George Waldbusser is a professor of ocean ecology and biogeochemistry and graduate program director for the Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences program at Oregon State University, and a public voices fellow of The Op-Ed Project.
More than a decade ago, I was called upon to work with oyster hatcheries in Oregon that were seeing unprecedented and catastrophic deaths of their baby oysters. These businesses provide the foundation for much of the industry on the the West Coast and beyond by selling three-week-old oyster “seed” to farmers, who plant them in bays and estuaries and raise them until they reach market size.
But the seeds weren’t even surviving the incubation period, creating major shortages and threatening growers from California to Washington. Hatchery operators and farmers were desperate to know what was causing the oyster seed crisis, and what could be done to restore production.
Industry leaders, scientist colleagues, and I eventually tied the failures directly to the change in marine chemistry from carbon dioxide emissions, a process called ocean acidification. The additional CO₂ was making it ext... Read more