By SeafoodSource staff
Published on 27 November, 2012
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order Tuesday instructing various state agencies to take action to help understand and combat the problem of high levels of acid which could be threatening the state’s shellfish population in coastal waterways.
“A healthy ocean is critical to our health and our coastal economies,” The governor said in a statement. “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 ecosystems.”
In addition to environmental concerns, Gregoire’s announcement noted that protecting the waterways will help safeguard the state’s USD 270 million (EUR 209.5 million) shellfish industry. The order comes after Gregoire reviewed the final recommendations of a panel she formed to study the issue of ocean acidification.
High levels of acid in ocean waters make it harder for shellfish such as oysters, clams, scallops and mussels to make shells. The panel’s report suggested 42 different actions be taken to prevent acidification.
“Nowhere on our planet is a local response to ocean acidification more urgently and immediately needed than here in Washington State,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Preliminary studies referenced in the report show that local sources of acidification are already affecting Puget Sound and Hood Canal. The pH levels in many of Washington’s coastal waterways are much lower than those in the adjacent open ocean. This indicates increasing risk to our shellfish industry, the health of oceans and the wealth of benefits they provide."
The panel suggested the most urgent need is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which can contribute to the acidic content of the oceans.
Gregoire’s order, issued to various state agencies, including the Department of Ecology, directed them to, among other orders, begin implementing the recommendations of the panel, conduct new studies to learn more about acidification risks, promote the issue to the general public, and begin working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do a more formal assessment of current water quality.
Along with the order, the governor is planning, in her new budget, to allocate USD 3.3 million (EUR 2.6 million) to “fund priority actions on ocean acidification,” and she is also recommending funding for a new study of the issue at the University of Washington.