Could prize-based competitions help Pacific Northwest shellfish cope with acidic seawater?

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AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

As human activities continue to add greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere, the oceans absorb nearly one-third of all CO2 emissions. Through a series of chemical reactions, increasing CO2 levels in the ocean have caused seawater to become 30% more acidic over the past century. This process, termed “ocean acidification”, can disrupt animals’ abilities to smell, regulate their metabolism, and build their shells.

The Pacific Northwest region of the United States, where many economically and culturally valuable fisheries and shellfish farms exist, is especially vulnerable to ocean acidification. The shoreline that stretches from northern California to Alaska is the final destination for globally circulating seawater that accumulates nearly 1,000 years worth of CO2 from the respiration and decomposition of flora and fauna. Seasonal “upwelling” of these millennium-aged deep sea waters and additional CO2 from human activities makes them particularly acidic. Thus, understanding how these acidic waters affect the $220 million Dungeness crab fishery and the $9.4 billion mussel, clam and oyster farming industries in Washington (among many other potentially susceptible operations) is becoming increasingly urgent.

Priya Shukla, 29 March 2019, Forbes. Article.

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