In 2007, the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, located in Netarts Bay, OR, suffered a substantial oyster larvae die-off. The hatchery produces oyster larvae for the commercial shellfish growers, and they were unable to provide their customers with the late-stage larvae required for a new crop. It was discovered that unusually acidic waters corroded the shells of the microscopic oyster larvae, causing the larvae and juveniles to die. The hatchery was eventually able to stem the die-offs by altering the chemistry of seawater pumped into their tanks to buffer against the low pH levels.

Oyster larval spat

Since then, Whiskey Creek has learned to produce healthy larvae with a system that constantly buffers the water and controls pH fluctuations. However, the effectiveness of buffer chemicals is limited to the hatchery rearing tanks, and does not solve the ocean acidification issue in the natural environment. Continued monitoring and research to develop effective adaptation and mitigation plans are critical to sustain the oyster industry and maintain healthy wild stocks of shellfish.

“How can the lessons learned about impacts of ocean acidification on cultured oysters help us understand the threats to wild populations of native shellfish and fish in Oregon bays and estuaries?”