The Senate just took a bold step in the fight against ocean acidification by introducing legislation to help prepare our coastal communities for the impacts of this looming issue. Taking such a step requires political leadership – and elected officials from state legislatures to the halls of Congress are stepping up to the plate to protect their communities from changing ocean conditions.
Senator Murkowski (R-AK), along with a group of bipartisan Senators, including Senator Collins (R-ME), Senator Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and Senator Peters (D-MI) introduced S. 2229, the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act. This legislation directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct assessments that will help determine the risks that coastal communities face because of changing ocean chemistry. This bill is a companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), which has garnered wide bipartisan support in the pasts several Congresses from coast to coast.
We’ve already seen how ocean acidification can drastically impact ocean resources on which coastal communities depend. Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest nearly declared bankruptcy in the mid-2000s as a result of ocean acidification, which killed billions of oyster larvae and jeopardized the livelihood of many coastal residents who depend on these ocean species. In Alaska, there are worries that acidification could put the red king crab fishery at risk. In Maine, fishermen are calling for additional research that examines acidification’s impact on lobster, a valuable fishery for Maine’s coastal cities and towns. Coastal communities are unique because of their dependence on the ocean for economic prosperity, and changing ocean chemistry can disrupt that connection. Continual research and monitoring will increase our knowledge of ocean acidification and will inform strategies that are essential for protecting communities along the coast. But if we don’t also take steps to address acidification, the problem will only get worse.
Political leaders have been instrumental in taking the small steps that add up to a big impact in fighting against ocean acidification. Leaders on both sides of the aisle, at all levels of government, and on all coasts recognize the importance of preparing their communities for the impacts of ocean acidification.
Senator Murkowski, as co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, has long talked about how ocean acidification would negatively impact Alaska communities, and has been a consistent champion for increased federal investment into research and monitoring. And in Maine, in addition to the leadership of federal lawmakers like Congresswoman Pingree and Senator Collins, the state legislature was among one of the first in the nation to establish a commission to study ocean acidification and its effects on economically valuable ocean species.
There continues to be a groundswell of local support for fighting ocean acidification, and we are making significant progress. But in order to keep this momentum, Congress needs to hear your voice. Join us by urging your member of Congress to cosponsor this critical legislation and help protect our coastal communities.