The anthropogenic input of fossil fuel carbon into the atmosphere results in increased carbon dioxide (CO2) into the oceans, a process that lowers seawater pH, decreases alkalinity and can inhibit the production of shell material. Corrosive water has recently been documented in the northeast Pacific, along with a rapid decline in seawater pH over the past decade. A lack of instrumentation prior to the 1990s means that we have no indication whether these carbon cycle changes have precedence or are a response to recent anthropogenic CO2 inputs. We analyzed stable carbon and oxygen isotopes (δ13C, δ18O) of decade-old California mussel shells (Mytilus californianus) in the context of an instrumental seawater record of the same length.