Maine Legislature Press Release April 30th, 2014
AUGUSTA – The East Coast’s first measure to address the threat of ocean acidification became law Wednesday.
“Maine is taking the lead on ocean acidification on the Eastern seaboard. We understand just how dangerous it is to our marine environment, jobs and way of life,” said Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, the bill’s sponsor and a marine biologist. “We will address this threat head-on and find ways to protect our marine resources and economies.”
LD 1602 became law without the signature of Gov. Paul LePage. It went into effect immediately.
The measure would establish a commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem and major inshore shellfisheries. The committee membership would be made up of stakeholders including fishermen, aquaculturists, scientists and legislators.
“We who work on the ocean observe the day to day effects of small changes in climate and the destruction caused by such things as ocean acidification,” said Richard Nelson, a fisherman from Friendship. “We are solely dependent on a resource that must be managed intelligently and effectively in order for it to remain healthy and available to us.”
Rising levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use are causing changes in ocean chemistry. As carbon dioxide and seawater combine, carbonic acid forms. Carbonic acid can dissolve the shells of shellfish, an important commercial marine resource. Over the past two centuries, ocean acidity levels have increased 30 percent.
If left unchecked, ocean acidification could cause major losses to shellfisheries like clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins and put at risk thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
“We’re glad to see Maine leading on this issue,” said Rob Snyder, president of the Island Institute, which helped draft the legislation. “The industries that will be affected by ocean acidification employ thousands of Mainers – especially in island and coastal communities – and they contribute $1 billion to our state’s economy. It’s critical to learn more about the solutions to ocean acidification that will protect those jobs.”
Shellfish hatcheries on the West Coast have failed in recent years due to 60 to 80 percent production losses caused by ocean chemistry changes, which can take place quickly. A 2007 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered changes in ocean chemistry not expected for another 50 to 100 years on the West Coast.
Devin’s bill is one of the key legislative issues of the Environmental Priorities Coalition this year. The coalition cited research that found the Gulf of Maine is more susceptible to the effects of ocean acidification than other parts of the East Coast.