Researchers think they have reason for low oyster production figured out

Researchers think they have reason for low oyster production figured out »Play Video

TILLAMOOK, Ore. -- One of the Oregon coast's biggest industries is being seriously threatened.

Recently, oyster hatcheries have seen a significant drop-off in production. During the last couple of years, researcher Alan Barton with the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Tillamook has been trying to figure out the reason behind the increase the high levels of acidity in the ocean. Oyster larvae are supposed to turn into this adult oyster, but researchers say the acidic ocean is a problem.

Barton said there are two reasons for the acidity, though. The first he believes comes from an upwelling, which is when winds blow out of the north in the summer months, pushing the surface water away from the coast. Deeper water comes up to replace it. Barton said research shows ocean currents are more acidic than they were five or 10 years ago.

The second reason, Barton said, is the burning of fossil fuels. Barton said it's simple physics.

"Ocean acidification is simply what comes up must come down there is more Co2 in the air so does go in the water and makes it more acidic," he said.

It's a problem Barton said he thinks will continue to impact him and other oyster farmers across the globe.

"We are producing a lot less seed oysters for the industry than we have been for several years, so I think there's a definite impact on our industry overall and most likely, showing up at the end of the line.

Barton, who worked on this research with professors from Oregon State University, said during the last five years, the oyster business has lost a significant amount of production -- not good for a $100 million dollar per year industry.

"I spoke to other oyster hatcheries along the Washington coast and they tell me they've been having similar problems to their oyster population," he said.