Ocean Conservation: Ocean Acidification and the Impacts of Fish Migration

Put simply, ocean acidification is the imbalance of chemical content in ocean water; whereby there is increased acidity, and upward temperature changes. Water with a pH,of 7 is pure. The closer it gets to 0, the more acidic the water is, and the closer it gets to 14, the more basic it is. The ocean has experienced a 26% pH drop in the last century. Ocean acidification has negative effects on sea-life and the ecosystem. We have written, here, that ocean acidification disrupts the growth and productive health of some sea life, the most vulnerable being shellfish larvae, and developing fish. Another concerning effect of ocean acidification is fish migration, which has been occurring in large and increasing numbers. What do we do, as humans, when temperatures rise? Maybe remove one layer of clothing, turn on a fan or the air conditioner if indoors. If outdoors and under the sun, we look for a shady spot to sit in or walk through. The body gets uncomfortable as outside temperatures rise exponentially and we feel hot. Now imagine how this must work for fish in the ocean.

Water temperatures rise, but the ocean is one big water body, and that heat sips through, diluting the entire inhabited space. There will not be much in the form of nearby shady spots or spaces to hide, the fluidity of water will not allow it. As a result, fish must travel long distances in search of cooler habitable waters. This is called Fish Migration, and it is taking place en masse. Not the seasonal type which is perfectly normal. Fish are migrating in search for cooler waters in which to reside. The result: a shift in the historic geographic locations of different types of fish which are now being found in unusual regions. Fishermen in Portugal have caught about 20 new fish species in the last few years. Of these foreign landings, 12 were from tropical or subtropical regions.

Aquaculture and Ocean Acidification

Due to climate change and ocean acidification, the seabird population faces starvation, and extinction. Fish migration disturbs the food chain, as the birds do not necessarily migrate with, or at the same pace and in the same direction as their food source. Over-fishing also leaves little food for the seabirds. A study conducted in 2016, reveals an 80 – 95% rate of failure in feeding dives by seabirds along the southwest coast of Africa. The study prescribed a cessation of purse-seine fishing activities of the west coast of South Africa. Technologies for sustainable and smart fishing are therefore required to regulate fishing. Some innovations are already available. HeraSpace for example, uses satellites to help fishermen locate the most promising and sustainable fishing grounds. There is also UNDERSEE which enables precision aquaculture with underwater sensors and numerical models that deliver data to the cloud in real-time.

Coral Reef Bleaching

In 2019, 95% of our oceans are still unknown. An innovation from the start-up PlanBlue is aimed at tackling this problem. Their intelligent underwater camera scans and automatically evaluates large areas of seafloors, as well as underwater constructions. The resulting data provides knowledge about the unexplored spaces of the ocean. Research, if done in more regions of the ocean, will enable timeous and effective data driven decision making. Continuous innovation of new and improved solutions, will help save the ocean food chain, securing the ocean as a food source, and ensuring livelihoods of fishing communities.


AUTHOR Lovelyn Mashave is a Zimbabwean content creator who enjoys expressing herself through writing. When she’s not writing, she’s reading an inspirational book (preferably with an accurate dose of funny). She’s an unapologetic dream chaser (currently learning French in France), who supports others in chasing their own. As a Marketer and International Business Manager she has worked with and for non-profit, private, and public service organisations; managing brands, creating communication portfolios, heading and editing publications. As an educator, she has worked with students in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Thailand. As a traveler, she blogs at www.beyondthebirthplace.com.

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