EPA Affirms Threat of Ocean Acidification, Recommends Coastal States Take Action

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 436-9682 x308

EPA Affirms Threat of Ocean Acidification, Recommends Coastal States Take Action

SAN FRANCISCO - Responding
to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental
Protection Agency is recommending that coastal states begin addressing ocean
acidification under the Clean Water Act. The announcement arose from the
settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Center in Washington state, the first of its kind
challenging the EPA's failure to address ocean acidification under the Clean
Water Act.

"This marks
an important step toward protecting life in our oceans," said Miyoko Sakashita,
oceans director at the Center. "The Clean Water Act has successfully reduced
water pollution for decades, and now it can be brought to bear on ocean
acidification, a huge and growing threat to marine life around the
globe."

As
oceans absorb carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere, waters are becoming
more and more acidic. The water is increasingly corrosive to shellfish and
corals and impairs the ability of marine animals to build the protective shells
they need to survive. Nearly every marine animal studied to date has experienced
adverse effects due to acidification. Under stress from ocean acidification,
some corals are already growing more slowly and will begin to erode faster than
they can build within decades. Acidification has contributed to oysters failing
to reproduce for the past six years in the Pacific Northwest.

"Ocean
acidification is one of the biggest threats to our marine environment," said
Sakashita. "Oyster hatcheries are already failing, and fishermen fear the
collapse of the ocean food web. CO2 is changing ocean chemistry so
rapidly that the corals, plankton, fish and shellfish are at risk. We need
prompt action to curb CO2 pollution,
and the Clean Water Act can help."

According to
the EPA, states should identify waters impaired by ocean acidification under the
Clean Water Act. Also, the EPA is urging states to gather data on ocean
acidification, develop methods for identifying waters affected by ocean
acidification, and create criteria for measuring the impact of acidification on
marine ecosystems.

Scientists
have confirmed widespread ocean acidification due to CO2 pollution. A
survey off the West Coast showed that waters affected by ocean acidification are
already upwelling onto the continental shelf and exposing marine life in surface
waters to corrosive conditions. The Arctic also faces imminent consequences, and
areas of the Arctic are expected to become corrosive by
2016.

The
EPA plans to publish guidance for the states on addressing ocean acidification
under the Clean Water Act. Meanwhile, it is encouraging states to focus their
efforts on waters that are most vulnerable to ocean acidification, including
those with coral reefs, fisheries and shellfish resources. The Center for
Biological Diversity has petitioned all coastal states to identify their waters
as impaired by ocean acidification. The Washington state lawsuit arose from one of
those petitions.

See
EPA's webpage on ocean acidification: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/cwa/tmdl/oa_memo_nov2010.cfm

For
more information, see the Center's ocean acidification webpage: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_acidification/index.html

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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