New Maine Ocean Acidification Law Is Important Step in Protecting Maine’s Shellfish and Commercial Fishing Industry

Jason Shemenski

Ivy Frignoca, CLF, 207-210-6439, ifrignoca@clf.org
Emily Dahl, CLF, 978-394-3506, edahl@clf.org

Statement from Conservation Law Foundation on Passage of Maine Ocean Acidification Law

PORTLAND, ME  May 1, 2014 – On April 30, Maine became the first state on the East Coast to act on the threat of ocean acidification with a new law. The law addresses the potentially devastating impacts of rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean on the ecosystem and on commercial shellfish grown and harvested along the Maine coast. In response to the passage of the bill, LD 1602, into law, Conservation Law Foundation issued the following statement:

“As the first state on the East Coast and the second state in the nation to address ocean acidification, Maine is looking out for the future of our ocean ecosystem and our vital commercial shellfishing industry. We are taking steps to study what is already known, find out what else we need to learn, identify ways to stop sources of ocean acidification, and help marine life to adapt to the impacts that are already being felt,” said Ivy Frignoca, Attorney with Conservation Law Foundation.

Frignoca continued: “Conservation Law Foundation is thrilled about this new law because it allows us to be proactive; it is incredibly important that we are acting before ocean acidification becomes an irreversible problem. The bill’s sponsor Representative Mick Devin, Island Institute, Friends of Casco Bay, and many other organizations and members of the commercial fishing industry have been great partners in this effort, and the resulting law is a testament to Maine’s commitment to a thriving coastal economy and environment.”

Background:

The Gulf of Maine has become increasingly more acidic as CO2 emissions from industrial sources and vehicles get deposited in the water, where the carbon mixes to form carbonic acid. This problem is aggravated by polluted stormwater runoff.  The more acidic seawater has been shown to dissolve juvenile clam shells, and larvae are avoiding the most acidic mudflats. Studies predict that the increasing acidity, if left unchecked, will also stunt the growth of lobsters, and cause them to develop thicker shells. Oyster production is also expected to drop dramatically.

In response to this threat, Representative Mick Devin of Newcastle sponsored LD 1602, which establishes 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.

Conservation Law Foundation and partners including Island Institute and Friends of Casco Bay strongly supported the legislation with the shared belief that it will help identify and enable us to work collaboratively on solutions to ocean acidification impacts in real time, rather than waiting until the worst impacts of ocean acidification take effect.

The new law is also supported by many shellfishermen including the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Clammers’ Association, and Mook Sea Farm.

The law requires 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 will 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 study will 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.

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