Washington state declares war on ocean acidification (article and video)

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.”

Beth Buczynski, Care2, 7 December 2012. Article and video.

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