Washington state leads on emerging ocean acidification challenge

New report, Governor’s Executive Order should be model for coastal states

Seattle, WA: – Ocean Conservancy today praised Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire and her Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification on the release of their new report and announced plan of action.  The panel’s findings and the Governor’s Executive Order should serve as a model for other coastal states that are facing the same challenge of ocean acidification.

The 28-member panel of scientists, industry leaders, conservationists and government officials, appointed by Governor Gregoire in February 2012, examined the causes and impacts of ocean acidification on Washington’s shores and provides a suite of suggested actions on the local and national level to begin tackling this problem.  Gregoire announced today signed an Executive Order directing state agencies to follow through on many of the panel’s recommendations.

“Washington is not alone in feeling the effects of ocean acidification. The panel’s recommendations should be a wake-up call to all coastal states and the many businesses that depend on a healthy ocean,” said Julia Roberson, Director of Ocean Acidification for Ocean Conservancy, and who attended today’s announcement. “From Alaska, Oregon and California on the Pacific to Maine on the Atlantic, the chemistry of the ocean is changing at a rapid pace.   Oysters and other shell building animals are the first animals to bear the brunt of this assault and Washington State is on now on the front lines of the fight.”

This change in ocean chemistry is primarily caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Research shows that the ocean has absorbed about one-quarter of all the carbon pollution pumped into the air. This leads to a more acidic ocean, disturbing the delicate balance and making it harder for living things to thrive. Ocean acidification threatens oysters, clams, coral reefs and plankton, the smallest and most vulnerable organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

In many coastal states, local features like upwelling, and run-off of chemicals from land can make matters even worse.  Coastal waters are economic engines and environmentally important areas.

“We are conducting the world’s largest chemistry experiment,” said Roberson. “Washington has shown that action can be taken. We will be urging other states and impacted communities to follow Washington’s lead.”

According to Gov. Gregoire’s statement, she will reallocate $3.3 million of her next budget to fund priority actions on ocean acidification and has directed state agencies to:

  • Advocate for reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide at global, national and regional levels;
  • Implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel, working with key federal agencies and tribal governments;
  • Work with the University of Washington and others to conduct technical analysis on the effects of ocean acidification, on the sources of local land-based sources of nutrients that may contribute to ocean acidification, and on appropriate steps to address the problem;
  • Request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begin the assessment of water quality criteria relevant to ocean acidification; and,
  • Increase understanding of ocean acidification and its consequences among policymakers, interested organizations and the public.

Additional information on the Blue Ribbon Panel is at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html

Media Contact: Katie Cline, Communications Manager Telephone: (202) 351-0482 Email: kcline@oceanconservancy.org

Ocean Conservancy educates and empowers citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean. From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico to the halls of Congress, Ocean Conservancy brings people together to find solutions for our water planet. Informed by science, our work guides policy and engages people in protecting the ocean and its wildlife for future generations.

Ocean Conservancy, 27 November 2012. Press release.

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