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For Immediate Release, December 13, 2007

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 436-9682 x 308

States Petitioned to Halt Ocean Acidification Under Clean Water Act

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity officially requested that Maine and Delaware declare ocean waters under their jurisdiction impaired under the Clean Water Act due to ocean acidification. The conservation group has now petitioned ten coastal states to list the oceans as impaired, which would allow these states to regulate pollutants that contribute to the oceans’ impairment — in this case, carbon dioxide.

As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it becomes more acidic. The oceans have already become about 30 percent more acidic due to human sources of carbon dioxide. These changes in seawater chemistry can be harmful to marine life. For example, carbon dioxide strips the ocean of the compounds that marine animals need to build shells and skeletons; thus ocean acidification impairs the ability of shellfish, corals, sea urchins, seastars, and other organisms to build their protective structures.

“Ocean acidification is the most serious water-quality threat to our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, staff attorney with the Center. “The Clean Water Act is the nation’s strongest law protecting water quality and it provides tools that states should use to address this problem.”

The Clean Water Act requires states to prepare lists of waters that are impaired by pollution. The Center submitted scientific data to several coastal states demonstrating that ocean waters are being degraded by carbon dioxide pollution. Already, the pH of the oceans has decreased 0.1 units on average since the Industrial Revolution. On current emission trajectories, an additional change of 0.5 units is predicted by the end of the century, which would be devastating for marine life.

Just last week, the Senate’s Commerce Committee released a bill that would require scientific research and monitoring of carbon dioxide’s effect on the ocean. Introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg, D, N.J., and co-sponsored by Olympia Snowe, R, Maine, and Tom Allen, D, Maine, among others, the legislation would be an important step in encouraging policy makers to address the problem of ocean acidification.

“Ocean acidification is quietly altering the fundamental chemistry of the world’s oceans and additional research is just the beginning of the measures needed to prevent the harms it will bring,” said Sakashita. “We must act now to prevent global warming’s evil twin, ocean acidification, from destroying our ocean ecosystems.”

The Clean Water Act requires that states consider the ocean acidification data submitted by the Center and determine whether ocean waters should be included on the list of impaired water bodies for 2008.

More information is available at  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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