Today, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Environment Subcommittee will hold a markup of four bills addressing the impacts of ocean acidification. A markup is an opportunity for all members of a congressional committee to review legislation and “mark” it up with their own thoughts and changes. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we are excited to see these bills take this important step. This legislation has enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and today’s markup will show how leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of preparing their communities for the impacts of ocean acidification.
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For the past seven years, Ocean Conservancy has worked on ocean acidification, building stakeholder support among affected communities and bringing their voices to the national conversation to elevate ocean acidification as a bipartisan issue. We’ve already seen how ocean acidification can devastate the ocean resources on which coastal communities depend. Millions of jobs, livelihoods, cultures and ways of life, from the Pacific Northwest’s shellfish industry to Florida’s coral reef tourism, depend on this work.
Here’s a preview of the legislation in today’s markup:
Following the widespread death of larval shellfish that nearly bankrupted hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-2000s because of ocean acidification, Congress took action to better understand the impact of ocean acidification on people and marine resources by passing the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act. This federal law created the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program and provides for a coordinated response by federal agencies to understand, track, and address ocean acidification. The Coast Research Act reauthorizes this federal law and broadens the scope of work on ocean acidification to better understand the effects of acidification not only in the open ocean but also in the coastal zone.
Coastal communities are on the frontlines of experiencing the effects of ocean acidification, and many are already seeing the impacts. As a result, it is important that federal research and monitoring respond to the needs of these communities. This bill codifies that the federal government should assess the needs of coastal community vulnerable to ocean acidification and ensure that federal research and monitoring plans are influenced by those needs assessments.
Innovation is an important component in tackling many environmental problems. The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2019 would allow several federal agencies to establish competitions to award prizes for innovations that would advance our nation’s ability to understand, research, monitor or adapt to ocean acidification.
Healthy estuaries are a critical economic and recreational driver in coastal communities across the country. However, because acidification often interacts with other coastal processes, like runoff, erosion and upwelled water from the ocean, it is difficult to measure its individual impact in estuarine environments. The NEAR Act of 2019 would authorize the National Academies of Science to examine the impact of ocean acidification and other stressors on American estuaries and nearshore waters.