Our oceans on acid

Win an Orvis fly rod or a YETI cooler by standing up for saltwater

Did you ever hear of the Butterfly Effect?  It’s the theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small or insignificant, can change the future in ways we simply can’t anticipate.  The classic example involves a butterfly that, with a mere flap of its wings, sets off a chain of events leading to a hurricane 3,000 miles away.  

Our actions can initiate outcomes that are impossible to predict or control.  Maybe we sleep late and miss our favorite mayfly hatch, only to enjoy the best streamer fishing of the year.  Or maybe we sign up for the angling trip of a lifetime, get a bad case of food poisoning and have to cancel. Who could have guessed that the angler taking our spot would weigh almost 600 pounds, or that the outfitter’s floatplane would crash because of all the additional weight?

There are an infinite number of scenarios we can’t anticipate.  Weird shit happens.  It’s just the way of the world.

At the same time, though, there are still situations where A plus B does, in fact, equal C.  If you fish the Missouri in August without a hat or sunscreen, you’re going to get baked.  If you spend an April day in leaky waders on the Yellowstone, the water that pools around your sodden socks will be cold.  It’s not rocket science, or chaos theory.  We actually know these things ahead of time. 

We also know that when we burn enough fossil fuels to pump 35 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide - that’s 35 billion tonnes of CO2 - into the air each and every year, it will eventually have a huge impact on our oceans.  Why?  Well, let’s think about that for a second.

The planet’s oceans are what our climate scientists call a “carbon sink.”  When saltwater and air interact at the ocean’s surface, the saltwater pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and into the water.  And that’s actually a good thing.  CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and if the oceans didn’t absorb a massive amount each and every year, we’d be toast.

Our problem is caused by a simple chemical reaction.  When seawater reacts with CO2 from the atmosphere, it creates carbonic acid.  Unfortunately, all that extra carbonic acid, which stems from burning coal, oil and natural gas, is altering the pH of our oceans.  As you might imagine, life gets tough for all sorts of creatures, including the calcifying organisms at the base of the food chain, when our oceans become more acidic.  

If you’ve been paying attention to our scientists, you already know that the Earth’s oceans are currently 30% more acidic than they were when we started burning fossil fuels back in the 1800s.  If that trend continues, everything from pteropods and phytoplankton to steelhead and tarpon will be in a world of hurt. 

Did I mention that when we screw with the chemistry of our ocean water, we make life harder for the phytoplankton that produce about half the planet’s atmospheric oxygen?  Yeah, that’s definitely a kick in the kidneys … 

So what can you do?  Well, if you want to stand up for our fisheries, then please sign the new Conservation Hawks ocean acidification & climate change petition and tell Congress to pass strong, comprehensive climate & energy legislation.  We already have the technology and the know-how to stop ocean acidification.  Now we have to create the political will to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

It’s unfortunate, but one of the biggest roadblocks we face is our dysfunctional Congress.  Please call or e-mail your senators and representative and tell them to get their act together.  Either we address ocean acidification and climate change in the very near future, or we’re screwed.  At an absolute minimum, sign the petition. It’s a no-brainer.

The Orvis Recon fly rod and Hydros SL reel.
The Orvis Recon fly rod and Hydros SL reel.

By the way, every single person who signs the petition by May 1st will be eligible to walk away with some exceptional gear. One lucky angler will end up with an Orvis Recon Rod.  Another will grab a Yeti Tundra.  Another will snag an Orvis Hydros Reel.  Yet another will walk away with an Orvis Sling Pack.  And still another will snag a Yeti Hopper.  Better get cracking …

The YETI Tundra and Hopper.
The YETI Tundra and Hopper.


I would like to sign the petition, but I can't find a link.

John, you can find the link at ColdWaters.org.