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If the carbonate ion level drops too low, seawater corrodes the shells.
The animals have higher mortality, and juveniles and larvae are most at risk.
In the air, emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides from factories, cars, and power plants are yet another source of nutrients that cause blooms that lead to more acidic waters.
The chemical soup resulting from all of these acidification processes has made both Puget Sound and the Washington coastal area among the most acidic waterways on the planet, according to Jan Newton, senior principal oceanographer at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
, that pushes the concentrations in the ocean higher and higher,” Newton says. Nobody knows that, but the risks are there.” Newton is directing a network of ocean-monitoring buoys along parts of the Washington coast and Puget Sound that are giving researchers more information about hot spots of acidity.
Because the Makah and other tribes have long oral and written histories of the status of their surrounding environment, they have been able to fill in gaps for researchers such as Newton who are studying the ocean changes.Mc Carty, the tribe’s 42-year-old former chairman, pulls out a pocket knife and squats down to scrape a handful of mussels and barnacles into his hand. “I’ll make them into a Makah paella tonight.” Mc Carty and his family grew up picking these marine delights along the coast.Oysters, clams, cockles, barnacles, and other types of mollusks and shellfish have always been part of the Makah diet, as well as the tribe’s culture.“We are seeing certain things around here,” he says.“We’ve recognized that some of our mussels and boots aren’t as plentiful around Cape Flattery. ” The problem hit home a few years ago for Washington’s commercial shellfish growers.