On Thursday, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) introduced bipartisan legislation to help fight ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, would for the first time allow federal agencies to use existing funds to design prize competitions in order to increase our ability to manage, research, and monitor ocean acidification and its impacts.
This budget-neutral legislation was created in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the X PRIZE Foundation, an innovative non-profit organization that creates public competitions designed to encourage increased investment in solutions to problems that impact our entire society. For example, the Ansari X PRIZE awarded in 2004 for personal spaceflight launched an entire industry which has generated more than $1 billion in investments.
Ocean acidification is a rising threat to coastal communities in Washington state. Scientists have found the shells of pteropods are dissolving due to acidification– a key part of the food chain for salmon, herring, and other fish. The shells of shellfish are made of the same components as pteropods, raising concern about future implications on the species.
Ocean acidification poses a threat to our coastal communities and to key industries in our state,” said Kilmer. “Changes to the ocean chemistry are putting entire livelihoods at risk while endangering the chance for future generations to grow up in a state still connected to a healthy Pacific Ocean. After listening to scientists, fishermen, businesses, and other stakeholders we’ve come up with a unique way to help. Our bipartisan bill is based on a simple idea to help: let’s have experts clearly identify the acidification problem and provide a strong incentive for folks to research and develop ways to solve it.”
“I’ve heard from shellfish and fishing folks up and down the coast in Pacific County about the trends they are seeing and threats their industries are facing due to ocean acidification,” said Jaime. “We need to understand what is happening and find solutions.”
The commercial and recreational fishing industry in Washington state alone supports over 67,000 jobs and contributes over $300 million in revenue. Washington state leads the nation in producing farmed clams, oysters, and mussels. Growers in Washington state contribute more than $250 million to the economy and support more than 3,200 jobs. In the region, the shellfish industry is the second largest employer in Mason County. The fishing and processing industry in Pacific County contributes over $150,000,000 to the local economy, producing 25% of the nation’s oysters.