WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3) and Derek Kilmer (WA-6), along with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) and Don Young (AK-AL), reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help fight ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act would allow federal agencies to use existing funds to conduct prize competitions to increase the ability to research, monitor, and manage ocean acidification and its impacts.
“Our coastal communities depend on a healthy shellfish and fishing industry,” Herrera Beutler said. “Ocean acidification threatens those jobs and the health of the ocean’s ecosystem, which is why we’re offering this bipartisan bill that will help us better understand the problem and find solutions.”
“We know that changing ocean chemistry threatens entire livelihoods and industries in our state. So, this bipartisan bill is really about jobs,” Kilmer said.“There are generations of folks in our coastal communities who have worked in fishing and shellfish growing, but that’s endangered if we don’t maintain a healthy Pacific Ocean. This bill creates a strong incentive for experts to focus on developing innovative solutions to this serious challenge.”
“Coastal communities in Oregon and across the country are already facing the devastating effects of ocean acidification, and we must strengthen our approach,” Bonamici said. “The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act’s prize competition will encourage collaboration and spur innovative strategies to mitigate and adapt to ocean acidification. This will help the communities, environments, and industries that rely on healthy oceans and are facing the harsh realities of rising carbon emissions.”
“Healthy oceans and waterways are essential to maintaining strong coastal communities and providing for a robust marine economy,” Young said. “Ocean acidification is an ongoing threat that must be addressed head-on. This bill helps our American innovators develop new tools for tackling this pressing issue. Alaska’s maritime jobs depend on healthy oceans, and I will keep working with my friends on both sides of the aisle in the fight against ocean acidification.”
Ocean acidification is a rising threat to coastal communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and growing evidence suggests that acidic ocean conditions harm the ability of many marine organisms to generate shells. These marine organisms, which include oysters, mussels, and pteropods, are a key part of the food chain for salmon, herring, and other fish. In addition, scientists at the University of Washington recently discovered that ocean acidification also threatens the $220 million Dungeness crab fishery, raising serious concerns about future implications for species and ecosystems in the region.
In Washington state alone, the commercial fishing and seafood processing industries, which includes shellfish aquaculture, contribute 15,900 direct jobs and $9.4 billion in revenue to the economy. According to a report by the Washington Sea Grant in 2015, Washington state is the nation’s leading producer of farmed clams, oysters, and mussels. The Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated that state shellfish growers directly and indirectly employ more than 2,700 people and provide an estimated total economic contribution of $184 million.
The legislation was created in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the XPRIZE Foundation, an innovative non-profit organization that creates public competitions designed to encourage increased investment in solutions to major societal problems. For example, the Ansari XPRIZE awarded for personal spaceflight technology helped launch a brand-new $2 billion private space industry.
Federal agencies have increasingly viewed prize competitions as a means of maximizing the return on taxpayer dollars, leveraging prizes to attract more resources to tackle difficult scientific challenges.