EPA Urged to Toughen Standards to Protect Marine Life From Ocean Acidification

For Immediate Release

EPA Urged to Toughen Standards to Protect Marine Life From Ocean Acidification

SAN FRANCISCO - In a legal petition to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Biological Diversity today sought better, more effective standards to protect shellfish, corals and other marine life from the corrosive and deadly effects of ocean acidification. The state of Washington recently stated it hoped EPA would set such standards, in order to help shellfish hatcheries avoid future oyster die-offs. The petition also asks that the EPA publish guidance to help states effectively monitor and protect their coastal waters from ocean acidification.

“The science is clear: Our oceans are facing an unprecedented crisis,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we’re going to avoid passing a point of no return, we need to do whatever we can to track this corrosive seawater and reduce pollution that’s transforming life in our oceans.”

The world’s oceans have already become about 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution as a result of a chemical change in seawater that happens when ocean waters absorb CO2 pollution from cars, factories and other sources. This rate of change in ocean chemistry has no precedent in geologic time; the last time seawater was so acidic, about 55 million years ago, there were massive species extinctions.

Today ocean acidification is making it hard for animals such as corals and oysters to grow and survive. It’s also eroding the shells of tiny plankton that form the basis of the marine food web, which may result in large-scale problems up the food chain for sea stars, salmon, sea otters, whales and ultimately humans.

“I don’t want to live in a world without coral reefs teeming with colorful fish or tidepools alive with anemones, shellfish and hermit crabs,” said Sakashita. “The only way we’re going to save our oceans is if we use all the tools we have — including the Clean Water Act.”

Current national water-quality criteria under the Clean Water Act require that pH, a measure of acidity, remain within 0.2 units of historic levels. A 0.2 decline in pH corresponds to a 60 percent increase in acidity. Today’s petition requests that the EPA use additional water-quality standards that, when used together with pH, will more effectively monitor and detect ocean acidification. The petition also asks the agency to publish guidance that will help states in their water-quality assessments and when they are determining which waters are impaired by ocean acidification.

To learn more, go to EndangeredOceans.org.

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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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