Oregon again was recognized as a leader in efforts to stem climate change and ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH).
The legislatively-created Oregon Coordinating Council on OAH recently was recognized for its efforts to guide Oregon’s response to ocean change and OAH. The Coordinating Council received an Honorable Mention for the 2020 Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Dr. Caren Braby and OSU’s Dr. Jack Barth lead the Coordinating Council.
The award, given by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, recognizes the Coordinating Council’s exemplary leadership in reducing climate related threats through developing and carrying out the 2019-2025 OAH Action Plan.
Hypoxia (low Oxygen) occurs when deeper ocean waters with less oxygen rise and is pushed closer to the shore. This happens more frequently than normal due to climate changes that heat the land and ocean waters and change normal wind patterns. Ocean acidification is caused when carbon dioxide from our atmosphere enters the ocean and chemically reacts with ocean water, making the oceans more acidic (lowering the pH).
“Oregon is a hotspot for OAH,” Barth said. “Oregon’s coastlines naturally experience some low oxygen and more acidic waters from ocean upwelling (old deep water which is pushed nearshore by ocean currents). However, combined with increasingly more human-produced carbon dioxide being absorbed by the ocean and intensifying global warming, we have the perfect storm.”
Oregon was one of the first states to experience impacts of OAH (changes in ocean acidity and oxygen levels). In the early 2000’s the Pacific Northwest oyster hatchery production collapsed due to acidification, and the fishing fleet began pulling pots full of dead Dungeness crab during hypoxic conditions. Shellfish are particularly vulnerable to OAH and are also the bread and butter of Oregon’s commercial seafood industry, bringing over $100 million annually into coastal communities.
OAH poses serious threats to Oregon’s marine resources and the coastal economies that depend on them.
Gov. Kate Brown recognized these threats and called for the OAH Action Plan to guide efforts to address them. Brown also submitted the Action Plan to the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia. Oregon’s plan can now serve as a model for governments around the world.
“Our ocean resources are a source of state pride, they fuel coastal tourism, the seafood industry, sport fisheries, and are iconic to being an Oregonian,” Braby said. “These are all at risk from climate and ocean change, and carbon dioxide management is needed to help reduce those risks. Every Oregonian can help by remembering the natural ecosystem in their societal choices.”
Through public meetings, reports to the legislature, and outreach activities outlined in the Action Plan, the Coordinating Council is a source of information on and is raising awareness about OAH. Elements of the plan clearly show how local actions are meaningful in fighting the global challenges of climate and ocean changes and how partners are needed for Oregon’s long-term resilience.
ODFW Director Curt Melcher said the Coordinating Council played a vital role in raising awareness of challenges presented by OAH and shows how all agencies can play a role in seeking solutions.
The 13-member Coordinating Council was created by the Oregon Legislature in 2017 and includes state agencies, industry and tribal representatives, and academic researchers.
The Coordinating Council submitted their 2020 biennial report to the Oregon Legislature this month. The report updates the legislature on progress made in implementing the 2019-2025 Action Plan including projects that further OAH science, coastal resilience, raise awareness, and empower communities.