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

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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.

Darling Marine Center scientist explains effect of ocean acidification on local fisheries to Bristol Area Lions Club 11/20/2014

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Bristol Area Lion President Brendan Donegan thanks Darling Marine Center’s Mick Devin for his presentation.

Bristol Area Lion President Brendan Donegan thanks Darling Marine Center’s Mick Devin for his presentation.

At the Nov. 17 meeting of the Bristol Area Lions, members learned about the effect of ocean acidification in the Gulf of Maine and its effect on the local shell fisheries.

Guest speaker, Mick Devin is a researcher and experimental shellfish hatchery manager at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MS degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Ocean acidification is the changing chemistry of seawater caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels and cement. The increase began with the industrial revolution in 1850 and has been accumulating steadily ever since. As CO2 is absorbed into seawater, the resulting reactions decrease the availability of carbonate ions, which are the building blocks of forming the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms.

The process also increases the amount of hydrogen ions which leads to lower pH and greater acidity. This means thinner shells on clams, mussels, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins. Fresh and cold water holds more CO2. With its many large rivers flowing into the Gulf or Maine it has more ocean acidification than any other region on the eastern seaboard.

Devin is also our State Representative for District 51 and sponsored Bill LD 1602 to establish a commission to study and address the negative effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystems and major inshore shellfisheries.

The bill initially received an unenthusiastic response. 5,000 lobstermen and 3,000 stern men are employed in Maine. By emphasizing the effect of ocean acidification on jobs and the economy, and appeals to Augusta by 40 lobstermen and a representative of the aquaculture industry the legislators were convinced to support this important bill.

Our State Senator District 20 Christopher Johnson shepherded the bill through the State Senate and it was unanimously approved. In the House it passed with 140 in favor, four against and one absent. The legislation passed in April to commission the study of the problem and look for ways to mitigate it.

At the business meeting that followed Eyeglass Chairman, Carolyn McKeon presented visiting First Vice District Governor Cliff Roderick with 79 eyeglasses and 14 cell phones. The Bristol Area Lions maintain a collection box for used eyeglasses, hearing aids and cell phones at the Bristol/South Bristol Transfer Station for recycling to third world countries by Lions International.

The next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions is Monday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Willing Workers Hall and will feature a presentation by Janice Mellyn, coordinator for CHIP, Inc. To make dinner reservations, call 677-6191. To learn more about the Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, contact Walt Johansson at 677-2584.

Bigelow Scientist Explains Global Problem to Bristol Area Lions Club 02/01/2010

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Lion Carolyn McKeon thanks oceanographer William Balch for his presentation.

At the February 1 meeting of the Bristol Area Lions Club, members were made aware of an increasing global problem known as ocean acidification. In a presentation by Dr. William Balch, Senior Research Scientist and Educational Coordinator with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor, Lions learned that increasing levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuel are impacting the health of shell fish and thereby food chains both on land and in the oceans.

A native of Massachusetts, Dr. Balch holds a Ph.D in biological oceanography from the University of California/Scripps Institute of Oceanography. As part of his current research, for NASA, Balch spends weeks on a research vessel both in the Gulf of Maine as well as in the southern hemisphere, studying the effects of increasing carbon dioxide levels on plankton, principal components of the ocean’s ecosystem. Some of those effects are manifested in underwater ocean blooms that are visible from space. Balch explained that if left unchecked, in the next 50 years carbon dioxide in the oceans is expected to double that of pre-industrial levels. The real issue, he emphasized, is one of balance in the ecosystem, and acidification upsets that balance. A recent federal act is supporting dedicated research on ocean acidification to seek solutions to this increasing worldwide problem.

During the presentation, Lions members learned that the 35-year-old Bigelow Laboratory is in the forefront of ocean research. In recent years it has been awarded the second most research dollars in Maine. Using key research themes of oceans and climate, marine ecosystem function, and microbial oceanography, Bigelow studies the oceans on all scales, from a global down to a genomic level.

When not researching the oceans at Bigelow Labs, Dr. Balch plays trombone as Barney Balch with the Novel Jazz Septet. He can be heard the third Thursday evening of most months leading that group at Skidompha Library. The group’s website, http://www.mainejazz.net, provides more information on performances.

On Monday, February 15 at 6:00, the next meeting of the Bristol Area Lions will feature a presentation by John Reny. To make dinner reservations for that meeting at the Willing Workers Hall please call Herb Watson at 677-6191, and to learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, contact John Janell at 563-7402.

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