For all of the discussion on the consequences of climate change, ocean acidification is one of the greatest challenges that remains absent from political and public discourse. A byproduct of fossil fuel emissions, ocean acidification occurs as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While the causes and consequences of this are global, many local communities, especially those whose economies rely on ocean resources, are particularly hard hit.
Washington State relies heavily on its robust fishing economy, and shellfish are especially susceptible to increased acidification. So when the state’s oyster hatchery industry was on the verge of collapse due to acidification, government leaders stepped in—committing millions of dollars to explore solutions that could save the industry. With the help of scientists, academics, business leaders, government agencies and politicians, communities that rely on the oyster industry were saved almost overnight.
“It’s one beautiful story of how science and government and industry work together,” said a principle researcher on the project. Their intervention helped save hundreds or even thousands of jobs, stabilized fragile local economies, and brought together politicians from across political lines. These communities in the Pacific Northwest illustrate how local actions can provide real solutions. Bringing together a strong coalition of academics, businesses, and government leaders is the key to climate progress. Find out more on connecting with community leaders in you area by visiting Path to Positive Communities.
When Alan Barton first arrived at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in 2007, he wasn’t expecting to stay very long. The hatchery — the second-largest in the United States — was in trouble, suffering from historically high mortality rates for their microscopic oyster larvae. But Barton knew that in the oyster industry, trouble is just another part of the job.
As manager of the oyster breeding program at Oregon State University, he had already helped one oyster larvae breeding operation navigate through some tough years in 2005, when a bacterial infection appeared to be causing problems for their seeds. To combat the issue, he had created a treatment system that could remove vibrio tubiashii, an infamous killer in the oyster industry, from the water.
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