By Daniel de la Calle
Oyster and other shellfish farmers have been severely hurt by the recent tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. Buyers have turned their eyes to the West Coast to purchase these foods, originally a staple of our past as hunters and gatherers, but unfortunately, small companies like Taylor Shellfish Farms in the State of Washington have little to offer. The larvae survival rate in their tanks has dramatically decreased in the last few years. The death rate in 2008 was 50% and more than 75% in 2009. Oyster larvae are very sensitive to ocean acidity levels (most mollusks are). While farms can monitor acidity in these closed environments and immediately react to a pH drop, this is obviously not possible in the wild, which means that if the trend continues the only oysters we will soon see are the lab farmed ones.
People in the NorthWest are more aware of the dangers of Ocean Acidification because their shallow and cold waters are much more predisposed to a pH decline. It might be the reason why institutions like the University of Alaska Fairbanks are intensifying their research on Ocean Acidification. The UAF has unveiled a dedicated program, with an increase in their staff, and are beginning to deploy their own monitoring buoys at Resurrection Bay and the Bering Sea.
Just like thousands of years ago, locals in Puerto Escondido dive to collect oysters and barnacles from the local waters (photographs from a recent trip to the Pacific Coast of Mexico)