Oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb all the carbon emissions humans release into the air. And it could impact the Atlantic seaboard’s scallop industry, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars. A team of researchers is working to predict just how bad the damage might be.
Researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy unveiled a computer program that analyzes data on changes in the ocean, the scallop population, and the economy.
The tool is unique, according to Jon Hare, director of the NOAA fisheries lab in Narragansett. He said the goal is to give scallop fisheries the chance to prepare for climate change, and “use this model to evaluate how the population would respond to ocean acidification and changes in management.”
With this type of information, Hare said fishermen could adjust where and how much they’re fishing, which might help protect the scallop population.
Sarah Cooley, science outreach manager with the ocean acidification program at Ocean Conservancy, said most fisheries are managed on a year-to-year or multi-year basis. She and her colleagues wanted to prove that it’s possible to examine both short-term and long-term impacts across different factors.
“So we can actually look at the full system of the fishery from the water all the way to the people who depend on the fishery,” she said, “and think about how changes in one part of the system, might trickle through and affect all the other parts of the system.”
The team’s next step is to develop a web version of the program with future scenarios of changes in carbon emissions, harvest levels, and market and fuel prices. Cooley said it will be accessible enough for anyone to use, not just scientists.
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