Ocean acidification bill gains traction at State House

State Representative Dylan A. Fernandes of Falmouth, who represents the Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket District that includes four Falmouth precincts, reintroduced a bill to advance efforts to understand the effects of ocean acidification on vulnerable fishing and shellfishing industries in the Northeast. Rep. Fernandes said in a statement released Tuesday, February 14, that he has worked with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to reach out to legislators and secure 24 cosponsors. The bill would establish a commission to study the potential effects of such acidification and recommend strategies to safeguard against it in the future.

“Climate change is the biggest issue facing my generation and it has the potential to cause significant impacts on our environment and our economy if we do not address it,” Rep. Fernandes said in the statement. “We’re excited to sponsor a bill of such monumental importance to our regional fishing and shellfishing industries.”

Ocean acidification results from increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the statement said. Acidic deep ocean waters have already caused significant problems for shellfish hatcheries in coastal communities of the Pacific Northwest. Higher levels of acidity disrupt the ability of mollusks to develop shells, and can result in mass die-offs especially during the early life stages.

Rep. Fernandes said that House Docket 2519 is a refiling of a similar bill former representative Timothy R. Madden proposed last session, one which is focused on providing the best possible science to address this issue, a key objective of Rep. Fernandes and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“The Massachusetts shellfish fishing and farming industries include key species such as scallops and oysters, and represent some of the most important parts of the state’s seafood production sector, both in terms of economic scale and growth potential,” wrote Dr. Hauke Kite-Powell of WHOI’s Marine Policy Center in the statement. “These shellfish populations are likely to be adversely affected by ocean acidification at some point in the coming century, and we should be prepared for that.”

Steven Withrow, Cape News, 14 February 2017. Article.

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