United States 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.”
The Help Our Kelp Act would:
- Establish a new NOAA grant program to fund conservation, restoration, and management efforts;
- 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
- Authorize $5 million per year from FY2024-FY2028.
In the Senate, this legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). In the House, the legislation is also co-sponsored 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).
“Kelp has provided a documented ecosystem benefit to important U.S. 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.