Our oceans are becoming more acidic, and Maine’s shellfish are in danger:Ocean waters off the coast of Maine have already experienced a nearly 30% increase in acidity.Maine’s juvenile clams are literally dissolving away, and larvae are avoiding the more acidic mudflats.Oyster hatcheries on the west coast have already experienced seasonal production losses of 60-80% due to acidification.Recent science indicates that juvenile lobsters will develop thicker shells, and stunted growth.Ocean acidification is caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being absorbed by oceans, and coastal runoff pollution.Over a billion dollars of economic activity and thousands of Maine jobs are at risk:Maine is more dependent upon its marine resources than any other state in the northeast.Our top two fisheries (lobsters and clams) have nearly 6,000 active harvesters whose jobs are directly threatened, not even including sternmen and other industries.The Gulf of Maine waters have already been identified by researchers as being more susceptible to ocean acidification than other regions on the eastern seaboard.We can protect our shellfish and coastal jobs, but we must start now:There are many potential actions we can take to mitigate acidification: protect seagrass beds, reseed our clam-flats, reduce polluted runoff–but we must better understand the threat first before we will know what is best to do.LD 1602 helps us understand the threat. It takes a responsible and low cost approach to a major environmental crisis; it creates a panel of experts from all sectors of the marine community to study the problem and recommend solutions.If we better understand the impacts of acidification on commercially important marine species, coastal Maine communities can prepare before it is too late.

Status: The Marine Resources Committee held a public hearing on January 13th.