Washington State Launches New Plan to Combat Ocean Acidification


As leading producer of farmed shellfish in the US, Washington’s industries are being adversely affected by ocean acidification. Credit: Flickr/kestrana

The state of Washington, the leading US producer of farmed shellfish, announced that it is launching a 42-step plan to reduce ocean acidification. The initiative was made by a governor-appointed panel of scientists, policy-makers, and shellfish industry representatives. It’s the first US-state-funded effort to tackle ocean acidification.

The governor states that she will allocate $3.3 million to back some of the panel’s recommendations. Growing carbon dioxide gas emissions have dissolved into the world’s ocean, increasing the acidity of waters by 30% since 1750. Washington, which farms oysters, clams, and mussels, is vulnerable to acidification from seasonal, wind-driven upwelling events that bring low-pH waters from the deep ocean to the shores and land-based nutrient runoff from farming fuels algal growth, which also lowers the ocean’s pH.

The region is already experiencing levels of acidity three times greater than the global ocean average. This has severely impacted the $270 million shellfish industry since acidic waters are corrosive to larval shellfish and reduce the available carbonate that some marine organisms need to form carbonate shells or skeletons.

The panel recommends creating an acidity budget to account for natural and human sources of acidity, improved methods of forecasting corrosive conditions, and for finding ways to use seagrasses to soak up carbon dioxide in shellfish hatcheries.

The industry lacks real-time, high-resolution data, which a key to finding the best conditions. So far, pH and carbon dioxide sensors have been added to 17 existing observing stations. The NOAA plans on having 60 such national monitoring stations in the next few decades, realizing that “Reducing carbon emissions is crucial, but it’s not a problem that Washington alone can solve.”

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