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Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia

Oregon was one of the first places in the world to observe the direct impacts of ocean acidification when the oyster hatchery production collapsed in 2007. Acidification continues to challenge oyster aquaculture productivity and has caused some producers to move operations elsewhere. Also of great concern are the hypoxia events that are continuing to intensify and there are now clear signs that they are undermining the rich ocean ecosystem food web. Oregon's iconic fisheries and the coastal communities that depend on them — both of which quintessentially define the world-renowned Oregon Coast — are at risk. While the oyster industry has implemented solutions for successfully propagating oysters in closed tank systems, Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) events are projected to intensify and threaten our wild fisheries and rich ocean ecosystem.

To sustain Oregon's marine-based food supply and our cultural and economic well-being, the OAH Council recommends taking strategic action to understand, adapt to, and mitigate OAH in an iterative process, including repeated public input, scientific inquiry and action planning. Oregon must act swiftly to set short term priorities and make progress quickly in order to maximize our options and effectiveness. However, Oregon also needs a sustained, long-term approach to addressing OAH impacts and much of what the OAH Council recommends will take time to implement.

What is ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH)?

Ocean acidification is a chemical change that occurs when rampant carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater that lowers seawater pH (making it more acidic). The steady increase in acidification is approaching or meeting levels that are problematic for oysters, crab, mussels, urchins, salmon, rockfish, and other species that Oregonians care deeply about.

Hypoxia refers to water conditions where the concentration of oxygen is so low that it is harmful to organisms. Climate change driven changes in wind and weather patterns have led to more frequent and predictable hypoxic events, stressing a wide range of marine animals from crabs to fish.

History of the Oregon Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) Coordinating Council

In 2017, the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 1039 created the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH Council) to provide recommendations and guidance for the State of Oregon on how to respond to this issue.
The sponsors of Senate Bill 1039, Senator Arnie Roblan (D) and Senator Jeff Kruse (R), recognized that Oregonians depend on our healthy coastal environment for fisheries, tourism, and recreation. They created the OAH Council to assemble interests that are currently and potentially impacted by OAH in Oregon. The OAH Council forum is composed of members of State agencies, academic experts, stakeholders, and Tribal interests, who will collaboratively develop recommendations, and advise the State on the implementation of actions to support the sustainability of Oregon's ocean as OAH intensifies.

Oregon's OAH Council Third Report (2022) and OAH Action Plan (2019)

OAH report cover icon

The Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia is excited to announce the release of its third Biennial Report to the Oregon Legislature and the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council.  

The report highlights actions taken by the Council that are outlined in the State's OAH Action Plan along with goals for the next biennium.

Included research projects to document ocean change with enhanced monitoring are:

1. Oregon marine reserves, adding to the value of the reserves as scientific reference sites. Oregon State University researchers are leading this effort with help from existing partnerships and new fishing industry partners.

2. Hatfield Marine Science Center to study long-term oceanographic climate trends in Yaquina Bay. Scientific data collected in real time will be on display to the public at the Visitor's Center.

3. Netarts Bay at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery to record changes in ocean acidification. Monitoring the bay's ocean conditions is critical to maintain adequate water quality in the hatchery and support Oregon's robust juvenile oyster production for the seafood industry.
The report also includes information on a unique and innovative approach to understanding ocean change: a fisherman's app. The idea for the app stemmed from fishermen-scientist roundtable events hosted by the OAH Council. If successful, this pilot project would let any ocean user report ocean observations to scientists in real time using their smartphone or tablet.

The Action Plan identified the actions that Oregon is ready to commit to and will flesh out the scope, methods, and resources needed to implement each action. The Council agreed by consensus to include all 38 actions in the 2018 report. However, a general prioritization exercise (in which Council Members anonymously rated each action from lower to higher relative value) and the summarization of results reveal the recommended actions for that merit immediate attention.

To learn more about the Council, opportunities to engage, or OAH in Oregon, please contact:

Dr. Caren Braby
ODFW Marine Recourses Program manager
OAH Council Co-Chair
Caren.E.Braby@odfw.oregon.gov

Jennifer (Jenny) Koester
ODFW Ocean Acidification Assistant Project Leader
OAH Council Staff
Jennifer.A.Koester@odfw.oregon.gov

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