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Campaign Calls for National Plan to Curb Ocean Acidification and Save Sea Life

Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity launched a campaign today calling on President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a national plan to protect corals, salmon, otters and other sea life from ocean acidification. Each day the oceans absorb 22 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution from cars and industry. Impacts on fisheries and ecosystems could be devastating.

“Our oceans are facing a profound extinction crisis, unlike any other in human history,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “Without help, the rich sea life we all value will be a shadow of its former self, and we’ll all be impoverished for it.”

As part of its new Endangered Oceans campaign, the Center is calling on the White House to direct the EPA to use the Clean Water Act to produce a detailed national action plan combating the acidification threatening ocean life and coastal communities.

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 that’s been emitted into the air. The 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, many of whom rely on seafood to survive.

A conservative estimate of the damage our oceans will face from emissions-related problems—including impacts on fisheries, sea-level rise and tourism, as well as storm costs—amounts to $428 billion a year by 2050 and nearly $2 trillion per year by century’s end.

“The science is clear that our oceans face the prospect of collapse,” Sakashita said. “This is a human-caused crisis that can also be solved by people, too, if we act swiftly and powerfully. But national leaders must stand up and address the pollution that’s killing our oceans.”

In 2009 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the EPA for failing to address the impacts of ocean acidification in Washington state. As a result of a settlement, EPA acknowledged that ocean acidification is a water pollution problem that can and should be addressed by the Clean Water Act.

“This isn’t a problem that’s going to be solved by slow, incremental steps,” Sakashita said. “It’s time for the EPA to make a move: Develop a bold national action plan that ensures a future for our sea life.”

Learn more about our Endangered Oceans campaign, read a FAQ about ocean acidification and see profiles of affected wildlife and U.S. regions.

For more information, click here.

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