Strengthening sustainability in an acidified ocean: does the co-culture of seaweeds and shellfish improve shell integrity in farmed red abalone?

Start/End: February, 2021 to January, 2022

Abalone harvesting and consumption have a long history in California, but recreational and commercial fisheries have been forced to close due to overfishing, habitat destruction, harmful algal blooms, and unseasonably warm water temperatures. Red abalone aquaculture is the only remaining commercial abalone production method in the state, but as ocean acidification impacts coastal waters, there are widespread concerns that abalone aquaculture will also be impacted. Abalone appear to be vulnerable to ocean acidification, exhibiting shell damage and reduced growth in high carbonic acid conditions.

Previous research by the Co-PI’s has shown that growing abalone together with seaweed could help reduce carbon dioxide input into the water, hence buffering the acidity of the water and improving abalone growth and shell area. However, there are still questions as to whether this system also leads to improved shell calcification, which can reduce breakage and make both the meat and shell more marketable. 

The project, in partnership with California abalone farmers, will help determine whether the co-culture of shellfish and seaweeds could be a viable solution for California’s abalone industry to adapt to and mitigate the effects of ocean acidification.

California Sea Grant, 3 March 2021. More information.

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