Marine Resources Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station Augusta, ME 04333
MAR [at] legislature [dot] maine [dot] gov
Re: Friends of Casco Bay testimony in support of LD 1284: An Act To Create the Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species
Dear Senator Miramant, Representative McCreight, and Distinguished Members of the Marine Resources Committee,
Friends of Casco Bay submits this letter in full support of LD 1284: An Act To Create the Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species. Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and protecting the health of Casco Bay. We have been monitoring the health of the Bay for nearly 30 years. We also have played a leadership role in Maine’s efforts to address the impacts climate change on the marine environment.
Based on our data and the data of colleagues, we know Maine’s marine waters are changing fast due to climate change. Those changes are harming our marine species. We must act now to slow the rate of change, understand what we can save through adaptation, and prepare for some inevitable losses. LD 1284 provides a comprehensive framework to achieve these goals.
LD 1284 was born out of a meeting last November hosted by the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification (MOCA) partnership1 and attended by many of Maine’s top marine researchers, DEP and DMR staff, members of the original ocean acidification study commission formed by the legislature in 2014,2 about 20 members of Maine’s coastal caucus, commercial fishermen and sea farmers, and others. Friends of Casco Bay helped organize the meeting. The group discussed what we had learned since 2014 and what actions we need to take now. Their two recommendations were to: (1) create an advisory council on the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine species and (2) create an action plan to bridge the gap between the 2014 study commission and now. MOCA is working on a proposed action plan that we hope will inform the work of the marine advisory council.
It is up to this Legislature to create the recommended advisory council. It may do so with this Marine Resources Committee’s recommendation that LD 1284 ought to pass as written or ought to be incorporated into the Governor’s climate change council structure. The text of LD 1284 was developed by Representative Blume with the aid of MOCA. Its scope and format flow from work since 2014 and recommendations of some of the state’s top marine scientists. Governor Mills’s proposed climate change council is intended to include subcommittees on marine and coastal environments and on science. We have been told that many elements of LD 1284 have been incorporated into the Governor’s proposed council bill, but have not yet seen it.
The most important consideration for this Committee is to ensure that the intent of LD 1284 is not diluted or ignored. The impacts of climate change on our iconic marine waters and species are here and must be addressed now. The necessary science must be done by researchers with expertise in monitoring marine environments. Policies must be designed by marine experts that contemplate impacts on our fisheries and those who depend upon them.
By way of example, here are some ways climate change is impacting Maine’s marine waters and fisheries:
- About a third of all carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean where it mixes with sea water to form carbonic acid, lowering the pH of the ocean. This is ocean acidification and is evident in Casco Bay where pH dropped from 8 to almost 7.8 from 2000-2012. The pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that a decrease of an integer value changes the concentration by a tenfold. Lower pH can cause mollusk shells—including clams, oysters, and mussels—to pit and dissolve.
- Precipitation in Maine has increased six inches since 1895, and we have more intense storms that deliver excess nitrogen to our waters. The nitrogen fuels algal and phytoplankton blooms. The blooms have immediate negative impacts on marine species. For example, we have seen thick mats of nuisance algae smother clams. In addition, as blooms die, they release carbon dioxide which mixes with sea water to create carbonic acid. This is coastal acidification and also lowers the pH of our coastal waters.
- The temperature of Casco Bay rose about 1 degree Celsius (2.5 degrees Fahrenheit) from 1993 to 2018. Warmer ocean temperatures mean that green crabs are not dying back over winter. The higher populations of green crabs prey on soft-shelled clams and other mollusks. They also demolish eelgrass beds, a critical marine habitat. Rising ocean temperatures also cause shifts in species and can contribute to an increase in lobster shell disease
- In 2016, we began measuring the amount of calcium carbonate available for mollusks and other organisms to build their shells. We learned that for most of the year, there is not enough calcium carbonate in the water for shell-building.
We have attached our Bay Paper on Climate Change to provide more information on why we must act now.
Given that climate change already is harming marine species, we must create a climate change marine advisory council as a means to act now in a concerted and coordinated manner.
For the above reasons, we respectfully request that the Committee unanimously recommend that LD 1284 ought to pass. In the alternative, the Committee should ensure that LD 1284 is meaningfully incorporated into the Governor’s climate change council structure in a manner that does not dilute the intent of LD 1284.
Thank you for considering our testimony.
Ivy L. Frignoca
Friends of Casco Bay
To see this testimony attached as a PDF, click here.