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.
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.