Angus S. Jr. King

09/21/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/21/2023 09:10

King Introduces “Help Our Kelp Act” to Protect Maine Coastal Ecosystem

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), along with Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), have introduced bicameral legislation to protect at-risk marine life and ecosystems. The Help Our Kelp Act would invest federal resources towards state, local, and federal efforts to restore and protect kelp forests against climate change and other human-caused disruption.

Kelp forest ecosystems in Maine and along the nation's shores provide food and habitat for hundreds of fish and marine mammals. These aquatic regions stabilize Maine's coasts allowing for responsible economic activities including fishing, shipping, and innovations in the blue economy. Over the last 50 years, changes in climate, poor water quality, and overfishing have damaged between 40-60 percent of America's kelp forests.

"Healthy waters make for healthy people, but climate change and human activity are having an impact on these our coastal ecosystems - so we need to protect the beauty and bounty they provide," said Senator King. "The Help Our Kelp Act is an important step to ensure that our iconic Maine fisheries, and surrounding communities, are able to serve as a habitat for marine life well into the future. We need continued investments and safeguards to protect our fisheries, and our Maine way of life. My gratitude goes out to my colleagues for recognizing the importance of kelp forests and working to protect one of Maine's vital resources."

"It's incredible to see these important environmental issues getting attention at the federal level. Seaweeds are essential to a thriving ocean and we are still learning about the positive benefits they provide in creating the ocean abundance that all of humanity relies on. By helping to restore and research natural seaweed beds throughout the US, this bill can help ensure that natural seaweed populations - and marine ecosystems - remain intact for future generations to come," said Briana Warner, the CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms.

"Kelp has provided a documented ecosystem benefit to important U.S. west fisheries, and globally. As we look ahead to Gulf of Maine fisheries under changing ecosystems, funding for further kelp research will underpin our needed understanding of what we can expect from coastal habitats of the future, and the fisheries that depend on the vital nursery habitat which kelp provides," said Alexa Dayton, the Executive Director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.

The Help Our Kelp Act would:

1. Establish a new NOAA grant program to fund conservation, restoration, and management efforts;

2. Focus on addressing the greatest relative regional declines, long term ecological or socioeconomic resilience, or are in focal recovery areas identified by Tribal, federal, or state management plans; and

3. Authorize $5 million per year from FY2024-FY2028.

In the Senate, this legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

In the House, this legislation is also cosponsored by Representatives Susan DelBene (D-WA-01), Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44), Scott Peters (D-CA-50), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), and Kevin Mullin (D-CA-15).

Bill text can be found here.

A bill summary can be found here.