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IN a bid to raise awareness of the problems that increasing ocean acidity is causing shellfish growers in North America, a number of scientists have shared their research with US politicians about the impending ecological and economic consequences of this trend.

Acidification is caused by the ocean absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This causes both direct and indirect harm to marine life. Marine species that build their structures out of calcium carbonate (oysters, corals, etc) are most vulnerable to ocean acidification and by extension, the organisms, jobs, and economies that depend on them are also threatened. Shellfish farms in the Pacific Northwest have reported negative impacts to oyster production due to acidic ocean waters. As acidification increases, it is expected to have profound consequences on fisheries and the coastal communities which rely on healthy marine ecosystems.

The briefing was assembled by Marine Conservation Institute and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, two organisations working to understand and respond to the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life. According to Brad Warren, Director of the Global Ocean Health Program at Sustainable Fisheries Partnership: “Shellfish growers have had a real wake-up call lately. On the West Coast they’re having a hard time getting ‘seed’ to grow out on farms. Both hatcheries and natural larvae production are faltering in corrosive waters. They’ve learned to duck some of the impacts by carefully monitoring water chemistry and larval performance to avoid the most acidified water, and now some East Coast producers are embracing the same methods.”

Scientists presenting their research about regional impacts included Sarah Cooley from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Beniot Eudeline from Taylor Shellfish Farms, Mark Green from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, and Shallin Busch from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dr John Guinotte, Marine Biogeographer at the Marine Conservation Institute, stated: “Ocean acidification is impacting marine ecosystems, the people who depend on them, and more acidification is in the pipeline. The scientists who presented their important work today have provided a great service by educating us about the scale of this problem.”

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