Ocean acidification is threatening ecosystems, cultures and economies in Washington State. In 2012, Governor Jay Inslee recognized the importance of developing a strategy to address these challenges by creating the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. After reviewing the scientific literature, the panel outlined a plan in its seminal report, Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action.
The science on ocean acidification has come a long way over the last five years. On December 20, 2017, the Marine Resources Advisory Council (MRAC) released an addendum to the report that incorporates the latest knowledge to fine-tune its recommendations for how to mitigate and adapt to ocean acidification in Washington.
“Five years ago, ocean acidification was largely considered a Pacific Northwest ‘oyster problem’. Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel really changed that. Today we understand so much more about the causes and consequences of acidification. We know that species ranging from Dungeness crabs to eelgrass to salmon are vulnerable to changing seawater chemistry, and that carbon dioxide emissions aren’t the only human activity that is contributing to the problem in Washington’s marine waters. Today, I’m hard pressed to think of a single Washington Sea Grant program or research area that isn’t touched by ocean acidification in some way,” said Meg Chadsey, Washington Sea Grant’s ocean acidification specialist, who was among those who provided counsel.
The report highlights new research that emphasizes the need for urgent action on local ocean acidification, including the findings that:
Atmospheric CO2 in the Puget Sound is increasing faster than along Washington’s coast and faster than the global average.
Human-generated atmospheric CO2 is a major source of ocean acidification around Puget Sound and Washington’s coastal waters.
Several species from pteropods to Dungeness crab are showing sensitivity to ocean acidification, suggesting impacts to the entire marine web includeing salmon and whales.
Impacts may be more severe in nearshore coastal waters than in offshore open ocean waters, because corrosive conditions are closer to the surface in nearshore coastal waters and in Puget Sound.
“Ocean acidification is a progressive and lethal threat to our ancestral waters and the marine life that live there. Crab, geoduck, shrimp, clams and other foods that have fed our people for thousands of years are at risk. We must act now and pray that it is not too late,” said Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe.
The report also updates and clarifies a number of strategies to address ocean acidification, including reducing carbon emissions and reducing local land-based contributions to ocean acidification.
“The updated report reinforces our federal, state and tribal partnerships to combat ocean acidification by working together, modifying and expanding on approaches we have developed through ongoing research,” said Libby Jewett, director of the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. “For instance, in the new plan, scientists in the state of Washington will be asked not only to test hands-on remediation options which involve cultivating kelp as a way to remove carbon dioxide from local waters but also to explore how to move this seaweed into land agriculture as a way of recycling it.”
For more information and to read the report, visit http://oainwa.org/.