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December 28, 2011

There's Acid in My Fish

  Ocean acid
As fossil fuels burn, the acidity of oceans goes up. Coral reefs, shellfish, and algae mainly suffer. That's old news.

What's new news -- as if the ocean needs more problems -- is that acidification correlates with fish fatality, according to a study released last week. 

Chemists out of Stony Brook University discovered that the survival of fish larvae drastically decreases as atmospheric carbon rises. A separate recent study found damaged and dead tissue in fish larvae caused by inflated carbon levels. Predictably, adult fish fared better in such scenarios, according to these studies. But the fact that fish can directly feel the brunt of the changing world -- something that wasn't considered before -- suggests that the weight human activity has placed on our oceans is more complicated than previously realized.

Because scientists used "near-future conditions" in their tests, the results indicate that "ocean acidification may be having an impact on these species today." But because some parts of the ocean, like coastal waters, seasonally experience "extremely acidified waters" more than other parts, scientists have yet to figure out how widespread this is. Fish already have to deal with over fishing, runaway plastic pollution, and mercury from coal power plants. Now they can add acid to the list.

If all of this is in the back of your mind, but you enjoy a plate of fish from time to time, take a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch for recommendations on what to order at the restaurant and what to avoid. And for all you app-thusiastic sushi lovers out there, download the Sierra Club's free Safe Sushi app for your Android or Apple device.

-- Brian Foley/image via wikimedia commons

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