DEC announces New York Ocean Acidification Task Force to evaluate impacts on state’s coastal waters

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the creation of a 14-member Ocean Acidification (OA) Task Force to assess impacts of acidification on the ecological, economic, and recreational health of New York’s coastal waters, work to identify contributing factors, and recommend actions to reduce and address negative impacts. The Task Force includes experts in climatology, hydrology, economics, marine fisheries, aquaculture, oceanography, and ecology. The task force’s first meeting will be scheduled this fall.

Commissioner Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo established New York’s Ocean Acidification Task Force to ensure that the best available science is used to assess and respond to this emerging threat to our coastal waters and fisheries. The task force is charged with providing New York with the tools and information to protect our natural resources from changing ocean chemistry and safeguard the long-term sustainability of our fisheries.”

Signed into law in 2016, the 14-member Task Force is composed of experts appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the State Senate, the State Assembly, New York City, and Nassau and Suffolk counties. As the lead agency, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos’ designee will chair the Task Force. The Task Force will also include representatives of the New York State Department of State and the Office of General Services.

The Task Force members named to date are:

  • James F. Gennaro, Chair, DEC Deputy Commissioner (DEC designee)
  • Marci Bortman, Director of Conservation Programs, The Nature Conservancy (Governor’s designee)
  • Professor Malcolm J. Bowman, Distinguished Service Professor, Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (Assembly designee)
  • Todd Gardner, leader of the New York State Office of General Services green sustainability procurement team (OGS designee)
  • David Gugerty, Democratic Commissioner of the Nassau County Board of Elections (Nassau County designee)
  • Jeff Herter, Division of Community Resilience and Regional Programs, Office of Planning & Development, New York Department of State(DOS designee)
  • John K. McLaughlin, Managing Director, Office of Ecosystem Services, NYC Department of Environmental Protection (New York City designee)
  • Karen Rivara, Owner, Aeros Cultured Oyster Company and former president of the Long Island Farm Bureau (Suffolk County designee)
  • Professor R. Lawrence Swanson, Former Dean and Director of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (Governor’s designee)
  • Professor Carl Safina, Endowed Research Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and Director of the Safina Center, a not-for-profit research, educational, and environmental advocacy organization (Assembly designee)
  • Jeremy Thornton, Former U.S. Navy SEAL and Strategic Markets Director at Janssen Pharmaceutica (Senate designee)

The task force will produce a report and an action plan, including:

  • An assessment of the anticipated impacts of ocean acidification;
  • Recommendations to provide stronger, more protective standards, and the implementation and enforcement of such standards in the context of OA;
  • Recommendations for adaptive measures to respond to OA, including measures to identify and monitor early effects of ocean acidification on marine life, animals, plants, and natural communities, and integrate ocean acidification mitigation and adaptation strategies into state environmental plans;
  • Recommendations on state and local regulatory and/or statutory actions to respond to the impacts of OA;
  • A review of existing scientific literature and data on ocean acidification and how it has directly or indirectly affected or may potentially affect commercially harvested and grown species along the coast;
  • Monitoring data on factors contributing to OA; and
  • Recommendations to increase public awareness of OA.

The OA Task Force’s efforts will be supported by DEC’s Division of Marine Resources in East Setauket and faculty of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

When dissolved in water, atmospheric carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid. Increased levels of carbon dioxide are making ocean waters increasingly acidic. Ocean acidification can be further impaired by runoff and nutrient influx from land. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), each year the ocean absorbs approximately 25 percent of all the CO2 emitted by human activities, and ocean acidity has increased by about 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The current rate of change of ocean acidification is faster than any time on record and 10 times faster than the last major acidification event 55 million years ago.

The Atlantic Ocean along the Northeast U.S. shore has the potential to be especially vulnerable to acidification because carbon dioxide is most soluble in cold water and the Northeast is subject to increasingly intense rain events leading to more intensive runoff. Still under scientific study, it is believed that ocean acidification could have an adverse impact on the marine fisheries industry.

New York’s marine resources are critical to the state’s economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this initiative, supporting the region’s growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said, “One of the primary reasons I drafted this legislation is that we have a responsibility to prepare for the impacts of climate change, and that includes the impacts on the ocean. With millions of New Yorkers living near the coast, this Task Force has some important work to do. Like climate change, the process of ocean acidification is invisible. The work of the Ocean Acidification Task Force will bring the magnitude of this threat into plain sight and help us develop strategies to mitigate and adapt to ocean acidification. I am confident that the Task Force participants will be up to the challenge and look forward to seeing their findings.”

Erica Ringwald, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 22 August 2018. Press release.

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