TearSheet: Seattle Met’s “The 5 Oysters You Meet in Washington”

As part of an on-going multimedia project on the Puget Sound’s ocean acidification issues and the effects it’s having on the shellfish industry, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine’s March 2016 issue published a story about Washington State’s oyster species, utilizing some of the imagery from The Ocean’s Acid. It’s a great article written by Allecia Vermillion, with interesting characters and historical background of WA’s 5 main oysters.

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Puget Sound Restoration Fund: The Oyster Harvest

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Oysters are delicious, but they’re also highly important to our marine ecosystem. They’re natural filtration systems, removing toxins and cycling nutrients back into the water that help combat pollution. Oysters within the Puget Sound are also some of the first species to feel the effects of a new threat called Ocean Acidification (OA). As the ocean becomes more acidic due to decreasing pH levels from human industrialization, oyster seed shells begin to dissolve causing holes, disease and early death.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) is helping restore these mollusks by planting native oyster beds throughout Puget Sound. They’re creating a community of oyster harvesters through their CSA program, as well as partnering with research institutes to further study and treat the effects of OA. On an early morning on Bainbridge Island, Washington local volunteers gather to take advantage of the low tide and collect the native oysters.

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For more visit the Ocean Acidification Project

Cameron Karsten Photography

Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture – Part II

karsten_cameron_12In order to prosper, every living creature requires clean air, clean water and abundant food.  For ocean-thriving mollusks, clean seawater is a must.  In December 2011, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire formed a Blue Ribbon Panel.  Their purpose: to investigate and study a new threat to Pacific Northwest waters.  They were putting Ocean Acidification (OA) under the microscope.

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karsten_cameron_14What is occurring is evidence of our Industrial Period 100 years prior as heavy carbon dioxide (CO2) elements now begin surfacing in the shallow waters of the Puget Sound.  As the spring and fall seasons of the Pacific Northwest bring strong northwesterly winds, currents in the Pacific Ocean stir up these century-old pollutants, pushing them upwards and east into the estuaries.  These so-called up-wellings decrease pH levels, causing normal numbers of 8.25 to sink lower into the acidic levels of 8.14 (The pH scale is representative of aqueous solutions from zero to fourteen; where zero characterizes hydrochloric acid or battery acid, and fourteen is sodium hydroxide, better known as bleach).  Acid is a solvent.  It dissolves what it comes in contact with.  Add acidic waters to oyster seed and you find its ingredients eating away at the calcium carbonate that makes up the mollusk’s shell.

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karsten_cameron_20Taylor Shellfish Farms is the first to experience this threat.  They are attracting globe attention to what is occurring within their hatcheries and throughout their farms.  They rely on clean healthy water for larvae seed to develop, but ocean acidification is effecting the development of these mollusks, prohibiting full and consistent growth of their calcium carbonate shells.  What is the future of the mollusk culture if we continue burning fossil fuels and causing the climate to warm-up at faster then expected rate?  Our industrial state affects more then just our air quality.

To see Part II of the multimedia project Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture, please click here

Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture – Part I

karsten_cameron_01In March 2013, I met Benoit Eudeline. Benoit speaks in a thick French accent and is the lead scientific researcher at Taylor Shellfish Farms’ hatchery.  Located in the pristine Dabob Bay, Taylor Shellfish is Washington State’s foremost producer of farm-raised shellfish, supplying the industry with top-grade oysters, mussels, clams and geoduck.  It produces two-thirds of the state’s mollusk aquaculture and is the country’s largest supply to Asia, boosting its’ economy and solidifying the region’s bearing as a premium seafood culture.  But in 2008, all this came to a screeching halt.  Something was happening.  Numbers were falling at Taylor Shellfish and each of the other farms in the area.  Production was at a loss.  Larvae within the confines of the hatcheries became insolvent at surviving.  Holes appeared in their developing shells.  Disease and predators disrupted growth.  Something was brewing in the Pacific Northwest.

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karsten_cameron_10Nowhere else in the world was this environmental phenomenon occurring.  Mollusks, particularly oysters, were thriving as usual, but in the northwestern estuaries of the Pacific Ocean, the declining health of young shellfish became obvious.  First, the oysters; then slowly the shells of young geoducks and the tendrils of mussels, which they rely on to suspend to their host, began showing signs of frailty.  As the seasons over the next few years passed in confusion, scientists began studying the changing environments until one thing became evident.

To see Part 1 of the multimedia project Ocean Acidification and our Oyster Culture, please click here