California officials have created a plan to stop climate change from killing sea creatures and protect the state's $45 billion ocean-based economy.
Deborah Halberstadt with the California Ocean Protection Council said the ocean is getting more acidic as it absorbs increased amounts of carbon dioxide, which can threaten species key to the fishing industry.
"With climate change we're seeing warmer oceans. It's actually changing the chemistry of the ocean water and making it more corrosive,” Halberstadt said. “This has the impact of potentially destroying the bottom layer of the food web."
Concern began when oysters started dying in the Pacific Northwest.
“The animals can’t develop shells because the water is too acidic and so then they either die or become deformed,” said Halberstadt.
The state's first California Ocean Acidification Action Plan will analyze and identify the full risk. State officials are worried about the Dungeness crab and salmon populations.
“It’s something that we need to understand and pay attention to because it’s one of our most lucrative fisheries,” she added of the Dungeness crab population.
Over 10 years officials from across the west coast and British Columbia also hope to come up with ways to reduce pollution region wide by boosting natural systems that store carbon in the sediment of the ocean floor, such as figuring out ways to grow more kelp and seagrass.
“As seagrass habitats are degraded and they die that carbon is actually released,” Halberstadt said. “So, the ocean becomes a source of carbon dioxide rather than a sink.”
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