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Ocean Acidification Creates Problems For Shellfish Farms

OPB | Dec. 3, 2012 12:45 p.m. | Updated: Sept. 11, 2013 12:19 a.m.

Shellfish farming is a $270 million industry (pdf) that provides 3,200 jobs to the state of Washington, but ocean acidification may bring the whole business to a halt. 

Until a few years ago, no one knew very much about ocean acidification, but the corrosive waters of Puget Sound have provided an early indication of what effect the trend could have. Shellfish in the Sound are having problems getting larvae to grow, due to a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity since pre-industrial times. That means fewer and fewer new shellfish to harvest, and a potential end to the vital Northwest industry.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire sees the threat, and convened a panel to try to address the issue. Among the recommendations it came up with are:

  • Limit water pollution from sewage and other sources that cause algae blooms that acidify the water.
  • Deposit shell material in the Sound, which would make the water less acidic.
  • Breed shellfish that are resistant to acidifying water.

What questions do you have about ocean acidification? Will it affect you?

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