Tillamook County Estuaries- Part 5/6

Whiskey Creek Oyster Hatchery

Ecological Dilemma: Will Human Activity Impact Nature/ Natural Systems with Positive or Negative Outcome(s)?

Of all the locations we visited during our Oregon Master Naturalist field studies, this was one of the most significant to me. Here, I gained a sobering awareness of the very real and growing problem of ocean acidification. The more I think about what I learned here, the more I understand the imperative urgency in reducing our carbon footprint. “Reduce your carbon footprint,” is not just fodder for bumper stickers or tee-shirt slogans. It is a command all on Earth must somehow heed.

In my opinion, this is a keystone concept for building knowledge needed to understand the ramifications of climate change. Our oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface… having this much water in jeopardy is nothing to ignore.  If we think of the seas as the heart that pumps life into both the simplest and the most complex trophic systems on the planet, then immediate application of Concerted Public Reaction (CPR) is vital to keep today’s generations of organisms alive and to assure a healthier environment for future generations.

What is ocean acidification? How does it affect ocean organisms?  How serious is this problem? Why do you need to know about ocean acidification?

Watch this PBS News Hour report, Acidifying Waters Corrode northwest Shellfish. 

Ocean acidification is a reality folks at Whiskey Creek Oyster Hatchery know all too well. Millions of oyster larvae died en masse at this hatchery located at Netarts Bay, Oregon.  At first, low oxygen or pathogenic bacteria were thought to be the culprit. But when researchers from Oregon State University arrived on the scene… a much bigger and more serious problem was discovered… the acidification of ocean waters that were pumped into the hatchery proved to be the lethal agent killing off the oyster larvae.

Alan Burton told us about the nightmare his hatchery has gone through. Now, computerized systems monitor the bay water intake as it passes through buffering tanks of soda ash.  Measurement of pH levels, dissolved CO2, and aragonite saturation help hatchery workers make decisions about controlling the hatchery water environment to create safe conditions for raising oyster larvae successfully.

Oyster larvae depends on a healthy supply of several kinds of algae and diatoms for a strong start in life. Cultures are started in the laboratory and transferred from flask, to carboy, to 8,000 gallon tanks. Typically, eight tanks of algae are consumed per day.

Each 6,000 gallon tank provides a womb for 100,000,000 larvae to grow. It take about  2 to 3 weeks before larvae are ready to ship to oyster growers world-wild. Once they are mature, little time can be wasted before shipping… only room for 3-4 day holding time for oyster larvae. The bag that Alan is holding in the lower portion of this photo gallery contains 4 million triploid oyster larvae!

Bags of oyster shells provide a medium for setting larvae. Eyed larvae are introduced at a rate of 100 per shell with the goal of obtaining 10 to 30 spat per shell. Once they are safe from predation, the oysters shells with spat attached can be removed from bags and spread on suitable bottom substrate.

How do you feel about this? The acidification of oceans is a critical Ecological Dilemma: Will Human Activity Impact Nature/ Natural Systems with Positive or Negative Outcome(s)?

Learn More:
OysterHatcheryTechniques 
confluence-2-1-web
Yale Environment 360: Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show Ocean Acidification Has Arrived
nsf.gov – National Science Foundation (NSF) News – Ocean Acidification Linked With Larval Oyster Failure in Hatcheries – US National Science Foundation (NSF)

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