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Washington State Plans To Slow Ocean Acidification, Protect Oysters

Algal bloom – Washington state

While some states are busy denying the effects of climate change, Washington state is taking action to protect natural resources with a $3.3 million plan to slow ocean acidification.

It wasn’t until 2007 that shellfish growers in Washington began noticing the effect corrosive seawater had on their jobs and businesses. It began killing off oysters in hatcheries along the Pacific Northwest coast, which inspired Governor Christine Gregoire to take action.

“A healthy ocean is critical to our health and our coastal economies,” she said. “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’s ecosystems. Ocean acidification is yet another reason to quickly and significantly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide across the planet.”

According to the report issued by her panel of scientists, policy makers, and shellfish representatives, there are 42 different strategies that can be taken to handle acidification along the coast. Buffering sediments that cultivate seagrass and absorb CO2 is one way to protect shellfish, and breeding OA-resistant strains of at-risk marine species is a more extreme approach.

This science-based plan is the first of its kind not only for the United States, but for the world as well. If ocean acidification continues to occur, it will affect far more than just oyster farmers and will have a damaging effect on some of the earth’s most precious ecosystems. It is great to see Washington taking bold action on the issue.

Image credit: Washington Dept. of Ecology. Algae blooms in central Puget Sound.

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