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Growing ocean acid causing massive problems for shellfish industry

The growing acidification of the ocean is threatening the $1 billion mollusk farming and fishing industry, new research from Oregon State University claims.

The study takes a comprehensive look at the long-term economic risks of more acid in the ocean, and although most reports suggested the Pacific Northwest was the most at risk, coastal communities on the other side of the United States are also facing big problems, according to a UPI report.

The Gulf of Maine, the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, and the Louisiana bayous are all likely to see ill effects from ocean acidification, which kills mollusks.

Scientists believe ocean acidification is growing due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which oceans and lakes absorb.

Mollusks are particularly vulnerable to those changes, especially oysters and clams that are harvested by fish farmers. Already, ocean acidification has cost the Pacific Northwest $110 million and put 3,200 jobs at risk in the oyster industry, according to the lead study author, Julie Ekstrom, now a researcher at the University of California at Davis, as quoted in the report.

The study shows just how vulnerable communities are to ocean acidification that are dependent on shellfish farming, the authors argue.

Beyond identifying the problem, Oregon State researchers are trying to find ways to help mollusk populations recover, and have sought to bolster alternative fishing industries.

Still, the problem can only be solved by reducing carbon emissions worldwide, a much bigger job that will require the cooperation of many governments, according to researchers. Otherwise, the problem is only likely to get worse.

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.