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Devin Gives Marine Economy Talk to Bristol Area Lions 12/10/2016

Posted by DS in club business.
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State Representative Michael G. “Mick” Devin (right) is greeted by Bristol Area Lions Club President Brendan Donegan.

Maine’s marine economy exceeds the billion dollar mark in annual sales and is the most vibrant component of the state’s total economy, even beating forest products. But to keep it growing will require surmounting the threats posed by ocean and coastal acidification. This is a topic that Mick Devin has frequently discussed, both as a Maine state legislator and as a marine biologist. He met with the Bristol Area Lions club for dinner last November 21 to offer an encouraging perspective on new initiatives to cope with those threats.

In order to mitigate the impact of acid water, the basic scientific step is to first understand its magnitude and geographic scope along Maine’s 3,500 mile shoreline. The University of Maine has been leading both state and national efforts to monitor acidity in a programmatic manner, but the weak point has been systematic and broad scale data collection.

Devin reports that engagement of 1000 plus volunteer citizen scientists, working with standardized equipment and water testing protocols, is now beginning to produce actionable information. In the mid-coast area, for example, the SEANET (Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network) is already providing the basis for better management of shellfish hatcheries. This includes guidelines for pH (acidity) buffering with ground up shells and best conditions for co-locating kelp and seagrass beds.

Polyculture of sea “vegetables” and shellfish helps increase localized oxygen concentrations while decreasing carbon dioxide and acidity in the vicinity of hatchery beds, leading to higher growth rates. “Particular pairs of shellfish and macrophyte species (seagrasses and seaweeds) make logical sense to explore because they already share microhabitats,” Devin said. However, the approach still needs to be rigorously tested and resources like SEANET will become an integral part of that process. Devin also made the point that well controlled data driven field studies are important because they can uncover unanticipated results.

As an example, he described the work of U. Maine’s Brian Beal. Survival of nearly-microscopic bivalve shellfish larvae increases in less acidic environments. Buffering has a beneficial effect until they reach the 1-2 millimeter range. At that stage they make shells faster than ocean acidity can dissolve them. Unfortunately, mortality rates in muddy (non-vegetated) habitats in the Maine coastal waters still remain high regardless of added buffering and independently of ocean acidity. The explanation turns out to be simple enough. Once larvae reach a sufficiently viable size to survive the effect of ocean acidity, they need to be protected from predators, especially green crabs. Beal’s research proved that putting nets over the growing beds fixes the yield problem.

In closing remarks, Devin put up one last slide of a typical lobster dinner with an overlaid message. “People do not come to the Coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” He also added with pride that visitors are now are traveling to this area, especially Damariscotta, to eat locally grown and internationally acclaimed oysters. The overall take home message is that Maine must maintain monitoring to understand what is occurring and to provide the data that will sustain renewable marine resource development.

The Lions concurred, congratulated Devin on his re-election, and adjourned for the evening.

The next meeting will be a Christmas party at 6:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 19 at Hawks House Inn, 349 State Road 129 in Walpole. To make dinner reservations, contact John Janell at 563-7402. To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, call Walt Johansson at 677-2584.

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