State updates plans to combat ocean acidification

  • Thu Jan 11th, 2018 8:47am
  • News

The state’s Marine Resources Advisory Council has released an update to the state’s 2012 strategy to tackle ocean acidification — reporting progress made, new focus areas and a renewed commitment to tackle the issue through a number of research, education and climate mitigation and adaptation solutions.

Marine Resources Advisory Council officials said they saw a need to re-evaluate the 2012 Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification’s report, resulting in this 2017 addendum. The addendum is a companion report meant to expand on the 2012 work.

The advisory council is made up of gubernatorial appointees representing science, public policy, tribes, shellfish growers, agencies and nonprofit groups.

“Ocean acidification threatens Washington shellfish, fisheries industries, and the coastal communities that depend on them,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Ocean acidification is a progressive and lethal threat to our ancestral waters and the marine life that lives there,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe. “Crab, geoduck, shrimp, clams and the 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.”

The latest report highlighs new research that justifies more concerted efforts to combat ocean acidification. For example:

– Atmospheric CO2 in the Puget Sound area is increasing faster than along Washington’s coast and faster than the global average. Southern Hood Canal shows the highest surface seawater values of CO2 in Washington coastal waters.

– Human-generated atmospheric CO2 is a major source of ocean acidification around Puget Sound and Washington coastal waters.

– Several local species from pteropods (tiny free-swimming sea snails and sea slugs) to Dungeness crab are showing sensitivity to ocean acidification, suggesting impacts to the entire marine web including 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.

A number of the strategies and actions to address ocean acidification were updated and clarified from the recommendations five years ago. Those updated actions fall under six overarching categories:

– Reducing carbon emissions

– Reducing local land-based contributions to ocean acidification

– Increasing our ability to adapt to and remediate the impacts of ocean acidification

– Investing in monitoring and scientific investigations

– Informing, educating and engaging stakeholders, the public and decision makers

– Maintaining a sustainable and coordinated focus on ocean acidification.

The report detailed a number of accomplishments that have been made over the past five years, including:

– Establishing a clean air rule to reduce carbon emissions from large in-state emitters

– Launching an ocean acidification conservation hatchery that serves as a hub for shellfish research and restoration

– Improving our understanding of the role of seagrass and kelp in ameliorating local ocean acidification conditions

I- nitiating enhanced and widescale monitoring – with real-time sharing through the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) – to collect data and support shellfish hatchery adaptation practices

– Creating ocean acidification K-12 curricula to increase awareness and literacy among the public.

Reacting to the report, Marilyn Sheldon with the Northern Oyster Company said, “Many shellfish farmers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor appreciate Governor Inslee’s efforts to support our valuable coastal fishing industries and one of the oldest and most important agricultural sectors in Washington. The time, research, and collaboration focused on ocean acidification by the Panel and the dedicated members of the Marine Resource Advisory Council will greatly benefit our marine resource-based communities, and have already helped us understand and adapt to changing environmental and ocean conditions – perhaps the greatest challenges facing the shellfish industry today. We look forward to Governor Inslee’s continued leadership and support in the many challenges our industry faces, including the critical need to embrace policy solutions that are both guided by sound science and recognize the importance of our farms to a thriving coastal ecosystem and the sustainability of Washington’s natural-resource-based economy.”

Libby Jewett, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Acidification Program, said “The updated report reinforces our federal, state and tribal partnership to combat ocean acidification by working together, modifying and expanding on approaches we have developed through ongoing research. 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.”

The full report can be found at