PBS report examines the effects of ocean acidity on shellfish industry

Oyster showing effects of ocean acidification.
Oysters at hatcheries in Oregon are showing the effects of ocean acidification. Photo: Oregon State University.

Since the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification announced its findings last month, there’s been a great deal of coverage on the issue. Last Friday, the Public Broadcasting System’s (PBS) “Newshour” show aired a report on how ocean acidification is having devastating effects on Washington’s shellfish industry.

The rise in acidity makes seawater corrosive to many marine organisms, especially those that require calcium in their “formative” growth stages, such as shellfish larvae. The shellfish industry, therefore, is the first to bear the brunt of the chemical changes taking place in the oceans’ pH levels. Several years ago, oyster seed production experienced a sharp drop. Corrosive seawater pumped into hatcheries was blamed for the decline.

Like climate change, ocean acidification is largely the result of increased carbon dioxide. As reported in “Newshour,” scientists estimate that the oceans have absorbed 550 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and ocean acidity has increased 30 percent for the past 200 years—since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The “Newshour” report on ocean acidification includes interviews with Richard Feely, a chemical oceanographer with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle; Shina Wysocki, of Chelsea Farms LLC, a family shellfish farm in Olympia; and Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms, of Shelton and Samish Bay.

Watch the report: Trouble in the Water: Acidifying Oceans Hinder Health of Northwest Shellfish

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark served on the governor’s panel on ocean acidification.

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