How many more Christmases for oysters? HKU Forum warns of ocean acidification and threat to marine life

Over this holiday season, many people in Southeast Asia enjoy the juicy, sweet and delicious oysters at the festive buffet. The day is soon coming when they may disappear from the menu altogether. South China Sea oysters and other seafood favorites are threatened. Man-made carbon dioxide taken up by the ocean is causing ocean acidification which is making it more difficult for shellfish to survive. The impact of ocean acidification on shellfish was recently observed when oyster production in the U.S. Pacific Northwest collapsed. This is economically significant when one considers that China produces over 80% of the world’s oysters.

To address this threat, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) hosted a meeting (December 11-14, 2012) of leading international and regional marine scientists including participants from all of Hong Kong’s universities to discuss the problem and explore potential solutions. This unique group included experts in oceanography, marine biology, economics, and engineering from China, Norway, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Japan, Philippines and the United States. This meeting entitled “Interdisciplinary Symposium on Ocean Acidification & Climate Change (ISOACC)” had a unique student centred focus. Graduate students gathered at the event from around the globe are our next generation of scientists. These students gained specialized knowledge and contributed their own research to help bridge the knowledge gap. All agreed that the participation of young scientists is of the utmost importance for Hong Kong’s future. The seminar’s founder, Dr V. Thiyagarajan(Rajan), of HKU’s Swire Institute of Marine Science and School of Biological Sciences, stated: “The collaboration and synergy established at this meeting will serve as the basis for pursuing possible solutions such as selective breeding programs to ensure oysters for festive buffets to come“.

Please contact Dr Rajan for more details about the discussions at the forum, conclusions reached and findings on ocean acidification and its impact on marine life,  tel: 22990601, email: rajan(at)hku.hk.

For media enquiries, please contact Ms Trinni Choy (Assistant Director (Media), Communications and Public Affairs Office) tel: 2859 2606 email: pychoy(at)hku.hk ; or Ms Melanie Wan (Manager (Media), Communications and Public Affairs Office) tel: 2859 2600 email: melwkwan(at)hku.hk.

University of Hong Kong, 21 December 2012. Press release.

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