On 2 July 2014, the McGuinness Institute hosted a meeting with Dr Todd Capson, a highly respected American marine scientist working as a Science and Policy Advisor with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment, as well as staff from the US Embassy in Wellington who were kind enough to organise this event for us. Dr Capson is undertaking a brief tour of New Zealand to raise awareness of recent developments in oceans policy in the United States and internationally, and served as a keynote speaker at the Otago Foreign Policy School on 28 June, 2014.
Dr Capson’s work focuses on ocean acidification, one of the most serious but overlooked issues facing the international community. At the Institute he outlined the importance of developing a comprehensive pH monitoring network in the coastal zone, and the very serious impacts that acidification could have on shellfish aquaculture. Having worked with the aquaculture industries in the US and in New Zealand, Dr Capson emphasised that communicating the dangers of environmental problems such as ocean acidification is often best done by industry voices rather than government scientists or NGOs. He used the example of an American shellfish farmer who had experienced a massive collapse of his stock due to acidification on the northwest coast of the US, and who visited aquaculture businesses in Nelson with Dr Capson in late 2013. Hearing an experienced aquaculturalist speak on the risks of acidification made the New Zealand industry ‘sit up and listen’ in a way that it may not have done otherwise.