Senate bill includes millions for ocean acidification research

Research assistant Caitlin McKinstry counts zooplankton under a microscope. (Oct. 14, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Research assistant Caitlin McKinstry counts zooplankton under a microscope. (Oct. 14, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would authorize millions of dollars through 2024 for ocean acidification research, including partnerships between the seafood industry and academic institutions.

S. 2699, the Ocean, Coastal and Estuarine Acidification Necessitates (OCEAN) Research Act, would authorize $35.5 million in funds each year from fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for NOAA to research ocean acidification.

The measure, introduced on Oct. 25 by Senators Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, would reauthorize the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act for funding from NOAA and the National Science Foundation, which lapsed in 2012. The senators said their bill would strengthen investment in research and monitoring of poorly understood acidification processes in coastal and estuarine areas and engage coastal communities and the seafood industry through an advisory board and collaborative research grants.

The legislation has support from Ocean Conservancy, a national nonprofit entity dedicated to creating science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and wildlife and communities dependent on it. Sarah Cooley, ocean acidification program director for Ocean Conservancy, cited S.2699 as “a vital step in ensuring our ocean’s health and protecting the communities who rely on the ocean for jobs, livelihoods, cultures and ways of life from Alaska to Massachusetts.”

“We must continue to monitor and research ocean acidification and its impacts as well as prepare coastal communities to deal with this threat and preserve our coastlines and estuaries,” she said.

A breakdown of funding authorization in the bill would include up to $5 million of that $35.5 million for NOAA dedicated to research conducted via partnerships between the seafood industry and academic institutions. Funding authorization would also include $20 million annually for NSF to ocean acidification research programs and $1 million for the National Academy of Sciences to study acidification and environmental stressors in estuaries.

The Senate bill includes legislation introduced three measures introduced in the U.S. House: COAST Research Act, HR.1237 by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., passed the House on June 5; Ocean Acidification Research Partnerships Act, HR.2448, by Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif.; and NEAR Act, HR.988, by Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., passed the House on June 5.