Massive Oyster Die-Offs Prompt Harsher Climate Change Policy

Washington governor pushes for tougher carbon emission restrictions as a major regional industry suffers

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Washington's governor fights for climate change support as Pacific Ocean kills billions of oysters.

Billions of baby oysters are dying in the Pacific Northwest, and with them, a $270 million dollar shellfish industry. Due to a rise in carbon levels, scientists say that the acidity of the Pacific Ocean has made the water uninhabitable for billions of oysters, reports The New York Times.

At present, the acidity levels in the Pacific are preventing baby oysters from developing a healthy shell. As acidity levels increase, which scientists confirm will only continue, adult oysters may stop growing.

Yet, as the state’s industry suffers, its residents have been slow to accept the reality — and politics — connected with accepting the consequences of climate change.

Jay Inslee, Washington state’s Democratic governor, is currently on a mission to implement climate change policies, including “some of the toughest limits on carbon emissions in the country.”

Though Inslee has the financial backing of billionaire Tom Steyer, Washington residents have resisted Inslee’s attempts to promote an environmental agenda over the potential jobs in the coal industry, and have seen the Democratic governor’s work as an attempt to buy votes.

Inslee, who recognizes that the idea of climate change has a particular reputation for political controversy, says highlighting the loss of the shellfish industry to ocean acidification, which “has the same cause as climate change,” is more readily accepted across the board.

Paul Taylor, an oyster farmer whose company is the largest shellfish supplier in the Pacific Northwest, notes that although Governor Inslee’s proposed changes may incur expenses for his company, they are likely the only recourse available to his industry.  “I know this could raise the cost of fuel for my boats and electricity for my buildings,” he told The New York Times. “But if this problem gets worse, and our oysters can’t grow, then we just go away as a business.”

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


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