Senate Passes Lautenberg Measure To Protect Oceans From Acidification

Bill Would Focus Research on Acidification, Which Threatens Marine Life and Fishing Industry; Sen. Boxer Co-Sponsors

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Legislation Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D–NJ) crafted to focus research on rising ocean acidity was added as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that passed yesterday. Ocean acidification harms marine life, threatens the jobs of coastal workers and fishermen and poses serious risks to the fishing industry. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

“Ocean acidification is a threat to our marine ecosystem and our economy,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “The change in ocean chemistry caused by greenhouse gases is corrosive and affects our marine life, food supply and overall ocean health. But research on ocean acidification is still in its infancy. This study will help establish the research and monitoring critical to protect the health of our oceans and to assess the social and economic impacts to our country.”

Senator Boxer said, “Our oceans are in serious trouble. Scientists are now warning us that increased greenhouse gases are acidifying our ocean waters, endangering wildlife and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Our oceans are already under assault from overfishing and pollution and this critical provision will go a long way toward increasing our understanding of the serious threat posed by ocean acidification and what we can do to stop it.”

The increase in emissions of carbon dioxide is lowering the ocean pH and causing oceans to become more acidic. Ocean acidity has increased 30 percent in the last hundred years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA also projects that, by the end of the century, current levels of carbon dioxide emissions could result in the lowest levels of ocean pH in 20 million years.

Oceans require a balanced pH to maintain water quality favorable to marine life. If the oceans become too acidic, the shells of animals such as scallops, clams, crabs, plankton and corals will begin to dissolve. In New Jersey, sea scallops and clams are some of the state’s most valuable fisheries, valued at $121 million, according to NOAA.

The provision authored by Senators Lautenberg and Boxer directs funds to the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study of the acidification of oceans and how this process affects the United States.

Earlier this year, Sen. Lautenberg introduced the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2007(FOARAM), which is part of the Senator’s continuing work to protect oceans and coastlines. Sen. Lautenberg has also authored provisions to research and protect deep sea corals, another habitat threatened by ocean acidification. Those provisions became law in January 2007 as part of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006.

Sen. Lautenberg also is the author of the enacted Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act of 2000, which established national standards for water quality testing and public notification. The Senator has introduced legislation to reauthorize and strengthen that current law.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, 17 October 2007. Web site.

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