Recently, the Aquarium worked with Massachusetts state legislators to file and support bills that promote the responsible growth of Massachusetts’ “blue economy.” The bills, which were filed by Senator Susan Moran, Representative Jessica Giannino, Representative Kathleen LaNatra, Representative Dylan Fernandes, Representative Josh Cutler, Senator Julian Cyr, and Representative Patrick Kearney, aim to bolster the parts of the state’s economy that rely on our ocean and waterways—while also protecting critical species and habitats.  

With more than 50 years of marine conservation experience locally, nationally, and globally, Aquarium science and policy staffers have the expertise to help shape environmental legislation and policies. Learn more about our recent work on the blue economy bills below.  

Our scientists provide research to advise on ocean use policies—an essential part of responsible blue economy growth.

What is the blue economy?

Industries that rely on the ocean and our coastal regions, such as fishing, tourism, and renewable energy, are all part of the blue economy. Here in Massachusetts, the blue economy is booming, growing 38 percent between 2009 and 2019 and employing over 100,000 individuals across 6,000 businesses. This $8.2 billion-dollar industry is expected to keep growing and is likely to bring significant economic benefits to the state and residents. That growthwhich will include the development of offshore wind, innovations in aquaculture, and coastal resiliency projects—is why the responsible expansion of the blue economy is so important As ocean use increases, it is critical that this expansion is done thoughtfully to ensure that ecosystems and marine species are protected and that Massachusetts residents have equal access to the benefits of this growth.  

What legislation was filed as part of the blue economy bill package?

The Aquarium is taking a leadership role in crafting new blue economy legislation alongside state lawmakers Senator Susan Moran, Representative Jessica Giannino, and Representative Kathleen LaNatra. The bills address wide-ranging issues impacting the blue economy sector such as ocean conservation science, equitable blue workforce development, the circular economy transition, and “blue carbon” sequestration.  

The New England Aquarium is also endorsing bills reintroduced by Senator Julian Cyr, Representative Dylan Fernandes, Representative Josh Cutler, and Representative Patrick Kearney that help mitigate the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and the blue economy, as well as support fisheries in transitioning to using on-demand fishing gear that helps protect marine life while enabling the fishing industry to thrive. 

Policies that protect right whales are among the blue economy legislation. Photo credit: FWC Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit 15488

What current issues does the blue economy bill package address?

  1. Growing the Future Blue Economy

    An Act Relative to a Future Blue Economy (HD.1564 / SD.1689), filed by Senator Susan Moran and Representative Kathleen LaNatra, establishes a new grant program for Massachusetts entities to support research, development, and/or expansion of new blue technology to increase blue economic activity and find the best technological solutions to complicated ocean issues. Projects supported under this grant could range from studying migration patterns of marine species in offshore wind lease areas to salt marsh restoration technologies.  

    The bill also establishes a separate grant program to fund education, training, and job placement opportunities for students in environmental justice communities to provide career exposure and pathways to blue-STEAM industries. Massachusetts needs to invest in its future blue workforce to remain competitive globally and to create a more equitable economy.  

    Finally, the bill creates a new circular economy business grant program within the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, similar to existing recycling programs, to allow for businesses to become more sustainable. This program aligns with efforts in related legislation, HD.2318/SD.1688, which updates current state waste system plans to prioritize a transition to a circular economy, which will help keep materials and products in circulation for as long as possible and presents a potential solution to the plastic pollution crisis.  

    Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the global ocean and our waterways each year. There, plastic waste can break down into microplastics, harm wildlife, and litter coastlines – which impacts human health, ecosystems, and the fishing and tourism industry. While using recyclable materials is an important first step in reducing waste, a 2022 report published by Zero Waste Massachusetts, found that 40 percent of Massachusetts’ total waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators could have been recycled or composted 

  2. The Many Benefits of Blue Carbon

    Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, are the most consequential driver of climate change. New England is warming significantly faster than the global average, and we’re already experiencing those impacts, with sea-level rise and heat-related illness threatening our communities.    

    Along with moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels and embracing climate-friendly transit options, natural carbon sequestration—the process of naturally capturing CO2 from the atmosphere—can help combat climate change. An Act to Promote Natural Carbon Sequestration (HD.554 / SD.1700), introduced by Senator Susan Moran and Representative Jessica Giannino, enhances the role that our waterways, seagrass, and salt marshes can play in climate mitigation by requiring the state to set a net-positive carbon sequestration goal for Massachusetts. By setting an ambitious goal, our natural lands can help absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere, help protect our coastlines from natural disasters, and serve as protected and undisturbed homes for many species.  

  3. Supporting the On-Demand Gear Transition

    With only 350 individuals left, North Atlantic right whales are among the world’s most endangered species—and entanglements in fishing gear pose a major threat to their survival. Accelerating the transition toward on-demand gear, which eliminates the vertical lines that hang in the water and entangle right whales, is essential to protect the species. But government financial support is needed to effectively research, develop, and deploy this gear, as well as help eliminate the cost burden fishers face to ensure this transition is made as quickly as possible. 

    An Act Establishing a Fisheries Conservation Grant Program (HD.780), filed by Representative Josh Cutler and Representative Patrick Kearney, seeks to address this issue by creating a new Division of Marine Fisheries grant program. This program would provide necessary funding assistance for the research, development, and acquisition of commercial fishing gear aimed at reducing the lethal and sub-lethal impacts of fishing gear on protected species like right whales. 

  4. Combatting Ocean Acidification and Nutrient Pollution

    Our global ocean plays a critical role in climate mitigation. In addition to influencing weather patterns, our ocean absorbs excess carbon in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels. As the chemical reactions that occur from increasing carbon levels mix with nutrient pollution from farms and roadways, the ocean becomes more acidic, harming marine ecosystems, marine species like sea scallops and oysters, and our blue economy as a whole. 

    An Act Establishing the Blue Communities Program (HD.3054), filed by Representative Dylan Fernandes, and An Act to Overcome Coastal and Environmental Acidification and Nutrient Pollution (HD.3032/SD.435), filed by Senator Julian Cyr and Representative Dylan Fernandes, provide a pathway for the state—in partnership with communities—to combat ocean acidification while supporting the blue economy. Through these bills, the state can identify current knowledge gaps on the effects of acidification and potential solutions, as well as support communities to develop local plans to limit acidification and nutrient runoff.  

I don’t live along the coast. Why does the blue economy matter to me?

The ocean is a source of food and livelihood for people around the globe; it regulates the climate and weather, and it generates most of the oxygen we breathe. In short, the ocean affects us all, no matter where we live. Helping people and the ocean thrive together is critical for a healthy planet.  

The blue economy is also an important component of the Massachusetts economy, which means all residents can benefit from its success. Protecting the ocean and responsibly growing the blue economy can create jobs, build more resilient communities across Massachusetts, and promote healthy ecosystems.  

What can I do to support the blue economy bills?

To encourage legislators to cosponsor these bills, they need to hear from constituents like you about why the blue economy is important. To make your voice heard: 

Learn more about each bill. You can read each of these blue economy bills and more on the State Legislature’s website. 

Find your legislators. You can find the names and contact information of Massachusetts legislators here.

Call your legislators and ask them to cosponsor and support the bills above!  

Post on your social accounts in support. Social media is a great tool for reaching legislators to make your voice heard. Reach out to your legislators over social media and tag them in a post asking them to cosponsor the bills important to you!  

Header image: Seaweed-regenerative ocean farming operations can help reduce ocean acidification levels and are one of many projects eligible for funding under the Blue Communities bill.