Gov. Gregoire issues executive order to address ocean acidity, protect shellfish

By | November 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order today to combat rising levels of acidity in the ocean, which scientists say is threatening the state’s supply of oysters, clams, scallops and mussels.

Washington’s $270 million shellfish industry employs 2,200 people and produces “quality seafood that’s the envy of the world,” Gregoire said at a news conference announcing the action.

“We are a major exporter of world-class shellfish. That’s because we not only offer the shellfish, but everyone knows it comes from clean water,” Gregoire said. “Washington has a lot at stake.”

Gregoire said she plans to reallocate $3.3 million from the hazardous substances tax to fund the effort. Gregoire’s office will release a 2013-15 budget proposal in December, and it will serve as a blueprint for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee.

Gregoire said she recently met with Inslee for several hours and discussed climate change. “I have no doubt he will take the next steps forward,” she said.

The governor appointed more than two dozen elected officials, scientists and policy experts to a Blue Ribbon Panel earlier this year to find ways to protect the state’s shellfish.

Bill Ruckelshaus, a member of the panel, said at today’s event that the ocean absorbs one-quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As a result, the acidity in the ocean has increased by 30 percent — making it difficult for marine species like shellfish to adapt to their changing environment.

“We always thought the ocean was our friend,” Ruckelshaus said. “We now find the ocean is paying a penalty for being our friend.”

The panel released a report with 42 recommended actions, including slowing the pace of ocean acidification by reducing carbon dioxide in the state and providing national leadership on the issue. You can read the full report here.

The executive order directs the state Department of Ecology and other state agencies implement the recommendations of the panel.

Watch the full event below: