Jan 13, 2014

Ocean acidification bill supporters make their case to Maine legislature.

Listen below to Maine marine environmental history in the making. It was standing room only at the Maine Legislature's Marine Resources Committee as supporters of  LD 1602  the "Save Our Shellfish" bill, made their case for appointing of a coastwide multisector  committee to study how to reduce the impact of oceanic acidification on Maine species and what proactively to do, fishery by fishery.

Not only were clammers and shellfish farmers and scientific community evident, The groundfish industry called for the scope to be broadened to consider all Maine marine species from plankton up. A wastewater management too was represented, and a wide spectrum of Maine ENGOs weighed in as well.

Senator Chris Johnson  Audio  1 min32 sec Committee co-chair, gave the introduction to the public hearing

Representative Mick Devin Sponsor  Audio  3 min 30 sec laid out the issue and the case for spending time, money and energy getting up to speed on the impact acidification is having on maine marine and estuarine species.

DMR Commissioner Pat Keliher   Audio  3 min called for achievable outcomes, not only another report bottom line is produce something that will help us.

Suzy Arnold, Island Institute marine scientist   Audio   4 min 9sec  noted that some  Gulf of Maine waters is 30% lower than it was. If our blood went that that much lower we'd be in a coma, she said. Our shell species are in trouble. The increased acidity is dissolving shells of baby shellfish. Critical prey like zooplankton are affected too. Crabs seem  okay but for thicker shells and slower growth.  The California rockfish and other fish  exhibit & anxiety when acidified.

Arnold said that compared to bivalves, nothing known about lobster acidification. This must be a priority. This is agreed upon by the Seagrant & Cooperative extension.  There will be a daylong meeting Thursday in Augusta to ID priorities all are welcome.

Nick Battista of Island Institute  Audio 6 min 4sec recommended changes to the composition of the acidification study commission. Copy the Washington State process. Get more money. Washington state  convened a panel of  24 members. Met 12 days. Selecting strong co-chairs who are not politicians. This study should be joined with existing programs. Let all stakeholders get informed and involved. Nick suggested the legislature consider an authorizing account where this study can accept outside funding.

Joe Salisbury. South Portland Fisherman   Audio  7 min 38 sec Has fished for 50 years and is asst professor. He has been working with NOAA studying Ocean acidification.
 After a decade we've learned about effects of the rising CO2. Cooler
water temperatures from Canada - make it more sensitive to OA than the south. GOM is unusually  susceptible.  Decreasing pH increasing CO2. but the Omega factor is such that warming actually helps some seafood species deal with acidification.  

Meredith White, Bigelow Laboratory Boothbay  Audio 2min 39sec  She studies diatoms, especially cocolithophores, and planktonic larvae.  She said there are multiple  reasons  to be concerned:
1. A vast majority of states show that scallops, clams, oysters & mussels are vulnerable.
2. It is now widely recognized that estuaries are more effected than open oceans. GOM is as a whole more susceptible  as it is less buffered less resistant to pH changes than the southeast coast. There is hope: Study of larval scallops shows that acidification has limited impact on them after the first day of life.

Richard Nelson. Friendship lobsterman  Audio 4min 10sec   Nelson works with Island Institute and other people on marine spatial planning. He said there's an aspect to bring up that others haven't mentioned: We are first to see the effect. Also we will be the first that might be displaced by mitigating aspects of solving acidificaton - i.e. by  offshore ocean windpower tidal energy etc. Maine should create a voice in this process. We need to be like Rhode Island and Massachusetts and have actual ocean management.

Joe Payne. Casco Baykeeper Audio 6min 20sec  A Maine scientist documented Casco Bay pH changes. Ordinarily base , like 8.2 pH. But they found complete dissolution of larval clams when exposed to 6.8 pH.  They tested Casco flats and found 100% of the lower PH flats were non productive, while higher pH were productive.

Two years of study confirms the pH difference. Within a flat one part is low pH and some high pH. Harvesters say there is more and more dead mud. This must be happening in other places along Maine coast.

Friends of Casco Bay supports forming the commission There are "silos of information" out there.  The problem is here. Its now. There are mitigating measures to buy us time to help clammers continue.

Question from Kruger  Is there past data on Maine coastal pH. Answer: Lots of water pH  testing but not mud testing.  Prof Mark Green tested in the lab. Couldn't find any data.

John Melrose. Maine Wastewater Control Association. Audio 2min.
The WWCA are professional operators of sewage treatment plants. Neither for nor against .They suggested a wastewater professional be appointed to the committee. Such expertise is very useful. Have the MWCA involved from the beginning

Dave Cousens Maine Lobstermen's Association  Audio 2 min 12sec. We don't know the effect on lobsters, only that it affects  clams and other small species. A 30% increase in pH! . We arent going to stop OA in our lifetime. But we need answers on how to live with it

Patrice McCarron MLA  Audio 49sec She concurred with everything said by preceding speakers.  Maine lobster is a huge part of our economy, she stressed. This is very very important to look into.

Lisa Pullman NRCM Audio 1min 20sec  Noted that marine resources are essential to the Maine economy & brand.  Maine is more dependent on Marine resources than any other state in New England. Important to study acidification.

Bill Mook. Shellfish farmer, Damariscotta  Audio 6min 42se said his business is the canary in the mine shaft. He's been farming shellfish there since 1985 and supplies shellfish seed from Maine all the way south to Virginia. He also raises oysters for market in Maine restaurants.

Mook said businesses are doing well, but "the check-engine light is on". - a phrase he raised repeatedly. Sometimes their hatchery is has problems.  Every water change is a bioassay.

Oysters spend 14 days swimming creating tiny shells of calcium carbonate. Over the past 5-6  years, we've found serious mortality of nursery stock  after storm events with lots of runoff,  "Our crude pH studies" he said, show acidification. They lose $100,000 worth of hatchery spawn from a single freshwater storm.

Climate models suggest increase in intense storms. Mook is looking for the right technology Working with Joe Salisbury of UNH, we are sampling to see how larval performance suffers under acidity. What the actual chemical factor is.
One step Mook takes is pump reserve tanks full of water before storm and runoff events happen, use it for the nursery larvae stock during that time.  In extremis, Mook will adjust pH.

Tom Abuello of the Nature Conservancy  Audio 1min 50 sec  Agreed with prior speakers. An outreach plan is needed. People need to know what to do and what not to do. TNC is running a wild oyster  restoration effort.  Some are coming back but it would be foolish to continue until we know what is what about ocean  acidification.

Ivy Fernuka. Conservation Law Foundation Audio 5min 29sec
CLF has a strong oceans program.  "Its a total game changer!" she said. We can do something about source, particularly stormwater runoff . Stormwater can elevate  pH. We must control the stormwater better.  A disaster in a Washington state oyster larvae. one year every larvae died in the tank. Turned out it was acidic stormwater that diluted the larvae's water.

Becky Bartovics  Sierra Club   Audio 3min 18sec supported the bill.  She noticed a lot of impact.  There's an oysterfarm on North Haven she said.  Maine needs to do  something. Shellfish at risk, even from small changes in acidification. There must be ways for communities to do something. Maine should act quickly.

Taryn Hallweaver Environment Maine   Audio 2min 48sec Maine is more dependent than other states on marine resources. Can't imagine not having the steamers I enjoyed with my grandfather.
The changes are real: juvenile lobsters are developing thicker shells and stunted growth.

Lucy Van Hook of Maine Coast Fishermen's Association (MCFA)  Audio 4min MCFA called for the study to be expanded to include groundfish and forage species. MCFA has 35 groundfish permit holders among its members. The Gulf of Maine groundfishery is in trouble: a federal disaster declaration is in effect. The Maine shrimp industry has been shut down. More and more fishermen dependent just on lobstering: an unstable situation.

MCFA believe the resources can get rebuilt. There are warmer waters and acidity change. This makes it more difficult to set management plans. The rapid increase in acidity is pervasive through the Maine ecosystem.  Especially of concern are species at the base of the food web. How will they be effected? What to do ?

So expand the scope. Outreach plan must use existing outreach channels,
Given the diversity of fisheries affected, it is important that at least  two different commrecial fisheries  be represented on the committee.

Beth Ahearn. Environmental Priority Coalition Audio 1min 22sec Her son is a clammer. The Cnvironmental Priority Coalition with 28 members, meet yearly This bill has been identified as a priority of the EPC.

End of public hearing.

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