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Jan 27, 2017 10:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Gobler Tapped To Lead New Task Force Tasked With Tackling Ocean Acidification

Chris Gobler was tapped to be part of a State initiative to investigate the effects of ocean acidification. PRESS FILE
Jan 29, 2017 12:15 PM

Dr. Chris Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton and one of the East End’s most respected water quality experts, has been given a new assignment: assembling a team of experts who will be charged with figuring out why the ocean’s acidity levels are continuing to rise.

The East Quogue resident was recently selected by the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, to put together a 14-member panel of scientists from across the state that will include elected and appointed state officials, like State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, as well as shellfish industry representatives and environmental advocates.

The committee, which Dr. Gobler wants to meet for the first time later this year, though a date has not yet been determined, will be tasked with trying to figure out why acidification levels in local water bodies, including the Atlantic Ocean, are at their highest levels in at least 200,000 years, according to the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission. The commission was established to study the effects of coastal and ocean acidification, and its existing and potential effects on commercially harvested species along Maine’s coast, according to its website.

“In some regions, acidification is not an issue at all,” Dr. Gobler said in a recent email. “In other regions, those prone to intense nutrient pollution, the levels of acidity can seasonally be worse than is predicted to ever occur in the open ocean.”

Dr. Gobler noted that the continued widespread use of fossil fuels and deforestation, as well as elevated carbon dioxide emission levels, are the main contributors to rising acidification levels. He also pointed out that in coastal zones, including most of the South Fork, nutrient pollution remains the main culprit.

“As time marches on and we deal with nutrient pollution locally but fail to deal with CO2 globally, the atmosphere will become an increasingly important source of CO2 here on the East End,” Dr. Gobler said.

Rain runoff carrying nitrogen from fertilizers and septic systems into local bays, as well as the groundwater, has contributed to the formation of toxic tides that have harmed fish populations on the East End for the past three decades. Finding the connection between acidity and nitrogen pollution is one of the things the task force wants to accomplish, officials said.

Dr. Gobler explained that when carbon dioxide enters the ocean, it lowers pH levels and reduces the amount of carbonate—a salt of carbonic acid—that is present. “Carbonate is needed to make calcium carbonate, which is what bivalve shells, coral reefs and many other forms of marine life are made of,” he said.

Acidity also affects some fish. Dr. Gobler said that high levels of carbon dioxide lead to higher mortality rates and slower growth in the larval stages of some species. He also said it can lead to neurological impairment in some fish, but not all, as not all fish are affected by excessive high levels.

“With only five years of research on fish and CO2, we are still learning,” Dr. Gobler said.

Once the task force is assembled, members will have until December 31, 2018, to present their findings to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Our oceans are changing,” Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who introduced the bill to create the task force, said in a prepared statement. “We need to have science and experts guide us in the steps that are necessary to clean, preserve and protect our waters. The new task force will identify issues and provide solutions, so we can begin a systematic process to remedy the ills.”

According to a press release issued by Senator LaValle’s office announcing the task force, “it is thought that the Atlantic Ocean along the Northeast shore will be especially vulnerable to ocean acidification because carbon dioxide is increasingly soluble in cold water and the Northeast will be subject to increasingly intense rain events leading to more intensive runoff.”

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Mr. Gobler continues to collect millions of tax-payer dollars studying water issues without ONE solid and actionable recommendation leading to ANY environmental cure of our waterways. He is an expert in what specifically? Explaining brown tide, climate change, algae blooms, etc. Anyone can do that. Name one issue that Mr. Gobler has solved? What makes an expert and expert? Throwing money at this guy is a waste of time. Solve the problem. Fix the problem. Stop studying the problem. Our waterways ...more
By Paul01 (1), Southampton on Jan 28, 17 8:37 PM
Gotta love these experts. Hmm...pollution, runoff...what could possibly cause the change in the environment? Let's all sit at meetings drinking coffee and planning events where we pat each other on the back and sip wine for beating the system.
By lirider (265), Hampton Bays on Jan 29, 17 8:27 PM
Who are you guys? Your comments are the most anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-factual stuff I've heard in a long time. Chris Gobler can't just snap his fingers and make things happen. He's not a king, he's not a dictator, hey he's not even a powerless official, much less an official with any real clout, so how can you blame him for the present situation?

You criticize Chris Gobler for not making everything right but that's not how it works, and you know that. Chris Gobler is just ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1933), Quiogue on Jan 30, 17 11:19 AM
3 members liked this comment
I'm also not sure who these guys are, but like them you seem to be unable to distinguish this topic from Gobler's involvement in the proposed Hills development. The only difference being that his "evaluation" of the East Quogue project appears to support your opinion that it would negatively affect the groundwater.

While not questioning his dedication nor his right to a personal opinion on a topic involving his hometown, I can find nothing that speaks to his professional qualifications ...more
By VOS (1173), WHB on Jan 31, 17 1:09 AM
It's DOCTOR Gobler to those of you who think you know better. Where did you get YOUR PhDs ???????
By Taz (582), East Quogue on Jan 30, 17 11:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Next mayor, supervisor... Who's hours is he working on, SHV, SHT, County or college???
By knitter (1656), Southampton on Jan 31, 17 4:59 PM
1 member liked this comment