The Legislative Council on Thursday voted to reverse an earlier decision to reject a bill to address ocean acidification for the upcoming legislative session in January.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin, would establish an 11-member commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification.If left unchecked, ocean acidification could cause major losses to Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, risking thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
“Maine’s marine resources support a billion dollar industry and thousands of jobs,” said Devin. “Ocean acidification has the potential to shut down Maine’s shellfish industry and we can’t afford to lose it.”
Rising levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use are in part absorbed by the ocean. Because carbon dioxide and seawater combine to make carbonic acid, these naturally alkaline ocean waters become more acidic. 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.
Devin won his appeal by a vote of 7-3.
Nick Battista, Director of Marine Programs at the Island Institute, says that ocean acidification is one of the least understood threats facing Maine’s economy.
This past week my deputy Marie Damour traveled to Nelson for a workshop on ocean acidification which our Embassy co-sponsored with the New Zealand government, the NZ seafood industry and the Gordon & Betty Moore foundation. The workshop, titled “Future Proofing New Zealand’s Shellfish Aquaculture: Monitoring and Adaptation to Ocean Acidification,” was intended to respond to what Secretary of State John Kerry describes as the “economic, environmental, and policy concerns created by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and the resulting acidification of our oceans.”
The two-day conference brought together more than 60 shellfish experts to share their knowledge in order to help identify ways to protect New Zealand’s NZ$ 350 million (US$ 285 million) per year aquaculture industry from the effects of climate change. The agenda was organized around two topics identified as top priorities during the 2012 session of the N.Z.-U.S. Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation – (1) Climate Change Monitoring, Research, and Services in the Pacific, and (2) Marine and Ocean Research.
Coral reefs are particularly sensitive to acidification.
Just as climate change has evolved from a purely scientific discussion into a set of significant economic and security concerns, ocean acidification has quickly evolved from a theoretical exercise into a major economic threat. Just looking at the United States, for example, one of every six jobs is marine-related, and more than one-third of the Gross National Product originates in coastal areas.
This op-ed is written jointly by the CEO of one of the largest shellfish growers (a close partner in our work) and the chairman of Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification:
October 9th, 2013. Special to The Seattle Times
Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action at a level not yet seen from government, industry and individuals, write guest columnists Jay Manning and Bill Taylor.
The Seattle Times’ recent outstanding series on ocean acidification “Sea Change” stands as an uncomfortably vivid warning that our marine world — and the economies and lifestyles that depend on it — is under siege.
The images of coral reefs and oyster larvae ravaged by ocean acidification provide haunting notice to Northwest residents of the consequences of inaction.
Though the perils of ocean acidification are well-documented, reading this series prompted anew the questions, “What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening?”
The Pacific Northwest has some outstanding leaders and scientists on the cutting edge of addressing ocean acidification. Because of their actions, the region is not starting from square one.
The 2012 Washington State’s Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel identified a series of concrete steps that were codified in Executive Order 12-07 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire.
The Washington Legislature has also taken some critical first steps on this issue, providing funding in July to establish an Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington and the Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council. Created within Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, this Council, among other things, will advise and work with UW and others to conduct an ongoing analysis on the effects and sources of ocean acidification.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has taken the lead in Washington, D.C., securing federal support to help Washington’s shellfish industry monitor and adapt to the corrosive seawater conditions and making sure the nation’s top marine scientists are thinking about the next steps.
The shellfish industry, which injects about $111 million each year into the Pacific Northwest’s economy, is particularly at risk from the threat of ocean acidification. | credit: Katie Campbell |
SEATTLE — On Monday scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will begin a one-month U.S. West Coast expedition to investigate ocean acidification, an issue that poses a serious threat to the Pacific Northwest’s shellfish industry.
“We will for the first time not only study the chemistry of acidification, but also study the biological impacts on the marine ecosystems in the open ocean,” says Richard A. Feely, a scientist from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory in Seattle. Feely is co-chief of the mission.
Over the past 30 years, oceanographers like Feely have found that the burning of fossil fuels has released about 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. About a quarter of that has been absorbed by the oceans, Feely says. Carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid and that acid can corrode the shells of calcifying organisms including oysters and clams.
This upcoming expedition follows the same path taken during a similar survey in 2007, stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. That earlier expedition was the first survey to show that the West Coast of North America is a hot spot for ocean acidification.
ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2012) — Researchers at Oregon State University have definitively linked an increase in ocean acidification to the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon, where larval growth had declined to a level considered by the owners to be “non-economically viable.”
A study by the researchers found that elevated seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, resulting in more corrosive ocean water, inhibited the larval oysters from developing their shells and growing at a pace that would make commercial production cost-effective. As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, this may serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for other ocean acidification impacts on shellfish, the scientists say.
A screen covered with oyster larvae, taken in 2007 at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery near Netarts Bay, Ore. A 2012 study has found that Increasingly acidic ocean water is preventing larvae from developing shells. (Credit: Lynn Ketchum, Oregon State University)
The ocean absorbs a large portion of the CO2 that we release into the atmosphere from our power plants and tail pipes. But when it gets there that CO2 makes the water more acidic and less hospitable for some creatures, like shellfish. In Puget Sound some shellfish hatcheries have already lost millions of oyster larvae because of exposure to acidic water.
Ocean acidification has scientists and policymakers in the Northwest concerned. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has convened a panel on Ocean Acidification, which met this week. Ashley Ahearn reports.
Remember those little pieces of paper you used to measure pH back in junior high school? You’d stick them into your can of coke or on your tongue and the color would tell you how acidic that liquid was?
Well if you stuck litmus paper into the world’s oceans it would come out closer and closer to the acidic side of the pH scale.
Feeley: “The acidity of the ocean has increased by 30 % over the last 250 years.”
Since the beginning of the industrial era, humans have pumped increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has led not only to a warmer climate but also to significant changes in the chemistry of the oceans, which have long acted as a sink for carbon emissions but are being asked to absorb more than they can handle. The result is ocean acidification: increasingly corrosive seawater that has already ruined many coral reefs and over time could threaten the entire marine food chain.
The State of Washington is now trying to tackle the problem in new and inventive ways. It has good reason to worry. Its economically important aquaculture industry specializes in shellfish, especially oysters. Shellfish are highly vulnerable to increased acidity, which kills them by preventing them from creating or maintaining their shells. Washington’s coastal waters are also polluted by urban and farm runoff, as well as an unusual regional threat: wind patterns that cause the upwelling of deep, nutrient-rich ocean currents loaded with carbon dioxide.