As one of the largest producers of U.S.-farmed shellfish, Washington state has a lot to lose if ocean acidification continues. Rather than denying the reality of climate change like some other states, Washington has decided to take action to protect its natural resources.
The state recently launched a $3.3-million, science-based plan to slow ocean acidification on its own shores, and around the world. The strategy – detailed in a report by a governor-appointed panel of scientists, policy-makers and shellfish industry representatives — marks the first US state-funded effort to tackle ocean acidification, a growing problem for both the region and the globe, reports Nature Magazine.
According to the Washington Department of Ecology, shellfish growers in Washington and Oregon became the first to discover that ocean acidification was undercutting their jobs and businesses around 2007, when corrosive seawater began killing off tiny young oysters by the billions in Pacific Northwest hatcheries. For Governor Christine Gregoire and many in the state’s government, to surrender this profitable industry to the consequences of human-accelerated climate change is unthinkable.
The detailed report titled “Sweetening The Waters” [PDF], outlines 42 different strategies Washington can undertake to adapt to, remediate, and mitigate the effects of ocean acidification on the state’s coastline. Possible actions include relatively well-established approaches such as buffering sediments in shellfish beds with recycled shell hash and cultivating seagrass to protect nearby larvae by absorbing CO2; as well as less-recognized tactics like breeding OA-resistent strains of vulnerable marine species.
In late November, Gov. Gregoire signed an executive order underscoring the importance of these recommendations from her Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification. “A healthy ocean is critical to our health and our coastal economies,” said Gregoire. “We have learned that human caused emissions of carbon dioxide are dramatically altering the ocean’s chemistry at an alarming rate. These emissions, mostly resulting from burning fossil fuels, are now threatening our ocean ecosystems. Ocean acidification is yet another reason to quickly and significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide across the planet.”
Top Image: Algae blooms in central Puget Sound. Credit: Washington Dept. of Ecology