Ocean Acidification and the Economic Impact on Fisheries and Coastal Society

Closed for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code




Approved Date

10 February 2012



Start Date

16 September 2012

Expected End Date

16 September 2016

Completed Date

18 May 2017


Ocean acidification will have significant effects on coastal ocean productivity and ecosystem function in the future; however, socio-economic analyses of anticipated regional and local impacts to fishery-dependent countries have not yet been performed. One recent analysis of changes to future mollusc harvests due to ocean acidification, by Narita et al (2011), suggests global production losses of $100 billion USD in projected economies and conditions of the year 2100 (IPCC IS92a scenario). Regional assessment of economic vulnerabilities and creation of socio-economic models based on changing fishery components due to ocean acidification are needed for detailed scenarios of impacts on factors important to food security, livelihoods, ecosystem services, and socio-economic systems of developing countries to effectively manage ocean resources and sustain human coastal activities. This CRP will attempt to (1) identify and describe pathways of impact (2) improve understanding of the vulnerability of regions and markets, and (3) quantify economic impacts to assist natural resource management and policy decisions in relation to ocean acidification on regional and local scales. The CRP will seek to integrate projects spanning several disciplines of natural and social science to address the gaps in knowledge that currently exist. Geographic areas of interest for projects include developing countries with high productivity coastal zones and habitats of special interest, for example areas of upwelling and coral reefs. Success in this CRP will result in a network of institutions in developing countries with knowledge of ocean acidification impacts to enable policy and management actions to adapt to changes in fishery conditions, e.g. shifts in species fished and improvements in aquaculture. Regionally, project institutions, resource managers and policy-makers will benefit directly from the CRP through enhanced capacity. Locally, fisherman and those whose livelihoods depend upon coastal ecosystem services and productivity will benefit through development of the sustainable use of marine resources. As the impacts of ocean acidification become better understood, this CRP has the potential to lead to Technical Cooperation projects to transfer nuclear techniques in assessing biological effects of variable pCO2/pollutant combinations on the physiology and reproduction of economically important marine species.


To assess and evaluate the potential socio-economic and bio-environmental impacts and human adaptive responses due to ocean acidification effects on sustainable food security for coastal society through catch and harvest fisheries productivity and spatial distribution, ecosystem function and services, and aquaculture production and development.

Specific objectives

To analyse marine regions and markets vulnerable to ocean acidification effects that elaborate factors to describe a vulnerability index based upon human welfare and coastal society sustainability, including ocean indicators of variable high CO2 environments.

To develop regional economic models to describe scenarios of ocean acidification impact on fisheries composition, distribution, and productivity changes including multiple environmental stressors and socio-economic factors and adaptation effects (for example aquaculture development).

To foster research networks among project participants and facilitate technology transfer for use in science, management, and policy decision-making concerning ocean acidification.

To identify, quantify, and describe impact pathways of ocean acidification effects on human welfare, such as; reductions in yield of shellfish and finfish, habitat degradation, economic and social response to changing marine-based market components, adaptation options and capacity to compensate losses.

To review and consolidate ocean acidification geochemical, biological, and socio-economic knowledge; analyse methodologies; assess gaps in knowledge and trans-disciplinary transfer of knowledge; and improve the description of biological data and socio-economic evaluation of ocean acidification effects.


Concern about the impacts of ocean acidification on economically and socially important seafood is increasing world-wide, and ocean acidification is now an integral part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goal 14.3 seeks to “minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels”.

Ocean acidification will have significant effects on coastal ocean productivity and ecosystem function in the future; however, socio-economic analyses of anticipated regional and local impacts to fishery-dependent countries have not been performed prior to this CRP.

The CRP provided a cooperation framework for 10 research organizations from 10 countries across five continents – Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
As part of the CRP activities and outputs, participants were able to lead research that may not have been related to their specific expertise. Additionally, early career-scientists were able to build upon their experience, and some gaps of knowledge were filled.

At various degrees of performance, participants were always able to advance their science and understand the link between ocean acidification threat and risk for society at the local and/or at the regional levels: they were able to make the connection between a forthcoming threat and the impact it could have on coastal population dependent on marine resources for socio-economic wellbeing.

Findings were disseminated through scientific papers and other contributions, such as conference presentations and abstracts.

Six years after the completion of this CRP, participants are still involved in research connected to ocean acidification and are still monitoring the status of the pH in their respective coastal regions.


Extremely relevant.

Ocean acidification, or more generally ocean changes, is occurring. The topic addressed by the CRP remains a major concern due to ecosystem services provided by the ocean and the importance of coastal environments to communities.

A following CRP is ongoing and goes further than the CRP detailed here. The current CRP uses a novel collaborative approach to assess the impacts of ocean acidification on key seafood species (e.g., oysters, mussels, shrimps, lobsters and/or fish) in 10 to 15 geographical locations (Member States).

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