Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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Building knowledge about how to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and effectively conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs is a focus of the OAP’s activities. In the Pacific Northwest, NOAA, university, and shellfish industry scientists have formed a strong partnership to adapt to a consequence of ocean acidification that has already affected the shellfish industry there. Together these researchers determined that acidification was threatening oyster production and offered an approach to address it. They installed carbon chemistry monitoring equipment at shellfish hatcheries and worked with hatchery managers to develop hatchery practices that protect developing oyster larvae from intake of low pH waters. Complementing coastal monitoring, real-time data from off-shore buoys now act as an early warning system for shellfish hatcheries, signaling the approach of cold, acidified seawater 1-2 days before it arrives in the sensitive coastal waters where larvae are produced.  The data have enabled hatchery managers to schedule production when water quality is good and avoid wasting valuable energy and other resources when water quality is poor. Other adaptation approaches taken by hatcheries have included adding soda ash to low pH waters to raise the pH to tolerable levels.

Text Box: Oyster Farm, Washington State, Photo courtesy of Taylor Shellfish Farms

Carbon chemistry monitoring and the practices developed to react to poor water chemistry conditions have helped the shellfish industry boost production. 2010 was the best production year since 1989 for the Taylor Shellfish Puget Sound hatchery. The Whiskey Creek hatchery in Oregon has also enjoyed rising productivity: in 2008, productivity was 20% of normal production and  in 2010, it was 70% of normal production.  Unfortunately, a similar adaptation strategy is not workable for the natural environment. For instance, there had not been a commercial natural set of wild oyster seed in Netarts Bay, OR since 2005.  Though, the first natural set in seven years was recorded this year.


As a part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, and with strong support from the NOAA Administrator and scientists, Governor Gregoire convened a Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, comprised of leading tribal, state, federal and local policy makers; scientific experts; public opinion leaders; and industry representatives. Two NOAA OAP scientists, Richard Feely of PMEL and Shallin Busch of NWFSC were appointed by Governor Gregoire to participate in the panel. The Blue Ribbon Panel is documenting the current state of scientific knowledge of ocean acidification and its impacts on west coast marine resources, ways to advance our scientific understanding of the effects of ocean acidification, and recommending actions to respond to increasing ocean acidification, reduce harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources, and adapt to the impacts of acidified waters.  The panel has provided a summary report with recommended measures to be taken to both mitigate and adapt to changing ocean chemistry.

NOAA OAP scientists are also involved in the California Current Acidification Network.  This network convenes scientists and fishery stakeholders from the US west coast to devise monitoring, research and adaptation approaches for marine resources likely to be affected by ocean acidification. 

Additionally, there is a similar effort being set in motion in the Gulf of Maine- the Northeast Coastal Acidfication Network (NE-CAN). This network will be comprised of scientists, federal and state agency representatives,  resource managers, and affected industry partners dedicated towards coordinating and guiding regional observing, research and modeling endeavors to better identify critical vulnerabilities, particularly with respect to regionally important and economically significant marine resources.  The recently passed Joint Resolution Recognizing Ocean Acidification as a Threat to Maine's Coast Economy, Communities and Way of Life displayed the state legistlature's support to increase monitoring, better understand, and mitigate ocean acidification impacts in the Gulf of Maine.