U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) today introduced the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013.
The Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013 would reauthorize the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, which was first enacted in 1998 and reauthorized in 2004 and 2008 (16 U.S.C. 1451 note). For over a decade this program has served as the federal government's research and response framework for harmful algal blooms. According to a recent NOAA report, U.S. seafood and tourism industries suffer annual losses of $82 million due to economic impacts of HABs.
"This legislation takes critical steps toward protecting Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys from harmful algae that has become a tremendous problem for our state," said Portman. "As families and businesses across Ohio continue to struggle during this time of economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to let this threat to our tourism, fishing industries, and health go unchecked."
"We can't sit back and let endangered creatures disappear," said Nelson.
"We applaud Senator Portman for his leadership on providing a framework for a national, comprehensive, and targeted approach to reduce the growing environmental, economic, and human health threats posed by harmful algal blooms not only in coastal marine areas but the additional emphasis on the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes provide over 80 percent of North America's freshwater and harmful algal blooms are already bad and are becoming worse, especially in Western Lake Erie. This effort will help improve and maintain clean drinking water for Ohioans and other Great Lakes states while improving natural areas, recreational opportunities and economic development," said Bill Stanley, The Nature Conservancy-Ohio's assistant state director and director of conservation.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs) are episodes of excessive growth of poisonous or toxic algae that can cause illness or death in humans, pets, wildlife, or food sources such as fish and shellfish. HABs are thought to be caused by a combination of the right temperature, light, and nutrient conditions. Other environmental factors, such as the presence of non-native or invasive species, may also contribute to HABs. HABs occur in fresh and marine waters and result in the depletion of oxygen (hypoxia) in the water. Total costs over the past few decades from fish kills, human illness, and loss of tourism and fisheries revenue in the U.S. has been estimated at over $1 billion. The frequency and distribution of HABs have increased considerably across the U.S. in recent years, negatively affecting all coastal and Great Lakes states and numerous other inland states. Visitors to Ohio's Lake Erie region spend more than $10.7 billion annually - which amounts to nearly 30 percent of Ohio's total tourism dollars. Regional tourism also supports more than 100,000 jobs in northern Ohio and generates $750 million in state and local taxes.
During the 112th Congress, Senators Portman and Stabenow introduced the Stop Invasive Species Act, legislation to stop Asian carp from destroying the Great Lakes' ecosystem. The bill was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012 as part of the transportation bill. Passing the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013 is another crucial step to restoring the health of our Great Lakes.
Today, Portman and Nelson were joined by original cosponsors Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Roger Wicker (R-Miss), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).