Increasing ocean acidification ushering era of uncertainty for Arctic, says report

Arctic cod pictured in northern Norway in 2018. A new assessment released in Finland this week highlights the socio-economic impacts ocean acidification on the Arctic and its marine life. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)
If left unchecked, acidification levels in the Arctic Ocean will have significant consequences for northern communities as well as the rest of the globe says a report released this week.

The report, 2018 Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, was put together by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a working group of the Arctic Council,  and was released at the  2018 Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Rovaniemi, Finland on Wednesday.

The assessment was based on a series of case studies from different regions of the Arctic including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and the Barents Sea. In all cases, they projected unchecked acidification levels would have grave impacts on all areas in coming years.

“Overall, the case studies show that effects of acidification, in combination with other  stressors, are highly uncertain,” said AMAP in a news release. “This uncertainty underscores the urgent need for  increased monitoring in the region, and for research that looks at the effects on species  of a number of environmental stressors acting in combination.”

Areas studied for AMAP assessment

Alaska: Impacts of acidification on fisheries in different regions of the state

Barents Sea: Effects of fishing, climate warming and acidification on cod

Canada: Potential effects of climate change and ocean acidification on polar cod and the Indigenous communities that rely on the fish for country food

Greenland: Effect of acidification on shrimp fishing and socio‐economic implications of those changes

Norway:  How ocean acidification and  warming might impact sea urchin yields

Acidification impacts

Rising ocean acidification is primarily driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing ocean chemistry has a suite of cascading impacts: it can interrupt the food chain, alter predator-prey relationships and can even impact how marine life develops. The impacts of this in fragile environments like North, are particularly worrying, AMAP says.

“Falling ocean pH levels – which are  changing most quickly in the Arctic – are acting in tandem with other environmental  stressors, such as rising air and sea temperatures, to drive significant changes in marine  ecosystems, with impacts on the communities that depend upon them,” they said.

Assessing environmental threats

AMAP, like other Arctic Council working groups, are made of up experts that come together to examine particular areas of concern in the North. AMAP’s mandate is to assess polltion threats and their affects on Arctic peoples and the environment and to give advice to Arctic ministers on actions needed to respond and mitigate some of these threats.

The report released this week is an update to a previous 2013 AMAP assessment.

Around four-hundred and fifty experts are attending the Arctic Biodiveristy Congress in Rovaniemi.

The conference ends October 12.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Thawing permafrost in Canada’s Northwest Territories releasing acid that’s breaking down minerals: study, CBC News

Finland: Arctic environment ministers gather in Finland to tackle climate change, biodiversity & pollution, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland:  Glacier half the size of Manhattan breaks off Greenland, CBC News

Iceland: Scientists puzzled by right whale’s appearance off Iceland, CBC News

Norway: Thawing permafrost melts ground under homes and around Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic coastal town of Dikson is fastest-warming place in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Warm temperatures lasting into autumn across Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: New study predicts ‘radical re-shaping’ of Arctic landscape by 2100, CBC News




Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

2 thoughts on “Increasing ocean acidification ushering era of uncertainty for Arctic, says report

  • Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 23:44

    There is zero urgency portrayed in this dry as a bone analysis of one of the drivers of a previous extinction event.
    The total absence of the precautionary principle is why we are in such deep shit.
    With the exception of just a few scientists you’d never know we are in a carbon saturation crisis.
    When we see “Canfield Oceans” the scientists will fein surprise and pretend they never saw that coming.

  • Friday, February 8, 2019 at 01:52

    Why do you provide no figures for acidification? Is it because a change from a pH from 8.1 to 8.09 is negligible and that multiple scientific studies have shown negligible effect on marine life?

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