Oregon State University will receive funds that will help the West Coast's shellfish industry’s fight against ocean acidification, thanks largely to the efforts of Oregon state Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose). Receipt of these funds is timely and will give a critical boost to Oregon State University's and the shellfish industry's efforts to reduce the negative impacts of ocean acidification on shellfish production.
With Sen. Johnson's leadership, House Bill 5008 allocated $250,000 to Oregon State University. A portion of the funds will be used to continue OSU's efforts to improve the resilience of oyster to ocean acidification through its selective breeding program at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
The remaining funds will be dedicated to OSU's collaboration with industry leaders at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on Netarts Bay as they continue to identify better ways to manage the negative effects of ocean acidification on shellfish larvae.
Unfortunately, there is an increasing tendency for Oregon's coastal waters to become more acidic due to increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, the impacts of which are amplified by strong summertime upwelling. When advocating for funding, Sen. Johnson, who serves as co-vice chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, cited OSU studies calling oyster larvae the "canary in the coal mine" due to their sensitivity to such conditions. In contrast to adult oysters, the shells of larvae dissolve more readily in acidified seawater, making it nearly impossible for the larvae to grow. While such negative effects loom for the future of the oyster and other shellfish industries, similar results could be impacting recruitment of states' wild shellfish resources as well.
For more than three decades, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery has been a major supplier of larvae to the West Coast shellfish industry. Today, because of ocean acidification, the hatchery at times struggles to meet demand.
In thanking Sen. Johnson, OSU professor of fisheries, Chris Langdon said, “The funds are greatly appreciated at this critical time when the whole West Coast oyster industry is being affected."
Given the high demand for oysters and other shellfish throughout the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and the aquatic environmental gains to be obtained from shellfish cultivation, the opportunity exists for Oregon and other coastal regions of the country to benefit from a significant increase in shellfish production levels. If the work conducted at the Hatfield Center and Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery continues to be successful, that opportunity may become a reality.