Pingree reintroduces bipartisan bill to study impact of ocean acidification on coastal communities
Ocean acidification makes it more difficult for mussels, oysters, and clams, above, to full form their shells.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has reintroduced a bill that would require federal officials to work with coastal communities in Maine and around the country to address the impacts of ocean acidification. The bill, H.R. 2719, has bipartisan support in Congress.
"Climate change and warming temperatures aren’t the only effects of carbon emissions that we have to worry about. Ocean acidification is already having an impact on valuable Maine fisheries,” Pingree said. “It's time we start paying more attention and getting the information we need to understand the potential impacts on our coastal communities.”
Ocean acidification is a product of increased carbon dioxide (C02) in the atmosphere. Much of the C02 released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas pollution gets absorbed by oceans, where it makes the water more acidic. This makes it harder for clams, mussels and oysters to fully form their shells. The impact on lobsters is less clear, but there is serious concern that acidification coupled with warming waters could have a significant impact on lobster populations.
Pingree's bill would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to study the socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification on coastal communities and to work with states like Maine that have already begun conducting research. Under her legislation, the Secretary of Commerce would be required to conduct studies to identify which communities are most dependent on ocean resources and how acidification would affect them if valuable industries like the lobster fishery were impacted.
Pingree's bill is cosponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, (R-FL-16), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY-2), and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-2).
Several Maine businesses and organizations have come out in support of Pingree’s legislation.
“As both a lobsterman and a member of Maine's Ocean Acidification Commission, I believe that although ocean acidification is a complex and daunting issue, with the foresight provided for in Congresswoman Pingree's bill, its effects on our coastal economies are not insurmountable,” said Richard Nelson, a fisherman from Friendship, Maine. “Those willing to do the work, establish the science, and make the changes will make headway against it.”
“Over the 32 years we’ve been in the aquaculture business, ocean acidification quietly crept into our awareness and is now a real part of our daily hatchery operations,” said Bill Mook of Mook Sea Farms in Walpole, Maine. “In order for us to make informed business decisions about our future, it is crucial for more resources to be directed at understanding this issue: what the thresholds are for shellfish production; when they will be reached; and how their negative consequences might be avoided. I’m thrilled Congresswoman Pingree has introduced legislation that will help mitigate ocean acidification.”
“The American lobster is the single most valuable marine species landed in the United States, and we are only beginning to understand how they will be impacted by ocean acidification,” said Suzie Arnold, PhD, Marine Scientist at the Island Institute. “It is critical that the federal government prioritize research on commercially valuable species and help coastal communities that depend on such resources prepare for changes. Congresswoman Pingree’s bill is a much needed step towards securing the future of our coastal communities and their ability to continue to make a living off the water.”
“Maine’s economy and way of life depend on healthy marine waters. Climate change influences, such as increasingly acidic seawater and mud flats, stress marine organisms in ways we still don’t completely understand,” said Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper, Friends of Casco Bay. “We have worked with others to form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership to help coordinate research and address the concerns of fishermen and aquaculture ventures along Maine's coast. Congresswoman Pingree’s bill would help fund efforts that will significantly increase our ability to understand and address the growing threat of acidification before it irrevocably harms Maine’s iconic fisheries.”