Ocean Acidification
Changing Chemistry: The people impacted by ocean acidification

“I have a concern that if we don't do something, we're all going to be looking at a very different ocean; a very different future.”

Terry Sawyer, on the left, is co-owner of Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, California. He has partnered with local scientists to monitor the acidity of the ocean water that he depends on to grow his oysters.
Kathleen Hense/Ocean Conservancy
Ron Crumb has been with Cherrystone Aqua-Farms for more than 20 years. Located in Cherriton, Virginia, Cherrystone is the largest producer of clams on the East Coast. Scientists in Maine have documented clams with weaker shells, and ocean acidification is suspected as a factor.
Paul Fetters/Ocean Conservancy
“The biggest change was the seafood on the Eastern Shore almost dying off. I grew up in a tiny town with only ten kids my age, and only one stayed and followed in his father’s footsteps. There wasn't enough opportunity. We started looking elsewhere. But with aquaculture, especially with oysters, there is more opportunity to keep the local people employed and help the economy.”
- Ron Crumb, Cherrystone Aqua-Farms
Paul Fetters/Ocean Conservancy
Tessa Hill is a scientist at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab in Sonoma County, California. Her work focuses on monitoring the acidity of coastal areas where oysters are grown.
Kathleen Hense/Ocean Conservancy
“Ocean acidification is caused by our human activities that generate carbon dioxide. The ocean is a tremendous sponge for carbon dioxide. It actually soaks up about 30 percent of what we put in the atmosphere.”
- Tessa Hill, UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab
Kathleen Hense/Ocean Conservancy
“Our people get together on a regular basis and feast on what grows in the tide pools and the rocks. That trans-generational dependence on seafood, you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Micah McCarty is a member of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington. He participated in Washington State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification. The state is working with the tribes, shellfish growers, local decision-makers and state leaders to take action on ocean acidification.
Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy
"The more people we can draw into this, the more likely we can change the way things are going."
- Katie Schaffnit, Taylor Shellfish Farm, Shelton, Washington.


The ocean has become 30 percent more acidic in the last 150 years and oyster growers on the West Coast have felt the impacts of this change. The shellfish industry is undergoing a lot of change. Shellfish farms like Taylor Shellfish are collaborating with government and trying to raise awareness of ocean acidification and the impacts on the shellfish industry.
Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy
“The more complex a problem you take on and solve, the more you get people behind you. I know we can do this. I think we have an opportunity to have huge effects on problem solving.”

Terry Williams is a member of the Tulalip Tribe in Tulalip Bay, Washington. The Tulalip tribe partnered with local dairy farmers to reduce runoff going into coastal waterways. Runoff has shown to be a contributor to ocean acidification.
Barbara Kinney/Ocean Conservancy
Perry Rasso is the owner of Matunuck Oyster Farm and Bar in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Matunuck Oyster Farm is the source of the “Pond to Plate” concept for Matunuck Oyster Bar. Perry supplies diners with fresh oysters harvested right off the waterfront patio.
Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy
“Shellfish and fishing is really what a lot of Rhode Islanders identify with. It’s not just important culturally, it’s important economically. The 140 employees that work here, and all the businesses we do business with, really rely on our ability to grow oysters.”
- Perry Rasso, Matunuck Oyster Farm and Bar

Food trucks in Rhode Island serve oysters, lobster and other seafood items to local diners.
Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy
Bob Rheault is the executive director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association based in Rhode Island. Bob uses his PhD in Biological Oceanography and background as the former president of Moonstone Oysters to advise the organization’s members.
Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy
“I represent 1,000 shellfish farmers from Maine to Florida. Collectively we produce around 114 million dollars’ worth of product. We became aware of ocean acidification just a few years ago and immediately were very concerned that it was going to pose a tremendous challenge to our industry. If current trends continue, we’re going to have very real challenges in the shellfish industry.”
- Bob Rheault, East Coast Shellfish Growers Association
Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy
"Education is important. We invite people down to the farm to see what we do and how we do it so they can better appreciate the work that goes into it and the value that oysters provide to the ecosystem and the economy."

Anthony Marchetti is the director of operations at Rappahannock River Oysters where an on-site restaurant, Merrior, offers people a chance to eat the oysters fresh from the water, see the farm and learn about ocean acidification.
Rick Friedman/Ocean Conservancy

 


When carbon pollution from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, the water becomes more acidic. Animals like oysters, clams and mussels have trouble building their shells in these conditions. Oyster growers have already experienced devastating losses, and scientists are concerned that other species, including lobster, may be impacted. Thousands of jobs and livelihoods are supported by the U.S. seafood industry, and these may be at risk from ocean acidification.

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