Can fish change the ph of the oceans?

Posted on 2012-03-27
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-03-27
The bestselling science / environment book "Four Fish" states that because fish poop is basic an increase in fish populations would reduce (some of) the acidification brought on from CO2 emissions.

Is that possible - can a fish take in water and feed/prey with one net ph value and excrete something with a different ph?  In other words - is there a conservation law for ph?

Many thanks
Question by:quentinp
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LVL 34

Assisted Solution

by:Paul MacDonald
Paul MacDonald earned 1000 total points
ID: 37773039
In the strictest sense it would be possible, though highly unlikely.  Did the book mention how many fish and where we would go to get them?

Author Comment

ID: 37773084
It is about allowing natural stocks of fish to recover - so we're talking about a lot of fish.  Most fish you can name are at 10% of the levels they were 30 years ago - and that was probably well below their 'natural' level.  If we can just stop eating them faster than they reproduce for a little while they will fix that problem for us.

I vaguely remember that an acid gives up electrons easily - presumably a base has empty slot(s) in its 'shells' (I know that's an out of date model)?  So you're saying that  it is possible to take two neutral chemicals and create a base, a number of neutral substances, and no acid?
LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Raymond Peng
ID: 37773092
It's possible if the ecosystem is changed drastically.  Perhaps a bloom in algae deprives the water of oxygen > starves the fish > they all die!  All the decay would definitely affect the pH in the water.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Paul MacDonald
ID: 37773096
I'm saying it's possible, but there are so many other factors involved I find it difficult to believe the problem would just go away if we stopped eating fish for a year or two.
LVL 27

Accepted Solution

aburr earned 1000 total points
ID: 37773153
It is entirely possible, indeed it is happening now.
However I suspect that there was shown no calculation as to how many fish would be necessary to make a significant change.
There is no law of conservation of ph because ph depends on the chemical composition of the materials involved.
Consider pure water (neutral) and pure co2 gas neutral)
Bubble gas through water, get ph change.

Author Comment

ID: 37773215
Yeah - all of CO2's impact on the oceans doesn't go away if a few fishermen stay home this year.  But there is a LOT of biomass taken out of the oceans and this is one more reason to allow wild fish stocks to recover.  Beyond the selfish one - if we want fish then we have to let the fish make fish instead of eating them all.

My real hangup was about the ph conservation idea, so thanks for that.
LVL 27

Expert Comment

ID: 37773272
I just thought of a better non-conservaion of ph example
Car battery
fully charged - acidic
discharged goes to neutral

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