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The Planet

Ocean Acidification is Hurting Maine’s Lobster Economy

by Dana Driskill

February 9, 2015
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Maine is rapidly reaching a crossroad where the state will have to make difficult decisions regarding its relationship to the ocean, according to a state-commissioned report on the effects of ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification is an often-ignored effect of carbon pollution, where the increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere interacts with the water on the surface of the earth and forms an acid called carbonic acid. This carbonic acid in turn increases the acidity in rainfall and ocean waters. In the last 100 years, the pH of ocean water decreased from 8.16 to about 8.07 today, according to Maine’s state government website. Ocean acidification is very problematic for marine life, which includes corals, shellfish, and plankton. Rising water temperature causes lobsters to develop more slowly, according to one study, and another study found that baby lobsters are harder to find off the coast of Maine, possibly because of the warmer, more acidic waters.

The commission’s report lists six recommendations for Maine to undertake if it wants to seriously address ocean acidification. The recommendations include more research on ocean acidification and how it directly affects Maine’s seafood industry, solutions to prevent and adapt to the changing waters, ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a whole, and stronger initiatives to limit runoff from sources of potential acidity, such as farms. Additionally, the commission recommended that Maine should set up a permanent council that continues to study ocean acidification and acts as an advisory board to lawmakers.

Recent efforts from Maine lawmakers following the commission’s report indicate that they’re willing to address ocean acidification and change their current way of handling the situation. On Thursday, lawmakers introduced four bills that addressed various areas regarding acidification, including a $3 million bond to monitor pollution sources off of the coast.

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Ocean Acidification is Hurting Maine’s Lobster Economy