Ocean Acidification
in Washington State

“Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.” (NOAA)

419 parts per million is the concentration of carbon dioxide  found in our oceans as of April 2022. One fourth of human-generated emissions are absorbed by the ocean.

Over the last few hundred years, about 30 percent of all the extra carbon dioxide humans have added to the atmosphere has percolated down into the oceans.” (National Geographic)

Due to the increase in carbon dioxide, the pH of seawater has decreased from 8.2 to 8.1. This might seem small, but it translates to

a 30% increase

in the acidity of our oceans.

Why does this matter?

1. Amount of carbonate ion in seawater decreases

2. Seawater becomes more chemically corrosive to calcite and aragonite

3. Rate of acidification outpaces ocean's natural ability to restore pH and carbonate chemistry

4. Reduction in reproduction rates and increase in mortality rates for shellfish

Acidification and Shellfish

“Washington state is the country’s top provider of farmed oysters, clams, and mussels.” (Blue Ribbon Panel)

Due to the decrease in pH, seawater is more corrosive to shellfish and there is less of the carbonate ion needed to create their shells, slowing the rate of shell growth.

This means that shellfish are experiencing

higher mortality rates and lower reproduction rates.

The estimated annual economic impact of shellfish aquaculture currently at risk is $270 million.

2/3 of the harvest value for Washington’s fisheries comes from shellfish.

There are over 3,200 people employed directly and indirectly by shellfish growers in Washington state.

How You Can Take Action

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases that are generated by human actions and services. Most of our carbon footprints come from housing, transportation, and food. According to The Nature Conservancy, the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, ranking one of the highest countries in the world. We need to reduce our carbon footprint so that there are less greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, meaning less CO2 being absorbed by our oceans.

You can reduce your carbon footprint by making small changes in your everyday life.

By driving less, using alternative transportation like a bike, carpooling, or having an electric and energy efficient vehicle, you are using less fossil fuels and emitting less greenhouse gases. 

Being an environmentally conscious consumer can make a big difference. You can choose what you buy not only based off what you want, but also what is best for the planet. This might look like eating less meat, buying local produce, and wasting less of the food and goods that you do purchase. Shopping secondhand is also a great way to save the environment and some money.

You can even lower your carbon footprint in your own home. You can do this by lowering the heat, turning off lights and appliances that aren’t in use, using LED lights, and using renewable energy sources. Also, look for the Energy Star symbol when shopping for home products to find one that meets energy efficiency standards in the US.

These are just a few of many options, but small changes can make a big impact. Make it a challenge and see which one of you in your friend group can save the most on their energy bill!

There are always community outreach programs looking for more helping hands. If there isn’t a local program, start one yourself!

On Whidbey Island, [text about farm to school story and media link]

Sources Cited

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Is Ocean Acidification?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 1 Aug. 2012, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/acidification.html.

Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification (2012): Ocean Acidification: From Knowledge to Action, Washington State’s Strategic Response. H. Adelsman and L. Whitely Binder (eds). Washington Department of Ecology, Olympia, Washington. Publication no. 12-01-015.

“Understanding the Science of Ocean and Coastal Acidification.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/ocean-acidification/understanding-science-ocean-and-coastal-acidification#:~:text=The%20ocean%20surface%20layer%20absorbs,the%20past%20two%20million%20years.

“Ocean Acidification, Explained.” National Geographic, 7 Aug. 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/critical-issues-ocean-acidification#:~:text=In%20the%20late%201700s%2C%20the,acidity%20as%20an%20egg%20white

Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” The New York Times, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint. 

“What Is Your Carbon Footprint?” The Nature Conservancy, https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/.