Washington First State to Move on Impact of Ocean Acidification
On November 27, Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire and her Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification released a detailed report and plan of action to address the present and future impacts of acidification on Washington’s marine environment.
The panel was convened by the Governor due in part to the near catastrophic effect that the acidification of local marine environments had on Pacific Northwest oyster hatcheries between 2005 and 2009, where billions of oyster larvae died and hatchery output plummeted.
Ocean acidification primarily occurs when human-produced carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean and turns into carbonic acid. Research shows that the ocean has absorbed about one-quarter of all of the carbon dioxide that has been released by humans into the atmosphere. The acidification of the ocean makes it difficult for shell producing organisms and coral reefs to make their protective shells. In many coastal areas along the Washington coast, the impacts of ocean acidification can be magnified due to land-based pollution and runoff.
“Washington state and Governor Gregoire have taken bold action to confront the problem of ocean acidification head-on in a collaborative way that focuses on the needs of key stakeholders,” said Bob Gagosian, President & CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “The use of sound science as the foundation for the recommendations and policy decisions should be applauded and used as a model for others to follow.”
The 28-member panel consisted of scientists, industry leaders, conservationists, and government officials and was organized by Gregoire to understand the regional impacts and drivers of ocean acidification. Gregoire signed an executive order to reallocate $3.3 million in state funding from next year’s budget to enable state officials to follow through on the panel recommendations, and recommended funding for a new University of Washington center to study the issue. The recommendations include:
- Advocacy for reductions in emission of carbon dioxide at global, national, and regional levels;
- Implementing the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations in collaboration with federal agencies and tribal governments;
- Partnering with the University of Washington and others to conduct technical analyses on the effects of ocean acidification, the sources of land-based nutrients that contributed to ocean acidification, and the proper steps to address the problem;
- Requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begin the assessment of water quality criteria relevant to ocean acidification and its consequences;
- Increasing the understanding of ocean acidification and its consequences among policy makers, interested organizations, and the public.