Time to take ocean acidification seriously

From 2007 to 2010, major shellfish hatcheries supplying the seed for West Coast oyster growers suffered persistent production failures. Hatchery scientists were witnessing baby larval oysters (just the size of the width of an eyelash) completely dissolving before their eyes. It wasn’t until 2012 that a group of researchers at Oregon State University confirmed that the collapse in oyster seed production was due to ocean acidification.

Due to various factors, the northern Pacific Ocean is more prone to ocean acidification than the northern Atlantic Ocean; however, we are now beginning to see the effects locally. Luckily, we can implement the West Coast hatchery solutions to overcome the short-term acidification problems, but more research is needed to learn how our fisheries will be impacted long-term.

The aquaculture industry is the fastest growing food sector in the U.S. (5 percent growth annually since 2010), and shellfish farming on the Island currently generates about $4 million annually into our local economy.

A huge step forward was taken in August 2018 when Governor Baker signed into law the Environmental Bond Bill, sponsored by Senator Tarr and our own Senator Cyr. The bill creates a 19-member commission of industry members and scientists to study the effects of acidification on marine species, identify the knowledge gaps that may hinder response, and prioritize strategizes to fill those knowledge gaps.

The commission will report their findings to the governor in December 2018, along with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out those recommendations.

In order to capitalize on the enormous growth opportunities of the aquaculture sector, it is imperative that the Island and Massachusetts be prepared for the effects of ocean acidification and have the ability to quickly adapt to the needs of the industry and environment. Ocean acidification legislation filed by Senator Cyr and Representative Fernandes in 2017 have helped make this possibility a reality.

Dan Martino, Martha’s Vineyard Times, 15 October 2018. Article.

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