Obama Administration Shines Spotlight on Oceans

President Obama announced today he intends to vastly expand the Pacific Remote Islands marine sanctuary, putting a swath of the south-central Pacific off-limits to fishing and energy development.  The announcement is part of a high-profile oceans conference taking place this week at the State Department. Australian scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg  focused on ocean acidification, which he says undermines the entire marine food chain – from bowhead whales to plankton and shellfish.

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“As the water is acidifying around them, they’re having trouble forming skeletons, reproducing, growing, communicating and navigating around marine habitats,” he said.

He says the oceans are acidifying rapidly due to increased carbon emissions. Hoegh-Guldberg says reversing the trend would take 10,000 years or more.

“So this is a really long period of time to pass on a broken ocean to future generations. We’re not talking about grandkids. We’re talking about three hundred generations of humans,” he said.

Another speaker said the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic will be among the first to face damage, because they’re colder and therefore take up more carbon dioxide.

The conference was aimed more at drawing attention to marine issues rather than advancing science. One speaker this morning was Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Obama Administration also announced today an intention to crack down on black-market fishing.

Republican members of Congress are criticizing Obama’s planned expansion of the Pacific sanctuary. Alaska Congressman Don Young says he should have first consulted user groups in the region and worked with Congress.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz