Washington oyster farmer forced to relocate due to ocean acidification

Edouard Manet

When people think of climate change refugees, they usually think of island residents who have to move due to rising sea levels.

But climate change can alter the ocean in other ways that affect people — and their businesses.

Dave Nisbet is the owner of Hawaiian Shellfish LLC, a company that specializes in growing seed oysters for growers on the West Coast and Kaua‘i.

He moved to Hawai‘i Island from Washington State in 2009 because ocean acidification was causing deformation in his oysters.

The ocean absorbs roughly 30% of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. Excess CO2 becomes CO3 in saltwater. When the ocean absorbs too much CO2, the pH levels of the water decrease, he said.

“When it comes to acidification, areas that have upwelling and in the temperate zones and poles are the first to show the acidification. When you get into the tropics, that can occur later or is delayed,” Nisbet said.

“Hawaiʻi would have seen the issues that we see in the Northwest because we have the upwelling from the cold waters that come up from the bottom and go into the estuary and acidify,” he tells HPR.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, the ocean’s acidity levels have increased by 30%. Acidic waters dissolve the shells and skeletons of shellfish and coral, and some species of fish experience difficulty navigating predators.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, with the pace of ocean acidification accelerating, ocean ecosystems will continue to die out before they can adapt.

Zoe Dym, Hawaii Public Radio, 12 July 2021. Article.

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