Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 9, 2014

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308,

Letter Urges Washington Governor to Push State Agency for Action on Ocean Acidification

SEATTLE— Eighteen local and national environmental organizations called on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today to seek bold actions from the Washington Department of Ecology to address ocean acidification. A lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity concerning the state’s inaction on ocean acidification has prompted denials by Department of Ecology officials that acidification is impairing the state’s waters, a decision that is stopping the state from addressing the carbon pollution that’s hurting the Northwest’s shellfish and other marine life.

“It’s disturbing to see ocean acidification devastate the Northwest’s marine life while Washington’s Department of Ecology stands by allowing it to get worse and worse,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “I can’t help but feel the agency has its head in the sand. It needs to take real action to tackle this crisis.”

Today’s open letter commends Governor Inslee’s leadership on ocean acidification and asks that the Department of Ecology also take action on ocean acidification to identify waters impaired by acidification. The letter identifies four undeniable facts about ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest:

  1. Carbon dioxide pollution changes ocean chemistry, which impairs the ability of organisms to build their protective shells and skeletons;
  2. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are detectable and have increased the occurrence of conditions that are harmful to shell-building animals off the coast of Washington;
  3. Ocean acidification has pushed seawater chemistry beyond important biological thresholds for some shellfish in the Pacific Northwest; and
  4. Ocean acidification has been linked to massive oyster larvae mortality in Pacific Northwest shellfish hatcheries.

“The scientific evidence for ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest is clear and compelling, and it’s deeply troubling to see the Department of Ecology deny that reality,” says today’s letter to the governor. “Washington can and should be a leader on this critical issue. The time to act is now to prevent the worst consequences of ocean acidification and to promote healthy oceans and coastal economies.”

The Center’s Clean Water Act lawsuit over ocean acidification in Washington, filed in 2013, has revealed a rift between the governor and the Department of Ecology. Gov. Inslee has promoted CO2 reductions to help the state’s ocean waters.

While the Department of Ecology considers the threat of ocean acidification real, it contends that the science is insufficient to decide if water-quality standards are met. This is the crux of the Clean Water Act litigation, in which the Center argues that Washington’s oyster dieoff and waters corrosive to animals violate standards that protect aquatic life. The case is briefed and pending oral argument in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Signatories to today’s letter to the governor include the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace USA, Blue Climate Solutions, Blue Frontier, Christians Caring for Creation, Clean Ocean Action, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Ocean Conservation Research, Orca Conservancy, Orca Network, Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, The Safina Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WILDCOAST and WildEarth Guardians.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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