Congressman Derek Kilmer

Representing the 6th District of Washington
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Kilmer Tours Tacoma Seafood Company, Announces New Legislation to Help Fight Ocean Acidification in Washington state

May 12, 2014
Press Release
For the first time, bill would allow federal agencies to design prize competitions to encourage innovative solutions to acidification problem. The shellfish industry contributes more than $250 million to Washington state’s economy and supports more than 3,200 jobs

TACOMA, WA – Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) toured a major Tacoma seafood distribution plant today and joined scientists, a shellfish grower, and plant employees to announce the introduction of new legislation to help fight ocean acidification.

The bill, entitled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, would for the first time allow federal agencies to use existing funds to design prize competitions in order to increase our ability to manage, research, and monitor ocean acidification and its impacts. Rep. Kilmer will introduce the act when the House of Representatives returns to session.

The legislation was created in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the X PRIZE Foundation, an innovative non-profit organization that creates public competitions that are designed to encourage increased investment in solutions to problems that impact our entire society.  For example, the Ansari X PRIZE awarded in 2004 for personal spaceflight launched an entire industry which has generated more than $1 billion in investments. 

Ocean acidification is a rising threat to coastal communities in Washington state. A recent Seattle Times article detailed how pteropods, a key part of the food chain, for salmon, herring, and other fish are damaged by ocean acidification.

“Our coastal communities are on the front lines of the acidification problem,” said Kilmer. “For businesses like Northern Fish and Hama Hama their entire livelihoods are at risk. I also want my daughters to grow up in a state that is still connected to a healthy Pacific Ocean. So my bill is based on a simple idea to help: let’s have experts clearly identify the acidification problem and provide a strong incentive for folks to research and develop how to solve it.

“It leverages federal dollars to drive outside stakeholders to focus their expertise and innovation on finding unique, successful solutions to challenges. It’s time for the federal government to better utilize the type of prize competitions that have been successful in other areas to help confront acidification.” 

The commercial and recreational fishing industry in Washington state alone supports over 67,000 jobs and contributes over $300 million in revenue. Washington state leads the nation in producing farmed clams, oysters, and mussels. Growers in Washington state contribute more than $250 million to the economy and support more than 3,200 jobs. In the region, the shellfish industry is the second largest employer in Mason County. 

The roundtable, tour, and announcement took place at Northern Fish in South Tacoma. Northern Fish is a family-owned seafood business that has been in operation for more than 100 years. The company supplies fish and seafood throughout the Pacific Northwest and provides more than 70 year-round jobs in Pierce County alone.

Rep. Kilmer held a roundtable discussion with  John Swanes, Northern Fish President, Ross Swanes, Northern Fish Vice President, Lissa James from the Hama Hama Oyster Company, and Jan Newton and Terrie Klinger with the University of Washington’s Washington Ocean Acidification Center. The group detailed how acidification is impacting jobs and businesses in the region and talked about new research examining the problem. Following the roundtable Rep. Kilmer toured the Northern Fish seafood distribution plant.

Rep. Kilmer has made it a priority to protect the livelihoods and landscapes of the region’s coastal communities. He co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Caucus with Representative Denny Heck last year to reflect their commitment to preserving the Puget Sound. The caucus is the only Congressional working group devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts, and builds on the legacy left by former Congressman Norm Dicks, a longtime advocate for the health of the Puget Sound.