Ocean Currents

Collaborations Put California on the Path to Combat Ocean Acidification


Hog Island Oyster Company has been in business for more than 30 years. Run by John Finger and Terry Sawyer, it is a family-owned business in Tomales Bay, Calif., that produces more than 3 million oysters annually, along with manila clams and mussels. John and Terry have the standard stresses and worries that come with operating a business, but when they talk about ocean acidification, you can tell their concern goes beyond the usual. Ocean acidification happens when carbon pollution from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, turning the water more acidic. Animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building their shells in increasingly acidic water, and this spells trouble for California oyster growers like John and Terry. Luckily, just down the road from Hog Island is Bodega Bay Marine Lab. John and Terry have partnered with ocean acidification scientists like Dr. Tessa Hill to help them monitor the coastal water where they grow their oysters. This allows Hog Island to respond to changing ocean chemistry in a way that doesn’t hurt their business.

Now, in partnership with Washington and Oregon, California is convening a top-notch group of scientists to better understand ocean acidification along the West Coast. They just held their first meeting earlier this week. California’s shellfish industry is valued at $26 million, and the entire seafood industry in the state accounts for more than 13,000 jobs. The panel, called the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel (say that five times fast), will be looking at what science is needed to help managers and businesses like Hog Island, and many others, tackle ocean acidification.

To learn more about this story, check out the video above.

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