Fighting ocean acidification, one oyster at a time

SHELTON, Washington — At first, Washington shellfish farmers thought it might be bacteria.

Something was causing an usually high mortality rate among the tiny, baby oysters.

“We were having zero survival,” said Diani Taylor, a fifth-generation shellfish farmer. “We were very concerned.”

This was back in 2007. What scientists have since learned is that it wasn’t bacteria killing the molluscs at all. It was the seawater itself. The ocean was becoming more acidified.

But instead of devastating an industry that generates millions of dollars each year, shellfish companies began adapting. The shellfish industry now monitors the pH in hatchery waters and adds soda ash — a harmless additive — when needed to allow the seed clams, oysters and geoduck to thrive.

“It’s made a huge impact,” said Taylor, who grew up working in the Taylor Shellfish family business and today is the company’s general counsel.

The company, the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the country, has nearly 600 employees working at its hatcheries, farms, processing facilities and restaurants.

Taylor Shellfish and other shellfish farmers now are partners with the University of Washington to collect and share data through EarthLab’s Washington Ocean Acidification Center.

Jackson Holtz, University of Washington, 12 December 2022. Full article.

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