Ocean acidification may not affect oyster quality

A team of scientists of the University of Plymouth has found that the eating qualities of UK oysters may not be adversely affected by future ocean acidification and global warming.

A study they carried out has shown oysters exposed to levels currently expected to occur over the next century do not lose their sensory qualities, which has potentially positive implications for future global food supply.

“Many organisms struggle to cope under the conditions created by ocean acidification and warming, but the impact on taste and other sensory qualities has not been fully assessed. Our study gives an insight into how the consumer appeal for oysters might evolve in the future, and suggests that short-term exposure does not have any detrimental effects on their overall acceptability,” pointed out PhD student Anaëlle Lemasson, who led the study.

With the population expected to reach up to 12.3 billion by 2100, researchers say the demand for animal protein is unlikely to be met by terrestrial farming and there will be increasing reliance on the marine environment.

For this study, scientists used the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and samples were exposed to CO2 and temperature levels currently projected to occur in the year 2100.

After five days, a panel of five experts was then asked to assess the samples in terms of their appearance, aroma, taste and overall acceptability. The results showed the overall acceptability was not diminished by the increased levels, while some aspects of the oysters’ texture and appearance was actually enhanced.

“Environmental conditions in our oceans are increasingly punctuated by short-term, acute changes in temperature and pH as a result of global climate change. These results suggest commercially-important shellfish may well be resilient to these changes which is good news for producers and consumers alike,” stressed Dr Antony Knights, Lecturer in Marine Ecology at the University.

The full study – Sensory qualities of oysters unaltered by a short exposure to combined elevated pCO2 and temperature – is published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Fish Information & Services, 2 November 2017. Media coverage.

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