Scientists seek ways to treat acidified ocean, keep shellfish hatcheries open (text & audio)

New technology allows monitoring of ocean acidification as it occurs.

Alaska’s Shellfish hatcheries are worried that they may have to shut down their operations like hatcheries further south did when waters got too acidic to grow healthy shellfish. Willey Evans, a researcher with the Hakai Institute in British Columbia is working with Aleutic Pride shellfish hatchery in Seward.

Looking at the numbers, he says Alaskan hatcheries don’t have that long to wait before their waters reach dangerous corrosive levels. They can monitor it now

“2040 seems to be the year when we will be at an atmospheric co2 level that will be problematic for growing these organisms in these hatcheries without doing some sort of mitigation strategy,” said Evans.

Hatcheries have a new tool to help them gauge the saturation levels in their waters. It’s called a Burkelator and for the first time they can monitor the acidic levels in seawater in real time.

“That’s really thanks to Burk Hale at Oregon State University who is the developer of the Burkelator and amount of programming that he’s put into that,” said Evans. “It’s pretty fantastic what he s done.

Hatchery managers like Jeff Hetrick at Alutiic Pride Shellfish Hatchery wants to try to treat the ocean water to protect and nurture shellfish to get better production. Wiley Evans’s team is building tanks to do just that. They will be ready to grow shellfish at different ocean acidity levels this summer.

“The dosing experiment is really exciting. With that system we have tight control of the CO2 chemistry and we can manipulate it in and make it more harsh and less harsh and see what are these animals, what are their thresholds, where they grow best under what conditions,” said Hetrick. “Alutiic Pride Shellfish Hatchery has ten animals that they produce. And only five of them have been tested for ocean acidification impacts. So we’re going to learn a lot I think just from that part.”

Evans says they hope to learn when the various species are most sensitive to ocean acidic levels and which species may have stronger resistance.

Johanna Eurich (text) & Joaqlin Estus (audio), KNBA News, 1 February 2016. Text & audio.

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