March 4, 2014
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch –Massive scallop die offs of from corrosive oceans. More after this –
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West Coast scallops are the latest shellfish to die in droves from increasing acid levels in seawater. Ten million tiny scallops died last summer in waters off Victoria, British Columbia, forcing Nanaimo-based Island Scallops to shut down its processing plant and lay off its workers.
The company is a grow out hatchery with more than 12-hundred acres in production. That’s about 16 percent of B.C.’s total shellfish aquaculture, valued at $10 million. Island Scallops started seeing problems with acidic waters for the first time ever in 2009 along with other Washington hatcheries. The B.C. Shellfish Growers Association says that acidic seawater is affecting survival and growth of shellfish as they grow out in the ocean; last year mortalities reached 90 percent in all year classes.
Oysters also are extremely vulnerable to the acidity, which prevents sea creatures from growing skeletons and shells. Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton, Washington also started seeing problems in 2005, with massive die offs by 2009. Seedling oysters would sometimes disappear from tanks overnight.
The oysters are still laying down shell – it’s just that it is dissolving from the outside faster than they can grow it. Eventually, they lose that race and they die.
Bill Dewey is Taylor’s communications director. Taylor Shellfish is the nation’s largest producer with 11,000 acres in production and 500 employees. The company is moving more of its operations to warmer waters in Hawaii. Dewey says he is confident the farmed shellfish industry, at least, can dodge the corrosive ocean bullet.
I think we will survive and figure out a way through this. I don’t think it bodes well for other species in the ocean and fishing interests that rely totally on natural production…salmon that rely on pteropods and so on. It’s going to be a different game out there.
In Alaska tiny, snail-like pteropods provide nearly half of pink salmon’s diet.
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