Federal Watchdog Faults Government for Failure to Address Ocean Acidification

For Immediate Release

Federal Watchdog Faults Government for Failure to Address Ocean Acidification

WASHINGTON - A report released today by the Government Accountability Office criticized the federal government for its failure to take coordinated action on ocean acidification. The GAO found that federal agencies have not implemented key requirements of a 2009 law passed to combat the carbon threat to oceans, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act.

“While it’s vital that we study ocean acidification, what the GAO report points out is that it isn’t enough,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We know enough about the harmful impacts of ocean acidification to act now to tackle this crisis. And there are several government agencies, from NOAA to the EPA, that have an important role to play in that fight. They need to get out of their huddle now and take bold action to stop acidification.”

The ocean absorbs 22 million tons of carbon dioxide each day, and this reacts with seawater to make it more acidic. Already the oceans have become about 30 percent more acidic as a result of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels in power plants, cars, and other land-use changes. Ocean acidification impairs the ability of marine animals to build the protective shells and skeletons they need to survive.

The report notes that ocean acidification will have “potentially significant effects on marine species, ecosystems, and coastal communities.” It documents that shellfish, corals and other fish are at risk from ocean acidification and summarizes how ocean acidification will alter marine food webs and disrupt coastal economies, including the $2.7 billion shellfish industry.

While certain research and monitoring steps have been taken by federal agencies to study ocean acidification, the GAO faulted federal agencies for their failure to implement key mandates that Congress imposed to:

  1. Develop strategies to mitigate and adapt to ocean acidification;
  2. Identify the role of each agency in researching and monitoring ocean acidification; and
  3. Implement an information exchange on ocean acidification data.

EPA is currently defending a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity for its failure to address ocean acidification in Washington and Oregon.

“The real-life impact of the government’s failure to take action on ocean acidification is that our marine ecosystems are falling apart. Already we’ve seen massive oyster dieoffs, coral reefs staring to crumble, and plankton at the base of the food web dissolving off California. We need rapid reductions of CO2 emissions to prevent the most harmful effects of ocean acidification,” said Sakashita.

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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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