Speakers at Monday’s hearing say increased carbon dioxide and acid are imperiling shellfish stocks and costing Maine jobs and millions of dollars.
AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish the first formal state commission to study the effects of rising levels of acid in the Gulf of Maine.
Representatives of virtually every Maine fishery – as well as state officials, scientists, the recreation, tourism and wastewater treatment industries, environmentalists, private citizens and lawmakers – packed a public hearing Monday before the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee to advocate for L.D. 1602, which would set up an 11-member commission.
No one testified against the bill.
The commission would study the Gulf of Maine’s increasing acidic waters and seek methods to ease the problem and correct its ill effects, said Rep. Michael Devin, D-Newcastle, who introduced the measure with the support from more than 60 co-sponsors.
Ocean acidification – or the increasing percentage of acid in the ocean waters – has been a growing concern along the coastal U.S., marine scientists have reported.
The commission’s work could be underway by spring if the bill is approved by the Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage. The entire cost is not expected to exceed $25,000 in public and private funding.
Devin said it was impossible to say exactly how much acidification already has hurt fisheries and other businesses, including charter tours and whale-watching boats, that operate in the Gulf of Maine. But if acidification has a significant impact on the lobster industry, the costs to the state’s largest fishery would be substantial, he said.
“If the lobster industry is affected, that’s a billion dollars right there,” said Devin, a member of the Marine Resources Committee.