Washington state announced today which marine waters have water-quality problems but completely failed to identify waters that are suffering from ocean acidification. The Pacific Northwest is one of the hotspots where ocean acidification is already harming marine life. Wild oysters in Washington have failed to reproduce for the past six years, and scientists have linked this to ocean acidification.
“No one can afford to have their head in the sand when it comes to ocean acidification,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Ocean acidification is the biggest threat facing our oceans, and it is already killing off Pacific shellfish. Washington state’s decision to ignore the water-quality problem of acid seas is a risk to wildlife and to communities that depend on healthy oceans.”
Today the Washington Department of Ecology issued a proposed list of waters with water-quality problems, a biennial requirement of the Clean Water Act. The state was compelled to consider the impact of ocean acidification by a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity against the Environmental Protection Agency after that agency approved Washington’s 2008 list, which omitted ocean-acidification problems. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence that Washington’s waters are already suffering the negative impacts of acidification, the state declined to identify waters threatened by ocean acidification in its newly released 2010 list of impaired waters.
“Washington state is a bellwether for the impacts of dumping carbon into our oceans,” said Sakashita. “We are already seeing corrosive waters along the Pacific Coast and in the Puget Sound. Ocean acidification has killed billions of juvenile oysters and threatens to unravel the marine food web unless we act now.”
Ocean acidification impairs the ability of marine animals to build the protective shells they need to survive. Seawater is becoming more acidic due to carbon pollution absorbed by the oceans; globally, oceans have become about 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and acidification is accelerating. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found that corrosive waters are upwelling onto the continental shelf during certain seasons along the entire Pacific Coast, and that Puget Sound has grown far more acidic, which is significantly attributable to carbon dioxide.
The Washington Department of Ecology is accepting comments for 30 days.