Deteriorating ocean oxygen levels affecting marine life

BODEGA BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- Do you like your salmon? Your Dungeness crab? It is comforting to know we live next to a vibrant ocean full of life, but now there's scientific evidence that might change your perception.

Time along the ocean is one of life's simple pleasures for most of us. UC Davis Bodega Marin Laboratory Dr. Sarah Moffitt sees the beauty and worries about a change that's coming. "This is going to affect habitat that is out in the ocean for organisms that we care about, for organisms we harvest, organisms that we eat," she said.

It is a consequence of oxygen levels in the water. At the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, Moffitt has published a new study that paints a sobering and irreversible short-term future scenario. "Fundamentally, the things we take for granted as stable, they're are not stable. They are very vulnerable to the climate system," she said.

Moffitt has taken core samples from ocean bottoms around the world. They're fossils from the end of the last ice age.

She studies them like rings from a tree. "They are archives of environmental history," she said.

The study found that at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers melted, it affected the amount of oxygen in the world's oceans.

It is happening again, only this time the change is faster. "In the future, we're looking at an ocean that has dramatically less oxygen," she said.

It will be an ocean with fisheries we may not recognize even off the coast of California, where sea life we know or even love might move away.

Our local waters already show signs of depleting conditions. "People who eat fish, people who live in coastal communities that rely on a vibrant fishing community. All those people have a stake in this story," she said.

Think of this as a latest warning shot across the bow, from one researcher who sees our oceans much more clearly than most of us.

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