Scientists recommend immediate plan to combat changes to West Coast seawater chemistry

Marine shelled organisms in Washington are already having difficulty forming their protective outer shells, and the local shellfish industry is seeing high mortality rates in early life stages of some commercially important shellfish species when shell formation is critical.

University of Washington
Marine shelled organisms in Washington are already having difficulty forming their protective outer shells, and the local shellfish industry is seeing high mortality rates in early life stages of some commercially important shellfish species.

Global carbon dioxide emissions are triggering troubling changes to ocean chemistry along the West Coast that require immediate, decisive actions to combat through a coordinated regional approach, a panel of scientific experts has unanimously concluded.

A failure to adequately respond to this fundamental change in seawater chemistry, known as ocean acidification, is anticipated to have devastating ecological consequences for the West Coast in the decades to come, the 20-member West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) Science Panel warned in a comprehensive report unveiled April 4.

“The findings of the West Coast OAH Science Panel build on those of the Washington Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, extending those findings to the entire West Coast, and incorporating consideration of the growing stressor, hypoxia. The strength of the OAH Panel’s findings lies in the coordinated, regional approach to the problem and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation that are scaled to the West Coast,” said Terrie Klinger, who participated in both panels and co-directs the Washington Ocean Acidification Center. Klinger is also director and professor of the UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

Jan Newton, a UW oceanographer who co-directs the Washington Ocean Acidification Center, and Richard Feely of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle were also part of the panel.

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