Ocean Acidification—What’s Being Done?

Ogasawara National Park

Our world’s oceans are becoming acidic nearly ten times faster than any time in the past 50 million years. This is because they absorb a percentage of the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; certain types of runoff can also contribute to the problem. Acidic oceans endanger marine life in many ways. For example, low pH seawater dissolves calcium carbonate, which is used to make shells.

The situation is especially dire for Puget Sound because of the way ocean currents work in our region. Since 2005, billions of oyster larvae in Puget Sound hatcheries have been decimated, resulting in significant loss in production and signaling profound impacts to Washington’s marine environment.

What’s being done about it? Over the last few years, a number of studies have been initiated both locally and around the world to understand the impacts and mitigate ocean acidification. A quick summary:

Washington State is a leader in taking action on ocean acidification. Former Governor Christine Gregoire created the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, which convened February 2012. The panel created a report: Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action (November 2012) and recommended 42 separate actions.

United States. The Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FOARAM) Act was enacted in 2009. Its purpose was to monitor and conduct research, establish an interagency research and monitoring program, establish a program in NOAA, assess impacts, and research adaptation strategies and techniques.

NOAA established its Ocean Acidification Program May 2011. The Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by NOAA, put out the Initial Report on Federally Funded Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Activities and Progress in Developing a Strategic Plan in March 2011. This report has a comprehensive outline for a Strategic Research Plan for Ocean Acidification.

World. The European Project on OCean Acidification was founded in 2008 and lasted four years. It had a consortium of 160 researchers from 32 institutes and 10 European countries. Although the project is over now, the website has a number of documents that may be downloaded.

While some important research has been done on the topic of ocean acidification, and some stopgap measures have been put in place (for example, to protect local oyster farms), we are a long way from solving this complex issue. The work has only just begun.

More information: Washington State Department of Ecology and NOAA.