OLYMPIA – Today the Washington State Senate unanimously approved legislation to conserve and restore the plants that are the foundation of our marine ecosystems and key in our fight against ocean acidification.

Senate Bill 5619, known as the Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Conservation Initiative, was sponsored by Sen. Liz Lovelett (D – Anacortes) at the request of the Department of Natural Resources.

“Washington has one of the most beautiful natural environments in the country, but at every level our ecosystems are facing an existential crisis,” said Lovelett. “Kelp and eelgrass are a crucial part of the overall ecosystem, and we need to act now to ensure every species in our state is protected for generations to come.”

SB 5619 would conserve or restore 10,000 acres of these forests and meadows by 2040. Recent analyses show a decline of more than 90% in bull kelp in the south and central Puget Sound in the last 150 years, along with similarly disturbing trends among other kelp and eelgrass species.

“Kelp and eelgrass are underground forests that provide critical habitat to pretty much all sea creatures,” said Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), sponsor of companion legislation in the House. “And just like trees on land, they can remove CO2 out of the air, protect shorelines and homes from increasingly severe storms, and even feed humans and livestock! The more we do now to grow our kelp forests, the brighter (and brinier) future we all have to look forward to. Thank you to Sen. Lovelett and all the Tribal, local and community partners working on this bill.”

The bill will now head to the House for consideration. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on March 10.