Count Massachusetts as the latest state to take a step towards fighting ocean acidification. Last week I attended a forum hosted by ocean champions Congressman Bill Keating (MA-9th) and Massachusetts State Representative Tim Madden (D-Nantucket) at the Woods Hole Research Center. While there, I learned about a state bill sponsored by Rep. Madden to form a commission that will guide the state’s response to ocean acidification.
This commission would first examine how acidification may affect local marine resources like lobsters and oysters. Then it would recommend what Massachusetts can do to protect its coastal jobs and economies related to those resources. The Bay State has always been a leader on ocean issues, and this latest effort provides another example of action.
During the discussion, Rep. Keating pointed out that we should consider the ocean as a critical piece of infrastructure that needs to be maintained, like roads or bridges. Ocean acidification spells bad news for shellfish farmers, fishermen, and coastal resource managers because it hurts oyster populations and slows the growth of mussels and clams. As a result, Keating has consistently supported national funding for more acidification research and monitoring.
It’s clear that Massachusetts is part of a geographically growing concern over acidification. Forum panelist Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker spoke about the actions that have been underway along the Pacific coast since 2009, particularly those by the Pacific Coast Collaborative. Maine and Maryland formed task forces, which recommended actions like monitoring water quality for acidification, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions and nitrogen run-off pollution in 2015. Delaware and New Jersey conducted internal studies in the same year, encouraging regional cooperation across state boundaries, additional scientific research on acidification and increased outreach to the fishing and shellfish communities. These activities are all effective steps towards reducing acidification, but they are not the only options for people and states to take.
If Massachusetts passes Rep. Madden’s bill, it will become the fifth state (after Washington, Maine, Maryland and Oregon) to legislatively approve of a commission that will lay the groundwork for combatting ocean acidification. I look forward to that becoming a reality.