Leading scientists will brief Maine’s new ocean acidification commission on challenges facing the state’s coastal fisheries when the panel meets for the first time Friday at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole.
The Commission to Study the Effects of Coastal and Ocean Acidification on Commercially Harvested and Grown Species is the first of its kind on the East Coast, according to a statement from the panel.
The commission will study the negative effects of ocean acidification and make recommendations to the Legislature on how to address the threat.
“Maine is taking the lead on ocean acidification on the Eastern Seaboard. We understand that it is a real threat to our marine environment, jobs and way of life,” said Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, House chairman of the commission and sponsor of the bill that created the panel.
Scientists say carbon and nitrogen pollution is making oceans more acidic. Growing acidification poses a significant threat in the Gulf of Maine, where it may inhibit shell production of lobsters, clams, shrimp, oysters and other creatures.
Left unchecked – and combined with rising water temperatures, depleted oxygen and pollution – ocean acidity threatens about 9,200 jobs in a commercial fishing industry that generates about $1 billion in the state’s economy, according to a marine resources report.
“Ocean acidification could pose critical problems for the fish and shellfish along our coast, and for the people who depend on them to make a living,” said Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, Senate chairman of the commission.
“We need to know what those problems are and how to limit the impacts of ocean acidification on our environment and our economy.”
The commission includes fishermen, aquaculturists, scientists and legislators. The scientists will make presentations between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., followed by the commission’s discussion at 1:15 p.m.
Scientists who are scheduled to speak Friday include Scott Doney, director of the Ocean and Climate Change Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts; Barney Balch, senior research scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay; and Bob Steneck, professor and Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, School of Marine Sciences, Darling Marine Center, University of Maine.