Senators: ocean acidification monitoring critical to nation’s $2.8B shellfish industry

In the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Cantwell called for continued support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Integrated Ocean Acidification Program and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Data from IOOS sensors and buoys along the nation’s coasts have helped shellfish hatcheries determine when to shield their stocks from corrosive sea water.

“Ocean acidification poses a serious threat to coastal economies across the United States,” the letter said. “We believe that worsening ocean acidification makes it incumbent on us to protect efforts that are helping maintain shellfish industries across the nation. We also support targeted investments in monitoring and research to increase our ocean acidification monitoring network, and provide critical data to communities that have been identified as high risk.”

Joining the letter were Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

In 2010, Cantwell secured funding to acquire and deploy ocean acidification sensors near major shellfish hatcheries in Washington state. Today, these sensors, some of which are attached to buoys from the IOOS program, allow shellfish growers to monitor ocean acidity in real-time and close off their shellfish tanks when ocean acidity is too high. Recent studies have shown a connection between ocean acidification and high mortality rates among young oysters and other shellfish like clams, geoduck and mussels.

In the Pacific Northwest, young oyster productivity rose from 20 percent of historical levels to 70 percent after ocean acidification sensors were deployed near major hatcheries. That helped support 3,200 family wage jobs in Washington state’s coastal economies alone.

Shellfish growers contribute $110 million annually to Washington state’s economy. Shellfish farming is the largest employer in Pacific County and is the second largest employer in Mason County.

The letter references a recent study in Nature Climate Change that identifies communities at significant risk for sustained economic losses resulting from ocean acidification’s impact on shellfish fisheries. Communities at the highest risk were found in these 15 states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Florida, North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Maryland, and Texas.  A July 2014 report published in Progress in Oceanography identified seafood jobs across Alaska that could be impacted by ocean acidification, such as king crab and salmon. (…)

US Senator Maria Cantwell blog, 26 March 2015. Article.

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