Ocean Acidification

Oyster Emergency Monitoring, 2009 – 2010

Ocean acidification in Puget Sound was first observed by the shellfish industry. Larval mortalities in select hatcheries and natural set failures in Hood Canal and Willapa Bay created growing alarm over the potential effects of corrosive seawater. Subsequent studies revealed that seasonal upwelling of deep oceanic waters was bringing carbon-rich, low pH water to the surface, which was adversely affecting molluscan bivalve larvae reared in hatchery facilities. This raised larger questions about whether chemical changes in seawater were affecting natural populations of shellfish as well. To investigate this further, the Puget Sound Partnership awarded a grant to PSRF, NOAA, UW, PSI and Baywater, Inc. to establish index stations at two important shellfish growing areas in Puget Sound– Big Cove, Totten Inlet in southern Puget Sound and Dabob Bay in Hood Canal. Click here for more information.

Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, 2012

In March 2012, as part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, Governor Gregoire appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification to advance our scientific understanding and develop an action plan to reduce harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources. Bill Ruckelshaus and Jay Manning led a 28-member team that developed a set of 42 recommended actions, released in November 2012. PSRF’s executive director, Betsy Peabody, served on the panel alongside tribal, state, federal, and policy experts, scientists, public opinion leaders and industry representatives. A copy of the final report can be found on Department of Ecology’s website at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oa/2012panel.html

Marine Resources Advisory Council, 2013

The 2013 legislature appointed the Marine Resources Advisory Council, within the Governor's office, to maintain a sustainable coordinated focus on ocean acidification. In 2014, PSRF’s Betsy Peabody worked with the Advisory Committee to develop mitigation and outreach/education proposals to further the work of the Blue Ribbon Panel and to gain traction on specific recommendations. More information about the Marine Resources Advisory Council is available at: www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Ocean Challenge

In spring 2013, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation issued a challenge for promising ideas on how to reduce the impact of ocean acidification. PSRF and a topnotch team of collaborators gamely threw together a concept proposal to test out one of the Key Early Actions identified in the Blue Ribbon Panel report (Action 6.1.1). Based on the notion that kelps and seaweeds naturally draw down CO2 in marine water, and that seaweeds are a prolific biological resource in Puget Sound, the PSRF team proposed to cultivate seaweeds at three demonstration sites, assess the effect on carbonate chemistry, and harvest the biomass to create a suite of products (fertilizer, food, fuel).

A total of 36 concepts were received from 7 countries and evaluated by a team of experts. In the fall of 2013, PSRF received word that our submission was selected as one of six Ocean Challenge finalists! Information about the Ocean Challenge can be found at: http://www.pgafamilyfoundation.org/oceanchallenge/TemplateMain.aspx?cont...

In the coming years, PSRF hopes to launch a multi-year investigation to see if cultivating seaweeds can reduce CO2, create localized sanctuaries for sensitive marine organisms, and generate useful products for the marketplace that could eventually pay for the operation.