Sens. King, Collins push for more research on ocean warming in Gulf of Maine

A letter to the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comes after a Portland Press Herald report on record-warm water flowing into the Gulf’s main entrance.

 U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have urged the federal government to improve efforts to understand the causes and effects of the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine, which threatens to disrupt Maine’s traditional fisheries and the ecosystem that supports them.

“We need greater resources, enhanced monitoring of subsurface conditions, and a better understanding of the diversity of factors that are simultaneously impacting the Gulf of Maine, from changes in circulation and water temperature to ocean acidification,” the senators wrote in a letter Monday to the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tim Gallaudet.


Both of Maine’s U.S. House members applauded the senators’ moves.

“Along with ocean acidification and the potential for oil drilling off our coastline, the warming of the Gulf of Maine is a serious threat to our way of life in Maine,” Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican representing the 2nd District, said in an email. “I have met with and discussed this issue with Mainers up and down the coast and I agree NOAA should prioritize researching the Gulf of Maine.”


Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing the 1st District, said the senators’ letter was “great” and that she wanted NOAA to “keep their focus on the issues around the Gulf of Maine,” though she expressed concern that the Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress did not take the threat of climate change seriously. Her bill to direct NOAA to assess the likely impacts of one climate impact – ocean acidification – on coastal communities has gone nowhere in the more than two years since it was introduced, even though it now has five Republican co-sponsors, including Poliquin.

“We’re just trying to work hard to be sure they don’t take all the funding away, the monitoring data and the records, and just throw all the institutional memory in the garbage heap,” Pingree said.

President Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, making the United States the only United Nations member state opposed to the international effort to voluntarily reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.




Maine has done little to respond to the crisis, with state policymakers ignoring the recommendations of a bipartisan panel of experts convened by the Legislature three years ago that concluded that ocean acidification – a byproduct of global warming – represented a potentially catastrophic threat to Maine’s marine harvesters. The panel advised moves focused on closing the information gap about the threat, much as Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent caucusing with the Democrats, are asking NOAA to do for the broader warming issue.


Researchers in Maine welcomed the senators’ initiative.

“Important monitoring programs in the Gulf of Maine have been cut in recent years,” said Nick Record, a computational ocean ecologist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay. “We need these to be supported so that we’re not flying blind.”

Andrew Thomas, an oceanographer at the University of Maine’s School for Ocean Sciences, said Maine has limited resources for monitoring and studying the ongoing changes off the Northeast coast. “Scientists and managers working in the Gulf of Maine region welcome leadership and prioritization from NOAA as we struggle to both measure and understand the oceanographic changes happening in the Gulf of Maine, assess their causes, try to forecast their trends, and most importantly, try to understand their potential implications for the marine resources that are so important to the states and provinces of the area,” he said via email.

 Colin Woodard, Portland Press Herald, 30 April 2018. Full article.

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