Congress passed a new law to help respond to the ongoing threat of ocean acidification
January is the month when I send the most thank-yous and notes of gratitude to wrap up the holidays and my birthday. After the past year, however, it’s a bit harder than usual to reflect with gratitude when so many are struggling. But writing notes to my family and friends reminded me of a bright moment for our ocean that I am truly grateful for professionally and personally.
After years of working on ocean acidification and being a carbon cycle scientist, I am truly thankful that just before the close of the 116th Congress in December 2020, the members of Congress passed a new law to help respond to the ongoing threat of ocean acidification. The Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act reauthorized the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (IOOS) and it also amended the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009, the law that oversees the country’s response to ocean acidification. Specifically, the legislation asks for regular reports on coastal community vulnerability to ocean acidification that also identify gaps in monitoring and research. It also creates a mechanism to increase engagement and input on ocean acidification monitoring by stakeholders such as coastal resource managers and aquaculture industry members. It calls for further research by the National Science Foundation on ocean acidification impacts, technology and other ocean stresses, including hypoxia (when the ocean has too little oxygen) and harmful algal blooms.
This new law is especially meaningful to us at Ocean Conservancy because it incorporates elements of the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2019, the COAST Research Act of 2019 and the NEAR Act of 2019. Ocean Conservancy advocated for all of these bills (which passed the House of Representatives in June 2019) to support and expand ocean acidification research and to examine the effects of ocean acidification on coastal human communities and other coastal threats—particularly hypoxia and harmful algal blooms. This came as the result of a decade of building awareness and support in Congress to address ocean acidification. It’s wonderful to see this momentum continue and to see ocean acidification increasingly woven in among other ocean issues.
My gratitude also goes to the Biden-Harris administration—already, President Biden has rejoined the Paris Agreement and signed executive orders on climate change that include a lot of big wins for our ocean and focus on environmental justice. These are the right things to do for the planet and everyone who lives on it. Fulfilling the Paris Agreement goals and acting on climate change will go a long way toward curbing ocean acidification outright. The new administration is also returning scientific integrity to our federal agencies and filling them with genuine scientists and issue experts who represent the full diversity found in our country.
Last but not least, my gratitude goes to you all of you—Ocean Conservancy’s fantastic supporters. Without your steadfast support, we could not continue working so hard on behalf of our ocean and ocean-dependent communities, through bad times and good times. I am feeling more optimistic that although we have a lot of work to do to address climate change and heal the ocean, together we are up to the challenge.
Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy, 4 January 2021. Article.