What We Do

Our main program, Global Ocean Health, focuses on ocean acidification (OA) and related pollution effects on healthy fisheries, oceans, and coastal tribes and communities. With an approach rooted in collaborative problem solving, we also work on a range of fisheries and marine conservation issues and sponsor targeted research and education projects.

We launched the Global Ocean Health program in early 2007, stirred by emerging research that indicated ocean acidification would degrade marine foodwebs and fisheries worldwide. Our founding chairman, Dr. Dayton Lee Alverson, urged us to take on the biggest problems facing the oceans. Carbon pollution loomed largest of all, so we stepped up.

Warming, acidification, oxygen depletion and toxic algae were already crossing thresholds. And the forecast troubles for fisheries arrived sooner than expected: By 2009 hatchery operators and researchers found that acidified seawater was killing billions of young oysters in the Pacific Northwest. Toxic algae fueled by carbon emissions and warming oceans are now shutting down fisheries worldwide. Overheated waters are killing returning adult salmon in rivers along the West Coast. As the oceans become increasingly “hot, sour and breathless,” fisheries are taking the fall while carbon pollution swells unchallenged. Southern New England’s lobster fishery collapsed when waters warmed beyond the lobster’s thermal tolerance. From Iceland to Oregon and Louisiana, warm waters starved of oxygen are littering beaches with dead fish and crabs. In 2018, the ice-fed ecosystem of the Bering Sea—source of some 40% of US landings—lost its ice.

The Pacific Northwest has become a global “front-line” for OA and related impacts, because of its extreme seawater chemistry. We raised funds to help regional growers develop the first proven method to protect young oysters from corrosive waters, and built a broad, two-pronged strategy to tackle both the cause and the consequences of the problem. We testified in Congress to help establish the first national OA research plan. We brought the first fishermen and shellfish growers to Washington DC to educate policy makers about the crisis. Our Executive Director proposed and served on Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, the first of a bevy of coastal-state initiatives to confront OA and related impacts around the US and worldwide. Governments, seafood producers, tribes and research institutes began enlisting our help to craft response strategies.

For us, our home state of Washington today serves as an important laboratory for adaptation, mitigation, and resilience tools to deal with OA, warming, toxic algae, and associated impacts. We are pursuing research and policy design to shape pollution-reduction strategies that can slash carbon pollution without crippling economies or bankrupting people who depend on affordable energy to haul food from the sea and bring it to the world’s tables. We provide technical and policy guidance to resource-dependent businesses and communities seeking to protect their future from unchecked pollution. We work hard to share lessons learned and we are constantly on the hunt for promising new approaches to ocean health.

Please note the other pages of this website are out-of-date (other than our list of Board members), and we are in the process of overhauling it. To see what we’ve been up to for the past years, please visit globaloceanhealth.org, and our Facebook page.