THE LOCATION: Alaska
THE STORY: Colder Waters, More CO2
Alan Parks has spent his life fishing Alaska's waters, from the tip of the Aleutians to the southern coast. When he first learned about fossil fuel emissions altering the basic chemistry of those waters and making them more acidic, he figured the problem would get enough attention to trigger some kind of action.
Photo: AAMC/Camrin Dengel Alan Parks
Now the 53-year-old commercial fisherman is even more concerned. Given the substantial changes already underway, Parks says that drawing immediate attention to understanding and preparing for ocean acidification and its impacts is urgently needed.
"We just really need to work on adaptation," stresses Parks, a Homer resident whose living comes from fishing for salmon, crab, halibut, herring and more.
In Alaska, paychecks from the seafood industry buy homes, keep restaurants and stores in business, replace appliances and send kids to college. Commercial fishing is the third-largest driver of economic activity in the state.
Cold, high-latitude waters are naturally rich in carbon dioxide, but rising emissions driven by human activity have pushed some of Alaska's waters past the chemical tipping point known as "undersaturation."
In those corrosive conditions, the shells, skeletons and protective structures that many creatures need to survive, begin to dissolve. Scientists have recently documented broad areas of "undersaturation" in the Gulf of Alaska, along with the Bering and Chukchi seas. There is no doubt that Alaska is on the "front lines" of ocean acidification.
Credit: Illustrations of sea life © B. Guild Gillespie / www.chartingnature.com
Credit: Illustration © B. Guild Gillespie /
The Alaska seafood industry at a glance: