Paranoia Strikes the Deep: Our Oceans’ Bad Acid Trip

By Bob Ferrisrockfish
I grew to semi-adulthood in the 1960s deep in the shadow of The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane-energized Bay Area. How deep?  Well Santana played as a backup band at a dance at my high school during my sophomore year.  It also means that Haight-Ashbury was a real place for me and a locale where I saw my fair share of good and bad acid trips and even caught a glimpse of Janis Joplin at a bead store.
Nearly 50 years later we are now dealing with a different kind of acid and a different type of “acidification.”  Our oceans are souring because of our fossil fuel addiction and our nearly suicidal inability to curb global carbon emissions. And while the acid trips humans took were mostly psychedelic, the acid trips our oceans are taking are decidedly and wholly catastrophic.  There is no good news in this scenario.  
Until recently most reports about the consequences of ocean acidification have focused on shellfish and how the lowering of the pH (i.e., increasing acidification) impacts shell growth in clams, oysters and other mollusks.  Most see this as bad but few grasp the food-chain level impacts of this happenstance.  
"Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep"
Buffalo Springfield – Somethings Happening Here 
And now research is showing that the behavior of juvenile rockfish—those tasty denizens of our kelp beds and rocky shores—changes with the increases in acidification that we are likely to see within the life times of our children. The results indicate that the fish keep to the shadows more than normal.  In other words acidic conditions make them seek safety.  They essentially become paranoid.  Perhaps we will soon see scientists talking about acid-induced, piscine paranoia or AIPP.  But rather than debating names, we should be spending our time dealing with the underlying issues, which is and remains: carbon emissions.
Because of the above, it is particularly disturbing when we see proposals from industry or politicians that either do not deal with this issue or make the matter worse. The proposed LNG terminal for Coos Bay that was recently endorsed by the Oregonian is a perfect example of this dissonance, particularly when you see the tenor of the public comments during the publication’s live chat session.  The same is true for both O&C proposals and the Big Thorne sale in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast, Alaska that all forward the notion that cutting more trees in the most effective carbon sequestration systems in the world—northwest temperate rainforests—represent sound and forward thinking solutions.  Not on this planet and not at this time.  
We need to work on all these initiatives at once.  My hope is that at some point we will make progress and start to see proposals for leaders in industry and politics that make sense for us and the planet.  In the mean time we have to keep plugging along and network our asses off.  I will engage in a little of that this Saturday night at the celebration of Cascadia Wildlands’ 15th birthday.  So if you are near Eugene, Oregon please consider joining roughly 350 other concerned citizens: Supporting a great cause and plotting what to do about paranoid fish and leaders who lack vision.  Today (December 11th) is the last day for electronic ticket sales and please, please carpool.