26 Sep 2012

New study details severe threat to Cook Islands from climate change

1:03 pm on 26 September 2012

A new study says the Cook Islands is facing an imminent food crisis as climate change and ocean acidification destroy their fish stocks.

The study released by the international environmental group Oceana ranks the Cook Islands as the country most at risk from increasingly acidic oceans, which is being caused by rising carbon dioxide levels.

New Caledonia and Kiribati also rate in the report's top five most at-risk nations.

The increasing acidity threatens the island nations' coral reefs and shellfish including oysters, clams, and mussels.

Oceana marine scientist and an author of the study, Matthew Huelsenbeck, says the Cook Islands doesn't have the capacity to deal with destroyed fisheries.

"They depended on fisheries for a very long time. It's a significant part of their culture and a significant source of food, as well as income. It could have some pretty severe impacts on both the food supply as well as their economy."

The report also says the ocean surrounding the Cook Islands could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100.