Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another Climate Change Calamity. This One is Personal.

Island Scallops is on the ropes.  The company, which produces an astonishingly-good hybrid scallop, has just lost three years' production to ocean acidification. 

As we've pumped ever more CO2 into the atmosphere, our oceans have absorbed increasing amounts of it, in turn acidifying.  The more acidic water attacks the calcium in corals, mollusc shells and so on.  It's been doing a job on Island  Scallops' production.

The disaster, which cost the company $10 million and could lead to its closure, is the latest vicious reminder of the submarine impacts of our fossil fuel–heavy energy appetites. As carbon dioxide is soaked up by the oceans, it reacts with water to produce bicarbonate and carbonic acid, increasing ocean acidity. 

The deep and nutrient-rich waters off the Pacific Northwest are among those that are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification, and oyster farms in the region have already lost billions of their mollusks since 2005, threatening the entire industry.

So get your shellfish gluttony on now. Our acid reflux is only going to get worse as rising acidity claims more victims.

Here's the write up from our local paper, The Parksville Qualicum Beach News:

High acid levels in the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach have killed 10 million scallops and forced a local shellfish producer to scale operations back considerably.

Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders said the company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million.

"I'm not sure we are going to stay alive and I'm not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive," Saunders told The NEWS. "It's that dramatic."

Saunders said the carbon dioxide levels have increased dramatically in the waters of the Georgia Strait, forcing the PH levels to 7.3 from their norm of 8.1 or 8.2. Island Scallops seeds its animals at its hatchery in Qualicum Bay and they are reared in the ocean in small net cages attached to horizontal "longlines," according to the company's website. The longlines are submerged about 10 metres  below the surface in water about 30 metres deep. From hatchery to harvest takes about three years.

Saunders said the company has lost all the scallops put in the ocean in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

"(The high acidity level means the scallops) can't make their shells and they are less robust and they are suseptible to infection," said Saunders, who also said this level of PH in the water is not something he's seen in his 35 years of shellfish farming.

Not only has the company had to lay off its employees but now the local oyster companies that employ hundreds of people along the coast are endangered.  As for me, one of the great joys of living here was hopping on my motorcycle and going up to Island Scallops where they used to sell a 5-pound bag of fresh, live oysters straight out of the ocean for 15-bucks.  Unlike an oyster, you could open a scallop with a table knife, easy as pie.  And delicious.  Oh my they were delicious. 



Lorne said...

This is very sad news, Mound, but not all that surprising. I remember watching a piece recently on PBS, I believe, about ocean acidification and its impact on coral reefs, oysters, etc. All of this is a grim reminder of how each environmental change has far-reaching consequences, given that all life is so closely intertwined.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, it's very disappointing. The island has always had a tough time with unemployment so every lost job is a hit to the community.

Anonymous said...

Compounding the situation...fallout from Japan has now reached North America, mostly Canada's West Coast.