Why Protecting Our SW Oceans Will Help in the Fight Against Climate Change

Marine Sanctuaries and Adaptation

  • Our oceans in WA are already suffering from mismanagement of fisheries, and large fish are in much smaller numbers.  Climate change will create another layer of damage and we need to ensure there is enough resilience in the system to withstand the impacts of climate change.  Sanctuaries have been shown to build resilience by restoring natural abundant populations of marine life.
  • Fisheries management is based on historical catches.  In Western Australia, anecdotal and scientific evidence shows that species are already moving south.  In a few years historical records of fishing will have much less meaning undermining any attempts at maintaining  a scientific basis for managing our fisheries unless we have sanctuaries as reference areas.
  • Climate change will mean more tropical species will start invading southern ecosystems.  This is in addition to the invasive species problems we already have from shipping.  Research on the Great Barrier Reef shows that crown-of-thorn outbreaks are less in sanctuaries, raising hope that the increased resilience of these areas will help ecosystems adapt to invasion.
  • Cold water ecosystems are expected to suffer the most from ocean acidification associated with climate change because cold water absorbs carbon quicker and becomes acidic more rapidly.  Creating marine sanctuaries to build the resilience required to fight the affects of ocean acidification is most urgent in colder waters like those surrounding southern Australia.

Marine Sanctuaries and Fighting Climate Change

  • Recent research has shown that whale poo acts as a fertiliser and whales are net carbon sequesters.  The research focused on Sperm Whales which feed at many deep water areas around South West WA.  Protecting their feeding grounds to support an abundant whale population can help the ocean’s ability to sequester industrial CO2 emissions.
  • A recent study has shown that when fish drink seawater they excrete calcium carbonate and thus sequester carbon into the ocean.  Conservative estimates are that 3-15% of ocean carbonates come from fish, but the number could be three times higher.  Documented abundance of large fish in sanctuaries (between two and fourteen times fished waters) would sequester significantly more carbon than fished waters.

 

 

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