States passing legislation to study effects of ocean acidification

On May 5, 2014, Maryland joined Washington and Maine when it passed and approved legislation that established a task force to study the impacts of ocean acidification in State waters. House Bill 118 is short and its wording broad. However, it does state that the Task Force shall analyze the best available science regarding ocean acidification and the potential effects of acidification on the ecology of the State’s waters and fisheries. The Task Force must make recommendations on strategies to mitigate the effects and report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by January 1, 2015.

The Task Force will consist of the following members: a member of the senate, a member of the house of delegates, the Secretary of Natural Resources or designee, the Secretary of the Environment or its designee, and Governor appointed representatives from the State’s aquaculture industry, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, the National Aquarium of Baltimore, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Members will not receive compensation but will be reimbursed for expenses.

Maine passed its legislation, LD 1602, on April 30, 2014 as an emergency measure, i.e. no Governor signature required. The legislation establishes a Commission to study the effects of ocean acidification and its potential effects on commercial shellfish harvested and grown along the Maine coast. The Commission will be tasked with identifying actual and potential effects of acidification on commercially valuable marine species and scientific data and knowledge gaps that may hinder the State’s ability to draft policy and other responses. It will also be responsible for providing policy recommendations and tools to respond to the adverse effects of acidification in both the commercial shellfish fisheries and the shellfish aquaculture industry.

The study is required to be initiated in the first 90 days and a report must be submitted in time for consideration during the next legislative session, i.e. December 5, 2014. Commission members will consist of: two members of the senate, two representatives of an environmental or community group, three persons who fish commercially (including 1 aquaculturist), three scientists who have studied coastal or ocean acidification, the Commissioner of Marine Resources or designee, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection or designee, and the Commissioner of Agriculture or designee. Funding contributions for the study of $1,500.00 must be received by July 1, 2014 or it will not take place in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Maryland and Maine have followed Washington State’s lead. In December 2011, Washington’s Governor convened a Blue Ribbon Panel made up of tribal, state, federal, and local policy makers, scientific experts, public opinion leaders, and industry representatives to advance and document the scientific understanding of the effects of ocean acidification. The panel was then responsible for recommending actions to reduce the harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources and to adapt to impacts of more acidic waters. The Panel submitted a report in November 2012. The Governor issued Executive Order 12-07 on December 31, 2013 ordering and directing a number of progressive actions based on the report.

These are great steps towards understanding the impacts of ocean acidification on our waters. Hopefully it did not come too late; but either way, more coastal states should follow suit – the more information and recommendations, the better.

Brittany Tofinchio,, 21 May 2014. Article.

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