Kathleen Nisbet, and her father Dave farm oysters in Waxhington's Willipa Bay. They recently shifted some of their business to Hawai'i after ocean acidification started killing baby oysters in hatcheries.
On the heels of Washington State’s pioneering efforts to identify local steps to slow ocean acidification, Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) has introduced legislation to begin coordinating that response. SB 5547 would create a new council of elected and tribal representatives and affected industries to oversee research and action to curb profoundly troubling changes in ocean chemistry.
The bill would also include acidification as a possible justification for extending urban sewer services to rural areas (normally not allowed under the state’s Growth Management Act), in areas where local pollution from leaky septic systems combines with global carbon dioxide emissions to make the problem worse.
It is ironic that despite relatively progressive clean energy policies the West Coast is paying an unusually high price for global carbon emissions. Ocean water off the Pacific coast has absorbed so much carbon that it is becoming acidic enough to melt the shells of sea creatures. Our national and global addiction to fossil fuel and unwillingness to seriously reduce carbon emissions is taking its toll, right here, in real time, with profound implications for the Pacific Ocean.
We've all heard about global warming, and we know the primary cause is our profligate release to the atmosphere of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels. That warming continues to bite us: Last year was the warmest ever across the continental United States since records have been kept, and the fifth warmest in Canada.
But there is a hidden side to ongoing CO2 emissions and it's now biting us, too. Roughly one-third of the CO2 emitted since the Industrial Revolution has dissolved into the sea and is slowly turning our oceans acidic.
PORT ANGELES — It would take a global reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to reverse the effects of ocean acidification, members of the Clallam County Marine Resources Committee told county commissioners Monday.
But there are ways to help at the local and state level — pollution control, a reduction in stormwater runoff and investment in more water monitors — to protect shellfish and other species from potentially lethal changes in ocean chemistry, committee members Ed Bowlby and Andrew Shogren said.
“We have to tackle the global aspect, but when possible, when appropriate, to try to tackle it locally to mitigate this onslaught that we can't do anything about,” Bowlby said.
“That's a different aspect. That's going to keep occurring.
“But we can start trying to minimize local contributions within the watershed, the stormwater runoffs, that can cause local ocean acidification.”