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Oceans: West Coast oysters facing multiple threats

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Oysters face an uncertain future.

Climate change makes young oysters more vulnerable to invasive snails

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — West Coast oysters could be facing a double whammy of global warming and invasive snails, according researchers with University of California, Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Lab tests suggests that, as oceans become more acidic from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, oysters will be smaller, and invasive snails will take a bigger toll.

Specifically, invasive snails ate 20 percent more juvenile oysters when both species were raised under ocean conditions forecast for the end of this century The results highlight the dangers of multiple stressors on ecosystems, said Eric Sanford, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis and first author on the study. Continue reading

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Gulf oysters tainted with heavy metals from oil spill

Caption: Oyster shells like this one, collected from the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have been shown to contain higher concentrations of three heavy metals common in crude oil -- vanadium, cobalt, and chromium -- than specimens collected before the spill.
Credit: California Academy of Sciences

Researchers denied access to pure samples of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — BP’s oil continues to have toxic after-effects two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists tracking the long-term impacts have found devastated corals on the sea floor, sick dolphins in coastal areas and most recently, heavy metal contamination in Gulf oysters linked to the oil.

“While there is still much to be done as we work to evaluate the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf’s marine food web, our preliminary results suggest that heavy metals from the spill have impacted one of the region’s most iconic primary consumers and may affect the food chain as a whole,” said Dr. Peter Roopnarine, of the California Academy of Sciences.

Roopnarine has detected evidence that pollutants from the oil have entered the ecosystem’s food chain. For the past two years, the team has been studying oysters (Crassostrea virginica) collected both before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil reached the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Continue reading

Oregon oysters take a hit from global warming

Research links ocean acidification with stunted larval growth

If you enjoy fresh oysters, eat up, because global warming and ocean acidification are taking a toll on the reproduction of the popular shellfish. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

SUMMIT COUNTY — An Oregon oyster farm may have to shut down because increasing increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in sea water has stunted larval growth, making the operation “non-economically viable.”

Researchers found that the sea water is becoming more corrosive, inhibiting larval oysters from developing their shells and growing at a pace that would make commercial production cost-effective.

As atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, the Oregon oysters may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine for other ocean acidification impacts on shellfish, according to Oregon State University scientists. Continue reading

Travel: Shrimp, oysters, cotton and … the ice machine

Keeping it real in Florida

Moonrise over the Battery Park pier in Apalachicola, Florida.

Shrimp boats moored along Apalachicola Bay, Florida.

By Bob Berwyn

APALACHICOLA, FLA. — After passing through the heavily developed strip resorts around Destin, it was a relief to pull into the pet-friendly Rancho Inn, in Apalachicola, a historic fishing and  harbor village in the heart of what locals call the forgotten coast.

We decide to linger an extra day, if only to learn the correct pronunciation of the six-syllable town.

Since the town sits back from the Gulf Coast a ways, on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, there are no beachfront motels. But it’s a working harbor town, with shrimp boats lined up along the shore of the bay, unloading tons of rock shrimp into small warehouses where they’re immediately sorted, packed, frozen and loaded on to trucks.

The bay is also one of the world’s most productive oyster fisheries, with just the right delicate balance of salt water and fresh water, along with perfect temperatures, combining to nurture productive shellfish beds. Continue reading

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