Ocean acidification in Washington waters

We play an important role in monitoring the conditions and health of marine waters. Ocean water is becoming more acidic because of carbon pollution from human activities. This process, known as ocean acidification, is having negative impacts on marine animals, particularly shellfish.


What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is a reduction in the pH of the ocean over time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon pollution from the atmosphere due to climate change. When dissolved oxygen in water becomes too low, fish and other aquatic organisms can't survive. The colder the water is, the more oxygen it can hold. As water warms due to carbon pollution, oxygen available to aquatic organisms decreases. This decrease in oxygen can lead to the death of fish and other important aquatic organisms. 

Oxygen levels in many parts of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea are below levels needed for marine life to thrive. Ocean acidification not only puts the food web at risk, it also affects commercial fisheries, cultural, and recreational activities. 

Scientists predict that ocean acidification will continue in the future if climate change isn't addressed immediately. The recovery of orca, salmon, and other marine life is dependent on a healthy Puget Sound.

Orca and fish populations are declining. Invertebrates and other marine life are suffering from a lack of oxygen and acidifying waters.

Puget Sound waters are becoming more corrosive. This makes it hard for shellfish and other marine life to form shells.

Marine life depends on dissolved oxygen for survival. Dissolved oxygen is consistently reaching dangerously low levels throughout Puget Sound. 

Efforts to reduce ocean acidification

We are implementing many policies to reduce greenhouse gases from electricity, industrial processes, and transportation to slow climate change. 

Excess nutrients from nitrogen and carbon also affect Puget Sound's water quality hindering healthy aquatic life. Learn about our collaborative efforts to improve the Puget Sound below.

A dock on Puget Sound with Mt. Rainier in the background

Puget Sound Nutrient Reduction Project

In 2018, we formed the Puget Sound Nutrient Forum public advisory group where we discuss, learn, and provide input on how to reduce human sources of nutrients entering Puget Sound.

Learn more about the project.