U.S. Senators Markey, Sullivan Introduce New Ocean Health Bill

(by Ryan Doyle, Seafoodnews.com)
October 28, 2019

Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the Ocean, Coastal and Estuarine Acidification Necessitates (OCEAN) Research Act. The bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act funding for the NOAA and the National Science Foundation, which lapsed in 2012.

The bill aims to improve investments in research and monitoring of acidification in coastal and estuarine areas. It will also push to engage local communities and the seafood industry by introducing an advisory board and research grants.

“Decreasing balance in ocean pH levels can threaten our fish species and coastal ecosystems, and, by extension, the very livelihood of our commercial fisheries and coastal communities,” Senator Sullivan said. “ Policymakers in Washington—and all stakeholders—must rely on the best, most up-to-date data in order to develop effective responses to the challenge, which is why this legislation is so important.”

Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide forming acids when dissolved in seawater, which is harmful to shellfish, coral reefs and other types of marine life. Near the coast, acidification can interact with algal blooms, low-oxygen “dead zones” to cause even more harmful effects.

The office of Senator Markey noted, “Researchers have identified southern Massachusetts and Narragansett Bay as “acidification hotspots,” making the over $500 million Massachusetts shellfish industry particularly vulnerable. In Alaska, natural carbon-rich upwelling zones make the coasts especially susceptible to acidification, threatening the shellfish industry and important food sources for salmon.”

“Healthy oceans support a healthy economy and planet, but ocean acidification is jeopardizing our oceans and the communities that rely on them,” said Senator Markey.

Here is a breakdown of the funding that the bill would provide:

  • $35.5 million each year from fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for NOAA to carry out ocean acidification research activities, with up to $5 million of the total per year dedicated to research conducted via partnerships between the seafood industry and academic institutions
  • $20 million each year for the National Science Foundation to carry out ocean acidification research program activities
  • $1 million for the National Academy of Sciences to study acidification and environmental stressors in estuaries

Find a copy of the full legislation here.

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