Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is ocean acidification threatening oysters?

A Totten Inlet Virginica
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”  Ernest Hemmingway, A Movable Feast
I am a skeptic about man made Global Climate change (especially the Al Gore panic on the issue). I share the views of Bjorn Lomborg: I believe it is real (in that temperatures are going up) and I believe there is a man made component to CO2 increase in the atmosphere.  But I also know it is affected by a variety of other factors which are at a minimum just as important as the man made factor and some even more important (such as sun fluctuation).  To spend literally trillions of dollars to address this (which is what some are proposing) is not prudent or wise.

The ocean acidification issue, however, is a problem.  I do not know enough if the issue Taylor Shellfish is facing is truly man made climate change caused acidification or some other factor contributing to what is being experienced in Totten Inlet, but I know ocean acidification is a real issue:

Ocean acidification. The really, really short version is that as carbon dioxide levels increase in the atmosphere, a lot of this CO2 gets absorbed by the oceans, basically turning them into seltzer. CO2 makes water more acidic (just like your seltzer is slightly tarter than tapwater), and this acid eats away at the alkaline shells of shellfish. Not a big deal (yet) if you’re already full sized, but if you are a baby oyster, just growing your first microscopic shell, acidic water can make it impossible for you to do that. This is beginning to happen all over the world’s oceans, and it’s a huge, huge problem, possibly bigger than the problem of extra CO2 in the air. Here’s a good source for the long version. Anyway, the problem seems to be just beginning to hit the shellfish industry, and for whatever reason, the Totten Inlet Virginicas were the canaries in the coal mine. 
After suffering massive seed mortality for a couple of years, Taylor has gotten better at buffering the problem; two years in a row, their TIVs have made it all three years to market size, meaning (cue the trumpets) TIVs are back on the market! They can primarily be found around Seattle, Toronto, and New York; elsewhere, it’s spotty. Grab them–savor them–when you find them. You will have about two years; then, another gap, because the ocean acidification problem reared its head again with this year’s babies... 
I have had TIV and they are as good as people say they are.  

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