2 world.
1. Develop a CO2/temperature timeline based on
extant research on past climates, at least back to about 600
million years before the present. This effort would provide a
critical review of candidate papers and unpublished work that
goes well beyond a typical peer-reviewed journal publication,
or prior summary reports of the IPCC.
2. The acidification debate has showed us we lack a sufficient
understanding of some fundamental chemical and biological
processes. The research to resolve these questions should
continue and perhaps centrally coordinated so that scarce
dollars are targeted at real and important knowledge gaps.
3. Examine the growth rates, densities, and shell thicknesses
of clams, oysters, or other mollusks from Indian middens and
sediments to determine if any changes can be detected and if
they correlate to any known changes in the oceans or
atmosphere, including pH and CO2 levels.
4. Before the next IPCC assessment begins, assemble a USA
review team and nominees for the IPCC writing and Chair
assignments that make up a cross-section of scientific
viewpoints. There are qualified scientists in agencies,
industry, and among the citizenry who can contribute. Just as
we shouldn't have too many from the energy industry, the same
goes for the agencies, universities, and NGO's. We all have
biases, even if we think it is the other person who is the one
with an agenda. We cannot afford to have only people with the
same agenda, no matter how righteous they might think it to be.
VIII. Concluding Remarks
There is no reliable observational evidence of negative trends that
can be traced definitively to lowered pH of the water. If there were,
it would be suspect because there is insignificant change relative to
past climates of the Earth. Scientific studies, and papers reviewing
science papers, have similar messages. Papers that herald findings that
show negative impacts need to be dismissed if they used acids rather
than CO2 to reduce alkalinity, if they simulated
CO2 values beyond triple those of today, while not reporting
results at concentrations of half, present, double and triple, or as
pointed out in several studies, they did not investigate adaptations
over many generations.
The oceans and coastal zones have been far warmer and colder and
much more acidic than is projected by climate models. Marine life has
been in the oceans nearly since when they were formed. During the
millennia life endured and responded to CO2 levels well
beyond anything projected, and temperature changes that put tropical
plants at the poles or had much of our land covered by ice more than a
mile thick. The memory of these events is built into the genetic
plasticity of the species on this planet. IPCC forecasts are for
changes to occur faster than evolution is considered to occur, so
impacts will be determined by this plasticity from past experiences and
the resiliency of affected organisms to find suitable habitats.
In the oceans, major climate warming and cooling and pH changes are
a fact of life, whether it is over a few years as in an El Nino, over
decades as in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or the North Atlantic
Oscillation, or in a few hours as a burst of upwelling moves into an
area or a storm brings rainwater into an estuary. Upwelling and
rainwater each have pH values that are dozens or orders of magnitude
lower than in any scenario.
Currents, temperatures, salinity, pH, and biology change rapidly to
the new state in months or a couple years. These changes far exceed the
changes expected with human-induced climate change and occur much
faster. The estimated 0.1 change in alkalinity since 1750 and the one
degree F. temperature rise since 1860 are but noise in this rapidly
changing system. Sea level has been inexorably rising since the last
glaciation lost its grip a mere 10,000 years ago. It is only some few
thousand years since trees grew on Georges Bank and oysters flourished
on its shores. Their remains still come up in dredges and trawls in now
deep water, with the oysters looking like they were shucked yesterday.
In the face of all these natural changes, and those we are here to
consider, some species flourish while others diminish.
I do not know whether the Earth is going to continue to warm, or
that having reached a peak several years ago, we are at the start of a
cooling cycle that will last several decades or more. I think carbon-
based fuels will continue to increase in price and become scarcer as
reserves are depleted even though I am an optimist about our
technological advances in helping us find and exploit additional
reserves. Nevertheless, our consumption is more likely to fall than to
rise. In any case, I am optimistic about our ability to deal with the
The most important approach in determining the impact of
CO2 on the oceans is to examine what happened during past
times. The world has been down this path before and all the existing
genera, and many species, endured. It has often been a difficult
journey, with volcanism, meteoroid collisions, severe ice ages, and
great heat, with many of these events causing mass extinctions. The
ancestors of these animals were on Earth long before humans. They are
the survivors of great disasters. The memory of these difficult times
is in their genetic makeup. Adaptation will be swift, if needed.
Whichever response the U.S. takes, our actions should be prudent.
Our fishing industry, maritime industry and other users of the ocean
environment compete in a world market and are vulnerable in many ways
to possible governmental actions to reduce CO2 emissions. We
already import most of our seafood and many of the nations with which
we compete do not need further advantages. Our research should focus on
those ecosystem linkages we need to understand in order to wisely
manage our fisheries, and conserve our protected species.
I think it is important to do the necessary research to see whether
my views or those who see impending doom are correct. The research is
important, but actions that would decrease our Nation's ability to
afford the research should not be taken on the basis of what I believe
is unfounded fear.
\1\ IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007: Working
Group I: The Physical Science Basis. 10.4.2 Ocean Acidification Due to
Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Available: http://www.ipcc.ch/
\2\ IPCC Working Group I: The Scientific Basis, 126.96.36.199
Concentration projections based on IS92a, for comparison with previous
studies available: http://www.
\3\ Knorr, Wolf. ``No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction
in Past 160 Years'' Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 36, L21710, 5
PP., 2009. Available: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/
\4\ NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ERL). Recent Global
CO2. Available: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
\5\ IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Summary for
\6\ Iglesias-Rodriguez, M. D., Halloran, P. R., Rickaby, R. E. M.,
Hall, I. R., Colmenero-Hidalgo, E., Gittins, J. R., Green, D. R. H.,
Tyrrell, T., Gibbs, S. J., von Dassow, P., Rehm, E., Armbrust, E. V.
Boessenkool, K. P. 2008. Phytoplankton calcification in a high-
CO2 world. Science 320:336-340. Available:
\7\ Riebesell, U., Richard G. J. Bellerby, Anja Engel, Victoria J.
Fabry, David A. Hutchins, Thorsten B. H. Reusch, Kai G. Schulz, and
Frangois M. M. Morel Comment on ``Phytoplankton Calcification in a
High-CO2 World'' December 2008, Science 322 (5907), 1466b.
\8\ Iglesias-Rodriguez, M. D., Erik T. Buitenhuis, John A. Raven,
Oscar Schofield, Alex J. Poulton, Samantha Gibbs, Paul R. Halloran, and
Hein J. W. de Baar Response to Comment on ``Phytoplankton Calcification
in a High-CO2 World,'' December 2008, Science 322 (5907),
1466c. Available: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;322/
\9\ Fabry, V. J., Brad A. Seibel , Richard A. Feely, and James C.
Orr. Impacts of ocean acidification on marine fauna and ecosystem
processes ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil Advance
Access published on April 1, 2008, Available: http://
\10\ Atkinson M. J., Cuet, P. (2008) Possible effects of ocean
acidification on coral reef biogeochemistry: topics for research. Mar
Ecol Prog Ser 373:249-256.
\11\ Rosenzweig, C., and Others. 2007. Assessment of observed
changes and responses in natural and managed systems, p. 79-131. In M.
L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden and C.
E. Hanson [eds.], Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and
vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Cambridge Univ. Press.
\12\ Kurihara, H., Asai, T., Kato, S. and Ishimatsu, A. (2008)
Effects of elevated pCO2 on early development in the
musselMytilus galloprovincialis. Aquat. Biol. 4:225-233.
\13\ Marubini, F., C. Ferrier-Pages, P. Furla, and D. Allemand,
``Coral calcification responds to seawater acidification: a working
hypothesis toward a physiological mechanism,'' Coral Reefs, vol. 27,
no. 3, pp. 491-499, 2008.
\14\ WHOI. 2009. In CO2-rich Environment, Some Ocean
Dwellers Increase Shell Production. Available: http://www.whoi.edu/
\15\ Munday, P. L., J. M. Donelson, D. L. Dixson, and G. G. K.
Endo, Effects of ocean acidification on the early life history of a
tropical marine fish Proc R Soc B 2009 276 (1671) 3275-3283. Available:
\16\ Richardson, A. J. and M. J. Gibbons, ``Are Jellyfish
Increasing in Response to Ocean Acidification?,'' Limnology and
Oceanography, v. 53, no. 5 (2008):2040-2045.
\17\ Zimmerman, R.C. Seagrass Response to Ocean Acidification: From
Individual Leaves to Populations, in Ocean Acidification Workshop,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA. October 9-11, 2007
Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion
University, Norfolk, Virginia.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Dr. Everett, and thank you for
your views. And we're glad that you've made it to the witness
table, so--a long journey, being in the audience and back here.
My colleague from Alaska has joined us.
Do you want to make any kind of statement, Mr. Begich,
before we go to questions?
Senator Begich. Madam Chair, no. We'll--I'll be happy to
just go to questions, when that time is allowed.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Senator.
I'm going to start off, and let's just jump right into it,
Dr. Barry. And Dr. Everett claims that oceans will, you know,
never truly become acidic, below a--a, you know, a pH below 7,
and therefore, the term is somewhat misleading. But, isn't this
really about, not the acidification level, but the chemistry of
the oceans itself? And, as Mr. Waters correctly put it, why
would we risk waiting to find out, when it's too late?
Dr. Barry. Well, the pH of the ocean, or alkalinity or
acidic--it's really just semantics. I think if we went to the
newspapers and said, ``The oceans are getting less alkaline,''
that's a little confusing. But, I think something about acidity
is something that we can understand. So, when this term first
came up, the idea that the ocean was acidic--it was understood,
by all the chemists: 7.0 is considered neutral, and the oceans
are about 8.1 in pH. There's really no thought in the
scientific literature or community that the oceans are
``acidic,'' by that standard. They're becoming more acidic, or
less alkaline, but it's really a semantic term.
Now, what is going to go on in the future is really what's
important. How much change have we seen, and how much will we
see in the future? And all of the predictions that I have seen,
even the most conservative models, suggest that we will see
quite large changes in pH in the ocean in the future.
Now, think of it this way, in temperature, because
acidity's a little difficult to understand. But, let's say that
the range--because Dr. Everett talked about the natural range
of variability, and he's correct that there is quite a wide
variety--or quite a wide range of variability in some habitats
in ocean acidity. And I'll say two things about that.
Number one, what if we took the temperature range that we
live in--let's say, 50 degrees to 100 degrees--and we decided,
we're going to now move that range by 50 degrees. Now we live
between 100 degrees and 150 degrees. That would be quite
stressful for humans, to live under those conditions.
So, we are basically asking organisms that live in the
ocean, if all of the best science is correct about where we're
going in the future, we're going to ask them to live in an
ocean that has a range in pH that is, in many cases, outside
the entire range that they have seen throughout much of their
recent evolutionary history.
The second point I guess I'd like to make with this is that
Dr. Everett is correct, environmental conditions change, and
animals survive that. But, they--it doesn't mean that they
perform at their optimal point throughout that period. So,
animals might survive el Ninos, but their performance, their
survival, their growth, and their reproduction may be impaired
during periods of their normal range that are stressful. If we
shift that entire range over to a period where maybe they can
tolerate the lower acidity--I'm sorry, the--say, the warmer
part of it, but when it gets really hot, they're going to die,
we have a real problem. So, when we started shifting the entire
environmental range, that's where we get into trouble, I think.
And that's the comment I have for that.
Senator Cantwell. And what do we do about that change in
chemistry? I mean, I think your example is a good one. We, in
the Northwest, always talk about this impact, because we're a
hydro system--you know, all of--you know, 70 percent of our
electricity comes from hydro, which means snowpack matters to
us. One degree change in the temperature means millions of
dollars difference in the cost of electricity--1 degree. And
so, what--when you have this chemistry change, what does it
mean for the uncertainty, and what can we do to address that?
What are the recommendations?
Dr. Barry. Well, in the report, we recommend a program that
begins with many of the recommendations that came from the
FOARAM bill and the scientific community, and builds a
framework of research that includes a variety of themes,
running from basic physiology--How do organisms make calcium
carbonate shells?--because we need to understand some of the
basic mechanisms, as well as trying to understand, from the top
down, How do--will these changes in the performance of
individual organisms scale up to what goes through food webs
and eventually provides ecosystem services?
And I can go into many more details, if you like. I'm not
sure I answered this question entirely for you yet.
Senator Cantwell. Well, I think the panel has done an
excellent job. I wanted to ask Ms. Weaver about how she, you
know, got involved in this issue, as it related to, you know,
to acidification, you know, from the perspective of explaining
it. But, I think you've all done a--you know, a fabulous job of
talking about where we are today, in the graphics of that food
chain and what's at risk, and yet doing nothing and saying,
``Well, let's just see what happens''--it's just unacceptable.
Dr. Barry. I agree with you.
Senator Cantwell. It's just unacceptable.
So, Ms. Weaver, did you want to comment on your--I mean,
were you surprised, when you got more involved with this, at
the level of impacts to our ocean? Was it something you had
Ms. Weaver. I think that I--oh, thank you. I should know
how to do that.
I think that--you know, I consider myself a fairly well-
informed citizen, and, you know, someone who participates a lot
in the water. And the fact that I knew nothing about the
scientific data came as a--it came as a huge shock to me. And
it seemed to me that if every American citizen were given--
could hear the testimony today, and could see this film we
made, and certainly include Dr. Everett's testimony in this,
that this is not an area--this is an area where we really look
to our leadership to be informed and to take steps.
I think that scientists are putting together different
parts of the puzzle of climate change. We may not have
absolutely all the pieces. There may be a couple under the
sofa. But, we have enough of the pieces to be sending out a cry
to face this. To see, you know, Mr. Waters' testimony is so
moving, and it's a--it's very heartwarming to me, since I come
from such a different world, to hear his testimony, seeing
what's happening to his beloved finned creatures, you know,
looking ahead and looking at their future, as a fisherperson,
rather than as an eater and admirer, like myself.
Ms. Weaver. And, you know, I just feel that--such power in
this committee. Even if we disagree on some of the scientific
data, we're all sending the same message, which I think comes
from all of the citizens, which is, ``We need your leadership,
and we need your courage, and we need people to put aside
whatever their partisan or regional view is and help each other
pass this climate bill and get us toward a clean energy--clean
and renewable energy future.'' You know, we just cannot take
the chance that all four of us are correct. Only one of us is--
has a different opinion.
So, thank you.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you. Thank you.
Senator Snowe. Thank you.
Well, just to follow up, Ms. Weaver, because obviously I
think anybody who sees this documentary can certainly
appreciate it, because it graphically portrays the problem that
we're presented globally. And it's a question of how to
communicate that and make it more accessible to the public to
enhance awareness, because that also generates public support
for what we do.
In your travels around the country, or the world, do you
sense that people understand this, in your discussions? If they
have seen this video, for example, or if you've had a chance to
have conversations with people, do you feel that they have a
better appreciation or understanding? Are they surprised? Or do
you think it generates support?
Ms. Weaver. I think the audiences are very surprised. I
think this is completely off their radar. There's been so much
attention to climate change, global warming, and for many years
people were--seemed to be happy that the oceans were absorbing
so much CO2, because it meant that things were not
going to heat up quite as fast.
And now the science has--you know, the scientists have
discovered that it's having this unseen, really devastating
impact. And I respect Dr. Everett's, you know, statistics, but
I have read that, for instance, if, in Antarctica, where
there's so much plankton--the plankton now, they are 30 percent
less strong. Their shells have been compared to the shells that
were found in the very bottom of Antarctica, and their shells
are 30 percent less strong. The coral is growing off of
Australia at a 14- percent less growth. We have the oyster beds
off the coast of the Northwest.
I mean, these creatures are like the canaries in a mine,
and they are sending a message to all of us. And I think my job
is certainly to try to reach out to, just, citizens and try to
continue to carry this news, because, frankly, I think, if the
man, the woman, and the child, certainly, on the street--
children in classes--they're actually more hip to the danger
we're facing than a lot of other people. They may not have the
facts that this film can give them; and when they get these
facts; they are alarmed; and they know that we can't afford to
waste any more time. We have to face this, and act.
Senator Snowe. I appreciate that. And it is true, because
public education and awareness have to be such a big part of
this. And you being a great communicator, along with Mr.
Waters. Maybe you can make a duo.
Ms. Weaver. We'll talk about it.
Senator Snowe. OK. In any event, communication has to be
part of it. Communicating what the problem is, in terms of,
obviously, the solution.
In Maine, we have the Gulf of Maine Research Institute,
which is a fabulous institution. I know the NRDC has worked
with them, and they just screened this video, as a matter of
fact, and they bring in schoolchildren from around the state to
have a chance to understand and appreciate marine life, and the
maritime way of life.
Ms. Weaver. Yes. I actually was at Brooklyn Tech, in New
York last Saturday, where some of us on ``Avatar'' were giving
out eco-warrior awards, and the children spoke so passionately
about our environment. One little boy said that we are the
predators, now, and nature is our prey.
Senator Snowe. Yes.
Ms. Weaver. And I think the kids are really very concerned
about what's going on, not only under the water, but all over
the world and in our atmosphere, and we owe it to them to come
up with answers now.
Senator Snowe. Absolutely.
Dr. Barry my question is on public policy. I think,
indisputably, there is a chemical reaction. I mean, the link is
indisputable. And the real issue now is the implications of
that and what we do, in terms of enhancing the certainty about
the direction we take.
At NOAA, can you comment on what you think the policy
should be? Whether it's on the research, on the monitoring
devices, or the biological assessments, for example. What are
the issues? Do you think they're moving in the right direction?
Because now we really have to refine and modify our policies,
and I think we need to make sure exactly what direction we
should be taking at as a committee and as a Congress.
Dr. Barry. Well, I'll comment based on the report, because
what the summary report has--is--that came out just this
morning--recommends is a national ocean acidification strategy
that is really a fairly large program that includes monitoring
of conditions throughout areas in the ocean, and especially
those that we don't--we're not certain about right now, as well
as a program of research to try and understand, especially,
areas of uncertainty.
I think that the steps that NOAA has taken with the FOARAM
Act is a perfect framework to begin with. And this program that
the Committee is recommending leverages, off ocean observing
systems, just about anything that will fit the bill within this
framework to try and address this issue. And there's a lot that
can. All of those should be used to begin moving forward to try
and narrow the uncertainties concerning a variety of areas of
this research. I'm----
Senator Snowe. Well, it's a 10-year strategy that you're
Dr. Barry. The recommendation in the FOARAM bill is for a
10-year strategy that's--then is revised. And we--I would have
to make sure that we follow the same--in the summary, I'm not--
I can't recall, specifically, if we----
Senator Snowe. You did.
Dr. Barry.--call for 10 years, here, or if there is no
timeline. This calls for a program that still will require
contact with a variety of stakeholders to define exactly what
the program would be, but it would certainly include
characterizing ocean chemistry better than we have, as well as
trying to figure out, How can we characterize the biology,
without spending billions of dollars, so that we can document
these changes as we move forward?
Senator Snowe. OK, are there any areas that we should be
prioritizing, for example, in all of this and in the areas that
you have identified?
Dr. Barry. Well----
Senator Snowe. Because I think that's critical. And you
mentioned the ocean observing system, which I do, as you know,
Senator Snowe.--and, I don't know, it is moving in the
wrong direction in terms of funding. This is an ideal network
that we should be using for this purpose, but the funding
recommendations are undercutting the system. It should be
working in tandem.
Dr. Barry. Well, the report in the Committee feels that we
need to leverage off of just about any technology that's
available and any system that's available. But, we did not set
priorities for exactly which of these research tasks should be
placed first. So, if--in number five, for example, we come up
with eight research priorities that are unranked.
Senator Snowe. Right.
Dr. Barry. And so, the Committee did not rank those, at
Senator Snowe. OK. But, should they all happen at the same
Dr. Barry. Well, in some cases, if you look through these,
they do require some overlap, so they're--in some--some things,
you would want to do in tandem. It makes no sense, for example,
to characterize ocean chemistry without parallel biological
studies going on at the same time.
I wish I could give you more clear guidance about the
priorities, but that's something that we didn't cover.
Senator Snowe. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Senator Cantwell. Senator Lautenberg?
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
And thank each one of you for your testimony.
A couple things that are mystifying for me is the
difference in perspective that we hear from Mr. Everett--Dr.
Everett and the others of you.
And, Mr. Waters, don't dismiss your articulate skills.
Don't underestimate your message, because it comes from the
gut, and that's the kind of thing that we have to hear. And
you're onsite, I mean, you're--you see the effects of problems
that are developing in our oceans. And obviously we think
that--in this particular hearing, that one the major ones is
the acidification of the oceans and its effect on coral, coral
being kind of the home place that fish can find refuge and
procreate and do all of the things that we want them to do.
Dr. Everett, you're in business, am I correct? You said you
had a consulting business?
Dr. Everett. Yes, in my--I come from a fishing family, and
Senator Lautenberg. No, but----
Dr. Everett.--divested of all of that, but I do ocean
Senator Lautenberg. So, and you, therefore, have clients
Dr. Everett. Yes.
Senator Lautenberg. Yes.
Dr. Everett. And let me say, they're all public-sector,
there are no private-sector clients.
Senator Lautenberg. Yes. What kind of clients might you
have? Is it--can you tell us anything about----
Dr. Everett. Yes, mostly NOAA and United Nations Food and
Senator Lautenberg. And do they give you opinions on your
Dr. Everett. Not about this. I have no work on climate
change with NOAA.
Senator Lautenberg. But, you know, you list the things that
others are concerned about, in your testimony, about loss of
shell-forming animals, reduced food for those high on the food
Dr. Barry, do we have specific things? You know, I know we
often, around here, wait for studies to be concluded, and so
forth, and it--but, meanwhile, if there's a fire in the house,
you don't have to start figuring out how the fire got started,
you've got to figure out how to put the fire out.
Do we have things that you--using my analogy, do you have
things that you would, say, tell us, ``There is fire there,''
that these are things that we can see, these are things that we
can feel, like Mr. Waters in his comments?
Dr. Barry. I think I understand the question, and this
would be my personal view of this, as a scientist. And I would
say, yes, I think there are things that we need to be very
concerned about. Just as--and let's say that there isn't a fire
in the house. We would certainly insure against the case that
we might have one, and that's something we are not doing well
with our oceans.
Senator Lautenberg. Right.
Dr. Barry. In this case----
Senator Lautenberg. That's part A. And part B----
Dr. Barry. Right. And then, part B, there are some things
that are going on, although--it's interesting to look at how
organisms respond to changes in their conditions. And let's--
just ocean acidification--it can affect your acid-based
balance, but it might be--have a positive effect on
calcification; or it could affect calcification, but at the
expense of growth by tissues. And so, there is a lot of
responses that organisms perform.
In general, organisms calcify less under a more--more
acidic conditions. But, there are a few species that are
anomalous in that way. There is a--Dr. Everett mentioned Justin
Ries' paper, which surveyed 18 species, showing that several
crustaceans, a couple of lobsters, actually grew quite a bit
Now, I know Justin is now looking for funds to try and
figure out what really happened there, because there have been
a variety of studies that have shown--in cases where things
have calcified more, which is not what you'd expect, they've
actually found that they're--they had tissue loss or they had
suffered some other problem, metabolically.
So, to get back to the point, I think that we have to be
worried about these trends in ocean chemistry, and the future
in ocean chemistry, coupled with the information that we have
now about the responsive organisms. There's a fire there, or if
it's--if it's not--it may not be a roaring blaze yet, but it's
certainly--there's something starting on the curtains in the
Senator Lautenberg. Right. Yes, but do we feel the heat? Do
we see this--the reality of shells being too soft or even
transparent in places? Is that there in any quantity that we
can point to, that we--that reduce the supply of the numbers of
crustaceans that we--that are out there?
Dr. Barry. That's a tough one, because we don't have much
of a context to measure that from. We have not been going
along, measuring the thickness of shells for a variety of
marine animals. There are now a few papers that have begun to
come out to show that, in areas where we think there are some
vulnerabilities--and in polar areas, that Sigourney mentioned,
the calcification of marine terrapods, which are an important
prey species for a variety of animals--they're little snails
that live and float through the water, beautiful little
things--their shells are affected by ocean acidification.
And in the Antarctic--in polar regions, in general, the
water's colder, it absorbs more CO2, it's naturally
more acidic. And when you add the extra burden of
CO2 from the atmosphere, it makes it that much more
acidic, and it's a more difficult place, in general, to make
shells. There's evidence, there, that shell formation is
On--in the Great Barrier Reef, there's a paper recently
that came out to show that there has been a reduction in the
rate of calcification on the reefs itself. And it's difficult
to attribute it to either--only to ocean acidification; it may
be an acidification and global warming or water temperatures
So, the problem with multiple stressors is that it may be--
there's an effect of ocean acidification plus there's an effect
of global warming plus there's an effect of pollution, but we
don't really understand how those multiple stressors will work.
It may not be A plus B plus C, it could be A plus B times C; it
could be nonlinear. So, there are some real problems that we're
not sure of.
Senator Lautenberg. Dr. Everett, do you see any warning
signs that concern you about the condition of the ocean's
Dr. Everett. Well, sir, if you had asked me, say, 2 weeks
ago, before this hearing, I would say that one of my primary
concerns in the climate change area was ocean acidification. In
the preparation of this, 2 weeks, perhaps 10 days of--this is
pretty much all I did, and, one staff person, all that she did,
poring over the literature, getting everything together, the--I
changed my testimony from being of great concern to being as I
testified. And so, that's----
Senator Lautenberg. What was--just in short form, repeat
for me the conclusion you've come to, that things are--that's
life and, you know--let me not speak for you, let me----
Dr. Everett. No, I think what Dr. Barry said is--I agree,
100 percent, and we need to find out whether the conclusion I
came to, which says it's--acidification is important, but
doesn't look like it's a problem. But, we need to find out,
it--you know, am I wrong? And let's follow the research
protocol being laid out for NOAA and others, and let's get at
the bottom of it.
I come from a fishing family, as I said; and my father
could also, as Mr. Waters, speak very eloquently. And my father
didn't go to college, but he spoke from the heart. And we're
very much in favor of the clean environment. Let's clean up our
act. OK? That's the important thing. I'm not a CO2
advocate. I'm just saying that I don't see damage.
Senator Lautenberg. Well, you had a quick study, there,
obviously. You've been--10 days, 2 weeks. You----
Dr. Everett. Oh, I--but, I've done it for close to 30
years. This was a brush-up.
Senator Lautenberg. So, then you were a slow study for a
lot of years----
Dr. Everett. Yes.
Senator Lautenberg.--before that.
Dr. Everett. That's right.
Senator Lautenberg. The--we're not fishing families, but we
are fish-eating people, and I thank you all for your testimony.
Sigourney, you look like you want to say something. And I
don't have the--I'm the seniority in the Committee, as you see,
to cut you off, so--[Laughter.]
Ms. Weaver. I hope that Dr. Everett watches our
documentary. It's not fiction. And certainly I've done enough
science fiction to know that the Earth can survive, in various
forms, through lots of different nightmarish scenarios. But,
again, that's sort of entertainment. And, as a citizen, I think
that we simply cannot take the chance. We have to be on guard.
We have to see these warning signs and act, and be able to look
in our children's eyes in 20 years and say, ``Yes, we did the
right thing when we got these early reports. We acted. We
didn't have all the information, but we had enough to know
which direction we should go in.''
Senator Lautenberg. I thank the Chair----
Senator Cantwell. Thank you. Thank you.
Senator Lautenberg.--colleagues for the----
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARK BEGICH,
U.S. SENATOR FROM ALASKA
Senator Begich. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. And I'll
try to go through my questions, here, and then I've got to get
back to another committee. I have some amendments pending.
Let me ask, just first off, from Alaska, you know, we
have--62 percent of the fresh-caught fish in the country comes
from Alaska, so we have a huge interest in the issue of climate
change or acidification of waters, as one element of it. We
also see the greatest impacts. There's no other state that sees
it, compared to us. So, I want to--most of you already know
But, as I look at the document I have here, which is the
draft--and I know you're going to have a much more formal,
probably much thicker, nicer-looking, glossy top to it or
whatever--but, let me ask you--when I look at the
recommendations--and you have several through here--I think it
was asked a little bit--are you going to--and I try to be
realistic in all the work we do here, and I'm probably more
aggressive now than ever before. I--we just had broadband, and
a presentation on that last--a week or so ago, but presented a
nice, big plan. I know enough that--serving in public office
for almost, now, 20 years, that I've learned one thing, that a
lot of plans end up on a great many shelves, and they look
great, 20 years later, when we review them and find out what we
didn't do. So, are you going to, in your recommendations,
prioritize, recognizing the resources of this country are
Now, I will say this, saying that I do believe this is an
important issue. I can tell you, the fishermen I talk to on a
regular basis--just like Mr. Waters--on a regular basis--we
have the best-managed fisheries in the country, if not, in my
belief, in the world, when it comes to Alaska fisheries. But,
the greatest threat is acidification, because it can't be
managed by the fishermen, by themselves. And so, by that fact,
after managing for more than 20, 30 years--and we've gone
through the catch shares and all that, and we're glad we've
done everything we've done. We still have our fish wars, but
they're not like they were in the 1970s, and because of that we
have an--incredibly successful fisheries. But, the piece that
is the most dangerous, even if we believe a little bit or a
lot, between the two doctors, it is a threat that cannot be
managed after the fact.
So, can you tell me, as you look at this, are you
prioritizing to where we need to hone in resource-wise and
subject-wise? I think that was one of the questions on policy.
Because all of us will love to do everything in the report--who
believe in this--but we have to be realistic of what we need to
do first and how it has the longest impact. Are you going to do
that? I know it's tough in a lot of these reports. Because they
like to just give the recommendations and say, ``You're the
policymakers, you figure it out.'' But we're all in this ship
Dr. Barry. Agreed. We were tasked with saying, What do we
need to do about this problem?--in a nutshell. So, we don't
have a series of priorities for you, but what we do state is
that, in order for this program to move forward, we must get
together repeatedly with a variety of stakeholders, certainly
the sponsors, and design explicitly what this is going to
At that point, what I would anticipate, is the starting
point for where these priorities are going to start to fall
out. Who's going to ocean observing? What piece of the pie must
that be? Where are the highest research priorities, or where's
the most economical place to start? Those are the sorts of
considerations that the Committee was not tasked with. But, I
can certainly see how that would start to play out once you
really sat down and said, ``OK, let's get moving on this.''
Now, getting moving on this is something that has already
started to happen through the FOARAM Act, and, in part, the
stimulus money. So, there----
Senator Begich. Sure.
Dr. Barry.--there's a lot of traction, I guess, is what you
use here, for this. And so, I--although I can't tell you where
those priorities lie, I think there is a mechanism by which
those will be defined.
Senator Begich. Very good.
Let me ask both of you, Dr. Barry and Dr. Everett, do you
think we have--this may be a very leading question, but do you
think we have enough resources at this point to really
understand what acidification of the waters means? To either
one of you first, whoever wants to go first.
Dr. Barry. Well, I guess I'll go first.
Senator Begich. Do the Federal agencies, not necessarily--
just so I--because that's what we deal with.
Dr. Barry. I mean, that's a little bit of an ambiguous
question, so I can't really answer that in the context of the
report, but I will answer that personally. And my view of this
is--the first thing I'd say is that what we think is going to
happen is that the oceans are going to be different. They're
not going to die, life will continue, the oceans will thrive,
but they're going to be different, and that may be quite
disruptive for humans and society--societal economies.
I'm not sure if we have the funds to understand everything,
or the support to understand everything, about ocean
acidification, but we can certainly make significant progress.
We've already done this. This is a new field, the term was
coined maybe 5 years ago.
Senator Begich. Right.
Dr. Barry. And so we're moving fast, now. There's a lot
that we can make--make hay with right now.
Senator Begich. Dr. Everett?
Dr. Everett. Yes, I agree. And the--as perspective, I
perhaps have, at this moment, maybe 60 or 70 contracts of--
working on fisheries and oceans, none of them are on
Senator Begich. None are.
Dr. Everett. None at all.
Senator Begich. That's very interesting. Well, thank you
And, Ms. Weaver, thank you for putting your voice to the
message. As the fishermen--I love your--I love that we picked
Mr. Waters to be here to represent the fishing community,
because the name is appropriate.
Senator Begich. But, I think that putting the voice to the
struggles of what I see--not necessarily in the Gulf that you
fish, Mr. Waters, but the Gulf of Alaska and throughout
Alaska--putting a voice to it and helping advocate, I really
appreciate that, because, I think, if you asked me, 4 or 5
years ago, I wouldn't have much knowledge on acidification.
When I was Mayor of Anchorage, I became more and more aware
of it, because our city had the largest amount of commercial
fishermen licenses there, even though they fished the whole
state. And then, as I traveled, especially in southeast Alaska,
I really started to hear the issue more and more. So, thank you
for your willingness to kind of step to the plate, put your
voice to it.
And, Mr. Waters, I think you did great today. You know,
fisherman, usually the meetings I'm in--and, I'm sure, my
colleagues are in--usually they're yelling at each other. So, I
appreciate your passion, directed in a way that is going to
have, hopefully, some positive results. So, thank you very
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Senator Begich. He did mention
Magnuson-Stevens, so--I mean, he did preface----
Senator Begich. I wasn't sure if he was going to go
somewhere there on that, so----
Mr. Waters. Keep it closed.
Senator Cantwell. So, one of the things that--we're going
to do one more round. And I know--then we're going to let our
panelists go. But, one of the things--we've talked a lot about
fish, but I--if we could go back to the coral reef situation
for a second, because obviously not only does acidification
affect that, I'm concerned that it might prevent the coral
reefs from even--that, you know, that initial damage might
prohibit it from regrowing. And as people have explained to me,
this is almost like our rain forest, if you will, for the
species that live in that particular environment, so if you
could talk about that.
And then I want Mr. Waters and Mr. Ingram to talk about,
Well, what are the kind of early warning systems that you see,
that you think we should be doing as part of solutions?
Dr. Barry. Well, concerning coral reefs, coral reefs are
certainly dependent upon calcification.
Senator Cantwell. And I should just mention to people, we
have many coral reefs in the Northwest, and my colleague from
Alaska can tell you about the coral reefs in his areas, so----
Dr. Barry. Well, you also have them offshore, in deeper
waters, too. I'm a deep sea ecologist, so I have a little bias
toward the things that live in deep waters. But shallow-water
reefs certainly depend upon calcification. And when you couple
calcification with--I'm sorry--ocean acidification with
warming, we've seen coral bleaching, just due to warming; and
if that persists for a couple weeks, the corals die. The reefs
will remain intact until they dissolve. As we make the oceans
more acidic, then--or less alkaline--then they certainly could
begin to erode more quickly.
And the tropical Pacific--actually, if there is a--if I
could get a slide up, this shows the change in the aragonite
saturation state, how much saturation of carbonate minerals are
in the ocean. And this is a little bit complicated--whoops--
well, this is a movie, produced by Sarah Cooley at WHOI, which
is--the reds are areas--you can see the scale, going from
purple to red. Purple means that--4.5 means there's a lot of
carbonate minerals around to make their shells. And as things
get lower--and corals when they get to around 2.2, 2.3--below
that, it's becoming hard to calcify. If you go below 1, into
the red, exposed carbonate minerals will dissolve, just because
the ocean is sufficiently acidic at that point.
So, as we move from 1900, at the beginning of this slide,
to the right, at 2100, we see that the red starts to take over,
and the purples and dark blues disappear. And I think this will
stop, after this last one, and you'll see, at the end, toward
the end of this century, the conditions for creating calcium
carbonate are much, much weaker, and that the chemical
conditions are not as appropriate as they are now or as they
were in the past.
Now, what happens in the long run? In the long run, when we
make this ocean more acidic, that makes it harder to make the
skeletons. There's evidence from different areas that are
either more acidic or less acidic now. In areas where corals
are living where it is now more acidic, they cement that
calcium carbonate more weakly, so they have more fragile
skeletons, which allows more rapid coastal erosion, et cetera.
And as you move into the future, if all of the areas that
are creating corals are more fragile cementation of that
calcium carbonate, that means that they're much more
susceptible to erosion if they die or when they die. And so, if
you add warming on top of the story, all of a sudden we have a
bunch of reefs that are now dead, that could be eroded.
Now, I can't--there's no certainty that that's going to
happen. But, it--there's quite a bit of worry in the scientific
community, particularly about shallow water or tropical coral
That being said, once you change that reef structure,
because they're such an important structure-forming part of the
community, everything else can change with it. So, instead of a
coral-dominated community, with all the animals that you have
now, and plants, you start to algal-dominated community, which
has a whole different suite of things that may be completely
different, in terms of its ecology, completely different for
the services it provides, in terms of scuba divers, fishing,
coastline protection, or even as a source of biodiversity that
we--that pharmaceutical companies are interested in, to try and
look for new medicines.
So, in a kind of a wide-ranging tome, there's my answer for
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
Mr. Waters, early warning systems. What should we be doing,
or what do you think the fishing industry sees as ways to
participate in helping with this information?
Mr. Waters. Yes, ma'am. Well, so far, I only know of one
thing, where the Coast Guard wants to do some baseline studies
in the Gulf of Mexico. And our biggest threat is considered
hypoxia, which is the nutrients coming down the Mississippi
River, creating dead zones where we're at. But I think these
baseline studies would be just a pure minimum for the
monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico. I would like to see some
funding for some more active and more proactive monitoring to
see if we having any kind of acidity change in the Gulf of
Mexico. Because, like all these doctors are saying, the colder
waters absorb the carbon faster than the warm waters.
So, I can't really sit here and tell you that I'm watching
my fish die or my oysters die from acidification, but I also
want to keep my eyes open. I don't want to turn my back on it,
and I don't want to--I'd love to believe in Dr. Everett, and
I'm scared to death of Dr. Barry. And----
Mr. Waters. So, I mean, I've really--you know, my whole
life, my family's life, is all in a fishing community. And even
though we fish hard against other fishermen, and they don't
seem to be your friends, if you ever holler ``mayday,'' they
are your friends. So, at this time, we just--we really need to
keep our eyes open and have some fundings to monitor this in
the southern regions, and I believe a little more proactive in
the northern regions, and really see what's going on in this.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
Mr. Ingram. I guess this--this seems to me like the proverb
of boiling a frog. We don't really know precisely that
somebody's turning up the heat on us just yet, because we
haven't really felt it. And if we were that frog in water that
was being increasingly heated, we would, sooner or later, find
ourselves in deep trouble.
We, in the diving industry--you know, there are three and a
half million active divers in the United States. And some of
those people are scientists, and some of them have been able to
help us to understand what's going on around us. We have a
couple of environmental organizations that are very tightly
tied to the diving industry--the Reef Environmental Education
Foundation, the Coral Reef Alliance, and the Project AWARE
Foundation. And they do help us to understand what's going on.
They very frequently provide us with information that helps to
educate all of our constituents about what's going on.
But, I think, for us, the biggest issue that we would need
is to work with somebody like Jim Barry, like Dr. Everett, to
help us to understand what those early warning signs could be.
There's a lot of signs that we see firsthand, as I mentioned
before, that are signs that there is something wrong. There's
coral bleaching that's taking place. We see, unfortunately,
trash on the bottom of the ocean. We see all sorts of different
things, from pollution, that probably should not be there. And
so, when we do see those things, we try to do our best to clean
that stuff up and get it off the bottom, and also report it to
those organizations that can help us to keep our area clean.
So, I think, for us--from the diving industry's
perspective, the thing, for us, that would be the most critical
would be for us to continue our education toward understanding,
so that we can help to provide as much information as we
possibly can on reporting what's happening as the heat gets
turned up on our frog.
Senator Cantwell. Well, thank you, Mr. Ingram.
And I will just say, I--you know, I know, Mr. Waters,
you're saying, you know, this event has, you know, worried on
one side or listening to the results. I mean, my--you met one
of our Northwest shell growers, and you saw what he was going
through. And I can tell you, we don't want that to continue or
to broaden to a larger group and classification of either the
shellfish industry or the fishing industry. And that's why I
think this letter from the shellfish growers and the commercial
fishermen, today that we received, about how important this is,
and making sure that we come up with answers.
That's--I can't say to shellfish growers who've been in
Washington State for 126 years, ``We're going to do nothing.''
I simply can't. So, we're going to get answers, and we want to
work with you.
Senator Snowe, do you have any----
Senator Snowe. Thank you, Madam Chair. Just briefly.
Mr. Waters, certainly we want to prevent any trauma to your
industry. I know, speaking firsthand, in my own state, many of
our sectors in the fishing industry, particularly the
groundfish industry, is faced with tremendous challenges, the
reduction of the number of days at sea, and enormous Federal
regulations are a result of what has happened in the past, in
losing so much of their fisheries, and trying to rebuild it
now. That's what we've got to avoid and to prevent and preempt.
It's always a delicate balancing act about whether you do too
much or too little, and that's the debate that even is
reflected here today, in some senses, in how far we go.
And also, from my standpoint of the fishing community in
Maine, a couple of things that are really important. The
credibility and the integrity of the science is so important to
the outcome and the decisions that have to be made as a result
and collaboration should exist between the scientists and the
Think about the Gulf of Mexico. I mean, talk about a dead
zone--7- to 8,000 square miles literally described as a dead
zone because of hypoxia. I have introduced legislation that has
passed out of this committee to assist in that effort, but as
you mentioned, acidification cannot be considered in a vacuum.
There are so many other aspects that are affecting, and could
affect, your livelihood.
So, do you see your fishing community with whom you work,
recognizing that this is a serious issue, and that fishermen
can play a vital role in helping in this process of scientific
Mr. Waters. Ms. Snowe, it's--we've had so many fires in our
cabin with fighting catch share--or not fighting against catch
share, as we've come to you before--or I have visited your
office and had help from you and other things with Magnuson and
Stevens. But, there are so many fires in the fishing industry.
As you know, I spent last week with some of the monk fishermen
in Galveston with the Fishermen's Exchange. It--it's--you know,
it just hasn't been brought forward.
I mean, we're having a presentation in Tampa by an
organization for--The Gulf of Mexico Shareholders Alliance. The
Alliance signed off--you know, I was the founding president of
the Alliance, and they signed off on this, and they're becoming
aware. And this is a new topic. I mean, we've had so many
battles. And how many battles can you fight? You, yourself,
know of how many issues you have to deal with in 1 day. How
many issues can you deal with as a person? And a lot of our
fishermen don't have staffs as intelligent or as responsible as
your staffs, relaying information to you.
So, I believe it's going to come to the forefront, it's
coming very quickly. And, like I said, the news is just
reaching our fishermen. And talking to some of the fishermen
from your area last week, you know, it's concerning them. I
mean, when you start getting other fishermen, and you sit down
and have your discussion, and they say, ``Well, it's killing
us. Our oysters are dying,'' and stuff like this. So it's, you
know, we--we've had the issues of management and turf wars, the
days at sea, the sectors, and on and on and on and on and on.
And I mean, it's just----
Senator Snowe. I know.
Mr. Waters.--we've got to go fishing sometimes.
Senator Snowe. I know. I couldn't agree with you more,
you're right on. You're absolutely right. I think people would
be surprised to what degree the fishing industry is regulated
by the Federal Government. I sympathize and empathize.
Mr. Waters. But, I do thank you for your support.
Senator Snowe. But, your eyes and ears are on the water,
and you can share firsthand information, so that's what's
important. My fishing industry asked for us to be part of the
process and to make sure we're doing our part and investing in
quality research so that whatever emerges from that research
and the decisions that are made, they are ones that they can
accept and embrace.
Mr. Waters. Yes, ma'am, and I do appreciate your concerns.
And mostly my cries have been from other fishermen warning me
of what's coming to my area, from their heart, just as I have
spoke to you from my heart. And I appreciate your help with us.
Senator Snowe. We thank you for giving your time, your
precious time, away from your work. So, we thank you very much.
Mr. Ingram, your clients as well, do they recognize this
issue? Because coral reefs are very integral to the diving
industry. So, do you see a general awareness?
Mr. Ingram. Well, as Dr. Barry indicated, the term was only
coined about 5 years ago, so it is--it's just coming to the
forefront. We have seen a number of articles that have been
posted within our industry to start to educate. And the fine
film, ``Acid Test,'' has really been kind of making its way
through the diving industry here, of late. And I think that
that is a key to this, because, as I said before, we have 3 and
a half million divers out there that are watching what's going
on with the coral reefs. And they can be a wealth of
information to everyone here at this table. So, I think it's an
important thing for us to continue to be involved, as well, to
be able to help the scientists, as best we can, but also help
from the standpoint that I think we can look at this from an
economic standpoint, as well, just as Donny has indicated.
Diving feeds our families, and we want them to be able to
do that. And we have to do that for the long haul. It's not
just for the short run. It's for both, actually; both are
Senator Snowe. Thank you.
Dr. Barry and Dr. Everett, on the issue of research versus
mitigation, the question is, first of all, How much research is
necessary to determine whether or not mitigation steps are
essential? Are we doing enough research, at the Federal level
right now, that is sufficient to warrant steps to be taken? How
much research and how much funding should we be spending on
research? I think that's the real question, because, obviously,
between you, Dr. Barry and Dr. Everett, there are some
differences and questions on not--whether or not there is
sufficient science. That's what I'm hearing from Dr. Everett
and that would suggest that there is a real problem.
On the other hand, do we know that we're spending enough
money on sufficient research to document the problem, and
whether or not we should take the next step for mitigation or
adaptation, whatever the case may be?
Dr. Barry. I think--so, there are a couple questions here
really. One of them, Is there--are we doing enough right now?
This committee was charged with defining, What do we need to
do, as a Nation, to get a grip on this problem? And so, the
report that was released today really does outline what this
committee feels are the necessary steps that we should take in
order to find out what's going on, get to the bottom of this
science, so that we can understand what's going to happen in
the future, much--or at least constrain the range of
possibilities so that it will give us some power to adapt, as a
Nation, as a society.
How much money should we put into this is something that
the scientific community would love to tell you. I'd love to
help you say that we should do this or that, but that's not
something that we were charged with, and it's probably good to
separate that. Just as we would love to say, as a committee,
here's what the priorities should be, because we have--each
have our own key ideas of what we think should be done. But,
that's also not really appropriate, and that's not something
the Committee addressed.
Senator Snowe. Dr. Everett, what are your views?
Dr. Everett. Well, one of the ways to look at it is--as I
said, presently I'm not involved in any of the work. It's
highly likely I would be. And so, the--there's very little
Now, if the--one of the ways that I always looked at it,
when I was head of policy and planning at the Fishery Service,
was to--you know, how important is the problem, OK?--and--
versus the amount of money being spent on it, versus the other
problems? You know, it--does it merit just a fraction of 1
percent, or, you know, is it fundamental, and therefore, it
ought to be several percent? And when you look at it, I think
the funding now is below 1 percent, even in the plans. And so,
if it's a bigger problem, then guidance is needed from you all.
Senator Snowe. Thank you.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
Thank you. And I want to thank Dr. Everett, Dr. Barry, Ms.
Weaver, Mr. Waters, Mr. Ingram, for your testimony today.
Senator Snowe and I and Senator Lautenberg, along with 20
of our colleagues, are calling for Fiscal Year 2011 funding for
ocean acidification and monitoring and research. So, we are
going to be proceeding, moving ahead on this issue. So, we
We want to, specifically, thank you, too, for being here on
the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. I think we all helped make
sure that the oceans got their fair due in this big debate
about our planet, that--70 percent of our Earth's planet being
oceans, that not all is well underneath those waters, and we
need to be good stewards of that part of our planet, as well.
So, thank you for helping us illuminate that, and for your
The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:54 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Olympia J. Snowe to
Question 1. When we're faced with scientific uncertainty about how
present actions will impact the future environment, it makes decisions
to permit or prohibit certain actions more difficult. Because your
industry is likely to be affected by whatever regulatory action is
taken to deal with this issue, how do you feel that public
participation should be incorporated into the policy-making process to
minimize negative impacts on your industry today and in the future?
Answer. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your thoughtful
questions. We appreciate being included in this discussion.
There are a number of ways that public participation should be
incorporated into the policy-making process to minimize the negative
impacts on the diving industry, both for today and for the future.
a. I recommend strongly that such active participation and
discussion continue through DEMA. We are eager to assist, and
can continue operating as a conduit of information and feedback
for this government body from both the professional and
As the trade association for the Recreational Diving Industry
DEMA has members encompassing the five different active major
stakeholder groups in the industry; equipment manufacturers,
training organizations, retail dive centers, travel/boat
operators, non-retail services and the media. Any legislation
enacted will have an impact on one or more of these stakeholder
groups. As DEMA's Board and staff can provide information and
help facilitate communication with members of the industry, we
are glad to offer our assistance and play a continuing role in
the process. In addition, several diving-related NGO's also
exist with which DEMA interacts, such as the Project AWARE
Foundation and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
These NGO's can assist with policy input and communications to
the general public.
DEMA can provide business-related information to this Senate
Committee as well as operational details needed to help this
body understand the long term impact of legislation for the
industry/professional diving community. DEMA has the capability
and expertise to make general recommendations on methodologies
to protect this important resource and soliciting the input of
business professionals. Working directly with the professional
diving community as we do, DEMA will assist by keeping this
issue in front of the professional audience.
DEMA is positioned to assist this body in reaching the diving
consumer to bring Ocean Acidification and any legislative
activity to their attention.
b. In addition to utilizing DEMA's resources to reach the
professional and consumer audience, we believe the best way to
incorporate public participation in policy-making is to bring
the proposed policies before this intelligent audience in a
series of face-to-face meeting opportunities, as well as to
provide access to the information through government and
private websites and other communication means. By working
through DEMA, through the environmental NGO's and though
members of the professional dive community, meeting
notifications, explanations of the pros and cons of proposed
legislation and ample time for analysis will provide the kind
of transparency needed to develop agreement within this diverse
but involved community.
Question 2. As you pointed out in your testimony, divers can act as
stewards of the marine environment, and their contributions to coastal
economies are substantial. Coral bleaching events and die-offs as a
result of ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures have already
affected your industry, and the downturn in the economy seems to be
affecting your industry as well. Overall, ocean acidification has the
potential to impact your business on an even broader scale. What kinds
of monitoring data or other research activities would most benefit
industries like yours that support coastal communities while
simultaneously building public appreciation for the oceans?
Answer. It appears that a need exists for accurate, readily
available, and easily understood baseline information regarding the
health of aquatic resources which may be impacted by ocean
acidification. Developing consumer-friendly baseline information for
such resources as coral reefs, current ocean pH, marine life activity
and growth, and other biological factors should make it easier for the
professional and consumer diving communities to observe and provide
feedback on advancement of the phenomenon and on its correction should
legislation be enacted. As previously mentioned, the diving-related
NGO's such as the Project AWARE Foundation and Reef Environmental
Education Foundation, along with DEMA, can assist in developing and
dispersing such baseline data to the diving community.
In addition to baseline scientific data that provides references
for the biological processes impacted by ocean acidification, it is
also important to develop and use baseline economic data for the diving
related businesses that may be impacted by any enacted legislation.
These small (and sometimes micro-sized) businesses depend on the
availability of inexpensive energy, in the form of fuel for diving
vessels, electricity to run their land and electronic operations and
easy, inexpensive, and unfettered access to diving locations. Direct
and indirect jobs as well as induced jobs and the tax-revenues
generated by them, are likely to be impacted by any legislation which
restricts or otherwise impairs the diving business community. While
DEMA has provided some of this current economic data as part of our
Senate Committee testimony, this data should be considered when
legislation is proposed.
In summary, divers want to be involved. A clear set of economic and
biological baselines and guidelines to monitor changes will help keep
divers involved and will help divers advocate for economic and
biological resource protection.
Question 2a. In your interactions with your clients, do you get the
sense that the general public awareness of ocean acidification is
Yes, but public awareness still remains somewhat limited. Using
vehicles such as the video presentation ``Acid Test'' has been helpful
in generating public awareness. The opportunity for DEMA to testify
before this committee was also helpful in bringing the issue to the
attention of the professional members of the diving community. The DEMA
Board of Directors has also indicated their desire to provide more
economic information to assist in educating the professional diving
Question 2b. How can your industry contribute to, and benefit from,
increased public awareness of this issue?
There are three means by which this industry can contribute to
public awareness of ocean acidification:
1. Professional members, environmental NGO's and consumer
participants in the diving industry have the unique opportunity
to observe first-hand any impacts or changes in the close-to-
shore aquatic environment. Divers can contribute to the body of
directly observable information available to this committee and
any scientific or economic group involved in the future.
2. DEMA, the organization, and diving's environmental NGO's,
can contribute to public awareness through the use of published
papers written by qualified member groups, through the
educational component its annual trade-only convention, by
disseminating information directly to its professional members
for further distribution to diving consumers, and by
disseminating information directly to diving consumers through
videos, articles and other means, such as the consumer diving
3. Because diving has a high level of visual media appeal, the
diving industry can continue to offer its resources to groups
that provide science-based and economics-based information for
media dissemination. DEMA has made such an opportunity
available for showing the previously mentioned ``Acid Test''
video during the annual trade-only DEMA Show, and invited
Sigourney Weaver to participate. As you well know, such
opportunities draw media attention to these issues, helping to
increase public awareness.
The diving industry will benefit from increased public awareness of
this phenomenon in several ways:
1. Senate Committee involvement and concern with this issue
brings aquatic resources and diving to attention of the general
public, generally having a positive effect on diving
2. Protecting our aquatic resources is absolutely necessary to
health of the recreational scuba diving and snorkeling
industries. Without a healthy aquatic environment and ease of
access to that environment, these industries cannot exist. As
we have seen in the last few weeks, even the suggestion of
aquatic resource degradation can have a devastating effect on
these industries. When we consider that diving businesses in
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and even Texas are
being impacted by the mere publicity surrounding the current
Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the economic damage that could be
caused to these industries by ocean acidification, true oil
spill damage, and other real environmental problems should be
3. Bringing attention to this issue provides the industry with
a better understanding of the governmental role in protecting
these resources, and provides an opportunity to demonstrate
DEMA's role in assisting these businesses by helping to protect
them. It also provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the
diving industry to develop a greater understanding of the
economics of the diving industry and provides them with
guidelines for operating using long and short-term objectives
that preserve this industry.
Ranking Member Snowe, we again applaud the efforts of this
committee. Your willingness to solicit input from a variety of sources
in the professional and lay communities is a good example of private
industry and government working together to understand the issues and
bring them to the public for their careful consideration. Thank you for
your service and your continued interest.
Response to Written Question Submitted by Hon. Olympia J. Snowe to
Donald A. Waters
Question. When we're faced with scientific uncertainty about how
present actions will impact the future environment, it makes decisions
to permit or prohibit certain actions more difficult. Because your
industry is likely to be affected by whatever regulatory action is
taken to deal with this issue, how do you feel that public
participation should be incorporated into the policy-making process to
minimize negative impacts on your industry today and in the future?
Answer. Thank you for asking about this, Senator Snowe. After
reading your question I think it's possible that we share some of the
same hopes and concerns. And I do have some ideas about how to make a
public process that might help us find a good, balanced way to move
We Need Balanced Solutions
I'm happy to see your interest in dealing with ocean acidification,
because it looks like a problem for fishermen and shellfish growers.
I'm also happy to see that you aren't rushing into radical measures to
eliminate carbon emissions no matter what the consequences. I support
your effort in the Senate to cap carbon emissions from utilities. It's
a step in the right direction. If it reduces the amount of acid going
into the ocean, I can live with a small increase in my utility bill.
Once I get used to that, I might be ready to go the next step. You've
already got power companies in the Northeast working in a regional
emissions-reduction program that shows they can do this without
breaking the economy. To scale that up sounds like a practical way to
Use Public Involvement For Science
You asked about public process, and as far as fishermen are
concerned I can tell you that's a very welcome question. From talking
to fishermen I know around the country, I can tell you the stakes are
high and the knowledge about ocean acidification is low. There aren't
many of us who really know a lot about what carbon emissions do to our
fisheries. There are a lot of rumors and fears out there about what it
might cost to solve this problem. We need to understand the problem
better, and we also need to understand the solutions better.
I also want to suggest that a really good public involvement
program might help the whole country deal with this problem. Ocean
acidification could be a problem for the whole nation. The oil spill in
the Gulf has made it pretty clear that when the ocean gets messed up,
the consequences reach a long way from the coast. When it stays
healthy, there are benefits for everyone.
A good public process on the waterfront might help at both ends of
this problem. There's the science end where we need to understand
what's happening to the ocean, and there's the policy end where we need
to do something about it.
I'll start with the science. We all need to understand the problem
of ocean acidification better. There are a lot of us who spend our
working lives on the water. We can help the scientists look in the
right places. This problem of acidification is important to fishermen,
even though we don't know much about it yet. It has the potential to
affect our livelihood. We don't now how yet, but we need to find out.
Consulting with fishermen and aquaculture people and divers can
help scientists deliver a good, focused research and monitoring program
on acidification. Scientists are gearing up the national research
program on acidification under the FOARAM Act that you helped to pass
in 2009 (and thank you for that, it was a good first step).
I know the funding for the research and monitoring is modest,
because there's a real need to control Federal spending. In April
several Senators on this subcommittee mentioned this when they asked
how to prioritize investment in research and monitoring. That's a good
question to put to a combined group of scientists and user groups, and
I know you're going to be hearing some ideas about that soon from
people who are already pulling some of those groups together. Those of
us who work on the water, fishermen and divers and growers, can help
figure out where to get the best bang for your buck. We can point
scientists to the places that produce the most seafood, and together we
can pinpoint the resources that might be affected the most or the
soonest. We can also help by working with scientists to collect data
and water samples and provide boats for at-sea research.
We might even be able to help work out ways to duck some of the
damage that acidification may cause to fisheries and aquaculture. I'm
not saying we can live with an ocean that doesn't produce fish any
more. I do not buy the idea that we just have to accept destruction and
``get used it.'' The oyster hatcheries on the West Coast aren't waiting
around for the world to stop emitting carbon dioxide. They've already
taken some hard punches from corrosive water that dissolves their
oyster larvae before they can grow. They're trying to find ways to
protect their oyster larvae by monitoring chemical changes in the
seawater. They are timing when they try to grow larvae so they can take
advantage ``good water'' periods. They are doing broodstock research to
try to improve the oysters' resistance to low-pH seawater. They are at
the front line, and the rest of us should be learning from them and
teaming up to help them beat this problem.
Go Local and Regional
If you really want to get people prepared to deal with this
problem, it will probably take a lot of meetings. Fishing is local, and
the knowledge that fishermen can offer is local. It's a big job, but
you could do a lot of good by reaching out to fishermen and seafood
growers and other users in the bayous, in the little bays up the coast
of Maine, in the ports where they fish in Alaska--all around the
Public Involvement For Policy
Senator Snowe, you're absolutely right that anything you do to
reduce carbon emissions is going to affect fishermen. Doing nothing
will affect us too, if this problem turns out to be as serious as most
of the scientists say.
It's fairly obvious that fishermen are going to see changes in the
ocean. For example, back in the 1970s in the Gulf of Mexico I used to
pull up a very thin-shelled, delicate thing called a paper nautilus,
and I hardly ever see them now. If you ask, fishermen might give you a
lot of observations like that, and maybe scientists can use that
information to understand what's happening.
Fishermen have a stake in both sides of this problem. Whatever you
do, we want it to work. We need the sea to be healthy so it still
produces lots of fish. At the same time we need to run boats so we can
go out and bring that food home from the sea. We need affordable fuel
to do that.
If you can find a way of reducing carbon emissions that fishermen
can live with, then the odds are good that most other people can get
comfortable with it too.
I understand that one of the ways to reduce emissions is to put a
price on carbon emissions, and maybe at some point we'll have to live
with higher costs at the fuel pump. We hear reports that the EPA is
taking steps to regulate emissions from fishing boats and other
commercial marine vessels. We know that fishing vessels are a tiny
source of emissions, but if it is done fairly, a lot of us will
probably be willing to do our part, especially if there is help
available to fishermen for the investment that may be required to make
boats more fuel-efficient.
I make my whole living from the ocean. As long as it doesn't drive
me broke, I'm more than willing to pull my share of the load to keep it
I think a good public process might ask people how to encourage
more fuel efficiency. In fishing, those who can afford the investment
can cut fuel use by repowering, or putting in more efficient
generators, pumps, and other things. There are also some out-of-the-box
approaches like changing the way fisheries are managed and regulated so
they can become more fuel-efficient. This isn't for everybody, but one
example is the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery, where we went to a
catch-share system. It reduced the fuel each of us burns to catch a
fish, and it also led to fleet reduction. Put the two together and you
see a drastic reduction in the amount of fuel used in our fishery. Now,
I don't want to force catch shares on fisheries that don't want them,
and I'm not saying the same approach will work everywhere. But if the
goal is to help people reduce emissions, it's not just about equipment.
Sometimes it's about the way regulations define how efficient a guy can
be in his operation.
These are the kind of questions that you can bring up in a good
public process on the waterfront. If you ask people first, you might
get some good options on the table for dealing with this carbon
problem. Should the government help people invest to become more fuel-
efficient? How much? What are the best ways to do it?
An Independent Process
Getting scientists and fishermen to work together isn't always
easy, as you know. It takes a lot of skill, communications expertise,
and a pretty good understanding of how to herd cats.
I think it would be good to do this through an independent
organization instead of a Federal agency. Getting the right outfit to
put all this together is important. It's probably going to vary from
one area of the country to another. In some places, like in the Gulf of
Mexico where I'm from, the Sea Grant programs are good at creating ways
for scientists and the user groups to work together. In some places,
the best organizers for this might be fishing associations, or really
well respected nonprofit groups or university people who can build a
trust between the fishing communities and the scientific community.
Some of this is already going on. The oyster growers, Sea Grant,
some of the fishing groups are working with the Sustainable Fisheries
Partnership, other groups and universities and so on. They have been
putting together some regional workshops about acidification. It's a
User Advisory Group
It would also be good to find some smart fishing, aquaculture, and
diving leaders and form a user advisory group to consult with the
scientists about the research and monitoring on acidification.
Oil Industry Should Help Pay
Down on the Gulf coast before the oil spill, it was hard to believe
we could have such incredible consequences. Now we know, and we've
begun to push BP to pick up the tab for the cleanup and for research
and monitoring so we can understand what the spill is doing to sea life
and to the ocean's chemistry.
Maybe the oil industry should do more. If you're going to have some
public participation, you could ask people if they think the oil
business should pay for a lot of the science to understand what all
that carbon does to the ocean. Maybe the oil industry should be picking
up their fair share of the long-term research and monitoring costs, not
just for spills but to show the effects of all the carbon emissions
that get into the sea. I saw a report that says oil and gas are
responsible for about half of all the carbon dioxide produced by the
world's energy economy. (http://www.eia.doe.gov/.../emissions.pdf). So
maybe they should pay for half the science on this even though these
cost will probably be passed on to the consumer. Senator Snowe, I know
that you've been pushing to create an ocean endowment for marine
research. I think if you had a string of meetings around the coasts you
might find a lot of support for making the oil companies pay their fair
Once again, thanks for your leadership on this issue, Senator
Snowe. It means a lot to those of us who make our living fishing.
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Olympia J. Snowe to
James P. Barry, Ph.D.
Question 1. A recent study published in the journal of the
Geological Society of America, found that when 18 different types of
marine organisms were exposed to seawater with four different levels of
partial pressure of carbon dioxide the calcification rates of those
organisms did not all respond the same way. In fact, three species had
their highest calcification rates at the highest level of
CO2: species of crabs, lobsters, and shrimps. What does this
study tell you about the ability of some species to adapt to or perhaps
even be genetically predisposed to thrive in oceans that experience
higher degrees of acidity?
Answer. The recent paper by Justin Ries (Ries et al., 2009)
demonstrated that calcification rates among 18 marine organisms
responded in different ways to simulated ocean acidification. While it
is widely expected that calcification rates of marine organisms would
decrease in more acidic waters with low saturation states for calcium
carbonate, Dr. Ries found that some organisms studied increased their
production of calcium carbonate skeletal material under even very high
simulated atmospheric CO2 levels. In particular, the
crustaceans studied (crab, lobster, shrimp) increased skeletal
production as the acidity of waters was increased, while most in most
other species, calcification declined.
What does this tell us about the effects that future ocean
acidification might have on these animals or on marine ecosystems in
general? First, let's consider what changes in calcification may mean
for the lives of these animals. To be successful, organisms must
survive, grow, and reproduce. For organisms forming calcium carbonate
skeletons or shells, calcification is one of many important processes
that contribute to successful growth, survival, and reproduction. As
Dr. Ries notes, we do not know how ocean acidification waters might
have affected physiological processes other than calcification in these
organisms, or how lifelong immersion in acidified waters would affect
their growth, survival, and successful reproduction. This is a critical
observation because calcification alone may not be a good indicator of
The exact mechanisms of calcification are not understood for all
organisms, but research to date indicates that forming calcium
carbonate in acidic waters is energetically more costly for organisms
than in normal seawater. In a sense this is saying, ``There is no free
lunch.'' If it is costs (energetically) more to make either the same or
a larger skeleton in acidified waters, where does the extra energy come
from? The crustaceans studied by Ries may have had plenty of extra
energy available (food) to support the extra cost of calcification.
Could animals in the wild respond similarly? Will they be able to
simply feed more to compensate for the presumed higher costs of shell
formation in more acidic waters, or might there be energetic tradeoffs?
For example, would they grow more slowly or produce fewer young to
support high skeletal growth?
Crustaceans are also very different physiologically than many of
the other organisms studied and Dr. Ries' results pose several
questions concerning factors influencing growth and shell formation in
these animals. Crustaceans increase in size by molting (shedding their
shell) periodically, since they cannot make their shells larger once it
is formed. Molting involves very complex changes in hormonal and
internal chemistry that may actually favor larger new shells during
molting in acidified waters. As they begin to molt, crabs inflate their
bodies with water as much as possible, to maximize their size while the
new shell is hardening (calcifying). This hardening process occurs over
days. One the new shell is formed, tissue grows in slowly to fill the
now larger shell, followed by another molt cycle. Could higher acidity
slow the process of calcification during molting, allowing the animals
to inflate to a greater size before hardening occurs? Does the larger
shell also allow more rapid tissue growth leading to faster growth
rates and larger individuals?
At this point, we do not know how immersion in acidified waters
will affect the lifelong survival, growth, and reproduction of any of
the species studied by Dr. Ries. His study provides some tantalizing
evidence that there are likely to be winners and losers as ocean
chemistry changes in the future. However, his work and that of others
looking at the short-term physiological performance of animals under
ocean acidification cannot tell the whole story. We need to understand
how these physiological changes (and others) will affect lifelong
performance for individuals, which in turn scales up to populations
(population growth rates, reproductive rates, and productivity).
Ultimately, changes in populations and species due to ocean
acidification can affect entire ecosystems. These are the sorts of
questions we need more information about to understand the
comprehensive effects of ocean acidification.
A second aspect of Dr. Ries' study that is important to consider is
how the differing effects of ocean acidification on many species will
affect marine food webs and ecosystem processes. Let's assume, perhaps
incorrectly, that higher calcification is good and reduced
calcification is bad, in terms of the growth and survival of animals.
If so, then crustaceans will benefit (i.e., live longer, grow faster or
larger), than most of the other animals studied, including most
mollusks, which appear to be the losers in a high-CO2 ocean
(based on calcification rates). These differences alone could lead to a
disruption of marine food webs due to the reduction in some prey or
predators and increase in others. If the abundance of important prey or
predators changes greatly due to the direct physiological impacts of
ocean acidification, this could indirectly affect many other species
due to shifts in prey and predator abundance. Ultimately, changes in
the performance of even a relatively small number of species due to
ocean acidification could modify energy flow through marine food webs
and drive important changes in the function of ecosystems.
Dr. Everett testified at the Ocean Acidification Hearing, cited Dr.
Ries' paper as one piece of evidence to conclude that there is little
concern that ocean acidification is a serious problem. Dr. Ries, along
with Dr. Iglesias-Rodriguez (whose paper (Iglesias-Rodriguez et al.,
2008) was also cited by Dr. Everett as evidence to alleviate concern
about ocean acidification) submitted a rebuttal to the Senate,
objecting strong to what they felt was Dr. Everett's serious
misinterpretation of their studies.
Question 1a. What do studies such as this one say about the future
of the science of ocean acidification and where we should be focusing
Answer. Dr. Ries' study is one of many excellent efforts to
understand how ocean acidification will affect marine organisms and
ecosystems. Society needs to know how changes in ocean chemistry due to
ocean acidification will affect the growth and productivity of species,
their interactions with other species, and other processes that may in
turn affect a wide variety of ecosystem services we depend upon. Will
fisheries production change, and if so, how? How will the biodiversity
of marine ecosystems change, if at all? These are important but
difficult questions that cannot be addressed easily. The scientific
community has started where it can--what is the physiological response
of organisms to future conditions for short periods? While these sorts
of studies will continue to be important, we need to be able to scale
up the results of these studies to the level of populations and
ecosystems over longer time scales. How will ocean acidification affect
the growth, survival, and reproductive rates of organisms over their
entire lives? How will changes in individuals affect populations, in
terms of productivity or resilience to disturbance? How will changes in
individual species affect food webs from phytoplankton and algae at its
base to top predators such as salmon and tuna?
Scientific inquiry concerning all aspects of ocean acidification is
developing rapidly. While we still need more studies just like Dr.
Ries', he and many others are already working to broaden the scope of
these studies to address some of the more difficult longer-term and
broader scale questions mentioned above. Scaling up from single
organism studies to populations and ecosystems is difficult and will
require innovative approaches and sustained effort. It is important to
remember that our activities are changing the chemistry of the ocean
faster and further than is thought to have occurred for many millions
of years, with unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems. Just as we
wouldn't drive down a dark road without headlights, we should not forge
ahead into a future within some insight into where we are going.
Ries, J. B., Cohen, A. L., McCorkle, D.C. 2009. Marine calcifiers
exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification.
Geology 37(12): 1131-1134.
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Roger F. Wicker to
James P. Barry, Ph.D.
Question 1. You discussed in your testimony that research
concerning ocean acidification's impact on marine life is limited,
particularly on populations and ecosystem dynamics. Can you please
describe other areas of study which lack sound scientific research that
would provide better understanding of this issue?
Answer. The field of ocean acidification is quite new, and
important questions concerning how populations and ecosystems will
respond to future ocean acidification are the tough questions we face.
These are difficult questions, but they lie at the heart of what
society needs to know to plan for the future and adapt (as a society)
to potential changes in resources and ecosystem services provided by
the oceans. There are research programs underway now (European Project
on OCean Acidification: EPOCA), Biological Impacts of Ocean
ACIDification (BIOACID)--the German National program on ocean
acidification, the UK Ocean Acidification program, and now the National
Research Council has published its report on a U.S. National Strategy
for Ocean Acidification Research. Each of these program outlines a
series of efforts to investigate the effects of ocean acidification,
often in combination with other climate-related stressors (warming,
hypoxia), on marine organisms, including efforts to ``scale-up'' our
understanding of individual effects to populations and ecosystems.
Regarding ocean acidification research, we need to understand not
only the effects on individual organisms, but also require a much
broader understanding of future changes in ocean chemistry, from the
scale of entire ocean basins to the apparently more complex coastal and
inshore areas. Ocean chemistry in these areas are also affected greatly
by other factors such as nutrient loading. Within this context of
anthropogenic influences on ocean chemistry, we hope to gain an
understanding of the effects of changing chemistry on ecosystems. Thus,
ocean chemistry is one area where we require much more information
before we can predict changes in marine populations and ecosystems.
Because society acts in many ways to affect ocean ecosystems
(fishing, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, ocean
acidification (Jackson et al., 2001), it may be difficult to determine
the relative roles of various anthropogenic influences and natural
factors in the trajectories of marine ecosystems. Knowledge of the
influence of each of these factors can be of obvious importance, and
efforts to integrate information concerning the influence of human
stresses on the performance of species from the level of individual
physiology up to populations and eventually to ecosystems will be a key
to predicting future ecosystem changes in response to our activities.
Question 2. I understand it is estimated that average pH of ocean
surface waters has decreased approximately 0.1 pH unit, from 8.2 to
8.1, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Estuarine and
tidal creek organisms, such as oysters, shrimp, and blue crabs in the
Gulf and Southeast U.S. undergo daily shifts in pH that can range above
8.2 and down to 7.0. How does the current estimated shift in pH of 0.1
impact these organisms given their adaptability to routine naturally
occurring shifts in pH?
Answer. This is an excellent question that relates to the potential
effects of an anthropogenic shift in the mean pH of a natural ecosystem
with a large range of natural variation in pH. The short answer is that
we do not yet know if, or how much, the current shift in ocean pH (-0.1
units in the open ocean) is affecting estuarine and tidal creek
organisms. The long answer involves the details of carbonate chemistry
in estuaries, any effects of fossil fuel CO2, and the
physiological tolerance of estuarine species, including all life
history phases (eggs, larvae, juveniles, adults), to variation in pH
(and other potential stress factors).
First, some background on estuarine pH variation. The pH in tidal
creeks and estuaries is naturally variable due to diurnal and seasonal
shifts in the balance between photosynthesis and respiration in the
environment. During the day, especially during Spring and Summer, high
rates of photosynthesis by plants, algae, and phytoplankton consume
CO2 and produce O2. This typically dominates over
respiration by all organisms, leading to higher O2 levels,
lower CO2, and consequently, higher pH. During night
(especially during Winter), photosynthesis effectively ceases and
respiration dominates, consuming oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide,
leading to low O2, high CO2, and low pH. The
magnitude of these changes can be affected by many factors, such as the
abundance of habitat with plants/algae versus mudflat and animal
populations, as well as water depth and tidal flat exposure during
night and day. This natural variability is modified by anthropogenic
nutrient loading in the coastal zone (primarily agricultural runoff),
which can influence the balance between photosynthesis and
respiration--high nutrient loading often increases primary production,
followed by higher net respiration rates, reduced oxygen levels (dead
zones in some cases), where CO2 is high and pH is low (e.g.,
Diaz et al., 2008).
Ocean acidification (OA) due to fossil fuel emissions can modify
the natural pH variation in coastal and estuarine areas even further,
either from the inflow of acidified waters into estuaries (Feely et
al., 2010), or by direct CO2 influx into estuarine waters
from the atmosphere. However, during periods when the CO2
levels in estuarine surface waters may be higher than the atmosphere,
those waters would act as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere,
rather than a sink--that is, high atmospheric levels from fossil fuel
emissions would may not increase the CO2 levels of the
estuary (and reduce pH further), but could impede CO2 efflux
to the atmosphere. The bottom line for this discussion is that: (1) the
pH of coastal and inshore waters is considerably more variable than
found offshore, (2) several human activities appear to be affecting
inshore pH, and (3) we do not yet have a good idea of how human
influences including ocean acidification have or will affect the
carbonate chemistry of estuarine areas.
If estuarine pH is naturally variable, should we worry about the
tolerance of estuarine organisms to what may be a relatively small
additional pH shift? Common sense may say that since estuarine animals
tolerate a wide pH range, then a 0.1 unit shift overall shouldn't make
much of a difference. I expect that may be true for many organisms,
particularly those with the physiological capacity to deal with
CO2-related stresses (e.g., many fishes), but doesn't tell
the whole story. Because organisms tolerate the entire natural pH range
does not mean that they can ``perform'' equally well throughout the
natural range or slightly outside it (the new range with ocean
acidification), particularly marine larvae or other vulnerable life
history phases. While it is clear that organisms inhabiting estuarine
habitats must be tolerant of the conditions, it is also likely that
their performance--survival, growth, and reproduction--is not the same
at all locations or times and probably varies with pH. Therefore,
diurnal or seasonal changes in estuarine pH may be quite important.
Particularly during the more acidic periods or locations where minerals
used for shell formation are low in abundance (low aragonite saturation
state), it may be difficult or impossible for some species (e.g.,
clams, mussels, oysters) to create calcium carbonate skeletons. This
appears to be particularly important for oyster larvae as shown in one
recent study. Miller et al., (2009) measured the growth and survival of
oyster larvae and modeled the carbonate chemistry of Chesapeake Bay,
both under realistic current and future atmospheric CO2
levels, to estimate how future changes in atmospheric CO2
might affect oysters. Oyster larvae are expected to be more vulnerable
than adults because their larval shells are made of aragonite, a form
of calcium carbonate that is more easily dissolved than the calcite
shells made by adult oysters. There is already a region in the upper
bay where larval shells will dissolve (where the aragonite saturation
is below 1.0), related to the temperature, salinity, and CO2
content of the water (Figure 1). Their conclusions are that as
atmospheric CO2 rises, this zone will expand seaward, since
the waters will become more and more acidic. Thus, although the
Chesapeake, like many estuaries, has considerable pH variation, it
appears that ongoing and future changes due to ocean acidification
could have important effects. This process can be exacerbated by
nutrient loading in the coastal zone, which can amplify the boom and
bust cycle of estuarine primary production and organic consumption,
leading to expanding zones of low oxygen or hypoxia and high acidity
We need much more research to understand how these and other
organisms will respond to shifts in pH as we move toward the future.
Perhaps a 0.1 unit shift in the mean pH of a highly variable system
will be tolerable, at least in currently marginal areas, but the much
larger pH changes expected by the end of this century may cross
thresholds leading to important ecosystem changes.
Figure 1. Map of Chesapeake Bay showing summertime salinity, and
changes in the position of the aragonite saturation boundary--the point
above (inshore from) which exposed aragonite (e.g., shells of oyster
larvae) will dissolve. The boundary moves seaward with increasing
atmospheric CO2 levels listed (280 to 800 ppm
CO2). From Miller et al., (2009).
Question 3. How does seawater acidification through run-off and
pollutant input compare to that caused by atmospheric deposition?
Answer. There are both similarities and differences between ocean
acidification (changes in ocean chemistry driven by adding fossil fuel
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the ocean) and acidification
caused by coastal nutrient loading due to run-off and pollutant input.
Here I consider pollutants as nutrient inputs (nitrogenous wastes and
agricultural fertilizers) carried by rivers to the coastal ocean as
well as nitrogenous aerosols deposited on the oceans from fossil fuel
combustion (Figure 2; Doney 2010). Ocean acidification affects the
carbonate chemistry of the ocean, increasing CO2 levels,
leading to the formation of carbonic acid, which ultimately causes a
rise in acidity (lower pH) and lower levels of carbonate ions--minerals
used for the shells of many marine animals. This is a global phenomenon
which occurs through most of the oceans, though in some regions where
surface CO2 levels are naturally high, the oceans are a
source of CO2, rather than a sink--there CO2
degasses from the surface ocean into the atmosphere. Coastal nutrient
loading increases the productivity of phytoplankton and algae in
surface waters, particularly in nutrient poor regions. As this
``extra'' organic material sinks to deeper waters, it is consumed and
degraded, which consumes oxygen and produces respiratory carbon
dioxide. Overall, this process has increased the production of organic
material in the oceans, and reduced oxygen levels and acidifying deeper
waters to some degree. Where coastal nutrient loading is fairly
intensive, oxygen levels near the bottom can drop to zero or nearly so,
with simultaneous acidification of those waters. This process continues
to expand and is causing the development of ``dead zones'' at coastal
regions around the globe (Figure 3; Diaz et al., 2008).
Figure 2. Estimated deposition of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen
to the ocean surface for oxidized forms (NOy), mainly from fossil fuel
combustion sources, and reduced forms (NHx) primarily from agricultural
sources (from Doney 2010).
Figure 3. Global distribution of 400-plus systems reported to have
eutrophication-associated dead zones. Their distribution matches the
global human footprint in the Northern Hemisphere. Dead zones are only
recently reported for the Southern Hemisphere. From Diaz et al., 2008.
Unlike nutrient additions, ocean acidification does little to
affect oxygen levels directly, though they may be affected by changes
in the response of ecosystems. To date, nutrient loading is a more
significant problem since it is driving oxygen levels to zero in areas,
with important consequences for ecosystems (Diaz et al., 2008; Doney
2010). As we move through this century, both processes are expected to
increase their `footprint' on ocean ecosystems.
Question 3a. Does this differ by region in the U.S.?
Answer. Ocean acidification probably does not vary considerably
among regions in the US, other than its potentially synergistic
interaction with other factors (nutrient loading, warming). For
example, along the Pacific Northwest, the upwelling of acidified waters
affected by ocean acidification, coupled with nutrient loading, is
causing very low pH waters in areas of Puget Sound and the local
region, with potentially important impacts on local ecosystems (Feely
et al., 2008; Feely et al., 2010). Similar synergistic interactions
among anthropogenic factors may also occur elsewhere, but may be milder
than occurs in the already acidic, upwelled waters along the NW
Eutrophication due to the input of nutrients is most severe in more
urbanized coastal areas and at the outputs of major rivers with
carrying large nutrient loads to the ocean (e.g., Mississippi River).
The eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico coast have many more
reports of hypoxic zones or events driven by nutrient loading. However,
these events are increasing as well along the western U.S. coast.
Diaz, R. J. et al., 2008. Spreading dead zones and consequences for
marine ecosystems. Science 321, 926.
Feely, R. A. 2010. The combined effects of ocean acidification,
mixing, and respiration on pH and carbonate saturation in an urbanized
estuary. Est. Coastal, and Shelf Sci. 88: 442-449.
Doney, S. C. 2010. The growing human footprint on coastal and open-
ocean biogeochemistry. Science 328: 1512.
Feely, R. A. et al., 2008. Evidence for upwelling of corrosive
``acidified'' water onto the continental shelf. Science 320: 1490.
Feely, R. A. et al., 2010. The combined effects of ocean
acidification, mixing, and respiration on pH and carbonate saturation
in an urbanized estuary. Est. Coastal, and Shelf Sci., 88: 442-449.
Jackson, J. B. C., et al., 2001. Historical overfishing and the
recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293: 639.
Miller, A. W., Reynolds, A. C., Sobrino, C., Riedel, G. F. 2009.
Shellfish face uncertain future in high CO2 world: influence
of acidification on oyster larvae calcification and growth in
estuaries. PLOS One, 4(5): e5661.
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Olympia J. Snowe to
Dr. John T. Everett
Question 1. A recent study published in the journal of the
Geological Society of America, found that when 18 different types of
marine organisms were exposed to seawater with four different levels of
partial pressure of carbon dioxide the calcification rates of those
organisms did not all respond the same way. In fact, three species had
their highest calcification rates at the highest level of
CO2: species of crabs, lobsters, and shrimps. What does this
study tell you about the ability of some species to adapt to or perhaps
even be genetically predisposed to thrive in oceans that experience
higher degrees of acidity?
Answer. This study tells us that we need to look carefully for the
benefits just as we do for the harm from any change to the environment
that concerns us. Since the crustaceans that did better with a higher
CO2 environment are not substantially different than the
krill and small shrimp that feed on algae, which themselves do better
in a CO2-rich environment, we must be very cautious before
we say that higher pH in the oceans will lead to the demise of all sea
creatures. In terms of productivity, there could well be an increase,
rather than decrease. Much of the coal and oil resources that we have
available to us are the result of the tremendous productivity of the
Earth during past times of high atmospheric CO2.
Question 1a. What do studies such as this one say about the future
of the science of ocean acidification and where we should be focusing
Answer. Our research should focus on the likely changes in ecology
as a result of more acidic water. A strong component in that research
should investigate how we can take advantage of the opportunities and
also deal with the problems. Things will be different, neither
necessarily worse nor better. We should be preparing ourselves to make
the most out of whatever conditions come to be--ready to take advantage
of the opportunities and prepare for any disadvantages.
Question 2. Your testimony suggests a high degree of uncertainty
remains even in what other scientists consider to be the relatively
undisputable fact that the chemistry of our oceans is changing. Even
the NRC report unequivocally asserted that the chemical changes are
``well understood.'' You have also asserted that perhaps the
terminology used to describe this problem--acidification--is inaccurate
and intended to directly influence public opinion and draw attention to
the issue. Your conclusion is that we should continue to carry out
research on ocean acidification, but not take drastic action to address
it. In your opinion, are the actions taken to date by NOAA and the
scientific community appropriate, or should we scale back our efforts
to investigate this potential area of concern?
Answer. Since the American public has been targeted with a great
deal of fear mongering, it behooves us to determine whether there is
really a problem or not. I think that the amount of funding provided by
the Congress is about right. However, as I indicated above, I believe
that we should be directing a reasonable amount of the total funding
toward seeking out the opportunities and preparing for the negatives.
Question 2a. What degree of certainty in the research is sufficient
to dictate additional actions, either regulatory or otherwise, to
address ocean acidification as a real problem?
Answer. I do not have a problem with things that are different,
provided that I am prepared for these changes and they are not harmful
overall. I believe that under extreme ocean acidification things will
be different, but not worse, for us and for the animals near the top of
the ocean food chain. Under the relatively small amounts of being
discussed, I don't see significant threat, nor even any measurable
change. I am not an advocate of further regulations, particularly any
that make our goods and services non competitive in the global market.
Question 2b. Should we even bother pursuing mitigation measures at
Answer. We should not be pursuing mitigation measures if they place
our country at a disadvantage relative to other countries with whom we
compete in the world economy.
I wish to make it clear that I am addressing, with respect to this
question and the others, only increases of CO2 in the
atmosphere and ocean. If the CO2 comes with increases in
heavy metals and other toxic elements, there is much more reason for
concern. We and other nations of the Earth must work together to reduce
the amount of harmful pollution reaching the oceans. I don't believe
that CO2 is harmful overall at the levels under discussion
and should not be used as an excuse to stop the use of hydrocarbon-
Response to Written Questions Submitted by Hon. Roger F. Wicker to
Dr. John T. Everett
Question 1. You mention in your testimony that research concerning
broad impacts of ocean acidification on marine life is limited. Can you
please describe what areas of study lack sound scientific research that
would provide better understanding of this issue?
Answer. There is a lot of good research that is being conducted. A
major problem is that there also is a lot of bad research being
conducted. Much of the research seems to be aimed at proving that ocean
acidification is bad. This is evidenced by the use of hydrochloric and
sulfuric acid (to simulate CO2), by not allowing creatures
time to adapt to major increases, by using unrealistically high levels,
and in the narrative justification for the research, among other
things. There is rarely an objective observation of the changes, only a
search for the negatives. This makes it unlikely that positive effects
will be observed and reported. Positives cannot be found when no one is
searching for them as carefully as they are for the damage. To make
matters worse, positives are not newsworthy and are not reported in the
press whereas the negatives often make headlines, causing a distortion
of the facts in the minds of the citizens.
The research items that intrigue me are finding an explanation for
how we might actually get at the asserted damages from relatively
miniscule PH changes. For example, how can mollusk larvae be damaged by
a small change in acidification when their cousins that live in fresh
water do just fine under actually acidic waters that are hundreds or
thousands of times more acidic than the oceans will ever be? How can
fisheries be destroyed by pH levels that are no worse than in upwelling
regions that are the most productive areas for marine life of all
I would like to see more research that addresses true understanding
rather than the fulfillment of an activist agenda of any flavor. It is
difficult for scientists, no matter how objective, to receive funding
for such research from philanthropic organizations and government
Question 2. There have been claims that oyster hatcheries in the
Pacific Northwest have experienced effects of lower pH seawater on
developing larvae stocks. Was this a result of upwelling cold deep
water off the coast of Oregon and Washington?
Answer. The conjecture among many scientists not participating in
the work is that any changes in pH of the level observed would have to
be due to upwelling waters that moved into the area, or by rain, or by
pollution. I do not have enough information to form an opinion of my
Question 3. Have similar acidification events occurred in other
areas of upwelling around the world? In other words, is this a common
event or isolated incident?
Answer. If a lowered pH was in fact the root cause of oyster larvae
mortalities, it may well happen in other parts of the world. However
the NW area in question is more susceptible to a deep water upwelling
event than, say the Chesapeake Bay, where it would be virtually
impossible from an oceanographic standpoint. In most areas of the
world, the pH of the water is not routinely measured and would not
likely be suspected if there were a mortality event of larvae or other
Question 4. What scientific evidence exists that suggests similar
acidification events occurring in other regions of the U.S. are
significantly impacting wildlife?
Answer. Much of the most thorough research on acidification
occurred during the scare over acid rain a few decades ago. That
research indicated that the makeup of the ecology could be quite
different under acidic conditions that were hundreds of times more
acidic than the changes we're talking about for the oceans. Levels
practically reached the acidity of vinegar before life was severely
compromised. Again, ecology was very different but the overall
production stayed quite constant at any reasonable pH level.
The importance of this is when we are using the harm to marine
mammals and fisheries as a research or mitigation justification. There
will still be about the same amount of food available for the those
animals even if it is a different form of a species or in fact a
Question 5. What proportion of CO2 in upwelled ocean
water can be attributed to deposition from the atmosphere? What
proportion can be attributed to biological processes?
Answer. Near the surface a high proportion of the CO2
can be from the atmosphere because the exchange of gases is constant.
However well below the surface, where the sunlight is dim or
nonexistent, all the animals and bacteria are consuming oxygen and
giving up CO2 faster than algae and plants can convert it
into oxygen. This and other processes cause the deep water to become
high in CO2 and thus more acidic. When the deep water rises
to the surface as part of an upwelling current, it is often at a pH
that is lower than is contemplated in the global warming scenarios for
Question 6. Since ocean circulation and upwelling events occur on a
global basis, what role do other countries play in contributing
CO2 to waters that impact the coastline of the United
Answer. All nations of the world contribute to the CO2
reaching the coastal waters of the United States. The amount of
CO2 in the atmosphere that is the product of humans is
contributed by each nation in proportion to its emissions. There are no
boundaries slowing the mixing of CO2 and it occurs rapidly
and quite thoroughly. The CO2 coming from the Chinese,
Australian and American coal that is being burned in China has no
signature different from used that in Australia or the US, or from any
other country. It is also not generally distinguishable from that
emitted by humans and other animals or volcanoes.
Question 7. How does lowering of seawater alkalinity through run-
off and pollutant input compare to that caused by atmospheric
Answer. For the global ocean, deposition would be the larger
contributor. However, in a localized area, such as a bay, pollution and
rainwater, whether from run off or from rain falling on the water,
would be the more important source.
Question 7a. Does this differ by region in the U.S.?
Answer. Yes, it varies by location because pollution and runoff
vary, as does their mixing with the ocean water depending on whether
they flow into a narrow bay or into a rapidly moving ocean current.
Question 8. Is there scientific research showing that ocean
acidification may be caused by factors other than atmospheric
CO2, such as nutrient loading, pollution, or habitat
Answer. Yes, research shows that pH can be changed in a number of
ways, but generally not at the global level. Research of the types
presented, has been more localized such as in harbors, bays, and
rivers. It would be very difficult to demonstrate that any of these
factors were at play in the ocean as a whole.