On March 12th the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3650 The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia (ocean dead zones) Research and Control Act. On March 9th, to our surprise and horror, Republicans whipped against the bill for unrelated partisan reasons and it fell 7 votes shy of the 2/3 majority needed to pass. Not deterred the bill’s lead supporters – Dems and Republicans – remained committed to getting the bill passed quickly. Chairman Gordon (WA) asked for help from as many ocean conservation groups and individuals as possible. The response was immediate with over 1,000 letters in a few hours time. Congresswoman Pingree (ME) managed the rule to bring the bill back for a vote Thursday evening. In the morning, following passionate words on the need for this bill and the evils of harmful algal bloom, the bill easily passed with a two-thirds majority. No one was more eloquent on this bill than was Congressman Mack (FL).
Ocean Champions reports that their legislative champions are passionate because they know that HABs are a dangerous, growing problem. HABs kill fish, marine mammals, birds and pet dogs, put fishermen out of work, ruin vacations and make people really sick (sometimes fatally). While HABs peak in the summer, they are becoming problematic year around. In recent weeks, we’ve seen outbreaks suspected of mass pelican kills in California, and predicted to wreak havoc on the northeast shellfish industry next summer.
H.R. 3650 is a great solution to these problems. It will develop, coordinate and implement an integrated national strategy along with regional action plans to address and reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. It will fund research where causes are not well understood, and the implementation of solutions where they are.
“This is a jobs bill … there is really a threat to our tourism economy and jobs in Florida, and it is these very harmful algae blooms that cause red tide,” said Rep. Kathy Castor (FL). “We’ve got to find out what is happening here.” An algal bloom or red tide event can shut down shellfish fisheries and close beaches. Castor estimated the events cost coastal communities $82 million per year. (Rob note: Rep Castor’s Mom is Betty Castor former president and executive director of Save Tampa Bay.)
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