Exploring perceptions and experiences of the U.S. West Coast shellfish industry dealing with ocean acidification

Nearshore and estuarine environments along the U.S West Coast are ocean acidification (OA) “hotspots”. Carbon dioxide-enriched water has been correlated with production losses of Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) larvae at hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. Limited and unreliable supply of larval seed has implications for the economic well-being of commercial growers. However, little is known about how the shellfish industry perceives OA related obstacles and envisions adaptation. We conducted a 44-question, online survey of shellfish hatcheries and growers across Washington, Oregon, and California to better understand stakeholder’s OA perspectives and experiences, and to assist in tackling this information deficit. Eighty- six stakeholders participated (46% response rate) from the oyster, clam, mussel, geoduck, and abalone industries. Participants reported their understanding of OA drivers, experience from OA impacts, level of concern, and perceived adaptability. Respondents indicated which environmental measurements and information sources inform their business practices, the usefulness of University-based research, and their willingness to share monitoring data. Fifty-two percent of respondents indicated they have personally experienced negative impacts from OA. Participants identified the shellfish industry as the entity with highest priority for responding to OA, followed closely by science. Seventy-five percent of participants thought University-based research is usually or extremely useful, and 90% reported they are somewhat or very willing to share data with scientists. Sixty-four percent felt the shellfish industry is definitely or somewhat able to adapt. While the shellfish industry is experiencing OA, they are committed to learning about the issue and its implications for their businesses. There is potential for partnerships and data sharing between scientists and industry, but issues of trust and uncertainty need to be addressed. Respondents from all three states expressed guarded optimism on OA adaptability. In addition, this cooperative research project with the shellfish industry has the potential to strengthen trust and advance communication between stakeholders and scientists. This research can help inform strategies of the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on OA by filling knowledge gaps, building awareness, and promoting scientific collaboration. Our findings can assist in shifting OA conversations from an abstract problem toward solution-oriented strategies when addressing this multifaceted problem.

Mabardy R. A., 2013. Exploring perceptions and experiences of the U.S. West Coast shellfish industry dealing with ocean acidification. MSc thesis, Oregon State University. Thesis (restricted access).

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