Ocean acidification poses a great threat to Maine and its fisheries. A report was released Thursday by a research team that is leading studies dealing with the potential impacts ocean acidification has on Maine and its marine ecosystem. Due to Maine’s lobster fishing and the catching of fish and other crustaceans, if they lose their seafood industry due to ocean acidification, the state is in trouble.
The report stated that the single most alarming finding from the team is how much scientists do not know about ocean acidification and its impacts on the environment. To combat this lack of knowledge, a panel has been created that includes marine scientists, fisherman, state lawmakers, an array of environmentalists, and other contributors to the research. After reviewing the current scientific literature on acidification, the panel agreed that it has been a long-ignored factor.
The panel stated that ocean acidification is an affect caused by carbon pollution. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not just trap heat near the Earth’s surface, it saturates the oceans. Due to this, higher amounts of carbonic acid are created. Carbonic acid lowers the ocean’s pH level which makes the water more acidic, thus endangering corals, plankton, shellfish, and other marine life.
The panel set out six goals in the report that should be accomplished in order for Maine to meet environmental standards and save its fishing and seafood industries. First, and most importantly, is to invest more capital towards the research on ocean acidification. More research will allow scientists to understand and adapt to the changing acidification and reinforcing efforts and regulations to limit waste runoff from farmland and other man-made sources. Inarguably, this will allow marine scientists to find the source of carbonic acid and the damage it does. Additionally, the panel has also recommended that the state create a permanent council to do continuous research and test conducting to advise state lawmakers of the most efficient way to address and combat the threat.
Richard Nelson, a Maine lobsterman and contributing member, stated that the current threats are very troubling to him, the industry, and the fisherman, thereof. A study confirmed that ocean acidification makes lobsters grow in a slower manner than usual. An additional study found that rising ocean temperatures, caused by carbon pollution and global warming, are making younger lobsters decrease in numbers off the coast of Maine. Nelson stated that decreasing lobster numbers would mean big financial stress on the small coastal towns that thrive on the seafood industry. In recent years, fisherman in Maine caught many different species of fish. They varied between groundfish, scallops, and lobsters in an ever-changing order throughout the year. However, ocean acidification has led to the depletion of fisheries and now the fisherman have become dependent on lobster.
Nelson also expressed concern regarding the entire food chain. Acidification threatens plankton by not allowing them to fully develop their shells and kills them off more rapidly. If the species at the bottom of the food chain begin to fall, it is only a matter of time until the middle and top of the food chain begins to fluctuate in a negative manner.
The Center for American Progress took a poll last month that concluded that 65 percent of New England commercial fisherman believe that one day climate change will force them out of the industry. It also found that 63 percent of fisherman noticed warmer ocean temperatures whilst fishing and 40 percent said that this would be bad for the seafood industry. Scientists have since recommended that Maine’s shrimp season be cancelled for the next two years to combat massive losses due to ocean acidification and increasing temperatures.
State lawmakers are also taking this very seriously. Lawmakers have recently introduced four bills intended to reduce the speed at which the acidification is occurring and to hopefully reverse it. The first two bills are aimed at limiting runoff pollution from farms and water treatment plants as well as the reduction of carbon pollution. Another bill is for a three million dollar bond to monitor the contributing sources of pollution. The fourth bill is to ensure that the ocean acidification commission remains active for the next three years to conduct further research. Maine Representative Mick Devin (D) stated that the lobster industry is worth one billion dollars. He said that if ocean acidification remains a threat to Maine, the state will lose its lobster, its clams, and it tourism.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: Mitch Allen – Flickr License