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, D-Newcastle, would establish an 11-member commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification.
“Maine’s marine resources support a billion dollar industry and thousands of jobs,” Devin said. “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.
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.
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 bill underscores our state’s leadership role in marine conservation and the serious threat that ocean acidification poses to the sustainability of Maine’s coastal communities,” Battista said.
Virginia Olsen from Oceanville Seafood in Stonington said that ocean acidification has serious ramifications and needs to be a priority for Maine.
“We can have multiple conservation programs,” Olsen said. “However, if we don’t address the fact that ocean acidification is happening now, we will still have multiple fisheries experiencing crises with major economic impacts that none of us are prepared for.”
A 2007 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered changes in ocean chemistry not expected for another 50 to 100 years were present on the West coast, which caused the failure of shellfish growth in Washington state.
“Our marine resource based economy is already being threatened,” Devin said. “I look forward to working on this important issue in the upcoming session.”
Bills for the Legislature’s second session must win approval from the Legislative Council. The second session of the Legislature is typically reserved for top-priority or emergency measures.
The second regular session will convene on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
Ann Kim, Boothbay Register, 22 November 2013. Article.