Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Fishermen Support Bill to Coordinate Research and Response to Ocean Acidification’s Impacts on Commercial Shellfish and Fishing Industry

Media Contact: 
Ivy Frignoca
Conservation Law Foundation
(207) 210-6439 x 5011
ifrignoca@clf.org

PORTLAND, ME  January 13, 2014 – The Conservation Law Foundation announced the organization’s strong support for bill LD 1602 / HP 1174, being heard today by the Maine Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, which would further efforts to protect Maine’s shellfish and the commercial fishing industry from the potentially devastating effects of ocean acidification.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Mick Devin of Newcastle, would establish a study commission to ensure coordination on ocean acidification research and responsive policy efforts among scientists, policymakers, the commercial fishing industry, environmental nonprofits, and others with an interest in preserving ocean resources. The bill, titled Resolve, Establishing the Commission To Study the Effects of Ocean Acidification and Its Potential Effects on Commercial Shellfish Harvested and Grown along the Maine Coast, is also supported by many shellfishermen including the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Clammers’ Association, and Mook Sea Farm. It has also earned support from many organizations including the Island Institute, Friends of Casco Bay, Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the Maine Council of Churches.

“Ocean acidification is a game changer. The Gulf of Maine’s natural chemistry means it will feel the impacts of acidification worse than other areas. In Maine our shellfisheries support a traditional way of life that deserves to be preserved,” said Ivy Frignoca, Attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation in Maine. “This bill has garnered the support of a broad coalition of stakeholders because we believe it will help us identify and work together on solutions to ocean acidification impacts in real time. We can not afford to wait until the worst impacts of ocean acidification take effect.”

The proposed bill would require a study, review, and report on existing literature and data on ocean acidification so that legislators, the commercial fishing industry, and other marine and environmental stakeholders can more completely understand the effects of ocean acidification and existing or potential impacts on commercially harvested and grown shellfish along the coast of Maine.

The resulting report would cover factors driving ocean acidification; recommendations to mitigate ocean acidification; recommendations to strengthen the scientific monitoring, research, and analysis regarding the causes and trends in ocean acidification; actions to protect commercially valuable shellfish species and Maine’s shellfish aquaculture industry; and a plan of outreach to the general public to increase awareness. The proposed study would be a collaboration among Maine State fisheries managers, Maine State environmental experts, researchers from public and private universities and laboratories, commercial fishermen and aquaculturists, and other marine and environmental stakeholders.

“Our hatchery will be monitoring seawater chemistry to verify and understand the impact we think ocean acidification is having on the feeding and growth of our oyster larvae,” said aquaculturist Bill Mook, owner of Mook Sea Farm in Walpole. “We strongly support this legislative effort to collect monitoring data from us and others studying acidification so we can figure out how to adapt to and manage the problem before it wipes out our shellfish industries.”

“We need to get on top of the issue of ocean acidification now before our kids inherit this problem and it’s too late to fix it or adapt,” said Dave Cousens of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

Background

Ocean acidification is already taking a toll on the Gulf of Maine:

  •  Ocean waters off the coast of Maine have already experienced a nearly 30% increase in acidity.
  • Maine’s juvenile clams are literally dissolving away, and larvae are avoiding the more acidic mudflats.
  • Oyster hatcheries on the west coast have already experienced seasonal production losses of 60-80% due to acidification.
  • Recent science indicates that juvenile lobsters will develop thicker shells, and stunted growth.
  • Ocean acidification is caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being absorbed by oceans, and coastal runoff pollution.

Over a billion dollars of economic activity and thousands of Maine jobs are also at risk:

  • Maine is more dependent upon its marine resources than any other state in the northeast.
  • Maine’s top two fisheries (lobsters and clams) have nearly 6,000 active harvesters whose jobs are directly threatened, not even including sternmen and other industries.
  • The Gulf of Maine waters have already been identified by researchers as being more susceptible to ocean acidification than other regions on the eastern seaboard.

Protecting Maine’s shellfish and coastal jobs requires immediate action:

  • There are many potential actions to mitigate acidification: protect seagrass beds, reseed our clam-flats, reduce polluted runoff—but first, a better understanding of the threat is needed.
  • This bill takes a responsible and low cost approach to understanding and addressing a major environmental crisis. It creates a panel of experts from all sectors of the marine community to study the problem and recommend solutions.
  • A better understanding of the impacts of acidification on commercially important marine species would help coastal Maine communities prepare before it is too late.

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About Conservation Law Foundation

Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. Using the law, science and the market, CLF creates solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant economy region-wide. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

 

Supporters of LD 1602:

350 Maine
Appalachian Mountain Club
Atlantic Salmon Federation
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
Conservation Law Foundation
Environmental Health Strategy Center
ENE (Environment Northeast)
Environment Maine
Friends of Casco Bay
Maine Audubon
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maine Clammers’ Association
Maine Conservation Alliance
Maine Council of Churches
Maine Council of Trout Unlimited
Maine Interfaith Power & Light
Maine Lakes Society
Maine Lobstermen’s Association
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine People’s Alliance
Maine Rivers
Maine Wilderness Guides Organization
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Chapter
Product Policy Institute of Maine
RESTORE: The North Woods
Sierra Club, Maine Chapter
The Ocean Conservancy
The Wilderness Society
Toxics Action Center