​Real-time ocean acidification information available

Erich Luening
February 06, 2015
By Erich Luening

Shellfish farms and hatcheries along the Pacific U.S. coast now have access to up-to-the minute ocean acidification information through an online Integrated Ocean Observation System (IOOS) Pacific Region Ocean Acidification data portal.

            The ocean can take up about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase so do the levels in the ocean resulting in acidification. Acidification makes it difficult for many marine organisms to form their shells making it a significant global issue. Pacific coast shellfish hatcheries have been seriously affected by ocean acidification resulting in significant financial losses over the past decade.

Shellfish culture is the largest contributor to marine aquaculture products in the U.S. The industry harvests over $600 million worth of sustainable shellfish and provides tens of thousands of jobs in rural coastal communities.

The Ocean Acidification Portal provides information on variables such as carbon dioxide concentrations, salinity, and water temperature that are monitored by systems called “burkolators” developed by Dr. Burke Hales, at Oregon State University.  The information comes from five sites: Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, Alaska; Taylor Shellfish Hatchery, Washington; Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, Oregon; Hog Island Oyster Co., central California; and Carlsbad Aquafarm, southern California.  

Providing shellfish growers with the data on the chemical makeup of the water will allow them to develop culture practices that will minimize the impacts of ocean acidification.

The portal site states “Seawater chemistry changes from ocean acidification affect the ecology and economy of marine communities, and this is projected to grow with time. We can better prepare for potential impacts to marine communities, fisheries, and livelihoods by learning more about how the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide. IOOS is committed to working with a diversity of partners to provide data about ocean acidification conditions.”

The portal is part of a NOAA-led national-regional partnership initiative to provide new tools and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment.  Specifically the ocean acidification portal’s recording of acidification and its effect on the ecology and economy of marine communities will better prepare the industry to develop mitigation measures.

Data from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory’s ocean acidification moorings is also available on the portal and it is expected that industry, academic, and government partners within Pacific coast regional IOOS associations will contribute additional data in the future.

The IOOS is a national-regional partnership working to provide new tools and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment. A primary focus of U.S. IOOS is integration of, and expedited access to, ocean observation data for improved decision making. The IOOS Ocean Acidification portal can be found at http://www.ipacoa.org/

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