Washington’s shellfish population—clams, oysters and mussels—have been called the “canaries in the coalmine” for ocean acidification. Rising acidity in our local waters has already made it difficult for some shellfish populations to reproduce. Without urgent and immediate action, the problem will continue to grow, causing profound environmental and economic damage in our state.
On November 27, the Seattle Aquarium had the honor of hosting Governor Christine Gregoire’s blue-ribbon panel on ocean acidification as they presented their final recommendations as part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative. Speakers at the event included Bill Ruckelshaus, panel co-chair and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Jay Manning, panel co-chair and Governor Gregoire’s former chief of staff; Congressman Norm Dicks; Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the governor herself.
The panel, the first of its kind in the nation, was charged with documenting the current state of scientific knowledge regarding ocean acidification; suggesting ways to advance that knowledge; and recommending specific actions to respond to increasing ocean acidification, reduce its harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources, and adapt to the impacts of acidified waters.
The resulting report listed 42 separate recommendations for addressing the issue of ocean acidification in Northwest waters. Action items included taking the lead in advocating for regional, national and international policies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide; improved tracking of Puget Sound’s changing chemistry; reducing runoff and nutrient pollution; combating high levels of carbon dioxide in the water through enhancing the growth of eelgrass near shellfish beds; and others.
After the co-chairs presented their recommendations, Governor Gregoire signed an executive order urging the state to accept them. She also announced that she would allocate $3.3 million dollars in her final budget, to be presented in December, to assist with some of the panel’s recommendations.
We’ll continue to cover the issue of ocean acidification and how it impacts Puget Sound in future blog posts…stay tuned!